[OPE-L:2976] Re: Re: Re: Re: working class

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 07:28:38 EDT

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Re Rakesh's [OPE-L:2951]:

Hi again, Rakesh. You wrote:

> It is interesting that the collectivist union sentiment displayed
> by the port truckers seems quite unusual behavior for the so-
> called petit bourgeoisie.

It is indeed interesting but it is not all that unusual. Indeed, one
can think of many examples of collective organization by segments
of the petty-bourgeoisie. Farmers unions are not that unusual in
many countries and even played a role historically in the Mid-West
of the US. In Marx's own time, there were similar examples of self-
organization, e.g. the peasant communes in Russia that Marx was
encouraged by and did research on. Moreover, Marx was very aware
of the fact that the petty-bourgeoisie could play a revolutionary
role, e.g. the peasant wars in Germany.

One could also argue that small business owners are often in a
position where they must "organize or perish". Yet, these movements
have not always enteresd into an alliance with the working class,
e.g. consider the role of small retailers' organizations, such as
the "Schutzverbaande", in Germany prior the coming to power of
fascism in Germany. (If you are interested in this subject, see
Robert Gellately _The Politics of Economic Despair: Shopkeepers
and German Politics 1890-1914_, London, SAGE Publications, 1974).
Thus, which side (with workers or capital) this segment of the
so-called "middle class" enters into an alliance with is no small
issue in the revolutionary process.

Above and in other places, you seem to deride the use of the term
petty (or petit) bourgeoisie. Why is that? Surely, you must
recognize that there are other classes in contemporary capitalist
society besides the working class (btw, which is a broader term
than the proletariat, e.g. consider workers employed in the state
sector) and capitalists.

Elsewhere, you cite the legal distinctions used in court by
capitalists. This is entirely besides the point in terms of how
*WE* view the group in question. E.g. for much of US history,
trade unions were outlawed because the government -- under the
influence of capitalists -- claimed that unions were illegal
"monopolies" which represented a "restraint on trade". As
Marxists we can never let the way in which the the laws passed
by the state define and determine our own perspective. Thus,
just as radicals supported the right to organize when the courts
held that trade unions were "monopolies", so too we should
support the right of self-employed truckers to organize even
where and when the state opposes that organization.

In solidarity, Jerry

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