Re: [OPE-L] the working class and the informal sector

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Mon Dec 13 2004 - 04:13:15 EST

Michael L,

You wrote previously:

> How
> about people working in the sphere of circulation within the circuit of
> capital who would choose to be wage-labourers if that option were present
> but who are compelled to function as retail workers who must bear a risk
> because they have no alternative?

and now added:

> I don't think you responded to the case I gave you. We can explore
> exploiters within the informal sector subsequently.

One of the examples I cited -- that of pedicab operators in the informal
sector --  is that of people laboring in the sphere of circulation who would
choose jobs as wage-workers if they could.   It was selected precisely
because of the (very vague) case you asked about.

The issue is not whether someone labors in the sphere of circulation or

In any event, you haven't said  *why* these people in the informal
sector are part of the working class.  In my view, the compulsion to
labor and lack of alternatives are not by themselves sufficient criteria.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: do these people in Venezuela consider themselves to be workers?
A lot of friends of mine have been peddlers in NYC because of
the lack of other alternatives.  I can tell you that none of them that I
know consider themselves to be workers.  Poor, yes; workers, no.
btw, I was very involved in support of these peddlers (who were
also often homeless or squatters) in the early 1990's when there was
a crackdown on them by former mayors (Dinkins and Giuliani) and
they were pushed off of the streets by the police and had their
property taken away from them (and given away or stolen by the cops)
and were often brutalized because they were engaging in "illegal"
activities.  The complaints that  led to these sweeps came mostly from
small-business owners (who considered the street peddlers to be
competition) and gentrifying landlords (who thought that the presence
of peddlers might make the LES area undesirable to yuppies).  Indeed, I
fought street battles side-to-side with many of these people and even
got arrested a number of times as a consequence.  While the
"underground economy" is not the same thing as the "informal sector"
it is a myth to think that all people employed within the informal sector
are in the "periphery".  I should note, also, in passing that some of the
peddlers _were_ wage-workers, i.e. the wage was not sufficient to
meet their needs (especially rent) so they 'moonlighted' as street
peddlers to earn extra cash for family needs.  For the rest, it was their
only source of income.

> >What people are we talking about?  For example, consider some informal
> >sector cases  mentioned by Drakakis-Smith  (_The Third World City_) in
> >which there are owners of pedicabs which are rented out daily to others
> >who then operate the pedicabs to earn money or there is the case in which
> >money is regularly advanced for itinerant food hawkers to make purchases
> >wholesale markets so that these peddlers can purchase the food that they
> >will then cook and sell.  Drakakis-Smith thinks that these constitute
> >exploitive relationships even though the exploiter is not a capitalist in
> >the  traditional sense and indeed is poor and needs to do this this or
> >otherwise  take on a different role within the informal sector in order
> >survive.  But,  the point I am making is that there is frequently
> >exploitation  _within_ the sector by the poor  'entrepreneurs' and the
> >laborers.  Are they _all_ part  of the working class? I don't think so.
> >Are they _all_ part of the petty-bourgeoisie?  I don't think so --
> >the 'entrepreneurs'  in the above cases who rent out means of production
> >or advance money in exchange for more money are (very) petty-bourgeois,
> >imo.

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