[OPE-L:1595] Talking to the workers about wages and socialism

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 15:28:46 -0400 (EDT)

Re [OPE-L:1594]:

> A mass of people in New Zealand are effectively condemned to
> servile lives at a low living standard.

Hi Jurriaan.

What I have to say doesn't concern NZ, but the inference suggested
elsewhere that faculty are not working people. This is blatantly not
the case and reflects a prejudice common among certain Marxists
(especially "activists" on the Net).

The stereotype of wealthy, fat, professors living the "good life" is just
that, i.e. a stereotype.

Indeed, substituting a few words, I could say that: "a mass of academic
labor in the US (and elsewhere) are effectively condemned to servile
lives at a low living standard".

Do you think I am exaggerating? I am not.

In the US, where part-time faculty have increasingly become the *norm* at
universities, they are paid miserable wages (it is not uncommon for
faculty to teach at 3 or more colleges and earn between $7, 000 - $20,000
personal income/year), receive little or no benefits (especially important
here since there is no national health care system), and have no job
security or union representation (even where there are unions, the record
of academic unions at representing the "lowest of the low" among faculty
is very poor). In many cases, full-time faculty don't have it much better
(and the trend has also been for colleges to routinely deny faculty

So, faculty are "one of us", i.e. part of the working class.
Unfortunately, the stereotype of a worker is a man with a hard hat,
jeans, and steel-tipped boots (I used to resemble that stereotype rather
well when I worked on the assembly line in GM and Ford auto plants). Yet,
this is just a cartoon-like vision of the working class. The working-class
has many different segments -- and academic workers are part of that class
*even when* they don't recognize it and see themselves as "professionals"
instead of workers. And part, and only part, of the process of building
class solidarity is for this group of workers to solidarize themselves
with the rest of their class *and vice versa*. When radicals, though,
suggest that faculty aren't part of the working class then they make it
more difficult to break down that wall and build solidarity.

In solidarity, Jerry

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