[OPE-L:1599] Re: Talking to the workers about wages and socialism

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 27 Oct 1999 13:04:47 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 19:00:03 +0100
From: Jurriaan Bendien <djjb99@worldonline.nl>

Hi Jerry

Thanks for your comments.

What I wanted to say is, I am not all that satisfied with my definition of
the working class, and I have become more careful about using that term.
First, I want to relate to fellow workers, which I do on a daily basis, as
people, living human beings, not because of any "class" they are in.
Second, the working class in the so-called "advanced capitalist countries"
includes the overwhelming majority of the population, since they all depend
on a wage or a salary or a social wage. For that reason, the category or
concept itself is of very limited use to me in terms of political or
cultural or economic analysis. This may be different in countries such as
India or wherever. Thirdly, consider for example the case of airline
pilots, who do very responsible jobs and earn very high salaries. Would you
call them part of the working class ? In general, I would, but if my
general conceptual definition were strictly applied then I would run into
problems with it in many cases, since the older pilots will be sufficiently
well-off that they can choose not to work or go into business for
themselves. Finally, I consider the working class to be constituted as such
in the proper sense, only if the great majority actually understand their
class position in society as such, and act from a class point of view,
which is not a matter of conceptual or statistical definitions but a
political, cultural, social, and organisational matter, ultimately a
subjective matter, the working class "as an independent subjective force in
history". I wanted to say this because there is still considerable leftwing
rhetoric about "the working class", apart from valid applications in social
scientific research and in political shorthand, and a lot of that rhetoric
just seems meaningless to me, far too abstract.

On another matter: as regards comparative wages, I would say that American
workers often pay less taxes than Dutch workers, so they might end up with
more disposable income. So then what I said previously might not be fully
correct. To repeat, precisely because of the law of wages Marx specifies in
terms of the reproduction cost of labour-power and its variability, the
relationships involved in wages are complex and must be analysed in their
historical detail.

I just received word that my copy of Makoto Itoh's Political Economy of
Socialism has arrived, so getting to read that will be my next challenge.

In solidarity


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Mon Jan 03 2000 - 12:18:34 EST