[OPE-L:1601] Re: Re: Talking to the workers about wages and socialism

Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Thu, 28 Oct 1999 03:13:32 +0100

Hi Jerry

>A counter-argument is that the process of the concentration and
>centralization of capital expresses itself, in part, as increased
>proletarianization. And it is of enormous, momentous political,
>cultural, and economic significance that the size of the working class
>as a percentage of the total population increases over time.

Yes, I agree (and so did Ernest Mandel; see "Marx, the present crisis, and
the future of labour" in the Socialist Register). But at what level of
analysis, and for what purpose. My own concern is not with the working
class in the abstract, but with particular workers.

>> Thirdly, consider for example the case of airline
>> pilots, who do very responsible jobs and earn very high salaries. Would
>> 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
>> well-off that they can choose not to work or go into business for
>> themselves.
>The formal ability to become part of another class is not the same thing
>as identifying whether a particular group *is* a part of the working class
>or another class. Thus, an average factory worker might have the financial
>capacity to become a small (petty-bourgeois) business-person, e.g. a hot
>dog salesperson. Even though they have this capacity, this does not change
>what they _are now_.
I agree, and that is very dialectical of you.

>> 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
>> history".
>If the first part of the above sentence were correct, then the working
>class would have only been constituted as such in the proper sense at rare
>(pre-revolutionary and revolutionary) moments in history.


Yet, a class for
>itself is not the same thing as a class in itself.


A danger of defining
>working class as a class for itself, is that one would thereby exclude in
>most parts of the world the overwhelming majority of those who sell their
>labour-power to capitalists or the capitalist state from the definition.
>This might tend to work in the direction of eliteism and vanguardism.


>> I wanted to say this because there is still considerable leftwing
>> rhetoric about "the working class",
>No doubt, but there is even more left-wing rhetoric about "the people".
>E.g. the slogan from the 1960's "Power to the People".

Well that was before I became an adult (I was born in 1959). Where I was,
there wasn't much talk about "the people" other than in contrast to "the

Yet, unless we are
>to demonize capitalists to such an extent that we no longer consider them
>to be people, then such a slogan infers that capitalists -- as people --
>(even if they represent a small percentage of "the people") -- should have
>power. I don't like that idea.

I get the point, but I find that a bit vague. Power to do what ?
>The subject of taxes is an important topic related to the state-form.

Well I still have not read Michael Williams' book but I will take it with
me on holiday given a chance.
>[Digression: a very undeveloped area in Marxist theory is the subject
>of *public finance*. At one point in the 1980's, Willi Semmler was working
>in this area and there has been a bit written -- in various languages --
>on this subject, but it is extremely undeveloped in a theoretical
>sense. This is all the more important both because courses in public
>finance are taught in many colleges and there is no textbook on this
>subject from a Marxist perspective and it is also taught in introductory
>classes. Without a Marxist theory of public finance, we are reduced to
>only presenting mainstream (bourgeois) theory in a critical way].

My understanding is that in Japan such theory has been developed, but of
course we need the develop it in the West, yes.

In solidarity


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