(OPE-L) Re: CP India-Marxist Pushes Hi-Tech

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Mon Oct 18 2004 - 10:51:06 EDT

>>>  In your interpretation, how much freedom can
workers lose in the realm of circulation to bargain for wages
before they cease to be proletarians at all? <<<


Let's use the definition given by M & E in _The Communist
Manifesto_:  "By proletariat is meant the class of modern
wage-workers who, having no means of production of their
own, are reduced to selling their labor power in order to
live."    The most general answer that I can give to your
question is that the freedoms that wage-workers have or
have not often varies temporally and spatially (examples
re the right to strike follow later in this post) but this does
not alter whether they remain wage-workers _unless_
the characteristics in the definition above no longer hold.
Of course, it is certainly possible for proletarians to
cease to be proletarians, i.e. to join (voluntarily or
involuntarily) another class.  E.g. wage-workers (=
proletarians) can be placed in slave labor camps by
the state (as happened to many in Nazi Germany).
Or,  wage-workers can _remain_  proletarians but have
rights that in most capitalist social formations are today
deemed customary denied to them (e.g. in some Free
Trade Zones,  workers can't go on strike, join a union,
or leave the work site without permission.  Indeed,  the
perimeters of some of these FTZs are, or were,
surrounded by barbed wire and the gates are patrolled
by armed security guards or members of the military.
[btw, these conditions are very similar to those of
wage-workers at the Ford Motor Company prior
to unionization. Indeed, there were even shop rules
at Ford, enforced by the infamous Service Department
led by Harry Bennett, that prevented workers from
talking to each other either on the job or _at lunch_ in
the plant cafeteria.]). Indeed, the 'right' that proletarians
have to bargain for higher wages -- absent unionization --
is very limited: as individuals they typically have the right to
request higher wages and the capitalist has the right to
fire them (in most capitalist social formations, including the
US).  Unionization (and militancy)  or special circumstances
arising from the stratification of the working-class and the
different demand for labor-power with different skills or in
different regions shape the ability of workers to bargain for
higher wages.

>>> Also, Marx would have heralded the right to strike in
comparison to the pompous Rights of Man, no? <<<

It is certainly an important right but its presence or absence
does not by itself determine whether one is or is not a
proletarian.  A personal example:  I am a wage worker who
has the right to strike at one college but not the right to strike
at another college (because of the Taylor Law -- a subject Paul
Z knows about).   Yet, I am no more or less a wage-worker at
one college than another.  Most, if not all, capitalist social
formations limit or deny the right to strike for some segment of
the working class.  What is noteworthy in this story from India
-- besides the fact that the CPI-M was the political force
engineering the change -- was that a segment of the working
class that had the right to strike was now  denied it through the
rationalization that IT workers were now deemed by the state
to be "essential" workers.  Yet, this is by no means unique.  E.g.
in the U.S. during WWII _no_  workers had the right to go on
strike (a policy initiated by the "pro-labor" President, F.D.R.).
Also, in the U.S. it is not so uncommon for the state to intervene in
private sector disputes by ordering  striking workers back to
work (for a, so called, "cooling off" period).  And,
indeed, for most of the history of the US, the state
customarily intervened to force workers back to work
when striking (sometimes at the point of a gun with militia and
sheriffs) when powerful capitalists, like the "robber barons",
requested it.  Consequently -- like so many other 'rights'
that workers have -- this right is in many cases given to
workers and taken away by capital and the state when they
can get away with it: i.e. like all rights, it is a a custom that has
been and continues to be fought over.  Workers take for
granted rights only at their peril.

In solidarity, Jerry

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