File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1996/96-11-13.154, message 111


Date: Wed, 13 Nov 96 08:08:17 GMT
Subject: Re: M-I: Search for the Western Proletariat





Louis G writes:
>
> Jon Flanders is aghast at my analysis of the modern Western proletariat and,
> for the time being,  cites three reasons why:
>         
> >  1. I don't equate numerical decline with loss of social, economic and 
> >political power. The fact that industry can produce much more with far 
> >fewer bodies, changes nothing in the relationship of forces in strategic 
> >industries like auto. 
> 
> On the contrary,  Jon,  it changes a great deal.    The fact that today in
> the West far more people are engaged in,  say,  financial services than in
> manufacturing has had --and will continue to have-- far reaching
> consequences that adversely effect all workers.    There is,  despite
> sentimental musings to the contrary,  power in numbers.     Michigan,  home
> to the UAW and the Big Three,  now has one of the most reactionary state
> governments in American history,   reflecting in part the sharp decline in
> the power of workers in the "strategic" industries like steel and auto.
> In labor actions across Europe,  from the secondary boycott to the General
> Strike,  calculations often rest upon the breadth and depth of public as
> well as union support.     
> 

Jon's point is correct.

There are far fewer workers at Ford Dagenham ( London ) or Ford Halewood
( Liverpool ) than there used to be. They produce the same number of
cars. Not only this, because of the increased concentration of capital,
if they strike, they can effect not just British production, as was
the case in the past, but also production in the rest of Europe.

Louis G can argue what he likes. The recent brake strike in GM in the
US proves me and Jon right, and him wrong.

Luckily, the Russian working class ignored Louis G in 1905 and 1917.
Although they constitued a proletarian island in peasant sea, they
ignored him and went ahead and made a revolution anyway.

The fact that they were a tiny minority was irrelevant - their social
weight was the decisive factor.

Jon writes:
> > 2. As the size of the traditional industrial working class decreases, 
> >the "proletarianization" of almost all other forms of work has increased
> >exponentially. 
> 
Louis replies.
> This is difficult to determine. 


No it isn't.
Financial workers are workers. They organise and strike. 
South Korean bank workers riot and are rude to their customers, always
a good sign of a militant workforce.

And, white collar workers in general are proletarians. Exactly how
do you explain the recent and ongoing turmoil on France, if not
in terms of traditional class conflict ?

Truth is a practical concept. The working class has proved Louis G 
wrong. Andre Gortz produced similarly stupid arguments in early 1968 -
and look what happened a month later. 

>
> >3. In the third world, there is plenty of evidence of massive 
> >proletarianization, China and Indonesia spring to mind immediately.  
> >...The world is more working class in composition than it has ever 
> >been in history. What is missing is this "class consciousness" we have 
> >been discussing....
> 
> We are of course speaking here of the West (see title),  but your point is
> well taken.   As I said before,  I think we have to consider seriously the
> hypothesis that the world revolution of which the October Revolution was the
> first stage,  and which will complete the downfall of capitalism,  will
> prove to be the revolt of the colonial peoples against capitalism in the
> guise of imperialism rather than a revolt of the proletariat of the advanced
> capitalist countries. 
> 

Workers in Zimbabwe, a supposedly "liberated" country, are showing that
Louis G is wrong. They are striking against the dictates of multinational
capitalism as imposed by the local, black, bourgeoisie.

And as for South Africa, well, national liberation has not bought socialism,
has it ? It has not brought international capitalism crashing down, has it ?
So you're talking crap, aren't you ?

Adam.



Adam Rose
SWP
Manchester
UK


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