Friday, August 7, 2009

Reply to 'A Midwesterner'

In the spirit of comradely discussion (and also because my reply was too long for the comments page), here's an exchange with comrade on the post back.

"Sure I don't want patriarchy or heterosexism, but how does that mean that the class war will destroy them?" -

Well I would see those systems that we're talking about, as part of a way to organize society that benefits the elites ultimately, by making use of other parts of society to also organize and manage it in a certain way. For instance, the Taliban using the male head of every home as a 'state representative' to enforce patriarchy and control. Colonial elites creating a cacique (meaning chiefs, etc) class in order to better manage native populations, and so forth. Either with settlers, homophobes making sure people don't break up the nuclear family, or patriarchy helping to reproduce the nuclear family, and so on. I think any real class struggle is also a struggle against all of these forms as well. A class war fights to end all divisions within the proletarian class; thus generalizing all struggles, but also against the things which put us in those boxes in the first place.

"you should push a step farther to argue how that will come about, or how they are related." -

That's a good point. I would like to do that in the future. However, I don't think I can address them in these short points. In the next issue I would like to however. Or, perhaps other people will write on this subject as well. There's an excellent interview with a Bash Back member in V3, which touches I feel on some of this. Although, I think perhaps my approach maybe, dare I say, 'more Marxian' than theirs.

"Will the uncontrolled spread of wildcat strikes lead to a breakdown of the gendered division of labor?" -

Well, if wildcat strikes spread uncontrollably, then I assume the housewives will walkout as well! Since labor is gendered in this society, and it is needed in order to help in its constant reproduction, then hopefully a real rupture of capitalist social relations will lead to the destruction of gendered labor, and the recomposition of social life without such a construct. I think it is also the "place" (for lack of a term) for proletarian revolutionaries to push for such things and make the case for a destruction of such norms; especially while in the midst of struggle and revolt. I think the graphic novel "Breaking Free: The Adventures of Tin Tin," discusses this very well. Why should women struggle if they're just going to be used as sex objects and forced to do house work, even after the 'rev'? The class struggle must be, and is, a struggle against all such forms, or it is not class struggle.

Same with 'queer safe spaces.' Obviously in my mind, any liberated proletarian space that is not a 'safe space' for queer expression, is not a liberated proletarian zone by definition. Again, I think there is a task for prole revolutionaries to serious break down the divisions within the class that are all around us, of race, gender, and sexuality. Just as we attack the Left while being involved in struggle, we must attack those who would divide our class on the daily.

"Next, is the middle class part of the proletariat or not?" -

I think some of these people (that you mention) are working class, especially teachers by and large. Police are such a strange bunch. Not only do a lot of them get paid a lot, they kind of are in a class by themselves.

I was trying to make the point with the middle class positions that I listed that many of them are salary/wage earners true, but they also have a degree of social power within their profession. When Chomsky talked of the middle class, he stated that they are "expected to take an active role in social life," and act as guideposts for the rest of us. A high ranking professor at UC Berkeley not only teaches, but also might do studies for corporations or the government, write in influential journals, go on TV to talk about various issues, and perform a role as an adviser to a variety of institutions. This person I see as middle class, because they are talking on a role outside of just mere wage earner; and becoming more of a specialists and manager of social life.

On the other hand, a non-tenured professor, even one with a PhD, might look for work every semester, survive without benefits, be stuck in massive students loans, and also be afraid to organize on the job or speak out due to fear of getting fired, I see as a member of the working class.

As you state, these categories are murky at best; and race, gender, etc, all also make them more difficult to pin point. But I think that these categories are still useful and also point to various people within society have more or less agency in social life and in the workplace.

"Given the murkiness of this question, proletarian culture (which you note is dying) was one of the main tools for arbitrarily and positively denying cops and scabs access to proletarian identity. But this kind of culture is exactly the kind of self-affirmation you seem to hope to escape." -

I would say there is still elements of class consciousness within the class in regards to culture, just listen to most rap music. However, most of proletarian culture is 'non-political,' lacks a direction, and is made reactionary or counter-proletarian due to sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.

"And how does this unclarity affect your point in 9? Who exactly has been proletarianized in this crisis?" -

I think that the myth that "we are all middle class now," has been shot to shit. I think perhaps people can see more clearly that this is a class divided society; especially when they have made it clear that we must pay for the crisis of their system.

"but I'm not sure that the class relation has changed that much, that quickly." -

Perhaps 'proletarianization' is a word that I'm using in the wrong context, and I'll probably change it (one of the reasons I'm glad for this feedback). What I was trying to get at was that the current crisis has (at least in my eyes) made the class lines much more clear. The working family who bought an SUV and a large house last year is now facing layoffs and foreclosure. While they viewed themselves as middle class before based on what they could buy on credit and through sub-prime loans a few years ago, now the reality of their class position is much clearer.

"If anything, the population is being deproletarianized" -

Hmmm...interesting concept.

"Finally, what's up with that quote "Without violence, the class becomes decadent?" Is that early Mussolini?" -

Ha! Actually early Class War Federation (UK). I take it to me, that when we don't actively confront and fight for our interests, we become impotent and unaware of ourselves.

"Sorry if I've ended up using a harsh tone" -

No worries, thanks for the great feedback.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I really like reading your blog. I don't agree with everything, but I love the spirit of challenge and inquiry.

    I especially like the way you talk about doing work that is relevant to people and connecting with people on the basis of our everyday concerns. Too often I see revolutionaries dealing in rhetoric and symbolism, waving their angst around like a banner, and ultimately losing any relevancy to ordinary working people. The type of organizing you are pointing to is the kind that doesn't have any glory attached to it, and I like that. It's the work I try to do, in my own stumbling way.

    A note about class distinctions. I grapple with this question a lot and I have more questions than answers. But I think one of the main differences between classes is the degree of control each is able to exercise over, well, the means of production. In other words, how much control do we have over where we live, where we work, what our working conditions (hours, wages, etc) are, what materials went into the house we live in and where, and under what conditions, those materials were produced, what kind of transportation we use to get to work or school and how far we have to travel to get there, where our food comes from, etc. etc.

    This isn't a game of testing people's authenticity or working class cred, but more a way of defining common conditions that we can work with eachother around.