Working class or capitalist?

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Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
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Jan 11 2013 20:26
Working class or capitalist?

I'm interested to know what what category I would be placed as an employee on a wage and a landlord with a small portfolio of buy to let properties? Capitalist I guess as I earn an income from rent and own capital (apartments?) but I do work for a boss so working class seems to fit by your definitions too. Also, I trade, for very small amounts of money on the stock market, capitalist again, but how about an employee that has a stake in a pension fund which creates cash for the pension payout by trading stocks and shares? Could they, by definition, not be called capitalists as they profit through the labour of the employees of the companies that the fund holds shares in? This all seems like a very grey area. My head spins just thinking about it! Anybody got any ideas on this or can clarify this in a simple way

PartyBucket's picture
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Jan 11 2013 20:51

Buying-to-let is a pretty scummy pastime.

What do you do when your tennants cant pay the rent?

Noah Fence's picture
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Jan 11 2013 21:18

Oh Christ, I'm really trying here. Why such assumptions?
In answer to your question, I've never evicted a tenant, four of my five tenants are in arrears. I let my flats to people that most landlords won't even consider - people with problems such as drug addiction, mental health issues and homlessness, all of which I have personal experiences of. I was a drug addict for 15 years, homeless at various times during that period and my daughter is seriously mentally ill. I am very ill and not expected to live a long life although I am about to start treatment which will change that if succsessful but it failed when I tried it 5 years ago. I set my portfolio up by educating myself in no money down property investment to protect my family when I am too ill to work or if I die.
Pastime!!! Fucking hell, have you any idea how much work I put in and how much risk I took to do this.
So there you have it, my whole life laid open. So fuck your stereotypes and how about answering the question?

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Jan 11 2013 21:25

Firstly. Who cares? Class is about understanding how the world works, how capitalism works, and how we can change it. Not putting people into groups of goodies and baddies.

Our introduction class goes into this more:
http://libcom.org/library/class-class-struggle-introduction

classifying individuals serves no political purpose.

That said, if you wanted to have an apolitical discussion about where you are then here are a few points. Class is a spectrum from people owning nothing at all, right up to the superrich.

In terms of where you are on the spectrum, can you get by living from the exploitation of others (i.e. from your rent income and stock dividends)? If so you would be purely a capitalist. If not, and you still have to sell your labour power to survive, then you still have a foot in the proletarian end of the spectrum.

So parts of your economic interests are opposed. As a stock owner, low workers' wages is in your interest. But as a worker still, higher wages are in your interest.

Similarly, as a landlord high rents are in your interest, but for proletarians the lower rents are the better. Anyway, it's Friday night. I've got to go

Noah Fence's picture
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Jan 11 2013 21:46

Steven - Firstly. Who cares? Class is about understanding how the world works, how capitalism works, and how we can change it. Not putting people into groups of goodies and baddies.

Yes, I realise this, but I asked a genuine question and the response I got was a very mediocre record about 'baddie' landlords and a statement about 'scummy pastimes' and a question loaded with the inference as a landlord I must be a 'baddie'. Surely the idea that it's not about goodies and baddies has to cut both ways. I explained my situation to refute Partybuckets assumptions.
Also, when I set my potfolio up the stuff that I'm learning about on this site had never even crossed my mind so I resent the inference that I take part in premeditated doing down of the proles.
As for your answer to my original question, thanks, that makes perfect sense to me. A large majority of my income results from my labour which profits the man that I work for and the builders etc that he sub contracts to which I suppose means that (by your definition) I am working class. Your explanation confirms that there are shades of grey to this stuff which I find heartening because I struggle with the idea that everything is absolute.

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Jan 12 2013 00:24

Class is a social relationship, something produced and reproduced through social practice, it's just not a passive property; something you do, not something that you simply are. In your relationship to your employer, you assume the role of proletarian; in your relationship to your tenants, you assume the role of capitalist. That's not impossible, even if it creates politically conflicting impulses.

By way of historical example, in many of the earliest factories, the industrialist would employ a skilled machinist, who would further employ a number of unskilled assistants (usually women and children), which he would pay out of his wages from the industrialist. This made the machinist both a worker, in his relationship to the industrialist, with an impulse to increase his well-being by fighting for higher wages and less discipline, and a boss, in his relationship to his assistants, with an impulse to lower their wages and increase discipline.

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Jan 12 2013 07:09

Basically class (and class conciousness) is always going to be frought with contradictions. I mean, shit, some of the largest stock profiles in the US are held by workers' pension funds! And lots of workers end up becoming small landlords (oftentimes without the initial, specific intention to do so) as a means to earn extra income--not the least of which include my Communist in-laws!

So I wouldn't beat yourself up: if there's a situation where you need help at work, you can easily ask for and receive advice here on libcom. If you have problems with your tenants, on the other hand, and are trying to convict them, well, probably not.

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Jan 12 2013 12:37

Ok, that's clear. I guess that under the current system it is inevitable that a lot of your actions will help to uphold that system - it's built in to the design. It's also inevitable that workers that want or need to work less will look for ways to create extra income from a source that does not require their labour. Even if the very nature of boss to worker or landlord to tenant relationships is an exploitative one it has to be better to have a boss or landlord that does their best to treat you well rather than a selfish penny pinching bastard.
It seems that us workers actually hold up the system more than the bosses etc but on the flip side to this potentially have the most power to bring it to an end. I would say the willingness to realise that potential is about a million miles away right now but I can see that exists. I like that. It gives hope.

Malva's picture
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Jan 12 2013 13:16
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And lots of workers end up becoming small landlords (oftentimes without the initial, specific intention to do so) as a means to earn extra income

I was always struck in Road to Wigan Pier by Orwell saying that the worst landlords were old ladies who rented out a house as their pension and therefore couldn't afford to keep the property in good repair.

Also, having a shit landlord, from personal experience, is fucking awful and can be worse than having a shit boss.

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Jan 12 2013 14:37
Webby wrote:
It seems that us workers actually hold up the system more than the bosses etc but on the flip side to this potentially have the most power to bring it to an end. I would say the willingness to realise that potential is about a million miles away right now but I can see that exists. I like that. It gives hope.

It "seems"? The labor-power of workers is the source of all (social) wealth, even that which is consumed by the bosses' class. Without the participation of the working class, this system would be nothing.

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Jan 12 2013 15:44

So why do we allow it then?

Agent of the International's picture
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Jan 12 2013 17:00

Ruling-class ideology and culture. General acceptance of the existing social order as the "natural" way of life. Unawareness of the exploitation and domination inherent in the system. Lack of wide-spread (in terms of popularity) revolutionary alternatives, consciousness, and organizing methods. The socialist movement have always been a small minority, and even more so, the libertarian socialist current have been a small minority within the overall socialist movement.

All of this can change when working-class people realize their potential to change the world in accordance to their own interests. This realization can become more widespread and transparent with thorough education and organizing by revolutionary activists within working-class movements.

Agent of the International's picture
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Jan 12 2013 17:01

Also, violent force via the state apparatus.

Chilli Sauce's picture
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Jan 12 2013 17:27
Webby wrote:
Ok, that's clear. I guess that under the current system it is inevitable that a lot of your actions will help to uphold that system - it's built in to the design. It's also inevitable that workers that want or need to work less will look for ways to create extra income from a source that does not require their labour. Even if the very nature of boss to worker or landlord to tenant relationships is an exploitative one it has to be better to have a boss or landlord that does their best to treat you well rather than a selfish penny pinching bastard.
It seems that us workers actually hold up the system more than the bosses etc but on the flip side to this potentially have the most power to bring it to an end. I would say the willingness to realise that potential is about a million miles away right now but I can see that exists. I like that. It gives hope.

Yeah, I think all that's about right.

On the "why" question: I mean, we're born into a world of capitalism. All structures of capitalist society--education, government, culture, media--are designed to maintain and reproduce capitalist social relations on an ideological and material level. And, should we attempt to combat this in a small way--like strikes or demonstrations--or in a big revolutionary way, we can expect stress, repression, and even open violence. That's a lot to overcome.

However, the material position of the working class means that folks experience the contradictions of capitalist society all the time and, consequently, fight for their own interests and against the interests of capital. This is rarely a concious thing and rarer still is it expressed in explicitly anti-capitalist terms--but everything from covering each others' back while we slack off at work to going on strike is acting against the interests, logic, and discipline of capital. The trick is to build from those small isolated but inevitable incidents towards something bigger and more concious.

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Jan 12 2013 17:56

Chilli:
However, the material position of the working class means that folks experience the contradictions of capitalist society all the time and, consequently, fight for their own interests and against the interests of capital. This is rarely a concious thing and rarer still is it expressed in explicitly anti-capitalist terms--but everything from covering each others' back while we slack off at work to going on strike is acting against the interests, logic, and discipline of capital. The trick is to build from those small isolated but inevitable incidents towards something bigger and more concious.

An interesting point. Conciousness would bring focus and meaningful achievements rather than the dead end of 'getting one over' on the foreman, manager or whatever. I've seen so many workers in my industry(construction) do as little as they can all day, many doing nothing at all. Their day must seem so long and boring. For the most part capitalists, small time ones at least, work hard, have a lot of stress and achieve little material gain. Their dead end is more 'stuff'. A newer car, a bigger house etc. For the most part they derive little pleasure from these 'gains' and usually have bigger mortgages and car loans to deal with which remain long after the buzz of getting some sort of material improvement has subsided. I would say that it is also important to work on the awareness of these facts too.

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Jan 12 2013 18:51

The working class is only powerful if it acts collectively. It's not so easy to act collectively, particularly not today, work and society has created quite a few hurdles. Our culture overemphasizes small differences in heritage, identity and income ensuring that they become barriers for solidarity and collective action. The state and capital are already organised.

The fact that the working class is only powerful when it acts collectively also suggests that it is the class that will run society collectively.

Webby wrote:
An interesting point. Conciousness would bring focus and meaningful achievements rather than the dead end of 'getting one over' on the foreman, manager or whatever. I've seen so many workers in my industry(construction) do as little as they can all day, many doing nothing at all. Their day must seem so long and boring.

That example must make it quite clear how many people feel the need to resist. Doing nothing all day at work is hard work, as you might know. Just doing the job might actually be more pleasant that shirking, if it wasn't for the boss and wage labour that is.

Webby wrote:
For the most part capitalists, small time ones at least, work hard, have a lot of stress and achieve little material gain. Their dead end is more 'stuff'. A newer car, a bigger house etc. For the most part they derive little pleasure from these 'gains' and usually have bigger mortgages and car loans to deal with which remain long after the buzz of getting some sort of material improvement has subsided. I would say that it is also important to work on the awareness of these facts too.

Most people are "aware" of this no? It gets repeated aaaall the time!

PS you can click the "quote" link next to the post you want to respond to. The text then comes up in your reply box between [quote] labels. Cut away the text to only contain the bit you're interested in . Make sure to leave the brackes and the label either side of the quote. This then makes it clearer what is quoted and what is your reply.

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Jan 12 2013 19:34

Thanks for the tip.

You're right, it is repeated all the time, but peoples actions demonstrate they don't believe it. Look at how many of the working class spend what little spare cash they have on absolute shit. Look at how many of the wealthy keep working and keep accumilating to get a house in which they only use 2 or 3 of the 20 rooms, a new Range Rover every year which is absolutely no different to the previous one and a Ferrari in the garage that they never drive. To go along with this they end up with burn out, heart attacks and broken marriages. Of course, I know it doesn't compare to the problems of a family living on the breadline but these guys are victims of the con as well. I work in the houses of these guys and they seem permanently surprised by the lack of satisfaction they have yet they keep on doing the same stuff. It's pitiful really.

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Jan 12 2013 22:05

It all sounds very cliched, but money doesn't bring happiness.

I read a sociological study that concluded poverty certainly creates unhappiness and, up to a point, money alleviates that stress. Past about $40,000 a year, however, there are no further reported gains in overall contentment or security no matter how much one's income increases.

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Jan 12 2013 22:38
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it is the class that will run society collectively.

Well the working class is the class that abolishes itself, so no. A classless society would be a better way of putting it. Otherwise you get into the bourgeois dualities of individuality versus collectivity, egotism versus alturism etc. all of which are hierarchical social separations. The USSR did a lot of suppressing the individual in the name of the, abstract, "collective". Let's leave that to the leftists. Classes society would be both an individual and collective expression of human needs and desires.

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Jan 13 2013 00:00
Malva wrote:
Quote:
it is the class that will run society collectively.

Well the working class is the class that abolishes itself, so no. A classless society would be a better way of putting it.

My way of putting was a bit crap. I started going down the road of trying to explain why the working class is the class that abolishes all classes. It all sounded like lefty jargon and I couldn't immediately think of a resonable way of putting it, so I deleted it and wrote that imprecise sentence that at least had something to do with the other stuff I wrote.

It would be useful if someone could write a short jargon free three sencences that explains why the working class is "special" in regards to abolishing all classes and bringing about communism. All I can think of sounds like words borrowed from a book.

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Jan 13 2013 00:03

Malva that's all true, but it's also a bit pedantic.

The working class is the class which will lead the revolution which will abolish class society. So, instead of having a class which exercises power, the mass of humanity (made up of predominantly the now ex-working class) will run society collectively in a sense of solidarity forged in the furnace of working class revolution.

I don't know, sometimes I don't think there's no need to go-right ultraleft when the meaning is quite apparent.

EDIT: Cross-posed with Cooked.

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Jan 13 2013 00:22

I don't think Malva was being pedantic! We need to be clear about what we want (within reason, obviously there are large swathes of pedantic bastards, usually getting paid to write whole books on it). Especially important as he related it to the USSR (something we should talk about, or at least reference, when expressing what our vision of communism is).

N.B. Nice to see Malva posting a bit more again now-a-days grin

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Jan 13 2013 00:23

The 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie' will be replaced by the 'dictatorship of everyone (each and every member of humanity)'.

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Jan 14 2013 10:37
Quote:
N.B. Nice to see Malva posting a bit more again now-a-days

Nice to be missed! wink

Quote:
'dictatorship of everyone (each and every member of humanity)'.

I like this phrase. It makes you think about what the word dictatorship means in this context rather than just accepting it at face value with all its cultural / historical baggage. Though the "dictatorship of the proletariat" would also do this if it hadn't been recuperated by a bourgeoisie purporting to represent the proletariat.