Some issues of class analysis

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Mystic
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Mar 31 2004 09:31
Some issues of class analysis

Just some things that I've been thinking about, which I'm sure must have been incorporated into anarchist class analysis.

Now, just to take an example, a master plumber can earn anything from 50 to 80 grand a year - and a lot of that tax free, if he insists on cash payments. Despite all this, he may come from a working class background, and talk "common."

I, on the other hand, have a Northern Irish working class dad, but a middle class mum, and I've been brought up all my life to talk "posh" (okay, I don't really talk all that posh wink). When I was 13 I got a scholarship into a private school, and so I've had a private education for GCSEs and A levels. I'm now at university studying English. Research has shown that English students earn less than the average wage. If you were to meet me, and to meet an average "common"-talking plumber, you'd come away with the impression that I was middle class, and that the plumber was working class. But clearly that has no relationship with our wages, or actual positions in the capitalist system. I'm the one who's always dead broke and has to buy Tesco Value (as CW put it in that other thread), with limited prospects for a stable job in this day and age.

To pick a more extreme example (and this is what I'm driving at), lots of very wealthy businessmen have come from working class backgrounds. Now, we in our society traditionally tend to think of class as something that comes around from birth and upbringing, that manifests itself particularly in the way you talk and act. But an advanced class analysis would surely reveal that such a view is deeply flawed.

So can someone break this down for me? To what extent should anarchists try to analyse class objectively? Clearly as a rule of thumb working class by birth tends to make someone more likely to be working class, because of how the system cracks down on people's opportunities (particularly in this time, the era of unemployment). But lots of people who're nominally "working class" in general social currency aren't that at all, right?

AlexA
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Mar 31 2004 10:10

I'm kinda in a hurry, but just quickly - as millions of people on here have said already (wink), class (from a revolutionary point of view) isn't about your accent, clothes or taste in food (sun dried tomatoes vs. jellied eels etc.)

It's about your relationship with society and capital.

By Marx's definition the working class/proletariat or wage-earning class is the class which has to sell its labour power to survive.

A tiny number of people don't have to do this (work, sign on or live by crime), these people live by exploiting the labour of others. These people are capitalists - bosses, landlords, shareholders, investors etc. But of course many of these people work too (but they don't have to). E.g. a CEO works for a wage but also gets huge share options.

Now of course lots of workers do assist the bosses, and act against working class interests (like being managers, bailiffs etc.).

So that's my 2c smile

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cantdocartwheels
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Mar 31 2004 11:18

1) do you have the power to hire and fire

2) Are you self employed

3) skilled or unskilled

4) does your work have a high degree of specialisation or bureacratisation

While it is neccesary to talk of the proletariat, and the ruling class, in order to unite the proletariat in their common interest. In a classed society like capitalism there isn't really a fixed class divide or a united proletariat.

It is important to recognise the differences and their limitations but not to divide people on them too much.

The skilled working class are often much better off than the unskilled working class for example.

And just because someones work is bureacratic, liek a chemistry teacher, does that make them more in line with authority than a well to do self employed plumber who rips off old women and has two bmw's.

That makes him petit bourgeois doesn't it, or does it?

I just think that class is fluid and not simplistically divided into two groups, even though in the revolutionary moment of class struggle this is what would happen.

john

ps sorry to be an ashole and suggest books but reckon Gramscis ideas of class are pretty useful here even if you don't agree with all of them.

Lazlo_Woodbine
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Mar 31 2004 14:02
Mystic wrote:
lots of very wealthy businessmen have come from working class backgrounds. Now, we in our society traditionally tend to think of class as something that comes around from birth and upbringing, that manifests itself particularly in the way you talk and act. But an advanced class analysis would surely reveal that such a view is deeply flawed.

Hardly any wealthy business men come from poor backgrounds. Success is still the preserve of a very few. Social mobility used to be higher, then stopped/reversed around 1974. It's a complete illusion that the middle class has grown -- measured in terms of a class with any power or wealth they've shrunk.

maybe aspects of a middle class lifestyle have grown -- pasta used to be exotic, orange juice used to be an optional starter, etc. just because we're fed lots of processed crap at a higher rate doesn't mean we've changed class.

LiveFastDiarrea
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Mar 31 2004 19:12

Loads of succesfull buisenessmen come from poor backgrounds, loads of people who managed to ride in on the dot com boom did very well for themselves. Whats his name the virgin man started off poor and he is one of the richest men in britain. And JK Rowling was a poor single mum, and she is now the richest women in britain(I think).

nastyned
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Mar 31 2004 19:45

Hmmm...and what percentage do you think this amounts to? confused

LiveFastDiarrea
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Mar 31 2004 19:53

Yeah, I'm not saying there are a large majority, but you do get quite a lot of people who have gone from poor beginnings to becoming reasonably rich. There are a few areas near me that are full of people who have done exactly that and seem to be purpose built for them, cabbies, builders, decoraters and people who have just been lucky with a business venture who have all got themselves a lot of money.

Anonymous
Apr 1 2004 03:02
cantdocartwheels wrote:
1) do you have the power to hire and fire.

Agree with this.

cantdocartwheels wrote:
2) Are you self employed.

Jury is out on the self employed in my opinion. Many are forced to be self employed. Many still have bosses they just have to work out their own tax.

cantdocartwheels wrote:
3) skilled or unskilled.

Disagree with this. Printers - common as muck, often militant, often well organised, very skilled

cantdocartwheels wrote:
4) does your work have a high degree of specialisation or bureacratisation.

I don't understand this one.

cantdocartwheels wrote:
While it is neccesary to talk of the proletariat, and the ruling class, in order to unite the proletariat in their common interest. In a classed society like capitalism there isn't really a fixed class divide or a united proletariat.

Yes there is, they just spend a lot of money and time making out there isn't. The bosses are the ones who don't have to work or sign on, get rich off our work and give all the orders. Everyone else, broadly speaking, belongs to the proletariat. There is no class unity because the left have fucked it up and no one else is offering an alternative to clawing our way up the bosses backside to earn a living. Except us and we are tiny, sadly.

Anonymous
Apr 1 2004 16:27

hmm i think you misunderstand me, theres a proletariat, and a bourgeoisie and a petit bourgeoisie, but within those groups there are various social classes, and the dividing line between bourgeois and petit bourgeois, and petit bourgeois and proletariat is often blurred except at moments of revolutionary struggle.

I just think that considering that capitalism is transcient and to some extent fluid, we should not expect there to be rigid and easily definable clas backgrounds.

john

Kalashnikov_Blues
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Apr 1 2004 19:58

I was involved in a discussion about this the other day.

I am pretty opposed to excluding (ostirsizing is a better word, but obviously I can't spell it smile ) anyone one, regardless of the background or job. I think it is totally unfair and doesnt really benefit anyone.

Being weary etc fine. but...

Not the point I know!

On to the point...

I am opposed to this "easy" version of class breakdown thing, as I think it is very hard to figure out overall, hence my not wanting to exclude anyone,,, off handedly that is.

I also think its unfair to do it based on self employment, even if you have employees.

I have a friend who runs a very well respected computer graophics company, works for like Channel 4 and the BBC. But I would never ever think of him as bourgeois or petit bourgeois. Not only because I know he got where he is through sheer hard work, I also know that he is totally dedicated to (I would rather let him decide whether he wants to call it) Anarchist beliefs. However I would say he was.

He also runs his company as almost a collective.

The people work there cuz they want to, as the pay is shit, esp for what tehy are doing. And if someone needs extra cash to pay rent or what have you they distribute whatever funds they have to cover that person. My friend himself makes less then what most of his employees make.

Now I know that this is not common. But I think it would be, not just unfair and foolish, but wholey wrong to embrace him as a "comrade" as the case my be.

Does this make sense... I have had a long day at work... sorry.

And whats wrong with skilled workers? Just cuz I'm skilled doesn't mean I have some amazing kick ass job. Nor does it appear to give me any extra privlages in life (thats what all there secret handshakes are supposed to be for, but they dont work).

Augusto_Sandino
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Apr 2 2004 08:54

All the aforementioned problems are solved, by saying there is a proletariat and a bourgoise. No petit bourgoise. There are misguided proletarians who side with the bourgoise, but they dont own any machinery, they seldom actually employ other people themselves, so theyre not really bourgoise. This attitude stops all the middle class bashing getting out of hand.

And bear in mind, even in the Thirties and Twenties, there were working class people in the South (and the North) who were pretty well of compared to those in the Gorbals, for instance. Class has never been that black and white.

captainmission
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Apr 2 2004 16:57
cantdocartwheels wrote:
1) do you have the power to hire and fire

hmmm, heard this one alot as a diagnostic tool of class, but i'm not sure how much use it is. Lot of organisations have human resource departments that deal with hiring/firing (often staffed by low payed temp workers). Tasks like that are often spread across bueacratic structures, where who has the 'power' is often quite confused.

captainmission
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Apr 2 2004 17:01
Anonymous wrote:
.....and the dividing line between bourgeois and petit bourgeois, and petit bourgeois and proletariat is often blurred except at moments of revolutionary struggle.

can't help but agree with this, but it does beg the question how do revolutionary struggles occur with out some clarity in class identity before hand?

Augusto_Sandino
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Apr 2 2004 19:10

So why dont we quit equating them with the Bourgoise by calling them petty Bourgoise, and call them misguided Proletarians, which is ultimately what they are.

AlexA
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Apr 2 2004 22:30

er well workers (come on fuck the word proletarians!) are definted by the fact that they have to work/sign on/steal to survive.

You can't say a small business-owner is a "misguided" worker any more than you can say Branson is. Some of them might be workers but others might be able to get by living off the labour of others.

Still a lot of self-employed people share common economic interests with workers.

Mystic
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Apr 3 2004 09:26

It seems to me that we're dividing into workers, bosses and, for want of a better word, scabs in that case. Proletariat, bourgeois, petit bourgeois and (even worse) "lumpenproletariat" sound pretentious to me, and don't even fit this kind of class analysis. Because anarchists support the kind of people who Marx grouped into the lumpenproletariat, but Marx hated them, right? I have a feeling that in this country people are only going to listen to us when we use the terms they're used to (middle class, workers, etcetera) because as soon as you accuse someone of being "bourgeois" your attacks sound hollow.

shellls
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Apr 5 2004 21:26

what about criminals?

People who don't work but steal and racketeer, what class are they?

The media uses terms like 'criminal class' and 'underclass' how does this fit in? does anyone see these terms as being authentic?

Are wealthy criminals like the petit-bourgeois of the blackmarket, and people forced into it to survive/live - working class- even if they don't work? or is crime 'work'?

I know this is a bit simplistic and a bit off thread, but i'm new here, i'd like to hear a bit more about anarchism and its crime/class analysis, can anyone help?

Capitalism needs crime?

Mystic
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Apr 5 2004 22:28

I think at least part of the analysis is that capitalism produces a predator class - people like criminals and (in my view) terrorists, whose behaviour is in large part a product of the system they seem to oppose. Because those sorts of people don't threaten to destroy the system, and yet they provide an excuse to have armies and police forces, all the apparatus of violence the state needs to back itself up.

I don't think any anarchist thinks there will be no crime without the state, just that what criminal desires there exist in people are exacerbated by capitalism: creating areas of deprivation where crime is rife, sending people to prison where they become brutalised and come out reoffending worse than ever before, and so on.

I'm not sure if I'm right, though smile.

captainmission
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Apr 6 2004 15:54
Mystic wrote:
I think at least part of the analysis is that capitalism produces a predator class - people like criminals and (in my view) terrorists, whose behaviour is in large part a product of the system they seem to oppose.

I take exception to calling criminals 'predators' (unless its like it the film i'd quite like to go invisble and have a laser and beat the shit out of arnold swartanegger, though perhaps not go on to appear in a bunch of 2nd rate ...vs predator computer games and comics, apart from maybe superman vs predator cos I quite fancy kicking the shit out of superman and all, but then again i'm not sure, what do you reckon?) especially concidering a good proportion of people on enrager will be criminals. Beside we shouldn't forget the benificial role that crime plays for lots of working class people. Whilst they maybe pay the greatest cost for alot of low level crime- black market goods, shoplifting, grafitti, benifit fraud- can be quite advantagous. Alot trade in black market goods and certain drugs is often heavily reliant on face to face contact and mutual aid. Maybe the close thing to a non-capitalist economy many people will experience.

Think we need to distinguish between criminality (as dictated by the state) and anti-social acts which are detrimental to communities and individuals.

Quote:
Because those sorts of people don't threaten to destroy the system, and yet they provide an excuse to have armies and police forces, all the apparatus of violence the state needs to back itself up.

An excuse to have armies and police? Kind of focusing your attention in the wrong place here? Police forces have developed, in this country aleast, in response to political threats- the luddites, chartists, etc- not to 'criminal' threats. They still serve this politcal function, often quite overtly. Following a shooting in moss side, the police came marching through on horseback. The purpose ain't to caputre the murderer (cos unless he's going to challenge them to a deuling contest don't think horse riding police are much use), but to reinstate the message that only the police have the power of legitimate violence in that area (and as a side note on that basis i'd disagree that criminals and terrorist don't have the power to destroy the 'system').

Anonymous
May 11 2004 17:52

ignoring the criminal discussion for the moment, and going back to class, we actually all live off the labour of others and profit by it. everytime we buy. its just not necessarily in our neighbourhood, like the easy analogy of the man who owns the shop (easy because its relatable to in terms of your own street).

So if we buy goods produced by other people's labour which increase the profit of the man in the shop, and those goods are produced by exploited people here or in other countries, then what social class does that make us? we may not own the profit producing machine, but we increase our potential capital by utilising it and we also do have some power over the conditions in which the people live who produce the goods.

the relationships of buying and selling (including the selling of your labour and the buying of the labour of others) is more complex to apply now.

and the ownership is not fixed. someone who owns a shop (to return to the simplest example otherwise i'll get lost confused ) may not own it the next day. economic conditions etc. send shop owners onto the dole. people shift between layers of social class. i was going to say its not fixed and it has no fixed identity. but then i thought about the people at the top of the multi-nationals, or even,on a smaller scale, at the top of any public/private/statutory sector enterprize with highly paid people at the top (who if they lose their jobs will be paid off and headhunted) and those that won't...

so there are classes, but the whole middle class/working class issue doesn't really mean anything to most people, including me.

keeping with this idea that it can't be quantified easily (because its a long time since marx and the rest and i don't write books), the working class for the world are in exploited/"developing" countries. and the spectrum of class starts there.

so in my analysis of class, such as it is, i would say class is most likely defined by your consiousness of your class and what you decide to do with that.

does this make any sense?

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May 11 2004 18:38
alexa wrote:
er well workers (come on fuck the word proletarians!) are definted by the fact that they have to work/sign on/steal to survive.

You can't say a small business-owner is a "misguided" worker any more than you can say Branson is. Some of them might be workers but others might be able to get by living off the labour of others.

Still a lot of self-employed people share common economic interests with workers.

why fuck the word proletarians, its a decent word, thi is the same as that marx thread, not all of us hate marx or marxism tpo the same degree, i mean personally i really like the works of gramsci and marx's analysis and other marxist ideas.

Anyways, Of course the proletariat and teh petit bourgeoisie share interests, tahts the point, the petit bourgeoisie might side with the bourgeoisie or the proletariat in teh class struggle.

They have ties to the capitalist system via their position and powers, and ties to the proletariat also via their labour.

Augusto_Sandino
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May 11 2004 20:26

I reckon you just need to be pragmatic. If there was a National Front member who was a shopkeeper and a Solidarity Federation member who was a shopkeeper, then they'd both be shopkeepers, but one is definately more the enemy than the other. We can leave the class pigeon-holing to the marxists.

AlexA
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May 12 2004 09:33
simple_things wrote:
So if we buy goods produced by other people's labour which increase the profit of the man in the shop, and those goods are produced by exploited people here or in other countries, then what social class does that make us? we may not own the profit producing machine, but we increase our potential capital by utilising it and we also do have some power over the conditions in which the people live who produce the goods.

Er, but people in the "developing" world also buy goods, sometimes made by workers in the West, and therefore have some kind of sway over conditions.

So what does that make them?

Does that mean everyone in the world is a capitalist according to you?

Cantdocartwheels - I reckon our movement is alien anough to the majority of the population without using language which is alien to it aswell!

Anonymous
May 12 2004 10:57

no, of course not. Just that issues of economic power and social class are subtle, mutable, and confused in a society where most people work in service industries, where low paid people hire and fire, where easy categories and classifications mean very little to the majority of people, especially if they don't read the right books.

strangefrog
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May 12 2004 13:56

Speaking of pragmatism, why is class analysis important?

From the many discussions on this board, it seems like 'class' is very subjective and transient. Class analysis may have been useful in the 19th and early 20th Centuries but our interconnectedness now makes the world even more complex.

How will categorising people in this way help? (Genuine question, not a criticism!)

AlexA
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May 12 2004 14:48

I think this is something which a lot of people don't get.

Class analysis isn't about categorising people (since pretty much everyone in the world's a worker anyway). But IMHO it's essential to understand how the world works, and therefore how to change it.

I mean how else can anyone explain something like World War 2, without going into how fascism developed in Italy + Germany in response to the threat to capital (and the state) of working class power.

Or even something simple like the Miners' Strike - where again the collective strength of ordinary people had to be broken to ensure the maintenance of profits and power.

If simple_things is right, that only people in the 3rd world are "workers", then why here are we forced to work long hours, and why do employers still try to undermine trade union organisation?

I think that the mainstream media, along with various pundits and sociologists have quite successfully completely muddied the idea of what class is, to reduce it to a bunch of pointless debates about what class you are if your parents are teachers...

Anonymous
May 12 2004 15:15
alexa wrote:

Cantdocartwheels - I reckon our movement is alien anough to the majority of the population without using language which is alien to it aswell!

Obviously theres no need for us tpo succumb to middle class intellecutualism and over complicate basic ideas, but whats wrong with class analysis, if people are aware of their social position, doesn't that make them more likely to carry cohesive revolutionary action

john

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May 12 2004 15:27

Firstly tehir most definitely is an industrial proletariat in the UK, and they make up the bulk of our population. All forms of labour, transportation, retail, goods manufacture and materials manufacture are essential parts of the UK economy. Yes there is a lot of out sourcing and economic domination but not as much as some people like to think, especially liberals (I should know i was one). This kind of ''there is no proletariat except in the third world'' beleif is a very dangeous myth. What better way to paralyse and divide the working class than by creating the idea that they cannot seize control of the means of production.

And also to answer other problems about the issue of class, i think your looking at class as something rigid , which it isn't. There is not one united ruling class all the time, or one united proletariat or one united petit bourgeoisie, there are different elements of these classes in competition or cooperation or collaboration with each other. And the lines are blurred, not fixed.

Your gorgetting marx wrote a long time ago, while the basic ecnomic definitons are applicable to all capitalist formations the lines and parameters vary with differemt economies.

The idea by defining all workers as the proletariat is to attempt to give people a common framework, a way in which they can come together recognising that their common interest lies in overthrowing the bourgeoisie.

john

Anonymous
May 12 2004 20:46

"If simple_things is right, that only people in the 3rd world are "workers", then why here are we forced to work long hours, and why do employers still try to undermine trade union organisation?"

sorry don't know how to do it in quotes.

i didn't say that only people in the 3rd world are "workers", we are all workers unless we live off unearned capital. i said they are at the bottom end of the spectrum of the work shit pile. ie. they are the people with very little power (and, i take the point about consumers globally but the power of that consumption is still economic power which could change things - not as much fun as a riot but nothing hits better than the pocket). dammit, i'm arguing for boycotts now.. didn't mean too.

just that it is now power wielded by global multinationals, that capital moves across continents, that its not whether you are a teacher or a shopkeeper that matters, that actually the "real" working class starve in other countries so we don't. because definitions move, across lives, across time, across continents.

and trade union organisation to the majority of people (like definitions of social class) is like pissing in the wind.

oops

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May 13 2004 10:46

Sorry i jusy completely disagree with that, i mean its not bad to think likr hat, hell i used to, but to see consumton as something inherently bad, to see us as ''consumers'' and to think that the ''real'' working class doesn't live here are all the basic tenets of liberalism

The population of the Uk is something like 60 million, we are more than self sufficient in food, or could be if we wanted to very easily, we produce our own fossil fuels, a lot of steel, sure alot fo outsoursing goes on, but not as much as you are making out.

The automation of our primary and secondary industries and more improtantly the minimal level of labour needed in farming at present means workers in theesed industriues have concentrated ours while the rest of us are moved on to transport and the retail sector, both of which are esential to the currenty capitalist mode fo production.

Go to a supermarket, look at all those tins, where do you think they were made? I can tell you this it wasn't in the third world, the metal might have come from outisde the EU but the factory that makes heinz tins and packs in the beans ain't in south america.

There are certain raw materials and products that are gained from economic imperialism which are essential for the control of workers and the centralisation fo the state, also the vast level of capital built up by it through exploitation of the third world and the outsourcing of specific industries (basically the ones traditonally associated with union militancy or dangerous working conditions) gives us the set of bourgeois compromises known as the welfare state.

A minimum wage strike in this country would abslutely paralyse the economy.While we need to talk about economic imperialism we need to be specific generalising and saying we're not real workers is pointless. Econmic imperialism is about raw materials it always has been and always will be, the goods are usualkly manufactured in the imperialist countries and sent back. However, i'd admit there are dangers that the outsourcing trend will increase, certainly with the EU there is that possibility.

john