The best brick you’ll ever read: why Wobblies should read “Capital”

The best brick you’ll ever read: why Wobblies should read “Capital”

A short review by Lou Rinaldi of Capital, which he advocates for Wobblies and the like-minded to read.

Karl Marx’s “Capital” looks like a brick and weighs about the same. And it’s an old brick, from 1867. Seeing it, you might think, “I can’t do this, it’s too long, too boring. Plus, it’s so old, this cannot possibly be relevant.” You’d be wrong. And you’d be wrong to think that “Capital” is too hard for you to comprehend. I think a big problem is that, as working-class people, we doubt ourselves and our ability to be intelligent. After all, we’re told we’re stupid nearly every day by our bosses! You should be assured that although a work like “Capital” may seem like a wall that cannot be scaled, it is possible to get through it. There are even various guides out there to help you along the way that might be worth looking into!

Another reservation you might have is thinking of it as something only for academics. If Marx had intended for his work to be relegated to the universities, he would never have done the work he did. Instead he presents us with a tool: an in-depth study of capitalism, a critique of capitalist ideology, and strategy and vision for a new society. Although parts are undoubtedly difficult to read, there are others that are extremely readable. Don’t let a few tough pages hold you back, read at a pace that is comfortable. Skip parts you have trouble with and come back to them later. But don’t give up on it, it’s a book you’re supposed to read—it’s not just for European professors.

We should give “Capital” a chance, especially as members of a revolutionary union like the IWW. In the past, Wobblies have taken “Capital” and Marx’s writing seriously. So seriously that our Preamble nearly quotes Marx verbatim when it proclaims we ought to replace the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” with the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.” The founding convention of the IWW in 1905 included discussion of Marx and his ideas and after the union was formed, some IWW branches formed reading groups to study “Capital.” The IWW’s political education pamphlet “An Economic Interpretation of the Job” from 1922 was essentially a short synopsis of Marx’s ideas in “Capital.” And from the 1910s to the 1930s the IWW Work People’s College repeatedly offered courses on Marx’s critical understanding of capitalist economics. There is a history within our own organization of taking this book seriously, of studying, and using it as a tool in our work. However, there are many ways to read “Capital.” The way we should think about it is reading it politically, that is, reading it as a weapon in our hands. If we can think of it this way, then it becomes an invaluable tool, a practical book that is important for all revolutionary, class-conscious workers to read.

A Description of Capitalism Like No Other

The breadth of “Capital, Volume 1” is simply unmatched by other works on the economy. Marx was relentless in his research on how the system of capitalism functions. He researched history, economic figures, and philosophic works in order to complete the book. Each chapter in “Capital” is another piece of the puzzle for understanding how the capitalist economy functions.

“Capital” touches on everything that has become part of our everyday lives, things which every working person experiences. Why we work, how we work, how we are exploited: Marx takes these subjective experiences and puts them into a larger view of things, in the perspective of a class and class struggle. An important component of the book is a history of working-class struggle against capital and the system it tries to implement. This makes the book an important weapon for revolutionaries. It helps to know this history, and to know how the capitalist system works overall.

Take chapter 25, for instance, which is about “The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation.” This chapter describes the effect that creating profit has on working people in terms of wages and employment, but also the lengths that businesses must go in terms of monopolizing an industry. This describes an important element of capitalism: its flexibility and its ability to be dynamic. It has the ability to make wages and standards of living rise, to make them endurable. At the same time, it can increase the levels of exploitation and increase the amount of misery we experience. These fluctuations can create space for militant reform movements, movements like Fight For 15 that seek only to win reforms and keep capital intact while using some radical forms or strategies, to make their demands and even win them as long as the value-form is not challenged, or in other words, so long as the circulation of commodities does not stop.

A Critique of Capitalist Ideology

“Capital” becomes a weapon for revolutionaries in two ways: as a lesson on struggle and on ideology. The subheading of “Capital” is “A Critique of Political Economy.” What does Marx mean by this? His work not only shows us the technical processes that are performed in capitalism, but also the ideological war on the working-class consciousness. Namely, Marx looks to famous early economists, names that many of us will recognize: Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo.

Marx contends that while these thinkers seem to “get” capitalism, they have absolutely no understanding of the real, social processes that occur in the system. Their analysis of capitalism is only a crude interpretation of what is happening in the daily lives of workers. The result is gross dismissals of the horrors of the system, and their so-called “science” thinly veils a true disdain of the poor and exploited. In particularly damning phrases, Marx summarizes and condemns all that capitalism truly stands for, from degrading a worker “to the level of an appendage of a machine” to dragging our partners and children “beneath the wheel of the juggernaut of capital.”

A Strategy and Vision for a New Society

“Capital” is a weapon for workers, not merely a trophy on your bookshelf or an academic thought experiment. Because it chronicles the history of the implementation of capitalism and workers’ resistance to it, we learn something about ourselves when we read it. We can see ourselves in the processes and struggles that Marx describes. This is class consciousness.

The description of the working day, in chapter 10, shows how the day was lengthened and shortened through struggle. This chapter is of enormous relevance to us today as the gains of the old labor movement are torn apart and today, like then, “Capital [is] celebrating its orgies.” Recently in Poland, the eight-hour workday was taken away from the workers, and in the global South the working day remains similar to Marx’s time: 12 or more hours a day. If Poland, whose loss of privileges won through struggle, is an indicator of anything, it may be that this is the direction the West is going. Without a combative movement to fight for something better we will see more places go in the direction that Poland has gone in.

In identifying the features of capitalism, “Capital” gives us some heading. It shows us that our workplaces are battlegrounds of conflict. It shows us that our lived experiences are important and worth fighting for, to improve them, to live in a truly human community. It shows us, conscious revolutionaries, how to examine the economy to choose the best places to strike and advance the struggle, to make gains for our class.

In reading “Capital” it’s important to remember that in the struggles of workers we can see the beginning of the creation of a new society, a classless society. “The only way to understand the system is through conceiving of its destruction,” as the Italian radical publication Quaderni Rossi put it in 1962 (as quoted in Steve Wright’s “Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism”). Or, as Marx once put it, we need to “imagine, for a change, an association of free men (sic), working with the means of production held in common.” As IWW members and members of the working class, this is our struggle. “Capital” describes in detail what we’re fighting against and enriches our fight to achieve a new society.

Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (April 2014)

Comments

cantdocartwheels
Apr 7 2014 07:51

'i think maybe you need to address the fact that regardless of literacy and confidence most people caught between work, family and everything else, simply often don;t have the time to spend hours every week studying long academic texts. I'm sure you know this obviously but its something this article glosses over, making it read as if everyone has a spare few evenings a week to devote to capital reading groups and just needs to get stuck in.

lou.rinaldi
Apr 7 2014 13:48

Hi, cantdocartwheels. Thanks for reading my article! Basically my opinion on this is that the IWW needs to have revolutionary politics and devote time to the development of people through deliberate political education. A major issue, to me, in the IWW is that many IWWs don't have even basic understandings of how capitalism works... This serves to inhibit workplace organizing in the union, I think, because people do not understand why it is so crucial we take up this work, and to do with with revolutionary politics that reject existing society (espcially, and I think this is one of the most pressing issues in the IWW, rejecting the State as means for have our revolutionary organization). Part of being a revolutionary, quite frankly, is going to mean being willing to make sacrifices and learn political theory. I think that needs to be in the "ask" when we work with people and want to bring them on board to the IWW.

Also, sorry, this really bugs me, but Capital isn't an academic text. That's sort of the point of the article. It can be hard to read, but so can anything you might read for pleasure that was written in the 1800s or earlier. And working class people read stuff like that, they're dynamic and intelligent and a diversity of interests. I'm also not sure where why you took this article saying people need to spend hours upon hours reading Capital. I think I said to take it slow in the article... At any rate, Nate Hawthorne has a really good article about how to get through Capital.

I would also say that it's not necessarily just a matter of us reading Capital, but having read it, acting on it and using its lessons as a means for political education (I mention "An Economic Interpretation of the Job"... We should have more material like this!)

Pennoid
Apr 7 2014 15:48

I think that the I.W.W. approach should be to get people to do a chapter a week, but maybe start with things like Value Price and Profit, Wage Labor and Capital etc. Another important aspect would be to have someone who has moved through the works before, who can do maybe like a 15-30 minute lecture or talk on the key points from the chapter of the week, for those who lost reading time over the week but still want to get stuff out of it.

Don't get me wrong, I understand lectures to usually be boring, so it really could be 15 minutes or less, of again, just describing the main points, and then allowing a jump off for discussion. Might require a tight chair/moderator as well.

syndicalist
Apr 7 2014 17:25
Quote:
We should give “Capital” a chance, especially as members of a revolutionary union like the IWW. In the past, Wobblies have taken “Capital” and Marx’s writing seriously. So seriously that our Preamble nearly quotes Marx verbatim when it proclaims we ought to replace the conservative motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” with the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.” The founding convention of the IWW in 1905 included discussion of Marx and his ideas and after the union was formed, some IWW branches formed reading groups to study “Capital.” The IWW’s political education pamphlet “An Economic Interpretation of the Job” from 1922 was essentially a short synopsis of Marx’s ideas in “Capital.” And from the 1910s to the 1930s the IWW Work People’s College repeatedly offered courses on Marx’s critical understanding of capitalist economics. There is a history within our own organization of taking this book seriously, of studying, and using it as a tool in our work. However, there are many ways to read “Capital.” The way we should think about it is reading it politically, that is, reading it as a weapon in our hands. If we can think of it this way, then it becomes an invaluable tool, a practical book that is important for all revolutionary, class-conscious workers to read.

This is why the whole argument of "no politics in the union" has been a historical falicy.

Steven.
Apr 7 2014 18:36

Is "an economic interpretation of the job" online anywhere? It would be great to have it in the library here.

Also, I have read volume 1 but so far have basically given up on volume 2. Is it really worth me reading volumes 2 and 3?

Finally, cartwheels, I'm not really sure what your point is. That people shouldn't bother to read it, or what?

As Lou says, it's not an academic text. It can be a bit hard to read in places, but again as Lou says not much more than many other books from the time. For example I have just finished reading Moby Dick, and that was harder to read than Capital volume 1.

Of course, lots of working class people don't have a lot of spare time, however most people would be able to find the time to read this book eventually. I read it while commuting, and I took into work to read during lunch, downtimes, etc, and it took me a few months but I got there eventually.

lou.rinaldi
Apr 7 2014 19:10
Steven. wrote:
Is "an economic interpretation of the job" online anywhere? It would be great to have it in the library here.

Here and here. I think it'd be good to get it up on here. I think it was mentioned to me by someone that a couple IWW members might be working on making a new version of it, which I think would be wicked awesome! I hope that isn't just a rumor (well, it is now! wink )

As for reading all 3 volumes, I would say volume one is definitely the most important, but 2 and 3 go into some interesting stuff. Talks a lot about financial capital in volume 3 as I recall.

Oh and I am totally down with starting people off with lighter stuff and working into parts of Capital. Value, Price, and Profit as well as Wage Labor and Capital are both really good and very easy to read. You could even use VPP in lieu of the chapter one of Capital probably, though I would maybe pick of a couple of the passages on commodity fetishism to highlight that stuff, because it becomes important when thinking about alienation. We are going to read Wage Labor and Capital in my IWW Branch's Industrial Organizing Committee (also not so theory oriented stuff! We are starting out with Lines of Work, actually!).

RedAndBlack
Apr 7 2014 19:14

http://www.iww.org/history/documents/iww/economic_interpretation_of_the_...

A very accessible text. Includes study questions at the close of each chapter.

cantdocartwheels wrote:
'i think maybe you need to address the fact that regardless of literacy and confidence most people caught between work, family and everything else, simply often don;t have the time to spend hours every week studying long academic texts. I'm sure you know this obviously but its something this article glosses over, making it read as if everyone has a spare few evenings a week to devote to capital reading groups and just needs to get stuck in.

This was exactly how I got through Capital. I was working as a support worker at the time so my hours were all over the place but I found 2-3 hours in a week to read a chapter and watch an episode of David Harvey's accompanying lectures [also online for free] as well as Heinrich's book as an intro.

It wasn't easy but it also wasn't impossible and it was definitely worth it in terms of my own political perspectives.

lou.rinaldi
Apr 7 2014 19:14

Oh, and this may be of interest: "PolyluxMarx: An Illustrated Workbook for Studying Marx's Capital" There is a free PDF available on the MR site.

tylerzee
Apr 7 2014 19:34

Yo Lou, thanks for this. This is great. I think your basic point stands, that there needs to be an engagement with Marx's critique of political economy to develop working class militants' ability to fight against it, not just the forms of appearance (bosses and workers, wages and prices), but the very heart of alienated labor and all its phenomenal forms (commodity, money, wages, capital, etc.).

I think "wheels" above has raised a legit concern but I think that often translates into nothing at all as opposed to thinking about how to make the theory accessible. Along that line of thinking, I also want to highly agree with pennoid here, that starting with Wage Labor and Capital as well as Value, Price, and Profit are much shorter and more digestible pieces, the first being made for popular consumption.

Here in Houston, a few of us a part of Houston IWW, Unity and Struggle, as well as Third Ward Defense Network are doing a study of Marx and Communist Tactics. The first part of that syllabus includes: Estranged Labor (from the 1844 Manuscripts), Wage Labor and Capital, Value Price and Profit, Civil War in France, and Critique of the Gotha Programme. This is to acquaint folks with fundamental Marxist categories and to be able to root later development of communist theory around organization and tactics.

I'll be sure to share this with folks. Thanks, again.

Tyler Zee

Khawaga
Apr 7 2014 20:18
Steven wrote:
Also, I have read volume 1 but so far have basically given up on volume 2. Is it really worth me reading volumes 2 and 3?

Yes. By reading only Volume 1 you get just Marx's analysis of production, and nothing about circulation, and nothing about how Marx's sees the two together in Vol. 3. In other words, you'll understand what value is, but will have a deficient understanding of what capital is.

Nate
Apr 8 2014 03:58
Steven. wrote:
I read it while commuting, and I took into work to read during lunch, downtimes, etc, and it took me a few months but I got there eventually.

I read it the same way.

In response to Cantdocartwheels - My dad's not read Capital but he reads loads, the last construction job he had before the economy tanked he was reading like three or four novels a week on his lunch breaks. Lots of working class people read lots of books. Or shit, tons of my extended family (unfortunately!) read the bible regularly and are in bible study classes, in addition to going to church on sundays. It's the women in the family especially, and they're the ones who do the lion's share of the childcare too, so I don't buy the 'no time to read hard stuff' thing. People have time for the things they decide is a priority. This article isn't saying "hey every worker in the world, you right now should go read Capital." It's saying IWW members should make reading Capital one of their priorities for a while. People who have decided to join the IWW (and similar organizations) are pretty far down the road in terms of convincing compared to a lot of other people I think.

librarywob
Apr 8 2014 15:41

I have only read snippets from the Marx Engels read Tucker edited. I've read the Economic Interpretation of the Job pamphlet though. I got a copy of Capital Volume 1 years ago in college when it was the primary text for an economics class (believe it or not) on " Marxist political economy" at Portland State University. It was too much to read with my other classes, especially when we were expected to read it all in only a 10 week term. Now feels right though, and I am looking to start a reading group in my area. Thanks for writing this encouraging reminder of its utility and general accessibility.

Also, I coproduce a weekly program called The Old Mole Variety Hour on a community radio station in Portland, Oregon USA. While this article is aimed at wobs, would you be willing able to have a 15-minute conversation for the show on how Marx is basically writing for the sake of working class self education, and maybe a bit of history on how it's been used to that end? We can do international calls if that's an issue. I am not sure if my email links through my user name.

fnbrilll
Apr 8 2014 17:51

Economic Intrepretation is a wobblized version of Mary Marcy's Shop Talks on Economics which in turn is an updating of Marx's Value, Price and Profit.

I've thought of updating again. Chapter a month in the Industrial Worker, Then in pamphlet.

lou.rinaldi
Apr 8 2014 19:11

@ Library Wob: Just sent you an email!

@Fnbrilll: I would love to see that happen and would be willing to work on it with you, if you wanted or needed help! PM me if you are interested.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 8 2014 22:02

So Nate has already beat me to (and in a weird way that makes me proud of myself), but people find time for things they think are worthwhile. A huge percentage of American workers go to church on Sunday mornings. I mean, at best, most of us have 2 days off a week and people get up early on one of those days to go to church. I think that's obviously crazy, but it does prove a point that the same people who find 2 hours or so a week to go to church could, if they decided it was a worthwhile, read Marx or go to a union meeting or whatever. Of course, the latter two won't happen until they feel those activities are relevant or useful to their lives.

lou wrote:
in the IWW is that many IWWs don't have even basic understandings of how capitalism works...

I hear you lou, I mean Jesus, when I hear the Wobs who support co-ops as a strategy for revolutionary change, yeah that's painful. But I actually think most working people - at a 'gut' level, albeit often in a confused and contradictory way - have a pretty good understanding of capitalism. For example, outside of folks who are ideologically committed to capitalism, who didn't, after some pretty basic conversations, have an understanding of the labor theory of value. They didn't use that terminology of course, but that understanding that we - not the managers, not the bosses - keep companies running is understood by most people, I think.

For me, Marx is useful as an analytical framework. Even just the terminology, it's just so succinct that it allows me make clearer arguments in my own head. But I don't think you need to read capital - or even to be able to read - to understand capitalism. And I get what your saying: political education is important inside a revolutionary organisation. But fundamentally I think it's active involvement in your own struggles that's the ultimate educational tool.

cantdocartwheels
Apr 9 2014 09:26
lou.rinaldi wrote:

Also, sorry, this really bugs me, but Capital isn't an academic text. That's sort of the point of the article. It can be hard to read, but so can anything you might read for pleasure that was written in the 1800s or earlier.

Hste to break it to you but most people don't generally spend a lot of their time reading texts from the 1800's for pleasure.. The books from that period that are read with some frequency (though not by large swathes of the population) are obviously a lot easier and less dense than capital.(eg oliver twist, christmas carol, pride and prejudice,wuthering heights, treasure island, huckleberry finn etc) and do not require you to set up by your own admission a study group to read. Plus they all have plots to follow and movies you can watch. Capital is not a a story, it is an academic study of capitalism.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 9 2014 09:40

I mean, yeah, but, for me, Shakespeare comes across as pretty academic. I mean, I get it when I see it performed, but just reading it for pleasure is pretty freaking difficult, at least for me as an uncultured American. And that Bible example again - a lot of it is basically contradictory gobbledygook - but people study that shit until it makes sense to them.

cantdocartwheels
Apr 9 2014 09:53
Nate wrote:
Steven. wrote:
I read it while commuting, and I took into work to read during lunch, downtimes, etc, and it took me a few months but I got there eventually.

I read it the same way.

In response to Cantdocartwheels - My dad's not read Capital but he reads loads, the last construction job he had before the economy tanked he was reading like three or four novels a week on his lunch breaks. Lots of working class people read lots of books. Or shit, tons of my extended family (unfortunately!) read the bible regularly and are in bible study classes, in addition to going to church on sundays. It's the women in the family especially, and they're the ones who do the lion's share of the childcare too, so I don't buy the 'no time to read hard stuff' thing. People have time for the things they decide is a priority. This article isn't saying "hey every worker in the world, you right now should go read Capital." It's saying IWW members should make reading Capital one of their priorities for a while. People who have decided to join the IWW (and similar organizations) are pretty far down the road in terms of convincing compared to a lot of other people I think.

I'm actually all for reading groups, and have done a number of them in the past but i think they should be accessible based on pamphlets, debates, accessible texts and news articles (also so that people can be casual attendees) not long endless study groups slogging through academic treatises.
I'f your family read then great, that doesnt have any effect on the fact that 20% of the population (22% in the Uk) is functionally illiterate. If your family find time to read a lot then great for them, most people dont,.and a lot of people cant.
Most religions generally provide respite from childcare with sunday school, community links and other activities, an academic reading group, even with the best will in the world, provides a lot less on that front..
The IWW is a union. If i went into my workplace and suggested a few news artciles or left a few freesheets or pamphlets lying around people might think i was an oddball but no worse than that. If i went around my workplace or my street trying to sign people up for a capital reading grpup because ''its a weapon in the hands of the workers'' most people i've ever worked with would assume i was having some sort of mental breakdown.

lou.rinaldi
Apr 9 2014 11:39

This sort of thing happens anytime people bring up having politics and analysis in the IWW -- they think that there is an unbridgeable chasm between organizing workers, who of course are backwards and conservative, and revolutionary politics, which they will not and cannot care about. Just, no. Stop. No.

Quote:
If i went into my workplace and suggested a few news artciles or left a few freesheets or pamphlets lying around people might think i was an oddball but no worse than that. If i went around my workplace or my street trying to sign people up for a capital reading grpup because ''its a weapon in the hands of the workers'' most people i've ever worked with would assume i was having some sort of mental breakdown.

Straight up never said to do this. Complete strawman.

This article says that convinced revolutionaries, especially IWW members, should have a greater understanding of capitalism and how it functions, and that Capital is the most complete way to do that. Revolutionaries are also workers (not letting you get away with have a separation of the two in your logic) and should be engaged in workplace organizing, which means dealing with people where they're at, but not to the preclusion of their own politics. Organizing a revolutionary movement is a slow thing, it's not going to be worth taking short cuts now because when things are hot down the line it will really bite us. Sure, the IWW is a union. That doesn't tell me much. The United Auto Workers is a union. These organizations are qualitatively different because of the politics we have and do practice.

Marx wasn't an academic, didn't work in academia, and didn't produce academic works for the academic world. Capital wasn't academic, sorry. Capital doesn't require a study group to read, but I think learning in a collective setting is always better. I also never said anywhere in this article that the first thing you ever have to read to be a revolutionary is Capital. I don't know why it's being treated that way.

OliverTwister
Apr 9 2014 12:08

Who reads Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights outside of a reading group? I've only ever heard of people reading those a) for school or b) in a reading group. Just like Capital.

I think Lou's basic point, that Capital is a useful and worthwhile thing to read for revolutionaries who want to understand how capitalism works and what it is, is right. Certainly when one thinks about how much time is wasted on facebook conversations, which are fairly useless, or e-mail lists, which are generally worse than useless (at least the IWW ones are), I think a lot of members could find time for something like this if they wanted to.

cantdocartwheels
Apr 9 2014 12:57
OliverTwister wrote:
Who reads Pride and Prejudice or Wuthering Heights outside of a reading group? I've only ever heard of people reading those a) for school or b) in a reading group. Just like Capital.
.

Exactly as my post said it would be a minority of people that would bother reading it in full. I had to read wuthering heights at school (and no you wouldnt be able to get 16/17 year olds to read the whole of capital at school), I wouldnt read either outside of it.
Both those books are obviously more accessible than capital though as even a cursory glance at the text would tell you. More to the point you dont need a specific historiography of the period to understand the basics of the romantic story of pride and prejudice hence why their are lots of films/tv adaptation about mr darcy or similar updated types and no films of note based on capital.

Ed
Apr 9 2014 13:20

Cantdo, your posts are getting more disingenuous as you write them to the point that it looks like you're either engaging completely in bad faith or that you've just missed the entire point of what's been said..

Lou has not suggested handing out freesheets at work, he has not suggested asking workmates to come to a Capital reading group and he's not mentioned asking 16/17-year-olds to come to a Capital reading group. What he said was:

Quote:
This article says that convinced revolutionaries, especially IWW members, should have a greater understanding of capitalism and how it functions, and that Capital is the most complete way to do that.

This is his point. Do you agree or disagree with this? Coz as for the other stuff you've mentioned you've just pulled it out of nowhere and it seems suspiciously like you're hostile to the idea of any merging of economic and political work..

cantdocartwheels
Apr 9 2014 13:49
lou.rinaldi wrote:
This sort of thing happens anytime people bring up having politics and analysis in the IWW -- they think that there is an unbridgeable chasm between organizing workers, who of course are backwards and conservative, and revolutionary politics, which they will not and cannot care about

yes because politicising people and setting up capital reading groups are completely synonymous and inseperable. Theres literally no other way of talking about how capitalism works, no other shorter more accessible ways of getting communist ideas across.
Obviously having not read capital i don;t understand this and think your just talking bollocks, perhaps when i slog through its hundreds of pages over six months i'll be enlightened.

Quote:

This article says that convinced revolutionaries, especially IWW members, should have a greater understanding of capitalism and how it functions, and that Capital is the most complete way to do that. Revolutionaries are also workers (not letting you get away with have a separation of the two in your logic) and should be engaged in workplace organizing, which means dealing with people where they're at, but not to the preclusion of their own politics. Organizing a revolutionary movement is a slow thing, it's not going to be worth taking short cuts now because when things are hot down the line it will really bite us. Sure, the IWW is a union. That doesn't tell me much. The United Auto Workers is a union. These organizations are qualitatively different because of the politics we have and do practice.

oh give over on this ''weal wevolutionawwies'' crap. If you organise at your workplace you are a union, if not then you aint. The people you are ostensibly trying to get to join the IWW are your co-workers. However i would take the same attitude if you were talking about an out and out political group, the idea that we all need to read dense marxist theory is just nonsense.

Asking people to read some pamphlets, come to a discussion group about issues in the world or suggesting accessible texts online for them to have a look at is one thing. You'll find people often don;t even have time for that but it is worth doing However, If somebody union be it ''revolutionary'' or ''non-revolutionary'' expected me to spend numerous hours every week reading a dense academic text like capital to gain a better understanding of capitalism i'd let that person know what i thought and tell them exactly where they could go.

cantdocartwheels
Apr 9 2014 13:46
Quote:
Quote:
This article says that convinced revolutionaries, especially IWW members, should have a greater understanding of capitalism and how it functions, and that Capital is the most complete way to do that.

This is his point. Do you agree or disagree with this? Coz as for the other stuff you've mentioned you've just pulled it out of nowhere and it seems suspiciously like you're hostile to the idea of any merging of economic and political work..

yes mate i'm pretty hostile to a bunch of jumped up marxist pointy heads who think that a radical union should tell its members to set up capital reading groups
1) because its impractical as no-one would have the time
2) because it would make you look like a loon in a lot of circles
3) because its a really really crap way of politicising people
4) because its elitist intellectual bollocks

Basically i now just have a mental image of you knocking on doors shaking a copy of capital at them, telling them ''this is a weapon in the hands of the workers11!!!!111''

Steven.
Apr 9 2014 14:05
cantdocartwheels wrote:
Quote:
Quote:
This article says that convinced revolutionaries, especially IWW members, should have a greater understanding of capitalism and how it functions, and that Capital is the most complete way to do that.

This is his point. Do you agree or disagree with this? Coz as for the other stuff you've mentioned you've just pulled it out of nowhere and it seems suspiciously like you're hostile to the idea of any merging of economic and political work..

yes mate i'm pretty hostile to a bunch of jumped up marxist pointy heads who think that a radical union should tell its members to set up capital reading groups
1) because its impractical as no-one would have the time
2) because it would make you look like a loon in a lot of circles
3) because its a really really crap way of politicising people
4) because its elitist intellectual bollocks

Basically i now just have a mental image of you knocking on doors shaking a copy of capital at them, telling them ''this is a weapon in the hands of the workers11!!!!111''

did you enjoy that juvenile tirade?

For all your talk about others talking "bollocks" and having "mental breakdowns", you are the person who is just making stuff up. Now you are imagining people "knocking on doors shaking a copy of capital…" because someone, a communist on a communist website has advised other communists to read the most important communist book of all time.

I think if anyone is having trouble understanding reality, it is you, because rather than address what anyone is actually saying you're inventing fantastical scenarios in your own head which have no connection with the real world.

Also I think it's pretty funny that for your talk of "Marxist pointy heads" everyone in this discussion who is arguing against you that I'm aware of has done a lot more workplace organising than you.

And other things you have said are also nonsense. You admit you haven't read Capital, but you claim it is an academic work. But it's not.

And your patronising idea of an idealised worker is just complete nonsense. In the UK at least 90% of the population reads for fun. My mum was a busy housewife plus had two jobs cleaning and ironing and looking after four children. She read at least one book a week on top of this. And my dad worked 90 hour weeks driving a cab, but he read The Times cover to cover every single day.

Working class people have much greater intellectual capacity than you are giving them credit for, and than a lot of them give themselves to be honest.

Finally, on an admin note, the form guidelines say people should be polite. So stop speaking to everyone so aggressively and rudely. The only person that is looking like a "loon" here is you.

Pennoid
Apr 9 2014 14:13

I wish i could intuit my way to consciousness. So tired of all this slogging through academic text. Why aren't we all just punching our bosses? That's some communication our co-workers can understand!

lou.rinaldi
Apr 9 2014 14:58

I'm not going to engage cantdocartwheels on this anymore, but I'd really love to have a conversation about more readings that we can do as revolutionary organizers, to help us understand the world and be able to act in. People have already mentioned Value, Price, and Profit, Wage Labor and Capital, and An Economic Interpretation of the Job. Last year in the Industrial Worker I wrote a review of Fighting For Ourselves, and I think that is an excellent piece that should be taken into consideration. I think I mentioned Lines of Work earlier, and I get all anxious promoting this because I help edit for Recomposition now and also there are two essay I wrote in it, but I think pairing up 'theoretical' texts with more 'lived experience' readings could be really fruitful!

I'd really rather have this conversation than a back and forth over whether Marx was a jerk or not.

Pennoid
Apr 9 2014 16:21

Yea I think:

Capital
Lines of Work
Fighting For Ourselves
Value Price and Profit
Economic Interpretation of the Job
Maybe SelfEd?

I think organizers or a working group or something should also focus on the Post-WWII history of your region. Capital Flows, sites of struggle, neighborhood development, immigration, capital flight, general recomposition of the working class etc. Kind of like mapping your workplace, but mapping your city.

Obviously this all has to be linked to some kind of concrete struggle, likely solnet style or workplace organizing.

RedEd
Apr 9 2014 23:25

I get a lot from reading groups but I do think that they, or some form of them, is over stressed in parts of the socialist milieu.

I would say to cantdocartwheels that historically reading groups have often been an answer to illiteracy, not an obstacle to inclusion of people with less or no literacy. I mean, reading groups for Paine in mid-late 19 C. UK or Marx in early 20th C. Russia were a significant aspect of revolutionary movements of the uneducated proletariat. In my experience, they are still sometimes places people who struggle with texts can have an easier time reading them cos they can usually find some other people in the group who can help them out with a bit they struggled with.

However the opposite can definitely happen where the group becomes a space to show off. I know discussing Marx in discussion groups I've often felt that temptation to use some bit of knowledge on, like, the peculiarities of industrial production in Manchester or whatever to seem all clever. It's a dick move so I try not to, but things like that can be used by academic oriented socialists to control and, in the end, deaden a group.

I get a lot out of reading group type scenarios because they come naturally to me. That's a tradition my school and church bought me up in as a kid. I didn't learn all that much from those, but I learned how to do them. But this is not the case for many, I expect most, people in my country at least.

In 19th C. factories from England to Cuba at least (I'm sure many more) factory workers grouped together to pay someone to read to them while they worked. Everything from novels to religious texts to political theory. And this way of doing things was easily adapted by politically specific groups for their organising. Read out a text in parts in a rented room in a pub or some one's cellar or whatever and chat about it after.

But that's not how we are used to doing things now. Which is no tragedy. We're still humans used to taking in and processing abstract social information in a collective fashion. But we usually do it in different ways today. Fine.

So 'Yes!' to Capital reading groups, but an even bigger 'Yes!' to exploring forms of mutual education that are more innovative and, in a sense, catching up with where the class is already at in terms of communally understanding the society around us. And we've been doing this anyway. Hell, I'm typing this on an internet forum.

cantdocartwheels
Apr 10 2014 09:34
Quote:
And your patronising idea of an idealised worker is just complete nonsense. In the UK at least 90% of the population reads for fun

22% off the UK population are functionally illiterate so would have no chance at reading a chapter of capital a week,. I'd go so far to say that at least another 30%-40% of people would really struggle with a text like capital and would have never attempted a book of that density and would not be familiar with reading long academic economic, political or philosophical texts. The majority of people basically would see a capital reading group and go ''thats not for me''.
Forums discussing issues with a speaker/film, and groups reading shorter texts and pamphlets are things that most people should be able to access (not all though unfortunately) , capital reading groups obviously aren't of that ilk as they require ongoing commitment not casual attendance and are more academic.

If you want to set up a capital reading group on your own steam then fine, good for you if you want to spend hours of your life doing that and have an understanding partner, regular working hours etc then again great for you. However, if you think thats something your union branch (radical or not) should or could be doing, as the article above basically argues, then id say thats complete nonsense.
If you dont understand why shoving big books and long dense material in front of people puts a lot of people off then i'd say you need to go back to the drawing board on that wonderful enlightened understanding of class and capital you claim to have,

Anyways carry on,, have said what i've said and am done with this thread tbh. ..