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(en) Ireland, Anarchist journal Workers Solidarty #92 - Thinking About Anarchism A touch of Class by Alan MacSimion

Date Sun, 02 Jul 2006 08:54:30 +0300


Why are anarchists always dragging class into everything?
Isn't class struggle something more at home in a history book than in
Celtic Tiger Ireland? After all you don't see too many downtrodden
workers wandering around in donkey jackets, cloth caps and heavy boots.
Instead, lots of us go to Turkey, Morocco or even the US for our
holidays. And hardly anyone eats bread and dripping in 2006.
So that settles the question, doesn't it? Well, no (what else did you
expect me to write!). The ruling class would love us to think was
class was no more; that we are all the same and it's the courageous
and `enterprising' who get on in life.
Sadly, in the real world, there is no
single `humanity', not yet. In every
country there is still a division of people
into classes, and these classes have
conflicting interests.
Classes are defined by their relationship
to the "means of production"; their
relationship to the factories, machinery,
natural resources, etc. with which the
wealth of society is created. Although
there are groups like self-employed and
small farmers, the main classes are the
workers and the bosses.
It is the labour of the working class that
creates wealth. The bosses, through their
ownership and control of the means of
production, have legal ownership of
this wealth and decide how it is to be
distributed.
Only a part of this wealth is returned.
Some is paid as wages, some as the
"social wage" (hospitals, schools,
public services, and so on). The rest is
creamed off as profit. But labour creates
all wealth. An apple on a tree is worth
nothing until someone picks it, coal in
the ground has no use until someone
mines it. What is known as "surplus
value" or profit is stolen wages.
The working class is the majority in
Ireland today. All who work for a wage,
salary or commission are in its ranks.
It consists of all who have to sell their
ability to work. It makes no difference
if you work in a factory, office, school,
hospital or shop. It makes no difference
if you work with your hands or your
head, whether you wear overalls or a
suit, whether you earn `good' or bad
wages.
The unemployed also form part of the
working class. Social welfare payments
are made to those who have worked and
those who may potentially provide some
employer with their labour power. It is a
condition of payment that a claimant
is "available for and actively seeking
work". Needless to say, the partners and
children of workers are also part of the
same class, as are the retired.
The interests of the working class
(wages, working conditions, jobs, useful
public spending, etc.) are in constant
and inevitable conflict with those of the
boss class. They want to maximise their
profits and gain an advantage over their
competitors, and what better way than
to cut wage costs?
Although capitalism can give people
a hard time on many different levels,
race and sex to name but two; it is
the exploitation of our labour that is
fundamental to the system. If we can
reclaim that aspect of our
lives, the system can be
overturned and replaced
with something much
better.
However just because
someone is a worker it
does not always follow
that he or she will think
of themself as a worker,
or realise the potential
for change that the
working class collectively
possesses. We all know
people who identify with their boss, or
others who become isolated from any
sense of belonging to anything bigger
than their own family and a few close
friends.
Class consciousness, an awareness of
our common interests and the potential
we have for real change, needs to be
encouraged and strengthened. This
is one of the tasks of an anarchist
organisation.
Only when direct control and
management of production is taken by
the working class themselves will we
end the class division. In such a society
wealth would be created and managed
for the benefit of all. There would be
no elite of bosses or rulers; instead,
everyone affected by a decision could
have a say in making that decision.
What people need and want will be the
guiding principle, not the interests of a
few very wealthy shareholders.
And that's when we will stop "dragging
class into everything".
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