Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

The New Voice

Three Articles on the Bribe


Is the Working Class Militant?

(The article first appeared in The New Voice publication, Vol. III, No. 8 (April 22, 1974))

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There are many people and groups on the left that contend that United States workers are docile to the point of being reactionary; that they are not militant. If this is the case there is no point in building a revolutionary party because the working class is the only class capable of overthrowing capitalism and establishing socialism. If the charge were true, then the theory of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao would be incorrect as they point to a revolution led by the working class.

But Marx was not wrong, as all of history indicates. Is the U.S. a special case? Is the country where capitalism has developed to its highest level devoid of class conflict? Has there been no activity among the rank-and-file in this country? The answer lies in objective facts. And correct theory will reflect these facts.

What is capitalism? As Marx explained, capitalism is the social form of the relationship between capitalists and workers. It is the private ownership of the means of production, denied to the vast majority, which enables the capitalist to expropriate a portion of the output which the workers produce In the form of profit. All production comes from the effort of workers. Since profits represent a certain portion of production it follows that all profits come from the efforts of workers. Machines which aid labor in producing goods and services are the result of past labor; in reality machines are nothing more than dead labor and it is physically and economically impossible to exploit dead labor. (See “Imperialism – An Economic Analysis”)

Workers need a certain quantity of what they produce In order to be able to work at all. They must eat, sleep and clothe themselves. They must also have sufficient quantities of goods and services to raise a family so that workers will be provided for the next generation. The amount of labor necessary to produce the goods required to maintain the worker and his family is what Marx called necessary labor. This amount is determined historically by the level of technology and the history of the class struggle In each capitalist country.

However, because the means of production–the machines, mines, etc.–are owned by the capitalists and not the workers, the businessmen are in a position to demand a certain portion of the working day to produce goods and services for the capitalist. This portion of the working day represents profits and is what Marx called surplus labor. Profits enable the capitalists to Invest and, therefore, control more workers as investment connotes more ownership. Thus, more and more people find themselves as workers under the control of the capital-owning class.

This is a fundamental law of capitalist accumulation and explains why, In capitalist countries, a greater proportion of the population becomes workers over time. In Capital, when Marx discusses primitive accumulation he is, in fact, discussing the growth of the proletariat (the working class). Capitalism necessitates a working class, and capitalism requires the exploitation of the working class.

This working class was created by fraud, with force in a secondary role. Peasants and craftsmen, who were developed into the original proletariat, physically resisted the loss of their means of livelihood (tools and land) and resisted the beginnings of the wage system in which a price was literally placed on the value of a person. To facilitate the development of the working class and maintain the capitalists in the ruling position, the businessmen erected the capitalist state–that system of laws, courts, prisons, police, armed forces, etc., which ensures profits by facilitating the exploitation of the workers through the oppression of the proletariat (strikebreaking, throwing union organizers into jail, etc.). without this state, capitalism would be impossible as workers would not be in favor of passing on a large percentage of what they produce to the businessmen merely for “hanging around.” Profits are the result of capitalism, and capitalism necessitates the state.

It is obvious that the working class does not have the same material interests as do the capitalists. The former wants higher wages, better working and living conditions, etc. The latter want higher profits. But higher wages mean that the worker will spend a greater portion of the working day producing goods for his own use. Everything else equal (the working day remains the same length, speed-up is resisted, etc.), this means that workers will spend less time producing profits for the businessman; surplus labor and profits will fall. Now, how does the worker go about getting a higher wage? Does he ask nicely? Maybe, but this does not work. Because the class interests are contradictory and antagonistic, the workers must organize and fight for a higher standard of living, and in doing so they must fight the whole state apparatus. This fact, historically observed, is a product of capitalism, and it is capitalism that necessitates militant action on the part of the working class. The worker is, by the nature of the capitalist-worker relationship, militant.

Every strike is a sign of this militancy. Every improvement in the standard of life of the working class is a sign of this militancy. Every revolution is a sign of this militancy. The very fact that the working class in this country maintains a fairly high standard of living as compared to other capitalist countries is evidence that the U.S. working class is extremely militant, for every Improvement in this standard was preceded by militant action.

Yet it is observed that many members of the working class are not militant at the moment. Some are even reactionary. How can this be explained? The capitalists do not rule by force alone. It is impossible for a minority to coerce a majority for any length of time by brute strength, for the real strength lies with the majority, the working class. All minority ruling classes depend primarily on fraud–conscious, deliberate lies–to maintain their rule. This fraud, which is basically an illusion, is perpetrated by the government, the schools, the churches, the newspapers – every capitalist institution that exists. All these institutions are under the control of the businessmen, and, as these institutions pervade the entire fabric of society, we find that fraud is all pervasive.

This fraud takes many forms, but the basis of all fraud is to undercut resistance to capitalist rule. Generally, we find fraud either building up support for capitalism (“there are no classes in America”, “what is good for General Motors is good for the country”, etc.) or slandering socialist countries (“there is no freedom in China,“ the ’Stalinist terror’ etc.). In the context of this argument, though, the function of fraud is to reduce the militancy of the working class. Given the anti-communist drivel disseminated in capitalist countries, any action taken by the working class (that is, anything smacking of democracy) is seen as subversive a strike being tantamount to treason. Union misleaders tell the rank-and-file that capitalists are entitled to a fair profit just as workers are entitled to a fair wage. Meanwhile these union hacks sit in plush quarters and extract a high salary from union dues.

But, periodically fraud breaks down. Wars, depressions, “energy crises,” etc., all serve to show the true features of a capitalist society. At this time militancy increases because the class conflicts become clearer. Then, of course, the capitalists resort to force and bring in the tools of the state. In the final analysis, as is shown by the examples of other countries, a revolutionary situation develops in which fraud no longer operates very well and the natural militancy of the working class develops into a revolutionary body.