Sunday, May 3, 2009

What is Class?

A wee note on class I just added to the Constructive Anarchism mailing list:

Firstly, a quote from Marx:

"Capital, first and foremost, is a form of social relations".

Which leads nicely onto Solidarity's definition of class, and one that's influenced my thinking the most lately (from 'The Bolsheviks And Workers' Control' by Maurice Brinton):

"We hold that the 'relations of production' - the relations which individuals or groups enter into with one another in the process of producing wealth - are the essential foundations of any society. A certain pattern of relations of production is the common denominator of all class societies. This pattern is one in which the producer does not dominate the means of production but on the contrary both is 'separated from them' and from the products of his own labour. In all class societies the producer is in a position of subordination to those who manage the productive process. Workers' management of production - implying as it does the total domination of the producer over the productive process - is not for us a marginal matter. It is the core of our politics. It is the only means whereby authoritarian (order-giving, order-taking) relations in production can be transcended and a free, communist or anarchist, society introduced.

We also hold that the means of production may change hands (passing for instance from private hands into those of a bureaucracy, collectively owning them) with out this revolutionising the relations of production. Under such circumstances - and whatever the formal status of property - the society is still a class society for production is still managed by an agency other than the producers themselves. Property relations, in other words, do not necessarily reflect the relations of production.They may serve to mask them - and in fact they often have..."

So obviously class is upheld through power relations: some having more control over the relations of production, or simply the control over another's life.

According to, there are two classes, the working class and the ruling class, with a whole lot of grey areas within them. Obviously the ruling class is made up of those who control the relations of production, and this relates to both capitalism and state socialism/communism. For the working class in particular, I think this means that class is more than simply those who work and those who don't, but could include anyone who does not control the relations of production talked about above, inside and outside of the workplace. From the Anarchist Federation's On The Frontline: Anarchists at Work:

"To be a worker or working class does not simply mean being chained to a factory bench for 12 hours a day. It means being forced to participate in the production of profit for a minority whatever you do"

This would include those not working for a wage (housework, unemployed etc), and even to what we do in our leisure time ie shopping, our consumer culture and bourgeois cultural pursuits — as these still contribute to the circulation of capital and the generation of profit for someone else, and perpetuate the relations of productions in capitalism.

1 comment:

Dave Brown said...

Problem with Brinton is that he rejects the need to organise a dictatorship of the proletariat to defeat the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
His syndicalist federation of workers councils would have failed in Russia where the Red Army had to be run like a dictatorship. What happened as soon as workers called for a workers state without the Bolsheviks at the head was that the White's came back in command i.e. the bourgeois dictatorship, as at Kronstadt.
In Spain the loose federation of workers councils was no match for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie especially when the anarchist leaders jumped ship. Durruti had no answer, nor does Brinton.