Re: [xmca] article on social class

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sat May 06 2006 - 14:24:22 PDT

What a good question you ask. This has very much been on my mind in
recent years: just where does one go to get a handle on how to think
about social class in the contemporary world? I have been thinking
about this question both as a citizen-worker in a world that is badly
in need of reform and revolution, and as a student of CHAT wanting to
understand what kind of research and science about human activity can
help us understand how to reform and overhaul broken social systems -
and especially, where social class in general and the working class
movement in particular fit in.

I had to think about this a little, but here is my response. The
book I recommend, edited and written by Jack Barnes, reflects the
ideas of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party, which, in my opinion, has
the clearest idea of what Marx meant by the historic line of march of
the working class toward establishing a world socialist system. I
realize this choice is a very political book, is about as communist
as you can get, and falls outside the usual kind of book the xmca and
general CHAT community views as a scientific contribution. The book
does not take a view of social class from an academic vantage point,
but instead, just as Marx did, sees itself as part of the struggle of
working people, viewing all social classes from a class struggle
perspective. For example, it speaks about an alliance of workers and
farmers in making an American socialist revolution, and talks about
politically reversing divisions within the working class, such as
between the labor aristocracy of skilled workers and other less
privileged layers, as well as of course between oppressed minorities
and whites, women and men, etc. The Marxist concept that classes are
determined by the relationship to the means of production is of
course a fundamental starting point, but this book goes much further
toward understanding social class not just in raw economic terms, but
in terms of dynamic political struggles. In this approach, class is
not just a relationship to the means of production, but is also a
relationship to the means of social change. *How* a person fights is
as much a part of their social class as *what* property if any they
control. The underlying theory of social class outlined in this book
is that the modern working class of the world has historically unique
ways of fighting, what this book refers to as "proletarian forms of
struggle." It is these unique forms of struggle - collective,
democratic, social, political, potentially decisive - that gives the
modern proletariat its special place in history.
The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions
by Jack Barnes
List price: $23.00
Publisher summary: Building the kind of party working people need to
prepare for coming class battles through which they will organize and
strengthen the unions, as they revolutionize themselves and all
society. A handbook for those repelled by the class inequalities,
racism, women's oppression, cop violence, and wars inherent in
capitalism, for those who are seeking the road toward effective
action to overturn that exploitative system and join in
reconstructing the world on new, socialist foundations.
Paper, 460 pages
Publisher: Pathfinder
ISBN: 0-87348-958-6

- Steve

At 07:29 AM 5/6/2006 -0700, Mike Cole wrote:
>Thank you for putting the issue of class back before us, Steve.
>Contemporary confusions over the concept of class are sure evident in
>the review which I assume reflect the fuziness or unclarity in the books
>Suppose you had one, accessible, book to recommend to xmca'ites about
>how to think about social class in the contemporary world, perhaps one that
>included people's relations to the means of production. What would you

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