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Why the Working Class is Key

The working class consists of all those who work for a wage producing the goods and providing the services that make up the economic life of the country (and the world). You might be a retail cashier, a waiter, a picker/packer, a carer, a teacher, a nurse, a bus driver, a cleaner, a courier, or a boilermaker. Wherever you live, whoever you are and whatever specific activity you carry out you have one thing in common – you sell your labour-power in order to survive. The people who own the means of production – whether they are private shareholders or the state – and employ your labour-power, paying you a wage in return, make up the ruling or capitalist class. Although as workers we create all value in this society, it is the capitalist class which profits from it. Between these two classes there is an irresolvable conflict of interest – we want our wages and conditions to be better, while the capitalists want to increase their profits at the least expense.

The working class is in a unique position – if we stopped working, the whole system would grind to a halt. The spectre of unemployment is there to prevent that from happening. Today, those of us working in key industries have been branded “essential workers”, meaning even under a pandemic we get no respite – we are forced to continue selling our labour-power to produce their profits even when it means risking our lives to do so. And the government, ever worried about the economy, has now hurried to re-start production even in “non-essential” sectors.

This social relationship between labour and capital forms the basis of the modern world order. But society has not always been organised this way. 500 years ago you may have been a peasant paying in rent and obligatory services to your landlord so you could toil on their land. 2,000 years ago you may have been a slave abducted and subject to your master. And 10,000 years ago you may have been a hunter-gatherer working in common with your tribe. No society is eternal, which raises the question: what’s the future after wage-labour and how do we get there?

Although we may feel powerless today, our unique position also means we have the power to bring this system and those who champion it to their knees. Together we can change society on a scale no other class can equal. The capitalist class needs us to make their profits, we don’t need the capitalist class to create life’s essentials. At times of crisis, the working class has in the past attempted to emancipate itself, and dates such as 1871 (Paris Commune) and 1917 (Russian Revolution) should be ingrained in our consciousness. These attempts may have been unsuccessful, being either crushed by force or brought back into the fold by the ruling class, but they have left us important lessons.

Recent events have illuminated just how much the capitalist system is rotten to its core. Contradictions stemming from the labour-capital relation have been brought to the fore. The ruling class has their own political compass to guide them through the storms, and we need to find our own. Our aim is to work for the creation of an internationalist organisation of the working class, which can link immediate demands of the separate struggles of today, with the historical programme of communism – a stateless, classless, moneyless society in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

That is why to every picket and every protest we bring a class perspective, the only one that can seriously address the multidimensional crises we face today. We don’t have to choose between the drudgery of wage-labour and the misery of unemployment – we have a world to win!

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 52) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

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Internationalis...
Aug 7 2020 12:23

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