Tagged: working class

Made of stone

As any astute Marxist knows, the working class has not always been progressive (the example of their support for Brexit and Trump is the latest evidence). Also, this Marxist would know that the mode of production in capitalism does not stand still, but is constantly revolutionised. Consequently, the industrial mode of production (most highly rationalised by Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor) could only be a time limited affair. Moreover, the skills and aptitudes needed for work under these labour conditions would also have a relatively short life span. In other words, industrialism as a mode of production would never last forever; thus the towns which built themselves around a mode of production that would become obsolete are similarly doomed to go the way of weavers and steam powered locomotives.

This process of obsolescence was hastened by the battering down of “all Chinese walls” (Marx): not only were “foreign” markets opened to the mode of capitalist consumption, they were opened to mode of capitalist production (industrial production). If capital follows “cheap labour,” then it was also inevitable that industrial production (manufacturing) would migrate across borders to more hospitable climes for the maximum profit extraction/labour exploitation. The spirit of socialist internationalism, that workers of the world share a common plight and a common struggle, is thwarted by national populist tendencies. The effort to restore Chinese walls in the form of new Hadrian’s Wall against the EU or neo-mercantilist policies (Trump) is anachronistic.

Finally, there’s the issue of climate change. The romanticised vision of industrial production, which runs counter to the satanic mill, The Jungle, and the workhouse of its reality, does not comport well with efforts to curb the degradation of the environment. Here, one can turn to an auto-critique of Marx himself: his Grundrisse is brimming over with anti-ecological statements. In other texts (such as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844), the great man holds that the essence of the worker is bound up with “his” ability to work on nature, i.e., to destroy nature. The worker’s alienation from nature (both internal and external) is premised on “his” loss of the object of labour in a system of private property; “his” alienation is not premised on the filthy waters, toxic air, and superheated atmosphere that results from “his” labour in industrial capitalism. It is not surprising that the states inspired by Marxist thinking (the old CCCP and DDR, and today’s China) were/are global leaders in pollution, no different from their non-Communist brethren in “the West.”

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