Six Questions About Your Class Location that EverydayFeminism.com Isn't Asking You to Think About
Date Written: 2015-12-15
Publisher: The Public Autonomy Project
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX18492
Solidarity doesn’t exist, like a material object, the way tables and chairs do. Solidarity is the confidence we can sometimes have that others, sharing with us a common enemy and a core of overlapping aspirations, will have our back when we find ourselves under attack, or when we need their support to win a crucial struggle. We don't stumble upon solidarity when poring over statistics; we won't find it by comparing our pay stubs with that of the worker down the street. We forge it in common struggle
Although the attempt to bring “privilege” discourse to bear within class analysis does have its defenders within marxism, most marxist readers of the EDF article would agree that the politics of the article represent a kind of inversion of marxism, or a marxism-in-reverse. For instance, whereas marxism describes most forms of full-time paid employment as “exploitation,” the EDF article describes having a full-time paid job as, in and of itself, a form of “class privilege.” And whereas marxism regards 6-8 hours of sleep per night as one of the costs of reproducing labour-power, from which employers benefit but for which workers aren’t paid, making it, too, a form of exploitation, the EDF article says that getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night is also “class privilege.”
Other markers of class privilege, according the article, include being able to purchase fruit and vegetables from a neighbourhood grocery store, spending money on a babysitter while going to job interviews, or being able to take public transportation to work. All of these, according to the author of the EDF piece, are signs that one is “damn lucky, y’all.” In this way, the article depicts the condition of most working-class people, at least in the marxist sense of “working class,” as that of a privileged elite, the fortunate beneficiaries of advantages denied to others, whereas marxism depicts the working class as an oppressed, exploited and dominated class.
even if drawing attention to these differences often has a valuable role to play in the promotion of solidarity within the working class, nevertheless it would be going too far to replace analysis of the commonalities of working-class exploitation, domination and oppression, with an analysis that depicts many workers as a “lucky” and a “privileged” social group, essentially depicting most workers as beneficiaries of capitalism, even hinting that they would benefit from maintaining the status quo rather than from challenging it. A privilege discourse on working-class differentiation that is denialist about the exploitation and oppression of most workers surely both reflects and encourages the embrace of a politics that has gone decisively off the rails, that has switched sides, and that — in spite of itself, one hopes — now speaks from the standpoint of the employer.
When the question we pose to unionized workers is, “Don’t you see how lucky you are?,” it is a sign that we have lost our way.