19-THE WORKING CLASS
The wage earning workforces of the big urban factories and of small and medium industry should be considered separately.
-The working class in the big urban factories.
It can be subdivided into three strata:
1. a) the mass workers: those who work on the line and in the departments with the most harmful working conditions, and are subjected to an exterminating pace of work, with the least protections in their interest despite being the most productive, paying in this way the price for their fighting spirit. They are undoubtedly the most revolutionary strata, which has contributed and will contribute to the greatest extent to the development of the class struggle in all the forms in which it manifests: legal and illegal, from wildcats to sabotage, from factory occupations to the harsh punishment of bosses, managers and fascists up to becoming the central nucleus of the armed struggle for communism.
2. b) the professional workers: mostly those sectors of the worker aristocracy which make up the figure of professional labor, however the introduction of always more advanced technology and the progressive division of labor reduce their ranks to an insignificant percentage. In order to be more precise, you can even assert that the professional worker as such no longer exists, and that the term at least in the current context, rather indicates the skilled worker, which is something quite different from the authentic professional worker. Indeed when professionalism implies adequate qualification (understood as training), qualification on the other hand does not imply professionalism, since it is rather the adaption of the qualities of the labor force to the new organic composition of capital. This type of worker enjoys some “privileges”, like relative stability of employment, and qualitatively superior work, non repetitive, without stress, with the possibility of self-determining the pace of work, and a partial autonomy in the determination of work methods. This causes them both to be particularly sensitive to the ideology of labor supported by the revisionists and to their policies, this is why they form their social base; within the worker’s movement they therefore represent a tendency to be eliminated, though they are still susceptible-especially with the worsening of the crisis-to the the recovery of revolutionary initiative, at least in certain fringes.
3 c.) the worker aristocracy: this corresponds with the strata immediately above the qualified workers (thus with what remains of the professional workers) and with the non-productive union bureaucracy. This segment of the class faced with the scale of the confrontation, will increasingly become an instrument of the counter-revolution; these people now play an open support function for the economic policy choices of the imperialist bourgeois founded on the base of legitimization and at the same time a activity of control and espionage within the factories.
-Workers of the small and medium industries
In many ways they present an analogy to the mass workers of the large factories, but diverge insofar as they find it more difficult to organize and mobilize as they are easier to identify, because they are constrained to maneuver within “compressed” structures and are therefore more controlled.
-productive workers within the sphere of circulation: productive workers within the sphere of circulation are defined as that portion of workers who produce and conserve value (transport, repair) within this sector, even some pockets of privilege like the port workers-in certain respects a real worker aristocracy in recent years-will inevitably be downsized by the restructuring currently ongoing, and this will happen in general to the productive workers of the service sector.
Within the metropolitan proletariat we find also a number of strata, some of which need to be defined in ways different from the past. They are:
1) manual workers in the service sector: the separation between the work function (the aggregate of manual work) and its control (the aggregate of intellectual work), defines the class relations permanent within the structure of capitalism in addition to private ownership of the means of production. The development of this separation creates on the one hand a new petty bourgeois (the use of “science” against “labor”) but on the other hand a broad range of manual workers in services who in addition experience a relation to wage labor distinguished by the level of consciousness that develops in their struggles which are sufficient to make them the major allies of the working class, as they live in essentially the same conditions while not producing value (for example the hospitals).
2) the industrial reserve army of labor: it is an integral part of the working class; traditionally including all those workers who anticipate their involvement in the production process but who are temporarily expelled. You have “fluctuation” which however in the current period tend to configure unemployment as a structural given of great extent to the imperialist State. While the fluctuating surplus population is formed by temporarily laid off workers or those participating in redundancy programs, the latent surplus population can currently be seen in youth unemployment, a large scale phenomena with great political significance. According to recent statistical work, it is 40% and above in the OCSE countries. This has created a real army for all intents and purposes, which has given life in Italy to a movement of struggle with very radical positions-even with permanent organizational forms and direct links with the working class. Moreover, the forms of evolution of the subdivisions of the surplus population present us today with a greater complexity in relation to the historical forms analyzed in Marx’s schema, and this is proven by the formation of a strata of workers (and proletarians) who are “marginal” but not marginalized.
In the case of the stagnant surplus population described by Marx, we not only have a long term return to the condition of unemployment (for example currently the migrant workers who return to the South from the EEC industrial centers) but also a state of permanent precarity as in the current marginal working class. This precarity does not relate to the occupational status of individual workers, but instead to the productive unit in which the worker is inserted. But now, the characteristics of this “area” of production are structural, “stable in their precarity”, in fact, we can say:
-the decentralization of production in relation to the monopolistic enterprises, is an effect of the increase in the total capital invested per worker. There is a marginal area present in all sectors of the economy but it prevails to a greater extent in those which are least dynamic (since its role is determined not only by structural but also by political considerations); it is present in all the advanced capitalist countries with various forms of employment of labor power (from seasonal work to part-time work, from small scale factories to temporary contracts in certain large enterprises etc);
-its subordination to the “spontaneity” of the market allows greater elasticity in the use of labor power in opposition to the tendency towards the fall in the rate of profit, through the increase of the working day in periods of conjunctural expansion (absolute surplus value) and also the lower cost of labor power in periods of recession;
-It is a means of political division of the labor force, as a industrial reserve army understood in the traditional sense, as well as regulating the extent of the wage bill, diminishes the bargaining power of the less privileged strata of workers and operates as a “corporatizing” blackmail of those in the large enterprises.
With regards to the stagnant surplus population described by Marx, the difference here can be found in the fact that this condition is not linked to cyclical crisis but is a permanent effect of the relations of production of the current stage of capitalism. The only possibility of change offered to this strata is not that of “reentry” into stable employment at the end of the cycle, but if anything total marginalization, as there is no provision for a renewal of the productive forces within the current mode of production.
If then, we speak of this strata of workers as the industrial reserve army, it is only for ease of exposition , while scientifically it would be placed elsewhere: in fact the workers who find themselves intermediate and oscillating between the working class with stable employment and the industrial reserve army are employed in “different ways”.
3) the marginalized: are those who consume without working or who in any case are totally expelled from the production process, which is why they are lacking a clear and homogeneous political class identity; nevertheless in recent years some strata of the marginalized have become politically conscious and you can find in the extra-legal proletariat and the proletarian prisoners a real vanguard expression which is a full participant and a powerful factor in alliance with the working class. By marginalized we mean those who consume without a wage:
1 a.) Extralegal proletariat: (among which prisoners are included). It is determined by the growing marginalization of strata of people from the production process, which has triggered the phenomena defined as “mass criminality” favored also by the monstrous disparity of wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. The impossibility of finding stable work forces strata of the population to resort to illegal activities, which are anyway, increasingly less foreign to the working class.
Citing statistics from the city of Rome concerning 1971, which are issued by the bourgeois but make it possible to observe felony indictments subdivided by class: workers and laborers are 40.13%, students 11.71%, pensioners and housewives 7.73%, without profession 15.61% which gives an abstract of 75.18% of the total number of felony indictments. It is interesting to note the high percentage of criminals who come from the world of labor. “Crime” becomes a second job for groups of proletarians!
The struggle of the prisoners and the politicization of the entire “underworld” environment is not then a strange and monstrous fact; nor is it possible to still consider the prison as the only vehicle of its organization and struggle, even if the prison remains the greatest moment of socialization of this “segment” of the class. After all, Lenin already in 1905 noted that in periods of economic-political crisis, social banditry becomes a specific mode of struggle of certain strata of the urban proletariat, thrown into immiseration; this phenomena tends to spread within the working class and it is absolutely indispensable to transform this mode of struggle into partisan action by involving this strata in civil war under the leadership of the Combatant Party.
1 b) These receiving assistance from public and private bodies (the elderly, handicapped, maladjusted, disabled etc). Also elderly proletarians (pensioners) fall within this category, because their marginalization from the production process often also involves their marginalization from all social relations, although they are not confined in “total institutions” (insane asylums, nursing homes etc). In recent years even this strata has given birth to extensive struggles, showing that for the proletariat in this society, there is no peace until the end.
2 c) the traditional subproletariat, which is practically constituted from the residue of decaying classes, although now a phenomena of limited extent, with regards to its analysis the judgment offered by Marx and Engels remains entirely valid “…passive putrefaction of the lowest strata of the population susceptible to the intrigue of reaction..”, it remains historically confirmed that they are the worst allies of the working class.