Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 21, 2018

Can the Working Class Change the World?

Filed under: Counterpunch,revolutionary organizing,trade unions,workers — louisproyect @ 3:17 pm

The cover for Michael Yates’s “Can the Working Class Change the World?” was a stroke of genius. Ralph Fasanella’s “The Great Strike (IWW Textile Strike, 1912)” sets the tone for a book that has deep roots in working-class struggles in the USA and that shares the artist’s solidarity with the people who take part in them. Fasanella’s father delivered ice to people in his Bronx neighborhood and his mother worked in a neighborhood dress shop drilling holes into buttons. In her spare time, she was an anti-fascist activist. The family’s experience informed his art just as Michael Yates’s working class roots and long career as a labor activist and educator shapes his latest book.

Many years ago when I was a Trotskyist activist, the party was consumed with how to reach working people. To be frank, we would have learned more from Michael’s books than reading Leon Trotsky especially given the life experience outlined in the opening paragraph of the preface:

BY ANY IMAGINABLE DEFINITION of the working class, I was born into it. Almost every member of my extended family—parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins—were wage laborers. They mined coal, hauled steel, made plate glass, labored on construction sites and as office secretaries, served the wealthy as domestic workers, clerked in company stores, cleaned offices and homes, took in laundry, cooked on tugboats, even unloaded trucks laden with dynamite. I joined the labor force at twelve and have been in it ever since, delivering newspapers, serving as a night watchman at a state park, doing clerical work in a factory, grading papers for a professor, selling life insurance, teaching in colleges and universities, arbitrating labor disputes, consulting for attorneys, desk clerking at a hotel, editing a magazine and books.

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1 Comment »

  1. I agree with the views well-expressed in this article. But without at least a fairly concrete vision of what democratic socialism would look like, how a developed society would operate if it moved beyond the limited Scandinavian model into full-blown democratic socialist mode, modern leftist thought (like the great Marx himself) has little to offer. On the other hand, one visionary from the late 19th Century had a lot to offer in this regard, and it’s time we revisited his forgotten work and began reshaping it for the 21st Century.

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/11/19/on-earth-as-in-heaven-the-utopianism-of-edward-bellamy/

    Comment by newtonfinn — December 21, 2018 @ 4:50 pm


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