With the class struggle currently in suspension, very few people, including workers themselves, see the working class as the critical agent of social change. It has become much more fashionable to view ‘new social movements’, intellectuals and so on as those who can effect change. And change itself is perceived as being organised from within the power structures of society and even then in only the narrowest terms. Industrial workers, meanwhile, are regarded as the most backward section of society, to be controlled by the liberals staffing the state apparatus.
These two books are a powerful rejoinder to such fashionable snobbery. They deal with periods of Australian and New Zealand history when important sections of workers not only fought their corner against the bosses over economic questions, but took up broader political issues to do with the organization of society.
It is good to be wary here and our criticisms of the working class vanguard concept here could backfire. The solution is simple: if the working class is going to create a revolution beyond capitalism let it do so.
But what about everyone else? the answer is again simple: the canon of Marx gives priority to the working class, and for its time it was a brilliant concept. But we must acknowledge that everyone else has a right to their own attempts. Clearly Marx was speaking to another age. The working class has been corrupted now, or exported overseas…
Let’s face it: the current marxist left has no real contact with the working class. And that class wants nothing to do with them.
I have in Last and First Men proposed a new perspective: that of the Universal Class, which includes all classes. There are an immense number of individuals who wish to contribute to change but who are excluded by the marxist snobs!
I think waiting for the working class to revolt has become an excuse to do nothing by activists, and it is time to recast the whole legacy (and that might actually prod some working class figures into action).
Marxism created a problem where none existed by putting exclusive focus on the working class.