Thinking about anarchism

Workers have the power


In the WSM we're often asked why we spend so much time talking about the working class. Even the title of our paper, Workers Solidarity, seems a bit odd to some - why are we talking so much about workers? Isn't anarchism for everybody? And aren't we all middle class now?

Questions like these are based on a misunderstanding of what class actually means. Being working class doesn't mean being poor, working down a mine, or keeping pigeons, any more than going to college or working in an office makes you middle class. The working class is, basically, everyone who has to work for a living, and the ruling class is the people that we work for. The middle class is a small group somewhere in between the two - not rich enough to live off the work of others, but still not entirely dependent on their wages.

The working class is important because of the society we live in today. Capitalism is based on an unequal distribution of wealth and power. A small minority of people control most of the world's wealth, which means that they own the farms and the factories that produce all of the necessities of life. The rest of us have to work for them - and this, not the clothes we wear or the books we read, is what makes us working class. (Obviously, the working class includes the unemployed, and the partners and children of workers)

At the heart of the capitalist system is profit, the difference between what we get paid for our work, and what our work is worth. In every profitable business, by definition, workers are being paid less than their work is worth. What's left over is your boss's profit, money that they've earned from your work. And this is why the system continues - for all those that are exploited by capitalism, and suffer because of it, the rich and powerful continue to benefit from it.

Working class power

The working class are those with the most to gain from the abolition of capitalism, and we're also the ones with the power to change society, because capitalism depends on our continuing to support it. Whenever we take action to improve our wages or working conditions, we realise that we are stronger when we stand together, and we cut into the profits of our bosses. And the more successes we have in campaigns like this, the more we realise that we don't have to stop there, with small gains and reforms, but that we're able to fundamentally change society so that it serves all of our interests.

And that's our ultimate goal - not to improve the position of the working class, or even put the working class in charge, but to abolish the property system that creates classes. When every workplace is run by the people who work there and production is for need alone then there can be no profit, and so no working class or ruling class. That's the basis of an anarchist society, a society where everyone is truly equal, and so everyone can be truly free.

Ray Cunningham


This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper '
Workers Solidarity'. We also provide a PDF files of all our publications for you to print out and distribute locally

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This edition is No64 published in May 2001