the changed composition of the working class

11:30-1pm on Saturday 19th June, part of the Beyond Resistance day school

The concept of class composition has its origins in the debates and interventions of Italian Communist dissidents in the late 1960s. They faced the demise and political integration of the Communist Party and the emergence of a ‘new generation of workers’ in a new industrial set-up. The desire to understand the new conditions of social production and political struggle urged groups like Quaderni Rossi to re-read Marx against the party orthodoxy and to engage in detailed ‘workers inquiries’ within the new factory regime.

Class composition corresponds materially and conceptually with the composition of capital: the productive relation between living and dead labour. It puts into question the ‘bourgeois’ notion of ‘class consciousness’ as an external element, which has to be induced into workers’ struggle, and the notion of working class as a monolithic category. Analysing the changes in modern exploitation the ‘Operaists’ emphasised the intrinsic relation-ship between capitalist development – technological changes, extension of global division of labour, new product cycles, new migration regimes – and class struggle. The form of exploitation determines the form of collective struggle.

The working class is constantly ‘re-composed’ and is the main driving force of these changes. Class composition is expression of a political desire: where does a new ‘class subject’ emerge whose struggles can generalise wider class struggle; a ‘class subject’ which due to its central position within social production is able to both express social power and possibility of a fundamental social change?

discussion introduced by a communist refuse worker (Prol Position/Wildcat) and Sheila Cohen (author, Ramparts of Resistance)

Click here for some notes prepared by Sheila

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