Lenin once wrote, “the history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade-union consciousness.” By this, Lenin meant that the working class on its own can at best create or join trade unions to represent themselves. It was noted by Lenin that socialist theory, when applied to the proletarians in general, was the product of the bourgeois intelligentsia. While it may seem like a strange thing to note, this difference in how proletarians and bourgeois-backed intellectuals approached socialism, was that it revealed how these differences in perspectives yielded completely different problems to contend with and solutions to advocate for. Bourgeois intellectuals, who’s exposure to Marxism consisted of theory and economic thought, viewed the workers as cogs in the industrial machine at best and as just a means to an end through which they could implement their views. For the bourgeois intellectuals, this view of the proletarians as an undifferentiated mass with flattened differences was the norm because, in universities where management courses, legal studies, and economics lectures view workers as just dehumanized inputs and only could conceive of workplaces as abstract concepts, the only way class consciousness could develop in intellectuals was through these simplified lenses. The motivations of the bourgeous intellectuals varied from person to person, but at best they were moral busybodies who sought to justify their authoritarian views with veneers of altruism and at worst were, as Orwelle put it, a subversive part of the PMC class that simply wanted to supplant the bourgeois as the rulers. The proletarians, who’s exposure to Marxism consisted of syndicalism and organizing, viewed workplaces as someone would view their home, with an intimate knowledge on the differences inside their homes versus those of their neighbors. For the proletarians, who were so familiar with the actual work being done, it was hard to advocate for the same broad policies that lumped groups as different as bookkeepers and iron workers together, but for the socialist intellectuals, who were as close to the work process as they were to Mars, these differences were simply needless complications. The problem that arises from this situation, in which the workers largely are only capable of advocating for syndicalism while bourgeois intellectuals are only capable of advocating for top-down forms of socialism, is that no holistic concepts can really develop that serve to both liberate workers and advance technology to the point that we enter post-scarcity. Uniting these two perspectives would do as much for the welfare of proletarians as the Grand Unifying Theory would do for the field of physics, in which a similar situation occurs where what works on the quantum scale breaks down at the cosmic scale and vice versa. In this article, we’re going to look at how to solve this problem and look how to create more holistic perspectives on class consciousness in people.
When it comes to class consciousness, it’s clear that how we are trained to view things and how our work relates to the functioning of our employers determines a great deal of how we appreciate class consciousness and how it sculpts our motivations. For the proletarian, class consciousness creates a sense of wonder, as he gazes around him at everything material and artificial, realizing that it was all built by people just like him in both his country and abroad. Looking down at my hands, knowing that every power line across the world was strung by hands just like mine, creates a deep sense of pride in myself and makes me yearn for a better life for people like me. Class consciousness for me creates a great deal of anger for capitalism and the owners, knowing that countless other electrical workers just like me with their own families and dreams have died because contractors cut corners on things like protection and equipment maintenance to cut costs and meet unrealistic deadlines. For the PMC, who survives the financially and intellectually rigorous filtering process of academia long enough to land himself in a role as an American apparatchik, class consciousness makes himself acutely aware of the functions he serves for the bourgeois owners he works for, realizing that with his skillset that the only thing separating himself from the owners is a simple piece of paper. In earlier generations, when businesses on average were smaller, the white-collar job market wasn’t as saturated with applicants, and the barrier to entry for entrepreneurs was far lower than it was today, the PMCs were happy to content themselves with the option of being paid handsomely for doing little or going into business for themselves. In present America, this arrangement for the PMCs is little more than a bygone memory and that piece of paper that signifies ownership, which can no longer be acquired in any meaningful way, damns them to a life of drudgery and misery in a workplace that would function just as fine if the absentee owners all simply died. For the bourgeois, who inherit sizable businesses or work at the top of corporate dynasties founded by relatives, if they take the time to understand class consciousness, they immediately see it as if they were a swimmer seeing chum thrown in the water around them. Class consciousness is a dirty word that stirs up a great deal of fear in the bourgeois, as they realize how vastly outnumbered they are by the people that society requires to function, as they comprehend how useless they are to the economic equation, and as they notice just how much better off everyone else would be if their profiteering came to an end. Where we come from and what we do greatly determines the epiphanies we experience when we come across the idea of class consciousness, and while we’ve already covered this, it goes to show why so many workers resist being what seems needlessly angry over economic arrangements that they’ve been conditioned to think they can never change and why so many PMCs engage in subversive intellectualism, finding ways to justify their covetous fantasies of usurping the bourgeois. While both working class groups seek to get rid of the bourgeois, only the PMCs seek to take their place, and as individuals educated in management and other matters of administration, don’t ever want to imagine themselves on the same level as the proletarians they claim to represent in their socialist circles.
While the reactions and motivations arising from class consciousness vary so much from class to class, these differences in the working groups will come to be ameliorated by the rise of the Grey-Collar subset of the working class. The Grey-Collar workers consist of tradesmen, military personnel, police officers, clergy, morticians, firefighters, airline pilots, and other professionals with skillsets necessary for the functioning of society, who often find themselves employed in the public or non-profit sectors, and who are much more likely than their blue-collar or white-collar peers to be part of a union. As highly trained workers with both manual and paperwork experience, who largely come from working class backgrounds and can only work their way up into niche managerial roles, these are the people that are most capable of gluing together this divide and bringing to the forefront a more unifying sense of class consciousness. For the Grey-Collar worker, who often come to have the same detachment from the economy that the socialist intellectuals of the past did, they are able to look at things in far more abstract ways than their other working-class counterparts do. While the average proletarian might despise one another enough to not fight for the general wellbeing of their class, the Grey-Collar workers more often than not have to deal directly with the ramifications of an unraveling society, whether it be in the form of tedious paperwork created by overbearing bureaucracies that only hinder the work they do or in implementing out-of-touch policies crafted by higher-ups without the same experience on the ground that they have. For the Grey-Collar worker, who has only a pension at most to look forward to in his career, there is none of the preexisting desires to usurp the bourgeois that we see in the PMC subset of the working class, because unlike the PMCs of today, the Grey-Collar workers have never forgotten that they are permanently part of the working class. As a grey-collar worker who works for the government in return for a very paltry sum, I am concerned about the welfare of society and I do look at the general state of the economy in ways that normal workers don’t, because as someone that works on infrastructure, I am very conscious of just what we’re supporting through our work and how the problems of broader society impact our work. Just as a police officer that works with delinquents has a different opinion on single motherhood than someone who works at a Starbucks or in a warehouse, a Warrant Officer has a very different opinion on the military’s equipment expenditures than the white-collar procurement officers that decide what overinflated prices to pay for substandard goods. Whether the issues come from below or above, Grey-Collar workers get a holistic look at society that not many other have access to, because they’re the ones that are typically tasked with solving the problems that arise from poverty and mismanagement in the first place.
As stable and skilled adults who either focus on productive niches or sacrifice incomes in order to support causes they believe in, getting the Grey-Collar class involved in politics is essential to introducing a rational and complete theory of socialism the likes of which has never been seen before. Unlike the receptionists and accountants of the world, its undeniable that police and clergy are invested in the wellbeing of society in ways that the rest of society can only pretend to know. Unlike the warmongering politicians of America, it is undeniable that military personnel are invested in the wellbeing of America in ways that the rest of society can only pretend to know. Unlike the corporate executives of America, it is undeniable that the technicians understand their equipment better than they do. and know how to improve it. Unlike the white-collar union staffers that claim to represent the interests of the working class, the Grey-Collar workers are the intellectual and pragmatic core of the working class and understand how best to advance their welfare in ways their representatives could never have imagined. As more and more workers move into these Grey-Collar niches, as automation takes up more and more of the industrial activity in an economy, we’re only going to see more people advocate for the solving of issues that, very uniquely, only they know the answers for. Whether it be the costs of corruption or inept legislation shouldered by Grey-Collar employees who now are less capable of carrying out their jobs or the social costs and inefficiencies created as negative externalities by capitalism that we all have to deal with, this emerging force holistically feels the problems in ways that few have felt or understood before. While technocracy was at first an ideology, as more and more of these miscellaneous niches continue to be created throughout society as technology and industry continue to advance, it will become a necessary part of reality in ways that capitalism could only ever hope to replicate. While the time for this emerging class is still coming along, the present challenges lay in the structures of the unions that represent these workers, with the PMCs still lording over us as altruistic-at-best union staffers. One of DMSG’s goals is to redesign syndicalism and union structures, in order to better enable these workers to have their voices heard and throw their weight around as cohesive political blocs in America. Creating a new IWW, with an emphasis on bringing in actual workers and putting them – as opposed to their representatives – in charge of their own sub unions, while working with the greater whole of workers to move forward as one, will put more power in the hands of workers than any trade union representative or subversive intellectual could have ever hoped to do or even wanted to do. If the American regime continues to survive over the next several decades, while the economy keeps growing in productivity per capita, it is only inevitable that the bourgeois will have to contend with an emerging, coordinated, and very intelligent force that wants to erase them and their institutions from history and better yet: know where to start in their own fields. The unification of class consciousness in the coming years could usher in forms of cybernetic and technocratic socialism so competitive and sophisticated, created not by bourgeois usurping intellectuals and altruistic representatives but by the countless millions of industrious, class-conscious, and educated working Americans who not only know who they are but also what they want and know how to get it.
That’s a nice bit of communism there. I see you’ve used concepts such as the bourgeois intellectualls, the proletariat, the capitalists, the PMC (this one is relatively new, very trendy) and your own new idea – – the grey collar worker! How very novel! I can see a bright future here. A Marxist-Leninist utopia awaits. This is not a waste of time at all.
I was thinking more along the lines of the HR-cat-lady/VP-of-Diversity-Equity-and-Inclusion/Project-Product-Manager Class.
Love this site, along with ARPLAN.org
I love to hear that! ARPLAN.org is a great site, so it’s flattering to be used in the same sentence as them.