The second consideration is easier to address. The first consideration concerns identification through definition. So, being a coward, I’ll start with the second and then move on to the first.
Second Thing First
Political movements used to be an expression, a manifestation, of a moment. Group interests and projects would energize and invigorate a community, this community would eventually produce exemplars and spokespeople. It would produce leaders. These leaders, these personifications of a collective consciousness, were borne from within.
Politics is now branded and political parties (movements, groups etc) function qua product. They establish an aesthetic around a cause then aim to convince people – often the very people they are claiming to help – to join their group. The people they aim to galvanize are conceived as a) passive, b) helpless, and c) consumers waiting to be sold-to. They often see themselves as distinct from those affected by the (associated) wrong. Contemporary politics is ultimately a marketing exercise.
This [sales-style] strategy implements a business model which, of course, determines a business solution. And this strategy perforates into daily life to such a degree that all possible outcomes are measured in terms of how closely the accord to a business-style template. All outcomes follow a structure whose success conditions are quantifiable. This modern life is numerical.
The problem of modernity is the problem of finding the correct application. All obstacles have a product specifically designed to ameliorate the problem. The endeavour of modern capitalism is to match a solution to a problem, match the buyer to the seller, match a consumer with a product. If our society is not working well for the majority of people, we simply have to find a better brand, a brand that contains the correct combination of sub products. We do this by seeing what the other brands are offering. This reinforces and reproduces the capitalist mode of production, and the capitalist mode of consciousness. This is why it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is the end of capitalism. Under this model we do not resist capitalism, we restructure it.
But there is an alternative – the alternative is communism. This alternative IS NOT an alternative within capitalism. It is not an alternative ‘brand’ I’m trying to convince you to adopt. It is an alternative to commodities. This is not a marketing pitch. This is an expression of a collective. A working collective. A collective that is unified by its compartmentalization. A collective that is unified by its oppression. A collective that is trivialized, destabilized, and made unsafe, anxious, desperate and futureless.
This collective is the working class.
First Thing Second
It is hard to identify today’s working class. We do not all wear flat caps and we do not all mine coal. We do not all work in a steel mill and we do not all have regional accents. We have gone to university. We have large televisions. We have an iPhone.
We have well-paid and precarious jobs. We have poorly-paid, agency-mediated, jobs. We are racialized. We are feminized. A constant sense of temporariness follows us alongside the impending doom of an unknown – and terrifying – future in which we do not have our job contracts renewed and we do not know how we will pay the rent.
Rather than concentrate on this future we stop thinking about the future altogether. We do not imagine alternative futures. We exist only in the present. We, I, think about how to pay next month’s rent. I do not think about how to bring about a society freed from the tyranny of insecure rent arrangements. Thinking about that will not keep my landlord from turfing me out in the short term.
But if there is hope, it lies with the proles. And there is hope. Community formed unions are forming to resist arbitrary evictions and improve conditions for renters. The logical conclusion of capitalism, the ‘gig economy’ – parasitic on zero-hours contracts and the exploitation of precarious working conditions – is discovering that any attempt at obliterating workers’ rights through circumvention will be resisted, and that workers are not as docile, complacent, passive and weak as originally thought. People, hitherto compartmentalized, are uniting. From Deliveroo workers strikes in Leeds to Acorn members mobilizing to resist enforced homelessness in Sheffield, solidarity is on the rise.
We have had enough of creating the things we need in exchange for a less-than-subsistence wage, which does not allow us to afford the very things we ourselves have created. We have had enough of selling our labour-power to the capitalist for Him to sell it back to us at a higher price (which we can’t afford). We have had enough of feeling ashamed for not having money to pay for things we need. We have had enough of the anxiety and the despair, the constant fear of the telephone calls from unfamiliar numbers, the knowledge that a bill is due and we haven’t money to pay for it, and the knowledge that there are more to come.
We have had enough of capitalism, we recognize this now.