Socialism Quotation Placeholder Post #1: Étienne Balibar on Class Struggle

by tigermanifesto

Greetings to my long-suffering readers. If you have felt the Tiger Manifesto post drought as acutely as I have, you must be going through quite the trauma. As a stopgap measure, like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, I am going to post brief, potentially witty quotations from socialist notables I happen to have on hand. Because much of my study time this past few months was spent reading Althusser and his intellectual progeny, I have quite a few on hand, which should make finding something both trenchant and accessible a fun challenge. Since I anticipate these droughts breaking out in the future, I’ve made it a series. Godspeed you all.

“We have already been told in the Manifesto that the struggle of the workers begins with their very existence. And Capital shows that the first moment of that struggle is the existence of a collective of workers, either in the factory or enterprise or outside it in the town or city, in politics (but in reality always between these two spaces, moving from the one to the other). It is a presupposition of the ‘wage form’ that workers are treated exclusively as individual persons, so that their labour-power can be bought and sold as a thing of greater or lesser value, so that they can be ‘disciplined’ and ‘made responsible’. But the collective is an ever self-renewing precondition of production itself. In reality, there are always two overlapping collectives of workers, made up of the same individuals (or almost) and yet incompatible: a capital-collective and a proletariat-collective. Without the latter, engendered by the resistance to capitalist collectivization, the capitalist ‘autocrat’ could not himself exist.”

Étienne Balibar. The Philosophy Of Marx.

It gets at the inescapable dynamics of capital’s effect on the workers. In order to rationalize and improve production, which is always imperative under capitalism, it must concentrate workers, who are supposed to be mere individuals, in space and time. Capital needs its own destroyers to function, and those people are both the proletariat of the Manifesto and the legions of value-producers in Capital. Socialist organization can’t help but take account of this fact when building alliances and producing revolutionary situations. It also explains some of the social roots of how bourgeois ideology can grow influential even among its victims. Capitalism might be exploitative and take advantage of all kinds of social differences and oppressions, but it is also the means by which almost everyone on earth is fed, clothed and sheltered. That is, if they have those things at all.