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A Ticket To Ride: More Locations On The Class Map


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Source: Growth Production and Prices

This is a reproduction of Albert & Hahnel’s 1979 essay from the book Between Labor and Capital, a collection of essays that talks about the elusive third class, mostly centered around The Professional Managerial Class by Barbara and John Ehrenreich.

Although the book in general is a great read, the essay I’m speaking of in particular is the first time that Albert & Hahnel explain their conception of class analysis and includes an in-depth introduction to the coordinator class, which is something that Albert especially focuses on when talking about participatory economics. Because I can’t seem to find this essay anywhere else, I’ve decided to make it all neat on here including the original footnotes and pictures given in the essay. I have also gave links for most of the books and/or pages that are in the footnotes when first referenced.

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Barbara and John Ehrenreich raise a “new complaint” against Marxist analysis: perhaps traditional class distinctions are insufficient. Perhaps people who receive a wage but perform the “mental labor” of “reproducing productive and cultural relationships” are themselves a “new class” with their own interests and ideology opposed to the interests and ideology of workers and capitalists.[1] What are the implications of this possibility for change in our society, for socialist tasks, and for socialist organization and program? Our paper addresses these questions while critically evaluating the Ehrenreichs’ thesis.

We organize the discussion into five major parts. First, “class analysis” means different things depending on one’s theoretical premises. For instance, different views of the importance of the economic realm versus other realms, or of consciousness versus “material relations,” lead to different kinds of class analysis. We begin by examining the premises behind the Ehrenreichs’ view of class relations as well as the premises of
those they critique, and by proposing our own alternative to both.  

Next we review the Ehrenreichs’ specific arguments concerning the existence of the PMC, and propose our own thesis regarding what we call the professional and managerial sector (PMS). In our opinion the PMS contains a new class of “coordinators” but also many people who are not members of the coordinator class but who occupy contradictory class locations between this new class and the working class.[2]

Third, we propose three areas for further investigation that might be useful in clarifying the worth of any “new class” hypothesis. The first has to do with the determination of the direction of development of modern technology, the second with the possibility of a mode of production other than socialist or capitalist which is dominated by and elaborates the interests of the “new class” into economic organization, and the third with the character of modern political organization and struggles. 

We then elaborate our argument by applying our concepts to understanding the phenomenon of Eurocommunism–is it a sophisti­cated working class strategy to create socialism or is it the strategy of another class intent on coopting the working class and creating a form of economic organization opposed to workers’ real interests? We argue for the latter interpretation and believe that the analysis is a very important point in favor of a new “class map” of modern capitalist societies. 

And finally, we conclude our article with a short discussion of the New Left and the promise it offers of a powerful socialist movement of the future.

 

I. The Theory Behind Class Analysis

Class analysis searches out “collective agents” who might play central roles in historical change. According to orthodox Marxism, the economic realm is the base of all others. It has its own dynamic relations and its own tendencies toward development or stagnation. At the core of these tendencies is a contradiction between the forces and relations of production. As this contradiction develops, the society matures and finally enters a period of crisis and dissolution. In the “end” a new societal formation is established on the basis of new economic relations which resolve the particular contradiction of the previous mode of production.[3]

Class analysis seeks to discern collectivities who share economic situations causing them to react similarly to economic phenomena and to the ripening of the contradictions at the core of a society’s mode of production. In finding these collective agents for the capitalist mode of production, one has ostensibly found the critical actors in capitalism’s perpetuation or demise-in the classical view, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.[4]

Although the Ehrenreichs criticize the particular way orthodox Marxists demarcate classes in modern capitalist society, it would appear, at least from their article, that they do not disagree with the orthodox focus on class as the only possible collective agent of history.[5] But we have another view.

As class analysis presupposes, the economic function of providing the material means of social livelihood is necessary to the reproduction of modern society. But can we apriori say that it is the only function necessary to societal reproduction? In fact, isn’t the feature of production which makes economics so important the fact that beyond being necessary to social reproduction, economic activity occupies a great deal of our time and is necessarily social? To carry out production people must enter social relations and this makes possible the formation of important collective agents of history. Other activities are necessary to social reproduction-breathing being an obvious if rather trivial example. We spend a lot of time performing this necessary function but what distinguishes production from breathing is that production requires social interaction. Breathing doesn’t lead to group interests and con­sciousness, and therefore it is of no importance to our attempt to determine collective agents of history. Seeing the social reason for the relevance of the economic realm to locating historical agents, can’t we now see that other realms might be critical as well?[6]

For example, for society to continue, the next generation must be conceived and socialized. Children must be brought into the world, nurtured and “ushered” into adulthood. Kinship relations between men, women and children are socially unavoidable. Kinship activity is necessary to societal reproduction and requires considerable social interaction. Perhaps in the dynamics of kinship we might also find cause for the formation of collective agents of history, i.e., groups of people who by virtue of their place in kinship patterns share certain interests and perspectives and react similarly to certain phenomena critical to social change.[7] Then, of course, with both kinship and economic relations important, fathers, mothers, uncles, sisters … in a given class would face different situations as would people from different classes in the same kinship group. Each “core characteristic” (in this case, economic and kinship relations) would affect the contours of the other.

Similarly, people enter “community” and “decision-making” net­works. Important “demarcations” can arise from people’s attempts to attain self-respect through cultural involvements based on shared points of origin or ancestry, a particular belief, a physical attribute, a common enemy or some other “distinguishing” characteristic, especially when these factors lead to the formation of “communities” with specific on­going social relations among members and between members and “outsiders”. Racial, ethnic, religious and national formations are all thus included under our rubric of community relations. Decision-making relations, in contrast, derive from the collective implication of people’s ability to-consciously plan their own purposive activities. Such planning requires clarity about what others are doing, about what is allowable and what isn’t, what is planned and what is not. Alternative decision-making structures, and the accompanying demarcation of various kinds of hierarchy, can lead to sectors which have different powers, interests, consciousness and historical roles. Considering the possibility that these community and authority networks may have dynamic attributes critical to the reproduction of any particular society, it seems reasonable to suggest that either might generate commonalities sufficient for the formation of important historical collective agents.[8] In the United States, for example, there is certainly reason to believe that racial community relations are critical and that black, third world people, and white people should be seen as important historical actors. The meaning of sex, class, race, and hierarchical affiliations is clearly dependent upon their mutual interrelations.[9] Further any person’s full consciousness is a function of their position with respect to more than one network of social relations, and even their partial consciousness with reference to a single realm–for instance, the economic–is affected by their position in that realm, their class, and in other realms too–for example, by their race and sex. But what does this tell us about the process of finding potential agents of socialist revolution and about the character of class analysis?

If we assume economic relations are the key link in revolutionary change, the class or classes on the “side of history” would be the agents of revolution. Propelled by their economic interests they would eventually struggle for socialism. Their organizations would be the revolutionary organizations. The collective agents of history and the motive of revolutionary struggle would be found only within the economic realm, and search elsewhere would be secondary.[10] This is the attitude whichgives a sense of unparalleled urgency to most activists’ concerns with class analysis. 

But what if the reproduction of current relationships was dependent upon dynamics manifested in a number of realms-for example, not only in economics, but also in kinship, community, and decision-making? And what if it was impossible to reduce the dynamics of these different realms to any one of them alone? Then identification of a potentially revolu­tionary agent in any one realm would only represent the identification of a group who by its position, role, and interests might become an agent of revolution, and might develop an awareness extending from its realm to the totality of critical realms. The organizations of agents in one realm might be part of a broader federation of revolutionary organizations but there would most probably be many obstacles to overcome if this were to result. Most generally, particular groups in this view would be expected to attain revolutionary consciousness, if at all, by different paths.[11] And moreover, certain divisions within any one group would not be only “peripheral” to commonalities, and only of relevance as “divisive factors,” but important in their own right as well.

For example, if kinship relations were critical to a social order, then women might very well occupy a central place in social change. This wouldn’t mean that women were automatically revolutionary, nor that they would inevitably develop a full revolutionary awareness by pursuing only their kinship-defined interests, but more modestly that: 1) women identifying as mothers, daughters, sisters would likely share common reactions to many kinship phenomena; 2) they might develop their own organizational forms; and 3) they would develop a revolutionary consciousness and role, if at all, by routes generally other than those followed by men and other collective agents. Similarly, in a society with critically important racial community relations, oppressed racial groups would be key agents in creating a “totalist” socialist movement.

Of course we also fully expect groups sharing affinities arising in the economic realm, or classes, to be important agents of revolutionary change in modern capitalist societies, but even so our approach to class analysis is obviously very different from that of orthodox Marxism. For us class analysis is not a be-all, end-all affair. It is critical, but not alone critical. When we demarcate a potentially revolutionary class or classes, we have not found the sole agents of socialist revolution, nor have we found agents whose pursuit of their own defining interests will auto­matically generate a full revolutionary perspective. Nor have we identified agents whose organizational forms are the only vehicles of revolution. Rather, in naming a potentially revolutionary class, we demarcate a group whose position and role in economic affairs make 1 a progressive economic orientation likely; 2) the development of an overall revolutionary consciousness possible; and 3) the class’s particular road to such a total consciousness different from that of other revolutionary agents.[12] The traditional working class, for example, may not necessarily develop an anti-sexist consciousness from its economic interests and position alone; political struggle with women who identify as women more than as workers and eventually following women’s leadership may be necessary. Yet anti-sexist consciousness and practice may be essential to a total revolutionary perspective. Similarly, the road to an anti-racist, or anti-authoritarian consciousness (should these be required for revol­ution) would be different for workers than for other agents demarcated in other realms of society. Note, we mean here specifically people identi­fying primarily as workers. Obviously workers are not all white men, and workers of different race and sex develop their political orientation by different routes and often to different ends. Regrettably, in this article, we can only touch the surface of the complex entwined relations of race, sex, class and authority. We merely set out some of the abstract concepts; the problem of concrete analysis remains, especially investigation of the effect it has that each “collective agency” is stratified along criteria other than its defining one-thus classes along race, sex and authority lines, races along class, sex, and authority lines, and so on.

But all this said, we still don’t know how to identify a class. How do we draw “boundaries” such that for purposes of political work it makes sense to treat the agents on either side differently? For this is simultan­eously the purpose and critical result of the analysis of agents of history­ finding one, we find a group which has its own interests, needs, views and potentials, at least with respect to one particular facet of social life, and which therefore will respond differently to political programs, have different organizational needs in political struggle, and deserve different “treatment” in political organizing than other collective agents (e.g. in different societies and epochs: mothers, fathers, blacks, Chicanos, Vietnamese, Chinese, Capitalists, workers, … ).[13]

Marx has taught us much about criteria for discerning economic classes.[14] We want to distinguish groups who share interests, needs, and self-conceptions by virtue of their place in production and their economic roles.[15] We know from Marx that a person’s position in the economy determines how one gets an income (from what source, in what amounts and by means of complying with what requirements) and one’s power over one’s own work and potentially the work of others as well. We also know from Marx that in their productive activity people produce their own characteristics as well as external material objects (or services). That is, within the constraints of our jobs–by what we do, how we do it, the mentalities we must employ, the skills we enrich or deny, and the energy we renew or squander–we in part determine our own personality, consciousness and needs. With a change in job relationships, even without any change in income and material needs, there may be a change in consciousness, personality, and subjective desires.

If we can find a group whose structural position in the economy gives it common material interests and powers and aligns it in pursuit of material advancement against others who would most often challenge or deny that advancement, and if by the social relations involved in the functions it fulfills the same group has the potential to develop a shared self-conception and way of viewing various economic relationships and other groups, then it would seem a very probable candidate for the designation “class”. But classes are also expected to play a collective historical role, an accomplishment which requires self-consciousness and some form of organization, whether on-going, or simply established in the moment of the group’s intervention in history. This suggests another dimension for examining prospective sectors to decide whether they constitute a class: Does the sector organize itself in any way? Have its members ever recognized and consciously acted upon their commonal­ities, or if they haven’t, is there reason to expect that they will in the future, particularly in a revolutionary period?

A useful definition of class must incorporate recognition of the supposedly extreme aspects of three “polarities”. First, a useful definition must include both an objective and a subjective aspect. A class must share material interests and powers due to its on-going position in the functioning of the economy, but it must also at least potentially share a consciousness of that commonality and display some tendency to pursue activities based on such a common perception. The Ehrenreichs them­selves are very clear on this point. Second, the demarcation of a class requires both an empirical and a theoretical justification. In addition to locating various commonalities, shared interests, and organizational potentials, one must also demonstrate the roots of these features in lasting underlying social relationships. Finally, our analysis must be both immediate and historical. Having a basis in current social relationships, any class we demarcate must also hold an economic position which will at least preserve its relevance throughout the period of our future concern. Only after ascertaining that a particular group fulfills objective and subjective, empirical and theoretical, immediate and historical criteria can we confidently assert that it is a class and investigate the implications for political strategy.[16]

 

II. Capitalists, Workers, and the “PMC”

Most Marxists neatly summarize the economic relations of capital­ism with the symbolic formulas, C1-M-C2 and M-C-M’, representing respectively the social roles imposed by the mode of production on workers and on capitalists. The workers sell their labor power, a commodity (C1), for a wage (M), and then buy the means of their subsistence and other commodities (C2). The capitalists, on the other hand, use their money (M) to buy various commodities (C equal to labor power, intermediate goods, machinery, etc.) and then combine these in production selling the product for more money (M’). The laborer seeks the use value of the goods finally bought with the wage. The capitalist seeks to expand the exchange value he began with by appropriating the surplus value generated in production-the difference between M, the amount he starts out with, and M’, the amount he holds at the “end”. Though highly abstract, for most Marxists this represents the basic dynamics of capitalism.[17] Is there any argument here that workers and capitalists should each be considered a class?

From their position in the economy workers derive an interest in the enlargement of wages per hour of labor power sold. Moreover, they also derive an interest in limiting the actual amount of labor the capitalist can successfully extract from their labor power. That is, the workers sell only their capacity to do work over a certain span of time, the work day. It is up to the capitalist to extract as much work as possible during that period and to modify the human characteristics of his work force so as to preserve this capacity in the future, while it is in the worker’s interest to maximize his/her immediate fulfillment and future development or at least to minimize the drudgery, pain, and stultification resulting from time spent on the job. This gives the workers and capitalists opposing interests in controlling the pace and defining the character of work on the shop floor.[18]

Workers thus have shared wage and work organization interests with roots in the structure of the capitalist mode of production. The character of their daily interaction and activity can be expected to yield many common self-conceptions, and ways of viewing the economy and other members of society-employers in particular. Furthermore, his­tory shows that workers easily discern at least some of their common interests and form organizations to pursue them, ranging from burial societies and drinking and sporting clubs to trade unions and political parties.[19] Finally, according to this Marxist analysis, contradictions in the economy are instrumental in socialist organizing and the socialist revolution, and it is the working class who is in the position of acting on these contradictions in the interest of attaining socialism. Workers thus have shared interests which they pursue within the contours of the system–the enhancement of their material position via the fight over wages and for control of the work day–and also occupy a position which makes attainment of a socialist practice possible, or in some views, inevitable.

So the workers are designated a class because they share needs and consciousness deriving from their position in the economy, because they share a common adversary and organize for wages and control, and because we can see their potentially crucial role in the struggle for socialism. Cut to its essentials, this is the logic of the Marxist demarcation of workers as a class.[20]

A discussion of capitalists is the obvious “other side” of the discussion of workers. From their position in the economy, capitalists recognize their common interests in enlarging profits and increasing control over the production process and organize in various business organizations, clubs and political parties to pursue them. They fight on a daily basis, seeking to retain control of the workplace and to expand profits; and they also fight in times of crisis, seeking to maintain the system by whatever means necessary.

The recognition of these two classes and of their long and short term struggles has helped Marxists understand many dynamics of capitalist economies and other facets of capitalist societies as well. Nevertheless, the importance of kinship relations, community relations and decision­-making relations calls into question the orthodox claim that class analysis alone is enough to help us fully understand the totality of our society’s laws of motion.[21] But where we have argued the insufficiency of class analysis in general, the Ehrenreichs’ major point in the article in this book is to challenge the sufficiency of orthodox Marxist two-class analysis of the modern capitalist economy. They say, in essence, the Cl­-M-C2 and M-C-M’ formalism is too narrow. Focusing only on the abstract quantitative exchange, it leaves out reference to the character of work activities and thereby causes us to overlook the possibility that not all people who sell their labor power for a wage should be included in a single class. It is here that the Ehrenreichs propose a new formulation, that there is a new class, the “PMC”.[22]

In her autobiographical work, Daughter of Earth, Agnes Smedley describes her feelings as a working class socialist woman encountering certain New York socialist intellectuals for the first time:

I do not know if they were superficial–or if they were wise. In any case they and their ways were strange to me. Their quick, humorous repartee left me silent …. Many of them belonged to those interesting and charming intellectuals who idealize the workers, from afar, believing that within the working class lies buried some magic force and knowledge … I sat in beaten wonderment and confusion among them. When I was intro­duced to them they automatically extended a hand, but their eyes were on someone else and they were speaking to others. I might have been one of the chairs they were gripping in passing … 1 made no more impression upon them and their world than a stone makes when thrown into a lake. They left in me a feeling of confusion, of impotence, of humility and even of resentment. I did not know how to learn the things they knew, and they had not time or interest to tell me how.[23]

Is there just a temporary gap between Agnes Smedley and the intellectuals; are they aberrant–is she naive; or is this a meeting of people who simply come from “different places?” The last is the Ehrenreichs’ answer.

Leftists generally agree that there exists a middle element, what we call the PMS (Professional/ Managerial Sector), different from both workers and capitalists. However, most prefer not to demarcate this element as a class, arguing instead that it is a strata of one of the two main classes or that it occupies a “contradictory position” between these two.[24] The Ehrenreichs feel, on the contrary, that this group is autonomous and that it has a life and interests of its own. According to the Ehrenreichs, while the PMS shares some features with workers and some with capitalists, more importantly, it has characteristics unique unto itself. It has shared interests, plays an autonomous historical role, and can become an important agent in modern revolutionary struggles. For the Ehrenreichs, it is a class, the PMC.

We define the Professional/ Managerial Class as consisting of salaried mental workers who do not own the means of production and whose major function in the social division of labor may be broadly described as the reproduction of capitalist culture and capitalist class relations.[25]

The Ehrenreichs feel that in the socialist movement and in the definition of socialist relations, PMC politics are capable of dominating working class politics. It is this possibility, more than any other, which propels our interest in the Ehrenreichs’ redefinition of class concepts.

Is the PMS really the PMC; is it only an assemblage of people in contradictory class locations; or could it be both at once? In the course of evaluating the Ehrenreichs’ arguments we make a case for the third option, preserving the Ehrenreichs’ contributions while hopefully over­coming some of the weaknesses in their presentation.

The Ehrenreichs assert that a class should be demarcated according to structural and cultural criteria. They seek to show: 1) that the PMS’s position in the economy puts them in an antagonistic relation with both workers and capitalists; 2) that it also gives them certain interests of their own which are oftentimes elaborated in political struggle and visions of an alternative PMS dominated mode of production; and 3) finally, that the PMS has its own cultural relations internally and with respect to other groups as well. For these reasons, according to the Ehrenreichs, the PMS is really a class, the PMC.

The PMC is deemed to be those salaried mental workers whose “major function” is the reproduction of capitalist cultural and class relations, a full 20-25% of the population, including engineers, managers, professionals of all kinds, nurses, teachers, cultural workers, etc.[26] According to the Ehrenreichs, these people are antagonistic to capitalists in much the same way as traditional workers. Selling their la bor power to capitalists they develop material interests contradictory to maximizing profits. Further, like the workers, they also develop an interest in controlling the character of their work situation; but because of their skills and intellectual training and because of their societal roles, they are in a much better position to pursue this struggle. As workers who are highly skilled they have exceptional bargaining power to attain auton­omy; as workers who are highly schooled, intellectually active, and assertive, they have considerable self-confidence with which to pursue autonomy; and finally as workers whose role is mediating capitalist/ worker conflicts to the advantage of the capitalists, for their effectiveness it is important that their ties to capitalist authority be obscure, that their autonomy be real and evident.[27]

But in the Ehrenreichs’ view these “worker attributes and interests” don’t constitute sufficient reason to call the PMS an unusual, privileged strata of the working class. Rather, the PMS is antagonistic to workers as well. The PMS exists only insofar as the working class was  robbed of its own intellectual  skills, and the role of the PMS is to manipulate the working class to the advantage of capitalists. The Ehrenreichs argue that with the development of monopoly capitalism the working class was denied all but the most mechanical role in production–it was the emergent PMS who took over the more  administrative  and  cognitive  tasks.[28] The relationship between the PMS and workers is therefore  antagonistic, however much they may have in common in their opposition to capitalists.

To this point the PMS could be merely in a contradictory location, sometimes aligning against capitalists with workers, and sometimes against workers with capitalists. However, the Ehrenreichs go further: PMS members develop their own psychology, their own mode of life, their own conceptions of how to preserve their positions, enlarge their impact, and even initiate a new mode of production elaborating their own interests as those of all of society. The PMS describes “rational” organiza­tion as its primary virtue, and “efficiency” as a fundamental goa1.[29] Profit, they realize, is but one of many ends their genius could serve, and not the most rewarding to their talents nor the most conducive to their advance or maximal contribution to society. To pursue alternatives, the PMS gradually develops its own professional organizations, both for defense and for the careful elaboration of new possibilities. Speaking of PMS “know-how”, the Ehrenreichs quote Frederick Taylor:

The same principles can be applied with equal force to all social activities: to the management of our tradesmen, large and small; of our churches, our philanthropic institutions, our universities and our government departments…. What other reforms could do as much toward promoting prosperity, toward the diminution of poverty and the alleviation of suffering?[30]

And they also quote Thorstein Veblin as he lays out a “technocratic” vision with even greater clarity:

(Capitalists) have always turned the technologists and their knowlege to account … only so far as would serve their own commercial profit, not to the extent of their ability; or to a limit set by material circumstances; or by the needs of the com­munity … To do their work as it should be done these men of the industrial general staff, i.e. engineers and managers, must have a free hand, unhampered by commercial considerations and reservations …. It is an open secret that with a relatively free hand the production experts would today readily increase the ordinary output of industry by several fold-variously estim­ated at some 300 percent to 1200 percent of the current output. And what stands in the way of so increasing the ordinary output of goods and services is business as usual.[3l]

Socialist movements, according to the Ehrenreichs, have often embodied this PMS technocratic vision.[32] It is at the heart of the aim to rationalize industry and manage the economy through central planning, and of the vanguard approach to “serving the people,” and thus of Leninism itself.]33] Could it also have been at the heart of the Russian Revolution and many other liberation struggles in the Third WorId as well?[34] If this is the case, it would certainly be a powerful argument that the middle sectors indeed constitute an important class in history.

This represents the whole of the Ehrenreichs’ argument. The middle sector is not a sector at all, but a new class, the PMC. Anti-capitalist but simultaneously elitist, it sometimes generates a populist politics, but in the end always gravitates to a technocratic solution to society’s ills. By its knowledge, industriousness, and anti-capitalist interests, it can often find a home or even dominant place in workers’ movements, but it often ends by subverting these movements to its own purposes. PMC interests are not the same as worker interests; PMC culture is not the same as worker culture. PMC dominated movements will often be unattractive to workers for just these reasons, but when conditions demand alliances, powerful “unified” movements may emerge. However, if these move­ments form under PMC leadership, even their complete victory will not bring workers’ power nor a working class redefinition of economic relations.

The Ehrenreichs have made a case that has an undeniable ring of experiential truth. It corresponds nicely to the experience of Agnes Smedley (related earlier) and countless other workers in their relations with “experts” and on encountering the “socialist movement”–for this movement often seems to be the property of someone else, the workers feel like outsiders.[35] But for all the insights they have, the Ehrenreichs have still left a number of loose ends in their analysis. With a critical evaluation true to the original spirit of their inquiry, perhaps we can suggest some alterations and re-tie those dangling ends.

The problem with the PMC hypothesis is first that the Ehrenreichs’ definition of the PMC is flawed, and second that the structural­ functional aspects of the account are imprecisely worked out.

First the definition. For the Ehrenreichs the PMC are salaried mental workers primarily involved in the reproduction of capitalist relations. The aim of the definition is (or should be) to capture just those elements who can generate their own autonomous political vision and programs. These are the people we should want to give the “new class” label to. But by characterizing these people as engaged primarily in reproducing capitalist relations, the Ehrenreichs inadvertently undercut the whole thrust of their argument. For if that’s the group’s sole purpose, how can they possibly evolve an independent interest, organizational form, practice, and goal? The Ehrenreichs’ definition of the PMC reduces  it to dependence. Of course a group could start with a dependent purpose and evolve an autonomous interest later, but the original purpose can’t be taken as the defining trait of the later evolving class. This problem, therefore, is not necessarily in the world but may merely be in the Ehrenreichs’ poor choice of words for describing it-a view we shall argue shortly.

Second, and these are more serious problems with the Ehrenreichs’ definition, all workers receive a wage or salary[36], all employ mental abilities and energies, and all are engaged in the reproduction of societal (including class) relations. Capitalism certainly subsumes the craft workers of old to the logic of a vast system of deadening rules and regulations. It robs many workers’ skills and it attempts to place conception, design and administration outside the worker’s purview; but nonetheless, even today, all workers must still necessarily use their minds. Were assembly workers in a Ford plant to lose all their intellectual faculties while retaining all their specific work-task abilities, there would simply be no more Fords. Work to order, with no initiative of one’s own, is tantamount to no work at all. As Cornelius Castoriadus notes, it is ironic “that in real life, capitalism is obliged to base itself on people’s capacity for self-organization, on the individual and collective creativity of the producers without which it could not survive for a day, while the whole ‘official organization’ of modern society both ignores and seeks to suppress these abilities to the utmost.”[37]

There is nowhere to draw a sharp boundary between those who do intellectual labor and those who do manual labor. All work involves both moments, it is the balance and character of the two moments that varies from job to job, as well as the emphasis on “conception” as compared to “execution”.[38] A computer programmer who solves preassigned prob­lems, an ad writer, an assembly worker, and a teacher may all have very comparable situations in respect to the extent to which they execute tasks defined by others versus conceptualizing their tasks for themselves; and depending upon where they work, for whom, and on what, though their degree and character of intellectual involvement may vary, it can never drop to zero. Where would the Ehrenreichs draw a line to split off “intellectual workers” from “manual workers?” Still the fact that we can conceive of drawing a line between those who conceptualize their work in advance and those who merely exercise tasks conceptualized and defined by others suggests that a definition other than the one supplied by the Ehrenreichs may still salvage the prospect for a “new class”. Similarly all work reproduces (or subverts) the contours of society’s defining class (and other) relations. And here it is only a matter of form and not one of degree. For it is simply not useful to argue that advertisements, or psychological “cures”, or even designs for new workplace technologies reproduce class relations more than successfully carried out work assignments in an auto plant. All work produces not only commodities for sale, but also human characteristics and social relations.[39] Work in a factory reproduces social relations not only by creating the products necessary to on-going social life, nor even only by “fueling” the accum­ulation process and continually reproducing the capitalist/worker relationship, but also, at least in the United States, by continually helping to reproduce patriarchal and racial community relations as well.[40] In this sense, as human activity, all work in the United States is enmeshed with and part of the same phenomena of societal reproduction and develop­ment. Defining class by its having a reproductive function is impossible.

All economic actors have a reproductive function and so this character­istic can not help us distinguish one from any other.

As a result of the weakness of their definition, the Ehrenreichs speak clearly only to those who have strong experiential intuitions about what they are trying to say, to the Agnes Smedleys of the current left. To the Ehrenreichs’ credit, such people immediately recognize something powerful in the new hypothesis. But for many others their definition doesn’t delimit the PMC from all other workers and therefore leaves considerable confusion, and sometimes aggravation as well.[41]

In addition to defining the PMC poorly, the Ehrenreichs weaken their case further by arguing from economic structures and functions to class implications much too abruptly. So what if we can show that all PMS jobs exist as a result of the past expropriation of workers’ skills (or, for that matter, if someone else can show that they have other roots)? This objective historical relationship may or may not have translated into a pressure continually separating PMSers from workers. It may or may not be continually reproduced in the present. The question is whether now and in the relevant future PMS relations to workers embody this antagonism in a way that can propel the PMS to understand it and to elaborate their own class interests in light of it. This is a problem of concrete current relations-not of past relations, however much of a clue those origins may give to the current situation or the reasons for its existence. The Ehrenreichs’ structural/functional argument is therefore unfinished; having laid a historical foundation, the Ehrenreichs should have also clarified the shared consciousness and interests of the new class by showing how they are generated by current production relations.

The Ehrenreichs are intent on finding a new class for compelling political reasons already mentioned. In surveying the PMS they recog­nize its great span of vocations and even the variations for people in any one vocation carried out in different institutional settings. For example, managers are different from lawyers, from psychologists, from social workers, from teachers, from engineers-and mechanical engineers in production are different from industrial engineers who design shop floor relations, are different from plant engineers who problem-solve with little autonomy at all-and professors with autonomy of choice and light course loads at elite universities are different from professors with heavy predetermined loads at state Junior Colleges, are different from public elementary school teachers. But feeling the pressures to demarcate a class, the Ehrenreichs argue that such “minor differences” should not blind us to the PMC’s overriding commonalities. Here we feel the argument has been extended too far. If a nurse’s situation is more akin to that of a worker than to that of a doctor or manager, why lump him or her with the latter? If the particular relations in one town make socialworkers there like other workers, while in another place they fill a more professional role and see their function as managIng the lives of “incompetent indigents”, why should we ignore this for the convenience of a simpler theoretical exposition? If trade union leaders in one sector play a bureaucratic role of keeping the lid on worker resentment while in another they identify as workers combating capitalist oppression because of the different social relations and history of the two sectors and their unions, why ignore this to preserve a fixed “vocational criterion?”

There are two points here. First, though a part of the PMS must be a class (exactly the subset which generates the technocratic vision and has no other comparable structural allegiances) there are also many people who simply occupy contradictory positions between this new class and workers. We call the new class the “coordinator class”. We call the middle sector the “PMS” and we call the middle sector without the coordinators, the “contradictory middle strata” or “CMS”. But now membership in these groups is not merely a function of vocation. It depends upon the actual social relations of work a person daily encounters as well as other cultural and historical factors.[42]

 

In our understanding, the coordinator class is characterized by their psychology of personal achievement and initiative, by their elitism and paternalism toward workers, and by their potential antagonism toward capitalists, all stemming from their economic position and reinforced by their cultural situation.

Coordinators have significant control over their own labor and frequently over that of other people as well, generally conceptualize their work in advance and/or develop concepts which must be adopted by others, and finally have authoritative relations with traditional workers who are either their workplace subordinates or their clients. In short, the coordinators occupy economic positions which continually generate feelings of self-worth and capability, habits of command and also specifically anti-worker conceptions such as “workers are intellectually incapable or psychologically ill-equipped to administer their own lives without our compassionate aid.” These are society’s managers, its elite university professors, top industrial engineers and designers, many of its media people, union bureaucrats, psychologists, psychiatrists, and the like, and a much lesser percentage of its nurses, teachers, social workers, “problem solving” production’ engineers and technicians, who for the most part simply occupy contradictory positions in the class structure as members of the CMS. Nurses, for example, may come to identify as workers because of their subordinate position, or may feel professional and vacillate toward identification as coordinators, because of the authority they exert in their work-especially when the coordinators actively undertake to enact technocratic solutions to modern problems. The coordinators, however, are the members of the new class. They elaborate the new interests and organizations. The other elements of the PMS, who share much in the way of education and role definition with both coordinators and workers, may vacillate between, depending upon circumstances.[43] For example, in May ’68 in France, the CMS aligned with the workers in pursuit of a real working class self-management solution to capitalist problems. Now, however, these elements are often aligned with a coordinator class project, the Eurocommunist movement, seeking technocratic solutions to these same problems.[44]

Our initial argument that coordinators constitute a class is just our translation of the case the Ehrenreichs have already largely made. Now, however, their historical evidence is a powerful guide, while current economic social relations are the root of the demarcation. The coordin­ators are found to occupy places in the economy giving them interests hostile to both workers and capitalists. They pursue wealth, autonomy and power against capitalists. They defend their skill, knowledge, and authority against workers. They have an ideology of achievement, initiative, and efficiency. They elaborate a self-interested technocratic solution to the problems of modern society, develop their own organiza­tions to pursue these, and even elaborate their own kind of technocratic movements for “revolutionary” change. The CMS, on the other hand, occupies a contradictory class location, sometimes drawn to the workers, sometimes drawn to the coordinators. Their “class consciousness” is a mixed product. Their full consciousness is additionally affected by their positions in community, kinship, and authority networks.[45]

We should be clear that we do not mean to just “lump” these CMS people right back into the working class. No, there can be no denying that nurses, school teachers, advertising people, technicians and the like are not simply of the working class. On average they earn considerably more and generally have more job security (though neither are always true), but more importantly the character of their work, their self-image, their culture, and their interactions with others are different than for members of the working class proper. They are between workers and coordinators. They are people we want to actively organize because their ultimate interests can be in socialism, but all the same to be part of the working class movement they and workers too must overcome certain past habits and views of each other. Further, these middle element people can become aligned to coordinators as many of their interests can also be propelled by a successful coordinator movement. They are simply in a multiple contradictory position–the boundaries to the “left” and “right” are porous, but crossing to develop one allegiance orthe other is a complex journey. It is also very much affected, as we have mentioned elsewhere, but regrettably don’t have space to investigate, by racial, sexual and authority factors.

The historical basis for the existence of the coordinator class and contradictory middle strata in any particular society is in some respects as the Ehrenreichs argued for the PMC. In any class stratified economy there will be one or more classes which produce what they themselves consume and a surplus appropriated by a ruling class. If these are the only classes, the conceptualization of work, its design and definition, and its administration will all be carried out by representatives of these (the expropriating and the expropriated) classes. However, historically it’s often the case that experts of various types carry out these tasks, evolving in the process a position in the economy which engenders mixed pressures upon them. The reason for existence of this class is roughly as the Ehrenreichs’ model asserts. The expropriated classes can’t be given the intermediate positions as they might become too organized and turn on their expropriators. The expropriators, on the other hand, are too few in number and often too limited in skills to carry out these tasks alone, especially as the society in question becomes more and more complex. The “intermediate element” becomes the professional and managerial sector, out of which we believe there has emerged in the United States the coordinator class and the contradictory middle strata. What might alternatively be the case in other countries is a problem we cannot now address.

The case for our formulation is finished, but obviously incomplete. We present it only as a hypothesis aimed to preserve the advances embodied in the Ehrenreichs’ work and to simultaneously correct some of its weaknesses-in particular, misdefinition, collapsing all middle elements into one class, substituting facts about historical origins and functions for an argument based on present social relations, and insufficiently recognizing that vocations alone incompletely identify class positions. Our arguments about the coordinator class and CMS obviously don’t have the straightforward clarity that assertions about workers and capitalists have. Whether this indicates a tortured analysis, or that class texture is not so simple as we have always thought remains to be determined. But even if there is some agreement with our hypothesis, it will still be necessary to determine just who is a coordinator and which social and cultural relations are sufficient for defining coordinttors, as well as who are the CMS and what exactly are their intermediate situations and likely political tendencies, as well as the racial and sexual composition of each group. Short of all this, however, we here merely suggest a few areas of investigation which can shed additional light on the problems of a “new” class analysis.

 

III. Further Investigations in Class Analysis

Coordinator Class Technology?
Consider the process of technological development. Traditional class analysis explains its presence but not necessarily its direction. Capitalists must accumulate and invest in new technologies; but of all the technologies which are possible, how do we explain why some are pursued and the rest ignored? Are capitalist requirements the only ones which bear upon these outcomes?[46]

Capitalists hire scores of industrial engineers and scientists and indirectly mold research endeavors at many university and other non-corporate labs.[47] The capitalist class puts its stamp on new technologies by its power over funds for their development and over the science responsible for their definition.[48] But the practitioners and direct administrators and planners of these projects, the managers, scientists, and industrial design engineers, are all coordinators. So how do we use class analysis to help us understand the direction of capitalist investment and the role of coordinators?

On the one hand we may argue that the coordinator’s position is intermediate and completely dependent. In this case, subject to pressures from many directions, the coordinators would vacillate between a capitalist and a working class allegiance. Like other elements we’ve discussed, the coordinators would be only a contradictory middle sector. In this case, the capitalists alone would govern the coordinators’ contribution to the development of new technologies. Carrying out the capitalists’ orders and with no autonomous interests of their own, the coordinators would produce technological advances consistent with capitalist interests. Where there was more than one potential solution to a technical need, capitalists would make the choice between options and certainly no non-capitalist criteria would influence such decisions. To understand the direction of development of technology, it would be sufficient to do a traditional class analysis. Science and technology would be capitalist. The questions asked, the problems posed, the answers allowed-theoretically and practically-would be circumscribed by the capitalists’ needs and desires. The coordinators would carry out a program designed by capitalists and subject to capitalist review at every step. The coordinators would have no “mind of their own” with which to inject the project with some contrary non-capitalist content. 

On the other hand, what if the coordinators constitute a class between and autonomous from capitalists and workers? 

The capitalists would still be the employers and administer the finances essential to research and development. But now the coordin­ators would have their own autonomous interests and politics. Could these be injected into the scientific project? Could the coordinators attain a position of such indispensibility and expertise in their own areas of work that they could sometimes influence these in their own self-interest? Might there be a coordinator science and technology as well as a capitalist science and technology?

Following the Ehrenreichs’ analysis we found that coordinators have a relative monopoly on certain forms of theoretical understanding and skill, powers over their own and over other people’s labor and corresponding interests in preserving these advantages and increasing their value as much as possible.[49] From this perspective, the coordinators would be wise to seek technologies which would increase societal dependence on the coordinator class itself. They might seek to extend divisions of labor and knowledge and to promote the importance of experts and managers, even beyond what the capitalists themselves would find most desirable.[50] Neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition that the coordinators should be deemed a class, nonetheless the existence of technological developments reflecting coordinator rather than capitalist or worker interests would provide evidence for this case. For if modern technology could only be understood using a coordinator class analysis, then the political importance of technological develop­ment would provide a good argument for the coordinators being considered a class.[51]

Coordinator Mode of Production?
Capitalist interests are embodied in the capitalist mode of produc­tion where it is they who appropriate the social surplus. And while the working class was also born of capitalism, their interests are ultimately in achieving a socialist mode of production where they can escape exploitation and attain power over their own lives. But what of the coordinators? Where are their interests located? If the coordinators are only an intermediate strata, they must choose between the capitalists and the workers’ worlds. But if they are an autonomous class, they might seek a mode of production reflecting their own interests above all others. Do the coordinators have interests of their own which can become the basis for defining a future society’s relations of production? If so, then in addition to worker and capitalist goals, the struggle over economic relations would have a third possible outcome, the “coordinator mode of production,” and we would be on very firm ground calling the coordinators a new class.

We feel that it’s reasonable to argue that the technocratic economic forms we find in much of the “socialist world” are indeed versions of this coordinator mode of production.[52] The Russian model need no longer be classed as either capitalist or socialist, as a degenerate form of one (state, etatist, or bureaucratic socialism), or an advanced form of the other (state, bureaucratic, or planned capitalism). It is a well-developed example of the coordinator mode of production. 

There is state ownership of the means of production. Planning is carried on by a bureaucracy of experts. Party cadre administer and simultaneously “serve the people.” The state is supposedly an agency of workers but there is no real vehicle for workers to monitor state activity, nor any means at all for direct workers’ self-management of the economy.[53] Instead, workers must labor in hierarchical firms with little say over what they do and how they do it, over what is produced and what isn’t, and over the general policies of economic development. At best workers inform managers of production possibilities and make advisory suggestions about more or less preferred outcomes, but the local managers relay the information up to the planners, and the planners and party leaders do the deciding. And aren’t the managers, planners, party leaders, and other experts just the coordinator class now at last in a position to administer society’s welfare and appropriate its surplus in their own “rational” way? In this society there is an intricate entwinement of a new decision-making organization and a new mode of organization of economic activity.[54] This is the logical conclusion of our position and if it could be shown true it would serve as powerful evidence for the “new class” view.

Next consider the “two-line struggle” made famous by the exper­ience of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Assuming there is no such thing as a coordinator mode of production, the two-line struggle is well conceived. The only road to full socialism is by a progressive expansion of workers’ power as against capitalists’ power-and these are the only two contenders. The party, technical workers and administrative cadre can be vehicles for this process if they are vigilent in “serving the people” and avoiding ”the capitalist road.” Insofar as many of these people are no longer workers but middle element people, they have no autonomous interests of their own. Eventually they must gravitate to the side of either the workers or the capitalists-for these are the only two roads in the transition stage known as socialism. Thus with proper accord to the importance of the two-line struggle against capitalist deformations, coordinator skills can be put to the tasks of development at the same time that the economy is brought over to the service of workers. The “proletarian line” can gain dominance over the “capitalist line.” This analysis justifies and simultaneously qualifies the call for party cadre and other experts to take decision-making leadership in the development of socialist relationships.[55]

But what if the coordinators have their own interests and the potential to elaborate their own economic vision? Then there are three possible outcomes for the “transition stage.” Will there be participatory planning by democratic councils, a rationalized technocratic coordinator organization operating in the presumed interests of “all the people,” or a new form of profit-centered market economy? Imbued with a deep­ seated disbelief in the masses’ ability to administer their own affairs, the coodinators come to dismiss the first possibility as dangerous utopianism and see themselves as waging the only serious struggle against capitalist restoration. If in the end the coordinators win, the cadre, managers and planners become permanent administrators to “the people’s” needs. The call for vigilance and for corrective movements from above and below lasts only until the new class stabilizes itself against both capitalist and worker opposition.[56]

But from the orientation of a class-conscious worker this outcome is a sham. Assuming the coordinators are a class, either of the non-working class outcomes is exclusive of real worker’s interests.[57] In neither of the two proposed programs are there economic arrangements allowing direct collective self-management and overcoming divisions of conceptual and routine labor. In both cases the worker is relegated to a position of weakness and obedience: in one approach the capitalist has power, in the other the cadre does. In any case, however much may be gained by a victory of the “serve the people” cadre (especially in the third world), and however much worker loyalty they can garner due to their commitment to societal advance and very real opposition to past injustices, their party’s victory is not itself a victory of the working class.[58]

Which is the true picture? Council communists and certain workers’ organizations in Russia at the time of the October Revolution argued against the Bolshevik model on grounds that it was simply a technocratic, centrist, elitist approach still foreign to real working class socialist aims.[59] However it is only recently that this argument has resurfaced and been linked to an understanding of capitalism and class analysis. Are the coordinators the ruling class of state “socialist” societies? Certainly this is a critical area of investigation for those who would pursue a third class position.

The possibility of three rather than two modes of production in modern societies, based on the rule of any of the three classes, suggests that just as a coordinator mode might have replaced the nascent socialist modes in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917, or even after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, a coordinator mode might evolve out of a capitalist mode of production.[60] Although we leave consideration of this idea to our treatment of the current phenomenon of Eurocommunism at the end of this essay, it bears mentioning that an analysis of the more advanced forms of Social Democratic rule in countries such as Norway and Sweden as societies in which the coordinator class has gradually increased its dominance might shed more light on the dynamics of these economies than the rather sterile debates over whether such societies are capitalist or socialist. In the third world it might prove enlightening to view Nasserite Egypt and Perez’s programs in Venezuela through the Ehrenreichs’ looking glass.

The Problems of Socialist Organizing

Perhaps the major reason for controversy over the Ehrenreichs’ hypothesis is a fear of its strategic implications and impact. People worry over what it would mean if the PMC were a class. Would PMCers still be eligible for membership in socialist organizations? Would socialists write off the PMC (and thus polarize it to the right), seek to develop autonomous worker organizations and mixed worker / PMC organiza­tions as well, or simply seek to incorporate the PMC in a working class left; and in each instance, how, and according to what guiding conceptions?

Many people’s concern with the PMC as a possible class comes out of their own concrete organizing experiences. These people feel that the PMC has its own culture, needs, and outlook which both require specific organizing approaches, and endanger working class potentials (once PMC people become members of socialist organizations). We have accepted this general line of argument for a diminished PMC, the coor­dinator class, and have relegated other elements of the Ehrenreichs’ class to the alternative category, contradictory middle strata. What are the implications for our view of strategy? 

Revolutionary analysis must begin with the search for groups who are potential historical agents by virtue of their positions in the social relations of various life activities. Having found such an agent (whether it be a class, or race, or sex, or layer in a hierarchy) one has found a group which has its own interests and outlook and which must therefore be treated specially by socialist programs (around at least one realm of life). Moreover one may well have uncovered a group which is in a position to take the lead in socialist organizing around a particular aspect of the total struggle, or which is instead in a more intermediate or problematic position. For example, in analyzing kinship relations many have argued that women constitute a historical agent which has the potential to take a leading position in the struggle for new kinship relations in a new socialist society. Men, on the other hand, are seen to have mixed interests and to be capable of joining this struggle in either a reactionary or a revolu­tionary way, but never as the element bringing the issue to attention in the first place, nor as definers of the goal. Further, it is seen that there is need for autonomous women’s organizations within the broader movement because this is the only way women can elaborate anti-sexist programs free of male dominance.

Anyone proposing a third class model would likely have something similar in mind for the economic aspect of the total struggle. Understood as a class, the coordinators are in a position of paternal dominance over the working class. They possess skills and experience the workers have been denied. Just as men will generally tend to pursue patriarchal ends so the coordinators will generally pursue technocratic elitist ends. As men’s organizations may temporarily align with other progressive forces or even with women, so might the coordinator organizations vacillate in their alliances. As men in a mixed socialist movement where women had no special autonomy would tend to dominate and assert patriarchal rather than anti-sexist programs, so coordinators in a mixed socialist movement where workers had no autonomy would tend to dominate and propel a technocratic socialist model rather than one more in tune with real worker interests.[61]

Further, the various middle strata, subject to various contradictory pressures, would now have more allegiances to choose from. They might become allied with capitalists, workers, or coordinators. The socialist goal would obviously be to incorporate these strata into worker movements while at most only seeking careful alliances with class conscious coordinators.

But here lies the central reason for consternation about any third class approach. If all the middle elements are merely vacillating strata, all efforts should be made to avoid polarizing them to the wrong camp. The doors of all left organizations must be wide open to these strata lest they go to the side of the capitalists. All PMS skills must be extolled as critical to socialist needs or they may be lost to the socialist cause.[62] On the other hand, if a third class view is correct, then this approach would obscure an important reality and frustrate the potential to develop a real workers’ movement for socialism. Either a movement of this type wouldn’t embody workers’ cultural forms nor address their most pressing needs and would therefore be unattractive to workers, or, if the economy got bad enough and workers were compelled to support such a movement, still it would be a movement for a technocratic mode of production and not for workers’ self-managing socialism.

In our analysis, there is some truth in both views. On the one hand the Ehrenreichs have incorporated too many sectors in their PMC while, on the other, ignoring the third class (as most other analysts do) does obscure fundamental difficulties. The contradictory middle strata should however, be organized directly into the socialist movement–their skills and interests must be recognized and their roles discussed while their contradictory tendencies and habits are forthrightly opposed. This the Ehrenreichs (or at least people reading and liking their analysis) may overlook. But the coordinators are another matter. With them one may sometimes form principled alliances but not a unified movement.[63] The “other analysts” may overlook this.

The alternative strategy which arises from our approach would be to have economy-wide socialist organizations on the one hand, including all contradictory sectors; and factory working class organizations on the other, so that the CMS might simultaneously be a part ofthe socialist movement and yet not dominate its every contour. The workers would have the autonomy to develop their own position and to make it the cornerstone of socialist economic struggle.[64] Alliances with coordinator organizations would then also be possible, and of course individual coordinators would sometimes be welcome in the society wide move­ment, though not always in every factory and other local organization.[65]

But there would still remain the problem of how to address the middle elements. Does one argue that there will be an on-going need for “socialist experts,” or does one argue that in breaking down skill monopolies socialism would simultaneously eliminate the coordinators as well as the CMS as independent privileged groups? The former approach would likely attract more PMS people of all kinds, but the latter is more in tune with our analysis, no matter how great the risk of alienating some of these people. There is nothing good to be said for building a bigger movement with compromised politics which can no longer hope to accomplish working class ends. Nor is there ever any poinin building a movement so fraught with unresolved tensions that as times of crisis and need arise, the movement “falls apart.”

If strategic experiences can’t definitively tell us which view is correct, they can give strong intimations in one direction or the other. For example, to the extent that women and third world people have successfully argued against the orthodoxy that kinship and community race relations are as core to society’s definition as economic relations, it has been largely a result of concrete political experience. The same will likely be true for any future success or failure of a coordinator or other third class analysis. If the development of the left seems to reflect interests other than those of workers or if there develop schisms between workers and middle element CMS people or coordinators who seem to dominate the formulation of left strategies, then a new class analysis will gain many adherents, at least among those who seriously want to understand these occurences.[66] Hopefully, under such circumstances the spirit in which socialists accept a new class map will be one of aiming to enlarge and strengthen the base of the left, rather than unnecessarily fragmenting and weakening it.[67]

 

IV. Eurocommunism: A Worker’s Strategy To Win Over The CMS or a Coordinator Strategy to Win “Everything”

In Eurocommunism and the State, Santiago Carrillo ofthe Spanish Communist Party, has made a particular version of Eurocommunist strategy very clear.[68] Modern society is becoming progressively more polarized between the monopoly capitalists on one hand, and all other sectors on the other. The trend is felt particularly within the state as state employees are forced to act out anti-social policies.

Despite ineffectual neo-capitalist theories, the state is becoming less and less a state for all, and more and more a state for the few …. those who form the state apparatus–for the moment we are speaking only about a tendency–are becoming aware that authority uses them in many cases against the interests of society; they are beginning to recognize the contradiction between society which goes one way, and the state which goes another, and to regard state power as an arbitrary boss.[69]

The “sharpening of the differences between an oligarchic minority and the rest of society” is the focus of Eurocommunist strategy. The aim is to coopt the state (church and army) to the service of the people by appealing to the “national feelings” of the relevant employees.[70] Ac­cording to Carillo, for example, state workers become restive–

Not out of narrow professional interests, or of those of their own particular group, but from a clearer and more consistent conception of their relation to real society, a relationship which the monopoly capitalist state deforms and manipulates to its own ends.[71]

Interests of the whole society are posed against interests of the monopolies. The coalition thus engendered has popular rather than interest group politics and is able to win advances in each of society’s institutions and in the electorate at large, but the ensuing peaceful march to electoral power is only the first step. The popular politics of the coalition become steadily more socialist, the economy is progressively socialized even while private and public sectors exist simultaneously. Shorn of all frills, this is the strategic scenario.

The lynch pin is the communists’ ability to simultaneously maintain a working class base and also win support of all “middle elements.” To accomplish this it is necessary to break all ties with past rhetoric and history that horrifies these elements, but even more, the middle sectors must be actively solicited. Carillo, for example, argues for military policies which can gather the allegianceof professional soldiers and also offer an important place to managers and engineers:

This road opens up the possibility of incorporating in the new society, not only the mass of scientists and technicians, but also that new figure in modern industry to whom the term ‘execu­tive’ has been applied, always providing that he values his function in a professional capacity’more than his share, if any, in the ownership of the enterprise. Under social and political democracy, and in the socialist society as well, the functions performed by the executive–naturally with certain differ­ences–will also be needed.[72]

The logic of Carillo’s approach is clear enough. In context of the division between monopoly capitalists and everyone else it should be possible to create a broad coalition which can contest the capitalist parties for political power. Managers who identify with profit would hurt such a movement and are unwelcome; managers who identify as professionals, the new executives in service of society, are welcome. Indeed, by supporting certain middle element values and properly respecting the future contributions these people can make, it appears true that such alliances can be achieved.[73] And after this, in Carillo’s view, the problem is to have the full socialist perspective achieve hegemony in the new coalition. Without this the movement will simply reform the system to the capitalists’ advantage, while with it the revolution can finally come to an advanced capitalist country. If the workers’ allegiance can be preserved while the professionals, managers, and other middle elements are courted, then in the end the workers’ interests will come to the fore. For theirs is the only coherent vision counter to that of the capitalists and will therefore inevitably become this anti-capitalist movements’ ideology. The similarity to the logic of the “two-line struggle” as discussed earlier is clear.[74]

But the third class analysis suggests another problem. Yes, one pitfall is that the workers’ support may be lost in the shuffle. Yes, another problem is that the whole movement may be coopted by the capitalists and middle elements who identify as capitalist rather than as profes­sionals in service to the people. But additionally and even more importantly for calling the whole Eurocommunist strategy into question, it is also possible that the movement may become (or even start out as) a coordinator project. Having been courted, the coordinators (along with the party bureaucrats) may well become dominant partners in an unbalanced marriage with workers. The result may be a technocratic “solution” to society’s ills. The coordinators retain their initiative as experts and extend their power beyond all prior capitalist restraints. The coordinators win the allegiance of all other contradictory middle strata precisely as their programs begin to dominate. The resulting coordinator­ party-CMS societal organization proves not to be a socialism of the workers at all. Serving the whole society is once again a mask for serving a segment, and this is so however peaceful, democratic, and even worker supported such a Eurocommunist success might be.[75]

In fact, the left does have to develop programs which can attract CMS elements, but such a task must not be undertaken while ignoring the existence of a third class, much less catering to its interests. The need to incorporate contradictory middle strata is real. Alliances with coordinator organizations may sometimes be possible, but the rush to incorporate coordinators (or even, in the extreme, non-monopoly sector capitalists) into the movement can be disastrous. It is a natural outgrowth of the construction of a movement which reflects coordinator culture, organization, and values.

What exactly is the change then from the Bolshevik road to the Eurocommunist one? In Carrillo’s analysis, the Bolsheviks had no choice but to assault the state head-on, and because of World War I, they were in a position to do so effectively. Today, Carrillo reasonably argues, such a frontal strategy is hopeless. Only by organizing a majority coalition and by burrowing through the state from within can the left possibly succeed.[76] And this means fostering unity with all possible middle elements around “society-wide” interests. It is this last step which is too much.

For according to the logic of our analysis the story is more complex. In the Russian revolution, coordinator ideology and interests were embodied, however unconsciously and, “innocently,” in the Bolshevik Party. The state and army were relatively impotent defenders of the status-quo. Beyond imperial intervention and Civil War, an additional problem for the Bolsheviks was that the workers themselves were well organized and beginning to express their own interests in self-managing the whole economy.[77] Whatever the workers’ loyalty to the party due to its role in the struggle against the Czar and the war and its commitment to serving the people, such self-management desires were not compatible with the party’s own program to itself administer the new society, albeit in the name of the workers. In this view the history of the early years might be understood as a struggle for dominance between capitalists supported from without; the coordinators aligned with many contradic­tory middle strata and having allegiance from many workers, all led by the party with its own emerging “political elite;” the peasants on the land, in soviets, and in agrarian movements; and many other workers in their own soviets and other local organizations.[78] The party won and the result was a technocratic solution calling itself “socialist” for legitimacy. The myth indeed went a long ways to the retention of worker and international support.

What is the truth? What does the future hold for Eurocommunism? The one indicator we would like to point to, here, in lieu of the capacity to make more detailed concrete analyses, is the internal structure and practice of the communist parties themselves. So long as they are hierarchical and without full workers’ democracy at the base, all the words of praise for democratic rights in the society at large can only be rhetorica1.[80] It is the social relations of the party which give rise to its leadership becoming similar in their thinking and attitudes to the (economically defined) coordinators. With the hierarchy intact, coordin­ator authoritarian mentalities will continue to dominate left thinking and practice. Only a democratically organized party, no longer seeing itself as the “sole” repository of socialist strategy could hope to continue to elaborate a socialist bloc capable of winning a democratic struggle for socialist self-management. For only such a party could hope to coalesce all the various women’s, community, minority, youth, and other movements now prevalent into a “totalist struggle” not subsumed to the exigencies of any single particularist “vanguard” analysis. And this highlights another dimension of the weakness of Eurocommunism and even of our analysis of it. Even after developing a broad framework in the first section of this paper, we have here come at Eurocommunism “econ­omistically”, using the lens of class analysis alone, however much we have adapted that lens to current requirements. Clearly it is analysis of the political decision-making network (here as in the discussion of modes of production earlier) which is critical to an understanding of the weakness of the Eurocommunist “democratic centralist” party structure; and it is decision-making, community, kinship, and class analysis together which could prove necessary for uncovering the real narrowness of form of the Eurocommunist movement, its organizations, and its programs. Con­strained by space and ignorance of the European situation, it would be ridiculous to even attempt such a broad analysis here. But it should be clear, even short of such an analysis, that until the Eurocommunists present a model for their vision of socialism and unless that model makes explicit the means by which workers themselves will directly manage factories and the whole economy, as well as the means by which new decision-making, community, and kinship networks will be elaborated, we can’t help but believe that the aim is for something very different-and therefore also feel that whatever fine tuning, correction, and cautious development it may require, a new type of “collective agent analysis” is a potential microscope we should bring to bear on the European drama, and on our own U.S. drama as well.

 

In our view the Ehrenreichs’ analysis of the PMC has opened many new conceptual doors, introduced many new practical problems and opportunities. We find it necessary to divide the group, when they take it as a whole, but in either case it seems to us that the implications for socialist program and strategy are considerable.

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Footnotes

[1] We will use the phrase “professional and managerial sector” (PMS) instead of PMC so as not to prejudge whether this whole assemblage of people is in fact a class.

[2] The idea of “contradictory class locations” is fully developed in Erik Olin Wright[‘s] Class, Crisis and State. A group occupies a contradictory position in the class structure if it shares aspects of its character with more than one other class, and therefore tends to vacillate in allegiances.

[3] Some readers may take offense at our “simple minded” rendition of orthodox Marxist notions, but these do form the basis for most arguments favor­ing a two-class polarity in modern society, and it is this position, whatever the range of its following, that the Ehrenreichs are attacking.

[4] The Ehrenreichs present the two-class analysis as currently dominant, and while not wishing to deny the existence of many other approaches, we agree.

[5] They do not, for example, make any significant mention of the autonomous importance of race, and even tend to imply that a “materialistic” approach to issues of sex would be sufficient, though in other writings they very explicitly call for an analysis of the independent and autonomous role of sexual and kinship dynamics.

[6] For a fuller discussion of the relevance of these assertions see Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism, pp. 58-64, 130-132.

[7] See Gayle Rubin, “Traffic in Women” in Rayna Reiter, ed., Toward an  Anthropology of  Women;  Batya Weinbaum, The Curious Courtship of Women’s Liberation and Socialism; and Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism.

[8] Note that just as there are people who develop class centered analyses, kinship centered analyses, and race centered analyses–Marxists, feminists, and nationalists, respectively–there are also people who develop decision-making centered analyses, the anarchists. Each may be more in touch with reality than any one gives the others credit for. Moreover, just as demarcating community and kinship realms calls into question the common practice of explaining racism and sexism derivatively from economic forces, so demarcating the decision-making realm questions the advisiblity of interrogating the state from a class perspective alone.

[9] The immediate reaction of many orthodox Marxists might be to assert that it is economic forces which determine what we have called community, decision-making and kinship relations. But it is our contention that this is not necessarily so in all societies. In a particular society it may be necessary to take a totalist approach and not regard class as the sole critical social relationship. With kinship, community, and decision-making also achieving a central position, class analysis becomes a different  process and the demarcation of classes carries a different meaning. This is the reason for the present discussion in this essay. We hope its brevity has not given the ideas an excessively mechanical tone. The views are developed more fully, with more attention to the obviously critical fact that workers are of different races and sexes, women of different classes and races, etc. in Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism.

[10] The assertion isn’t that workers organize only on the shop floor or only around shop floor demands, but that all other dimensions of the struggle are seen as having their roots here.

[11] This is consistent with the efforts of women and third world people to argue the need for autonomous movements within a total revolutionary struggle. Further, any group’s consciousness can be revolutionary but might also merely be rationalizations of their situation. There is no mechanical translation from the  discovery of a group that may become a historical agent to the actual event of a revolutionary historical intervention.

[12] We locate classes in terms of economic social relations which for us includes recognition that the development of a class is a cultural and ideological process, and that there are situations under which these so-called “subjective” factors will dominate what seem to be the implications of “material” factors.

[13] Obviously people are often  members of more than one historically important group. Membership in each group has implications for activity and consciousness in the realm with respect to which that group is defined­ economic, kinship, etc. The “whole-person” is affected by and has aspects relevant to development along all these “realm-defined” dimensions. A full revolutionary stance must move beyond an interest group identification to take a stand along all the critical dimensions. This is more fully discussed in Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism.

[14] Marx never set out any precise definitions or methodologies of class analysis. We, like others, are only giving our own interpretation, no doubt determined by our own experiences and situations.

[15] Later we will argue for the potentially autonomous importance of cultural relations, and for more on this see Marshall Shalins, Culture and Practical Reason.

[16] Our approach to discerning historical agents is not objective in the traditional, disinterested sense. It is rooted in the desire to change society. Perhaps the most alienating thing about many aspects of class analysis is the way they are divorced from activist concerns. A) Women, blacks, and working people discern differences between people which have immense impact upon organizing. B) “Movement writers” debate who does and who doesn’t have the right definitions, which groups fit their definitions and which don’t, all without discussion of perceived political relations. Where the theory should explicate experience and assist its enrichment, it is usually so unrelated to experience and so obscurely written that it can do neither. Overcoming such problems should be a priority of all socialists, especially those of the PMS.

[17] See Paul Sweezy, The Theory of Capitalist Development, for what remains one of the clearest and most instructive presentations of orthodox Marxist theory.

[18]  Herb Gintis has done a path-breaking job of elaborating the implica­tions of this latter point in his unpublished essay “Theory of the Capitalist Firm”,  Harv.  Disc.  Paper  No.  328,  Oct.  1973,  and  this  work is elaborated further in Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism, pp. 149-157.

[19]  See E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class for a brilliant treatment of class as based in both objective and subjective aspects producing class as a historical  outcome. The early burial societies and clubs are described by Thompson as historic progenitors of modern English trade unions and  political parties.

[20] Of course the Marxist heritage includes many richer analyses, but nonetheless the orthodox two-class model remains the bedrock of most Marxist exposition and instructs most Marxist analysis.

[21] Perhaps, for example, to understand the social relations in a U.S. factory, class analysis is insufficient. For in addition to reproducing class relations, maybe factory dynamics are historically structured to perpetuate, replicate, and even reproduce kinship, community, and decision-making rela­tions which have their roots in other realms of social life. For a discussion of the factory and kinship see Weinbaum, Curious Courtship, and with reference to all three possibilities see Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism. pp. 109-118.

[22] The Ehrenreichs also challenge the notion that production relations alone determine class definitions  as they accept Thompson’s formulation that culture can have an independent impact.

[23] Agnes Smedley, Daughter of Earth.

[24] For example, Wright takes this view in Class, Crisis and State.

[25] Barbara and John Ehrenreich, “The Professional-Managerial Class,” p. 12 of this book. The Ehrenreichs extend the definition to include shared cultural features in many other parts of their essay.

[26] Actually the Ehrenreichs’ estimate is too high even by their own figures as they fail to take proper account of the fact that many families will have more than one member occupying a PMC position.

[27] The Ehrenreichs’ definition and discussion suggests that they may feel that salaried vs. waged and productive vs. unproductive are distinctions which  may separate the PMC from other workers. We see no reason to pursue these  notions. Certainly, there is little to be found in the difference that comes with getting paid on different schedules; one is still selling one’s labor power for a wage. Further, we see almost  no way to even analytically distinguish between “productive” and “unproductive” workers, and even if such distinctions could be made, a)  they would not be along the PMC worker boundary, b) it’s not clear that they would  have any implications for material interests or consciousness for­ mation, and c) in a monopoly formation they would be dwarfed in importance by the effects of unequal exchange on income and relative interests anyway.

[28] “The Professional and  Managerial Class”, pp. 22-23.

[29] We should remember that this is an ideology, it means rational organization in the interests of the PMC, and efficiency toward PMC ends.

[30] Ibid., pp. 22-23.

[31] Ibid., pp. 23-24.

[32] The Ehrenreichs most often mean social democratic movements but also make references to communist movements.

[33] For more on this see Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism, Chapters Seven and Eight.

[34] See Gerard Chaliand, Revolution in the Third World.

[35] It’s impossible not to wonder how many workers would feel close to the analyses in this article, able to use them, able to “converse” with them, etc. The gap is one of language, culture, and style, as much as  one of politics.

[36] We mentioned above [#27] that we see little distinction between wage and salary.

[37] Cornelius Castoriadus, Workers’ Councils and the Economics of Self­ Managment.

[38] This distinction is fully developed in Harry Braverman, Labor and Monopoly Capital.

[39] See Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism, Chapters Three and Four.

[40] Idem.

[41] See the interchanges in Radical America in the issues following publication of the Ehrenreichs’ essay.

[42] This last point is held in common with the Ehrenreichs though it takes us in a somewhat different direction.

[43] “Vacillation” is not the operative word, really. Rather what is critical is the fact that the CMS must  vacillate between class positions elaborated by others–they develop no separate position of their own. Members of any group, may of course vacillate in their allegiances.

[44] We will have more to say about Eurocommunism in a coming section.

[45] The distinction here between ourselves and E.O. Wright is our addition of the coordinator class and therefore also the different definitions of contradictory class locations.

[46] We have argued elsewhere that orthodox Marxism provides an insuf­ficient theory of capitalist investment and that the recent debate among radical  economists over the priority of “profit” and “control” criteria is badly misplaced. We also attempt to clarify the mechanisms of both qualitative and quantitative  social reproduction–see Unorthodox Marxism,  pp. 69-71 , 153-57, and 129-79.

[47] David Noble, America By Design.

[48] Idem, and Stanley Aronowitz, Science, Technology and Marxism.

[49] Obviously we narrowed the Ehrenreichs’ location of these traits.

[50] One could also imagine similar phenomena in other spheres of economic life–perhaps in medicine, education, law, or even social work …. But perhaps computer technology provides the most likely field for further investigation.

[51] The point here is that the fact that capitalists can or can’t dominate the will of another sector cannot be taken as evidence concerning whether that sector should be considered a class. Were the dominance inevitable and permanent, were the sector totally dependent in its existence and ideology, that would be one thing. But that it is simply overpowered within a certain historical setting is another–and not at all an argument the sector shouldn’t be taken as a class. There is also here the idea  that among economic classes dominance and subordination is largely a function of whose interests are served and advanced by the criteria governing the allocation and use of labor power.

[52] See footnote “34”.

[53] Albert and Hahnel, Unorthodox Marxism, Chapter Seven includes a much more complete discussion.

[54] This points to another problem in the Ehrenreichs’ formulations. Using only a class analysis, their understanding of the “Russian Model” is marred. They overlook the importance of the political realm, and  especially of the Leninist  Party as a partner in the elaboration of this new social formation–indeed  historically, as the “senior partner.”

[55] See Michael Albert, What Is To Be Undone.

[56] The Chinese do not speak about the cadre, managers, and planners disappearing; only about conquering their elitist tendencies and insuring that they truly learn to best “serve the people.” This is certainly in tune with our analysis.

[57] Note that we do not attempt to qualify the relative degrees to which a coordinator mode or a capitalist mode is oppressive to workers. The word “equally” is conspicuously absent from in front of “exclusive”.

[58] Fernando Claudin, in his new book Eurocommunism and Socialism, p.  35, deals especially well with  this point, though in reference to another context.

[59] For relevant discussions see, Albert, What Is To Be Undone, and Maurice Brinton, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control.

[60] We also see the possibility that three rather than two elements may be struggling for hegemony during the period of uncertainty about the direction of development of any modern revolution.

[61] So a coordinator identifying as a coordinator won’t be in the socialist  movement, but a woman or black person of the coordinator class identifying not as a coordinator but as a woman or a black person might join the relevant autonomous movement and then the socialist struggle as well.

[62] It is also interesting to consider why one attributes so much importance to many coordinator and CMS skills. Is it simply a matter of feeling that the old “expert  practitioners” will be the only practitioners for an interim period while their skills are spread and re-defined as with medicine; or is it a concern that only the old practitioners can exercise these skills because the workers are simply incapable  of it? And which skills are necessary–which oppressive? Are the answers different when we ask a class conscious worker than when we ask a CMS or coordinator, even one aligned with socialism?

[63] Of course there is nothing here which disallows specific CMS or coordinators a place in worker movements. There is simply a vigilance necessary and perhaps some rules to maintain a proper balance and “exclusion” where necessary. Men can be feminists, for example, but most won’t be till later in the development of the whole left, and even as more men become feminist there will still need to be organizational and practical guards against a diminution in women’s roles in defining the anti-patriarchal struggle. The situation is similar with workers and other elements and the economic struggle.

[64] A critical aspect of socialist struggle in the U.S. is going to be the process by which workers develop a clear program for struggle and socialist construction in the economy. This will require a full analysis of the structure of industry and of  potential means of its reorganization. Many CMS elements will have to partake  in this analysis and reconceptualization, essentially as aides providing knowledge that has heretofore been denied the workers, but it is the workers who will have to elaborate the new models. Thus we need to have CMS people in the movement while also having organizations where workers are free to develop their own confidence and goals.

[65] This phenomenon has already been relatively common on the left. There have been any number of community organizing projects, for example, set up by well-meaning CMS people who were unable to develop “equal relations” with  working people sufficient to the maintenance of the projects. Subsequently, “coordinators” have sometimes been consciously excluded.

[66] It is not unreasonable to wonder about who might actually fit this characterization. Certainly when women began to develop a critique of sexism and of the role of men in patriarchal society, movement men were too threatened to listen and carefully consider what was being said. Only later, realizing that the  analysis didn’t consign  them to infamy, but only to a position requiring considerable self-conscious development, did some men come to understand and  even act on the womens’ analyses. Could there be a similar phenomenon now with the hypothesizing of a third class analysis? Moreover, since middle element socialists certainly dominate among movement writers and “theorists”, ourselves certainly included, might there be a slowness to really appreciate the arguments. Where we have to argue abstractly, by example, and by analysis of experiences, workers themselves will argue from their own feelings and needs. This doesn’t consign our arguments to irrelevance, it merely suggests that we be a bit humble and that we hold our opinions flexibly until activist socialist workers have had a  chance to express theirs as well.

[67] This desire was certainly behind the Ehrenreichs’ project, even if we at least feel that the implications of their particular demarcation would hold little promise for a widening of the movement–this being a chief factor in our attempt to alter those demarcations.

[68] Santiago Carrillo, Eurocommunism and the State.

[69] Ibid, p. 24.

[70] The definition of “relevant employees” is encompassing small capitalists in Italy and even elements  of the right wing in Spain–Eurocommunism is perhaps better described as a movement which is dominated by coordinator consciousness, but still also susceptible to considerable capitalist influence as  well.

[71] Ibid, p. 54.

[72] Ibid, p. 81.

[73] Witness the growing electoral power of the Italian and French Communist Parties–when they don’t take power it is considered a failure.

[74] Another problem, abstracting monopoly relations from capitalism, we don’t have the space to discuss here.

[75] Worker support obviously doesn’t mean a worker outcome–witness the English Labor Party, among many other examples.

[76] While this perspective is largely correct, the accompanying Eurocom­munist disavowal of need to prepare for a confrontation is misguided.

[77] See Footnote 59

[78] This view offers much more than most other approaches–as an alternative, see, for example, Charles Bettleheim, Class Struggle in the USSR.

[79] As mentioned earlier the self-consciousness of coordinators won’t be so crass. Feeling theirs is the only realistic struggle against capital, they will present it as a struggle in the interests of all of society.

[80] Even the necessary disavowal of East European modes of production, the much-needed admission that they simply do not constitute socialist models atall, will be rhetoric till internal reorganization occurs.

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