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The Proletariat Voice: Unions?

December 8, 2010

The auto industry, as discussed in lecture, is the perfect example of the conflict between the bourgeois and the proletariat according to Marx.  The auto industry has affected nearly everyone in the United States both directly and indirectly,

…Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.(p.802)

In other words, not only has the bourgeois auto industry engulfed all socio-economic classes (though workers are divided into white and blue collar) but it created positions for people that do not need much skill (education) to do the work. Before the recent hard times of the auto industry, it was more than common for high schoolers to either drop out of high school or to only graduate from high school and seek a job on an automotive assembly line. Many just kept in mind that as long as they continued to work for x amount of years, they would be able to retire and live off of their benefits.Thus, the auto industry created,

…A class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases…(p.802 The Communist Manifesto)

But then their is the problem that not everyone could get a job on the assembly lines. The capitalist auto industry made sure that scarcity was to their advantage. If someone else was willing to work for a lower wage then.. so be it. The auto industry workers are then subject immense competition amongst each other. According to Marx, the bourgeois could care less whether workers who had worked the same line for 15 years is laid off…profit is what mattered most. Thus, this attitude gave way to the continued outsourcing of jobs and the growing bitterness the proletariat felt toward the bourgeois.

[Auto workers were] exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market. (p.802 The Communist Manifesto)

So why didn’t the proletariat completely revolt against the bourgeois heads of the auto industries?

Well, to avoid the inevitable revolution of the proletariat in Marx’s theory, they have consented to labor unions. These unions could speak on behalf of the people, they could organize strikes, they would fight for the rights of the proletariat. The answer to the conflict was solved!…Or would Marx say that labor unions were just used as pacifiers for the auto workers? Could it be that unions are allowed to make the proletariat feel like they have some power?



One Comment
  1. jldykes permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:07 PM

    Great post. In this instance it wouldn’t make sense for the auto workers to completely revolt, because the harms being done to them were nowhere near as bad as the circumstance that would occur if they were out of work. I feel as though the labor unions just gave the auto workers (proletariat) a false sense of authority. Although my dad is not an auto worker he does have a unionized job, it always seems as though they are fighting for something only to have to settle for something else. I guess it gives them comfort to know that they didn’t go out without a “fight”, when they sacrifice themselves to the bourgeois.

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