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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The working class after the vanguard : process and plurality in the theory and practice of working class organization Green, Brian Stephen


This thesis examines what the two sides of class-- capital and working class --have meant in left parlance, what these meanings imply about class struggle, and how they were put into political practice through Communist Parties and trade unions. Ideas about class and strategies for class struggle continue to be central to the left, as the various ways these are conceptualized give rise to very different answers to some common and persistent questions: Who is legitimately a worker and when? Why, how and with what result are certain struggles delayed or subsumed within others? At what point does self-criticism cross over to counter-revolutionary dissent? And what might continuing schisms over these questions tell us about traditional left organizations? The thesis traces the development of 'the left' from its key conceptual subject, the working class, through its two most widely-adopted organizational strategies in order to examine the poverty of the left's analytical and political traditions, particularly as regards (1) the notion of socialism as an alternative management plan and (2) ideas about capital and working class that stressed the embodiments of power relations rather than those relations themselves, and which were lifted directly from capital's own definitions of productivity. Finally, the thesis argues that insights from long-neglected Marxisms, certain critical post-structuralisms and the political strategies of some emergent anti-capitalist networks together offer the opportunity to produce a more fluid, and more liberatory left, imbued with: (1) an understanding of class as a relationship that does not inhere to individuals or organizations, and (2) a notion of the working class as a permanent resistance that has nothing whatever to do with a particular ideology or strategy; with (3) an analysis which emphasizes situational relationships of power that are at once racialized, gendered, sexualized, and classed; and (4) a political approach which draws means and ends together in an emphasis on resistance as the troubling of order, and revolution as a process of refusal.

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