This selection from Sam Marcy’s book “High Tech, Low Pay” (1986) was lightly edited to update some phrasing.
There is a new and fundamental trend which has to do not only with the ups and downs of the capitalist economic cycle, but with the social composition of the working class. It is an objective trend that arises out of the changes in the technological structure of capitalist industry, which in turn have changed the working class itself.
We have written elsewhere about the change as it pertains to the growing proportion of Black, Latinx, Asian, Native, women and undocumented workers. That, however, could be interpreted as a mere numerical change, or one that is related to “ethnicity,” as they phrase it in bourgeois sociology.
But the change in social composition goes beyond that. It involves a relative reduction in the percentage of skilled workers and a tremendous increase in the number of semi-skilled.
Also, on an overall scale, it means the creation of lower-paying jobs as against higher-paying ones. It means the decline of the traditionally more privileged workers and industries with higher wages and the creation of a vast pool of lower-paid workers. This trend is still surfacing … .
From a class point of view, it is truly one of the most profound, socially significant trends to emerge. The number of lower-paid workers is bound to increase at the expense of the more privileged workers.
Prospects for a class-wide movement
Up until now, when the word movement was used, it could mean either the Black movement, the Latinx movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the LGBTQ movement, the women’s movement. But the term seldom, if ever, referred to the working-class movement. By and large, the progressive movement as a whole was more or less separate from the working class.
Now, however, the change in the social composition of the working class lays the objective basis for a movement of the working class itself, of which these movements will become so many constituent parts.
When we speak of the women’s movement or the anti-war movement or the Black movement as part of the working-class movement, it doesn’t mean they won’t have an independent character. Of course they will.
But they will be part of the working-class movement because it will have come alive as the fundamental class in society which alone can weld these movements together in a genuine anti-capitalist and progressive struggle, a struggle both for democratic rights and for socialism.
“High Tech, Low Pay” can be downloaded from the list of Sam Marcy’s books on Workers.org.