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In partial praise of a positivist (O’Neill, 1995)

Otto_Neurath

The work of Otto Neurath

by John O’Neill (Radical Philosophy, 1995)

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From the Frankfurt School the story has emerged that positivism is a conservative doctrine necessarily committed to existing social institutions and to a technocratic conception of politics. Even the most scientistic orthodox Marxist is unlikely to announce that she is a positivist. Such is the disrepute into which positivism has fallen that to accept the title of positivist would amount to an admission that one’s position was untenable. The picture of positivism that informs its use as a term of academic abuse is a caricature. Positivist philosophy was much more heterogeneous than recent thumbnail versions allow, and many of the doctrines ascribed to it were explicitly rejected by many of its proponents.  Neurath himself was unhappy with the term for the very reason that it suggested a systematic set of doctrines incompatible with the methodological pluralism he defended, although ‘not being a pedant’ he was willing to ‘bear it’.

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Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience (Biehl & Staudenmaier, 1995)

By Janet Biehl & Peter Staudenmaier (1995)

AK Press / PDF

The reappearance of fascism in many western countries threatens all the freedoms the left movements have managed to gain over the last half century. Equally disconcerting is the attempt by fascist ideologists and political groups to use ecology in the service of social reaction. This effort is not without long historical roots in Germany, both in its nineteenth-century romanticism and in the Third Reich in the present century. In order to preserve the liberatory aspects of ecology, the authors, as social ecologists, explore the German experience of fascism and derive from it historical lessons about the political use of ecology. Comprised of two essays—”Fascist Ideology: The Green Wing of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents” and “Ecology and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-Right,”—Ecofascism examines aspects of German fascism, past and present, in order to draw essential lessons from them for ecology movements both in Germany and elsewhere.

Table of Contents:

Introduction

Fascist Ecology: The “Green Wing” of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents
by Peter Staudenmaier

The Roots of the Blood and Soil Mystique
The Youth Movement and the Weimar Era
Nature in National Socialist Ideology
Blood and Soil as Official Doctrine
Implementing the Ecofascist Program
Fascist Ecology in Context

Ecology’ and the Modernization of Fascism in the German Ultra-right
by Janet Biehl

Neofascist ‘Ecology’
National Revolutionaries
The Freedom German Workers Party
The Republicans
The National Democratic Party
The German People’s Union
Anthroposophy and the World League for the Protection of Life
Rudolf Bahro: Völkisch Spirituality
Liberating the ‘Brown Parts’
Social Darwinist ‘Ecology’: Herbert Gruhl
A Social Ecology of Freedom

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Catastrophism, disaster management and sustainable submission (Riesel and Semprun, 2008)

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In this book first published in 2008, Jaime Semprun and René Riesel examine the attempt by predominantly First World governments and NGOs to utilize the specter of an environmental apocalypse as an alibi to save “industrial civilization” by imposing a rationed form of “survival”, justified by a terroristic propaganda campaign based on fear, enforced by an expansion of the state’s coercive powers, and facilitated by the mass conformism and resignation that “industrial society” has induced in the population by creating an “anxiogenic environment” of “insecurity and generalized instability”; “[f]or the fears proclaimed by the experts … are in reality nothing but orders”.

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The End of Utopia (Marcuse, 1967)

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Herbert Marcuse, lecture at FU West Berlin 1967, published in Five Lectures

Today any form of the concrete world, of human life, any transformation of the technical and natural environment is a possibility, and the locus of this possibility is historical. Today we have the capacity to turn the world into hell, and we are well on the way to doing so. We also have the capacity to turn it into the opposite of hell. This would mean the end of utopia, that is, the refutation of those ideas and theories that use the concept of utopia to denounce certain socio-historical possibilities. It can also be understood as the “end of history” in the very precise sense that the new possibilities for a human society and its environment can no longer be thought of as continuations of the old, nor even as existing in the same historical continuum with them. Rather, they presuppose a break with the historical continuum; they presuppose the qualitative difference between a free society and societies that are still unfree, which, according to Marx, makes all previous history only the prehistory of mankind.

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Marxism and Merchant Capitalism

Jairus

by Jairus Banaji

Draft of a chapter for The Handbook of Marxism, eds., Sara Farris and Alberto Toscano.

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‘Merchant’s or trading capital’, as Marx refers to it as the start of the sequence of chapters where this is discussed in Capital vol. 3 was largely marginal to Marx‘s understanding of the capitalist mode of production, which, of course, was embodied in the dynamics (the laws of motion) of industrial capital and personified by the industrial capitalist. In fact, in its leading form, viz. as commercial capital, it was simply a transmuted form of industrial capital itself, a circulation of the commodity capital of the industrialist, for ever penned into [industrial] capital‘s circulation sphere‘. Merchant capitalists do figure in Volume 3 but they do so strictly only as agents of industrial capital.

I shall argue that it was perfectly consistent for Marx to argue in this way, since he saw the accumulation of industrial capital as the driving force behind the capitalist mode of production and his interest lay in analysing the accumulation process of a total capital dominated by large-scale industry. However, this conception will not work historically when Marxists have to deal with periods of history where industrial capitalism (the capitalist mode of production in Marx‘s sense) was largely embryonic or even completely absent. The reason why most Marxists tend not to be troubled by this is that the centuries of early capitalism (to use a conventional term that was popular among historians roughly a century ago) have on the whole been framed either in terms of a historically nebulous age of primitive accumulation‘ (Dobb) or, from the fifties on, as a prolonged transition from feudalism to (industrial) capitalism with its implied ―coexistence of modes of production. But a major upshot of this conceptual indifference, so to speak, has been the abdication of this whole field of history to historians working largely outside a strictly Marxist tradition, even if at least some of those historians, notably Braudel, were profoundly influenced by Marx. READ PDF

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Translations by Banaji:

Serfdom in a Free Society (Mattick, 1946)

by Paul MattickWestern Socialist, Boston, USA, September 1946

The Road to Serfdom. By Friedrich A. Hayek, University of Chicago Press, 1944 (250 pp.; $2.75).

Full Employment in a Free Society. By William H. Beveridge. W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1945. (429pp; $3,75).

Both these books are dedicated to the “socialists of all parties.” Hayek wants to discourage them, Beveridge tries to offer encouragement. Both writers speak in the name of science and deal with the reality of, and the need for, capitalistic planning. But what appears to Hayek as the road to serfdom seems to Beveridge the highway to a free society.

Russia and Germany prove to Hayek that socialism does not lead to freedom. The most important guaranty of freedom, he maintains, is a system of private property. Planning and freedom cannot go together. Without a labor market and an industrial reserve army, for example, discipline can be maintained only by corporal punishment, for which reason socialism implies slave-labor. The “collective freedom” of which the planners speak is, in Hayek’s opinion, “but the unlimited freedom of the planner to do with society what he pleases.”

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The Principles of Communism (Engels, 1847)

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by Friedrich Engels

Written: October-November 1847;
First Published: 1914, Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democratic Party’s Vorwärts!
Translated: Paul Sweezy
MECW 6: 341-357

— 1 —
What is Communism?

Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat.

— 2 —
What is the proletariat?

The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labor and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death, whose sole existence depends on the demand for labor – hence, on the changing state of business, on the vagaries of unbridled competition. The proletariat, or the class of proletarians, is, in a word, the working class of the 19th century.[1]

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Class and Capital (Paul Mattick Jr., 2002)

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by Paul Mattick Jr. Download PDF 

[originally published in The Culmination of Capital: Essays on Volume III of Marx’s Capital ed. Martha Campbell and Geert Reuten, 2002; republished as Chapter 9 in Paul Mattick Jr.’s Theory as Critique, Brill 2018]


The concept of class has never remained a harmless concept for very long.

Ralf Dahrendorf

Dahrendorf gave a common view dramatic form when he wrote, ‘Marx post­poned the systematic presentation of his theory of class until death took the pen from his hand. The irony has often been noted that the last (52nd) chapter of the last (third) volume of Capital, which bears the title “The Classes”, has remained unfinished. After a little more than one page the text ends with the lapidary remark of its editor, Engels: “Here the manuscript breaks off”’. Unfortunately, the colourful picture this suggests, of the pen dropping from the hand of the dying Marx as he was on the point of completing his masterwork, isn’t ours to keep: the draft containing this chapter was completed, as is fairly well known, before Marx turned to the preparation of Volume I for publication. Nev­ertheless, some have taken Marx’s delay in returning to the chapter – until it was too late – as an admission in actu of failure, attesting to a basic flaw in his theory. Engels’s explanation is less dramatic: Marx liked to leave conclusions ‘for the final editing, shortly before printing, when the latest historical events would supply him, with unfailing regularity, with illustrations of his theoretical arguments, as topical as anyone could desire’. Reopening the question of the relation of Marx’s final page and a half to the rest of Capital, I wish to explore what Marx’s willingness to leave the matter in so sketchy a state might indicate about the nature, or even the existence, of a Marxian theory of class. [Read PDF]


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How it Might Should be Done

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by Idris Robinson, July 2020

The following is a transcript of a talk delivered in Seattle on July 20, 2020, lightly-edited by the author for readability. A video recording produced by Red May is online here. (Taken from Illwilleditions.org)

* * * * *

I want to begin with a shout-out to what happened here last night, and to the working class of the city of Seattle, to the rebels of the city of Seattle: I really liked what I saw, that’s why I’m here, you know, to feel that vibe. I would also like to send my solidarity to comrades in Greece. It was they who allowed me to experience insurrection for the first time in 2008. The lessons I’ve learned and the experiences I had there have been so valuable this time around, even though we are in a much different social context. Moreover, a comrade was recently killed at the hands of the police there. To the fallen comrade, Vasillis Maggos, I want to say: rest in power.

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The Flatness of Blackness: Afro-Pessimism and the Erasure of Anti-Colonial Thought

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Amílcar Cabral

by Kevin Ochieng Okoth | January 16, 2020

Originally published in Salvage, this piece by Kevin Ochieng Okoth, offers a sustained critique of American ‘Afro-pessimism’, noting, in particular, how it erases experiences, including political experiences, of African people living in Africa.

 

I. Pop-Hegelianism 

When the term Afro-pessimism began appearing in books, journal articles and, curiously, on activist social media, I was (presumably along with others familiar with the scholarship on African history and politics) slightly perplexed. For decades, ‘Afro-pessimism’ had referred to the unrelentingly negative coverage of Africa in Western news media, especially in terms of its tendency toward arrested development. This discourse, loosely united by an emphasis on the hopelessness of the African continent – and exemplified by the scandalous 2000 Economist headline describing Africa as ‘The Hopeless Continent’ – provided the rationale for the imperialist economic policies of the 1970s’ and 80s’ structural adjustment programmes. Today, it bolsters neo-colonial relations between the Global North and Africa, and is often conjured up as the go-to argument to justify the entirely unnecessary and counterproductive presence of the development industry and its practitioners on the continent. 

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The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook (James Boggs, 1963)

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In 1963, drawing on his own experience as a factory worker and radical militant, James Boggs wrote this pamphlet. It addresses (among many things) the failures of the CIO, increasing automation, rising unemployment and the emergence of new social actors (‘the outsiders’) that he saw as a threat to capitalism.

James Boggs, born in Marion Junction, never dreamed of becoming President or a locomotive engineer. He grew up in a world where the white folks are gentlemen by day and Ku Klux Klanners at night. Marion Junction is in Dallas County where as late as 1963, although African-Americans made up over 57 percent of the total county population of 57,000, only 130 were registered voters. After graduating from Dunbar High School in Bessemer, Alabama, in 1937, Boggs took the first freight train north, bumming his way through the western part of the country, working in the hop fields of the state of Washington, cutting ice in Minnesota, and finally ending up in Detroit where he worked on WPA until the Second World War gave him a chance to enter the Chrysler auto plant. In 1963, drawing on his own experience as a factory worker and radical militant, he wrote these pages.

Boggs offers both a keen analysis of U.S. society and a passionate call for revolutionary struggle. He sees the growing trend toward automation, the decline of organized labor, the expansion of imperialism, and the deepening of racial strife as fundamentally rooted in the contradictions of U.S. capitalism. And he concludes that the only way forward is a new American revolution—one that, from his perspective writing in the 1960s, appeared to have already begun.  

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Theses on the George Floyd Rebellion

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by SHEMON AND ARTUROJune 24, 2020 (Illwilleditions.com)

A print version is here.

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* * * * *

“The working class in every country lives its own life, makes its own experiences, seeking always to create forms and realize values which originate directly from its organic opposition to official society.”

—CLR James, Grace Lee Boggs, and Cornelius Castoriadis, “Facing Reality”

1. The George Floyd Rebellion was a Black led multi-racial rebellion. This rebellion cannot be sociologically categorized as exclusively a Black rebellion. Rebels from all racialized groups fought the police, looted and burned property. This included Indigenous people, Latinx people, Asian people, and white people.

2. This uprising was not caused by outside agitators. Initial arrest data shows that most people were from the immediate areas of the rebellions. If there were people driving in from the ‘suburbs,’ this only reveals the sprawling geography of the American metropolis.

3. While many activists and organizers participated, the reality is that this rebellion was not organized by the small revolutionary left, neither by the so-called progressive NGOs. The rebellion was informal and organic, originating directly from working class black people’s frustration with bourgeois society, particularly the police.

4. Not only was the police-state caught off-guard by the scope and intensity of the rebellion, but civil society also hesitated and wavered in the face of this popular revolt, which quickly spread to every corner of the country and left the police afraid and in disarray.

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The original content of the communist program (Bordiga, 1958)

Amadeo_Bordiga

By Amadeo Bordiga

The original content of the communist program is the obliteration of the individual as an economic subject, rights-holder, and agent of human history

Marxism and property

One topic that we have frequently found ourselves occupied with is that of the formula which in the communist program correctly counterposes the post-bourgeois historical era to the current one. To this topic was dedicated the old study in the first issue of Prometeo on “Property and Capital” [1]. We discussed, and at our last meeting in Turin [2] we returned to it with thoroughness, the most common propagandistic formula of pre-war socialism: the abolition of private property in the means of production (and of exchange). We use the parenthesis because this is how it is written in a fitting text by Engels.

The noun abolition has never been satisfactory. It reeks of a volitional act, and as such it is good for anarchists and (logically) for reformists. The adjective private raises the question of whether the relationship which we denote by the word ‘property’ should disappear in communist society, or only change its subject.

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Value Isn’t Everything (2018)

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by John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett (Monthly Review) 2018

The rapid advances in Marxian ecology in the last two decades have given rise to extensive debates within the left, reflecting competing conceptions of theory and practice in an age of planetary ecological and social crisis. One key area of dispute is associated with the attempt by a growing number of radical environmental thinkers to deconstruct the labor theory of value in order to bring everything in existence within a single commodity logic, replicating in many ways the attempts of liberal environmentalists to promote the notion of “natural capital,” and to impute commodity prices to “ecosystem services.”1 For many in Green circles, Karl Marx and a long tradition of Marxian theorists are to be faulted for not directly incorporating the expenditure of physical work/energy by extra-human nature into the theory of value.

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Expropriation of the Expropriators

Grand-Central_expropriation

by Jacob Blumenfeld APRIL 30, 2020  Legal Form – Marxist Analysis of law

Throughout his work, Marx is very clear about how to overcome capitalism. [1] There is, in fact, one simple trick, although it is not easy, and how one goes about doing it determines everything. I am not referring to the self-emancipation of the working class or the self-abolition of the proletariat. These classic revolutionary formulas name the agent of revolution (the working class or the proletariat) and the aim of revolution (emancipated from wage-labour or abolished as a class), but they do not describe the content of revolution. Instead, I want to talk about a single phrase that Marx repeats at key points in his work, something more banal, more concrete. That is, the expropriation of the expropriators. At the end of the first volume of Capital, while describing the historical tendency of capitalist accumulation, Marx writes:

The centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour reach a point at which they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated. [2]

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Irrational Expectations

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by Geoff Mann (Viewpoint, April 2020, PDF)

However much upheaval the global COVID-19 pandemic has generated, a great deal more is coming. The economic disaster is already the object of frantic analysis, much of which tells us we can expect a bottom that matches or exceeds the Great Depression of the 1930s, at least as measured by conventional economic indicators like GDP, unemployment, and bankruptcies. This narrative provides the backbeat to the competing attempts to organize our attention during the passage through present and future trials.

While we are endlessly reminded that “we are all in this together”—a blatant act of false solidarity—many have also pointed out that we were never “all in this together” before the pandemic, we are not now, and it is quite possible we will emerge from this even less together than we were. At least in terms of wealth and income inequality, the prospects do not look good. The relatively well-off will weather the lockdown more comfortably and without the threat of eviction, debt default, and hunger, and they will return to better-paid and stable work more quickly.

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The shape of the world system in the thirteenth century (Abu-Lughod, 1987)

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by Janet Abu-Lughod (1987) PDF

BY the middle of the thirteenth century the Occident (Western Europe) and the Orient (as far as China) were linked together through a system of trade and, to a much lesser extent, production that had begun to form into what might be termed a “world system” rather than a set of imperial systems. Not unlike today, the nodes that were linked together were central places and port cities, rather than whole countries. The geographic nexus of this system was the Muslim heartland through which items of exchange had to move, either overland across the great so-called silk route or primarily via the sea, transiting the region from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and then beyond, via either the Arab/Persian Gulf or the Red Sea.

By then, goods originating in the Middle and Far East were being sold in European fairs, and Europe was exporting in exchange raw materials, metals, and woolen textiles. Such trade was being conducted by merchants from highly diverse regions, speaking quite different languages and in touch with one another not only physically but by written instruments. “Capitalistic” institutions were well established in the sense that: (1) there existed conventional ways for credit to be extended and then paid off; (2) there were developed techniques for pooling capital and risks and for sharing profits and losses; and (3) production for export had begun to reorganize the way goods were produced and exchanged in the domestic economies of East and West. Significantly, this development was considerably more advanced in China and the Arab world than it was in Europe.

source: Studies in Comparative International Development volume 22, pages 3–25 (1987)

Pandemic: the explosion point of the capitalist relation?

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by Antithesi (April 18, 2020)

The growth of production has been entirely verified until now as the realization of political economy: the growth of poverty, which has invaded and laid waste to the very fabric of life… In the society of the over-developed economy, everything has entered the sphere of economic goods, even spring water and the air of towns, that is to say, everything has become the economic ill, that “complete denial of man”…

Guy Debord, The sick planet

The outbreak of the pandemic and its spread all over the world is the most recent expression of what Debord has identified half a century ago as the “economic ill”. Capital is not only a class relation of exploitation and domination but also a relation of alienation of society from nature in which both the producers of social wealth and non-human nature as an autonomous productive force are transformed into objects that are dominated and plundered by it. The continuously expanding process of the subsumption of nature under capital is conflictual and contradictory. The consequences of this subsumption emerge as phenomena like global warming, the infestation of farmland with superweeds, the slowdown of agricultural productivity and, today, the coronavirus pandemic.

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Political Economy for the End of Times: Gareth Dale on Capitalism and Climate Breakdown

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The Ecologist

 A three-part interview on capitalism and climate breakdown from the podcast Political Economy for the End Times. Listen to the full interview with Political Economy for the End Times.

Part I

Javier Moreno Zacares (JMZ) from Political Economy for the End of Times: I wanted to start this interview by exploring the broad question of the relationship between capitalism and the environment.

I think that a good entry point is the conceptual distinction that you draw between ‘capitalist time’ and ‘ecological time’. Can you explain what these two temporalities are and how they relate to one another? 

Gareth Dale (GD): Human beings relate to various systems through different temporalities. That is, the different rhythms of time and the different ways in which humans relate to time. In my essay for The Ecologist  that you are referring to, I look at three of those: geological time, ecological time, and capitalist time. All social systems are ways of organizing behaviour and time.

Under capitalism, the aim is to increase profit and save time. This accounts for some of its central dynamics: The systematic disciplining of labour and the segregation of labour from the rest of human experience, which enables labour-time to be marked out and measured. The continual acceleration of labour-processes through technical and social change. The fetishism of technology, which has a key role in displacing labour and decreasing the circulation time of capital. And also, of course, the systematic degradation of the natural environment. In a sense, capitalism eats time, and in the process erases nature.

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Revolutionary working class strategy for the 21st century – Part 1 (Angry Workers of the World)

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Reflections on ‘uneven and combined development’ and ‘class composition’

Angry Workers of the World – April 2020

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From a perspective that puts the working class into the driver’s seat of social emancipation we find ourselves in a contradictory situation. During the last decades workers, as in people who have to sell their labour power to survive, have become the majority on the planet. When Marx, from his armchair, called for ‘workers of the world’ to unite, workers were actually a tiny minority globally, islands in a sea of independent artisans, peasants and forced labourers. Only today can we really speak of a ‘global working class’, but to the same degree that ‘being a worker’ has become a global phenomenon, ‘the working class’ seems to have disappeared. 

via Revolutionary working class strategy for the 21st century – Part 1 — Angry Workers of the World