Verizon: union win

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Tue Aug 22 15:15:52 PDT 2000

Peter van Heusden wrote:

> The SI, following Marx, saw our labouring nature, the way we 'aprropriate
> the world through activity' as central to our humanity. The problem is,
> that within capitalism we are forced to work

Peter, am I correct that the Situationist International thought in French? If so that might explain how you get the terms "work" and "labor" reversed. Engels noted the habit of the English language to give the concrete thing (in this case work: that which makes us human) a germanic name, the abstract thing (in this case labor: that which the capitalist appropriates) a latin name. Hannah Arendt picked up on this in a terminology which I think is of some use. She distinguished labor, work, and action. Labor is mere necessary drudgery. Work is transforming the world (what you describe above as appropriating the world through labor. And Action is essentially political action, persuading and being persuaded in a public forum. (This is worked out in two of her works, *The Human Condition* and *On Revolution*. In her working out of it she is definitely anti-marxist -- but she also acknowledges her debt to marxism. I would presume (but out of reluctance to write recipes for the future won't argue the point) that in a socialist society labor would be reduced to the bare minimum and divided up equally as KP in the military. We definitely can't write recipes for work, because (as used here and by Arendt) work has to be determined by the worker. (Her ideal model for work is the work of art, but she includes all activity which goes into making the world in which we live.)

With this modification as to vocabulary, your post seems solid.

The world of labor/work with which I am most familiar is that of the U.S. postal employers. The P.O. is abominably managed, and the lower level supervisory personnel are manipulated by middle and upper management to be pure shits. Nevertheless, and on the whole, U.S. postal employees are really into getting the mail delivered -- in spite of all the barriers thrown up by management. It's really quite amazing.

Incidentally, the original (and I would say only real) IWW prohibited its members from engaging in sabotage on their own initiative. Such individualist anti-work activities, they thought, belittled the actual work, which should be honored in and of itself.


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