The Blunted Class Struggle: Relations Between Worker and Boss Today

In the time of Marx and Lenin the class struggle presented class antagonisms in a much more direct way than today. The antagonisms of the contending classes are no doubt much larger than they were in this period but the direct experience of this antagonism among the working class and the worker at work however is actually less. What is the way that these antagonisms were most concise? It is through the relationship between the worker and the boss. Traditionally the worker is the proletarian and the boss is the bourgeois. However in the current state of things the ‘boss’ the workers of a particular enterprise know is not the same person Marx wrote about, he is not the capitalist living off the labor of the workers. He is but an indirect representative of the boss and in that sense the perceived antagonism between the worker and the real boss is weakened.

The worker never lays eyes on the real boss, the men and women who live off of and acquiring a massive fortune off of their labor. Instead whom the worker thinks of as a ‘boss’ is arguably just as much of a proletarian as the workers themselves, though a representative of the bourgeoisie nonetheless. In Marx’s time a factory of 10,000 workers would see the boss come and go wearing lavish suits and expensive clothing, showing off his wealth while the workers toiled day in and day out, all day everyday just to maintain a wretched existence in constant poverty. Indeed in those days the class struggle was much more apparent. The workers understood clearly and concisely that the bosses ‘right’ to owning the factory was absolute nonsense as the boss didn’t do any of the work. In those days the difference between the two classes was infinitely less than it is now yet the labor movement was so much stronger because the antagonisms were so apparent.

The boss today, or manager is but the person in charge of managing the affairs of the workplace and can be kind or cruel. The attitude of the manager (as I will refer to him) can often be one of kindness and compassion. He can genuinely be a good human being. The fact of the matter is that this position acts as a buffer between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. It is necessary with larger enterprises but its purpose could not be clearer. When we declare ourselves to be against ‘the boss’ we mean the people at the top of the ladder. The board of directors in the large enterprises, the CEO, and all those who do work no harder than the workers- or none at all and live off of their labor. Our problem is with those amounting a massive fortune while contributing virtually nothing to society and impoverishing those who do. We should not refer to this antagonism as worker vs. boss anymore but instead worker vs. capitalist. Or better yet proletariat vs. bourgeoisie as the proletariat is not merely the ‘working class’ in the sense of the term today but also the middle class as well. The class struggle is a struggle that will not be independent of the manager without the proletariat, even if the manager is traditionally the representative of the bourgeoisie in managing the affairs of the workplace.

The ‘boss’ most workers know is a worker in and of himself. He does not live off the labor of others but rather is paid to manage the affairs of the enterprise on the lowest levels. This is no accident, as a member of the proletariat he is by definition loyal to the orders of the bourgeoisie but also crushed by the same hardships as his fellow proletariat. This allows him to relate, form relationships and empathize with his fellow workers- and them to him in return. Of course this is not to say his loyalties are be default with the proletariat when they decide to unionize. In fact it becomes a conflict of interest and a very difficult matter, he is however not an enemy by default given his predicament. It is his job to follow the orders of the bourgeoisie despite his own personal convictions. This alienation of the direct antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is essential for the struggle against class struggle in the modern day and age and no doubt essential for large enterprise. Every worker must grasp this fact.

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