Holly Lewis on labor

“Because capitalism is a system of social relations, not a person, static group, or moral agreement, it does not respond to moral arguments or moral outrage. The world’s Scrooges will not bring a pheasant to the world’s Tiny Tims. The Grinch’s heart will not grow three sizes larger and he will not return the Christmas gifts to Whoville. Capitalism responds only to what interrupts the generation of profit; and since it is the source of value, labor is both capitalism’s greatest asset and its potential downfall. Labor is not the focal point of Marxist politics because Marx felt more outrage over the fate of working folks than other groups of disenfranchised people, nor is Marxism a moral argument that the proletarians are an honorable and valiant people, morally superior to the middle and upper classes. The proletarian is the pivotal political subject because productive labor is the strategic point from which capitalism is dismantled. This is not the same as saying that only employed people have agency or political value. Workers, the unemployed, their dependents, and allies routinely find creative ways to collude against capital.

Anti-capitalist struggle is not a matter of making people aware of how bad life is under capitalism. It is not a matter of guilting the rich into making concessions. The only awareness campaign capable of making a difference in capitalist accumulation is the one that explains to working people what the livable awareness campaign intentionally ignores: how the capitalist mode of production actually works. But even awareness about the capitalist mode of the production will not change it. You actually have to change it to change it. And changing it is a collective action that requires more than awareness. But it is an action that anybody can join.”

— Holly Lewis, The Politics of Everybody