We Do The Work And We Can Bring Down The System: A Q&A With ‘Working Class History’

“Centering class is pivotal because it is the working class who keep the system running, yet that society is also based on our collective exploitation.“

// A Works Progress Administration worker receives his paycheck, 1939
(Courtesy of the National Archives)
Lusty Lady workers, marching on May Day 2008 in support of San Francisco dock workers.

What does ‘Working Class’ mean? To you, to the labor movement, to the current socio-economic hierarchy we find ourselves?

So today, a big majority of us are born into a situation where we do not own our means of survival. So our only way of surviving is to sell our ability to work for others, who do own that property — land, factories, offices and so on.

// On this day, 26 May 1944, a general strike broke out in Marseille, Vichy France. Metalworkers, public servants and transport workers joined a stoppage of shipyard workers the previous day, demonstrating in front of the City Hall demanding “bread!”. The strike remained unbroken until the Gestapo had arrested 15,000 workers — but the crackdown was short lived as Marseille was liberated soon after.

Why is centering the working class experience pivotal in understanding where we’ve been and where we’re going? How does it inform, evolve, influence and bolster the movement?

Where do you think we are in our current Working Class history?! What issues will define this day and age?

// On this day, 10 May 1904 Dutch cellist, conductor, lesbian and anti-Nazi resistance member Frieda Belinfante was born in Amsterdam. During the German occupation she joined the resistance and began forging documents for people hiding from the Nazis and their collaborators.

What’s giving you the most hope in terms of workers’ rights? What is the most troubling?

// On this day, 19 May 1925, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcolm X, was born in Omaha, Nebraska. “You can’t have capitalism without racism.”

It’s worth remembering that in Germany, Italy, Spain and elsewhere in the last century, when the working class really threatened the power of the rich and big business, their governments resorted to fascism to protect them.

And if they need to, they will try to do this once more.

From where you’re standing and thinking and reading…what can people do to combat apathy and contribute to the grassroots movement of pushing back against exploitation and late-stage capitalism?! How can we help underpin the efforts of the working class?

Don’t wait for some politician or union to come in and do things for you, because they probably won’t.

What’s coming down the pipeline for Working Class History? Where are you going next?

Do you have a favorite episode that the podcast explores?

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Katie Tandy

writer. maker. editor @medium.com/the-public-magazine. Former co-founder thepulpmag.com + The Establishment come for adjectives stay for justice