Trying to understand the social individual, cuz I’m trying to understand what Marx meant by universality, cuz I’m trying to understand what the hell is communism. What follows are some passages from Part 2 of the American Worker pamphlet (written by Phil Singer and Grace Lee Boggs).
(Page numbers correspond to the Bewick/Ed edition, 1972; emphasis mine unless otherwise noted)
“The American worker today makes in practice the distinction which Marx made nearly a hundred years ago in theory – the distinction between abstract labor for value and concrete labor for human needs. Marx denied that the essence of value production was the search for profits by the individual capitalists…Marx was concerned with the activity of the workers. By value production he meant production which expanded itself through degradation and dehumanization of the worker to a fragment of a man. The essence of capitalist production is that it is a dynamically developing relation by which the dead labor in the machine, created by the workers, oppresses and degrades to abstract labor the living worker which it employs. Abstract labor is alienated labor, labor in which the worker ‘develops no free physical and spiritual energy but mortifies his body and ruins his spirit.’ Concrete labor for needs, on the other hand, is not merely nor even essentially the labor which produces butter rather than guns. It is the labor in which man realizes his basic human need for exercising his natural and acquired powers.” 
I recently watched Six Degrees of Separation for the first time. How is it that I’ve slept on that movie for so damn long? What a great film. I’m not sure if this was the director’s intent but the film is a critical and humorous attack on the shallow decadence of the ruling class and how it relates to the working class. It portrays an attempt by a young black proletarian, played by Will Smith, to flee the alienation and mediocrity of day-to-day life by attempting to become part of the elite through imitating them. Needless to say, he is ultimately unsuccessful. By the end of the film he is unable to distinguish what is really his life and what is not, sinking into a new kind of alienation that merely replaces the one he previously lived. Meanwhile, a wealthy woman is seemingly liberated by his psychological self-mutilation. A twisted ending, the meaning of which I’m still mulling over.
Side note: how come every time I’ve ever heard someone mention this movie they always say, “Isn’t that the flick where Will Smith played a gay dude?” Uh, yeah, but that’s a minor element of the story. No one ever mentions I Am Legend and says, “Hey, that’s the movie where Will Smith played a hetero dude!”
* Eventually I’m gonna finish this post. It just ain’t gonna happen until I get a chance to return to Fanon in a more serious way. Which means the second part of this post, arguably the most important part is extremely underdeveloped. But I’m still posting it to clean house behind the scenes and get some writing drafts onto the blog.
Over the past few months I’ve had some good conversations with R, E and maza de adelita about street harassment. We were sharing war stories of what we’ve experienced and the conversations have really reminded me of how often and, frequently, how violent street harassment of female-bodied people can be. It also reminded me of the contours and relationship of gender, patriarchy and alienation which come out in harassment. Here’s some of the war stories I shared with them, and a couple others.
I had a Michael Scott moment at work today. Well, the reverse of it at least.
(if you can get around the pop-up ads watch the first 1 min 20 sec of this & you’ll know what I’m talking about…)
I work in a call center doing customer service. I got a call this morning from a dude who had a question about a statement he received from the company I work for. It was a very straightforward call – dude thought he owed a balance, I explained he didn’t, it was all good. The call couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. This might sound weird but I know I’m good at customer service (it’s damn near the only kind of job I’ve had for the last 6 years) and I gave all the pleasantries and bullshit to make the dude feel good about his call. He was satisfied, I asked him if he needed anything else and he said no so I thanked him for calling.
I watched Blue Valentine last night. It’s really a heart-breaking story and it speaks volumes to the alienation and pressures that plague all relationships under capitalism. The film follows this couple, Cindy and Dean, simultaneously showing both the very beginning of their relationship when they fall in love and the very end of their relationship as they are falling out of love. What I like about it is that it doesn’t get caught up in details of why they fall out of love or even how. The film focuses solely on these two moments and the simultaneous beauty and pain of both.