What does class autonomy mean? Autonomy means, in essence ‘without them.’
Just as the company owners and management (capitalists and their representatives, respectively) meet without us, the workers, to make key decisions in the interest of growing bottom-line profits without our presence or input, (read: making decisions about the workflow, processes, expectations imposed upon us), we must heed this strategy to and also meet and organize our interest autonomously, without them. Companies with their owners and management do not just meet without us present, they always prepare themselves beforehand to best assess, measure and methodically educate themselves to analyze the present situation to judge what is a course of action, or strategic decision that is most in their interest as a class.
Facing Our Adversary: Why We Freeze
We all know what it is: when we are together with our fellow workers and laborers, even the ones we don’t particularly like, we feel more assured and free to speak the truth, because there aren’t tiers of power-over our livelihood present. This changes as soon as management calls a meeting with us; we tense up, we shut down, we know the power over us is present and anything said or not said could potentially lead to a cascade of crisis for our families if the paycheck doesn’t come next week and we can’t pay the bills.
Principles are Instructive
The core principle of Class Autonomy in Working Class Struggle calls us to recognize that uneasiness we feel in the presence of management is instinctually correct and instructive. We must heed its call. Our condition is shared with our fellow workers and laborers and to firstly identify our interest and criteria we need to meet together and organize independently from these antagonistic interests.
On occasion we may have a supervisor or member of management who seems kind and genuine with us, and while it may feel temporarily comforting to receive a little empathy from him we cannot let our guard down and lose sight that management, regardless of the individual’s personality, is there for one reason alone: to protect the interest of capital no matter it’s expense to your life.
It is only as a class of workers and laborers gathering in organized fashion without these outside antagonistic interests present that we can begin to identify together our common situation and carve a collective unified response and strengthen our footing as a whole. Together we must draw these boundaries around us so we may carve the path to command respect and power amongst each other in our workplaces, our communities and when we are isolated facing management so we are not pressured to sell-out our fellows and self.
For far too long, we as workers and laborers have repeatedly been guided by outside interests and represented at the table by non-workers. This has included politicians, figureheads who lobby for negotiating with management on their terms, company seminars and workshops, company installed hotlines, and increasingly so today non-profit organizations with philanthropic missions. These others have been stepping in to “help” us to do our heavy lifting for us preventing us from building our capacity and strengths of leadership. Without class autonomy a conflict of interest exists: the fox has been guarding the henhouse. We must reclaim our autonomy, embrace education and organization based on collectivity and unity and kick the fox out.
Who decides on how we live?
Work, taxes, pay cuts and all we give,
Bosses treating us like kids
When we come together we can fight all this!