War, the Oppressive Society,
and the Working Class

The threat of nuclear arms and destructive war is not an isolated phenomenon. It is an inevitable outcome of the functioning of and collapse of an oppressive society. Oppressive politics always lead to war—always, inevitably. The economic functioning that is at the heart of this present owning-class/working-class system inevitably leads to violent conflict—within any nation and between nations. Until this society is replaced, the tendency toward war is inevitable. (I won’t say war is inevitable, because no particular war is inevitable. We have an achievement: we forced an end to the Vietnam War.)

This society is collapsing. Twenty-seven mechanisms are operating to bring it down. There will be economic chaos, which will be subverted toward war if at all possible in the oppressive society’s classical way: crises are solved by war.

So the forces that can deal with the replacement of society are also the forces that must be enlisted in the prevention of nuclear holocaust. This, in particular, means the working class. The working class is changing, but no wealth is produced without labor. If you’re wearing a white smock and working with silicon chips, you’re just as much labor as the guy who used to haul steel bars in the rolling mill. Even robots have people to attend them. People make them work.

If labor becomes organized and aware, it is able to require any action it wants, including the peaceful, gentle ending of this oppressive society. We need working people in the movement in huge numbers, whether they are employed or not.

Defined in one way, the working class is eighty-five percent of the population. And often their jobs require them to be in touch with reality and to learn most of the lessons of cooperation—in order to stay alive. The job of owning-class and middle-class people is to assist working-class people to take leadership—of RC, of the peace movement, of everything else.

The working class was largely paralyzed and disunited by the red-baiting1 that took place after World War II. It isn’t easy for middle-class intellectuals to find the blue-collar working class, but it’s there. If you go through the downtown of a city, and the shopping areas, it might look like everybody’s buying elegant clothes. But if you put on a free Thanksgiving Day2 parade, like they used to—you know, with balloons—out to the street corners with their children come hundreds of thousands of people you never see. They’ve been there all the time, keeping the whole “show” going. Given a sensible program and a little encouragement, they are ready to fight. The working class is there.

Harvey Jackins
From the July 1986 Peace and
Disarmament Activists’ Workshop

1 “Red-baiting” means persecution of communists.
2 Thanksgiving is an annual U.S. holiday in late November.

Last modified: 2015-07-29 20:57:07+00