Category Archives: work

A Pay Rise is Not Enough – We Need a Plan C

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Provoked by Parliament’s steadfast commitment to a Plan A of Austerity, the rusty machinery of the Trades Union Congress has provided the customary opposition in the form of its Plan B: marching for the alternative, marching for jobs, growth and justice, and now marching for a pay rise. We think it’s important that we join our fellow workers on 18 October, but we do so critical of the TUC, its politics and its innocuous demand. In short, we need a Plan C.
The march on 18 October will be the biggest national mobilisation of the working class in two years. This is something the TUC is relatively good at – which is reasonable to expect given its immense budget. However, this is also an organisation which has joined forces with the Confederation of Business and Industry (CBI) in backing workfare programmes, and which increasingly appears interested in only engaging with – let alone fighting for – only a narrow subset of workers. Within the formal work economy, employment is increasingly casualised, while ‘informal’ work such as care – which is equally crucial to the generation of profit – remains as marginalised as ever within the TUC’s chauvinistic and rigid workerism.

The demand for a pay rise seems to be more closely tied to legitimising Labour’s new policy for an £8 minimum wage than creating a movement to challenge and transform the present reality of working class existence in Britain. Labour’s plan for a pay rise – 26p per hour on top of the existing minimum wage by 2020 – is an insult. It’s a grand plan to remunerate the increasingly impoverished and growing working poor with less than the price of a bag of crisps. The TUC’s support for such a policy is an embarrassment.

Throughout the week of the 13 October, we will be joining the national strikes and picket lines in the run up to the demonstration. One-day stop work actions obviously have their limitations, but any hope we have of strike action becoming more general and widespread means we must engage, participate and make connections. We have launched #strikeup to collect reflections, dreams and counter-narratives of what work and striking could look like in the future, and we encourage others to strike up similar conversations on their local picket lines. We will then join the march on 18 October, standing with our fellow workers while strongly critical of the TUC’s complicity.

A pay rise is not enough. We demand the ability to live without overwhelming insecurity. We demand to work with flexibility and on our own terms. We demand an end to the double burden of unremunerated care work. We demand an end to sexism and racism in the workplace. We demand a movement that does not limit itself to pay rises but one which dreams of a world beyond work. We demand a Plan C.

We Need To Talk About Work

Plan C London would like to invite you to:
We Need To Talk About Work: a series of public discussions about the crisis of the work society and strategies for moving beyond it.
7.30pm Tuesday, 30 Sept Common House
5 Pundersons Gardens, Bethnal Green
Plan C is calling for two things in October:

* Mass support, solidarity actions and participation in the national trade union strike on October 14th.
* A bloc at the TUC demo on October 18th in London.

We want to open up the ideas and plans for these interventions to everyone who shares our problem with work. We’ve already started these discussion at our festival (Fast Forward 2014) and want to continue them through a series of public discussions entitled: “We Need to Talk about Work” across different cities in the UK.

Through these discussions we’re hoping to collectively develop shared perspectives, and to translate our ideas into strategies for the struggle for freedom from waged slavery. These discussions will take place and the end of September, and we encourage everyone who can’t come to one of Plan C’s discussions to organise similar events in other places.

On 18th October the Trades Union Congress (TUC) will be organising its first national demonstration since 2012. Against the Plan A of austerity, the TUC and the left wing of the Labour Party are proposing a Plan B. With the slogan “Britain needs a payrise” the TUC have fallen in line behind Labour Party policies: clinging to the minimum wage, gesturing towards the living wage and mumbling about a higher minimum wage if employers can afford it. The TUC’s addition to this paltry collection of promises is a demand for a ‘crackdown’ on executive pay.

These policy proposals, and others like them, fall far short of both what we need and what we want. The problem isn’t just that we’re not paid enough for the work we do; it’s that most of the work we do isn’t paid at all. The problem isn’t just that our wages are too low; it’s that wages are still the only option open to us in order to survive. It’s not just that work doesn’t pay enough, it’s that we have to work for wages in the first place.

The demand for less work and more money is more realistic than the hope amongst the TUC and the Labour Party that all this current unpleasantness could be got rid of if we just got back to how it was before. You know, back when Britain made things goddamit, employers paid good family wages, and everyone had a job. The peddlers of this fantasy seem to be innocent of the fact that capitalism, and history, has moved on. They also seem innocent of the fact that we wouldn’t want their rosy dream of the 50s even if we could have it. It would mean going back to some version of the past (one that never really existed) where many of us would have to retreat back into the home so there could be ‘full employment’ for our husbands. It would mean rejigging the global economy in order to get back to some good old fashioned colonial exploitation which kept money flowing into British coffers.

We look forward to meeting you at one of the public meetings or on the streets on Oct 18. For more information

Ephemera issue out…

New issue of ephemera on ‘The politics of worker’s inquiry’ released…

The Politics of Worker’s Inquiry
ephemera: theory & politics in organization
Volume 14, Number 3 (August 2014)
Edited by Joanna Figiel, Stevphen Shukaitis, and Abe Walker

This issue brings together a series of commentaries, interventions and projects centred on the theme of workers’ inquiry. Workers’ inquiry is a practice of knowledge production that seeks to understand the changing composition of labour and its potential for revolutionary social transformation. It is a practice of turning the tools of the social sciences into weapons of class struggle. It also seeks to map the continuing imposition of the class relation, not as a disinterested investigation, but rather to deepen and intensify social and political antagonisms.

Workers’ inquiry developed in a context marked by rapid industrialization, mass migration and the use of industrial sociology to discipline the working class. It was formulated within autonomist movements as a sort of parallel sociology based on a radical re-reading of Marx and Weber against the politics of the communist party and the unions. The process of inquiry took the contradictions of the labour process as a starting point and sought to draw out such political antagonisms into the formation of new radical subjectivities. With this issue we seek to rethink workers’ inquiry as a practice and perspective, in order to understand and catalyse emergent moments of political composition.

Including essays from Fabrizio Fasulo, Frederick H. Pitts, Christopher Wellbrook, Anna Curcio
Colectivo Situaciones, Evangelinidis Angelos, Lazaris Dimitris, Jennifer M. Murray, Michał Kozłowski, Bianca Elzenbaumer, Caterina Giuliani, Alan W. Moore, T.L. Cowan, Jasmine Rault, Jamie Woodcock, and Gigi Roggero; an interview with Jon McKenzie; and book reviews by Craig Willse, Stephen Parliament, Christian De Cock, Mathias Skrutkowski, and Orla McGarry.


my, and several others, link back to refs from an older post on workplace inquiry here.

BBC Magazine trinketizing


A bit of pointless commentary that would have had more impact had it come out at the time:

What would you take from your desk?

Leaving with just a box

By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

If you were told to clear your desk of personal belongings and leave the building, like staff at the UK headquarters of Lehman Brothers, what would you take?
Photos of the kids, spare ties, trainers, mugs – a cuddly toy? What was in the cardboard boxes being clutched by stunned staff as they left the London offices of the bankrupt US investment bank Lehman Brothers?.


Email:, subject DESK

MMS from UK: 61124

Int MMS: +44 7725 100100
Terms and conditions

The bank’s 5,000-strong workforce turned up on Monday only to be told they were to clear their desks of personal items and go home. Images of the newly out-of-work carrying their possessions were beamed around the world
But if you got the same instructions from an employer, what would go into your box?
“I’d take a piece of card with my name written in Arabic on it, a 30-year-old photo of my school football team, a Barcelona football club mug, a copy of my friend’s novel, a two-year-old thank you card from a student, some spare contact lenses, an iPod charger and two pairs of shoes,” says teacher Chris Baxter.
“Mainly they’re little things, but most of them are very personal. A lot of the time I don’t really focus on them, but other times they trigger good memories. I wouldn’t want to leave them behind.”
For some it’s a case of accumulation by stealth, rather than a conscious decision to personalise a drab little corner of corporate space.

Cats pics go in Mag reader Siria’s box
“Generally, I have a problem with what I call the ‘trinketisation’ of one’s workstation, so I don’t have things like pictures or figurines to take away with me,” says fellow teacher Sian Allen.
“But I would take my draw full of shoes for various social occasions after work, including one pair of Manolos.
“Also a broken iPod, six Tupperware pots in various sizes, a M&S bra with broken under wiring, a selection of unread classics, half-used packets of Ibuprofen and a small selection of thank you cards with obsequious messages from students, to remind me that I am loved and appreciated.”
When people personalise their desk they are marking their territory, says workplace behavioural expert Judi James.
“It’s something humans are hardwired to do. We’re basically animals and need to mark out what is our space. We’re also nesting and making ourselves comfortable.”
But it’s also about opening ourselves up to others and that can be very good for business.
“Personalising your work space is also about giving other people the opportunity to ask questions, it’s about socialising,” says workplace psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon.

A few little friend would go with reader Thomas Cogley
“If someone sees a photo on your desk, or picture, it is easier for them to strike up a conversation and for communication to flow. Generally, if someone shows an interest in you, then you are more likely to help them when they ask.”
But the evolution of the modern office environment, with its hot desking, can make stamping some personality on your workspace a bit harder. Modern technology has also had an impact.
“There probably wasn’t many family pictures in those boxes being carried out from Lehman Brothers because the screensaver has replaced them,” says Ms James.
“Nowadays, personal possessions at work quite often come down to a pair of trainers and tracksuit for the gym.”
Here is a selection of items that you would take from your desks.
I think I’d be content with my Alfa Romeo mouse mat and the rather dog-eared pictures of Joyce Grenfell and Margaret Rutherford that are currently adorning the casing of my monitor.
Jonathan, London
If only Faust had heard of hot desking.
John, Tower Hamlets, London, England
In front of me I have a model house, a toy TARDIS, two sea shells, a model of a 17th Century English pikeman and a picture of Kate Blanchett. Me, a geek? How very dare you sir …
Mike Molcher, Leeds
On my desk I have: A jar of honey (for my morning porridge); the Statue of Liberty (obviously a copy – a souvenir of a trip to NY); hand cream; tea bags; a stapler (a battery-operated one I brought with me); my mug, bowl, plate, spoon, knife and fork; a container full of porridge oats; a packet of dried apricots; a packet of chopped nuts; several notebooks full of information; vitamin C tablets; and a packet of instant pasta – red wine and mushroom flavour! Also a few other bits and pieces scattered on the shelved behind me, including a coat, pair of shoes, items to do with my motorcycle club (newsletters etc.) and my hole punch.
Anne Boyce, Halifax, England
I have a longboard, rock from mountain, pic of my two-year-old old daughter, pic of Johnny Cash, rear view glasses.
Ste Mc, Leeds, UK
I have a picture of my dog to remind me of her, pencil with funny tops on them from places I’ve been around the world, a little cartoon character figurine (Chucky from The Rugrats) a stone that’s supposed to be good luck.. bright coloured tabs on each side of my monitor with phone extensions just to brighten my desk area up. My drawers are filled with food for breakfast and lunch!
Emma Hamilton, Lisburn, NI
What would I take? Everything that wasn’t nailed down!
Paul, Stoke, UK
10 weeks ago on my redundancy I took: 1. All my personal bits & pieces. 2. As much of the stationary cupboard as I could pour into my large cardboard box. 3. Several DVD’s of data & client info. 4. As many of the data wall-charts (£1200 each) as I could fold up and put in my cardboard box. 5. My company laptop that I just happened to have left at home the previous week. 5. Anything else that wasn’t bolted down in my office. 6. Oh, and a smug smile on my face.

Letters of Blood and Fire – Caffentzis in the UK

From PM Press

In Letters of Blood and Fire: Book Launch with George Caffentzis
Tuesday 19 November
Hydra Books – 34 Old Market
Bristol BS2 0EZ
Organised in collaboration with PM Press and Bristol Radical History Group

Debt | Crisis | Capitalism: a public Lecture
A public lecture on debt, crisis and capitalism with George Caffentzis, David Graeber and Nick Dearden.

Thursday 21 November
ULU – Malet St
London WC1E 7HY
Organised in collaboration with: PM Press and Jubilee Debt Campaign


In Conversation: George Caffentzis and John Barker
To celebrate the recent release of In Letters of Blood and Fire, George Caffentzis and John Barker will be in conversation to discuss work, machines and crisis.

Friday 22 November
doors open 6.30pm for 7pm start
Common House
Unit 5E Pundersons Gardens E2 9QG
Organised in collaboration with: PM Press, Mute Magazine and The Common House
All events are free, however seats are limited so we suggest you arrive early to guarantee entry. Full event details can be found on the PM Press website

A distraction from extraction. #murdoch #slept-in

If you had time to read the newspapers critically… – I would think you would start with cartoons, then segway to games of chance, the races, football transfer windows, the property market, subprime crisis, austerity and bankers bonuses to show that the entertainment logic of the sports pages/back of the paper runs to the same surface logic as the so-called news at the front of the paper – all in effect a distraction from ongoing geopolitical and micro-political value extraction no matter that it’s culture like opera or weapons sales and death. It makes no difference what the investment is in, so long as a profit is made for the owner (Marx chapter 16 of capital – sausage factory quote).

Metropolitan Factory

From the good folk at Minor Compositions, a project for hipsters, creatives and others with too much to lose (please share widely):

Surviving as a cultural or artistic worker in the city has never been easy. Creative workers find themselves celebrated as engines of economic growth, economic recovery and urban revitalization even as the conditions for our continued survival becomes more precarious. How can you make a living today in such a situation? That is, how to hold together the demands of paying the rent and bills while managing all the tasks necessary to support one’s practice? How to manage the tensions between creating spaces for creativity and imagination while working through the constraints posed by economic conditions?

In a more traditional workplace it is generally easy to distinguish between those who planned and managed the labor process and those who were involved in its executions: between the managers and the managed. For creative workers these distinctions become increasingly hard to make. Today the passionate and self-motivated labor of the artisan increasingly becomes the model for a self-disciplining, self-managed labor force that works harder, longer, and often for less pay precisely because of its attachment to some degree of personal fulfillment in forms of engaging work. And that ain’t no way to make a living, having to struggle three times as hard for just to have a sense of engagement in meaningful work.

This project sets out to investigate how cultural workers in the metropolis manage these competing tensions and demands. The goal is to bring together the dispersed knowledges and experiences of creative workers finding ways to make a living in the modern metropolis. And by doing that to create a space to learn from this common experiences that often are not experienced as such while we work away in different parts of the city.

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Same shit…

glad to see this is still around… (thanks Samantha Lutz)

Workers Inquiry refs and what not.

Talk for Future Tense: I want to focus primarily on the development of workplace or workers inquiry. First of all reference is to Engels The Condition of the Working Class in Manchester, then the huge chapter ‘The Working Day’ in Marx’s Capital, volume one, right through to very late in Marx’s life when he penned 100 questions for a ‘Workers Inquiry’ wanting to generalize the Factory Inspections of England to France, and beyond? Then trace this perhaps to  the Bolsheviks, and Lenin of 1902, the so-called Factory Exposures, to Mao in Hunan, and many other examples. Even that called a parallel sociology, owing debts to Adorno as well as Kracauer’s 1920s work on the Salaried Masses, through to the Italian post-war Marxist Operaist tradition starting with Panzieri in the journal Quaderni Rossi (Wright 2002:21) and the Workerism of Italian autonomia, on up to Negri and Hardt (though of course with reservations (Hutnyk 2004)). I am also tempted to explore, alongside this, from outside the labour movement, how the collection of oral histories and questionnaires of the ‘poverty-stricken’ came to be known as co-research, and how the term Inquiry has much wider appeal among contemporary activists. Journals like Ephemera, The Commune, Common Sense, Capital and Class, Aufheben, Riff Raff, all have interesting things to say about Workers Inquiries. There is a ton of stuff to read.

It is of course standard to say, as I think we must, that everyone can trace this work back to the figure of the Factory Inspector Leonard Horner as described by Marx in his chapter on ‘The Working Day’ in Capital.

Towards the very end of his life, Marx declared as much in a short notice in La Revue Socialiste April, 20, 1980, that called for a official Inquiry:

The blackguardly features of capitalist exploitation which were exposed by the official investigation organized by the English government and the legislation which was necessitated there as a result of these revelations (legal limitation of the working day to 10 hours, the law concerning female and child labor, etc.), have forced the French bourgeoisie to tremble even more before the dangers which an impartial and systematic investigation might represent. In the hope that maybe we shall induce a republican government to follow the example of the monarchical government of England by likewise organizing a far reaching investigation into facts and crimes of capitalist exploitation, we shall attempt to initiate an inquiry of this kind with those poor resources which are at our disposal. We hope to meet in this work with the support of all workers in town and country who understand that they alone can describe with full knowledge the misfortunes form which they suffer and that only they, and not saviors sent by providence, can energetically apply the healing remedies for the social ills which they are prey. We also rely upon socialists of all schools who, being wishful for social reform, must wish for an exact and positive knowledge of the conditions in which the working class — the class to whom the future belongs -works and moves.


Recommend reading:

Wright, 2000 Storming Heaven, London: Pluto.

Kolinko 1999 Hotlines: Call Centre Communism

Dowling, Emma, R. Nunes & B. Trott (eds) special issue on Affective Labour in Ephemera

Shukaitus, Stevphen and David Graeber 2007 Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations, Collective Theorization AK Press.

Palgin, Trevor and Thompson, A.C 2006 Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights, Hoboken: Melville House Publishing.

Otterman, Michael 2007 American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond, London: Pluto Press.

Kracauer, Siegfried 1930 The Salaried Masses London: Verso 1998

Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio 1994 The Labour of Dionysius University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Negri, Antonio 1991 Marx Beyond Marx: Lessons in the Grundrisse Autonomedia, New York

Negri, Antonio 1999 Insurgencies: Constituent Power and the Modern State Massechusetts: University of Minnesota Press

Negri, Antonio 1988 Revolution Retrieved London: Red Notes

Negri, Antonio 2005 Books for Burning: Between Civil War and Democracy in 1970s Italy London: Verso

Additional stuff


Some crucial things from the Aut-op-sy list, which I was on for the first few years, but could not keep up:

Aufheben A range of articles from the British journal

Franco Barchiesi, Flexibility in Manufacturing — Organization and Subjectivity

George Caffentzis, A Reply to Aufheben magazine’s review of Midnight Oil


Massimo De Angelis, The Autonomy of the Economy and Globalization

Echanges et Mouvement, Presentation Pamphlet

Dan Krasivyj, For the Recomposition of Social Labour

Steve Wright, The Limits of Negri’s Class Analysis


A bunch of stuff from Generation Online – which again I was on from (near) the start but simply could not cope with the avalanch os stuff. Very huge, adn somewhat unweildy, site – but lots of good things:


and from Nate: (links not live – cut and paste into your browser)

Basic list of primary materialsRed Notes, Brief Chronology and Glossary (Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis, iii-x)

François Matheron, “Operaismo”

Zerowork, definition of Class Composition

The Capitalist Use of Machinery: Marx Versus the Objectivists. 1961 (

Surplus value and planning’; The Labour Process & Class Strategies. 1964. (

Tronti, material republished in Workers and Capital [starting page in brackets]
Social Capital. 1963.
[p64 Spanish / p60 Italian]

Lenin In England. 1964.
[p93 Spanish / p89 Italian]

Class and Party. 1964.
[p93 Spanish / ???? Italian]

The Strategy of the Refusal. 1966?
[p244 Spanish / p234 Italian]

Struggle Against Labor. 1966?
[p262 Spanish / p259 Italian]

Workers and Captial. 1966?
[p275 Spanish / p267 Italian]

Romano Alquati. The Network of Struggles in Italy.

Guido Baldi. Theses on the Mass Workers and Social Capital. 1972.

Sergio Bologna. Money and Crisis: Marx as Correspondent of the New York Daily Tribune, 1856-57.

Optional additional primary materials

Panzieri, Socialist uses of workers’ inquiry


Labor in the Constitution. 1964 (Labor of Dionysus 53-136)

Keynes and the Capitalist Theory of the State. 1967 (Labor of Dionysus 23-50)

Marx on Cycle and Crisis. 1968 (Revolution Retrieved 43-90)

Crisis of the Planner State: Communism and Revolutionary Organization. 1971 (Revolution Retrieved 91-148, Books for Burning 1-50)

Workers Party Against Work. 1973 (Books for Burning 51-117)

Communist State Theory. 1974 (Labor of Dionysus 138-176)

Proletarians and the State. 1975 (Books for Burning 118-179)

The State and Public Spending. 1975 (Labor of Dionysus 179-213)

Towards a Critique of the Material Constitution. 1977. (Books for Burning, 180-230.)

Domination and Sabotage. 1977. (Books for Burning 231-290. The first half, pages 231-258, are online at

Crisis of the Crisis State. 1980 (

Archaeology and Project: The Mass Worker and the Social Worker. 1982 (

Files uploaded to the google group

- Brief Chronology and Glossary (iii-x)
– Potere Operaio, Italy 1973: Workers Struggles and the Capitalist Crisis and Red Notes, A Note on Potere Operaio (23-32)
– Negri, One Step Forward Two Steps Back (55-59)
– Negri, The Workers’ Party of Mirafiori (61-65)

From Red Notes, Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis, paper copy only:
Interview with Tronti (21-22)
– Negri, Reformism and Restructuration (33-37)
– A Note on the “Social” Worker (37-38)
– Negri, Theses on the Crisis (39-54)

Secondary Sources:

Steve Wright, Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism
Excerpts online here:

Interview with Steve Wright

Sergio Bologna’s review of Storming Heaven

Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically

(Especially the introduction, the section titled The Italian New Left –

Harry Cleaver’s reading guide to autonomist marxism, section Four: The Theory of the Mass Worker and the Social Factory

Steve Wright, “The Limits of Negri’s Class Analysis: Italian Autonomist Theory in the Seventies”

Steve Wright, “A Party of Autonomy?”

Steve Wright, Operaismo, Autonomia, Settantasette in Translation: Then, Now, the Future.


Historical context

Red Notes, “Italy 1977-8 – ‘Living with an Earthquake’”

Robert Lumley, States of Emergency: Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978

Nanni Balestini, The Unseen

Review of Red Notes, Working Class Autonomy and the Crisis

Lotta Continua: Take Over the City. 1973.

Wicked Messengers: Politics in the First Person: the autonomous workers movement in Italy. 1974,

Bruno Ramirez: Self-Reduction of Prices. 1975.

Sergio Bologna. The Tribe of Moles. 1977.

Patrick Cuninghame. For an Analysis of Autonomia -An Interview with Sergio Bologna

No Past? No! – Interview with Sergio Bologna

Marco Revelli: Defeat at Fiat. 1980.


Analysis outside of Italy

Kolinko, Class Composition

Paolo Carpignano: U.S. Class Composition in the Sixties

Christian Marazzi: Money in the World Crisis

Mario Montano: Notes On The International Crisis

Class Composition and Developing a New Working Class Strategy.

Excerpt from Toward the New Commons: Working Class Strategies and the Zapatistas by Monty Neill, with George Caffentzis and Johnny Machete


Sergio Bologna. NAZISM AND THE WORKING CLASS – 1933-93

Guido De Masi and Giacomo Marramao : COUNCILS AND STATE IN WEIMAR GERMANY


Ed Emery. No Politics Without Inquiry!


More recent

Steve Wright, Confronting the crisis of ‘fordism’: Italian debates around social transition

Steve Wright, “There and back again: mapping the pathways within autonomist Marxism”

Steve Wright, “Cattivi Maestri: Some Reflections on the Legacy of Guido Bianchini, Luciano Ferrari Bravo and Primo Moroni”

Wildcat, The Renascence of Operaismo

Dan Krasivyj. For the Recomposition of Social Labour

Feruccio Gambino: A Critique of the Fordism of the Regulation School

Riccardo Bellofiore: Lavori in corso

Nick Dyer-Witheford
Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism (1999)

George Caffentzis: Immeasurable Value?: An Essay on Marx’s Legacy


Also here, here and here


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