A collection of essays by the late British historian Tim Mason, Nazism, Fascism, and the Working Class, includes one entitled, "The Containment of the Working Class" (i.e., by the Nazis under the Third Reich). In it Mason writes:
"One of the great historic tasks of all labour movements has been to construct or reveal the connections between ostensibly distinct events or realms of working-class experience, to demonstrate these connections in day- to-day political practice, and to propagate them through newspapers, meetings, etc. In most capitalist states this has been an uphill task, even when it has been a legal activity. In the Third Reich the organizations of the working class could perform this task scarcely at all. Most workers faced management and the regime alone or in small groups, armed...only with the memory of the necessity of making these connections in their political judgements..."
We don't face anything like the repression that working people did in Nazi Germany, of course, but still there is a good bit of fear in our society, especially on the job. People in many types of work are afraid that one cross word might get them in trouble, even fired. Teachers and nurses are threatened as never before if they object to any of the current educational atrocities being imposed on their students or to the treatment of their patients.
But even with our relative freedom, there are powerful forces that make it difficult to make connections among issues. For example, there are social taboos against placing developments in their context in the capitalist social order; youíre hardly allowed even to speak the word "capitalism," unless itís to say, "God bless our capitalist system." In addition, our society is very atomized; with fewer strong social connections among people, the political connections among the issues that affect us are not as easy to perceive. Our jobs and training are often very specialized, encouraging a tunnel vision of reality. Social connections like those among workers in a factory are intentionally undermined by the company/union management team, and replaced by management-dominated "team-building" structures; when workers in a plant try to stand up to the company, they usually find themselves doing it alone or in small groups. In much the same way, relationships among teachers across a school district are broken by such management devices as School Based Management. We are constantly pressed for timeótime to think about bigger issues and the connections among them, time to interact with friends and draw a larger picture. When we drop exhausted in front of the TV at night, we are presented with atomized views of reality, in which nothing connects with anything.
The pressure to view things narrowly and out of context is a form of social control. Without seeing connections, we canít make sense of the world; and if we canít make sense of the world, we canít change it. "Making connections" among the many different issues and areas of our experience is a vital task of the revolutionary movement.
Originally published in New Democracy Newsletter, Jan-Feb 2001.