By Val Reynoso
James R. Farr and Robert Darnton both discussed worker marginalization from political and civic life in particular reference to the working lives of the journeymen and the alloues.
A theme both shared in their conditions as proletarian people is how their lower hierarchical status, despite journeymen being rendered slightly above alloues in the socioeconomic hierarchy, results in them being alienated from their labor such as what Marx discusses in his writings.
In Farr’s text, he details that journeymen were trained to a particular task and had to stick to it for the entire work shift in exchange for higher wages from Wedgwood. In Darnton’s text, he details that alloues were underqualified printers who had not completed the apprenticeship necessary in order to become a journeyman. Alloues were considered a source of cheap labor that was excluded from the higher trade ranks and were thus fixed in their inferior status. The labor of alloues became a commodity rather than a partnership like how journeymen were portrayed.
Capitalism perpetuates individualism which atomizes labor, which is why Marx stated that workers are alienated from their labor by being confined to one task and dehumanized, with the sole purpose of maximizing profit for the bourgeoisie at the expense of the well-being of the working class. Such rhetoric is also used to justify chattel slavery, in that oppressed nationalities are inhuman and are only good for completing the single task of servitude and any other task forced upon them by the slave masters.
The socioeconomic hierarchies imposed by capitalism and the atomization of labor are part of the composition of the global condition of the proletariat, which are addressed in all labor movements, particularly when taking into account marginalized identities that inform one’s social relation to the means of production.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.