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2 Responses to Comment Policy

  1. k. says:

    hello tyler,
    i listened to your interview this morning addressing the NHL hockey lockout and its relationship to class politics and labour alienation. i found it both refreshing and unsettling. i thought finally, someone is bringing to light the nature of capitalism and its insidious affect on one’s realtionship with their own labour power, the destructive impact it has on a workers spirit and most especially how capitalists derive their profit on the backs of others ( I too, read Marx along the way). your plain clear language perspective is what we need more of in social media. i appreciated that the politics of class warfare are being applied to everday life. it was accessible and most definitely a perspective that should instruct the minds of more people. I understand that the intent of your talk was to draw parrallels between the player’s struggles and the struggles of the more common worker. I understand that your stepped back approach was founded on the premise that the NHL players are alienated workers under the thumb of their owers just like the rest of us that labor for our wages. I am one of those people.
    What i found unsettling about your talk was that you asked your listeners to disregard the fact that along with thier owners, NHL players are making millions every year. Thier owners are most likely making more, have more control over thier lives and as you said their owners are not putting thier bodies on the line. but, really, do hockey players that make this kind of money, have access to mortgage free lives, expensive cars, first class health care, social legitimacy, celebrity status, healthy bodies, and last but not least financial security really have that much in common with the common working person? this apect of this situation can not be disregarded.
    They benefit from thier market value long after they leave the NHL. They have access to what alot of money can buy, and from what i understand most players willingly leave their humble beginnings in the past. Now, i am not disregarding their alienation from thier owners, but i am questioning thier alienation from the common worker. How do we as a society reconcile that the nature of capital values the body and labour of a hockey player over that of a person who cleans the bathroom of the arena where the hockey players piss? This has long been my issue with sports. I understand that we as common workers fetishize this industry with our time, attention, and hard earned money. But i have yet to see any sports icon not happily relocate when more money is put on the table. is this not just a part of what they sign up for in exchange for the millions they make? I think that structurally there are objective parallels that can be drawn here regarding owner/worker relations, but to really draw similarities between million dollar icons and common laborers is dangerous and irresponsible. Marx might be turning over in his grave as we speak. sports is just not the place to instrumentally apply what Marx was theorizing. It cannot be ignored that this is a case where wealthy people are fighting other wealthy people. a ruling class tete a tete, so to speak.
    As marx intimated so long ago, wealth will transform socal relations just as social relations are transformed by alienated labour, but really, where do million dollar players really figure into the struggle faced by the low-paid laboring individual other than to act as examples of what a common worker is unable to afford to do for himself?

  2. Left Hook says:

    Hello K, and thank you for this thoughtful and lucid response. I’m glad you heard the radio discussion ( http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/progressive-voices/2013/01/capitalism-and-nhl-lockout?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rabble-news+%28rabble.ca+-+News+for+the+rest+of+us%29 ) and your criticisms are absolutely on point. I think that in my endeavour to draw out the ongoing owner/worker relationship that exists in pro sports (which is important insofar as it highlights that even at that level, workers’ alienation and exploitation persists) I failed to adequately acknowledge the fact that NHL hockey players quickly become part of the super-rich and relinquish any kind of working class politics. What is more, most of them started out as children of the ruling classes anyway; hockey being one of the most expensive sports to play, most NHLers’ parents had to be independently wealthy enough to pay for equipment, camps, selects, tryouts, connections to the right scouts and so on. The “rank-and-file” of the NHLPA are, for the most part, a bunch of rich white kids, who grow up to become rich white men, often petty-bourgeoisie themselves.

    So, you’re absolutely right to raise this, and I didn’t mean to imply that we should sympathize with NHL players, or imagine them to be our allies in a broader project of class struggle. What I was trying to say (perhaps not very clearly) is that there is much to be learned from the behaviour of NHL owners; these are mega-capitalists who have until relatively recently been able to exploit players with ease, such that as recently as the 1970s, NHL players did, in fact, exist in conditions not so different from the rest of the working class. Watching these owners attempt to wrangle back total control of the NHL workplace in a context where they’ve lost some of that control can be seen as a ruling class tete-a-tete, but it can also be understood as part of a hyper-neoliberal pushback, in which even the most privileged of workers will not be spared. If, as I said in the interview, even celebrity workers like Sidney Crosby can be defeated, where does that leave the rest of us?

    And for what it is worth, I don’t think this is an instrumental application of Marxist theory – like all workers, hockey players do not have access to their own means of production (in this case, the production of spectacle) and can only make money as hockey players by selling their ability to play to some capitalist for a wage. Because of the unique nature of the industry – and due to a long and painful struggle by working class hockey players to form a union – they are now positioned to make a very high wage. It is, nevertheless, a wage that amounts to nowhere near the full capitalist value that they create and, in that sense, they are exploited. I think that there is a lot of utility in highlighting this.

    Thanks again for your very useful intervention! I’ll leave these comments here for a couple of days and then I’m planning to move them to a spot where they will make a bit more sense (to the comments section of the article we posted some months back when the lockout first began.)

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