American labor is deindustrialized, deunionized, fragmented, and pauperized. Its debased condition is a prisoner of its form: that of a commodity, forever cheapening, like all others. Bereft of political leadership, labor instinctively grasps at populist rhetoric, rejecting the neoliberalism and “new world order” of America’s oligarchs. Indignant, the ruling class shames it as “deplorable”, “far-right”, and “Putin’s puppets”. In a culture devoid of class identity, America proffers individual identity as the new religion, as the new “sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world”. Labor, the unifying property of humanity, is submerged beneath the media’s vilification by all against all, a society anatomized by gender, race, and identity.

Peter Fay, former officer of Steelworkers Local 2285, and lifelong Communist and public historian, highlights the commonalities and unities of labor, rather than its disassociation, across its many historical forms in American history.

Mr. Fay explores capital’s driving imperative for the extraction of surplus value while abetting the bifurcation of labor by race. He shares exemplars gleaned from decades of labor research — Eastern Algonquian tribal wampum (‘money-beads’), bills of sale of the New England slave trade, and ledger books of the first industrial sites in America. With each form of labor, capital forms and reforms the labor commodity into the one most advantageous for its reproduction and expansion.

Mr. Fay compares this to his own experience in the struggles of Black and white steelworkers in the metal forging industry against industrial capital. In Capital, Karl Marx offers the potentiality and necessity of eliminating labor as a commodity, thus unleashing what he called, “not only a means of life but life’s prime want”.




Peter Fay is a Marxist public historian, and co-founder of the Newport Middle Passage Project.
As a 23-year-old machinist and open Communist, he ran for the executive board of a 1,100-member Steelworkers local in Worcester, Massachusetts winning 2-to-1 despite company red-baiting. He uncovered company ownership of a titanium mine in apartheid South Africa and called for divestment. He also served as an organizer for UE and District 1199.  He advocated for bilingual education in public schools and an NAACP school desegregation suit.
After a job injury, he became a software engineer and public historian, researching New England slavery and early labor movements. Today Mr. Fay publishes histories of labor and Black history, leads classes on Marxism, and sits on the boards of several historical societies.