"We Write for the Workers"

I want to take up now John Logie's article, "'We Write for the Workers': Authorship and Communism in Kenneth Burke and Robert Wright." This essay, like the other two in this spring 2005 issue of the KBJournal, is a worthy treatment of an important theme in Burke studies, deserving of attention and comment. I'll get to some of its salient features as a critique in later posts. I want, first of all, to play devil's advocate for those who censured Burke for his Marxoid "sins" at the 1935 American Writers Congress in New York City. Burke's (in)famous speech at that conference plays an important role in Logie's treatise, as well as in the lore and mythology of Burke's life and ideological development.

Burke's speech to that gathering of largely recognized and established authors and left-leaning intellectuals was entitled "Revolutionary Symbolism in America." In it, Burke proposed, as you'll recall, that the key term in Marxist propaganda in the U.S. be changed from "the workers" to "the people." Following Burke's address, Allen Porter "argue[d] that Burke's proposed substitution of 'people' for 'worker' has 'historically . . . been the ruse of the exploiting class to confuse the issue.'" More pointedly, Friedrich Wolf complained that "'substitution of the symbol "people" confuses the interests of this fundamental and all-important class and renders a picture of society that is not merely un-Marxian but one which history has provern to be necessary for the continuation of power of the exploiting class.'"

Porter and Wolf had, it seems to me, something of a point. The implied dialectic of the symbol "the workers," in opposition, of course, to capitalistic owners and management, gets blurred and fuzzed up with substitution of the term "the people," an "inclusive" terminology as Logie makes clear---this at a time when the working class was still battling for the right to organize, let alone reap the monetary benefits that later became standard in the labor contracts of the '50's and beyond.

Plumping for the term "the people" reminds me of Rush Limbaugh's recurrent charge in our day that "Liberals and Democrats want to divide us," talking all the time about Blacks against Whites, poor against rich. "We're all Americans," Limbaugh assures us. Yes, and when we think of ourselves as all in one homogenized category of that kind, the corporate interests and the wealthy in general can make off with everything in the store. The ruling class does so via the Republicans' tax cuts and tax breaks for the wealthy, and the postponed payment for the war in Iraq, the bill for which won't come due for them or us, but rather for a later generation, realities this administration hides behind its obfuscating rhetoric.

The same kind of generalized obfuscation infuses Bush's recurrent, all-embracing, globally-explanatory declaration, "WE are at war." As James Fallows pointed out on C-Span a week ago, "WE" are not all at war. Our troops are at war. Their families and loved ones are at war. But the rest of us aren't being called on to sacrifice ANYTHING, especially the well-to-do, who are profiting in spades from the policies of the Bushies.

Burke took note of this same kind of rhetorical sleight-of-hand in his reproof of the wealthy profiteer who says, "We're at war, you know," lumping himself or herself in with the soldiers dying at the front. "Implied identification": The "we" will do it every time, sometimes to a good end, other times not.

Burke, of course, seems to be working toward what in his 1935 speech? "The purification of war," n'est pas? It's a noble goal, but a distinction has to be made between justified self-assertion where injustic reigns, and a program of non-confrontation implicit in a one-term-fits-all rhetorical approach that "euphemistically" (see ATH) glosses over unacceptable realities.

What say you, devotees of a once-Marxist literary critic, philosopher, rhetorician, and placard-carrier?


Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

"We Write for the Workers"

My thanks to professor Blakesley for bringing professor Logie’s article to my attention, with its complex historical framing of the imbricated scenes (aesthetic and political) we share with Burke. Even now, the symbolic actor must cow to the resentment of the chorus. This camp of resentment holds there is no “firstness,” know “originary scene,” in Eric Gans sense. To be sure, the first can only be the first through being imitated/repeated, then ontologically substantised, by what Burke calls a “temporizing of essence” - where narrative succession expresses an (atemporal) logical priority. Burke’s political and theoretical heirs fail to prevent the foreclosure of ethical “autonomy,” which Burke’s redefinition was careful to guard against. I wonder whether the later Burke, as he turned away from centralizing socialist gestures, placed less emphasis upon social stability – perhaps indorsing individual institutional critique in times of stability as well as crisis?

I argue that Burke’s definition of autonomy and the conditions for the possibility of aesthetic composition/critique is a matter of ontological firstness that is imitated, when what Adam Katz calls *iconic intelligences* emit signs which redefine the larger social scene. ‘“Identification”’ Burke writes, “is a word for the autonomous activity’s place in this wider context, a place with which the agent may be unconcerned.”

The means of identification is the individual’s symbolic property of firstness, which acts to provoke what René Girard calls mimetic desire. The symbolic actor’s successful appeal for identification has an aura of firstness, of ontological plenitude, a mystery born of hierarchy, “what Burke refers to as “cultural glorification“: “Let one encompass as many desirable features of our cultural heritage as possible, and let him make sure that his political alignment features prominently among them.” (“Revolutionary Symbolism in America”)

Burke’s scene of firstness is more neo-classical than classical: his theory of aesthetic form thematises the scene, like Hamlet’s mouse trap or play within the play. By contrast, the romantic/modern defines value on a personal imaginary scene. The idea of iconic intelligence may appear romantic, but incarnate in Burke, its neo-classical ethical grounding in the social center maintained its attachment to aesthetic universalism.

Marxism is a displaced theology, having its roots in Judeo-Christian victimary rhetoric. Its romantic stance of agonistic oppositionality requires an historical subject, but it compromises this subjectivity -- the victimized working class -- betrayed by recruiting an external voice in the literary bourgeois vanguard. When asked to provide support for the workers, simultaneously through ethical, aesthetic and political representations, the (exceptional) composer (irregardless of class), marked by the asymmetry of firstness, must either shoot there (aesthetic) selves in the (political) foot as sacrificial offering, or vice versa. For if the means to political, that is, synecdochic, identification are to be sought in what Girard understood as mimetic desire/glorification, as Burke similarly argued, aesthetic representation will seek strategic grounds (conscious or unconscious) for an appeal to motives as universal (though not necessarily as ethically inclusive) as possible. But what ever the model for identification, “the worker” or “the people,” the artist can never represent the victimized class as political synecdoche without being sacrificed, if not by social resentment, which crystallizes around the always inadequately representative figure of identification/imitation, then by an always already castrated/castrating envious super ego.,

I suggest that it is the temporary break in reciprocity to be found in the idea of generative firstness that is the scandal for theory today, forcing as it does an ethical asymmetry – that between model and disciple. Burke’s symbolic actor is a mimetic model – one open to positive or negative imitation. Even at the minimally contrastive/homeopathic level, his performance may produce a temporary lag in reciprocity, inciting rivalry, or even face the ultimate charge of hubris.

Rene Harrison

"We Write for the Workers"

Thanks to Rene for her provocative and insightful post.

Since I am in the process of actually reposting commentaries on the articles in the second edition of the KBJOURNAL, brief essays of mine we lost during the change-over to our new format, what follows is a series of responses I made at a time when we weren't getting input from others on these fine publications. You'll see that I took an unorthodox step toward stimulating some dialogue in respect to the Spring, 2005, content. Thus a reprise.

Because I am risibly denominated the "conversation editor" of this august publication, and since I've been conspicuously deficient in inducing terrestrial symbol-users into animated exchange on the fine articles featured in this issue of the KBJOURNAL, I thought I'd borrow a tack made famous recently by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. She's allowed that she's been in contact with Eleanor Roosevelt, and has been aided greatly by the insight and wisdom this great lady has vouchsafed her. I called Clinton's senatorial office to ask about the particulars of such novel contact. Although I didn't get to talk with the Senator herself, one of her aides did apprise me of the spiritualistic methodology in question. That was all I needed. I forthwith proceeded to channel our mutual hero, Kenneth Burke, somewhere in the nether reaches of the afterlife. Much to my delight, I found that Burke had lost nothing of his flair for vivacious dialogue. What follows is as close an approximation of the brief conversation I had with him, feverishly scribbled on a notepad as I inquired and listened.

CONVERSATION EDITOR: Ed Appel here. Thank you, Mr. Burke, for taking time---may I call it "time"?---to speak with me. You must have infinitely more important things to concern you at this stage in your, uh, life, I suppose I could say.

KENNETH BURKE: We'll have to keep this session short. I have an appointment with the BIG SHOT in just a few minutes, if I may use that temporal terministic screen around these parts.

CE: I'll be brief for now. First off, Mr. Burke, are you surprised to be here? You said in that video at the Burke Conference in Airlie that you didn't believe in an afterlife. What gives with your continued availability for an interview like this one? Is there life after death for all of us?

KB: I'm not sure. All I know is, the BIG SHOT said HE needed me for further interrogation. HE knew all along I was giving HIM a lot of press. HE just didn't know whether I was giving HIM GOOD press. You see, even HE couldn'[t understand exactly what I was saying. You know, it's the same thing Sidney Hook (I'd use that scatological reference to that bastard my family shouted out anytime his sorry backside came up in a conversation, but I try to watch my language around here if I can) carped about in that review of ATTITUDES. THE LORD knew all along that you and a ton of other small fry were calling me a theologian, but when Wax-N-Wayne Booth came out with those pieces saying the same blessed thing---up here everything is blessed---HE really took notice. You remember Wax-N-Wayne. I'm still dancin' with tears in my eyes!

CE: Yes, I recall Mr. Booth. He delivered a laudatory plenary speech about you at our trienniel Burke Conference---yes, your work is still vitally alive and doing well a dozen years after you left us---in Pittsburgh in 1996. (Not that that date has much cache up where you are, I'm sure.) Now, what I'm here for in this conversation---whatever "here" means in a confab like this one---is your considered views, in reflection, on your speech in 1935 before the First American Writer's Congress. We have a fine article in our second edition of the KBJOURNAL on you and Richard Wright in respect to that event. By the way, did you know the Burke Society is now sponsoring an electronic journal devoted to further exploring, applying, and perpetuating your philosophy of life and language?

KB: Yes I do. Tell Clarke and Mark I approve of what they're doing.
That's what I said to Samuel Southwell, and it goes double for them and the KBJ.

CE: Before we get into the particulars of the speech itself, and your appraisal of what you said back then from your current, shall we say "lofty," vantage point, John Logie---he's the author---mentioned something Norman Podhoretz said about you. Podhoretz was on the sidewalk watching that Mayday parade you were marching in in the mid-'30's. You were ostensibly carrying, and enthusiastically waving around, a placard that proclaimed, "We Write for the Workers." Critic Harold Rosenberg, Podhoretz recalled, was incredulous. Rosenberg shouted sarcastically from the sidelines, "Kenneth, you write for the WORKERS?" He no doubt had your arcane prose style in mind. You, it is reported, yelled back, "It's an ambiguity in the preposition FOR!" Was the sign you were carrying a "strategic use of ambiguity for persuasive purposes," a definition of rhetoric you later made famous in your GRAMMAR OF MOTIVES? And were you, at that juncture, a "fierce little man"? That's what Podhoretz called you.

KB: I don't care what that turncoat, right-wing sonofabitch called me. He went over to the capitalists with that little COMMENTARY Magazine of his.

CE: But didn't that little magazine, myopic and one-sided as it's been, contribute to the "full dialectic" you've always called for? What about that?

KB: Sure, it's made it's contribution. From up here, in the realm of the "adequate idea," the undeniable parliamentary role it plays earns some credit. But down there in the trenches, its pinched "motivational recipe" was not, and is not, "mixed" enough, sufficient for the times and for the mixed-motive symbol/mind/body merger of man---and I guess I ought to say woman, too.

CE: What about the "ambiguity" you spoke of, and your current take on your 1935 speech? What have you got to say on those counts?

KB: Time---there's a joke right there---time's up. Gotta go. See whether you can ring me up, another metaphor the need for which I've permanently escaped, later.

Burke disappeared into a deep, dim purple, with meditative humming in the background, but with an occasional PRO NOBIS and GRATIA distinctly audible in the distance.


"We Write for the Workers"

Not at all successful in provoking conversation in this neighborhood of the Milky Way, I went transcendental once more, ringing up our eponymous leader via the spiritualistic legerdemain I wheedled from an aide to Senator Hillary Clinton. That ethereal transaction propitiously on the mark for a second time, I found KB in exceptionally good "spirits," I think I can say. He allowed that he was making progress in teaching the "BIG GUY" the arcana of dramatism/logology. "We're all the way up to RM," Burke boasted. Then his voice lost a bit of its sheen when he confessed, "I don't know how HE's gonna take RR, though. HE was not altogether pleased with the implications of the temporizing of essence in GM. When I fill out the Biblical nuances of that notion, coupled with my secular appropriation of the terms for order, and then have to extenuate, to boot, that brash farce at the end that follows the three tragedies, I donno. My hold on these Heavenly digs may be a bit shaky."

Consequently, I figured I'd better get to the question at hand pronto, Logie's essay on Burke, Wright, and the 1935 American Writer's Congress. I asked Burke, first off:

CE: Were you, in fact, a Communist in the mid-1930's? Logie quotes you as saying, at about that time, "I am not a joiner . . . . I can only welcome Communism by converting it to my own vocabulary. . . . [My] approach will be the approach that seems significant to me."

Yet you did assert in your NEW MASSES article in 1934: "Communism alone provides the kind of motives adequate for turning the combative potentialities of man [I'll add "thus in the original" here to appease current sensibilities down you know where] into cooperative channels. . . . The Communist orientation is the only one which successfully produces the combative-cooperative fusion under conditions of peace . . . . It does permit of its maximum harnassing [that is, "man's" "competitive genius"] to the ends of social cohesion."

Do we infer too much if we take the second passage as one that puts your imprimatur definitively on the Communist cause?

KB: It depends what you mean by "definitively." Logie's right that "I had a terrible desire to belong." I was blasted like---well, gotta watch what I say up here---I was miffed like anything at the sour reception I got that April in New York. But, whether I "was" or "was not" a Communist schematizes the issue too cleanly, doesn't it? You know what I think about schematization and entelechy, doncha? Figure it out for yourself. You've got that speech to read. It's reproduced in a book by that bruiser from Duke, what's his name? Lentricky, or somethin'. Hey, it's been a while.

CE: Yes, I've read the speech. In it, you obviously proposed an unorthodox rhetorical strategy to win hearts and minds for revolution in America. You certainly did "convert" the Communist cause to your "own vocabulary" with that one. That's what got you into so much trouble. I'll take your reference there as tentative confirmation that, as Frank Lentricchia---that's the "bruiser's" real name---and Judy Katula opined, you never were really and truly a Communist. You were far too nuanced and idiosyncratic for that kind of straight jacket, maybe an "Agro-Bohemian Marxoid," as Don Burks put it. That's an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

Now that you've brought up the big speech---the most controversial of the conference---what's your view now on the validity of your proposal? Were you being too idealistic? Would use of the symbol "the people" have actually "confused" the dialectic of the matter, as your critics said, diverted attention from the focal class, those with both the economic motive and work-related power to force change in the exploitative capitalism of that day?

And while we're on the subject of "idealism," wasn't that whole Communist movement way too impractical, not nearly accommodating enough of the "competitive genius" you spoke of so elequently, for either the true believer or "fellow traveler," as that pejorative would have labeled you?

KB: First things first. As I reflect back on it, I DON'T regret suggesting the rhetorical change to "the people" as central symbol for the Party's propaganda. Remember: I didn't say party organizers couldn't, or shouldn't, continue along that line of emphasis. I was talking about what imaginative writers ought to be doing---GIVEN THE PARTICULAR 'SITUATION' WE WERE WORKING WITHIN IN THIS COUNTRY. Of great concern, especially, was the way "the people" was being used rhetorically in states like California and Louisiana in eulogistic opposition to a dislogistic construction of "the workers." Demagogues were employing "the people" as synonymous with "the common good"; "the striking worker," as emblem for greedy disruption of productive order.

Ya' see, the important thing is how to make ourselves effective in this particular, or any particular, social structure. I was trying to point out that there is a first stage where the writer's primary responsibility is to disarm people. First you knock at the door---and not until later will you become wholly precise. A sense of "relationships" is key. I still call them a "secondary reality." I got down to cases about it, at least in more detail, ten to fifteen years later with notions of "consubstantiality" and "identification." You've got to talk the other guy's language, worm your way into his---oh, I forgot, his or her---thought world before you can get them to cooperate with your cause. You gotta start where they are. And I believed then, and still believe, that highlighting "the people" was more consistent with the ideological texture of the U.S., as an introductory strategy of persuasion, than angrily harping on "the worker" right from the start.

Go about the operation by changing the cluster of associated terms circling around the symbol "the people," the "invisible adjectives," the "what goes with what." I was writing about it at the time. Exploit to the fullest the notion of persuasion as the "strategic use of ambiguity" I argued for later in GM. In the mid-'30's, American society was not like that of Russia in 1917. We had a middle class that had to be brought on board in support of the changes we had in mind. And you don't change the rhetorical climate, and consequent system of motives, in one wrenching fell swoop. Remember what I said: Rhetoric, effective and persuasive rhetoric, can as easily be defined as a prosaic, routine body of encompassing identifications as much as, or more than, one great and eloquent propanda campaign. I proposed that we, the imaginative writers, seek to change the language, maybe more subtly than the firebrands at the Congress wanted, in a way that would unite the various power centers in our polity. I don't regret offering the term "the people" as vehicle toward that end.

CE: Do you regret anything about that speech at all?

KB: Well, my emphasis on "ambition," straining to move up from the
"working class" to some kind of higher, less tedious station in life, may have gone a bit overboard. In retrospect, I see that I was serving the motive of perfection, implying that we goad workers, goad anybody, in the direction of hierarchical preferment, starting a trajectory toward the "end of whatever line" their desire and acquisitiveness might take them. In the light of what I wrote in my QJS series, RR, and "Definition of Man," I'd probably edit that part out of the speech if I gave it again. But that's basically all I'd change.

There were, to be sure, some personal work experiences I had as a young guy that help explain my antipathy toward the stuff that a lot of laborers actually have to do. I'd prefer to forget about those times, though, if you don't mind.

CE: Very interesting, thought-provoking, and revealing, Mr. Burke. But what about my question concerning Communism in general and your conspicuous, though heterodox, support of it. Hasn't history given the lie to that allegiance, rendered the Party members and supporters of the '30's dupes of a kind, acolytes at the altar of the, if you'll pardon the expression, the "god that failed"?

KB: I'll chew that one over in a little while. Gotta get ready for my next interview, the BIG ONE, not this little sidelight. Well, I take that back. I've always been interested in talking and corresponding with anyone who's interested in my work. And I still am. Tell that to my friends and readers back on earth. I still love to debate and share.

Burke faded once again into the purple mist, chants and hymns pulsating in the background.


"We Write for the Workers"

Thanks to Clarke for giving us insight into Burke's personal problem with the concept of "the worker." (Clarke had said that Burke revealed, during his series of interviews at the U. of Iowa, that he had been employed in a shipyard during WWI, with some really smelly chemicals befouling the workplace. On his way home each day on the trolley, Burke was persona non grata, he said, to those sitting around him. Other passengers would put as much space between Burke and themselves as they could.) That noisome experience KB had during World War I clarifies Burke's displeasure with conventional Marxist termonology as sdomething that went perhaps beyond ideology, even beyond the requirements of rhetoric and propaganda. "The worker" as focal notion just didn't "smell" right to him.

Of course, I can only channel forth how Burke feels now about his reference to "ambition" in that 1935 address. He currently seems a little queasy about it, and, given RR and the "Definition" (the symbol-using animal as "rotten with perfection"), I can understand why.

Anyway, I did get back in touch with KB after the INTERVIEW ON HIGH he was going to that cut short my last talk with him. I posed once again that question about his commitment to Communism back in the '30's, of whatever heretical, standard, or nonstandard form it may have taken. Burke had seen a lot of historical water flow over the dam in the following half century. Hed he been wrong, too gullible, too idealistic, or what? Look what Stalin did, was doing even in the mid-'30's. Look at Mao's China. Look at the collapse of the Soviet state and empire in 1989. What have you got to say for your collectivist vision from your present vantage point, the vision you marched for as a young man?

This is the gravamen of what Burke had to say in answer:

KB: I can be accused of misinterpreting the connection between Marxist Communism as a political and economic doctrine, and the kind of "balance" between the competitive and cooperative motives required by the symbol-using---and don't forget symbol-"misusing"---animal in social interrelationships, fundamental human impulses I acknowledged in that speech. Competitive requirements, the goads to hierarchy, I've come to see, are not, were not, "satisfied" sufficiently by Marxist regimentation as it came to be implemented in practice. Both Stalin and Mao were bastards in the way they did it, to be sure, maybe unnecessarily so; but still and all, Communism contained an inherent temptation to just such criminality. It was Procrustean. I'll admit all that.

So I was wrong in the short term---but only in the short term. In the long term---and it's turning out not to be very long at that---some variant of Marxist cooperation will, must, come to the fore, or humankind isn't gonna make it. What were the odds I gave you in that Boston hotel room (up here, I can remember most everything, if not everbody's name right off the bat!)? I said it was 50-50 that the human race might survive in anyways near a decent condition. And with what almost unfettered capitalism is now doing in the U.S. and globally with its hyper-competitive emphasis (yes, I can see what's going on down there), I may have been too optimistic.

Remember: Motives are shorthand terms for situations. Ultimately, perceptions of the global, ecological (see?---I was right about that little word in 1937!) situation are going to be sharply, violently altered by the Unanswerable Opponent, the sheer brute materials of the world as it is in its structure and function. Greater cooperation, far greater cooperation and self-restraint, will become the order of the day, or else. (Or else---there's a dramatistic notion if there ever was one.) Capitalism, as a more or less unmodified economic doctrine, contains within itself the seeds of its own demise, because it's programmatically open to full-throttle entelechy.

Now, that's very human for the dramatic animal. I don't say it's not. It's what that Crusius fella once said: There's not a good "fit," maybe not even a sufficient enough fit, between symbol-using animals and a small planetary habitat with finite resources. One way or the other, though, the grandiose mix of motives of the human animal are going to have to come to terms with that animalistic dependency on a viable, sustainable habitat. Some variant of human cooperation-cum-competition-cum-restraint closer to Marxism than capitalism will force itslf down your throats, like it or not.

Gotta run, if I may use that quaint expression. Tell the gang in the KBS I'm thinkin' about 'em. They're goin' to Penn State soon, where my papers are, right? Tell 'em I'll be there in "spirit"!

Once again, Burke melted into the purple mist, to the accompaniment of musical sounds beyond my powers of description.


"We Write for the Workers"

Ed, I think I need you to get back in touch with Burke again. Because I don’t quite get some of his views on cooperation and competition, Marxism and capitalism, identification and division.

Mr. Burke, you speak of “Marxist cooperation” as if Marxism were the only kind of cooperation. You seem to be identifying capitalism with competition. And yet I have to ask if those are the only options. Just as modern warfare requires cooperation if its competition is to be successful, modern capitalism would seem to, as well. So far, this competition has seemed to drive capitalistic cooperation to higher levels than Marxism ever attained. Consider a large corporation. The capitalists who run it have to cooperate with others in the corporation, or they won’t be competitive with other large corporations in their line of business.

My question, then, is whether the cooperation required by capitalism can lead to “the order of the day.” This type of cooperation may require division, but in doing so, it creates a compensatory identification—the identification we need to cooperate with each other. Marxism can create this kind of identification only if the workers identify themselves as “workers,” and not as “the people”—because with “the people,” we see no division, only an “inclusive” term that, as we’ve seen, confuses the issue.

I'd like to thank you for your time, Mr. Burke. Or your effort. Or your help. I'm not quite sure what terms apply up there. But then, I'm still figuring out what terms apply down here.

Tom Wright
Department of English
Kansas City Kansas Community College

"We Write for the Workers"

Your query, Tom, seems to be addressed to Mr. Burke up yonder. I'll attempt to answer a part of it myself without the source-of-it-all kibitzing our eponymous founder could helpfully provide.

When he says that communism features cooperation and capitalism competition, Burke surely does not mean to suggest a black-and-white, either/or, all-or-none dichotmy here. Obviously, the competition in a capitalist economy between corporations for, say, superior market share requires intense cooperation within each corporation to achieve its goal or goals. At times, too, corporations within a market sector will cooperate with one another to mitigate downward pressures in respect to prices, witness what's happening currently in the oil and gas industry. More than one company can join hands to "corner" a market.

Similarly, competition could not be categorically prescinded from a communist order of things. To achieve the benchmarks of, say, one of Stalin's five-year plans, some factory managers, along with their underlings, surely did what they could to "keep up with the Joneses," if not surpass them. Burke was referring to the featured emphases that distinguish these two economic systems from each other.

Keep in mind, too, the competitive motive the USSR nurtured toward the advanced capitalist countries of the West. When Premier Krushchev waved "bye-bye" at Vice President Nixon in the famous "Kitchen Debate" of 1959, he certainly wasn't giving expression to cooperative motives.

All symbolizations, Burke says, simultaneously unite and divide, select in and select out. Even the "All," or symbolization of Everything, stands over against its negative. Implictly if not explicitly, identification is founded on union and division, structure and process.

Your reference to "the people" as allaying the sharp divisions connoted by "the workers" is well taken, also. But then the ambiguities of that more comprehensive term can still accommodate division. Is it "the [common] people" as opposed to the wealthy elite, "the people" vs. their political leaders, "the [majority of] people" as distinct from an alienatied minority, or what? It's a pretty uncertain term, in common parlance.