Adolph Reed on the MMMarch

Jeffrey Booth booth2 at husc.harvard.edu
Fri Oct 27 12:26:17 MDT 1995


	In my experience, it's alway the petit bourgeois that get
pissed-off about using a class analysis.  This is because they: a) want
to dominate because they think the're so EDUCATED.  Or, b) their class
position is so unstable that they're confused at why they're sliding down
the ladder of success so fast that their asses are burning.  Either way
(or both); they're wrong.  Class analysis is more important than ever.
And not all mass movements are lead by the petit bourgeois.  For the most
part the labor movement, for example, is NOT led by the petit bourgeois.

					-- Jeff Booth

On Fri, 27 Oct 1995 cdavidson at igc.apc.org wrote:

> Rakesh says:
>
> > Louis, it seems, that you are missing Reed's point.  He is arguing that
> > radicals put their hopes in Afro-American mayors and politicians in the 70s
> > and 80s and then later Jesse Jackson.  Radicals hoped that they would be
> > able to influence the direction of the movement led by a class of
> > petit-bourgeois African-Americans.
>
> Where are the mass movements today or in the recent past  that are led
> by working-class African Americans and not by the Black
> petit-bourgeoisie?  How are we using these "class" labels?  Do they
> mean how individuals make a living?  Do they mean the set of ideas
> about the world they have in their heads? Do they mean the set of
> demands and programs they organize their group around? All of the
> above? 2 out of 3?
>
> Now I know how to determine someone's class according to how they
> make a living.  But if that's not what is meant, then I would love to
> know the criteria used by Reed or anyone else to assign an idea to
> the working-class set rather than the petit-bourgeois set.  Then I
> would like to know if the criteria is generally accepted, or if it's
> just their own wish list of what ought to be the criteria, or something
> in between.  Do Trotskyist ideas belong to the working class set and
> Stalinist ideas to the petit-bourgeois set.?  What about the
> differences among the Trotskyists?  Are the Spartacists
> "working-class" while Solidarity is "petit-bougeois"?  Suppose you
> are on a trade union staff as a way of making a living.  Does that
> automatically make you a "working-class" leader or politician and not a
> "petit-bougeois" leader or politician?  Suppose you are on the
> payroll of a church.  Does that make you a petit-bourgeois and not a
> working class leader?
>
> I don't think there is such a criteria today that isn't essentially
> contested, ie, like the term "Good Christian."  You have to define it
> before you can use it, thus making it impossible to get a consensus
> definition.
>
> Here's my first point:  If we had two actually existing  mass movements out
> there, with one with, say, 30% support and led by people who sold
> their labor-time to a capitalist for a living; and another with say,
> 60% support and led by small entrepeneurs--and then the white or
> Black radicals or progressives made a choice and gave their support
> to the small business leaders rather than the worker leaders THEN
> Reed and his supporters might be making a valid criticism.  But I
> think we would all agree that this is not the current situation.
>
> Now I like Reed and most of his writings.  We live in Chicago and
> belong to and support the same organizations--the New Party and the
> Coalition on New Priorities, both of which are reformist and not
> socialist.  To make a living, I service computers for unions and
> nonprofits and train their staff on how to use them.  I have a
> secretary and two young apprentices, ie, I am a small businessman.
> Reed is a professor at Northwestern and a popular writer; his income
> is probably two or three times what mine is. Now does this mean
> that any movements led by groupings of people like either of us
> "petit-bourgeois-led" and thus should be opposed by genuine radicals?
> Or do we need to know some else about us and these movements to
> make such a  judgement?
>
> Here's my second point.  When someone tells me that a movement today
> is led by the petit-bourgeoisie, they're not saying much, since that
> covers  just about all of the mass movements out there.  Likewise, to
> say a politician or elected official is petit-bourgeois also doesn't
> say much, since almost all politicians are doing something  other
> than selling their labor-time to a capitalist.  (Unless we're making
> a distinction between bourgeois and petit-bourgeois politicians, in
> which case the label might be positive!)
>
> I think think most of the use of these labels are only used a
> perjoratives to cover for a type of semi-anarchism feeding
> a "left" liquidation of buildingorganizations rooted in real movements.
>  I think the real battle of ideas is not between "proletarian ideology"
> and "bourgeois ideology,"which is a metaphyical squabble,
>  but between real science on the one hand  and ideologies of all sorts
> on the other.  Let's do more concrete anaylsis of concrete conditions
>  as the starting point and give the class labels a rest.
>
> Carl Davidson, Chicago
>
>
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