RACHEL and MIM

Tom Condit tomcondit at igc.apc.org
Tue Sep 12 17:02:52 MDT 1995


I find a certain congruence of line on the question of class
politics very interesting.  While mim3 (all MIM members use this
number thing, I suppose as some sort of pretense of security
concerns combined with humility) has presented his argument in
Leninese vocabulary, we also find a very similar line in:

"Traditional mass production, with its core of large firms, has
collapsed.  As this collapse has occurred, the white male working
class has been displaced as the main focus of struggles for
equality.  The class struggle (workers vs. owners) has shifted to
new arenas --race, gender, environmental and economic justice, and
so forth." (RACHEL)

Of course, RACHEL and MIM draw opposite conclusions as to what we
should do about this.  Or do they?  The widespread popularity of
Maoism among "middle class" radicals in the 1960s was partly a
reflection of the fact that many of them had already been affected
by (or perhaps the better word is "infected with") early versions
of the RACHEL line emanating from places like the Center for the
Study of Democratic Institutions (a Ford Foundation think tank).
According to these early post-industrial thinkers (circa 1962-
1966), automation was abolishing work, our new central problem was
what to do with all our impending leisure time, and the class
struggle at the point of production was therefore obsolete.

According to the MIMistas, we are now in an "information economy",
there aren't any more white workers and ... the class struggle at
the point of production is therefore obsolete.  Instead, what we'll
do with all our newfound leisure time is engage in protracted
people's war.  Maoism as post-modern ideology! RACHELism as
guerilla struggle!

Of course, the both projects are somewhat askew from reality.
RACHEL puts in clearer form some of the MIM assumptions with
its/her/his/their use of the term "white male working class".
Since classes are by definition made up of families rather than
individuals, how could there be a "male" class?  Similarly, it will
be of some surprise to the millions of individual African Americans
and Latinos who made up 35% of the industrial work force in the
U.S. at its high point as a percentage of the population in the
1960s that they were "white males". (This will especially surprise,
of course, those of them who were women).

In the mid-1960s, a key point of transition for many student
radicals from liberalism to Maoism was the adoption of a social-
worky concern with the "poor", defined by color in many cases as
much as by race.  You could take two auto workers, one black and
one white, who worked side by side on the same line for the same
pay and benefit, and to these otherwise-intelligent young radicals,
one was "poor" and the other was "middle class."  It's out of this
kind of intellectual confusion that MIMista revisionism arises.

There exist in this world several hundreds of millions of people
who exist by selling their ability to work with hand and brain. We
not only directly produce actual, physical commodities, we move
them from place to place, count and store them, supply those who
produce them with the raw materials, feed and clothe them, and
carry out all the millions of tasks of social production. Is the
factory worker a "proletarian" but not the longshoreman? the seaman
but not the ship's clerk? the trucker but not the dispatcher? the
garment worker but not the store clerk? the one who works on the
automated loom but not the one who programs it? the printer in the
mint but not the bank teller?  Reflect on these questions.
Stevedores, truckers, seamen, don't "produce" anything (except, of
course, profits for their employers), but no one I know of has ever
claimed that they weren't members of the working class. Why this
drawing of the line at the color of the collar?  What makes that
any different from drawing the line at the color of the skin, or
the shape of the genitals?

As we look at the world around us, we can see that the choice of
the future is even more clearly between socialism and barbarism,
with barbarism now in the ascendance.  If we are to tilt the scales
in favor of humanity, it means uniting the working class of all
nations, cultures, genders, industries and trades.  Those whose
intellectual abilities are devoted to finding ways to read people
out of the class or to declare it non-existent, whether they call
themselves post-modernists or maoists, are simply part of the dust
we need to wipe off our glasses if we're going to see a way
forward.

Tom Condit




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