Bourgeoisified workers

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Sun Aug 4 07:26:27 MDT 1996


Carrol writes:

>"Bourgeoisified workers"  cannot possibly be given any
>precise content which leads to any useful analysis. It is the kind
>of phrase which is best characterized as "coffee-break chat"--enter-
>taining, sometimes even moderately useful, as long as it is not
>taken with pompous seriousness as Chris does here.


However, I have found 21 references (direct and indirect) to bourgeoisified
workers and their consciousness in the *selected* (not complete)
correspondence of Marx and Engels.

Here are a few related to what we've been discussing.

October 7, 1858, Engels to Marx in London, emphasis in original.

        For the rest, it seems to me that Jones's new move, taken in
conjunction
        with the former more or less successful attempts at such an
alliance, is
        really bound up with the fact that the English proletariat is actually
        becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all
        nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a
bourgeois
        aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat *alongside* the
bourgeoisie. For
        a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain
        extent justifiable. The only thing that would help here would be a few
        thoroughly bad years, but since the gold discoveries these no longer
        seem  so easy to come by.

June 17, 1879, Engels to Bernstein in Zurich.

        For a number of years past the English working-class movement has
been
        hopelessly describing a narrow circle of strikes for higher wages and
        shorter hours, not, however, as an expedient or means of propaganda
and
        organization but as the ultimate aim. [Written two decades before
What
        Is To Be Done?] The Trades Unions even bar all political action on
        principle and in their charters, and thereby also ban participation
in
        any general activity of the working class as a class. The workers are
        divided politically into Conservatives and Liberal Radicals, into
        supporters of the Disraeli (Beaconsfield) ministry and supporters
of the
        Gladstone ministry. One can speak here of a labour movement only in
so
        far as strikes take place here which, whether they are won or not, do
        not get the movement one step further. [...] No attempt should be
made
        to conceal the fact that at present no real labour movement in the
        Continental sense exists here, and I therefore believe you will not
lose
        much if for the time being you do not receive any reports on the
doings
        of the Trades Unions here.

August 30, 1883, Engels to Bebel in Leipzig.

       [...] recently a lot of young people stemming from the bourgeoisie
have
        appeared on the scene who, to the disgrace of the English workers it
        must be said, understand things better and take them up more
        enthusiastically  than the workers themselves.. For even in the
        Democratic Federation the workers for the most part accept the new
        programme only unwillingly and as a matter of form. The leader of the
        Democratic Federation, Hyndman, is an arch-conservative and an
arrantly
        chauvinistic but not stupid careerist, who behaved pretty shabbily to
        Marx [...] and for this reason was dropped by us personally. Do not
on
        any account let yourself be bamboozled into thinking there is a real
        proletarian movement going on here. [...] And -- apart from the
        unexpected -- a really general workers' movement will come into
        existence here only when the workers feel that England's world
monopoly
        is broken. Participation in the domination of the world market was
and
        is the economic basis of the political nullity of the English
workers.
        The tail of the bourgeoisie in the economic exploitation of this
        monopoly but nevertheless sharing in its advantages, they are, of
        course, politically the tail of the 'Great Liberal Party' [...]

October 24, 1891, Engels to Sorge in Hoboken, emphasis in original.

        ... I can readily believe that the movement in the USA is again at
a low
        ebb. Everything over there is liable to big ups and downs. [...] The
        living standard of the native American [NB *not* Native American!!
HR]
        worker is moreover considerably higher than even that of the English
        worker, and this alone is sufficient to relegate him to a back seat
for
        some time. Besides there is the competition of the emigrants and a
few
        other reasons. *When* the time is ripe, things will move there with
        enormous speed and energy, but it may take a little while till that
        point is reached. Miracles don't happen anywhere. Add to this
moreover
        the unfortunate business with the supercilious Germans who want
        simultaneously to play the part of schoolmaster and commander thus
        making it difficult for the natives to learn from them even the good
        things. ...


Perhaps we'd better reinforce all this Engels with a few extracts from
Marx, just to preempt any 'misunderstandings' aimed at driving a wedge
between the two of them.

April 9, 1863, Marx to Engels in Manchester.

        How soon the English workers will free themselves from their apparent
        bourgeois infection one must wait and see. For the rest, as far as
the
        main points in your book [The Condition of the Working Class in
England,
        1844] are concerned, they have been confirmed down to the smallest
        detail by developments since 1844. You see, I have myself compared
the
        book again with my notes on the later period. Only the small German
        petty-bourgeois, who measure world history by the yard and the latest
        'interesting news in the papers', would imagine that in
developments of
        such magnitude twenty years are more than a day -- though later on
days
        may come again in which twenty years are embodied.

The Collected Works has a different translation, no earth-shaking
divergences but quite different phrasing, eg 'what seems to be a bourgeois
contagion', 'Only your small-minded German philistine' and 'these may again
be succeeded by days into which 20 years are compressed'.


April 9, 1870, Marx to Meyer and Vogt (not Bonaparte's police spy!),
emphasis in original.

        And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in
        England now possesses a working class *divided* into two *hostile*
        camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary
English
        worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his
standard of
        life. In relation to the Irish worker he feels himself a member of
the
        *ruling* nation and so turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats
and
        capitalists of his country *against Ireland*, thus strengthening
their
        domination *over himself*. He cherishes religious, social, and
national
        prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much
        the same as that of the 'poor whites'  to the 'niggers' in the former
        slave states of the USA. The Irishman pays him back with interest
in his
        own money. He sees in the English worker at once the accomplice and
the
        stupid tool of the *English rule in Ireland*.

        This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by
        the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the means at
        the disposal of the ruling classes. This *antagonism* is the
*secret of
        the impotence of the English working class*, despite its
organization.
        It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power.
And
        that class is fully aware of it.

February 11, 1878, Marx to W Liebknecht in Leipzig, emphasis in original.

        The English working class had been gradually becoming more and more
        deeply demoralized by the period of corruption since 1848 and had at
        last got to the point when it was nothing more than the tail of the
        Great Liberal Party, i.e., of its *oppressors*, the capitalists. Its
        direction had passed completely into the hands of the venal trade
union
        leaders and professional agitators. These fellows shouted and howled
        behind the Gladstones, Brights, Mundellas, Morleys and the whole
gang of
        factory owners, etc., +in majorem gloriam+ [to the greater glory]
of the
        Tsar as the emancipator of nations, while they never raised a
finger for
        their own brothers in South Wales, condemned by the mine-owners to
die
        of starvation. Wretches!


Cheers,

Hugh


PS Too bad Carrol dumps my stuff straight into his killfile!

;-)




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