P.B. Proyect squirms some more

Louis R Godena louisgodena at ids.net
Sat Aug 24 08:07:24 MDT 1996


Rakesh writes:

>  I don't think the question of an international
>transfer of value, the historic creation of a labor aristocracy on that
>basis and the political problems posed by such a class strata can simply be
>dismissed.

Louis,  this has echoes of E.H. Carr,  whom we both admire, and who,  in one
of his last interviews (with New Left Review in 1978),  suggested that "in
the West today,  the proletariat--meaning,  as Marx meant by the term,  the
organized workers in industry--is not a revolutionary,  perhaps even a
counter-revolutionary force."    And, later on,  came this rather sad caveat:

"I should now feel tempted to say that the Bolsheviks won their victory in
1917,  not in spite of the backwardness of the Russian economy and society,
but because of it.    I think we have to consider seriously the hypothesis
that the world revolution of which it was the first stage,  and which will
complete the downfall of capitalism,  will prove to be the revolt of the
colonial peoples against capitalism in the guise of imperialism rather than
a revolt of the proletariat in the advanced countries."

This view enjoys a wide currency today,  both among third world
revolutionaries and privileged, though alienated,  expatriates here.    It
may compensate, politically,  for revolutionary impotence at home.    Be
that as it may,  the thesis that  American workers, enjoying,  in Rakesh's
words, undeserved "world historic levels of prosperity",  have hastened to
turn their backs on revolution,  cannot easily be dismissed out of hand.
Trotsky himself,  who is frequently advanced on this list as the exemplar of
revolutionary militancy and purity,  remarked in 1939 that if the world war
did not provoke a revolution one would be forced to seek the reason for the
failure "not in the backwardness of the country,  and not in the imperialist
environment,  but in the congenital incapacity of the proletariat to become
a ruling class."

The notion that western workers have "sold out" to capitalism is not very
popular at Monthly Review or the Socialist Register--entities which,
apparently,  resonate with Louis P in much the same way that Combray and
Balbec did for Proust--but they reflect, more or less, the attitude of
non-Western Communists in our own era.    MIM's crude historicism and
self-serving banter need not deter us from examining what,  for Marxists, is
perhaps the most pressing tactical problem of our age.

Louis Godena






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