Present-day Class Distinctions (a real example)

Owen Jones owen.jones at
Sat Oct 2 11:05:14 MDT 1999


> Well, Owen, actually both Carrol and I have adduced some "knowledge",
> argumentation and facts in debate with Xxxzx on this issue. So, your
> counter-denunciation of Carrol below does not quite give an accurate
> picture of the posts leading up to this point.

 Sorry if I ruffled your feathers. No, quite right, I have not exactly been
paying a huge attention to this particular thread, indeed the whole list
lately, because of how busy I am. I am much closer to Carrol's position -
though I can see where Xxxzx is coming from, it seems a very Eric
Hobspawn-type argument to me. One of the most particularly relevant ideas to
me of Marx was the Marxist analysis of class, which is under capitalism they
are simplified into two main classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat,
who should be defined by their position relative to the means of production
and not some liberalesque, National Office of Statistics-ish rate of income.
However, because of Carrol's refusal to continue, Xxxzx and his argument has
emerged the winner. He might even have convinced people of his analysis.

> Also, this is a "Marxist" list. Of course, just declaring something not
> Marxist is not a very persuasive argument. But unlike other lists, it is
> reasonable to hold some Marxism up as a standard in arguments. Perhaps,
> Xxxzx says his argument is the better Marxist argument. Or perhaps he says
> Marxism has been superceded on this point. But, on a Marxism list, it is
> appropriate to raise a Marxist standard.

 I believe this debate was under the banner of Marxism. Brian was in his own
mind trying to adapt Marxism to the modern world, while Carrol in his own
mind was trying to defend the basic tenets of Marxist thought. It is very
easy to just yell: bollocks, I don't interpret your argument as Marxist
therefore I have nothing more to say to you; but has the knowledge or
understanding of comrades been advanced? For example, the DSP policy on East
Timor was vastly straying outside the territory of Marxism, but comrades
(exhaustively) attempted to expose it as such, prove each point in support
of their policy to be incorrect, suggest the alternative, gave evidence to
support them, and generally crushed the DSP's argument to the ground. I
learnt a vast amount from that particular debate. It would have been much
easier to simply say it wasn't Marxist - which would have been perfectly
true - but the DSP could have carried on ranting everything without an
opposing argument

 The whole point of this list - as far as I was aware - is *debate* within
the framework of Marxism. If we were to accept Carrol's method as standard,
we would be merely writing something down, and whoever disagreed with it
could write a couple of lines saying they refuse to challenge those ideas
since they aren't very Marxist. That list would be very boring, tedious, and
without any point at all, and people would either just bombard Panix with
mails demanding to leave or be purged.

> On the substance here, Brian seems to be willing to throw out the classical
> Marxist approach to class as defined by relationship to the means of
> production. Of course, he can argue this, but to do so is to throw out some
> of the most basic concepts of Marxism, such that the entire validity or
> much of it of Marxism would be thrown into question. Also, the idea of
> defining classes by income instead of ownership of the means of production
> is such an old bourgeois social science position , such an old argument
> between Marxism and bourgeois social science, that one wonders whether
> Brian has heard of it before. At least he should acknowledge that it is an
> old fight, and give reasons why he has taken this approach that are
> different from the average bourgeois social scientist.

 You don't need to convince ME. I would agree with most of the above.
Indeed, as I have said, I though Brian's analysis did smack of bourgeois
liberal "National Office of Statistics" thought, but if I wasn't so sure of
the "traditional" Marxist method of class analysis, I would hardly have been
convinced of it, would I?

> Finally,  your whole criticism of Carrol is also quite typical of what we
> hear from left "free thinkers", anarchists, whatever all the goddamn time.
> What you are spouting is liberal DOGMA about how allegedly dogmatic
> Marxists are. It is the sort of thing that left bourgeois academics say all
> the time as they try to pick and choose little bits and pieces of the great
> Marx, effectively declawing his radicality and anti-bourgeoisness.

 EEEEK, oh no, I'm some sort of revisionist left-leaning liberal anarchistic
bourgeois academic, that explains it all, the world is clearer all of a
sudden. Here we go again, "I won't argue against you, you're argument is not
Marxist, and by saying that everyone will realise I'm right and you're
wrong." Of course some Marxists are dogmatic; I've been accused of orthodox
Trotskyist dogma and "Marxist fundamentalism" before. When did I say any
Marxist was dogmatic?

 Forgive me if I sound nostalgic, but I'm sort of attracted to Bolshevik
methods of debate (as opposed to Uncle Joe's methods, which is denouncing as
a Nazi then blowing out the brains of some Communist or worker who is so
brave to dissent, or has the "potential" to). Comrades might have read some
of Lenin's more tedious writings - very long polemics in which he crushes an
opposing argument with pen and paper rather than with a gun. Of course I bet
at the time they weren't tedious, but then again a lot of what we write on
ideology and current events will be tedious in just a couple of years
(...though sometimes even before they've been posted...)

> Of course there is such a thing as dogmatic Marxism, but the bigger problem
> on these lists is liberal , ecclectic "Marxists".


> Carrol can't make anybody do anything. His example of standing up for
> something as a Marxist principle as opposed to the anything-goes "Marxism"
> of the liberal leftists is an approach to be preferred in this environment.
> As to recruiting non-Marxists to Marxism, one lesson the potential recruits
> around here need to learn is that Marxism is not and does not have a
> liberal arts school ethic. It arrives at more definite conclusions to
> prepare for action.

 OK, that last bit is one method on how to intimidate potential recruits.
The revolutionary sections of the working class (not vast in numbers at the
moment, obviously!), in my opinion, have a much better grasp of the class
system than leftist intellectual sympathisers such as those on this list,
having not only the benefit of Marxist thought but also experience
themselves. But no doubt you'd like to tell everyone what to think, since
what you think IS Marxism, and any dissent from that is not Marxism, and
therefore they should be expelled. Is that your interpretation of
'democratic centralism'?

 And really, I think it's very childish to play with political definitions
as insults.

Owen Jones

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