Human Nature (was: Workers Councils?)

Owen Jones owen_jones at
Sun Aug 20 17:24:14 MDT 2000


 I appreciate your comparison. On the propaganda about all being middle
class now - this is not confined simply to North America, where there has
always been such proclamations, but to a lesser degree in Britain. Blair not
too long ago the cheek to suggest we were all middle class, though had to
retreat somewhat after national uproar exploded over the matter. But this
phenomenon, these proclamations from the bourgeoisie, have a number of root

 Firstly it fits in marvellously with the 'end of history', a proclamation
expressing that such are the heights of the confidence of our bourgeoisie
that they feel assured enough as to proclaim their absolute historical
victory. The bourgeoisie - which is the most class-conscious class - has
always recognised the proletariat as its future gravedigger, otherwise it
wouldn't have been able to prevent its enemy overthrowing it for so long. If
the working class no longer exist, or at least are no longer a threat, then
that perfectly connects in with the "end of history" and their eternal rule.

 Also, with class struggle at such a low level in many advanced capitalist
countries, in particular America and Britain which suffered ruling class
offensives largely in the 1980s, the ruling class are perfectly in their
rights to refuse to recognise the proletariat considering they only notice
it when it becomes a threat. Indeed, Tony Blair recently proclaimed - to the
immense delight of the trade union bureaucracy - that the class war had
ended, to which many asked: "Then who on fucking earth won?"

 Actually, the claims that "we were all middle class" were much stronger in
the 1960s then now, during a period then when class struggle was at a low
level. In countries with a higher level of class consciousness, in
particular France, which enjoyed its biggest strikes in history in 1995
which brought down the government for the first time ever, such claims lack
in abundance.

 However, there has recently been much pseudo-science "human nature"
propaganda as of late. For instance, attempting to find a crime gene as
though to explain criminality is not almost exclusively caused by social
background but by inheritance. Similarly there has been pseudo-science
investigations to prove other features, such as intelligence, are
independent of environment and are solely caused genetically. The most
perverse levels the "human nature" argument can fall to are the attempts to
prove that black people are genetically intellectually inferior to white
people, in that way portraying the national oppression they suffer in the
advanced capitalist societies, or indeed other perverse Social Darwinist
ideas to explain class as genetic.

 To think that human nature is nothing other than a reflection of the
environment seems frankly absurd to me. If this were true, a backward Afghan
rural peasant living in semi-feudal slavery, and easily adopted by the
Taliban, would not seem so alien (or indeed an Ulsterman...). It would not
explain the fact that workers of all different nationalities are so
fundamentally similar because they face the same situation, and thereby why
a worker in Liverpool has more in common with a worker in Seoul than a
bourgeois in its own country. People are shaped by the environment attached
to their class. Anyone who fails to notice this in their everyday life
either does not get out enough, or is has five mansions scattered across an
equal number of continents. The nature of a proletarian is so very
strikingly different from a bourgeois as to make them entirely different
creatures in nearly every fundamental respect.

 However, of course the personality of a present human being is a reflection
of capitalism - the greed, competition and "every man for himself"
sentiments, as it were, whilst a proletarian socialist revolution will
gradually reconstruct human personality - inevitably, since it is a product
of the environment. But real human nature is of solidarity, not just shown
by solidarity strikes and suchlike, but on a simple level if you get a
French worker talking to a Korean worker.

 I hope everybody read the article I recently posted by the Guardian finance
editor which surprisingly well exposes the absurdity of the "end of the
working class" (a proclamation uttered by those who would not venture near
an estate for a surviving 1965 bottle of the finest Bordeaux, whom drive to
their country manors in one of their various leather-coated limousines). If
any comrade desires to read it who has not done so, I can always re-post it.



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