Marxism in rich countries

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Jun 7 14:35:41 MDT 2001

>>> juliohuato at 06/07/01 03:39PM >>>

>CB: How about WAGE-LABORERS, as 85 % of the adult pop.  ?


We'd have to look at the statistics.  I don't know this by heart, but I'm
sure they are by far the majority of the adult population.


CB: I am agreeing with you and adding the word "overwhelming" to your "majority".

 Industrial concentration by Communist Parties does not mean ignoring  non-industrial workers as part of the working class. That  is my "subtle" point for the larger thread issue.


>CB: I think  it is an irreconcilable antagonism,

CB: This should be " I do NOT think it is an irreconcilable antagonism
 but there is an antagonism
>between workers in the 'core' and the 'periphery'.  Overcoming this
>antagonism has been central to the Communist movement since Engels and Marx
>coined the slogan "Workers of the world , unite". In other words, Engels
>and Marx knew there was this antagonism and thought overcoming it was the
>very key to the world communist revolution.

I use the term 'antagonism' to refer to contradictions that are


CB: I follow Lenin's usage. He refers to "irreconcilable antagonisms" , which phrase would be redundant if there were no reconcilable antagonisms.


 Now, I understand that the economic conditions don't
predetermine social behavior.  But, under capitalist production, wage
workers -- whether they are predominantly manual or mental, blue collar or
white collar, native or foreign -- are collectively exploited by the
capitalist class.  That confers on them a commonality of interest.  I don't
think international Marxism in the late 20th century and early 21st century
has been able yet to exploit this commonality.


CB: I think core and periphery workers have commonality of interest. Workers of all countries , unite ( based on commonality of interest).


>More recently the antagonism was made most graphic by the 'core' workers
>forming the bulk of the colonialist armies or for example, the AFL-CIO as a
>branch of the CIA in labor struggles all around the world, including in the

This shows that capitalists have exploited the differences.  It doesn't
necessarily mean that solidarity between 'core' and 'peripheral' workers is
unthinkable or even unlikely.


CB: To say "Workers of the world , unite" means I don't think solidarity between core and peripheral workers is unthinkable at all, but that it is the main thought.


 Whatever the current conditions (and they are
evolving), what matters is how to turn things around.

>CB: It was not the revolutionary responsibility of he CPSU to radicalize
>the workers in Western Europe and the US.

The CP of the Soviet Union was the absolute leader of the 3rd International.
  It claimed that responsibility to itself.


CB: The task of the 3rd International was not to lead the revolutions in individual countries. That role fell to the working class organizations of each country. The 3rd International was a solidarity organization among these national parties.  So in leading the 3rd International, the SU was not claiming leadership of struggles in other, individual countries.


>In fact, the involvement or connection , cooperation between the CPUSA and
>CPSU was one of the key things used by the US. ruling class to politically
>annihilate the CPUSA, charging the CPUSA as being an agent of a foreign
>power.  It was smart for the CPSU to faint disdain , to the extent that it
>did, for other parties around the world IN ORDER TO PROTECT THOSE PARTIES
>much in the U.S.)

Without getting into the historical details (which I ignore), there's a
clear lesson here.  Why did the US rulers' plan work and the CPSU didn't?


CB: That's what we have been discussing. I say, with Lenin, that part of the cause was the use of imperialist booty to buyoff segments of the working class in the U.S.

You mentioned that you thought it was the greater productivity of the working classes in the rich countries that provided their higher standard of living.  This higher productivity comes from more advanced instruments of production in the main, no ?  How would that impact strategy today ?


This is hindsight, but let's use it.  Maybe the best way for US communists
to advance in the US was not through a CPUSA affiliated to the 3rd
International and subject to Moscow's directives.  That may have been good
for Moscow, but it seems that it wasn't as good for communism in the US.  An
argument can be made to show that, for the sake of international communism,
the sacrifice of US communism was required, but I find it farfetched.


CB:  Perhaps, but this ignores that the great enthusiasm all socialists around the world had for the Russian Revolution and its Bolshevik leaders. Ho Che Minh was part of the Third International , and he was a leader in successful revolution. It would have been a sign of opposition to the Russian Rev to not join the 3rd International. The first Communist Party was The Internationale. Being part of the 3rd International was almost a necessary consequence of subscribing to proletarian internationalism.

For the CPUSA not to join it would have been an aggravation of the (soluable) contradiction between workers in the core and periphery in that Russia was a semi-peripheral country.

I do not buy the idea that the main cause of the failure of the U.S. revolution has been CPUSA membership in the 3rd International or pernicious influence of the CPSU on the CPUSA.

>CB: What is the Marxist connotation of "conflate" ? What we say is
>autoworkers, cybermanufacturer workers and prison workers unite, not

Analogies can only go so far, but let me use an example.  Impalas and
elephants are different species.  That doesn't mean poachers will stop
killing them both.  But if you want to preserve them, then you have to
consider their differences in diet, mating habits, etc.  The theoretical
distinction between exploitation of forced labor and exploitation of free
labor is key.  That's what distinguishes the capitalist mode of production
from others.  It doesn't follow that the interests of workers under the
regular wage system and those under a mandatory system are opposed.


CB: The theoretical distinction between exploitation of forced labor and exploitation of free labor is key TO WHAT ?  How does focussing on their theoretical differences advance the goal of UNITING workers in the periphery and core ? How does it help to resolve their reconcilable contradictions ?

_Don't these questions get right to the contradiction in what you have been saying in our exchange over these several posts _?

  You want to emphasize the theoretical difference between wage-labor and forced labor, but then you want to unite the wage-laborers in the core and the forced laborers in the periphery. If you want to unite these different types of laborers, you should "conflate" them theoretically rather than emphasize their difference.  This is exactly why Marx said such things as "the British cotton trade was based on indirect slavery of white workers in England and direct slavey of Black workers in the U.S. South." He was conflating them rather than distinguishing them because conflating them theoretically would tend to unite them in practical struggle.

What is key is that exploited workers of all types, proletarians, peasants, farmworkers  UNITE.

>CB: I wouldn't say "distrust" . Lenin knew of the limitations of
>spontaneous workers' movement.  I don't think he said these limitations
>were confined to workers in "backward" countries like Russia.
>CB: 2nd International Lenin was at odds with was not under the auspices of
>Engels, rather Kautsky, et al.

The limitations of the spontaneous workers' movement are associated to class
heterogeneity -- the gap between mental and manual activities that you
mentioned; national origin, race, gender, ethnic origin, aptitude, history,
etc.  These traits of the working class were also apparent in Marx's times.
They existed also when Engels founded and led the 2nd International.


CB: This is misleading.  Engels did not initiate the theories and policies which became infamous in the polemics between Kautsky and Lenin. The way you pose it you imply that Engels' positions were the root of Kautsky's opportunism and chauvinism.,etc. That is not true.


then, afterwards.  They existed in richer countries, like Germany, France,
or Britain.  Yet, the attitude towards the spontaneous workers' movement, a
leadership of professional revolutionaries, and the proper organizational
blueprint was very different.  IMO, the key to this is related to the
different conditions in Russia and Western Europe.  (And it wasn't only
Kautsky -- it was Bebel, Luxembourg, Liebknicht, etc.)  And what matters to
us now is which one is more likely to fly and succeed under the existing
conditions in the rich countries.


CB: You seem to be saying the more homogenious the national working class , the less problems with spontaneity. I don't know about that. Where was a more homogeneous working class that had less spontaneity ?

I don't really understand your last statement here, although I agree with you that the form of the party on these questions must be dealt with concretely.

One thing that occurs to me is that U.S. workers, influenced by the bourgeois cult of individualism , may be more prone to "spontaneity" than workers in the "periphery"

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