marxism-digest V1 #3993

ermadog at ermadog at
Tue Sep 25 02:44:01 MDT 2001

On Fri, 21 Sep 2001 joelw at wrote:

> Reply to T. Taler:
> When does a person become a worker? Perhaps, people who have the
> economic resources to spend time chit-chatting in their ultra-left
> fashion about what all of this means, which person was a worker, which
> person wasn't, who deserves to live and who doesn't based on their
> salary aren't workers either...Extraordinary!

Absolutely no one has been talking about who deserves to live and who
deserves to die. Where do people get these ideas? Why are so many people
unable to read plain text?

"Chit-chatting" about class is pretty much an essential function of
Marxist analyisis.  I can understand your confusion - there does indeed
seem to be a lot of misunderstanding on the left as to what the Marxist
definition of class actually is. This confusion seems to have arisen as a
result of the widespread use of the term "middle class", which refers to
an income group and to the attitude of complacence attendant upon a secure
income. As has been pointed out several times recently, class in Marxist
terms is defined by whether or not an individual owns his own means of
production. It's a pretty simple concept, really. What compounds
confusion, however, is the fact that different social layers within these
two broad classes - the proletariat and the bourgeoisie - generate
different forms of class consciousness.

The Masters of the Universe who got toasted on Grim Tuesday, because of
the social layer they occupied (defined in part by the income level and
the company they kept, and in part by the kind of work they did), were not
likely to have developed a working class consciousness. I repeat, however,
that no one here has claimed these people deserved to die.

Whether or not one has sympathy for them is a matter of personal
conscience, and not a matter of Marxist analysis. Personally, I view their
deaths with as much detachment as I view the entirely preventable deaths
on the highways every year, or the equally preventable deaths from
nicotine-induced cancer - I don't want to bomb the automotive or the
tobacco industries.

> This amounts in my view to a kind of unwillingness to
> imagine any kind of affinity with real people

How in Hell do you imagine you have the right to assess what kind of
affinity Taler has with anyone? And what does this imagined affinity have
to do with his discussion of class? You seem to imagine that all politics
are simply a matter of rationalization of a person's sympathies. That's a
bit of a slight to Taler's intelligence, and isn't very comradely.

> even if they aren't as
> super-class conscious as yourself, even if they are misguided into
> believing their middle-class lives are truly liberated...I wonder also,
> what an ultra-left imagines herself to be part of

In my observation, usually, ultra-leftists imagine themselves to be unique
individuals, representive of some entirely imaginary pure revolutionary
spirit. This betrays a lack of class consciousness on their part.

...the section of this
> list that pursues paranoid conspiracies (though no doubt such a
> conspiracy that a ruling class might have exists) or some detached,
> disengaged, super-class conscious person, who can tell anyone their
> faults, their complcity, but cannot imagine his own?

You seem to have mistaken this list for a confessional of some sort. If
you want to confess your character faults, consult a priest. Revolution is
not a morals crusade.

No one here is discussing paranoid conspiracies: some of us are discussing
possible conspiracies - something not unheardof in the history of the
world. Since we are obviously not getting the whole truth, it is quite
appropriate to discuss other alternatives, such as conspiracy, blowback,
rogue CIA agents, disaffected rightwingers such as Timothey McVeigh, and
so on. We are not likely to know the truth for decades, unless some
present-day Daniel Ellsberg leaks more documents.

Of all the explanations I've heard so far, I favour the idea that this was
a pre-emptive strike by persons who were aware of the threat reported in
the Guardian and posted to this list on Sept. 22 by Jim Farmelant.
According to this article, the US threatened to bomb the Taliban two
months prior to the attack on the WTC. Somebody - possibly bin Laden's
group - decided to strike first.

> The broadest possible peace movement, even if its main sections aren't
> calling for socialism, is the most important thing to build now, isn't
> it?

Yes it is. But are you proposing that the building of such a movement
precludes discussion of class analysis? Do you suggest that the two
activities are mutually exclusive?

Joan Cameron

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