World Party of Socialist Revolution

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at cqu.edu.au
Sun Jul 14 08:34:46 MDT 2002


Having written this post I see that Chris Brady has made similar comments with
which I agree but I'll post this at the risk of repetition.

> From: Nancybrumback at cs.com
> Macdonald Stainsby wrote:
>
> >>Just as a small sect is inevitably doomed to it's own internal contradictions
> due to being divorced entirely from the workers or any other movement, so too is
> an idea for the revolutionary structure which does not emanate from the people
> whose lives the idea is supposed to transform.>>
>
> Right. The potential revolutionists are exactly all of those who can expect their lives to be changed for the good. This is why I keep saying (though i haven't said it on this list yet) that those who want social change have to stop focussing on the working class to the exclusion of all others.

I wonder which groups you have in mind and what you mean by working class.  This list talks about a lot of groups, Blacks, Indigenous people, Latinos, all of which I assume are working class.  I can't say I've seem much discussion of gender per se but I could be wrong.

> One reason is that today, because of globalization, the american working class is one of the wealthiest and most privileged groups of people in the world; at this point,

While I take your point in a general sense there are not so many starving North Americans as Africans but it is the the US ruling class that rules the world and the US working class that has the
(potential) power to stop them.

> they are very strongly influenced by the ideology of the ruling class and not the ideology of revolution.

Indeed and this is the problem - what do we do about that?

> Almost 100 years ago, Lenin observed this same condition amongst the working classes (of Europe? Britain? sorry, i can't remember which...it's in "Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism").

He proposed that in Imperialist centres the ruling class "buys off" a section privileged section
of the workers which are used to control the rest.  I'm not sure that I entirely agree with Lenin
on this but he certainly did not mean the whole Western working class was bought off in this way.

> Another reason is that the lives of the working class are not the only lives that could be radically improved by the end of capitalism and its replacement by more socialistic modes of production, organization, and education. Poor women and men need more socialized housework, child care, and health services as well as more income and the end of sexism.

Indeed - but you seem to distinguish "poor" here from "working class".  Most poor people are working class or unemployed (i.e. would be working class if they could be).

> People of color need to be free of the effects of racism, queers of homophobia.

Yes some but not all queers, people of colour (or women) lives meet your first criteria which was that there lives would be improved by socialism.  What about Colin Powell does he need socialism to improve his life as a coloured man? or OJ Simpson, or Margaret Thatcher?  Yes homophobia, racism and sexism mar everyone's life but not to the same extent and the only way to end these things is socialism and not everyone has an interest in fighting for it, even if they are black etc.

> If you think i'm talking about a populist movement, you're right. Only those who are oppressed by the system (along with their partisans) can be expected to participate in changing it.

Yes but we don't need a populist (i.e. cross class) movement.  Not all members of minorities are oppressed or oppressed in the same way.  I can imagine a world without significant class differences but there will always be different genders and ethnic groups it just under socialism they won't be a source of discrimination.

> But still, on this list and so many others, most of what you hear about is the working class. What will it take for people to see the broader picture and relate to it before we are all dead?

I think that looking at class IS looking at the broader picture and seeing how the other axis of oppression play out in that context, rather than narrowing the focus on particular forms of oppression.

> Chris Brady writes:
>
> "....Then there is the mechanical reality that the workers actually have their hands on the means of production.  This adds the dynamism necessary to the concept that the working class is the engine of history."
>
> I like the idea that the agents of revolution will be the ones who lack power -- power to participate in the making of decisions about things that affect their lives. It is inclusive, not exclusive. But your phraseology "...the mechanical reality ... hands on the means of production....engine of history ..." is uncomfortably suggestive of the orthodox definition of the working class, i.e., those who live on wages received from their labor. Some marxists have interpreted this so narrowly that they have focused on organizing at "the point of production," i.e., trade unions involved with heavy manufacture.

OK I see what you mean more clearly now, though it would strike me as a Marxist activist of 10 years standing (and I was late bloomer being age 38) that this would be a pretty old fashioned definition of Marxism organizing.  Lenin talked of Marxists responding to all cases of oppression.  Of course as far as fundamental change goes Marxists give priority to those they think have the power to change it but that's a lot more than 'point of production'.  People may radicalise about all sorts of issues and be led to socialist conclusions by their experience apart from at work.

> So, by working class, do you mean those who live on wages received from their labor? Because a lot of people would be left out of that category, because some people are unemployed, some cannot work, and some work but receive no wage.

I would look at it collectively, their are those that own and control the means of production and those whose labour keeps society going and whose surplus labour collectively creates profits. Outside of capitalists, there are people who are dependent on their capacity to work (or on the state which is funded out of taxes paid by those that work).  Unemployed would work if they could find a capitalist to buy them.  Unwaged workers (at home?) either live off their partners wage or state benefits.  In any case they live off the surplus but do not survive by exploiting the labour of others.  Socialists would encourage them to make the connections to the broader class structures of society.

> How would you interpret the relationship of these people to "the engine of history"?

They are working class or potential allies.  (They might also be reactionary it depends on the circumstances).  They need to organise themselves to end their specific forms of oppression and I hope socialists would be able to convince them of the importance of class because if we don't then not all women/blacks/queers will be liberated by their liberation movement because most of them will end up as workers and oppressed by capital while a few will reap most of the benefits.

> Does their lack of a wage and connection to the means of production mean they don't have the dynamism necessary to change history?

I may be jumping in too soon but I think the answer is 'yes'.  I don't think a movement of the unemployed on its own could change history.  Even a black movement or the women's movement while important on its own terms would only be small if it didn't include those who I define as 'working class'.  It would change history only for some blacks and some women

> From: "bon moun" <sherrynstan at igc.org>
>
> ..." is uncomfortably suggestive of the orthodox definition of the working
> class, i.e., those who live on wages received from their labor. Some
> marxists have interpreted this so narrowly that they have focused on
> organizing at "the point of production," i.e., trade unions involved with
> heavy manufacture.
>
> This schema was one that contributed to the split in 1991 of the CP and the
> Committees of Correspondence, a "policy" called industrial concentration.
> I might just say that you don't become a proletarian when you work in a
> factory, you become a proletarian when you become a commodity.

Indeed

> I might also say that in the struggle for women's emancipation, that is, half of
> humanity, the sexual divisions of labor cross class lines, and right now
> around 80% of the work being done in the world is being done by this 52% of
> the population, even though female ownership of anything is in the single
> digits.

Right - so these women are working class.

> I might further say that the struggle against imperialism involves
> a direct struggle, often with inter-class collaboration for national
> liberation (IMHO also in the US where the indigenous and African-American
> nations reside).

In a general sense perhaps but for me what matters is the terms on which
the collaboration takes place doesn't it? (I would call them ethnic minorities
but that's another debate)

> I used to hear how the industrial proletariat is the only
> consistently revolutionary class, even as history tells me otherwise.

Who limits the revolutionaries to 'industrial' nowadays?

> One criterion for rebellion is the willingness to fight.  No white male
> American worker who is driving an $20,000 pickup and a barbecue in the back
> yard is going to rebel.

This is a prophecy.

> Rebellion is high risk and always comes in
> response to a combination of misery, repression, and humiliation.

Partly but it also these things are historical what is "humiliating"  depends on
what one thinks of as just and that varies in time and place.  Revolutions come
about when people can see hope and want to change it, not in the pits of
despair. These kinds of terms are too functionalist and psychologistic.

> Figure out what sectors will face that constellation, and when, and we then know
> who can be mobilized.

Many people who are feeling despair can be mobilised whether they can be
mobilised for progressive causes is another matter.

Regards

Shane


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