labour aristocracy cont.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Feb 3 16:19:07 MST 2003

Tom O'Lincoln:
>And it's equally unlikely a plantation worker will arrive at socialist
>conclusions just because they have lousy wages and work under a blinding
>sun. I don't know much about Honduras but there is a long history of
>plantation labour in Indonesia, and no evidence that the workforce there is
>more consistently radical than anyone else.

Despite my opposition to mechanical understandings of Bolshevism, there is
little doubt that Lenin was right when he said:

"We have said that there could not have been Social-Democratic
consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from
without. The history of all countries shows that the working class,
exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union
consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in
unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass
necessary labour legislation, etc. [2] The theory of socialism, however,
grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated
by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By
their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and
Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very
same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose
altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class
movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development
of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia. In the period
under discussion, the middle nineties, this doctrine not only represented
the completely formulated programme of the Emancipation of Labour group,
but had already won over to its side the majority of the revolutionary
youth in Russia."

To elaborate on this, it is a *fact* that not a single revolutionary party
in a G7 type country has recruited significant numbers of industrial
workers. By the same token, a handful of revolutionaries in places like
Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua built powerful revolutionary
organizations in the 1980s. Let's be honest about this. A worker decides to
join a revolutionary organization when capitalism seems to have exhausted
all of its possibilities. This realization comes a lot easier to somebody
picking coffee beans for a living, in other words the people who joined the
FMLN, FSLN, Guerrilla Army of the Poor.

Our day will come in places like Australia, the USA, etc., but the main
obstacle to a future construction of a powerful working class movement is
the dead weight of "vanguard" conceptions which have to be hacked away in
order to move forward. Of course, I would not dream of telling
"Marxist-Leninists" to put away their hammer-and-sickle paraphernalia.
Goodness knows, everybody needs a little excitement even if it is of a
vicarious nature.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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