labour aristocracy, cont.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Feb 3 17:56:17 MST 2003

David Schanoes:
>I disagree (big surprise, right?).
>1.  The truth is the whole. Certainly, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador
>developed revolutionary movements.  Those movements were defeated..

I wasn't aware that we were discussing whether or not revolutionary
movements were defeated or not. I thought we were discussing class
consciousness, or the lack thereof, in the advanced industrial countries.

>2. The defeat included just those roll backs of land, welfare, and wages
>that had threatened the authority of capital.  But the roll backs and the
>reimposition of terms of empire did not benefit the workers in the advanced
>areas.  On the contrary, it was part of the global assault on the workers of
>both advanced and less developed countries.

It is a bit more complicated than that. Robert Biel's "The New Imperialism"
makes the case that the effect of lowered real wages in the G7 countries
since the 1970s have been offset by the availability of cheap consumer
goods in Walmart et al. In any case, the point is not that a worker is
"privileged". I wouldn't use that word. I would simply state that objective
conditions in countries like the USA and Australia do not make ordinary
workers receptive to the idea of socialist revolution today. Eugene V. Debs
got something like 5 million votes. That was a product of sharp class
conflict. History produces those conditions, not small revolutionary
organizations or individuals.

>3.  There were important movements in the developed areas, Portugal,as TOL
>points out, although I would point out that Portugal was the least developed
>country of Western Europe.  There were also the struggles of the Italian
>workers, the British workers against, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher.  In
>addition the Chilean revolution was in one of the most  developed countries
>of the "3rd World," and that movement was solidly urban working class.

I think it is a mistake to mix Chile and Portugal in with Great Britain for
obvious reasons. Portugal had been ruled by a fascist dictatorship since
the 1930s and Chile was basically a colony run for the benefit of foreign

>4. "Not since the end of WWII?"  OK, exactly! Sixty years.  And what was
>WWII?  It was the product of the destruction, the liquidation,  of the
>workers' movements in those relatively privileged homelands.  So if the
>people of Nicaragua or Chile or El Salvador don't rise up in 60 years,  what
>will that say about empire, capital and privilege?

In point of fact, Latin America has been a boiling cauldron of
revolutionary struggle for the past 50 years. If you can point me to a
similar phenomenon in working class neighborhoods in New Jersey, I'll buy
you a beer and a cigar.

>5.  I think a lot was done wrong in the 60s/70s but not because the workers
>were privileged.

Well, okay. I don't think privilege is a useful concept. I have, however,
worked in a steel mill myself and more importantly have spent lots of time
with socialists colonizing such places with a lot more dedication than I
had. For example, our own Fred Feldman has been a factory worker of one
sort or another since the mid 1980s. At this point in the game, he seems
for obvious reasons a lot more attuned to student activism around the
impending war in Iraq. It would be great,  I should add, to involve working
class people in the fight against the war but I would not hold out any
serious expectations that any of them might be persuaded to become

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