A comment on labour aristocracy

Ed George edgeorge at usuarios.retecal.es
Tue Feb 4 02:55:57 MST 2003


Apologies in advance if I repeat anything already said in this
discussion but having a life outside the internet means I can't match
the standard response time to posts on this list ...

It strikes me that it is the epitome of economism to say that material
advantages themselves are responsible for political conservatism: that
if someone has more money they are therefore going to be more
reactionary (or if they're reactionary it's because they have more
money).  It has always struck me that it is the _relative_ positions of
people within a given and commonly understood social framework that
count, and that if there is a relative material difference, _from where_
people think it comes (and thus who would be threatening it).  In short,
politics.  The Northern Ireland protestants clearly - as Domhnall has
indicated - enjoy on general a relative material advantage (and it
really doesn't matter a sausage whether this comes from recycled
imperialist super-profits or not, or even how it compares with
conditions elsewhere within the confines of the British state) and I
think it is clear that they understand - quite correctly - that this
relative advantage is endowed to them by virtue of the existence of the
Orange state.  So they are drawn to make political alliances with those
people perceived as defending this state and against those fighting
against it.  But this is only a general tendency and not an 'iron law':
it does not mean that the Northern Irish protestants can be written out
of history as such, but that they will be so _if they maintain their
Unionism_ (and their Unionism is no mere caprice but a phenomenon with
material roots).  The British miners, to take another - contrary -
example, understood that their relative material privileges (and they
_were_ real) came not from the state and its defenders but from
collective struggle carried out against their employers - including the
state - over generations, even if at the end of the day they tended to
understand this struggle in a syndicalist fashion.  They thus understood
the political relations within and between classes in a diametrically
different way from, for example, Northern Irish Unionism.  Again, the
relationship is a political one.  And I have to say that how anyone who
has worked can fail to see this is beyond me: this is not Marxism but
plain common sense.

There is a broader question around this, of course, relating to the
phenomenon of bureaucratic conservatism in the workers' movement and the
rise of social-democratic politics.  On this I will only say for the
moment that if we conceive of the construction of revolutionary parties,
and even of socialist revolutions, as discrete national processes -
which is the tendency I see in this discussion - then we will get
nowhere.

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