Labor Aristocracy

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at
Thu Jan 30 22:48:49 MST 2003

>>There is little point in talking about the labor aristocracy separate and
apart from the historical conditions that precipitated this awkward, at
best, inaccurate in reality concept. If memory serves me, it was the shock
of WWI and the failure of the social democrats in Europe to oppose the war,
and mobilize the workers across borders to oppose the war that precipitated
this concept.<<

As I see it, Lenin is struggling to recast almost all of Marxist theory
after August 1914. He revisits Hegel, he rethinks the State. And he wants a
totalising theory that can simultaneously explain the horrible twin
features of WWI: imperialism and the betrayal of social democracy.

If you step back and look at the big picture, he did a pretty good job. His
works laid the theoretical foundations for both the October Revolution and
the Communist International. But if we get up close, we see a few rough
patches in the edifice. One of these is the "labour aristocracy". His
attempt to directly link the fruits of imperialism with social democratic
betrayal doesn't hold water. In the 3d World it opened the door for
nationalism -- and to this day I have to argue with Indonesian comrades who
don't believe international solidarity can work, because "western workers
benefit from imperialism".  In the west, it offered a crude bribery theory,
when in fact the roots of reformism go quite deep, and the oppressed are
usually as reformist as anyone else. I still remember the shock of my first
picket line, a strike at Kaiser Hospital, and discovering the blacks on it
were no more left wing than the whites...

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