Thoughts occasioned by Tom's post was Re: Chris Harman on labour aristocracy theory

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Fri Jan 31 18:58:31 MST 2003


At 03:22  31/01/03 +1100, Tom wrote:
>It's true that  male workers THINK they benefit from sexism. White workers
>THINK they benefit from racism. And your logic tells them it's true, that
>they have a stake in the system. So why then should they oppose sexism and
>racism? Why should they fight the system? We would be reduced to moralistic
>arguments, and Marxism would be utopian.


There is a lot buried here, Tom, is there not?  I think for instance of N.
Ireland. There the Protestant working class can be empirically proven to
benefit materially from their links to British Imperialism - still, but
presumably to a much lesser extent than before the Civil Liberties
uprisings of 1968.

The British Left like to deny this, but they are simply refusing to seek
truth from facts as China's Machiavelli once said.

However where the Protestant working class did not benefit was in cultural
and moral terms.  The iron logic of this can be seen if we compare a leader
of the Catholic working class - Gerry Adams - with a leader of the
Protestant working class - Mad Dog Adair. Of course random or not so random
samples of two are hardly scientific.  But I rest happy on any comparison
between the workers who wave the Israeli flag and those who raise the
Palestinian flag.

Are the Protestant working class then a labor aristocracy?  It would seem a
shocking thing to say, but of course they are. How, though, could an
aristocracy produce such a lumpish thug as Mad Dog Adair? However when
unemployment in Catholic working class estates is twice or more that of the
unemployment in Protestant working class estates, no other category is
adequate to describe this situation, IMHO. Privileges are relative, but
they are privileges.

The question then arises what to do about the situation?  I have been
accused of wanting to liquidate the Protestant working class.  That
accusation angered me deeply.  But I will leave that aside and observe that
the first step to dealing with divisions between workers is to acknowledge
the reality of privilege.

Now Tom also raises in a very oblique way the big questions of the role of
morality and the position of utopian thought within a Marxist
politics.   We could go on debating this unto the glorious last instance,
but I will content myself with raising my flag around the question of
morality. I reject explicitly the implicit equation of morality with
material self interest in Tom's post. The ghastly spectre of Jeremy
Bentham, and not Marx, is at the feast here.

As for utopian thought I will content myself here with quoting a very great
Irishman,

"A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing
at."

regards

Gary


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