The most productive class

paul illich paul_illich at
Wed Jul 30 09:53:34 MDT 2003

As proven by Stalin, they can be very productive given the
right "incentive", qua Solzhenitsyn...


Seriously though, surely an emancipated working class [I am
assuming here that Marx does mean the working classes and
not the middle-class activists such as Trotsky, et al...], with
technical skill and empowerment under a socialist-communist
transitory system would be well motivated to produce at
a greater capacity, overall, than an unempowered and
embittered working class, as we currently have, who cannot
share in higher profits generated by higher productivity and
who therefore have only negative incentives to be more
productive. The Stalinist regime had it's own method of
making such negative incentives work, as do more overtly
capitalist-productivist societies, such as the US or European

Yet a conundrum is unearthed, in so far as, sure, productivity
may rise if the productive revolutionary class is emancipated
and working in a socialist society... but the continuation
of productivist ideology, whether left or right, is fairly
widely seen as part of the problem these days. The world's
resources are not up to the continuation of the current
consumerist ideology, into which the current "alienated"
working classes are embedded.

Ecological concerns are not, as many activist of the left
are happy to deny, irrelevant liberal-bourgiuous sophistry
designed to soften and sideline workers opposition, but are
in fact quite real. The ideological evolution required in the
revolutionary class has, as Trotsky, among others, kind
of predicted, been slowed by consumerist rewrites of
capitalist productivism, and the "we can't get there from
here" problem is real, whether we are comfortable to admit
it or not.

Yet current events in the Middle East are surely a symptom
of fear of resource loss by the rich capitalist imperialist
powers, who should know really, whether they like to
allow their mainstream medias to discuss it or not.

The resource wars of this century, rising out of the current
oil panic, show clearly that industrial productivsm as it is
is a part of the problem, not of the solution. And yet it
has been at the heart of left wing solutions to class
inequality for the last century and a half. A post-scarcity
society was offered from maybe the mid-50's [in terms
of technology and opportunity]. I believe that this
window of opportunity is closing now, and that the
failure to take up the chance to equalise wealth, feed
everyone and develop soft technologies out of our
twentieth-century knowledge-base should fill us with no
little despair, as mankind's chance to acheive the "good
society" is fast disappearing. I have no truck with
"eco-fascist" ideals wherein the reduction of mankind's
population to pre-fifteenth century levels through
starvation and collapse is just fine. The resources that
make life livable and managable long-term, weather and
climate independant, are here. Our knowledge of how to
deploy them long-term and in a genuinely sustainable
manner [or at least our knowledge of how to find out]
is here now too - uniquely for this last couple of

The can't get there from here problem must be resolved
NOW, such that a livable socialistic society that is
equipped to provide a long-term post-scarcity environment
is needed NOW.

The revolutionary classes, hell yes, have the greatest
productive power, but getting that power focussed
on the real problems of sustainable survival is a tough
one, especially when many in the class that stands to
benefit the most have bought into capitalist productivsm
and the consumer society.

The reality is, no-one seems clear on how to actually
get there from here. The real issues are rarely addressed,
and guess what - I don't claim to have the answers either.

My daughter loves Lilo & Stitch. That Disney-pap movie
does have one important community lesson - "No-one
gets left behind". Call me a romantic, but let us try -
really try - to do it and soon. No gulags, please... The
saying "can't make an omlette without breaking eggs /
legs" is the motto of Bolshevists and Ayn Rand's accolites
alike, but, liberal wishy-washyness aside, Aldous Huxley's
belief that the ends cannot justify the means is writ large
as a deep truth across twentieth-century history.

So, let us hope we CAN get there from here - the
alternative does not bear thinking about!


From: Jorge Mann <jorge_mann at>
Subject: The most productive class

[ converted from html ]

Dear Marxism,

What do subscribers think about Mrx's statement that "Of all the
instruments of production, the greatest productive power is the
revolutionary class itself."

Send your thoughts. I am new to this list and would be interested to see
discussion on Marx and Marxism!


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