[Marxism] Petty Bourgeois--the consciousness yardstick

Scotlive at aol.com Scotlive at aol.com
Fri Aug 13 11:36:42 MDT 2004

In a message dated 8/13/2004 7:25:50 AM Pacific Daylight Time, 
MLause at cinci.rr.com writes:
We must recognize that if we accept the yardstick of consciousness, we
are indirectly buying what the bourgeois and their various
culture-makers are selling

We are not buying what they are selling, rather we are responding to a 
present-day reality. When Marx formulated his analysis of class in the middle of the 
19th century it was well nigh impossible for say a miner to be anything else 
in his lifetime. In fact, all a miner could look forward to in industrial 
Europe back then was black lung and death by the age of forty. Classes were fixed 
entities, more or less, and as such a purely material definition was apt to 
categorize them. Conditions were so bad that the arising of a labour movement, 
of trade unionism, and the onset of industrial conflict was inevitable. 
Workers, so oppressed and plagued by unemployment, bad working conditions, low wages, 
etc., realised they had no choice if they were to improve their lives other 
than to organize and struggle to rise with their fellow workers.

Today there is no labor movement, at least not in the United States, which we 
can attribute to a number of factors. i) the ruling class have suceeded in 
depicting working class solidarity and unions as an anachronism which has no 
place in today's dynamic economy and society, where there exists opportunity for 
all who are smart and industrious enough to take advantage. ii) the jobs of 
today are more or less casual, part time, the people who do them transient, 
passing through on to, hopefully, bigger and better things. iii) the ruling class, 
with the passing of anti-labor laws, such as Taft Hartley, such as the 
prohibition of sympathy strikes, such as the introduction of separate labor 
contracts, have succeeded in nullifying the strength of the labor movement and 
rendering it ineffectual.

So now, by and large, most workers see their best interests in attempting to 
rise from the masses rather than with the masses.

There has always pervaded in the US, and also latterly in Western Europe, an 
almost religious devotion to getting rich, to 'making it'. This philosophy, or 
as I would characterize it, sickness, is a cultural phenomenon. The entire 
ethos of the American Dream has enabled to ruling class, the monied US 
aristocracy, to remain unmolested despite huge convultions of the Depression and the 
anti-Vietnam War movement. Ultimately, whilst the vast majority of workers, of 
the poor, believe in the system, believe that they too can make it, there never 
will be a viable, strong, revolutionary movement in the US or elsewhere.

So what does it mean to be petty bourgeoisise today. Does it mean a worker 
with a secondary income from say stocks or rental property? Does it mean the 
professional class of teachers, lawyers and doctors? What exactly does it mean? 

In Marx's day there did not exist such as thing as credit or mortgages for 
the vast majority. Janitors may also work as security guards at night just to be 
able to afford the payments on a leased Lexus or BMW. Do you think that this 
guy considers himself working class or middle class? After all, he's driving a 
Lexus. And what of those US workers with stocks in say a mining company in 
West Africa? His dividends are the direct result of the exploitation of African 
workers, are they not?

We must take into account present day economic conditions, the evolution of 
Capitalism, in order to come up with a correct analysis. I'm not saying that 
the one proffered here is necessarily correct, but I am saying that Marx's is no 
longer a hundred percent accurate.

Manufacturing industry has moved to the Third World. If say there was a 
strike by janitors tomorrow, even a national strike, it would not bring the nation 
to a grinding halt. Back in Marx's day if miner's across Europe had gone out 
on strike they would have. Our power as workers is only reflected in our 
ability to impact on the economy through either action or inaction. This is why in 
the US the ILWU remains such a powerful force while other unions do not. 
Because they are in a position, working on the waterfront where the massive imports 
arrive to keep the retail food, clothing and other sectors of the economy 
going, to bring it to a halt.

Let me know your thoughts.


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