[Marxism] re: Jurriaan and "dork socialism"

paul illich paul_illich at hotmail.com
Sat Aug 21 12:44:47 MDT 2004

Jurriaan wrote:

Part of a mature politics, is understanding what is really
progress and what is progressive, and avoiding workerist delusions which
write off anything that is not certified "working class" as inimical to
progress. This is dork socialism.

Mark Lause wrote:

Jurriaan, however, nailed me as a doctrinaire Marxist, a soft-headed
sentimentalist about the working class, and an arrogant bourgeois--all
at the same time!

My experience with factions such as the SWP in the UK in the Seventies
puts me firmly on Jurriaan's side in this, though perhaps his manner is
ruder than it should be, on occasion.

I see no contradiction between "doctrinaire Marxist, a soft-headed
sentimentalist about the working class, and an arrogant bourgeois"
whatsoever. There definately exists a very influential and destructive
class within the Left that fits the bill entirely. I have no wish to join in
in Mark-slagging, and am not suggesting therefore that Mark also fits
this bill [or perhaps I should say I reserve judgement, as I haven't
seen sufficient evidence one way or t'other yet].

Middle-class activists are often, especially in studenthood, voluble
fiery and bolshy [in the negative sense]. They get into local working
class groups and become, usually for a short time, very high profile,
the old stalwarts no doubt raising eyebrows and a pint waiting for
them to get bored, or to graduate and get work in banking. Some,
of course, stay and wreak havoc forever. The SWP in Britain seems
to me to be brimming over with these guys. I visit Britain often [am
here now in fact], but even in New England and Maryland, where
anti-intellectualism averts a lot of this [or apathy as I'd call it], sports
a bit of this now and then.

These "chaps" are [pseudo-?] intellectual thinkers with a fire in their
bowel. They spend much energy trying to invert their snobbery, and
to this end are inherently workerist and sentimental about workers.
They are rarely closer to working themselves far less being workers.

As they are middle-class at root this sentimentalism / workerism is more
than a little bit condescending, almost patting workers on the head
when not tugging a forelock at 'em.

They are often doctrinaire as well. Needless to say, arrogant bastards

Soon enough their barely buried superiority rears its ugly head, and they
begin to "see" that the working class are not really in tune with their
best interests - back then this meant they were Thatcherites, often.
This absurdity - a selfish self-interest in pursuit of personal hedonist
heaven, "I'm alright Jack" stylee - grates more and more. Those whose
disdain doesn't catapult the out of the movement and into the City
stick around being the "vanguard" of the proles, patronisngly despairing
of them, rarely all that privately.

The workers quaffe their pints and try to ignore them, of course...

As a vanguardist, the typical middle-class Marxist is naturally 
always a "sentimentalist about the working class", and almost without
exception "an arrogant bourgeois".

The position is perhaps inevitable - they have an education and due to
their relatively secure childhood can stand back and objectify. They
illustrate a problem for us all - because as Jurriaam notes, at least
implicitly, the workerist delusion is itself inimical to progress, rather
than the failure to adopt it being inimical to progress. But an empathy
for the worker and his plight, a "there but for the grace of God go I"
attitude, whilst perhaps patronising, is the fuel of the movement.

We are in an awkward position here. Vanguardism is forced upon us,
because, yes, we can see clearly that, say, PR in Britain's current
cultural climate would result in the return of capital punishment and
free holidays in Spain for all right off the bat - in other words would
create a disasterous mess. This is not, by-the-way, an argument
against PR, but an argument for education and leftist propaganda.

Which leaves us where we started, in the realm of the "doctrinaire Marxist,
a soft-headed sentimentalist about the working class, and an arrogant

Decoupling workerist utopianism from the political activist culture seems
to me entirely necessary. The reverse blindly lionizes headonists with
their own agenda ["false-consciousness" anyone?]. Politically, the jaded
removal of mass worker opinion and its replacement with vanguardism,
seems to fairlty frequently result in an alterative psychological pathway
to leaving the movement and becoming a banker, and that is forging
ahead along that arrogant and doctinaire path, rosy-speccing a false
myth of the worker and imposing a centralized stalinist state mentality
on your own little corner of Left-land to force the buggers to play ball -
and if you're lucky enought to hold a wee bit of power when the shit hits
the fan, your own little corner might become an actual centralized
stalinist state.

The thread this is a reponse to mentioned something aout human nature.
Well, to paraphrase Marx, the point of philosoph is not to describe human
nature, but to change it - it is a maleable thing, not a fixed demon. If
the West has produced a common nature in it's folk, this is a result of
consumerist hedonism, which itself it a product of an environment that
has too much scarcity, that leads to a lack of confidence in those who
cannot hoard stuff.

This is outmoded, as is the industrial growth element of both capitalist
and some socialisms. The tools, and this is what they are, that we used
to survive in the past are globalised today. On this non-local scale, and
in a post-scarcity envirenment, and where the tools of war developed
to fight scarcity and guarantee at least _someone is_ "alight Jack"
a continuation of this mentality becomes entirely destructive. As Hubbert's
Peak approaches.... passes.... is gone, we may well find ourselves past
the chance to drag oursleves out of History. Complacent hedonist
workers, ill-educated and "wordly-goods" laden, are to blame to some
extent, though frankly they were made that way [not by nature...].
The small window of opportunity to save the race and the planet.
by becoming stewards of the earth rather than it's rapists is slamming
shut. It began to creak open from probably the mid-fifties. Ironically, the
greens, who should be behind the retooling of society using appropriate
technologies to become stewards, seem to be so far up their "deep
ecology" fundament that they have become part of ther problem
becoming bloody Luddites.

Yet modern industrialism has been shown to be inappropriate for
moving forward, by the ecologists, even if their too Luddic rejection of
technologies is wrong-headed. The left has been a few decades too
slow in ditching industrialism, and frankly, workerism is a big part of the
reason for this. Less industry less jobs, inertia against re-skilling, 
shops, and hey yeah the "doctrinaire Marxist, ... soft-headed
sentimentalist about the working class, ... arrogant bourgeois" political
careerist activist middle-class student-type has made this new perspective
all but impossible to adopt.

Over the last couple of decades more and more of the left has had
a wiff of that Java smell.

Green and red is more common.

But it seems quite likely that this may be  bit too little too late, and
that the cynical anti-humanism of the Dave Foreman's of this world
might become correct by default no matter how unattractive it really
is [and boy, it really is].

Fukayama heralded the end if history. This was obvious toss even
in the late eighties / early nineties. We are set to reenter the stream
of history with a vengeance an soon. I don't want to, and neither
should anyone else. But the inverted snobbery of workerism is one
of the many factors that has guaranteed that it will come to pass.

But it ain't human "nature", just cultural fuck-up.

Enough already,

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