[Marxism] Forwarded from Anthony (reply to Lou Paulsen)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jun 10 17:32:54 MDT 2004


Reply to Lou Paulsen (Re: [Marxism] (Prognosis for US
workers?) was: Forwarded from Anthonyin Colombia Date:
Thu, 10 Jun 2004 21:04:36 +0000)

Here are my replies to Lou Paulsen's comments and
questions.

1. Lou wrote, "It seems to me that we had a big
argument here a couple years ago over this issue -
whether the huge wage differences between the US and
other imperialist countries, on the one hand, and the
colonized world, on the other, was due to
superoppression, class struggle histories, differences
in productivity, etc.  As I recall we didn't reach a
consensus last time."

This time around I did not address the economic and
political mechanisms which create higher material
standards of living for workers in imperialist
countries than for workers and the oppressed in the
rest of the world. I only addressed the affect that
these differences have had on the class consciousness
of workers in the United States. They are conscious of
their better material conditions, and try to defend
them - including by giving political support to
imperialism.

2. Lou wrote, "Before we get into that, I would like
to ask Anthony: ok, this is your diagnosis, but what's
your prognosis (which is the practical half of the
"problem of the U.S. working class")?  Do you see the
consciousness of "imperialist privilege" ameliorating
over time, or is it as bad as ever?"

Really this is two questions.

I don't have a crystal ball, but my guess is that the
working class in the United States is already going
through a process of internal polarization - one
sector is becoming more proimperialist, and another
sector is moving in the opposite directon. from where
I sit it's not easy to judge how this process is
playing out, or even where the dividing line falls.

However, I think to a large extent the answer to this
question will be given outside of the United States.
If the USA defeats the Iraqi people and successfully
imposes its puppet government and long term military
occupation, proimperialist sentiment will grow. If the
struggle against the occupation is prolonged - and it
appears that it will be, polarization in the USA will
grow, and antiimperialist sentiment will again become
an important factor in working class consciousness.

How that combines with class and social struggles
within the USA will become crucial to forming a new
working class consciousness.

Is it as bad as ever? Well, Lou, you seemed to say it
is worse now than before, and you should know better
than I. I think it's lowest point was int eh first
year after 9/11. It could get worse if US imperialism
is successful in the Middle East, but I don't think it
will be successful.

2. Lou wrote, " Do you believe it is so bad that we
have no realistic hope of counteracting it, short of a
global cataclysm of liberation war or interimperialist
war which would dethrone the U.S.?"

No. I am an optimist. However, you can't suck a
movement out of your thumb, let alone a socialist
revolution. Personally I think things are looking up
for the left in the USA in the short term. However, I
don't think that the working class in the USA is about
to make a giant leap in its class consciousness. And -
I think in the medium term, if the left has some
success in the USA, it might very well face some
serious polticial repression. The Patriot Act is no
joke, and President Kerry will probably decide to keep
most of it

3. Lou wrote, " Is the US such an exceptional
location, such a solidly bourgeois and bourgeoisified
enclave, that revolutionary working-class organization
is just a dead end here?"

Seriously I think we will see a socialist revolution
in the USA in this century, and that the brave people
working for it now will be seen as heros in a hundred
years. (However, the USA is a very exceptional -
unique - place. It's part in the history of the world
from start to today is markedly different from the
parts played by Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin
America. The idea that every country follows the same
path in the same way, only with different starting
dates, is silly.)

4. Lou (Paulsen) wrote,  "Lou Proyect writes that
sooner or later the average worker will see socialism
to be in her/his interest; do you, Anthony, believe
that he is right, or is he whistling in the dark?"

I hope he's right. If he is whistling in the dark,
it's the same tune I have been whistling for 40 years.

5. Lou wrote, "It seems to me that this question has
practical implications ...  If we believe (as I do)
that the working class in the U.S. does have
revolutionary potential despite everything .... not -
then it makes sense to continue to do socialist
propaganda and outreach.  If we do NOT believe this,
which is to say, if we believe that U.S. imperialism
can not be overthrown from within, but only from
without, then those of us who adhere to the cause of
the international working class are basically moral
and political saboteurs on the enemy's home ground,
condemned to a future of organizing anti-war
demonstrations, reform movements, etc., on whatever
basis we can, not in the hope of revolution, but in
the hope of weakening the U.S. so that the workers of
other countries can grow strong and defeat it."

My view is that in the short run you are "condemned to
a future of organizing anti-war demonstrations, reform
movements, etc., on whatever basis we can." but that
you are decidedly not moral and poltical saboteurs.
You have the moral and poltical high ground, but you
don't have a mass movement of the working class. Will
you ever have it? I think you will have a mass
movement of the majority of the working class: the
young, the immigrants, the black ...

And I also think you will have to fight a reactionary
pro-imperialist sector of workers.

Whether you win or lose will depend in large part on
whether the working classes and oppressed of other
countries win or lose.

Those are my best guesses. Good luck

Anthony
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