[Marxism] Getting the masses off their asses: France v. US

James Zarichny zarichny at yahoo.com
Thu Nov 17 20:45:57 MST 2005

On Thu, 17 Nov 2005 18:01:02 CST Prem K Govindaswamy
govi0006 at umn.edu 
> queries: 
> The explanation often times given is that US masses
> somehow more anesthetized with more comforts.
However a look 
> at William Blum' article "The myth of America's
> economy'", would quickly dispell that myth. 
> Basically people in the US seem to have a diminished
> consciousness. Anyone on the left knows that. But
why is it?
> What is the explanation for > this diminished class 
> consciousness? What  causes it, so that it may be

This is a question which interested Earl Browder.  It
is more than sixty years since I read him, but I think
I can remember the essence of what he had to say:  
Point 1
In Europe, in the early days as the class was coming
into existence, workers did not have the right to
vote.  Workers had to organize and fight as a group
for the right to vote. Initial working class
consciousness was forged in these struggles.  Nothing
comparable happened in America, because all white
workers were given the right to vote by Andrew Jackson
before any significant portion asked for it
Point 2
The existence of the frontier hindered the development
of class consciousness in several ways.  When an
economic crisis hit in the 19th Century, many workers
would leave the cities to take up farming on the free
land offered by the Homestead Act..  When prosperity
returned, there was a shortage of labor.  There was
not an adequate reserve army of unemployed.  The
capitalist had to respond in two ways:
A) by raising wages
B) by investing in advanced labor saving machinery and
technology. Which made possible more wage increases.
Point 3
Most new immigrants could not go into farming because
they lacked the money to buy the necessary farm
machinery and farm animals.  They had to be workers
first before they could become farmers, but they could
realistically expect to accumulate enough money so
that they or their children could leave the  working
class.  People who expect to leave the working class
don’t develop class consciousness.  Class continuity
was lacking.
Point 4
Ideologically, very early the bourgeois ideology
makers began hammering on an Americanizing campaign. 
Children were taught to be American and to think
American.  This meant that whatever class
consciousness that was brought from Europe was lost
with the European language.
Point 5
As William Z Foster pointed out in 1919, a full third
of the American workers were immigrants who spoke a
large variety of languages.  Basically, they couldn’t
communicate with each other..

As a result, America pretty much missed out on the
historic development of working class consciousness. 
This historically is an unfilled task.

By 1945, Browder came to believe that Keynesian
economics would work for at least a generation.  He
argued that all the conditions existed  for a long
boom.  He came to believe that there would be no
severe economic crisis for a generation.  He also
believed that a Leninist type party was only
meaningful if one expected a crisis.  He came to
believe that the correct form of socialist
organization was a multi-tendency socialist group that
 primarily carried on an educational function.  He
also had come to the conclusion that socialism could
not come to America before the Negro-white division
was overcome.  He felt that the Central task facing
the American left was overcoming this division in the
working class.  He also did not believe that
Keynesianism would work forever.  While socialism was
not on the immediate agenda, certain things had to be
done immediately so that it could be attainable in the
distant future. 

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