[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?

sandy rankin srankin12 at gmail.com
Mon Dec 4 08:03:46 MST 2006

It seems to me that Mosley is anti-capitalist, but not Marxist.
He often uses Marxist arguments to critique capitalism, but
then he rejects Marx's conclusions, e.g. the need for a
proletarian revolution, probably violent. In his nonfiction, he
has a habit, as he does in the article posted here, of "excusing"
himself when he sounds like a Marxist, and he has denied
Marx altogether.

It's difficult to tell (because he traps himself in contradiction),
but I think that Mosley believes that Marxism
is totalitarian: repressive rather than democratic and
liberating. I believe he thinks our hope lies in convincing
the ruling class to allow more seats at their banquet table,
and in our demanding more seats at their table if they do
not invite us there. He thinks we can change capitalism
through peaceful means--via voting, writing letters to congress,
talking to people, becoming actively involved with some
local single-issue political group, such as environmentalism.
Maybe he thinks a "kinder, gentler" capitalism is possible.
I know that he offers no alternative to capitalism, as much
as he criticizes what he calls the "profit-motive" of
capitalism. Or maybe he thinks that as we gradually change
capitalism so that it becomes kinder, more inclusive,
something like socialism will gradually develop.

I've sometimes wondered if his distancing himself from
Marx is some sort of a "strategic" move on his part to
"reach" people that he thinks would otherwise immediately
reject his arguments because of that tainted term "Marxist."
But I don't know. I think that Mosley's fiction is more Marxist
than his non-fiction--whether this is because he feels he
can be more daring in fiction, or because he unconsciously
"tricks" himself, I have no idea.

I think, in regards to Mosley, and in regards to some of
the other recent postings on Marxmail, particularly having
to do with Stan Goff, that it might be helpful to remember
just how powerful and seductive bougeois ideology is,
particularly in the wealthier nations. If there isn't much
of a working-class movement/consciousness in places
like the U.S., I'm not so sure it's due as much to problems
of the political Left (even in its sometimes confusing diversity),
as it is largely due to the (invisible) power of bourgeois
ideology--especially if we're born in a wealthy country,
even if we're a member of the working class. Mosley
helps make some of that ideology visible--that which is
visible to him. The rest, he mystifies because he doesn't
see it (yet).


On 12/4/06, Haines Brown <brownh at hartford-hwp.com> wrote:
> Jon,
> Thanks for pointing us to the Mosley article. I read it quickly, but
> was disappointed. Perhaps I hoped for a serious discussion of class in
> the US., but instead the article offers the usual capitalist
> propaganda. Why is my assessment so harsh? Let me explain.
> Class is a central category in Marxism. Although some contributors to
> the present thread seem to have recently had doubts about Marxism and
> their identity with the modern working class, they have offered no no
> alternative to the definitions of class offered by Marxism and
> capitalism, and so I can focus just on the quoted article.
> The capitalist definition of class is empiricist in that it refers to
> groups of people who share certain traits in common, such as power,
> economic advantage or life-style. Empiricism has its origin in the
> context of capitalist political economy, and has been closely
> associated with capitalism every since. There is no doubt about their
> historical connection, just as there is no doubt that empiricism is
> just one of a number of scientific viewpoints that is certainly open
> to criticism and has in fact been much criticized.
> The important thing in the empiricist "definition" of class is that
> there is no objective dividing line that distinguishes one class from
> another, but merely arbitrary points on somewhat arbitrary empirical
> continua. For example, if you have a house in the suburbs or make over
> 25,000, you might be in the middle class. There should be no question
> whatsoever, for it is a truism in the sciences, that such empiricist
> categorical definitions are un-scientific and are not operational for
> any kind of explanation. There should be absolutely NO DOUBT about
> this here, for it is well understood everywhere else.
> Why would I associate an empiricist definition of class with
> capitalist ideology? Simple, for an empiricist definition of class
> denies any objective basis for the claim that there is a working class
> and therefore the possibility for knowing you are in it. Class
> membership in empiricit terms is not a function of the kind of system
> we live in, but refers only to one's personal attributes. Some
> conclude that everyone in the U.S is middle class, some being upper
> and some lower. So there is no other class identity, and so
> class-solidarity can make no sense. You have only yourself to blame if
> you have not arrived at a comfortable middle class life style. The
> empiricist notion of class is a fundamental part of capitalist
> ideology, for it deconstructs class. This point is both obvious and
> apparently never contested.
> On the other hand, an empiricist definition of class has nothing at
> all to do with Marxism. In Marxism "class" is not defined in empirical
> terms at all, but instead class is represented as a "process". That
> is, it is defined as a person's relation to potentials that account
> for that person's development, that represents that person as a
> process. To represent something as a process, we posit its causal
> relation with its environment as being essential to it, as being
> definitive. In Marxism this relation is called a "relation of
> production".
> The capitalist's relation of production is his private ownership or
> possession of productive capital. That's how he develops thanks to the
> self-expansion of capital. The working class does not own or possess
> significant means of production, but instead offers labor power as one
> factor in the productive process. This means that the worker cannot
> develop through the economy and has no choice but to develop through a
> relation with his social environment, through class solidarity. This
> represents a real and substantial potential, not just because in unity
> there is strength, but because in labor power is embedded all the
> potentials of society as a whole. Marx goes on at great length about
> this in Capital.
> And then there's the petite bourgeoisie. Originally this referred to
> people who had small-scale means of production, such as professionals
> and artisans. Contrary to what was anticipated, this class did not
> disappear with the development of capitalism, but remained an
> important part of the economy. These would be people with titles or
> licences that ensure an income, small businesses, movie stars, etc. In
> Marxist terms, they are represented as having a contradictory class
> position because while they possess or own means of production, these
> means are not capitalist. At the same time, they are not selling their
> labor power as a factor in production. Their development depends on
> their personal talents and skills, not on social solidarity, not on
> social capacities.
> Now, this little sketch has simplified things quite a bit, but my
> point was not to say the last word about the Marxist notion of class,
> but merely to remind us that there are two quite contradictory notions
> of class, one being Marxist, which is the natural working class view,
> and the other being capitalist, and the natural view of
> capitalists. How the petite bourgeoisie might feel about class is a
> flip of the coin, but they usually adopt the capitalist position,
> having no notion of class of their own.
> The quoted comment about the rich getting richer undoubtedly is true
> (in general systems theory it is called deviation amplification), but
> it has absolutely nothing to do with a working-class notion of class,
> and everything to do with a capitalist one, for it sees class in
> empirical terms.
> That is, the material quoted from the Nation article is nothing but
> capitalist apologetics, whatever the author's intention, and I wish it
> would have been recognized here as such. Yes, some people are
> abandoning the working class to hitch themselves to the petite
> bourgeoisie (and implicitly to the capitalist class), but the petite
> bourgeoisie are always uncertain of where they are going. I wish them
> good luck, but I would hope that most people associated with a Marxist
> newsgroup retain their allegiance with the working class.
> It must be clear that a rejection of Marxism is a rejection of one's
> support of the modern working class. Sure, Marxism has evolved and
> gone in different directions, but at its core it remains the only
> ideology specific to the modern working class. If there were an
> alternative working-class ideology, that would be exciting news, but
> so far there just isn't. Let me repeat: there is no alternative
> working-class ideology. You adopt the ideology of either the working
> class or that of the capitalist class, and there is nothing in
> between, for ideology is a function of objective class contradictions,
> not just a loose set of ideas. If one adopts an empiricist
> explanation, one is either very foolish or knowingly breaking with
> the working class. Those who would do so in this group should at least
> have the honesty to admit it.
> Sorry about the polemical tone of this note, but it is frustrating to
> see people pose as members of the working class, but who really end
> betraying it. Hopefully it is only the result of their naivete, but
> after so many years of discussion and debate, what excuse is there
> left for ignorance? Unfortunately, I can lay claim to no expertise,
> but what I've been pointing out here is both elementary and obvious.
> --
>        Haines Brown, KB1GRM
>          Dialectical Materialist
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