[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?
cleon42 at yahoo.com
cleon42 at yahoo.com
Fri Dec 8 11:23:04 MST 2006
> "OUR" CLASS does not EXIST as a political subject in this country,
> --whiteness, white privilege and the arrogance that comes with it--
> has IN
> FACT "trumped" class, I don't see how you can possibly think about or
> about post-WWII U.S. politics or society and not recognize this
Here's where I think comrades tend to miss the boat.
1. Who is more oppressed in America, the white woman executive or the
Black man in prison?
2. Who is more exploited, the white American single mother who works
minimum wage to feed her kids or the Indian CEO who's making gazillions
from American companies "offshoring" their help desk services?
I can hear Joaquin cracking his fingers, about to write another angry
missive in reply. And rightfully so--the questions themselves are
Joaquin's certainly correct when he points out that gender oppression
dates back long before capitalism and in many cases, the same goes for
national oppression (certainly European exploitation of the African
continent goes back to at least feudal times). I agree with him in that
I think that those comrades who try to reduce these relationships to
within the confines of capitalism are mistaken.
But likewise, I think Joaquin, Stan and others who try to reduce
questions of class to questions of nationalism and/or gender are
similarly mistaken. This talk of whether gender "trumps" class, or race
"trumps" gender, or gender "trumps" race is bizarre, and completely
While gender, nation, and class are *different* forms of exploitation
and oppression, they are not *separate* and *distinct* from each
other--they are interrelated and interwoven so deeply that you cannot
simply look at each one independently of one another.
Let's take a look at that white woman executive I mentioned in question
1. There's no doubt that she exists--in fact, it's a rare US
corporation these days that doesn't have at least *some* female
executives. But if you look at the overall situation, you see that the
vast majority of corporate execs are men, elected officials are almost
always men, etc. There's no doubt that men have economic and political
privilege over women. There's no doubt that women have an uphill
struggle against those that would confine them to be "barefoot and
pregnant" in the kitchen.
But if you keep looking into it, you see that white women have it
better than Black women. Women in developed countries tend to have it
better than women in the "global South." Not just in terms of political
and economic opportunity, but in terms of living conditions as well.
Access to day care. Domestic violence. Abortion rights. And so on.
Gender alone does *not* explain these sorts of disparities.
Similarly, if you look at the issue of race, you see that (like women)
most political and economic privilege is reserved for whites. White
business executives, white governors, white Presidents, white
legislatures. If you look at the history of the African American
people, you see that particular nation/people coming into being as
capitalism did. Separating the issue of "race" from "class," at a
certain point, becomes ahistorical; the two are intertwined, though
still different types of oppression/exploitation.
What links the issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and so forth
is Marxism. Marx's contribution was not simply the use of his name or
some new theory about why labor unions are good, but the use of
dialectics and materialism to look at history, look at class, look at
race, look at gender, and examine the opposing factors within them to
come up with an analysis of how to move the struggle forward.
In my opinion, it's no accident that socialists have been debating
these sorts of issues for years; discussions on nationalism, gender,
and so forth have taken place in every socialist movement in history.
Likewise, I don't think it's any accident that most radical feminists
and nationalists from oppressed communities tend to have, at minimum,
an anti-capitalist bent and in many (most?) cases are out-and-out
But let's leave the theoretical aside. Where is the struggle *now*?
Here is where I think Joaquin has a very good point. Right now, in the
US there is no mass labor movement--there just isn't. In fact, there's
no mass movement of any kind. We need to aim ourselves where the
struggle is hottest; in a country where it's mostly chilled, sometimes
this means aiming for the lukewarm spots (like the anti-war movement).
In this case, I think Joaquin's right to point to the immigrant
movement as the closest thing we have to a mass movement. It seems to
have petered out for the moment, but I think this is
temporary--certainly until the Democrats show their colors and the city
ordinances requiring landlords to check citizenship become more common.
I think we've seen this movement in its larval stage, and more--much
more--is to come.
The immigrant struggle is one where Joaquin and I see different things.
Joaquin simply sees a struggle by an oppressed people. I, on the other
hand, see the links between national oppression and capital made clear.
Not only is there the issue of civil rights, but *also* the fact that
"illegal" immigrants are the most exploited workers in the US by
several orders of magnitude. It's obvious that the immigrants are aware
of this as well; you go to any immigrant rights demonstration, and you
see thousands of signs calling attention to the their status not just
as Latinos, but as *workers*. This is overflowing into the labor
movement as well; you can see it in the success of the FLOC Mt. Olive
campaign, the success of the Coalition for Immokalee Workers and Taco
Bell, and (of course) the Smithfield struggle. In fact, when I look at
the labor movement as a whole, where I see the *most* motion is in
cases where immigrants are taking a leading role.
Is the immigrant struggle a national struggle, or a class struggle?
Well...Yes. It's both. That's the beauty of dialectics and Marxism; it
allows us to make these connections and recognize that the struggle
takes on more than one characteristic at once.
Getting back to my original point, this is why I see
reductionism--whether to matters of class, nation, or gender--as
inherently myopic. It fails to take into account the larger
complexities that comprise all three; it's an insufficient analysis.
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