[Marxism] "My" theses [was RE:Imperialism and the US workingclass(Was YADL)]

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Tue Apr 7 08:50:05 MDT 2009

Marv writes: "But England's uniquely favourable world position was eroded
and undone, and it's proletariat has remained "embourgeoisiefied" to the
present day. The more revolutionary-minded European proletariat to which the
British working class was unfavourably compared ultimately went down the
same reformist road after the continental empires disappeared."

I think that for purposes of *this* discussion, what actually happened is
not that English peculiarity *ended* but that it was *extended* to other
countries (a handful). That is that instead of the bourgeoisified English
working class being "dragged down" to the level of yr average international
worker, and re-proletarianized, so to speak, eventually the English workers
were joined by (a few) others in enjoying a relatively privileged situation.

Now before people who know this history in detail start to kvetch, let me
say I realize this is a huge oversimplification, that there was a relative
renewal of class consciousness in Britain at the end of the 1800's as the
uniquely privileged position of the English workers became less unique and
--for a lot of them-- less privileged and so on, and of course this is where
the Labour Party comes from. That was, of course, when imperialism in the
strict sense Lenin uses it as a stage of capitalist development became
consolidated. It is also true that the level of class consciousness in
England in the late 1800's probably never approximated the subterranean
levels prevalent in the U.S. today and in recent decades.

But for all that, I think the key thing to understand is that the factors
that made possible the "bourgeoisification" of the English working class
that Marx and Engels commented one were continued to a significant degree if
not 100% and extended (with whatever unevenness and national as well as
"conjunctural" peculiarities) to other imperialist countries.

AFTER WWII, "bourgeoisification" of the working class became systematically
generalized to all the major imperialist countries: the counterpart to
inter-imperialist cooperation was inter-class cooperation domestically,
including the making of significant concessions to working people to "buy"
their acquiescence if not loyalty. This was complemented with the
anticommunist witch-hunt, especially in the U.S., which was the domestic
expression of the "cold war" in foreign relations as that was being
organized and consolidated.

In my view, there have been at least two very distinct periods in the
history of modern imperialism, an initial epoch dominated by
inter-imperialist rivalry (ending with the second world war and its
aftermath). And then an epoch marked by (among other things)
inter-imperialist cooperation. 

This new epoch was made possible initially by the victory of the U.S. over
its imperialist enemies and allies in WWII and made necessary, (especially
from the point of view of the West European and Japanese ruling classes,
which were immediately threatened in a way the U.S. ruling class was not) by
the consolidation of the "socialist camp" in Eastern Europe and then
especially the revolutions in Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam, Korea and ...
bringing the danger to what the US considered its backyard ... Cuba. The
widespread replacement of direct colonialism with neocolonialism was a
significant part of making this new cooperation possible as well as being an
accommodation to the national struggles of colonized nations.

In the first period I think the situation that Lenin describes in 1916,
referring back to some of the Marx-Engels comments about Britain, of the
labor movement divided between a more or less militant or class struggle
oriented wing and an increasingly opportunist, accommodationsist and social
chauvinist wing held. The privileges were not as extensive, unstable and
always under threat, especially in Europe due to inter-imperialist
competition, and quite thoroughly trashed for most workers by the Great

In the second period, since WWII, what we've seen and most extremely in the
United States, but my impression is that the same tendencies or pressures
are at work in the other main imperialist countries, is a dissipation of the
class movement as the post WWII prosperity allowed the bourgeoisie to extend
and re-enforce its hegemony and the development of technology and media
allowed an intensification that today has become a saturation bombing of
consumerist and chauvinist messages. This latter period is more like the
quote from Engels I recalled about England wanting a bourgeois proletariat
and how, for a country that exploits the whole world, this was to some
extent justifiable.

I don't think these are two different theories, one of a bourgeoisified
aristocracy or labor, another of a generalized bourgeoisification of the
working class as a whole, but rather two aspects of the same overall
phenomenon, in different stages of development and consolidation, but also
considered by Marxists from the angle of the specific political needs of the
day or the point they were trying to make.


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