Discussion:
DISILLUSIONED WITH MARXMAILers!
(too old to reply)
james dwyer
2007-09-08 20:40:30 UTC
Permalink
Frankly, I am disillusioned with Marxmail, although I won't un-subscribe as there are a few, a VERY few, respondents who are worth reading (Louis Proyect, Walter Lippmann, and a few others) and whose insights I value highly and agree with mostly.
Most postings/messages seem to be nothing more then spam and ideological hairsplitting (the curse of the American Left), so typical of American Marxists, who'd rather trade insults and issue pointless screeds than get off of their rhetorical asses and penetrate the capitalist system and try to destroy it, as Leftists did in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, when America had a true Left, and as a few of my friends are doing now.
It reminds me of college thirty years ago, where I saw so much energy wasted on overturning one another's leaflet tables, Trotskyites vs. Maoists vs. Leninists vs. whomever! Meanwhile, capitalism's murder-machine munches and burps, and people here and abroad literally die.
I look at Turkey, my daughter's homeland, where, every May 1, Leftists take to the streets in Istanbul and Ankara to protest and are brutally beaten by the police, sometimes killed. I can send you the YouTube videos (the Turks are fanatic YouTubers).
American Marxists don't have that kind of courage. They (we!) would rather send caustic e-mails and blast one another's supposed apostasy, the intellectual equivalent of Palestinian radicals who would rather indulge murderous rage against Israeli civilians than work to build alliances with the Israeli Left and working-class (although I am a strong supporter of their cause where it is congruent with socialism and simple humanity).
So tell me, fellow-Marxmailers: Am I the only one who feels this way?!


---------------------------------
Fussy? Opinionated? Impossible to please? Perfect. Join Yahoo!'s user panel and lay it on us.
Pat Costello
2007-09-08 21:29:06 UTC
Permalink
Hello James!

I agree with you about Marxmail. It is just a talk
club. I imagine that a few Marxmailers have not even
conversed with a working class person in years.
Personally, I just read it mostly for the information.

The people i know who are activists do not have the
time to write lengthy hairsplitting screeds on the
internet. Try not to take Marxmail too seriously.
There are many good, hardworking people on the
American left. They just generally do not post on
Marxmail.

Best regards,

Pat Costello




--- james dwyer <jimthecelt at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Frankly, I am disillusioned with Marxmail, although
> I won't un-subscribe as there are a few, a VERY few,
> respondents who are worth reading (Louis Proyect,
> Walter Lippmann, and a few others) and whose
> insights I value highly and agree with mostly.
> Most postings/messages seem to be nothing more
> then spam and ideological hairsplitting (the curse
> of the American Left), so typical of American
> Marxists, who'd rather trade insults and issue
> pointless screeds than get off of their rhetorical
> asses and penetrate the capitalist system and try to
> destroy it, as Leftists did in the 1930s, 40s, and
> 50s, when America had a true Left, and as a few of
> my friends are doing now.
> It reminds me of college thirty years ago, where I
> saw so much energy wasted on overturning one
> another's leaflet tables, Trotskyites vs. Maoists
> vs. Leninists vs. whomever! Meanwhile, capitalism's
> murder-machine munches and burps, and people here
> and abroad literally die.
> I look at Turkey, my daughter's homeland, where,
> every May 1, Leftists take to the streets in
> Istanbul and Ankara to protest and are brutally
> beaten by the police, sometimes killed. I can send
> you the YouTube videos (the Turks are fanatic
> YouTubers).
> American Marxists don't have that kind of courage.
> They (we!) would rather send caustic e-mails and
> blast one another's supposed apostasy, the
> intellectual equivalent of Palestinian radicals who
> would rather indulge murderous rage against Israeli
> civilians than work to build alliances with the
> Israeli Left and working-class (although I am a
> strong supporter of their cause where it is
> congruent with socialism and simple humanity).
> So tell me, fellow-Marxmailers: Am I the only one
> who feels this way?!
>
>
> ---------------------------------
> Fussy? Opinionated? Impossible to please? Perfect.
> Join Yahoo!'s user panel and lay it on us.
> ________________________________________________
> YOU MUST clip all extraneous text before replying to
> a message.
> Send list submissions to:
> Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
> Set your options at:
> http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/listinfo/marxism
>




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Louis Proyect
2007-09-08 21:30:34 UTC
Permalink
james dwyer wrote:
> So tell me, fellow-Marxmailers: Am I the only one who feels this way?!

Generally speaking, complaints about the quality of a mailing list don't
have much impact. Unlike print publications which are controlled by an
editorial board, people contribute to Internet forums without much
concern about how they will be received. It accounts for a certain
spottiness on one hand, but on the other it is more democratic and
grass-roots oriented.

In any case, I can recommend some other mailing lists which may or may
not be to your liking but that reflect different aspects of the left
experience:

1, Green Left mailing list:
(Australian post-Trotskyists, plenty of Lippmann)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenLeft_discussion/messages

2. Democratic Left mailing list:
(DSA'ers, hate Cuba and Ramsey Clark)
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DemocraticLeft/

3. LBO-Talk mailing list:
(Moderated by Doug Henwood, a brilliant economist and all-round great
guy. Subscribers include many people who are not Marxists, but everybody
has interesting things to say.)
http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/pipermail/lbo-talk/

4. A-List mailing list:
(Was founded by my old friend Mark Jones, who died about 5 years ago.
Focused originally on energy depletion, environmental issues, etc.
Nowadays is more of a news clipping service.)
http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/a-list/index.htm

5. Rad-Green mailing list:
(Run by Macdonald Stainsby in the spirit of A-List. Also mostly a news
clipping outlet.)
http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/listinfo/rad-green

6. Science for the People
(AIDS, Global Warming, 9/11, etc.)
http://list.uvm.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A0=SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE

7. Radical Philosophy
(Mostly academics. I got booted about 5 years ago for being too
quarrelsome.)
http://listserv.utk.edu/archives/rpa-list.html
Pat Costello
2007-09-08 21:31:50 UTC
Permalink
please do not be offended anyone!



____________________________________________________________________________________
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http://get.games.yahoo.com/proddesc?gamekey=monopolyherenow
Louis Proyect
2007-09-08 21:34:00 UTC
Permalink
Pat Costello wrote:
> please do not be offended anyone!

Who cares. Not only did I used to hear workerist nonsense for 5 years in
the Trotskyist movement, I had to pay $30 per month for the privilege.
Walter Lippmann
1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC
Permalink
Well, as for myself, I might was well say that I joined the YSA in
1962, the SWP in 1967, departed involuntarily from the SWP in 1983,
founded SA in 1984 (lasted one meeting) and was a member of the FIT
from 1983 to 1988. I have been without any organizational affiliation
since then. As of the week of my expulsion trial in 1983, I was then
paying $30.00 sustainer weekly. And I paid it in full, up to the
final meeting I attended.

And I also heard the same workerist and sectarian nonsense in the
Socialist Workers Party which remains a Marxmail staple. It took me
awhile after my involuntary departure before I began doing some of
the research to learn what the roots of the workerist sectarianism
which afflicted the SWP, and other sections of the left, came from It
wasn't until after leaving the SWP did I actually read that editorial
in THE MILITANT published a year after the triumph in which it said
that the "main danger to the Cuban Revolution was in its own
leadership." http://www.walterlippmann.com/catc.html

That being said, I continue both to have no regrets for my many years
spent in the Trotskyist movement, and to honor what was decent and
functional in that heritage. In its time, the SWP was the only left
party which supported Malcolm X. In its time, the SWP was the only
party which supported Robert F. Williams. It failed to appreciate
how far Dr. King had moved to the left, and tended to counterpose
King and Malcolm rather than trying to see how they were moving
toward a convergence. The SWP's opposition to the African National
Congress is one of those legacies which world Trotskyism clings to
with relentless intensity. Today other Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist
tendencies carry that unfortunate banner. I joined the SWP and YSA
in the first place because I felt they were the best defenders of
the Cuban Revolution, which was the basis of my own radicalization.

I have ALWAYS considered Joseph Hansen to be, as we say in Cuba, "en la
misma trinchera que nosotros" (in the same trench as we are). Hansen
genuinely supported the Cuban Revolution, AND remained a Trotskyist,
but not a sectarian perfectionist, as most of such types are today,
which we see exemplified in the virulent hostility which some of what
Fidel properly calls "super-revolutionaries" express toward leaders
like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

This is one of the reasons why I've been so busy scanning Hansen's
comradely discussions of Cuban foreign policy and guerrilla warfare.
I still read and listen to and learn from Hansen. His work should
be better known internationally than it is.

There is still much which can be learned from the historical legacy
of the SWP, and from the writings and ideas of Trotsky and of the
Trotskyists. In her own way, I think that Celia Hart is trying to
make a an informed and meaningful synthesis of Trotskyist ideas and
those of the Cuban Revolution. That's been my sense of her all along,
and why I took it upon myself some years ago to begin to bring her
ideas out into the English language. Hers is an authentic voice of
the Cuban Revolution, and so it's important that her ideas get a
broad international public hearing.

With all of its frustrations, Marxmail makes it possible for some
of these familiar discussions and debates to take place in a modern
context and on an international plane, thanks to the Internet.


Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

=================================================================
LOUIS PROYECT wrote:
Not only did I used to hear workerist nonsense for 5 years in the
Trotskyist movement, I had to pay $30 per month for the privilege.












.

================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
Louis Proyect
2007-09-08 23:10:38 UTC
Permalink
Walter Lippmann wrote:
> The SWP's opposition to the African National Congress is one of those legacies which world Trotskyism clings to
> with relentless intensity. Today other Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist
> tendencies carry that unfortunate banner.

At the very time when Walter Lippmann was expelled from the SWP, the
group was discovering that the ANC was beyond reproach. Openness to
non-Trotskyist forces globally went hand-in-hand with super-sectarianism
in the USA. While the SWP was hoisting Mandela on its
shoulders--metaphorically speaking--it was discovering that the social
movements in the USA were all "petty bourgeois". So support for the ANC
and Cuba is not a prophylactic against sectarianism. You are better off
with penicillin or a condom.

Of course, the ANC of the early 1980s bears no resemblance to the ANC of
today. History moves forward relentlessly as the examples of the PLO and
the Algerian FLN would demonstrate. I myself have no interest in living
in the past since the clothing styles tend to be so ludicrous. How would
anybody in their right minds wear bell bottom jeans?
Joaquin Bustelo
2007-09-09 14:28:15 UTC
Permalink
Louis: "At the very time when Walter Lippmann was expelled from the SWP, the
group was discovering that the ANC was beyond reproach. Openness to
non-Trotskyist forces globally went hand-in-hand with super-sectarianism in
the USA. While the SWP was hoisting Mandela on its shoulders--metaphorically
speaking--it was discovering that the social movements in the USA were all
"petty bourgeois". So support for the ANC and Cuba is not a prophylactic
against sectarianism. You are better off with penicillin or a condom."

Well, since Louis opens the door to at least some discussion of these SWP
issues here, I think there is something that it is very important to
understand, which is not just what the SWP's "position" was in relation to
Cuba, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Maurice Bishop and the Grenadian
Revolution (the stuff about the ANC came later, I think), but the POLITICAL
role it played in the SWP.

Mindless cheerleading for the "three giants of the Caribbean" and later
manifestations of the same sort of stance were the opium of the cadre. They
were a DISTRACTION FROM facing up to the increasing disarray within the
party and the plain fact that the "turn to industry" showed itself to be a
cadre-killing catastrophe within a year or so of being adopted, and the
coming "big class battles" which were the supposed REASON for the turn never
materialized; on the contrary by most conventional measures union
combativity fell off a cliff at the beginning of the 1980's.

But this *use* of the inspiring victory in Nicaragua and Cuba's ongoing
resistance to imperialism carried a very high price. The SWP refused to
honestly look at or analyzer the difficulties and challenges facing these
revolutionary processes. I can testify for a fact that the reporting from
the Militant correspondents in Managua was constantly altered and "spun" to
hail minor advances, and even just verbal coincidences between something
some comandante said and some SWP catch-phrase as a world-historic advance
of the world revolutionary movement, whereas all difficulties, setbacks and
defeats were presented, if at all, in the lightest pastels.

Adulation for (the SWP's version of) what was going on in Nicaragua, etc.,
was also used as a factional club against minorities, to poison the
atmosphere against discussion and finally ram through a series of expulsions
without a real clarifying political discussion in the party as a whole.

Joaqu?n
Haines Brown
2007-09-09 12:15:45 UTC
Permalink
Walter Lippmann offers an interesting autobiographical sketch, but at
one point what he says puzzles me:

> And I also heard the same workerist and sectarian nonsense in the
> Socialist Workers Party which remains a Marxmail staple. It took me
> awhile after my involuntary departure before I began doing some of
> the research to learn what the roots of the workerist sectarianism
> which afflicted the SWP, and other sections of the left,...

The term "workerism" has always interested me, and so I turn to
Wikipedia, which offers a definition and then mentions some negative
aspects:

> Workerism is a name given to different trends in left-wing political
> discourse, especially anarchism and Marxism. In one sense, it
> describes a political position concerning the political importance
> and centrality of the working class. ... In another sense,
> 'workerism' refers to the glorification of the culture of the
> working class, independent of their historical role.

The first sense I think everyone here would agree is a positive
characteristic. The second sense appears to be ambivalent, as the
Wikipedia article later specifies:

> More broadly, workerism can imply the idealisation of workers,
> especially manual workers, working class culture (or an idealised
> conception of it) and manual labour in general. Socialist realism is
> an example of a form of expression that would be likely to be
> accused of workerism in this sense.

Well, one certainly wouldn't want to idealize capitalist culture, and
so the problem raised here is with an idealization of the working
class. Is this bad? In the heat of struggle, we naturally focus on
what is of positive value, for it contributes to our sense of unity,
our sense of moral rectitude, and it brings out those features of the
working class that are also our goals. On the other hand, the battle
for the moment is over and we have time to reflect, it seems to me we
should embrace the opposite approach and cast our light instead on the
weakness and flaws of the movement, for that is how we correct it and
make it stronger. In other words, I suspect the issue of idealization
depends on time, place and circumstance rather than being a universal
shortcoming.

However, the Wikipedia article also brings up Lenin's criticism of
workerism:

> V.I. Lenin charged a number of Russian socialists with being
> workerist for opportunistically following the political or cultural
> movements of the working class, instead of holding a separate
> Marxist political position.

This brings up an entirely different problem, which is that of
opportunism. Today I suppose we would describe this as a support for
"bread-and-butter" unionism, rather than challenging the existing
order. One might say that even when conditions are not ripe for
change, that at least the long-term goal should be kept in mind. If
so, then the issue that Lenin raises is not one of circumstance, but
of embracing a minimalist agenda that fails to understand that
immediate practical goals also deepen the contradictions of capitalism
and so hasten the day when it will be overthrown.

However, that was an issue in Lenin's time that may not be quite the
same today. If the minimalist position is to extract as much benefit
as possible from the existing structure without questioning it, then
that would seem to apply to the traditional Democratic Party, not any
Marxist party. As far as I know (which isn't much), no Marxist party
today embraces capitalism in the long run.

Walter L. was upset with the workerism of the SWP. Given my comments
above, I fail to understand his point. I wonder if he would specify in
what sense the SWP was workerist. More broadly, how is the left
generally workerist in a negative sense of the word? This seems to me
as a very important issue that strikes at the heart of what we are all
up to.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Louis Proyect
2007-09-09 12:47:09 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown wrote:
> Walter L. was upset with the workerism of the SWP. Given my comments
> above, I fail to understand his point. I wonder if he would specify in
> what sense the SWP was workerist. More broadly, how is the left
> generally workerist in a negative sense of the word?

It is not a general problem. It is strictly limited to groups that have
a mechanical understanding of Bolshevism. The idea of intellectuals
"colonizing" industry is an example. So is labeling social movements
like gay rights as "petty bourgeois". The best critique of "workerism"
that I have ever seen was Peter Camejo's "Against Sectarianism",
although I am not sure he even uses the term.

http://www.marxmail.org/camejo.html
Haines Brown
2007-09-09 14:17:17 UTC
Permalink
Thanks, Walter, for the reply.

> Haines Brown wrote:

> Walter L. was upset with the workerism of the SWP. Given my comments
> above, I fail to understand his point. I wonder if he would specify
> in what sense the SWP was workerist. More broadly, how is the left
> generally workerist in a negative sense of the word?
>
> It is not a general problem.

Then you are not tarring the left in general with that brush. Good to
know. On the other hand, my (very speculative) comments below might
point to the opposite conclusion that much of the left is indeed
workerist.

I'm glad you changed the subject line, for I hope that it encourages
others to put in their two cents on the issue.

> It is strictly limited to groups that have a mechanical
> understanding of Bolshevism. The idea of intellectuals "colonizing"
> industry is an example. So is labeling social movements like gay
> rights as "petty bourgeois".

I glanced at the Camejo article you cited, and this "colonizing
industry" he speaks of is "white collar workers" getting industrial
jobs to be closer to where the action is. He is approving in
principle, but proceeds to criticize the implementation of the
plan. He also later specifies these "white collar workers" as
"intellectuals".

This whole scenario makes me a little uncomfortable, as if I were
indeed being "colonized". The idea of "white collar workers",
intellectuals or not, getting a job at my workplace in order to raise
my consciousness seems patronizing.

I'm not at all sure, but shouldn't the job of intellectuals be to
intellectualize? I almost get the feeling that workerism offers them a
cover for intellectual shallowness. That is, shouldn't they develop
their understanding of capitalism in the present conjuncture and grasp
what is needed to change it? Intellectuals usually try to present
their ideas in the public arena as best they can, such as by speaking
and writing, distributing newspapers and flyers, etc., and hopefully
those media will be read by the more thoughtful workers.

Why should an intellectual get a blue collar job (unless it pays
better)? There are plenty of workers who seek to know what's going on
about them and think about it critically. The problem seems to be that
no one can really think of an alternative practical course of action
that will clearly lead to significant improvements in the short and
long terms. I don't know that the left really offers that (I put this
in a provocative way in the hope it will encourage a reasoned
rebuttal).

> The best critique of "workerism" that I have ever seen was Peter
> Camejo's "Against Sectarianism", although I am not sure he even uses
> the term.
>
> http://www.marxmail.org/camejo.html

Incidentally, the article by Camejo you cited _did_ use the term
"workerism". For example:

> Comrades Mackler and Markey did not change either their views or
> their political activity. They continued the same work
> %G???%@ once labelled "class-struggle" by the party
> leadership. But what the majority faction previously called
> "proletarian" it now calls "petty bourgeois" and what it once called
> "petty bourgeois," such as workerism, is now called "proletarian."
> Thus, Markey and Mackler, without either changing their views or
> activity, went from being examples of proletarian practice to being
> "petty bourgeois," reflecting "alien" class pressures.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Joaquin Bustelo
2007-09-09 14:04:35 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown: "Walter L. was upset with the workerism of the SWP. Given my
comments above, I fail to understand his point. I wonder if he would specify
in what sense the SWP was workerist. More broadly, how is the left generally
workerist in a negative sense of the word? This seems to me as a very
important issue that strikes at the heart of what we are all up to."

There is a separate Yahoo group dedicated to discussing SWP issues. The
specifics of the SWP's degeneration into one of the more bizarre workerist
sects are considered off-topic here, and if Haines wants to dig into it, he
should look into that group.

But, briefly, on "workerism" as a generalized political phenomenon on the
left, it includes things like denigrating various social movements because
they aren't real "workers" movements; centering all your efforts in unions
and neglecting/abstaining from political struggles, glorification of
economic struggles as the "real" class struggle and so on.

Many will not agree, but I consider attempts to interpret various social
struggles solely in CLASS terms as a form of workerism, though I think class
reductionism is a better term.

The issue is a big one on the U.S. Left because, although Marxist analysis
says the working class is the only revolutionary class and the only class
with the social power to change society and so on, the plain, unvarnished
truth is that however much those statements may be true on a world-historic
scale, they are not true in any practical political sense in the United
States TODAY and have not been true since the 1940's.

This means that there is a much bigger problem that workerism is just a
symptom of. Marxism is supposed to be the conscious expression of an actual
movement going on before our very eyes, but THAT movement, at least in THIS
historic period in THIS country, does not exist. There is no "class for
itself" movement of the workers as a class, and even the union movement and
economic struggles over wages and working conditions, which Marx and Engels
viewed as the PRECURSOR of the actual class-political struggle of the
workers, has retrogressed many decades. And even such unions as exist today
by and large do not function as workers organizations, but rather as
businesses that workers pay to handle negotiations with the employers, sort
of a poor man's version of a Hollywood agent.

Moreover, we don't see the sort of pitched battles for unionization that
were common in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century, when the
rate of unionization was comparable to what it is today. The reality is that
the level of economic struggles by the workers has never been lower in the
United States.

Yet family incomes have fluctuated within a narrow range in constant-dollar
terms for nearly four decades, and all sorts of other indicators (average
size of houses; number of cars; number of TV's, radios, phones; number and
type of appliances; amounts spent on entertainment, etc.) suggest that in
material, use-value terms, the standard of living of most working people has
gradually increased over this period.

Those facts and many others point to a central conclusion: U.S. imperialism
has been able to use its superprofits from its world domination to "bribe"
its own working class with concessions to the point where "Americanism" has
overwhelmed class consciousness and the latter REALLY exists to a
significant degree, as a rule, only among the minority of workers who are
also nationally oppressed.

This sort of phenomenon was first analyzed by Marx and Engels in relation to
Britain in the second half of the 1800's; then by Lenin in relation to
opportunism during WWI; and then by the national and colonial question
commission of the Second Congress of the Communist International and that
Congress as a whole, which came to the conclusion that no revolution was
possible in the European imperialist countries unless the ability of these
countries to draw superprofits from the colonial world was stopped.

That conclusion has certainly been confirmed by the nearly 80 years of
experience since the Second Comintern Congress, and although imperialism in
that day was based on one country directly and exclusively exploiting
certain other countries or territories (colonialism), and that morphed after
WWII into the neocolonial domination and the generalized exploitation of the
Third World mainly through the mechanism of a manipulated world market,
multinational institutions, the world financial system etc., the practical
result is the same: the imperialist countries reap tremendous super-profits
from their imperialist domination.

I think we can safely say that talk of a classical workers revolution in the
main imperialist countries while these sorts of conditions prevail, while
the capitalists retain their ability to "bribe" much/most of the working
class within the imperialist country, is just hot air.

In this sense, I would say pretty much the ENTIRE Marxist left in the United
States suffers from workerism to at least some significant degree.

Joaquin
Haines Brown
2007-09-09 18:37:42 UTC
Permalink
Joaquin,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

> There is a separate Yahoo group dedicated to discussing SWP issues. The
> specifics of the SWP's degeneration into one of the more bizarre workerist
> sects are considered off-topic here, and if Haines wants to dig into it, he
> should look into that group.

I definitely don't want to dig into it (no interest). My question was
only meant to flesh out the general issue.

> But, briefly, on "workerism" as a generalized political phenomenon on the
> left, it includes things like denigrating various social movements because
> they aren't real "workers" movements; centering all your efforts in unions
> and neglecting/abstaining from political struggles, glorification of
> economic struggles as the "real" class struggle and so on.
>
> Many will not agree, but I consider attempts to interpret various social
> struggles solely in CLASS terms as a form of workerism, though I think class
> reductionism is a better term.

I would argue on the contrary that seeing things in terms of class is
not at all a reductionism, but that is a different topic. So let me
just say that the validity of your point depends on what what we man
by "class". I fear that you may assume an empiricist definition of
class rather than a Marxist "relation of production".

> The issue is a big one on the U.S. Left because, although Marxist
> analysis says the working class is the only revolutionary class and
> the only class with the social power to change society and so on,
> the plain, unvarnished truth is that however much those statements
> may be true on a world-historic scale, they are not true in any
> practical political sense in the United States TODAY and have not
> been true since the 1940's.

An an empirical observation, perhaps true. But it is not a good idea
to base generalizations on an empirical description. I'd object that
the US working class does not live in a vacuum, but is capable of
development only to the extent it sees itself as part of the
international working class. Secondly, I'd object that if things were
really hopeless for the US working class, then we should all take our
marbles and go home, wishing all those with a direct interest in a
particular struggle the best of luck. Third, to say or hint that the
US working class has no revolutionary potential is a prediction of the
future that becomes self-fulfilling. As long as there is any hope that
it could at some future date become more revolutionary, that should be
on our agenda. Incidentally, I don't entirely agree with your
assessment of the US working class because I fear it may presume an
economist notion of class struggle (but, again, that's another issue I
don't want to explore here).

> This means that there is a much bigger problem that workerism is
> just a symptom of. Marxism is supposed to be the conscious
> expression of an actual movement going on before our very eyes, but
> THAT movement, at least in THIS historic period in THIS country,
> does not exist. There is no "class for itself" movement of the
> workers as a class, and even the union movement and economic
> struggles over wages and working conditions, which Marx and Engels
> viewed as the PRECURSOR of the actual class-political struggle of
> the workers, has retrogressed many decades. And even such unions as
> exist today by and large do not function as workers organizations,
> but rather as businesses that workers pay to handle negotiations
> with the employers, sort of a poor man's version of a Hollywood
> agent.

My objection here is that what you say may imply the lack of
contradictions under capitalism. That is, a contradiction implies that
of necessity the working class acquires ever greater capacities for
action (I'm not saying the subjective intention), and there are ever
mounting unmet needs. Under present circumstances in many places, that
might seem a difficult thesis to justify, but I'm working on it and
won't bore you with details. Let me just say that if properly
understood, the capitalist system necessarily gives rise to ever
greater revolutionary potentials, and, if so, one can never conclude
that the US working class lacks revolutionary potential.

> ...

> Those facts and many others point to a central conclusion:
> U.S. imperialism has been able to use its superprofits from its
> world domination to "bribe" its own working class with concessions
> to the point where "Americanism" has overwhelmed class consciousness
> and the latter REALLY exists to a significant degree, as a rule,
> only among the minority of workers who are also nationally
> oppressed.

You are saying, if I may parse it, that capitalist culture
(nationalism, imperialism, "Americanism") has successfully discouraged
the development of class consciousness in the US. If I understood
correctly, I'd tend to agree. However, class consciousness arises from
experiencing contradictory objective conditions, and since I assume
those conditions are indeed contradictory, the tension between class
consciousness and "Americanism" always exists and so offers a critical
juncture at which to direct action. On the other hand, if your
"overwhelmed" means that capitalist culture removes the basis for
class consciousness, then I'd have to disagree.

> I think we can safely say that talk of a classical workers
> revolution in the main imperialist countries while these sorts of
> conditions prevail, while the capitalists retain their ability to
> "bribe" much/most of the working class within the imperialist
> country, is just hot air.
>
> In this sense, I would say pretty much the ENTIRE Marxist left in
> the United States suffers from workerism to at least some
> significant degree.

Well, I'd agree to the extent that as long as imperialism succeeds,
the development of class consciousness in the US is more
difficult. However, I'd argue that a) US imperialism is contradictory,
and so not only is its success but temporary, but I believe that its
end is nearly upon us, and b) that while imperialism has paid for
various social programs that limit the deleterious impact of
capitalism, this should not be seen in narrowly economistic
terms. That is, the US is (to put it in very general terms rather than
belabor the point) a "sick" society; a lot just doesn't work well, and
a lot does not work at all. The ways in which it does not work
impinges in tangible ways upon working class consciousness, although
often not in ways that the left would like to see.

Let me turn now to your useful catalog of what "workerism" entails,
which you did not entirely elaborate in your message.

> ... it includes things like denigrating various social movements
> because they aren't real "workers" movements;

I don't know if "denigrating" is the right word, so I suppose we could
put the question as: do various reform efforts that are associated
with the bourgeoisie (not just petite) have any relevance for the
working class? The obvious answer is yes. The working class is broadly
aware of these efforts, sometimes taking them seriously and sometimes
not. Such efforts are usually dismissed by the working class as
irrelevant when the issues are not relevant to its needs. When a
reform effort is in fact irrelevant to the working class (if such
exists), I could see that the effort might be dismissed as petite
bourgeois, etc., which seems a fair characterization. However,
objectively speaking, these efforts may all deepen capitalist
contradictions, in which case they are welcome. So I suspect your
accusation might be inaccurate.

> centering all your efforts in unions and neglecting/abstaining from
> political struggles,

Again, I don't know that this is accurate. I've never been in a union
or sat on a central labor body that was indifferent to politics. Yes,
there are some people who focus on the economic struggle, and others
who prefer the political issues, but that's only natural. Naturally,
the economic struggle is one's most pressing concern. Most people
understand that economic struggles often need community support, must
be undertaken in light of globalization, and that one ignores labor
outside the country only at one's peril. We can't take a certain
indifference to radical politics to be an indifference to politics per
se. Also, we can't take the AFL-CIO as a reflection of what unions in
general do.

To expect the average person to mount the barricades just because
someone suggests it will result in the transformation of society, is
naive. To suggest that one should mount the barricades even before one
has experienced political successes on reform issues is to invite
disaster.

However, what you offer does seem a characteristic of workerism. The
issue is, where does such workerism exist?

> glorification of economic struggles as the "real" class struggle and
> so on.

I'd argue (at tedious length) that the economic struggle is in some
sense indeed the real class struggle. That is, the economic struggle
creates the possibility for all other struggles, not that all
struggles must be over bread and butter issues.

You offered three criteria to define workerism. The context wasn't
whether or not US labor is workerist, but whether the US left is
workerist, and that context seems to have shifted in what you have to
say. After thinking about your criteria, I'm not sure they are
accurate characterizations of labor, and instead seem a
characterization of labor held by certain sectors of the left that is
highly vulnerable when inspected closely.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Walter Lippmann
1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC
Permalink
Well, as for myself, I might was well say that I joined the YSA in
1962, the SWP in 1967, departed involuntarily from the SWP in 1983,
founded SA in 1984 (lasted one meeting) and was a member of the FIT
from 1983 to 1988. I have been without any organizational affiliation
since then. As of the week of my expulsion trial in 1983, I was then
paying $30.00 sustainer weekly. And I paid it in full, up to the
final meeting I attended.

And I also heard the same workerist and sectarian nonsense in the
Socialist Workers Party which remains a Marxmail staple. It took me
awhile after my involuntary departure before I began doing some of
the research to learn what the roots of the workerist sectarianism
which afflicted the SWP, and other sections of the left, came from It
wasn't until after leaving the SWP did I actually read that editorial
in THE MILITANT published a year after the triumph in which it said
that the "main danger to the Cuban Revolution was in its own
leadership." http://www.walterlippmann.com/catc.html

That being said, I continue both to have no regrets for my many years
spent in the Trotskyist movement, and to honor what was decent and
functional in that heritage. In its time, the SWP was the only left
party which supported Malcolm X. In its time, the SWP was the only
party which supported Robert F. Williams. It failed to appreciate
how far Dr. King had moved to the left, and tended to counterpose
King and Malcolm rather than trying to see how they were moving
toward a convergence. The SWP's opposition to the African National
Congress is one of those legacies which world Trotskyism clings to
with relentless intensity. Today other Trotskyist and neo-Trotskyist
tendencies carry that unfortunate banner. I joined the SWP and YSA
in the first place because I felt they were the best defenders of
the Cuban Revolution, which was the basis of my own radicalization.

I have ALWAYS considered Joseph Hansen to be, as we say in Cuba, "en la
misma trinchera que nosotros" (in the same trench as we are). Hansen
genuinely supported the Cuban Revolution, AND remained a Trotskyist,
but not a sectarian perfectionist, as most of such types are today,
which we see exemplified in the virulent hostility which some of what
Fidel properly calls "super-revolutionaries" express toward leaders
like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

This is one of the reasons why I've been so busy scanning Hansen's
comradely discussions of Cuban foreign policy and guerrilla warfare.
I still read and listen to and learn from Hansen. His work should
be better known internationally than it is.

There is still much which can be learned from the historical legacy
of the SWP, and from the writings and ideas of Trotsky and of the
Trotskyists. In her own way, I think that Celia Hart is trying to
make a an informed and meaningful synthesis of Trotskyist ideas and
those of the Cuban Revolution. That's been my sense of her all along,
and why I took it upon myself some years ago to begin to bring her
ideas out into the English language. Hers is an authentic voice of
the Cuban Revolution, and so it's important that her ideas get a
broad international public hearing.

With all of its frustrations, Marxmail makes it possible for some
of these familiar discussions and debates to take place in a modern
context and on an international plane, thanks to the Internet.


Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California

=================================================================
LOUIS PROYECT wrote:
Not only did I used to hear workerist nonsense for 5 years in the
Trotskyist movement, I had to pay $30 per month for the privilege.












.

================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
Jeffrey Thomas Piercy, El Pato Comunista
2007-09-09 03:57:14 UTC
Permalink
james dwyer wrote:
> Frankly, I am disillusioned with Marxmail, although I won't un-subscribe as there are a few, a VERY few, respondents who are worth reading (Louis Proyect, Walter Lippmann, and a few others)

On behalf of the rest, thanks. Your random flaming is appreciated. I see
you like to bitch on Marxism about what others should do just like the
rest of us.

You know, this is a DISCUSSION list, so it's kind of naturally what we
do here. I hope venting your steam was therapeutic for you, though.


-Jeff
Walter Lippmann
1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC
Permalink
"Workerism" is the idea and practice that only members
of the working class, narrowly-construed to mean the
industrial sector of the working class, can perform a
progressive political function, or should be designated
to lead any specific struggle.

In the Socialist Workers Party at a certain point when
it was pressurizing most of its members to change jobs
and obtain employment in arbitrarily-selected and what
they called "targetted" industries, it insisted that
virtually political work be carried out through and by
those members who were employed in those industries.

All such work which had previously been appreciated and
approved was thereafter to be degraded in importance,
and every activity which took place in and around the
designated workplace was to highlighted or given an
exaggerated importance. Plant gate sales of the party
newspaper, however few, were considered more important
than campus or community sales, however many.

In the SWP we were told that our industrial worker
members, who had little or no connection to their jobs,
having not been there very long, and not knowing many
people, would be leading the party's political campaigns,
and those who could carry out such work were generally
discouraged from doing so. As a social worker in an
industry which was not "targeted", the same work which
had been saluted as terrific in the past was now seen
as unimportant, or far less-important.

I could go on and on, but workerism means an exaggerated
estimate of the value and significance of activity which
was conducted by party members with such employment, or
by non-party members who happened to have jobs in those
arbitrarily-selected industries.

In general, the term "workerism" can and should be seen
to mean the exaggerated appreciation of the value or the
significance of issues and struggles at industrial work
sites, and is generally understood as counter-posed to the
struggles against discrimination and injustice which are
rooted in gender, race, sex, national and other forms
which are seen as "less central", "peripheral" and other
denigrative designations. We had many laughably silly
discussions of this in the SWP, but probably other groups
who did the same kinds of industrial terms had the same
kinds of discussions. In the SWP we laughed at the very
exaggerated workerist attitudes of other groups, until
our group decided to do the same thing.

Camejo's discussion of how this worked out in the case of
the Socialist Workers Party is one which I find helpful,
though Peter, also, as we all did in those days, framed
his discussion in terms of the validity of this idea of
"colonizing" "targeted industries", an idea which was
largely invented in offices by people who didn't work
in such places.

The most important political position for an individual
to have is their analysis of the society politically.
Where they are employed is a less important factor than
what they think about this society and what should be
done to bring socialism, or any social progress, about.

Peter's essay:
http://www.walterlippmann.com/camejo-against-sectarianism.html


Walter Lippmann


================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
Carl Webb
2007-09-09 16:40:41 UTC
Permalink
Joaquin,

I agree that workerism is not a good strategy for organizing but if
not the workingclass, then which class is the most revolutionary
class? I don't trust wikipedia but click on
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workerism to see how they define it.

Errors of Workerism at
http://marxists.anu.edu.au/history/international/comintern/sections/sacp/1986/workerism.htm


Carl Webb
Joaquin Bustelo
2007-09-09 20:06:23 UTC
Permalink
Carl Webb says: "I agree that workerism is not a good strategy for
organizing but if not the workingclass, then which class is the most
revolutionary class?"

Under current conditions, and the sorts of conditions that have prevailed in
the United States for the last few decades, there is no revolutionary class.
The postulate of the Comintern's Second Congress theses, extended to our
day, would be that for the U.S. working class to regain its revolutionary
potential, first either the back of imperialism as a system would have to be
broken, or the place of the U.S. within the world imperialist system lost. I
guess one could also posit a catastrophic collapse of the capitalist economy
or some other similar radical breakdown of the social order, for example, a
U.S. attack on Iran which Iran is able to answer by nuking New York, London
and San Francisco. But barring those sorts of Deus ex machina scenarios, the
statement is simply that the U.S. could not be anything like the kind of
imperialist power it is today for the working class to manifest its
revolutionary potential.

I am not 100% certain this is absolutely true, for in this sort of
analytical framework I do not see any way to explain the radicalization of
the 1960's, which clearly was a qualitatively different KIND of
radicalization than that of the 1930's. And if such a radicalization with a
relatively high degree of autonomy from underlying material conditions is
possible, then I do not see how to exclude a priori that --given that sort
of cracking of bourgeois political-ideological hegemony-- the working class
will NOT cohere as a class and ALSO radicalize. For while privileged, it is
also nevertheless exploited and oppressed. But that, at any rate, did not
happen in the 60's.

Joaquin
Walter Lippmann
2007-09-09 18:54:17 UTC
Permalink
The problem is with the question. Marxists have always said that the
working class is the one class in society which has the capacity to
raise all others on its shoulders and to reconstruct society along
non-exploitative, socialist lines, to lay the foundations for a new
society, a socialist society. This abstract historical generalization
is not sufficient to solve all of the tactical, strategic and tactical
problems of the socialist movement.

The problem with workerism, as the political deviation it is, is just
this: its use as a substitute for the specific analysis of particular
societies in precise times and places. When someone here complains
that someone does not refer to Marx's writings of the 19th century when
discussing China, Cuba or anything else which is taking place in the
21st century, as if Marx's writings then could provide the answer to
what those who study his ideas, and base themselves on their idea of
what he meant, is at approximately 180 degree variance with reality.

We can learn much from what Marx wrote, but it does not give anyone,
even the most brilliant, the solution to any practical issue in the
world which we live in today. How many times does it have to be
repeated: Marxism isn't a religion or a recipe book. It's a method
of analysis, not a prescription. For that we need human thinking
and action in the present moment. Nothing less will suffice.

The pre-revolutionary Cuban Communist Party criticized the July 26th
action of 1953 as a vanguard act when the masses of the working class
were not prepared to take the actions necessary to overthrow the
Batista dictatorship. They called Fidel Castro a putschist when the
Moncada attack failed in its immediate objective.

FORMALLY, from the point of what Plekhanov wrote in THE ROLE OF THE
INDIVIDUAL IN HISTORY, the PSP's criticism was correct. It's too bad
someone hasn't found those old documents and brought them out to the
public, because it would be another one of those pesky ways in which
history sadly repeats itself, a bit like in GROUNDHOG DAY. I'd like
to recommend again what Blase Bonpane, the former Maryknoll priest
expelled from Guatemala for supporting the guerrilla struggle back
in the sixties had to say about perfectionism. Read what Bonpane
has to say about perfectionism, a disease which constitutes an
intellectual and political plague on our times.
http://www.walterlippmann.com/bonpane-religion-and-revolution.html


Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, CAlifornia.
=====================================================================
CARL WEBB asks:
I agree that workerism is not a good strategy for organizing but if
not the workingclass, then which class is the most revolutionary
class?

================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
David Walters
2007-09-09 20:29:17 UTC
Permalink
Well, if Louis opened the door, I'm glad. I want to write that I agree
with Joaquin who stated most concisely and fortwithly the problems with
adulations. Certainly it works in many directions, not just the
faux-adulation of the 3 revolution mentioned by Joaquin but probably for
many followers of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky as well. The "adulation",
metaphorically, is exactly that opium he mentions. The result is
'anti-analysis' and a depoliticization of cadre.

David
Nick Fredman
2007-09-10 00:59:40 UTC
Permalink
Pat Costello:

> I imagine that a few Marxmailers have not even
> conversed with a working class person in years.

Yes I actively try to avoid talking to any of the 1200 people who work at my
workplace. Oh, that's right, it's a university, so they're all middle class,
"my bad".

I do have a good mate in the maintenance department, and sometimes chat to
the gardeners, including about joining the union, does that help cleanse my
petty bourgeois infection?

[Not at all offended, just amazed as such misunderstandings of what the
working class is - just as grossly wrong as most liberal intellectuals are,
in fact].
Haines Brown
2007-09-10 09:12:18 UTC
Permalink
Nick, I'm not impressed by your reply.

> Yes I actively try to avoid talking to any of the 1200 people who
> work at my workplace. Oh, that's right, it's a university, so
> they're all middle class, "my bad".

In fact, a university population consists of both petite bourgeoisie
and working class. I'll assume for the sake of discussion that you are
an instructor and so fall within the former class in objective
terms. That you didn't think to mention this class distinction at your
workplace worries me.

Why do I assume you are objectively petite bourgeois? Because the
petite bourgeoisie possess small means of production such as a
license, highly developed individual skill, small business, etc. that
allows the producer to avoid having to sell his labor power as merely
a factor of production. He provides a service or good largely on his
own. Professionals (in the traditional sense), such as college
professors, have been classified as petite bourgeois since the 13th
century.

However, this is only the objective side of the matter. The petite
bourgeoisie are usually thought of today as torn between the working
class on one side and the capitalists on the other, and as a result
their class location fails to define their most probable ideological
position. They are continually at risk of being absorbed into one or
the other of these two classes; some college professors will identify
with the working class and others (often subconsciously) with the
capitalists. We generally consider this choice to be definitive of
their class position (that is, objective factors determine one's most
probable ideology, but which ideology you end up adopting is up to
you).

So your conclusion that you are part of the working class may be
right, but I suspect not how you arrived at that conclusion. You may
well identity with the working class, but at the same time you should
be aware that in objective terms your class position is
ambivalent. That is why people consider their petite bourgeois allies
as a bit unreliable although they can certainly be valuable.

> [Not at all offended, just amazed as such misunderstandings of what
> the working class is - just as grossly wrong as most liberal
> intellectuals are, in fact].

If you had a clear understanding of class (in terms of a working-class
outlook), you would know that "middle class" is a life-style or income
range, not a social class.

And why the jibe at intellectuals? If you are a college professor, you
are a professional intellectual. That is, your job is to teach and to
intellectualize. That's a wonderful position to be in, and it is of
great value if a professor does these things well, just as playing the
violin well is a wonderful position to be in and of great value to
society. I see nothing wrong with intellectuals if they are good at
it. There's nothing inherently bad about the petite bourgeoisie or
even the capitalists as people, for the issue is the capitalist
system, not its Tr?ger.

And I also don't think much of your tossing in the word "liberal"
here. What does it mean? Take a look at the Wikipedia. Liberalism is
clearly a petite bourgeois ideology, borne of the European
Enlightenment, and therefore would naturally be appealing to the
professoriat. They generally hold to Enlightenment values because
those values were the creation of largely the petite bourgeoisie in
the first place.

However, within the capitalist order, the values associated with
liberalism are also generally accepted by capitalists and the working
class. What liberal or Enlightenment value would you care to jettison?
Human rights? Equality of opportunity? The rule of law? Liberalism is
capitalism at its best. While a critique and alternative to liberalism
is certainly possible, if we stay within the capitalist framework the
alternatives to liberalism are imperialism and fascism.

What we seek is an outlook that is post liberal (i.e., post modern)
and offers a positive alternative to liberalism. In this so-called
"post-modernist age", it has become fashionable to criticize
Enlightenment/liberal values, although in literary circles it has
tended to result in intellectual pathologies. However, post-modernism
in natural science has since the 80s and 90s opened the way to a fresh
new outlook that seems a very healthy move. Arguably Marxism is also
post-modern in this sense. That is, is a sense, Marxism arose as a
critique of posivism and offers an outlook that may have been
incipient, but strikes us today as being post-modern (offering a a
process theory, a theory of probabilistsic causal powers, a systems
theory, a scientific realism, etc.)

The result of all this is naturally ambiguous, as we would expect from
any emergent situation, but as capitalism enters its death throws we
are finding ourselves in possession of alternatives to its
liberalism. My (irresponsible) prediction is that Marxism (and the
working class) is about to enjoy a global renaissance. My point here,
however, is that liberalism is a progressive outlook in relation to
capitalism, but is reactionary in relation to a possible post-modern
alternative to capitalism.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Benjamin Morgan
2007-09-10 03:32:22 UTC
Permalink
Comrade Ben:

Marxmail is a very interesting group, it represents members from several countries, is multi-lingual and provides a space for discussion of relevant social issues. James you talk about the American leftist tradition in a manner which suggest it's gradual decline or all out collapse. However, I believe that America in general has always had the most stagnant leftist tradition. Granted we've had great comrades and great victories most of our problems have always circled around organization, participation, and of course petty disputes. (which were the major cause of splits in Marxist organization) I believe that classic Marxist Leninism and exclusive sects acquiescing in it's tradition necessarily allowed for the stratification of the left in the U.S. U.S workers were placed below their intellectual counterparts which created a petty bourgeois class of radical theorist. (for lack of a better term) Almost naturally, Marxmail represents some of that stratified class.
(Intellectuals who wax nostalgic for a scholarly space to vent their perspectives on a wide variety of social issues) This is typically not a bad idea. I make this argument for several reasons, first off this class exist therefore it can be harnessed and shaped like the bourgeois did the working class in reverse. Secondly, it represents the presence of radical intellect which is necessary in these gloom times of capitalist exploitation. Finally, it can be reversed just as this class was stratified it can become reoriented with the working class which I believe is necessary now more than ever. A lot of you Marxmailers can talk about this divide and criticize this divide, but "the point is to change it". When I posed my idea for the creation of a new form of organizational structuralism I was met with a combination of staunch and no opposition. However, if you check the archives my mission was to ameliorate this very divide yet nobody wanted to even so much as criticize my
proposal except Mark. (which I appreciate) You rant and rave about this divide but what does that do? Does it bring us closer to a palpable solution? Does it even marginally increase the quality of marxmail? If it doesn't ask yourself, what can I do to help? If you don't know read Constituent Imagination by AK press and maybe you will get some insight. I have noticed this material condition for a long time and have been trying to change it (even within Marxmail) but without the solidarity of all my fellow comrades all I and others can do is dream of a unified workers left and a Marxmail which promotes active class struggle.

Ben


?Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms.?

~ Ernesto "Che" Guevara

---------------------------------
Park yourself in front of a world of choices in alternative vehicles.
Visit the Yahoo! Auto Green Center.
Kathleen de la Peña McCook
2007-09-10 10:07:02 UTC
Permalink
I am documenting these strikes at union librarian. The Vancouver
library workers are beginning week 8 of the strike . See
links at Union Librarian for details;
=====

Union Librarian
http://unionlibrarian.blogspot.com/
AFT Local 7463
Ethan Young
1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC
Permalink
Back in 1969, these issues were argued by Ernest Mandel and
Martin Nicolaus in New Left Review and the Columbia
SDS-spawned theoretical paper Leviathan. The backdrop was
the divergent paths taken by PL [and later SWP] toward
?workerism?, Weatherman toward ?third-worldism?, and RYM-II
toward Maoism. If anyone subscribes to NLR, they can get
access and share with the list.
Mandel argues that internal contradictions will determine
the path of revolution in America:
http://newleftreview.org/?view=917
Nicolaus sees the US world role as imperialist center as
determinant:
http://newleftreview.org/?view=2185
Mandel responds:
http://newleftreview.org/?view=919

Nicolaus later joined [and was then purged from] the
by-the-numbers Maoist group October League, a remnant of
RYM-II.

ethan young
Michael Briguglio
2007-09-10 08:11:16 UTC
Permalink
Workerism leads to an reductionist and essentialist approach that is
ultimately dogmatic and politically unsustainable. In political terms, one's
class position is more important than one's class background, and class
isn't the only factor which should be taken into consideration. Ultimately
we are characterised by criss-crossing identities, e.g. one worker may be
conservative and believe in one religion, another may be progressive and may
believe in another religion, etc.. etc..

On the other hand, though, one has to be careful not to succumb to the
opposite direction, whereby speaking in terms of the working-class would
become akin to anathema. It is easy and cheap to label one a 'workerist' (or
as being 'old fashioned') just because one gives importance to workers'
struggles. In this regard, back in the days when I was a member of the
national executive of Malta's Greens, their Chairman had labelled me a
'workerist' just because I thought that Malta's Greens should support the
trade-union that represented dockyard workers when the Government was
downsizing this industry. This is a strategy that is used by the right.

Michael Briguglio
www.michaelbriguglio.com


> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Message: 1
> Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2007 07:17:48 -0700 (GMT-07:00)
> From: Walter Lippmann <walterlx at earthlink.net>
> Subject: [Marxism] Workerism
> To: marxmail <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
> Message-ID:
> <4117541.1189347468970.JavaMail.root at elwamui-little.atl.sa.earthlink.net>
>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
>
> "Workerism" is the idea and practice that only members
> of the working class, narrowly-construed to mean the
> industrial sector of the working class, can perform a
> progressive political function, or should be designated
> to lead any specific struggle.
>
> In the Socialist Workers Party at a certain point when
> it was pressurizing most of its members to change jobs
> and obtain employment in arbitrarily-selected and what
> they called "targetted" industries, it insisted that
> virtually political work be carried out through and by
> those members who were employed in those industries.
>
> All such work which had previously been appreciated and
> approved was thereafter to be degraded in importance,
> and every activity which took place in and around the
> designated workplace was to highlighted or given an
> exaggerated importance. Plant gate sales of the party
> newspaper, however few, were considered more important
> than campus or community sales, however many.
>
> In the SWP we were told that our industrial worker
> members, who had little or no connection to their jobs,
> having not been there very long, and not knowing many
> people, would be leading the party's political campaigns,
> and those who could carry out such work were generally
> discouraged from doing so. As a social worker in an
> industry which was not "targeted", the same work which
> had been saluted as terrific in the past was now seen
> as unimportant, or far less-important.
>
> I could go on and on, but workerism means an exaggerated
> estimate of the value and significance of activity which
> was conducted by party members with such employment, or
> by non-party members who happened to have jobs in those
> arbitrarily-selected industries.
>
> In general, the term "workerism" can and should be seen
> to mean the exaggerated appreciation of the value or the
> significance of issues and struggles at industrial work
> sites, and is generally understood as counter-posed to the
> struggles against discrimination and injustice which are
> rooted in gender, race, sex, national and other forms
> which are seen as "less central", "peripheral" and other
> denigrative designations. We had many laughably silly
> discussions of this in the SWP, but probably other groups
> who did the same kinds of industrial terms had the same
> kinds of discussions. In the SWP we laughed at the very
> exaggerated workerist attitudes of other groups, until
> our group decided to do the same thing.
>
> Camejo's discussion of how this worked out in the case of
> the Socialist Workers Party is one which I find helpful,
> though Peter, also, as we all did in those days, framed
> his discussion in terms of the validity of this idea of
> "colonizing" "targeted industries", an idea which was
> largely invented in offices by people who didn't work
> in such places.
>
> The most important political position for an individual
> to have is their analysis of the society politically.
> Where they are employed is a less important factor than
> what they think about this society and what should be
> done to bring socialism, or any social progress, about.
>
> Peter's essay:
> http://www.walterlippmann.com/camejo-against-sectarianism.html
>
>
> Walter Lippmann
>
>
> ================================
> WALTER LIPPMANN
> Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
> writer - photographer - activist
> http://www.walterlippmann.com
> ================================
>
>
>
Mark Lause
2007-09-11 00:09:32 UTC
Permalink
Why would anyone in their right mind who thought it about for a bit ever
expect an email list to accomplish what we've not been able to accomplish in
person?

The list is a list. It's very good at doing what it does, but it is, in the
end, just a list. Take it for what it's worth and stop bitching that it's
not doing what a list can't do.

If you want more, shut off the computer once in and while and go try to do
something.

ML
Erik Carlos Toren
2007-09-11 00:29:26 UTC
Permalink
Amen! Mark. Amen!

An email list like Marxmail is what it is...a discussion group of almost
likeminded comrades. I for one don't see marxmail as a substitute for a
political revolutionary party. But. Of all the flotsam and jetsam that is on
the internet, I have always found this list useful and informative. I accept
it for what it is. And if I want something with more grassroots feel to it,
I step away from my office and head to my local peace and justice group.

PS...and I always look fwd to all the postings from Louis Pr and the rest of
the comrades.

por el socialismo,
Erik Toren

"The bosses ride on a big white horse,
While we walk in the mud.
Their flag's the old red, white, and blue
While ours is dipped in blood."

--Aunt Molly Jackson

www.socialistpartyoftexas.org
!

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Lause" <MLause at cinci.rr.com>



> Why would anyone in their right mind who thought it about for a bit ever
> expect an email list to accomplish what we've not been able to accomplish
> in
> person?
>
> The list is a list. It's very good at doing what it does, but it is, in
> the
> end, just a list. Take it for what it's worth and stop bitching that it's
> not doing what a list can't do.
>
> If you want more, shut off the computer once in and while and go try to do
> something.
Mark Lause
2007-09-11 00:19:12 UTC
Permalink
Workerism, ultimately, fails to lead. It embraces a cultural identity of
being oppressed while politically sitting firmly on your thumbs waiting for
somebody to do something...usually something that will be criticized as
insufficient.

Frankly, all the verbiage about nationalism and self-determination in the
SWP and other groups boils down to the same thing. And it still does....

ML
Alan Bradley
2007-09-11 00:37:33 UTC
Permalink
From: Haines Brown
> In fact, a university population consists of
> both petite bourgeoisie and working class. I'll
> assume for the sake of discussion that you are
> an instructor and so fall within the former class
> in objective terms.

"for the sake of discussion". How charming.

> "Why do I assume you are objectively petite
> bourgeois? Because..."

Because you are trained in sectarian habits, perhaps?

> And why the jibe at intellectuals? If you are a
> college professor, you are a professional
> intellectual.

And here, Haines' "assum(ption) for the sake of
discussion" is treated as truth.

Nick isn't "an instructor", incidentally.

I will let Nick deal with the more substantive
matters.

Alan Bradley


____________________________________________________________________________________
Fussy? Opinionated? Impossible to please? Perfect. Join Yahoo!'s user panel and lay it on us. http://surveylink.yahoo.com/gmrs/yahoo_panel_invite.asp?a=7
Haines Brown
2007-09-11 13:48:55 UTC
Permalink
> From: Haines Brown
> > In fact, a university population consists of both petite
> > bourgeoisie and working class. I'll assume for the sake of
> > discussion that you are an instructor and so fall within the
> > former class in objective terms.
>
> "for the sake of discussion". How charming.

You obviously are being ironic here, but I don't understand your
point. I had reason to infer from the message that its writer was on
the teaching staff, but I wished to address the issues he raised
without presuming to comment on his personal situation. So I raised it
"for the sake of discussion". You don't seem to grasp that I was
trying to be polite and to keep the discussion from being ad hominem.

> > "Why do I assume you are objectively petite bourgeois? Because..."
>
> Because you are trained in sectarian habits, perhaps?

As best I can make out, your comment is a non sequitur. What does my
inference about the social location of someone have to do with
"sectarianism"? The logic here escapes me. I inferred he was on the
teaching staff because of the tenor of his comments, and some
assumption was necessary if my response were to be constructive. My
inference was either correct or incorrect, not "sectarian".

It just occurred to me: do you see the term "petite bourgeois" as an
insult for some reason? If so, let me remind you that this is a
Marxist forum. Actually it might be a kind of complement, for it
implies the person has some unusual level of skill or has the
advantage of some productive property, both of which, taken in
themselves, are reason for congratulation.

I should note that in my own social milieu, the term "bourgie" is
a frequently used criticism or insult. However, the context is
cultural rather than Marxist, and so obviously I did not intend it
that way. Also, the full term "petite bourgeois" is never used in my
milieu, for it is a technical term appropriate in social analysis.

> > And why the jibe at intellectuals? If you are a college professor,
> > you are a professional intellectual.
>
> And here, Haines' "assum(ption) for the sake of discussion" is
> treated as truth.

That obviously is not so: I said "if". Besides, I was not making a
statement of truth, but only defining what being a college professor
means. This is so logically obvious I can only wonder that you try to
use it to derail my point about the class position of
intellectuals. I'm sure everyone else saw the word "if".

> Nick isn't "an instructor", incidentally.

OK, then I suppose he must be either a student or a staff person. If a
student, I wouldn't know how to respond in regard to his class
position, for it probably is in formation. If he is on the staff, my
limited experience organizing food service folks is that their
situation is entirely different than the rest of university staff, and
so how I would discuss class consciousness would depend a lot on which
kind of job it is.

I don't know why you troubled to reply. My intention was to be helpful
and constructive from a Marxist perspective. You instead seem to have
construed it as an ad hominem criticism of someone known to you
personally, which somehow justified your replying in kind. You offered
nothing at all of any substance.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Louis Proyect
2007-09-11 14:11:49 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown wrote:
> It just occurred to me: do you see the term "petite bourgeois" as an
> insult for some reason?

Of course it is an insult. The "Marxist-Leninist" parties have used this
term as a cudgel against opposition tendencies since the early 20th
century at least. A search on "petty bourgeois" on MIA returned links
to 2680 articles with Lenin's 1905 "Petty-Bourgeois and Proletarian
Socialism" close to the top. It is directed against the SR's, who did
have an orientation to the peasantry--a true petty bourgeoisie.

The term was grossly misused by Leon Trotsky in his factional struggle
with Burnham, Shachtman and Morrow in the late 1930s. Instead of being
used sociologically, it was just a kind of insult.

The CPUSA uses the same kind of horseshit. At their 1995 convention,
they apparently had some kind of "leftist" opposition that prompted
party leader Danny Rubin to answer them in "On Criticisms from the
'Left'". The article uses the epithet "petty bourgeois" liberally,
again--as in the case of Leon Trotsky--with scant attention paid to
sociological precision.

All in all, this kind of meat-headed linquistic abuse is a symptom of a
dying subculture--"Marxism-Leninism". It will take a long time to die
off but die off it certainly will.
Louis Proyect
2007-09-11 14:17:23 UTC
Permalink
> The term was grossly misused by Leon Trotsky in his factional struggle
> with Burnham, Shachtman and Morrow in the late 1930s. Instead of being
> used sociologically, it was just a kind of insult.

Correction. I meant Abern instead of Morrow. I guess my grasp of trivia
is not what it used to be.
Louis Proyect
2007-09-11 14:44:10 UTC
Permalink
(Received from a Marxmail lurker)

Lou -- the discussion on Marxmail reminded me of an incident recounted
by Irving Howe (notorious petit bourgeois social democrat). As best I
recall, it goes like this:

Howe was in his high school cafeteria, and did or said something that
annoyed a teacher. The teacher said something to Howe, who responded
"Thank you very much, Mr. so-and-so. Now I understand why they have the
petit in petit bourgeois."

a.
(petit bourgeois to the core)
Carrol Cox
2007-09-11 16:05:55 UTC
Permalink
Louis Proyect wrote:
>
> Haines Brown wrote:
> > It just occurred to me: do you see the term "petite bourgeois" as an
> > insult for some reason?
>
> Of course it is an insult. The "Marxist-Leninist" parties have used this
> term as a cudgel against opposition tendencies since the early 20th
> century at least.

The neutral term would be petty producer. Most users of "petite
bourgeois," however, are operating out of a vulgar conception of class
as identity, and for that reason want a term that points to individuals
rather than to social relations. Once one uses the term "petty
producer," it becomes clearer that many of those labelled "petty
bourgeois" are, in fact, members of the proletariat.

Carrol
Haines Brown
2007-09-11 22:26:20 UTC
Permalink
> Louis Proyect wrote:
> >
> > Haines Brown wrote:
> > > It just occurred to me: do you see the term "petite bourgeois"
> > > as an insult for some reason?
> >
> > Of course it is an insult. The "Marxist-Leninist" parties have
> > used this term as a cudgel against opposition tendencies since the
> > early 20th century at least.
>
> The neutral term would be petty producer.

Carrol, I see the advantage of having a neutral term that avoids all
the ambiguities, but I'm not sure that what you suggest is adequate. A
teacher, doctor, and lawyer is traditionally a member of the (petite)
bourgeoisie, but they are not "producers" in the conventional
sense. My dictionary suggests that while one meaning of the word is
equivalent to any creative activity, all the other meanings speak of
agriculture or manufacturing. The former is too vague to be of use;
the others too specific.

If you were to include services in "producer" as one who creates
services, then what of service wage earners? That is, to represent a
doctor as petty producer simply because he creates a service leaves
something important out.

With the advent of capitalism, the capitalist bourgeoisie and the
traditional bourgeoisie played quite different roles, and so the term
"petite bourgeoisie" seems to be quite useful.

It seems to me that while the accuation of having "petit-bourgeois"
tendencies might have been unjustifiably thrown about by a _few_
people in some _very_ obscure parties about which most people are
entirely unaware, the accusation could in principle also have been
justified. We can't judge in the present context whether such
accuations were in general valid or not. In any case, some obscure
perversions hardly seem to warrant tossing out a perfectly useful
word. The problem with it is rather that the average person hearing it
finds it stilted or foreign-sounding. And yet, I can think of no
alternative.

> Most users of "petite bourgeois," however, are operating out of a
> vulgar conception of class as identity, and for that reason want a
> term that points to individuals rather than to social
> relations. Once one uses the term "petty producer," it becomes
> clearer that many of those labelled "petty bourgeois" are, in fact,
> members of the proletariat.

As you say, the focus should be on relations of production, but to
reduce the relation in question to the size of productive property
seems a reductionism. And besides, to say the working class is such
because it possesses no productive property, seems a definition by
negation. Perhaps more important in the case of the petite bourgeoisie
is individual independence, which can come not only from petty
property, but also from a professional license, both of which depend
on the social milieu. This is an important point, which draws me into
a philosophical aside.

I suggest that to see social class as the social effect of various
categories of means of production involves a crippling reductionism
that we inherit from empiricism. I believe it is no longer
scientifically valid to define a social system as consisting of
hypostatized causally related parts. Rather than try to define Social
classes as the social effects of forms of property, instead it is
obvious they should be defined as _processes_ in which property
constrains historical social potencies. Well, no one will understand
what I'm talking about, and so enough of this.

I suspect this issue could give rise to a very interesting and useful
discussion of the meaning, significance and function of "relations of
production", but I'm not optimistic.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Joaquin Bustelo
2007-09-12 01:45:07 UTC
Permalink
Carrol Cox writes: <<The neutral term would be petty producer. Most users of
"petite bourgeois," however, are operating out of a vulgar conception of
class as identity, and for that reason want a term that points to
individuals rather than to social relations. Once one uses the term "petty
producer," it becomes clearer that many of those labelled "petty bourgeois"
are, in fact, members of the proletariat.>>

I think this is an overly-narrow view of the matter. It is focused entirely
from the point of view of relations of production, but these relations are
at bottom *social.*

And in that sense, there are significant layers of people who are not owners
of means of production, who are not independent (or relatively autonomous
producers) but nevertheless play an intermediate role. "Managers" are one
such group.

But there are all sorts of intermediate gradations; from the pure "manager"
who does nothing but boss other people around to the person who plays an
essential role in organizing the work of a small team to a coherent effect.

I see this very much in my work as a producer of live, TV news programs. My
work is structuring around 22 minutes of narratives by an anchor, taped
reports, live interviews, etc. And because a lot of this is fairly
automated, you might think of it more as "programming" a computer. My
rundown of stories determines which is the next video clips that the
director has available to play to air. My job, in a sense, is to make sure
that if we're talking to someone about Pavarotti, the director has pictures
and text (subtitles -- "supers" in the lingo of the trade) about Pavarotti
to put on the screen and the anchor has a script or questions for a guest
about Pavarotti on her/his teleprompter.

Me, I was happy to spend all 22 minutes talking about Pavarotti, and in fact
more, because I killed breaks (there were only a couple of paid commercials,
I just made sure those got on) and even went into the time of the taped,
more featurey programs that typically air on my channel after the half-hour.
Because there was one guy "we" talked to (actually, the anchor did) who was
a collaborator of Pavarotti's and had what he very knew was his "last
supper" with the "maestro" (as he called him) only a few weeks ago. It was a
fascinating, even moving segment, if I say so myself. "Great TV."

Was I "the boss"? Kind of, sort of. I could only do what I did with the
active support of the supervisor in the newsroom above me. S/he could --and
often does-- get instructions from management above to take something live
or dump out of it. Did I make all the "calls" myself? No way. I relied on
the reactions, the gut reactions of the director --the person pushing the
buttons to actually take stuff to air-- and other "technical" personnel.

There was one clip (video) we had of operatic singing, and just on the spur
of the moment we stayed with it for a minute, rather than the three or four
seconds my "rundown" called for. It was "instinct" about what made "great
TV" -- but it was vocalized by the most "junior" person on the control room,
who said something like, we should stay with this. And the director says,
you want to? And I nod -- and then look back nervously at my supervisor. Who
nods and says into his headset, "master, we're killing XXX segment." MASTER
control being where commercials get inserted, and they also have segments,
like weather and a promo roll for upcoming programming, that we live
producers rely on so as not to have to come out of a show at an exact
moment, but rather in a 15, 30, or 60-second window. The supervisor's call
to kill the "cushion" segment was also a mandate to me and the director to
come out of the show clean at a certain precise point, let's say 2:00
minutes exactly before the top of the hour. The way to do that is to cue the
anchor to say something like "with these images we're leaving you" 15
seconds before the time is up, and just fade down at the right moment.

In those circumstances, there is both a very clear collaboration, and even a
real (in the framework of what we have to work with) creative collaboration,
between everyone involved as well as a very clear hierarchy. The people
operating the sound mixer and graphics, as well as the master control
operators, are very clearly in a proletarian role. People like myself and
the director, are in ambiguous roles, partly production, partly supervision,
but mostly on the physical production side. My supervisor is just on the
other side of the fence, except that in the nature of things, if I'm 40-60,
the supervisor is 60-40. The people upstairs are 90-10. The ratios here
refer to managing/producing.

I'm using the specific example of my work situation, and although the
details will vary greatly, I do not believe this degree of "management
sharing" is exceptional across a broad swath of industries where
intellectual labor is directly involved in the immediate production process.

So this "middle layer" that is semi-managerial, semi-production is something
to focus on. It is NOT something that can happen on an assembly line. And
when people organize something like TV or Web content production on an
assembly-line model, you can tell, because the results really suck.

So I would argue that the intelligentsia --those whose primary social
function or whose product is the production or reproduction of ideology and
bourgeois ideological hegemony in society-- are another intermediate layer,
"petite bourgeois," not just because of the overall role in society of what
they produce, but because of the way production in those sectors tends to be
organized. There IS a lot of "professionalism" --judgment calls by
individuals-- involved, but also a lot of collaboration across disciplines
or precise functions.

It may very well be that many of these layers share all sorts of common
elements with the proletariat, narrowly defined. That is simply the reality
of the contradictory status of the middle classes (=petite bourgeoisie) in
capitalist society.

IN THE LAST ANALYSIS, if push-comes-to-shove and all that, most/all of these
people will discover that they have only such autonomy --or such
employment-- as the bourgeoisie is willing to grant them. But we are far
from those circumstances.

Joaquin
Haines Brown
2007-09-12 20:09:07 UTC
Permalink
> And in that sense, there are significant layers of people who are
> not owners of means of production, who are not independent (or
> relatively autonomous producers) but nevertheless play an
> intermediate role. "Managers" are one such group.

"Intermediate" to what? How are you defining class here?

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Haines Brown
2007-09-11 16:19:46 UTC
Permalink
> Haines Brown wrote:
> > It just occurred to me: do you see the term "petite bourgeois" as
> > an insult for some reason?
>
> Of course it is an insult. The "Marxist-Leninist" parties have used
> this term as a cudgel against opposition tendencies since the early
> 20th century at least.

I suspect the context is different. What I said was obviously intended
to be about social classes, not tendencies in working-class
parties. You are quite correct to note that should a working-class
party or an opposition within it have values better suited to the
petite bourgeoisie, it would be regrettable and worthy of
insult. However, I don't recall that working class parties came up in
the discussion (perhaps I'm wrong, but that's my recollection). You
seem to be reacting more to certain unfortunate tendencies in some
working-class parties than to my comments.

> All in all, this kind of meat-headed linquistic abuse is a symptom
> of a dying subculture--"Marxism-Leninism". It will take a long time
> to die off but die off it certainly will.

I suspect the term "Marxism-Leninism" is broadly used as an (arguably
unfortunate) label to refer to the developing ideology of the working
class. As such, it can't "die off", for the working class is permanent
and so too is its ideology, whatever form it takes.

Because it is so conventional to use the term "Marxism-Leninism" to
refer to the only ideology specific to the working class, there is a
danger that a justified criticism of dogmatism or a thoughtless
embrace of Marx and Lenin's specific views despite changing
circumstances will be construed as a rejection of working-class
ideology per se. I'm sure that is not your intent, and so I regret how
you expressed yourself here. It could easily be misunderstood.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Louis Proyect
2007-09-11 16:40:58 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown wrote:
> I suspect the term "Marxism-Leninism" is broadly used as an (arguably
> unfortunate) label to refer to the developing ideology of the working
> class. As such, it can't "die off", for the working class is permanent
> and so too is its ideology, whatever form it takes.

We obviously have differences over how to interpret this term.

> Because it is so conventional to use the term "Marxism-Leninism" to
> refer to the only ideology specific to the working class, there is a
> danger that a justified criticism of dogmatism or a thoughtless
> embrace of Marx and Lenin's specific views despite changing
> circumstances will be construed as a rejection of working-class
> ideology per se. I'm sure that is not your intent, and so I regret how
> you expressed yourself here. It could easily be misunderstood.

That was not my intent. I was referring to the mechanical application of
Bolshevik organizational practices like "democratic centralism", etc.,
and not to the need for socialist theory and practice.
Haines Brown
2007-09-12 15:40:26 UTC
Permalink
>
> Haines Brown wrote:
> > I suspect the term "Marxism-Leninism" is broadly used as an
> > (arguably unfortunate) label to refer to the developing ideology
> > of the working class. As such, it can't "die off", for the working
> > class is permanent and so too is its ideology, whatever form it
> > takes.
>
> We obviously have differences over how to interpret this term.

I assume you here refer to the term "Marxism-Leninism". I'm unsure of
its history, but apparently it is not only a certain development of
working-class ideology (regardless of how one might assess that
development), but also has sometimes been used to distinguish
communist and social democratic parties. I did not refer to parties,
but to working-class ideology.

In that sense you may be objecting that "Marxism-Leninism" represents
a pathological form of working-class ideology developed by a
particular kind of political interest within a certain kind of party.

I think it necessary at this point to recall the context of this
discussion. Unfortunately, the thread bifurcated, but the present
context is the meaning and/or utility of the term "petite-bourgeois",
which came up only because I used it in a non-pejorative way to refer
to the teaching staff of universities. You apparently object that the
term is necessarily pejorative because Marxist-Leninist parties have
used the term "petite bourgeoisie" to de-legitimate opinions that
differed from those of party leadership.

If I understand it correctly, I do not find your objection to the
phrase "petite bourgeois" to be persuasive for three reasons: a) the
suggestion that the term was _generally_ abused by communist parties
(to discredit an opinion based on the class of its holder rather than
the class implications of the opinion itself) is here neither a
demonstrated consensus nor a proven fact, and b) the debate over the
history of this supposed misuse seems a storm in a teacup with little
obvious impact on the meaning of the term "petite bourgeoisie" today
-- a term with an otherwise broad and respectable history, and c) I
can think of no alternative term that would avoid the troublesome
issue and at the same time convey the same meaning (Carrol kindly
suggested "petty producer", but I wasn't too happy with it).

I don't wish to debate point (a) because motive is very hard to prove
and (b) because the reference group for such a debate will be
differently defined (I'm not much interested in party debates, but in
working-class consciousness). Given my three objections, so far I have
been offered no persuasive reason to abandon the term "petite
bourgeois".

> > Because it is so conventional to use the term "Marxism-Leninism"
> > to refer to the only ideology specific to the working class, there
> > is a danger that a justified criticism of dogmatism or a
> > thoughtless embrace of Marx and Lenin's specific views despite
> > changing circumstances will be construed as a rejection of
> > working-class ideology per se. I'm sure that is not your intent,
> > and so I regret how you expressed yourself here. It could easily
> > be misunderstood.
>
> That was not my intent. I was referring to the mechanical
> application of Bolshevik organizational practices like "democratic
> centralism", etc., and not to the need for socialist theory and
> practice.

OK, understood. There should not, of course, be a mechanical
application of anything. That's understood, whether it involve
ideology or organizational practices.

But I'm uncertain about what you then add to this point. You seem to
counterpoise democratic centralism and socialism. Are you using the
term "socialism" broadly so as to include the revolutionary socialism
of the Bolsheviks? That would be contradictory (socialism would and
would not entail democratic centralism). So I suspect you are
reserving the word "socialist" to refer to only non-Leninist
parties. Is this inference correct? If so, it would have helped had
you made this restriction explicit, for many people mean socialism by
the word socialism and resist non-constructive distinctions.

What I next say is not meant to start a sectarian and off-topic debate
over past party practices, but only to let you know my own position on
the issue you brought up, that of democratic centralism.

My comment is limited to democratic centralism as a general
organizational principle in the present. I believe that democratic
centralism in a broad sense is a natural and necessary organizational
principle to reconcile democracy and solidarity.

This is roughly the way unions are supposed to work in times of
strike. Democratic centralism as an organizational principle seems to
mean that issues are openly and fully debated; a vote is taken; and
everyone is bound unequivocally to support the outcome of the vote,
not only formally in terms of not promoting their own private
disagreement with it, but emotionally as well, which is achieved
through an intensive critical self-development that hopefully ends
with one's own will beginning to correspond to the common will.

A second application is in a healthy marriage. Opinions naturally
differ, but must ultimately be reconciled to achieve a greater good,
which is the bond of a loving relationship which arguably is the
condition of personal satisfaction. One of course debates an issue,
but in the long run what is more important than being proven right is
a loving accord, and so you look at your own opinion very critically
and struggle to develop what to you are so that you end a better
partner without any loss of self; it is a development of self. not its
denial.

In other words, democratic centralism as much serves the development
of social being as it is a mechanism for settling differenes. It might
seem an organizational principle suitable only for times of intense
struggle and appropriate to relatively closed and disciplined
organizations (as opposed to society at large). However, I believe it
is applicable in any situation in which the development of the self is
a primary consideration, and not just in times of crisis. The reason
is that it alone explains how the development of a social being can be
ensured in a way that is preferable to just a formal education, which
more often than not operates in just a short time frame to change
one's culture without any clear transformation of self. All college
graduates are acculturated, but whether they are as a result better
people is doubtful.

Let me re-emphasize: I have no intention of entering into a debate
over my points about democratic centralism in this thread, for it
would derail it even further; the thread has to do with the meaning
and appropriateness of the term "petite-bourgeois" today. On the other
hand, if someone were to open a new thread with a subject line
referring to the concept "democratic centralism", as long as it does
not focus on the past practices of certain political parties, I'd be
happy to join in. That is, I find sectarianism hard to take.

And a technical aside. The term "petite bourgeois" or "petite
bourgeoisie" is sometimes spelled without the e at the end of
petit. This happens so often that I'm left feeling very insecure about
my own spelling. In French, the words bourgeois and bourgeoisie, being
feminine, should be preceded by "petite". However, the words bourgeois
and bourgeoisie have been incorporated into English. If the French
phrase "petite bourgeois(ie)" is incorporated as a whole, then there
has to be a final e on petite. However, according to my dictionary, it
seems that _sometimes_ "bourgeois(ie)" is carried over by itself
without the French petite. I infer this from its suggestion that
"petite bourgeoisie" is synonymous with "petit bourgeois" and "petty
bourgeoisie". This might suggest that anything goes (unless you are a
purist like me).

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Louis Proyect
2007-09-12 18:58:40 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown wrote:
> This is roughly the way unions are supposed to work in times of
> strike. Democratic centralism as an organizational principle seems to
> mean that issues are openly and fully debated; a vote is taken; and
> everyone is bound unequivocally to support the outcome of the vote,
> not only formally in terms of not promoting their own private
> disagreement with it, but emotionally as well, which is achieved
> through an intensive critical self-development that hopefully ends
> with one's own will beginning to correspond to the common will.

Yes, this is how Lenin originally intended it as a form of discipline in
action, but "Marxist-Leninist" groups modified it to include thought as
well. Parties would develop an analysis of something and then party
members would be expected to go out and defend that line in public, even
though it went against everything they believed. For example, most gay
SWP members violently objected to the party's decision at the 1973
convention (I believe this was the date) to not take a position that
being gay is as normal as being straight (gay is good was the
popularization of this concept.) But they were expected to go out and
tell gays that they were working with in the mass movement that they
believed this was so on the pain of expulsion. This sort of thing leads
to cultification.

> A second application is in a healthy marriage. Opinions naturally
> differ, but must ultimately be reconciled to achieve a greater good,
> which is the bond of a loving relationship which arguably is the
> condition of personal satisfaction. One of course debates an issue,
> but in the long run what is more important than being proven right is
> a loving accord, and so you look at your own opinion very critically
> and struggle to develop what to you are so that you end a better
> partner without any loss of self; it is a development of self. not its
> denial.

Thank god I never felt married to the SWP.
Joaquin Bustelo
2007-09-12 00:28:15 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown: "I suspect the term "Marxism-Leninism" is broadly used as an
(arguably unfortunate) label to refer to the developing ideology of the
working class. As such, it can't "die off", for the working class is
permanent and so too is its ideology, whatever form it takes."

The "developing ideology of the working class"? WHAT "developing ideology"
of WHICH "working class"???

Haines, you have a tendency to fly off into the thin air of philosophical
abstractions. The problem with this method should become obvious when
gravity takes hold and you go SPLAT against the bedrock reality of real
conditions.

What is "the developing ideology of the working class" in the United States?
THERE IS NO SUCH THING. The workers gaily share in American imperialism's
exploitation of the Third World and their views by and large reflect this.

Contrary to your statements, "the working class" is not permanent; nor is
there such a thing as "working-class ideology per se." Ideology is an
extremely complex social product and it is simply NOT TRUE that there is
such a thing as "the ideology of the working class" abstracted from time,
place, circumstance and the specific forms (down to VERY concrete details)
of the class or anticapitalist movement.

The Peruvian worker who is not a patriot is not a revolutionary worker. The
American worker who IS a patriot is not a revolutionary worker. The American
worker who is a Peruvian patriot may be a revolutionary, but is probably
also a weirdo.

Ideology DOES NOT EXIST apart from real, living breathing human beings.

Contrary to what most self-described Marxists believe, without a
revolutionary MOVEMENT there is no revolutionary THEORY in the real sense of
the word.

Joaquin
Haines Brown
2007-09-12 20:06:15 UTC
Permalink
> Haines Brown: "I suspect the term "Marxism-Leninism" is broadly used
> as an (arguably unfortunate) label to refer to the developing
> ideology of the working class. As such, it can't "die off", for the
> working class is permanent and so too is its ideology, whatever form
> it takes."
>
> The "developing ideology of the working class"? WHAT "developing
> ideology" of WHICH "working class"???

You are making things unnecessarily complicated. I meant the word
"development" generically, such as the working class tends to learn
from its mistakes and acquire a better understanding of its emergent
circumstances.

One could object that the working class has not done very well at
this, but I'm not sure that is so if we are considering global working
class as a whole while limiting our attention to what outlook suites
the working class situation instead of what workers on the whole
happen to be actually thinking. Without these two considerations, I
don't know that it is possible to talk about working class ideology at
all, for there is no definable frame of reference that can be used to
evaluate the sense of any statements we might make about the working
class.

If instead your question presumed that there are multiple working
class ideologies (rather than differences within the working class
ideology) and different working classes (as distinct from different
sectors in one working class), then I'm afraid you have to offer some
support for these these contentions. I suggest that you begin by
stating explicitly whether you plan to adopt a Marxist position in
regard to them. To approach the issue from a Marxist viewpoint, you
obviously have to start with a shared definition of "relation of
production" if you expect to be intelligible. If you instead adopt an
empiricist perspective, you may be fighting an uphill battle.

> What is "the developing ideology of the working class" in the United
> States? THERE IS NO SUCH THING. The workers gaily share in American
> imperialism's exploitation of the Third World and their views by and
> large reflect this.

See my comments above. I can't share your alienation from or hostility
to the working class. Whatever the shortcomings of the working class
movement in the US may be, that is who I am. It's like pointing out
that I am not very smart. Well, what could I say in response to that?
So be it; I am what I am. If I don't meet your expectations, that's
your problem.

> Contrary to your statements, "the working class" is not permanent;
> nor is there such a thing as "working-class ideology per se."
> Ideology is an extremely complex social product and it is simply NOT
> TRUE that there is such a thing as "the ideology of the working
> class" abstracted from time, place, circumstance and the specific
> forms (down to VERY concrete details) of the class or anticapitalist
> movement.

And why isn't the working class permanent? I can't imagine how any
society could survive without production. I must be missing your
point.

The word ideology is defined in several ways. The manner in which I
use the term is to refer to those aspects of a world view that are
constrained by a person's economic situation as defined by the
person's relation of production.

1. Note that "constraint" implies that the empirical specifics of an
ideology are only probabilistically determined by the person's
economic situation.

2. Note also that even if not a single worker had a working class
outlook, that would not negate the reality of working-class ideology
as a real potency (yes, I presume the position of scientific
realism, which is now the consensus).

3. Note also that I presume the emergence of a _critical_
consciosuness depends on acquiring an understanding of contradictory
society "as a whole", which goes beyond the outlook suited to one's
own particular relation of production. However, the working class
necessarily acquires that understanding because it brings social
capacities to bear in the industrial labor process. That is why
industrial labor is the natural leader in the development of a
critical class consciousness.

4. Note finally that all ideologies in class society are
necessarily one-sided in that they are a function of the particular
economic circumstances of a particular class; the ideology of the
working class, however, has the _potential_ for becoming universal,
because the circumstances of labor have the potential for being
universal in a single-class (i.e., no class) society.

I believe this definition addresses all your objections. There is
nothing in my definition that suggests any empirical homogeneity, for
both the empirical specifics of ideas and of circumstances may be
quite diverse. However, it does presume a tendency toward acquiring a
functional outlook; I believe this presumption that systems move
toward equilibrium is generally accepted (note, however, that I'm
discussing a subsystem, not the contradictory "whole"). There is
nothing in my definition that would suggest that working class
ideology is static or insensitive to changing circumstances. In fact,
deviations from the most probable outlook defined by one's changing
circumstances imply weakness in one's control over them.

> Contrary to what most self-described Marxists believe, without a
> revolutionary MOVEMENT there is no revolutionary THEORY in the real
> sense of the word.

That point has been argued, such as by Ronald Aronson, _After
Marxism_. There seem to have been quite a few people, who because of
their objective class location and/or because their cultural
development took place within the framework of the New Left (both of
which applies to Aronson), abandoned the working class to end up
either anarchists or neo-conservatives. Aronson makes the same
association of Marxism with a Praxis as you do and concludes that
since the Praxis died, so too did Marxism, which survives only as a
number of interesting or useful ideas that have little to do any more
with the working class.

However, I believe this deconstruction of Marxism is premature for
many reasons that I'll not enter into here because I'm not writing a
review. The fact is that there are people the world over who share the
same relation of production; the fact is that whether it is struggling
to get a better contract or to mount the barricades, a Praxis in
various forms exists; the fact is that where there is some kind of
Praxis, there is also some kind of ideology. Also, we can't make the
mistake of substituting the career of one or more working-class parties
(as Aronson does) for the working class itself; we can't infer from
the fact that perhaps little of substance is being accomplished that
the potency for such action does not mount as do the objective
conditions making it more possible.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Walter Lippmann
1970-01-01 00:00:00 UTC
Permalink
In the world of the Socialist Workes Party and Trotskyism,
the term "petty bourgeois" is also a fancy, sociologically
dressed up way of saying "irredeemably bad person", one
who doesn't just hold an opinion one disagrees with, but
whose opinion is rooted in their tragically-unstable
sociological position. They can't help themselves, you
see, they're "petty bourgeois". Presumably if they had
an industrial job, preferably one which has been taken
because the Proletarian Party has designated it to be
targeted for jobs by its members, you would never hold
such a "petty bourgeois" political opinion.

It's a term which tends to cut off discussion rather than
to clarify disputed issues. It's like the words Bolshevik
and Menshevik. Bolshevik is the Russian word for "majority".
The Bolsheviks led the Russian Revolution of 1917 whereas
the term Menshevik means "minority" and the Mensheviks
were opponents of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

But this term is also loaded with "democratic" implications,
since if you're a Bolshevik, and you represent the majority,
and since yours is the presumably "proletarian" point of
view, you have all of the democratic authority which flows
from having a numerical majority. Being "proletarian" you
also are in the only class which can lead society forward.

The petty bourgeoisie, of course, the small shopkeepers,
lawyers, social workers and computer programmers are said
to be unstable, vacillating back and forth between Capital
and the Proletariat.

Louis is correct to point out that it's hardly a sociological
description, but rather a swear word, an epithet, an insult.

There are similar words used today to close minds and prevent
discussion: terrorist being currently the most prominent.


Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles





















.



================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
Mark Lause
2007-09-11 15:39:55 UTC
Permalink
As with much of this silliness, the social description smudges into an
implicit set of ideological values....

It means, "You disagree with me--the paragon of proletarian virtue and
reason--which means that you are acting not from reason but from the
unthinking prejudices of your own narrow interests."

It is the inverse of the "workerism" identification of all reason and virtue
with the proletariat...which means that everything unreasonable and vicious
in the working class comes from the outside influence of the petty
bourgeoisie. What defines what is and isn't working class is, of course,
the party.

Christian cults do this all the time. Christians are virtuous. Unvirtuous
Christians are, therefore, not really Christians. Therefore, all virtue
resides with Christians.

So why not people who take Marxism as a religion.

ML
Carrol Cox
2007-09-11 16:39:16 UTC
Permalink
Mark Lause wrote:
>
> As with much of this silliness, the social description smudges into an
> implicit set of ideological values....

At one time petty producers made up a huge sector of the population:
farmers, attorneys, doctors, independent merchants, plumbers,
carpenters, all sorts of small businesses (that were _really_ small, so
the owner worked in them). But even 100 years ago large numbers of those
who thought of themselves as belonging to this category were badly
mistaken. Hurstwood in Dreiser's Sister Carrie is in lifestyle certainly
a petty producer (or petty bourgeois if you will, or "middle class").
But when he lost his paycheck he was almost immediately on a rapid slide
into pauperism.

Today a sector of the proletariat is very highly paid -- but like
Hurstwood a hundred years ago, their sense of themselves as "middle
class" (or as, according to religious marxists, "petty bourgeois") is
badly mistaken.

Spontaneous working-class consciousness (even among very _poorly_ paid
workers) is more apt than not to be the consciousness we label "petty
bourgeois," but the source of that consciousness is another and
important question.

Carrol
Mark Lause
2007-09-11 22:52:22 UTC
Permalink
Consideration the doctors and lawyers and others discussed as petty
producers, I find it bizarre that anyone would object to grouping teachers
there historically....

Now, of course, it's almost entirely bullshit. Doctors, lawyers, teachers
at all levels work for employers and get what amounts to a wage for their
work. And only those far removed from reality can assert that the wages are
particularly high or that you're dealing with anything more than the same
old exploitation of labor....

What anyone decides to call these groups weighs about as much as the numbers
who support nuclear power...or why...

ML
Haines Brown
2007-09-12 17:30:32 UTC
Permalink
> Consideration the doctors and lawyers and others discussed as petty
> producers, I find it bizarre that anyone would object to grouping
> teachers there historically....
>
> Now, of course, it's almost entirely bullshit. Doctors, lawyers,
> teachers at all levels work for employers and get what amounts to a
> wage for their work. And only those far removed from reality can
> assert that the wages are particularly high or that you're dealing
> with anything more than the same old exploitation of labor....
>
> What anyone decides to call these groups weighs about as much as the
> numbers who support nuclear power...or why...

Of course, you might well argue that professionals are becoming
proletarianized, but at this point that trend seems only
incipient. University professors are beholden to their colleagues, and
decisive intervention by deans or presidents seems
exceptional. Lawyers and doctors seem still primarily involved in
private or associative practice. However, I don't know to what extent
staff doctors in hospitals have no private practice and are subject to
a chief.

Unless you are sure that in fact professionals on the whole really are
proletarianized, I'd leave aside quibbles such as these. For example,
to suggest that professional salaries are not really high is ambiguous
and not easily resolved. For example, I've known professionals who
find it hard to pay their bills, but on the other hand their standard
of living is higher than my own. A professor I gather might typically
make 70,000, but that strikes me as a very decent income indeed; it
seems far above the average working-class income in the US. But these
are secondary issues, as I'll suggest below.

You say that these professionals are paid what "amounts to a
wage". And you say their wages are not high as is supposed, and their
labor is indeed exploited. I believe you are on shaky ground on all
three points.

1. I presume a "wage" is what you are paid for your labor time (as an
input factor in someone else's production, who then appropriates the
resulting surplus value); while a "salary" is a contract for the
sale of a good or service created by yourself (your outputs), and so
in principle is an equitable exchange, but often cranked up to
an artificially higher level by professional associations that
restrict access to professions, etc. If you don't care for my
definition, you need to offer an alternative, for I believe my own
is fairly standard. As long as my definition holds, wage labor and
salary are contradictory concepts, and so I can't figure out what
your "amounts to" specifically means. I do admit there is a growing
grey area in which a "salary" for ordinary workers is really still
selling your time but subject to greater intensification of labor,
and in which professionals are increasingly held accountable and
subject to forces other than colleague pressure. This grey area may
represent a trend, but not one that has yet become characteristic
of the present state of affairs.

2. A problem is that what counts in a Marxist perspective is
relative exploitation (the ratio of surplus value to wages), not
absolute (how much money is made), and so one can't by definition
transfer the notion of exploitation to the petite bourgeoisie or to
capitalists unless they really are proletarianized (directly or
implicitly paid for their time). Of course you are welcome to
reject the Marxist definition, but on this list such a rejection
must be made explicit and justified. The conventional empiricist
definition that defines class in terms of income levels,
life-styles, etc., is hopeless subjective (useful for social
engineering, but not social science) and is alien to Marxism.

I sense that you have some sympathy for the petite bourgeoisie and
feel they should be brought into a new definition of working
class. Well, many do deserve some sympathy, although I could say the
same about some capitalists. However, sympathy based on how hard you
work for a given income is irrelevant here. While a class alliance
between a bourgeoisie and working class has often existed, such a
marriage of convenience is not the same as saying the petite
bourgeoisie are really part of the working class. From a Marxist
viewpoint, as long as they have a different relation of production,
they are a different class. While you might not care for the
conventional Marxist perspective, you are obliged to define and
justify any other that you might prefer.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Marvin Gandall
2007-09-12 17:59:19 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown wrote:

> I presume a "wage" is what you are paid for your labor time (as an
> input factor in someone else's production, who then appropriates the
> resulting surplus value); while a "salary" is a contract for the
> sale of a good or service created by yourself (your outputs), and so
> in principle is an equitable exchange, but often cranked up to
> an artificially higher level by professional associations that
> restrict access to professions, etc. If you don't care for my
> definition, you need to offer an alternative, for I believe my own
> is fairly standard. As long as my definition holds, wage labor and
> salary are contradictory concepts...
=========================
Don't know who your reply was addressed to, but it's wrong. Wages are
hourly; salaries are paid weekly or at longer intervals. All involve workers
selling their labour to employers. Unions bargain equally for hourly and
salaried workers - the latter mostly in the public sector, the former mostly
in the industrial and retail sectors.

Just curious: Have you had much exposure to the workforce and large
enterprises, including unionized ones? Your signature is "dialectical
materialist" so I'm assuming a background is in philosophy.
Einde O'Callaghan
2007-09-12 19:57:21 UTC
Permalink
Haines Brown schrieb:
<snip>
>
> You say that these professionals are paid what "amounts to a
> wage". And you say their wages are not high as is supposed, and their
> labor is indeed exploited. I believe you are on shaky ground on all
> three points.
>
> 1. I presume a "wage" is what you are paid for your labor time (as an
> input factor in someone else's production, who then appropriates the
> resulting surplus value); while a "salary" is a contract for the
> sale of a good or service created by yourself (your outputs), and so
> in principle is an equitable exchange, but often cranked up to
> an artificially higher level by professional associations that
> restrict access to professions, etc. If you don't care for my
> definition, you need to offer an alternative, for I believe my own
> is fairly standard.

Your definition may be standard - but it's got little to do with Marxist
categories. Whether you sell your labour by the nanosecond, by the
second, by the minute, by the hour, by the day, by the week, by the
month or by the year is irrelevant for whether it should be considered
wage or not.

And your suggestion that the difference between a salary and a wage is
that a salary is "in principle ... an equitable exchange" also has
little to do with Marxism. Indeed Marx shows clearly that the secret of
the relationship between capital and labour is precisely that the
relationship is equitable in capitalist terms - in general, the
capitalist buys wage labour at its value, i.e. the amount of value
required to reproduce labour in the historically defined circumstances.

In my opinion the current difference between a wage and a salary is
minuscule for the majority of people. When I was working in Britain the
effective difference was that when I had a manual job I got paid a wage
once a week or once every two weeks and when I worked in an office I got
paid a salary which was paid on a monthly basis. One other minor
difference was that if I was being paid a wage I had to sign a document
agreeing to be paid by cheque, whereas when I was paid a salary I didn't
- something to do with the 19th century Truck Acts. and BTW I also got
paid overtime at a notional hourly rate when I was earning a salary!

Here in German where I live and work now blue-collar workers are paid a
"Lohn" (wage) and white-collar workers are paid a "Gehalt" (salary) -
but other than the name there doesn't seem to be any practical
difference - both are paid on a monthly basis and both are associated
with a specific hourly rate and overtime is paid (at least officially)
at the rates agreed in the national or regional wage agreements.

In Germany the service workers union ver.di with 2.359 million members
(2005 figures) competes in size with the traditionally largest union,
the IGMetall (engineering workers) 2.376 million members (2005 figures)
- both represent blue-collar and white-collar workers.

I feel taht your categorisation of people into working clyass and petty
bourgeois has more to do with impressionism than with any acquaintance
with Marxist material on proletarianisation of the intermediate classes,
however you m ight care to define them. the proletarianisation of
white collar work was already far advanced 30 years ago when Harry
Braverman published "Labor and Monopoly Capital" and it has taken
further great strides since then.

That within certain professions including many white-collar jobs there
is the possibility for an elite to climb the career ladder and become
senior managers, comnsiultants etc. who get paid considerably more than
the costs of reproduction of their labour power, i.e. participate in the
exploitation of the rest of us as members of what might be termed the
"new middle classes", does not detract from the fact that most of the
people in these professions and jobs, i.e. the people on the lower
rungs, will never reach these exalted heights and will thus remain part
of the exploited collective worker.

we shouldn't forget that the members of capitalist class derive their
share of the collective surplus value not just from those workers
involved in the immediate production of goods (and increasingly
services) but from the vast number of workers in other jobs which are
necessary for the reproduction and maintenance of labour power
(teachers, doctors, nurses, etc.) AND from the vast number of workers
involved in ensuring the realisation of surplus value, i.e. bank
employees, insurance clerks, people in import/export firms, civil
servants etc. - all of these are people who have to sell their labour
power in order to be able to survive - and precisely this mass is the
working class in modern capitalism.

I must also say that I feel that it is mistaken to lable all
self-employed as somehow petty bourgeois. Perhaps this is because I am
self-employed - not by choice, but due to circumstances. I'm a langauge
teacher involved in adult education and professional training. Virtually
none of the language schools and training schools here in eastern
Germany employ full-time language teachers, so I'm officially for tax
purposes a self-employed person selling a service. In reality I'm more
like a day labourer constantly on the look out for new opportunities to
sell my "service" - indeed I'm in a less stable situation than a day
labourer - I get paid by the hour for the hours I work. I get paid
slightly more per hour than an employed teacher, but I have less hours
and then I have to pay for my own health insurance, for any future
pension I'd like to get and if I can't find work I'm not entitled to any
unemployment benefits even though I pay my taxes just like anybody else.

So what does that make me? A member of an intermediate class - or a
member of teh worki9ng class with a slightly different contractual
relationship with my exploiters in bourgeois legal terms?

One last comment - you're view seems to be largely coloured by your
position in America, where trade union membership outside certain
industries and perhaps local government is virtually non-exitent, if I
understand the situation correctly.

here in Eruope the situation is different - even if trade unionism has
taken a battering in teh last 25 or 30 years. Trade unionism, trade
union militancy and even strikes are not unusual in Europe even among
people you've excluded from the working class. Here in Germany we've had
strikes by hospital doctors about wages and working conditions - e.g.
72-hour weekend shifts (if you're going to have an accident in germany
don't have it on a Sunday evening - the doctor will be even groggier
than you). In Britain I understand that university lecturers (the
equivalent of many American professors) are threatening strike action.
In Britain and Germany we've had strikes by bank employees and local
government employees and in Britain there are often strikes by civil
servants, indeed the one of the civil servants unions is among the most
radical and even has open revolutionary socialists elected to its
national executive.

I've gone on for too long and this hasn't been too focused but I do
feeel that you have to familiarise yourself with both the Marxist
tradition and with modern Marxist analyses of class development before
you can contribute mre than surface impressions to this important
discussion. The working class today no longer consists solely of "horny
handed sons (and some daughters) of toil" if it ever did (which I doubt
very much).

Einde O'Callaghan
Marvin Gandall
2007-09-12 21:09:51 UTC
Permalink
Einde O'Callaghan wrote:

> I must also say that I feel that it is mistaken to lable all
> self-employed as somehow petty bourgeois. Perhaps this is because I am
> self-employed - not by choice, but due to circumstances. I'm a langauge
> teacher involved in adult education and professional training. Virtually
> none of the language schools and training schools here in eastern
> Germany employ full-time language teachers, so I'm officially for tax
> purposes a self-employed person selling a service. In reality I'm more
> like a day labourer constantly on the look out for new opportunities to
> sell my "service" - indeed I'm in a less stable situation than a day
> labourer - I get paid by the hour for the hours I work. I get paid
> slightly more per hour than an employed teacher, but I have less hours
> and then I have to pay for my own health insurance, for any future
> pension I'd like to get and if I can't find work I'm not entitled to any
> unemployment benefits even though I pay my taxes just like anybody else.
>
> So what does that make me? A member of an intermediate class - or a
> member of teh worki9ng class with a slightly different contractual
> relationship with my exploiters in bourgeois legal terms?
============================
In bourgeois legal terms, it would make you a so-called "dependent
contractor", and if there were unionized language schools with teachers
performing the same work as yourself and the union were prepared to fight on
your behalf and the labour board was relatively more even-handed than most -
all big ifs - you could probably get yourself included in the bargaining
unit. But right now, in plain English, you're an unorganized casual worker
or day labourer, as you describe yourself, who badly loses on the tradeoff
between your slightly better hourly pay and the lost health, pension, and
other benefits afforded the salaried full-time teachers. If they're
unionized, you also lose out on job security and overtime and other pay
allowances.

If your situation were not involuntary and you were a genuinely independent
contractor who was turning an after tax profit in excess of the pay and
benefits of an employed language teacher providing a comparable service,
then you could aptly be described as a "petty bourgeois".

But as you note in your perceptive and informative post, that situation is
now increasingly uncommon. The movement to convert full-time unionized jobs
into casual and part-time "contract" employment has been going on and
gathering strength for three decades now, especially where white-collar
workers are not tied to production or to a retail outlet and can work from
home. About 30% of an employer's wage bill is accounted for by benefits, so
this process represents a huge savings to them even when they continue to
maintain pay parity in individual cases like your own. At the level of the
workplace and over time, there is also a net saving on salaries since it is
the older more highly-paid employees who are generally cast into this
situation - a step above unemployment - and replaced by a surplus of
younger workers able to perform the same work for less.
Carrol Cox
2007-09-12 23:19:18 UTC
Permalink
Marvin Gandall wrote:
>
> If your situation were not involuntary and you were a genuinely independent
> contractor who was turning an after tax profit in excess of the pay and
> benefits of an employed language teacher providing a comparable service,
> then you could aptly be described as a "petty bourgeois".

I think it is a mistake to focus too much on putting individuals into
this or that class. What difference does it make, and how does it
contribute to one's sense of the society as a whole, at a given time. It
is this individualist focus that generates identity politics -- which
when the identity is "worker," generates what has been discussed here as
workerism. Class does not really tell one much, if anything, about any
given individual.

_At the present time_ when, as Joaquin keeps reminding us, there is no
mass movement of any kind, the only context in which discussing class
makes sense is the context of understanding capitalism as explored in
Vols. I & II of Capital -- i.e., in its 'pure form,' at the highest
level of abstraction. It is during periods of heightened political
activity, when at least something like collective and conscious class
struggle emerges, that it becomes useful -- vital -- to carry out class
analysis more concretely, in terms emerging from the concrete struggle.

Carrol
Marvin Gandall
2007-09-13 02:13:56 UTC
Permalink
Carrol writes:

> I think it is a mistake to focus too much on putting individuals into
> this or that class. What difference does it make, and how does it
> contribute to one's sense of the society as a whole, at a given time. It
> is this individualist focus that generates identity politics -- which
> when the identity is "worker," generates what has been discussed here as
> workerism. Class does not really tell one much, if anything, about any
> given individual.
>
> _At the present time_ when, as Joaquin keeps reminding us, there is no
> mass movement of any kind, the only context in which discussing class
> makes sense is the context of understanding capitalism as explored in
> Vols. I & II of Capital -- i.e., in its 'pure form,' at the highest
> level of abstraction. It is during periods of heightened political
> activity, when at least something like collective and conscious class
> struggle emerges, that it becomes useful -- vital -- to carry out class
> analysis more concretely, in terms emerging from the concrete struggle.
=========================================
Class does matter, Carrol, even in periods of low class consciousness and in
the absence of an organized working class movement. Broadly speaking, class
location remains a good predictor of the political preferences and behaviour
of individuals even at the very lowest ebb of class conflict.

Working people (of all colours) are primarily dependent for their survival
on their jobs and wages, on easy access to credit, and on healthcare,
pensions and other social benefits gained from generations of struggle.
That's why they have traditonally favoured expansionary fiscal policies
which create jobs; monetary policies which make credit available at low
interest rates; state labour policies which guarantee minimum standards
governing wages and hours of work, safe and healthy workplaces, and the
right to form unions and bargain collectively; and social policies which
make health care, education, and retirement affordable for them and their
families. In certain exceptional circumstances, issues of physical safety
(war, terrorism, high crime rates, natural disasters) or of equal rights
(national minorities, women, gays) can become paramount, but the social and
economic issues delineated above have remained relatively constant core
issues for workers in all of the advanced capitalist countries. The
concentration of the working class in large cosmopolitan urban areas has
also contributed to the erosion of divisions based on race, nationality, and
gender and the formation of a political culture that is broadly liberal. So
it is not by chance that the working class has tended to favour
left-of-centre political parties which have reflected its traditional
demands in their programs and, in periods of crisis, have been the main
social base for movements farther to the left.

By contrast, propertyholders who are dependent on profits, coupons, and
rents generally favour fiscal "restraint" which reduces their taxes and
shifts state spending from social to business needs; monetary policies which
favour lenders rather than borrowers; policies which lower their labour
costs, notably the dismantling of labour standards and union rights; and
social policies which transfer health, education, and retirement programs
from the public to the private sector. Small property owners are
disproportionately distributed in suburban and rural areas and in smaller
cities and less industrialized states and more given to racist and
xenophobic anxiety which reinforces their conservative values. It's not by
chance that those who depend on their assets rather than their labour power
have tended to favour right-of-centre parties which have reflected their
traditional demands in their programs, and, in periods of crisis, have
provided the social base for movements shading farther to the right. (The
exception to the rule are the most distressed and indebted small property
owners who see little opportunity to profit and who ally with the working
class in seeking various forms of state support.)
Haines Brown
2007-09-13 11:17:18 UTC
Permalink
> I think it is a mistake to focus too much on putting individuals into
> this or that class. What difference does it make, and how does it
> contribute to one's sense of the society as a whole, at a given time. It
> is this individualist focus that generates identity politics -- which
> when the identity is "worker," generates what has been discussed here as
> workerism. Class does not really tell one much, if anything, about any
> given individual.

Carrol,

You offer a sad comment to read on a Marxism list. If I understand it
right (of which I'm not at all sure), while I may be sympathetic to
the personal attraction of an identity politics for people in a
certain social situation, but perhaps not to its social and political
implications.

Although identity politics seems unrelated to Marxism, I'd
nevertheless personally like to see an elaboration of what identity
politics means. I've encountered the term before, but never seen
anyone explicitly define or elaborate it. So I have such questions as:

1. Just what does "identity politics" mean? Would you be willing to
put together a very brief careful definition for it?

2. These days we see things in systemic terms, so what are its
implication for social relations? In terms of identity politics,
what constitutes the bonds between people beyond a voluntary
association based on the happenstance of their shared interest?

3. Do you see identity politics as primarily a personal philosophy or
as a social movement, and if the latter, do you feel there is a
significant number of people who participate in the movement. If
so, what kind of participation is this, and how would you
characterize these people in class terms?

4. Same question: what are its economic implications? Is the present
economic order acceptable? If not, why not? Does it imply systemic
economic change, change only in specifics, or is it unrelated to
economic change? How does identity politics relate to a person's
own economic situation in life?

5. Does identity politics establish a relation between political
action and a scientific grasp of our world, or is it not based on
a scientific understanding?

6. Perhaps the same question, but what assurance is there that action
based on identity has truth value that transcends one's own private
existence? In other words, does truth reduce to what we are and our
personal experiences? If so, is there any mechanism for
self-development beyond just more of what we already are or a
transcendence of the status quo in our world?

7. Assuming that change requires the coherent application of power,
from whence comes the coherence and power of identity politics?
What is there to bring people into accord beyond their accidental
agreement to build a force transcending local affinity groups? Or
is identity politics not aimed as any fundamental change?

8. Perhaps the same question. What kind of democracy does identity
politics imply? Is it the kind of democracy where each individual
has equal rights, and private power is excluded. So what is to
prevent those with the greatest private power being dominant?

9. What kind of social order does identity politics envision for the
future? A reformed capitalism? A communism? Something entirely new
or a mix? And then what mechanism in identity politics points
toward the desired outcome?

10. How does it relate to other movements? In particular, how is it
similar to or different from Marxism, anarchism, and religious
fundamentalism? I mean this question more seriously than it might
seem, for I suspect that there may be quite a psychological accord
between identity politics and religious fundamentalism.

I apologize if others in the group feel this topic is inappropriate,
but if no one objects, I'd like to see answers to questions such as
the above. I was going to suggest that when you reply to messages you
not change the subject line, for that breaks up a thread (I read your
message almost by accident because its subject line was not one that I
had been following). However, if you do respond to my questions and
would like to see a new thread begin on that topic, then you probably
should invent a new subject line so that folks interested in the
modern working class won't be frustrated.

--

Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Jscotlive
2007-09-12 00:30:35 UTC
Permalink
Now, of course, it's almost entirely bullshit. Doctors, lawyers, teachers
at all levels work for employers and get what amounts to a wage for their
work. And only those far removed from reality can assert that the wages are
particularly high or that you're dealing with anything more than the same
old exploitation of labor....

Reply:

To equate the role of a doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. with the lowest strata
of exploited labor in society is wholly inaccurate. Their compensation is
not only financial, it is also comes in the form of status. Teachers, doctors,
lawyers and so on enjoy an exalted status in society, one accorded them by the
ruling class in whose interests they occupy roles necessary to maintain the
status quo.

Social being determines consciousness.

J
John Edmundson
2007-09-12 05:28:52 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, 2007-09-11 at 20:30 -0400, Jscotlive at aol.com wrote:
> Now, of course, it's almost entirely bullshit. Doctors, lawyers, teachers
> at all levels work for employers and get what amounts to a wage for their
> work. And only those far removed from reality can assert that the wages are
> particularly high or that you're dealing with anything more than the same
> old exploitation of labor....
>
> Reply:
>
> To equate the role of a doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc. with the lowest strata
> of exploited labor in society is wholly inaccurate. Their compensation is
> not only financial, it is also comes in the form of status. Teachers, doctors,
> lawyers and so on enjoy an exalted status in society, one accorded them by the
> ruling class in whose interests they occupy roles necessary to maintain the
> status quo.
>
> Social being determines consciousness.


This was certainly true a generation or so ago but increasingly, it is
not the case. Teachers in particular have no significantly elevated
social status. They are increasingly part of the working class. Of
course, there is a continuum here. Lawyers and doctors can still
realistically aspire to buying into a partnership so their consciousness
is generally further removed from the working class even if their
objective position belies this. Teachers on the other hand tend to
belong to unions - certainly that's true in New Zealand. In fact my
(high school aged) kids were expecting a day off today (Wednesday) due
to a teacher's strike, except the government seems to have capitulated
(I don't know the details - they're back in negotiations) so the strike
was called off on Monday.
John
Mark Lause
2007-09-12 06:03:33 UTC
Permalink
That "status" crap doesn't mean much. Among teachers, college professors
make less than high school or grade school teachers. Most of them, at most
institutions, have all the status and job security of day laborers, though
often with less benefits.

My understanding is that there are many in law who have similarly "elevated"
positions, being glorified file clerks employed by massive firms.

Of course, instead of seizing on these things as a vindication of Marxist
expectations about the proletarianization of intellectual labor, we'll have
to have to requisite amount of prolier-than-thou games.

Maybe we should all get little anchors tattooed on our arms like Popeye....

ML
Jscotlive
2007-09-12 08:02:27 UTC
Permalink
That "status" crap doesn't mean much. Among teachers, college professors
make less than high school or grade school teachers. Most of them, at most
institutions, have all the status and job security of day laborers, though
often with less benefits.

My understanding is that there are many in law who have similarly "elevated"
positions, being glorified file clerks employed by massive firms.

Of course, instead of seizing on these things as a vindication of Marxist
expectations about the proletarianization of intellectual labor, we'll have
to have to requisite amount of prolier-than-thou games.

Maybe we should all get little anchors tattooed on our arms like Popeye....

Reply:

Lause, you really are a disagreeable human being. Where does such anger and
bitterness come from? I mean everything's either bullshit this or crap that.
Relax, nobody's trying to climb inside your window and steal your TV. It's a
discussion.

As to your comments, allow me to reiterate. The status attached to any job
or profession is an intangible yet palpable phenomenon in society. The
professions described, regardless of how the pay and conditions change, enjoy an
elevated status in society which is unconnected to the reality of those
declining pay and conditions. The increased proletarianization of teachers, doctors,
lawyers, etc., of which I remain unconvinced despite previous contributions,
was of course described by Marx in the Manifesto. He understood that many
who occupy the ranks of the 'petite-bourgeoisie' would line up on the side of
the proletariat during times of economic leading to political crises.

But given that in times of economic boom those in the professions can get
along just fine under the status quo, many identify their interests with those
of the ruling class. In effect, their position in terms of class
consciousness remains more fluid than either that of the ruling class at one end of the
scale and that of the proletariat at the other.

To reduce this discussion to statements such as, 'My understanding is that
there are many in law who have similarly "elevated" positions, being glorified
file clerks employed by massive firms,' is infantile and hardly germane to
the topic at hand.

John
farmelantj
2007-09-12 12:20:12 UTC
Permalink
The medical sociologist John B. McKinlay has over the years written extensively, from a more or less Marxist standpoint, on the proletarianization of the medical profession. See my discussion on this on the LBO-Talk list back in 1999.

http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/1999/1999-September/016934.html

Jim F.


-- Jscotlive at aol.com wrote:
That "status" crap doesn't mean much. Among teachers, college professors
make less than high school or grade school teachers. Most of them, at most
institutions, have all the status and job security of day laborers, though
often with less benefits.

My understanding is that there are many in law who have similarly "elevated"
positions, being glorified file clerks employed by massive firms.
Marvin Gandall
2007-09-12 15:42:31 UTC
Permalink
1. There's no question but that the mass of administrators, so-called
"professionals", and technicians (eg. Louis' fellow computer programmers)
are working class, comprising its most privileged stratum, rather than
"bourgeois", petty or otherwise. They're primarily dependent on their labour
power to earn an income, which they sell to private and public employers.
The only professionals who can properly be described as "petty bourgeois"
are self-employed as independent contractors to these corporations.

2. In Marx's time, almost all professionals - then a relatively small
percentage of the population - were in the latter category and dependent on
what they could generate in fees and profits. Since then, especially with
the vast expansion of the welfare state, most professionals of the
traditional sort and those spawned by new occupations have predominantly
become wage- and salary-earners at all levels of the corporate hierarchy.
Moreover, they constitute the fastest growing and most highly skilled layer
of the working class. Close to 40% of American workers between 25-34 now
have a college certificate or university degree. The percentage is higher in
most OECD countries, and a majority in Canada and Japan. This list and the
Western Marxist left in general is rooted in these sectors.

3. If this rapidly expanding social stratum were "petty bourgeois", it
would, of course, make a mockery of Marx's 19th century forecast that the
small propertyholders in the cities and countryside were destined to
shrink - squeezed between the mass of wage-earners, into which most of them
would disappear, and the big bourgeoisie to which a very few would rise. In
fact, Marx was remarkably prescient, and this generation of working class
professionals, administrators, and technicians has been added to the earlier
ones of manual and white-collar workers at lower skill and pay levels.

4. It's impressionistic and misleading to identify these workers as
"managers". Like Joaquin Bustelo, many (but not all) supervise others as
well as being supervised themselves. This is an inevitable byproduct of the
modern service-based economy, with its vast and highly complex division of
labour and hierarchical forms of corporate organization. The need for
supervisory chains of employees would continue to exist in post-capitalist
societies long after the haute and petite bourgeoisie had disappeared.

5. The labour boards of capitalist states recognize that employees in
predominantly service economies often have supervisory as well as
non-supervisory responsibilities, and a large body of jurisprudence has
developed to determine which individuals, on balance, should be classed as
"managers" and which as "employees". The distinctions vary between
jurisdictions, generally corresponding to the relationship of forces between
labour and capital, as these legalistically manifest themselves in the
determination of bargaining units following union organizing drives. In
general, the litmus test which is often applied to distinguish between
managers and employees in these groups is the degree of "effective control"
over workplace operations exercised by individuals, and whether they have
exhibited a community of interest with other workers, eg. demonstrated a
desire to join a union.

6. The line between workers and managers is most sharply drawn in Europe,
where most professional employees, eg. university professors, government
administrators and scientists, etc., are recognized as such and allowed to
join unions and bargain collectively. It's most blurred in the US, where
labour boards routinely characterize these employees as "managers" and
therefore not entitled to these rights.

7. Haines and others who see these individuals as primarily (petty)
"bourgeois" or as "managers" rather than as workers are closer to the US
rather than European school of thought, and should logically be indifferent
as to whether they are accorded the right to unionize and bargain
collectively with their employers. It would seem anomalous for them, as
such, to even demand these rights. In fact, however, the evidence is that
most professionals, administrators, and technicians, do want them; that
many, especially outside the US, have won them; and that teachers, nurses,
public administrators, journalists, and others have been involved in many of
the more militant labour struggles of the postwar period. No doubt there is
a higher level of "false consciousness" within these groups of where their
true interests lie by virtue of their generally higher status, pay, working
conditions, and proximity to senior management, but that doesn't in itself
alter their class location.

8. These workers may also be said to have a "petty bourgeois" consciousness,
but the same is true of all strata of the working class, especially in the
wake of the historic decline of the labour and socialist movement. In
respect to social, cultural, and international issues, their political
consciousness is often more advanced than other workers; as concerns
economic issues, often less advanced because of their privileged class
position.
Mark Lause
2007-09-12 16:05:48 UTC
Permalink
Marvin's point is absolutely on the money. From this perspective,
"bourgeois" consciousness and values seem to permeate all sections of the
working class. The "material" social circumstances of who is or isn't the
most downtrodden and overexploited doesn't seem to determine anything about
this. As I've pointed out, some allegedly high status and extremely middle
class people get the crappiest conditions and pay without either
particularly affecting their consciousness.

The same is true, btw, of blacks and Hispanics, because the addition of
racial oppression to the mix doesn't necessarily generate a particularly
radical response either. The politically most astute and radical folks I
know among black people tend to be ministers, church ladies, and a residual
layer of artisan types (self-employed contractors, gardeners, etc.)...all
classically "petty bourgeois," however you spell it.

ML
Mark Lause
2007-09-12 20:11:30 UTC
Permalink
Having made the transition from my blue-collar background to white-collar
labor, I crossed that line between getting a "wage" and getting a "salary."
The main difference I noticed immediately was that the former was larger
than the latter and the latter was paid monthly rather than weekly, both of
which had an immediate and material impact on my life. Status don't pay the
rent or put food on the table.

ML

PS: So sorry if pointing this out damages people's self-esteem or something
so that they take it personal and all....
Mark Lause
2007-09-13 02:36:03 UTC
Permalink
When we talk about "propertyholders," we have to remember that it's a
particular kind of "property" we're discussing. We mean "property" in the
means of production, not clothes, cars, homes, etc. That is, we mean
"property" that makes money for you.

This latter kind of property really had little importance in discussing
conditions for the mid-19th century European working class, but the rise of
20th century consumer capitalism knocked the entire language into troubles.

The way almost everybody uses the term--reflecting the dominance of the
capitalist class--blurs all property and makes every owner of an automobile
or a home or a chest of tools a "propertyholder" and a mini-capitalist.
This delusion is assisted when we fail to distinguish between property we
all have and use in everyday life and the kind of property that generates
profits.

ML
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