All Power To The Positive! Vol. #2, Episode #50.
Reform: The 'Moderate' Demand For A Policy Of 'Honor Among Thieves'.
"Real scientists do not appeal to Marx the way that Christians appeal to the Bible. Just because Marx called on all wage earners to unite a century and a half ago does not make such a slogan eternally true. Just because something may have been true then does not make it true now. It is important to elevate science, not metaphysics.
...Marx looked at the trends he witnessed in Western Europe at the time, especially industrial England. He saw that as England was industrializing, two great classes were emerging: the capitalist class and the class of wage earners. Marx identified the latter class as the proletariat of his day. In the Manifesto, Marx projected that this pattern would be repeated globally.
As it turns out, the world developed in more complex ways. In his more scientific works, like Capital Vol. 3, Marx began to note that all workers did not have the same relationship to the means of production. Even in Capital, Vol. 1, Marx speaks of “how industrial revulsions affect even the best-paid, the aristocracy, of the working-class.” In addition, Engels, toward the end of his life, noted that imperialism had a profound impact on the class structure of what would become the First World. For example, Lenin quotes Engels as early as 1858 as stating:
“The English proletariat is becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy, and a bourgeois proletariat as well as a bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world, this is, of course, to a certain extent justifiable.”
Arguing with the social-imperialist revisionist Kautsky, Engels stated:
“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy? Well exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal Radicals, and the workers merrily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the colonies and the world market.”
Lenin too noted changes in class structure resulting from imperialism:
“Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.” (1)
China’s great Maoist general Lin Biao pointed to important transformations in the global system since World War 2:
“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (2)
Great Marxists of the past stated many things. At times, they noted tendency of imperialism to transform some workers into a new type of bourgeoisie. At other times, they made statements contradicting this. Other writers have also noted the effect of imperialism on the class structure of the First World.
However, the Leading Light was the first to fully understand and synthesize global class analysis scientifically. It is not important to list all the quotes one way or another. Reality is what important, not what Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Mao may have said. It is important to realize that, in the case of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, they were writing at a time when the First World had not fully formed as the First World. The different statements in their work reflect the transitory period of the time in which they wrote.
Today, there are imperialist countries of the First World, like the United States, that lack a significant proletariat. There are also imperialist, semi-imperialist, and emerging imperialist countries that retain a significant proletariat as Russia did in 1917. It may have been correct in Marx’s day to raise the slogan “workers of the world unite!” even in imperialist countries. However, it does not apply to today’s First World.
2. When Marx described the proletariat, the modern revolutionary agent, in his day, he was describing the emerging industrial worker in Europe.
Marx described the proletariat as only making enough to reproduce his own labor from day to day. Marx described a class that was only paid enough to survive, not enough to accumulate. Marx described the proletariat as having no other income source but its labor. Marx described a producer class. Marx described an exploited class. Marx described a class that toiled in misery, a class that “has nothing to lose but its chains.” Marx described it as a revolutionary class.
Even if we were to accept Marx’s description of the modern revolutionary social base, the proletariat, as religious scripture, Marx’s characterization of the proletariat would not describe most workers in the United States and other First World countries.
Firstly, most workers in the United States do not produce. Most are employed in management, services, and distribution. Industrial production has been in decline for a long time in the United States. The value that props up the economy of the United States is mostly created outside the United States. Just as the traditional bourgeoisie is parasitic, so too does the working bourgeoisie of the First World receive its income through exploitation of the Third World.
Secondly, the First World working bourgeoisie often receives income and wealth from sources other than its labor. Many earn interest on bank accounts, receive social-democratic benefits, own stock — often through retirement plans, own small businesses, etc. They are not the simple worker that Marx described.
Thirdly, they are not exploited in any significant sense. They currently earn more than they would under an equal system, a socialist system. Their lifestyle of consumption isn’t even ecologically sustainable. They would lose out under socialism, materially speaking.
Fourthly, they do not toil in absolute misery as Marx described. They usually work in relatively comfortable environments. They earn vacation time. Their experience and lifestyle are closer to their own bosses than they are to the average Third World person.
Fifthly, they have far more to lose than their chains.
Sixthly, there is a whole history that confirms that the working bourgeoisie of the First World aligns more with its own overlords than with the proletariat of the Third World. They are not a revolutionary strata." - excerpt from 'A Letter from a Reader: Do all Americans live like Bill Gates?' on LLOC.org
"The anarchist project is one of constant dialogue and critique. Our ideas are not separate from our actions; theory is not separate from practice. Through the course of our activities it becomes necessary to reevaluate our positions in relation to events.
As anarchists we do not offer an answer or solution to the world's problems, but instead a lens through which to critique and act upon it. We should always be suspicious of those who claim to know, to have an answer or truth, especially from those who also call themselves anarchists but are not open to dialogue. This is how thoughts crystallize into ideology, into unquestionable positions. It is imperative that our ideas do not become static, that we remain dynamic in response to our environment." - excerpt from 'To Hear and Be Heard: Anarchy and Critique.' on pugetsoundanarchists.org
"Larry Bird" - Riff Raff
"Say It Ain't So" - Weezer
"All The Right Moves" - One Republic
"Uptight" - Stevie Wonder
"Get Up" - Swindle
"A Change Gonna Come" - Sam Cooke
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