Definitions: The proletariat

Linked with Gaither Stewart – USA.

Published on Online Journal, by Gaither Stewart, Oct 1, 2008.

… Modern history shows that the American wage earner — the potential proletarian — is in reality the staunchest flag-waving defender of the capitalist system that exploits him, does nothing for him except pay him unfair wages, sends him to war to defend capitalist interests, and throws him aside at will. American wage earners are so amorphous, so blunted in their ballyhooed ignorance, so unstructured and ill-organized that they do not even constitute a class. Their ignorance and their acceptance of their situation represents one of the great victories of capitalism.

The arrangement doesn’t make any sense at all.

Many Europeans workers are still class-conscious. But not the reactionary American workingman. The absence of class-consciousness of the American workingman exemplifies Marx’s statement that “the working class is either revolutionary or it is nothing.”

Even more: not even the mildly class-conscious workingman is aware that he is willy-nilly engaged in a war with the capitalist class. He continues to accept his role as an indistinct part of an illusion of a society, as an abstraction of a cradle-to-grave category, destined to make no mark on society, to leave no traces of his passage though life.

However, those 1930s textile strikes in North Carolina show that his illusions may one day fall away. The day he and his new middle class companions wake up from their incubus and genuine, fully developed class awareness arrives, the newborn proletariat can then become revolutionary.

That day will be the death of American capitalism, as we know it.

Meanwhile, caution. Let’s don’t confuse revolution with either liberal reform or armed insurrection. Reform is adjustment made by the rulers in order to maintain power, as happened for decades in Tsarist Russia. As a rule, reforms are too little and too late. Insurrection on the other hand is a local, spontaneous and one-issue matter, as was the 1929 Gastonia cotton mill strike. Insurrection is not revolution …

… Another illusion to be overcome is that the abstract workingman-proletarian can develop class-consciousness alone. Class-consciousness must be instilled from outside the class. That role inevitably falls to the intelligentsia and activists. Marx wrote in German Ideology that “one of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers (let’s say, educated people), is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world.” That is, to the world where the workingman lives.

Yet, proletarians reject interference by intellectuals. The American workingman appears allergic to knowledge and history. Therefore he is the most truant in class awareness. The American working people have forgotten that they constitute a class, that classes even exist. They act as if the class idea belongs to another planet. To the world of Communism! That it too is an illusion.

Moreover, the poor economic classes of America accept the American Dream rhetoric that the rich deserve to be rich because they are smarter. Wealth is proof of their virtue. It is good to be rich. The poor are guilty for their poverty. As John Steppling points out on these pages, the American poor produce and reproduce the values of the ruling class, the values and ideals of the rich. The poor live in the illusion of real choices in life while in reality they live their little lives in servitude.

While the “people” are as if paralyzed, blind and dumb, in its name travesty after travesty are committed by those same capitalist leaders ­who betray the people routinely and abominably, making themselves traitors in the process and making the people complicit in their crimes against humanity. In Nazi Germany it was “we didn’t know.” In America today it is “we don’t want to know.” No false airs, please. That’s un-American. Who cares about social theories? Who cares where Laos is located? Or Georgia? If Saddam Hussein wasn’t responsible for 9/11, he could have been, which is the same thing. Only evildoers and anti-Americans believe he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. The wide admiration for ignorance, I think, is in imitation of the ignorance of the nation’s leaders. And, as we know, ignorance is the handmaiden of the crime of Fascism.

By a strange coincidence, I just opened at random the book The Origins Of Bolshevism by one of the forgers of the Russian Revolution, the Menshevik Theodore Dan, and found his remark about the “open war of the Orthodox folk (in pre-revolutionary Russia) with educated people.” Also then, in those different but analogous circumstances of pre-revolutionary Russia, educated people were isolated from the masses. From that perspective the working class in the US has become politically worse than nothing. As a collective it has been molded into a reactionary force that keeps the power elite in power. Conditioned, brainwashed and hoodwinked, the bribed workers seem to believe ignorance is for their own good.

So what happened to the collective? Or, worse, was it always that way? Except for sporadic insurrections in face of starvation in the depression years and isolated periods of resistance, the American collective has never emerged in the glory it must harbor somewhere … (full long text).

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