History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Wisconsin and the failure of the ‘proletariat’

June 6th, 2012 · No Comments

Progressive Movement Rises Up But Can’t Oust Walker From Wisconsin Governorship

Walker outspent Barrett 8-to-1, but Democrats may have regained control of the state senate.

It is surprising how much working class support went to Walker. What are we to conclude of the proletariat at this point.
Actually, this is an old issue, and Micheal Harrington discussed it clearly in his book ‘Socialism’, which discussed the failure of the working class to compute even its own self-interest. ]
In fact, the right has created, with generations of Madison Avenue research, the techology to turn a working class radical into a pathetic rightwinger, and probably racist, to boot.
It is a troubling legacy of mind control.
But more generally the class analysis of Marx has been tried and found partially wanting.
I think that the left is suffering a broad dialectical phasing, now thirty years old, and, I suspect, beginning to turn against its source points (in the seventies, or before), to generate a new phase of the renewal of the left.
But it is important to see that the dialectical moment demands regenerative continuity, and simply trying to revive stale tactics on the left are bound to fail. Marxism is caput, but its essence is not caput.
The proletariat has failed, and a new class analysis is needed: one and the same, and yet new (the talk of the 99% actually performs that task in a cinch).

The issue of the proletariat has a long history, but the left must face the fact that the proletariat isn’t very radical. We are not going to achieve socialism with a vanguard of militant workers.
There is an obvious new path here: the OWS stumbles on it every week. The formulation of the 1% and the 99% has its own problems, but it tells us that we must repair the failures of the proletariat with a new form of class analysis in which the proletariat ceases to play ‘god’, and becomes, instead the ‘center of gravity’ of a more broadly based class superset.
The problem with the old class warfare, then, is that the proletariat wouldn’t fight, but would fight the First World War, when they voted the war credits, and probably destroyed socialism.
This is not grounds for moral indignation, simply the insight that the proletariat of the 1840’s no longer exists. It is disappearing into automation, and that new phenomenon, the lowest class transformed by propaganda into a pseudo elite class: witness the clever way the Tea Party concocted rightwingers out of proletarians. The rightwing populism of the Joe Six Packs, formerly the militant vanguard, is pathetic, but the left should move on to see that most of the left is done by a small group of intellectuals, not the Joe Six Packs, whose fascist unconscious is easily manipulated. A lot of these guys voted for Walker. I don’t find that surprising, actually. Lenin, although too clever to say so, based Bolshevism on this insight, heavily disguised behind Marxist shibboleths. I am NOT endorsing Lenin here, but it is true that these statements are very old, just disguised.
I, for one, don’t find these statements either left-heresy, or very surprising: merely some cold water in the face as the left changes it stance in the reformulation of the old canon. The solution is very simpole, as noted: the proletariat (if there is still one in existence in the age of accelarating robotics), makes an ideal candidate for the focus or centre of gravity of leftist activism, the same as before, but subtly different, and enabling for the first time the embrace of the host among the 99% egregiously left out of the mix.

Meanwhile, the issue of class is critical, but at the same time it is marginal. It is not the triumph of one class over another, but the principle of equality, that is the key. And so on. In general the formulation of Marxism has become second nature for many, but, as here, its assumptions need challenge, and, as here, some very simple recasting.

Beyond this

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