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Red Fortyeight Group: the Universal Class

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments

Confer the material on the Universal Class in the Introduction to LFM: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/75650151/LFM_Introduction.pdf

Here is an older collation of marxism, but something seems ‘off’ now with this somewhat formal material.
https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/help/marxism.htm
These standard pieces on marxism begin to seem dated now, although one hardly dares to challenge anything lest the phantom of cooptation rise over the exercise. Their charm value is great, like classic cars in a parade, and a new left can both embrace and set aside such legacies.
They are actually quite cogent in their oldish fashion, but generate instant cavil from a population that no longer listens to such shiboleths. But the solution is not that complicated: we can form a basic definition of communism without the marxist corpus, keeping it nearby for comparison. Communism precedes marxism, and is an independent category. The coming of postacapitalism is not likely to follow this classic but now century plus old formulation. Its core is correct, no doubt, but beset with cliches that produce strong negative reactions.
Is the working class really going to take control from the bourgeoisie and dominate that class? The whole formulation seems slightly off. The answer is simpler: a new Universal Class, with a core of the proletariat, where that still exists, can be an exit strategy for all classes to a common unity of citizens. This allows the capitalist a new class identity, beside that of the former working class individual, now mostly condemned to anything but classic proletarian status. The issue is social equality. Why sacrifice social equality in the name of the proletariat. It is an old phantom of the earlier years of industrialization, now gone. We need waste no time in arguments. What is the proletariat? The Universal Class. But everyone else is in that class also. The call for the proletariat to dominate the bourgeoisie made the ‘communist party’ the dominant new class. It looks like a goof now. Victorious communists of the Universal Class will have no grounds to dominate anyone: like Platonic guardians, perhaps, they can live without possessions, like a group of renunciates.
The idea of a ‘Universal Class’ can easily both fulfill and transcend the idea of the proletariat, and provide a more engaging challenge to the masses of disparate persons in incoherent categories far from their nineteenth century originals. The lumpenproletariat mostly outnumbers the proletariat in the US, if you discount the reality that a true proletariat is globally dispersed. The American proletariat, what’s left of it, doesn’t correspond to the hopes placed on it, and is not going to be a vanguard. The corruption of so many proletarians by the Nixonian strategy of creating working class racists just about finished the whole concept. But the reality is simple: a ‘class’ is not an historical agent, but an abstraction. The ‘proletariat’ is not an agent, and the expectation otherwise results in disappointment. The answer is simple: only individuals can be historical agents, hopefully in enough numbers to form a vanguard. A comeback is easily achieved by recasting the proletariat as a Universal Class, which can encompass vast numbers of people forced to the fringe of proletarian identity by the straightjacket of rigid definition. The people who show up at street protests, consider the OWS, weren’t the classic proletariat, which rarely shows signs of activism…
These issues simply suggest the need to be more fluid with the now stale codifications of the older marxism.

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