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Petty bourgeois ‘proletarian’ freaks

February 27th, 2015 · No Comments

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/02/24/pseu-f24.html
Our discussions of neo-communism risk all the previous bad experiences of those who modified a radical stance on the issue of the proletariat. Last and First Men tries to walk down this shadowy lane explicitly with a built ‘whooper’ that restores the proletarian focus by starting with a new way of looking at class: the universal class. The issue in the end is a new society that is communist, beyond the reign of capital and the private property that goes with it. The universal class can actually be a better route to the proletariat than the usual proletarian grand hurrah because it looks to the endstate of proletarian or any other brand of communist revolution: This may risk any number of petty bourgeois transmogrifications, but if the end result is clearly defined, who cares. The bus is one class of multiple diverse classes passing into a melting pot. This may seem objectionable, but at this point the ‘working class’ in an international issue. The remaining factory workers in the US don’t constitute a universal class, however proletarian in origin. The issue now must include something more than petty bourgeois proletarians (?): the coltan miners in the Congo are symbolic of the prime locus of the proletariat dispersed across the globe in fragmentary formations. And the american petty bourgeois proletariat fetishizing their Iphones are net exploiters of the Foxconn real proletariat in China. So the proletariat in the US had best be reformed in the ‘Universal Class’ of radical neo-communist revolutionaries. It that doesn’t quite make sense it is because it is new version of proletarian revolution in embryo. In the final analysis the 99% is ‘all proletarian’ and is visible in the photographs of the OWS crowds wandering around in excited muddle, going nowhere. The concept of the Universal Class can leverage the varieties of proletarian crowd formation in a more flexible kind of proletarian definition. You can also tear this discourse to pieces using dialectic, but the point remains that the petty bourgeoisie at the stages of getting fucked in later capitalism get the proletarian badge on the spot.

Another section of Macdonald’s book, which anticipated the anti-working class trajectory of post-World War II petty-bourgeois radicalism, is entitled, “The Mirage of the Proletarian Revolution.”

It was to the working class that Marx looked to bring in a better society. And it is in that direction that his followers today still look, as a glance at the minute coverage of labor news in almost any Marxist organ will show. I think it is time for us to recognize that, although the working class is certainly an element in any reconstitution of society along more tolerable lines, it is not now, and possibly never was, the element Marx thought it was. The evidence for this is familiar, and most Marxists will admit almost every item in detail. They shrink, however, and understandably enough, from drawing the logical but unpleasant conclusions that follow…

The most obvious fact about the Proletarian Revolution is that it has never occurred. The proletarian revolution today is even less of a historical possibility than it was in 1900. [9]

The rejection of progress and the repudiation of the working class as the central revolutionary force in modern capitalist society became in the decades that followed the essential principle and theme of petty-bourgeois left politics. We find them developed and repeated in the writings of Marcuse, Dunayevskaya and countless contemporary anarchist, post-anarchist, post-structuralist tendencies.

Macdonald, as an intellectual and theoretician, was not an important thinker. Actually, Trotsky once remarked that Macdonald had the right to be stupid, but asked that he not abuse the privilege. However, the issue here is not Macdonald’s stature as an intellectual. Rather, it is the extent to which the positions advanced by Macdonald were echoed in the writings of far more polished intellectuals. The prose of Horkheimer and Adorno was far more ponderous, and no one can doubt that their philosophical education was far more profound. But the ideas advanced in their Dialectic of Enlightenment rhymed with those of Macdonald. The same may be said of the writings, from the same period, of “state capitalist” theoreticians such as Dunayevskaya, C.L.R. James and Cornelius Castoriadis. The latter was the founder of the French journal Socialisme ou Barbarie, which was to exercise substantial influence on the development of post-modernist thought.

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