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an idea of the universal, not just the working class…//Thinking Clearly about the White Working Class | Michael D. Yates | Monthly Review

March 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

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This essay at Monthly Review is a cogent analysis of the question of the (white) working class in the US. As noted, the white working class in the US is simply not a revolutionary class, and in general we have attempted here in our approach to the question of a neo-communism to consider a new perspective, that of a so-called universal class. The sixties era saw middle class college students attempting to create movements of social transformation, in parallel with black panthers, civil rights leaders, feminists, etc,…This idea is also associated with set theory where the universal class is both the total number of elements of a given set or population but the aggregate of all subsets of that total class. This deliberate conceptual pun is a useful one.
The idea is to focus a leftist perspective not on (or not just) on the working class but on the complex totality of classes in relation to a universal class. Any revolutionary/evolutionary platform or initiative must in the end if it were to take power be forced to deal with all these elements. And it can’t do what stalin did with the kulaks. Further, it is obvious to any general observation of the facts of the case that the various lefts are already doing this because see these ‘lefts’ are arising around different such subsets and we have issues of racism, feminism, LGBT spawning as noted a variety or spectrum of activist movements. The perspective of the or ‘a’ universal class can take this situation in stride. After all, why should a new socialism emphasize exclusively the working class? It can be a divisive concept and can signal to other class elements that they have no place in social transformation. This distinction might seem itself divisive. Nothing could be further from the truth and this approach can promptly turn around and create a special focus on the working class. In fact it must consider all the elements or subclasses that themselves make up the so-called ‘working class’. But too much analysis considers not the working class but a small segment associated with industrial factory labor. But in reality the real working class is far more complex and if we consider it the set of those who indulge in wage labor it becomes the set complement of the bourgeoisie, but that includes a host of subsets, including middle class elements of multiple dimensions. What of corporate managers who receive a salary? Are they not working class? And the unionized auto workers at the higher tier are closer to management than anything else, perhaps. To be sure the managerial class are easily absorbed into the bourgeoisie to promote their ideology and aims, but at this point, so is much of the industrial factory working class, as this article, and many studies, point out very clearly. One wonders why leftists are so often frustrated in their efforts, but this analysis suggests at once the problem: the phantom class called the ‘proletariat’ generating revolution on the brink of starvation. The image betrays the reality that the idea is a nineteenth century analysis, one still entirely appropriate in the context globalisation and its dispersed ‘working classes’. The coltan miners of the congo are indeed a classic such proletariat. Our approach can change gears and revert to the older formulation at once. These approaches are not mutually exclusive. But the issue of social transformation is far more complex than the picture of workers at the barricades of radical change.
The left in the US is often putting all its energy into variants of these fictions about the working class and then can’t understand why the abstraction won’t act in the way the script seems to suggest.
The classic idea of democracy (reduced to a limited version, so-called electoral democracy) has the obvious resolution: the issue is not simply classes, but individuals and a movement must in the end be a set of individuals from a range of classes voting as individuals on a given platform. In the end, then, the issue is a movement of individuals, that is, persons from all classes who on the basis of belief will support a given movement, whatever their class origin.
We should note that movements are usually generated by middle class vanguards of individuals on the basis of affirmation of a given ideological perspective. Marx and engels are a perfect example, engels in fact a member of the bourgeoisie. There obviously are exceptions. Would that there were more exceptions, and there are. But in the end we confront the reality of vanguards. We should not disallow such groups but instead consider how to give them a discipline that prevents the formation of a new elite class. If we insist radical working class elements be the dominant mode the reality will in the end be that this group will form a vanguard and we are back at the same problem. Obviously such a vanguard must navigate the dangerous shoals of claiming to represent a larger population, or the working class. Many will insist that these larger sets will manifest class interest. True enough, but at this point the same can be said for the working class. We have suggested then a larger focus on individuals associated with a movement not necessarily on the basis of class, but of belief.
It would seem from the history of the russian revolution that at the critical point there was a complex mixture: a leninist vanguard, and a range of working class associations. But in the end a vanguard was the key to revolutionary initialization, and we should consider that these bolsheviks given their opportunity were not ready for the task. The emergence of a non-democratic elite and a bureaucracy was their great surprise. It should have been nothing of the kind: these key issues must be considered in advance and given a strategy.

In general then the idea of the universal class can be useful as a way to analyze the larger field of classes using an analogy to set theory. The result would be a movement of movements that takes in its stride a variety in a new unity and is ready to consider the outcome of transformation as the need to speak to the place of many classes in a new socialist universal class.

Source: Thinking Clearly about the White Working Class | Michael D. Yates | Monthly Review

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