The marxist left has a fixation over the working class and very little connection, understanding or day to day interaction with it. Invoking the working class allows the left to put off action until they can awaken that working class, otherwise they lament failure and blame capitalism. The working class is an abstraction and Marx’s theories about class struggle as the engine of history are again misleading, if not false. In almost every case the ‘working class’ has been usurped by an ideological cadre who claims to represent them. Marx’s formulation with respect to the proletariat is absolutely classic but it speaks to an earlier age of the industrial revolution. Things are not so clear now.
The left wishes Trump’s base to storm out of the barricades for revolution and ecological socialism, a bit implausible. And once again marxist thumbtwiddlers have an excuse to do nothing until they awaken the working class to ecological issues. It is not likely to happen even despite the obvious connections between working class and ecological issues: the working class is an abstraction. Only real people can radicalize and far more radicals are middle class than working class,for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who looks at real situations. The radicalizing the working class makes sense in the real meaning of the terms. The working class strategy is absolutely classic, but at this point it is misleading, and just that, classic, a museum piece. The concept is easy to repair: the working class includes all wage earners, at least, but a majority of such are ignored for the cliche proletarian doing factory work, now mostly outsourced. The working class is therefore a complex mix of other classes in a huge variety.The issue is not the working class but any and all subject to capitalist dynamics, including a lot of small time capitalists, managers in business mills, and endless combinations of mixed classes.
We have suggested maintaining a working class emphasis, but taking a broader view of the situation in terms of the universal class: that might allow left movements to expand rapidly. And point to the facts: the ecological movement is not a working class movement, it could become one, but at the moment a movement on ecology and climate can take members from all classes. And we cannot wait on action for the working class to radicalize on climate. We must act now with whoever is in place. The study of the universal class can help to explain to the left its own focus on the working class, a large subset of the universal class, next to ecological radicals and activists, and from there to create its own class of revolutionary activists (or reformists). These groups can align inside the universal class, but we can’t force the working class to become the ecological class. They are different, and that strategy will likely not work. We should not prejudge the issue, to be sure. This article makes a lot of good points.
The class emphasis of marxism is an historic one, but in the end the new society must come not from singleton classes, but from people from any class who act in concert with a set of principles, ecological and socialist at this point. People join movements as people, not as class representatives…The working class mantra plays into the hands of the capitalists who know better about the working class at this point. The whole strategy of turning the working class against its own self-interest is clever, almost demonic, and a considerable success.
More to be said here, and the article cited is fascinating with some new leads, but anyone who wishes to deal with the coming climate catastrophe needs to focus on that and not spend the next twenty years trying to win over the working class, with failure almost certain. As the article suggests there are any number or working class ecological radicals, but that is not the same as making the working class ecological revolutionaries. We must act now on the issues of planetary ecology with all available personnel. That means now.
Consider: managers in corporations are salaried and working class. What do you mean when you say ‘working class’? the concept has lost the coherence it had in the period of Marx/Engels. The latter’s classic book on the Manchester working class points to the original semantics.
In the latest issue of Catalyst Magazine that is published by Bhaskar Sunkara, there is an article titled “Ecological Politics for the Working Class” by Syracuse University professor Matt Huber, which argues for the need to abandon the “middle class” orientation of the ecologists whose worldview was shaped by the 1960s radicalization.
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