The challenge to ‘riots’ and falling short of revolution seems a point well taken but perhaps also the classic marxist perspective on the necessity of working class action and revolution is at this point misplaced.There is hardly a more opportune moment than the present to consider the state of society, and the issue of revolutionary transformation. Only dogmatic marxism with its obsession with the working class to the exclusion of all others could consider this moment unrevolutionary.
To pass up or ignore this moment and its opportunity over quibbles about the ‘working class’ is somehow cockeyed. The marxist left has had a century and half trying to raise working class consciousness and most of it is now part of Trump’s base. The point has been lost that all parties to a social construct are subject to a revolutionary imperative to create a socialist society, and everyone save the capitalist class is subject to wage labor, including the managerial class. To imply that only the working class is under consideration shows the bizarre way marxist theory antagonizes the vast majority by implying they have no future in socialism. C’mon here. Marxism has confused the whole question. There were socialists before Marx and the domination of theory by marxists has created paralysis. The point is not that riots aren’t revolutionary but that they indicate a state of spastic chaos that begs revolutionary focus.
It is hard sometimes to know what any of the classic terms of marxist jargon mean: our societies have shifted in their center of gravity and the working class is now a complete fiction closer to the middle class than any primordial proletarian formation of an earlier era. We could define the working class in the old sense as those who will starve if they become unemployed. And that was mostly the case in the earliest periods that generated proletarian fury, and Marx’s historical generalization that doesn’t match the facts now. That starvation mode is not true now. The elite class has just printed money to the tune of trillions for a sort of Keynesian hot lunch for all classes.
It would seem in part this mechanized jargon is why the classic left has faded away and almost ceased to exist: it is babbling into thin air. It is asking the impossible in a social context that requires a complete rewrite of terms. Blacks are suddenly staging their own revolution where the older class analysis factored them out.
We have looked instead at the universal class as a destination of all classes in a socialist transformation. We need to look at all the components of that universal class. There the ‘working class’ is and can be a key aspect but the different ‘classes’ are manifold, to use our ‘set theory’ metaphor. Along with all other subsets of the universal class, viz. blacks and their realization that they have to fight their own little revolution. Working class revolution left them out in the cold. Ditto for a feminist working of women, and all the other movements on the ‘left’.
The exclusive focus on the working class hasn’t resolved the fine grain of social classes. The working class concept seemed to work because the working class was a majority. But even that is not clear now.
A closer look shows the terminology doesn’t make sense any more. The working class, the middle class, where is the distinction now? And in any case the working class has been exported to china and elsewhere. That’s grounds for thinking about an International, to be sure. If the working class is of those who work as wage labor then the vast middle class qualifies. But then by another definition, the romantic visions of factory labor as the working class and the motor of history now seems to be an imaginary concept.
Instead of, or, in addition to, thinking of the working class, we might think in terms of all those subject to capitalist domination. That revives the original core sense of what was meant and brings elements of all classes to the threshold of a common universal class.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police served as yet another wakeup call for a nation that has historically struggled with recognizing structural violence against people of color. The ensuing protests and riots represent a renewed effort to sensitize Americans to the reality of pervasive racism in their country. Recent events More