This article points to something we have pointed to over and over again, but I think that without realizing it a new period for the left has opened up. The problem is that it can’t function with marxist slogans, and pseudo-theory. Marx proclaimed his science against utopians. But if his theories fail then we are back to the utopians, save that we don’t have to be characterized as such, the term ‘utopian’ being simple mischaracterization.
Let us note one point missed completely on the left: if theories fail, you have to stop using them. The theory of Marx is very exact and, to a close look, preposterous. Class struggle is the motor of history, for example. But if the overall ‘theory’ has failed we can’t use its deductions. Strangely, we simply don’t know if class struggle is the motor of history, or that the working class alone can perform revolutionary magic. At the moment the ‘working class’, if it exists at all, is feckless crowd prone to become Trump’s base. It is not the motor of history at all.
The point is that the whole system of Marx has failed but we keep using it without realizing and unable to see the way history is contradicting it. This essay stumbles into the clear facts of the case with the working class which is certainly not the motor of revolutionary history, and all that. The dynamics of class is not the talisman of all analysis. To be sure, we should consider the issues, but all over again. The proletarian meme arises in the early industrial revolution when the crisis of the proletarians was very vivid. But universal generalizations based on that period don’t work anymore.
I have across the US dozens of times and worked and lived with the working class. Not once did I encounter a working-class revolutionary.
Marx made such a complicated botch of his subject that we never realize where we are going wrong. It would almost be better to start over and reanalyze all questions. This essay notes that the left is mostly (upper) middle class. At this point, one might ask, so what? If the middle class can bring about socialism, let it happen, and if they do it right it will be based on equality. Clearly the working class is not generating a new left. That’s because it is not a working class, but a sector of the middle class, etc…
All the terms have shifted their meanings and designations.
The point is to focus on the real meaning of socialism and try to bring that about. If we follow marx’s theories we will end up in a muddle. Look carefully at what Marx said, and ask if it is true: for example, as a matter of science, the epoch of capitalism will be replaced by communism in a metahistorical dynamics that operates beyond human volition. That’s nonsense.
We need to start over and consider what to do and stop using the theories of Marx which don’t work anymore, if they ever did.
If class struggle isn’t the driver of history, what is?
The left keeps banking on Marx, but his thinking is confusing the left at all points. And the worst confusion is that if Marxist theories fail the left fails and socialism is impossible.
There is a simpler way in fact: we should take all who affirm socialism into a movement, with or without the working class, pledge perhaps to make a new kind of effort in that direction, but operate not on the basis of class but the way all successful efforts have always functioned: those who join the movement affirm a set of principles and work to bring that about. If they are middle class by and large will their class interests fail them? Not if they have affirmed socialism and work to bring it about beyond the question of class. If might however happen, producing failure and the need to start over. But is the working class going to be any different?
A new socialism should definitely consider that the working-class is key to its success because by principle it moves toward equality. That is different from saying that middle-class types must feel guilty and do nothing until they get the working class to do their revolt for them.
Movements take in members to share a platform regardless of class. Such an utterly simple idea is the way people thought before marxism tied their head in knots. Such movements can indeed show their class interests. But it is not a law of history.
In any case, the left now needs a platform dealing with climate, capitalism, race, ecology and that platform can use any and all class members but attempt to find social equality beyond classes.
Marx condemns this, but his science failed and so we have to revert to honest efforts by honest people to create a new kind of society, beyond class, honest socialism. The harebrained idea the working class is going to do this for us is hallucination