Growing difficulties for the bourgeoisie and for the working class

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jk1921
Growing difficulties for the bourgeoisie and for the working class
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Growing difficulties for the bourgeoisie and for the working class. The discussion was initiated by jk1921.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

jk1921
"Where capitalism is an

"Where capitalism is an abstraction, the populists can change their focus from EU regulations to Islamist terrorism to globalisation, even to the parasitic rich, without pausing for breath."

I am not sure what "capitalism as an abstraction" means? Does this mean how capitalism is represented in populist ideology? Or how the working class is currently grasping capitalism in its underdeveloped state of consciousness?

The broader issue of "populism" is of course important and the article is right to point to the fact that the old left/right distinctions in bourgeois politics are increasingly problematized. I am not sure this is entirely new though, as there was a similar blending of left/right themes in historical fascism and its lesser variants: Peronism, etc., but it is certainly true that there is a change happening in bourgeois politics from the arrangement that dominated the post-WWII order.

The bigger question though is how much does the populist upsurge represent a real questioning of the dominant society by the working class in an underdeveloped/perverted form and how much of it is a political recuperation of working class anger by factions of the state? Its not entirely clear to me what the various manifestations of this diverse phenomenon really mean for the working class.

Demogorgon
What is the perspective of populism?

JK's points are similar to questions that were raised in the meeting last Saturday.

At least one comrade was firmly of the view (at least at the beginning of the discussion) that the current populism is a direct manifestation from the state. The ICC's presentation defended the position that populism, in fact, emerges from civil society in response to material conditions faced by workers, the petit-bourgeoisie and the ruling class itself.

In the latter conception, populism (in this period) also represents a loss of control by the bourgeoisie over its own political processes. As is usually the case in the period of decomposition, the phenomena that arise from it rarely provide the basis for a recovery in class consciousness. Rather, they reinforce the despair, nihilism and lack of perspective that are decomposition's fundamental features.

I don't think there is any argument that populism in itself is a new phenomena - what is new in this period is the difficulty the dominant fractions of the bourgeoisie seem to have in exploiting it for their own interests. Those parts of the bourgeoisie that seem to be riding the crest of the wave (e.g. Trump) don't appear to offer any rational programme for capitalism. This is in contradistinction to the classic historical expressions of populism in Fascism and Nazism that, while they certainly had irrational aspects, they nonetheless offered a programme that capitalism could coherently organise itself around.

Even Nazism, whose atavistic qualities are overemphasised by the leftists, developed a practical programme (not the silly official programme, of course) that attempted to confront the serious questions for German society: the fundamental underdevelopment of parts of German industry and especially agriculture; the lack of access to essential raw materials; the crushing economic power wielded by the financial powers of Britain and the US; etc. Naturally, the programme was war and Germany was defeated - nonetheless, the war paved the way for the rise of the new superpowers. For the US and Russia, the victory was hardly a pyrhhic one.

It is difficult to see what actual solutions the current manifestations of populism can realistically offer. What could a Trump presidency actually offer the US? Could Trumpism serve as the basis for a new assertion of American power? Given the difficulties of mobilising the population behind Iraq and Afghanistan, is there really a basis for a more aggressive stance? Could such a stance actually gain advantages for America if it were successful? Would its failure accrue advantages to its imperialist rivals? Or will it simply destabilise the world situation even further? Can it even stabilise the social front or would it unleash more unrest of the sort we are already seeing?

Perhaps the fundamental question here is whether the rise of populism represents an opportunity for the bourgeoisie to finally break the social stalemate between the classes that the ICC argues has dominated the world situation for the last three decades.

jk1921
The question of populism's

The question of populism's functional value for the national capital is an interesting one. Perhaps it is in the fact that it is something other than the neo-liberal consensus that has dominated the last three decades? Its economic programme--to the extent that one can be flushed out--is a kind of autarchy, a rejection of  "globalization" and global political and economic institutions in the hopes of rekindling a national capitalism with a protectionist state, higher wages (in some versions), a strong domestic consumer market and a revitalization of manufacturing industry to the detriment of finance and the service industry.

Of course, the main factions of the bourgeoisie--which have accepted the necessity of the neo-liberal consensus (which in the US includes the establishment of both the Republican and Democratic parties) will say that vision is a nostalgic fantasy that has no chance of becomming reality. They may be right about that, but the extent to which populism performs a political function of recapturing the intense discontent in the populace cannot be underestimated.

This raises the question, of course, of how the populist themes penetrated the UK bourgeoisie in such a way that major figures in the national state were campaigning in favor of Brexit? The mayor of the country's largest city (which ironically voted against it), the Justice Minister? These don't seem like minor figures. Was this more an older Euroskeptic wing of the UK bourgeoisie attempting to exploit populism for another goal?

In the US, it is interesing that if one compares the economic programmes of Trump and Bernie Sanders, they are very similar. The real differenes between the two are on social issues. Still, it seems important that the US bourgeoisie would rather take their chances that Trump might beat a wounded Hillary, rather than let the left-populist Sanders anywhere near the levers of power. This seems more like a politcal choice--Trump's anti-immigrant, socially regressive populism would be preferrable to Sanders' "socialist" version--indicating--I think--a certain fear that even if Sanders himself poses no real threat to the status quo--his millenial followers just might, if his movement were not "brought to heel."

slothjabber
Clarification

I think I'm the cmrade who was 'firmly convinced that populism is a manifestation of the state'.

 

Except I'm pretty sure I didn't say that. I'm pretty sure I said it was a manifestation of the ruling class.

 

The ICC seems to be pushing the notion that populism is 'the' ideology of the Decomposition of Capitalism. As the concept of the Decomposition of Capitalism isn't widely accepted, there's ne reason why the idea that Populism is it's ideological manifestation should be so. Hence the ICC's hostility to the idea that current populism might be ideologically and historically related to - for example - Peronism or Italian fascism. Of course it isn't; it can only exist post-1989.

 

Of course, there were signs of devadence before 'Decadence'; there were signs of decompossition before 'Decomposition' (even looking at the stability of the bloc system there were examples such as China leaving the Russian bloc in 1960, and spending 14 years trying to found its own bloc; the US being perrennially unable to discipline France; Iran leaving the US orbit and never coming into the Russian in the late '70s; the war between Argentina and the UK, two of the US's closest allies in the 1980s, which can be seen as precoursers to the break of the blocs that happened after 1989...) - but heaven forfend that 'populism' might have historical antecedents that predated 1989, oh no.

 

Ideologies aren't produced by the working class. If the ICC is claiming that populism comes from some class other than the (haute-)bourgeoisie then yes, I agree; I said in the meeting that it represents the petite-bourgeoisie. In fact it's petit-bourgeois to the core. But as ruling parties of right (such as the Tories) and left (such as pretty much every party that has ever governed France) represent petit-bourgeois interests as well as haut-bourgeois interests, I don't see a contradiction between 'the petite-bourgeoisie' and 'the ruling class'.
 

So really, the ICC needs to be explaining why it doesn't see the petite-bourgeoisie as part of the ruling class, I suppose.

Demogorgon
Functional Populism

Quote:
The question of populism's functional value for the national capital is an interesting one. Perhaps it is in the fact that it is something other than the neo-liberal consensus that has dominated the last three decades? Its economic programme--to the extent that one can be flushed out--is a kind of autarchy, a rejection of  "globalization" and global political and economic institutions in the hopes of rekindling a national capitalism with a protectionist state, higher wages (in some versions), a strong domestic consumer market and a revitalization of manufacturing industry to the detriment of finance and the service industry.

Strangely, the UKIP stable (at least its expression in the bourgeoisie) seems to be drawn primarily from the most radical of the free-market ideologues. In contrast, during the referendum debate, the EU (and the Remainers) were cast as the defenders of workers' rights, regulation, etc.

Of course, UKIP / Out voters probably have a rather different perspective.

Quote:
They may be right about that, but the extent to which populism performs a political function of recapturing the intense discontent in the populace cannot be underestimated.

I think this is where things start to get tricky. That populism serves this function is absolutely correct. But, does it represent a plan by the dominant fractions or is it a more spontaneous phenomena (albeit exploited by various factions for their own ends)? Does it actually matter?

Quote:
These don't seem like minor figures.

They aren't, although they are certainly in a minority. The anti-EU wing of the UK bourgeoisie does, of course, have a long history. Of course, I think there are definitely questions about whether the Outers actually expected to win, and about Johnson's genuine commitment to the cause.

Quote:
a certain fear that even if Sanders himself poses no real threat to the status quo--his millenial followers just might, if his movement were not "brought to heel."

I think this is certainly the case with Jeremy Corbyn. Previously, we published a piece suggesting that Corbyn's elevation was part of the strategy of the ruling class.

I'm afraid I'm not at all convinced by this. Naturally, Corbyn is no threat to capitalism, but he might be a threat to the interests and strategies of the dominant faction. Like Sanders, I think the bourgeoisie have been surprised and worried at the strength of the mobilisation of people behind him. His appeal to young, educated workers shouldn't be underestimated. It's a real phenomena.

The bourgeoisie had - until the referendum - adapted to his leadership and made use of it, but in the early stages of the aftermath it (briefly) looked like Labour might have the possibility of power, the thought of Corbyn being within a million miles of Number 10 seems to have panicked the powers that be. The fact that Corbyn's faction is refusing to play by the normal rules of the game has been a factor in further destabilising the LP.

Demogorgon
Populism & Decomposition, Past and Present

Quote:
I think I'm the cmrade who was 'firmly convinced that populism is a manifestation of the state'. Except I'm pretty sure I didn't say that. I'm pretty sure I said it was a manifestation of the ruling class.

Apologies if you think I misrepresented what you said. There is, of course, a difference between the bourgeoisie and the state, but I'm not sure that's the real question here. The real questions are, in my view, whether populism is something manufactured by the bourgeoisie with a purpose (to control discontent) or whether it is something emerging spontaneously from society as a whole. This relates to another central question - does it enhance the bourgeoisie's cohesion or is it a factor in destabilising its political apparatus?

Quote:
The ICC seems to be pushing the notion that populism is 'the' ideology of the Decomposition of Capitalism. As the concept of the Decomposition of Capitalism isn't widely accepted, there's ne reason why the idea that Populism is it's ideological manifestation should be so. Hence the ICC's hostility to the idea that current populism might be ideologically and historically related to - for example - Peronism or Italian fascism. Of course it isn't; it can only exist post-1989.

I was under the impression that you actually accepted the analysis of decomposition. Of course, you're right, not everybody accepts that analysis although I think there was a concensus at that meeting that there was at least the possibility that the bourgeoisie was losing its grip. That, for us, is one of the central phenomena of decomposition.

There is another question here, though. It's perfectly possible to accept decomposition at a phenomenal level - i.e. seeing the tendency for things to disintegrate, etc. - without accepting the ICC's explanation for its cause, which is very specific: the social stalemate between the classes. This analysis relates to our conception of the course of history which, again, not everyone accepts.

Those are, perhaps, different debates in their own right? I don't know. However, in the absence of any specific critique I'm going to proceed from that general framework.

I think it's fair to say you're right that there is a suggestion that populism has a natural affinity with decomposition in our conception.

However, I don't think anyone has said populism only existed after 1989. At least I hope they didn't - such a view is manifestly untrue. For that matter, we don't think decomposition suddenly appeared in 1989, any more that capitalism became decadent in 1914. The fall of the Eastern Bloc was a product of a phenomena which had already emerged at least in the early 80s and, to a certain extent, before that. That phenomena produced the collapse of the blocs which announced that decomposition had now become the dominant trend in the evolution of the international situation.

As for populism, I don't think the point here is that populism is a new phenomena in itself, anymore than war and imperialism are. The point is that, like war and imperialism, populism takes on a new form in the current period. It is as much a factor in the destabilisation of the system at both the social and political level as any pole around which the bourgeoisie can cohere itself, let alone the rest of society.

Quote:
Of course, there were signs of devadence before 'Decadence'; there were signs of decompossition before 'Decomposition'

Indeed, we state exactly that in the Theses: "Elements of decomposition are to be found in all decadent societies: the dislocation of the social body, the rot of its political, economic, and ideological structures etc. The same has been true of capitalism since the beginning of its decadent period. However, just as we need to establish the distinction between capitalist decadence and those of previous societies, so it is vital to highlight the fundamental distinction between the elements of decomposition which have infected capitalism since the beginning of the century and the generalised decomposition which is infecting the system today, and which can only get worse."

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but heaven forfend that 'populism' might have historical antecedents that predated 1989, oh no.

I don't think this is what is being said. It is certainly not what I am saying.

Quote:
Ideologies aren't produced by the working class. If the ICC is claiming that populism comes from some class other than the (haute-)bourgeoisie then yes, I agree; I said in the meeting that it represents the petite-bourgeoisie. In fact it's petit-bourgeois to the core. But as ruling parties of right (such as the Tories) and left (such as pretty much every party that has ever governed France) represent petit-bourgeois interests as well as haut-bourgeois interests, I don't see a contradiction between 'the petite-bourgeoisie' and 'the ruling class'.

As I tried to suggest at the meeting, there is a fundamental question here about ideology in general. Is ideology the product of specific classes or a product that emerges from society as a whole? And how conscious is the process of ideological production? Do the bourgeoisie have committees that sit down and (putting it crudely!) discuss 'how can we deceive the working class today'? Or is ideology more a product of the deep psychological processes of reification that affect everyone within capitalist society (including the working class)?

The answer would seem to be that elements of both are true. Certainly we know the bourgeoisie attempts to steer ideological discourse in certain directions. And we also know that different factions of the bourgeoisie use particular ideological themes to mobilise different elements of society for their specific interests. But we also know that ideological mechanisms can function without having a hand at the wheel. For example, leftist and unionist ideology can emerge spontanously within the working class without any need for the bourgeoisie to actively promote it. So, too, can racism, democratism, liberalism, conservatism, etc. This is because (some of) these phenomena spring from deep psychological mechanisms universal to humanity and all of them find their expression within the general material and ideological structure of capitalist society and its antimonies (individualism vs collectivism, hierarchy vs exchange of equivalents, etc.).

Certainly, as the most intellectually active class, the bourgeoisie dominate this process but they dominate the economic process, too; how much real control do they exert over that? Some, certainly, but it's far from complete. I think it's reasonable to say their control over the processes of intellectual production has similar limits.

As for the working class, it doesn't produce ideologies only in the sense that it doesn't produce cars. It is a participant in the production process and the process of intellectual life, but it does not do so under its own direction or for its own interests. This is not to say it doesn't affect that process, but as long as it remains a subject class the ideologies that emerge can only be counter to its interests.

When class consciousness emerges, it is the complete opposite of ideology. It emerges directly from the experience and action of the proletariat itself and does so in opposition to the whole ideological structure of the rest of society. (Much more to be said here, but I'm going off-topic.)

Populism, then, is not simply the sole product of the ruling class. Its character is far more universal. In this epoch, in contradistinction to previous historical manifestations, it as much the product of the generalised decay of coherent thought as representing any kind of real perspective, let alone programme, for capital. That is not to say the latter element hasbeen completely negated, or that the bourgeoisie won't attempt to manipulate and control it, just as they attempt to control imperialism, the economy, etc. What it means is that these attempts will become more and more problematic, leading to more serious political and social convulsions (which will further reinforce populism).

jk1921
Subject Required

Demogorgon wrote:

[Strangely, the UKIP stable (at least its expression in the bourgeoisie) seems to be drawn primarily from the most radical of the free-market ideologues. In contrast, during the referendum debate, the EU (and the Remainers) were cast as the defenders of workers' rights, regulation, etc.

Of course, UKIP / Out voters probably have a rather different perspective.

Yes, there is a contradiction there. It was similar with the Tea Party in the US--whose major figures tended to be ardent free marketers--yet, Tea Party supprters in the general populace tended to have a largely social democratic economic outlook. It is, I think, an expression of decomposition and the tendency towards an incoherence in bourgeois ideology. But mainly the attraction of the Tea Party to these voters (and I suspect the Out Campaign in the UK) was the anti-immigration rhetoric, which really was the motivating factor for many. But wasn't one of the main pledges of the Out Campaign that leaving the EU would allow an additional $350 million pounds a day to go to the NHS? This hardly seems like the rhetoric of the free market right.

I think the point about populism emanating from civil society is important. However, this does seem to contradict what has been a major plank of the theory of decadence--that in decadence there is an increasing tendency (never complete, of course) for the state to subsume civil society. I wonder if in decompostion that tendency is arrested to some extent--contributing to the difficulty the bourgeoise is having in managing the democratic apparatus and producing the electoral outcomes the main factions want? Certainly, in other areas the tendency towards state domination of civil society is still advancing--such as in the technological aspects of the development of the "surveillance society," but it does seem that on the cultural, political and insitutional level there is an increasing tendency for civil society insitutions to complicate the state achieving its goals. The development of new political parties  (UKIP, etc.) or the take over of other parties by populist forces (the Republican Party in the US), seems one form of that proces. And perhaps this is another area where populism could prove functional for the national capital if it were to come to state power. Certainly, Putin's Russia doesn't have the same level of problems--or at the very least his style of authoritarian populism has been better able to conrol it. Of course, Russia isn't the US or the UK.

On the question of the working class being able or unable to produce ideologies: I think this is a difficult issue. I would suspect there is a tendency in the communist left to say it can't. That either the working class produces class consciousness or embryonic forms of it OR it is under the influence of class foreign ideologies--but Demo's characterization of populism seems to suggest it is not so simple. I think I agree with this. I have tended to feel that the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years is something that has arisen from the sectors of the working class as a perverted response to economic insecurity. In general, anti-immigrant sentiment has not been something pushed by the main factions of the bourgeoisie as they see it as problematic for the functioning of neo-liberal capitalism. Of course, anti-immigrant sentiment is harnessed by the right-wing of the bourgeoisie for its own purposes--but the extent to which it has now penetrated the mainstream of bourgeois politics, I think attests to the life given to it by intense feelings from sectors of the working-class who feel betrayed by both the right and left parties of the main factions of the ruling class.

I think this woud be easy to slough this off as the working class reacting as isolated individuals reflecting back bourgeois ideolgies, but I am afraid this leads us into the morass of essentialism and the "no true Scotsman" problem, whereby if the working class is not taking steps towards class consciousness--it must be because it is not acting as a working class. It might just be the case that economic dislocation doesn't always produce a tendency towards deepening consciousness and sometimes leads to something less savoury. It them becomes a political problem for us to explain this and identify the conditions that lead towards real consciousness rather than the populist backlash we see today. Of course, it could also be the case that different parts of the working class react differently to the same overall circumstances, which becomes an additional problems for us to explain.

lem_
not really a marxist analysis, but

not really a marxist analysis, and maybe repeating myself here, but... from my quick research today looks like immigration (rather than free trade etc.) was an economic good for the taxman, unemployment, and the majority of wages (and surely for the capitalist class's profits). so it seems like they got the working class to vote against its economic interests, seemingly by playing on fears of other nationalities, including economic fears.

can we draw an conclusions from that?

well, given that predictions are kinda redundant anyway, what sort of conclusions are we looking for? i'd suppose that it tells us that the solutions and maybe even the problems the capitalist class offers the working class are shot through with capitalist competition and are irrational for the working class, even supposing that communism is not an option.

i would maybe like to divide up the eras of capitalism based on that understanding of the problems (i.e. ideologies) of capitalism, both with and without the association of the proletariat:

1, capiatlism opposes communism (doesn't have the real solution)

2. in decadence capitalism is ideologically useless for communists (its problems aren't real)

3. with the counter-revolution capitalism becomes ideologically bankrupt in the struggle of the contending classes (its problems aren't even false)

4. as it decays, capitalism becomes unable to maintain itself (its solutions aren't even false).

5? so i'd call decomposition, which i feel is ambiguously both the decay of capitalism and its final end, is "communism or barbarism" writ as large as it can be when still written (i.e. the defeat of the working class)

which is neat in a way, but doesn't seem very sophisticated...

Demogorgon
So many difficult questions ...

Quote:
But wasn't one of the main pledges of the Out Campaign that leaving the EU would allow an additional $350 million pounds a day to go to the NHS? This hardly seems like the rhetoric of the free market right.

This is a good point, although the pledge survived barely 24 hours after the result, which illustrated the deep cynicism and opportunism that dominated the campaign. Part of the definition of populism is that it has to say something to the working class that appears to speak to its interests or it simply won't be a very popular populism. The Nazis offered a work programme that never materialised either, although the Nazis were never free-marketers, and the war economy achieved to a certain extent what the mythological work programme didn't.

But doesn't this get us back to the question of coherence - or, rather the lack of it, on the part of populism today? That no-one - including the Brexiters themselves - had a clue what to do following the referendum result would seem to speak volumes. The entire political apparatus seemed paralysed! Contrast this to the Brown administration during the rockiest moments of the financial crisis (which caused some disarray in the US ruling class). On the other hand, one must be careful not to go too far here - the administrative structures of the state (particularly the Bank of England) appeared to remain steady. We did not see, even momentarily, a "Russian moment" comparable to the disintegration of the Eastern bloc.

Quote:
In general, anti-immigrant sentiment has not been something pushed by the main factions of the bourgeoisie as they see it as problematic for the functioning of neo-liberal capitalism.

This is problematic. The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun, etc. which dominate the popular (populist?) press are constantly pushing this. I will admit this is annecdotal but it seems hard to find a day when at least one of them doesn't lead on a story about immigration, benefits cheats, etc. How much they represent the main factions is difficult to say, of course.

Quote:
if the working class is not taking steps towards class consciousness--it must be because it is not acting as a working class.

On the one hand, I agree with what you're saying that the usual vision the CL has on this question is not nuanced enough. As I said, the working class participates in bourgeois society's intellectual life even when it simple exists as a class in itself. To take up Engels' famous phrase, to a certain extent it even does so consciously, but with false consciousness. Take, for example, this account. Contrary to the vile attacks from the Remainers following the result, these people aren't simply stupid, or uneducated, or just reactionary. Nor are they a passive mass, pushed around on the ideological chessboard - there is still an element of attempting to act in their perceived interests.

But they're certainly not acting in a class conscious way either and the ideologies at play remain bourgeois in the sense that they are a product of bourgeois society.

As for the problems you raise in your final paragraph, I fear I have even less to offer here than on the other points. It's tempting to appeal to decomposition to explain these problems. And yet decomposition, surely, has its own origin in the inability of the working class to raise its game, the social stalemate, etc. As good dialecticians, we know effects can become causes, and understand self-reinforcing tendencies but here it just seems like a convenient get-out clause that ultimately leads to circular reasoning: decomposition may hold back the struggle, yet is itself the product of an insufficient level of struggle in the first place.

Is the answer to be found by going back to the struggle of the 70s and 80s and developing a deeper understandings of the defeats the class experienced in that period?

jk1921
Trash rags

Demogorgon wrote:

This is a good point, although the pledge survived barely 24 hours after the result, which illustrated the deep cynicism and opportunism that dominated the campaign. Part of the definition of populism is that it has to say something to the working class that appears to speak to its interests or it simply won't be a very popular populism. The Nazis offered a work programme that never materialised either, although the Nazis were never free-marketers, and the war economy achieved to a certain extent what the mythological work programme didn't.

Right, and the one thing that right wing populism offers the working class (or some sector of it) is a sense of cutural, social and/or linguistic cohesion that is tending to breakdown under neo-liberal capitalism. Populism counterposes the (faux) solidarity of the national state and community to the rampant social and demographic change that comes with neo-liberalism. And because many workers identify with this they are dismissed as racists, xenopobes, ignorant troglodytes, etc. by the main factions of the bourgeoisie and especially its leftist mouthpieces. But one has to ask, why so many workers identify with this? Is there a material issue underneath the cultural and social veneer?

Demogorgon wrote:

Quote:
In general, anti-immigrant sentiment has not been something pushed by the main factions of the bourgeoisie as they see it as problematic for the functioning of neo-liberal capitalism.

This is problematic. The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun, etc. which dominate the popular (populist?) press are constantly pushing this. I will admit this is annecdotal but it seems hard to find a day when at least one of them doesn't lead on a story about immigration, benefits cheats, etc. How much they represent the main factions is difficult to say, of course.

Ah, British trash rags! Yes, Fox News does the same thing in the US, but I think it is clear this does not represent the main factions of the bourgeoisie in both the Democratic and Republican parties who have tried in vain for years to pass some kind of comprehensive immigration reform and remove this contentious and often destructive issue from national politics. Its true that Republicans in red-states have pandered to anti-immigrant sentiment to win local elections, but on a national level the Republican party has admitted the need to adapt to the demographic realities and adopt a more concilatory tone on immigration (Trump of course has thrown that right out the window). But the biggest problem for the bourgeoisie is the political blowback from immigration and demographic change--which leads to counter-productive events like Brexit and dangerous personalities like Trump potentially ascending to power as it hastens the general loss of control over the democratic apparatus.

Demogorgon wrote:

But they're certainly not acting in a class conscious way either and the ideologies at play remain bourgeois in the sense that they are a product of bourgeois society.

Yes, they are bourgeois ideologies--but there are multiple different bourgeois ideologies to choose from. Why do some sectors of the working class identify with populism when there are other options and when populism is probably not the societal narrative the main factions of the bourgeoisie want to sell right now? Of course, one has to ask what is the narrative of neo-liberalism? Democracy? Technological utopianism? Social progressivism combined with possessive individualism?  The point is the working class (or some sector of it) are not necessarily doing what they are told and are finding their voice through a particular ideology that is complicating the overall cohesion of society and the state--even if the worldview remains thouroughly bourgeois and capitalist. Still, there are many sectors of the working class who do identify with neo-liberalism's narratives--even if they do not like neo-liberal economics. It really is an incoherent mess.....

 

jk1921
BofE

Demogorgon wrote:

But doesn't this get us back to the question of coherence - or, rather the lack of it, on the part of populism today? That no-one - including the Brexiters themselves - had a clue what to do following the referendum result would seem to speak volumes. The entire political apparatus seemed paralysed! Contrast this to the Brown administration during the rockiest moments of the financial crisis (which caused some disarray in the US ruling class). On the other hand, one must be careful not to go too far here - the administrative structures of the state (particularly the Bank of England) appeared to remain steady. We did not see, even momentarily, a "Russian moment" comparable to the disintegration of the Eastern bloc.s.

Of course the Bank of England remained steady--its run by a Canadian!

Demogorgon
It's interesting that even

It's interesting that even Theresa May sees that something needs to change - or at least someone needs to talk about it.

baboon
Some points on the questions

Some points on the questions raised above:

I think that even with the growing centrifugal tendencies of capitalism and the general loss of control of the bourgeoisie over ideology, the tendency to the strengthening of the state continues and is impulsed by the developments of elements of a certain break down. The bourgeoisie can use the latter both as an ideological weapon and an excuse to increase the totalitarianisation of the state, but it does so with increasing difficulties in relation to ideology.

The Brexit vote was a gamble that didn’t pay off and has put the bourgeoisie in a lot of trouble. There’s a reason why referenda are illegal in Germany; 3 or 4 and Hitler was democratically elected. It’s not the first major blunder of the usually acute and coherent British bourgeoisie; Blair’s Crusade over Iraq was another where the interests of one faction overrode the interests of the state resulting in disastrous consequences. Why people voted for Brexit has a myriad of reasons, voting still being the expressions of isolated individuals. Some of it a protest vote – protesting to the elite that it was protesting about, some nationalism and racism which go hand in hand in general from bourgeois ideology. Racism and anti-immigrant feeling has been pumped up by the bourgeosie itself as well as its media chorus. New PM May, who, like Thatcher, has promised to bring harmony, only a few months ago was sending lorries out through London with messages threatening illegal immigrants and asking people to grass them up – and attack them while not saying so.

I agree with Demo about the Corby phenomenon. There’s more than a simple leftist diversion or turn here (that’s not to say there’s anything positive about it, on the contrary) but it does, from its populist message and its rejection of the “rules of the game” further contribute to centrifugal tendencies within the political apparatus. I think that the union boss Len McClusky is on to something when he talks about a MI5 campaign against “Jeremy”. Some of the New Labour MP’s have links to some very suspicious Anglo-American “societies”.

I think that Demo has answered very well the question of “antecedents” and dates in relation to decadence and decomposition and the example used by SJ of China outside the blocs in 1960, has been used by the ICC before in order to reinforce this very point.

On the question of could Trump represent a more assertive move by US imperialism, I would say that he could but this is a development that is already taking shape under Clinton and her clique. Clinton’s proposed new Defence Secretary, Michele Flournoy,  has co-authored a report for the Centre for New American Security that says that Isis is not the overriding enemy but the Assad regime. Taking on Assad is the sort of fantasy reasoning that Clinton has used before and she is surrounding herself with more like-minded elements.
Incidently and without making any definite statements, Clinton and the Democrats are very close to the Gulenist movement in the US. A Gulenist-led government in Turkey that was absolutely committed to Nato and the US – which it would be – would be very useful for taking on Assad and the Russians to a new level.

The effects of decomposition today, a phenomenon that we all seem to agree goes back a long way and with different forms, see Europe in a state of war. Not war as we know it but a war of decomposition, despair and fear. The pressure-cooker bomb in Boston was an indication of it and now a lorry is a weapon of destruction (there was a flurry of cars and lorries used as weapons to attack civilians in Israel a few years ago). This makes imperialist war a vital question for the working class because the response of the state is more repression and militarism at home and more bombs abroad
 

baboon
"The Manchurian Candidate"

On just one aspect of the above discussion:

 

If you wanted to make an analogy with fiction and the Trump candidancy for President of the United States, you could do a lot worse than the excellent movie "The Manchurian Candidate". The origianl version with Lawrence Harvey and Angela Lansbury is the best one in my opinion and it details the development of brainwashing by the North Koreans and a viper in the highest levels of the bosum of  US democracy.

 

The foreign policy of Trump, as expressed so far, couldn't be more different than Clinton's and the fact of it being expressed is an indication not only of the decomposition affecting democracy but of both Trump's and Clinton's drive to long-term militarism and war and the consequences thereof.

 

The links of the Trump team to Russian imperialist interests, particularly his foreign policy adivisers, have been known for some time. Trump has openly praised Putin and supported his bombing of Syria on the side of Assad and has proposed that the US make the Russians partners here.  Trumps anti-Nato speeches have been welcomed in the Kremlin. Michael Flynn, a Trump adviser, is a regular on the Russain RT programme and was seated alongside Putin at RT's anniversary bash. Others have advised Gazprom and others have been adivisers to Russian-backed regimes such as the pro-Putin clique in Ukraine. Anti-Russian elements in the GOP have been sidelined by Trump and his team.

 

"Glass ceiling" Hillary and her clique on the other hand take an entirely different approach to the interests of American imperialism but one, like Trump, that will guarantee further militarism and war and its continuing boost to terrorism. Aside from the Clinton-backed Centre for a New American Security, gung ho to take on Assad, the Russians and everyone, around 50 serving state department officials have basically come up with the same policy in a leaked document. Clinton has historically never flinched from war (wars even) in the interests of US imperialism.

jk1921
Here is Thomas Frank in the

Here is Thomas Frank in the Guardian today analyzing the lure of Trumpian populism for large swathes of the working class:

ttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/28/hillary-clinton-donald-tru...

He is essentially right in his analysis, but what is very uncomfortable for him to admit (and just as uncomfortable for we Marxists) is that many working class people appear to view mass immigration as something akin to an attack on their working and living conditions. This is a sentiment that until recently has not had national articulation by either political party, but is exploding today. While there are many other reasons for the populist upsurge, immigration appears to invoke a particularly intense response. Not all working class people fall for this, of course; anti-immigrant sentiment has not been a feature of Bernie Sanders' millenial inspired movement (quite the contrary), but it is nevertheless a very real phenomenon of our historical epoch. Liberal elite attempts to reduce it to racism, xenophobia and "white privilege" do not seem to offer an adequate explanation for it, however.

 

Demogorgon
I haven't read the most

I haven't read the most recent contributions by baboon and JK, but this caught my eye in the Guardian today. It seems in spite of the great difficulties of the class in responding to the material and ideological attacks around immigration, actions like the one described still arouse a sense of instinctive disgust amongst some workers at least.

Fred
Right on Demogorgon.

Right on Demogorgon.  

Guardian wrote:
 One of the kitchen staff said she arrived for the meeting at 9.30am, but within minutes four immigration officers burst into the building. “They said, ‘nobody move, we’re immigration, stay where you are’, and then they started calling out names and took the people they were looking for aside,” the worker said.

The officers then questioned the people over several hours, witnesses said.

“I feel really sad about this. Everyone is hysterical about immigration. It feels like it must have been in the 1930s or something,” said a worker, who, like all the staff the Guardian has spoken to, requested anonymity.

 

Reminds me of all those films in which the Gestapo are shown as suddenly bursting in on innocent people.  In those days probably Jewish  people. But today it's immigrants. It's like the 1939's or something, as the worker astutely points out. 

But then everything is getting more and more like the 30's, isn't it? Unemployment, phony leftism Sanders/Corbyn style, run down inner cities, general malaise and distress, increasing poverty and dumb fear! How is it all going to end? 

Demogorgon
Racism in the Working Class

Quote:
He is essentially right in his analysis, but what is very uncomfortable for him to admit (and just as uncomfortable for we Marxists) is that many working class people appear to view mass immigration as something akin to an attack on their working and living conditions.

An interesting piece, as is this one.

The question is how do we put this all together.

On the question of immigration, foreign workers, etc. after a little reflection, I think we need to be careful in thinking that this is something fundamentally new. In this article, we reference Engels' letter to Shluter, where he says: "Now a working class has developed and has also to a great extent organised itself on trade union lines. But it still takes up an aristocratic attitude and wherever possible leaves the ordinary badly paid occupations to the immigrants, of whom only a small section enter the aristocratic trades. But these immigrants are divided into different nationalities and understand neither one another nor, for the most part, the language of the country. And your bourgeoisie knows much better even than the Austrian Government how to play off one nationality against the other."

Leaving aside the unfortunate over theorising of Engels' phrase of "aristocracy", there are clear parallels with the current situation, with "indigenous" workers seeing "immigrant" workers as something outside themselves and the class struggle. We should also bear in mind that these weaknesses were visible in a period when the working class had a far clearer sense of its class identity, something which far less the case now.

Similar attitudes were visible in the trade union movement in the 50s and 60s in the UK. "However, despite black workers joining trade unions in large numbers, they were not welcomed by the UK trade union movement or the TUC. While the immigrant workers did not constitute a threat to the jobs of British workers because of acute labour shortages following the war, the TUC argued during the 1950's and 1960's that black workers did not integrate with white workers. This helped to stereotype black migrant workers as "problem" and "other". Even though during the 1969 TUC Congress, rank-and-file trade union members challenged the immigration controls and supported government's plans in calling for positive action to combat discrimination, the TUC General Council prevented the motion receiving majority support, thereby opposing government plans for anti-discrimination legislation."

Obviously, in this period, the trade unions were no longer expressions of the workers movement in the sense of functioning for the interests of workers. There was resistance from the "rank-and-file" to the racial segregation proposed by the union structure, but this resistance was naturally framed as support for the government's liberal measures. And it seems doubtful that this resistance was uniform within the working class. It's not commonly talked about now but, as the referenced article highlights, there were strikes in Britain in protest against Enoch Powell's sacking after his "rivers of blood" speech. While these sorts of mobilisations were undoubtedly under the aegis of bourgeois structures and ideology, they wouldn't have been possible without a genuine engagement with that ideology by some fractions of the working class.

The combat against these divisive ideologies has been a problem weighing on the working class for all of its existence. Again, I think the question is not so much that these issues and problems are new in themselves, but the form and impact they have in the current historic period.

On that note, I think the significant factor is whereas in the 60s these divisions began to be confronted and overcome in the various struggles of workers themselves, the bourgeois state was ultimately able to recuperate them and integrate them into the numbing sanctity of liberal ideology, expressed in various legislation enshrining "equality and diversity".

As class struggle declined, this liberalism filled the vacuum but, even with the best of intentions, such ideology cannot overcome these divisions because liberalism is ultimately built on the same premises as the reactionary ideologies. At best, it can smother them with increasingly draconian attempts to police the workplace and attempting to extend that control into language and thought itself. Suppression, of course, does not resolve the problems and the recent resurgence of reactionary ideologies demonstrates this. And that, of course, is that case before we consider the conscious efforts of the bourgeoisie to manipulate racist ideologies.

Now the whole debate is framed between two facets of bourgeois ideology. The working class perspective is wholly absent from social discourse on the question, although the remnant of instinctive unease about it remains as the article about Byron Burger suggests.

For me, the question is not so much the denialism about racism amongst workers (which has always existed to varying degrees) but back to the thorny problems we have been grappling with as a movement for many decades and to which we have often returned to on these boards:

  • what basis is there for a recovery in the class struggle?
  • what form can and should such a recovery take; is the strike now an effective weapon; is there an alternative?
  • what role can revolutionaries play in this process?

 

baboon
I think that the Byron

I think that the Byron Burgers set-up shows the continuity between May at the Home Office sending out lorries whipping up anti-immigrant feeling and Prime Minister May and her new clique. I think that the reaction of some workers involved here shows feelings of solidarity and unease.

During the 60's, 70's and into the 80's, the unions were, as part of the ruling establishment, "institutionally" racist. Many unions at this time were controlled or heavily influenced by Stalinist elements and part of their idoelogy was overtly racist wanting their unions to remain "white". This has continued in the left of capital with, for example, Labour Prime Minister Brown's "British jobs for British workers". The only way to overcome this division, like any other, is the class struggle and this was shown with the same dockers who struck to support the racist Enoch Powell, a couple of years later taking part in demonstrations of workers, including many black workers, against the attacks of the governement of the day. There were even strikes of dockers in support of nurses most of whom came the West Indies. What's important today, as Demo says, is the change in the period, the weight of decomposition and the dearth of postive elements of class struggle which, even in the seventies and eigthies for example, within the framework of union control, was able to demonstrate elements of solidarity which was able to overcome the racist divisions.

 

It's important to see the "multiculturism" and inclusion of the left as just the other side of overt racism. What it meant in practice was the establishment (under the needs of British capital) of ghettos, the toleration of the suppression of women and, among the leftists, support for jihadism. And the contradictions of the needs of capital for cheap and divided labour and the pressures on the state and local authorities for resources are a futher attack on the working class which again can only be overcome in the class struggle. I don't think that we should forget that in periods of the heights of class struggle around the turn of last century the "intoxicated" working class marched off to imperialist war, singing its praises for nationalism and set about slaughering the "others".

 

However militant the struggles of the 70's, etc were, particularly in Western Europe, they were going nowhere as a new era had dawned, The miner's strike in Britain was a concretisation of that new reality that however militant a strike it had to have some political objective. We are a long way off  that today but for a revolutonary perspective for the working class to emerge then "things" will have to get considerably worse - with all the dangers that that entails..

 

 

 

 

jk1921
Not new

Demogorgon wrote:

On the question of immigration, foreign workers, etc. after a little reflection, I think we need to be careful in thinking that this is something fundamentally new. In this article, we reference Engels' letter to Shluter, where he says: "Now a working class has developed and has also to a great extent organised itself on trade union lines. But it still takes up an aristocratic attitude and wherever possible leaves the ordinary badly paid occupations to the immigrants, of whom only a small section enter the aristocratic trades. But these immigrants are divided into different nationalities and understand neither one another nor, for the most part, the language of the country. And your bourgeoisie knows much better even than the Austrian Government how to play off one nationality against the other."

I don't think the phenomenon of anti-immigrant sentiment (which may or may not have racist qualities) among sectors of the working class is new in and of itself. But, I think there is something quite different in how it is playing out politically today in terms of the rise of populism. Essentially, the "white" or indigenous working-class has been abandoned as a source of political legitimacy by the main factions of the bourgeoisie of all the establishment parties in the epoch of neo-liberalism. The right has been more or less free market fundamentalist--so the working class can fuck itself, while the left has embraced a somewhat milder form of the entreprenurial "risk society," based (supposedly) on a professional meritocracy that is socially liberal, politically progressive and doesn't care about race, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status. For this neo-liberal left, the working-class (or its political construction of the working-class--which may not be the same as the sociological proletariat) is the main political enemy as it is socially regressive, racist, anti-immigrant and downright unpredictable--a truly "dangerous class," if not because it might revolt against captalism, but because it may engender deeply unstable political forces that threaten the neo-liberal order (if, once again, not captialism itself).

Sure enough, the deepest fears of the neo-liberal left seem to be playing themselves out right before our eyes--Trump, Brexit--even if the main factions of the ruling class still have plenty of cards to play. Nevertheless, this still leaves open the question of how much the working-class (or certain sectors of it) are acting independently of the state in the context of the neo-liberal political crisis and to what extent it is just reflecting back bourgeois ideology at the behest of state actors.

Link
nationalism in all its glory

"Mr Flibble.­­

As always the out of touch ruling elite are only concerned with anyone who isn't from this country, we have child poverty increasing and there's also a rising number of child carers who get no state help while they look after sick and disabled parents as well as themselves yet no one from the liberal left gives two s****s about them, all they do is fall over themselves to look more compassionate towards refugees and illegal immigrants while they trample over the homeless while they do.

Disqusted

More hyperbole from the Indy. "Savaged"!
Recent events in Germany, France and Belgium show what happens when there is wholesale onslaught of refugees. Our government needs to put our safety above those of Syrian/Afghanistan or any Muslim refugees

Sober Reflection

Typical lofty disdain by the Elite for the views and wishes of ordinary citizens. Do these people really think that popular opinion is in favour of letting in more migrants?

Jerom

Spot on. Brexit was a clear mandate against migrants.

relate

I cannot believe that The Independent is now starting this campaign, after a number of refugees and immigrants have in the last few weeks attacked random people with a machete, killed one pregnant woman, and attempted a suicide attack and killed more than 80 people in France. We don't want no refugees in the UK, in fact no one wants refugees anywhere. We are 100% sick of this invasion and we want them all to leave.

maxim

Talk for yourself. 

richard1949

perhaps but in my opinion relate is talking for the vast majority of the UK

Charles Ewing

In English we say "speak for yourself".

John Corfield

Dont forget the editor of this digital paper is of Indian heritage.

He has a vested interest in allowing millions into our country of 3rd world immigrants.

 

I know its wrong to take the comments from online papers too seriously but  the above is a section of comments from an article about refugee children not being taken care of that appeared in the independent recently and it just got to me!!.  It exemplifies the revolting nationalism that has come out of the woodwork lately with the referendum, Its appalling awful revolting and totally irrational but it seems to be taking over and its very hard to fight.  People dont listen at all and i know some non-political people that are saying they just darent talk about the world/politics at present for fear of the reactions.  

Reading this i thought that what Id love to see is Fred as editor of something or other in the media giving a real emotional antidote to this garbage.

 

Fred
Xmas Tree adecorations

Spectator wrote:
 A report by the Business and Pensions select committees described Philip Green as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. That was a description first coined by Edward Heath as Prime Minister in 1973 and applied to Tiny Rowland.

— Rowland at the time was engaged in a boardroom battle with fellow directors of Lonrho, the mining conglomerate of which Rowland was managing director. They accused Rowland of making decisions without consulting them. Rowland, for his part, dismissed non-executive directors as ‘Christmas tree decorations’.
— Rowland had also offended Heath’s government by breaching sanctions against Rhodesia, then under unofficial independence declared by Ian Smith.

 

The richest bourgeoisie always do just what they like and always get away with it. Of course they do. They're rich. They're the essence of what capitalism is all about. Making lots of lovely money. And politicians like Ted Hesth, who don't have so much money but did own a yacht,  are occasionally prompted, especially in times like 1973, when strikes were all the rage, and the revolution was just round the corner - theoretically at any rate - are called upon at such times to be a little "critical" of the unacceptable face of the system. 

But doss capitalism have an acceptable face? In the 19th century, in its unspeakable generosity it coughed up occasional  reforms, like a bit of compulsory free schooling to tart up the qualifications of the suffering and ignorant workforce, and eventually votes for men to join in merrily in the phony democracy of bourgeois election fraud; and poured oli on the troubled waters of petty bourgeois do-gooders like Matthew Arnold and others by showing a more acceptable face to its insatiable greed for a couple of minutes. But overall it's always been a shitty mess with no genuine interest in people st all, especially in those it screws. Capitalism has never had a genuinely acceptable face from the point  of view of the working class and the sooner we wake up to this and get rid of it the better.  

We've always had revolting nationalism even in 1914 prior to the revolution. For the  working class loves its country and in GB's  case it's queen and will continue to do so till it suddenly realises the appalling con-trick the bourgeois has been playing on it for all these long years with "you've never had it so good" or references from time to time to the system's "unacceptable face" as if nauseous capital could ever be made acceptable to anyone, or given a nice genuine real face even while brandishing weapons of war.

Because  NO. Capitalism at large is total madness. We are crazy to live under it. We are insane!  We are alienated from our very selves and consequently each other. We live in miserably rigidly engineered isolation and loneliness which we are forced to pretend we love. But we don't. We hate and detest it and long  to escape.

Do you think even competitive athletes enjoy taking dangerous drugs just to triumph competitively in some absurd Olympic ritual forgotten after a few weeks?  Of course they don't. But under this dying system everything is  pretend. We live pretend and lying livess, just to keep the system going.  

Is this what populism is? The forced perpetuating of the brave face and pretence.   Vote for Donald Trump and you'll be as rich as he is in no time. Vote for Brexit and get rid of the dirty foreigners stealing your stinking  barely paid job which you loathe anyway.  Vote for Corbyn and he'll secure your pension, which doesn't even buy enough food to live on after a wasted life of horrendously boring paid employ just to secure the absurd mockery of a pittance called an old age pension.

Tiny Rowland was right. Capitalism is all about Xmas Tree Decoratons. 

 

Fred
Xmas Tree Decorations but no emotional antidote

Spectator wrote:
 A report by the Business and Pensions select committees described Philip Green as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’. That was a description first coined by Edward Heath as Prime Minister in 1973 and applied to Tiny Rowland.

— Rowland at the time was engaged in a boardroom battle with fellow directors of Lonrho, the mining conglomerate of which Rowland was managing director. They accused Rowland of making decisions without consulting them. Rowland, for his part, dismissed non-executive directors as ‘Christmas tree decorations’.
— Rowland had also offended Heath’s government by breaching sanctions against Rhodesia, then under unofficial independence declared by Ian Smith.

 

The richest bourgeoisie always do just what they like and always get away with it. Of course they do. They're rich. They're the essence of what capitalism is all about. Making lots of lovely money. And politicians like Ted Hesth, who don't have so much money but did own a yacht,  are occasionally prompted, especially in times like 1973, when strikes were all the rage, and the revolution was just round the corner - theoretically at any rate - are called upon at such times to be a little "critical" of the unacceptable face of the system. 

But doss capitalism have an acceptable face? In the 19th century, in its unspeakable generosity it coughed up occasional  reforms, like a bit of compulsory free schooling to tart up the qualifications of the suffering and ignorant workforce, and eventually votes for men to join in merrily in the phony democracy of bourgeois election fraud; and poured oli on the troubled waters of petty bourgeois do-gooders like Matthew Arnold and others by showing a more acceptable face to its insatiable greed for a couple of minutes. But overall it's always been a shitty mess with no genuine interest in people st all, especially in those it screws. Capitalism has never had a genuinely acceptable face from the point  of view of the working class and the sooner we wake up to this and get rid of it the better.  

We've always had revolting nationalism even in 1914 prior to the revolution. For the  working class loves its country and in GB's  case it's queen and will continue to do so till it suddenly realises the appalling con-trick the bourgeois has been playing on it for all these long years with "you've never had it so good" or references from time to time to the system's "unacceptable face" as if nauseous capital could ever be made acceptable to anyone, or given a nice genuine real face even while brandishing weapons of war.

Because  NO. Capitalism at large is total madness. We are crazy to live under it. We are insane!  We are alienated from our very selves and consequently each other. We live in miserably rigidly engineered isolation and loneliness which we are forced to pretend we love. But we don't. We hate and detest it and long  to escape.

Do you think even competitive athletes enjoy taking dangerous drugs just to triumph competitively in some absurd Olympic ritual forgotten after a few weeks?  Of course they don't. But under this dying system everything is  pretend. We live pretend and lying livess, just to keep the system going.  

Is this what populism is? The forced perpetuating of the brave face and pretence.   Vote for Donald Trump and you'll be as rich as he is in no time. Vote for Brexit and get rid of the dirty foreigners stealing your stinking  barely paid job which you loathe anyway.  Vote for Corbyn and he'll secure your pension, which doesn't even buy enough food to live on after a wasted life of horrendously boring paid employ just to secure the absurd mockery of a pittance called an old age pension.

Tiny Rowland was right. Capitalism is all about Xmas Tree Decoratons. 

 

baboon
I don't think that one has to

I don't think that one has to wade through the sewers of "social media" to be disgusted or outraged - the major media outlets do it for me. The "telling response", the emotional riposte, etc., is well integrated into the "discussions" on the major media outlets and they generally not only take us nowhere but draw us into the discussion on the bourgeoisie's terms.

jk1921
Anecdote

Link wrote:

"Mr Flibble.­­

As always the out of touch ruling elite are only concerned with anyone who isn't from this country, we have child poverty increasing and there's also a rising number of child carers who get no state help while they look after sick and disabled parents as well as themselves yet no one from the liberal left gives two s****s about them, all they do is fall over themselves to look more compassionate towards refugees and illegal immigrants while they trample over the homeless while they do.

Disqusted

More hyperbole from the Indy. "Savaged"!
Recent events in Germany, France and Belgium show what happens when there is wholesale onslaught of refugees. Our government needs to put our safety above those of Syrian/Afghanistan or any Muslim refugees

Sober Reflection

Typical lofty disdain by the Elite for the views and wishes of ordinary citizens. Do these people really think that popular opinion is in favour of letting in more migrants?

Jerom

Spot on. Brexit was a clear mandate against migrants.

relate

I cannot believe that The Independent is now starting this campaign, after a number of refugees and immigrants have in the last few weeks attacked random people with a machete, killed one pregnant woman, and attempted a suicide attack and killed more than 80 people in France. We don't want no refugees in the UK, in fact no one wants refugees anywhere. We are 100% sick of this invasion and we want them all to leave.

maxim

Talk for yourself. 

richard1949

perhaps but in my opinion relate is talking for the vast majority of the UK

Charles Ewing

In English we say "speak for yourself".

John Corfield

Dont forget the editor of this digital paper is of Indian heritage.

He has a vested interest in allowing millions into our country of 3rd world immigrants.

 

I know its wrong to take the comments from online papers too seriously but  the above is a section of comments from an article about refugee children not being taken care of that appeared in the independent recently and it just got to me!!.  It exemplifies the revolting nationalism that has come out of the woodwork lately with the referendum, Its appalling awful revolting and totally irrational but it seems to be taking over and its very hard to fight.  People dont listen at all and i know some non-political people that are saying they just darent talk about the world/politics at present for fear of the reactions.  

Reading this i thought that what Id love to see is Fred as editor of something or other in the media giving a real emotional antidote to this garbage.

 

 

Here is an anecdote that demonstrates the obverse of Link's point. I was at a concert last weekend. The audience was mostly of the millennial set. The artist began to talk politics after finishing a song stating that people are always interested in what he thought about the coming elections. Immediately, a voice in the audience shouted out, “FUCK TRUMP!” It wasn't long before a spontaneous chant of “FUCK TRUMP!, FUCK TRUMP!” rang out throughout the audience lasting several minutes. It is tempting to be encouraged by the younger generations' seemingly instinctual revulsion to Trump's politics. But, I couldn't help but be disconcerted by a nagging suspicion that this sentiment is more than just a rejection of one asinine businessman turned politician turned clown. It is a rejection of the cultural construction of working class identity itself. The “working class” has become synonymous with racism, xenophobia, ignorance and intolerance in the neo-liberal cultural/political construction of “working classness.” Its really working class idenity itself that is under assault by the neo-liberal elites, doing their best to tie it to anything and everything socially regressive. This is of course all the more ironic in that the vast majority of the millenial cohort are themselves sociologically proletarian—many experiencing the worst kinds of tenuous or precarious employment--even if they don't know it or recognize it in their self-identities. I can't help but wonder if this is just some reflection of bourgeois ideology or if there is something material or tangible in their material daily lives that leads them to this place? Still, it is remarkable that the spontaneous reaction is “FUCK TRUMP,” not “FUCK THEM ALL,” or still yet “FUCK CAPITALISM.” The bourgeoisie has its boogeyman and the real capitalist politicians will ride him for all he's worth this time around, it seems.

Alf
no, no, no

Sam's one-line scream, even as a joke, is out of order on this site. For one thing, a large part of what the media call the middle class (especially in the USA) is really part of the working class. And for another thing, it has never been the position of the working class to "kill" the intermediate classes, but to win them over to communism. 

Tagore2
What "populism" means

Remplace "Irish proletarians" by "afghan/syrian/immigrant proletarians" in this citation and you can better understand what "populism" means.

Marx wrote:

And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.

This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.

But the evil does not stop here. It continues across the ocean. The antagonism between Englishmen and Irishmen is the hidden basis of the conflict between the United States and England. It makes any honest and serious co-operation between the working classes of the two countries impossible. It enables the governments of both countries, whenever they think fit, to break the edge off the social conflict by their mutual bullying, and, in case of need, by war between the two countries.

Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt In New York, 1870.

I know that the communist left do not like this kind of reasoning. I hope the communist left soon understand that Marx is right on this point.

Quote:

The ordinary English worker hates the foreign worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the foreign worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against the rest of the world, thus strengthening their domination over himself.

Demogorgon
Quote:How chivalrous. I stand

Quote:
How chivalrous. I stand by my comments. Sure, there isn't really a middle class. But there are a lot of workers who think they're bourgeois and wake up everyday to reaffirm this position. I say fuck 'em. You're not going to win them over, they won't give up their (mostly white male) privilege. Look at all the Chomskyites. Trumpists. Democratists. You're never winning that battle. Fuck 'em.

I'm not sure I see the connection between Chomskyites, Trumpists, Democratists and "the middle class".You think we can't persuade those people who actually think there might be something wrong with the system (even if their solutions are barking mad) but can somehow persuade all those who think it'll be great if Hilary gets in? (I'm assuming Democratists doesn't mean "Democrat" here).

But Alf is absolutely right. Calling for the extermination of the middle class (or anybody else for that matter) is opposed to everything communism stands for. It's not even especially original - it's all been done before.

Demogorgon
Which line of reasoning?

Quote:
I know that the communist left do not like this kind of reasoning. I hope the communist left soon understand that Marx is right on this point.

I'm not sure what line of reasoning you're referring to. All Marx does in the passages you quote is point out that workers, in varying degrees, exhibit reactionary views and are often divided on racial or nationalist grounds. Why would we object to this reasoning? It's an empirical fact as several of us have already pointed out.

The question is whether we take the bourgeois point of view that these divisions are based on a fundamental conflict of interest between workers of different racial or national identities or whether we take the Marxist view that these divisions work against the material interests of the proletariat as whole and must be overcome for the proletariat to fight for its own interests.

Demogorgon
The social origins of populism

Quote:
But, I think there is something quite different in how it is playing out politically today in terms of the rise of populism.

I agree this is the fundamental question to understand.

Quote:
Essentially, the "white" or indigenous working-class has been abandoned as a source of political legitimacy by the main factions of the bourgeoisie of all the establishment parties in the epoch of neo-liberalism. The right has been more or less free market fundamentalist--so the working class can fuck itself, while the left has embraced a somewhat milder form of the entreprenurial "risk society," based (supposedly) on a professional meritocracy that is socially liberal, politically progressive and doesn't care about race, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status.

I think there's certainly something in this, although we need to try to understand why this has happened.

It's interesting consider the search for the politically decisive demographic in the UK. Thatcher's elections were won by "Essex Man", the winners (read survivors) of the dramatic restructuring of the working class that began in the 80s. They were the ones that were able to transition into newly proletarianised former professions or became part of the petty bourgeoisie. Later, this demographic revolved in "Mondeo Man" who supposedly won the elections for Blair.

Blair was famous for saying the other parts of the working class, that weren't doing so well, had nowhere else to go so it was essential to concentrate electoral ammunition on the swing voters.

However, I don't think hatred of the working class by the left is either new or is limited to the neoliberal left. I can remember in the mid-90s a friend of mine, who came from a SWP-style left background, saying how the left basically hates the working class because it's racist, used the vote to vote Tory, etc. Union and leftist ideology is also fundamentally based on class-hatred. Hate because the working class is passive, won't support the struggle, etc.; terror that it may struggle independently.

I think the liberal (and neo-liberal) left is really a product of the social stalemate of the class struggle. The ruling class cannot fully abandon its friendly face and fully unleash its worst passions. And, regardless of its current supine state, the working class itself exerts a weight in society. As I said earlier, even when dominated by bourgeois ideology, the working class isn't intellectually passive - it is still a participant in the social intellectual process. And, even beyond its own direct intellectual activity, the situation of the working class, impulses the rest of society. Not only does it form a considerable element of economic, social and intellectual life (even if this life is not a life for itself, to paraphrase Marx) of the social body as a whole simply by existing in the workplace, in the pub, on internet forums, etc. It also impacts on the intellectual life of other classes as well. This is why Marx, Engels, etc. who were hardly workers themselves, nonetheless became the most important articulators of working class consciousness.

The liberal values of tolerance and multiculturalism are partly the product of the proletarian reflex towards solidarity, but filtered through the lens of bourgeois ideology with its revolutionary content stripped out. In the ascendant epoch, this could impulse reformist tendencies within the bourgeoisie itself and give them a progressive content. In the decadent era, however, when reforms are no longer progressive this is no longer the case. These reflexes are thus transformed into weapons against the working class, holding back its struggle and - far more significantly - alienating the proletariat from its own nature as a class.

In the epoch of decomposition, this alienation is particularly destructive. Unable to push forward their own class perspective, workers are pushed into either embracing the totalitarian liberal tolerance or resisting it and falling under the sway of the openly reactionary ideologies. And because both are predicated on this alienation from its own class nature, it has serious implications for the future development of class consciousness.

Factions of the bourgeoisie embrace these values, not simply from "machiavellian" motives to corral the proletariat (although this is undoubtedly a factor at particular moments) but also because they chime with the (formerly) progressive elements of capitalism - the principle of the equivalence of labour time has a tendency to break down all differentials between workers.

However, there are also other tendencies in the economic structure of capitalism today that work against the working class. In earlier phases, mechanisation created a general deskilling of labour in comparison to the pre-capitalist artisan era. This had the effect of reducing differentials within the working class. I am no longer convinced this is the case today. Labour is no longer being deskilled but being completely eliminated in growing parts of the production process. Unskilled labour is more and more superflouous for capitalism which hungers instead for skilled labour. In many respects, this is a natural outcome of the growth of the productive forces which, in capitalism, advances through the accumulation cycle, crisis in particular offering an incentive to improve productive methods. Now, however, the tendency is becoming more and more universal.

The secular implications of this are considerable, but the immediate social impact is visible in the growing "lumpenised" element of the working class - essentially the ones who, for whatever reason, do not respond well to the bourgeoisie's educational techniques - who are forced to scratch a living from state handouts and irregular work. This layer can only grow with time, becoming utterly and permanently redundant for capital, and isolated from what remains of the traditional working class (with stable jobs, better standard of living, etc.).

There is a subjective element here, as well. For the "immigrant" workers, usually from less developed parts of the global economy, things don't appear so bad in the metropoles. The same is true of the more recently proletarianised workers in the newly industrialised areas like China. For them, there is still the illusion of progress and, therefore, still some elements of what you might call working-class "virtues": hard work, solidarity, dignity, etc. It's no accident that the working class in the developing countries display far more militancy than is common in the metropoles. The latter - and especially the lumpenised elements of the indigenous workforce - the experience is different:  one of being stripped of dignity and self-respect and irreversible, remorseless decline with no way out. The toxic effects on the working class and wider society are obvious.

Postscript: Since drafting the above, I saw this. Again, it seems to point to a growing layer that have no stake in bourgeois society but are on the fringes of the working class as well. On the other hand, I also saw this. The form of populism around Brexit does not seem to follow a mechanical relationship with deprivation, so it cannot simply be reduced to this.

MH
Marx's "reasoning"

Tagore2 wrote:

I know that the communist left do not like this kind of reasoning. I hope the communist left soon understand that Marx is right on this point.

It’s not that we “don’t like” it Tagore, but your selective quote from a letter by Marx does not show his "reasoning" on this question. Marx’s only concern as an active revolutionary in the First International was how to remove the barriers to the unification of the working class imposed by capitalism, which is why he supported the independence of Ireland from Britain. We don’t believe this particular demand is still progressive due to changes in capitalism in the 20th century, but his concern is still absolutely valid. What is your own proposal to unite workers today in the face of populism, or are you arguing that this is not possible?

Tagore2
The ordinary English worker hates

Quote:

The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life.

This is not an mere ideological hatred, but a hatred determined by economic rivalry: refugees proletarians put pressure on wages of unskilled professions. "Populism" is inevitable in this part of the population that is:

  • relatively poor at the national level,
  • relatively rich at the world level.

But if you agree with the fact that the populist ideology -- like all ideologies -- is actually based on specific economic reasons, then we agree and that's fine. I said that because I have met fierce opposition to this kind of reasoning in another group of the communist left.

Demogorgon
Opposition

I think the problem, Tagore, is that you give the impression that this is a natural state of affairs and that there is no basis for unity between the different sets of workers. If you are saying this, then naturally left communists will oppose it because it is simply repeating the ideological premises of the bourgeoisie.

That there are material differences between different groups of workers is not at issue. As I said above, that's simple fact. Moreover, workers are set in competition with each other at all times within the capitalist framework. his is a basic fact of day-to-day life in capitalism. Workers have to compete with each other individually for jobs, upgrades, etc. I am in competition with thousands of other workers who could easily do my job every single day! And we're all continually told to work harder so that the company doesn't get put out of business by the competition or that the country doesn't lose the global race. Competition is a fact of life for workers and capitalists in capitalism. Nationalism, racism, etc. are the products of this material reality.

But none of this prevents the working class being a potentially revolutionary force because its nature produces counter-tendencies that, in certain circumstances, overcome the tendencies towards fragmentation. This is why workers were able to form unions in the 19th century that, at first sight, appeared to be against each worker's individual economic interest because they had to give up wages to fund them. Strikes are even more bizarre - give up wages to get higher wages? Risk the collapse of the company so you lose your jobs? When you think about it from the bourgeois perspective the working class is utterly insane!

So the question is what political lessons do we draw from these circumstances. Do we advocate, for example, the idea that immigrant workers have fundamentally different interests to indigenous workers? No. Because that is exactly what the bourgeoisie wants us to think. It reinforces the arguments of bourgeois sociologists that workers do, indeed, have good reason to be agrieved about immigration and smuggles in the idea that parts of the working class is, in fact, inherently reactionary. It promotes suspicion between groups of workers.

In the quote you provide, Marx makes the point that these divisions are "artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes". There's no need for communists to help them.

Immigrant workers and indigenous workers, in spite of variations in their relative standard of living, nonetheless have a common enemy in the exploitation of the bourgeoisie. They have a common interest in overthrowing capitalism and creating a communist society.

The fundamental question that we're trying to get a handle on here, is how these tendencies (universal to capitalism in all epochs) are being expressed in the current period (for us, a period of decomposition) and what they tell us about the future of the capitalist system and the class struggle. For us, there is a real threat that the tendencies to fragmentation in the working class - based on material factors, but also with a strong ideological component - may overwhelm the tendencies to unity. If that happens, then the prospect for revolution is done for, quite possibly permanently.

Tagore2
Naturally, the independence

Naturally, the independence of Ireland is now an aberration.

Quote:
What is your own proposal to unite workers today in the face of populism, or are you arguing that this is not possible?

This is the question I ask myself, but today I do not see a solution. I don't know.

jk1921
White Van Man

Demogorgon wrote:

It's interesting consider the search for the politically decisive demographic in the UK. Thatcher's elections were won by "Essex Man", the winners (read survivors) of the dramatic restructuring of the working class that began in the 80s. They were the ones that were able to transition into newly proletarianised former professions or became part of the petty bourgeoisie. Later, this demographic revolved in "Mondeo Man" who supposedly won the elections for Blair. Blair was famous for saying the other parts of the working class, that weren't doing so well, had nowhere else to go so it was essential to concentrate electoral ammunition on the swing voters.

Is it fair to say Brexit was won by "White Van Man"? One artice you link to at the bottom of your post would seem to problematize that narrative, but is there a link between the populist upsurge and this demographic? If so, is it something in their material circumstances--how they are experiencing neo-liberal captialism that is driving it? Interestingly, the populist narrative does not seem to have taken root in Scotland to the same extent as south of Hadrian's Wall? Why is that? Are there different material circumstances or just a different ideological stew? Is Scottish workers flight from Labour to the SNP a function of populism or something else? There are obviously nationalist impulses being played to here, but isn't the SNP's ideology something like social democracy rather than right wing populism?

Demogorgon wrote:

However, I don't think hatred of the working class by the left is either new or is limited to the neoliberal left. I can remember in the mid-90s a friend of mine, who came from a SWP-style left background, saying how the left basically hates the working class because it's racist, used the vote to vote Tory, etc. Union and leftist ideology is also fundamentally based on class-hatred. Hate because the working class is passive, won't support the struggle, etc.; terror that it may struggle independently.

It may be true that functionaries of left bourgeois parties have felt disadin toward the working class in the past, but at the very least they still had to present themselves as the party of the working class fighting for its interests. This seems less and less the case today as the bourgeois left parties become more and more the party of the professional intelligentsia and educated. Today, more and more the language of the working class is being taken up by the right wing parties--witness the odd sight in the US Presidential election campaign of Trump's anti-trade discourse marketed towards the industrial rust belt, while Hillary courts the business establishment. However, the bourgeois left still markets itself as the party of the socially marginalized--but this is increasingly defined in terms of racial or ethnic identity, immigation status or gender-identity status (identity politics). In fact, in US political discourse--African-Americans and Hispanics have no class identity--they are defined by their race or ethinicty and that only. "Working-class" refers only to non-college educated whites--which also misses the many educated workers (still subject to all the conditions of wage labour) who are increasingly subsumbed under the category of "professionals."

Demogorgon wrote:

The liberal values of tolerance and multiculturalism are partly the product of the proletarian reflex towards solidarity, but filtered through the lens of bourgeois ideology with its revolutionary content stripped out. In the ascendant epoch, this could impulse reformist tendencies within the bourgeoisie itself and give them a progressive content. In the decadent era, however, when reforms are no longer progressive this is no longer the case. These reflexes are thus transformed into weapons against the working class, holding back its struggle and - far more significantly - alienating the proletariat from its own nature as a class.

In the epoch of decomposition, this alienation is particularly destructive. Unable to push forward their own class perspective, workers are pushed into either embracing the totalitarian liberal tolerance or resisting it and falling under the sway of the openly reactionary ideologies. And because both are predicated on this alienation from its own class nature, it has serious implications for the future development of class consciousness.

Factions of the bourgeoisie embrace these values, not simply from "machiavellian" motives to corral the proletariat (although this is undoubtedly a factor at particular moments) but also because they chime with the (formerly) progressive elements of capitalism - the principle of the equivalence of labour time has a tendency to break down all differentials between workers.

However, there are also other tendencies in the economic structure of capitalism today that work against the working class. In earlier phases, mechanisation created a general deskilling of labour in comparison to the pre-capitalist artisan era. This had the effect of reducing differentials within the working class. I am no longer convinced this is the case today. Labour is no longer being deskilled but being completely eliminated in growing parts of the production process. Unskilled labour is more and more superflouous for capitalism which hungers instead for skilled labour. In many respects, this is a natural outcome of the growth of the productive forces which, in capitalism, advances through the accumulation cycle, crisis in particular offering an incentive to improve productive methods. Now, however, the tendency is becoming more and more universal.

The secular implications of this are considerable, but the immediate social impact is visible in the growing "lumpenised" element of the working class - essentially the ones who, for whatever reason, do not respond well to the bourgeoisie's educational techniques - who are forced to scratch a living from state handouts and irregular work. This layer can only grow with time, becoming utterly and permanently redundant for capital, and isolated from what remains of the traditional working class (with stable jobs, better standard of living, etc.).

There is a subjective element here, as well. For the "immigrant" workers, usually from less developed parts of the global economy, things don't appear so bad in the metropoles. The same is true of the more recently proletarianised workers in the newly industrialised areas like China. For them, there is still the illusion of progress and, therefore, still some elements of what you might call working-class "virtues": hard work, solidarity, dignity, etc. It's no accident that the working class in the developing countries display far more militancy than is common in the metropoles. The latter - and especially the lumpenised elements of the indigenous workforce - the experience is different:  one of being stripped of dignity and self-respect and irreversible, remorseless decline with no way out. The toxic effects on the working class and wider society are obvious.

 

There is alot of importance in the sociological analysis you give here. Neo-liberal captialism needs skilled labour--but it doesn't need more skilled labourers. There is a group of winners here--those with the right technical skills to particiapte in the high tech sectors, but increasingly captialism can not even integrate all of these proletarians. Thus, we get another feature of the neo-liberal economy--which seems new to me--of a group of highly educated workers (many of them young), who simply cannot find stable employment. There is a crisis of unemployment, underemloyment, tenous/precarious employment today that belies the liberal myth of meritocracy. However, it seems that this is the demographic group that is most attracted to liberal universalist discourse that situates socially progressive goals of common humanity above the interests of a particular class identity. In fact, this group often seems to eschew the material concerns of the working-class as something like a defense of "white privilege." I wonder if this has anything to do with material circumstances? The fact that this group has no real accumulated material interests to protect (they generally aren't home owners), so they are attracted to universalist language?

On the other hand, the demographic most attracted to populism does seem to be the white working class (many older), who have a memory of the material benefits of the Fordist era and who still have some material interests to defend. They tend to be home owners. They have seen their "equity" swing back and forth with the vicissitues of the markets. They have seen their living conditions decline with what they perceive to be the effects of immigration, etc. Increasingly, they are priced out of post-WWII commuter suburbs and move to exurbs, their place taken in the closer in areas by immigrants who resort to "unconventional" living arrangements to survive the spiralling cost of living (i.e. multiple families occuying single family homes, etc.) This is perceived by the white working class as an attack on their living conditions and their anger is ripe to exploited by the populist right wing, becasue the bourgeois left won't go there.

Fred
the remorseless decline with no way out

So doom and gloom definitely seem the order of the day. Yippee we're all going to die. Or at least stew in our own highly individualised juices. The remorseless decline with no way out blah blah blah. It's being so miserable as keeps me going. 

However I know Marxists have to tell it like it is. It's their duty. But with so much relish? Does the relish stem from Populism too? And we have to be with the trend?