Bourgeois-proletariat in Engels and Lenin's texts

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Tagore2
Bourgeois-proletariat in Engels and Lenin's texts
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Hello,

I'm a french communist and I wish to discuss this question here because the french forum is closed.

Not to discuss in the wind, there are the texts that deal with the issue:

Preface to the Second German Edition of the Condition of the Working Class in England by Frederick Engels

Imperialism and the Split in Socialism by Lenin

Parasitism and decay of capitalism, 8e chapter of "Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism" by Lenin

Thesis:

  1. From 1848, a bourgeois-proletariat grows in industrial countries. According to Engels, we find this bourgeois-proletariat especially among the industrial workers and the unionized workers. Since then we can add public servants, intellectual workers and all workers who earn significantly higher wages than the average. In front of the mass of the proletariat, this proletariat is a minority.

  2.  From the imperialism beginning, not only this proletariat is favored, but it also earns a part of the surplus profits by the imperialist capitalists. So for a same work, they earn a higher (purchasing power parity) wage, only because they are American/European/Japan workers, and not Indian/African/Chinese workers. Imperialist capitalists buy social peace with surplus profits.

  3. This proletariat is opportunistic. It allies with the bourgeoisie of its country against other proletarians (Engels) and against the bourgeoisie of other countries (Lenin). It participates in all the sacred unions, for the imperialist wars and against the civil war. It is reformist, nationalist, and counter-revolutionary. He thinks only of increasing its wages, not of abolishing the wage system. It is obviously against immigration, and for the privileges given by nationality, numerus clausus and degrees.

I add the bureaucratic rulers in USSR were bourgeois-proletariat: employees, but exploiting the rest of proletariat like a true bourgeoisie.

Why has marxist bourgeois-proletariat theory been forgotten? Because most of the “western communists” are bourgeois-proletariat, and want only to improve their “national” situation. They say: “we must not divide the proletariat”, but in fact, they only care about their national and corporate business. They yell: “Hurray! We keep a salary of PPP $2000 / month!” but they do not care about those who earn PPP $800 or less, abroad.

They replaced the marxist theory by the idealistic theory that “the bourgeoisie persuades the proletariat to be opportunistic/ nationalist/ reformist with its propaganda”. If this theory was correct, how to explain why the class struggle is much harder in poor countries such as South Africa or India than in rich countries such as USA or France? How to explain the 90% proletariat (rich) countries are less revolutionary than the 10-15% proletariat (poor) countries?

They totally forget that the bourgeois order is not protected directly through the bourgeoisie but by special proletarians: police, military, judges, etc. They totally forget that the bourgeoisie does not grant democracy only when it is sure to win the elections, either because the country is predominantly peasant and petty bourgeois (India) or because the majority of the proletariat is bourgeois (Europe). In other cases, there is no democracy.

The bourgeois-proletariat is the shield of the bourgeoisie. Sometimes it's his sword. If we want to destroy bourgeoisie, we must destroy bourgeois-proletariat. All our efforts should be concentrated in the mass of the proletariat, not in its surface which is sold to the bourgeoisie. This means in particular that 90% of resources of western communists need to be reoriented to propaganda in industrial poor countries.

Demogorgon
The English forum isn't

The English forum isn't closed officially, but the activity of the ICC on here is extremely limited, so a substantial reply might not be forthcoming for a while.

In the meantime, here's an article written in the 80s which critiques the idea of the "labour aristocracy":

The ‘labour aristocracy’: a sociological theory to divide the working class

Apologies if you've already read it. If you want to read it in French, you can find it in the French edition of International Review 25.

It's worth considering for a moment, though, how often the idea of labour aristocracy is used by the bourgeoisie to directly attacks groups of striking workers. The oil workers in Venezuela under Chavez, the copper workers in Chile under Allende, etc. were all characterised as "privileged workers", often in the pay of foreign powers, in order to justify brutal repression.

In the UK, today's "overprivileged" workers are those in the public sector who supposedly have much better wages and conditions than everybody else. They're also probably the group most willing to go on strike against the state to defend their conditions which seems odd if they're supposed to be its most reactionary servants.

baboon
Air France pilot's strike

Added to the text of Demo on the historical nature of the questionj of labour aristocracy, an application of this analysis can be seen in Revolution Internationale number 449 - the current issue - on the question of the pilot's strike at Air France. The bosses want to bring in new wages and conditions by settiing up "low cost" alternatives and the pilots have resisted this with a well-supported strike. Against this they have been denounced by the media as "privileged" and being "well-paid" and "greedy". They have also been attacked for threatening the national interest and the "economic recovery". Every time a group of workers - and pilots are workers getting above average pay - go on strike, the bourgeoisie attacks them for being "greedy", "wreckers" and, God forbid if they already earning more than the minimum wage, then they are "privileged" and outside of the working class.

The trade unions mirror these attacks perfectly by presenting some, most workers as "special cases" - particularly when they are on strike (all the better to isolate them). In the airline business in Britain the unions have been instrument in dividing workers at different airports, presenting some as "special cases",  and thus differentiating and reducing their pay and conditions with ever-lower standards and pay down to the "low cost" airlines. The unions here have even introduced lower pay and conditions for the same workers doing the same jobs at the same airports in this concerted attack on pay and conditions. It's this activity that the French pilots are fighting against because the wages and conditions of all the workers, not just those flying the planes, will be hit. And in order to further divide the working class other workers are put forward as "special cases" - nurses for example who are portrayed as "deserving".. 

The idea that there are "real workers" on one side and privileged ones on the other is very dangerious for the unity of the working class. For decades white collar workers have been presented as outside the working class, as "privileged" elements. We can see the stark truth in that today as they are affected by unemployment, wage cuts, rising debt, uncertainty, just like everyone other woker..

 

Tagore2
The ‘labour aristocracy’

Thank you very much, I didn’t read this.

Here are the arguments of the article:

_ Enemies of the proletariat have used this theory.

This argument is invalid. Enemies of the proletariat have used all kinds of theories, true and false, in their own interest. The Stalinists used the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Is this theory therefore false?

_ The working class is divided only when submitted by the bourgeoisie, it is united in the struggle.

This is false. The working class is divided even during the struggle. Even at the top of the class struggle during the revolution, part of the proletariat is on the side of the bourgeoisie, and fight against the mass of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie is never fighting itself against the proletariat, it uses armies, police, and fascists whose come from the bourgeois-proletariat. Do you seriously believe that the higher wages in the imperialist countries, the almost-prohibition of the immigration, the chauvinism and the opportunism of the proletariat are a coincidence?

_ The living conditions of the working class become uniform.

This is totally false. Executives, engineers, doctors, professors, officers have a standard of living incomparably higher than the unqualified proletarian of slums. Yet they are proletarians. Unqualified Australian proletarian earns 10x the unqualified Indian proletarian (purchasing power parity) wage, and yet he works less. No wonder he is against immigration, against equality and against communism. International revolution means to him global equality, therefore a reduction in their standard of living; that is why it is one with “its” bourgeoisie and “its” nation, to defend its position in the international imperialist competition. How do you explain that the workers vote for chauvinists in the imperialist countries? “Propaganda”, yet? No economic reasons?

The article quotes the Manifesto to support his claim. This quotation is amiss, as Engels explains that Marx and him changed their opinion exactly on this issue after 1848, in 1892 preface of Condition of the Working Class and other articles and letters. Engels says in black and white that it was true before 1848, but false after for English proletariat, because of the industrial and colonial monopoles of England on the world. Lenin only generalized the question for imperialism that is the monopolies rule.

_ Reject bourgeois-proletariat returns to reject Marxist intellectuals.

It is neither in the conception of Marx, nor in that of Engels, nor in that of Lenin. The Lenin's position on Marxist intellectuals is very clear (“What is to be done?” 1902). Bourgeois-proletariat theory isn't “ouvrierist”.

_ Engels admits only a labor aristocracy among the “more or less artisans with individual skills and corpor­ate concerns”, “in the early years of capitalism”.

This is a huge misunderstanding. Who can read the exact quotation admit that Engels speaks of modern industrial workers, not artisans.

"Secondly, the great Trades Unions. They are the organisations of those trades in which the labour of Grown-up men predominates, or is alone applicable. Here the competition neither of women and children nor of machinery has so far weakened their organised strength. The engineers, the carpenters and joiners, the bricklayers, are each of them a power, to that extent that, as in the case of the bricklayers and bricklayers’ labourers, they can even successfully resist the introduction of machinery. That their condition has remarkably improved since 1848 there can be no doubt, and the best proof of this is in the fact that for more than fifteen years not only have their employers been with them, but they with their employers, upon exceedingly good terms. They form an aristocracy among the working class; they have succeeded in enforcing for themselves a relatively comfortable position, and they accept it as final. They are the model working men of Messrs. Leone Levi & Giffen (and also the worthy Lujo Brentano), and they are very nice people indeed nowadays to deal with, for any sensible capitalist in particular and for the whole capitalist class in general."

http://marxistsfr.org/archive/marx/works/1892/07/21.htm

etc.

"question of the pilot's strike at Air France"

Excellent example! The wage struggle of airline pilots!

But above all, how much was the wage of pilots before the strike? Seriously, if you do not speak of wages, it makes any sens to talk of a strike for wages.

To convince you, I ask you to do a little thought experiment. First of all, ask yourself how much should gain an airline pilot, if we make the revolution after tomorrow. Should he earns twice what does a mere worker? Four times? What would be the economic relationship between the basic worker and the airline pilot?

Now learn how earns an airline pilot. €96000/year for beginner, €156000/year for senior, 2012 Air France – after tax. The poor! With one senior pilot wage, I can pay 80 Egyptian workers.

What is the fair wage for an airline pilot? 90 Egyptian wages? 100 Egyptian wages?

Tagore2
My post is in the moderation

My post is in the moderation box: we must wait.

radicalchains
?

Ok Tagore. So what is your idea of class struggle and revolution then?

Tagore2
90% of propaganda resources

90% of propaganda resources for 90% of proletariat mass, lower and average level. Only 10% for high level. This, at the world scale.

What is average level?

Household final consumption was, in 2012, (PPP) ≈$51,231,820,857,469.

World population was ≈7,043,105,591.

Therefore the average consumption per capita was: (PPP) ≈$7274 per year.

But attention! Only ≈46% of people earn money with their job, or are included in labor force!

Therefore labor force earn (PPP) ≈$15619 per capita in average, including unemployed, but with this it must support their families and generally non-workers (children, old persons, sick persons, etc.). This is the “super gross income” by year.

http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/variableselection/selectvariables.aspx?source=world-development-indicators#s_l

However, many proletarians do not earn even what average income, despite the grinding poverty of the peasantry which lowers the average. The priority is therefore to propagate communism in that stratum of the proletariat, because it has an objective interest in communism, a material interest. Thus this proletariat will be for equality, for the revolution, and communism will spread among them for purely economic reasons.

Of course, other sections of the proletariat may be revolutionaries. Skilled workers are better organized, more intelligent, and have a more important role in the economic apparatus. In addition, their wages may be relatively low in some countries. Therefore it is entirely possible to unite the unqualified and qualified proletariat in the Soviets to do the revolution. But beware: from a certain income level, skilled workers (or imperialist countries workers) have no more economic interest in the revolution, they will be driven to compromise with the bourgeoisie, and even do an alliance with it. The bourgeoisie will seek to corrupt this special stratum of the proletariat and this is already the case in many countries for many proletarians.

Minimum claims

_ All proletarians must earn at least the average world income.

_ If the proletarians are already earning the average income or more, it is acceptable that they ask 20% more, to raise the average.

_ If the proletarians are skilled workers, it is acceptable that they ask 50% more, due to the relationship between supply and demand for skilled labor. But this departure from the principle of equality is a concession to the situation in which skilled workers have an advantage in the job market. The goal of communism is obviously there is no more completely unqualified workers. Above 50%, there is a risk that qualified workers are detached from their class, makes separate claims and eventually combine with the bourgeoisie and oppose themselves to the mass of the proletariat.

_ The proletarians of poor countries must have the right to immigrate to the rich countries, in order to receive a higher wage. Opponents of immigration are our enemies. Ideally, one should drown them in the Mediterranean, lose them in the Mexican desert, as they do for our comrades. But as it is not possible, we must be content to defend the rights of immigrants and propagate communism among them.

_ Abolition of numerus clausus, degrees, and replace them by standard tests that all workers can try without restrictions. Numerus clausus and degrees create bourgeois-proletariat. Education grant for all proletarians, that can be spent in any school. Strict separation between education and qualification (schools must not qualify their students: this creates servility and poor culture). Freedom to teach and learn: minimize the intervention of the state and the bourgeois in schools and test institutions. Meanwhile, limit the culture access restrictions like nationality, degrees, ages, long working hours...

Maximum claims

Maximum claims include the World planning of the workforce, including immigration and education. It is part of the World Economic Planning claim, and the abolition of wage system's claim. The workers below the world average income will agree. The bourgeois-proletariat will not agree.

Where is the mass of proletariat? Mainly in poor countries. Therefore, the majority of the propaganda must be done over there. This is not because we live in France, Britain or in the United States that the majority of our resources must be oriented in such countries here.

How to contact the proletarians of poor countries, if we live in rich countries? By communicating with revolutionary activists in these countries. The fact that we do not agree with them does not matter, the goal is to have contacts. Then spend limited agreements on propaganda, set common goals to start working.

What kind of work can we accomplish? According to Lenin, two kinds of work:

_ “Propaganda”: proletarians have they access to Marxist works in their languages? If not, we have to fund the translation of these works. We need to establish a list of books to be translated as a priority, according to their importance and (obviously) the translation cost.

_ “Agitation”: by the propaganda, we must to expand our contact network to disseminate our ideas in popular form, especially during labor movements.

First, it is certain that the contacts will not integrate ICC. This is a very good thing: those who are not convinced by the ICC ideas must not to go in it. Communist must be able to work with a non-communist, if he/she actually works for the revolution. Translate Marxist texts, disseminating communist ideas is revolutionary. We will apply the slogan: “march separately, strike together”.

But then, if our ideas are correct, more and more proletarians will be convinced by our agitation and our propaganda. Then we can build new sections in foreign countries, and increase the International.

PS: Attention! I'm not saying that we should abandon propaganda in rich countries.

Alf
different conceptions

Tagore, I dont know your past political history, but I think we have deep differences on the nature of the proletariat, on internationalism, and on what we mean by communism. Communism only makes sense as the movement for the abolition of wage labour, so your 'minimum' programme of 'levelling out' wages is inside the horizon of capitalism and will not lead to the 'maximum' goal of a society free from wage labour. 

I agree with other comrades who have argued that your theoretical method tends to reinforce divisions in the international working class rather than combating them. 

I can't say more at the moment but I am certainly in favour of deepening this discussion. 

Tagore2
Tactic vs theory

My message is still in moderation box.

You may not agree with the theory but agree with the tactic. Or alternatively agree with the theory but disagreed with the tactic.

In the near future, you will see my tactical conclusions, just above this message. Notice I already put them into practice, but personally I would like them to be applied more systematically.

Demogorgon
"This argument is invalid.

"This argument is invalid. Enemies of the proletariat have used all kinds of theories, true and false, in their own interest. The Stalinists used the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Is this theory therefore false?"

From a point of purely formal logic, this is correct, but behind it stands a more important question. But first, let's briefly consider your example. The Stalinist's didn't use the Marxist theory of the dictatorship of proletariat, although they adopted its terms. But while it used Marxist terms and frames of reference its theoretical content was to justify the massive expansion of the state in direct opposition to the Marxist principles which called for a lessening of the state. In other words, the Stalinist theory was the direct opposite of the one elucidated by previous Marxists.

The more important question here - which I don't unfortunately have time to provide an answer to! - is can the genuine acquisitions of proletarian class consciousness be used against the working class without being distorted from their original content?

"This is false. The working class is divided even during the struggle. Even at the top of the class struggle during the revolution, part of the proletariat is on the side of the bourgeoisie, and fight against the mass of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie is never fighting itself against the proletariat, it uses armies, police, and fascists whose come from the bourgeois-proletariat. Do you seriously believe that the higher wages in the imperialist countries, the almost-prohibition of the immigration, the chauvinism and the opportunism of the proletariat are a coincidence?"

Again, I don't this stacks up. Firstly, we don't consider the police to be part of the proletariat at all. The army is more problematic, but historically the ruling class is very nervous about sending out the army to deal with proletarian revolts as they have the unfortunate habit of joining in. The bourgeois army at the "top of the class struggle" in Russia and Germany disintegrated and joined the revolution.

That's not to say that some workers don't join the forces of reaction at certain points in history. But where is your evidence that these are drawn from the "richest" workers or that these "rich" workers are always reactionary? Nor have you demonstrated that workers in the rich countries (all countries are imperialist) are any more against immigration, prone to chauvanism and opportunism than workers in poor countries.

"This is totally false. Executives, engineers, doctors, professors, officers have a standard of living incomparably higher than the unqualified proletarian of slums. Yet they are proletarians."

Why do you think all these elements are proletarians? The definition of a proletarian is fairly simple:

  • produces surplus value in that he produces more value than the reproduction of his labour power is worth and this surplus is appropriated by another;
  • has his means of labour controlled by this other party;
  • has his actual labour directed by another party in a factory form (not necessarily in an actual factory), with labour compartmentalised and rationalised.

Exactly how much someone is paid is not the principle factor. It is possible for a particular profession to be paid exceedingly well in comparison to others and still be producing surplus value. Similarly, others may be paid far less but not necessarily be proletarians either because they don't generate surplus value or because they have control over their own labour or its execution.

Engineers and doctors may or may not fit this definition. For example, a hospital doctor who works under the direction of consultants is a proletarian. A General Practioner who (in the UK at least) owns his own practice (or a bit of it) with a market guaranteed by the state is not. Executives, on the other hand, control the direction of a particular company and are not proletarians at all. They are most likely bourgeois even if their appropriation of surplus value takes the outward form of a "salary". But again, this is because their main function is to direct the functioning of the economic apparatus not simply because they are highly paid (although this is also a factor).

You don't seem to consider the question of skilled labour in a theoretical sense at all. I make no claim to be an expert on this, but taking the example again of airline pilots it costs tens of thousands to qualify. To gain the 200 or so minimum flying hours necessary for an airline flight costs around £20,000 ... that doesn't include the training! Engels makes the point in Anti-Duhring that in a society where the costs of training are borne by the individual, it is natural that those individuals also accrue a higher compensation as a result. Necessary, in fact, if that skilled labour is to be reproduced in a capitalist system.

"With one senior pilot wage, I can pay 80 Egyptian workers."

You don't specify what sort of workers, skilled or unskilled, so it's difficult to know exactly what your point is here. Are you trying to argue that because Egyptian workers are paid less than airline pilots, that the latter aren't real workers? Or is it more about skilled workers in general?

As a matter of interest, I did a little research and my back of the envelope calculation works out that the average monthly wage in Egypt is roughly around £256 a month. Rent for a room in a shared house, the absolute minimum to live independently (i.e. not with parents, etc.) in my small city in the UK is around £400 - £500 a month. In other words, a Western worker would be homeless on that nominal wage. Yes, workers in the West formally appear to be paid more and in many respects have a better standard of living but many basic items also cost more as well, so the gap isn't quite as significant as you might think.

The point here is about what drives the value of labour power which comes down to what a worker needs to reproduce his labour, not the numbers that appear on his wage slip. And this isn't simply a question of the simple material survival of the human body to labour on for our masters ... Marx makes this point explicitly in capital: "His natural wants, such as food, clothing, fuel, and housing, vary according to the climatic and other physical conditions of his country. On the other hand, the number and extent of his so-called necessary wants, as also the modes of satisfying them, are themselves the product of historical development, and depend therefore to a great extent on the degree of civilisation of a country, more particularly on the conditions under which, and consequently on the habits and degree of comfort in which, the class of free labourers has been formed. In contradistinction therefore to the case of other commodities, there enters into the determination of the value of labour-power a historical and moral element. Nevertheless, in a given country, at a given period, the average quantity of the means of subsistence necessary for the labourer is practically known."

Given that capitalism has not, as yet, completely homogenised the general living conditions of the global proletariat there is great divergence in the aspects of the historical-moral element that governs the value (let alone the price!) of labour power in the various countries. And, of course, capitalism has depended on this divergence ever since it began to export itself from the main countries in search of new flesh to exploit.

So while I feel compelled to apologise for the long theoretical excursion I've taken here, it's important because it shows that making simplistic comparisons on earnings from one country to the next has nothing in common with Marx's method. It certainly doesn't go anywhere to demonstrating from a Marxist point of view that "well-off" workers are any less exploited than those elsewhere. And even if this was so, you've yet to demonstrate your claims that these workers are more reactionary than their 2nd and 3rd world brothers and sisters.

jk1921
I don't know about the entire

I don't know about the entire labour aristocracy argument, which seems rather passe at the moment, but I think its clear that there are powerful and potent divisions within the proletariat. The question for me is whether or not these divisions arise from some material cause or are purely ideological distrations. The specific issue I am most familiar with is the anti-immigrant bent of many white workers in the "global north." Does this arise from some material--however ultimately shortsighted--interest to preserve a certain standard of living against wage deflation from immigrants or is purely an ideological pathology? This raises the issue of what exactly white workers get out of being anti-immigrant other than something like what Roediger called a "psychic wage." Anything at all?

Tagore2
Chauvinism is economic, not ideological

> Nor have you demonstrated that workers in the rich countries (all countries are imperialist) are any more against immigration, prone to chauvinism and opportunism than workers in poor countries.

Lenin made the connection between the opportunism of the Second International and the development of bourgeois-proletariat. In retrospect, we can explain the victory of the Bolshevik Party in Russia by the relatively less important development of the bourgeois-proletariat in this country.

A more recent evidence is the incredible popularity of nationalist parties among European workers. In a recent survey, 43% of french workers voted FN at the last European elections. Why this is the workers, not managers or liberals who voted FN? This seems at odds with the Marxist theory. In reality it is not. Executives and liberals are protected from the immigration competition with their degrees. Unskilled or low-skilled workers are not. That is why they are against the immigration.

> The definition of a proletarian is fairly simple etc.

You make a mistake: all proletarians do not produce surplus value. A bank employee does not produce surplus value. A seller does not produce surplus value: it only change the form of value without increasing it (Capital, Book 2, Chapter 6, The Costs of Circulation). And yet a seller is a proletarian.

But the exact definition of the proletariat does not matter here. What I mean is that some employees have objective reasons to oppose themself to the mass of the proletariat. If the wage is PPP $25,000 in France for unskilled labor, and PPP $7,000 in Egypt, an Egyptian immigrant may accept a wage of PPP $12,000 in France, making it still an increase. Note that we are talking in terms of Purchasing Power Parity; nominally, the salary of Egyptian workers may be $ 3000 only.

Therefore many french unskilled worker become chauvinists, they hate illegal immigrants who sell their labor force at $12,000, when they want to sell his force to $25,000. Conversely, the Egyptian worker has an objective interest in emigrating to increase his real wage. Their interests are antagonistic, especially at a communist point of view, since in any case we can not accept that a proletarian has a higher wage, only because its nationality is the “right”.

Here is prices and earnings report of UBS.

You can see than a construction worker earn net $2200 in Cairo, and net $28600 in London (p. 36).

You can calculate than a construction worker earn net PPP $5300 in Cairo, and PPP $33000 in London (Purchasing Power Parity).

But beyond the theory, I'd like to get your opinion on the tactic that I proposed in my previous post. This is the most important.

mikail firtinaci
Even though I agree with the

Even though I agree with the spirit of ICCs rejection of the theory of labor aristocracy, I also think that Tagore 2 has a point and that ICCs article contains historical-factual errors.

First, Lenin did not develop this theory; it was Pannekoek's. In his "tactical differences in workers' strugge", which aimed to explain the divisions inside the Dutch party from a theoretical point in 1909 Pannekoek came to the conclusion that due their organizations and social status a segment of workers in Europe mainly became less enthusiastic about the idea of an immediate revolution. This was not wholly wrong. Social democratic movement was already degenerating and even in the US there were similar tensions between immigrant workers who were turning their face to the IWW and more "aristocratic" workers. For Pannekoek trade union institution (as the name implies) strengthened this division inside the working class.

We know that Lenin closely followed Pannekoek and appreciated his criticisms. His "ingenuity" was in tying this argument to the theory of imperialism. The problem is Leninists fell into a sociologism trap, showing an incapacity to understand the role of trade unions in this relation. Yes there is a labor aristocracy, but it neither means there are internally antagonistic interests among different layers of workers nor this "aristocracy" was composed of scattered individuals.

Labor aristocracy (in my view) do exist but it organizes and expresses itself in trade unions. In fact today skilled workers are under a more severe threat than unskilled workers with deskilling of even traditionally skilled office works as well as industrial work. In fact in some cases you can see unskilled workers earning more or at least equal pay compared to workers who can traditionally be considered as "skilled". A typical teacher in Turkey (where I know better) with university degree and etc earns less than an unskilled metal or auto factory worker who may be working on an assembly line.

Today capitalism undermined or undermining the status and relative economic position of even university professors by long-distance education programs, PhD programs which spew graduates into a shrinking labor market etc. Journalism is totally degraded with videos, youtubes, and cell phones with cameras. Same goes with other type of professional occupations. This was unimaginable in early 20th century.

Advance of technological means that make the degredation and decline in status of formerly professional middle class occupations into proletarian ranks is not something bad itself. In fact now not only manual but also intellectual labor is deskilled clearing the ground for communist revolution even further. Further, former middle class professionals are increasingly joining in the struggles of other workers, realizing their common interests. In the west some of the most militants strikes are carried out by former professionals today. In the US the most recent example may be the Wisconsin strike.

However, this is creating a sort of reactionary resistance as well. This resistance today, in addition to trade unions, is being produced by certain NGOs and other civil society institutions that former professionals belonged to. In one sense today the division inside the working class that Pannekoek talked about 100 years ago is now taking place inside the traditional "new" professional middle classes. Some do realize that they are now proletarians and they need to unite with the rest of the proletariat in order to win, while the others (who still preserve some privillages and who are in minority) keep fighting on for their privillages.

That was long sorry

jk1921
Privilege?

mikail firtinaci wrote:

However, this is creating a sort of reactionary resistance as well. This resistance today, in addition to trade unions, is being produced by certain NGOs and other civil society institutions that former professionals belonged to. In one sense today the division inside the working class that Pannekoek talked about 100 years ago is now taking place inside the traditional "new" professional middle classes. Some do realize that they are now proletarians and they need to unite with the rest of the proletariat in order to win, while the others (who still preserve some privillages and who are in minority) keep fighting on for their privillages.

What exactly are the "privileges" though? What about the so-called "white skin privilege" we hear about in the US?

It seems to me the most reactionary political outcomes among workers are typically found in older, blue collar manufacturing workers who are often those under the most severe attacks, not in absolute terms perhaps, but in relative terms of where they were during the period of high Fordism compared to what neo-liberalism wants to make them today--little different than the lower echelons of unskilled labor--often performed by immigrants. Hence a tendency to fall back on cultural, lingusitic (psychic) sources of "privilege." But is this material or purely ideological?

Tagore2
On Labor aristocracy, Pannekoek was right

My post is in the spam box.

On Labor aristocracy, Pannekoek was right in 1909, he is right today. As Engels in 1892 and Lenin in 1916.

In my previous post, I explain the economic reasons of chauvinism in the working class, and I quote political and economic statistics to support this.

Yesterday and today, economic differences between the bourgeois-proletariat and the mass of the proletariat are very important, which implies very significant political differences.

Look above as soon as my post will be removed from the spam box.

mikail firtinaci
I think it is difficult to

I think it is difficult to deny that professional middle classes were historically privillaged JK. This is changing today. But it was the case yesterday. I should admit that am having some difficulty to explain this in more concrete terms -not because this is not possible but- because that seems so obvious as a fact. And of course I don't mean something like "white privillage". I mean status, access to power and capital and those kinds of things.

The "reactionary" I meant was something different than sectarianism by the way. Working class people can sometimes be more sceptical or even hostile towards people from other ethnic-religious backgrounds. However, generally speaking when it comes to struggle this usually fades and gives way to a healthy internationalism, if the struggle succesfully develops anyway. However, if there is such a thing as a professional middle class, it is definitely dying as a "middle" strata and its top layer is becoming reactionary in terms of its rejection/hostility of a revolutionary alternative to capitalism. Engineers, lawyers, journalists, academics, doctors... a small section of these still believe, defend, and struggle for the preservation of the status of their "respectable occupations" in vainly for sure, at least for the broad masses of these professions. This status has more than a psychological meaning attached to it. Autonomy at work, a bureaucratic/bourgeois class solidarity and things ike that also involve...

Redacted
I was sure this thread would

I was sure this thread would die with no responses. Kind of a shame it didn't.

Tagore2 calls himself a "French communist" and says "we must destroy the bourgeois-proletariat"...why has he not committed harakiri?

Seppuku is clearly the best solution here.

jk1921
Interesting Mikhail, but I

Interesting Mikhail, but I think you also have to consider the phenomena of "professionalization" that has occurred, in which many educated younger workers are encouraged to think of themselves as "professionals" rather than workers. This is obviously a tactic to increase exploitation, but it is also a way to break the unity of the working class, with educated younger "professional" workers (often politically progressive--Obama voters, etc.) encouraged to look down on politically supect blue collar workers as the biggest enemies of "progress. " The irony of course is that many of these younger workers are hyper-exploited in their own right.

I think its quite complicated and it also plays into the entire debate on income inequality, where some workers can earn quite a decent salary--even if they remain sociologically (or economically?) proletarian--while many more are stuck in low wage, dead end employment. As one commentator recently put it, we are a society defined by the contrast between the nine dollar late and the one dollar value menu.

Tagore2
Marx on bourgeois-proletariat

“But the English bourgeoisie has also much more important interests in the present economy of Ireland. Owing to the constantly increasing concentration of leaseholds, Ireland constantly sends her own surplus to the English labour market, and thus forces down wages and lowers the material and moral position of the English working class.

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.”

Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt, 1870.

Marx is totally right.

For contemporary political and economic statistics on this subject, see post #12.

mikail firtinaci
Tagore; In the above post,

Tagore;

In the above post, the reference to Marx does not explain the question of labor aristocracy. Marx in that quote talks about nationalism, which divides the class against its interests. The main difference here is, no worker benefits from nationalism whereas the main idea behind the labor aristocracy concept is that a section of the working class have different interests than the rest of the class.

jk1921
It seems what counts as a

It seems what counts as a legitimate "interest" and what is an irrational pathology lies at the heart of the debate.  In any case, its never going to be the case that captialism completely levels the entire working class to the exact same level. Any revolution will have to be made by a proletariat that sees it as in some ways serving a general or historical interest over an above any particular interest--be it material or psychic--to maintain a privilege within captialism.

radicalchains
An old thread but an

An old thread but an interesting one, Demo said:

"The army is more problematic, but historically the ruling class is very nervous about sending out the army to deal with proletarian revolts as they have the unfortunate habit of joining in. The bourgeois army at the "top of the class struggle" in Russia and Germany disintegrated and joined the revolution."

 

I completely agree with the bit in bold. I think it is factual rather than an opinion. However, I think the second point is nowhere near as important for us today and maybe even irrelevant. I have mentioned this point several times on this forum by now but can't seem to convince anyone. The democratic Western countries do not have conscript armies! The ruling class may not want to bring them out to fight workers this is true. But we also have to consider the advance in strategy (and co-ordination), tactics and technology of the police, intelligence services etc there is less need for the army on the streets, it is not so much out of fear they may turn. We also have to consider the situation and context. Let's just say the Miners Strike was joined by Steel workers or whoever and the police couldn't deal with do you a professional army would have rebelled? World War is an acute situation. A World War today might mean the end of humanity. I don't think we can rely on armies coming over to our side in this event! If people are serious about revolution today they must address this question and take it seriously.

Tagore, the easy availability of credit in the West is a barrier to class struggle. I work with two people in their 20's who are on apprentice wages, a little over £3 per hour. Are they privileged? There is more going on than just money in this equation.  

 

 

Tagore2
If a proletarian has a salary

If a proletarian has a salary higher than the national average, he just has not economic interest to fight for a more equal society.

If a proletarian has a salary higher than the world average, he just has not economic interest to fight the imperialism.

Moreover, notice that even after the revolution, the bourgeois proletariat try to restore capitalism to maintain and develop their privileges, until it becomes entirely bourgeois.

This is what happened in the USSR.

Fred
Getting beyond the merely economic

Tagore2 wrote:

If a proletarian has a salary higher than the national average, he just has not economic interest to fight for a more equal society.

If a proletarian has a salary higher than the world average, he just has not economic interest to fight the imperialism.

Moreover, notice that even after the revolution, the bourgeois proletariat try to restore capitalism to maintain and develop their privileges, until it becomes entirely bourgeois.

This is what happened in the USSR.

 

In my opinion this is all nonsense.  This society with all its economic riches stinks. It gets worse every day - look at all the terrible events that took place last week. All the crazy murdering.  Even a factory owner like Engels saw enough wrong with the society in which he lived to want to improve or even get rid of it. And I think Engels probably had a salary higher then the national  average.

Is it not possible that the piling up of society's misery can work to transcend even the fabulous happy and wonderful benefits of having a higher salary then everyone else? And notice that even with a high salary you still have to put up with the boredom of having to clock  in to work fairly regularly. You cant opt out. You can't escape what must inevitably, from lack of freedom to choose,  become a drudgery and a prison. The awful necessity of having to have a job in bourgeois society, even one thought to be well paid, crushes all the joy of life.  Like a well fed tiger in a zoo! 

As  for the notion of the bourgeois proletariat this is nonsense too.  A proletarian sees that this society needs replacing with the proletarian alternative. A proletarian by definition has class consciousness. A worker citizen who has mangled ideas about his superiority to others on account of his larger salary is merely somebody who's fallen for the childish ideals of capitalist society, and has nothing proletarian about him at all. He's not a bourgeois proletarian he's merely a phoney bourgeoisified worker with a head full of crap. 

As for what happened in the USSR.... What happened there was that the revolution was defeated in the USSR and all traces of it were quickly eradicated by the merciless restoration of capitalism in its statified  form, ruled over by a strict bourgeois state bureaucracy. A cruel system which had no place in it for the proletariat only for completely defeated workers beaten into submission. Hardly even a bourgeoisified working class. Just empty shells of workers. This is what happened in the USSR. 

But it in the end Tagore2 if what you are saying about the finality of economic interests in determining whether we have a revolution or not is correct, then probably we won't. The economic may act as a spur to workers to challenge capitalism for better wages, but if these same workers can't get beyond the merely and obviously economic - as we all failed to do internationally in the 70's and 80's -  then it's curtains for us all and the planet too. 

The greatest weapon the proletariat has is not finally the application of economic pressures, but class consciousness. And class consciousness may well lead us to understand that communism isn't just about attaining "a more equal society" as you suggest, but one in which we escape the constraints of wanting to be equal, which is a bourgeois concept unattainable anyway  (equal to what?) and aspire rather towards fuller personal development in a society where the growth and development of one is understood to depend on the growth and development of all. 

 

Tagore2
The counterrevolution in USSR

The counterrevolution in USSR was made by the bourgeois proletariat. All capitalists, all the big landowners, if they were not dead, had fled the civil war. Remain at the head of the state only a hybrid class, made up of communists certainly, but especially administrators, former officials and skilled technicians. It is this layer who made the counterrevolution against the workers' state. But what are these officials, of a class point of view? Proletarians, because they have a salary. But as much as they take the place of the bourgeois, as much as they organize and exploit society through wage labor, they are bourgeois. It is an intermediate layer, proletarian and bourgeois, who tends to deepen its bourgeois side to become completely bourgeois.

> The greatest weapon the proletariat has is not finally the application of economic pressures, but class consciousness.

No, this is the war. War is an economic contradiction brought to its highest degree. The world war push people to do world revolution, but bourgeois-proletariat limit, fight or set back the revolution, because its fundamental interest is to unite with bourgeoisie, and even to replace the bourgeoisie, if possible.

After the revolution, the trade unionists, ex-officials, qualified technician will fight for preserve heir privileges, which involves keeping bourgeois relations (wage labor) or restore capitalism (if destroyed). If the bourgeoisie was exterminated or fled during the civil war, the bourgeois proletariat will take its place, and we will have again a regime like USSR, until the total restoration of capitalism (with normal bourgeois, exchange platforms, etc.).

You can not deny that USSR's bureaucrats, before the revolution, were proletarians, right? So you have to admit that some proletarians, because of their economic and social situation, are led to make a complete counterrevolution, and finally become bourgeois. What you admit for the USSR, you must admit it for another revolution.