Can we ever escape Leninism?

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Tom Henry
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Jul 17 2017 00:19

ajjohnstone.

This is reply to your nicely thought out post # 20, thanks for responding.

I think there are a couple of things in your post that remain ‘problematical’ in the context of the topic of this thread, as I am sure you would be the first to acknowledge, and that are worth exploring. My queries below are not meant to hound you to give me an answer, they are just things that I am raising that might be useful for anyone to reflect upon.

Ajjohnstone writes:

Quote:
I think that our criticism would be that socialism was not on the agenda and that any attempt to establish it would be premature and doomed to fail. Socialism is not something that can be established simply political will and what subsequently transpired in Russia reflects this - culminating in One-Man Management, the Taylor System, the NEP and if Trotsky had had his way, the militarisation of labour (perhaps his aspiration did prevail via Stalinism)
In the real politik of 1917/18 Russia, a Bolshevik Party genuinely committed to power-sharing with the other workers' party, something many in the Bolshevik Party agreed with and actually practiced prior to Lenin's arrival would have had a much broader based support than a purely Bolshevik one, would have been able to confront the White Armies more successfully, and thus shortened the Civil War, and reduced the destruction of the economy.

The SPGB idea, as you describe it, that socialism was not on the agenda in Russia at this time is based on two factors, I think. As you have already noted. The first being that capitalism was not developed enough in Russia to have formed a proletariat that would have been able to take over the means of production and put them to social(ist) use; and the second being, completely intertwined of course, that capitalism had not developed enough in Russia for the proletariat to have achieved a level of (proletarian) consciousness that would enable them to institute socialism. I am aware that I have probably put this badly, but is this basically on track?

Of course, there is a spanner in the works here (?) from a Marxist perspective on the issue of whether socialism/communism could be reached by bypassing the proletarianization of the peasantry by using the communal structure of the mir, as Marx intimated. But for our purposes here that does not need to be discussed.

The question is, then, at what point will the forces of production have reached the required level to create global abundance, and at what point will the working class have achieved enough socialist consciousness to effect a revolution (of whatever kind, violent, peaceful, etc)?

Have these criteria already been met? Or are they still to arrive? Or have the forces of production reached the required level globally and now we are waiting for the global proletariat to recognise their situation and do something radical and collectively about it?

But the problem I see with this is that this approach works against the idea that the mode of production of a society is the crucial influence on how people think (in capitalism, at least, the dead labor that confronts us each morning blocks out our sky and makes us who we are). Therefore, it will only be after a socialist mode of production has been introduced that people en masse will have their consciousness altered.

This then means that we need to have a transitional state in order, as Noa Rodman and Pennoid insist (rightly I think, though historical evidence across the world demonstrates it just leads to tragedy, bloodshed, and a more advanced capitalism), for the material circumstances to be changed and therefore for the consciousness of the people to be changed. So the problem here is how we relate to the notion of consciousness and the raising of consciousness, however that might be effected.

ajjohnstone writes:

Quote:
The SPGB approach of a revolutionary movement in a pre-revolutionary situation is to ensure the growth of proletarian power and the defence of the class. Push for democracy, both political and economic. The Bolsheviks failed to do so, emasculating what workers organisations which existed, sacrificing their independence and strength to the altar of their One-Party-Rule. From 1917 all vestiges of democratic self-reliance by the working class was removed piece by piece. "Soviet power" became a sham, and Bolshevik functionaries took total control.

What I like about what you have written here is that you are arguing that the proletarians should have been listened to and respected by the revolutionary leaders and Marxists, anarchists, etc, rather than treated as if they didn’t know what was good for them. How things would have turned out is anyone’s guess of course, but it probably would not have been Stalinism. And I am presuming that your position is that the hypothetical SPGBers there would have gone (basically speaking) along with what the proletariat ‘wanted’ without supporting the re-institution of the ruling class, or the emergence of a new ruling class.

ajjohnstone then writes:

Quote:
From the SPGB view, Lenin had got into an impossible position. Having seized power as a minority in a country where socialism was not possible for all sorts of reasons (economic backwardness, isolation from the rest of the world, lack of a majority understanding for socialism), they had no alternative but to do the only thing that was possible: to continue to develop capitalism. Lenin found himself in the position of having to preside over -- and, in fact, to organise -- the accumulation of capital. But, as capital is accumulated out of surplus value and surplus value is obtained by exploiting wage-labour, this inevitably brought them into conflict with the workers who, equally inevitably, sought to limit their exploitation. Lenin justified opposing and suppressing these workers' struggles on the ground that the Bolsheviks represented the longer-term interests of the workers. The course of history has answered and it is a negative.

But did Lenin and his party really have no choice? They could have taken the SPGB route, as you suggest was possible. Were they (and the SPGB) not tied to the materialist conception of history, that required the full development of capitalism before communism could be instituted? As you say, the Bolsheviks stuffed it up, fantastically murderously, by leaping too far into a void, but when will that void no longer be a void?

Perhaps capitalism has developed enough today (?), but the second problem still remains: how to get the proletarians to recognise their best interests, and make that leap which no other society in history has ever done? Or should we abandon a materialist view of society, and rely solely on evangelism?

I realise I have repeated myself here and not been very articulate. But do these concerns have any resonance?

I think that examination of these issues is the key to beginning rejecting what might be termed the Leninist Loop: the recurrent return to Leninism that may be inherent in all our perspectives, and one reason why Leninists expose us as as theoretically lacking (see discussions here and elsewhere on Libcom) before, historically, lining 'us', and plenty of others, up against a wall. But all I have is the notion of a beginning rejection, from there I have no road map.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 17 2017 05:01

Noa, do you believe that the Bolsheviks would have closed down the Constituent Assembly on the grounds you cite if they had achieved a majority?

Lenin offers reasons here
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/dec/16.htm
He preferred the "dictatorship of the proletariat" to exercise political power...and we know that phrase for him meant "the dictatorship of the party".

There is no doubt that bourgeoise democracy has limits but it is suffice according to the the SPGB when used in a revolutionary manner by the electorate.

I'm not sure we can describe the MRC as a lily-white reflection of a coalition of parties.
"The MRC was set up on the basis of defending Petrograd because it was rumoured of another potential Kornilov plot or an imminent invading German army. It was not set up on the basis that it would overthrow the provisional government."

"We [the Bolsheviks] took it on ourselves to revise the order sending the troops to the front, and so we disguised the actual fact of the insurrection of the Petrograd garrison under the tradition and precedents and technique of the constitutional duplication of authority” - Trotsky - Lessons of October

Quote:
Were non-Bolshevik proletarians in District soviets aware this was coming? No. Were the Left-SR participants in the MRC? No. Were even the moderate wing of leading Bolsheviks supportive? No.This is not to say that Petrograd workers and soldiers didn't support the idea of a soviet government. They did. But that doesn't mean that they were consciously involved in the decision to go through with the October events in order to arrive at such a government.

(Since Noa insists upon proper crediting I stole this from comments on another Libcom thread
https://libcom.org/forums/theory/marxist-lenin-11122009?page=1#comment-366631)

Martov put forward a resolution demanding that the Bolsheviks form a coalition government with other left-wing parties. The resolution was about to receive near complete endorsement from the soviet representatives thus showing that the representatives in the soviet did NOT believe in all power to the Bolsheviks but then the majority of SR and Menshevik delegates inadvisedly left the congress in protest over the Bolshevik coup giving the Bolsheviks a majority of those who remained.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 17 2017 05:44

Tom, interesting questions. Too many to answer adequately

Quote:
The question is, then, at what point will the forces of production have reached the required level to create global abundance, and at what point will the working class have achieved enough socialist consciousness to effect a revolution (of whatever kind, violent, peaceful, etc)? Have these criteria already been met? Or are they still to arrive?

The former i think has unquestioningly been achieved...there is the technological potential to provide abundance...just consider the amount of waste and conspicuous consumption.
In the context of the Russian Revolution, [i]globally[/i] it was most likely had already been achieved back then but not in Russia so indeed as argued at the time a European revolution required to be accomplished for the Russian Revolution to survive and thrive.
So we do have the material conditions for socialism. As for the second part of your question, it is obvious no-body on Libcom or in the socialist/anarchist movement can answer. The SPGB will reply that it will be reflected in the votes at the ballot box- Engels thermometer of consciousness. And we all are aware at the dismal polling figures not only of the SPGB but even the reformist Left.

The SPGB does not claim that is solely through its educational style propaganda that workers will achieve socialist consciousness but that being thinking animals, people will come to the realisation that there is an alternative and a solution to the hardships of capitalism and this will be because of the influence of class struggle resulting in such conclusions.

But to totally dismiss the importance of ideas is mistaken. Class struggle without any clear understanding of where you are going is simply committing oneself to a never-ending treadmill. We come to a socialist view of the world by interacting directly or indirectly with others, our fellow-workers, exchanging ideas with them. I see the SPGB and yes Libcom also as a catalyst in the process of changing consciousness. Mass suffering and misery does not dictate that we must become socialist. We could just as easily become followers of some populist demagogue. Paul Mattick said "“There is no evidence that the last hundred years of labour strife have led to the revolutionizing of the working class in the sense of a growing willingness to do away with the capitalist system"

The search for why socialist consciousness arises is The Holy Grail. The strength of the SPGB is that even if our views are mistaken our principles defy them being imposed upon others unwillingly. The validity of the SPGB's ideas will either be accepted or rejected by discussion and debate. The SPGB are not going to become entryists or a vanguard that all must follow and then take the workers to where they do not want to go. We will plod onwards until members find a new and better road to a new society...Hopefully, we can also take what is positive from other revolutionaries and incorporate their ideas...political plagiarism smile

I think you express the danger we face well, we face "a "leninist loop" (or another aspect the SPGB describes "the reformist roundabout")

Claimed shortcuts keep returning, sometimes with different language but with the same flawed reasoning. Once more to address the topic title, it is going to be a complicated business to escape the consequences of leninism.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 17 2017 09:05
ajjohnstone wrote:
Noa, do you believe that the Bolsheviks would have closed down the Constituent Assembly on the grounds you cite if they had achieved a majority?

Lenin offers reasons here
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/dec/16.htm
He preferred the "dictatorship of the proletariat" to exercise political power...and we know that phrase for him meant "the dictatorship of the party".

Yes, for Lenin's argument there is that the peasants always vacillate, so achieving a majority of peasants at one moment can be quickly lost again, they are not won "once and for all". Perhaps it would just have existed for some months longer, eg until the Brest-Litovsk treaty:

Quote:
Vacillation was .... against the Bolsheviks when, to promote the international development of the revolution and to protect its centre in Russia, they agreed to sign the Treaty of Brest and thereby “offended” patriotic sentiments, the deepest of petty-bourgeois sentiments.

Lenin shows that the Bolsheviks did have the majority of the proletariat (as even Kautsky acknowledged), though not yet of the whole working people. And they won the majority of the working people with the decree on land (which evidently the rightwing SR in the CA refused to ratify):

Quote:
To prove to the peasants that the proletarians did not want to steam-roller them, did not want to boss them, but to help them and be their friends, the victorious Bolsheviks did not put a single word of their own into that “decree on land”, but copied it, word for word, from the peasant mandates (the most revolutionary of them, of course) which the Socialist-Revolutionaries had published in the Socialist-Revolutionary newspaper.

His point is that working people (– not to be confused with the proletariat as such, but rather refers to the petty-bourgeoisie) could not be won over under the yoke of bourgeois rule, with their influence on the consciousness of the peasants.

This applies also to advanced capitalist countries:

Quote:
In all capitalist countries, besides the proletariat, or that part of the proletariat which is conscious of its revolutionary aims and is capable of fighting to achieve them, there are numerous politically immature proletarian, semi-proletarian, semi-petty-bourgeois strata which follow the bourgeoisie and bourgeois democracy (including the ‘’socialists” of the Second International) because they have been deceived, have no confidence in their own strength, or in the strength of the proletariat, are unaware of the possibility of having their urgent needs satisfied by means of the expropriation of the exploiters.

These strata of the working and exploited people provide the vanguard of the proletariat with allies and give it a stable majority of the population; but the proletariat can win these allies only with the aid of an instrument like state power, that is to say, only after it has overthrown the bourgeoisie and has destroyed the bourgeois state apparatus.

... the proletariat, even when it constitutes a minority of the population (or when the class-conscious and really revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat constitutes a minority of the population), is capable of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and, after that, of winning to its side numerous allies from a mass of semi-proletarians and petty bourgeoisie who never declare in advance in favour of the rule of the proletariat, who do not understand the conditions and aims of that rule, and only by their subsequent experience become convinced that the proletarian dictatorship is inevitable, proper and legitimate.

That's Lenin's sense of "dictatorship of the proletariat".

ajjohnstone
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Jul 17 2017 16:18

http://www.persee.fr/doc/cmr_0008-0160_1985_num_26_3_2051
This explains the Martov position and to paraphrase, that even though the CA could not reflect the proletariat because they simply weren't the in the majority in Russia, delegates from the peasants nevertheless stood for a democratic republic, political liberties and land reform. Martov describes the soviet's power as imaginary and trusted that the CA could offer a real expression of the people's will. The basic principles it accepted would form the foundations of democracy in Russia.

As for the vacillation of the peasantry, i think the industrial working class and its skilled elements share the same fault. Events such as waves of factory strikes show that the Bolsheviks themselves were often rejected. That the Bolsheviks retained the support of the majority of the working class is debatable and Trotskyists to avoid that conclusion often argue that the factory workers were re-constituted by an influx of peasantry.

But once again to return to this topic title, it seems we cannot escape the consequences of Leninism and the Bolshevik Party since it appears that experience in conditions and circumstances very different - vastly different - from today are used to advocate political approaches that endorses the concept of minority revolution, dismissing the majorities capacity to understand and desire and strive for a social revolution.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 17 2017 17:27

There's still a large part of the population that is petty-bourgeois today in the advanced capitalist countries (or are Tory-voters all just still unenlightened proletarians?). Lenin is not dismissing the proletariat's "capacity to understand and desire and strive for a social revolution", but he is pointing to the difficulty due to their isolation, etc. of convincing the petty-bourgeois prior to the dictatorship of the proletariat of abolishing capitalism (and the task of the DotP is to practically win the petty-bourgeois, ie they see with their own eyes that it benefits them).

Tom Henry
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Jul 17 2017 20:20

Noa Rodman,

I presume by referencing the 'petty-bourgeoisie' to 'Tory voters' that you are defining the petty, or petit bourgeoisie (unless there is a difference?) as lower middle class people with a conservative outlook? And NOT as small business owners, the upper or professional middle class, and wealthy farmers?

Thee are distinct problems with defining people in terms of class by their supposed conservative or progressive outlooks. The most extreme one being the one that ends in dekulakization, of course. In which case the case of 'convincing' them to become progressive is, of we look at the evidence of history, not a pretty or merely verbal one. But maybe I am misunderstanding you?

Noa Rodman
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Jul 17 2017 21:40

The absorption of the petty-bourgeois businesses into non-market activity (or their "elimination" as a class) is part and parcel of communisation.

Kautsky wrote:
the victorious proletariat can use its power as ruling class only to remove the class divisions as fast as possible.

A revolutionary proletarian government can in its action towards the other classes have only goal: not to make them servants, but to disintegrate them. The classes, whose interests run diametrically counter to the proletariat, big capital and big landownership, are directly destroyed, i.e. their property will directly have to be made possession of the whole, which is also without the heads of the property-owners possible, since property has the pleasant characteristic of not being inseparably tied to the body of the owner. With small landownership and small capital one will deal, depending on how they put themselves to us, probably by a compromise initiate their absorption by the ruling class.

This will be the task of the revolutionary government which it if necessary will have to implement with violence. That this task cannot be solved with one bang, that the means for its implementation must change depending on the political, social and technical relations, is clear. Whatever form these relations may take, one thing is certain: The interests of the proletariat demand that is absorbs as fast as possible the other classes. The longer the proletariat is the ruling class, the less it will be a ruling class, until finally all class divisions are extinguished.

Tom Henry
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Jul 17 2017 22:14

But this doesn't answer my question, does it?

Tom Henry
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Jul 17 2017 22:22

That is, how do you define the petty bourgeoisie above? By the dictionary definition (middle class) or by the Marxist definition (small business, professionals etc)?

Your equating of the p-b with conservative voters of all classes is what you did originally. What is it you actually mean by this term?

DevastateTheAvenues
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Jul 18 2017 00:18

Tom Henry, it's hard to tell whether or not you're being willfully obtuse in order to score points.

It's clear to me that when Noa Rodman made that post, he was saying that it is because the petty-bourgeois are petty bourgeois (with their particular class interests) that they are Tory voters; not the other way around, as you erroneously attributed to Noa. The response should have made that clear--the "elimination" of the petty-bourgeois is their "absorption...into non-market activity". The Kautsky quote Noa posted also talks about how the proletariat, in the position of a new ruling class, relates to the other classes and their interests--namely, in that the proletariat has to take possession of their property for the whole. Does that sound like Noa Rodman is taking the position that the petty-bourgeois are defined by the way they vote?

Tom Henry
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Jul 18 2017 00:02

Noa wrote:

Quote:
There's still a large part of the population that is petty-bourgeois today in the advanced capitalist countries (or are Tory-voters all just still unenlightened proletarians?).

I don't understand how I am misunderstanding this.

DtheAs,
If you want me to stop engaging here just ask.

I can pm my ongoing discussion with ajjohnstone, it's not a problem.

radicalgraffiti
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Jul 18 2017 00:29

it looks like Noa was saying all troy voters are petty-bourgeois which is not true, obviously petty-bourgeois are more likely to vote tory, but they probly still get the majoritly of there votes from the working class

Noa Rodman
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Jul 18 2017 03:53

I was implying that since not all Tory-voters are proletarians, ie a significant part of them are p-b. Significant enough to constitute their main basis, I dare say, without looking into detailed elections analysis.

But to be precise on the point at hand, we'd have to look directly at economic figures about small business owners, professionals, etc. in the population vis-a-vis the proletarians. It would be interesting to find out.

Tom Henry
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Jul 18 2017 04:25

With respect, Noa, and not wanting to upset anyone else here, are you changing what you said? I'm still not getting it, though.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 18 2017 04:44

Not changing what I said. Lenin's argument in the text ajj linked is about winning over the pb and the difficulty of winning them over prior to the seizure/smashing of state power. They always vacillate, and they opportunistically will be won over when they see the success of the revolution/benefit to them.

Tom Henry
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Jul 18 2017 05:00

Who always vacillate? Conservative voters or small business owners? I thought from what you said, that it was just conservative voters who made up the p-b?

But not to worry, I think you are now talking about the p-b in the proper Marxist sense.

Tom Henry
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Jul 18 2017 06:03

Thinking about Noa's confusion over the category of the petit-bourgeoisie and her/his later comments... I have decided to stop here.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 18 2017 07:27

Is it simply the petty-bourgoisie that endorse the Tories?

Should we also subscribe to the labour aristocracy explanation of political "backwardness", touched upon briefly by Engels but expanded by Lenin?

(As an aside, those who care to investigate "Red Clydeside" will find that much of the industrial disputes was about demarcation by the bowler-hatted skilled engineers against the "lower-status" cap-wearing labourers.)

I find that uneven development of class/socialist consciousness arguments tend to lead to the advocacy of minority action.

I think one issue with Lenin was all the resources required to impose the will of the Bolshevik Party upon an unwilling populace. Whereas you can make people do what they do not wish to do, you cannot make them adopt a set of social relations which require their voluntary co-operation if they do not voluntarily co-operate.

The SPGB cannot envisage a minority-led revolution with an active minority leading simply discontented but not socialist-minded workers as being a successful policy. Leninism views the working class as playing a subordinate, following role to the Party. The master-and-servant mentality is imbued within the worker. Leftist propaganda offering leadership adds to the impression that we are an inferior being who are incapable of thinking, organising and acting.

Those of us on Libcom should not forget the obvious fact that the working class does not yet want socialism, but we also must remember, as members of the working class, we have reacted to capitalism by opposing it. There is nothing remarkable about any of us on Libcom as individuals, so it cannot be a hopeless task to set about changing the ideas of our fellow-workers - especially in addition to our persuasion, learn from their own experience of capitalism. As activists, we must develop the desire for socialism and prepare an organisation to give expression to that desire. Socialism can only be built by socialists. We cannot establish socialism and then create socialists.

Did the Bolsheviks desire the working class to control its own destiny or did they simply use the working class as stepping stones to political power to implement a totally different agenda from one of workers self-management? Using hindsight, many early supporters of the Bolsheviks such as Pannekoek re-evaluated the role of them and grew critical. For me, as i said previously, there were cross-roads and choices to be made and different roads to travelled along. Some will defend the turnings that Lenin took, but let's ask ourselves what was the destination ended up at and how much of that was down to Lenin's misreading of his road-map?

DevastateTheAvenues
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Jul 18 2017 09:03

I wonder if I could write a post like Tom Henry does.

I beg your pardon, Tom, but are you saying that Tory conservatism has nothing to do with the p-b? There are distinct problems with not understand the underlying material and class basis of political groupings and ideology, the most extreme one being that class struggle is reduced to nothing more than identity politics. Your saying that the p-b are mutually exclusive from Tory voters suggests that you care more about the class identity of particular persons than their political acts and class relations. But perhaps I am misunderstanding you.

But, thinking of Tom Henry's continued "misunderstanding" about the p-b and their political interests...I will stop there.

Spikymike
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Jul 18 2017 11:07

May I suggest to ajj that the relationship of class, (and indeed the hierarchical divisions within classes), based on the changing capitalist division of labour, and the historical changes in class struggle and class awareness (including consideration of alternatives to capitalism) are a little more complex than they suggest, and at least deserving of some investigation before resolving that it is a simple question of socialists convincing the 'majority of people' to become conscious socialists - assuming that is we agree that there is a relationship between the two. There may be issues for socialists of analysis, understanding, organisation and strategy worth considering without that inevitably leading to what has been described here as 'Leninist' style vanguardism.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 18 2017 13:32

Some Marxist, based on the 1961 census in Britain, concluded as follows:

Quote:
1) The capitalist class, or bourgeoisie, comprising about 1 million persons, or about 2% of the population;
2) the petty-bourgeoisie, comprising about 7 million persons, or about 14% of the population; and
3) the working class or proletariat, comprising about 44 million persons, or about 84% of the population.

More recently Class in Contemporary Britain (Ken Roberts, 2011) claims (p. 122):

Quote:
... during the 1980s, the number of self-employed persons rose to 13 per cent of the UK workforce, and it is exactly the same percentage today, equivalent to just under four million people.

Don't know how he got those figures.

A 2013 analysis (based on 2011 survey), though the categories are not really Marxist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_British_Class_Survey

Quote:
Members of the elite class are the top six percent of British society
...
Members of the established middle class, about 25 percent of British society
...
The technical middle class, about 6 percent of British society

and the remaining 63% are workers.

If we just accept those figures for a moment (and Britain is perhaps an exception – such figures could be realistic in other countries), that means that an extreme scenario is possible where the majority of the workers is socialist (eg the socialist workers could be 32% of total population), but they could face compact bourgeoisie+petit-bourgeosie classes totally opposed to socialism, i.e. 37%. So even if the majority of workers is socialist, they would still be a minority in the population. But the Marxist argument is that the working class due to its position in the economy can exert power even beyond its number.

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Pennoid
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Jul 18 2017 14:07

I can't urge enough that people throwing out the German agent and coup narratives pick up Rex Wade's generally recognized thorough treatment of 1917 from February through Oct. If you want a more in depth look at bolsheviks, try Rabinowich.

You really have to confront the contemporary historiagraphy, unless you're happy in a shamelessly partisan bubble. And you owe it to your self to consider the question from all sides. I was like that in the past; just taking the 'anarchist' line. Not a good look.

ajjohnstone
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Jul 18 2017 14:35

I agree, Spikey, that things are not all black and white and class relationships and identity changes

For instance, who would have imagined in this era of falling real wages, cuts in conditions, it would be the junior doctors strike action last year that headed the strike statistics? 40% of the total days lost in 2016.

Or that the next possible pending wave of strike action will be the teachers.

I think Marx talked about the "petty bourgeoisie" are increasingly reduced to the ranks of the proletariat and hasn't that been the trend.

I'm not so sure that we can now distinguish a distinct middle-class from the working class. Even shop-keepers are disappearing. But perhaps there is a return to the independent artisan who owned his or her tools and did not rely on an employer. If there is, i think rather than being totally independent, he or she are involved in co-operatives for the sheer survival.

Nor do i think those in Uber-type jobs are somehow transported to the middle class by the terms of their contract. I can't see a class difference between a Royal Mail-employed Parcel Force driver and someone deemed to be self-employed and sub-contracted to deliver Parcel Force parcels.

I do understand, however, the need to re-vitalise the union movement to somehow organise those type of workers and it isn't easy just as it isn't to organise those in the retail industry or in the hospitality business. Isolated as these workers may be they are still workers.

I have never been surprised by those in the worse jobs vote for their masters. The rural workers - not peasants but perhaps Noa would say they retain a peasant-mentality - still vote the way of the local laird wishes them to. Cast our mind back to that reactionary Countryside Alliance movement.

When i first got politically active, here in Scotland there was the theatre group, 7:84. I still use it as the figure. Sociologists can spend all their time with their surveys, but i still agree with Shelley ...they are the few and we are the many...a truism that even Corbyn now regularly repeats.

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Zanthorus
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Jul 18 2017 16:06

A couple of points:

Tom Henry wrote:
They [Marx's categories] are built upon the Hegelian dialectic in relation to history;

Hegel's dialectic begins from the standpoint of absolute knowledge, in which the separation between a subject and it's object have been sublated. This absolute knowledge then takes up the first categories that appear immediately before it a 'Being' which is pure and empty, and it's purity and emptiness is identical to, and passes over into 'Nothing'. This passing of Being into Nothing and Nothing into Being, passing away and coming to be, is Becoming. From there we move through a smorgasbord of categories, Existence, Something, Quality, Being-for-itself, Quantity, Measure, Essence etc. The initial result of the movement of the 'objective logic' is 'Substance', the mode of which is necessity, but this substance passes over into the Concept or Notion, the mode of which is freedom, and so the truth of necessity is revealed to be freedom.

Hegel had already related his dialectic to history himself. He tells us that history is the history of 'Spirit', realising it's truth, that truth being freedom. History then divides itself up into the 'Oriental' period in which 'One is free', the Greco-Roman in which 'Some are free', and the Christian-Germanic in which all men are considered free by nature. Freedom of course for Hegel is not something abstract, but has to be realised concretely in the form of the political state. Specifically, Hegel saw history reaching it's end in the Prussian reform movement.

Marx does not begin from a standpoint of 'absolute knowledge', but from the commodity as the contradictory unity of use-value and value, which is a historically specific form of the product of social labour, implying a definite and historically specific form of production relations. The analysis of the value-form develops the concept of money, which is further analysed in it's three moments of measure of value, medium of exchange and universal form of wealth. In the latter form money becomes the goal of exchange, and we get the circuit M-C-M, which forms the turning point from which we pass from the sphere of exchange to that of production, where we discover the origins of surplus-value in the fact that human labour-power has become a commodity.

He does not pretend to give us the kind of knowledge that Hegel gives us, of God as he is before the creation of the world, or of the workings of divine providence in history. He analyses the social relationships of capitalist society. And of course he does it 'dialectically'. But this can't be understood in the simple sense of applying Hegel's logic to history in the same way we might apply the rules of formal logic to a propositional statement or series of statements regardless of it's content.

The distinction between content and form ultimately boils down to a form of subject/object separation, which is already presumed null at the start of the Logic. This is a point which Hegel emphasises, the logic he advances is not a form which can be indiscriminately applied to any content, it arises from the nature of the content itself. It is the content, thought, in it's own movement and activity.

Marx specifically criticises Hegel in his critique of the Philosophy of Right, for not developing the nature of the state as such, but rather trying to find the features of the existing social system in Prussia which fit neatly into the structure of his Logic. But this calls into question Hegel's entire project as such. Marx is just as much a critic of Hegel as his student.

Also, Hegel was in some senses a product of the enlightenment. But his thought also contains a lot of the concerns of romanticism and the reaction against the enlightenment. Whatever worldview you hold in contemporary society is bound to hold some relation to enlightenment thinking, that in itself invalidates nothing about Marxism.

Quote:
There is something wrong with the idea that we can think outside the box of the world.

But Marx did give an explanation of why it was possible for revolutionaries to foresee the end of capitalism - the development of the working-class movement. As much as capital tries to make itself into something universal, it can never quite do this, it always has wage-labour as it's presupposition, and hence it carries within itself it's own negation.

The idea that, because we are in a capitalist society, we can't properly think outside it, and so all our thoughts about it will somehow be 'tainted', is something that could just as easily be turned against any revolutionary movement, even anarchism. Don't forget that anarchist thought itself has strong roots in the enlightenment tradition.

Final thought - you admit that the categories of the formal and real subsumption of labour under capital are useful. But these categories are developed by Marx in the course of discussing relative surplus-value, which is built on the concept of surplus-value, which is built on the concept of value itself. None of these can be properly separated out from the others.

The real subsumption of labour under capital is the development of a specific mode of technology - the factory system - which is only conceivable within the context of capitalist productions, and which shuts the door forever on any imagined return to small scale artisan production. It has nothing to do with 'consciousness' as such, although one result of it may be that capitalist social relations begin to appear more as 'inevitable' to those caught within it's trap.

But to repeat myself, this appearance of inevitably is always a charade. Capitalism is a universalising force, but it can never be a true universal, because it always carries within itself it's own negation - the proletariat. The labour process is always at once a concrete labour process and a valorisation process. The contradiction between these two aspects brings about crisis, social upheaval, and the development of the revolutionary workers movement. Granted that the workers' movement has not yet overthrown capitalism, there is still no need to fall back into an absolute pessimism.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 19 2017 06:42
ajjohnstone wrote:
Sociologists can spend all their time with their surveys, but i still agree with Shelley ...they are the few and we are the many...a truism that even Corbyn now regularly repeats.

The survey clearly defined 63% as workers, so a majority.

And all it takes to get elected is 51%, though with a low turn out it could be much less. Would it not be undemocratic if the SPGB were voted into office on a low turn out? In the case of the Greek system, bonus seats go to the winner (eg Syriza), which actually the Weekly Worker made a point of to advice against Syriza taking power.

As you say, it's a truism that the proletariat is the majority. But it's not actually the 99% (though that does sound better than; "we're the 63%").

I said let's take the figures of the survey for granted for a moment, in order to make my point that we still can face the "Leninist problem" of a large part of the population being pb, if not in Britain than in some other countries.

But to turn to your point about Uber drivers or sub-contractors: that criticism does not apply to the survey. The SPGB gave it a short review here (also comment here).

The category of 'established middle class' comprises 25%:

wiki wrote:
Well-represented occupations included electrical engineers, occupational therapists, midwives, environmental professionals, police constables, quality assurance and regulatory professionals, town-planning officials, and special-needs teaching professionals.[15]

As of 2011 the established middle class had an average household income of £47,000 a year and owned a home worth an average of £177,000 with average savings of £26,000. Many were graduates, and a majority of their members work in the professions or management. Many originated from professional and managerial families. There are some ethnic minorities. They engage in a wide variety of occupations but many are professionals in public service or hold managerial jobs. They live throughout Britain, many outside large towns or conurbations. They can be fairly described as "comfortably off, secure, and established.

We can all agree that this includes a lot of proletarians. But nevertheless "a majority of their members work in the professions or management".

Spikymike
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Jul 19 2017 09:59

And just to add that at certain times and industries it has been a useful capitalist strategy to deepen the hierarchy of management control giving those lower in the hierarchy some management and supervision duties and perks as a means of weakening collective class solidarity when disputes arise though not always effective when the collective stakes were high enough.

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Zanthorus
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Jul 19 2017 14:20
Noa wrote:
And all it takes to get elected is 51%, though with a low turn out it could be much less.

The general election in 2015 had a voter turnout of 66%, which is a pretty typical turnout in the political climate of the last 20 years or so. The Tories share of that vote was 37%. By my reckoning, that means they won the election with less than a quarter of the electorate casting a vote for them.

Noa Rodman
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Jul 19 2017 17:59

btw, the old stupid misunderstanding about "professional" vanguardism: what Lenin meant is an organisation of full-time devoted revolutionaries, not an organisation of middle class intellectuals, professors, lawyers, etc. who are engaged with socialism as amateur hobbyists.

For all the SPGB's "middle-class baiting" of Leninists (and academics, sociologists), I bet far more of their members are middle class than in any of the Leninist groups.

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Pennoid
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Jul 19 2017 18:52

Echoing Noa, the only way to not have a movement dominated by the middle class (who have the bread to 'do activism' however malfeasant in their off time) is to pay and democratically subordinate bureaucrats and organizers recruited from the ranks of the working class systematically.

The contemporary left (at least in the U.S.) answers the bureaucracy in a backwards way; e.g. we can't risk a bureaucratic take over our organization, IF WE HAVE NO MERITABLE ORGANIZATION IN THE FIRST PLACE!