Pro-revolutionaries in academia

303 posts / 0 new
Last post
baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Nov 11 2011 18:53

Leaving aside the question of J, which I think has caused some damage to Aufheben and Libcom, then I think that academics, or anyone for that matter, can take the side of the working class and become a revolutionary. We have all the historical examples. If the concept of the overthrow of the capitalist state is accepted, the dictatorship and the primacy of the working class, the international nature of the working class, then I think, that given positive dynamics, anyone that defends those positions can call them themselves communist/revolutionary and act in the interests of the working class. This is just the minimum.

Rob Ray talks of the “compromises” necessarily made by workers and I don’t think that there’s a better illustration of that than the thousands of Palestinian construction workers who are engaged in building settlements. Who could denounce them for that?

I don’t want to get into who’s in the working class and who isn’t but I’d say that teachers are and trade union officials are part of the state’s police.

I find some of line’s position a bit disturbing, particularly his equation of workers doing a good job as pawns of the bosses through increased productivity. I think that this betrays something of misunderstanding, an underestimation of what the working class is and what it can become.
One cannot advocate that workers do a “bad” job, ie, they don’t care and work inefficiently. How would this translate in food production, sanitation (already mentioned), the health and care industry, water, gas and electrical supply, transport, bus and train drivers, air traffic controllers and many other industries where workers organise their work efficiently often, as Toj says above, in spite of management. One of the major factors that has defined the working class and one that makes it the only revolutionary subject is its ability to work collectively, to show solidarity to each other and unity of purpose. This applies in its day to day working – where it runs and produces almost everything – to when its stops working and goes on strike. And we’ve seen in the past that when the working class is strongest is, as in Poland 1980, it continues to provide food and services when it is taking on the state.

Wellclose Square
Offline
Joined: 9-05-08
Nov 11 2011 20:03
baboon wrote:
I find some of line’s position a bit disturbing, particularly his equation of workers doing a good job as pawns of the bosses through increased productivity. I think that this betrays something of misunderstanding, an underestimation of what the working class is and what it can become.
One cannot advocate that workers do a “bad” job, ie, they don’t care and work inefficiently. How would this translate in food production, sanitation (already mentioned), the health and care industry, water, gas and electrical supply, transport, bus and train drivers, air traffic controllers and many other industries where workers organise their work efficiently often, as Toj says above, in spite of management. One of the major factors that has defined the working class and one that makes it the only revolutionary subject is its ability to work collectively, to show solidarity to each other and unity of purpose. This applies in its day to day working – where it runs and produces almost everything – to when its stops working and goes on strike. And we’ve seen in the past that when the working class is strongest is, as in Poland 1980, it continues to provide food and services when it is taking on the state.

Nice to see the work ethic being upheld here... and we want the trains to run on time. A more nuanced discussion on the refusal of work can be found here
http://libcom.org/library/echanges-movement-refusal-work

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
Nov 19 2011 20:30

I'll make a point I haven't seen much emphasised, but seems relevant.

Those libcoms who attempt a defence of J claim to base it on the denial of any wrongdoing; but what is seen as 'wrongdoing', where the line is drawn, is determined by other things. It looks to me like the same premise is used as in their poor class analysis; 2-classism, where the middle-class as a significant factor of class society is airbrushed from history and from the present (as is the petit-bourgeoisie - leaving aside the disputed m/c, can they not count even up to three?).

We are asked to believe in the mythical context of a society close to the "we are the 99%" liberalism of the recent Occupy protests - 1% ruling class v 99% exploited proles. The 'Proletarian' diluted to a near-universal category - the 99% 'masses' - is only a restatement of the concept of individual citizen as part of the mass of 'The People'... as dubious a unifying concept as 'national identity'. It mirrors the simple equivalence made between all citizens in relation to the nation state - mutual citizenship prioritised over their class relations to each other. By reducing all evaluations of social relationships to a wage earning identity/relationship, this universalised Proletarian glosses over the hierarchical class relations between the diverse 'citizens'.

Reduction of class to economic technicalities of income ignores that economic relations are also often invested with power relations, hierarchical divisions of labour, privilege and coercion - ie, social relations as they actually occur between real people at both group and individual levels. Yet the 2-classists repeatedly say 'class should not be used to define individuals' (then they go and write a series of articles called "celebrity working class heroes"!). It's claimed that because all jobs have some element of complicity/compromise with capitalism - therefore no jobs can ever be criticised for the specific nature or degree of complicity and for the repressive consequences for proles. That is the logic. If you earn a wage, you're a prole and can't be criticised with any consequence for the content and consequence of anything you do for money. (This may be denied in the abstract, but in practice is generally the case argued, as numerous libcom debates show.)

The denial of individual categorisation seems often to be really an assertion and defence of potential individual professional career compromises in the field of class relations - and their consequences. This notion of universal prole 'citizenship' confused with class carries with it by default certain aspirations and their defences, defined by the very middle class ideology 2-classism seeks to hide or deny; the common desire of the professional (particularly the leftist) to see 'a career' as more worthy than mere wage labour - as also a vocation, one's labour as an important contribution to 'the social good'. (This is not quite uniform or unique to professions, but in other occupations it's a less defining characteristic and less part of the perceived self-image; more a marginal byproduct of occasional job satisfaction than a perceived specialist improving of social ills.) Like ideological craftsmen/artisans, they treasure the recognition of the personal 'unique' qualities of the products of their labour and its social usefulness. Not hard to see the relationship between this and commitment to political militancy/activism, its theorising and then its possible merging in 'radical' academia and its dubious dogmas.

The justifying premise, stripped of its class veneer, reveals a defence of certain dominant values embodied in the work ideology of middle class careerism; the right to autonomy and liberty of the individual in class society - the promotion of 'freedom of the individual citizen' to pursue achievement, recognition and advancement on individual 'merit' and contribution - in pretence that merit and its attainment operates outside class relations.

The same general 'logic' is applied in defence of Dr J. If one doesn't try to suppress a critique of specific social function, recuperation and its consequences, one can see that crowd psychology as a specialisation is almost a textbook case of the traditional middle class role of the professional mediating of class relations and class conflict - whether applied in the fields of protests, riots, disasters or football supporters, where derived lessons and applications will inevitably overlap.

'He had to do these things as part of his job.' Is that not the wrong way round? Such a career choice, as specialist subject - and the way it was pursued - for a 'communist' is quite perverse in itself, and an unnecessary choice if one simply wished to pursue academia.

Another pal of some admins heaping crap on class struggle, writing about the recent riots;
http://libcom.org/forums/libcommunity/another-shit-article-brian-whelan-06102011

steven on other thread wrote:
One bad article doesn't make someone irredeemably bad

This journo may have a hidden saintly character totally at odds with his years of malicious cynicism on libcom - but so what? His social function as a hack writing divisive reactionary crap like that is irredeemably bad. But some libcoms say one must never criticise that social function to the point where it leads to any "irredeemable" conclusions; http://libcom.org/forums/news/news-international-07072011

The same thinking - the sovereignty/sanctity of the bourgeois individual abstracted from actual social function and its class relations - lies behind the uncritical idea that one can be defended as an academic who advises on police policy, or it's no problem if your friends are journos writing crap anti-riot articles [edit; even as suspects are still being hunted down and harshly sentenced], no one should be criticised for what they do for money/because they do it for money etc etc ad nauseum.

Given the long and continued strength of their expression, it begs a question - is it that perhaps some defenders and 2-classists are sensitive to criticisms that might equally apply to compromises they and/or their acquaintances may be willing to make or can foresee making on their career path? If this is predictably criticised as trying to be 'prolier than thou' I'll respond that there are surely academics, professionals, middle class people, those with 'worse' theoretical politics than libcom & Aufheben, many of the working class with a healthy attitude to the cops etc who all understand why such compromises are practically beyond the pale and could never stomach making them.

tastybrain
Offline
Joined: 11-11-07
Nov 20 2011 00:08

Can people who want to discuss the Dr. J debacle just use the thread already open for that? I don't think his case is really relevant here, as plenty of people (including myself) who believe teachers/academics are workers have condemned J's actions.

lines wrote:
Yes, I think the baseline, to retain a useful simplicity, is that there are jobs in which one has to contribute to the enhancement of the ruling ideology by our creativity. This category would, for example, include teachers, journalists and academics, etc. Then there are jobs in which one is directed to do things and one uses no genuine creativity in the work, therefore one does not use ones imagination to contribute to the enhancement of the ruling ideology. This category would include an old style assembly-line worker (for the ‘west’), a cleaner working in a cleaning company, a garbage truck driver, a storeperson, and any worker who is at the bottom rung of the managerial or supervisory ladder.

BUT it will be pointed out (as in above posts) that some/many journalists or teachers, for example, are at the bottom of the managerial ladder. I would argue that teachers are not at the bottom of their ladder: they supervise students and teacher aides, and actively imbue their students with ruling ideology – so their case is clear.

I disagree. Obviously teachers have to "manage" classrooms but I think this "management" is fundamentally different than management in the context of a workplace. I hate being managed at work but when I'm in school I've often wished the teachers would be more effective "managers". Now obviously workplace management and classroom management both serve capitalism, but there is a difference. Workplace managers are there to assist the capitalist in extracting as much surplus value as possible out of workers, to aid in exploitation. Teachers are there to increase the value of labor (and perhaps inculcate ideas beneficial to the ruling class). But hospitals, public health and sanitation, good nutrition, etc also perform the function of reproducing labor power under capitalism. Yet I don't see anyone condemning nurses, sanitation workers, or housewives/husbands as "managers" for playing this role!

In the context of private schools and universities, teachers/professors are in fact providing a service to a voluntary consumer (as far as anything is voluntary under capitalism). The student is not bound by the state to attend these institutions (although he or she may have a financial incentive to do so.) The person who works at a private school teaching art to rich and middle class kids I don't see as a "manager". In fact, this person's class position is below that of his or her students! Many teachers reject the role of management (while others revel in it). As I said in the thread on abolishing the university, I know a lecturer who positively refuses to fail any of his students, basically because he doesn't want that type of hierarchical control over students.

As for teachers always reproducing the dominant ideology I don't think this is necessarily true, although it is certainly a major function of public school. I have sat in classrooms and argued for libertarian communism with no opposition from the teacher. I think you are using a rather crude formulation; how does a math teacher, a geology teacher, a music teacher reproduce dominant ideology? Perhaps in Civics, History, and Economics, but most areas of knowledge are relatively a-political. Anyway, I think it is rather silly to simply lump all teachers into the category of "managers" and misses the point. Not that teachers don't ever play a managerial role, but your formula is too crude. Non supervisory workers can easily exercise dominance and power over others, such as white male workers who use white/male supremacy to get leverage over other workers, or workers who use the simple act of physical intimidation.

lines wrote:
Why is it that a postal worker, as a communist, would merely say that the job of delivering the mail is a function of the capitalist economy, and has no value to human beings as human beings – but a teacher, as a communist (on Libcom anyway!), would more often than not, argue that education, as basically constructed under present conditions, has a valuable role in the development of humanity? Or that a journalist, as a communist, would argue that the transmission of information through The Press has a valuable role in the development of human consciousness.

This is an absurd simplification. I'm sure there are many postal workers (and other non supervisory workers) who identify with their jobs, and there are plenty of teachers who think their job is shit. I would not, in fact, "argue that education, as basically constructed under present conditions, has a valuable role in the development of humanity" -- I believe education must be radically refashioned to serve need rather than value, just like every other sphere of human activity. The reason I want to be an academic is not because I think it's amazingly "useful" and revolutionary, but because its simply something I think I would enjoy doing.

lines wrote:
These communist teachers who have fallen for the lie of the development of human progress and the lie of the validity of mass education under a capitalist system – these communists are ultimately more concerned with preserving capitalism than destroying it.

This is just a big fat strawman. No communist teacher, and certainly no one on Libcom, believes in the "validity of mass education under a capitalist system".

lines wrote:
BUT! some might cry: what about doctors and nurses? If they critiqued their job so conclusively, as communists, then in a revolution they would not use their skills to continue their work. But it gets worse: what about food producers? If they critiqued their job so conclusively, as communists, then in a revolution they would not use their skills to keep us all fed. And worse: what about those people who ensure information is circulated? If they critiqued their job so conclusively, as communists, then in a revolution they would not use their knowledge and leg power to continue to deliver the information we need….

So, using deductive logic to solve this problem which communists have set themselves about what in the world is important and what in the world we need… we find that we need almost everything. In a revolutionary situation the current milieu would be arguing that doctors and nurses need to keep working, that farmers and their labourers need to keep producing, that information communication workers need to keep working and that postal workers need to keep delivering. This is what is continually argued or implied here on Libcom by all the Organisations, including Aufheben. And it is an articulation of the theory of self-management.

So for you a communist critique of work simply means "stop performing productive activity"? Yeah, damn right I think doctors and nurses, and farmers, should keep working during a revolution! Do you seriously think mass starvation and a lack of medical care will improve the chances of the revolution? The point of communism, as I understand it, is not to cease productive activity but to abolish exchange value and re-organize production to serve human needs. What exactly would be wrong with doctors, nurses, janitors, etc taking over a hospital and running it for human need, without wages, money, or hierarchy? What would be wrong with farm workers expropriating land and growing food to feed the revolution? In my mind it's only self-management if they continue to use money and operate in a market system, which a communist revolution would abolish. By the way, I think there will still be a postal system ATR and there will be an education system as well, although they will be radically different from how they are today.

lines wrote:
No, JD should not talk about his struggles at work in academia (I can’t think of anything more boring) – he should just say that he thinks academia produces nothing of value to human beings whatsoever…

This is just a patently absurd statement. You really think the academic field of epidemiology, for example, has contributed "nothing of value to human beings"? You think engineering and physics are totally useless?

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Nov 20 2011 00:10

tastybrain, I suggest you give Red Marriott's post a second read, most of it is not specific to the J issue, and I found it very interesting.

lines
Offline
Joined: 6-11-11
Nov 20 2011 06:31

Red Marriot's post, as Tojiah points out, is well worth a considered read.

Tastybrain wrote:
Yeah, damn right I think doctors and nurses, and farmers, should keep working during a revolution! Do you seriously think mass starvation and a lack of medical care will improve the chances of the revolution? The point of communism, as I understand it, is not to cease productive activity but to abolish exchange value and re-organize production to serve human needs. What exactly would be wrong with doctors, nurses, janitors, etc taking over a hospital and running it for human need, without wages, money, or hierarchy? What would be wrong with farm workers expropriating land and growing food to feed the revolution? In my mind it's only self-management if they continue to use money and operate in a market system, which a communist revolution would abolish. By the way, I think there will still be a postal system ATR and there will be an education system as well, although they will be radically different from how they are today.”

Why is your suggestion above any different from what Lenin strived for during the Russian Revolution?

I think that your assertions above do not take into account the concept of alienation and neither do they show understanding of the importance of the division of labour in capitalist society.

For example, what would you do if lots (i.e too many for the continuation of the degree of service you think appropriate) of nurses, cleaners, and farm labourers decided they wanted to go off and fight the revolutionary war? Or what if lots of nurses, cleaners and farm labourers suddenly decided that the most important thing for them to do, now that capitalism had collapsed and they were no longer forced to work, was to take up dancing?

Would you force them to return to their posts? This is certainly what you are implying.

Would you argue that the most important thing to do, to keep society going, even though it was having a revolution, was to maintain the division of labour?

Would you force these people, at gunpoint, in the usual way of these things, to act sensibly? Remember Kronstadt.

What right do you have to tell people what to do? Unless you mean that might (your revolutionary militia) is right?

What gives you the omnipresent wisdom to be able to say what people should do (carry on working!) when the economy collapses and the destiny of each and every one of us falls into our own hands?

Are you saying what an anarchist could be saying, or are you repeating the ideology of the Bolsheviks?

Tastybrain wrote:

“You really think the academic field of epidemiology, for example, has contributed "nothing of value to human beings"? You think engineering and physics are totally useless?”

My short answer to this is, yes. (“Oh my god, take him out and have him shot!”)

If you believe in progress you will agree with the quote above. If you think that it would have been better, for example, for the Australian Aborigines, or the Native Americans, to have missed out on being civilised, then one might have a different view. (Of course, the decimation of these indigenous people was inevitable, but that is not the point here.)

The problem of cities and the numbers of people on the planet are very serious problems for any one who says that we can all live communistically, and that capitalism provides the conditions to make this possible. My own view is that it will all have to be destroyed in some sort of economic cataclysm and war, like in WW1. But maybe this is too horrible a dream to contemplate. Is communism only possible if there is a reconnection with the land? Is communism impossible without this? And then, what is communism anyway?

Surely, if time was reversed we would be going by stages towards a true human life, until, after many miraculous reversals of massacres and misery, we would arrive at the promised, communist, past? Just some food for thought. Don’t get riled.

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Nov 20 2011 07:06

Clearly communism will be nothing like the "communism" of pre-agricultural humanity. Do you know how I know this? Because pre-agricultural humanity ended up evolving into this. Thinking backwards won't help, and thinking that somehow after a WWI kind of destruction a better order will be formed by going back to simpler times is foolish. Capitalism survived WWI and WWII.

tastybrain
Offline
Joined: 11-11-07
Nov 20 2011 07:23
lines wrote:
Red Marriot's post, as Tojiah points out, is well worth a considered read.

Tastybrain wrote:
Yeah, damn right I think doctors and nurses, and farmers, should keep working during a revolution! Do you seriously think mass starvation and a lack of medical care will improve the chances of the revolution? The point of communism, as I understand it, is not to cease productive activity but to abolish exchange value and re-organize production to serve human needs. What exactly would be wrong with doctors, nurses, janitors, etc taking over a hospital and running it for human need, without wages, money, or hierarchy? What would be wrong with farm workers expropriating land and growing food to feed the revolution? In my mind it's only self-management if they continue to use money and operate in a market system, which a communist revolution would abolish. By the way, I think there will still be a postal system ATR and there will be an education system as well, although they will be radically different from how they are today.”

Why is your suggestion above any different from what Lenin strived for during the Russian Revolution?

Lenin et. al. kept the wage system, money, the commodity, hierarchy, the state, etc. etc. whereas I think we should strive to do away with those things.

lines wrote:
I think that your assertions above do not take into account the concept of alienation and neither do they show understanding of the importance of the division of labour in capitalist society.

Errr ok. I don't really get what you mean here.

lines wrote:
For example, what would you do if lots (i.e too many for the continuation of the degree of service you think appropriate) of nurses, cleaners, and farm labourers decided they wanted to go off and fight the revolutionary war? Or what if lots of nurses, cleaners and farm labourers suddenly decided that the most important thing for them to do, now that capitalism had collapsed and they were no longer forced to work, was to take up dancing?

Would you force them to return to their posts? This is certainly what you are implying.

I did not even come close to implying that. What would I do? Well obviously it wouldn't be up to me. But I would want to see the immediate training of enough people to continue a degree of service I think appropriate, or perhaps the persuasion of some of these people to stay at least until they can train a replacement. I would also say that anyone who wants to spend ALL their time dancing and refuses to work should not be allowed to share in the resources of the overall society as long as those resources are scarce, which they certainly will be after a revolution. I would also like to see people try to persuade those in essential skilled jobs (doctors and nurses for example) to remain at their jobs at least long enough to train replacements.

Tell me, lines, would you think it "appropriate" if mass starvation occurred because no one was working the fields, epidemics broke out because there was no public sanitation (but theories of epidemics and how to combat disease are of course "worthless to humankind" so perhaps that solves the problem), people died of easily preventable diseases because there were no doctors or nurses?

lines wrote:
Would you argue that the most important thing to do, to keep society going, even though it was having a revolution, was to maintain the division of labour?

Umm no obviously not. The point is not to maintain the division of labor but make sure essential services (food, medical care, public health) are maintained. Without this, the revolution will certainly fail and sick/starving proletarians will turn towards reaction. I don't care whether these services are performed by the same people that did them before the revolution or by different people, although there are obvious practical problems with training an entire new generation of doctors and nurses in no time at all.

lines wrote:
Would you force these people, at gunpoint, in the usual way of these things, to act sensibly? Remember Kronstadt.

What right do you have to tell people what to do? Unless you mean that might (your revolutionary militia) is right?

No, I would not force anyone to do anything at gunpoint although people who decide to dance all day long can fuck off from the commune's food supply. What right do I have to tell people what to do? None, obviously. But people have a right to be fed and taken care of when they're sick, as long as they contribute in some way to the best of their ability. I personally think your scenario is preposterous. I think agricultural workers, doctors, etc would be responsible enough and caring enough to their fellow revolutionaries not to endanger the well being of society by simply abandoning their tasks with no forethought. If a doctor wants to fight, fine, but let him stick around for a bit and teach a replacement at least a few rudimentary skills first. I have no problem with workers in essential sectors wanting to quit their job as long as they do something else that's productive and help provide a replacement (if it's a skilled job one needs training for).

lines wrote:
What gives you the omnipresent wisdom to be able to say what people should do (carry on working!) when the economy collapses and the destiny of each and every one of us falls into our own hands?

It doesn't take a lot of fucking wisdom to realize that people will still need food, medical care, and sanitation during and after a revolution and I think the vast majority of people will agree with me. It's only an irresponsible minority who conceive of freedom as hedonism that will deny their obligation to the collective. And I don't want the economy to collapse, I want it to be reorganized. And the destiny of each and every one of us is inherently tied to the whole. Do you conceive of anarchism as some sort of Mad Max-style free for all?

lines wrote:
Tastybrain wrote:

“You really think the academic field of epidemiology, for example, has contributed "nothing of value to human beings"? You think engineering and physics are totally useless?”

My short answer to this is, yes. (“Oh my god, take him out and have him shot!”)

Serious question; are you a primitivist? Without engineering we wouldn't be able to build bridges, large buildings, and many, many other things. Without epidemiology we would still have to worry about Ebola and Mumps in the first world and we couldn't respond to outbreaks of disease in an intelligent, organized way. Disease control, bridges, and buildings have no value to human beings?

lines wrote:
If you believe in progress you will agree with the quote above. If you think that it would have been better, for example, for the Australian Aborigines, or the Native Americans, to have missed out on being civilised, then one might have a different view. (Of course, the decimation of these indigenous people was inevitable, but that is not the point here.)

I find it extremely offensive that you invoke instances of tragedy and genocide which you or I cannot possibly understand in order to associate my advocacy of the usefulness of engineering and epidemiology with the evils of the Enlightenment. This should be obvious, but one does not have to be a racist who believes genocide is a good thing to see the "value to human beings" of engineering, epidemiology, and for that matter mathematics, agronomy, history, literature, etc. Genetics alone allows us to understand many new diseases. None of it is without value, although that value is distorted and monopolized by the ruling class under capitalism.

lines wrote:
The problem of cities and the numbers of people on the planet are very serious problems for any one who says that we can all live communistically, and that capitalism provides the conditions to make this possible.

I am aware of the ecological problems that accompany modern industrialism and I believe they can be overcome. If you read this thread you will find that despite a lot of opposition, I take the position that the sheer number of humans on the planet could pose a problem and that we have to radically alter civilization in order to overcome these problems. There is a balance, however. We can live in a world of ecological stability that still has cities, engineering, and medicine.

lines wrote:
My own view is that it will all have to be destroyed in some sort of economic cataclysm and war, like in WW1. But maybe this is too horrible a dream to contemplate.

You are in good company. None other than the Leninist thug Che Guevara believed the same thing.

lines wrote:
Is communism only possible if there is a reconnection with the land? Is communism impossible without this? And then, what is communism anyway?

Surely, if time was reversed we would be going by stages towards a true human life, until, after many miraculous reversals of massacres and misery, we would arrive at the promised, communist, past? Just some food for thought. Don’t get riled.

Sorry, you lost me there.

Samotnaf
Offline
Joined: 9-06-09
Nov 20 2011 07:36

Tastybrain, and all the others who believe in 2 classism - you should respond to this by Red Marriot, and not avoid it.

tastybrain
Offline
Joined: 11-11-07
Nov 20 2011 08:10
Samotnaf wrote:
Tastybrain, and all the others who believe in 2 classism - you should respond to this by Red Marriot, and not avoid it.

Thank you for your admonishment, although it would carry more weight if you had chosen to participate in the discussion, which I initiated in direct response to your blog post. By the way, I do not "believe in 2 classism", whatever that is, and agree with much of Red's post. I will respond to it at some point.

lines
Offline
Joined: 6-11-11
Nov 20 2011 09:57

Tastybrain,
Your reply to me seems like it was written quickly and without great consideration. There was also a lot of swearing and accusatory language. I sensed you would reply to my post in this way, since, in your terms, my post is obviously controversial. That's why I said that what I was saying was only food for thought, and why I suggested you don't get riled. But you did get riled, obviously. I suppose that you might get upset at being compared to Lenin, but how else can I make my point? You say that you don't know about alienation and the division of labour.

It seems like a lot of people start threads on Libcom with a question, then various people reply, then when one of the repliers says something that the original poster doesn't like, the original poster gets all sweary and says things like, "Keep it on topic," or, "You are an idiot." This kind of response forces one to think that the original poster had already made up their mind before they psoted their 'innocent' question. Never mind, I suppose such behaviours are only human nature.

Your response to me is full of things that will take a while to respond to - as was mine - so I was very surprised that you responded so quickly. The point is to have a discussion, and learn from each other, not just cheer when someone says something we agree with, and boo when someone says something we disagree with.

Red Marriot's post is very pertinent to what you are saying here. I do not see how you can say you do not believe in 2-classism, and then say 'whatever that is' - meaning that you don't know what it means. This demonstrates the intemperate nature of your responses - you must relax, and think about what is being said. You also say you agree with much of Red Marriot's post but how can this be when you don't understand what he is saying about 2-classism? It also makes little sense when it is clear from your posts that you disagree with such a perspective.

For Tojiah:

Pre-agricultural Australia did not 'progress' to proper (as we know it, and as it appeared in parts of PNG) agriculture. Neither did the economic system in pre-colonial North America (although they practised crop growing). You can't just make these over-arching statements. When Australia was colonised a human community was destroyed. Communism means the creation of a human community.

BUT a considered reply to Red Marriot's post is definitely in order. (Ignore my ramblings, I was only replying to tastybrain.)

RedHughs
Offline
Joined: 25-11-06
Nov 20 2011 09:46
lines wrote:
For example, what would you do if lots (i.e too many for the continuation of the degree of service you think appropriate) of nurses, cleaners, and farm labourers decided they wanted to go off and fight the revolutionary war? Or what if lots of nurses, cleaners and farm labourers suddenly decided that the most important thing for them to do, now that capitalism had collapsed and they were no longer forced to work, was to take up dancing?

Starve and die of a preventable disease?

lines wrote:
Would you force them to return to their posts? This is certainly what you are implying.

When someone says a person should do something, does it imply automatically that someone will force that other person to do it?

Isn't the point of both communism and revolt leading toward communism that humans can unite in a non-coercive process that still lets us make somewhat rational collective decisions like continuing to grow food?

lines
Offline
Joined: 6-11-11
Nov 20 2011 10:08

Dear Red Hughes,

If you think you have to discuss this stuff in advance of a revolution then you are more about trying to control what happens in a revolution than letting the thing happen. Our job is to use our absolute and unqualified criticism of everything that will lead back to servitude in a system that relies on the division of labour. Other people will make the revolution, our part is to warn against the return to capitalist social relations - this is what we know, this is our expertise. This is our historic role. We know about Kronstadt.

But, someone needs to reply to Red Marriot!

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Nov 20 2011 12:09

Red Marriot in his post 124 makes the best job yet at getting to the heart of the matter beyond the 'academic categorisation' element of our discussion and is part of what I was trying to illustrate in two of my earlier posts from my own personal experience.
Red also makes a strong case for our challenging the '1%/90%' ideology which had it's origins not suprisingly in the USA brand of the Occupations movement.

On some of the wider related matters it seems to me that: 'tastybrain' emphasises what they perceive as the practical necessities of some continuity between capitalism and communism whilst 'lines' sees our role as wholly concerned with stressing the social discontinuity between the two, given the depth of the results of the 'real domination' of modern capitalism and the social isolation and insignificance of todays pro-revolutionary milieu.

Well in arguing our point of view with those not in our milieu it seems there is a balance to be struck here but in this 'internal' debate I err towards 'lines' view.

There was a separate discussion on the issue of the 'transition to communism' that this also relates to.

Wellclose Square
Offline
Joined: 9-05-08
Nov 20 2011 13:04

Red Marriott's post is a breath of fresh air, and as Spikymike says, "makes the best job yet at getting to the heart of the matter".

Joining libcom (the forum, not the group) after many years of 'inactivity', I became mystified by the term '2-class theory' when it used to be randomly tossed into an discussion. It took exposure to arguments on the various 'Aufheben/Riots/Cop-collaboration' threads as well as this one to get a handle on it. If '2-class theory' is the ideological glue which binds groups like the Libcom admins and Aufheben together then it's little wonder that discussions on those parallel threads have at times degenerated to the point where critics of academic complicity of the kind displayed by J are dismissed as 'batshit mental' conspiracy theorists, while the level of complicity inherent to the middle class professions of '2-class' advocates is left unexamined.

It reminds me a bit of the controversy that raged around Andy Anderson's proposition that 'the enemy of the working class is the middle class'. While I wouldn't subscribe to this simplistic view, I found it noteworthy that some of the most ferocious opponents of this view were people who were either drifting towards or already employed in middle class professions that entailed some measure of social discipline - from youth work to the higher echelons of social work. Anyone remember the old mantra, "Social Workers = Soft Cops"?

2-class theory is in the same area as the feeble 99%/1% discourse of #Occupy.

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Nov 20 2011 18:06
lines wrote:
For Tojiah:

Pre-agricultural Australia did not 'progress' to proper (as we know it, and as it appeared in parts of PNG) agriculture. Neither did the economic system in pre-colonial North America (although they practised crop growing). You can't just make these over-arching statements. When Australia was colonised a human community was destroyed. Communism means the creation of a human community.

That is because they did not have access to the proper domesticable species or the proper climate. Other cultures in the Americas did become agricultural, and nothing stood in their way to eventually become capitalist other than being preempted by European colonists.

Unless you suggest forcing all of humanity to live in arid climates after pushing the domesticable species into extinction, and hoping against hope that no human will ever find a way back into big bad agriculture, thinking that we can go back into some idyllic past is not productive, not to mention that even if you would suggest it, most human beings today, in particular those who having nothing to live by other than their labor, would not find it acceptable, especially since it would involve most of them dying.

This is pie in the sky, only the pie is actually a slice of half-rotten game.

lines
Offline
Joined: 6-11-11
Nov 20 2011 20:14

Thanks for that, Tojiah.

But let's hear again from some defenders of the 2 class theory here, as this seems to be one of the fundamental bases of the errors which have led to certain recent events, and it also underlies the discussion on this thread.

Why exactly is the 2 class theory a useful theoretical tool for pro-revolutionaries?

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Nov 20 2011 20:33

I love how nobody actually bothered to read libcom's glossary definition of class before piling in with the "searching" questions - way easier to just ascribe stuff to a two-dimensional constructed persona hey guys?

I'll throw on on another angle, no-one from the "let's kick out academics, journalists, teachers etc" side ever bothered replying to my attempt to start this same debate on a slightly different (and I might add, rather more respectful) footing.

http://libcom.org/blog/solidarity-news-world-hacks-15072011

what I find particularly weird is when people try to decry "two class theory" as simplistic, but then insist on lumping everyone who works in a particular industry or role (academic, teacher, journalist etc) as objectively the same and definitively anti-working class.

Jared
Offline
Joined: 21-06-09
Nov 20 2011 21:09
Quote:
Why exactly is the 2 class theory a useful theoretical tool for pro-revolutionaries?

I'm going to have a stab at this, but acknowledge that my understandings are probably flawed or simplistic....

As I understand it, class is a social relation consisting of 2 poles. Instead of drawing lines in the sand and catergorising individuals withing 2, 3 or more classes, this bipolar spectrum enables us to consider which interests are at play in struggle. So take my boss: he's worked his way up from being a migrant to New Zealand, started his own business, and now employes 15 of us. He may have a 'working class' background but his personification of capital and his interests put him at the opposite pole to me in that context.

Quote:
So how then do I square a notion of ‘us and them’ with my insistence I am not describing a two class system? It derives from workers experience in capitalism; ‘they’ are the personifications of capital through which this object exercises its agency as per the ontological inversion described above. Usually, the personification of capital is the boss. The boss may be a shareholding capitalist, or a hired manager. Under other circumstances we face union bureaucrats as the personifications of capital, as they divide and diffuse our struggles. Politicians, ‘community leaders,’ or in the case of co-ops operating in a market, workers themselves can also become the personifications of capital. They are compelled to act in the interests of capital by their structural position within the bipolar capital relation.http://libcom.org/library/participatory-society-or-libertarian-communism

So this 2-class, or bipolar spectrum, is useful in order to make sense of real, lived relations and how they can effect struggle and solidarity. I think trying to classify individuals is problematic if it's removed from the reproduction of class relations, in the form of personifying capital (among other things).

Surely whether one is middle class or not is secondary to where on the bipolar spectrum their interests lie? Yes there is a grey area that inhabits the 'middle' of this spectrum, but as we know, when class ruptures exist one can go either way. So while its helpful to be aware of the complexities of capital relations I find that the bipolar understanding of class helps make sense of things (for me at least).

Samotnaf
Offline
Joined: 9-06-09
Nov 21 2011 03:35

Some more reflections on 2-class theory here, in my comment, point no.6. Since the thread was locked 15 minutes after I posted, any possible comments will have to be posted here; so really, if there's going to be some feedback, I'm obliged to put it here:

Quote:
As RedMarriot has pointed out, much of the dominant attitudes defending JD derives from “2 Class theory”.
One of the obvious weaknesses of Aufheben, and a tendency of many ultra-leftist ''theoreticians'' in general, is their reduction of everything to a generalised critique of "value", though some are far subtler and nuanced about this than others. The simplistic versions of this critique have a tendency to see working in the police state as qualitatively no different to working for Morrisons ("it's all wage labour"). But one of Marx's greatest insights was his analysis and critique of the commodity's inhuman reduction of everything and everyone to measurable equivalents, an insight some of the cruder ultra-leftist marxians might like to use to recognise that all wage labour is most definitely not essentially the same (there are even those who consider cop consultant as just another guy trying to make ends meet for his family). Choices have been, are and have to be made; though the margin of choice is defined by our enemies, those who are so mercenary that they think that such choices are just moralisms have no right to pretend that they are part of the movement that wants to abolish the present order of things. Clearly, not all compromises with the system we have to endure until "the revolution" are the same - some are necessary to survive, others are just self-serving careerist moves that utterly fuck up any understanding of reality. And whilst in this epoch, increasing amounts of people are prepared to justify doing almost anything as being, for example, necessary "for the kids", there are very clearly certain compromises that utterly undermine their kids' future, and their communication with them, in the long term.
2-class "theory" becomes the ideological base for this ''we're all workers'' apologism, its material base often being loadsamoney (e.g. just one of JD’s projects, outside of his academic work, is funded with a 2 year grant of £83,000 ) accompanied by a totally uncritical, self-justifying, attitude to the ideological work of those expounding it and a simplistic dismissal of the term ''Middle Class'' as being 'merely' a sociological concept. How convenient – conveniently ignoring the hierarchy in the division of labour, simplifying everything into an equality of alienation, conveniently blind to the fact that some 'intellectual labour' is certainly more proletarianised, and far less ideological, than others - e.g. teaching a foreign language, which in some parts of the world is extremely badly paid, or call centre operators in India, which there is a job reserved for the proletarianised Middle Class (though not always so proletarianised : at one time, many call centre workers in India were getting higher wages than Indian University professors.) But much of it is just plain unproletarianised Middle Class - i.e. it is work that clearly reproduces the hierarchical division of labour both in the nature of the authority roles and the ideology developed, and this top heavy intellect-separated-from-practical-consequences gets translated into an idea that it's enough to be revolutionary in one's public revolutionary writing. One of the essential roles of the intellectual section of the Middle Class is to develop ideologies that implicitly or explicitly justify their own definitions of themselves as having a consciousness of being objective and detached - 'scientific' rather than an unenlightened self-interested career move. If such people are to contribute to a radical opposition to this society they are going to have to take the risk of subverting these roles and ideologies, along with the rest of us – though, as we have seen from this miserable affair, those of us who are lower in the hierarchy are having a dreadful uphill battle, fraught with minefields of deceit and denial, in challenging the absurdity of their position. Of course, the whole question is more subtle than simply resorting to “The enemy is middle class”. The conditions of class distinctions have in many ways been changed by the defeat of past struggles. Old class boundaries have become far more nuanced and complex, blurred – we have to see how people manifest themselves in the fluidity of real practical struggles and subjectivities in order to see how the middle class/working class dichotomy plays itself out , how individuals and groups undermine their complicity with this society or reinforce it.

tastybrain
Offline
Joined: 11-11-07
Nov 21 2011 04:32
lines wrote:
Tastybrain,
Your reply to me seems like it was written quickly and without great consideration. There was also a lot of swearing and accusatory language. I sensed you would reply to my post in this way, since, in your terms, my post is obviously controversial. That's why I said that what I was saying was only food for thought, and why I suggested you don't get riled. But you did get riled, obviously. I suppose that you might get upset at being compared to Lenin, but how else can I make my point?

It was written fairly quickly but I don't think that invalidates any of what I said. None of the swearing was directed against you, although I'm sorry if you're offended. It was merely used as an intensifier. How else can you make your point? Actually address what people are saying instead of making fairly ridiculous equivalencies (the equivalence of a continuation of medical services, farming, and public sanitation with the massacre at Kronstadt and the tyranny of the Bolsheviks, for instance.)

lines wrote:
You say that you don't know about alienation and the division of labour.

I'm aware of the concepts. I don't know how they relate to what you're saying. I think the division of labor should be broken down as much as is possible ATR. However, in the weeks, months, and years immediately after the revolution some people will have to remain at their jobs for practical reasons while their skills are more widely defused among people.

lines wrote:
It seems like a lot of people start threads on Libcom with a question, then various people reply, then when one of the repliers says something that the original poster doesn't like, the original poster gets all sweary and says things like, "Keep it on topic," or, "You are an idiot." This kind of response forces one to think that the original poster had already made up their mind before they psoted their 'innocent' question. Never mind, I suppose such behaviours are only human nature.

Actually, I'm genuinely interested in ways in which academics serve capitalism and how academics might resist this function. However, most people have not bothered to get into such a specific discussion (perhaps because they prefer writing off academics as class enemies to a concrete analysis which would show that academic, like everyone else, can resist their function). I am disagreeing with you because I think you are wrong, not because I refuse to see anyone else's point of view.

lines wrote:
Your response to me is full of things that will take a while to respond to - as was mine - so I was very surprised that you responded so quickly. The point is to have a discussion, and learn from each other, not just cheer when someone says something we agree with, and boo when someone says something we disagree with.

I didn't just "boo" you and we are having a discussion. I have made several specific points which you haven't addressed so far. That's hardly "booing when someone says something I disagree with".

lines wrote:
Red Marriot's post is very pertinent to what you are saying here. I do not see how you can say you do not believe in 2-classism, and then say 'whatever that is' - meaning that you don't know what it means.

The reason I said "whatever that means" is because it has not really been defined in a coherent manner. What Red has defined as 2-classism I disagree with. The last part of the sentence was meant to express the nebulousness of the concept thus far, not a lack of understanding of the vague outlines that have been put forward.

lines wrote:
This demonstrates the intemperate nature of your responses - you must relax, and think about what is being said.

Thank you for your kind advice, lines. However, whatever problems you have with my tone or the time frame in which I responded don't in any way diminish the validity of my points. Perhaps my response was "intemperate" but I also addressed the substance of what you actually said.

lines wrote:
You also say you agree with much of Red Marriot's post but how can this be when you don't understand what he is saying about 2-classism?

Again, "whatever that is" was meant to express a dissatisfaction with the clarity with which the term has been presented and defined, not a lack of understanding of what has been defined.

lines wrote:
It also makes little sense when it is clear from your posts that you disagree with such a perspective.

How is that "clear"? What have I said that is incompatible with Red's perspective?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Nov 21 2011 07:40
Samotnaf wrote:
some 'intellectual labour' is certainly more proletarianised, and far less ideological, than others

This post shows how difficult it is to discuss this while having any agreement over terminology. I do not consider myself a '2-classist' (probably no-one will admit to that as presented here), but I also think 'middle class' is not a useful term without qualifications. Fortunately you've added many qualifications here which helps to narrow down the discussion.

Quote:
- e.g. teaching a foreign language, which in some parts of the world is extremely badly paid, or call centre operators in India, which there is a job reserved for the proletarianised Middle Class (though not always so proletarianised : at one time, many call centre workers in India were getting higher wages than Indian University professors.

There are often situations where wages != class position - usually when there is a particular shortage of labour in an industry. Foreign (primarily English) language teachers in Japan were extremely well paid in the '80s because there was a rapid expansion of English teaching and not enough people to do it, now it is low pay, part-time contracts etc. like everywhere else. I don't think their class position changed in that time though.

High wages in an industry can allow certain people working in it to accumulate savings which they then use to take themselves out of their class position (for example to start a company), but they could also just spend it or pay off debts or similar.

Quote:
) But much of it is just plain unproletarianised Middle Class

Well this is where the definitions need to be fleshed out. What's the difference between 'proletarianized middle class' and working class? Is it the background of the person doing the job? Blue collar vs. white collar? Income? The content of the job itself?

'Call centre worker' is more or less a completely new category - since call centres themselves are quite new. Some of those people have replaced particular functions of other jobs which might have been considered middle class (talking to an NHS direct telephone operator instead of a GP for example), but that doesn't blur the class position of the job for me at all. i.e. working in a call centre is not a 'proletarianized' job in the same way being a teacher now vs. a teacher 70 years ago is.

When call centre works in India were getting well paid, or English teachers in Japan, were they 'unproletarianized' or just partially proletarianized, or is income not really a factor just by itself? Are there 'unproletarianized' jobs which will never be proletarianized? Are there some that are simply 'not yet proletarianized'?

I think this is really what the discussion boils down to. If you look at an organization like SolFed, their criteria for barring membership is iirc "no power to hire or fire", that being a straightforward delimiter between various peoples' roles within a workplace - if you have the power to fire someone else, you should not be in a workplace group with them fighting against the workplace. I assume that is primarily to exclude people in middle-management (and/or lefty small business owners), but those are not really what's being discussed here (well maybe middle-management is 'unproletarianized middle class' though?).

When it comes to 'intellectual labour' like journalists, academics etc., those seem more to me to be as much to do with the role of the industry itself as the actual job. There are industries like temp agencies, arms factories, debt collection etc. which are much more directly involved in the repression of the working class than many other jobs, but where the roles people working in those industries are doing is anything but traditionally middle class jobs (proletarianized or not). http://libcom.org/forums/theory/staff-who-work-temp-agencies-14052011 is an example of where that came up recently.

Someone brought up music teachers before as a counter example, however I would not say it is that simple. Teaching an instrument has very little ideological content, teaching music to ensembles doesn't really have much either (although you start to get some kind of classroom management in there), teaching music as an academic subject to classes has quite a bit more (you have an ideologically influenced curriculum especially as it relates to genre, plenty of courses now have compulsory sections about the music business or 'embedded' numeracy and literacy etc.) - this counts whether you are teaching an instrument at postgraduate level or teaching music classes to 11 year olds.

Quote:
Of course, the whole question is more subtle than simply resorting to “The enemy is middle class”. The conditions of class distinctions have in many ways been changed by the defeat of past struggles. Old class boundaries have become far more nuanced and complex, blurred – we have to see how people manifest themselves in the fluidity of real practical struggles and subjectivities in order to see how the middle class/working class dichotomy plays itself out , how individuals and groups undermine their complicity with this society or reinforce it.

Well this means that neither a position of "two classes: working and ruling" nor "three classes: working, middle and ruling" is remotely sufficient, so rather than presenting it as a dichotomy between 3 class and 2 class theory, there is a more interesting discussion to be had - which is somewhat happening here but despite this rather than because of it.

Samotnaf
Offline
Joined: 9-06-09
Nov 21 2011 08:08

Mike Harman - I have no desire to discuss with someone who has not merely problems with categories, but with facts; since you have no problems with people who have very clearly crossed the class line, you are simply discussing things without any desire to have the most basic consequence. The security of abstraction. Let's make up and be friends, sweep the elephant under the carpet and pretend that the pile of shit it's excreted just doesn't smell? Hide away from the obvious, conjur it away with words , blah blah blah forever, and not mean a fucking thing? All roads lead to Rome and all discussions, with you and the rest of admin, lead to your collectively enforced defence of the indefensible, collective lies, which make a mockery of all your critiques of class and of the state.
There will be no moving on until you realise what crap you've been defending.

tastybrain
Offline
Joined: 11-11-07
Nov 21 2011 08:20

And now, by popular demand:

Red Marriott wrote:
I'll make a point I haven't seen much emphasised, but seems relevant.

Those libcoms who attempt a defence of J claim to base it on the denial of any wrongdoing; but what is seen as 'wrongdoing', where the line is drawn, is determined by other things. It looks to me like the same premise is used as in their poor class analysis; 2-classism, where the middle-class as a significant factor of class society is airbrushed from history and from the present (as is the petit-bourgeoisie - leaving aside the disputed m/c, can they not count even up to three?).

Ok, agreement so far. I do think the middle class is fairly significant. I have just argued that teachers are not part of it except in a "sociological" sense. The "middle class" does not really exist as it is defined by capitalist society but certainly there are "middle strata" who play a significant role...

Red Marriott wrote:
We are asked to believe in the mythical context of a society close to the "we are the 99%" liberalism of the recent Occupy protests - 1% ruling class v 99% exploited proles. The 'Proletarian' diluted to a near-universal category - the 99% 'masses' - is only a restatement of the concept of individual citizen as part of the mass of 'The People'... as dubious a unifying concept as 'national identity'. It mirrors the simple equivalence made between all citizens in relation to the nation state - mutual citizenship prioritised over their class relations to each other. By reducing all evaluations of social relationships to a wage earning identity/relationship, this universalised Proletarian glosses over the hierarchical class relations between the diverse 'citizens'.

With you so far. Wage laborers often have hierarchical relationships with each other. I do believe that everyone as an individual can play a role in a revolution but obviously certain classes will lead the way...

Red Marriott wrote:
Reduction of class to economic technicalities of income ignores that economic relations are also often invested with power relations, hierarchical divisions of labour, privilege and coercion - ie, social relations as they actually occur between real people at both group and individual levels. Yet the 2-classists repeatedly say 'class should not be used to define individuals' (then they go and write a series of articles called "celebrity working class heroes"!).

Sure, sure.

Red Marriott wrote:
It's claimed that because all jobs have some element of complicity/compromise with capitalism - therefore no jobs can ever be criticised for the specific nature or degree of complicity and for the repressive consequences for proles. That is the logic. If you earn a wage, you're a prole and can't be criticised with any consequence for the content and consequence of anything you do for money. (This may be denied in the abstract, but in practice is generally the case argued, as numerous libcom debates show.)

I don't agree that "no jobs can ever be criticised for the specific nature or degree of complicity and for the repressive consequences for proles." or that "If you earn a wage, you're a prole and can't be criticised with any consequence for the content and consequence of anything you do for money." I think what J did was abhorrent and it's patently obvious that wage earners can be criticized for what they do. Why else would we criticize managers and scabs? Prison guards should be criticized. Cops should be criticized. Public prosecuters should be criticized. Academics and teachers should be criticized, when their actions merit it. I don't see the repressive function of academics and teachers being the same as cops, judges, etc, There are certainly instances in which teachers/academics should be criticized uncompromisingly, but I don't view them as inherently reactionaries and "the enemy" as I view cops.

Red Marriott wrote:
The denial of individual categorisation seems often to be really an assertion and defence of potential individual professional career compromises in the field of class relations - and their consequences.

Maybe. Red, I'm partially responding to what's written here and partially comparing your ideas to my ideas to see how they differ as people have claimed they are incompatible. Do you think being an academic period (or "full stop") is a "compromise" or are you referring to specific actions, undertaken by academics or other professionals, which compromise one's commitment to communism, like what J did? In other words, can one be an academic without compromising or is every academic "compromised" as a communist in your view?

Red Marriot wrote:
This notion of universal prole 'citizenship' confused with class carries with it by default certain aspirations and their defences, defined by the very middle class ideology 2-classism seeks to hide or deny; the common desire of the professional (particularly the leftist) to see 'a career' as more worthy than mere wage labour - as also a vocation, one's labour as an important contribution to 'the social good'. (This is not quite uniform or unique to professions, but in other occupations it's a less defining characteristic and less part of the perceived self-image; more a marginal byproduct of occasional job satisfaction than a perceived specialist improving of social ills.)

Sounds reasonable, but again, is the aspiration to be an academic a bad thing in itself? Also, I disagree that viewing oneself as contributing to the social good is a "marginal byproduct" of non-professional jobs. Railroad workers like engineers and skilled workers generally have historically taken pride in their work and I think there are many non-professionals who still do, if only as a psychological necessity.

Speaking personally, as someone who does indeed aspire to a professional job, I have no conception of " 'a career' as more worthy than mere wage labour." I want to be an academic simply because I think I would enjoy writing, teaching, and researching for a living, as well as the job security of tenure and the relative freedom at work (of course it's pretty unlikely I'll ever be able to make it to tenured status), not because I think it's superior to whatever else people choose or are forced to do.

Red Marriott wrote:
Like ideological craftsmen/artisans, they treasure the recognition of the personal 'unique' qualities of the products of their labour and its social usefulness. Not hard to see the relationship between this and commitment to political militancy/activism, its theorising and then its possible merging in 'radical' academia and its dubious dogmas.

Sure, but I don't see what's so insidious about some professional taking pride in doing something unique, as long as one recognizes the limits of the academy or whatever other professional environment one is in. An academic can write something that contributes to the dialogue of a radical milieu, although this sort of thing can never substitute for more committed agitation and action. What's wrong with taking pride in something you write? It doesn't mean you'll never go on strike or that you love your employers.

Red Marriott wrote:
The justifying premise, stripped of its class veneer, reveals a defence of certain dominant values embodied in the work ideology of middle class careerism; the right to autonomy and liberty of the individual in class society - the promotion of 'freedom of the individual citizen' to pursue achievement, recognition and advancement on individual 'merit' and contribution - in pretence that merit and its attainment operates outside class relations.

I don't believe in any of that stuff. If you don't have any of those pretenses or believe in those values is there anything wrong with pursuing a career as an academic, doctor, etc, with no illusions that you are better than anyone else or that you can be excused for anything because of your profession? I agree that if an academic or any other professional does something despicable or counter-revolutionary they shouldn't be forgiven because of their status, but is the mere fact that one is a professional bad in itself?

Red Marriott wrote:
The same general 'logic' is applied in defence of Dr J. If one doesn't try to suppress a critique of specific social function, recuperation and its consequences, one can see that crowd psychology as a specialisation is almost a textbook case of the traditional middle class role of the professional mediating of class relations and class conflict - whether applied in the fields of protests, riots, disasters or football supporters, where derived lessons and applications will inevitably overlap.

Agreed. And agreed that J's actions were inexcusable.

Marriott wrote:
'He had to do these things as part of his job.' Is that not the wrong way round? Such a career choice, as specialist subject - and the way it was pursued - for a 'communist' is quite perverse in itself, and an unnecessary choice if one simply wished to pursue academia.

See, this is why I don't think what I am saying is incompatible with what Red is saying. He or she allows for the possibility of academics not always being class enemies, at least if I understand correctly.

Red Marriott wrote:
Given the long and continued strength of their expression, it begs a question - is it that perhaps some defenders and 2-classists are sensitive to criticisms that might equally apply to compromises they and/or their acquaintances may be willing to make or can foresee making on their career path? If this is predictably criticised as trying to be 'prolier than thou' I'll respond that there are surely academics, professionals, middle class people, those with 'worse' theoretical politics than libcom & Aufheben, many of the working class with a healthy attitude to the cops etc who all understand why such compromises are practically beyond the pale and could never stomach making them.

Yes, and I don't think that compromise was acceptable, and I couldn't see myself doing it.

In closing (and this has little to do with Red's post) I will quote the Libcom article about a Greek doctor:

Quote:
In 1958 the Greek Red Cross appointed him a doctor of communist exiles in the notorious internal exile camp of Agios Stratis. Disobeying orders by his superiors to neglect the exiled, he openly worked for the well being and health of the prisoners in the camp, while publicly denouncing the government for "intentional homicides" and the Greek Red Cross for "collaborationism and subordination", by leaking to the foreign press confidential documents and top secret guidelines of the Ministry of Security, proving his allegations.

So was this guy counterrevolutionary simply because he was a doctor?

Malva's picture
Malva
Offline
Joined: 22-03-11
Nov 21 2011 08:52

Changed my mind about this post.

Blasto
Offline
Joined: 17-11-10
Nov 21 2011 14:47
tastybrain wrote:
Quote:
In 1958 the Greek Red Cross appointed him a doctor of communist exiles in the notorious internal exile camp of Agios Stratis. Disobeying orders by his superiors to neglect the exiled, he openly worked for the well being and health of the prisoners in the camp, while publicly denouncing the government for "intentional homicides" and the Greek Red Cross for "collaborationism and subordination", by leaking to the foreign press confidential documents and top secret guidelines of the Ministry of Security, proving his allegations.

So was this guy counterrevolutionary simply because he was a doctor?

Tastybrain, you seem to be mistaking a widely held understanding of class with the Khmer Rouge! No one has said a doctor can't be a revolutionary. What has been said is that doctors are middle class. They may even have a working class background, but as a doctor they are middle class. If someone middle class develops a revolutionary praxis then they have understood their own class position and have begun to think and act against their own class interests.

Likewise, no-one has said an academic (and for the sake of simplicity and the avoidance of hair splitting, in this instance let's say "a lecturer") can't be a revolutionary. What has been said is it is a middle class job - its class nature isn't defined by remuneration or working conditions (though these often all go together) but by its status and function in a capitalist class society.

If we accept that being a university lecturer is a middle class function, we have understood the nature of that function. We have understood that a lecturer might be revolutionary, but despite their class role. As a revolutionary, they (probably with others) have critically evaluated their role and come to a conclusion about whether or not it is directly at odds with their communist perspective (as any sane person would as far as what JD does goes) or whether it is largely benign, and also whether their class position is at odds with a communist praxis (for example, they become unable to act for fear of losing that position).

(BTW, Given that the class struggle is here and now, positions along the lines of "come the revolution I'll throw my lot in with the working class, but in the meantime...." are an obvious acceptance of class position over class struggle and are the fantasies of those who chatter but rarely or never act).

The reason this is essentially important, and why the two-class position is actually quite deadly, is because we have to be acutely aware of class interests in order that they don't work against us. Who is it who actually defeats revolutions? In the first instance it may the police or the army, but ultimately it is the soft cops and the armies of recuperators - the middle class. The very people so often at the vanguard are the ones who define its limits and bring the full weight of their class power against it when their own class interests are best served.

I'd have thought the Dr J case makes all this screamingly obvious? Though in that particular case, as we know Dr J has considerable insight and intelligence, it would appear to go beyond class awareness into the realms duplicity, (self-)deception and the betrayal of those he presents his communist persona to.

What is also quite obvious is that he is far from alone. For each of us, we act from where we are - that seems obvious doesn't it?. There is no point being a lecturer, a social worker or and calling yourself a communist if you are not bringing your class perspective to bear on the world as you find it. Anything else is just becomes an abstraction, the struggle becomes something elsewhere, reality received and mediated through the experiences of others. Like footie fans in the pub, you can wear the colours, make all the noise and offer all the analysis you like, but you have no effect on the game.

Here on libcom in the last few days we've had someone on the one hand calling for solidarity on Nov 30th, on the other calling themselves a "radical social worker". I don't mean to personalise this - hopefully that person will take this in the spirit its meant and explore the issues here - but someone with a class perspective that reflected the reality of the world (i.e. understands the class role of social workers), and a communist perspective could only ever be a radical anti-social worker, and would have to wrestle with that contradiction. The consequence of not doing so could all too easily put them in a position similar to JD - directly opposed the class interests they aim to progress.

Fall Back's picture
Fall Back
Offline
Joined: 22-09-03
Nov 21 2011 14:47

My favourite bit of this thread is where Aufheben and libcom are "bound together" by a 2 class analysis that neither of them hold. And not only do neither hold it, but both disagree with it in entirely different ways -

http://libcom.org/library/participatory-society-or-libertarian-communism (libcom)
http://libcom.org/library/aufheben/aufheben-13-2005/the-housing-question (Aufheben)

What a joke.

lzbl's picture
lzbl
Offline
Joined: 19-09-11
Nov 21 2011 14:47
Blasto wrote:
Here on libcom in the last few days we've had someone on the one hand calling for solidarity on Nov 30th, on the other calling themselves a "radical social worker". I don't mean to personalise this - hopefully that person will take this in the spirit its meant and explore the issues here - but someone with a class perspective that reflected the reality of the world (i.e. understands the class role of social workers), and a communist perspective could only ever be a radical anti-social worker, and would have to wrestle with that contradiction. The consequence of not doing so could all too easily put them in a position similar to JD - directly opposed the class interests they aim to progress.

Social work has a proud radical tradition. It's actually not impossible to be a communist and a social worker, and this assertion only goes to show your limited understand of the role. There are a wide range of ways and places that social workers can practice that are entirely in line with class politics. It is also true that some roles and models of social work do come in to direct conflict with the class and it's these that need to be addressed.

Blasto
Offline
Joined: 17-11-10
Nov 21 2011 15:10
lzbl wrote:
Blasto wrote:
Here on libcom in the last few days we've had someone on the one hand calling for solidarity on Nov 30th, on the other calling themselves a "radical social worker". I don't mean to personalise this - hopefully that person will take this in the spirit its meant and explore the issues here - but someone with a class perspective that reflected the reality of the world (i.e. understands the class role of social workers), and a communist perspective could only ever be a radical anti-social worker, and would have to wrestle with that contradiction. The consequence of not doing so could all too easily put them in a position similar to JD - directly opposed the class interests they aim to progress.

Social work has a proud radical tradition. It's actually not impossible to be a communist and a social worker, and this assertion only goes to show your limited understand of the role. There are a wide range of ways and places that social workers can practice that are entirely in line with class politics. It is also true that some roles and models of social work do come in to direct conflict with the class and it's these that need to be addressed.

I have not said it is impossible (that was the point I was making all through my post!!!!) - I have said the idea of "radical social work" is a contradiction. Without wanting to derail this thread, "radical social work" serves exactly the same interests as any other approach to the role social work. It may be a more empathetic way of doing it, but it can make no claims behind that.

I also have a pretty good grasp of the role - I have come up against social workers. I have also seen them wrestle with the horrors of domestic violence, etc. Not a job anyone would envy, but equally and essentially, it's a characteristic shared with the police and it doesn't alter their fundamental role one bit.

lzbl's picture
lzbl
Offline
Joined: 19-09-11
Nov 21 2011 15:12

I'm not even arguing with that, it's too stupid.