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Was the Union war against the Confederacy a progressive war or imperialist bloodbath?

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Soapy
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Feb 10 2016 14:00

@Artesian

First off I think that it doesn't make sense to lump in the Civil War with the Russian Revolution as that is a bit of apples and oranges. I would say though that quite obviously although it was driven by a lot of good intentions the Russian Revolution was a dismal failure, although I'm not sure what relevance that has to this discussion.

As to the Civil War I'm not sure what you are arguing because it is obvious that it did not in any way benefit the material interests of anyone, most of all the slaves.

Leo
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Feb 10 2016 14:11
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The civil war was like the Napoleonic wars, the world wars and all the others in that the common, non-exploiting people rally behind the flag of their exploiters and are sent to fight and die for the goals of their exploiters.

But this isn't true. A significant portion of the confederate army either were slave-owners themselves or came from slave-owning families. They weren't rallying behind the flag of their exploiters, they were rallying behind their own flag as exploiters themselves. The rest were fighting against losing their legal right to own slaves even if they didn't in the future. In any case, way more than the other wars mentioned, the Confederate soldiers were certainly fighting for their own goals.

Any former slaves fighting with the Union army too were also not fighting for their exploiters but against them since not having become proletarians yet, their exploiters were the slave-owners.

Quote:
As to the Civil War I'm not sure what you are arguing because it is obvious that it did not in any way benefit the material interests of anyone, most of all the slaves.

So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Seriously, I'm not sure if the people who defend this "ultra-radical" position realize how they're coming accross.

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Feb 10 2016 15:23

@Leo

You seem to be pretty misinformed about what occurred in the South following the Civil War. It is detailed pretty well in the book "Slavery By Another Name" by Douglas Blackmon.

Former slaves enjoyed a brief respite due to a short lived effort by the North to protect the newly gained rights of Southern slaves, this period is known as reconstruction. However, political will for this sort of humanitarian effort soon waned and whites soon consolidated their power in the form of groups like the KKK and worked to destroy all that was gained during Reconstruction. Blacks were enslaved again in conditions so shocking one wonders if there could possibly be anything worse than slavery.

Across the south blacks were arrested on frivolous charges and sold into slavery under a convict leasing system. They were often taken to mines where they were worked 18-20 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. Their disease ridden windowless dormitories were attached to the mine shafts. They woke in darkness, worked in the cramped darkness of the mines all day where they frequently murdered and raped one another, and came back to bed in darkness, never once seeing the sunlight. They ate bug infested food that left them barely nourished. If they tried to escape they were hunted down with dogs and either killed or had an iron spike jammed into their chains that cause severe pain when they moved too quickly. Thousands died, but new slaves were so cheap to acquire that the bosses didn't care and furthermore they proved wonders when it came to strike breaking as the bosses ensured that any refusal of work was met with torture (waterboarding was used). US Steel used these slaves to break up strikes several times.

Mines were not the only places blacks were re-enslaved at. Lumber camps, farms, foundries, anywhere that required cheap labor. Young black men were systematically arrested and disappeared into this new form of slavery. Simultaneously the altruistic northern whites began to strongly believe that blacks were complaining too much and were disrupting the social fabric of life. Racist minstrel shows that depicted criminal caricatures of blacks performed in sold out shows in New York and Chicago and were received with rave reviews. All efforts at protecting the rights of former slaves were abandoned and Dubois' sociological study documenting some of these abuses was destroyed after it had been delivered to the US government because they felt it was too divisive.

Massacres of blacks throughout the south were frequent and elicited little to no comment. Even more frequent were common lynchings, something which was so widespread that it is thought that thousands of blacks were lynched each year during the period after reconstruction up until WWII.

No I do not think the material conditions of blacks in the south improved after the abolition of slavery.

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James MacBryde
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Feb 10 2016 14:44

Leo:

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Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Yet, how many descendents of slaves now have any material resource but their labour power? Still, I accept your point as I do Soapy's. Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

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Feb 10 2016 15:24
James MacBryde wrote:
Leo:

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Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Yet, how many descendents of slaves now have any material resource but their labour power? Still, I accept your point as I do Soapy's. Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

Aye, that'd be Chomsky.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 15:49

Soapy,

Yes, Reconstruction was defeated by terrorist campaigns, but I note that you, like Sander, fail to provide a shred of evidence for your claim that "500,000" proletarians died in the war against slavery.

The point remains: slavery was not restored, and because it was not restored, and because, despite the best/worst efforts of the Redemptionist governments (your proletarian Confederates out of uniform I guess), black labor was formally free, that is movable, and move black labor did, out of the US South beginning in 1905 and into the industrial proletariat. And yes, being a wage-laborer is an improvement in the condition of labor as opposed to being a share-cropper in debt peonage. Kind of explains why measures of living standards, life expectancy, infant mortality, education etc were higher for African-Americans in the North as opposed to the South.

You can claim that those measures are immaterial; they didn't really exist; but that puts you squarely in the camp of apologists for the South, and before that, the apologists for slavery.

But before we continue with this discussion, please answer the question: how do you come up with your 500,000 proletarians killed in the Civil War figure. If you can't, or won't answer that, then you're really not worth talking to-- as Sander and Mac Intosh are not worth talking to.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 16:24
MacBryde wrote:
Yet, how many descendents of slaves now have any material resource but their labour power? Still, I accept your point as I do Soapy's. Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

Thought that was Marx, and not one of Marx's more incisive statements (but not do to a mechanistic deterministic view of history-- simply the result of ignorance of the real material conditions practiced under slavery).

Yeah, lots of people said that. Many apologists for slavery said that, too. The kind beneficent patriarchal slave-owner who really cared about taking care of these simple folk from Africa who needed, after all, taking care of, so slavery was the best alternative for the simple, happy-go-lucky, smiling Africans.

Oh thank you white man. For taking care of me and my little pick-a-ninnies.

EDIT:

Nobody here has claimed that the Civil War did anything other than what it did do, and what it represented-- that is the struggle of Northern capitalism against the slave holding South, in which the North realized it had to abolish slavery.

Nobody here has claimed that the impulse to emancipation, requiring racial equality, was the goal of the North.

Nobody here has claimed that the North did not abandon Reconstruction, restore the former Confederates to power as private property is thicker than blood.

However, some have claimed that the Confederate Army was made up of "proletarians in uniform" without of course providing a bit of evidence.

Some have claimed, in an iteration of the apologies offered by the apologists for slavery, that the conditions of the former slaves was no better, and perhaps worse, than that of the slaves-- without of course providing any evidence thereof.

What has been argued is that the abolition of slavery was necessary; that the Confederate Army were not proletarians; that Radical Reconstruction was of real, material benefit to the ex-slaves, and actually of benefit to the great bulk of the population in the former slave states (if you're worried about our "reb" proletarians, you might want to consider that); that Marx's congratulations to Lincoln on his reelection was not a result of some "error" or mechanistic interpretation of history, but was the result of the recognition that without the specific emancipation of black labor from the chains of slavery there could be no movement, no development of the struggle for the general emancipation of all labor.

I think that general course of events in the last 150 years has shown that assessment by Marx to have been correct.

In fact, I think it still applies today-- without the specific emancipation of black labor from conditions of racism, there can be no movement for the general emancipation of all labor.

So one more time-- were the Confederates proletarians in uniform? If you can't answer that, then you truly have nothing to say.

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Feb 10 2016 18:22

Artesian, it is pretty shocking to me that not only did you seemingly ignore any of the points I made above (aside from making a vague reference to the fact that blacks simply fled the South rather than face the new form of slavery, which is an evasive way of agreeing with me) but now you are now resorting to cursing and abusive behavior.

I said 500,000 because that is what I was taught in Elementary school excuse me and the rest of the American population for thinking that is the accurate figure, althought I'm not quite sure what the exact death toll has to do with this discussion.

Leo, after responding with a confrontational attitude, characterized black life in the years after the Civil War in this way:

"Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture."

Now I have read some interesting things on this topic and I think this is a wholly disingenuous misrepresentation, but rather than telling Leo "fuck you, you ignorant motherfucker" as Artesian has done (although he has edited his post to remove that now), I simply laid out my disagreements above in what I believe to be a convincing manner.

I really am starting to question the value of discussing anything on the libcom forums as there seems to be little interest in genuine discussion.

Leo
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Feb 10 2016 16:29

I'm sorry Soapy, I don't see your point. The fact that there was a defeat later doesn't invalidate the importance of a victory.

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Feb 10 2016 16:27

You wrote

Quote:
So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

I am saying that slavery was not abolished, it was put on hold for 15 or so years and then re implemented with a fervor few could have imagined.

I was pointing this out because I think it weighs heavily upon any notion that the Civil War accomplished anything other than bloodshed and misery.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 16:32

Soapy,

You're shocked? First, you didn't say 500,000. You said "500,000 proles."

That's more than a technical distinction.

The rest of what you offer has zippo to do with the Civil War and everything to do with the (international) reaction to the revolutionary impulse that was embedded, and emerged,(internationally) during and after that war.

You're talking about the failure of a struggle to reach its completion. No one said it reached completion. But it is the fact that is impossible to conclude a struggle without first engaging in it.

The struggle was against slavery. The slaveholders' rebellion was not waged by proletarians in uniform.

You can be as shocked as you want.

I removed the inflammatory language as I thought it was a distraction.

But apologies for slavery bring out harsh language in me, and MacBryde indeed reproduced, uncritically, the most ignorant of apologies.

You have produced nothing in a convincing manner since you refuse to answer the most basic question.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 16:36
Soapy wrote:
You wrote

Quote:
So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

I am saying that slavery was not abolished, it was put on hold for 15 or so years and then re implemented with a fervor few could have imagined.

I was pointing this out because I think it weighs heavily upon any notion that the Civil War accomplished anything other than bloodshed and misery.

So when was slavery abolished? When? How? By whom? What constitutes the abolition of slavery, the owning of the laborer as property, as opposed to owning the products of labor?

It took a concerted campaign of terrorism to restore the Redemptionist governments. So how was slavery defeated after that? Or would you like to claim slavery still exists in the US South as the dominant mode of production?

Leo
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Feb 11 2016 20:26

If anything, it accomplished 15 years or so of abolition and radical effects to change the situation for the better. This is like the October Revolution accomplished nothing but bloodshed and misery. It didn't even last 10 years and sure was followed by a lot of misery.

In fact, what followed was mostly feudal forms like peonage and sharecropping aside from convict leasing which was abolished in the early to mid 20th century. All of these, without a doubt, brought worse conditions in certain periods and places compared to certain, more relaxed forms of slavery but overall, if taken as a totality, i think it should be clear that this experience was better than the whole experience of slavery which often involved conditions even more unspeakably brutal than those you've described.

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Feb 10 2016 16:39

I also find it pretty damning for the up/down system that Artesian's unwarranted and completely unjustified personal attacks on other posters receives no condemnation and no down votes. What is the point of having the up/down system if not to stop abusive behavior?

Ok I am sorry, I should not have said proles, I should have said people. I still don't see why this is a big distinction. Undoubtedly the vast majority of these people were not wealthy.

RC
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Feb 10 2016 16:47

S. Artesian wrote:

Quote:
And yes, being a wage-laborer is an improvement in the condition of labor as opposed to being a share-cropper in debt peonage.

Leo wrote:

Quote:
Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Comparisons are dishonest. They start with the intention of saying something good about one side or the other. If slave labor is bad and wage labor is bad, what is the point in comparing them? The point is to say: yes, wage labor may be bad, but at least it is not as bad as slave labor. Notice how small a compliment this is for wage labor: be grateful that you at least don’t have shackles on ...

The comparison also ignores what slave labor and wage labor have in common: using people to make money. The USA never had a problem with that. The only question was: how?

That might be a more fruitful line of questioning than all this “defend the honor of the Civil War!” stuff.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 16:47
Soapy wrote:
Ok I am sorry, I should not have said proles, I should have said people. I still don't see why this is a big distinction. Undoubtedly the vast majority of these people were not wealthy.

.

Priceless. Not a big distinction? It is to IP. IP supposedly is concerned with class struggle; takes its position based on the class interests of the proletariat.

This is kind of the spot where I should say, "I rest my case."

If it makes you feel any better, I'll down vote my own post-- that's how absurd the up/down vote system is.

Leo
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Feb 10 2016 16:50

To be fair Artesian did remove his inflammatory comment.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 16:51
RC wrote:
That might be a more fruitful line of questioning than all this “defend the honor of the Civil War!” stuff.

And you talk about dishonesty, about comparisons being dishonest? Nobody has launched into a defense of the honor of the Civil War.

What this discussion has been about has been specified, itemized, numerous times. The fact that you can't provide an iota of concrete analysis of real historical conditions does not mean the issues are what you wish them to be.

What would be more fruitful is if you demonstrate where Marx's deterministic, mechanistic view of history, as expressed in his writings on the Civil War differs from a)the actual causes of the war and b) Marx's own methodology of historical materialism.

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Feb 10 2016 16:55
Leo wrote:
If anything, it accomplished 15 years or so of abolition. And in effect, it brought 15 years or so of abolition. This is like the October Revolution accomplished nothing but bloodshed and misery. It didn't even last 10 years and sure was followed by a lot of misery.

In fact, what followed was mostly feudal forms like peonage and sharecropping aside from convict leasing which was abolished in the early to mid 20th century. All of these, without a doubt, brought worse conditions in certain periods and places compared to certain, more relaxed forms of slavery but overall, if taken as a totality, i think it should be clear that this experience was better than the whole experience of slavery which often involved conditions even more unspeakably brutal than those you've described.

Yes the aftermath of the October Revolution was a catastrophe. Totally agreed.

Peonage and convict leasing are the same thing, you really do not seem to have a grasp on this subject. Based on what I've read I really feel that you do not have adequate familiarity with this subject to make a claim that the condition of blacks improved after slavery. Convict leasing did not end simply because the Roosevelt administration gave a slap on the wrist to a few slave holders in the early 20th century.

Anyway, this has really been a disappointing experience for me, and I am pretty saddened by the behavior of posters on here. I feel that I am done and feel confident in my arguments, I see no reason why this discussion had to escalate to the point that it did, and I feel as though my time on the forums is done at least for now.

Leo
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Feb 10 2016 17:18
Quote:
Comparisons are dishonest. They start with the intention of saying something good about one side or the other. If slave labor is bad and wage labor is bad, what is the point in comparing them? The point is to say: yes, wage labor may be bad, but at least it is not as bad as slave labor. Notice how small a compliment this is for wage labor: be grateful that you at least don’t have shackles on ...

I'm sorry but yes, of course wage labor is not as bad as slave labor. Yes, it's still bad, it's still servitude. Yet although changing historical conditions made the gains possible, it was the exploited classes who've won these gains. We have nothing to be grateful for.

Quote:
The comparison also ignores what slave labor and wage labor have in common: using people to make money. The USA never had a problem with that. The only question was: how?

That might be a more fruitful line of questioning than all this “defend the honor of the Civil War!” stuff.

This is not about defending the honor of the Civil War. This is about defending the honor of the struggles against slavery and abolitionism. The legacy of these struggles lives with the struggle of the proletariat. Communists themselves are abolitionists in a truly wide sense.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 16:59

I can well understand how disappointing the experience must be for you. Here you come equipped to talk about the period that begins with the defeat of Reconstruction, and assemble all these facts on the imposition of Jim Crow, claim it's slavery with a vengeance, and people ask you what that has to do with the claim that the Civil War was fought by proletarians on both sides, who, I guess should have turned the guns around on both sides.

Except there were not proletarians on both sides, so as turning the guns around is an articulation of class struggle, of class against class, there's pretty much no substance to any of your arguments, other than, yes Reconstruction was defeated, yes terrible conditions were reimposed.

Just before you go, please tell us how in fact slavery, if not abolished by the war, but in fact restored with a vengeance, was finally abolished-- and if in fact you support that subsequent abolition.

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Feb 10 2016 17:02
S. Artesian wrote:
Just before you go, please tell us how in fact slavery, if not abolished by the war, but in fact restored with a vengeance, was finally abolished-- and if in fact you support that subsequent abolition.

This is something I would loved to discuss in a congenial atmosphere, but you are really behaving extremely aggressively for no reason. I have noticed this behavior across the forums for a while, and I do not see any reason to subject myself to this any more.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 17:05

Well, post it as a blog. I'll be sure to read it and not comment.

Or, you can just say when it was abolished and if you support that abolition, and leave-- without engaging in any further discussion.

Leo
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Feb 10 2016 17:08
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Peonage and convict leasing are the same thing, you really do not seem to have a grasp on this subject.

Well, according to wikipedia, convict leasure is prisoners leased into companies, whereas peonage is individuals becoming debt-bound to plantations and companies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convict_lease

Quote:
Anyway, this has really been a disappointing experience for me, and I am pretty saddened by the behavior of posters on here. I feel that I am done and feel confident in my arguments, I see no reason why this discussion had to escalate to the point that it did, and I feel as though my time on the forums is done at least for now.

Overconfident, in fact. It isn't a good thing, you should try to calm down.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 17:11

Leo is absolutely correct, debt-peonage and convict leasing were separate, although sometimes overlapping facets of the restorationist South.

Debt-peonage was used to "bind" the sharecroppers to the land as an ever-ready labor force to be used, and idled as the plantation required it.

Convict leasing was used to provide labor to coal mines, steel mills, road work-- and even to supplement some of the work done on plantations.

They are not the same thing.

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Feb 10 2016 17:26

Lol as one last note Artesian edited his post to omit "fuck you, you ignorant motherfucker" so nobody will know he said that.

read a book mate, the peonage trials of the early 20th century were dealing with landowners engaged in convict leasing, sigh

lol god it's amazing that right when I said I was going to leave you two reveal your ignorance of this subject so starkly. Convicts were held in debt peonage m8, it's amazing you feel so confident about your position but you clearly dont know the first thing about this subject!

Anyway, confidently, I now say I am logging off

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 17:37

Convicts were leased out in labor to pay off their fines. They were leased to mines, plantation owners, mill operators, lumber operations etc.

Debt peonage, as it existed in the South, and exists in societies to this day, generally refers to the use of debt to maintain a share-croppers obligation to the plantation owner.

I said they overlapped. I said they are not the same thing. Sorry if that's too subtle a distinction.

And really, I don't care if everybody or anybody knows that I wrote "ignorant motherfucker"-- I removed it after thinking about it-- deciding it was needlessly inflammatory and would simply distract from the issue.

But once again-- if slavery was restored after 15 years, when was it abolished, by whom, and how, and do you support that abolition despite the worsening of conditions for African-Americans over the last 30 years?

lettersjournal
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Feb 10 2016 17:39

And if communism never comes, and all the progressive wars were for naught, what fools we'll be for cheering the cannons and scorning the dead.

S. Artesian
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Feb 10 2016 17:40

Oh... just one more thing... I think I should point out the absurdity of Soapy pointing to the "ignorance" of those who make the distinction between debt-peonage and convict leasing as different facets of Jim Crow, when he himself can't see the distinction between "proletarian" and people "not very wealthy."

Now that really is something to make one laugh out load. And roll on the floor.

lettersjournal
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Feb 10 2016 17:46

How are conscripted infantry in a modern army not proletarians?