[Marxism] Is petty bourgeois (or middle-class) just a name you call people you don't like?

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Aug 12 21:09:23 MDT 2004

Walter wrote:
The term "petty bourgeois" (P.B., for short) is a way
to say one don't like somebody....Have you ever notice that no one ever
THEMSELVES as being "petty bourgeois"? It's only
something someone else calls people?
Well, you really can't abolish the farmers and many other sections of
the petty-bourgeoisie that way.  Lenin called the peasants the
"revolutionary bourgeoisie" of the Russian revolution and I don't think
he was trying to offend anybody.
Part of the reason I fought the transformation of petty bourgeois into a
curse word in the SWP (based on extending the real elements of social
conflict that existed in the 1939-40 split in my opinion -- something
that has never been repeated in such a sharp form since, although the
tendency was to treat every conflict as a repeat performance) was that I
was always concerned about the Jewish question (I was a holocaust
generation baby, and it was a part of my consciousness almost from
toddlerhood) and also that my parents were lower middle-class people.  I
knew it wasn't the same as workers because they knew it (my father had
been an industrial worker until he was drafted and then went to
university on the GI bill and became a professor, teacher, and finally
(the ambition of his life) a Freudian psychoanalyst. (I'm not going to
get into a debate about THAT!)  My stepmother, now retired, was a
supervisor (a boss!) at a university business library. My grandfather
was a small master, employed a small number of sheet metal workers in a
shop where I learned my attraction to industrial work.  
But I was also concerned about the loss of  the concept of
petty-bourgeoisie as an objective reality.  I think it is a fact that
the Nader campaign is middle class, and I think it is a case (not the
first or the last, where middle class forces -- professionals and so
forth -- have probed ahead of the working class in a struggle area --
independent political action in opposition to the bourgeoisie.  I think
the concept needs to be kept alive for political clarity, and only by
lifting the workerist curse on it can that be done.
"It's only something someone else calls people."  I don't want to do the
research but a couple months ago, commenting on the absence of
independent working class political action in explaining my support to
Nader-Camejo, I said that the absence of working class politics as an
organized reality in the United States means that in a sense "we are all
middle class radicals."  I admit that I don't consider myself middle
class radical in my core outlook or social position, but I am not afraid
of the term as a description of my position in the living sociology of
class politics in the United States.
Fred Feldman

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