[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?

gregory meyerson gmeyerson at triad.rr.com
Thu Dec 7 20:50:22 MST 2006

One of joaquin's central claims is his claim that white workers enjoy 
material and psychological privileges that wed them to the ruling 
class.  they are thus not really a class.

another is that PEOPLES AND NATIONS are the terms we need for 
understanding ACTUAL MOVEMENTS.

a third is that race/nation, gender and class are autonomous systems of 
exploitation/oppression (Joaquin conflates the two)

He seems to disagree with the marxist claim that neoliberalism has 
indeed hurt all workers, though white workers obviously continue to be 
less oppressed than their fellow black and latin workers (instead of 
making fun of "black and white" unite and fight, we should try to make 
internationalism more convincing).  but that the working class as a 
whole in the U.S. has been substantially weakened seems undeniable.  if 
you deny it though, imperialism becomes the project not primarily of 
the ruling class but the ruling white nation or perhaps caste--and 
given that the ruling class is not nearly as "white" as it used to 
be....  don't you have to deny the reality of corporate 
multiculturalism?  and the huge importance of multiculturalism as an 

ted allen has argued that "whiteness" is the achilles heel of the 
"white" working class, and the u.s. working class as a whole.  but this 
is much different from j's analysis of whiteness:  which is that 
"whites," especially white males, benefit from racism and sexism and 
imperialism.  to me, Joaquin makes the usual mistake of seeing 
differential as benefit--the less oppressed status with regard to black 
and latin workers (more and more oppressed relative to the ruling 
class) turns the white working class into the above mentioned junior 
partner in the ruling race/nation.

On the second point, U.S. patriotism itself plays a huge role in the 
self identity of these ACTUAL MOVEMENTS OF PEOPLE AND NATION (around 
immigration in U.S. for example).  such patriotism might  and does look 
favorably upon EWIC, the ruling class alternative to sensenbrenner. is 
this a good thing? should we support it cause it's an ACTUAL MOVEMENT 
People and Nation encourages class collaboration.  I don't see how it 
cannot--and I'm not talking about the unity of workers and petty 
bourgeois.  when joaquin bold types PEOPLE AND NATION AND ACTUAL AND 
CONCRETE, he renders these first two categories so obvious as to be 
largely immune to criticism.  joaquin constantly talks about the 
failure of class based movements and the success of nation based ones.  
but how successful have national liberation movements been in getting 
the majority of people what they need?

PEOPLE AND NATION  also lead to the kind of racial/cultural 
essentialism we saw Joaquin engaging in when he tried to distinguish 
russia from china on "racial" grounds, in which he argued that the 
soviet union's degeneration into imperialism was characterized by 
something "specifically white."  conversely, non white countries like 
China did not presumably degenerate in this hobbesian manner.  Others 
adequately punctured these claims.

If relative privilege (material and psychological wages of whiteness) 
is enough to separate white workers from black workers, then why would 
divisions between black middle class people and black workers be 
overridden by the malleable term "PEOPLE/NATION?"  and to return to the 
russian example, given the huge divisions between russian workers and 
elites, how can this be overridden by some white russian essentialism 
that allows for broad distinctions between "russians" and "chinese?"  
and what of the huge distinctions between ordinary "whites" and the 
ruling elites?  what is it that overrides this yawning gulf and 
palpable relation of exploitation if it is not ideology (which joaquin 
distrusts in the usual postmarxist way) and the forcible ruling out of 
alternatives?  the souls of white folk I guess.

joaquin's claims about race, class and gender are rebutted in good 
class analyses of the triad by, in addition to allen, those like martha 
gimenez, alan gilbert or ellen meiksins wood--and I suspect people like 
rakesh as well: that the explanatory primacy of class for understanding 
exploitation and oppression downgrades race/nationality and gender.

I dealt with these sorts of arguments (the relative autonomy of 
race/gender as causal categories, the deconstruction of class as 
eurocentric, whatever) in Rethinking Black Marxism--in great detail, 
though not great enough.

ahmed shawki's black liberation and socialism offers many rebuttals to 
joaquin type arguments and so, I think, does a book like michael yates, 
naming the system.

Joaquin's claim that capital exploits labor in a way analogous to the 
way men exploit women and first world nations exploit third world 
nations just destroys the concept of exploitation as a coherent 
concept.  Joaquin's analysis of marxian political economy is filled 
with distortions, the central one being that marxism requires a 
progressively homogenized working class that naturally follows from 
market rationality.  cedric robinson and stuart hall make the same 
bogus point but who else? no one I read.  none of those listed above.  
how joaquin can compare ruling class exploitation of the working class 
with the relation of men and women is amazing.  first, the relation of 
men and women can be very oppressive, but also relatively, even wholly 
egalitarian.  and sometimes, women capitalists exploit male 
proletarians.  there is no analogy in the relation between boss and 
worker.  the latter is a relation of structural domination.  to be a 
boss is to exploit workers.  to be a man is not to exploit a woman, 
unless you go big for evolutionary psychology or some deep notion of 
masculine desire analogous to the white soul joaquin invokes to explain 
his invented difference between russia and china.

  currently, where there is patriarchy, it is as a form of class rule 
not a separate system of exploitation.  and u.s. workers don't benefit 
from the exploitation and plunder of the third world.  unless you want 
to argue that the global reserve army of labor and differential rate of 
exploitation strengthens the u.s. working class instead of being used 
as a club over the heads of u.s. workers.  and so to say that the u.s. 
nation as a whole benefits from the impoverishment of other nations, 
that all americans benefit from imperialism, which is what Joaquin 
seems to be saying, is really problematic since the evidence shows that 
imperialism abroad constricts "democracy" at home and strengthens the 
hand of the ruling class--necessarily weakening the 
multiracial/gendered working class.

I think Haines is correct in his criticism of Joaquin's 
empiricism--reflected in the magical use of bold type whenever the word 
"people" is penned. the only disagreement I have with Haines involves 
what I see as an overhasty opposition at the end of the post between 
the moral and the scientific.  the  marxists most attuned to good 
philosophy of science are at once scientific and moral realists: alan 
gilbert, richard boyd, bhaskar, barbara foley.

On Dec 7, 2006, at 5:40 PM, Haines Brown wrote:

>> Who was this aimed at? Dogmatists who liked to suck all sorts of
>> conclusions out of the "theory" instead of studying concrete
>> conditions.
> Theory is absolutely essential for any explanation. All I can do to
> support this contention is to list some standard works in the
> philosophy of science. If you wish, I'll do that. In the sciences,
> theory and fact are not in opposition. The Humean attack on theory is
> very parochial and, although for a while embraced by capitalist
> ideology, it is no longer broadly held.
> The alternative to the employment of theory is phenomenalism. Do you
> seriously defend that position?
> You are free, of course, to cast doubt on the consensus in the
> scientific community that theory is necessarily present in any
> explanation and that phenomenalism fails to explain anything, but you
> can't just assert such an unconventional position without offering
> some justification. You do not.
>> The fetishization and reification of "the working class." The
>> downgrading or negation of the questions of race/nationality and
>> gender.
> To claim that an adoption of the category "working class" is mere
> superstition can always be true in principle, but it certainly isn't
> true unless you defend that odd position. The term "working class" is
> such a conventional one within and outside Marxist circles, and so you
> are obliged to explain why you find it a fetish. If you only meant
> that you believe its importance is exaggerated, that may be, but you
> choose simply ignore my argument that tried to explain why it must be
> central.
> Reification means to treat something abstract as being
> material. Certainly Marxists (and others) don't see the working class
> as being abstract. On what basis do you claim they do? To define the
> working class in terms of shared empirical characteristics (an
> empiricist definition) may be faulty (a subjectivist reduction), but
> it is certainly not abstract.
> I offered a non-empiricist definition of class based on a relation of
> production. That is not abstract either, but involves what is called
> an "unobservable" in the philosophy of science (a causal
> relation). Some would only infer the relation of production
> (empiricism); others would see it as real (scientific realism). But in
> neither case, is the working class an abstraction (disconnected from
> empiria).
> Or perhaps by "abstract" you mean that "class" is only inferred from
> empirical data. But then so too is gender and race.
> You can't just throw out a judgement that social distinctions such as
> race and gender are more important or real than class without offering
> any justification whatsoever. Merely your insisting that you see
> evidence of the importance of gender and race distinctions (I
> disregard the scientific consensus that there is no such thing as
> "race") means nothing, for you offer no determinant relationship
> between these distinctions and the behavior of the capitalist system
> as a whole.
> When you are challenged, I suggest your proper course would be to
> offer some counter arguments and a justification for your position,
> not just keep repeating it. I get the impression your position is a
> moral one, not scientific.
> Haines Brown
> ________________________________________________
> YOU MUST clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.
> Send list submissions to: Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
> Set your options at: 
> http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/listinfo/marxism

More information about the Marxism mailing list