[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?
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
OF PEOPLES AND NATIONS (AND THE U.S. RULING CLASS)? organizing around
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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
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