[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Dec 8 16:57:34 MST 2006


The big social explosions of recent decades have involved womens', gay, and
national minority rights, but it would be a mistake to infer from this that
more muted class issues have disappeared or even been subsumed by these
struggles.

In fact, the overwhelming number of issues contested in a sustained way in
the political arena continue to be class issues pitting the interests of
working people against the bourgeoisie.

The great mass of wage- and salary-earners of both sexes and all colours
favours increased public spending on healthcare, education, social security,
and other social programs; progressive taxation to support the social
spending and to reduce income disparities; state regulation of  hours,
wages, paid leave, health and safety,and other conditions; the right to form
unions and engage in collective bargaining in the workplace; and monetary
policies which make credit readily and cheaply available.

The opposite is true of the wealthy and powerful whose income derives mainly
from dividends, capital gains, stock options, and bonuses linked to
corporate profitablility. They favour decreased public spending on
healthcare, education, social security, and other social programs;
regressive taxation and a redirection of fiscal spending from the social
sphere to the corporate sector; the weakening rather than strengthening of
workplace standards and collective bargaining; and, as creditors, monetary
policies which don't erode the value of their bonds and other assets.

Consult the vast body of law and regulation at all levels of government in
all of the advanced capitalist countries dating back to the industrial
revolution, and you will find it overwhelmingly addresses these issues.
Electoral politics turns on which and in what measure these competing class
agendas will prevail. When the bourgeoisie is no longer willing or able to
accomodate the demands of the working class in these areas and standards
deteriorate, class polarization deepens and the electoral struggle for power
can potentially become revolutionary and violent.

The fact that the working class is everywhere divided horizontally along
race and gender lines and vertically by status and income, does not mean it
is divided on the issues which define it as a class in relation to the
bourgeoisie. Women and minority workers have had the same class interest as
their white male brethren in defending and improving their social programs,
workplace rights, and living standards - and have historically joined
together with them in doing so. What has set women and minority workers
apart have been issues pertaining to discrimination and their resulting
demands for equal rights aimed at narrowing the social and economic gap
separating them from the white male stratum within the working class.

Civil rights struggles, like class struggles, have episodically assumed a
militant character but have also been mostly electoral, in pursuit of
legislative reform - an aspect which tends to be overlooked by those
proposing to revive militant left-wing politics on the basis of race and
gender rather than class.

As has been noted previously, the fact that the working class is not
presently and actively class-conscious means it is not a "class-for-itself"
but it nonetheless remains an identifiable "class-in-itself" with its own
neighbourhoods, culture, and class interests separate and apart from the
bourgeoisie. If the working class becomes as conscious and militant as it
once was, it will have less to do with its social composition than with
changing social conditions which force all of its disparate elements in that
direction.







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