cj#1014> Why class struggle isn’t where it’s at…

1999-11-18

Richard Moore

Dear cj,

I've found myself in an ongoing debate with someone who wants me to convert
to marxism.  A recent message argued that the growing gap between rich &
poor pointed to the validity of the class-struggle model.  The argument
also suggeseted we must make up our minds between socialism and capitalism.

False dichotomy, I say.  Here's why...

---

Dear X,

Yes you are right that gaps between rich & poor are growing.  I can easily
see how you might relate that to a class-struggle model of revolution.  But
as global capitalism continues to centralize and concentrate, the class who
beneifits is becoming vanishingly small.  A turning point occured with
neoliberalism - suddenly the Western middle classes were moved over into
the exploited-class catgegory.  That may not be obvious to everyone yet,
but that's definitely what's happening.

So we have a situation where the Western working class, the Western middle
class - and the entire third world - are all really on the same side
against capitalism.  Who's left?  A few thousand top executives?  I'm
exaggerating a bit, but don't you see there's really no enemy class of any
size?

It's like the way things have gone with the military.  Instead of huge
armies, we now have a tiny elite corps, and lots and lots of hi-tech
equipment and satellites and such.  The ruling-class these days is like
that.  There's only a few of them but they have lots of powerful tools.

That's why I say we're all in this together, and why I say class-conflict
is not where it's at.

Marx looked at industrial society and said - Hey! why don't we let the
workers run the system instead of the bosses?  He was talking about a shift
of power from one class to another within a continuing system.

Today, what we need to do is replace the industrial-growth system itself.
We all together need to move on to a new system.  No one is going to take
over someone else's job - we're all getting new jobs in a new regime.

I hope this is making sense to you, at least, even if you don't agree.

As for socialism, you've got to put it in perspective - we need a spectrum
to place it in.  For example, consider a tribe in the jungle who is still
living by primeaval hunting & gathering.  Are they socialist?  If not,
would you propose to force them to change?  And if they are, then what is
the definition of socialism?

My own conclusion, after looking into the subject from several directions,
is that the real issue is democracy vs. hierarchical control.

People have been trading and specializing their production, and there have
been merchants and money-lenders - for millenia.  And there have been
communal societies as well.  In Chiapas and elsewhere in the third world
there are still societies based on village communal agriculture.  There are
a range of economic models, and mixtures of models, which function well and
which people find suits their temperments.  If Greeks and Turks couldn't
bargain and make business deals they'd be culturally deprived!  Capitalism
is a recent invention, and it is wrong to conclude that all private
property is bad just because Capitalism happes to give a central place to
private property rights.

What we need is a way to guarantee hierarchical power cannot be allowed to
develop.

Merchant societies have existed which were quite acceptable - when they
weren't ruled by some tyrant or the other.  And socialist societies have
been unacceptable - eg Stalin's Russia - when a hierarchical tyranny ran
things.

So my focus is really on how we can achive bottom-up democracy where there
are no positions of power.  I would be willing to trust the people to work
out their economics on a case by case basis.

all the best,
rkm




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