Posts Tagged ‘working class’

The Prescience and Presumption of Karl Marx

May 17, 2018

If you take the time to read Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, you may be surprised at how accurate is their assessment of the 19th century industrializing world.

Before Marx and Engels were born, back in the last quarter of the 18th-century, the world witnessed two major revolutions, the American one in 1776. and the French version in 1789.

These two major historical uprisings evolved very differently, although they had both originated conceptually with the Enlightenment ideas of Liberty, Equality and Justice.

Here in the USA, all we had to do was eject King George III and his soldiers. We sent them packin’ back to the old country, England. Then we had what appeared  to be a virgin continent 4000 miles wide populated by indigenous tribes who had not yet been industrially developed.

In France it was a very different story. The newfound revolutionaries, after decapitating old monarchs and killing off their privileged network of landed royalty, still found their mob-enforced movement dragged down by a thousand-year-old heavy baggage of entrenched, fortified autocratic economy.

I can simplify an explanation the difference between the American and French Revolutions for you this way:

In France, the whole revolutionary process got a lot bloodier, more vicious, and it took a hell of a lot longer time to play out.

A few years after the revolting peasants decapitated Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette, Napolean came along, took charge of the debilitated French state and rearranged everything. Later, after he went down, France  was in disarray for the next century, trapped in a revolving door of revolutionary fervor, anarchy, stubborn monarchists and a world that was changing faster than you can say “modernizing industry.”

Into this cauldron of overheating European political and mechanizing discontent, Karl Marx was born in 1818.

KarlMarx

Although the young communist was of German birth, his entrance to this world came in Trier, a town very near the French border.

Karl was a very smart guy. During the time of his educated, idealistic youth, he noticed and publicly identified many trends of modernizing industry and economics that were rapidly industrializing Europe and  eventually the entire world. Things were changing faster than a speeding locomotive.

Within all those changes, Marx identified a new socio-economic class that was establishing itself as the new people in-charge, after the fall of the French monarchy (the first of many monarchies that would be destroyed in coming years). This new, rising class of merchants, managers and craftsmen he called the “bourgeoisie.”

In his eerily prescient analysis of that emerging upper-middle class, Marx also hit on a description of  what we would later call ‘globalization,” Marx wrote:

“The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvements of all instruments of production, (and) by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws (sucks) all– even the most barbarian– nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its (the bourgeois’) commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, (and) with which it forces ‘the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois  mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”

During the turbulent 1840’s, Marx labored with his associate Friedrich Engels to describe and evaluate these historical changes. Together they devised a fix for the world’s problem of a new bourgeois upper-class cruelly exploiting proletarian workers. Thus the Communist Manifesto developed. In 1848, they published the first version of their hot-off-the-press world-changing document. Here’s one part of their assessment of a rapidly industrializing 18th-century Europe:

“Modern industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of laborers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself.”

Marx and Engels identified the disruptive attributes of a new, capitalizing economic steamroller of modern industrialization. They foresaw its accompanying alienation, which would, it seemed, forever confound the proletarian working classes  in Europe, Russia and eventually every nation in the world. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848, Marx and Engels wrote:

“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. . . Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away; all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face, with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

The dynamic theorizing duo, Marx and Engels, had figured out that very disruptive bourgeois-imposed changes were in store for humanity. Little did they realize that the revolutionary, ostensibly corrective measures they would soon be positing would be ultimately just as disruptive, if not more-so, than the maelstrom of rapidly escalating industrialism that was fast overtaking 19th-century Europe.

Marx and Engels went on to concoct an elaborate prescription to fix the world and thus deliver us from the ravages of modern capitalism and its dehumanizing industrialization.

If you look at the implementation of their communist doctrine as it has evolved in the last  century and a half, you may be dismayed at how brutally the zealous proponents of Marxist communism (Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot et al) screwed up the original idealized vision for world communism.

Which goes to show that the best-laid plans of mice and men are generally worked out in programs and institutions very different from their original visions and versions.

Later, when Socialists came along, attempting to reconcile the old System of autocratic Europe with a perpetually revolutionizing Communist big-fix, Marx pooh-poohed the wimpish compromisers, remarking . . .

“. . . Socialism, however, (does not) understand the (necessary) abolition of the bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be effected only by a revolution.”

So here’s my question for Karl and Fred:

Hey, since you did identify  the extremely disruptive, debilitating bourgeois rearrangement of a capitalist, 19th-century world,   would your proposed communist remedy  be less disruptive and crippling than the total, ongoing revolution that a communist fix would require?

I think not.

Furthermore, if subsequent history is any indicator, the changes in human activity that would be necessary to manifest a communist society as idealized by Marx and Engels—such changes would require constant correction, and therefore perpetual revolution.

Doesn’t sound very beneficial, from a human standpoint.

Furthermore, this writer would suggest:

Since your theorized systems for world improvement dictate that the revolutionizing proletariat must cast aside their “opiate” of religion, and thus deny the presence and power of “God” . . .

it would seem that many of the simpleminded 21st-century religious proletariat workers out there in flyover country or Manchester or Italy or wherever—they might rise up and reject the technocratic decrees of their elitist deep-state Marx-inspired EU overlords.

I know you wanta write them present-day uncooperative proles off as “alt-right” and reactionary, but it seems to me they are the same “proletarian” workers that Marx and Engels thought they had identified as the future vanguard of true communism.

Apparently they have something else in mind than technocrat-generated statism, maybe just a “leave us alone” revolution.

King of Soul

The “class” thing

January 25, 2014

I am an American, a southerner, college-educated working fellow, married with three grown, and reasonably happy. I love my wife and I love my life. I am a follower of Jesus. Although I do a 40-hour gig as a maintenance guy for 92  apartments, I am not a member of the working “class.”

All this talk these days, arising from the Democrats and sociologists and talking media heads, about “class” this and “class” that, the “working class,” the “privileged” class, the so-called “disappearing middle class”–I wouldn’t give you a nickel for all of it.

As far as I’m concerned, I am an individual, my own man, and beyond classification. God made me just the way I am, thank you, and I thank Him for that. So you can call me middle-class if you want to. You can classify me in the disappearing middle because my working wage is 2/3 of what I was bringing in at my peak, a dozen or so years ago when I was fifty years old. You can call me middle class, working class, dumb-ass, or whatever you wanna call me, you can call me ray, you can call me jay, or ray jay, or  you can call me “hey” or “hey you,” but ya doesn’t have to call me anything at all.

The only identity that matters is what my wife, my grownup young-uns, loved ones and friends call me–Carey. And btw I’ll soon be publishing the third novel, which is named Smoke. So put that in your literary pipe and smoke it.

This little class rant came up this morning because I have been hearing more and more about these designated class distinctions lately, ever since, oh, couple years ago when the Occupy thing started and they were out in the streets–I watched them for two days in Vancouver and Seattle–with their signs about the 1% and the 99% and all that redistributionist and income disparity hype.

Maybe I’m in the 99%, maybe I’m way down in the 50% or even below that. I don’t care. If I had a chance to join the 1%, I would jump at it. This great country was built on upward mobility.

We used to call it the American Dream. I still do. I’m not subscribing to this neo-marxian class stuff. No thank you. It’s just for political manipulation, and I am no political hack’s lackey. Therefore am I not pleased to accept some sociologist’s semi-permanent societal place assignment. Well, maybe “first class”. I would settle for that, but I’m not buying the proletarian, nor the bourgeois label.

Speaking of “not buying”. . .

This morning I began reading David Horowitz’ excellent autobiography, Radical Son.

Here is a passage from page 39 that got my attention, then became, it seems, the impetus for the little bloggish rumination you are now reading. From Radical Son:

“At the time my parents moved into the (Sunnyside) Gardens in 1940, they could have purchased the house on Bliss Street for $4000–less than its original price. But as radicals, they had scorned the opportunity to own property and moved in as renters. Seven years later, the Gardens were acquired by new owners, who decided to sell of the individual units, including our house. A Sunnyside Tenants’ Association was organized to resist the sales.”

Why did David’s parents not buy their house when they had the chance to do it? Weren’t they Americans? Well not yet, apparently.

They were second generation Americans, from Russian immigrants, and they identified themselves as communists. I understand that angst; its where they came from, how they were brought up and so forth. They did not subscribe to the American dream, but to the Russian communist dream that they had brought with them, and then dragged it as excess baggage off the boat at Ellis Island.

Son David later learned, in the school of hard knocks, what it means to be an American, to be an opportunist for yourself and your family, instead of letting yourself be limited by an imposed class identity. If his parents had been willing to learn that lesson in 1940 when they bought their home in Sunnyside Gardens, maybe they would have acceded a little more successfully to the American Dream motivator. But hey, they were immigrants; what can you expect? It takes a generation or two off the boat to acquire a taste for this melting pot porridge. David Horowitz’ life is testimony to that, and that is what his book is about.

Now I’m a southerner, and very different from all those immigrants and their Old World forebears who got off the boat at New York Harbor. (My wife, Pat, is however from an Irish family from New Jersey.) And although my life experience is very different from that of Mr. Horowitz, I sure enjoy reading a good book, which is btw, the key (reading and education) to overcoming all this classist entrapment that’s going around now.

Try it some time, you’ll learn a thing or two from reading a book, even if its on your Kindle.

Smoke