Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Same as it ever was

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon:

All classes and parties joined hands in the June days in a "Party of Order" against the class of the proletariat, which was designated as the "Party of Anarchy," of Socialism, of Communism. They claimed to have "saved" society against the "enemies of society." They gave out the slogans of the old social order -- "Property, Family, Religion, Order" -- as the passwords for their army ...

Every demand for the most simple bourgeois financial reform, for the most ordinary liberalism, for the most commonplace republicanism, for the flattest democracy, is forthwith punished as an "assault upon society," and is branded as "Socialism."

Marx wrote this in 1852. Every demand for the most elementary social reform is branded as Socialism. Today it is Obamunism, Obamacare. You're asking that people can go to the doctor if they get sick. That's an assault upon society -- "Socialism." You're desecrating the Constitution, you hate God, you want to substitute Big Government for parental authority, etc. Property, Family, Religion, Order.

You can read the news every day of your life but miss the fact that the same story has been told for 160 years, if not longer. Exactly the same arguments, no change. Just make sure nobody reads The Eighteenth Brumaire in school! I'm kidding: Even if they do read it, it won't get them a job. For what it costs to go to college, you learn not to retain anything that won't advance your material prospects ASAP. A career often means doing this forever.

Marx says, "All classes and parties joined hands in the June days in a 'Party of Order' against the class of the proletariat, which was designated as the 'Party of Anarchy,' of Socialism, of Communism." As I say, today we have the same thing, but it is organized a little differently. In the United States, we have a one-party system which is formally expressed as two: an incumbency and its opposition, occupied in either case by the concerns of that class which rules economically. Everyone else is either aligned vertically with one or the other of these interest coalitions, or they aren't "politically active" -- they "waste their vote," or don't vote at all.

Business conservatives make all the arguments Marx identified in 1852. I offer for your consideration anything written in the Wall Street Journal ever. Business liberals, however, take a different tack, also traditionally used against working people, which is a derogatory application of the concept of "populism."

Populism is the idea that ordinary people can govern, and around the turn of the 20th century, it had a close association with socialism. But today we see how far the liberal establishment has pushed this specter toward painting the conservative working class as an unruly mob of superstitious extremists, because they, like, petition the government for redress of grievances, or something.

The Democrats are playing this up to their base and to independents so they can be reelected on this basis, not so much anything that they've done in office; in other words, the standard device of "lesser evil." And the Republicans are actually very worried that there is an element of independence within these movements that will get out of hand, so there's some consensus around the problem of populism.

A "populist" tendency means ordinary people, their communities, and so on, are acting outside their assigned role as consumers, or employees, or however they might best contribute to the first law of profit-making; "socialism" usually means that the government is acting outside of its assigned role as profit-enabler.

It's the same class warfare as 1852 expressed a little differently, because the US system is not the same as the parliamentary model of mid-19th century France, and neither are the circumstances. The initiatives of working communities can be pilloried in a variety of ways, but it is instructive to consider how they scarcely change over time.


Anonymous said...

Meh. I agree in broad terms, but these Tea Party people seem to be mostly petty-bourgeois and lumpen elements. This isn't Wallace '72 where his people could just as easily have gone over to McGovern in the primaries.

BroadSnark said...

So true about history. The more of it I read, the more I am astounded at how little things change. You'd think we would have learned a thing or two.

almostinfamous said...

thought you may enjoy this article as well: http://jacobinmag.com/archive/issue1/maisano.html

schalom libertad said...

Where did you get the info that Tea Party activists are "the conservative working class"? According to this poll (Tea Party Demographics), Tea Party activists are above average wage-earners, so rather, the conservative upper-middle class. Additionally, predominantly male, above-average age, self-defined conservatives, republican voters, and "born again" Christians. What a typical bore.

JRB said...

I'm asserting it.

You see, I like to think there are two classes: One that may "feel so inspired" to petition their government in the dead heat of summer; and another that hardly needs to!

People are responding to capitalism, whatever socioeconomic rung they may cling to; this is why I am mostly unmoved by liberal appeals to income status, etc.

schalom libertad said...

"People are responding to capitalism, whatever socioeconomic rung they may cling to."

In what sense? Real wages have been stagnant for 30 years, the budget exploded during the Bush administration, and *now* white, conservatives, upper-middle class men are "petitioning their government" (ie. declaring the spanish language, immigrants and a black president to be the source of their problems). What is your argument?