Classes & Class Analysis


Class Analysis to Define Historical Tasks and Alternatives

applicationsTagS

 

 

By Jan Makandal

December 8, 2015

 

[This was written as part of a debate about defining the working class].

 

I will argue that the definition of unproductive worker is quite a secondary point, since all will have to be organized in the struggle against capitalism. For us, whether an unproductive worker is considered a worker or a petit bourgeois in the social category of laborers, either way they need to be organized under the leadership of the productive workers—because the surplus value produced by productive workers is the source of all capital.

 

Our only difference in this case will be which class among the social category of laborers (or which fraction of the working class) is to construct that leadership role, and which class (or fraction of class in the social category of laborers) will be the fundamental allies of the proletariat. We have seen such orientation in Russia and China. It requires an analysis of the social formation we aim to radically transform.

 

A very interesting thing happened in Vietnam—due to a lack of working class presence in the Communist Party there, the party changed its name from the Communist Party to the Party of Labour, and then later went back to the Communist Party. Ho Chi Minh pointed out the irony of a Communist Party with no workers.

 

A synthesis of past practices, either of socialist revolution and/or national liberation movements, is enough to construct a theoretical framework that takes into consideration the limitations of these struggles and revolutions, at least so far as to determine the central role of the working class, and the role of intellectual petit bourgeois radicals and the need for their objective transformation into proletarian revolutionaries. One commonalty of those struggles is the heavy role played by petit bourgeois radicals, with a lesser role of leadership played by the workers (or no role at all).

 

We want to learn from these experiences in their respective social formations. In Russia, the Bolsheviks conflated leadership with control. And Mao attempted to introduce the working class into a party dominated by the rural petite bourgeoisie [sectors of the peasantry] in the revolutionary transformation of China. Only dogmatists will take these experiences as cast in stone, and will refuse to see the need to learn from them for the future. In fact, this is why we identify this moment as a moment of stagnation and ossification of proletarian theory. This period will continue as long as the petite bourgeoisie thinks they are Marxist.

(more…)


Notes on Power, the State, and Proletarian Dictatorship

theoryTagS

 

 

by Jan Makandal

November 29, 2015

 

Marxism reduced to a dogma is no longer materialist. It becomes a deformation, a deviation and is no longer capable of being a revolutionary guide for the future. In fact Marxism reduced to a dogma, such as being presented as a compilation of verses and quotes, is not Marxism.

 

Marxism is a materialist approach of interpreting the objective from the interest of the proletariat for the realization of proletarian dictatorship. Most proletarian revolutionaries will argue that studying Marxism in a study group and understanding class struggle are not the criteria to be a Marxist. Even if some intellectuals do contribute to Proletarian Theory [Marxism], their contributions remain very limited in the absence of their immersion in proletarian struggle and in the active participation of organizing productive workers and their fundamental allies: fundamental laborers. Marxist/proletarian revolutionary is not a title indicated by a red star pin on a lapel; that would be simply a fable. Marxism is the immersion of one’s self in the struggle for PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP.

 

We can find in Marxist theory many variations of the definition of the state apparatus. But in our time, to think the state apparatus is only a tool for the oppression of one class by another is a quite limited conception and vision that can only lead to a reformist political line. This definition of the state apparatus by Marx, Lenin and others was correct in their time, but even than it was a very limited definition in need of deepening. Now it is correct to stay the state apparatus is not only an instrument of oppression. The oppressive nature of the state apparatus is one effect of the antagonism between classes, but really the state apparatus is the organization of a class, or a bloc of classes, as a dominant class.

 

The proletarian state apparatus is the organization of the proletariat as a dominant class to achieve its own political objective: the abolition of classes. Without the state apparatus no class will be able to exercise its dominance [dictatorship] over other classes, especially the currently dominated classes that are in an antagonist relation with the bourgeoisie. Historically most state apparatuses [slavery, feudalist and capitalist] have been for the reproduction of dominancy of classes. The proletarian state apparatus is for the proletariat, using its domination, to gradually strip all capital and concentrations of capital away from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all labor instruments in the hands of the state apparatus (meaning in the hands of the proletariat), for production to be organized by the popular masses under the leadership of the proletariat by counting on our own strength, and most importantly in that process to transform the social relations of production for the objective of a classless society.

(more…)


Students, Workers and the Specter of Surplus Value

applicationsTagS

 

 

By Vincent Kelley
November 2015

Workers in the industrial belt in Gurgaon. Photo by Vincent Kelley, 2015.

Workers in the industrial belt in Gurgaon. Photo by Vincent Kelley, 2015.

It’s six in the morning in Delhi, India. The smog sits above the sprawling city as I and some friends take the long auto-rickshaw ride to the industrial belt on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. We left early to help distribute workers’ newspapers to the thousands of workers walking to their morning shifts. As we approach the industrial belt—shielded from the eyes of the city’s increasing and increasingly isolated middle class—the smog gets thicker. Already the most polluted city in the world, the air in the industrial belt is suffocating. It’s no wonder why. Just past where we stand to distribute the papers, an interminable line of factories stretches out into the distance, guarded by bouncers. Many of these factories are where raw materials are fused with human labor to produce products for U.S. multinational capital. Indeed, this setting is where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative is being realized, as the country surpasses China and the U.S. as the number one global destination for foreign direct investment.

 

The constant stream of workers walking to these factories for hours at a time seems more reminiscent of early 19th century London than it does 2015 in a leading “developing” economy, one in which the Prime Minister tells the country’s dispossessed, “achhe din aane waale hain” (the good days are about to come). As I was distributing papers along with three other students and the publishers of the newspaper, I realized on a visceral level that this was the setting in which the core exploitation to fuel global capitalism was happening. I also began to reflect on my position as a student in relation to these workers. Far from the peaceful green environment of the campus space where I was studying, the industrial belt literally felt like a whole other world. Upon returning to the U.S., I wondered if these two worlds may have a parallel even in the imperial center of the globe.

 

Switch contexts to Grinnell, Iowa, home of Grinnell College and, despite the College’s efforts to downplay the fact to prospective students, roughly 9,000 rural Iowans. As I was in town distributing leaflets and a workers’ newsletter on a crisp fall evening, I met a man smoking a cigarette outside of a dilapidated house behind a grocery store. After striking up a conversation with him, I quickly found out that he worked at one of two plastics factories in Grinnell. Shortly after meeting me, the worker said in a suspicious and even accusatory tone, “Are you studying here or something?” As a senior, I was already well aware of the stark “town-gown” divide between Grinnell and Grinnell College, but it is always a clear reminder of this physical and social partition to hear it implied so strongly after just meeting a “townie.”

(more…)


Scientific Socialism

theoryTagS

 

 

Jan Makandal

September 20, 2015

 

SystemUpgradeColor

System Creation vs. Proletarian Revolution

 

Lately, due to the structural crisis of capitalism, the radical left petite bourgeoisie has increasingly been in the business of initiating system-creating schemes. While most of these creations are totally absurd, none of these models are historical, or even reflective of actual tendencies in the existing contradictory processes of the capitalist mode of production. They exist only in the wild imaginations of certain sectors of the radical petite bourgeoisie, those who are in a race against the working class to produce a new mode of societal organization.

 

The petite bourgeoisie, in particular the most radical sectors of that class, is attempting to offer its own alternative, and even to claim Marxism (albeit with a myriad of sectarians definitions, as branding) and Marxist-flavored theories. They are driven to do so because as a class, they are dominated by capitalism. For the petite bourgeoisie (in contrast to the working class), this domination is not antagonistic, but it still weighs them down, leading them to struggle to become a leading force among all the popular classes for a societal alternative.

 

To achieve that goal, this petite bourgeoisie needs to attempt to displace the only class that does have an antagonistic relation to capital, under capitalism including in social formations dominated by imperialism: THE PROLETARIAT.

 

While struggling for its own leading role, the petite bourgeoisie in fact rejects, in theory and in practice, the leading role of the proletariat. But since it is based solely on a non-antagonist relation to capital, their own struggle for a societal alternative can only be external to capitalism’s fundamental antagonistic contradiction between capital and labor. Thus the only alternative it can produce is to make the living conditions under capitalism more bearable. They seek a more equitable or egalitarian society, which would involve an amelioration of the super-structure but not a radical transformation of the capitalist mode of production.

 

The petite bourgeoisie is very persistent and resilient in their attempt to offer their own societal alternative. This is resulting in their obsolescence. Since their alternative to capitalism is non-antagonistic, even the most radical sectors of that class are progressively being replaced by liberal sectors of the capitalist class.

(more…)


The Bureaucratic Bourgeoisie: An Overview

theoryTagS

By Proletarian Alternative

(July 15, 2014)

Schematically, we can say the bureaucratic bourgeoisie (BB) are bourgeois like any other member of the bourgeoisie. They are also part of the larger power bloc, an alliance of all the classes and fractions of classes that hold political power, which ensures their capacity to dominate other classes politically on a daily basis. The power bloc uses its apparatuses (social structures and mechanisms) to dominate other classes. It is itself politically organized, while it works assiduously to disorganize the masses in all the classes it dominates.

One of the apparatuses the power bloc uses is the state apparatus—comprised of the police, military and other armed forces, plus the government (all branches) at all levels (federal, state, local) and the judicial system—to organize repression, to impose bourgeois democratism. In addition, the power bloc uses other apparatuses such as political parties, collaborationist unions, churches, schools, nonprofits, and all forms of media to keep the masses disorganized and under their domination. (more…)


Notes on the Bureaucratic Bourgeoisie

theoryTagS

 

 

by Jan Makandal

Mao mentioned the concept of bureaucracy in capitalism in many instances, but he never really gave it a definition; making Mao’s observation correct but still limited to an empirical level. He did his part, with all his limitations (including opportunism and populism). It should be a task of all revolutionary militants to deepen Mao’s contributions, while at the same time continue in the struggle against populism and opportunism. (more…)


Notes on Class Analysis

applicationsTagS

by Jan Makandal

“The proletariat, the modern working class, developed – a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.”
(Communist Manifesto, Marx & Engels)

The question of classes is one area of historical materialism that has not been developed. This has created confusion, and sometimes very erroneous political lines, in particular populism. Mao made some very important contributions to the concept of classes, but these were very limited due to his own populism and opportunism.
(more…)


Jan Makandal: Audio Interview

Jan Makandal interviewed on Resistance Radio (prn.fm) by Derrick Jensen. Topics: what is a revolution, contemporary classes under capitalism, class struggle, what revolutionary militants need to be doing now.

Listen below or at the Progressive Radio Network.

TRANSCRIPT:

Jan Makandal interviewed by Derrick Jensen (05/11/14)

Minutes 1-10

[Birds singing]

DJ: Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen, this is Resistance radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Jan Makandal. He’s a long-time revolutionary proletarian militant. He organised with the workers’ committee of Rockland County in the 1970s in upstate New York, as well as with a group of Haitian revolutionaries building a mass movement based among workers and peasants during the fall of Duvalier, plus other organisations within the US and Haiti. So thank you so much for being on the program today, Jan.

JM: Oh, thank you, Derrick, for giving me the opportunity to speak to your listeners and to you as well.

DJ: Thank you. OK, so for my first question—I like to dive right in. You know, you talk about the need for revolution but frankly, you know, we hear of revolution all the time: we hear it in, in commercials for cars, you know, “revolutionary car, this is a revolution,” we hear it in advertisements for cereal, we hear it in among, you know, mainstream organizations. For crying out loud, politicians talk about the need for revolution, so, and then, you know, recycling your paper is revolutionary, we hear. Um, so what do you mean by revolution? (more…)


On the Autonomous Struggle of the Proletariat

by Jan Makandal
(July 14, 2010)

Ever since social agents in social formations became divided into social classes, these classes have always been in struggle. Capitalism/imperialism produces a class that has the historical capacity to struggle to bring an end to exploitation in any social formation. This class is the working class.

In the epoch of capitalism, the working class is the most revolutionary class in the history of humanity capable of ridding humanity of all forms of exploitation. The working class is the only class capable of bringing an end to exploitation, but not the only class capable of bringing radical changes in a society. Historically, besides the working class, no other classes have shown their capacity to bring an end to exploitation and domination. (more…)