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Re: More questions on the theory of the labor aristocracy

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  • ozleft
    By Bob Gould I did not mean any disrespect at all to the comrades of broadly Maoist background in the Philippines and India, who have been rethinking Marxism
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 22, 2004
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      By Bob Gould

      I did not mean any disrespect at all to the comrades of broadly
      Maoist background in the Philippines and India, who have been
      rethinking Marxism and Leninism, obviously starting with the previous
      framework of their views.

      I've met several of these comrades, particularly those from the
      Philippines, and they seem to be extremely serious and I don't
      dismiss their contribution to the development of Marxist theory.

      Nevertheless, their training and initial development was in a
      political school in which the work of Lenin tended to be addressed in
      a rather Talmudic, big-L Leninist way, about which I'm rather uneasy.

      I'm genuinely anxious to discuss, in a careful way, the "Leninist
      theory of the aristocracy of labour" in imperialist countries as a
      central political focus, but I'm very anxious to start this
      discussion within a framework that we all will understand.

      Neither Peter nor Jon have really answered my core question about the
      methodological framework, so I'll repeat it.

      I understand it's a fairly complex question, even if the asking of it
      may appear simple, and I don't ask either comrade to over-simplify or
      crudify their response, if they try to answer the question. They can,
      and no doubt will, answer in any way they choose, but my question is
      still this: what is the Leninist theory of the labour aristocracy?

      Peter Boyle, in particular, has indicated certain texts: the
      introduction to Lenin's theory of imperialism, the Lenin and Zinoviev
      pamphlets of 1915-1916, which we have now satisfactorily established
      are separate works, and a large part of "Left-Wing Communism, an
      Infantile Disorder". These Lenin and Zinoviev extracts contain both
      global analysis and
      observation, but they also have an element of empirical description
      of the nature and causes of the bureaucratisation of the labour
      movement in imperialist countries.

      Are the empirical parts -- the analysis and description of the
      bureaucratisation of the Western labour movements, and the causes of
      this bureaucratisation -- part of what Jon and Peter understand by
      Lenin's theory of the aristocracy of labour? Are they an integral
      part of it, and is the theory partly based on these empirical
      observations?

      Obviously, Lenin and Zinoviev both extend their empirical
      observations into a general analysis.

      Do the empirical observations on which the analysis seems to be based
      form part of what Jon and Peter understand to be the Leninist theory
      of the aristocracy of labour in imperialist countries?

      It seems important, to me, to try to clarify this before we can carry
      the discussion further.
    • Shane Hopkinson
      ... Good - lets move on. ... Indeed I know what you mean - after quoting you twice I lapse into a paraphrase on the basis that we all know ... No you said:
      Message 2 of 12 , Jan 22, 2004
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        --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, Jonathan Strauss
        <jonathanstrauss11@y...> wrote:

        > I agree with Peter Boyle's presentation of the problem
        > at this point.

        Good - lets move on.

        >In fact, I will leave such
        > methodological questions there until we have material
        > to consider with them, because with every posting the
        > distortions seem to grow exponentially.

        Indeed I know what you mean - after quoting you twice I
        lapse into a paraphrase on the basis that we all know
        what we are saying but you say:

        >Shane, did I write the "current situation was not
        >relevant". No, I said it must be studied in a certain
        >way.

        No you said:

        "Empirical investigation of the current state of
        the class structure and the current circumstances in
        the workers' movement in Australia" can't be relevant
        to, or come into, any Marxist analysis, IMO, unless it
        is historical, rather than sociological"

        and I asked what the hell you meant. So if you think
        I have distorted you I apologise.

        Then Peter wades in after 3-4 posts with:

        >Lenin was clearly the best Marxist of the 20th century. <snip>
        >Of course reality can prove the ideas of the smartest cookie
        >in the socialist movement wrong. But that has to be demonstrated
        >with a little more than the shallow, dismissive single sentences
        >that Shane Hopkinson has come up with so far in this discussion.

        Its kinda strange since I haven't mentioned Lenin at all.
        Most of the 4-5 exchanges have been about clarifying Jon's
        comment. My first post doesn't mention Lenin either - its
        just about saying that I'd like the debate to be focused on
        Australia.

        >But this puts a heavy challenge to all sides of this argument

        Indeed, and trying to work, and run a Greens election campaign keeps
        me busy as well. Bob obviously has a lot more textual knowledge and
        can mix it with you on that score.

        I hope we can get on with the
        discussion of how the theory applies to Australia.

        Cheers

        Shane
      • Peter Boyle
        Bob Gould wrote: Obviously, Lenin and Zinoviev both extend their empirical observations into a general analysis. Do the empirical observations on which the
        Message 3 of 12 , Jan 22, 2004
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          Bob Gould wrote:
           Obviously, Lenin and Zinoviev both extend their empirical
          observations into a general analysis.

          Do the empirical observations on which the analysis seems to be based
          form part of what Jon and Peter understand to be the Leninist theory
          of the aristocracy of labour in imperialist countries?

          It seems important, to me, to try to clarify this before we can carry
          the discussion further.
           

          Of course. But let's go back to your earlier request for some sort of summary of Lenin's theory of labour aristocracy.

          “[England's] exclusive position [between 1852 and 1892] led to the emergence, from the 'masses,' of a semi-petty-bourgeois, opportunist 'labour aristocracy.' The leaders of this labour aristocracy were constantly going over to the bourgeoisie, and were directly or indirectly on its payroll.... Present-day (twentieth-century) imperialism has given a few advanced countries an exceptionally privileged position, which, everywhere in the Second International, has produced a certain type of traitor, opportunist, and social-chauvinist leaders, who champion the interests of their own craft, their own section of the labour aristocracy.”

          - Lenin in Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder

          Lenin’s theory of labour aristocracy was an integral part of his analysis of the development of monopoly capitalism. This is why the discussion of this question on this and other lists intersects with discussions about imperialism (and the qtn of national self-determination), social democracy, the labour movement, racism, etc.

          Of course the theory falls if these trends of an economic split in the working class have not persisted.

          The actual material divide in the working peoples in the world is one of the biggest realities of our world today. It is summed up by today’s equivalent of Lenin’s privileged less than one-tenth of the world:

          “North America and Western Europe - representing 12 percent of the world's population - account for 60 percent of this consumption. By contrast, the one third of humanity who live in South Asia and sub Saharan Africa account for only 3.2 percent of this consumption.” ("State of the World 2004" report by Worldwatch Institute)

          This cleavage, reinforced by now more than 100 years of monopoly capitalism, is the major reality check for socialists today. In this 100 years capitalism has created the biggest global army of wage slaves in history, so socialists are posed a number  of challenges

          1. How can the workers of the world unite in the face of such institutionalised disparity in their own ranks?

          2. How can socialism develop when distorted economic and social development spurs political upheaval most in the parts of the world where there is the poorest material basis for displacing capitalist relations of production and exchange? Especially as:

          a) In the semi-colonial countries there is, as a result, a material basis in economic backwardness persistent and powerful pressures bureaucratism even on revolutionary regimes pressures (as Trotsky and others identified)?

          b) In the advanced capitalist countries, there is a material basis, for a persistent class collaborationist and opportunist tedencies to persist in the labour movements, i.e. these are not just the result of the conservativism of particular labour leaderships but that labour bureaucracy has a strong social base. Lenin believed that it was not possible for monopoly capitalism to indefinitely deliver material security to all of the working class even in the advanced capitalist countries.

          Rather than simply deduce a) and b) this from evidence of the global economic split, we should also look at the specifics in imperialist countries.

          To identify a material base for opportunism (or for bureaucratism) is not to argue that it is inevitable. This would be clearly over-deterministic. Actual political struggles that can be decisive (though for how long?) and ideology has a degree of independence from material conditions.

          Does this help?

          Peter Boyle

        • Clinton
          Just wondering whether there is an ALP email group where these questions are discussed? Thanks, CF
          Message 4 of 12 , Jan 23, 2004
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            Just wondering whether there is an ALP email group where these
            questions are discussed?

            Thanks,

            CF
          • dave_r_riley
            Socialist Alliance demands Labor repeal draconian Abortion Laws For immediate release 25/01/04 Independent candidate for South Brisbane Lynda Hansen endorsed
            Message 5 of 12 , Jan 25, 2004
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              Socialist Alliance demands Labor repeal draconian Abortion Laws


              For immediate release 25/01/04

              Independent candidate for South Brisbane Lynda Hansen endorsed by the
              Socialist Alliance stated ` the silence is thunderous, here you have
              two other women candidates standing for election in South Brisbane
              and not one has mentioned the reproductive rights issue. Labor
              Premier Wayne Goss won a State Election in the past on a promise to
              legalise abortion, with many women voting for Labor believing things
              would change. Coming up to another State Election, little has
              changed. Are Labor and Greens too afraid to mention Abortion as an
              election issue?’

              `As an active feminist and socialist I have been campaigning for
              years to demand that women have a choice about their bodies. If I am
              voted to office I will immediate campaign to repeal the abortion laws
              and take abortion out of the criminal code. Women demand choices not
              moralising and broken promises. As a representative of the Alliance I
              will campaign for fully recognised and paid maternity leave and a big
              increase in publicly funded child-care services. If women choose to
              have families there should be extensive social and economic service
              infrastructures to assist them. It’s to time to stop treating women
              like second-class citizens!

              ___________________


              *Socialist Alliance to serve eviction notice on Labor Politician*


              For immediate release 25/01/04


              Big Pollie Eviction – One way to improve public housing in Brisbane

              Independent candidate for South Brisbane endorsed by the Socialist
              Alliance states `Socialist Alliance South Branch and supporters will
              be picketing outside Labor MP Anna Bligh’s office on Saturday
              January 31, at 11 am to serve Bligh with an eviction notice to
              vacate her campaign office to make way for urgently needed
              accommodation for homeless people in the local area’

              Lynda Hansen states `Bligh made a cruel and careless comment made
              last week in the Southside News that the homelessness matter was a
              `difficult social issue’. Hansen states `what Bligh called a
              difficult social issue is actually about people- human beings in our
              community that need, as we all do – basic fundamental services such
              as a roof over their heads.

              Green candidate Juanita Wheeler sung gentle platitudes about
              emergency shelters and affordable housing but did not put forward any
              solutions.

              Socialist Alliance housing policy is quite clear there are real
              solutions:

              Establish a large-scale building program to make good quality, energy
              efficient affordable public housing available. Stop privatisation of
              public housing. Expand funding to housing cooperatives. All rents to
              be capped at 20% of income. Ensure fully funded refuges and other
              secure emergency accommodation for women and children escaping
              domestic violence.

              Establish a publicly owned and controlled housing finance corporation
              to provide low-interest home loans to those in need.

              Join us to serve an eviction notice on Anna Bligh, and tell her what
              you really think of Labor’s rotten record of funding for public
              housing.
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