Class: Its Core Dimensions and Relationship to Levels of Organization

by Vincent Kelley on June 9, 2016

unemployment-by-ben-shahn

“Unemployed” by Ben Shahn

May 2016

With the emergence of populist mobilizations in the United States, such as Occupy and the Sanders/Trump presidential runs, the vocabulary of class is being used with increased frequency in the past five years. However, the meaning of class is rarely if ever defined by the activists, left intellectuals, or politicians who invoke it. What follows is an attempt to move toward a clear yet complex understanding of the key dimensions of class and how this concept relates to concrete political practice in the United States social formation.

Three Dimensions of Class: Struggle, History, and Ideology

A. No Class without Class Struggle

Class is not a static entity. It is neither a structure nor an object of analysis. Rather, class is preceded and brought about by class struggle. No class can exist without at least one other class and it is the dynamic social relation between classes that generate the concept of class. Within class societies, there is an antagonism between at least one class and another. There is no landlord without peasant, no master without slave, and no capitalist without worker. These classes are not given entities but, instead, are relational social forces constantly being made and remade through the process of class struggle in the economic, political, and ideological spheres. In other words, classes cannot be separated from their reproduction and there can be no class analysis without an analysis of class struggle.

Class struggle is the social struggle over the surpluses produced in the process of human metabolism with the natural world. This metabolism hinges on the human productivity of labor. On the most basic conceptual level, if each family unit in a class society needs a minimum of 4 bushels of grain per week in order to survive but human labor within the constraints of the natural world can produce 7 bushels per week for each family unit, these 3 surplus bushels become the grounds for class struggle. Under feudalism, the landlord is entitled by right to a specified portion of the entire grain crop; under this mode of production, exploitation of labor is clear for all to see and, thus, feudal social relations require elaborate ideological justifications to reproduce themselves. In contrast, under capitalism, a mode of production that necessitates money, this relationship of exploitation is obscured as the worker appears to be paid for each hour she works but, in reality, is not paid for all that she produces in that time. For example, if she is paid $70 for nine hours of work, but produces $70 worth of bushels in only three hours, then she is not paid for the $140 of bushels that she produces during those extra six hours of work.” Indeed, she is not paid for the product of her labor—the bushels—but for her labor power, or capacity to do work, which is, only under capitalism, a commodity itself valued at its own cost of reproduction. In other words, she is paid for her labor power with wages corresponding to her living costs—an amount constantly contested and altered by class struggle—rather than for the value of what she produces. The $70 worth of bushels is unpaid surplus value, a quantitative economic sum enabled by the qualitative antagonistic social relation between the capitalist and the worker.

Class struggle under capitalism is the struggle over surplus value. Since surplus value is appropriated in the process of production itself, it is only within the process of production that the struggle for a decrease in the amount and rate of surplus value extraction—and eventually for the end of surplus value and, therefore, capital—can be waged. Democratic socialism, a reformist political current that avoids addressing the fundamental contradiction between labor and capital, seeks to circumvent this reality by calling for policy measures such as increased taxation of the rich, free college tuition, and tweaks to “discretionary” government spending. While these measures can mitigate the socioeconomic misery of the poor and working class, they are, in the end, false solutions whose minor benefits are short-lived. This is because they bypass surplus value production as the locus of class struggle, opting instead for a strategy of redistributing already extracted surplus value. Indeed, from the New Deal in the U.S. to “socialism” in Scandinavia, democratic socialism is always incomplete and temporary because it fails to address the contradiction brought about by the antagonism between labor and capital at the point of production. It is only through struggle at this point of production—the transformation of the natural world into physical commodities through the application of human labor power—that we can move beyond temporary upgrades to capitalism and construct a material alternative to it.

B. Class and the Specter of History

Because class is generated through class struggle and because all struggles occur within history, the concept of class is necessarily historical. History is theoretically impure due to its incredible complexity and the contingency of its development, so class too is rendered an impure concept that must be analyzed in its specificity. Indeed, the concept of class is a model that can never completely explain the complexity of the objective phenomenon of class struggle. While our understanding will never be complete or perfect, in political practice we must strive to grasp this objective phenomenon as accurately as we can, without clinging to our conclusions as timeless and infallible doctrines. Indeed, the path to developing the most advanced possible political line—which will never be “correct” in its entirety—is found through asserting a line, testing it in practice, and using this practice to rectify and consolidate that line for further advancement.

Our understanding of class in historical context must also be tailored to understand the specificity of each social formation. Indeed, in many social formations, seemingly mutually-exclusive classes—often remnants of previously dominant modes of production that still exist in a subordinate position to capitalism—are able to coexist. For example, feudal and capitalist classes exist alongside one another and in complex relation with each other to form the dominant classes in many social formations dominated by imperialism. At the same time, rapid changes in the global social relations of production have not only brought many workers into the fold of capitalist production but also pushed many to its periphery, forming both a swelling global lumpen proletariat and petite bourgeoisie. Indeed, the lumpen proletariat, or class that exists outside of formal capitalist relations of production and often below the working class in its material conditions, and the new petite bourgeoisie, or diverse so-called “middle class” of laborers who neither produce surplus value (like the working class) nor extract or accumulate it (like the capitalist class), relate to the working class and capitalist class in often contradictory ways.

Due to these complex configurations of classes that vary significantly across different social formations, it is impossible to create one simultaneous, coordinated worldwide Revolution. Such a Revolution would depend upon a globally homogenous mode of production that, due to the uneven geographical development of capitalism and the particularities of class struggle in different social formations, does not objectively exist. The working class is both universal and particular and it is only through an attention to and engagement with its particular manifestations that its universal capacity to liberate humanity and the planet from capitalism can assert itself. In other words, while internationalism is a must, it must be in service of the working class escalating class struggle within the context of the particular reality and balance of class forces at work in specific social formations, not in service of an idealist conception of a mystical Proletariat that will somehow magically rise up in unison against Capital independent of history and context.

The specter of history, indeed, haunts all reductive class analyses. For example, in the U.S. context, many occupationally petite bourgeois Afro-Americans face threats to their socioeconomic position due to a lack of inherited wealth. Similarly, many occupationally proletarian whites are able to keep themselves socioeconomically afloat—however unsteadily—through inherited familial wealth. This complexity is the result of the historical mode of production of slavery in America, a class relation produced by colonialism that was retroactively legitimated through the ideology of race. Today, this specter of history has created distorted ideologies among both the Afro-American petite bourgeoisie and the white working class in the form of a deep contempt for the Afro-American working class and white racism, respectively. In other words, the Afro-American petite bourgeoisie clings to its unstable upward mobility by distancing itself from the Afro-American working class politically and ideologically and the white working class grasps at its historically enabled material advantage over Afro-American workers through the practice of racism.

To take another example from the U.S. context, the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs in the last several decades has pushed many long-term production workers into the service sector, in which they sell their services to clients as opposed to selling their labor-power to capitalists. This shift of many workers from the occupational proletariat to the occupational petite bourgeoisie has formed a large segment of the U.S. petite bourgeoisie whose material conditions are comparable to or even below the proletariat, even though this segment is not in direct contradiction with industrial capital as it used to be. We call members of this lower strata of the petite bourgeoisie fundamental laborers and, due to their material condition of existence as dominated wage workers, understand them to be the fundamental ally of the working class. As a result of the specific developments of history, the distinction between the proletarian and fundamental laborer can be fuzzy and overlapping in the political and ideological spheres, even though it is crucial in the economic sphere and from the political perspective of building a material alternative to capitalism.

The emergence of a small but politically and ideologically influential Afro-American petite bourgeoisie, racist segments of the white working class, as well as the fundamental laborer sub-class of the petite bourgeoisie all demonstrate that a mechanical “class analysis” is unable to account for the reality of historical class struggle in its full complexity. Indeed, the difficult task of accounting for class struggle historically demands a concrete analysis of the contradictory relations between the economic, political, and ideological positions and tendencies of concrete classes and sub-class segments in specific social formations.

C. Class is an Ideological Force

Because class is created through historical class struggle, classes are made and remade over time. For the same reason, they can also be altered and destroyed. Class ideologies can be even more dynamic than classes in economic and political terms since ideology encompasses not only what is but also what was and what could be. To return to our examples, the Afro-American petite bourgeoisie is a largely reactionary sub-class segment because of its attachment not only to what it has but also to what it could have. Hence we observe the fallacious political line of uplifting all Afro-Americans through the development of an Afro-American (mis)leadership class of race leaders who advocate an individualized politics bolstered by explicit or implicit cultural nationalism. This cultural nationalism has most recently expressed itself through the petite bourgeois leadership of Black Lives Matter, which has co-opted the militant struggle of urban poor and working class Afro-Americans into the cultural nationalist paradigm of Afro-Americans “coming together across class.” Similarly, the racist sub-class elements of the American proletariat establish themselves as a reactionary segment of the working class when they support capitalist politicians like Donald Trump in exchange for a promised populism for whites only. Finally, the emergence of a large class of fundamental laborers has created a sub-class segment of the petite bourgeoisie that is akin to the working class in its material conditions, but is involved in the circulation rather than production of capital and, thus, unable to provide an alternative to capitalism at the point of production. This inability to provide an alternative is economic, due to the fundamental laborer’s position in the social relations of production, but also often ideological: because they sell services to clients instead of labor-power to capitalists,

many workers in the fundamental laborer strata of the petite bourgeoisie are trained to develop and foster qualities of individualism and charisma.

The ideological dimension of class compels us to think about classes as social forces with often fuzzy and overlapping boundaries and complex and contradictory relations. The tensions between the past, present, and future are further complicated when ideologies that develop from the day-to-day manifestation of these tensions are even more dynamic than the contradictions from which they are born. The multiplicity of contradictions evident in the position of the Afro-American petite bourgeoisie, racist white working class, and manufacturing worker turned fundamental laborer cannot be understood let alone pushed forward by the tidy categorization of people into classes nor by the “deconstruction” of the concept of class, as if complexity is a reason to abandon an analysis of contradiction. Instead, these sub-class segments must be tirelessly analyzed and engaged with as products of the dynamic and complex contradictions of historical class struggle.

Classes and the Three Levels of Organization

Levels of organization are both an objective phenomenon and a guide for political practice. They are an objective phenomenon in the sense that organizations, mobilizations, and movements have a tendency to take on the character of a mass, intermediate, or revolutionary level structure and political line. They are a guide for practice in the sense that militants can be most effective if they organize intentionally from the perspective of one, or sometimes more than one, of these levels. These levels are not situated in a hierarchy or fixed structure but, rather, interact with each other in complex and dynamic ways. Like class, the concept of organizational levels is a model that is rendered impure by the specificity of different social formations and the contingency of history.

Mass level organization is characterized by a low level of political unity and a participation from broad sections of the masses. Many organizations within the American anti-war movement are examples of mass level organizations that include members from diverse ideological perspectives—ranging from Democrats, to socialists, to right libertarians—united by their common opposition to war or, more often, a particular war. Mass level organization has the potential to mobilize the popular masses in large numbers, but cannot develop the political unity capable of constructing a coherent political line to drive mobilizations and construct a mass movement on its own. Revolutionary level organization is characterized by a high level of political unity and participation from a small group of dedicated militants. These organizations demand a high level of theoretical engagement, practical commitment, and, above all, a revolutionary level political line, or a long-term objective, strategy for achieving that objective, and a plan by which to implement that strategy. Despite their small numbers, revolutionary organizations have the capacity to influence the line of the other levels, a process which must be done through persuasion and political rapprochement, not manipulation or coercion, in order to guard against making the other levels’ front groups for the revolutionary level. Intermediate level organization is characterized by a level of political unity and participation in between the mass and revolutionary levels. The intermediate level serves as a bridge between the other levels and has become particularly necessary in a time of low working class struggle as a mechanism through which to offer the mass level an alternative to populism, as well function as a training ground for revolutionary level militants.

What follows is a discussion of class at the mass, intermediate, and revolutionary levels in the contemporary United States social formation.

A. Mass Level

At the mass level, class is currently articulated in the vocabulary of “the 99,” “the common man,” “the billionaire class,” and “the rich.” By pointing to the gross inequality that characterizes monopoly-finance capitalism, these slogans have the capacity to unite the masses against an abstract enemy. However, the imprecision of these slogans both conceals consequential divisions within the masses and fails to identify the “1%” as the capitalist class. Because they do not identify capital for what it is, activists guided by these slogans even run the risk of including elements of the minority liberal wing of capital in their political program. Because this liberal wing of capital, which includes individuals like George Soros and Warren Buffet and organizations like the Ford Foundation and the Gates Foundation, recognizes the unsustainability of extremely high levels of inequality, it is sympathetic to upgrades to capitalism, as long as these upgrades leave the class power of the bourgeoisie untouched.

At this particular historical moment in the U.S., the mass level is highly ineffective. This is the result of a virtually non-existent revolutionary level and a still fledgling intermediate level that could potentially offer an alternative to populism. The mass level is currently characterized by the class leadership of the radical petite bourgeoisie, consisting largely of academics, elite students, NGO activists, and the left wing of the Democratic Party. These elements of the petite bourgeoisie use electoral politics, identity politics, and NGOs as the theoretical and practical bases of their “movements,” which all naturally develop a reformist character due to the petite bourgeoisie’s lack of direct antagonism with capital and concomitant fear of proletarian revolution. The class line that has emerged from this radical petite bourgeois leadership has been either that there is no longer a working class in the U.S. or that effectively everyone is now a part of the working class. The former position is a product of both these leaders’ material isolation from the proletariat and fundamental laborers compounded by an overemphasis and misunderstanding of the impact of “neoliberalism” on the composition of the labor force in U.S. capitalism. This line serves the function of abdicating responsibility to organize workers since its premise is that there are none left in the U.S. social formation. The latter position is a result of the petite bourgeoisie’s tendency to fetishize its own, very real, domination under capitalism and equate this domination with a proletarian class location. This line leads to a disproportionate attention on unionized public sector service workers, such as teachers, postal workers, and graduate students as opposed to the largely non-unionized private sector production workers who most urgently must be organized if the workers’ movement as a whole has any chance of challenging, defeating, and finally destroying capital at its origin. Most fundamentally, these two putatively contradictory lines on the working class are, in reality, two sides of the same petite bourgeois coin that equally serve to prevent the emergence of actual working class leadership at the mass level.

In order to build a mass movement, the mass level must move beyond populism and cohere into an autonomous social force, or one characterized not by reliance upon capitalist organizations to mediate struggle but, rather, by popular democratic struggle against capital and its representatives led by the working class. However, because the current mass level leadership is either incapable of accommodating or rapidly subsumes into its own dominance fundamental laborer, working class, or proletarian militant leadership, the current path forward is not an increased political engagement at the mass level itself. In light of these conditions, the only way to build an autonomous mass level able to exert political power is first through the development of an autonomous intermediate level capable of democratically moving the political line of the mass level away from populism.

B. Intermediate Level

The intermediate level provides the important opportunity to move beyond the populist line of the mass level while still including a relatively wide range of participants within its purview. Within the intermediate level, there are progressive petite bourgeois organizations as well as workers’ organizations. The progressive organizations consist of petite bourgeois elements who recognize the need to move beyond populism and who are willing to organize to fight capitalism as a system. Because they are not directly involved in production, they are limited—whether they perceive this limitation or not—to fighting the effects of the fundamental contradiction between labor and capital and offering solidarity and support to the struggles of those facing this contradiction directly. These may be socialists, communists, anarchists, feminists, anti-racists, queers, or environmentalists who are all united by their common opposition to capitalism, if not as a mode of production, as a system. The workers’ organizations contain both proletarians and fundamental laborers and are united by the goal of building a workers’ movement that is autonomous from the Democratic Party and establishment unions through workers’ self-identification as a class and an identification of individual capitalists and their representatives as class enemies. These organizations are ideologically unmarked by any labels besides the call to construct autonomous workers’ organizations that can build working class power to challenge, defeat, and eventually abolish capital.

It is through the progressive petite bourgeois intermediate level organization that the concept of the popular masses can be developed in a positive direction. The popular masses include the working class, fundamental laborers, as well as the progressive petite bourgeoisie. These organizations have the potential to shift the mass level from a political line of “the 99%” to one of “the masses” as well as from a line of “the 1%” to one of “the capitalist class” and to organize accordingly. Despite this important role of the progressive intermediate level, at the current historical moment, the most important task is to build intermediate level workers’ organizations. Due to the radical petite bourgeoisie’s entanglement in the snares of identity politics and narcissistic critique of capitalism limited to the cultural sphere, the progressive intermediate level organizations can only do so much to shift the mass level away from populism. It is only through autonomous workers’ organizations that the mass level can cohere into a combative mass movement. It is the task of the revolutionary level to build these organizations at the intermediate level.

C. Revolutionary Level

The central question that preoccupies the revolutionary level is how to create the subjective conditions, within the context and constraints of existing objective conditions, in order to make revolution. Put another way, the revolutionary level starts from the perspective of what it will take to build an alternative to capitalism, not in the idealist sense of a social system independent of but parallel to capitalism, but in the materialist sense of an overthrow of the capitalist mode of production and the construction of something entirely different. This task entails a rigorous theoretical investigation into the capacity of different classes in the U.S. social formation. While fundamental laborers and the radical petite bourgeoisie have important roles to play in the process of constructing an alternative to capitalism, it is only the working class that can deliver a proletarian alternative to capitalism. As long as production workers—workers who are involved in the process of transforming the natural world into physical commodities—are weak as a class, all other sections of the masses will also remain firmly under the domination of the capitalist class.

These workers are production workers in the sense that they are involved in material production and in the sense that it is material production that generates all new value under capitalism. In other words, while capitalists strive to make profit off of everything up to the creation of fictitious financial instruments that have no basis in the material world, not all profits are made through the creation of real value. As such, profit—which can be made off of almost anything under monopoly-finance capitalism—is not equivalent to surplus value, even though it ultimately rests on the production of the latter in the long-term. For example, capitalists are now making profits off of skyrocketing university tuitions, but this does not mean that students—whose “productive” activity must be invented by those petite bourgeois radicals who place them in the working class—are part of the proletariat.

In short, not all those who suffer from capitalism, by virtue of this suffering alone, have the capacity to materially construct an alternative to it. Understanding this point is crucial for us to move beyond the search for the most oppressed subject to a search for the most revolutionary one. The revolutionary capacity to provide an alternative to capitalism is the unique capacity of the working class. What distinguishes the working class is that it sells its labor-power—or the ability to do work that produces new value—to industrial capitalists, who appropriate a portion of that new value as surplus value. Even bourgeois economists now speak of the “strong unconditional convergence” of manufacturing, or the unique capacity of physical commodity production to stimulate economic growth despite many other economic variables. In contrast with manufacturing, the service and financial sectors cannot stimulate consistent economic growth because they circulate existing value rather than create new value, which is created exclusively through the production of physical commodities within which value can be embodied. Indeed, monopoly-finance capital has created more and more wage workers worldwide in its quest to make a profit off of any and everything possible, but many of these new wage workers, who often work in the service industry, do not themselves produce the new value necessary to reproduce capitalism through sufficient growth rates, a phenomenon which has resulted in global secular economic stagnation and crisis.

The petite bourgeoisie, including highly dominated and materially impoverished fundamental laborers, sells its services rather than its labor-power. Indeed, while waiters, cashiers, teachers, artists, and janitors all provide useful and even essential services to society, and are certainly underpaid for these services due to their lack of power in the marketplace, they are incapable on their own of providing a material alternative to capitalism. This is because they are not the engine that drives capitalism but, rather, to continue the metaphor, its headlights and windshield wipers, providing necessary services that allow the engine—production—to keep propelling the car forward. The headlights and windshield wipers, while not central, are still important to the overall functioning of the car. In the same way, everyone in the popular masses, including not just the working class but also fundamental laborers, and the progressive petite bourgeoisie, must be organized in the struggle against capitalism. Indeed, this distinction between proletarians and fundamental laborers is not a moral one, but rather a strategic one of class capacity to construct an alternative to capitalism. At this historical moment in the U.S., this distinction is not important in the context of intermediate level workers’ organizations but, as class struggle escalates, will become important in the future. Indeed, it is only if these fundamental laborers organize themselves alongside and under the class leadership of the proletariat that a material alternative to capitalism is possible through the construction of an entirely new mode of production.

While this revolutionary level approach to class places relation to production at its core, the previously discussed historical and ideological dimensions of class entail that an identification of occupation alone cannot engender a complete class analysis. Indeed, it is essential to avoid the intellectualist approach of looking at each particular occupation and determining class location directly and purely from this information. This method is, in fact, similar to the sociological one that treats class as a fixed structure or object of analysis and also can lead to the economistic political line of workerism, or the dogmatic idea that production workers are always correct in their political line by virtue of their position within the working class. What is needed to combat these mechanical approaches is a dialectical method that admits to its own contradictions even as it seeks to push them forward. While class definitions are nothing more than models, which can never be validated or invalidated logically due to the complexity of class struggle, for the purposes of developing a revolutionary level political line, a clear and circumscribed definition of the working class is necessary to combat the petite bourgeoisie’s tendency of extending membership in the proletariat all the way up to where it finds itself situated within the social relations of production. In other words, any definition of a class at the revolutionary level is inevitably a political definition insofar as it serves not just to describe objective reality, but also to provide the fodder to change it.

By carefully analyzing the secondary contradictions posed by specific historical developments and ideological tendencies, it is possible to more effectively target and eventually rupture the fundamental contradiction between labor and capital. This fundamental contradiction is one between class forces, and all conceptual identification of particular class positions should not merely be a facile categorization of individuals, since class boundaries can be blurred and class position is not fixed, but, rather, in service of understanding and changing the balance of these forces with the objective of ending capitalism. It is also this approach that allows for the petite bourgeois individual to renounce her class ideology and develop a proletarian line and practice that has the capacity to advance rather than dampen working class struggle. It is this kind of nuanced analysis, one that resists dogmatism at every step of the way through its close attention to contradiction, that must inform revolutionary level political practice.

Moving Forward

More and more people are speaking in the language of class in the United States, which is a very positive development. However, their vocabulary is too imprecise to generate the combative class politics necessary to challenge capitalism let alone build an alternative to it. If we want to wage politics in class terms, we must understand that classes are not static entities but, rather, are formed through the dynamic process of class struggle. Class is also not a pure concept—it is constantly defiled by the complexity and contingency of history—and expresses itself ideologically, failing to conform to any fixed formula or blueprint. Class ideologies are not “identities”; they are formed within and through the objective day-to-day material process of class struggle. Indeed, “classism,” and its implicit conceptual conflation of class with socioeconomic status, is incapable of explaining exploitation and the social relation of domination that undergirds it and also precludes the possibility of class abandonment, a possibility that is necessary to end the petite bourgeois domination of mass level struggle.

At this historical moment, the task of the hour is the construction of an autonomous intermediate level workers’ movement. Working class struggle is at a low level in the U.S. and a mass movement against capitalism is impossible without an escalation of this level of struggle. Let’s educate, agitate, and organize for an autonomous workers’ movement!

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Davidson June 14, 2016 at 8:11 pm

If you fail to see how class is racialized in the US, as this piece does, everything that follows is warped. It’s take of ‘petit-bourgeois’ BLM leaders reminds me of how PL attacked Black students demanding admissions, Black faculaty and Black Studies as nationalist and thus reactionary. Back to the drawing board. Read Ted Allen’s ‘Invention of the White Race’ and consider US slaves as proletarians.

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Pratik Ali June 21, 2016 at 2:12 am

Dear Vincent,

Read this piece, though skimmed through the latter part about levels of organization. Found it too definitional to engage with at more than a conceptual level.

I found some of the concepts very problematic. ‘no class without class struggle’ is fuzzy. What qualifies as struggle? Rather, “class is a relation premised upon conflict of interests” would seem more appropriate. “class struggle is struggle over social surplus” has serious problems. Apart from the fact that it also manifests as struggle for starvation wages (which you acknowledge), what does social surplus mean today? 90% material production does not cater to needs of human reproduction, but to reproduction of capital (and thence to human reproduction). Struggle over this social surplus is meaningless for any fundamental change in relations. For one, it would entail preservation of work, militaries, bureaucracy etc.

Other concepts are no less ambiguous: what is the difference between service and labour power? Apart from the fact that material production gives commodities which each hold a price, in most cases none. If we look at maids, waiters/esses, other service providers, in most cases work to provide a surplus to their establishment. What about IT employees? Logistics industry? Apart from the dents due to their relative position in their respective trades, what really are the differences between the various working classes? Likewise, what really remains of notions such as lumpenproletariat or petit bourgeoisie? No profession today is cut off from industry, no industry works without extracting a surplus (or a fee; the case of professors is interesting, because it’s become almost impossible to be one without selling to the publishing industry for a ‘royalty’). It’s a different matter that maby sections have no affinity to a working class movement. One should also inquire into the extent to which money economy has penetrated labour time so that it is possible to commodify human labour without having to use the price of single commodities as a yardstick. How is it that human time in the abstract has begun commanding a relatively predictable market price?

Your critique of the BLM falls short by taking up only the leadership question (and not the reasons for such widespread eruption among the black community). I guess we should acknowledge the failings of a bygone left linger still in their political impact. Those black youth you are eager to call working class may not feel the same. Likewise, to expect a better off section among the black community to not cling to their belongings makes no sense. Even if it did, it doesn’t mean that anti-racism has no basis. What it means is that working class politics will have to make its way sincerely accommodating subjects mired in all these many situations and ideologies, rather than dismissing them.

The levels of movements seemed disjoint from most of the write up. After pitting class struggle against populist politics, does it mean anything to say mass or critical mass politics is relevant in certain tactical ways? In any case, it seemed like a very textbook model to be of use. One suggestion I could make is starting on the question of organization anew, leaving behind the baggage of early 19th century theories that failed for rather well known reasons.

Love,
Pratik

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Pratik Ali June 21, 2016 at 10:27 am

correction in the last para: *early 20th century theories

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