Solving the Riddle of History
The introduction of labor-replacing technology is destroying value, polarizing society and giving rise to the formation of a new class of workers — the majority of which includes contingent, below-minimum wage and parttime workers. A new section of the working class, they are a new quality within it. Increasingly driven out of the relationship between worker and capitalist, they are forced to fight for a new society where society owns the means of production and the social product is distributed according to need. The actual program of this new class is to abolish private property, and this program is in the interest of the whole of society.
Objectively, the historic role of the new class is to unite all those who can be united and lead society forward to this new world. All wealth, all property has been created by the exploitation of human labor — from slave to serf to wage-slave — and appropriated as the private property of the ruling class. Only the elimination of private property can end the class system and its various forms of exploitation. All of the inequalities that human beings have known and continue to suffer today are rooted in this fundamental relation between the owning class and the exploited class.
The ability of the new class to fulfill its historic role will depend on it achieving consciousness of itself as a class and consciousness of its historic mission. That consciousness has to be brought to it by revolutionaries.
Polarization and the Revolutionary Process
Our society is based on the unity of two contradictory poles — a capitalist class that owns the socially necessary means of production, and a working class which essentially owns nothing but their ability to work at these means of production. One side sells labor power; the other sells the wherewithal to create this labor power. This is their essential economic connection. If these poles stood starkly in opposition to one another they would soon tear society apart over the division of the social product. Spontaneously, and by design, social and economic gradations on both sides prevent this. Our society has not only poles, but also almost numberless gradations from poverty to wealth, the most important being a bribed, skilled, secure “labor aristocracy” with one foot in the proletariat and the other in the lower ranks of the capitalist class. Each social stratum inter-penetrates the next, tying them all together into a stable society.
How can such a leviathan be overthrown? The beginning of change is polarization, which the dictionary defines as “a sharp division into opposing factions.” For polarization to begin, some qualitative aspect of the old has to be removed, or some aspect of a new quality has to be introduced. Since the “middle” in any process holds the poles together, something has to be introduced that destroys this middle and creates polarization.
This “something” of a new quality is labor-replacing, automated production. With the introduction of robotics, the relation between the sale of labor power and the purchase of the means of subsistence began to break. With such an attack against the qualitative foundations of the economic order, everything else came under attack. Capitalists lost their political dependency on the “labor aristocracy” which in turn lost the good jobs and the life that went with it. All the ideological and social institutions connected to the old order came under fire. The “welfare state” which guaranteed a docile, healthy, educated workforce began to be dismantled.
As the economic and social “middle” began to disintegrate, the poles, or opposing factions, have begun to clash in a real way for the first time since the Civil War. We are only at the beginning of the beginning of polarization, but the process is now irreversible.
This destruction and polarization is objective. It is not the result of someone’s idea or wish, but the inevitable outcome of an economic revolution on the one hand and a static political and social structure on the other. So, as the economy polarizes, so does society. Consequently, the legal, social and ideological threads that held society together are breaking. What we have known as democracy is coming under attack from all sides.
Considering the large percentage of people who were not allowed to participate in formulating these laws, we have never had a real democracy. What we did have was widespread ownership of petty capital, i.e., small businesses and especially the family farm. Such economic independence made it impossible to govern without consensus. Despite the horrors of chattel slavery, the centuries of the Native American holocaust, and the political exclusion of the female half of the population — the political life of the country, American democracy, “our way of life” was stable. There was a community of interest so long as there was a community of ownership.
As technology replaces labor, the economic, political, ideological and social “middle” threatens to burst asunder. The community of interest between a very large section of the population and the giant corporations threatens to dissolve into thin air. The strengthening community of interest between the government and the corporations replaces the former community and becomes the foundation for a new form of rule. This is fascism.
Faced with an expanding property-less mass of workers with constantly declining standards of living, the ruling class is forced to discard the trappings of democracy in one political and social arena after another. The rise of fascism during the 1920s and 30s was political — it was a program that a section of society visualized and fought for. Today, the rise of fascism is objective; there is no other way to preserve private property.
The Role of Revolutionaries and the Unity of the New Class
The only way out for the new class — and all those who can be united — is to abolish private property in the means of production altogether. The new class is objectively communist, which is to say history is forcing it in the direction of a communal or cooperative society, since this is the only way it and the majority of the working class can survive in the age of electronics.
Although it will be a long and difficult process, it is objectively possible today for the majority of the working class to unite around a program that is in their common interest, thereby making it possible for them to lead society to communism.
Labor-replacing electronic production and globalization are creating the objective conditions for the majority of the working class to unite. In the past period of industrial development, temporary unity of the privileged section of the working class was possible, but it was not possible for the workers to unite as a class. Racism, backed up by the social privileges granted the white poor over the Black, kept people divided. Today, white workers are finding themselves on the street corner begging for food alongside of Black workers. Whether the new class realizes it yet or not, white, Black, immigrants — documented and undocumented — are all victims of the capitalist system.
However, it’s important that we see that a new form of racism is developing that can interfere with class unity and be used to develop a fascist culture. Of necessity, this new form of racism is not based on color. As the ruling class and the professional classes have increasingly become integrated, racism based simply on color has to be eliminated. This new form of racism is directed against the “ghetto Blacks,” the “illegal immigrant” and the white, so-called “trailer trash.” In other words, class and cultural differences with the ruling class, not color, are emerging as the ideological basis for the assault on a section of the new class. If not checked, the ruling class propaganda offensive can serve to isolate this section of the class from the rest of the class, as well as from society.
Unity isn’t automatic. It has to be fought for by conscious people. The white workers are being pushed down, but there is still a fundamental difference between the situations of lower-class blacks and lower-class whites. Nonetheless, the American ruling class is no longer giving anything to anyone. Dispossessed whites are being forced down to the social and economic level of the Black dispossessed and this is creating the objective conditions for unity of this section of the class. Indeed, in many cases around the country, such as the murder of Trayvon Martin and the widespread revulsion of videotaped beatings of the undocumented at the border, and the killings in Anaheim, among others, impulses toward unity are beginning to appear.
All sections of society are being affected by the extreme shifts in wealth and the growing polarization between wealth and poverty and are drawn into struggle. All sorts of programmatic appeals — program in the sense of how to solve a problem — contend for dominance.
In the run-up to the 2012 elections, candidates of both political parties preach their claims to the best route to saving the “middle class.” These calls do not address the needs of masses of people who never benefitted much from the past period of capitalist expansion. Nor is it possible to protect something that has already been destroyed. For millions of formerly well-paid workers — the so-called “middle class” — the good jobs are gone forever.
Programmatic agitation against “big government” is a natural response to the bailout. Workers who owed their social and financial security to the expansion of capitalism and its market suddenly found themselves dispossessed of the American Dream just as the government made an unconcealed transfer of wealth of unprecedented magnitude to the banks and other corporations. This anti-biggovernment programmatic theme relieves the government of responsibility to serve the public interest. It is often culturally coded to appeal to the backward, racist, and selfdefeating channels of thinking carved out by the American history of slavery, genocide, and discrimination. Its struggle to rise to predominance is fostering the ideological conditions for a fascist movement.
The growing anti-corporate sentiment represents an awakening of the interests of the people against the corporations, the interests of the 99% against the 1%. But it does not necessarily challenge the ever more direct political power of the corporations and the ever more apparent class nature of the State.
Proposals to forgive some portion of home mortgage debt or student debt could redistribute a trickle of money — much welcomed for students facing a lifetime of debt or families in danger of losing their homes. But these proposals do not solve the problem of diminishing wages, the elimination of jobs, and the inability to pay for the necessaries of life.
Changes in the State have inseparably intertwined the corporations and the government, aligning the power of the State itself against every social struggle. The immediate problems and disasters of the day cannot be resolved as long as the corporations and the capitalists as a class hold political power.
The Way Forward
The demands of the new class for the food, housing, education, health care and an opportunity to contribute to society are summed up as the demand for a cooperative society. This program of the new class is the only program that can solve the problems faced by society.
The contention over what to do about peoples’ immediate needs sets the stage for the coalescing of a defining consciousness of who is fighting whom and who is the target of that struggle. The program of the new class holds the potential to politicize the developing awareness and to develop consciousness of the program that can resolve those problems and inspire it with the determination to struggle for the political power to reconstruct society.
The task of revolutionaries is to introduce new ideas into the minds of the combatants, to make them see that their fight is to build a new society, and give them a vision of the economic paradise that is possible if the new means of production are taken over by the people.
The League of Revolutionaries for a New America has set as its mission to unite the scattered revolutionaries on the basis of the demands of the new class and to educate them to a cooperative, communist resolution of the problems. It is dedicated to assembling a core of revolutionary propagandists who can create the conditions for this new, revolutionary, objectively communist class to play its role in history.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011