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What is the positive (if any) correlation between "class power" and abolishing classes?

0 votes
asked Dec 15, 2010 by madlib (2,730 points)
I'm certain that organized labor, and the arena of labor politics in general, have long since resolved any question of "class power". But the point—if there is any point at all in the critique of class domination, in the intermediate sense— is for the proletarian to pose their humanity in opposition to production.

I would ultimately suppose the category denotes a shift towards something decidedly more human and free for the exploited and destitute. However, the "class interest" of the proletariat is getting paid for their labor and suppressing the costs their work impresses on them even if, from the perspective of the anarchists, the fight against those costs takes on the most noble and human qualities. Therefore, class power fails, as a category, to compel myself to believe in its value and that it has any implications beyond anything other than organized labor. A celebratory return to the union hall, as it were.  

If categories like "class power" are any indication, I very much doubt those who center their ideals around class struggle are actually prepared for the implications of abolishing classes. It's very much one of those "That doesn't mean what you think it means."  scenarios.

I find myself wondering if Stalin would be aroused by the phrase. Simultaneously, I am intrigued by this excerpt:

"The ruling class is defined in terms of its own project of accumulating power and wealth. While there are certainly significant conflicts within the ruling class in terms of specific interests and real competition for control of resources and territory, this overarching project aimed at the control of social wealth and power, and thus of the lives and relationships of every living being, provides this class with a unified positive project.

The exploited class has no such positive project to define it. Rather it is defined in terms of what is done to it, what is taken away from it. Being uprooted from the ways of life that they had known and created with their peers, the only community that is left to the people who make up this heterogeneous class is that provided by capital and the state — the community of work and commodity exchange decorated with whatever nationalist, religious, ethnic, racial or subcultural ideological constructions through which the ruling order creates identities into which to channel individuality and revolt. The concept of a positive proletarian identity, of a single, unified, positive proletarian project, has no basis in reality since what defines one as proletarian is precisely that her life has been stolen from her, that he has been transformed into a pawn in the projects of the rulers."

This warrants an essay that will never see the light of publication, no doubt. :)

1 Answer

+2 votes
This is a great question and so I want to attempt an answer (which will probably be something less than satisfying).


I think that the positive project of accumulating power and wealth pervades the entirety of capitalist society. The Ruling Class is the most successful in realizing this project. As the Ruling Class (the conquerors so to speak), their positive project is to more specifically secure their power. The first step in this project is to ensure that power and wealth accumulation is a defining and pervasive aim, that the appearance of class mobility isn't shattered, that the working and middling classes can always be gazing upward: idolizing the ruling class (or the class above them), lusting after their achievements, swooning over their successes, and happy to advance towards their position in society. The second step is to ensure that if possible at all, the accumulation of power and wealth is limited - that those who do climb up are those who the ruling class wants to climb up. The project of accumulating wealth and power is the string that ties the members of every class together: for the worker to play the lottery, to become a fool for the entertainment of others, to increase their productive capacity, to learn to manage the labor of others, etc. - this underlying project is present. It is needed as the most common of all projects so the ruled can respect those that have accumulated wealth and power, to hate them for their success, to fear their appearance of superiority, to love their etiquette and tastes, to vie for their cultural, to hope for their luxury, their travel, their stories-to-tell: ultimately... to accept power and wealth accumulation as the measuring-stick of ones existence and always attempt that impossible project of reaching such a position by "half-measures".

So to me, there is this game (this trap): and then there is struggle against it. Whether that struggle takes the form of breaking the rules set by the Ruling Class, destroying their property, organizing massive resistance, challenging the appearances (the illusions), etc. - that project isn't a class struggle because it is the struggle of classes with opposing interests: it is class struggle because those least successful in this game, with the least stake in the system, most attacked and exploited and abused by it - they are (we are) able to take a different view more easily. The view I mean is this one: that one has more of an interest in destroying this system than in reforming it, trying to become successful with-in its logic, or even simply accepting the project of capitalism as something inevitably permanent. In this sense, "class power" is an assertion that the distribution of wealth and power doesn't need to follow the logic of capital: that rejecting capitalism and its rules is the surest subversion of the Ruling Class's capacity to rule. Class power as those of a class refusing the logic of capitalism and fighting against it... not as empowerment of the working class as a whole, as a class, because of their class. In other words, "class power" as a statement to encourage those of the exploited class to fight against these systems... to use what power they can develop towards that end. Power to (self-determination) ...not power over (wealth and coercive force).
answered Dec 25, 2010 by Squee (2,470 points)
"it is class struggle because those least successful in this game, with the least stake in the system, most attacked and exploited and abused by it - they are (we are) able to take a different view more easily. The view I mean is this one: that one has more of an interest in destroying this system than in reforming it, trying to become successful with-in its logic, or even simply accepting the project of capitalism as something inevitably permanent."

i disagree. my experience has not been that people who are poor and/or working class are more likely to reject the system (in its various guises). i believe that when working class/poor people decide that the system is the problem, they seem to be more likely to stick to their guns (so to speak) than middle/upper class folks do, but that's a different thing.
i think class terminology (even to the extent that i just used it) is false, because it masks what really happens in the world. false determinatives, similar to other identity arguments.
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