[OPE-L:2531] Re: Re: class demarcation

From: John Holloway (104164.2012@compuserve.com)
Date: Thu Mar 16 2000 - 23:47:49 EST

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In [OPE-L:2527] I asked:

> Why do you want a criterion for the demarcation of class? Why
> should we want to define class? Is it not capital that defines class? Is
> our struggle not to liberate ourselves from definition?

Paul, with his usual clarity, helps me to refine my question. He says (in
OPEL 2529):

"The key point in having a clear definition of classes comes down to
the fact that actions are taken on the basis of these definitions.
The question of class definition comes down then to who are our
friends and who are our enemies, with whom does the communist
party ally and who does it fight. A clear definition has had to
be part of the party line in order that separate detachments can
follow a consistent policy across the country."

That is very helpful, because my question is really whether the
preoccupation with defining class is not intimately connected with the sort
of politics that Paul indicates: namely a politics that conceives of
revolution in terms of a party which chooses its allies and conceives of
revolution as taking place within a 'country'.

Such a conception seems to me fraught with problems, not least of which is
that no such party exists or (as far as I can see) has much chance of
existing in the foreseeable future. But even if it did, can people really
be placed so neatly into pigeonholes? Clearly capital accumulation does
involve the pigeonholing of people, but is not the possibility of
revolution premised on the fact that people do not fit so neatly into the
slots which the existence of capital entails? And yet the preoccupation
with defining class would seem to deny this.

Jerry's reply to my question (in OPE-L 2528) was:
"My brief answer: part of the process of liberating ourselves from class
society is understanding the meaning of class."

But does understanding the meaning of class mean that we have to define it?
Do all the endless discussions on 'are students/ police/ workers who own
shares/ university professors members of the working class' really take us
anywhere at all other than into the bourgeois logic of classification, i.e.
into the logic of the production and reproduction of class?

Jerry says:

"In some ways, I find your questions puzzling since "class analysis" on the
composition and de-composition of the working-class must necessarily
define class(es). Yet, hasn't class analysis been a central focus of
"Open Marxism" and "autonomist Marxism"? (btw, as evidenced by the
statement of purpose of the aut-op-sy list which we are both members of)."

I think that the understanding of capitalism as class struggle is central
to Open Marxism, autonomist Marxism and, one would hope, any other type of
Marxism. The problem, surely, is how we understand the categories we use as
part of that struggle. My worry is not about the concept of class, but
about the preoccupation with definition. Does not the idea of revolution
depend on breaking definitions?

Does Marx define class? If not, was this just because unfortunately he
didn't get around to it (the last chapter of Vol. III), leaving us with a
theoretical problem? Or was it because class was better left undefined?

I wonder.


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