[OPE-L:2583] Re: Critique

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 21 2000 - 21:48:57 EST

[ show plain text ]

Re John H's [OPE-L:2581]:

> I think that you put your finger here on the core of the problem,
> Paul. I feel that your approach treats the workers (a 'them') as victims,
> as the objects of class domination. That is also my worry about 'class
> demarcation', and, I might as well add, to cast my aspersions as widely as
> possible, it is the central problem with the idea that there can be a
> 'Marxist economics' as opposed to a Marxist critique of economics/
> political economy/ sociology/ politics etc.
> What I understand from your and Jerry's interventions is that you
> understand capital as the subject of capitalist domination and capitalist
> development and the workers (labour) as the object of capitalist domination
> and development. Hence the characterisation of the workers as victims.

There is no contradiction between saying that workers *are* victims of
capital and at the same time saying that they are *more than* victims.
>From the one-sided perspective of capital, workers are merely raw
material -- living means of production (so to speak) which represents a
cost of production. From the standpoint of the working-class, however,
workers are human beings with a subjectivity and a capacity to change the
world and engage in self-emancipation. Hence, labor is *both* object (to
capital) *and* subject (for themselves).

What I would add, hence, is that in attempting to understand the logic of
the working class, we also recognize that there is a logic of capital
which stands in opposition to the working class. Thus, understanding the
logic of capital is an essential part of understanding the dynamics of
capitalism and class struggle. Rather than negating the subjectivity of
the working class it forms a logical pre-requisite for the development of
an understanding of that subjectivity.

> The
> problem with this understanding is that, as Lenin quite rightly pointed
> out, it makes the self-emancipation of the working class an impossibility,
> so that the only way forward is through the Party (or, better,
> intellectuals like ourselves).

If one *only* views the working class as victims then I agree with Lenin's
and your point.

By way of analogy: consider the important issue of rape. Are those who are
raped to be considered victims? This has been the normal legal
understanding -- although, of course, sexists have claimed that womens'
behavior leads to rape, hence the counter-charge of "blaming the victim".
Many feminists, however, have resisted the label of "victims" for those
who have been raped, claiming that this reduces the women to being
powerless and hence unable to fight back and to organize collectively. I
think that your position on the working class is similar to this feminist
position on the status and identity of those who have been raped. My
position is that these women are *both* victims and *more than* victims
who are an object (to rapists) and a subject (for themselves).
> I think I am only saying what Marx says in the Theses on Feuerbach, namely
> that materialism has to be understood in terms of the primacy of practice
> (human doing), which, I agree, is a long way from the Engelsian conception
> of materialism.

OK, but since I don't share a "Engelsian" conception of materialism that
is kind of besides the point.

> 4) At moments I feel that there is a rancorous tone creeping into the
> discussion. That is certainly not my intention.

Nor mine.

> If in the interests of
> brevity or clarity, I have seemed unnecessarily abrupt, I happily
> apologise.

No offense was taken by me and no apology is called for. As always, it is
important when reading e-mail not to infer intent on the part of other
writers. I would like to think that, unless we have clear evidence to the
contrary, we assume the best possible motivations to our correspondents.
In this connection it is important to recall that OPE-L, unlike just about
all other e-mail lists, is a self-consciously collaborative group.

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 21 2000 - 09:47:57 EDT