From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Mon Sep 15 2003 - 10:13:58 EDT
A lot of reasons have been advanced for the continued persistence and dominance of capitalist relations of production. Writing in 1870 (April 9 letter to Meyer and Vogt), Marx disclosed what he believed to be "the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power": "Owing to the constantly increasing concentration of farming, Ireland supplies its own surplus to the English labour market and thus forces down wages and lowers the moral and material position of the English working class" Sounds like a "capital-logical" explanation, doesn't it? Yet, Marx continues: "And most important of all (my emphasis, JL): every industrial and commercial center in England now possesses a working-class population *divided* into *hostile* camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he feels himself a member of the *ruling* nation and so turns himself into a tool of the aristocrats and capitalists *against Ireland*, thus strengthening their domination *over himself*. He cherishes religious, social and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of "poor whites" to the "niggers" in the former slave states of the U.S.A. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own coin. He regards the English worker as both sharing in the guilt for the English domination in Ireland and at the same time serving as its stupid tool." Marx continues: "This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. It is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite their organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And of this that class is well aware." (Marx-Engels, _Selected Correspondence_, pp. 289-90). This raises some interesting questions for discussion: 1) If Marx believed that working-class division was "the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power", why didn't he make the same point in _Capital_? I think I know the answer Mike L would give to that question. What other answers are there? 2) If Marx believed that working-class division is the "secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power", where does that leave 'breakdown' theories of crisis? That is, doesn't the above suggest that Marx believed that capitalism will only "breakdown" once workers are aware of and overcome "the secret"? 3) Do most Marxists today really understand "the secret"? If not, why not? 4) Is it accurate to say today (i.e. re contemporary capitalism) that working-class division is the "secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power"? In solidarity, Jerry PS: I was reminded of the Marx letter today by a post that Harry Cleaver wrote on the aut-op-sy list. The bulk of the Marx quotation above is also reproduced by Harry on p. 111 of _Reading Capital Politically_ (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1979).
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Sep 17 2003 - 00:00:01 EDT