Re: (OPE-L) the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power

From: dashyaf@EASYNET.CO.UK
Date: Tue Sep 16 2003 - 07:31:55 EDT

The RCG/Larkin Publications published a book Ireland: the key to the
British revolution by David Reed in 1984 which started out from Marx's
understanding outlined in those statements cited below. Unfortunately the
book is now out of print but it is possible to get copies in the US from
Amazon second hand section. The book shows concretely how the British
working class' relation to Ireland undermined its own struggle against
capitalism and imperialism in Britain.

David Yaffe
At 10:13 15/09/03 -0400, gerald_a_levy wrote:
>A lot of reasons have been advanced for the continued
>persistence and dominance of capitalist relations of
>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
>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
>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).

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