Gaza: The class that puts an end to classes, will never realize it is a class

by Jehu

Earlier this week, in a response to my post, “The necessary incoherence of proletarian consciousness”, a tweep directed this question to me:

“I’ll ask you directly: Do you consider Gaza or Auschwitz intraproletarian conflicts?”

World News - July 21, 2014This is a really good question that goes to the implications of my post: why is proletarian consciousness susceptible to accepting the most outrageous behavior toward members of their own class? Why, in other words, is it so difficult to realize solidarity among proletarians?

One of the big problems that has always bedeviled Marxism is the problem of national versus class conflict. The Manifesto assumes that the class struggle must be fought to a conclusion at the national level, but it also states the proletariat is taught politics by its own bourgeoisie through the conflict with the old regime and also with other national bourgeoisies.

Thus, Marx and Engels argue at first, “the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies”. These enemies of our enemy include not just the old classes but the rival national capitals. Very little attention is paid to this problem by Marxists, who prefer to look the other way. Yet, time and again, the proletariat has been drawn into the conflicts of its own bourgeoisie against its rival national capitals. This is the whole story of the 20th century and the two global holocausts that characterize that period, is it not?

So, Gaza, for example, is by no means as simple as some people make it out to be. We have to account not just for the Netanyahus of Israel, but also for the behavior of the mass of Israeli working class voters who have celebrated the slaughter of Gazans in this recent conflict. These disgusting scum have perched on hill overlooking Gaza and cheered as Palestinian families were slaughtered by the hundreds.

Typically, when faced with this sort of behavior among the working classes, some Marxists want to write all of this off to “bourgeois consciousness”, “Zionism”, racism and other alien class influences, but let us be frank: this sort of explanation actually explains nothing.

For this sort of explanation to work, Marxists have to explain why the proletariat is susceptible to bourgeois consciousness, you have to explain why this class — unlike every other class in society — is uniquely capable of expressing, not its own material class interests in its consciousness, but the material class interests of the bourgeois class. No other fucking class in history is said to express the interests of the ruling class standing over it except the proletariat.

Why does the proletariat have this unique defect in its consciousness? Moreover, why is it an article of faith among the Marxists that the proletariat is uniquely incapable of articulating its own class interest? If Marx and Engels are correct, the burghers managed to overthrow the ruling class of the ancient regime without a vanguard party. However, for some inexplicable reason, the proletariat can’t do this according to at least some Marxists.

Why is this?

The answer, I think, is that there is no practical material basis for solidarity among the working classes within the world market. Each may have conflict with their respective national capitalists, but nowhere do these conflicts directly present in the form of a common conflict of the working classes of all countries taken together against the whole of capital. Absent this, as Marx and Engels put it in the German Ideology, the class conflict, to the extent it exists at all, has remained home-bred conditions surrounded by superstition.

Under these conditions, the proletariat’s own consciousness is expressed in a desire to rid itself from the competitive pressures within the class; and, in first place, a desire to put an end to its competitors. While this is not, in my opinion, a complete explanation for horrific events like Auschwitz and the recent Gaza massacre, it does establish an essential premise of that explanation:

So far as the proletariat is concerned there is no such thing as a proletariat.