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 Post subject: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 12:37 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 7:50 am 
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I have a very basic question being a newbie and maybe you can help me.

Agitating for increased wages and better conditions etc is fine and noble, but is that not in essence still participating in the Capitalist game? I thought the whole point of Marxism was a radical upheaving of the system. Where and how does this happen? As far as I can see, most people want but a bigger slice of the Capital pie, they do not seem interested in a radical restructuring of social relations.

Thanks in advance.


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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 8:45 am 
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This is an excellent question.

There are a few reasons as to why the struggles for better living conditions generally (including higher wages, healthcare, access to good quality housing, etc.) lead inevitably to the question of State power.

For starters, Marx's critique of Capitalism reveals to us that Capitalism cannot exist without attacking the working class. It relies and depends upon driving DOWN the living standards of the working class. Whenever you hear arguments from capitalists along the lines of "its impossible/uneconomical to give everyone free healthcare and high wages and free tuition etc." They are not wrong. What we want and desire IS impossible, at least for Capitalism.

On the other hand, the working class, being comprised of human beings, have the innate desire to live, and live well. Their desire for a non-miserable existence is incompatible with Capitalism at a structural level. This is why the question of State power is raised during intense strike activity. Basically, to satisfy their desire for a non-miserable existence, the working class is forced in to combat with Capital and the capitalist State. They can extract concessions from Capital from time to time, but the greatest concession that can be extracted from Capital is State power. Once the working class has seized State power (because it was necessary to do so to guarantee a non-miserable existence) they will, naturally, begin wielding it to their own ends, ends which conflict with the very nature of Capitalism, pointing towards its overthrow and restructuring of society.

Additionally, the seizure of State power and restructuring of society requires organisation, a lot of it. But we cannot simply create organisations that have as their aim and purpose the creation of a communist society. That goal is so far away there's no material activity to hold the organisation together with. Instead, we focus on creating organisations that intend on improving the living conditions of the working class (whether they be unions or otherwise), with the full knowledge that these organisations are impossible to sustain so long as we do not confront Capital.

I hope that helps, my other article, Do Something, also touches on this subject but in a bit more of a practical manner.

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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 2:26 pm 
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Quote:
Agitating for increased wages and better conditions etc is fine and noble, but is that not in essence still participating in the Capitalist game? I thought the whole point of Marxism was a radical upheaving of the system. Where and how does this happen? As far as I can see, most people want but a bigger slice of the Capital pie, they do not seem interested in a radical restructuring of social relations.


Welcome to Red Marx--

I think what's at stake in that question is whether or not communism is a material necessity drawn from facts now in existence, or a nice idea.

If it's a nice idea, it's a matter of winning the hearts and minds of more and more people until there is a critical mass-- enough numbers won over-- to decide to build communism.

But, if it is a material necessity drawn from the facts now in existence-- and brought into existence by capitalism-- it's a matter of linking and bridging those facts into the real movement for communism.

Every acute struggle of the working-class (and every revolutionary situation created by the working-class out of such acute struggles so far) was a product of the class struggle, of the forces, terms and conditions generated and regenerated by capital.

How we do that is the big point of contention (a 150+ year old 'work in progress' maybe?)


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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 4:29 pm 
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Ok, but I am going to play Devil's Advocate here. I simply do not see in my own experience any serious desire for a radical revolution as widespread amongst the poor. I see a desire for more money and more comfortable material living, but that is not the same thing as a desire for revolution.

Also is it not the case that as people acquire more money they simply become more comfortable in the system?

In my reading around I have been dipping into some of the Maoist Third-Worldist material from 70s American groups and I confess I find their claims that there is no longer any revolutionary potential in the first-world working class quite compelling. They do (or did) put their hopes in third-world proletariat. But even then the same point applies: given the infectious nature of capitalism and the seemingly innate desire in humans for constant acquisition how viable is talk of revolution? What exactly do we mean by the word?

Sorry if this sounds defeatist - I am genuinely looking for answers and could badly use some optimism, but of a realistic variety!


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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:41 pm 
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It may be worthwhile to read arty's thread here on-new-imperialism-t1324.html

To address you directly, however.

We are in no disagreement on the point that people do not want revolution. I'm not really fond of the idea of revolution, most people aren't. They generally aren't nice affairs. You have also correctly identified the element that people do want, a comfortable existence. Allow me to make an analogy.

I hate working out. Seriously it sucks ***. I want to be strong though, and I want to be strong badly enough to be willing to endure the misery that is lifting weights. Thus I lift weights as it is the only way I am aware of for getting strong.

Capitalism forces the living conditions of the working class to ever more miserable conditions. The working class' desire for a reasonable human existence is incompatible with Capitalism. Thus they must make revolution as it is the only way to remove the fetters of Capital.

Additionally, I make the charge in the article that theoretical alibis are concocted in order to justify a lack of real-world activity. I would hold that MTW is such a theoretical alibi.

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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 8:33 pm 
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Quote:
Also is it not the case that as people acquire more money they simply become more comfortable in the system?


It's a valid observation: but the fight for improvements in working and living conditions, in all spheres of life (in and out of the workplace, community, etc.) is the side of the class struggle directly related to labor, since at the same time the forces and personifications of capital are working in the other direction (speed-ups, chiseling wages-health care-pensions, lay-offs, etc.).

That's the class struggle in the capitalist epoch, with the dynamic of class struggle itself, in every epoch, forming the motor force of history.

In the case of the Maoists, it appears to take the (spurious) theory of the 'Aristocracy of Labor' to its ultimate conclusion: workers in the advanced-industrial/central capitalist nations cease to be part of the proletariat, and ipso facto are now part of the class enemy and an enemy of socialism.

The main problem with that conception is that it starts from the premise of what should be rather than what is.

These same workers, even those thoroughly imbued with the most chauvinistic, jingoistic and often racist ideologies, prejudices and habits of capitalist society, can display a contradiction in their actions vs their thoughts.

Despite having political reservations with the content and legacy of his work, Martin Glaberman covered this a good bit over the years, writing about the struggles of the WWII and post-war eras in the US. His conclusion on this subject is very good:

"The fact was that in a war that was probably the most popular America took part in [World War II], workers in fact, if not in their minds or in theory, said that given the choice between supporting the war or supporting their interests and class struggle, they took class struggle."

The first example he gives are workers who voted to ratify no-strike clauses in their collective bargaining agreements for the duration of WWII, but engaged in repeated, sustained and large scale disruptions of war industries and war production-- over bread and butter and social issues.

The second example is a note that similar phenomena were evident in the words and actions of steelworkers, building trades workers, etc. during the Vietnam war-- despite episodes which included workers physically abusing anti-war demonstrators (like the 'Hard Hat Riot' in 1970) and rallying support for pro-war politicians, their wildcats, official strikes and other forms of concerted action again disrupted war production.

These things happened. Similar phenomena will most definitively emerge in the Trump era.

But abandoning segments of the working-class to capitalist ideology is both a theoretical and by extension political mistake.

How and why could such workers ever be won to the socialist programme, if they are theorized as belonging to the bourgeoisie and form an enemy of the proletarian revolution?


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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:03 am 
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Ok, thanks for the answers. Sincerely appreciated. I hope you don't mind me asking more questions as I'm trying to feel my way. Maybe it'll help you clarify your own thoughts also.

Who exactly are the 'working-class'? I know the standard answer is those who don't own the means of production and exchange, but that accounts for nearly 95% of people. But as before, we can safely assume that the vast majority of those have no desire for an overthrow of anybody and are angling purely for more wealth and higher living standards. In that case, who are the people with revolutionary potential?

If the 'motor of history' is the struggle between Capitalists and Workers then is not this simply a push-me pull-me struggle between those who have less and want more? Isn't there a need for a radical ethical and social program to make it seem more than just 'replacing one gang of crooks with another'? Do any such programs exist?

I get that that you guys are not big on Third Worldism, but I have to admit that the people I know who call themselves Socialists/Marxists all seem quite comfortable materially. They all own their homes, cars, have iPhones etc, yet they call themselves 'working-class'. When I see them agitating for more wages etc. I frankly confess that I am not stirred; in fact, I am put off. Isn't there a need for a more in-depth analysis of who exactly merits sympathy rather than just a catch-all category such as 'workers'?

Lastly, why do no Marxists seem to agree with each other?:-)


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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:56 am 
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You've got it, the working class is that group of people that lives only by the sale of their labour-power. They have nothing else to sell. As I've said a couple times now, I don't disagree that they don't desire revolution, just higher living standards. But the fact of the matter is, those better living standards are unobtainable under capitalism, thus making the desire for such living standards a revolutionary demand.

The idea is that the working class has no interest in sustaining capitalism because capitalism cannot meet the needs of the working class. Once the proletariat seizes State power the process of the proletarianization of the entire populace begins, there are no different classes any longer.

They may or may not genuinely be members of the working class, but that isn't terribly important as far as being a communist is concerned. We should remember that Engels was a factory owner.

We aren't in the business of giving 'sympathy' to the working class, we're in the business of struggling for material gains. For instance, the organization I'm a part of aside from Anti-Capital is Red Tutors. We go around and help tutor working class children that need academic help, while framing our action as a form of class-defense.

Essentially, being a Marxist is hard. We all know the quote from Marx that the ruling ideas in every epoch are the ideas of the ruling class. Well, these ruling ideas penetrate in to every sphere of society, including amongst Marxists. We are not immune to theoretical confusion that is disseminated from the bourgeoisie.

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 Post subject: Re: Activism vs. Slacktivism: A False Dichotomy
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 4:36 am 
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Ok, thanks.

So given that you agree most people don't want revolution, and given that you state that your aim is increased living standards what is there to differentiate you from Social Democrats and non-Marxist Leftist organisations?

If increased living standards is the only aim, what is there to separate you from the ethos of Capitalism, which is all about increased wealth, material production etc.? Is it just that you want a fairer share of the spoils?

I thought Marxism was supposed to be more radical than that, a set of new values etc.?

In regard to the working-class, I read S Artesian's fairly scathing condemnation of all those who voted for Trump. Given that we can assume many, if not most of them, are working-class, how do you reconcile wishing to help them with your disdain for their politics?

Thanks again.


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