Revolution of the Proletariat

le-bourgeois-gentilhommeKarl Marx was no idiot.  Indeed, on many points he is pretty sharp.  But he — or maybe we — just cannot get the revolution thing right and it has tarnished his reputation in history.

Now, here again, I think we have a page of Marxist theory, that being a revolution of the proletariat, unfolding in practice, but again it isn’t quite what Karl Marx had in mind.

There have been so-called “Marxist revolutions” in the past, quite a few, in fact; but they have been mostly bastardized reconfigurations of Marxist theory put into awkward political practice.  Trotsky, Lenin, Castro, and Mao probably being the best known to educated Americans along with that pesky “pink tide” in Central America.

But have we had a Marxist revolution here in the United States, at least the revolution part of it?  Let me suggest that we have.  The problem is it is so terribly flawed we don’t recognize it as such and it doesn’t serve any Marxist objectives whatsoever.  (Big problems.)  However, we have had a revolution, none the less.

Seemingly out of nowhere, we are told, angry white workers rose up to reclaim their country.  They had had enough and were damned pissed off about it.  We’re also told that these “white workers” were also women and minorities, bound together by a general anxiety and anger about being left behind.  No one is paying attention to them and their standard of living has been paying a high price for this neglect.

Pyramid of Capitalist System PosterIn classic Marxist form, the material conditions of workers — lower wages, neglect, declining prosperity — spurred them to act…at the voting booth.  They recognize the injustice of the system and more or less spontaneously joined forces to enact change.

Next, the revolution brought together people from across gender and racial identities, a promise of academic Marxism anyway, to reclaim their dignity as citizens and workers.

Unfortunately, at least if you are a Marxist, the angry workers — the proletariat — did not rise up to overthrow the bourgeoisie, they rose up to give the bourgeoisie more power!  They misjudged their oppression and turned against the state, giving strength — and more state power — to the chains that bind them.  Ironically, too, we are told these are largely the rural working class that gave the revolution to the hard right and they gave it to the people they claim to be their enemy, the urban elites.

We all make mistakes.

Workers do rise up.  From Spartacus and the slave revolts of Rome through the modern era revolution has been the concern of the ruling class and philosophers before and after Marx have written about it.  But it is the ideological suppression of revolution — political and otherwise — that seemingly cannot be broken.  The hegemony of power, whereby the oppressed participate in their own oppression, that remains strong and is becoming stronger.  And in the United States, workers call this freedom.

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