[— 111 —]
S E C T I O N
The Western Left
and Social Democracy
[— 112 —]
[— 113 —]
I M P E R I A L I S T P A R A S I T I S M A N D
T H E W E S T E R N W O R K I N G C L A S S E S
Perhaps the most significant and deep-going – and also little investigated – of the aspects of imperialist parasitism described by Lenin has been that one whereby, out of super-profits, capitalism bribes "the labour leaders and upper stratum" of Western workers "in a thousand different ways, direct and indirect, overt and covert".
This activity, manifesting itself in a variety of forms, has an extremely serious effect of the working class because
"those strata of the working class who are being BRIBED out of imperialist super-profits and converted into WATCH-DOGS of capitalism, into CORRUPTORS of the labour movement ... area ALIEN to the proletariat as a class ... are the servants, the agents, the conduits of the influence of the bourgeoisie ... of whom the labour movement must RID itself if it does not want to remain a BOURGEOIS LABOUR MOVEMENT."1
At the time when Lenin wrote these words, he was able to describe those "servants...of the bourgeoisie" as "a tiny minority" of the working class in industrialized nations. The year was 1916. Since then, the parasitism which gave rise to such "servants" did not die out or shrink. On the contrary, we have seen how it expanded as the imperialist system decayed.
Moreover, this "working-class aspect" of parasitism has specific material bases which can be investigated in detail to ascertain whether "the labour movement" did, in fact, "RID itself" of those "WATCHDOGS of capitalism", as Lenin urged; or if it has, instead, remained a "BOURGEOIS LABOUR MOVEMENT".
It is not, as we shall see, without significance that the Western Left has never made this investigation, but has contented itself with mouthing Lenin's 1916 phrases.
— 114 —
What material bases, then, did Lenin offer as means of examining the bribed sections of the metropolitan working class?
One of them is suggested by the following of his words:
"the percentage of productively employed population to total population is declining."2
Lenin proved this assertion for his time. Is it still true? A sampling of nine basic industries in the U.S., comparing 1950 and 1960, can be tabulated:
Table 53 RELATIONSHIP OF PRODUCTIVELY EMPLOYED U. S. POPULATION TO TOTAL (In Thousands) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I N D U S T R Y N u m b e r E m p l o y e d 1950 1960 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Mining 532* 519 Industrial Chemicals, Organic & Inorganic 226 278 Petroleum Products 66* 67 Primary Metals 1,036 957 Metal Products 323 337 Non-Electrical Machinery 1,043 1,137 Electrical Machinery 670 865 Transport Equipment 1,036 1,160 Industrial Instruments 35 36 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- T O T A L S 4,967 5,356 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total Population 150,697 178,464 =============================================================================== P E R C E N T A G E 3.3 3.0 =============================================================================== *1959 figures -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
These figures clearly confirm Lenin's point. Yet they furnish only one small glimpse of this aspect of the effects of imperialist parasitism on the working class. There are others.
For example, one study of the U.S. economy, scrutinizing "The Sales Effort", and its non-productive role in the capitalist system as a whole, shows that
— 115 —
"From being a relatively unimportant feature of the system, (the sales effort) has advanced to the status of one of its decisive nerve centers. In its impact on the economy, it is outranked only by militarism."4
Furthermore, the system's successful campaign to create new demands as stimulus to a flagging economy not only increases the economy's number of "drones", but invades production itself. For instance, in the automotive industry, "costs of production" are inflated by non-essential expenses arising from the need to change models, create premature of planned obsolescence, etc., with the significant result that
"by far the greater part of the sales effort is carried out not by obviously unproductive workers such as salesmen and advertising copy writers but by seemingly productive workers: tool and die makers, draftmen, mechanics, assembly line workers."5
Another cause of the increase in percentage of non-productive workers to total is found in the inroads of automation on large basic industry:
"At General Electric, less than half of the total employees are now on regular hourly wage scales (i.e., in direct production - H.W.E.). Thus, the blue-collar worker is falling more and more out of style. The white-collar worker ... is the man of the moment."6
Similar considerations apply to the American working class as a whole.
But what IS "the American working class"? How large a sector of population is it?
In Marxists terms, there is a double answer: (a) the "industrial proletariat," or value-producers, off whose labour the entire U.S. society lives in part; and (b) the broader "working class" comprising both the industrial proletariat and all others who, while not producing values, have nothing to sell but their labour-power. Category (b) encompasses sales personnel, clerical workers, private household workers, and so on, who constitute that "non-productive sector" which increases as a percentage¬
— 116 —
of total population. The working class must also include unemployed, who have labour power to sell but cannot sell it.
In our count, we have also included the armed forces because, class-wise, they are overwhelmingly working people, with Afro-Americans composing a segment disproportionately larger then their ratio to total population. While, objectively, the armed forces are the very backbone of the bourgeois – i.e., oppressive – state, nonetheless, the working-class background of the individuals who compose them does come into play at crucial times, as evidenced in the current war by the desertion of the "South Vietnamese" soldiers to the "Vietcong." Moreover, soldiers are far from the only category to whom the ruling class pays wages to do jobs that harm the working class by sustaining the hostile state. Sheriffs, police, prison wardens are among others.
In defining a class, the sole criterion is relationship to the means of production. Ideology and/or size of income seriously affect a class; but they can NOT define it.
Some people say, "A man making £50,000 a year can't be a member of the working class." In the first place, such people are – in their type – numerically insignificant. But the point of their existence is the fact that there are a few such individuals to illumine the meaning and irony of imperialist parasitism.
Social Democrats, especially, try to use "size of income" defining classes: after a worker's income passes a certain arbitrary (but elastic) level, he is said to have entered "the middle class."
The scholar C. Wright Mills provides an excellent example of such an approach:
"'Class situation' in its simplest objective sense has to do with amount and source of income ...
"In terms of property, the white collar people are NOT 'in between Capital and Labor'; they are exactly in the same property-class positions as the wage workers. They have no direct financial tie to the means of production, no prime claim upon the proceeds from property. Like factory workers – and day laborers, for¬
— 117 —
that matter – they work for those who do own such means of livelihood.
"Yet if bookkeepers and coal miners, insurance agents and farm laborers, doctors in a clinic and crane operators in an open pit have this condition in common, certainly their class situations are not the same. To understand their class positions, we must go beyond the common source of income and consider as well the amount of income."7
Such ideas can arise only from the prevalent loose, indeed often emotional, mis-usage of Marx's scientific category "class". This leads precisely to the type of distortions in the U.S. class structure in the following table:
Table 68 % % THE MIDDLE CLASSES 1870 1940 Old Middle Class 85 44 Farmers 62 23 Businessmen 21 19 Free Professionals 2 2 New Middle Class 15 56 Managers 2 6 Salaried Professionals 4 14 Sales People 7 14 Office Workers 2 22
Elsewhere, Mills himself throws more light on the subject of his own "middle class" categories: "Free practitioners", he tells us – that is, people working for themselves – were in 1940 about 1% of total labour force and a fairly constant 2% of (what Mills dubs) the "middle class". Over the last 60 years, salaried professionals expanded from 1% to 6% of total labour force; from 4% to 14% of the "middle class". Even in 1870, only about 35% of all professionals were "free". By 1940, this had decreased to 16%, within a context where 31% of all professional people were school teachers. Among independent practitioners, the greatest proportion¬
— 118 —
– 80% – 90% – is among physicians, surgeons, osteopaths and dentists. Among pharmacists, only 46% are in the "independent" category; among nurses, only 8%.8a
So, for Social Democracy, liberals and the bourgeoisie, the middle class does not, as Marx claimed and as life bears out, constantly shrink; it expands. For them, instead of more and more people being driven out of the middle, and even upper, classes into the working class, the reverse is happening. How convenient!
For, by such an approach, the significance of imperialist parasitism vanishes: that incomes of sizes actually found in imperialist citadels can exist among people classifiable as "working class" constitutes precisely Lenin's point. Nothing better expresses the development of a major inner contradiction in the international working class – one that must be dealt with (it cannot be solved under imperialism) before revolutionaries in the industrialized areas can clear a path forward.*
Thoughts along similar lines were expressed by Guyana's People's Progressive Party writer, Ranji Chandisingh:
"Widely current in bourgeois sociology is the theory that the main classes in capitalist society – the capitalist class (bourgeoisie) and the working class (proletariat) – are...being swallowed up by the so-called middle class...
"According to the fashionable bourgeois theoreticians, the working class are those who are unskilled, manual workers, with low standards of education and culture...So...highly skilled workers, technologically trained workers, are no longer members of the working class!...
"We are indeed witnessing a scientific and technological revolution, and this calls forth qualitative changes in the working class ... as the scientific and technological revolution proceeds, the unskilled, manual worker is being superseded by the highly skilled, technologically advanced¬
* We shall show that their class situation for productive and non-productive workers IS the same, but what income level alters is their "mode of life" and – especially – their "entire outlook". See Pages 167 ff., below.
— 119 —
worker ... proportional changes are taking place between different categories of workers – e.g., as between productive industry and the service sectors, and between different branches of industry itself."9
Ignoring terminology, the same information is conveyed in the following table drawn up, again, by American sociologist C. Wright Mills:
Table 710 % % THE U.S. LABOR FORCE 1870 1940 Old Middle Class 33 20 New Middle Class 6 25 Wage-Workers 61 55 100 100
The "old middle class" is the only middle class by Marxist definition; it, in truth, is shrinking. But the "new middle class" has to be added to wage-workers in order to retain scientific categories. And when this is done, what it reveals is that the working class as a whole continues to expand, but its composition alters.
What all this boils down to, Mills himself ironically but succinctly summed up: that
"fewer men turn out more things in less time. In the middle of the nineteenth century...some 17.6 billion horse-power hours were expended in American industry, only 6% by mechanical energy; by the middle of the twentieth century, 410.4 billion horsepower hours will be expended, 94% by mechanical energy ... Technology has thus narrowed the stratum of workers needed in the production process ... Workers composing the new lower class are predominantly semi-skilled; their proportion in the urban wage-worker stratum has risen from 31% in 1910 to 41% in 1940."11
It is within such boundaries that our own Table 8 – which follows – has been compiled. Sources for the figures, together with exact categories of workers included in each major classification,¬
— 120 —
will be found in Appendix V at the back of the book. We have included as working class all who hire out either their brain or their brawn for wages or salaries. Although no method of identifying or separating such categories was found, if it had been possible we would have removed from our table any person¬
Table 8* THE WORKING CLASSES IN THE UNITED STATES -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1950 1960 O C C U P A T I O N (In Thousands) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Craftsmen, foremen and kindred workers 8,205 9,241 Operatives and kindred workers 11,150 12,143 Service workers (cooks) 272 326 Farm laborers and foremen 2,533 1,560 Laborers, except farm and mine 3,644 3,408 ------ ------ A. U.S. PROLETARIAT (Value-Producers) 25,804 26,678 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Professional, technical and kindred workers 4,412 6,680 Official & inspectors, state & local admin. 113 136 Clerical and kindred workers 7,132 9,617 Sales workers 3,606 4,236 Private household workers, living in or not 1,492 1,825 Service workers (except private household) 4,986 6,265 ------ ------ B. LABOR-POWER SELLERS NOT PRODUCING VALUES 23,111 32,212 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- C. = A + B: CIVILIAN WORKING CLASS WITH JOBS 48,915 58,890 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- D. OFFICIAL NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED 3,351 3,931 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- E. NUMBER IN ARMED FORCES 1,650 2,514 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- F. = C + D: CIVILIAN WORKING CLASS 52,266 62,821 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- G. = E + F: TOTAL U.S. WORKING CLASS 53,916 65,335 ================================================================================ H. Total "U.S. Civilian Labor Force" 63,099 70,612 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I. Total "U.S. Labor Force" 64,749 73,126 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- J. U.S. Non-Institutional Popul'n over 14 yrs. old 110,929 125,368 ================================================================================
* See Appendix V, back of book.
— 121 —
earning more than 25%* of his income from any form of ownership of the social means of production. This, however, would have been because his relationship to the means of production had changed, not because of the size of income paid to him.
It will be noted that category H., U.S.-designated "Total Civilian Labour Force", differs from our category, "Civilian Working Class", F., by 10,833,000 in 1950 and by 7,791,000 in 1960. Without accounting for this difference numerically, we can still point to a number of its sources.
First, there is the difference between the Marxist definition of a "worker" and that of the U.S. for an "employed person":
"Employed persons include those who did any work for pay or profit during the week, worked without pay for 15 hours or more in a family enterprise (farm or business), or did not work or look for work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent during the week."12
It was to eliminate those working for profit or owning a business that such "employed persons" appearing in H. were removed from category F.
Second, the U.S. definition of "an unemployed person" accounts for more of the noted difference:
"Unemployed persons comprise those who did not work at all during the week but were looking for work or were on lay-off from a job."13
This definition enables statistician apologists for the status quo to keep official unemployment figures low:
* As noted in Chapter XII, Page 90, above, the United states Department of Commerce considers a "U.S. enterprise" one in which U.S. funds constitute 25% or more of the investment. That is why we have used 25% as the break-even point for participation in the ruling class.
— 122 —
"Between 1960 and 1963, there took place a one percent decline in the labour force participation rate, which means that some 1.3 million workers dropped out of the labour force in addition to the normal losses through death and retirement."14
Between 1950 and 1960, this decline was slower: only .65%15. Nevertheless, it accounted for some 815,000 drop-outs of the type cited. These were people not "looking for work"; therefore, in official U.S. statistics, they were not "unemployed".
A third source of discrepancies lies in the fact that the U.S. adopted new definitions of employment and unemployment in January 1957, thereby affecting earlier figures. Some statistics in the source material had been revised by the compilers, but not all.
The rest can be traced to normal population change.
In order to examine more fully the meaning of Table 8, another was compiled showing trends; the abbreviation "W.C." stands, of course, for "Working Class". The figures in G.
was[were] used as the total, measuring percentages of the other categories A., B., C., and F. (which are the same as those in Table 8). Item J. is the "total non-institutional U.S. population 14 years of age or over" in the years studied.16
Table 9 TRENDS IN THE U. S. WORKING CLASS ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1950 1960 CHANGE ----------------------- ----------------------- ---------------------- Table 8 % to Total % to Total % to Total Category Thousands Popul. W.C. Thousands Popul. W.C. Thousands Popul. W.C. -------- --------- ------ ------ --------- ------ ------ --------- ------ ----- A. 25,804 23.3 47.9 26,678 21.3 40.9 + 874 - 2.0 - 7.0 B. 23,111 20.8 42.9 32,212 25.7 49.3 + 9,101 + 4.9 + 6.4 C. 48,915 44.1 90.7 58,890 47.0 90.1 + 9,975 + 2.0 - 0.6 F. 52,266 47.1 97.0 62,821 50.1 96.1 + 10,555 + 3.0 - 0.9 G. 53,916 48.6 100.0 65,335 52.1 100.0 + 11,419 + 3.5 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ J. 110,929 125,368 + 14,439 +13.0 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
— 123 —
While absolute numbers of value-producers and other segments of the American working class all rose between 1950 and 1960 (due mainly to the large rise in total population), the percentage of value-producers shrank (which generalizes the findings of Table 5 on Page 114, above). By 1966, incidentally, this percentage had been still further reduced:
"only 15% of the U.S. population ... produce all the food and goods that the whole nation could reasonably need."17*
The above table also shows a shrinking percentage relationship to total population of "Civilian Working Class with Jobs" (C) and of "Total Civilian Working Class" (F). This is due to first, a rise in number of unemployed; and second, drop-outs from the labor market.
According to Marxists, two effects of the decay of the capitalist system are: the more rapid pace at which the non-productive sector of the working class increases compared to the increase in the productive sector; and the overall increase in the size of the working class itself. Tables 8 and 9 bear these out conclusively.
The American working class comprises at least two-thirds of total population;18 and (b) poor families tend to be larger than average.18 Therefore, it seems fairly safe to conclude that the American working class as a whole** now includes three of every four Americans.
This, then, is the proportion in the world's richest country of population of which one speaks in saying "the working class". We have not as yet even considered the size of their earnings of their ideology, although this will be done shortly. At that time, the significance of the real material conditions among this overwhelming majority of the American people will become clear.
* This ignores any difference between the source of the quotation and ourselves as to who constitutes "producers".
** See Page 127, below.
[— 124 —]
T H E A N A T O M Y
O F I M P E R I A L I S T B R I B E R Y
The increase in working class size, with its accompanying change of composition in a non-productive direction, is part of the process which creates a labor aristocracy.
If the latter is, as Lenin said, that portion of the working class which is bribed by a share in super-profits, then it includes not only labor leaders, but all workers who are given an extra material stake in the status quo. Labor leaders are the articulate and usually conscious spokesmen for alleged labor interests in the world's metropolitan areas. The spread of these interests is very wide, inde
Now, if the labor aristocracy is that sector of a revolutionary class which is being bribed, should not revolutionaries be obligated to follow its development? And wouldn't a valuable first step be to study the nature of bribery itself as applied to the modern industrial proletariat?
1. What is bribery?
Webster defines "Bribery" as "the practice of giving or taking a bribe". The word "Bribe" derives from an Old French word meaning "a lump of bread, scraps, leavings". This noun, in turn, springs from a root verb meaning "to beg". The extended dictionary meaning of the word is:
"A gift or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgement or conduct of a person in a position of trust."
Noah Webster, of course, was no political oracle. But these meanings do throw a pertinent side-light on imperialist bribery: it need not involve anything tangible, either in purpose or result; a favor or promise that warps only the judgment of the recipient adequately fulfills the function.
Chapters to come will disclose that a significant section of the U. S. working class enjoys a number of luxuries. As luxuries, they qualify as¬
— 125 —
tangible bribery. Nor is their extent bounded by the money available for working class spending: Consumer credit bears visible fruit; and, beyond that, there is entertainment, education, medical care (with all its faults), etc., all enjoyed by a growing number of Americans, at least two-thirds of whom are workers by hand or brain.* To this must b
y[e] added the abnormally cheap staples, such as tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco and others, made possible by paying raw-materials-producing countries far below value of their commodities.
In such ways, a majority of U.S. workers and their families enjoy material values to which other workers in the world only aspire. And those aspirations, motivating people largely ignorant of the source of such values, still obscure the path leading to revolution.
2. Relationship of imperialist bribery to wages and profits
Lenin had already more than hinted at the source of imperialist bribery in saying that
"out of such enormous SUPER-PROFITS ... the capitalists of the 'advanced' countries are bribing (the labor leaders and the upper strata of the proletariat) ..."**
Consider, however, the following:
"Unions most certainly do play an important role in the determination of money wages, and the workers in more strongly organized industries generally do better for themselves than workers in less strongly organized branches of the economy. This does not mean, however, that the working class as a whole is in a position to encroach on surplus ... (Here a footnote informs that unions 'do not in fact have any decisive influence over the class distribution of income (which) is determined by a combination of forces in which ... the corporations play a far more important role than ... the unions.') The reason is that under¬
— 126 —
monopoly capitalism employers can and do pass on higher labor costs in the form of higher prices ...*
"And whether o
f[r] not it is common practice to use wage increases as a pretext to increase profit margins, monopolistic corporations unquestionably have the power to prevent wage increases from lowering them."**1
The authors seem to be saying that, under monopoly capitalism in its advanced U.S. form, the ruling class is able, by maintaining artificially high prices in commodities, to recoup profit losses due to wage increases.
This idea bears looking into.
Consider, for example, the original position of Karl Marx in discussing competitive capitalism, on the relationship between profits and wages:
" ... I shall use the word PROFIT for the whole amount of the surplus value extracted by the capitalist without any regard to the division of that surplus value between different parties, and in using the words RATE OF PROFIT, I shall always measure profits by the value of the capital advanced in wages ...
"Since the capitalist and workers have only, to divide, this limited value, that is, the value measured by the total labor of the working man, the more the one gets the less will the other get, and vice versa ... If the wages change, profits will change in an opposite direction. If wages fall, profits will rise; and if wages rise, profits will fall... A general rise of wages would ... result in a fall of profits, but not affect the values."2
Elsewhere, Marx put this thought as follows:
"What, then, is the general law which determines the rise and fall of wages and profit in their reciprocal relation?
* See Table 24, Page 167, and quotation from NEWSWEEK: inflation was eating away, up to 1965 at any rate, only half of U.S. wage gains.
** Reference here to unions is, at the moment, incidental as such to the topic under discussion.
— 127 —
"They stand in inverse ratio to each other. Capital's share, profit, rises in the same proportion as labor's share, wages, falls, and vice versa. Profits rise to the extent that wages fall; it falls to the extent that wages rise."3
In a word, under competitive capitalism, "the working class as a whole" most definitely IS in a position to encroach on profits, according to Marx. The quotation under consideration (about unions) at least implies that monopoly capitalism as far advanced as the U.S. variety has surmounted Marx's law of the inseparability of wages and profits is concerned.
Is Marx's fundamental law, his Law of Value, then, obsolete? Or are there loopholes in the quotation we are stud[y]ing?
A second glance at that quotation shows up one glaring anomaly at once: although the words "working class as a whole" are used, what was clearly being referred to was the "whole" working class of the U.S. only. Is this, in the era of world-wide monopoly, meaningful? Lenin gave more than a hint that it was not. And the authors of these words themselves have stressed that capitalism has always been an international system (and any system includes all its component parts):
"From its earliest beginnings in the Middle Ages, capitalism has always been an international system ... a hierarchical system with one or more leading metropolises at the top, completely dependent on colonies at the bottom ... These features are of crucial importance to the functioning of both the system as a whole and its individual components, though this is a fact the importance of which bourgeois economists have consistently ignored or denied and even Marxists have often underestimated."4
In this light, the real "working class as whole" is not the "whole" working class vis-a-vis the U.S. alone, not even when only the American economy is being discussed.*
Therefore, the meaning of monopoly price fixing and its relation to the conditions of "the working class as a whole" must be sought elsewhere.
* See Footnote Page 123, above.
— 128 —
Again, Karl Marx provided an answer:
"If the price of a commodity rises considerably because of inadequate supply or disproportionate increase of the demand, the price of some other commodity must necessarily have fallen proportionately, for the price of a commodity only expresses in money the ratio in which other commodities are given in exchange for it ...
"THE REAL PRICE OF A COMMODITY, IT IS TRUE, IS ALWAYS ABOVE OR BELOW ITS COST OF PRODUCTION; BUT RISE AND FALL RECIPROCALLY BALANCE EACH OTHER, so that within a certain period of time, taking the ebb and flow of the industry together, commodities are exchanged for one another in accordance with their cost of production, their prices, therefore, being determined by their cost of production."5
If monopolies really, via fixed prices, take back from the recipients whatever "their" workers force them to disgorge in wage rises, those workers' conditions would never improve. But the whole world can see, and statistics confirm, that the conditions of American workers, and of those in the West generally, have improved. Although the gains may not have been as large as publicized, they have been real. Workers' understanding of this fact is testified to by their migration into metropolitan centers.
At the same time, monopoly profits have continued to soar.* Are the monopolists, therefore, getting something for nothing? Science has long since proved that, in all the universe, there is no such phenomenon.
Not long ago, a then-candidate for a PhD at London School of Economics, David Horowitz (author of The Free World Colossus), reviewed the book from which the quotation under discussion derives. He wrote that
"The question that presents itself at this point is ... whether there are any limits to the controlled inflation under which the monopolistic corporations can maximize their profits while maintaining the alliance with organized¬
* See Section B, above.
— 129 —
labor on which so much depends. Such limits do exist ... but they arise from a factor which is neglected by Baran and Sweezy in their analysis of the rising surplus, namely, INTERNATIONAL competition. For here, PRICE competition still plays an important role and sets a real barrier to creeping inflation as a harmonizing social mechanism, even in the case of the most powerful international competitors like the United States."6
That is, American monopolies operate in an integral international system. Corporations, then – even during capitalism's non-competitive stage – do not have the power Baran and Sweezy attributed to them to prevent wage increases at home from lowering their profits. Yet, as we have noted, their profits have not been lowered. The explanation lies in the fact that Marx's law of the interdependence of profits and wages, and of prices and values, hold for the system of which American corporations are one component. Fixed prices translate themselves into profits, which in turn represent values obtained from somewhere. Marx (above*) showed that all profits are limited by wages – somewhere. Lenin had explained that Western super-wages, wherever they exist, derive "out of super-profits".
If, then, the under-priced values supplying monopolies' steady profits are not in the metropolis, they must reside in the remainder of the integral international system:
In 1959, U.S. Negro per capita annual income was $1,162. So, the 18.9 million black Americans of that year6a would have had a total annual income of $21,281 million. Total U.S. population was 177.1 million. Each enjoyed an annual average $2,166, or total U.S. aggregate income of $383.6 billion.**
Of the 177.1 million Americans, 158.2 were white and/or non-Negro (black people were, therefore, 92.1% of non-whites6b). So, then, in 1959, each non-Negro American (i.e., all other non-whites plus the whites) had an average annual income of about $2,291. (This, of course, is low compared to "pure white" income: it includes the depressed wages of more than a million and a half people who were both non-white and non-Negro.)
— 130 —
The national difference between Negro and non-Negro income was $1,165 per head. For 18.9 million Afro-Americans, this amounted to $22,019 millions* that should have been in black pockets, but was not.
Today, the absolute amount of which America's black people are deprived in this way has risen still further.
"The Government figures that if all Negroes could be brought up to the average white American's level of affluence, employment and education, the U.S. economy's output would climb by $27 billion a year, equal to 4% of the gross national product."7
Did all this difference go to white workers?
If the $22,019 million which Afro-Americans lost in 1959 was distributed among whites in the same basis as other income, then 5.0% of all U.S. families that year would have picked up 19.9% of it.7a On this basis, the upper crust took a cut for itself of some $4.38 billion, redistributing only the remainder as white wages or other income. With the working class at least two-thirds of population, something over $11.7 billion (unweighted, therefore probably too high) may be suggested as the maximum amount given to U.S. white workers. To the $4.38 billion clear profit for the ruling class must be added an unknown amount in super-rents and super-interest charged to Afro-Americans.
But these profits were "obtained over and above those ... squeeze(d) from the workers in their 'own' country" by American rulers and so are really super-profits. The Afro-American community stands revealed as an internal quasi-colony.**
Capitalists in the ruling country, then, share their super-profits with "their own" workers. On a world scale, the major effect of this sharing is a redistribution of wages among "the working class as a whole" which creates – and¬
* On Page 137, below, in a different year by another method, J. H. O'Dell found the money which Afro-Americans lost to the system to be about the same amount.
** Because so many statistics are available, Afro-America can – with qualifications to be noted later – exemplify the general colonial phenomenon of which it is an important part. Also, later discussion of these qualifications will explain the use here and hereafter of the term "quasi-colony" in referring to Afro-America.
— 131 —
expresses – a contradiction between exploited and super-exploited. Since Lenin's time, that contradiction has grown large enough temporarily to obscure the central contradiction in the metropolis between workers and bosses (which naturally is the purpose of the enormous sums thus sacrificed – invested, really – by the ruling class).
The example of Afro-America is useful in another way: White workers are receiving a substantial portion of extra – i.e. super – wages which actually belong to – because the values they represent were created by and "meant" to produce the labor-power of – their Afro-American class brothers. Yet, those white workers do not own the means of production on which black workers produce such values. That is why such values, realized in super-wages, constitute bribes which amount to a peculiar participation in super-exploitation. Until removed, such super-exploitation acts as a "difficulty" temporarily outweighing the "principal aspect of the contradiction".8
We have now tracked down, without yet discussing collection methods, a tangible portion of imperialism's bribery of "its" own workers. From here, it is only a step to deduce that, if the U.S. working class is only an important metropolitan sector of the collective world working class (including Afro-America) then the differences in wages and conditions between metropolitan centers and the vast colonial hinterland (different parts of a single integral system) represent a further sharing of super-profits via a redistribution of international wages much more drastic than that in the U.S., but always favoring the metropolitan worker.
The resulting flood of tangible bribes buries under its tawdry glitter the (much smaller) exploitation of the labor aristocracy itself which, with automated speed, helps colossally to enrich "its own" exploiters. That is the significance of bribery for Marxists: it must orient their concentration in the making of revolution on the prior destruction of super-exploitation.
While workers are bribed out of a single component of super-profits, the take accruing to the ruling class from such sharing is far more numerous and often imponderable.
— 132 —
Although all super-profits ultimately reduce to super-exploitation of colonial labor power, they do not all appear in that direct form. They include exorbitant interest (on loans, on aid, etc.) charged by metropolitan powers to emerging governments or ex-colonies (such governments squeezing even larger amounts right back out of local labor power). There are also: loot from licensing patents, processes and trade marks; the incredible salaries of foreign experts, some of whom are so expert that they can't get jobs at home; the physical removal of incalculable quantities of natural wealth from colonial areas; the effect of the price scissors on the monopoly-controlled international market; non-equivalent exchange; and so on.
As for imponderable benefits of super-exploitation to the ruling class: imagining for a moment that, without any other change in the overall set-up, such a thing were possible, what if American wages were not differentiated by color? Figures showed, above, that "non-black" income in 1959 averaged about $2,291 per head, compared to the national average including Afro-Americans of $2,166. Even at a mere $125 a head, this amounts to some $21,138 million, suggesting a depression of all wages because of employer-created color divisions in the working class. How much higher, then, would all income go if not weighed down by this divisive component? This unfigurable sum, which the ruling class at present need pay nobody (and which under a socialist order would be available for the benefit of all) is pocketed in its entirety by the ruling class. Measurable or not, here are super-profits squeezed from the entire home working class including the labor aristocracy.
Another imponderable: for the capitalist class, the credit system annually draws immense sums of interest. How much of this would Wall Street lose if all workers could pay cash? In any case, how much is gravy due to extra or luxury spending out of super-wages?
Still other imponderables are hidden in prices, rents, educational costs saved by inferior education for black children, unused industrial capacity (which, of course, is also a loss) etc.
— 133 —
And how much does the international ruling class get as cut from the incalculable sum pouring into the metropolis from greatly depressed colonial wages? That figure must be positively staggering!
Thus, the by-no-means-puny share of affluence which the ruling class gives out of super-profits in varying proportions to different segments of "its own" workers may be thought of as a cost to that ruling class in extracting its other, much more enormous, super-profits from colonies. The relative quiet of its own labor force thereby purchased on the whole and usually permits it to expand its economy without undue interference or interruption from class struggle at home. This is said in the face of the massive upheavals in France in May 1968: it will be interesting to see whether the system can weather the current struggles wracking it in various metropolitan spots. Its margin of safety may have been reduced. Yet, the continued existence of the colonial labor-power reservoir clearly suggests that it will. It may never be the same; it will have tottered another step toward its doom. But – it will still be there, continuing its parasitic life as long as it can super-exploit; and colonial suffering will continue increasing.
So, the primary result of bribery in the imperialist economic system is the formation, as Lenin noted,* of labor aristocracies in "a handful of very rich countries".
In Lenin's day, his thesis was simply represented by the facts. But as imperialism decays and its network of parasitism spreads, those facts necessarily become more complex – in the ever-integral system. The writers of the above quotation** take into account this increasing systemic complexity:
"The hierarchy of nations which make up the capitalist system is characterized by a complex set of exploitative relations. Those at the top exploit in varying degrees all the lower layers, and similarly those at any given level exploit those below them ... At the same time, each¬
— 134 —
unit at a given level strives to be the sole exploiter of as large a number as possible of units beneath it. Thus we have a network of antagonistic relations pitting exploiters against exploited and rival exploiters against each other."9
These ideas are in turn supported from another source dealing specifically with Latin America but having universal applicability:
"... metropolis-satellite relations are not limited to the imperial or international level but penetrate and structure the very economic, political and social life of the ... colonies .. Just as the colonial and national capital and its export sector become the satellite of the ... metropoles of the world economic system, this satellite immediately becomes a colonial and then a national metropolis with respect to the productive sectors and populations of the interior. Furthermore, the provincial capitals, which thus are themselves satellites of the national metropolis – and through the latter of the world metropolis – are in turn provincial centers around which their own local satellites orbit. Thus, a whole chain of constellations of metropoles and satellites relates all parts of the whole system from its metropolitan center in Europe or the United States to the farthest outpost in the ... countryside.
"When we examine this metropolis-satellite structure, we find that each of the satellites ... servers as an instrument to suck capital or economic surplus out of its own satellites and to channel part of this surplus to the world metropolis of which all are satellites."10
Imperialist bribery, while originating from the metropolis and benefiting mainly the metropolis, includes – in the system's darkening twilight – a graduated process that is interpenetrating and ubiquitous. Yet, its role in thus far enabling the system's rules, in most un-Canute-like style, to hold back the tide of revolution, could be undermined – thus hastening Liberation's time table – by documenting and exposing it. This, the present text attempts.
[— 135 —]
T H E S O U R C E O F
I M P E R I A L I S T B R I B E R Y
Table 3 on Page 82 compares U.S. wage levels with those of Asia, Africa and Latin America: even when colonial wages rise absolutely, they continue to fall relatively to wages in imperialist centers.
Table 27, Page 172, shows that, in South Africa (that imperialist world is miniature), the black worker is paid only 4.6% of the "white" race.
The size of this gap and the continual relative fall of colonial wages, taken together, indicate one specific result of imperialist parasitism: the richer the metropoles become, the poorer colonial peoples.
Imperialist bribery is not limited to wages. Wage gaps are merely one portion of a whole mode of life, which parasitism – as a single process – permits to metropolitan labor while enforcing in reverse on colonial labor.
Guinea's President Sekou Touré has quoted, for income, food production, world trade and purchasing power, the ranking of the U.S. at against colonial areas. His comparative figures, taken from "an international review", are as follows:
"1. Immediately after the war, the average per capita income in the U.S.A. was $1,000 per annum, while in the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America it was $100. Fifteen years later the annual average per capita income in the United States was $2,500, and in the underdeveloped countries barely $150. Thus, while in the most developed part of the world the average income was ten times larger than that of the underdeveloped countries, which represent the vast majority of the world territory and population, this difference has now risen to seventeen times.*
* Table 3, Page 82, was simply a tabulation of this Section. It is repeated in words here for the sake of continuity.
— 136 —
"2. Since the war, the world average per capita production of food has increased by 13 per cent. But in Africa, the production per capita has fallen by two per cent, in Latin America it has increased by two per cent, in Asia by 12 per cent, and in the developed Western Europe by 21 per cent.
"3. Immediately after the second world war the underdeveloped countries' participation in world trade exchange was 38 per cent. However, by 1953, its share was reduced to 36 per cent, in 1959 to 31 per cent, and in 1961 to 29 per cent.
"4. In the course of the last ten years alone, the prices of industrial goods in international trade have increased by 24 per cent, while the prices of raw materials have fallen by five per cent. In other words, the underdeveloped countries exporting raw materials were, towards the end of the fifties, purchasing one-third less industrial goods for a determined quantity of raw materials, as compared with ten years earlier."1
The practical, human, outcome illustrated in vital statistics from the areas is one important consequence of such lop-sided conditions.
Table 10, below, concretizes this consequence. (Because of the poor availability of statistics covering "black" Africa by itself, it can deal solely with Average Years of Life Expectancy and with Infant Mortality Rates; and with South Africa vis-a-vis the United States.)
Table 102 COMPARATIVE INTERNATIONAL VITAL STATISTICS ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Years Life Expectamcy INFANT MORTALITY RATES A R E A at Birth ------------ ------------------------------------ MALE FEMALE 1948 1955 1959 1961 ---------------------------- ---- ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ South African Whites 67x 72x 36.0 29.8 28.7 27.6 " " Asians n.a. n.a. 77.1 63.1 62.1 43.3 " " Coloreds n.a. n.a. 133.2 134.5 120.6 126.8 " " Blacks 37x 42x n.a. n.a. n.a. 200-300x UNITED STATES 67.1a 73.5a 32.0 26.4 26.4 25.3 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- xSource: Accre EVENING NEWS, June 8, 1963. a1957 figures n.a.= not available -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
— 137 —
These figures illustrate a first point about imperialist bribery: that for the system as a whole, the CENTRAL, ancestral BRIBERY is the one which elevates metropolitan living standards so far above those of colonial hinterlands. What is more, the resulting difference between conditions of peoples in metropolitan as compared to colonial localities is a qualitative one, as will be shown later.
The figures for Asians and Coloreds show that, while such effects are at their maximum between metropoles and colonial hinterlands, there are also graded effects of the same type within colonial lands, and inside imperialist countries as well.*
This encompasses a second point about imperialist bribery, the missing of which has caused, among the Western Left and the Eastern European socialist world, serious judgemental errors about world revolutionary tactics.
To investigate how both these points operate and interact, a start can be made by comparing wages and mode of life inside the U.S. for Afro-Americans as against their white brethren.
If "disposable income" is the amount of money roughly needed to run an economy for a year, the 1963 figure for the U.S. was $420 billion. At that time, Afro-Americans constituted 10.8% of total U.S. population. Hence, had income been distributed on the basis of population, Afro-Americans should have accounted for $45 billion. Actually however, the figure was $23.5 billion. The remaining $21.5 billion was redistributed among white people of all classes in such a way that income for Negroes averaged only 52% of those for whites.3 A later figure – 1966 – shows a Negro income of 55.4% that of whites.4
The following table compares the vital statistics resulting from the above wage discrimination within the U.S. between white and non-white people. (In 1959, Negroes were 92.1% of all U.S. non-whites.5 Therefore, this table serves adequately in grading U.S. "Negro vs. white" statistics.)
— 138 —
Table 116 U.S. VITAL STATISTICS, NEGRO AND WHITE ---------------------------------------------------------------------- LIFE EXPECTANCY AT BIRTH IN YEARS INFANT MORTALITY RATEo ------------------------------- YEAR WHITE NON-WHITE -------------- --------------- ---------------------- MALE FEMALE MALE FEMALE WHITE NON-WHITE ------- ------ ------ ------ ------ --------- --------- 1941-51 66.3 72.0 58.9 62.7 26.8 44.5 1955 67.3 73.6 61.2 65.9 23.6 42.8 1959 67.3 73.9 60.9 66.2 23.2 44.0 1959-61 67.6 74.1 61.5 66.6 22.4 40.7 1964 67.7 74.6 61.1 67.2 21.6 41.1 ---------------------------------------------------------------------- oNumber of deaths of infants under one year per 1,000 live births ----------------------------------------------------------------------
The years studied were chosen so that this table would be as nearly as possible specifically comparable with Tables 10 and 12. The figures in Table 11, here, show a definite, measurable difference between the vital statistics of Negroes and whites in the leading imperialist country. The significance of this comparison¬
Table 12a COMPARATIVE VITAL STATISTICS SOUTH AFRICAN AND AMERICAN NON-WHITES ---------------------------------------------------------- SOUTH AFRICAN LIFE EXPECTANCY U.S. NEGRO LIFE AT BIRTH IN YEARS EXPECTANCY AT YEAR ------------------------------- WHITES BLACKS BIRTH IN YEARS -------------- -------------- --------------- MALE FEMALE MALE FEMALE MALE FEMALE ---- ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------- 1948 58.9 62.7 1955 61.2 65.9 1959 60.9 66.2 1961 67x 72x 37x 42x 61.5 66.6 1962 61.5 66.8 --------------------------------------------------------- xSource: Accra EVENING NEWS, June 8, 1963. Valid date for figures not given but context made 1961 or 1962 likely. ----------------------------------------------------------
— 139 —
between a metropolitan center and its own, internal quasi-colony will soon become apparent.
Where Afro-Americans fit into the world exploitative hierarchy is clarified in Tables 12a and 12b, which (combining information in Tables 10 and 11) compare vital statistics for South Africa and American non-whites, revealing a qualitative difference between the conditions of metropolitan and hinterland non-whites.
Tables 12a and 12b show quite clearly the dual position of the U.S. Negro vis-a-vis imperialist bribery. In 1948, their infants were surviving better than those of South African Asians who,
Table 12b COMPARATIVE VITAL STATISTICS SOUTH AFRICAN AND AMERICAN NON-WHITES -------------------------------------------------------- INFANT MORTALITY RATE (Deaths of Infants under 1 year per 1,000 live births) ------------------------------------------------ YEAR S O U T H A F R I C A U.S.A. -------------------------------------- ------- ASIANS COLOREDS BLACKS WHITES NEGROES ---- -------- -------- -------- -------- ------- 1948 77.1 133.2 36.0 44.5 1955 63.1 134.5 29.8 42.8 1959 62.1 120.6 28.7 44.0 1961 43.3 126.8 200-300x 27.6 40.7 1962 41.4 -------------------------------------------------------- xSource: Accra EVENING NEWS, June 8, 1963. Valid date for figures not given but context made 1961 or 1962 likely. --------------------------------------------------------
by 1961, had however caught up with them (indicating how the exploitative inner hierarchy of imperialist economy changes as the system decays). The South African blacks' infant mortality rate in 1961 or thereabouts was about five times that of local Asians, and also of U.S. Negroes; almost ten times that of South African whites, and about double that of South African coloreds, who themselves suffered three times as much as a South African Asian or a U.S. Negro.
— 140 —
As for life expectancy, by 1961, the U.S. Negro male had reached on the average a position commensurate with, lagging only slightly behind, that of South African whites who live, on a world scale, second in conditions only to U.S. whites. But South African blacks in 1961 had only one-half to two-thirds the life expectancy of U.S. Negroes or South African whites. All these figures have political consequences to be studied later.
Tables 10, 11 and 12 taken together lead to the conclusion that (a) the U.S. white population enjoys a specific, sizeable, life-and-death benefit from U.S. rulers' super-exploitation of an internal quasi-colony – as measured originally by a specific income differential; and (b) all the U.S. population, who thereby include Afro-Americans, together enjoy from such super-exploitation enormous monetary and condition advantages over people in colonies.
The improvement in South African Asians' vital statistics shown in Tables 10 and 12, above, taken with Afro-American statistics (Tables 11 and 12), further suggests the attainment of a fairly high level of living standards for Asians in South Africa and for Afro-Americans, each as a group. Certainly, it would appear from such figures that a significant section of the internal U.S. quasi-colony is being added bit by bit to an American elite.
Is this the whole story? Or is there in such figures a trap which – unqualified – may be warping the truth about imperialist bribery?
These questions, as well as their answers, have been suggested – and lucidly covered – by a recent examination of the economic history of American Negroes.7 which shows that the truth underlying statistical improvements for oppressed areas is, in reality, inseparably connected with imperialism's hierarchical nature.
— 141 —
"The export of capital, one of the most essential economic bases of imperialism ... sets the seal of parasitism on the whole country that lives by exploiting the labor of several overseas countries and colonies."*
Since Afro-Americans reside in the world's most advanced "country that lives by exploiting the labor of several overseas countries and colonies", one would – other considerations aside – expect them to participate in that citadel's parasitism. But how could that be possible, since it has already been shown** that they are super-exploited by the U.S. ruling class?
The authors of the cited examination of Negro economic history note – and quote U.S. authorities who agree – that most of the real improvements in wages and conditions which have been gained by the majority of Afro-Americans have been due almost solely to their great urbanization since 1910. For, say these writers,
"The move from countryside to city has on the average unquestionably meant a higher standard of living."8
In addition, they offer figures showing how massive a component of Afro-American life has been affected:
"...in the half century between 1910 and 1960 ... The 3-to-1 rural-urban ratio (among Afro-Americans) of 1910 has been almost exactly reversed: today three quarters of the Negro population are city dwellers."9
Urbanization results from industrialization. And this, in turn, is mainly the fruit of continued super-profits. So, the reason benefits have reached a significant number of Afro-Americans, despite their own quasi-colonial status, is (as these authors put it) because the standard of living that accompanies industrialization has created a world-wide condition whereby
"the bottom of the urban-industrial ladder is higher than the top of the ... agricultural ladder."10
— 142 —
Of course, out of this fact, U.S. propaganda would like to present a blissful idyll enveloping its most oppressed. So, one such medium has reported specifically that
"nine out of ten Negro families (today) own one or more television sets, two-thirds have automatic dishwashers, and more than half own cars."4
These "blessings" – according to this source – stem from the fact that
"The proportion of poor families among Negroes fell from 52.2% in 1959 to 43.1% 1964, while that among whites declined from 20.7% to 17.1%."4
Also, this report notes, while Negro income was still only $3,971 per family compared to $7,170 for whites per annum (55.4%), it had risen 24% since 1960 while white rates went up "only" 14%.4
The implied claim is that Negroes as a whole are catching up with whites, with statistics to support the notion.
However, according to the authors we have been quoting7, the fact is that once urbanization has taken place, the masses of Negroes experience a real worsening of living conditions: unemployment grows; ghettoization strengthens – even though overall statistics imply a general rising situation.
These authors quote U.S. government authorities to support their position. What is more, even the above "U.S. propaganda medium" is, in the end, forced to confirm it:
"Practically all of the gains (made by U.S. Negroes) have been made by a growing Negro middle class, which still constitutes a minority of the Negro population. That is the heart of the problem for it leaves behind the lower-income semi-literate Negroes, notably the families that are below the Government's $3,000-a-year poverty line. This class contains 60% of all the nation's Negro youths ... While the income of the middle-class Negro rises, that of the great mass of Negroes is actually declining. During the 1960s, median family income for Negroes has dropped from $3
.[,]897 to $3 .[,]803 in Los Angeles' Watts, from $4,346 to $3,729 in Cleveland's Hough District...
— 143 —
"The number of Negroes on public-welfare rolls is increasing, and one-third of the nation's spending for public aid, education and housing (or an estimated $3.5 billion in all) goes to Negroes, who constitute only 11% of the U.S. population."4
What the mass improvement among Black Americans resulting from urbanization might be said to represent, then, is a benefit to Afro-Americans as a whole accruing to them as dwellers in a metropolis out of general overseas super-exploitation by the U.S. ruling class.
Throughout the imperialist system, urbanization is part of a continuous process of polarization. The fully-documented point made by our study of Negro economic history is that, for American Negroes – and, presumably, for ALL colonial areas – the main weight of statistical improvement shown in governmental surveys over the years goes to "the black (i.e., colonial) bourgeoisie".7 That is, per se, all figures from such areas actually deceive to a lesser or greater degree because, as averages, they hide the distribution of those improved living standards for significant numbers of people which are a feature of imperialist bribery. Whereas metropolitan polarization produces a labor aristocracy at first tiny, but growing to substantial proportions as systemic parasitism waxes, the same process "overseas" produces a colonial elite, or "bourgeoisie". The former buffers for the ruling class against revolt both "at home" and in "overseas countries and colonies"; but, in colonies (i.e., in the lower echelons of the international imperialist economy), it is, with very few exceptions, the local "bourgeoisie" which plays this same role.*
So, improvements in vital and other statistics really illumine qualitative differences in the forms and nature of imperialist bribery as it descends the international exploitative hierarchical ladder.
Now, according to the theses in this text, the type of polarization occuring in colonial areas due to imperialist bribery should have been predictable. For, if the metropolitan labor¬
* This will be elaborated in detail later.
— 144 —
aristocracy really has its conditions improved at the expense of super-exploited peoples, then the latter, in fulfilling their "function" inside the system, must experience ever-worsening conditions.
Yet, it is frequently said that 30, 60, 12, 20 – unnumbered – millions of metropolitan workers are "living in poverty". So they are – by metropolitan standards, as well as in the light of how "developed" their economy allegedly is. On the other hand, Lenin had declared, as has now been noted more than once in these pages, that super-exploitation – "coupon clipping", foreign investments, capital export, etc. – "sets the seal of parasitism on the whole country" that lives in such a manner. How do "metropolitan poor" fit into this description?
First of all, those out of work in the world's "cities" are kept alive: in the U.S., there is "unemployment compensation"; in U.K., National Assistance (the dole); etc. However "inadequate" these hand-outs, nothing like them exists in colonial areas. Furthermore, in amounts per week, they sometimes approach monthly wages for employed colonial workers (i.e., California's $42.57 per week) compared to a Ghanaian's [cedi currency sign —Transcriber]47.28 per month).11
Finally, for those who reach the end of their unemployment compensation; for those chronically unemployed – as well as for employed, for rich and for poor – in metropolitan areas there are inexpensive staples available to everyone in the West which go so far toward creating the beneficial overall metropolitan standard of living: because of Western control of the world market, prices paid for raw materials and food staples are enormously below the values of such commodities.* But, as has been shown,** where prices and values do not accord with one another, the lag is made up on other commodities; in this case (a) by the high prices of manufactured goods sold to raw-materials-producing areas; (b) by the high prices of processed food sold back to points of origin; and (c) by the inordinately low wages paid to colonial workers.
In such ways, imperialist bribery creates a material contradiction in the "working class as a whole" between the metropolitan¬
— 145 —
and colonial sectors. Within colonial countries and within imperialist citadels themselves, ever-growing and complicated sub-contradictions result.
Thus, inside "improving" general statistics come about worsening conditions for the world's masses "overseas", i.e., in colonies. Despite (even there) some increment to a small group (slower to rise, and rising less, than that of the American Black) from urbanization; and, despite growing imperialist bribery of a new colonial "bourgeoisie", it is mass misery, their ten-fold super-exploitation, which supplies the "metropolitan factor" to the living standard of the Afro-American in that portion of his role where he acts as part of the West.
At the same time, if Afro-Americans also constitute a super-exploited internal reservoir for the U.S. ruling class* (bringing additional benefits to the white American labor aristocracy), then – below that international "sea" on which general Afro-American conditions "float", along with those of the rest of the metropolis where they live – conditions of Afro-America's masses must also be expected, as the system decays, to worsen, while their "bourgeoisie" improves both its size and its lot.
But both effects – in the metropolis and in colonies – show up in statistics as "overall improvement". As Lenin's words indicate, only one of these pictures is faithfully painted by figures covering these two areas. Here is a possible source of that fable which, in certain quarters of the world Left, persists in equating the sufferings of metropolitan and colonial masses.
If now, the tables of vital statistics** are again consulted, it will become evident that the reason for showing them, though admittedly they offer only the roughest idea of reality, is not sentimental: they will be shown to support certain political conclusions, provided their meaning is clear.
Such clarity, hopefully, can now be found at the point made¬
— 146 —
by Baran and Sweezy about price-fixing in metropoles.* If deductions in this Chapter are correct, then (taking the international viewpoint) although monopoly does not have the power these authors postulate to prevent profit margins from being infringed on "at home", they do in actuality not only sustain but even increase (however imponderably) those profit margins when they grant super-wages to "their own" workers.
But this is so only because metropolitan workers are bribed into massive political acquiescence toward the status quo when their labor-power is purchased at such high prices, at least part of the "over-payment" being contained, as mentioned, in abnormally under-valued prices for food and other staples in industrialized areas.
But part of metropolitan super-wages represent values created by colonial workers both "at home" (where applicable) and abroad. This part contains a goodly portion of the true cost of producing colonial labor-power, which is thus bought at a price well below its value – and is nourished on necessaries paid for above their values.
As Marx has pointed out:
"A quick succession of unhealthy and short-lived generations will keep the labor market as well supplied as a series of vigorous and long-lived generations."12
So, in today's "Age of Escalation", Marx's law governing the price of labor-power12 still applies:
"... with labor, its MARKET PRICE will, in the long run, adapt itself to its VALUE; that, therefore, despite all the ups and downs, and do what he may, the working man will, on an average, only receive the value of his labor, which resolves into the value of his labouring power, which is determined by the value of the necessaries required for its maintenance and reproduction, which value of necessaries finally is regulated by the quantity of labor wanted to produce them."12
* See quotation, Page 126, above.
— 147 —
For the phrase, "in the long run", the expression, "over the system" could now be substituted o
f[r] added, as the above discussion makes plain. Marx's law is valid only for "the working class as a whole; and on this – system-wide -- basis, the profits-wages tug-of-war between ruling and exploited classes is fought out: Hence, Marx's "on an average" works itself out, among the real human beings concerned, though the two balancing factors just set forth: (a) the indefinitely prolonged "high living" in metropoles, directly at the expense, equally indefinitely prolonged,* of (b) the misery and sub-human living standards of colonial areas.
Here is how the Western labor aristocracy is enchained in imperialism's parasitism, losing sight thereby of its own condition as an exploited class in the world's "cities". Not only does that labor aristocracy not oppose robbery of its colonial class brothers; it actively supports, and grimly acts to preserve, such robbery whenever colonial revolt seems to threaten it, as we shall see.
In such actions, what is revealed is those "ties of blood" which connect metropolitan labor aristocracies inseparably, for as long as imperialism lasts, to its colonial class brothers.
These realities were only partly visible when Marx was writing. It remained for Lenin to illumine them. And, because contradictions of this type are insoluble under imperialism, which aggravates them instead, only the complete destruction of colonialism (and so, of imperialism) can eliminate THIS kind of "blood tie". But the exposure of the contradictions underlying such ties is a major ideological pre-condition for the necessary "elimination". No class analysis of imperialist society which ignores or conceals them can lead to successful revolution "in the West", and History bears this witness.
All these situations, of course, contribute as end-product of bribery to the enormous practical, so-far-never-fully-measured material benefit of imperialist ruling circles, central beneficiaries of the whole parasitic set-up.
* The phrase, "indefinitely prolonged" should be interpreted to be co-extensive only with the existence of the imperialist system.
— 148 —
Today, international living standard differentials are usually huge, and widespread – yet, accepted as "part of life". This acceptance is abetted by certain earlier explanations of the differentials themselves, traceable to an original text by Karl Marx:
"Besides this mere physical element, the value of labor is in every country determined by a TRADITIONAL STANDARD OF LIFE ... the satisfaction of certain wants springing from the social conditions in which people are placed and reared up. The English standard of life may be reduced to the Irish standard ... the average wages in different agricultural districts of England still nowadays differ more or less according to the more or less favorable circumstances under which the districts have emerged from the state of serfdom.
"This historical or social element, entering into the value of labor, may be expanded, or contracted, or altogether extinguished, so that nothing remains but the PHYSICAL LIMIT."12
Today, hindsight suggests that this "historical" factor affecting the price of labor power, these "more or less favorable circumstances under which the districts have emerged from serfdom", may be expressed accumulation of the profits of black slavery and, later, of super-wages in a metropolis under hierarchical conditions like those described by Baran and Sweezy or Professor Andre Gunder Frank,* and the resultant development of a mode of life which eventually engenders an expanding labor aristocracy.
For, if different countries or "districts" tend to develop "a traditional factor" which influences the socially necessary price paid for labor-power there, why does this factor operate in such a way as forever to raise metropolitan, while forever causing colonial wages to fall? What sort of "tradition" is that, if not one the ruling classes have developed for their own self-preservation?
The examples of U.S. Afros and of South Africa, given above, offer refutation of such a factor: both black and white labor in both places live in the same territory and, in the U.S. at any rate, are employed in most cases by the same bosses.
These factors vividly imply that ALL "traditional" factors in¬
— 149 —
wages, resulting in significantly disproportionate living standards as between countries and/or "districts", merely embody that siphoning off of super-profits which turns so many workers in "usurer" nations into parasitic elements of a world working class. As a matter of fact, the same conclusion seems to be suggested in the second paragraph of Marx's own quotation above. And even if Marx's subject is something else rooted in the very foundations of the system, a "birth mark", as it were, it still remains true that this idea as it has been accepted is used to "justify" the unequal standards of living which have developed historically for those in different parts of the imperialist system.
It is precisely to prevent an outcome whereby "the English standard of life may be reduced to the Irish standard", that the labor aristocracy and its economic spokesmen – the trade unions – together with its political mouth-piece – the Social Democratic or "Labour" Parties – are struggling so "valiantly" on all colonial continents among those who have attained, or seem about to attain, independence, interfering in their affairs to the point even of financing and manning the counter-revolution (Guatemala and Guyana).
HERE, THEN, IS THE REAL SOURCE OF IMPERIALIST BRIBERY. TO SAY THAT IT COMES OUT OF SUPER-PROFITS IS FAR TOO ANTISEPTIC: THE BEDROCK ORIGIN OF IMPERIALIST BRIBERY IS THE CONTINUING, EVER-WORSENING MISERY OF COLONIAL PEOPLES.
— 150 —
T H E M O D E R N L A B O R A R I S T O C R A C Y :
D E F I N I T I O N A N D S I Z E
Marxists readily and universally accepted Lenin's description of the labor aristocracy as "the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class inside the working class movement". Their activities left no alternative.
Yet, when studying that "aristocracy" in specific cases, all the European Marxists – Palmiro Togliatti of Italy, through Georgi Dimitroff of Bulgaria, to Palme Dutt of India and England remembered only part of the full story Lenin told:
That started, so to speak, with the following point:
"Engels publicly, in ... his preface to the second (1892) edition of his CONDITION OF THE WORKING CLASS IN ENGLAND ... speaks of the 'aristocracy of the working class,' of a 'privileged minority of the workers' as distinct from the 'broad masses of the workers'. 'A small, privileged sheltered minority' of the working class, he says, alone enjoyed 'lasting benefits' from the privileged position of England in 1848-1868, whereas 'the broad masses at best enjoyed only a shortlived improvement'."1
About two decades later, Palme Dutt was declaring that
"capitalist world monopoly gives the bourgeoisie superior resources and the possibility to ceate a privileged sector of a minority of workers."2
Thirty years later yet, the very same author was still saying:
"Lenin, in his analysis of the corrupting influence of imperialism in the Western labor movement, always distinguished between the upper strata and leadership of the labor movement, who were thus corrupted, and the masses. He never included in this analysis of imperialist corruption the Western working class as a whole."3
— 151 —
Of course not. Lenin wrote before 1924, when, even in the West, the corrupt section of the Western working class WAS still a minority.
In any case, other words of Lenin's had made it apparent that his quotation from Engels, above, about the "privileged minority" among the workers in industrialized nations was not necessarily intended as a hard-and-fast sole pronunciamento on the subject. For example:
"The capitalists ARE ABLE to spare a part (and no small part, at that!) of these super-profits to bribe THEIR workers, to create something like an alliance ... between the workers of the given nation and their capitalists AGAINST the other countries ...
"Formerly, the working class of ONE country could be bribed and corrupted for decades. At the present time this is improbable, perhaps even impossible. On the other hand, however, EVERY imperialist 'Great' Power can and does bribe SMALLER (compared with England in 1848-1868) strata of the 'labor aristocracy'. Formerly, a 'BOURGEOIS LABOR PARTY', to use Engels' remarkably profound expression, could be formed only in one country, because that country alone enjoyed a monopoly, and enjoyed it for a long period. Now the 'BOURGEOIS LABOR PARTY' IS INEVITABLE and typical for ALL imperialist countries."4
Lenin also said, to be sure, that
"We cannot – nor can anybody else – calculate exactly what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will only be revealed by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution."5
Of course, this remains true today. What will be sought here is an order of magnitude: is the labor aristocracy in the West still a minority or not? The answer to this question carries after itself serious political consequences, so it must be fully and honestly faced.
Yet, precisely this became the point upon which alone all Marxists agreed: that the labor aristocracy, the bribed in¬
— 152 —
metropolitan areas, constitute a minority of workers in capitalist countries forever and a day. On this basis, and without ever thereafter applying Lenin's criteria of the labor aristocracy to changing or changed conditions, Marxists in the 30s made their analyses and ensuing predictions about the future of Social Democracy – and hence, inevitably, of capitalism itself. They foretold "an end to the international split in the working class".
What kind of split? Lenin placed it into context in this way:
"The Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society. Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletarian. Marx particularly emphasized this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism changes the situation somewhat. A privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialistic states lives partly at the expense* of the hundreds of millions of uncivilized people."5
Elsewhere, he added:
"... the culture of the advanced countries has been, and still is, the result of their being able to live at the expense of a thousand million oppressed people ... the capitalists of these countries obtain a great deal more in this way than they could obtain as profits by plundering the workers in their own countries."6
It was this split to which an "end was foretold by Marxist prognosticators of the 30s. Yet Lenin himself had specifically and emphatically denied the possibility of mending such a split for the duration of capitalism.7 History has backed Lenin, rather than these Western Marxists – for good reason: today, the world labor aristocracy has escalated on the flood time of gigantic super-profits until, speaking formally, it has become a majority of the working class in the U. S. A., and a significantly growing minority elsewhere in the West.
WHO, then, makes up this "privileged stratum" of the proletariat?
* See first quotation, Page 113 above – and Footnote.
— 153 —
On this: Lenin had the following to say:
"This stratum of bourgeoisified workers, or the 'labor aristocracy', who are quite philistine in their mode of life, in the size of their earnings and in their entire outlook, is the principal SOCIAL (not military) PROP OF THE BOURGEOISIE. For they are the real AGENTS OF THE BOURGEOISIE IN THE WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT, the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class, real channels of reformism and chauvinism."8
These remarks he had elaborated* thus:
"The upper stratum furnishes the bulk of the membership of cooperatives, of trade unions, of sporting clubs, and of numerous religious sects. To this level is adapted the electoral system which ... is ... 'sufficiently restricted to exclude the lower stratum of the proletariat proper'."9
With these words, Lenin had provided a complete guide to examining labor aristocracy, formally, anywhere in any epoch.
So, if now his criteria are applied, they should reveal the present condition of that labor aristocracy which, elsewhere, Lenin characterized as "now ... typical for ALL imperialist countries.** This text will attempt such application, but mainly to the U. S. A., counting it as the chief world imperialist power and decisive monopoly center of our day, which should manifest all phenomena in their most advanced forms.
During this investigation, furthermore, the important thing is that wages are not only criterion of a labor aristocracy. As shown above, Lenin put first its mode of life, adding to that and to wages its "entire outlook". But all these boundaries must be explored before conclusions may be drawn.
Specific clues to the size of the labor aristocracy lie in Lenin's various detailed criteria: the electorate; memberships in specific organizations, the nature of which he elucidated. These will be applied first.
— 154 —
A. The U. S. electorate, including the portion excluded:
Table 1310 THE U.S. ELECTORATE --------------------------------------- POPULATION YEAR OF VOTING NUMBER % AGE VOTING ---- ---------- ---------- ------- 1920 54,512,000 26,748,000 49.1 1940 80,092,000 49,891,000 62.3 1960 108,122,000 68,836,000 63.7 ---------------------------------------
Although the number of people voting and the population of voting age both rose with time, the percentage of one to the other proves that the numerical rise in number voting is not only an absolute but a relative one. If the labor aristocracy is, as Lenin held, found in the electorate, then this table suggests a continual, though lately slowing increase in the size of the U.S. labor aristocracy as decay rots the imperialist system which U.S. rulers head.
What about those excluded from the U.S. electoral system?
It is a well-known and now hotly-contested point of struggle that, in the U.S. South, only a minority vote. Not only are five million Negroes disfranchised; so are six million poor whites.
The following table illustrates the context surrounding this fact:
Table 1411 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS OF 1960 ----------------------------------------------------- POPULATION A R E A OF VOTING NUMBER % AGE VOTING ----------------- ---------- ---------- ----- United States 108,122,000 68,836,000 63.7 Southern States 33,995,000 15,423,000 45.4 Mississippi only 1,171,000 298,000 25.4 -----------------------------------------------------
— 155 —
While Southern states furnished 31.4% of the U.S. electorate, they contained 47.2% of the disfranchised. Put another way: while 36.3% of all U.S. population of voting age did not vote in the 1960 elections, the comparable figure for the U.S. South was 54.6% (74.6% in Mississippi).
Do these disfranchised comprise, as Lenin claimed, "the lower stratum of the proletariat proper"? The following table suggests the answer:
Table 1512 AVERAGE PER CAPITA ANNUAL INCOME BY AREA (1959) ----------------------------------------------- A R E A INCOME POPULATION (Dollars) AFFECTED ----------------- --------- ----------- United States 2,166 177,100,000 Southern States 1,663 54,300,000 Mississippi only 1,162 2,162,000 Negroes, all U.S. 1,126 18,900,000 Negroes, South 798 11,700,000 -----------------------------------------------
Tables 13 and 14 together show that the U.S. electorate contains a substantial majority of U.S citizens over 21 years of age (of whom, it will be recalled, between two-thirds and three-fourths are workers*); while Table 15 adds the information that, of those excluded from the U.S. electorate, the vast proportionate majority are in the poorest sections of population. Whether or not such "poor" are in "the proletariat" will be discussed further later. Here it can be said that there is at very least a large over-lapping of the two.
Quite significantly, today, the excluded "lower stratum of the proletariat proper" constitutes, by any criterion, a minority of total U.S. population.
— 156 —
B. Memberships in organizations:
Table 1613 UNION MEMBERS AS PERCENT OF U.S. POPULATION ------------------------------------------------------------------ TOTAL U.S. % TOTAL E V E N T YEAR NO. UNION WORKING WORKING MEMBERS POPULATION ORGANIZED -------------------- ---- ---------- ---------- --------- Afl merges with CIO 1955 15,000,000 65,848,000 23.7 In March 1961 12,500,000 71,011,000 17.6 September 1966* 13,500,000* 75,000,000* 17.9 ------------------------------------------------------------------ *Source: NEWSWEEK, Sept. 26, 1966: "The New Militancy of Labor" ------------------------------------------------------------------
The generally lower percentage and numbers through 1966 of total working population in unions indicates loss of militancy by the labor aristocracy as imperialism decays.* The .3% increase of organized in the 5 ½ years between March 1961 and September 1966 was due in large part (40% of it) to the entrance into unions of about 600,000 government employees:14 the labor aristocracy rises particularly in the non-productive working-class sectors.
In what might have been a commentary on the above table, Lenin had said:
"In the nineteenth century ... Marx and Engels did not ... forget first, that the trade union organizations directly embraced a MINORITY OF THE PROLETARIAT. In England then and in Germany now, not more than one-fifth of the proletariat was organized. It cannot be seriously believed that it is possible to organize the majority of the proletariat under capitalism."15
The following figures for 1959 encompass credit unions, voluntary group health plans, housing cooperatives, farmer retail supply, electric power and rural telephone consumers' co-ops: 24,382,000¬
— 157 —
members. Farm marketing and supply co-ops: 7,559,000. Total cooperative members comprising mainly working people in the U.S. in 1959: 31,941,000.16
Complete information on this subject was not immediately available. However, the following table shows trends in the memberships of five sports in the U.S. – by no means the most popular in the land. The table does not help much in gauging the specific size of the overall labor aristocracy. What it does indicate, however, is that during the years 1950 to 1965 in the U. S. the trend in sports club memberships, said by Lenin to reflect a labor aristocracy, was upward, both numerically and percentage-wise.
Except for golf, the sports selected have a high working-class composition among participants; and even golf is making inroads among them since 1960, aided by factory- or Company-sponsored golf clubs, and the like.
Table 1718 MEMBERSHIPS OF FIVE U.S. SPORTS CLUBS 1950-1965 ------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 9 5 0 1 9 5 5 1 9 6 0 1 9 6 5 TEAM, CLUB MEMBERS -------------- -------------- -------------- -------------- 1,000's % 1,000's % 1,000's % 1,000's % ------------------ ------- ----- ------- ----- ------- ----- ------- ----- AMATEUR SOFTBALLx 3,195 2.12 3,303 2.02 3,450 1.93 5,308 2.77 TENPIN BOWLING 1,937 1.28 2,511 1.55 5,538 3.10 8,010 4.17 DUCKPIN PLAYERS* 172 .12 279 .17 372 .21 485 .25 GOLFERS 3,215 2.13 3,500 2.15 4,400 2.48 7,750 4.04 BOAT MOTORS IN USE 2,811 1.86 4,210 2.53 5,800 3.26 6,643 3.47 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TOTALS, ABOVE SPORTS 11,330 7.54 13,803 8.42 19,560 10.98 28,196 14.70 =============================================================================== U.S. POPULATION 150,790 162,967 178,153 191,874 =============================================================================== xNumber teams multiplied by 9, plus number of youth participants (this would be low, as no allowance is made for understudies on the team). *Number teams multiplied by 6. Also low for same reason. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
a) In 1957, when total U.S. population was 165,270,000, of the 119,333,000 persons over 14 years of age, all but 5,844,000 listed themselves as belonging to one of the three¬
— 158 —
major U.S. religions (Protestants, Catholics or Jews), including sub-sects, especially among Protestants.19
b) Of 314,345 churches reporting (said to include practically all U.S. churches), only 17,407 claimed memberships of less than 55,000. That is, of 112,227,000 persons reporting themselves church members in those years, only 2,529,000 (2.76%) belonged to a church with less than 55,000 members.20
c) By 1964, a well-known U.S. magazine was noting
"a 2% increase over the previous year in church membership, compared with an overall population increase of 1.5%."21
d) Historically, church membership figures offer the following picture:
Table 1822 HISTORICAL TREND OF U. S. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AS PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL POPULATION (In Thousands) ------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------- CHURCH TOTAL U.S. YEAR MEMBERSHIP POPULATION % ------ ---------- ---------- ------- 1926 54,576 117,399 46.6 1940 64,502 131,954 48.9 1950 86,830 151,234 57.5 1959 112,227 176,511 63.6 1964 123,307* 192,120x 64.4 ------------------------------------------- *TIME Magazine, January 14, 1966. xSurvey of Current Business, Dec. 1965: Page S-12; July 1, 1964, figure -------------------------------------------
[— 159 —]
T H E M O D E R N L A B O R A R I S T O C R A C Y :
M O R E O F I T S S I Z E
If wages and wages alone were the criterion of a labor aristocracy, then today – more than 50 years after Lenin wrote his quoted words, with super-profits pyramided to unheard-of pinnacles – it could still be said that "only a minority" – though no longer "tiny" – of Western workers are bribed.
Table 19, Page 160, has been compiled from information covering 156 different industrial categories in non-agricultural enterprises counted by the U.S. government. Included along with trade and finance are service and government workers.
This table shows that in 1960 $100 per week or more was earned by 21.8% of all production workers and non-supervisory employees in U.S. non-agricultural industry in 47 of the total 156 examined by the U.S. In 1950, workers in those same industries had been 23.8% of the total, though the categories with the highest pay rates shifted with time.
The underscored industries (15 in all) comprise some 5,962 thousand workers who, in 1960, made $115 per week or more, for a yearly total of $6,000, assuming each worked the full year. These workers were 49.3% of all those in the 47 industries shown in Table 19, or 10.8% of the total number of workers in the 156 industries in the U.S. information from which this table is taken.
The minimum $6,000 per annum earned by this 10.8% was roughly equal to the amount calculated by various respectable government or bourgeois agencies in the U.S. in 1959 as "modest but adequate" for a family of four. Therefore, it approximates the minimum socially necessary cost of production for average U.S. labor power. Or, put another way, in order to qualify for this minimum category, a worker lucky enough to work the year's full 50 weeks with two of paid vacation would have to earn about¬
— 160 —
$115 per week. And wage-wise, only about 10.8% of U.S. production workers appeared, as late as 1960, to do so.
This has undoubtedly been the basis on which Western Marxists have kept insisting that "only a tiny minority" of metropolitan workers are bribed. But if, now, a study is made of historical trends in consumption, income distribution and the effects of militarism on the working class, it will become clearer why wages constitute only one portion of U.S. living conditions. The fact is that after 1960, in the wake of World War II, affluence in the West grew with noticeable speed.
Table 191 TOP WAGE EARNERS AMONG U. S. WORKERS (Production Workers and Non-Supervisory Employees)* (In Thousands) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1950 1960 ------------------ ------------------ NUMBER AVERAGE NUMBER AVERAGE EMPLOYED WEEKLY EMPLOYED WEEKLY IN EARNINGS IN EARNINGS I N D U S T R Y INDUSTRY (Dollars) INDUSTRY (Dollars) --------------------------------------- -------- ------- -------- -------- Metal Mininge 97 65.58 92 111.49 Bituminous Coal Mininge 368 70.35 159 117.72 Petroluem & Natural Gas Production 254 73.69 288 114.49 Non-Building Construction 448c 73.46 553c 120.18 Building Construction 1,885c 73.73 2,219c 119.64 Ordnance & Accessories 30 64.79 150 107.71 Pulp, Paper, Paperboard Mills 246 65.06 275 105.03 Newspapers 280 80.00 330 111.43 Periodicals 58 74.18 64 116.43 Commercial Printing 190 72.34 231 105.72 Lithography 52 73.04 69 108.63 Miscellaneous Publishing 68x 109.05x 68 117.73 Industrial Chemicals (Inorganic) 73 67.89 105 115.37 Industrial Chemicals (Organic) 229 65.69 341 110.54 Soap, Cleaning, Polishing Products 51x 85.07x 53 111.64 Paints, Pigments, Fillers 69 64.80 77 100.86 Petroleum Refining 185 77.93 182 122.51 Coke, Coal Products 47x 86.31x 53 111.64 Tires & Inner Tubes 107 72.48 103 116.42 Flat Glass 33x 114.38x 32 127.66 Cement, Hydraulic 40 60.13 41 102.87 Blast Furnaces, Rolling Mills 611 67.46 569 116.66 Non-Ferrous Metals, Primary Smelting 48 63.71 57 109.23 Same: Rolling, Drawing, Alloying 104 66.75 113 110.03 Same: Foundries 77 67.65 62 101.30 Miscellaneous Primary Metal 147x 97.10x 150 111.48 Tin Cans, Tinware 57 60.90 60 114.54 Fabricated Structural Metal Products 211 63.29 289 100.12 Metal Stamping, Coating, Engraving 192 64.22 238 105.88 Engines, Turbine 66 69.43 102 112.19 Agricultural Machinery & Tractors 180 64.60 148 102.48 Construction & Mining Machinery 100 65.97 125 100.95
— 161 —
Metal-Working Machinery 198 71.54 256 116.75 Special-Industry Machinery 168 65.74 176 101.40 General Industrial Machinery 185 66.33 228 102.16 Office & Store Machinery 92 66.95 140 104.34 Motor Vehicles & MV Equipment 825 73.25 781 114.65 Aircraft & Parts 282 68.39 653 110.16 Ship-, Boat-Building & Repairing 85 63.28 140 105.57 Railroad Equipment 60 66.33 57 108.29 Laboratory, Scientific, etc., Equipment 64x 88.99x 66 114.68 Photographic Apparatus 53 65.59 67 107.83 Class I Railroads (Transportation) 1,221 64.14 781 108.42 Telegraphb a 44 64.14 37 100.73 Gas & Electric Utilities 526 66.60 579 110.43 Motion Picture Production 248x 93.78x 187 115.05 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- T O T A L S 10,654o 64.80+do 11,540o 108.00do -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- TOTAL, all such workres, U.S. 44,738o 52,898o -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- % Top Earners to Total Industry 23.8 21.8 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- *Only industries where weekly earnings in 1960 average $100 or more. dAverage oTotal in Industry a1960 data not strictly comparable to 1950 x1959 figures bExcludes messengers cActual construction workers only +1950 figures only eProduction workers only ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Consider, first minimum income distribution:
Table 202 U.S. MINIMUM INCOME DISTRIBUTION ------------------------------------- MINIMUM % OF MEAN FAMILY U.S. FAMILIES ANNUAL INCOME ------------------- (Dollars) 1961 1964 ------------- -------- -------- 6,000 47 50 15,000 6x 7 26,368a 27,368a 28,482a 2,000* 16 12 ------------------------------------- xRepresents 3.7 million families. *Maximum aTop 5% by income rank of families, who garnered 20% of national income, made this average amount per annum. -------------------------------------
This table shows that, wage-wise, in 1961 almost half (47%) of the American people could be said to have been able to meet the socially necessary cost of producing their labor-power. Table 19 suggested that only 10.8% of actual industrial producers were among this 47%. It will be recalled that no attempt was¬
— 162 —
made earlier to ascertain how many individuals among total population each producer represents (Table 8, Page 120). Rather, we accepted 75% of total population as an operational figure covering the category "working class", including both producers and non-producing labor-power sellers and their families not otherwise counted. If we continue here with the 75% estimate, then the above table means that about 35% of the American people were meeting the minimum costs of production, labor-power-wise.
In any case, the figures from 1964 strongly suggest that for the U.S. people – as well as for the wage workers whom they include – wage-measured affluence increases with time.
The next table attempts to trace affluence historically, and to compare it to corporate profits as well as to Gross National Product.
Table 213 TRENDS AND COMPARISONS IN U. S. FAMILY AFFLUENCE ------------------------------------------------------------------------- (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) % U.S. P E R C A P I T A CORPORATE "TAKE" FAMILIES (in Dollars) AFTER TAXES ---------------------------------- YEAR w/INCOME DISPOSABLE U.S. PERSONAL (Millions/Dollars) $6,000 PERSONAL CONSUMPTION G.N.P. ------------------ OR MORE INCOME EXPENDITURES PROFITS DIVIDENDS ---- -------- ---------- ------------- ------ ------- --------- 1940 11.9a 555 544 762 5,000x 3,800x 1950 18.7 1,346 1,286 1,876 19,000* 9,000* 1959 42.9 1,904 1,772 2,722 23,800 13,400 1964 49.6c 2,267b 1,937b 3,272b 57,400 19,800 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ % CHANGE +37.7 + 310 + 256 + 339 + 1,048 + 421 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ a1944 x1939 *1951 bIncludes Alaksa, Hawaii c1962 ------------------------------------------------------------------------
The increase in U.S. Corporate "Take" (Columns 5 and 6) supplemented by the material in Chapter XVII, above, shows that not only does the "take" itself rise yearly, but an ever-increasing portion of it comes out of "overseas" economic activity. The per capita figures (Columns 2, 3 and 4) show that disposable (i.e., spendable) personal income, personal consumption expenditures, and gross national product all increased substantially in the period under observation. Of course, the largest of these increases was in G.N.P. That is what the system exists to accomplish, just as its goal is also expressed in the leaping advances of Columns 5 and 6.
— 163 —
At the same time – as Columns 1 and 2 taken together suggest – a growing percentage of U.S. people (who are at least two-thirds working class) continue to consume ever-rising absolute amounts each year, based on thus-far-rising income. The following table attempts to relate these findings specifically to labor itself:
Table 224 RELATION OF CONSUMER SPENDING TO SIZE AND REMUNERATION OF LABOR ----------------------------------------------------------- PERSONAL TOTAL U. S. TOTAL U.S. CONSUMPTION CIVILIAN WAGES AND YEAR EXPENDITURE LABOR FORCE SALARIES (Billions/Dollars) (Thousands) (Billions/Dollars) ---- ------------------ ----------- ------------------ 1957 285.2 65,011 238.5 1963 373.8 75,712 311.2 1968x 541.1 78,874 469.0 ----------------------------------------------------------- xThird Quarter figures -----------------------------------------------------------
This table says that wages and salaries, as well as personal consumption expenditure, increased faster than the size of the civilian labor force. This at least suggests that labor was getting a bigger share in both.*
Another way of showing that conclusions from Table 21 may validly be applied to the working class consists in comparing per capita meat consumption with income distribution, meat consumption being an accepted yardstick of high living standards. This yardstick has the advantage of being far less amenable to the arguments about "improvements distribution" discussed in the previous Chapter: the ruling class is
m[n]umerically too small to warp these averages in the same way it distor e[t]s wages figures from colonial areas.
* Personal consumption expenditure includes "durable goods, non-durable goods and services". Wages and salaries cover the same persons as total civilian labor force; but, since this includes a good many who work for profit, some ruling class personal spending must thereby be included in Table 22. The point being made, however, is relative, not absolute.
— 164 —
Table 235 U.S. PER CAPITA MEAT CONSUMPTION AND INCOME DISTRIBUTION ------------------------------------------------------ APPARENT CIVILIAN % OF U.S. POPULATION WITH PER CAPITA MEAT MINIMUM MEAN FAMILY YEAR CONSUMPTION ANNUAL INCOME (Lbs) ------------------------- $ 6,000 $15,000 $ 2,000* ---- ----------------- ------- ------- ------- 1930 129.0 1.8o 1.1o 89.2o 1940 142.4 5.8 1.6a 45.3 1947 145.2+ 10.2x 2.5a 34.5 1955 162.8 24.4 1.2 25.3 1960 160.8 38.4 3.2 20.2 1963 169.4 52.6 5.4 10.6 1964 174.5 55.6 6.3 9.5 1965 166.7 58.3 7.6 9.1 ------------------------------------------------------ *Top o1935-36 aOver $10,000 x$6,000-$10,000 +1945 ------------------------------------------------------
From this table, it is plain that not only did a growing percentage of U.S. families enjoy better mean family incomes with each passing year, but that these incomes represented real material advances, despite inflation and monopoly price fixing. The most spectacular advances occurred after 1940 (i.e., after World War II), when undisputed hegemony was established by the American ruling class over the international imperialist scene.
The above data also confirm that, wage-wise, the U.S. labor aristocracy prior to World War II, was a very small minority of both U.S. population and of U.S. workers, while poverty then was fairly widespread in that country.
From their entry into World War II until the present, the U.S. economic rulers kept their economy on a war footing. This fact throws new light on a remark by English economist J.A. Hobson,* to the effect that in many towns and industrialized countries "important trades" depend on "government employment or contracts". This dependency Lenin cited as another indication of imperialism's growing parasitism. Today, that same condition, and its effect on the U.S. people and working class, have advanced immeasurably. Today, in the U.S., there are states like California (one of the biggest) where¬
* Quoted by Lenin in his discussion of imperialist parasitism. Chapter XVIII, Chapter Reference Note No. 9.
— 165 —
"the defense industry is the major producer of revenue ... and thousands of people are employed by it. The University itself obtains a large portion of its revenue for research from Defense foundations and the San Francisco Bay is surrounded with military installations – air bases, army bases, armament stockpiles, the embarcation point for many on their way to Vietnam, and one of the points from which supplies are shipped to Vietnam."6
Here is suggested the type of government contract upon which, today, the most highly-paid section of the U.S. working class depends. Nothing more vividly illustrates the monstrous growth of imperialist parasitism than its everexpanding military spending which, in one form or another, now comprises the overwhelming bulk of government contracts.7
In an appeal to the American people to oppose U.S. aggression in Vietnam, the British sage, Lord Bertrand Russell, drew the following picture of U.S. war expenditures:
When the U.S. began its war against the Vietnamese, after having paid for all of the French war against the same people, the U.S. Defense Department owned property valued at $160 billion. This value has since doubled. The U.S. Defense Department is the world's largest organization, owning 32 million acres in the U.S. and millions more in foreign countries.
"By now, more than 75 cents out of every hundred are spent on present wars and preparation for future wars. Billions of dollars are placed in the pockets of the U.S. military, thereby giving the Pentagon economic power affecting every facet of American life.
"Military assets in the U.S. are three times as great as the combined assets of U.S. Steel, Metropolitan Life Insurance, American Telephone & Telegraph, General Motors and Standard Oil.
"The Defense Department employs three times the number of people working in all these great world corporations. The billions of dollars in military contracts are provided by the Pentagon and fulfilled by large industry. By 1960, $21 billion were spent on military goods. Of this colossal sum, $7 1/2 billion were divided amongst ten corporations and five corporations received nearly $1 billion each...
— 166 —
"The subcontracts (the Pentagon) award to smaller industries and war contractors involve every American city, and thus affect the jobs of millions of people. Four million work for the Defense Department. Its payroll is $12 billion, twice that of the U.S. automobile industry. A further 4 billion work directly in arms industries. In many cities, military production accounts for as much as 80% of all manufacturing jobs. Over 50% of the gross national product of the U.S. is devoted to military spending."8
Here, in all its nakedness, stands the incubus currently sucking the world's economic and physical blood: such monumental parasitism is unequaled in history. Russell's eight million workers in industries or categories connected with direct military spending comprise about one in seven of all those with jobs in the civilian working class of 1960.*
What is more, the military factor today has become the clue to all current imperialist motivations: for, militarism is the system's "defense" against socialism, which it still hopes eventually to conquer.7
* Table 8, Page 120.
[— 167 —]
T H E M O D E O F L I F E
O F T H E U . S . W O R K I N G C L A S S
It will be recalled that Lenin placed first among his general criteria of a labor aristocracy its mode of life.
In the previous chapter, personal consumption was cursorily examined. Income- and nutrition-wise, we showed that from the mid-40s onward increasing numbers of lower income U.S. people moved upward in their mode of life. But this presented only part of the picture.
Another salient feature of the American mode of life is its gargantuan credit system. The following table shows both the size of credit cumulatively extended to the American people and the direction of its motion:
Table 241 TRENDS IN TOTAL U.S. CONSUMER CREDIT (Installment and Non-Installment) (In Millions of Dollars) -------------------------------------------- YEAR INSTALLMENT NON-INSTALLMENT* TOTAL ---- ----------- --------------- ------- 1940 5,514 2,824 8,338 1950 14,703 6,768 21,471 1959 39,852 12,267 52,119 1964 60,548 17,894 78,442 1968x 82,940 21,382 104,322 -------------------------------------------- *Credit cards, charge accounts, etc. xSept. --------------------------------------------
In 1959, and again in 1964, the size of the stock of outstanding credit accruing over the years to the account of the American people was 12.2%* of the size of G.N.P.** Credit is being¬
* By the 3rd Quarter of 1968, it was still 12.0%.
** Net result of summing up for all previous years consumer credit extended in excess of that repaid.
— 168 —
extended to the people of the U.S. far more rapidly than they are repaying. Such an accumulating consumer credit debt permits a significant number of lower-paid workers to enjoy – in the form of real TV's, refrigerators, cars and other attributes of affluence – the material fruits of colonial super-exploitation. So, in this way, credit extends the boundaries of the labor aristocracy.
Nevertheless, this enormous consumer debt is the source of considerable "weeping" by certain Leftists who bemoan the "fate" of the "poor" American people who have taken it on. These "tears" are justified insofar as the imperialist system" has become an anachronism. But meantime – debt or no debt – the fact is that for those who inhabit imperialist citadels, goods actually used form an indispensable portion of the modern labor aristocracy's mode of life. Their enjoyment of such values constitutes a substantial part – above and beyond wages – of the real content of imperialist bribery.
An idea of how far-reaching this enjoyment of real physical values actually is can be formed from the following facts about American life in 1960:2
– California, with a population of 15.7 million, had 7.8 million registered automobiles on its roads. Of total U.S. families, 77% owned cars; and of U.S. auto owners, 61% bought theirs on credit, to the tune of some $513 million of outstanding debt in that category in 1960 alone – an amount equal to about 20% of total wages and salaries disbursed the year before.
– Driving through California countryside, it is not unusual to see outside tumble-down shacks the latest model expensive automobiles. This is how the credit system extends the enjoyment of real values beyond wage boundaries. And a specific slang term for this condition has sprung up: such people are described as "car poor", used adjectivally.
– On weekends, it is difficult to negotiate California's 143,598 miles of superior highways because of the crush of such cars, a significant number of which trail small boats behind. A total of more than six million outboard motors were in use in the U.S. and some 300,000 boats were sold to consumers.
— 169 —
– The following table lists a few luxuries enjoyed by substantial sections of U.S. population:
Table 253 ELECTRICAL APPLIANCE AND CAR OWNERSHIP (1967) --------------------------------------- % OF TOTAL A P P L I A N C E U.S. HOMES OWNING -------------------------- ---------- Home Freezers 25.7 Clothes Driers 30.5 Electric Blankets 38.7 Electric Shavers 44.9o Electric Sewing Machines 46.2o Phonographs 49.2o Electric Skillets 50.3 Electric Coffeemakers 76.0 Electric Mixers 76.0 Automobiles 79.0x Steam Irons 81.2 Electirc Toasters 86.3 Electric Washing Machines 88.2 Electric (or Gas) Stove 96.2o TV Sets 97.8 Electric Refrigerators 99.6 --------------------------------------- xPercentage of families owning. o1963 ---------------------------------------
– Of all occupied housing units in the U.S. in 1960, 61.9% were owner-occupied (64.4% among whites; 38.8% among Afro-Americans).
– The increased standard of living that comes from urbanization includes a substantial increase in suburbanization. Between 1950 and 1960, the population living in what the Bureau of Census calls "Standard Metropolitan Areas" went up some 36.8 million, or about 50%.4
One development on the American scene lately appeared to threaten the U.S. labor aristocracy's growing affluence: the automation of industry.
This "revolution in technology" has been responsible for displacing huge numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled workers. In this way, it has been largely responsible for a rate of Afro-American unemployment double that of whites. It has also swollen¬
— 170 —
Table 26a5 TRENDS IN RETAIL SALES Especially in Appliances and Luxury Goods (In Millions of Dollars) ------------------------------------------------------ TOTAL HOUSEHOLD TOTAL EATING & YEAR RETAIL APPLIANCES APPAREL DRINKING LIQUOR SALES x TV & RADIOS SALES PLACES STORES ---- ------- ----------- ------- -------- ------ 1957 200,002 3,983 12,277 14,787 4,212 1958 200,353 3,688 12,559 14,792 4,439 1959 215,413 4,053 13,266 15,601 4,729 1960 219,529 3,835 13,677 16,083 4,880 1961 218,811 3,816 13,730 16,403 4,904 1962 235,351 3,817 14,338 17,305 5,401 1963 246,435 4,147 14,460 18,071 5,659 1964 261,630 4,199 15,282 19,577 6,011 1965 283,950 4,223 15,752 21,423 6,305 1966 303,672 4,905 17,276 23,431 6,758 ----------------------------------------------------- % NET +51.8 +24.9 +40.8 +58.5 +60.5 CHANGE ----------------------------------------------------- xOn concerns operating 11 or more stores or organiza- tions -----------------------------------------------------
the trend already inherent in the system toward increasing the number of non-productive workers as percentage of total population.
The problem has been the subject of much discussion that "organized labor as a whole has hardly begun to face up to the problem – and the opportunity – of automation".6 Labor's fear of advancing automation, this source said, was one cause of its recent boldness in making demands of various types.
And with reason: the article noted that automation "blunts the strike weapon", explaining that when an industry is "overwhelmingly automated", a few "unorganized and supervisory types" can easily keep equipment running despite picket lines. This really happened during the 1964 strike by the Communications Workers Union against California's General Telephone Company: after 100¬
— 171 —
Table 26b5 TRENDS IN RETAIL SALES Especially in Appliances and Luxury Goods (In Millions of Dollars) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- S P E C I F I C A P P L I A N C E S -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- AIR CONDI- CONSUMER DISH FOOD WASTE HOME YEAR TIONERS ELECTRONICS WASHERS DISPOSERS FREEZERS ------------- ------------- ------------- ------------- ------------- *NUMBER AMOUNT *NUMBER AMOUNT *NUMBER AMOUNT *NUMBER AMOUNT *NUMBER AMOUNT ----- ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ 1957 1,276a 383a 18,013 n.a. 295a 90a 520a 60a 1,100a 440a 1958 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 1959 1,660 447 n.a. n.a. 547 140 789 63 1,205 397 1960 1,580 439 21,426 2,266 555 142 760 61 1,045 308 1961 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 1962 1,580 411 24,057 2,407 720 174 890 67 1,070 284 1963 1,965 492 23,390 2,447 880 212 1,090 80 1,090 278 1964 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a. 1965 2,945 624 34,955 3,915 1,260 276 1,360 82 1,160 271 1966 3,553 742 37,822 4,773 1,511 327 1,438 86 1,096 255 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- % NET +178.5 +93.8 +110.0 +110.1 +412.0 +253.0 +176.5 +43.4 - -46.3 CHANGE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- *In units of 1,000 a1955 figures n.a. = not available -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tables 26a abd 26b outline the American "mode of life." The appliances selected mark at least the beginnings of luxury living in the U.S. labor force. For further interpretation, Table 22, Page , may be consulted. It shows increases between 1957 and 1966 of 89.5% in consumer spending; of 96.7% (nearly double) in wages and salaries; and of 21.3% in size of civilian labor force. By October 1968, retail sales had reached a rate of $330,782 millions, or an increase of 65.6% since 1957.6 [Table 22, Page 163 --Transcriber]
days, the union was forced to abandon the strike "without winning a single significant benefit".
Nonetheless, ways are already
g[b]eing found by which the "upper stratum" of labor can foist consequences off its own back: when automation's tendency to unemployment falls heaviest on Afro-American backs. Some workers displaced by automation started to join a new union* organizing workers in government, slum tenants and unemployed.
In addition, new labor gains in a number of fields have been traced to automation, as [noted] one of two main recent sources:
* To be discussed later.
— 172 —
"Automation and the successful elimination of much union featherbedding have so reduced costs that some industries have already been able to grant substantial wage increases without damaging their profits."8
The other source which in the long run will originate in automation to bring labor "enormous benefits" is contained in "the increased productivity and profits" made possible. This was illustrated for the Communications Workers referred to in the case of the lost California strike. This union had already made such gains
"because automation has helped the industry to expand its services about 170% out of which "the union, even though fewer plug-pullers and pole-climbers are required, has also increased its membership."7
The trend in labor gains that ensues is
"to reduce the time men work through longer vacations, sab[b]aticals, earlier retirement, etc. Such benefits constituted nearly half of last fortnight's steel settlement."7
But perhaps such rising affluence is ephemeral? Is not every wage rise under monopoly capitalism redeemed by the ruling class through price rises, not to mention other forms of inflation?
The following table shows that wages and salaries rise more rapidly than the purchasing power of the dollar falls off:
Table 279 WAGES AND PURCHASING POWER -------------------------------------------------- WAGES & SALARIES PURCHASING POWER ---------------- OF THE DOLLAR YEAR MILLIONS % ------------------------ OF NET CONSUMER PRICES % NET DOLLARS CHANGE 1957-59 = $1.00 CHANGE ---- -------- ------ --------------- ------ 1940 49,818 2.048 1950 146,391 + 194x 1.194 -41.7x 1959 258,206 +76.3x .985 -17.5x 1964 332,151* +31.0x .925 - 6.1x 1966 392,300 +18.1x .884 - 4.6x 1967 423,400 + 8.0x .860 - 2.8x 1968 469,000o +10.7x .818+ - 5.1x -------------------------------------------------- *July 1965 Survey of Current Business, Page 12. xChanges shown are from previous figures. oThird Quarter +September 1968 --------------------------------------------------
— 173 —
The import of this table in effect corroborates the report which said that
"inflation ... at an annual rate of 3.5% is eating up nearly half of the workers' yearly wage gains."7
Compared with "profits that have nearly doubled" since 1961,6 such wage gains illustrate how the system apportions its "benefits" by class.
None of what has been said herein is intended to "refute" or deny that there are and will continue to be "poverty pockets" in the U.S. Though they have been for some years now a minority manifestation of internal conditions there, their very existence is grossly anomalous, and not objectively "socially necessary". The American poor, harbingers though they be of the future, are concurrently a phenomenon adequately described by saying that
"the basis of the law of accumulation is the reserve army, whose function in the system is to enable the capitalist class to maintain its control over the labor force, to prevent wages from eating into profits, and in this way choking off the surplus."10
The "poor", though not necessarily all unemployed, inhabit a similar economic level of existence.
Furthermore, material in these pages is not to be taken as denying that imperialist contradictions, expressed in such phenomena as the Vietnam war, will not inevitably produce losses for the metropolitan labor elite sooner or later. Indeed, they have begun greatly to shake the entire imperialist economy. But this has not yet become crucial or decisive: between August 1965 and the same month in 1966, real wages dropped from $87.15 to $86.22.11 But this net decrease of 93% amounts to 1.1%. In the light of Table 27, real net gains are not yet substantially affected. That they will be affected is likely. Indeed, the VIETNAM COURIER of Hanoi soon reported a new slide:
"According to unofficial statistics, the real wages of industrial workers in New York in September 1966 dropped by 5.4 per cent ... compared with the corresponding period in 1965."12
— 174 —
Though a local phenomenon, this may be indicative. What remains to be seen is whether this drop "takes" and grows, or whether it is one of the "downs" among the system's "ups and downs" which will disappear only with the system itself.
In any case, the major U.S. unions, representing the labor aristocracy, are now attempting to see that any real losses are paid for by others than their members. The tables we have been developing suggest that so far, unions usually get pretty much what they are after. The "ups and downs" of the system are "solved" at the expense of the colonial people, a point still being developed.
From the above material, the following conclusions related to the size of the U.S. labor aristocracy seem reasonable:
1. Wage-wise, the affluence of the American working class has increased with time so that, from an insignificant minority, its topmost layer (of highly paid workers) has grown to a significant minority (nearly 11%) both in absolute size and in the influence of its mode of life on the rest of labor.
2. The American mode of life embraces a still-growing number of workers in ways defined as making them a labor aristocracy:
a) The enormous U.S. consumer credit system not only furnishes an indispensable part of the real values enjoyed by Americans, working class in their majority; it also extends the boundaries of the U.S. labor aristocracy to include a significant portion of lower-paid workers. This is illustrated in Table 25* by the almost universal ownership of automobiles, TV sets and refrigerators.
b) Trade unions and cooperatives encompass the wages aspect of the labor aristocracy. Since upper-bracket wages affect a minority of U.S. workers, these organizations embrace, correspondingly, a minority of the U.S. working class.
c) The electorate and church and sports club memberships reflect the "outlook" of a labor aristocracy:** "status", "prestige", etc. – which influences all but the tiniest minority of U.S. population and the working class. This is so whether or not their¬
— 175 —
"outlook" is matched by money wages; in the majority of case, it is not.
These conclusions are all compatible with the ever-growing parasitism of decaying imperialism, and should therefore also have been predictable.
Now, based on American monopoly capital's leading role in the world imperialist system, all of this, of course, has referred to the U.S. working class only. It is, however, instructive and politically important to note that American trends are being followed now in Western Europe:
"While U.S. employers have reason to complain about soaring labor costs, the fact is that wages have been rising much faster in other major nations, notably those of Western Europe. Between the 1958 start of the Common Market and 1965, U.S. workers' pretax wages went up 14%. During that seven-year period, pretax wages jumped 25% in Italy, 29% in France, 40% in Denmark, 41% in The Netherlands, and 53% in West Germany.
"To be sure, European workers, having started lower, still have a lot of catching up to do. The average American factory hand collects $108 a week before taxes. By contrast, the British auto worker last year had a pretax income of $63 a week, the German $55, the French $43. But income figures are only part of the equation. When living costs, government services, and the many immeasurable fringe benefits are added in, the balance – while still favoring the American worker – is distinctly lopsided. The fringes, for instance, account for 20% to 25% of the U.S. worker's earning, but up to 55% of the European's."13
These figures show that a majority concept is at least becoming a real possibility for the labor aristocracy throughout the West.
The Western labor aristocracy, including that of the U.S., is and will remain a minority of world labor. This is said despite the fact that in the sense of its "entire outlook", and – even if a bit less so – of its "Western" mode of life, it already is a majority of the Western working class.
President Sekou Touré had by December 1962 already suggested a similar conclusion, adding his version of whether the majority of the world proletariat was to be found.14 According to him, within¬
— 176 —
the total world imperialist economy. Western workers by and large constituted a world labor aristocracy while the colonial peoples furnished the "world proletariat", that phenomenon which Lenin called "the lower stratum of the proletariat proper".
[— 177 —]
T H E E N T I R E O U T L O O K O F T H E
M O D E R N L A B O R A R I S T O C R A C Y " A T H O M E "
Among his general criteria for a labor aristocracy, Lenin included their "entire outlook". And how could it be otherwise? Had Lenin not warned that "capital export" – together with the enormous stream of super-profits it pours back into industrialized nations – "sets the seal of parasitism on the whole country which lives" by thus "exploiting the labor of several overseas countries and colonies"? Did he add, "except for labor"? He did not.
How accurately he had assessed the truth is revealed by exploring the outlook specifically of American labor:
1. American political support for the ruling class and its policies;
2. The state of American working-class militancy, as expressed in its attitude toward events at home and abroad; and
3. Labor lieutenants in the working-class movement and their effect on working-class attitudes.
1. Political support for American ruling class policies.
Except for short periods of revolt – and certainly without break since 1950 – the overwhelming majority of the American people have throughout their history with a regularity and lack of dissent almost uniform played the bourgeois game of parliamentarism, including all but a fraction of a working class which has been estimated, above, at a minimum of 66% of population.
Whenever dissatisfied with conditions, they have found ready to hand an admirable safety valve: "the Party not in power". National popular malaise has invariably abated as the U.S. electorate (and not only there!) has oscillated pendulum-like between¬
— 178 —
"the two heads of a single major political party. Developed by an astute ruling class which divides the spoils of office at periodic intervals, and emerging under a number of historically generic names, this political vehicle in the U.S. today is called by its owners alternately "Democratic" and "Republican".
November 1966 was a case in point: despite rising inflation, growing casualties in the Vietnam war, and innumerable annoying consequences of the latter, a sizeable number of "Democratic" officials were merely replaced by "Republicans": the same foreign policies will thereby continue, while labor and its aristocracy's spokesmen wring concessions from the alternating "in's". Not in this diagnosis altered by the "election" in 1968 of "Republican" Richard Nixon to the Presidential chair.
One thing is sure: rich returns on overseas economic activities, including some extremely lucrative ones newly come by in South Vietnam, will – as long as they continue, guarantee the repetition of such political oscillation.
The following table traces the history of American popular political support for the status quo, starting at a point only twelve years after the betrayal of Reconstruction in the Hayes election of 1876:
Table 281 POLITICAL DISSENSION AMONG THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE (1888 through 1964) ----------------------------------------- TOTAL TOTAL POPULAR INDEPENDENTa YEARoo VOTE PARTIES % (In 1,000's) (In 1,000's) ---- ------------ ------------ ----- 1888 11,383 297 2.6 1892 12,061 1,323 11.0 1896 13,907 312 2.2 1900 13,968 393 2.8 1904 13,521 810 6.0 1908 14,884 797 5.3 1912 15,037 5,254 35.0 1916 18,531 869 4.7 1920 26,748 1,475 6.3 1924 29,086 4,983 17.3 1928 36,812 404 1.1 1932 39,732 1,163 2.9 1346 45,643 1,215 2.7 1940 49,891 262 .5
— 179 —
1944 47,969 347 .7 1948 48,681 2,615 5.4 1952 61,303 149 _* 1956 62,015 402 _* 1960 68,836 502 _* 1964 70,645 336 _* ----------------------------------------- TOTALS 700,663 23,08 3.4 ----------------------------------------- aIncludes: Socialist and Socialist Labor; Populist (1892); Progressive (1912, 1924); States Rights and Independent Progressive (1948); Prohibition; Communists. oo20th Century figures are grouped by years between wars. *Less than 0.1% -----------------------------------------
Out of 20 reported elections, in only seven did the total independent vote pass the million mark; in only two, approach (and in only one of these, surpass) the five-million level; in only three did popular dissension reach 10%, the last of these having been in 1924; and all three occurred prior to the Great depression.
A most enlightening explanation has been offered by sociologist C. Wright Mills in his documented study of the U.S. labor force cited earlier. On American politics, he comments:
"No U.S. political leader with following (with the possible exception of Debs with his 900,000 votes in 1912) has ventured even to discuss seriously the overturning of property relations ...
"... 'Progressive' political movements have ... been technologically reactionary, in the literal sense; they have been carried on by those who were defending small property by waging war against the large concentrations of property. Breaks in the major parties have been breaks caused by conflicting tendencies among old middle class politicians. By 1912, for example, when Theodore Roosevelt broke away from the Republican Party with his Bull Moose campaign, he was on the one hand fighting those who wanted to give absolutely free rein to monopolies, and on the other restraining the nomination of LaFollette as a Republican candidate. As Matthew Josephson has shown, the small men 'who feared and hated monopolies', who wishes 'to make secure the small property holder's way of life ...'¬
— 180 —
gave and received support from LaFollette; it was primarily for such little men that twelve years later, in 1924, the largest third-party vote in the history of the United States was cast."2
2. The state of American working-class militancy.
It is customary among the Western Left, and uncritically echoed by most of the socialist world, to talk at length about "the growing militancy of the working class", or of "the proletariat in the main capitalist countries" in general.
"The part played in the revolutionary movement by strikes against capitalist exploitation has latterly grown substantially ... particularly .. in the industrially developed countries. While the number involved in the whole of the capitalist world more than doubled between 1958 and 1963 (rising from around 25,000,000 to 58,000,000), that in the industrially developed countries increased more than three times over (from 13,500,000 to 43,000,000) ...
"Strikes often go together with meetings and demonstrations, economic demands with political – strikers demand nationalization of private firms and monopolies, and participation in the management of nationalized enterprises, protest against reactionary bills and military provocations take action in defence of peace ...
"The rise of the strike movement in the industrially developed countries testifies to the growing organizational level and determination of the proletariat in its class struggle against the bourgeoisie, to the growing solidarity of the workers in the struggle against capitalist oppression and for social progress, democracy and peace."3*
(What ever happened to "socialism"?) Documentation in this article included the U.S.A. and Japan, with a short paragraph mentioning Britain, Belgium, Finland and Greece as "other developed capita[l]ist countries" of the same sort (Greece, at least, is a semi-colonial country).
* See Appendix VI.
— 181 —
Another example of this position emerged elsewhere:
"In the capitalist countries, the strike struggle is expanding on an unparalleled mass scale, the political nature is more prominent, and the unity of action of the working people is being consolidated ... The surging struggle of the working class whose political consciousness is enhancing is giving a severe blow to the aggression and war policy of U.S. imperialism, the chieftain of international reaction."4
Notice carefully that even when statistics were used, the claims of political content of strikes, or of the various alleged demands put forth generally by workers "in the industrially developed countries" in their strikes are NOT DOCUMENTED. In the U.S. at least so such general claim can be documented because no supporting facts exist. In any case, we shall soon discuss how much, and exactly what, meaning it would have if such claims could be "proven".
What has been the record of the American working class as regards militancy at home, or of the West in general? Have strike struggles really been "expanding on an unparalleled mass scale"? Has "the political nature (been) enhancing" or becoming "more prominent"? And has any such struggle of the Western working class as yet given "a severe blow to the aggression and war policy of American imperialism"?
The events of May 1968 in France have been avidly seized upon by most of the Western Left to "prove" once again that all these questions have an affirmative reply. When the dust had settled over French soil, it was still being raised elsewhere all over the "revolutionary" Western Left with sighs of "if only ..."* France's "almost revolution" is measured by the old customary criterion offered for decades by Western Left economists: the "size of the strike struggle". Let us, therefore, meet them first on their own grounds.
What are the facts about the U.S. strike struggle? And their meaning?
Do the continuing strikes in industrially developed countries¬
* See Appendix VI.
— 182 —
really indicate increased militancy among the working class?
Strike struggles in the U.S.A.
It is not enough to count the number of strikes or strikes in order to estimate even the size of the strike struggle, let alone "working-class militancy". Numerical assessments of this type must be related to the size of the labor force. The following table attempts this:
Table 295 TRENDS IN U.S. WORK STOPPAGES (In Thousands) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- (A) (1) (8) (2) (3) (4) (5) CIVILIAN TOTAL U. S. % NUMBER NUMBER/ % % YEAR RESIDENT CIVILIAN OF OF MAN-DAYS OF OF POPULATION LABOR FORCE (1)/(A) STRIKERS LOST (3)/(1) (2)/(1) ---- ---------- ----------- ------- -------- -------- ------- ------- 1945 128,112 52,820 41.2 3,467 38,025 72.0 6.7 1950 150,790 59,748 39.6 2,410 38,800 66.6 4.0 1960 178,153 64,267 36.1 1,320 19,100 29.7 2.1 1961 181,207 65,516 36.2 1,450 16,100 24.9 2.2 1962 183,796 71,854 38.2 1,230 18,600 25.9 1.7 1963 186,667 72,975 38.2 941 16,300 22.0 1.3 1964 189,372 76,971 40.5 1,640 22,900 29.7 2.1 1965 191,874 75,635 34.4 1,550 23,300 30.9 2.0 1966 193,780 75,770 25.6 1,900 25,400 33.5 2.5 ============================================================================
Between 1950 and 1960, something happened which cut the percentage of man-days lost to total labor force drastically. Could it have been the Korean war? It is interesting, though perhaps not particularly pertinent here, that the labor force, whi
ch[le] increasing numerically, has fallen steadily as related to the total civilian resident population. What is important here is that the ratio of strikers to total labor force has not risen notably since 1960. Even the slow upward creep since 1964 has not taken it much over half way back to its 1950 level. Again, the ratio of man-days lost to total labor force by 1966 has reached half the 1950 value.
Another factor which might assess "militancy" would b
y[e] the composition of the strikers. In three separate issues, two Big Business weeklies recorded developments in the American labor movement, citing "a new restless mood",6 and "a riptide of new militancy ... flooding this placid landscape in a sea of revolt".7
These periodicals listed a number of actual strikes: pilots on Pan-American World Airways; two big Manhattan¬
— 183 —
department stores; a construction firm at Cape Kennedy; towboat owners in Pittsburgh; and three machine-tool plants in Detroit.6 Other strikes were reported "threatened"; New York newspaper workers; the Transport Workers Union in Philadelphia.6 Moreover, even where strikes were not on,
"Unions are making stiff demands in the rubber, aerospace, aluminum, shipping and textile industries, all of which must renew labor contracts in the coming months."6
In corroboration of these claims, the following were offered:
– A noticeable "toughening" of the "customarily docile" International Union of Electrical Workers, demanding a "10%-plus package increase".7
– A victory of striking fruit pickers in California, being followed by the National Farm Workers Association with a strike of vegetable growers in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.7
– Two-thirds of the firemen in Atlanta, Georgia, out on a strike "that is probably the most important shut-down of public safety employees since the abortive Boston police strike of 1919".7
– The AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Department (IUD) "in cooperation with Rev. Martin Luther King", "successfully organizing a 'labor union' of slum tenants in Chicago", with the "sole purpose ... to bargain for contracts with landlords", and reportedly had actually won contracts covering 4,500 tenants with a commitment by some landlords to supply hot and cold running water for tubs and sinks "at all times".7 (The IUD expected "a full 15% of (slum tenants) to become ... members".)
– "Even more indicative of labor's renaissance has been the fresh efforts of big unions to sign up the vast pool of unorganized workers at the bottom of the economic ladder: farm workers, day laborers, and even the unemployed".7
– The AFL-CIO "parent organization" officially announcing that "its unions would ignore the President's 3.2% wage guideline in collective bargaining". (As a result, the August 1965 strike of airline machinists won a 5%-plus wage hike.)7 Walter Reuther had won 4.8% from the auto industry the previous fall.6
– Public service workers striking or threatening to
— 184 —
firemen in Kansas City, Mo.; also, in Atlanta, Georgia; teachers in Michigan garbage collectors in Dayton, Ohio; and "a group of New York hospital doctors".7
– A new union drive, about to get under way for "organization of vast numbers of new members". Such a drie was claimed to be already on. From 12.9 million members in 1964, the AFL-CIO was said now to have "spurted 5% to a present level of 13.5 million."* A good 40% of this growth, it was testified, had
"its fastest growing frontier among public employees ... the number of union members in state, local and Federal employment has soared from 915,000 in 1956 to an estimated 1.5 million today."7
While one of these two sources presented this increase in union membership for the first time in a decade – and other factors – as an indication of "Labor's Increased Militancy",7 the facts, as well as certain other considerations, make such an interpretation doubtful.
Militancy and the American working class.
First of all, despite the vague way in which the information is presented by these articles, a table can be compiled of the unions probably involved in all the actual strikes reported. This table cannot, with the information available, be definitive or statistically exact. It simply suggests an order of magnitude in the "new upheaval" for the number and type of workers involved.
Table 306, 7 "LABOR'S INCREASED MILITANCY"o ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- TOTAL NAT'L ESTIMATED CATEGORY OF MEMBER- NUMBER WORKER SHIPS AREA INVOLVED INVOLVED+ INVOLVED 1964 (Less Than) (1,000's) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Airline Pilots n.1. Pan-World Airways Line 1,000 Retail Clerks 428 2 Dept. Stores, Manhattan 2,000 Tool and Die Makers n.1. Detroit, Mich. 600 Towboat Owners n.1. Pittsburgh, Pa. 1,000
* See Table 16, Page 156 above.
— 185 —
National Farm Workers Association n.1. Fruit Pickers California Vegetable Growers Rio Grande Valley, Texas 25,000 Firemen 80x Atlanta, GA (500, actual) 1,000 Public Service Workersxx 139 L.A., S.F., K.C., Atlanta, Teachers 100 Dayton, O., N.Y.C. State of Michigan 5,000 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- o"National and international unions reporting 100,000 members or more," all "with headquarters in the U.S., sometimes contain a sizeable membership in Canada: in 1964, there were 1,135 thousand Canadian members included as AFL-CIO members in the U.S. under this definition.8 +Estimates of numbers of workers involved in the actual strikes were based in part on the union's size nationally, simply guessing at what proportion would be involved in the locality concerned. xWorld Almanac, 1960; Page 49: International Union of Firefighters xxAFGE, including Cape Kennedy (American Federation of Government Employees) n.1. = not listed: either less than 100,000 members; or, not unionized by 1964. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
The total number of striking or threatening to strike, as summarized by this table, was less than one and a quarter millions (1,153 thousands). Eight different cities were named; and eight out of 50 state
d[s] (16%). The total estimated number of union members involved was 40,600, admittedly quite "iffy".
Even if the numbers of strikers estimated are low, it is clear that only a small percentage of total U.S. membership in unions is taking part in this alleged "upsurge" of American labor. The percentage of strikers to population is very small, indeed. This would be so even if all the national unions concerned had gone on strike as a whole, which they clearly did not. All instances cited were sharply localized.
Slum tenants would add greatly to this number if they could be included. Only 4,500 were actually mentioned. Also, presumably among them some union memberships might be duplicated. Anyhow, all the article said was that the IUD "expects a full 15%" to join a projected union. The single area involved was Chicago, Illinois.
Among those estimated as striking in the above table, the majority (31,600) were in basic trades: airline pilots, tool and die makers, transport workers and farm workers. The "industrial proletariat" wants more – inside the system – and is still able to get it.
— 186 —
In these articles, the largest single number dealt with the advance in union membership cited, of which 40% accounted for a single bloc: government employees. These have always been notoriously under-paid; maybe some of them are already those displaced by automation from former highly-paid jobs. The effect of the prolonged war in Vietnam, accompanied by zooming corporation profits which the richest unions make the basis for their demands, are seen here. What these workers are after is "their share" of the increasing national swag, which one of the reports put into context via a chart, showing corporate profits doubled since 1961.
Naturally, it is inevitable for lower-paid workers to want more. What concerns, us, however, is this: does that constitute working-class militancy? So far, we have been examining the claims of those who say it does without discussing the merits of their claims.
However, such an examination is in order. And for those who so vehemently insist that the workers' economic struggle is equateable with class struggle, a recent discussion out of Copenhagen, Denmark, is of great interest.
"For a number of years past the English working class movement has been hopelessly describing a narrow circle of strikes for higher wages and shorter hours, not, however as an expedient or means of propaganda and organisation, but as the ultimate aim ... One can speak here of a labor movement only in so far as strikes take place here which, whether they are won or not, do not get the movement one step further."9
The Danish source comments:
"Two things here are decisive:
"First: Economic strikes – for higher wages, shorter hours – MAY be of importance, if they are being used as an expedient or a means of propaganda and organization. That is not what (the revisionists) have in mind ... They want to lead the economic struggle, hoping that then the workers are going to listen to them when they talk politics.
— 187 —
"Second: Whether the kind of strikes of which Engels is talking are won or lost, they do not get the movement one step further. Seen from a political point of view – from a revolutionary point of view – they are utterly trivial. That is to say: these economic struggles are not a part of the class struggle."10
Not surprisingly, Lenin had also had a word to say on this subject:
"We are all agreed that our task is that of the organization of the proletarian class struggle. But what is this class struggle? When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is this class struggle? no, this is only a weak embryo of it."11
Again, comment from the Danes:
"... Under certain circumstances the economic struggle – the 'weak embryo' – develops into class struggle, which is to say that the struggle CHANGES ITS CHARACTER. But this does not happen automatically. First of all the 'weak embryo' seen in the historic perspective – and embryo in the history of the proletariat from its birth as an exploited class to the day on which it seizes power from the bourgeoisie ... a struggle ... is class struggle only when the object ... is power in society."12
But Lenin had had more to say about this vital matter:
"Only when the individual worker realizes that he is a member of the entire working class, only when he recognizes the fact that his petty day-to-day struggle against individual employers and individual government officials is a struggle against the entire bourgeoisie and the entire government does his struggle become a class struggle. 'Every class struggle is a political struggle.' These famous words of Marx are not to be understood to mean that the struggle of the workers against employers must ALWAYS be a political struggle. They must be understood to mean that the struggle of the workers against the capitalists BECOMES a political struggle INSOFAR AS it becomes a CLASS struggle."13
To this, the Danish writers add:
— 188 —
"Struggle for higher wages, shorter working hours, longer holidays, better working conditions, etc., can NEVER in itself become a political struggle, a class struggle. In 'What is to be Done?' Lenin unequivocally asserted thta it is the purest of nonsense to try to 'lend the economic struggle itself a political character'. On the other hand the economic struggle may – under certain circumstances – be raised to the level of a political struggle."14
The meaning of these last words is left to Lenin to clarify:
" ... to conduct all propaganda and agitation from the viewpoint of revolution as opposed to reforms, systematically explaining this opposition to the masses theoretically and practically, at every step of parliamentary, trade union, co-operative work, etc. Under no circumstances to refrain (save in special cases as an exception) from utilizing the parliamentary system and the 'liberties' of bourgeois democracy; not to reject reforms but to regard them ONLY as a by-product of the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat."15
And now, the Danish protagonists warn:
"The last words – to regard reforms only as a by-product of the revolutionary class struggle – should not be understood to mean that all reforms, which are actually carried out on demand from the workers, must be regarded as such by-products of the revolutionary class struggle. (This would lead to a conclusion:... We have had a great number reforms – this proves that we have had many revolutionary class struggles.) Lenin's words must be understood to mean that communists should never make the struggle for reforms – higher wages, shorter working hours, etc. – THEIR object. These things are the spontaneous objects of the working class in the struggle against the bourgeoisie – they are never the objects of the communists, of conscious revolutionaries. If and when the working class will spontaneously start a struggle for objects of that kind, it is the task of communists – whenever possible – to RAISE this spontaneous struggle to a struggle for another object, the object of class struggle. In so doing, they must – as pointed out by Lenin in the above quotation – explain to the masses that revolution and reforms are¬
— 189 —
two diametrically opposed things. Reforms are concessions from the ruling class which maintains its rule. Revolution means to take power from the ruling class."16
For decades, the "working class in the main capitalist countries" has been carrying on struggles for economic goals. The end result, revolution-wise, it seems to us, can only suggest a fervent "Amen" to the above discussion.
This discussion, and its context alone, forms the background in which it is permissible to study and evaluate the role of work stoppages in relation to the "militancy" of any labor movement anywhere in the world.
It is with this thought in mind that we continue that discussion:
WHEN did even the work stoppages believed to indicate "militancy" fall off; and WHY?
Table 29 on Page 182 shows that in the U.S. – the KEY imperialist country, where activities now influence all others – work stoppages fell off again sharply between 1950 and 1960: As has been suggested already, in between those dates was the Korean War. When the profits it "stimulated" began rolling in and labor's purely economic demands were satisfied by hiked wages, the "revolutionary strike struggles" likewise fell off. They rose, but only slightly, during 1964 and 1965: the prolonged war in Vietnam was dragging and not going well for the aggressors. Thus, during the two periods when – if ever – the political stance of American workers was put sharply to the test, they failed to rise to the occasion.
But even if "lower echelons" of U.S. workers now enter the fray and demand their proper share in affluence – never mind how derived – even to a point of intensity equivalent to or greater than that achieved in France in May 1968, it will still not be necessary – or correct – to hail any "revolutionary class struggle" by American workers. For they will still be FAR from challenging capitalist rule; it will be the sheerest self-delusion to read into aggressive behavior on behalf of purely economic demands the "revolutionization" of the American working class.
What is crucial is not numbers per se; it is not behavior per se. It is the GOALS pursued; the purposes; the aims.
— 190 —
Very small numbers of workers were really involved in distinctly localized actions in the above examples. Yet the Big Business magazines were claiming these actions as "increased militancy", despite their own unlimited nation-wide facilities for collecting all necessary statistics: if more examples had been available, they would have known. We can be sure they did not miss any such activity going on. And the "revolutionary" character of such periodicals is well known.
What, then, was the purpose of their hullaballoo?
Their motive peeps through the welter of reasons they advance for the alleged "militant upsurge" by American labor:
All three articles agreed that
"the healthy U.S. economy is itself responsible for much of the ferment."6
A composite list of specifically what they meant thereby included:
c) The short supply of skilled labor with "buyers clamoring for their goods".7
d) "The spectacular rise in corporate profits".7
e) "The fact that inflation ... at the annual rate of 3.5% is eating up nearly half the workers' yearly wage gains".7
f) "A new industrial revolution in automation".6
It was recorded that
"Union members have worked full time and even overtime for the past three years; most have money in the bank, many are weary, and some would actually welcome a strikeimposed vacation."6
In a word, two big U.S. business weeklies raised a hue and cry about new militancy only in order to bring out what they call the "health" of the U.S. economy. But their claim that the workers are determined to obtain their share of the swag is borne out: though numerically few were involved¬
— 191 —
in these strikes, their GOALS were PURELY ECONOMIC, and they included some already-well-paid crafts.
The truth of their estimate is further borne out in a discussion of "tokenism" as a means for draining off "Negro" militancy:
"... it is of the essence of tokenism that not many should be (Affected by the results of the given struggle). But this does not deprive the phenomenon of its importance. The mere existence of the possibility of moving up and out can have a profound psychological impact ..
"... even those who have no stake in the system and have no hope of ever acquiring one may become reconciled to it if they come to believe there is a chance that their children, or perhaps their children's children, may be able to rise out of their own degraded conditions."17
In this quotation is summarised the debilitating effect of illusions that die hard among large segmnets of anti-colonial liberation.
Strike struggles in the U.S.A., at very least, to this day do not embody working class militancy in the sense of class solidarity, or in the sense of any struggle for power or challenge to the sytsem.
How else should be interpreted the protracted "negotiations" practised by gentlemen "labor leaders" like George Meany of the AFL-CIO and gentlemen industrial aristocrats like the officials of U.S. Steel and other international giant U.S. corporations? It is assumed that the distinction is understood between subjective awareness of the need for socialism and objective reality: since the existing system can never satisfy the demand for full "non-poverty" (of which existing capacity and technology is quite capable) among America's internal colonial subjects and oppressed minorities like Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, any fight for such "non-poverty" will not inevitably lead to the eventual destruction of imperialism and to socialism EVEN in the U.S., but ONLY if there are real revolutionaries on the scene capable of raising such a fight for "non-poverty" to the level of a struggle for actual power. This,¬
— 192 —
in turn, depends on the factual experience of those involved: as long as their demands can be carved out of the existing system, Marx taught that they would NEVER seek to change it ... and they are "right", while the Leftist "wish-dreamers" have deserted them.
Not only will such economic struggles not be the preliminary cause of any challenge to the system even eventually; they are also not at the moment any kind of decisive factor.
What such struggles express is the size and shape of working-class illusions about the system which emanate from and are deliberately fostered by Social Democratic and other bourgeoisie ideological fountainheads. And these illusions can persist – can BE nourished and fostered – because of the ever-swelling super-profits squeezed from "overseas" colonial labor. What these struggles are is a form of what Lenin called "economism" within the labor movement. Economism has been defined thus:
"... economism is the limitation of perspective to immediate economic issues, with the role of trade union organization seen as simply the pursuit of those economic gains, but always within the bounds of a capitalist society ... The main symptom is the illusion that the constant pursuit of better wages and conditions will eventually lead to a more equitable order of society, coupled with the belief that the aim of organizing is to participate in the present system and thereby assist its gradual conversion."18
Just to keep the record straight, let us add one inseparable thought:
"... those not employed in industry ... find it difficult to appreciate this situation. As a consequence they tend to underestimate the importance of this aspect of working-class struggle."18
The author of the definition of economism, above, declares that the "limitations" (i.e., "of perspective to immediate economic issues") cause a "tendency to see economic struggle as an end in itself". He added one thought with the main content of which we heartily concur:
* See Pages 187-188, above, for boundaries of what may or may not qualify as "working-class struggle".
— 193 —
"To recognize economism and the reasons for its influence is to take the first step towards its elimination. Unless it is eliminated, the working-class movement, in spite of all efforts, will be restricted to reformist activity within the framework of a system designed to maintain the dictatorship of the capitalist ruling caste."18
The truth of these statements is strikingly proven by the record of "working-class militancy" regarding the struggles for their own liberation by colonial workers "abroad", which the next Chapter will examine.
[— 194 —]
T H E L A B O R A R I S T O C R A C Y ' S
E N T I R E O U T L O O K " A B R O A D "
If such, then, is the record "at home" of American labor militancy, what of its attitude toward the anti-colonial liberation struggle involving its "class brothers" in colonies?
Because both Britain and France have had "labor" or "socialist" governments "in power", a brief glance at their records will be included in this analysis to supplement examination of the U.S. labor movement.
In their relationships with colonial struggles, honorable exceptions to the contrary notwithstanding, workers in the capitalist countries by and large have an unbroken history of active opposition.
Such is not, however, the picture painted by the Western Left or that of Eastern Europe. For instance:
"The contributions made by the French working people to the liberation of Algeria, and the resolute stand taken by the British working class in support of Egypt at the time of the Anglo-French-Israeli aggression, and other similar instances, are well known."1
This expresses the official stance of the Western Left from the beginning. But how does it square with reality?
At the start of Algeria's independence struggle (November 1958) (and in one or two cases toward the end of it), the French Communist Party organized and supported activities directed against France's role. Unfortunately, though, this was not typical of its doings during most of the war years.
First, at the time, the French Government itself, so assiduous in militarily opposing Algerian independence, was headed by Social Democratic Guy Mollet, representing the French labor aristocracy. As the war progressed, early Left expressions of opposition died away and there were only the smallest protests.
— 195 —
Here is the testimony of a famous French radical, never a communist, but never anti-Communists, accepted and sought after by Eastern European socialist government like the Soviet Union:
"The Communists either organized or supported these demonstrations (against the war in Algeria). After the friendly reception given to Mollet and Pineau during their visit to Moscow in June, the Communists became less vociferous, however. Sartre wanted the Peace Movement to condemn the war in Algeria. A Soviet delegate of some importance who happened to be passing through Paris, told him that such a motion would be inopportune; he himself wanted a motion passed declaring that the Movement was opposed only to wars of aggression: the French in this case were not aggressors. We thought that the U.S.S.R. was holding back because it was afraid the Mahgreb would become part of the American zone of influence. Also the Communist Party feared it would be cutting itself off from the masses if it appeared to be less nationalistic than the other parties. Officially it expressed its opposition to the government; but it no longer urged all those who could to defy it.
"It made no effort to combat the racism of the French workers, who considered the 400,000 North Africans settled in France as both intruders doing them out of jobs and as a subproletariat worthy only of contempt ... What is cretain is that by June (1955) all resistance to the war had ceased ... the entire population of the country – workers, employees, farmers and professional people, civilians and soldiers – were caught up in a great tide of chauvinism and racism ...
"... provided it was properly costumed for them, the people of France were prepared to accept this war with a light heart ... I was not at all upset when the ultras demonstrated ... They were just ultras. What did appall me was to see the vast majority of the French people turn chauvinist and to realize the depth of their racist attitude ... I was even more stupified and saddened when I learned with what docility the youth soldiers sent to Algeria became accomplices in the methods of pacification."2
Other testimony has since appeared, to the same effect:
— 196 —
"In September, 1945, the French, with British help, seized the city of Saigon in complete violation of Allied orders for the British for Indochina", began this source, and continued:
"Two days later, the French Communist Party organization in Saigon submitted a paper to their Vietnamese counterparts on behalf of the French and Russian parties. The paper warned Vietnamese communists not to do anything which would hurt Soviet foreign policy in Europe. They were asked to wait for the results of the October, 1945, election in France, in which the French Communists expected to make gains ...
"Yet it was the French Communist party which later sat on its hands as the first war appropriations for Vietnam were voted. They were members of the government which appointed and supported the ultra-colonialist Admiral d'Argenlieu, which permitted the failure of the Fontainebleau conference and the attack on Haiphong and which refused to negotiate with Ho Chi Minh after December, 1946."3
The British workers seemed, in any significant numbers, to have exhausted their militancy in support for any cause outside their own borders in 1920 or so, when one tiny group of London dockers refused to load arms to be used against the infant Soviet Revolution in Russia, one of the mentioned "honorable exceptions" to the general Western record of international relations.
In general, in every case up to and including the dispatch not so long ago of Royal Scottish troops to strike-break against Swaziland miners, the British section of the world labor aristocracy either, under Labour Governments, actually directed police violence against colonial workers, or supported Tories who did.
Testimony to this attitude, at least insofar as it affected Africa, exists from the British Left itself. Writing after the 1964 electoral victory for "Labour", one Englishman said:
"... it is unlikely that the African people have forgotten how they were treated in the (Labour Government) years of 1945-1951. For despite the Labour Party's claims, the fact is that ... this was a period in which there took place some of the most ferocious attacks on the national¬
— 197 —
movement and on the growing working class and trade union organizations that Africa, in all its stormy history, has yet witnessed."4
These remarks were part of an "appeal" to the new Labour Government under Harold Wilson to "take warning" and, so to speak, "be nice to Africa". Less than a year later, Wilson's course had been laid bare. It was summarized by another well-known British "Communist":
"From the outset the strategy of the Wilson Labour Government was geared to the most zealous upholding of the interests of British imperialism; the military alliance with the United States; the continuance of the commitments of NATO, SEATO, and the cold war; the maintenance of Britain's military world power, and especially the most loudly proclaimed strategy of maintaining Britain's military strength 'East of Suez', that is, in the Middle Eastern Gulf area and in South-East Asia, with the continued maintenance of the bases of Aden and Singapore."5
A proper understanding of Social Democracy would have made this record less of a shock. But then – we have yet to show that the British and other Western "Communists" are the "neo-Social Democrats". Of this, more later.
As to the attitude of U.S. unions toward the colonial movement, it may be judged, for example, by their approach to the boycott of South African products.
In San Francisco, the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) under the leadership of Red-labeled, Australian-born Harry Bridges, stood out like a sore thumb when its members actually held up the unloading of South African cargoes for 24 whole hours on at least two occasions in the recent past. In one case – that of the Dutch ship Raki in December 1962 – the ILWU was respecting picket lines already set up by local Afro-American organizations, primarily the NAACP. An arbitrator ruled in this particular case that the longshoremen must "ignore the picket line and honor their contract". But such contracts are with billionaire shipping magnates whose class bloats itself out of South African investments. To breach the contact would be an act of great rebellion.
— 198 —
American workers are not about to desert legalism and jeopardize their cushy jobs just because some far-off "blacks" think they should be "helped".
Yet no wonder the ILWU was considered bold: on the East Coast, the ILWU's counterpart, the National Maritime Union, under red-baiting Joe Curran, also struck a few times, refusing to load or unload cargoes – from Cuba to the USSR!
American workers sense that the source of their present well-being and socialism do not mix.
Added to this record is an additional fact: when metropolitan communist Parties (mainly in Britain and France) formed "brother Parties" in colonies, it is a matter of record that they made the "new" Parties sections of the "home" Party, subject to "home" leadership. Beginning in 1956, however, African Marxists began a tough – till now only partially successful – battle to break free.
Labor and radicals in all Western countries (but again, especially Britain and the U.S.) have an infamous record vis-a-vis colonial workers in that of the at-first-British-dominated, and after 1959 for a time AFL-CIO-run International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). The latter's activities in Africa have been bitingly described by African trade unionists:
"The ICFTU's principal objective in Africa was to capture control of the African trade unions for Western ruling circles and monopolies, who will in turn use them in extracting colonial super-profits from Africa."6
ICFTU's history in Africa and in Latin America and Asia, as well, supplemented by the records in those areas of individual U.S. and British unions and union leaders, fully substantiates this charge.
British Guiana furnished a most blatant example of the Western labor aristocracy itself deliberately destroying a colonial revolution.* Huge intervention into this colonial country by unions, their federated bodies and, of course, other outright U.S. agencies, governmental or not, eventually achieved the result desired by¬
* For discussion of this situation in detail, see Pages 348 ff., below.
— 199 —
imperialism. Such intervention could have gone on failing, as it had at first, had the interventionists not been able finally to involve substantial numbers of Guyanese people, whose revolutionary experience had not prepared them for trade unions in the role of betrayer.
Thus, when a colony had clearly demonstrated its desire for, and intention of, attaining independence, it was direct representatives of the U.S. labor aristocracy who administered to that colonial revolution the coup de grâce, thereby completing larger, official U.S. intervention.
These activities, of course, were directed solely by union leaders. Yet in unions of the home countries involved – Britain and the U.S. – there has as yet been no sign of any significant opposition to the leaders executing such policies. Some old men have been replaced at top rungs of the union hierarchy by younger, and allegedly more aggressive, ones, pledged to go after bigger shares of advancing profits. That is, such changes, aside from being minor, foreshadow no change in union policy. Rightly so, far these "leaders", old OR new, "bring home the bacon" for their members. And for non-members, too: unorganized industry in the U.S., in order to continue competing on the labor market, follows the pattern set by the unions.
So, FACTS show that, especially since 1950, the Western proletariat, including a large portion of lower-paid workers and notably in the U.S., have consist
a[e]ntly supported colonialism because they have the not-unjustified feeling that they have a big stake in the status quo, exactly (as noted below) "as long as they support capitalism".
Progressives inside the West but independent of the organized Left, have observed this phenomenon as well,
"If one assumes the permanence of monopoly capitalism, with its proved incapacity to make rational use for peaceful and humane ends of its enormous productive potential, one must decide whether one prefers the mass unemployment and hopelessness characteristic of the Great Depression or the relative job security and material¬
— 200 —
well-being provided by the huge military budgets of the 1940's and 1950's. Since most Americans, workers included, still do assume without question the permanence of the system, it is only natural that they should prefer the situation which is personally and privately more advantageous."
To workers in colonial countries, the facts of Western labor attitudes toward colonial struggles are no big news. For instance, an American Left poet, Marc Schleiffer, reported some conversations he had overheard while living in Cuba. One was between Che Guevara, the Latin American revolutionary martyr then still in Cuba, and an Italian communist novelist, Italo Calvino. It went, in part, like this:
"CALVINO: The European working class isn't interested in this talk about sacrifice. Or in this association of socialism with sacrifice and voluntary work. They are interested in cars and TV and higher wages. They support the Party because it leads the fight for higher wages. And they have a right to want this.
"EL CHE: I'm very happy for the European working class with their higher wages. But don't forget who is paying for those wages. We are – millions of exploited workers and peasants in Latin America, Africa and Asia."8
Africans, too, have been direct victims of Western labor attitudes, report their own awareness of the facts via a crucial question:
"... why should the representatives of the oppressed workers of Western Europe and the U.S.A. be hostile to the anti-colonial stand of the African workers and on the contrary rather assist the monopolies in their domination of Africa?"
Bitterly, they answer their own query:
"Western workers today enjoy a very high standard of living (TV, cars., etc.). This high standard ... has been obtained primarily at the expense of the grinding exploitation and bloody repression of the workers in Africa, Latin America and Asia – where Western ruling circles ... have drawn the colossal profits which enable them to make wage concessions¬
— 201 —
to 'their own' workers. In other words, the Western workers have an economic stake in imperialism and neo-colonialism, as long as they support capitalism."10
What is more, since it works both ways, this "economic stake" has been carefully nurtured in American and foreign working class minds by all official, including trade union, propaganda.
3. Labor lieutenants in the working class and their ideological influence.
What is being discussed here, of course, is really the extensive class collaboration practiced by "labor leaders and the upper stratum of the labor aristocracy" in the United States which, despite having the world's largest and most affluent labor aristocracy, never produced a mass Social Democratic party.*
Despite some temporary, depression-fostered periods of real militancy, the last of which in the early 30s really gave the U.S. bourgeoisie a bad scare, by and large the organized U.S. labor movement – representing the labor aristocracy – have either in "theory" and/or in practice found that class collaboration usually pays its practitioners and advocates off.
So, certainly, testified a well-known U.S. periodical:
"... to an unprecedented degree, labor and management are forced to work together. In this sense, Labor Secretary Willard Wirtz is fond of quoting Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark:
'But the valley grew narrow and narrower still,
'And the evening got darker and colder
'Till (merely from nervousness, not from good will)
'They marched along shoulder to shoulder.'
"What is keeping them marching along together ... is above all a common share in America's vast affluence."11
And there is always a "labor lieutenant" handy to say "Amen" to Big Business sentiments, like some comic-relief Greek chorus:
" ... nobody doubts that management's and labor's business are in fact the nation's business. Says A.F.L.-C.I.O.¬
* See Chapters XXV, ff., below.
— 202 —
President George Meany, without apologies to industry's late 'Engine Charlie' Wilson: 'What is good for America is good for the A.F.L.-C.I.O[']."11
Big business adds its "pat on the head", pontificating:
"It is more than that: it IS capitalism. Its relations with management remain adverse to a degree; but the actions is that of cogwheels moving in opposite directions to operate the whole free enterprise machine."11
There have been practical proofs of this contention which cannot be wished away. Two of them that sharply illustrate it are as follows:
1. In the U.S.A., so-called "labor leaders" have parlayed union treasuries worth millions of dollars into Big Business investments in basic industry like mining and shipping, and into insurance, banking, hosing, department stores, etc. Union leaderships have melted into the capitalist class itself on one side of their "union activities".
2. In Western Germany, trade union "leaders" now participate as captains – or, is it as "lieutenants"? – of state enterprises and have been aiding big German capital – resurrected from military defeat by U.S. assistance – against specific demands of "their own" workers.
Where Marxists have fallen short of the ideological needs of this situation has been in failing to demonstrate with facts and figures to exactly what degree working-class relations with management are "adverse". It is not fringe poverty that demonstrates this point; it is Karl Marx's "growing social gulf", which makes the labor aristocracy's benefits into "peanuts" on the "home" front. Marxists have made their comparisons on the wrong end of the scale, using a magnifying glass and a set of line of patter. This has left the field wide open to "the enemy", as the Big Business mouthpiece we have been quoting concluded:
"Some labor leaders expect to develop new forms of cooperation with management ... (because of a) common stake in a country that gives the workers a better life than he has known since the wheels of the industrial revolution first started to turn."11
— 203 —
The record confirms this mealy-mouthed assertion as one of the major facts of U.S. labor life, always allowing for "poverty pockets". It determines the real political orientation of the U.S. working class. But here, again, it is that the honorable exceptions crop up, only to be turned against the working class through the use that has been made of them.
For, by discussing them outside their context, the Western Left, echoed by its Eastern European counterparts, has tallied and used them for unjustifiable conclusions about the political level and direction of the Western proletariat.
It is true that these honorable exceptions (obviously) represent the correct manner in which a proletariat ought to act in order to qualify for the role which eventually will be its own. But real Marxists, as scientists, have to use FACTS as the only feasible stepping stone to what ought to be. They cannot WISH it into existence on the strength of mendacious repetition of half-baked truths.
The full truth is that until today, exceptions aside, American labor in its majority still does see its future in varied forms of class collaboration as a means of increasing its share in American prosperity, which Lenin proved comprised ever-growing corporate super-profits from overseas
e economic activities.
When class-conscious ruling-class organs analyze a sensitive spot in the decaying corpse of their economy, they can usually be relied on to produce a fairly accurate estimate of reality. It is not necessary to contradict truth merely because it has been uttered by the enemy. That is to underestimate one's opponent, a dangerous game.
In the Western left, the expression of such thoughts is strictly proscribed. Rather, in the face of Lenin's criteria and relevant statistics to apply to them, it became fashionable in the U.S. Left during the 30s (and to this day) to concentrate on the poverty aspects of the American economy, saying or implying that they are currently the decisive ones.*
Nor has such an approach been confined to Communists. For instance, Lord Bertrand Russell broadcast to American troops in¬
* See discussion, Chapter XVII, Page 135, above.
— 204 —
Vietnam, saying inter alia that "66 million Americans live in poverty".12
Figures in Chapters XVII through XX, above,* show that 20% of Americans (working class in their majority) existing below the American poverty line, while in 1959 over 50% of U.S. people lived less than "modestly but adequately" by American standards, 16% living very poorly.
In his State of the Union Message to Congress in January 1967, President Johnson admitted to no less than 23 million Americans (i.e., more than 12% of population) who must live "on social security payments", which, he also confessed, are below "subsistence level".
Thus, inside U.S. borders, figures show a significant segment of relative – and even some absolute – poverty. Moreover, as imperialism continues to decay, this segment, narrowing numerically, nonetheless grows to a point where even the Great Liberal, Lyndon Johnson, is forced to produce an "anti-Poverty Program". Up to now, however, that program is a very small proportion of already-existing Federal assistance, and is an excuse for buying off developing militants among the American poor, beside providing good jobs to create ex-militants among the Afro-American people. Very little is done to implement the program – and this is at least in part because poverty in the U.S. is as yet far from decisive.**
Still, rather than face this reality – so as to deal with it – the pundits of the Western Left have refused to be dislodged from their "poverty" position. The reason they cling to it may be¬
* Starting Page 135, above.
** From November 1964 through December 31, 1966 (excluding rural loans, adult basic education, "Vista" and small business loans), the U.S. Federal Government allotted in its "War on Poverty" Programs to 2,200,326 people, $2,245,989,000.13 That this was for show and not required by the situation is shown by the fact that, in 1965 alone, the U.S. Federal Government, out of its total $15.34 billions of aid to State and Local government and to Individuals, allotted the following funds:
— 205 —
attributable to words written at one time by Karl Marx, and now mechanically adhered to:
"As capital grows, the mass of wage labor grows ...
"A noticeable increase in wages presupposes a rapid growth of productive capital. The rapid growth of productive capital brings about an equally rapid growth of wealth, luxury, social wants, social enjoyments. Thus, although the enjoyments of the workers have risen, the social satisfaction that they give has fallen in comparison with the increased enjoyments of the capitalist, which are inaccessible to the worker, in comparison with the state of development of society in general."16
The truth in these words has yet to be made visible to the working class the Marxists must lead. First, the Marxist "poverty approach" falls on deaf ears because of "bribe" conditions. But in addition, very few real people actually SEE how capitalists live. On the other hand, especially in this era of increasingly easy travel, thousands of colonial subjects HAVE seen how ordinary U.S. and British people live. They have compared this "mode of life" with their own, and consequently aspire to "an American standard of living" – without the slightest notion of how that standard got where it is. In turn, even greater numbers of Western workers, probably the majority of them Americans,¬
Dollars (1,000's) --------- Unemployment insurance 515,649 Anti-Poverty funds (1965 only) 324,804 Food distribution 681,935 Public Assistance 3,088,955 --------- 4.531,34314
Without the "Anti-Poverty funds" for 1965, the figure is $4,206,539 thousands, about 4.3% of total wages and salaries disbursed in that year.15 That is, 36.4% of all Federal funds to Local, State Government and Individuals (excepting rural loans, adult basic education, Vista and small business l
ao[oa]ns) was already going to people in need of it. But the "Anti-Poverty" funds were a measly 7.2% of the total amount of Federal aid to the "poverty" segments of the American people.
— 206 —
have traveled to colonial areas and to socialist countries and made the same comparison in reverse, thereby reinforcing their support for their own status quo.
Anybody who has lived in colonial areas (or, according to testimony from increasing numbers of witnesses, in Eastern European socialist countries) knows that "the American Way of Life" holds a tremendous attraction for workers all over the world; from Western Europe to Eastern, from there to Africa, including unbelievable numbers of Africans and people of African descent everywhere – wherever one looks, ordinary people regard Hollywood's popular version of this "American Way of Life" as their most cherished dream.
No amount of croaking can wipe out the statistics of Western – especially American – affluence. What has been lacking is a proper explanation for them by the Left. Yet that explanation, simple and clear, has been staring the world in the face ever since 1916 when Lenin first analyzed imperialist parasitism.
[— 207 —]
T H E M O D E R N L A B O R A R I S T O C R A C Y :
S U M M A R Y A N D C O N C L U S I O N S
Thus far, the text has covered the following points:
1. Imperialism is able, to this day, as its parasitism grows, to bribe an ever-increasing labor aristocracy "at home" at the expense of super-exploited populations in colonies, who constitute the globe's overwhelming majority.
2. Imperialist bribery includes not only super-wages, but the mode of life of metropolitan labor. The bribery itself constantly expands in amount, affecting not only metropolitan workers in imperialism's more "advanced" stages but to a far lesser though significant degree, reaching certain colonial and/or semi-colonial peoples like U.S. Negroes, industrial workers in colonial urban areas, and the like.
a) In 1960, workers constituted at least 66% of U.S. adult population outside institutions.
b) Solely in terms of money and purchasing power, less than 50% meet the cost of production of their labor-power.
c) As bribery expands, U.S. poverty shrinks: 7.6% of all American families earned $15,000 or more in 1965 (Table 23, Page 164). With a total for that year of 47.7 million families in the U.S.,1 this means that 3 2/3 million families were in this wage bracket. The total estimated number of persons in these 3 2/3 million families earning more than $15,000 per annum would have been about 13.4 million.* This compares with 4.7 million in 1960.2
* The number of primary families (i.e., "heads of households and all other persons in it related to the head"7) was in 1965 47.7 million.8 Total Civilian Resident Population in that year was 193,815 million.9 If from this is subtracted the total number of¬
— 208 —
d) The "upper stratum of the labor aristocracy" is represented by the trade unions and cooperatives. The stratum itself, which is all white, includes more than 10% of production workers or "proletarians".
4. The mode of life of U.S. workers extends the labor aristocracy beyond the high-wage limits, especially via the credit system, which brings real values to significant numbers of lower-paid workers (Tables 21 & 25, Pages 162 & 169) which they could not enjoy on their current ways alone. The outer boundaries delineated by this factor are found in the electoral system, which embraces at least two-thirds of U.S. population (Table 8, Page 120).
5. The entire outlook of the U.S. worker is one of (a) open class collaboration and (b) support for colonialism. Table 28, Page 178, shows that overall less than 5% of U.S. population have, in the traditional channels furnished for that possible purpose, rejected this entire outlook. The top evidence of dissent by this means came in 1912, when 35% of the electorate (i.e., of the elite) voted for a candidate from an assertedly independent party. U.S. working people generally, and significant segments of the working people of the West as a whole, ARE a WORLD labor aristocracy today.
6. In size, the "upper stratum" of the labor aristocracy shrinks numerically in proportion to the growing size of the working class; more and more, the said "upper stratum" comes from the increasing outer, or non-value-producing, ranks of the working class (Table 5, 6 & 7, Pages 114, 117 & 119).
7. The labor aristocracy of the West, typified and led by that in the U.S., is, by Lenin's own criteria, no longer a minority in the indusrialized countries themselves. That feature it retains today on a world scale only.
primary individuals (persons forming a household by themselves7, the result is 184,284 individuals in all the primary families. Dividing the latter by 47.7 million shows an estimated 3.86 persons per primary family on the average.
— 209 —
8. An expression of the increase of bribery and the size of the labor aristocracy is the improvement as time goes by of U.S. vital statistics and the spread of "good living", seen also in the percentage drop of "poor" families.
9. These vital statistics highlight metropolitan working class bribery by suggesting that, in its majority, the American working class is paid above the socially necessary cost of producing its labor-power.
10. The source of imperialist bribery is the super-exploitation of colonial labor-power by international monopoly capital headed by that of the U.S. This bribery is effected when colonial wages, appropriated as super-profits, and thus removed from super-exploited people, are redistributed in part as super-wages heavily favoring the workers in "advanced" nations. From such transactions, the imperialists appear to extract an additional cut for themselves. The existence and continued growth of super-profits are indispensable to maintaining such a redistribution of international wages, which process in turn ensures the continued existence of the system.
11. The political significance of such facts shows up in part in the progress or lack of same in anti-colonial liberation struggles. In this context, the following erroneous ideas generated in the Western Left and among Eastern European leaderships have concomitant significance:
a) The labor aristocracy is still a minority inside metropolitan areas, so that imperialist bribery affects only a few in the West.
b) The poverty aspects of imperialism inside metropolitan areas are said to be decisive now.
c) These poverty aspects are said to be engendering increased militancy among Western workers, whose "revolutionary struggle" is credited with "shaking imperialism". This struggle, now typified by the May 1968 events in France, is interpreted as "opposition to imperialism".
From all these erroneous postulates, certain consequences flow. Some of the most important of these are:
A. Since both colonial and Western workers are "poor", and since both allegedly struggle with equally increasing militancy against imperialism, therefore the problems of both and their paths to solutions are declared "the same".
— 210 —
(The same thought is sometimes expressed another way: since workers in the capitalist countries and those in colonies are exploited by "the same boss", therefore they allegedly have "the same problems".) What is forgotten in such an "equation" is that workers in capitalist countries are exploited; those in colonies, super-exploited "above and beyond" exploitation in metropoles.*
B. If problems and solutions are, indeed, "the same" for both these segments of world labor, it follows that Western labor – being in large measure Karl Marx's "industrial proletariat" – must lead the world revolution. Even Liberation, therefore, is to be subordinated to this "leadership".
Are metropolitan workers and those in colonies really "the same"? This question is not new. Long ago, Lenin had posed it:
"Is the ACTUAL condition of the workers in the oppressing and in the oppressed nations the same from the viewpoint of the national question?
"No, it is not the same.
"ECONOMICALLY, the difference is that sections of the working class in the oppressing countries receive crumbs from the SUPER-PROFITS the bourgeoisie of the oppressing nations obtains by always doubly exploiting the workers of the oppressed nations ...
"POLITICALLY, the difference is that the workers of the oppressing nations occupy a PRIVILEGED position in many spheres of political life compared with the workers of the oppressed nations.
"IDEOLOGICALLY, or spiritually, the difference is that the workers of the oppressing nations are taught, at school and in life, disdain and contempt for the workers of the oppressed nations ...
"Thus, ALL ALONG THE LINE, there are differences in objective reality, i.e., 'dualism', in the objective world that is independent of the will and consciousness of individuals ...
"In REAL LIFE the International is composed of workers DIVIDED into oppressing and oppressed nations. If its action is to be MONISTIC, its propaganda must NOT be the same for both."3
* See Appendix I.
— 211 —
Who, then, says that such workers are "the same"?
Consider the following:
"Under imperialist domination, the position of the working class in the capitalist countries is the same as that of the oppressed peoples."4
"... much as we are horrified at Verwoerds' Apartheid policy in South Africa, we should be under no illusion – Apartheid is an extrem[e] case of something very much [more] widely distributed in the world as it is today ... (that has) existed as long as the exploitation of man by man ...
"In fact, whether at home or on a world scale, since the exploiters are always a minority, the doctrine of 'superiority' – 'class superiority' at home, 'racial' superiority' abroad – is an essential aspect of all exploiters' ideology."5
That there are elements of apartheid in all imperialist society is just a truism. This statement goes beyond that into the realm of fantasy. First, super-exploitation, the material base of apartheid, has not existed "as long as the exploitation of man by man", but is the specific attribute of imperialism alone. Second, super-exploitaiton is not simply "an extreme case" of the ordinary variety. It is qualitatively different from "exploitation at home". True, steam is "only" a particular case of water. But in practice, the qualitative difference, which comes out in using water, is quite clear to the man who is scalded.*
So, in the case of the qualitative difference between Western and colonial workers expressed as apartheid in South Africa: what has yet to be faced is that "class superiority" always predominates "at home", while "racial superiority" is always directed "abroad", even when it occurs nominally "at home" as in the U.S. (or against "the wogs" in Britain, etc.).
That this difference is one of kind rather than of degree is proven by the vital statistics resulting from the extraction of¬
* Figures in Appendix I, "Black Man's Burden", suggest a current tenfold super-exploitation.
— 212 —
super-profits, made possible by the extreme separation of workers by skin color.
Such statistics alone (Table 10, Page 136) clearly raise the question: can black Africans, of every 1,000 of whose babies two to three hundred die before their first birthdays, be "the same" as South African or U.S. whites, who infants die at a rate almost ten times less? Can South African blacks who die at 37 be "the same" as the metropolitan whites who lives to surpass the Biblical "three score and ten"?
Look at it this way: all workers in the imperialist system are "in the same boat". But there is a distinct "division of labor" between various groups among them. There are those who sit at the captain's table, on deck in the sun, occasionally permitted to try steering the boat under the captain's vigilant eye; but others are confined to the hold, in the bilges, never allowed on deck except to serve meals and wipe boots – doing all the dirty work. Not only are their wages vastly different, but the concrete results of such differences – in life expectancy, poor health, etc. – accentuate the basic division until a qualitative difference develops in the way of life of the two groups, resulting in practice that – although they do indeed travel "in the same boat" – they can no longer communicate with one another. In fact, the condition of those in the hold has become the indispensable price for the well-being of those on deck, as long as they travel together in this vessel.
If, in this light, those "on deck" really are "the same" as those "in the hold", why have Marxists never been able to wean the former from the captain's influence, despite specific, concentrated and capable efforts to this end (in the era ending with the mid-30s)? Quite obviously, those who live somewhat like the captain will never agree to "help" those in the bilges so long as (a) they are convinced that their lives, their course and their future are safe in the captain's hands; and (b) that the captain requires this way of life to include them in his circle. What those in the bilges know – but to which sailors on deck will never listen when told by "the lowly" (who are the only ones who really know it to tell) – is that the whole boat is¬
— 213 —
leaking like a sieve. Yet, as long as those in the hold are forced to main the pumps, the old hulk will stay afloat far longer than its condition warrants – and the sailors on deck perceive no cause for alarm.
Of course, if it is insisted that "the proletariat in the main capitalist countries" must LEAD the world – including colonial – revolution, the iron logic requires "proof" that workers in both situations have "the same problems" and "the same interests".
Yet, by placing such thoughts on paper, one is accused rather loudly of espousing, rather than reporting, them:
"You are disrupting anti-imperialist unity", claim the critics. "By bringing in arguments irrelevant to the main struggle, you are causing disunity."
Exactly how a fact-based argument which puts into question the main tactical line of the moment can be "irrelevant" to the "main struggle" is a mystery which only these fairy-tale tellers can clear up – if they would. Furthermore, in any case it is not the reporter but imperialism which long ago created the real gulf between the world labor aristocracy and colonial peoples, a gulf based on the demonstrable material reality that the former enjoys a well-being achieved under present circumstances, directly or indirectly, at the expense of the latter.
For this reason, allies for Liberation in metropolitan countries AT PRESENT must come from elsewhere than from the labor aristocracy. And in fact, today (1968), a real U.S. Left is arising, with its vanguard in the most exploited, the Black Freedom Fighters who are already in some cases consciously aligning themselves with the world's freedom movements. This U.S. Left has white allies, but they ARE NOT – and at present CANNOT be – in the unions.
Consider where the New Left in the U.S. is headed:
"... the Vietnamese revolutionaries ... offer a clear and positive ... vision of something better than the misery and oppression to which they had grown accustomed.
"A not too dissimilar vision is sweeping the oppressed and colonized black communities of this country ...
— 214 —
"But to have goals ... is not enough. The Vietnamese, through the Lao Dong (Communist) Party in the North and the NLF (in the South) have managed to create effective disciplined organizations which can achieve ... the popular demands. Movement people in this country have rightly been turned off by ... parties which degenerated into dictatorships and were the vanguard of nothing. Yet, and ... especially ... in the black movement, an increasing need is felt for disciplined organizations which can be effective in struggle ... Black militants frequently speak of the need for such disciplined cadre organizations ... if serious struggles are to be waged."6
In a word, advanced metropolitan militants have begun to act upon their experience of the kind of facts set forth thus far in this text. By relying on the world's freedom struggle as focal point, they are opening a vital "Second Front" in the heart of reaction's fortress. (The "First Front", thus far, has been mainly in Vietnam.)
Here is the point of reporting the facts of metropolitan life: to hasten the REAL revolutionization of those sectors of that society who do not draw their main sustenance out of super-exploitation but are, in varying degrees, super-exploited themselves.
All talk of the present "revolutionary" nature of the world's industrial proletariat has the objective effect, willy-nilly, of preventing such real political development in metropoles, whether the talkers are conscious of this or not.
[— 215 —]
E F F E C T O N W E S T E R N M A R X I S T S
O F W R O N G E S T I M A T E O F L A B O R A R I S T O C R A C Y
Marxists in the West have never balked at admitting colonialism's immense rewards for "their" ruling class. They concede, since Lenin said so, that the system may benefit a few Western workers. But the more statistics show those "few" growing in number, the less these Marxists care even to mention the labor aristocracy – even to this moment when basic proletarians are acting, in metropolitan areas like England, in a most unproletarian manner.
But it is self-contradictory and harmful to "the correct handling of contradictions among the people" to nod vigorous assent that imperialism does squeeze colonial peoples, yet – by refusing to face facts – deny the most important consequences:
Under the tutelage of Social Democracy and racism, Western workers have, because on the whole it has treated so many of them so well, been helping to prop up a system which cannot survive real colonial freedom. With an infallible instinct for their own presently-dominant class interests* which Social Democracy and/or racism expresses, the labor aristocracy senses that, within "its" system, colonial peoples could – if such an achievement were possible, which it is not – achieve freedom worthy of the name only at the expense of metropolitan living standards. In fact, those colonial people who have attained real freedom have done so only because they left the system.
How have Marxists living amidst this labor aristocracy reacted to such irrefutable logic? From their well-appointed studios they have poured forth a veritable Niagara of articles and books promulgating their main proposition on colonialism, that, under a super-profit-nurtured system, it is conceivable for colonial peoples¬
— 216 —
to be "given" their freedom without infringing on, if not actually bolstering, living standards in the "home" countries. Thereby, they objectively deny that sometimes a contradiction can develop where none grew before; that under some conditions a good thing can turn into a bad thing. And thereby, too, they have passed up the chance fully to illumine the parasitic workings of a system which divides to rule and turns people blind to their own deeper interests. And this failure constitutes political defection, for it has permitted Western workers to pursue purely economic goals in a spirit even more inimical to that revolutionary brotherhood which Lenin dubbed "proletarian internationalism".*
As they watch their TVs or drive their cars,** the majority of Western workers smile cynically at what they regard as quaint fancies; and, passively or actively, they contradict them when the chips are down – while the influence o
r[f] real Marxism in their midst has plunged to an unprecedented low.
Under the tutelage of Social Democracy and racism, Western workers have learned no real truths about socialism. They have vaguely assumed, when they think about it at all, that socialism would somehow destroy their own present good conditions, perhaps because they have heard that its "aim" is to rectify visible economic inequalities throughout the world by enforcing a "leveling" which, for them, would mean a big come-down virtually to the "poverty" line.
But how have Marxists resident in the world's rich cities countered these lies by the "labor lieutenants"? First, always foremost, by assuring the wellfed labor aristocracy that it needs socialism because "it is not living well".
By thus correlating exploitation solely with poverty, such Marxists have for decades left the ideological arena open for Social Democracy to spread its lies about the source of the system's benefits to Western workers. Lenin's characterization and analysis of parasitism as the chief feature of the whole system is ignored and forgotten, a sin for which the Marxists in the West are quite deservedly paying heavily, at least in lack of influence.
— 217 —
When this "poverty approach" fails, metropolitan Marxists switch to extolling an infant system (long screened by kept publicity media from public view "at home") beset by real and potential military intervention, economic encirclement, and historically-conditioned low levels of internal accumulation – operating, moreover, according to moral standards currently incomprehensible to the vast majority in the venal West.
Yet both these types of propaganda misfire even worse than before nowadays because the most venerated of socialist parties, with the original assistance, benediction and accompaniment of most of its Western followers, has lost its way: all Revisionism's crimes are committed in the name of "socialism".
So, when Western workers take their annual paid vacations, some of which in the U.S. are now 13 weeks long,1 they can only compare imperialist-falsified "new worlds" with their own well-established system's gifts to them of material well-being; and they smile, unmoved. Seeing the resulting rejection of their own tenets, certain Marxists thereupon bow low and murmur placatingly: "As YOU say, dear Sirs."
Under the tutelage of Social Democracy and racism, Western workers have been assured that imperialism – by its absorption of the many territories and peoples still economically ingestible – is "really" evolving quite peacefully into socialism without need for class, or any other, struggle. It is, Western labor has been taught, due solely to collaborating with "benevolent" o
f[r] "intelligent" imperialists that their high living standards have been achieved or can be maintained. Communist union leaders in industrialized countries play "snap the whip" in the Social Democratic line, and wind up panting, with the majority of union members, after purely economic goals.
As far as they themselves are concerned, Western workers at the bench know full well how the boss gets rich every day. In the fact of their exploitation, therefore, exists the material basis out of which to link their own needs with those of the class brothers "overseas". But this can NOT be done with an economic approach; it is a political matter.
Yet, when for the first time in more than a century there is¬
— 218 —
a political strike in a Western country, it happens in England with Social Democracy in the saddle, in support of a virulent form of racism! This speaks volumes about the real position of Western Marxists in the world proletariat. It reveals, in communist union "leaders" and their mentors, a singular blankness toward the integral nature of the system of which they and their members form only a single part.
But how has the labor aristocracy's Marxist section countered these fantasies? Monotonously, it joins the chorus that most colonies have now – because "imperialism sees the hand-writing on the wall" – been "given" what Western labor is assured is their "freedom". Or, failing that, when "freedom" is "scheduled", it pretends this is due to the "support" of the "revolutionary working class in the main capitalist countries". Such Marxists prate of the "far-seeing section of U.S. ruling circles", and solemnly egg the labor aristocracy into therefore supporting imperialism's rapacious political candidates in its lucrative parliamentary game. And, with their "peaceful co-existence" between "the witch" and "Hansel and Gretel" all dressed up as "new theory", they bore the world by trotting out the political skeletons of Bernstein and Kautsky.
Yet, this "non-violent" or "flexible" approach has been tried in Guatemala, Brazil, British Guiana, Congo Kinshasa, Ghana, Indonesia, and elsewhere. Events around the world today have surely made it obvious that whenever capitalism exists, it pays not the slightest heed to the sycophantic slobberings of its own agents, making short work of all who try to alter even by a hair's breadth its own precipitate decline.
No wonder that, at least, the Western worker – abandoned by real Marxism-Leninism "at home" – finds he can heed "the Marxists" after all: they have now started using words he has been hearing before. They have become "respectable", even though to attain this shining goal they have had to forfeit leadership to senior Social Democracy. After all, that old tart has performed the same antics longer, more skilfully and with far bigger (electoral) "success".
So, colonial babies continue to die in their millions before their first birthdays roll around.
— 219 —
The way to counteract existing lies is not by investing new ones; nor is it by agreeing with the old ones but "proving" they mean something else. This procedure by "Marxian economists" has led its proponents into objectively reinforcing apologists for a rotten Status Quo, either by the manifest failure of "conclusions" drawn from poverty in the West, or by creating the illusion that the system itself can be "improved" by making a totally parasitic set-up less parasitic – with the assistance, if not under the leadership, of the top parasites themselves!
Though the world's Marxists say: "In the capitalist countries, the basic contradiction* is between the imperialist ruling class and the proletariat",** mechanical minds refuse to admit that a basic¬
* See Chapter Reference Note 10, Chapter I.
** According to some Marxists writing today, agreement by the kind of "Marxists" being discussed above on this point may constitute the seat of their troubles: "Let us ... stress the fact that of course the history of all hither-to existing society is the history of class struggle, but class struggle is NOT the final motive force behind development, the contradiction between classes is NOT the fundamental contradiction in class society.
"Mao Tse-tung writes in 'On Contradiction': 'When Marx and Engels applied the law of contradiction in things to the study of the socio-historical process, they discovered the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, they discovered the contradiction between the exploiting and exploited classes and also the resultant contradiction between the economic base and its superstructure (politics, ideology, etc.), and they discovered how these contradictions inevitably lead to different kinds of social revolution in different kinds of class society. When Marx applied this law to the study of the economic structure of capitalist society, he discovered that the basic contradiction of this society is the contradiction between the social character of production and the private character of ownership. This contradiction manifests itself in the contradiction between the organized character of production in the individual enterprises and the anarchic character of production in society as a whole. In terms of class relations, it manifests itself in the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
"The contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat – the two basic classes in capitalist society – is the class expression of that very contradiction which is defining capitalist society, the con-¬
— 220 —
contradiction may become obscured by a subsidiary one, which for many reasons becomes temporarily its principal aspect. For them, if a situation has a main conflict, therefore no other can enter the picture, let alone play a major role in it.
"Marxist" daydreams – built on refusal to face unpleasant or unforeseen developments – about how the decaying system could be made to "work better" are wasted time and effort. They make a mockery of any claim by such dreamers to being "revolutionary". The same time and effort might have gone into using existing facts, interpreting them in ways consistent with what every Western worker knows, the only "hook" on which truth may be hung to gain his respect. In such ways, it might have been possible to explain how the system really works, and to have produced proof that precisely in abolishing imperialist parasitism lies the secret of true, feasible economic democracy; lies the KEY to socialism. For, under that system, the astronomical drain of society's resources that a parasitic economy now sucks for private gain from the inexhaustible well-spring of man's labor-power could be turned into wealth for all (even colonial peoples) within a historically relatively short period – with poverty for none.
Marx had shown how to do this when he had said:
"Profit can only increase rapidly if the price of labor, if relative wages, decrease just as rapidly ...
"To say that the worker has an interest in the rapid growth of capital is only to say that the more rapidly the worker increases the wealth of others, the richer will be the crumbs that fall to him, the greater is the number of workers that can be employed and called into existence, the more can the mass of slaves dependent on capital be increased ...
"If capital is growing rapidly, wages may rise; the profit of capital rises incomparably more rapidly. The material¬
tradiction between social production – big industry, division of labor – and private ownership of the means of production, private seizure of products. The struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat, therefore, is a result of capitalist society itself, and in the final analysis it depends on the more or less predominant balance between the relations of production and the productive forces in capitalist society, how sharp the class struggle is."2
— 221 —
position of the worker has improved, but at the cost of his social position. The social gulf that divides him from the capitalist has widened."3
Marxists in the West have interpreted this profound analysis on a "national" basis in a system which, if it ever did, no longer has much national meaning. They have cried "poverty" at home, while ignoring the international character of the "widening social gulf". They have closed their eyes to metropolitan parasitism.
What Western workers must be made, sooner or later, to see is this: as long as imperialism can fall back upon colonies (in name or fact), it has in the super-exploitation of colonial peoples, including those enjoying political independence, the magic cushion against its own inner contradictions which was defined earlier, and set at a recent $77.2 billion in the U.S.* By grinding "overseas" subjects down still more, the ensuing super-profits streaming to metropolitan capitals keep the "home" workers quiet chewing on the latest bone tossed to them f
or[ro]m the fatted calf. This magic cushion thus far not only has protected imperialism's industrial centers from the total effects of its growing inner contradictions; it has also shielded the world labor aristocracy from having to share very greatly the burdens of advancing economic chaos resulting therefrom.
Even though eventually the system must crash because of the historical development of such contradictions, the size of colonial casualties that are currently being paid, and would still have to be paid, for unnecessary postponement of the inevitable indicts the alleged "friends" of colonial liberation as long as they persist in their course.
Men's minds are conditioned by their material environment. The ugly truth is that the super-profits on which imperialism continues to rely to escape its multiplying difficulties will dry up only after colonial liberation has been economically successful on a large enough portion of the globe to affect this source of imperialism's artificially prolonged life in some massive way. After¬
* See Page 102, above.
— 222 —
that, the Western labor aristocracy will be forced to see with its own eyes that colonial peoples (a) can manage very well in general without them; (b) can organize societies specifically superior to those of the West in material comfort, education and culture; and (c) can teach them, "the proud whites", lessons, despite having for so long been depicted by imperialism as "inferior".
At their present level of understanding, any real Western support for liberation could come ONLY as the result of lofty moral standards. But a people living partially off stolen wealth are unlikely to build up high ideals. Nor can such ideals be instilled by continuing to pat the labor aristocracy on the head, repeating endlessly how "nicely" it is behaving toward its "class brothers" overseas. It already owns a grossly over-inflated class ego, which is virtually worthless to the liberation struggle. Before the labor aristocracy "in the main capitalist countries" can qualify for the exalted role assigned to it by Social Democracy, ra
s[c]ism and revisionism, it is going to have to come down off its high horse, starting specifically with its obligations to its "overseas" class brothers whom it has, for its own betterment, for so long cynically allowed to be done out of so much of their wages, and whose agonies it has watched with that "objectivity" and lack of "unseemly" emotion so prized by the imperialist murderers and their apologists and extollers.
Furthermore, as the crisis in the imperialist system, focused on Vietnam, deepens, events themselves are going to force struggle upon these workers. It is very urgent, therefore, that it be entered upon with the greatest possible clarity.
Although struggle itself is usually pointed to as the guarantee of ideological clarity, events prove this to be by no means an automatic consequence.
The corollary to this is equally plain: that liberation CAN – and perhaps MAY HAVE TO at first – be won by colonial people with or without assistance from Western labor. For, the fight for colonial liberation is a fight for life. This has been proved wherever Liberation has adhered to the sound doctrine of self-reliance, notably in Korea, Vietnam and China.
— 223 —
At one time during imperialism's history, perhaps there was an alternative; but today, colonial suffering is an anachronism. All those infants who die when science and a decent life could save them; all those millions whose lives are cut off in mid-span, are casualties of today's class war just as much as their brothers whose life-blood spills visibly in Vietnamese, Congolese, Venezuelan or other "limited war" soil.
The progress of liberation demands above all that facts be faced at the earliest possible moment in order to expose colonial misery and death as the basic major source under imperialism of Western affluence, with socialism as the ONLY CURE for such misery.
And colonial territories are so rich in resources, they play such a key role in the trade of the West, while their peoples form such an overwhelming majority of world population, that with practical unity among themselves, they have a firm material base from which their victory can and will be achieved.
In this general context, facts expressed in these pages, though recording its objective absence, constitute no call to spurn Western labor assistance, when available, for liberation. Nor does facing the truth about the size, living standards, and inevitable resulting political consequences of the Western labor aristocracy involve "maligning" of the "proletariat" of imperialist citadels.
WHAT IS AT ISSUE IS THE ABILITY EVER REALLY TO REACH ANY DECISIVE SECTION OF THAT PROLETARIAT FOR REAL SUPPORT TO LIBERATION AND SOCIALISM IN TIME TO AFFECT MATERIALLY THE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES THAT LIBERATION'S ARMY IS HAVING TO PAY FOR ITS INEVITABLE TRIUMPH.
What is at stake is not the success of liberation, but its price.
In the opening of his famous memorial to Dr. Norman Bethune, that noble and true representative of the "Western proletariat" who was a middle-class professional, Mao Tse-tung of China said:
"Leninism teaches that the world revolution can only¬
— 224 —
succeed if the proletariat of the capitalist countries supports the struggle for liberation of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples and if the proletariat of the colonies and semi-colonies supports that of the proletariat of the capitalist countries."4
Do these words not contradict all that has just been said? Do they not specifically say that without the support of the Western proletariat, colonial liberation must fail?
No, they do not. What they say is that, in such a case, "the world revolution" will fail.
But Lenin had gone even further. He it was who said:
"The social revolution cannot be the united action of the proletarians of ALL countries for the simple reason that most of the countries and the majority of the world's population have not even reached, or have only just reached, the capitalist stage of development ...
"ONLY the advanced countries of Western Europe and North America are ripe for socialism ...
"Socialism will be achieved by the united action of the proletarians, not of all, but of a minority of countries, those that have reached the ADVANCED capitalist stage of development."5
Based mechanically on this statement, apparently, the Eastern European socialists and the Western Left and its followers are still claiming that, in OUR time when many new developments
g[h]ave occurred since Lenin wrote these words, the world revolution is still to be LED by the "working class in (precisely) these advanced capitalist countries".
But modern events are giving a new and broader interpretation to such words. Referring to the MATERIAL BASE, what Lenin said was true, then and today. The question is: WHICH countries fit the WHOLE picture? Are colonies not really at the most "advanced capitalist stage of development?" Note: he did NOT say, at the most "advanced stage of capitalist development". So, in the context of the system's "advanced" parasitism. History appears to have elevated the colonies.
One thing is certain in any case: this quotation does bring out the enormous significance, as one major "new development" since¬
— 225 —
Lenin's day, of the attainment of majority numerical status by the labor aristocracy in the United States.*
Actually, other words by this same Lenin bring out Chairman Mao's above meaning perhaps a bit more clearly:
"The social revolution cannot come about otherwise than in the form of an epoch in which are combined civil war by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie in the advanced countries and a WHOLE SERIES of democratic revolutionary movements, including the national-liberation movement, in the underdeveloped, backward and oppressed nation."6
Lenin made clear in a later portion of the same article that he was speaking specifically about the objective economic maturity of the more highly developed countries. The advance of the Afro-American Freedom struggle in the U.S. onto a revolutionary path, which has begun, would seem to suggest that such an epoch as Lenin described may now be coming into being. The "WHOLE SERIES" of events he portended may soon be in progress. Will it occur alone? Or will it be "combined" with "civil war" in the West?
The world revolution, or Lenin's "social revolution", can only mean the extension of socialism over all the earth. Even after the success of colonial liberation, that world revolution will therefore not be complete: there will still be "the West".
Today's struggle, it has been said, contends for the minds of men. In liberated China – an ex-colonial area – for the first time in history that struggle has entered the arena of culture in a practical mass way. Chinese Marxists, led by Chairman Mao, have already concluded that true revolutionaries cannot operate only politically and economically. They have the inescapable duty of participating in the cultural lists. There, their first task is "to sweep away monsters of all kinds".
COLONIALISM IS CURRENTLY THE WORLD'S FOREMUST SUCH "MONSTER".
Since the Western labor aristocracy is – as demonstrated – the¬
* See Table 8, Page 120, above.
— 226 —
present repository and active cherisher of this (and corollary) monsters – ideological left-overs of a dying world – it remains for the anti-colonial liberation movement to lead the way to the realization of man's loftiest aspi
t[r]ations. And, we have suggested, so matters will stand until colonial liberation has advanced far enough to force Western proletarians to face their exploiters "at home". The unstoppable total victory of liberation will be the first great full international leap along this noble road.
For then at least, in their bloody final battle with rapacious imperialism, the Western working classes, from whose eyes the ensuing bitter battles will rip the festering ideological blinders, will at last realize that liberation for colonial peoples is in their own real, long-run interests. The resulting struggle they mount to finish the world revolution in their own habitat will constitute an unbreakable support for colonial liberation.
In thta last tremendous conflict, but very likely not much before, the Western labor aristocracy will destroy its own position as "the principal social ... prop of the bourgeoisie", whose supply of bribes the colonial liberatory movement will virtually have eliminated. Nor can there be the slightest doubt that, when the Western proletariat does start its own final revolution, its colonial class brothers, being greatly advanced over Western workers by their conditions and struggles, will most assuredly give them every support.
Then the last window into Western minds will finally have been opened to let in the light of socialism, with its promise of self-salvation for the world's peoples. The Norman Bethunes will cease to be prophetic exceptions and, multiplying in the struggle, will become representative of the new Western worker.
— 227 —
R E L A T I O N S H I P B E T W E E N
W E S T E R N A N D C O L O N I A L W O R K E RS
Before that final revolutionary moment of which we have just been speaking arrives, however, solutions are needed for certain problems involving the relationships between Western and colonial workers. The problems have existed for a long time; solutions – still only on paper!
In his 1928 analysis of Social Democracy, Italy's Togliatti, in a search for such solutions, reached some conclusions which have not stood the test of time. The considerations which influenced him stemmed from some then-small theoretical aberrations.
One of these involved, precisely, the nature of the relationships between Western and colonial workers. The other was rooted in his consequence answer to a key question of the colonial revolutionary movement: WHO IS TO LEAD IT?
Togliatti had noted that
"... the process of unmasking the socialist agents of imperialism before the masses is not yet completed. There are masses which must still be reached in order ... to make them understand that the struggle against Social Democracy is part of the struggle against the bourgeoisie and imperialism. These masses exist today not only in the capitalist countries but also in the colonies."1
Togliatti's description of the task was prophetic: the influence of Social Democracy – specifically EUROPEAN Social Democracy – in the colonies has, for imperialism's benefit, done considerable damage to liberation. And there truly are "masses" in the colonies who are still gaining experience in distinguishing their friends from their foes.
But Togliatti's approach to the relationship which should exist between workers in colonies and those "at home" – though perhaps¬
— 228 —
prophetic – was not quite so commendable. Those "at home", he implied, must "make" the "others" understand.*
These germs of a Social Democratic attitude by Ercoli toward colonial masses simply sprouted to become the entire position on "colonial masses" of most Western Communist Parties and of the socialist ideologues of Eastern Europe. As a result, far from winning over such colonial masses, Western Marxists and Eastern Europe have instead themselves fallen into the Social Democratic trap.
A typical example of the growth of this position of late exists in one of a short series of policy statements for the 1964 elections by the British Communist Party, dealing "with certain immediate problems" rather, so they claim, than with tactical or long-range British Communist programmatic points.
A. British Communist attitude toward imperialism.
"The Tory, Liberal and Labour Parties still strive to maintain the outdated system of imperialism. This policy distorts the British economy and hampers the expansion of our industries and social services."2
To "distort" means either to "twist out of regular shape", literally or figuratively; or to "wrest from the true meaning; pervert". What is being said, then, by Englishmen calling themselves Marxist, is that imperialism is causing the British capitalist economy to deviate from its true nature. By implication, colonialism is simply an "aberration" of British capitalism, rather than its essence. If it could be removed (painlessly, of course), a more "regular" British economy, full of "our" expanding industries, would supposedly emerge, without need for any fundamental alteration in the system.
This is in no way distinguishable from the Social Democratic position on imperialism which Lenin castigated half a century ago, when he took on Karl Kautsky, the Bid Man of that era's revisionism:
* See Pages 265 ff., below.
— 229 —
"... we definitely come into conflict with K. Kautsky ... who defines imperialism as a POLICY which is 'preferred' by finance capital ..."3
Lenin's definition of imperialism, on the other hand, proved conclusively that, FAR from "perverting" capitalist economy, colonialism fulfills it. In the same speech, Lenin emphatically insisted that
"The distinguishing feature of imperialism is the domination ... of finance capital, the striving to annex ... ALL KINDS of countries."3
B. The British Communist Party and socialism.
It is significant that this British Communist "short policy statement" about colonialism does not ONCE use the word "socialism". In this, the metropolitan Party would appear to lag behind even the colonial nationalist parties, which in a number of cases started forth to gain, or to govern, their newly independent countries with "socialism" inscribed on their banners.
C. The cause of colonial poverty.
Speaking of colonial peoples, the British statement says that
"the cause of their poverty is robbery – robbery by the big imperialist firms in whose interests the colonial system was established."3
How delicate! Is it the system of imperialism, or only the system's "big firms", which commits colonial robbery? What of the immense benefit not just to "big firms", but to whole Western peoples? What role is played by Syrian, Lebanese and Asian traders who wax fat in Africa? What of the hordes of individuals – often totally incompetent – sent by governments and international organizations as "technicians" to colonies at enormous salaries such as they could never drag down "at home"?
Furthermore, if something "was established", so too, it can presumably be "dismantled", inferentially at the whim of the same "big imperialist firms" – if "someone" could only "persuade" them to do so. Obviously, British Communists see that the local Social¬
— 230 —
Democrats are no longer so adept at such persuasion and are offering themselves for the chore.
Colonialism constitutes the legs on which imperialism walks. Were legs "established" to serve the activity of walking, which, then, might conceivably be accomplished in some other way?
D. Relations between Metropoles and Ex-colonies.
Between ruling country and ex-colony, the British statement declares,
"In place of the old relations of exploitation and robbery, new relations of mutual benefit could be established."3
Such "mutual benefit" is envisioned by these British Communists thus:
– "Long-term credits on easy terms from Britain ... to reconstruct their economies, to build their industries, and to develop their agriculture.
– "They need ... a whole range of machinery and engineering products which British industry is well-suited to provide. Orders for such commodities could help to wipe out unemployment in many hard-hit areas of Britain and at the same time help the new states in Asia and Africa to build up their economies ...
– "The economic development of these states would ... make possible a continued flow of goods from Britain – and in return we could receive the numerous items, including foodstuffs, raw materials, processed goods, and certain lines of manufactures which these countries would be turning out.
– "More equitable prices too could be granted to the new states for their raw materials and this would help them place bigger orders here for the goods they require."3
(By what, incidentally, those "areas of Britain" were so "hard-hit" is politely passed over, as is the question of WHY British industry is "well-suited to provide" that "whole range of machinery and engineering products" which self-styled Marxists now propose to continue supplying to "ex" colonies.)
— 231 —
Involved in this set of proposals is not a mere academic "definition", but the question of whether or not Marxists accept or reject colonialism itself, which evoked and deliberately maintains this type of metropolitan-colony relationship.
Outlining its version of "new" relations of "mutual benefit", this "Communist" document repeats over and over that England, the metropolitan area, will supply "engineering goods" to "former" colonies in return for "foodstuffs, raw materials, processed goods" (i.e., raw materials in a "secondary" condition) and ["]certain lines of manufacture" common to colonial areas (i.e., assembled manufactures using metropolitan parts and processes). So what is "new"? This is the same old horse-rider relationship of OLD colonialism: "on easy terms" means "at lower interest rates than before ..." Interest is a form of profit; extraction of profit is exploitation. So British "Communists" blandly announce their intention to continue exploiting the colonies and using them to solve "home" problems.
In this "policy statement" one sees why Africans – and other colonial and ex-colonial peoples – more and more seriously object to accepting advice, let alone "leadership", from outside their own ranks. Quite plainly, too many of their "advisers" – whatever their noble intentions – have for too long had a great material stake in colonial subjugation. As far as colonial peoples themselves can see, these "advisers" have as yet shown no practical inclination to renounce that stake.
[— 232 —]
E A R L Y M A R X I S T I L L U S I O N S A B O U T
I N T E R N A T I O N A L W O R K I N G - C L A S S R E L A T I O N S
What this British Communist Party policy statement on colonialism proves is that Marxists have not been exempt from Social Democratic influence. On the contrary, with their compatriots, they have shard in the spoils. In saying so, no moral judgment is intended; merely a statement of FACT regarding a position of which the origins can be found in Tolgiatti's spe
a[e]ch of 1928, which can now be seen as an incomplete exposition of colonialism, especially around the question: WHO IS TO LEAD THE REVOLUTION IN THE COLONIES?
Winding up this long speech, Togliatti quoted "the most important point in the resolution" of the Social Democrats at Brussels in 1928:
"The Labour and Socialist International calls upon all its affiliated parties to get into touch with the independence movement of the oppressed peoples in order to support them ... and to assist in the development of the political and trade union labor movement in these countries, influencing them in the spirit of democracy and socialism."1
Togliatti wondered whether this call imposed any threat to Communists:
"Are we really today faced with the danger of reformism in the colonies?"1
He answered himself:
"If it is true that the basis for the development of reformism in the ranks of the working class is to be found in the fact that the bourgeoisie, by enjoying special profits and especially surplus profits from the colonies, is in a position to corrupt a section of the working class, we must also state that there are in the colonies very¬
— 233 —
special conditions which favor the formation of a labor aristocracy and its liaison with colonial imperialism. This phenomenon may perhaps offer an even greater danger in the colonies than the reformist movement which is developing in the ruling countries."1
What facts did he summon to support his contention? He declared:
"First of all, and in the first stages of development in general, the labor movement is much more inclined to subject itself to the influence of another class than in its more advanced stages. Consequently it is necessary to take into consideration the particular character of the labor movement in the colonies and the fact that the colonial proletariat is still bound up with certain strata of the petty-bourgeoisie and that it includes a vast number of gradations among which the imperialist bourgeoisie finds sections which it can corrupt and make tools for its domination.
"Reformism, then, exists in the colonies as well as in the advanced capitalist countries as the result of an influence which is exercised upon the proletariat by another class. In all colonial countries in recent times we may observe this tendency to the formation of a reformist movement. It works side by side with the tendency of the colonial petty-bourgeoisie to desert the camp of the revolution at a given moment and to ally itself with the imperialists. I do not wish to go into details, but the problem exists and we must deal with it ...
"Now we must thoroughly understand that it is in the colonies themselves that we must struggle against reformism."1
To illustrate where Togliatti's position eventually led, an example is now offered:
"The growth of the national liberation movement is facilitated by the revolutionary struggle of the working class in the main capitalist countries, a struggle which weakens the position of imperialism at home, thus hindering monopoly capital from exercising its colonial policy in the crude form of the past."2
— 234 —
Possibly anticipating disagreement, the authors warn anyone wishing to deserve the title "revolutionary" to accept this position on pain of
"taking the leadership of the world revolutionary movement out of the hands of the working class (of the main capitalist countries - H.E.) and its offspring, the socialist world system ... leaving it in the hands of the national bourgeoisie which in most countries heads the liberation movement."2
The first thing to be noted from the above remarks is this: it clearly implied that modern imperialist policy toward colonies, often called "neo-colonialism" because it no longer works "in the crude form of the past", therefore constitutes an improvement for colonial peoples. But, in fact, today such peoples are discovering – and being vindicated by statistics in many respects – on the price scissors, growth of repatriated profits, non-equivalent exchange, the results of foreign "aid", and the like – that neo-colonialism is costing the masses of colonial peoples more than ever before. As has already been suggested, it merely elevates a tiny new élite composed mostly of comprador exploiters to a relative affluence that shows up as "improved statistics" in certain "international studies".* For the vast colonial masses, material and cultural conditions continue to WORSEN under neo-colonialism – because colonial labor power is the source of super-profits, as before.
Of course, the authors of the cited quotation have not here claimed that the "revolutionary struggle of the working class" in capitalist countries has SO FAR "weakened ... imperialism at home" as to make it give up its colonial policy altogether. But even what is said – that neo-colonialism is imperialism's response to "struggle at home" – amounts to crediting the Western labor aristocracy with such hard-won success as the national liberation movement has managed thus far at high cost to wrest from brutal imperialism – often in the face of guns sent against it by "Labour" or "Socialist" government.
* See Chapter XVII, Pages 135 ff., above.
— 235 —
To see how this modern position logically grew out of earlier ones, we consider now one by one the point raised by Togliatti in his 1928 speech quoted at the beginning of this Chapter:
1. "... the bourgeoisie, by enjoying special profits and especially surplus profits from the colonies, is in a position to corrupt a section of the working class."
Lenin had expressed the same thought in his Imperialism – with the exception that the only "section of the working class" to which he referred was that in imperialist countries. But Togliatti uses Lenin's concept in order to point at the colonial working class. This is a significant difference, as we shall see.
DOES the bourgeoisie corrupt a section of the colonial working class? If so, which section?
In Africa, it has not always been necessary to bribe the working class. At first, the imperialists extracted super-profits from their colonies by sheer unmitigated brutality and terrorism against all sections of the African working class (which always fought back).
When it became apparent, especially after World War II, that (a) the recent anti-fascist victory would make such unrelieved brutality internationally embarrassing at a too-potentially-revolutionary historical moment, and (b) that it was in any case having the opposite effect from the one intended – a change took place.
A small number of African workers in slightly "advanced" jobs or positions, such as mine foremen or office head clerks, suddenly found themselves raised from salaries in the environs of £5 to £7 a month to £30 or £40, with their "titles" changed: they became "advisers" to the white boss. This was not without effect. This small number of African workers did become bosses' tools.
In the late 40s, the British and other imperialists gave up their obviously futile struggle against the formation of African unions. Unable to fend off the inevitable, they installed these same "advisers" as the core of new "legal" unions (or other organizations), many times in leadership positions. In Ghana, for example, these trade union leaders were the ones who – with glorified civil servants¬
— 236 —
and professionals, the colonial petty-bourgeoisie – helped form the United Gold Coast Convention. When the latter evolved into the Convention People's Party, however, it did so without these workers and officials, many of whom stayed with the UGCC.
Thus, a tiny fraction of super-wages stolen from the African working class did return to an even tinier fraction of it as bribes which created this small nucleus of a labor aristocracy "in the colonies".* This nucleus did, as Togliatti said, ally itself with the petty-bourgeoisie.
2. "There are in the colonies very special conditions which favor the formation of a labor aristocracy and its liaison with colonial imperialism."
That there are in the colonies "very special conditions" goes without saying. BUT – do they "favor the formation of a labor aristocracy" or "its liaison with colonial imperialism"?
What ARE these "very special conditions"? Do they not consist of a central super-exploitation affecting the entire colonial population? Does this in turn not give that entire population a common incentive against "liaison with colonial imperialism"? At imperialism's own initiative, such a common incentive was even carefully (although unintentionally) planted when colonialism used a visible trait common to the majority of Africans – blacks skin color: the varied forms of colonial discrimination, from brutal to subtle, affected to one degree or another everyone whose skin color fit the ticket.
(Of course, there are still class differences despite such "solidarity factors". But are they at this time more "favorable" to the formation of a labor aristocracy than imperialism itself is to the formation of a new colonial élite? Which is the main contradiction in the colonies: the one between the colony and the metropolis; or, the one inside the colony itself between the new élite, many of them of the petty-bourgeoisie, and colonial workers? This is the point at issue here: until the success of the national-democratic revolution, the internal contradictions in colonies must be subordinate to that of the colony virtually as a whole against metropolitan imperialism.)
* See Chapter XVII, Pages 135 ff., above.
— 237 —
Second, Lenin had noted that the labor aristocracy in the super-exploiting areas are the beneficiaries of super-profits extracted from colonies. The few Africans bribed by imperialism are no "aristocracy" by imperialist standards, as a glance at wage levels immediately discloses.
In the mid-50s, according to one authority,
"It takes an African worker usually a year to earn as much as an average worker in Britain earns in a month."3
If that African worker is a bit more than mid-way up in this writer's "one shilling a day up to under five shillings a day" as the average African wage, he earns about £5 a month. If the African "labor aristocrat" makes £30, his wage is six times that of the African laborer. But the average British worker who makes twelve times as much as the African laborer thereby makes twice as much as the African "aristocrat". And that British worker is still a long way from the standards of the highly paid crafts that make up the cream of the cream of Western labor élites. For example, an American building construction worker in 1950 earned £114 ($320) per month, or twice as much as the British worker; in 1960, the American made more then £185 ($520);4 that is, four to six times that of the few African labor élite.
In a word, the most favorable circumstances in colonies did NOT tend to create a labor aristocracy. Furthermore, the bribed in colonies actually are a small comprador élite; not, by and large or in as yet politically significant numbers, colonial workers.*
What colonial conditions, rather, helped spawn was the expansion of the WESTERN labor aristocracy. This is a crucial distinction.
3. "This phenomenon may perhaps offer an even greater danger in the colonies than the reformist movement which is developing in the ruling countries."
To find out if this is so, history must be consulted about the results of bribing these few African workers. What was the¬
* See Page 136 ff., above.
— 238 —
reaction of colonial peoples to them? Are African sell-out artists blessed with a mass following which militantly pursues "reformism"?
First, when the Convention People's Party was formed in Ghana, and representatives of Ghana's tiny "labor aristocracy" remained with the UGCC, together with what there was of a colonial bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, where did the popular masses go? History records that they supported the CPP, NOT the "labor aristocracy". The same, by and large, is true of other African countries which pursued a progressive or socialist-oriented course. This African "labor aristocracy" was either swept aside into the backwashes of history, or – as in Ghana – it loudly "supported" liberation.
Second, after 1949, in metropolitan countries, the bourgeoisie's "labor lieutenants" gathered in the ICFTU aimed at directing the colonial labor movement. This was entirely in line with Social Democracy's cited function of ensuring in the interests of super-wages the continued flow of super-profits from colonies to industrial areas.
At first, the ICFTU tried to keep the colonial labor movement "non-political". But by the late 50s and early 60s, the colonial labor movement itself had thoroughly frustrated this aim. As a result, in 1959, a series of "shake-ups" began inside the ICFTU during which the U.S. AFL-CIO first captured control of the Executive Board (Brussels, December 1959) and then, thwarted by the ousted but much-concerned British T.U.C. in their exercise of this control, split away from the ICFTU to set up the African-American Labor Center in New York.
How did Africans react to these representatives of the world's real labor aristocracy? Was the ICFTU, under their surveillance, making progress on that continent? Or were they being dislodged from one position after another? Did they not, in fact, stand in real danger of being swept off African soil altogether? And do not these facts tend to explain in some measure imperialism's military interventions, and use of local military puppets, in the mid-60s in so many African countries where – quite significantly, as in Ghana – the ICFTU is brought back to dominate the local trade union scene?
— 239 —
It is wrong to say that the formation of even a small and relatively poor "labor aristocracy" in colonies is a "greater danger" than the reformist movement in the ruling countries. A greater danger to what? Togliatti was obviously discussing the colonial liberation movement. Was the colonial "labor aristocracy" then a "greater danger" to colonial liberation than "reformism" in the ruling countries? To say this can only indicate failure to understand what "reformism in the ruling countries" was really about – which is just what we are saying actually happened.
4. "It is necessary to take into consideration the particular character of the labor movement in the colonies and the fact that the colonial proletariat is still bound up with certain strata of the petty bourgeoisie, and that is contains a vast number of gradations."
The "particular character of the labor movement in the colonies" does NOT rest primarily either on its ties with any other class nor on "the vast number of gradations" in it. Both features are consequences of the colonial labor movement's character, not its essence.
The particular character of African labor is that it is super-exploited in all gradations, along with the petty bourgeoisie to whom it has ties. Even its "bourgeoisie", if such a designation is even proper, cannot exist alone, but must abjectly tie itself to outside imperialism.
Thus, universal super-exploitation of African people gives them primarily a basis for cohesion rather than for separation into sections. That is why some Africans who did link up with imperialism were forced when the chips were down to turn, at least for the moment, against imperialism and to side with liberation, or be swept away.
The significant thing about the colonial labor movement is not that it is "still bound up with certain strata of the petty bourgeoisie". Whether true or not, the significant thing about it is its super-exploitation by overseas imperialism.
— 240 —
5. "Reformism, then, exists in the colonies as well as in the advanced capitalist countries as a result of an influence which is exercised upon the proletariat by another class."
Since the subject involved in this quotation is extensive, it is discussed separately in the next Chapters.
— 241 —
"REFORMISM" AT HOME AND ABROAD
There is a distinct difference between efforts from the metropolitan center to set up "reformist" movements in colonies in the image of Social Democrat "at home", and the growth of such a phenomenon from colonial ranks.
A number of such specific attempts have been made by European Social Democracy. All have failed: there has been no case of any mass Social Democratic party ever having been formed in a colony, nor can there be, due to the material conditions in colonies and the "function" of the colonial working class as a reservoir of super-profits.
Nevertheless, Western Social Democracy constitutes a specific and growing danger to colonial liberation movements because it has refined the old techniques of bribery as well as because the material conditions for its success continue to escalate with the decay of the system.
Therefore, insofar as "reformism" in colonies is concerned, it would be instructive to examine some actual efforts to spread European Social Democracy in these territories. In addition, there will be discussion of a possibly related phenomenon: the fact that certain highly developed industrialized nations with large, affluent labor aristocracies have never produced mass Social Democratic parties.
Western Social Democracy has made two specific attempts to build mass parties in their own image. The first was in GREECE, as the following statement notes:
"One of the weaknesses of the Greek bourgeoisie and its foreign patrons is that no party of any significance of the Social Democratic type has been able to take root in Greece, although not a few attempts have been made in this direction. (Much effort is being exerted now to create such a party artificially with the aid of the socialist¬
— 242 —
International and with the strong support of German Social Democracy.)"1
The second such attempt was in CANADA:
"There is as yet no real and workable understanding between the working class of French Canada and the working class of English-speaking Canada ... The part played by the leadership of the New Democratic Party (the Social Democratic Party in Canada ...) has been to flinch from full support for French Canadian national rights ... the New Democratic Party, for this and other reasons, has little appeal along the French Canadian masses. Their efforts to form a mass N.D.P. in French Canada have failed largely because they have failed to become the champions of French Canadian national freedom. The N.D.P. leadership is tinged with Anglo-Canadian chauvinism and even those among them who sense the historic nature of the French Canadian movement refrain from drawing the full conclusion for fear of having to combat the ingrained chauvinism of their followers."2
Recognising the labor aristocracies of industrialized countries as the material basis of Social Democracy would have made both these failures predictable: representatives of labor aristocracies cannot easily persuade the very workers out of whose super-exploitation metropolitan well-being in significant part derives to acquiesce in their own even greater super-exploitation.
The salient feature of the Japanese Socialist party seems to be that it is split into a Right and Left wing. Why? Has there been some particular circumstance setting Japan off from other colonial or semi-colonial areas?
First of all, an authority on Latin America, engaged in showing that "under-development" was really a "growth" with accompanied metropolitan "development", both having constituted the single ingestion of the whole system, asked the following question:
"Why, one may ask, was resource-poor but unsatellized¬
— 243 —
Japan able to industrialize so quickly at the end of the century while resource-rich Latin American countries and Russia were not able to do so ... after the same forty years of development efforts?... Japan was not satellized either during the Tokugawa or the Meiji period and therefore did not have its development structurally limited as did the countries which were so satellized."3
After the Meiji period, however, the island WAS "satellized", and Japan thereby entered its DUAL Position in the WORLD imperialist economic system: First, vis-a-vis ASIA, Japan was for better than half a century (and is again, with U.S. assistance) an imperialist power. Its ruling class has reached an advanced stage of development as an industrial capitalism interlocked with banking capital in the classical imperialist pattern of monopoly with its aggressive search for and attainment of colonial areas. Its expansion on the Asian mainland brought in super-profits which created, among sections of the large Japanese proletariat, a labor aristocracy which definitely benefited from the proceeds of super-exploitation by Japanese finance capital in Korea, China and other Asian areas. These colonies were distant: the super-exploited did not live in the "home" labor aristocracy's midst. Under such conditions, as we shall see, a mass Social Democratic Party usually develops.
On the other hand, vis-a-vis the UNITED STATES, Japan has been and remains in a semi-dependent position, with American monopoly capital playing an ever more dominant role in the Japanese economy, as an extremely valuable study of this question revealed:
"All measures taken by the U.S. imperialists in Japan after the war were, in the last analysis, for the ... establishment of U.S. domination over Japan ... Japanese monopoly capital is subordinated to the United States in capital, raw material, technology and market. Ninety per cent of foreign capital introduced into Japan is from the United States. The amount of U.S. investments in Japan is rapidly increasing. A direct tie-up subordinating Japanese monopolies to U.S. monopolies is taking place. The enterprises jointly run by U.S. and Japanese capital numbered more than 200 as of the end of 1963."4
— 244 —
These figures suggest an economic position in which the Japanese population including a goodly portion of its labor aristocracy is to a certain degree super-exploited by American monopoly capital in a manner bringing to mind later developments in Western Europe. Such circumstances usually make the development of a mass Social Democratic Party unlikely.
Thus the Japanese economy is caught in a world dichotomy which the split in its Socialist Party expresses: the Right Wing, which is openly Social Democratic in the European sense, represents the Japanese labor aristocracy, collaborating with Japanese ruling circles in their colonialist role. The Left Wing, on the other hand, expresses the drive of the Japanese nation, led by the militant and ideologically-advanced section of its Communist Party, for national independence; i.e., to shake off the increasingly heavy yoke of U.S. imperialism.
From other colonial areas, the case of INDIA's Social Democrats may be taken as typical. During 1965, an American research fellow in India under a grant from the United States-India Comparative Education Exchange Program, showed that such Indian Social Democracy as exists has never been able to get off the ground; and even that was in definite danger of complete extinction, This would be a logical development of the well-known, intense "satellization" of India, leading to unmitigated super-exploitation of India's hungry masses. Some pertinent quotations on the subject follow:
"India claims to be a socialist country, and has been committed to a 'socialist pattern of society' for a number of years. Yet, at the present time, the Indian Left Wing is in the process of total collapse ... not limited to the democratic socialist organizations which have suffered a number of ruptures in the past year; the collapse extends to the Communist Party, which has split along Sino-Soviet lines, and is virtually paralyzed ...
"The two main (Congress Left) groups have been the Praja Socialist Party (PSP) and the Socialist Party. Until recently, the Praja Socialists, who are social democrats in the European tradition, were the largest socialist party in the parliament and one of the most important of the opposition groups in India ...
— 245 —
"Although the socialist movement has never been a mass movement (in India), it did have substantial support among intellectuals and in urban areas ...
"The future of the Communist movement in India is not much more hopeful than that of the socialists. There are at present in India two separate Communist Parties ... the right-wing Communist Party, led by veteran Bombay trade unionist, S.A. Dange ... receives strong ideological and financial support from the Soviet Union ...
"The Left Communists, however, have maintained a surprising degree of militancy, despite ... harassment and detention ...
"The future for a mass socialist movement has never been bright, and recent events indicate that ... the movement stands disunited, disillusioned, and virtually leaderless at a crucial period of its development ... India's commitment to a 'socialist pattern of society' has been seriously compromised."5
This "worry-worry" of a recipient of U.S. educational "aid" about Indian Social Democracy's weakening confirms our diagnosis that it is primarily forces in the WEST which spur this movement in colonies and neo-colonies. (Note, above, the fact that Social Democracy never had a mass following in – colonial or neo-colonial – India. Our analysis has led us to expect this.) The splits, maneuverings, and loss of prestige for Social Democracy in India further confirm that, as India's material conditions continue worsening under the blight of foreign (now mainly U.S. and Russian) investment, any existing "mass base" for Social Democracy dwindles away.* The quotations also support our conclusion that when "local" Social Democrats arise in such areas, what they are doing is mainly the "dirty work" of European Social Democracy: significantly, the largest and most effective Social Democratic party in India, such as it was, was "in the European tradition". And the class base of this European-oriented Social Democracy is pin-pointed as "intellectuals and ... urban areas", the soil out of which Social Democracy always arises in colonial areas.
The significance of the Dange faction in the Indian Communist Party and its reported reliance on Soviet support and assistance is¬
* See, however, Appendix II.
— 246 —
part of a world-wide phenomenon which is to be dealt with in a separate volume.
This American writer, above, found the mass support among the Indian Communist LEFT amazing enough to comment on several times. However, it is not so amazing; it merely proves that, in colonial areas, only a militant, genuinely revolutionary ideological position can count on mass support. Militancy and Social Democracy are, for very real material reasons discussed in these pages a number of times, mutually exclusive.
In countries like Southern Rhodesia and South Africa on that colonial continent where significant white minorities control the economies and collaborate with international imperialism, no mass Social Democratic parties have developed despite capitalism's spawning of distinct labor aristocracies made up of the white worker minority. Countries like these illustrate the qualitative difference between the metropolitan-based white labor aristocracy, formed from the spoils of super-exploitation of the most extreme type (based on color), and the tiny African labor pseudo-aristocracy examined earlier: the two exist side by side, so comparison is visible to the naked eye.
Since fuller understanding of this situation is to be obtained from a discussion of U.S. developments, it is to the latter that the next Chapter now turns.
[— 247 —]
" R E F O R M I S M " A N D R A C I S M
I N T H E U N I T E D S T A T E S
The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA has the world's largest and richest labor aristocracy. Yet no mass Social Democratic Party ever took root there as it did in England, Germany, Italy and other Western countries.
Many attempts have been made to explain this phenomenon. None, however, it seems to us, have really taken to heart the following words of Lenin:
"The difference between a definitely formed (Social Democratic) party ... and, say, a semi-formed incomplete party ... is unimportant. The important thing is that the economic desertion of a stratum of the labor aristocracy to the side of the bourgeoisie has matured and become an
d accomplished fact. The economic fact, this change in relations between classes, will find for itself political form of one kind or another without much 'difficulty'."1
These words suggest that the American lack of mass support for Social Democracy as such has its own significance which illumines Social Democracy's foundations. In fact, nowhere is the kind of political form this "change in relations between classes" takes of greater portent than where Social Democracy cannot operate in its own name.
Organized Socialism in the U.S. has had what is often called a "checkered" history. From mid-19th century on, it was a casualty of historical conditions. Waves of immigration from defeated revolutions in Europe, notably Germany in 1830 and 1848, had swept Marxist thought into the New World, Karl Marx himself had written for Horace Greeley's New York DAILY TRIBUNE. Carl Schurz, one of the best-known of these early German immigrants, had participated in Abraham Lincoln's Civil War government, and had later participated in the Reconstruction Era in the South between 1865 and 1876. Other German revolutionaries were active¬
— 248 —
in early U.S. trade unions. Some were responsible for inserting into early craft union constitutions clauses specifying socialism as "the only solution" for American workers. (Such clauses have since been removed in favor of prohibiting the right of "non-Caucasians" – meaning mostly, Afro-Americans – even to work in the given trade, let alone to become members of its union.)
All the same, Social Democracy as such knew no mass success among U.S. workers with their hard-bitten "Anglo-Saxon" traditions and their growing affluence. The high point of socialism in the U.S. came and went with Eugene Debs' almost-a-million* votes in 1912.
However, after the sell-out of the 1876 elections, its internal market now national in scope, the Northern bourgeoisie had shuddered at possible post-war unity among the exploited. Faced with such a possibility, nascent American imperialism cynically united in what it saw as self-protection with its erstwhile enemy, the conquered Southern plantation oligarchy, and at about the same time began allocating to "its own" (i.e., white) workers an ever-growing share of its profits. This, of course, was not the only reason that white labor in the more-and-more industrial North saw the new freedmen not as a class but as a threat to their own social position. Certainly official racism played its part in ensuring that, when the Afro-American was sold down the river, the sale was underwritten by all major U.S. Unions. Thus, Afro-Americans were made, then and to this day, to bear the chief burden of whatever suffering American workers do because of imperialist contradictions.
At the same time, white labor's anti-black stance ensured the destruction in the U.S. labor movement of Marxist influence,** so that U.S. labor grew up in a world minimum of socialist ideas. The current was there; but bourgeois reformism soon caught up with and¬
* 929,000 (Chapter XXI, Reference Note 1)
** The military crisis in Vietnam, stirring at first top revolutionary layers, may have made a dent in this situation. Whether the crisis continues and deepens rests first of all with what happens in Vietnam out of the Paris talks, and also with how much understanding of American realities can be brought home to the small U.S. revolutionary sector.
— 249 —
overwhelmed it. By mid-20th century, there were few avowed Social Democrats. But, of them, Sidney Hillman* was an arch-type. Such men had roots only in surroundings like the New York garment trades, where Middle-European immigrants to whom socialism was not unknown had, as part of American monopoly's policy of keeping its labor market saturated, been enticed to the Land of Opportunity.
These few real Social Democrats did, however, leave their mark on the U.S. scene through the activities of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who saved American imperialism for the imperialists against almost-insane opposition from some of the beneficiaries themselves.
While a Republican administration had fiddled with time-worn panaceas, the exploited had waxed even more restive, insisting on improvements in their situation in what American rulers saw as a most ugly and frightening way. Democrat Roosevelt had been swept into the Presidency on a wave of strikes, riots, hunger marches, huge demonstrations in the national capital and other signs of imminent revolution at home. Schooled in rough maxims which had guided their robber barons to power, the U.S. working class had publicly proven that it was not, like its European counterpart, to be bludgeoned into bearing alone the profound consequences of the epochal economic crisis.
It is an open secret that in this situation Social Democrats were invited – at the very historical moment when their German confrères were already shooting down "their own" workers in Berlin streets – to advise Roosevelt. And the genial New York aristocrat accepted their advice that in critical times, if financially possible, a ruling class which hopes to continue to rule must make large but not basic concessions to the angry working class. The Social Democrats stuck around in the New Deal administration until the crisis was safely over.
* SIDNEY HILLMAN: 1887-1946, b. Lith
au[ua]nia; to U.S. at age 20. From 1915, President, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. From 1939, Vice-President, CIO; Chairman Executive Council Textile Workers of America. With WIlliam S. Knudsen, from 1941, Co-Director, Office of Production Management (in Roosevelt Administration); From 1942, Head of Labor Division, War Production Board (also Administration).
— 250 —
The final solution came with a providential new war in Europe which opened new investment possibilities for U.S. monopoly, which quickly acted on the chance.
The substantial gains of American labor in the 40s and 50s of this century can, thus, be traced at least partly to Social Democratic origins. Why, then, did "socialism" fare so poorly in the U.S.A.?
One excellent picture of its inability to get started has been given by the American historian, Philip S. Foner.2
Among socialists in the U.S., ideological divisions prevented a united socialist movement, particularly among the numerous German immigrants who, already divided in Germany, had transplanted their differences onto American soil,3 at the same time as they acted as "carriers" of Marxist ideology.
However, these rifts of ideas were derivative before they became causative. It may be true to say, as Foner did,
"Had the labor movement and its allies among the Western farmers continued to exert their influence upon the industrialists and financiers in the Republican Party, as they had done in the years before the Civil War, the overthrow of progressive governments in the South might never have occurred."4
But slackening of labor-movement "pressure" on "the industrialists and financiers in the Republican Party" did not arise out of a vacuum without antecedents: The wide-open frontier and a liberal lands policy; waves of cheap immigrant labor to increase splits inside the working class; the aggressiveness and unity binding the capitalist class in the North, all these and more formed economic and political foundations for the thereby-inevitable ideological splits which rent U.S. labor in its formative years. And such splits caused it to reject the black class ally and above all else, finally embrace the openly capitalist Democratic Party which, during World War II, was temporarily reduced to slinging certain European Social Democratic lingo about "the peepul", "national unity", and other well-known catch-phrases.
— 251 —
Until the first major crisis in the Vietnamese war early in 1968, these well-fed workers remained faithful to the Democratic Party (early known as "pro-labor"), even after the latter had abandoned its temporary "Left deviation" of before and during World War II years. Now that the Democrats are floundering in their own contradictions, working-class anger in the U.S. has nowhere to go. In general, and with monotonous regularity, the world's largest and richest labor aristocracy can only swing from one to another of ostensibly two major bourgeois parties, the programs of which began to approach each other after World War I and practically to coincide after World War II.
The U.S. labor aristocracy reached its present affluence through open class collaboration, unadulterated by rationalizations or demagogy about "Marx" or "labor": it swallowed nearly whole the imperialist position that "What's good for General Motors is good for America". This is true in spite of the counter, minority, tradition of real working-class militancy established by the Molly McGuires, the IWW ("Wobblies"), the Haymarket martyrs, and labor heroes like Joe Hill and Big Bill Haywood. Despite temporary influence in certain restricted through recurring American historical periods, their tradition, warped by syndicalism, could never win a majority of American workers because U.S. imperialism, though lacking formal colonies as such, was too "successful".
What accounts for the course of U.S. labor's development? Did something in its working-class conditions differ from those in Europe? Decidedly! Besides the "Wild West", "pioneer traditions" or any of the other usual glib "explanations", there was something basic which constituted the main difference: the presence within total metropolitan population of an internal quasi-colony composed of a large number of BLACK subjects.
In Europe, the super-exploited were, till quite recently, conveniently absent, though riches squeezed from their misery were abundantly present. The colonialism which distributes such spoils could be practised under the polite guise of Social Democracy. As Karl Marx, talking about India, once put it:
— 252 —
"The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked."5
So, British, French and other European workers could call themselves "non-racist", could support mass Social Democratic organizations, and could thereby consider themselves superior to crude Americans, a superiority often, as we have noted, transplanted with its carriers to the U.S. itself. Yet, the truth is that Europeans were merely not openly racist; because the moment any colony threatens to break free from "their" ruling classes, their actual racism and chauvinism bursts immediately from its hiding-place into the open.*
In England, racism has become blatant and visibly displays itself among workers under the impact of heavy immigration from the West Indies, Africa, Pakistan, etc. British Social Democracy AS SUCH has been forced to change its tactics considerably as confrontation with colonially super-exploited subjects has grown. In such circumstances, the "politeness" of Social Democracy always gives way to open racism. The majority in the Labour Party has now (predictably) more or less abandoned "Social Democracy" to its defeated, often militant but never revolutionary Left, and is becoming (like the U.S. Democrats) indistinguishable from the Republican-like Tories. The first and second Immigration Acts, bids to reduce the causative "alien presence", comprise perfectly logical moves by British Labour in its effort to retain its classical function of serving a metropolitan labor aristocracy. A more recent wave of hysteria against Indians from Kenya further underlined these points, as will all subsequent English developments in this particular area.
But in the United States, because of the slavery of Africans, RACISM was palpably present in the working class from the beginning of its history.
Before the Civil War, there had been scattered labor understanding of the need for Emancipation as the prelude to ending wage slavery. But it was only fragmentary:
* See Chapter XXII, Pages 195 ff., above.
— 253 —
"The division in the ranks of the workingmen on the slavery question continued through the controversy on the Wilmot Proviso. The German-American workers, meeting in a national convention when the debate over the proviso was reaching a climax in Congress did not adopt a single resolution on chattel slavery."6
Foner also mentioned New England textile workers and "a Philadelphia labor leader" as instances of understanding. But in general, he noted,
"Most (American) workers were not yet ready to join a campaign to abolish slavery, and some were more willing to attack the Abolitionists than the slave owners ...
"To the fear of splitting the ('pro-labor') Democratic Party was added the fear that emancipation would bring thousands of Negroes to the northern states, increasing the competition for jobs and sending wages and living standards down ...7
"... to most workers, as to most small farmers, the basic issue (on the eve of the Civil War) was not the extermination of slavery but the prohibition of its spread to new areas ...8
"... the most representative statement of the position of most northern workers on the slavery question before the Civil War ... does not call for the abolition of slavery, but neither does it attack the Abolitionists. It emphasizes the point uppermost in the minds of workers: if slavery were permitted to expand, labor in the North would be reduced to the level of the Negro workers in the South."9
Significantly, even advanced labor leaders like William Sylvis frequently were narrowly trade unionist in outlook and Sylvis himself, although he wrote "enthusiastically" about the organization of Negro workers during his trip through the Reconstruction South,10
"showed little understanding of the revolutionary changes occurring in the South, and expressed no sympathy for the Reconstruction policies of the Republican Party."11
On their side, the Abolitionists – such as Wendell Phillips – were "indifferent to the demands of organized labor",12 which "did little to overcome the fears of the working class regarding the so-called dangers of Negro emancipation", according to Foner.¬
— 254 —
Actually, such Abolitionists were "particularly hostile to the eight-hour day".12 Foner added,
"In fact, they did a good deal to convince many workers that they were concerned only with the welfare of the Negro slaves and considered the problems of free labor insignificant. In the first issue of THE LIBERATOR, William Lloyd Garrison denounced the trade union movement as an organized conspiracy to 'inflame the minds of our working classed against the more opulent' ... Garrison was not alone ...13
"But until the viewpoint of some of the leaders of Abolitionism towards the problem of free labor underwent a change, really cordial relations between them and most wage workers were almost out of the question."14
While Foner noted some trade unionists and workingmen who did understand the tie between chattel and wage slavery, and could overlook the irritants produced by Abolitionist sectarianism, he admitted in general that
"it was too much to expect, however, that most workers would accept so advanced a position in 1848; indeed, the majority of workers did not at any time before the Civil War advocate that 'slavery must be extinguished'."15
If this picture change[d] after the Civil War, it was, except for the briefest of moral flurries, only for the worse. It is quite true, as Foner abundantly set forth, that
"the degrading and paralyzing effects of chattel slavery were definitely threatening the status of every free worker in the United States ... Organized labor took up the challenge."16
That is, as some white workers displayed moments of understanding, a number of unions took action on the question. For instance, in 1870, the Carpenters and Joiners National Union repealed a resolution formerly passed by the members calling it "inexpedient" to admit Negroes as members. They resolved to invite ALL carpenters and joiners regardless of skin color to join as members.17 But this was neither typical nor long-lasting:
— 255 —
"Few trade unions were willing to follow the carpenters and joiners."18
More typical was, perhaps the case of Lewis Douglass, son of world-renowned ex-slave and Republican leader Frederick Douglass. Lewis Douglass had been refused admission to the International Typographers Union, of which the 1869 convention brought the matter up for reversal: the move failed. And,
"This capitulation set a pattern for other unions in which the Negro workers were not so few in number, and the NATIONAL SLAVERY STANDARD (July 17, 1969) reported that some local unions in New York were inserting the word, WHITE, in all places where the character of the members was described."19
The fact is that only Negro workers fully understood the need for black-white unity. For instance, at the 1869, convention of the National Labor Union, where nine of 142 delegates were, for the first time, Negroes, Isaac Myers, delegate from the Colored Caulkers Trade Union Society of Baltimore, delivered "one of the most magnificent addresses ever made by an American trade unionist".20 He gave "a brilliant analysis of the need for unity",21 as he spoke of Negro labor's readiness "to offer full cooperation in the common struggle".22
Responsibility for what happened thereafter thus rests with U.S. white workers and their unions. Such traditions of solidarity as had been raised by Civil War and pre-Civil War fervor (and, as we have seen, they were not decisive) hung on into the 1890s, covering over what was really happening: At that time, A.F.L. head Samuel Gompers was still replying to questions that Negro workers were to be organized; must not be barred as delegates to city and state A.F.L. bodies; that where locals barring Negroes existed, "an effort should be made to eliminate such anti-labor barriers".23 Meanwhile – and here was the hole in the dike – Negroes were organized into separate locals.
Left historian Foner finds it in his heart to apologize for this crucial hypocrisy:
"... it is significant to note that, at this time, it was¬
— 256 —
only one feature of the approach, emphasis being placed upon the fact that separate locals were to be organized only when no other method could be used to bring Negro workers into the Federation, and that these separate locals were to be temporary only."24
He has to admit, however that
"in later years ... as the A.F. of L. itself became a Jim Crow organization, separate locals were regarded by the A.F. of L. as the preferred way of permanently organizing Negro workers."25
This, he blames on the policy of "organizing by crafts".26 Yet, Jim-Crow locals were precisely the path to present conditions!
The relation of this policy to the future of working-class unity in the U.S. was absolutely crucial:
"During the 1880s and early 1890s, Negro labor in Southern cities was important in railroading, shipping and building. Beginning in the late 1890s, the Negro workers in Southern cities were steadily eliminated from skilled jobs ...27
So, the bosses didn't have to do the real dirty work of dividing the U.S. working class. The growing white labor aristocracy through its trade unions, those craft unions then riding high and embracing (as Lenin said) "only a tiny minority" of the proletariat, performed the chore all too willingly:
"By refusing to admit Negro members and by preventing union members from working with men who were not in the union, the craft organizations pushed Negro workers out of skilled positions. Where Negro craftsmen were organized in separate Jim-Crow locals, they received little or no assistance from the city central labor bodies, composed of white men drawn from white locals ... The national unions to which the Jim-Crow locals were affiliated refused to protect their jobs or wage scales ...28
"Thus the Negro was steadily driven from the ranks of the skilled labor and diverted to menial occupations ...29
That the more backward workers in the South supported this policy is true. But essentially it was part of monopoly's program of complete segregation of workers by which it was¬
— 257 —
able to prevent unity of action and through which it could prevent the wages of white workers from rising much above those of Negroes."30
Of course the policy of segregation was "essentially" that of the ruling American monopolies in their own interests. But the role of white labor – i.e., the U.S. labor aristocracy – via its organizations, the trade unions, and as masses of individuals infected with racism, in smoothing the path for this policy was the significant feature of U.S. labor history.
The point is that
"The A.F. of L. leaders continued to make declarations of the necessity of organizing Negroes, but did very little about their affiliated unions which kept out Negroes, other than blaming the Negro workers themselves. The result was the effective exclusion of the vast majority of Negro workers from the Federation. In 1910-12, most A.F. of L. affiliates had either no Negro members or 'a few'."31
In 1911, a study had revealed in the whole state of Pennsylvania
"fewer than 200 Negroes 'who boasted skilled union status'. And what was true of Pennsylvania was true for the United States as a whole! 'The net result of all this', wrote W. E. B. Du Bois sadly, 'has been to convince the American Negro that his greatest enemy is not the employer who robs him, but his fellow white working man'."32
All the more so if we consider a notable individual exception to the lack of mass support for outright Social Democracy in the U.S.: A. Philip Randolph, head of the all-Negro Pullman Car Porters.
Does he disprove the rule cited earlier that Social Democracy cannot develop a mass base among the super-exploited? The answer is: he and his union are such an exception exactly as, among super-exploited peoples, the entire Afro-American community is. That is, somewhat analogously to Japanese imperialism,* Afro-America plays a DUAL role in the world imperialist setting:**
— 258 —
On the one hand, it forms a super-exploited internal quasi-colony living among its own super-exploiters and the resulting labor aristocracy. This is illustrated by i[t]s wages, standing at 55.4% of those for whites.
At the same time, relative to the world hinterland, the Afro-American community belongs to the U.S. labor aristocracy as a whole – the wages of even its lowest categories are considerably better than the average wage in Black Africa; and, for what it is worth, its average family income is close to the British one.
This duality is epitomized in the Pullman Car Porters, which embraces some of the few workers élite among Afro-Americans. Even – or especially? – Jim-Crow locals have been made to pay off for sections of discriminated-against workers! Randolph's adherence to Social Democracy embodies the role of metropolitan Social Democracy in mobilizing colonial élites behind the policy of the home labor aristocracy, in the rich United States, a small but important number of quasi-colonial workers do form part of the satellite élite – only because of the enormous wealth the metropolitan ruling class could drain from other (i.e., "overseas") colonies.
An A. Philip Randolph is necessary to a metropolitan labor aristocracy in order to sell its policy to the super-exploited, to keep it "in line" so as to ensure the regular flow "homeward" of super-profits. The fact that Randolph is an exception illustrates the fact that any kind of mass base for Social Democracy can be formed only in special "dual-role" colonial areas like Afro-America or Japan. Such a duality is, in reality, an expression of the subsidiary (metropolitan-colonial) contradiction within the international working class of the imperialist system, plus a factor introducing another subsidiary contradiction among those inside super-exploited nations. In this case, the overwhelmingly majority status of the proletarian element offers the material basis for at least a partial solution of the first of these subordinate contradictions, as we shall see.
The fact is that anachronistic slavery growing on the U.S. historical body more than off
es[se]t the ruling class lack for some¬
— 259 —
time of external colonies. A "non-colonialist" image of Uncle Sam, in fact, became a fiction particularly convenient soon after 1898, when U.S. capital began penetrating Latin America.
Popular support in the U.S. jingoism after 1849 – and for "aid" programs today – reveal the true American mass mind. Mass support for the Status Quo comes in the frankest, most ingen[u]ous manner: the daring arrogance of self-appointed white "saviors of the 'free' world".
The conclusion vis-a-vis Social Democracy that emerges from American history is this: whenever there is confrontation between a metropolitan labor aristocracy and those super-exploited by "its" ruling class – in more obvious terms, whenever colonial people live directly in the midst of their own super-exploiters – Social Democracy is replaced by open chauvinism which, in THIS situation, becomes the FORM of class collaboration ensuring the continuous influx of super-profits to the metropolis. This phenomenon is most clearly visible when the super-exploited are black, in which case "chauvinism" is expressed as outright COLOR racism. The latter case embraces a large segment of world super-exploited and heavily influences the ideological approach toward the rest.
All this, again, is perfectly logical. When a super-exploited people live amidst an affluence they are not allowed to share, no polite form of repression can contain them, nor gain majority adherence among the affluent. Only "justification" based on brutally-formulated and equally-brutally-enforced national – especially racial – "superiority" suffices. Racism is the mirror image of Social Democracy in this way: Social Democratic class collaboration results in shooting metropolitan workers only in exceptional cases; whereas confrontation-based racism makes "polite" relations, when possible at all, the exceptions.
The target and results are the same in both cases: the super-exploited are relieved of as large a portion of their wages as the political situation, the oppressed's degree of militancy, the ruling class' degree of stability, etc., will support.
[— 260 —]
T H E " C A R R I E R S " O F
S O C I A L D E M O C R A C Y I N C O L O N I E S
What conclusions can be drawn about the section of Togliatti's report just discussed?
First, Social Democracy ("reformism", in his words) is in no way "a greater danger" to the real revolution "in the colonies than ... in the ruling countries".
Second, Greece, Canada and Japan offer valuable examples of how Social Democracy really functions because color prejudice does not obscure the central issue: that colonialism supplies the main nutriment of Social Democracy. Where black people enter the picture, they sharpen and focus this point, because the baldest, most brutal – and most lucrative – form of colonialism is and always has been the super-exploitation of black p
oe[eo]ple. Hence, color prejudice is the ultimate, rawest subjective expression of COLONIALISM. Far from being "a mere idea in the super-structure", racism determines the DEGREE of super-exploitation, as wage comparisons testify.
Third, comparison makes it plain that racism replaces Social Democracy in cases of mass confrontation between colonial subjects and a labor aristocracy because in such cases it is impossible to hide behind polite phraseology the colonialist content of Social Democracy. Even to attain its own objectives in these situations, Social Democracy as such must depart from the scene.
Thus, Social Democracy acts like a belt conveying from colonies near or far into metropolitan countries super-profits, part of which are transformed into super-wages. Racism is the most efficient form of the colonialist conveyor. The degree of racism varies directly with the darkness of pigmentation among the colonial subjects involved, a material fact embodied in the Afro-American saying: "The darker the skin, the lower the wage." In this way, racism is clarified as an extremely lucrative¬
— 261 —
imperialist invention which all over the world helps keep the rotten system going today.
Fourth, super-exploitation affects all people in a colony because all are sources of super-profit, though agricultural and industrial workers are the biggest majority. Especially in Africa South of Sahara, actual conditions permit the formation of no significant labor aristocracy; for, by Lenin's definition, the latter is a product of super-exploiting colonies.
In the main, so far, not workers but others are the "carriers" of Social Democracy in colonies. At this point, it is instructive to consider them briefly.
It has been noted that urban areas in colonies act as a metropolis of sorts to the agricultural colonial hinterland.1 From such urban areas, come local spreaders of European Social Democracy in colonies.
From Asia, the text has already offered two examples: Lee Yuan Kew, prime minister of Singapore and a "Big Wheel" in the Second International; and Dr. Wong Lin Ken, a European-trained intellectual spokesman for "Malaysian Socialism".
In recent times, European Social Democracy's most ambitious bid for African consumption has emanated from Kenya under the leadership of a genuine (ex)trade unionist, Tom Mboya, Minister of Economic Planning and Development, and "trade union" darling of the ICFTU's African arm. The "bid" in question2 was written by one or more Americans – representatives of the world's racist citadel – a fact, as should now be perfectly clear, which is no accident. For, as the "benefits" of imperialism begin penetrating the hinterlands, Social Democracy's real content becomes more and more visible.
— 262 —
Kenya's ambitious ideological Social Democratic potpourri has had a strong and deleterious effect on African national movements. For instance, in Ghana, it was loudly espoused by Kwesi Armah,3 erstwhile Minister of Trade in Nkrumah's last cabinet, under the undisguised influence of Mboya's "African Socialism". Having, only a few months before the February 1966 military coup, returned to Ghana from several years as his country's High Commissioner in London, Armah almost immediately gathered around himself most of the officials of government and Party who opposed real socialism. For a while, his cabal looked as if it were going to get rid of Nkrumah and his ideas, effectively if not literally – for Armah had his chapter offering the expected "eulogy" – and, in this writer's opinion, would have done so had not the actual coup intervened. In fact, with Armah's swift apparent success, a struggle between the élite factions (if not more) evidently came to a head and was resolved by the coup.
Kwesi Armah and Tom Mboya – the former a government official in a once-"socialist-oriented" country; the latter, first a "labor leader" then a government official in ICFTU-controlled Kenya – represent an African ELITE which, under European Social Democratic influence and guidance, formed fairly recently in the special conditions under which certain African countries achieved political independence after World War II. The significance of these men is that they are NOT (if ever they once were) part of African labor in any sense whatsoever.
That a new local bourgeoisie turns up in colonies as conveyor belt for European Social Democracy should not be too surprising: in order not to be totally shut out of such key areas, it MUST have some local base.
The international exploitative hierarchy results in this: that in a colony, only a class able to make connections with external imperialism (especially with imperialism's more colonially-acceptable labor aristocracy represented by Social Democracy) could hope to benefit from out-going super-profits. Since the source of such super-profits "at home" is colonial labor power, colonial workers can never in any significant number constitute such a class. This leaves a possible very few¬
— 263 —
es" in colonial urban areas, as well as chiefs, comprador "capitalists", "feudal" landlords who use local peasants as "corvée" labor, and – finally – professionals and civil servants. If the system is not overthrown, all these categories may be expected to grow a little in numbers and quite a bit more in wealth.
The post-colonial and neo-colonial African élite forms a new counterpart in colonial areas to the labor aristocracy in the metropoles. In the colony, it, so to speak, "plays the role" of a "colonial labor aristocracy". At the same time, these new and old parasites in turn find outside Social Democracy an excellent crutch when looting their own people.
Whether this élite arises from investing capital stolen (i.e., primitively accumulated) from the public treasury and/or through unlimited and aggressive bribery and corruption in collusion with foreign investment capital; "by arrangement" with foreign capital already in the country; or however, matters not. The point is, the net result in countries where the phenomenon operates, notably in Africa since political independence, has been a new economic mouth sucking at super-exploited colonial labor power. The existence of this élite merely increases the DEGREE of super-exploitation experience[d] by the colonial working masses.
Yet, precisely because the worst enemies of colonial peoples among their own ranks do work openly and arrogantly with agents of outside imperialism, colonial revolutionaries could expose neo-colonialism there the more easily in the long run. Without such outside support, colonial peoples would among themselves make short work of such individuals, rolling over them in a wave as they did over the UGCC élite at the time of Ghana's independence. Not could such a tiny minority halt or even retard that wave. But outside Social Democracy HAS retarded it. That is why its methods and ideas as they function in colonies deserve careful study.
One other point: although the Social Democracy active in colonial areas has been pin-pointed as a foreign export, this does not mean that it could not, for example, be enforced. Social¬
— 264 —
Democracy, though "Western", is – like its masters – adept at devising new and varied methods of fulfilling its role as major bulwark of colonialism and neo-colonialism and, thereby, continuing colonial peoples' mass misery.
To sum up:
"Reformism and internationalism are incompatible. A reformist party is attached by innumerable strings to the national state. Hence the collapse of the Second International in 1914. In particular, reformism cannot build a bridge between the workers of the advanced countries and the colonies – hence the Second International was practically a white-man's organization."4
This frank statement out of the horse's mouth, so to speak, adequately sums up the real relations between the Western working class and those in colonies, and accurately focuses on the place where racism enters the picture.
From the "other side of the fence" have come expressions of somewhat the same point, as it appears to would-be Social Democratic "mass leaders" in colonies:
"Democratic Socialists in the advanced countries are fortunate in that the relatively comfortable state of their societies makes it possible for them to maintain their tenets of tolerant but progressive society against more totalitarian creeds.
"For us in Asia and even more so in Africa the acute pressure of mass poverty, hunger and despair, and, worse, the obscene and often also ostentatious display of individual wealth in the midst of grinding poverty, is a constant incitement to sudden and violent revolution ... And if we approach Asian problems of poverty and underdevelopment through the rosy spectacles of the Western European Socialists we are sure to fail."5
Here is a ruefully sober appraisal of the basic realities facing those who, like its author, hope by selling the admitted foreign bauble to their own peoples, to "do well" out of the sale (and the writer of these sentiments has done well in this way).
[— 265 —]
W H O I S T O L E A D I N T H E C O L O N I E S ?
The final point in Togliatti's quotation* which this text has been scrutinizing at length:
6. "Now we must thoroughly understand that it is in the colonies themselves that we must struggle against reformism."
These words encompass those who, from their well-cushioned vantage points in blood-sucking metropoles, today airily "decide" the leadership of colonial revolutions without the slightest by-your-leave from colonial peoples themselves. The seeds of this state of affairs were already sprouting in Ercoli's words.
In the course of his speech, he had quoted a Social Democratic resolution from the Second International's Paris Congress in 1900. It instructed that
"wherever economic conditions render it possible, socialist parties should be formed in the colonies which should maintain contact with those of the ruling countries."1
Not only Social Democratic parties (with results in Greece and Canada already noted**), but also Communist Parties in Western democracies have followed this advice (certainly, insofar at least as their relationships with Africa are concerned). In countries like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan and Egypt, Communist Parties have been kept under the wing of metropolitan leaderships.*** Only after 1956 when the rising flames of national liberation had begun to sweep even Africa did the Party sections in colonies struggle against this connection, and after considerable difficulty, start to free themselves from the presumably well-meant embrace of their friends. But the scars remain, as was revealed in conversations¬
— 266 —
with African Marxists passing through Accra in the years between 1962 and 1965.
The question raised in this: is there any reason at all, beyond issuing revolutionary instructions to metropolitan revolutionaries which circumstances so dictate, why genuinely socialist parties in ex-colonies (or in colonies) should maintain ANY contact whatsoever with so-called counterpart parties in a particular metropolis just because the latter happens to operate in former ruling territory? Do not historical circumstances suggest exactly the opposite in the relations between the two areas?
Socialist parties in a colony want not only full independence, including the absolute right to secession, but also to continue uninterruptedly to socialism. The first step on this path is to break completely with the former ruling country. Should this break include all metropolitan parties? Formerly, in the secret name of "proletarian internationalism", the answer was "No", as Togliatti suggested. Isn't it high time that this term was finally prevented from being used to cover up continued colonial relationships, as set forth in the British Communist Party "short policy statement" analyzed earlier?*
In former ruling countries, not just the ruling class but entire peoples have enjoyed and still enjoy material benefits, including super-wages but far beyond that, out of so many centuries of imperialist super-exploitation of that self-same colony. Does not real "proletarian internationalism" require that the metropolitan revolutionary make the first move in suggesting a complete break, as a mark of foremost respect for the absolute sovereignty of subjugated peoples?
At least one anti-colonial leader implies the validity of this approach:
"It is absurd to suppose that an American laborer can think and act in the same manner as the president of a great New York bank. It is just as absurd to conceive of the African or the African nations acting in terms that are supposedly universal but actually are only relative, depending on particular historical or social conditions.
"Poor peoples, underdeveloped nations, have needs and¬
* See Chapter XXV, Pages 227 ff., above.
— 267 —
demands which are essential to the fulfillment of their hopes and which have nothing in common with those of the highly developed nations and their rich populations ...
"Because of their historical past and their present state of underdevelopment, Asians and Africans obviously have more in common with one another than with Europeans ..."2
In the epoch – now finished – of euphori
ous[c] belief in concepts like "Positive Non-Alignment" in a bitterly-divided international class society, did not the world Marxists acknowledge the validity of these sentiments when they went along with and encouraged organizations like the Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization (AAPSO) (of which only remnants still exist – split – with the active portions under revisionist "leadership")?
An example related to trade unions – the mainstay of Social Democracy in Europe and the West – clearly exposed the meaning of organizational contact between groups in colonial areas and those "at home":
"The African trade unions, on the general level and on the level of each African country, were affiliated to the different trade union headquarters of the metropolitan countries, and by these intermediaries they were scattered throughout the international organization. Trade unions of conflicting tendencies were fundamentally regrouped within the same territory or in a regional federation in unions, at the same time retaining direct ties with the metropolitan headquarters. This situation was the double or triple affiliation which prevented the organic unity of Africa as a whole, each trade union being at that time the organic extension of the metropolitan trade union. It is impossible at the same time to refer to the political and economic exigencies of African life and respect the programs and methods of action of the trade union federations of industrialized and developed countries."3
Applied to the economics of metropolitan and colonial areas, the organic nature of the world imperialist system* is here again implied.
The attitude toward the relationship between socialists in the metropolis and those in colonies foreshadowed by the Paris¬
* See Chapter XVII, Pages 135 ff., above.
— 268 —
resolution of Social Democracy* is clearly echoed in Togliatti's own instructions concerning revolutionary activities in colonies. A decade and a half later, it was being reflected in the actual Communist approach to "brother" parties in colonial areas.
Speaking of the need to struggle against "reformism" in the colonies, Togliatti said:
"There we must work to show not only the proletariat of the 'civilized' countries but also the proletariat which is in the process of formation in the colonies, the natives (sic!), the great mass of peasants as well as certain strata of the petty-bourgeoisie, which is the true path which they must follow if they wish to struggle effectively for their liberation."4
What essential difference is there between this exhortation and the Paris resolution Togliatti said he was criticizing? Togliatti states openly that "we" are to lead the colonial revolution; the Social Democrats, at least in their Paris resolution, confined themselves to hinting as much. Moreover, such an attitude** has developed into the current policies of Western Communist Parties toward the "colonial future".
In the light of all that has been said up to now in these pages, the conclusion seems inescapable that the struggle over who IS to lead the colonial revolution is one form of the struggle against Social Democracy.
But how did Marxists fall into the same bog with Social Democrats?
Part of the answer is implied in our discussion of the modern labor aristocracy.*** To recapitulate: in imperialist countries (especially the U.S.), material conditions specifically built upon the continued influx of super-profits from colonies not only reinforced and enlarged the already-existing labor aristocracy into a majority of Western population, but even "promoted" most metropolitan Communists into the élite. In turn, material conditions naturally evoked an¬
— 269 —
ideological position among the Western labor aristocracy of support for colonialism, source of those indispensable super-profits: first, mass political support for the ruling class expressed by the success in the West of parliamentarism; supplemented, generally, by failure among Western labor as a whole to support liberation – positively, in their coldness to specific Liberation causes; passively, in failure to fight (for example) against imperialist brutality in colonies.*
In addition, it must be specific now that, so far, we have presented mainly only a generalized statement of the Western labor aristocracy's relations with the colonial class brothers. What specific form did support for colonialism take?
The aftermath of Social Democracy's presence in the West, especially where it actually formed the government, was always the elimination of any significant militancy among working classes inside imperialism's borders. The Great depression of the 30s had brought on a temporary increase in militancy over most of the capitalist world – soon countered by the Versailles-evoked improvement in overseas investment for the ruling classes in the "Great Democracies". Once the militarily-renewed financial activity took hold, a rapid rise ensued in material blessing for an ever-growing portion of the so-recently restive working classes in the victorious metropoles. The specter of revolution there receded. The Blue Eagle** of the National Recovery Administration became the dove of class peace. The labor aristocracy's future seemed endlessly assured ...
But wait! Far off, rumblings become audible. Has the spirit of "revolution at home" been dispelled only to resurrect in Asia, Africa and Latin America? Are "inferior" peoples beginning to¬
* A failure in no way improved, of course, by deliberately-maintained lack of factual data in the major media of Western public information about the specifics of such brutality.
** The symbol adopted for display by merchants and others complying with Franklin D. Roosevelt's National Recovery Act. Its message, over and under the familiar U.S. eagle in blue, was: "N.R.A. We do our part."
— 270 —
"sass back"? Do some rash black leaders dare to proclaim even socialist goals?
National Recovery, so comforting, so indispensable to Western workers, but so sensitive to "intransigence" in colonies, is again threatened!
Since World War II, confrontation between well-off white workers in industrialized countries and dark subjugated peoples – so long commonplace in particular areas like the U.S., South Africa, etc. – bids fair to become the universal pattern of the system itself. And back of its drama, in the wings of History, lurks the decisive question: WHO IS TO LEAD THE COLONIAL REVOLUTION?
The immediate effect of confrontation, when colonial subjects will no longer stand still to be squeezed dry "as usual" for the benefit of God's countries, is that "politeness" in politics becomes an economic sieve: Racism comes into its own!
Long rampant in specific imperialist areas, RACISM began spreading soon after World War II to become the most common form – in fact, an essentially urgent form – of the Western labor aristocracy's support for colonialism: in the U.S., existing racism intensified in ghetto after ghetto; in staid old Britain, it erupted first at Nottingham Gate, in by-elections and later on the London docks and in the industrialized Midlands. Even the lofty atmosphere of "Communist debate" – in the Sino-Soviet conflict – charges of racism began, with good reason, flying back and forth. For racism, now more than ever, is one of imperialism's most devilishly effective mechanisms for coining its greatest super-profits out of black people.
Obviously, in order thoroughly to understand the relationship between Social Democracy and colonialism, the time has come to take a closer look at the anatomy of racism, NOT as a DETOUR but as an integral part of this attempt to delve to the very bottom of Social Democracy.