- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Then how do you explain class traitors like myself?

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on January 31, 19100 at 16:24:11:

In Reply to: (Class) Morality and rights posted by Barry Stoller on January 31, 19100 at 13:21:23:

: : In my opinion, this standard is FAIRNESS, LIBERTY< EQUALITY, BROTHERHOOD, all the eternal values that you brush off as mere artifacts of the social relations of your time. Socialism is better than capitalism because it respects and furthers the eternal values and rights of man.

: Perhaps you misunderstand me. I do not 'brush off as mere artifacts' the values of ANY social relations. I simply acknowledge that they can---and must---change with class struggle. I believe the interests---'values,' if you will---of the proletariat are superior to the interests of the bourgeoisie. But that's only because I am a member of the proletariat!

And I'm not. I'm probably a member of the bourgeoisie, although not really a 'capitalist' per se; my late father didn't own the means of production, but he worked for capitalist companies and was successful within the capitalist system. So I don't know whether that makes me a bourgeois or not. That said, it's irrelevant. My father was ideologically opposed to the power of capital, and in favor of heavy, heavy taxation and redistribution.Regardless of my own class background, I'm in favor of socialism, although perhaps not to the same extent as you are.

From my own selfish viewpoint, it would be in my self-interest (at this point, anyway) to support the capitalist system. I suspect that when I get out in the real world and start working I can expect to fall in the class hierarchy, then it will perhaps be in my interest to support socialism. But right now it isn't.

So here's the question. Why do I, as a member of the bourgeois class, support socialism? Because I recognize that I've been the undeserving benefiarcy of the system. I don't consider myself better than anyone else, except maybe Nazis and child rapists, and so it's not RIGHT that I should have the advantages that i do. Now what would you suggest I do; abandon right and wrong and be loyal to my class interests, or uphold fairness and human dignity, even though socialism would hurt my own personal interests.

I'm a socailist in spite of my class background, because I recognize that right and wrong are not tailored to me alone, they must be tailored to what's good for humanity. Subverting self-interest is the very foundation of morality. No consistent morality can be based on self interest. Even the proletariat that you talk about doesn't support socialism out of pure self-interest. That may play a part, but a small one. If Worker X was really interested only in his own self-interest, he wouldn't support communism; he would support a hierrachical system in which HE was the capitalist or teh bureaucrat.

My "class-traitor" anecdote isn't actually all that uncommon. In the case of the proletariat, self-interest and conscience are on teh same side, so they have no conflict. But PLENTY of bourgeois and upper class individuals throughout history have placed the demands of cosncience above their own self-interest and have sided with the poor and the revolutionaries. Some were moderate leftist, otehrs were radical, but all were seen as traitros to their class. The Gracchi in Rome, who took the side of teh people's party. Che Guevara, who came from an upper-middle class family and was trained as a doctor. C. Lamont in America, heir to JP Morgan who turned Communist and was brought to trial for it. Henry Wallace, FDR's vice president who went from being a Republican to a pro-Communist sympathizer. Pandit Nehru in India, son of a Kashmiri aristocratic family who famously declared "There are only two choices facing the world, Fascism or Communism, and I choose Communism". Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, who in spite of his privileged background promoted radical equality. (Actually, almost all African socialist leaders were, at least relatoive to the average population, from privileged backgrounds). I mean, look at Joe Slovo, the Communist leader in South Africa- he was white, and could have sat on top of the privileged white lifesytle, but he chose to oppose the system, which eventually got him exiled for four decades and cost him the life of his wife.

So, Barry, the idea of the class traitor is not all that rare. Marx actually predicted that a small faction of the educated bourgeoisie would break away and join the cause of the people. You know the anecdote about Julius Nyerere at whatever English prep school he went to? Once he became a prefect he immediately petitioned the school to halt special rpivileges for otehrs like him. That merely prefigured what he would do to class privilege when he became leader of revolutionary Tanzania.

Think about it. You know in your heart that the proletariat isn't just acting 'in their inetrest', they're acting in the service of what's right. When the shit hits the fan and people are asked to account for what they've done, before God if not before that, I have no illusion that I can just say, 'yeah, I exploited people, I was a bastard, but it was in my class interest as a bourgoeis to do so.' That won't cut any mustard.

: But I do not need to invoke any eternal, absolute verity to support the interests of the working class (and, hence, myself).

Yes, you do. Because otherwise, your value judgments ahve no more validity than the value judgments of the capitalists. And they do, don't they? You KNOW they do.

:The fact that, for example, public ownership of the means of production, abolition of hierarchy, and a democratically planned economy ARE the interests of the working class and that I'm a member of the working class is all the validation I need.

Actually, if you were really only interested in your own personal satisfaction,you wouldn't support communism. You would support an elitist system in which YOU, your friends and family were on top. The fact that you support people's democracy instead shows that your views have very little to do with self-interest. Look at Marx- even he couldn't keep morality out of his writings, much as he tried.

: I know the interests of the bourgeoisie are different from mine. Ditto their values and their morality (same difference).

Yes, but their values are WRONG. That's the difference. Some of their values, OK, may be merely a matter of opinion, and their views may be as good as yours. But equality is either the rightful state of man or it sin't. No middle ground. If you are right (and I believe you are) then they are wrong. And so they should be held responsible for the crimes that they commit. Class identity won;t justify crimes.

: They HAVE to be, their sense of right and wrong is inexorably linked to private property of the means of production, hierarchy, and market anarchy.

First of all, not quite true. Much of morality trancends, or is intended to transcend, property relations. The evidence is that teh very same moral texts, e.g. the Bible, have been cited by Communists from the Puritans to the Sandinistas as well as by German Calvinists, within entirely different economic systems. I have no illusion that our Constitution was not written by men hamstrung and blinkered by their own property owning class interest. But the Declaration of Independence, I believe, was to a large degree property-neutral; remember that it was quoted by revolutionaries including Ho Chi Minh and the Sandinistas. Biblical morality, similarly, transcends property relations. And the precendents set forth by such religious doctrines can be evaluated without paying attention to the property relations of the time.

To the extent that CERTAIN moral views and values are tied up with property considerations, they also should eb treated teh same; judged good or bad. That is what gives us the ground to declare capitalism immoral and socialism moral. We can't merely evaluate moral codes within the context of teh economic system that they exist; that's relativism and it;s wrong. If equality is right, then hierarchy is wrong, regardless of what justification ('meritorcracy', 'divine right') is propounded for it. End of story.

: Communists aim to change those social relations and to replace them with other social relations. When that happens, the former class rulers will have THEIR interests denied.

You undersell your case here. Can you REALLY argue that the socialist people's democracy will be no mroe righteous than GEneral Motors? DO you know the kind of tehings that GM does? Setting a dollar value on human life? Accepting people dying because it woudl save them money? That illustrates the funamental difference between capitalism and SPD (Socialist people's democracy).

: Again, I do not need to invoke some eternal, absolute verity to support this denial of the bourgeoisie's former 'rights.' (They'd deny it, anyway.)

It doesn't matter if they deny it, they're WRONG. Why do you have so much aversion to saying that we are right and they're wrong?

:I only need to know that the proletariat's rights, morals, values, etc. are DIFFERENT, belong to the proletariat. Hence the whole preoccupation with the 'freedom to and freedom from' distinction.

: Consider your argument with JD here. He's got morality on his side, you've got morality on your side. One must choose. The moderator in the sky is not going to settle the issue.

Not true, and not a fair comparison. The death penalty argument is a TRIVIAL point that can be argued rationally and some consensus achieved. We're talking about teh fundamental principle sof right and wrong here. THOSE are absolute. Anyway, the 'moderator in teh sky' MAY choose, someday....

: : And if we can't prove that, then capitalism and socialism are on an equal moral footing. In such a world, power = morality. And you know as well as me which side has the power.

: There is no impartial referee available for mediating irreconcilable class differences.

No, history mediates, historical insight gives us the calrity to see who was right and who was wrong. History and God.

: Power does equal morality. The ruling ideas of each epoch belong to the ruling class.

Then you've just branded yourself a criminal, and me too. We aren't criminals. We're teh conscientous.

: Sure, capital has the power (and a monopoly on morality broadcast from every organ of 'public discourse' in the land) today---just as the feudal monarchs did once upon a time. Things change. And so does morality.

Legality does not equal morality. The ruling class determiens what's legal. Tehy don't determine what's right and wrong. A basic but very important distinction. LAws change from day to day. Right and wrong do not.

: : Or let's make it simpler. Try and answer the question, Why is capitalism wrong? without making reference to moral absolutes.

: It's wrong because it is the class rule of the capitalists---and I'm a proletariat. Period.

So if rule by the Stoller family was propunded as a new aristocracy, would you then support that? Of course not! Power does NOT equal morality. Jesus Christ turned down the temptation of power, remember. Every religion has said the same thing, essentially; that power and morality are different kingdoms. It is better when the moral have power, certainly, but the chain of causation doesn't work teh otehr way; achieving power does not make one moral. Dostoyevsky made this distinction well between the State taking over teh Chruch, and teh Church taking over teh State.

: Now, David, asks...

: : [D]oes this mean that since we live in a bourgeois society, I am morally justified in exploiting workers and perpetuating class relations?

: He understands me completely.

: To answer your question, David: You are 'morally justified' as long as your (capitalist) class is in power.

No. You are NEVER morally justified. You may be legally justified. But as long as you deny peopel their huamn birthrights, you are morally wrong.

: Communists aim to change that.

And about time, too.

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