Questions of the Subject of Revolution:

Today I was asked: “What do we make of the political rather than simply analytical concept of the PROLETARIAT today (as the practical subject of history/liberation/revolution, as the “people of the people”)?”

To which I could only respond with more questions:

Questions: Why was early proletariat the subject of revolution: it was disciplined, organized, and educated comparably to peasants. IS this true today?  The slave in the master/slave dialectic in Hegel had the power of position prior to the emergence of a disciplined working class, but slaves could not coordinate nor discipline themselves to the level of fighting their oppressors.  If the working class no longer has the same discipline due to a mixture of de-socialization and relative declines in education compared to the few who are not proletariat  is this still a meaningful category?

Why is the lumpen proletariat seen as generally counter revolutionary: it expliots the proletariat itself terrorizing withing the class when criminalized, and it is not disciplined. Does it lacking revolutionary possibility? No, at least, according to Fanon and many Maoist. Yet what have we seen happen to groups that make the Lumpen it’s primary stock-and-trade of the subject?  Well, the FARC and Shining Path largely de-evolved into drug-running and terrorism, and the lumpen in Germany and Italy tended to vote for revolutionary fascists.

If the proletariat approaches universality? Can be it conscious of itself? An undifferentiated totality has no cognitive or mathematically comprehensibility. Badiou’s theory of the subject is key here. If majority of people no exist as wage-labor regardless of their skill set and discipline requirements? Is this a political subject?  If the sociological definition of the proletariat renders it universal within capitalism can it be said to have one class interest to which to be conscious?

The answers to questions greatly complicate Marxist theory, and Marxists who fail to look at this because of vague notions of “the people” or the “working class” or the “multitude” or the “masses” at the end of the day are using definitions and phrases to mask the hard social logics of figuring out who best is a revolutionary subject. Or even various competing revolutionary subjects.

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About El Mono Liso

Por una civilización de la pobreza.

Posted on February 14, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. This is a centrally important question, for all parties involved (liberal, Marxist, anarchist, etc.). What section(s) of society constitute the revolutionary subject, in actu or in potentia? The proletariat? The peasantry? The assorted lumpenproles? The old liberal-democratic (and later fascist) language of “the people”? The “99%”? Who?

    And I don’t think that there’s any easy answer to this question.

  2. On slave revolutions: two historic cases not mentioned..

    1. Roman Republic times, and Spartacus. (failed, but gathered reforms)

    2. More recently, the Black Jacobins of Haiti (succeeded, and had Hell-on-Earth imposed from wothout.)

  3. C.L.R James convincely argues that Haiti was not actually just a slave revolt, but a bourgeois revolution emerging from a slave revolt which was then crushed externally.

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