Class Struggles Essay Research Paper Having declared

Class Struggles Essay, Research Paper Having declared in the opening sentence of the Manifesto that all history is the history of class struggles, Marx adds immediately in a footnote "of written

Class Struggles Essay, Research Paper

Having declared in the opening sentence of the Manifesto that all history is the

history of class struggles, Marx adds immediately in a footnote "of written

history". For prior to the invention of writing, societies were nomadic, organized

in tribes, each tribe made of less than 100 individuals. There was hardly any

division of labor, other than sexual. The tribe would designate a chief, and

modern ethnology tells us the chief had very little power. His main function was

to defuse any conflict among tribesmen, not as a judge, he had no power to

judge, but more by using his charisma to talk people out of their quarrels. His

authority would be limited to leading the hunt and, of course, the war. That?s

all. In his essay, The Origin of Property, Family and the State, Engels

describes social life in these primitive tribes very much as something like

"anarchy". I would like to add here that modern anthropology supports

Engels? analysis. Primitive societies did not know anything that resembles

political power, let alone a state. They had no use for it. Pierre Clastres, in

his fascinating book, Society Against State, notes that the only distinctive

feature between "primitive" and "modern" societies is not

agriculture, it is not sedentary life, it is the institution of a state. A

modern society is a society that is subject to the power of a state. So called

primitive societies were not. In economic terms, nomadic tribes (which Engels

calls gens) do not accumulate a lot of goods. The only capital they use is what

people can carry on their back or on the back of an animal. Not much. Thus,

between tribes, violence is limited, there is not much to conquer and to loot,

and war is considered more like a sport, a rough athletic competition. Note that

war was a game played by all tribesmen. All valid men went to war, when called

for, there were no professionals. How did the state come about ? With

agriculture began a process of capital accumulation. In order to farm, one needs

first to clear the land. Trees have to be uprooted, fields have to be irrigated,

tilled and planted. Granaries have to be built to store grain for the year,

pending the next harvest. All this preparation and construction may take many

months, and it is hard work. So people started to think : "Why should we do

it ? When we go at war, we take prisoners, let the prisoners do the hard

work". And so, says Engels, society experienced its first division into

classes, between a class of masters and a class of slaves, between exploiters

and exploited. Of course, the society which has accumulated this capital becomes

the envy and the target of its neighbors. War is no longer a sport, it can pay,

and pay big, because if you conquer the enemy?s land that has already been

cleared and irrigated, with a year or more supply in storehouses, it is saving

you the investment and hard work. So each society had to organize some sort of

permanent defence against marauders and invaders. Each society took out of its

surplus enough food to pay for a group of people who would have no other

function than protection, i.e., a professional army. Now once the rulers had an

armed force at their disposal, the temptation was there permanently to use it

against their own people, to consolidate the rulers? power. Thus, says Engels,

there emerged a new institution, which would maintain "order" in

society, and of course an order favorable to the dominant class. This

institution is called "the state". Let me quote directly from Engels

: "In order to maintain this public power, contributions from

the state citizens are necessary — taxes. These were completely unknown to

gentile society [the so-called "primitives"]. We know more than enough

about them today ! With advancing civilization, even taxes are not sufficient ;

the state draws drafts on the future, contracts loans, state debts. Our old

Europe can tell a tale about these, too." [Engels was writing this in 1867.

What would he have to say about our modern Europe, with states plundering a full

50% of all wealth created in society and running debts equivalent to two years

of GNP !] "In possession of the public power and the right of

taxation, the officials now present themselves as organs of society standing

above society? Representatives of a power which estranges them from society,

they have to be given prestige by means of special decrees, which invest them

with a peculiar sanctity and inviolability." "The state is therefore

by no means a power imposed on society from without… Rather, it is a product

of society at a particular stage of development…" The first

point I wish to emphasise here with Marx and Engels is that the state is a human

construct ; it is not inherent to mankind, as the queen is to an ant colony or a

beehive. Human societies existed historically without a state, and there is no

reason why we could not organize ourselves again in the future without a state.

My second point is that, as Marx and Engels tell us, the state is the instrument

of oppression used to keep in check the exploited masses. Without the state,

mass exploitation would not be possible. Ideology Now,

the dominant class amounts to only a fraction of the population, sometimes as

low as 10-20%. Surely, 10% cannot exploit 90%. How come therefore this small

minority manages to stay in power ? For controlling the state is not

enough. Maintaining an army of professional warriors to keep in check citizens

who very often do not have the right to bear arms is indeed a way of enforcing

your power over society, but it is not a guarantee. An insurrection, a massive

taking to the streets, a general strike, can overthrow any government, even

supported by the military, as history has witnessed so many times. So the ruling

class always used another mean of wielding its power, it is ideology, and

understanding how ideology works may be Marx’s greatest contribution to the

study of history. Ideologies are the changing ideas, values, even feelings,

through which individuals experience their society. Ideologies present the

dominant ideas, the beliefs and values of the ruling class, as being the ideas

of society as a whole. Thus individuals, because they are thinking by using the

concepts, the words and the references of others, are prevented from grasping

how society actually functions, and they cannot even suspect that they are

exploited. Marxists thinkers, like Gramsci, Lukacs and Althusser, have expanded

greatly on Marx’s concept of ideology, and it goes further than Ayn Rand’s

sanction of the victim. For Marx, and especially for Gramsci, I would say

ideology achieves the perfect crime. A perfect crime is not when the criminal

remains unknown, it is one that nobody even suspects to be a crime, where death

is declared purely accidental, and no one will look for a criminal. For Marx,

the victims have nothing to consent to, they do not see themselves at all as

victims. Quite the reverse. They say "the master is good, he feeds me every

day, he does not beat me more often than I deserve to be." The production

of ideology is the intellectuals? job, and up until recently, intellectuals

were part of a clergy. You know the famous definition given by Marx of religion

as being the "opium of the people." Religion was perceived as a sort

of sedative of the mind. So even when people might have become conscious of

their oppression, there came the ruling class? second line of defense :

"Yes, my friend, you are right, God placed you at the bottom of society,

but it is for your own good, you will be all the happier in a later life";

"it is God?s plan for society that there exists lords and servants,

sorry, old chap, you are one of the servants, but you wouldn?t want to rebel

against God?s will, would you ?". Armed with such powerful tools as the

state police and ideology, the dominant class never gives up its power

gracefully. Why would it ? It seems it has the means to rule forever. Yet,

history shows us that changes did take place. Marx identifies two such

transformations in human history, from slavery to feudality, and from feudality

to capitalism. Revolutions So what caused these

momentous changes ? The answer is : technical innovations, which forced changes

in the production process. Marx is often interpreted as a technological

determinist on the basis of such isolated quotations as: "The windmill

gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill gives you society with

the industrial capitalist." It is of course more complicated than that. But

basically, what we can say is that the dominant class? power base is the

control over certain commodities, over certain sources of wealth. But the

dominant class cannot predict, let alone control, the emergence of a new

technology. When this technology emerges, it may be in the hands of a group of

people who are not members of the dominant class. And suddenly these pioneers

generate a transformation in the means of production, in the way society is organized,

and therefore in the way society thinks, how it apprehends itself, because, says

Marx, the way we work, the function of production, what we do, influences who we

are. And the growing number of people who are involved in the new technology see

society with new eyes, they start questioning whether the power of the dominant

class is legitimate. This is exactly what happened throughout history, of

course. For instance, new inventions in the 18th century, including the steam

engine, were both a consequence and a cause of the philosophy of Enlightenment,

which exposed the arbitrary of the "divine right of Kings", and hence

of all aristocratic privileges, and led to the American and French revolutions.

It is difficult to dispute the relevance of Marx?s and Engels? analysis of

history. I concur with all they say about class struggles and the function of

ideology – prior to the Enlightenment. Quite obviously, the slave is

dispossessed, he may not own anything, he is clearly exploited. The feudal serf

is hardly in a better condition. He is tied to the land, he cannot leave it and

is sold with it. But when Marx goes on to say that workers under the capitalist

regime are dispossessed as the serfs were, I have a problem following his

reasoning. Marx believes that the new dominant class after the Industrial

Revolution is the one made up by the owners of capital, it is the bourgeoisie.

But this deduction is wrong, plain wrong. There is a logical fallacy here.

Freedom The logical fallacy is to posit that if two events occur simultaneously,

one must be the consequence of the other. This logic reminds me of one of

Husserl?s favorite anecdote : There is this guy who drinks whisky and soda,

and he gets drunk, then he takes gin and soda, and he gets drunk, then he takes

vodka and soda, and he gets drunk, and he concludes that he gets drunk on soda.

I don?t want to denigrate Marx?s vast intelligence, but he is telling us

that slave masters had political power, they exploited their slaves and they got

rich. Feudal lords had political power, they exploited their serfs and they got

rich. Capitalists are rich, therefore they must exploit their workers, right ?

Hang on. Capitalists have no political power. This surely must make a

difference. Unlike feudal lords and slave masters, capitalists cannot coerce

anybody to work for them, to consume their products, nor to finance their endeavors.

Marx feigns to ignore that with the emergence of the industrial revolution came

another revolution, which redistributed power within society. It was the

classical liberal revolution in the 18th century and it changed radically the

political and legal environment. People were free to work where they wanted, for

whomever they wanted. Marx pooh-poohs the achievement of that revolution and

what he refers to as "formal freedom." You know the argument, that

Marx will belabor in The Capital : We say the worker "agrees" to work

for the capitalist because no policemen are dragging him from his home to the

factory, but this means only that "he is compelled by social

conditions". In his treatise, ‘The Poverty of Philosophy’, Marx writes

"Indeed the individual considers as his own freedom the movement no longer

curbed or fettered by a common tie or by man, the movement of his alienated life

elements, like property, industry, religion?" And Marx adds : "In

reality, this is the perfection of his slavery and his inhumanity." This is

rather poor philosophy on Marx?s part. Freedom is "the movement no longer

curbed" by other men, freedom is freedom of property, of industry, of

religion.. There is none other. Take it away and you get Stalinism. The wealth

of kings, slave masters, feudal lords and all their lackeys, was acquired

through the exertion of violence, by way of military conquest, tax,

confiscation, enslavement.. But not necessarily the capitalists? wealth. The

capitalist makes money, indeed, and for a few of them, that money may be

numbered in billions, but he is not an exploiter. The ownership of the means of

production by itself does not make anyone an exploiter. This is where Marx got

it wrong. Making money in a trade between consenting parties is not exploiting

anyone, how could it be ? Work Marx was a believer in property

rights. It is because his work is the worker?s property that Marx may conclude

the worker is dispossessed of his remuneration. But Marx?s crude materialism

blinds his vision and prevents him from seeing that it is not work that is

remunerated, what is remunerated is work that is of service to someone, and to

someone who values this work enough to pay for it. Work by itself is

destructive. The Bible already taught us that work is a malediction.

Paradoxically, the record of Marxist states proves my point. Armies of workers

toiled literally like slaves during dozens of years, not creating any wealth,

actually destroying it. They extracted perfectly good copper mineral and crude

oil, and turned it into unusable electric wires and plastics. Many economists

calculated that if all the people in the Soviet Union had stopped working and

had been content to sell their vast commodity resources without attempting to

transform them, they would have been far better off. Work has no value by

itself. The value is in the service you render to somebody. It so happens that

in most instances you cannot be of service to somebody without performing a

certain amount of work, but Marx confuses the end and the means. If someone

could bring me clients whilst sleeping, I would pay that someone to sleep. So it

is not work that the capitalist pays, it is the service the worker is rendering.

There are people who for whatever reason are able to render a great service to a

great number of buyers, and they make bundles of money, and there are others who

have not found a way to prove their usefulness, resulting in differences of

revenues, sometimes very substantial ones. But the capitalist pays all services

exactly the fair price, or the worker, in a politically free society, would

immediately check the classified ads to see whether another employer offers a

higher price for the same service, and if that other employer cannot be found,

then it is evidence that the salary paid is exactly the fair and present value

of the service rendered. So if capitalists pay fair wages, and if workers are

not exploited by their employer, who are the exploiters ? Who makes up the

dominant class today ? This question will become clear if we bear in mind there

are two ways to move goods in society, by the use of violence, which is the

political way, by trade and gifts, which is the economic way. Capitalism is the

use of trade and gifts, not the use of politics, to distribute goods in society.

All other regimes resort to violence. Marx and Engels emphasize the point

themselves. Feudalism and slavery are based on state coactive powers. The

results of their work are simply confiscated from the workers, and if they do

not like it and try to escape, policemen and soldiers will drag them back to

where they belong, so they may continue to be exploited. Now, is there not a

class today, who uses the powers of police and the army to confiscate the

results of our labor ? Is there not a class today, who resorts to political

constraint to acquire its means of living ? Those who resort to violence today

to get their revenues, as the feudal lords did three hundred years ago, are, of

course, all state employees. They do not make money in exchange for a service

people find useful enough to pay for. State employees simply collect the means

they need through the use of violence, coercion, racket, taxes (all these words

being synonymous here). They form the new ruling class. We are the oppressed. So

it is obvious, my friends, that the class struggle is not over. We are still

face to face with our exploiters, class against class, The mystery is why this

exploitation by the ruling class of state employees and their lackeys is not

obvious to everyone. How come does it last, how come the vast majority of the

population does not become conscious of the oppression it is subjected to ?

For it is true that most people in Europe do not perceive taxation as robbery

and government-imposed regulations and controls as coercion. You meet people

nowadays who would take out a gun and shoot a youth who is stealing a cassette

player from their car, and these same people allow the taxman to walk away with

50% of what they earn, every month, year after year, during their entire

lifetime. Furthermore, when you assess how much you are robbed by the taxman, it

is not just what you pay today that you should take into account, but the

compounded value of all what you have paid since the VAT you incurred on your

first ever purchase and the income tax on your first salary, plus the

opportunity cost of all the projects and desires you could not fulfill with that

money because it was taken away from you. Try to figure out what these numbers

add up to for yourself, you?ll be staggered. The Ruling Class Now

the first answer to the question of why we allow ourselves to be exploited seems

to be that the dominant class does not appear to be the wealthiest in society,

and the fact is it is not. So how come they exploit us, if they don?t make

more money than the richest amongst us ? Some people in the new ruling

class may not be rich, it is true, but neither were many slave owners or feudal

lords. Many lived no better, even were much poorer, than commoners, who were

active in trade and other businesses. It is not the amount of wealth that makes

you a member of the ruling class, but the way this wealth, however modest, is

acquired. It is not how much you earn, but how you earn it, that qualifies

exploitation. Do you make your money by political means or economical means ?

Is it earned or is it extorted ? Madonna makes 1,000 times more money than

a secretary in the European Union Brussels bureaucracy, but no one is forced to

buy Madonna records or attend her concerts. Every single penny, therefore, that

Madonna gets is given to her, often enthusiastically, by her fans. Every single

penny the EU secretary gets in salary is extorted from taxpayers. I grant you

that some people who acquire their revenues through coercion may still render a

useful service. I am sure one finds learned professors in state universities and

dedicated practitioners in state hospitals. The feudal lord too offered the

services of justice, police and defense to his serfs, the official church

provided education and social services.. The question is : there is no way to

know how much these services offered by state employees are really worth : are

they rendered in an optimal fashion ? Do they correspond to the true needs

of the people ? Because you are not free to pay for them (and often the

provision of these services is a monopoly protected by law), no one can tell how

useful the service really is, how much of this service would be needed and at

what price. More importantly, the end never justifies the means. As Albert Camus

used to say : "A political assassination is not a political act, it is an

assassination"; likewise we may say : "Robbing the rich to assist the

poor is not assistance, it is robbery". You can test by yourself how useful

a profession is by the way you would like those engaged in it to practice it.

You want an airline pilot, a hairdresser, a lawyer, a cook, a prostitute?, to

be hard working, dedicated, and creative in their job, but now think of customs

officials. If you have to pay them at all, pay them for doing nothing, you would

get better value than paying them for interfering with your affairs. This is how

useful these exploiters are to society. I must confess that, among exploiters, I

nourish a special aversion for customs officials, and if I may make a pause

here, I would like to tell you a story. It is about this tourist who is visiting

a foreign city. He notices a shop, like that of an antique dealer, and a very

odd small statue of a cat in the window. The tourist walks in and asks for a

price. "The statue is only $100, says the antique dealer, but the story

that goes with the statue is $1,000". "I don?t need the story, the

tourist shrugs, I want to bring a souvenir home, and this statue will do just

fine." "I?ll sell it to you, but believe me, warns the antique

dealer, you?ll soon come back for the story". The tourist leaves the

shop, with the statue in his pocket. As he is returning to his hotel, he notices

a cat is following him. This is unusual. He looks back again, and now four cats

are on his tails, and soon twenty cats. The tourist realizes he cannot walk into

the hotel with a herd of cats behind him, so, as he was crossing a bridge, he

throws the statue into the river. Immediately, the whole army of cats jump from

the bridge into the water and drown. Flabbergasted by what happened, the tourist

pauses for a long moment ; then he takes a sudden decision and traces his steps

back to the shop. The antique dealer wears an indulgent smile : "I see you

are already coming back for the story." "No, replies the tourist, I

would like to buy a statue of a customs official." With the transformation

of society, the face of oppression changes to reflect different circumstances.

This is why we don?t readily recognize exploitation for what it is. For

instance, in most European countries, government bureaucrats are employed for

life. It is the rule in France. When a talented young Frenchman is recruited by

a state agency, the whole French society finds itself saddled with a legal

obligation of 7 to 10 million dollars towards this new employee. This is how

much it will cost society on average to fund this person?s useless activity

from the first pay-check through retirement and until she dies. This 7 to 10

million dollars is the capital the exploited class is forced to guarantee by law

each member of the state exploiters? class. And in France, there are more than

5 millions of them, some 20% of the active population. "Drowning By

Numbers?" This figure of about 20% of the active population, by the way,

is at the high end of the proportion of feudal lords and the official clergy to

the total population during medieval times. There seems to be a natural law that

prevents the ruling class from growing above that number of 20%. Ecology offers

us many examples of such a fixed ratio between exploiters and exploited, between

the number of predators and their preys. Wolves, for instance, feed on caribous.

When the wolves population increases, they kill off too many caribous ; they

start to go hungry, the weakest starve to death, and their total population

settles back to where it was. This analogy tells us there is no difference in

nature between socialism and social-democracy. The difference is only in degree.

In the USSR, in Cuba and elsewhere, the predators exterminated their preys, at

least those who did not manage to flee the country, so the predators ended up

starving. Social-democratic states were clever enough not to scare off all the

"caribous" and keep enough of them alive, so that the ruling class

could prosper. The environment however is changing before our eyes.

Social-democratic economies are not growing as steadily as they did, and joining

the predators? class is seen as the short and safe way to make a living.

Families want their daughters to land a job at a Ministry, farmers demand

subsidies, industrialists beg for tariff protections, the elderly want higher

pensions? Every dominant class throughout history faced this demand from

outsiders to participate in the loot. At first, the exploiters found ways to

restrict entry. For instance, participation in the class of feudal lords came by

birth only. But sooner or later, the dominant class had to give in to allies?

and dependants? pressure. Athens had to integrate its meteques, its resident

aliens ; too many colonials became Roman citizens (think of the Apostle Paul) ;

in France, under Louis XV, as state coffers were emptying, the King was simply

auctioning off access to the noble ranks? The present ruling class is even

more vulnerable. It finds it impossible to restrain the number of predators, as

new entries are conferred not by birth, but by an exam. This method of selecting

predators on the basis of expertise was what the Enlightenment considered its

highest achievement : "La carri?re ouverte aux talents.." Not the

scions of ancient families, but the ablest citizens, whatever their social

origin, would rule the country. Of course, these new rulers, as they became in

charge of public education, would make sure the curriculum would favour their

own kin. You seldom see an ambassador?s son working on a factory line, and

they are not many factory worker?s sons who make it to an ambassadorship. It

is a defining characteristic of a ruling class that it perpetuates itself

through generations. The problem for the present ruling class, however, as Marx

anticipated, is again technological innovation. As the economy evolves from the

Machine Age to the Information Age, it requires better qualified people, not

illiterate factory line workers. Information Age workers are people who have the

capacity to pass all the barriers for admission into the ruling class. So the

number of predators is swelling. It is the ruling class? "internal

contradiction." Democracy Of course, this is not the only problem

the exploiting class is facing. Its other worry is that the ideology which

comforts its legitimacy, the Enlightenment philosophy, also supports the

political regime known as democracy. Democracy?s perversity is that it turns

all of us into accomplices of the violence exerted against society. We accept

this violence inasmuch as we hope to become the oppressors ourselves. In a

feudal society, it is clear who the oppressors are, and who are the victims,

because you are born into one camp or into the other, as I was mentioning

earlier. You are born a slave or a serf, and all your life, you remain an

innocent victim of your oppressors. Democratic society blurs this line between

villains and victims. It gives everyone an easy chance to take part in

oppression. Every time we cast our vote, we are signifying that we wish to take

control over part of the population, that we want to impose upon these men and

women our ideas and values and we want to extort from them the financial means

to achieve our own goals. Democracy is the system that perverts every

individual?s soul and turns every man and woman into a racketeer. With the

conjunction of democratic racketeering and an inflating ruling class, the burden

on the exploited masses is getting unbearable. Exploitation is naked and

brutish. Even ideology soon will not be able to explain away why we are

ransomed. The Big Lie Yet the ruling class? ideology has done a good

job so far, when you think of it. It made us believe that without the state,

roads would not be built, the poor would agonise in the streets, hospitals would

not be funded, and no one would write theatre plays any more? On radio and

television channels, in the newspapers, at schools and in universities, at

churches, everywhere, we are told that democracy is the only viable regime ;

that "social justice" is the common good ; that it is morally

acceptable to coerce any individual if it is for the good of the collective ;

that the end justifies the means ; that there are experts up there in

government, who are taking care of our well-being, who know better than we do

what is good for us, if only we would let them? Conservative ideologues

maintain that class struggle does not exist any longer, we are all middle-class

now? Leftist ideologues still believe in this idea that we are exploited, but

exploitation, they say, comes from the rich, from multinationals, from Wall

Street financiers and Swiss bankers… No one ever mentions that the exploiters

are the state bureaucracy and its lackeys, the military-industrial complex,

subsidised farmers and industrialists?, living off funds extorted from the

productive masses. Such blindness is amazing. On my left, you have a class of

people with guns. They run the army, the police, justice, they control the media

through broadcasting licenses, they exert censorship. All the means at their

disposal come from taxation, your revenues and savings extorted literally at gun

point. On my right, you have multinationals and small entrepreneurs, productive

workers and creators… They bring you the food you consume, they build your

houses, they connect you to telephone networks and television channels, they

supply you with clothes, they manufacture your automobiles and your computers ;

they are so afraid that you would stop buying their goods, which you can do at

any time, that they spend zillions advertising them on glossy paper and video

clips. Now, who are the exploiters ? The people with guns, right, the people who

don?t offer you anything you wish to have, or they would have no need to

confiscate your money in order to produce it, the extortionists ? Wrong.

The exploiters are the capitalists. Isn?t a feat of genius on the

ideologues? part that they have us believe the exploiters are the producers,

the creators, the providers, of the goods you enjoy to buy ? The bigger a lie,

the more faithfully it is believed. In a Fran?ois Truffaut film, there is this

schoolboy who arrives late in class. He knows the teacher won?t believe any

story about trains running late, bus accidents, and the usual excuses. So he

makes a sad face and declares : "My mother just died". The whole

school assembles immediately and offers sympathy ; no one suspects this tragic

death could be a lie. Political lies have to be so gross as to be believed.