The Proletariat: Divided and Conquered

There was once a time, that if someone ever brought up Karl Marx, someone else would inevitably have something to say about it. If I bring up Marx today, who cares? Because of the Cold War, which wasn’t that long ago, Marxism was tied up with the Soviet Union…even though it’s debatable if Marxism can be linked to Leninism or Stalinism. Left-Right, it didn’t matter, people had opinions about socialism and communism.

This is what people did in the era before the internet. Communism, or anything that sounded like communism, was to be shunned or mocked. Because to certain political factions, clearly capitalism defeated Marxism altogether. It just goes to show how quickly times have changed.

Anyways, that maybe neither here nor there.

But Marxist theory of freedom (which is a subject I’ve been visiting a lot lately, particularly with my “new theology”) would argue that people find their maximal freedom within their relations with others, or the interaction with their community. I suppose because we are communal by nature. This contrasts heavily against the traditionally liberal emphasis on individuality. And that was the path towards human emancipation.

Now, as a side note, under the “new theology”, self emancipation is derived out of renouncing the linking of identity to material objects (not all that dissimilar to Marx, I guess) and seeing the self as an ever-changing subject. I’ve also suggested that that might include having to overcome personal/social expectations that are placed onto the individual because those are inhibitors to personal growth. Additionally, under the “new theology”, history doesn’t progress in any Hegelian-like form. If anything, there isn’t a direction to history I would argue. Nor should there be. So while there might be some overlapping in principles between Marx and myself, this is ultimately not a Marxist project.

Okay? Glad we got that out of the way.

But what’s REALLY driving me towards re-investigating Marx is the string of losses that the Democratic Party of the United States have faced recently.

Before I get into that, I should explain that Karl Marx was all about the proletariat. Or, as it’s classically defined, those whose only skill is their labor. Marx believed that it was this class of people that were best positioned to ignite a communist revolution. BUT, as it’s generally assumed, this class had to be UNITED if they were to spark any sort of revolution whatsoever.

Now in the United States, this sort of terminology is not widely used with political discourse. Terms like “class warfare” and “proletariat” are too closely related to Marxism. The Cold War stank still somewhat lingers within the imagination of the public and politicians, so the US has failed to understand ITSELF as a class struggle.  And it’s because of this lack of understanding which, I believe, is causing the Democratic Party’s heartache.

Because the Party is too busy arguing itself with the recent loss in some congressional district in Georgia, a few on the left have mocked the followers of Bernie Sanders…believing that they were kidding themselves all along. Which is completely idiotic considering he very likely would have won if he received the nomination.

I’m sure that you could find data to back that up, but I’m not going to do that (I’m lazy). But I do live in a southern red state, and the redneck, NRA member was certainly NOT going to vote for Hillary Clinton. BUT, they were listening to Bernie Sanders. Despite all the academic, left-wing rhetoric he was slinging in the primaries….conservative voters who would not have normally voted for Democrats, would have very likely pushed the button for Sanders if there was an opportunity in November.

I know that I presented absolutely ZERO empirical evidence for the last paragraph. But I don’t care. What Bernie Sanders represented to me was that Americans aren’t so hostile to Marxian ideas like they were in the past. People, particularly those in the lower and middle class, appeared to be FINALLY united in their struggle for economic equality.

Now I’m not saying that the lower classes should spark a violent communist revolution, or ANY revolution whatsoever. I’d never advocate for violence. But as Americans are divided by race, sex, sexual orientation, etc…there is one thing that unites a healthy portion of them. And that is that they are proletarians being divided and exploited by a higher ranking class (or something close to that).

Okay, so Marxist ideology might not fit our particular example perfectly. But, an argument can be made that most of our struggles boil down to economic disparity. Or those who are born into money remain rich, and those that are born into poverty remain in poor. THAT has become a problem in the US. However, instead of dealing with that problem directly, we begin to attack symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself. MEANING, we begin to focus on racism, sexism, homophobia, and a plethora of other social ills….which are the symptoms….which keeps us distracted from the real root problem of economic disparity.

This isn’t to say that the social justice issues aren’t problems that have to be dealt with. But these problems flow out of a single material-economic cause. And by dividing ourselves according to the various social characteristics (skin color, sex, gay/straight, etc), this only keeps us from avoiding the issue. And the power structure at the top use these characteristics to keep us divided.

The left-right spectrum is especially good at doing this. Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses”. But here in the US, our politics get us pretty damn inebriated. And this keeps the lower and middle class from turning on their masters. And the masters can sleep well at night, knowing that the crowd outside isn’t yelling at them, but they are yelling at each other.

Economic unity isn’t achieved by dividing those at the bottom. But as long as we allow the left-right rhetoric to pollute our minds, we play directly into maintaining the old order. Marx wasn’t always popular in the US, but the public consciousness appears to be warming up to him.

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