19 November 2003


There is now a thriving discussion on the ecosocialism list as regards social classes. Many on the list disagree with the whole emphasis on class struggle that has accompanied traditional Marxist movements. Joel Kovel, in The Enemy of Nature, does not emphasize class at all. Here is a sample post from that list:

> --- In ecosocialism@yahoogroups.com, "joe barnwell"
> wrote:
> > Sam and Group,
> > In a recent trip to the Bay
> > Area, I asked the following question of
> > Joel Kovel: "Given that 'class' refers
> > to the group's relationship to the
> > means of production, haven't we all,
> > in effect, been 'proletarianized.'
> > Haven't we all, in various ways, been
> > sucked into the system of capitalism
> > and lost control over our lives?"
> > Joel, in effect, agreed with this.

SDF: Here's another take on it -- the
representatives of capital represent a
"predator class."

The existence of such a class is not a historically new phenomenon.
As I said in a post on the Green Alliance board:

"The owning-class power elites of the capitalist system must
continually wage war against the world and its people in order to
maintain the profit rate as against a process of profit-extraction
from wage-labor that is subject to boom-bust cycles and which never,
never, even in the best of times, can satisfy the capitalists' lust
for profits. Therefore, at all stages of capitalist
development, "primitive accumulation" (I.e. theft, conquest, taking,
the "five-finger discount," fraud, corporate welfare, subsidy,
ransacking governments, etc.) must be employed to subsidize the
exploitation of labor.

(This notion came from an essay in the collection Anti-Capitalism: A Marxist Introduction.)

The interesting thing about this era of capitalist development,
though, is that the capitalists' desire for profit has gotten so
reckless that it stands a chance of wrecking the entire profit system
through either a) a catastrophic ramping-up of its warmaking
capacities (eg Cheney's declarations of "endless war"), b) ecological
destruction that could be so bad that it "bottoms out" and causes
what Jim O'Connor called "the second contradiction of capitalism," or
c) a profit-driven economic collapse of the old-fashioned sort,
followed by a possible revolution whose results will be quite

Thus, amidst this panting economic situation, today you have what
honest economists call "casino capitalism," where investments are a
gamble, and where the difference between the stellar expectations of
investment bankers (20% maybe) and the snail's-pace global economic
growth rate (3-5%) is a high bankruptcy rate, endemic accounting
fraud, and the increasing impoverishment of certain sectors of the
global working class (eg Argentina with its 40% unemployment rate)."

(Thanks to Harry Shutt's The Trouble With Capitalism for the theoretical suggestion underlying that last paragraph.)