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Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Again, on “Classism”

| 40 Comments

The word “classist” has been coming up again on my various social media feeds.  The term itself has a couple of problems.  The first I’ve commented on before: it reduces the class struggle—a clash of real, objective forces, and the most fundamental cause of oppression—to a prejudice, to a mere idea, to people “thinking wrong.”  But there’s another problem with how I’ve been hearing it used.
 
So often I’ve heard something called “classist” for objecting to ignorance and backwardness among among sections of the working class.  As in, it is “classist” to expect or demand a certain level of education, or culture in the working class.    It is not “classist” to wish for people to have a good working command of their own native language; it is sad when they do not (I am not here referring to slang or vernacular, I’m referring to an inability to communicate clearly in written or spoken language).  I’ve heard basic courtesy disparaged as, “bourgeois manners.” Well, pray, what other sort of manners are available at this time?  Feudal? No thank you; my knees are too old to bow properly.  None at all?  Accepting rudeness, boorishness, and lack of respect for others as laudable?  I don’t think so.  
 
It is the misfortune, not the fault of the working class that so many are deprived of good education, of access to culture. But the solution is not to pretend it is “snobbish” to value those things, the solution is to fight to raise the cultural level of the class.  People, there is a reason that throughout history, revolutionists would teach the oppressed to read! They didn’t say, “Objecting to illiteracy is classist,” they gave reading lessons—to peasants, to slaves, to workers.
 
Marxists believe that the working class is revolutionary, not because of how they think, but because of their objective social position, because they produce all value. This does not mean accepting backwardness and calling it a virtue, it means fighting against it.
 
If we encounter bigotry among white workers, we do not shrug our shoulders and smugly dismiss it as, “Well, that’s how they are.” No, we fight it as part of building class solidarity. The same is true of other forms of ignorance.
(My original discussion of the term, dealing with the more fundamental issues, is here.)
skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

40 Comments

  1. Is it classist when the Latin or French word for poop is OK, but the Anglo-Saxon word isn’t? How about when we use the pronunciation of “ask” that I grew up using instead of the version I hear more often in a black community?

  2. Pretty much grew up on my grandfather’s stories about getting hit in the head and sometimes retaliating during the struggle to build his union. He wa a Linotype operator for most of his life–set type in 3 languages. He never finished high school, but he was an avid reader and was always educating himself.

    My family’s roots are working class–skilled working class. Many of us are well-educated, and people like me got our education and ended up in working-class jobs because they were less based on exploiting others. I turned my back on going up the ladder at my employer because management culture was terrifically punitive.

    It is very classist to assume workers are uneducated, but some are not educated because an educated working class is not going to be bamboozled by the bosses. Look at those coal miners waiting on coal to come back–their school systems are often forced to not present a lot of options.

    Educating workers and encouraging them to educate themselves is like teaching them self-defense. Really important if anything is going to improve.

  3. The fact that the powers that be have rid our education system of the perils of civics and cursive writing warns of the classism to come. Doing away with the tools in place for an informed society to exist is far more insidious than the overt nationalism espoused by the powerful to scare the uninformed. This is both sides of the aisle, quietly creating a new society that will look very much like modern feudalism. Invest in knee pads.

  4. “The Struggle for Cultured Speech”
    https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/women/life/23_05_16.htm
    “Abusive language and swearing are a legacy of slavery, humiliation, and disrespect for human dignity—one’s own and that of other people,” Trotsky says in the above piece.
    Not so long I found myself thinking of those remarks seeing the scene in Star Trek IV where, walking about and bus-riding in San Francisco, Spock remarks its profuseness in our time.
    Clearly, they’d moved past it in the Federation-just as one would expect them to have done.
    I’ll say it again-I miss the older series’.
    https://raritania.blogspot.com/2018/07/admiral-kirk-and-captain-spock-ride-le.html

  5. Identifying racism in the American working class as a class issue is an extreme example of “mote/beam”. Racism is a founding principle of American society, built into every system and societal norm.

    Liberal (in the classic, not political sense) education can ameliorate the endemic white supremacy and privilege that infects every level of our culture, but it is still the sea we all swim in. It is inescapable. Building class solidarity might be essential for progress– I’m sure it is– but how do we accomplish it when nothing in our society is untainted by bias, not history, not media, not laws, not traditions? How do you start to teach workers that they are all allies when brown workers are either invisible or branded criminal?

  6. skzb

    Nader: Yeah, I’ve always liked that essay.

  7. skzb

    Check your history, larswyrdson. Racism is not a founding principle of American society. It came into vogue after and in response to the attack on slavery in the Declaration of Independence, and didn’t really get any traction until the early to mid 19th Century. Obviously, it was created and spread to justify slavery, which makes it fundamentally a class issue. This becomes even more clear as we examine the history of Jim Crow, where it was a very conscious and deliberate effort to pit white workers against black workers in response to the success of Populist movement (see “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” by C. Vann Woodward). The very success of the Populism that caused Jim Crow is sufficient proof that racism is not endemic, even if we ignore the work of the IWW in fighting racism in the early 20th Century, or the spectacular successes in the early days of the CIO (see LABOR’S GIANT STEP by Art Priess).

  8. Steven- with all respect, even if Western Europeans didn’t yet see themselves as all one race, the English settlers that made up the majority of the Founding Fathers certainly saw themselves as inherently superior to both the indigenous people whose land they were stealing and the African and Native people they were pressing into chattel slavery. Yes, the concept evolved over time, who was in and out of the dominant group changed with shifting political landscapes, but it is disingenuous to ignore that imagined kinship and otherness was at the core of the economic and political structures that built the US.

    The wealth of the nation was built with both slave labor and exploited paid labor, but who fit each of those categories was not randomly assigned. The land this nation is built on is mostly stolen outright, but where payment was offered, it was almost never offered to natives. Even Abolitionists, who existed right from the beginning, I’ll grant you, often believed repatriation was the only peaceful aftermath to abolition.

    Saying slavery was a class issue doesn’t explain away why skin color alone was sufficient to determine your class. If it was, Irish indentured servants really would have been in the same class as black chattel slaves. They were not.

    There have been times when it was recognized for what it is and people rose above it, if only a little. The early days of Reconstruction, for one, or many of the struggles of the labor movement, as you say. I often think of the Sayles movie Matewan, when I want to feel hopeful. When I am depressed, I think of the Draft Riots here in New York.

  9. skzb

    “Saying slavery was a class issue doesn’t explain away why skin color alone was sufficient to determine your class. ” That is, in fact, exactly the point. The theory of race was deliberately invented and spread and emphasized, first, to justify African slavery, and, later, to create what Debs called, “White skin privilege,” by which he meant the effort to convince the poor white that he was above the poor black, in order to keep them apart.

    Slaves are of a different class than wage-laborers (indentured servitude complicates things, as it is a weird sort of in-between; but its economic role is as a milder form of slavery.) When I say that it is a class issue, I mean it very precisely: theory of race was created to justify African slavery after it came under attack in 1776–a completely unprecedented attack. Suddenly the slave-owner was on the defensive just for being a slave-owner. He responded by digging out and dusting off the work of J. F. Blumenbach, which no one had paid any attention to, and saying, “See? They’re inferior!”

    Because here’s the thing: before that, early in the colonies’ history and up to the end of the 18th Century, the European feeling of superiority toward both Africans and the original inhabitants of the continent was based, above all, on RELIGION, not skin color. They weren’t Christian, so they had to be saved, they had to be “civilized.” This appears over and over in letters and diary entries from that period; you’ll find nary a reference to pigmentation as a mark of the worth of a person until much later. Thus the statement that the US was founded on racism is demonstrably false.

    And race is still being used exactly as it was intended by its creators. I don’t just mean the white supremacists, but that even good-hearted liberals, insofar as they accept the narrative that race is a fundamental determinate, are carrying on the work of the Bourbon interests of the South in treating racial divisions between workers as hard and fast, thus encouraging policies that unite across class lines (which never works out well for the lower classes) and preventing class unity (which is the only way forward).

    If we are to fight racial oppression in society, and racism among sections of the white working class (which dialectically complement each other), we need to start with the understanding that the theory of race was a deliberate and malicious lie spread in the interest of the oppressors against the oppressed. In other words, a class issue.

  10. I was on a tour at the Soudan underground iron mine. Very good tour—you go down about a half mile into the ground.
    The tour guide was about a 60 something miner and had some salient information (I would really liked to have had a long conversation with him but no opportunity).
    He mentioned that when it was running full, there were 20 different languages being spoken and the mining company very much liked to put people who spoke different languages together to lessen the chance of their unionizing. Soudan didn’t unionize until 1943.
    So, language has always been used as a tool to try to divide workers.

  11. larswyrdson, Marx thought slavery was a class issue:

    “Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.” —Karl Marx

  12. Guys, I accept that slavery was a class issue and that its existence in a society has negative implications for all workers, not just the slaves. But that does not preclude American slavery from being an aspect of racism inherent in the ruling class, as I think Will’s Marx quote exemplifies.

    Steven, saying the colonists were more religious bigots than racists is not a very compelling argument. They may well have used religion as their excuse for their policies, but it doesn’t reflect in their actions. They may have used religion as their preferred defining characteristic for their in group, but you can’t pretend they were color-blind. The mercantilists and landed gentry that formed the first ruling class of the colonies did not inflict the forms of their oppression evenly.

    The majority of the world’s inhabitants were not Christians, but the victims of American slavery were not randomly sampled from the population. When black slaves converted to Christianity, were they freed and given tools to begin their own trade? The Cherokee of the American Southeast largely adopted both Christianity and the colonists’ economic and cultural norms, were they exempted from the Indian Relocation Act?

    White identity and racism might not have been formally codified yet, but the Founding Fathers knew perfectly well what they were doing. Jefferson’s writings make it very clear. He was one of the most compelling thinkers on human liberty in Western history, claimed to hate slavery, but he did not see his black slaves as fully human. He was simultaneously proud of the quality of the craftsmen that he owned and still convinced that they were intellectual children. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were never intended for everyone.

    Of course, race as it is defined is biologically meaningless! There is no validity to associating skin color or vague geographical family origins with any other trait. That does not mean that racism isn’t real in and of itself, just like misogyny, homophobia, religious bigotry, or ethnic hatred of any kind. The ruling class might use racism to divide the working class as a tactic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thoroughly racist as well. Why is the war on immigration happening only at our southern border?

    Class unity is essential for advancing justice, but if you pursue it without first acknowledging the real intolerance that infects our culture, how can you achieve it? Isn’t that implied by Will’s quote as well? I don’t believe you can unite the working class by excusing white racism and telling workers of color that all their grievances will be addressed after the revolution.

  13. skzb

    larswyrdson: Two things. The first is that I’m starting to suspect we’re speaking at cross purposes. That is to say, your most recent remarks do not appear (unless I’m missing something, which is always possible) to dispute my point. My disagreement with you was specifically on the subject racism being endemic to the founding of the country. Those we subjugate, we must feel superior to in order to justify the subjugation. But the changing of the precise nature of those feelings of superiority matter. “Founded on racism” is both historically inaccurate in general, and leads to political errors based on (as I have seen so very much among the petit-bourgeois pseduo-left) approaches that rely on subjectivity (“this makes me feel X”), a sense of hopelessness (“America was, is, and always will be racist,”, and, above all, the advancing of an agenda that only benefits the upper strata of the oppressed groups. The “America was founded on racism” narrative fits perfectly with these approaches. And it is incorrect, as racism, as we understand the term, was essentially non-existent at the time.

    Which brings us directly to my second issue with your remarks, which may sound like a trivial disagreement, but can have huge effect on our activity. You say, “Class unity is essential for advancing justice, but if you pursue it without first acknowledging the real intolerance that infects our culture, how can you achieve it?” The answer is that, as we’ve seen over and over, we cannot have a “first that, than this,” kind of program. The fight for class unity, the fight against racial oppression, the fight against the attacks on all workers, are all part of each other, are interdependent, and must be carried on at the same time. The demand, during the River Rouge strike, that “Negro” workers get equal pay, and not be given the shit jobs, was not separate from the effort to win that strike, but a necessary part of it; and wining that strike was the only way to secure those demands. That is the only way real advances in any of those fights have ever been made, and ever could be made.

  14. lars, which colonists? Remember that there were no white people in North America until around 1680. One of the most important cases establishing the difference between slavery and indenture was brought by Anthony Johnson, a black man who had John Casor declared a slave for life. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Casor

  15. Nicely put. My biggest objection to the phrase “class struggle” is that it creates an “us versus them” mindset that can prevent cooperation. Although there are cases where revolution is the only way to correct an entrenched historical imbalance, we should be able to do better than that more often — negotiate a better modus vivendi. Possible? Yeah, witness the small but significant number of millionaires and billionaires who support a tax hike for people in their income bracket. Easy? Not remotely. But: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills…”

  16. What people miss is “class struggle” isn’t “us versus them”; it’s “us versus capitalism”. Some bourgeois people support the class struggle; some working class people oppose it. The latter work against their class out of ignorance. The former work against their class to make a better world for everyone.

  17. Whether or not that’s correct *in theory* I’ll leave to the theorists. In practice, it tends to end in tears, which was my point. If you start with the proposition that some group of people represents a class, you’re already creating class distinctions that create “us versus them”. If you start with the proposition that it will be a “struggle” rather than a cooperative endeavor, you’re already creating conditions for the use of force rather than reason.

    If you want to focus on capitalism, don’t call it a “class” struggle: call it a “socioeconomic system” struggle or “conflict of idiologies”. How we name something powerfully shapes how we understand it. Compare the French revolution with the American rich voluntarily and peacefully agreeing to be taxed and you’ll see the distinction I’m getting at.

  18. Is it a proposition that some people own the means of production and some do not?

    I especially dislike “socioeconomic” because it conflates social class and economic class, which are often but not always related.

  19. No argument over your proposition, but it’s orthogonal to my point. We can agree to disagree on the specific nomenclature; if you prefer, replace “socioeconomic” with “economic”. So long as you define your terms, I’m OK with that.

    But do you dispute my point that what we name something shapes how we think of it? (Consider, for example, the many ways we can refer to “people of color” — some egalitarian, some not so much — and the fact that current social conditions don’t let us stop at “people” and leave it at that, because doing so ignores the different challenges they face.) Do you dispute that pigeonholing people into a “class”, economic or otherwise, separates the “them” class from the “us” class rather than bringing us together in a “just people” class so we can look for a win–win solution?

    Yes, it’s perhaps naive to believe that negotiation can always achieve consensus. I know firsthand that it doesn’t always work. But on the other hand, my experience has been that consensus is more likely when we start with the proposition “we’re all in this together”.

  20. I completely agree that naming can divide us, but naming is essential to understanding the world. In earlier times, the classes were obvious: there were princes, merchants, and peasants. Our princes and merchants have merged more or less under capitalism, and the peasants have become the working class. I see no point in pretending this divide doesn’t exist.

  21. Geoff Hart is talking about the “weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis”.

    The “strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” would say that our language tends to control our thinking. But we create new language all the time, and sometimes we interpret bad language structures as damage and route around them.

    But language controls our thinking whenever we use it as a shortcut and fail to actually think.

    One of the ways that people get attention is to divide people up into two opposing groups. When it succeeds, they divide up and really pay a whole lot of attention to who’s on their side and who their enemies are. The emphasis turns to beating the enemy away from whatever else it might have been before.

    I want to think that if Marx (or somebody) had put a lot of thought into a better way to build society, many people might have spent the last 150+ years looking for ways to make it happen. And when a big purpose shows up like that, it tends to prevail against all enemies though not always. (Consider for example the Cathars, who literally tried to live like Jesus said, who were such a threat to the existing order that they got largely genocided.)

    But Marx didn’t do that. The word was that the working class would come up with a better system after they took control. The important thing was to split up into two groups who fought bitterly and for one of those groups to win. And that got so much attention that if somebody else did it right, they were mostly ignored.

  22. Yes! Weak Sapir-Worf is well supported. (The reductio ad absurdum is to compare how you would code a function in BASIC or assembler vs. in an object-oriented language. Or how you would communicate with someone using only calculus to describe your external world.)

    The strong flavor is a bit more questionable, though fascinating to explore through fiction.

  23. Agreed that we can’t ignore the divisions among us that create groups. The problem is how to be aware of those groups without defining them as “them”. The risk of my proposed approach (treating everyone as part of the “we’re all in this together” group) is that it ignores differences among us that may be crucial and it still creates a “them” group who don’t believe that we’re all in it together.

    Best I can suggest is to consciously avoid lumping people into groups by applying labels such as “bourgeois” that are both offensive and ineffective. Possibly the solution is a functional approach, in which we step back and say “what are that person’s perceived needs and how can we negotiate over those needs” rather than relying on shortcuts such as “what group do they belong to and how does that pigeonhole them”.

    May not be practical when dealing with large numbers of people, but it’s the direction we should be trying to head.

  24. This isn’t just a matter of lumping people into random groups. It’s a matter of understanding capitalism, a system that divides people into owners and workers.

    Historically, bourgeois people were proud to be bourgeois. That you think it is offensive tells you socialism is growing.

  25. And I disagree with your contention that weak Sapir-Worf is well-supported. It’s, well, weak.

  26. skzb

    This is one where I emphatically agree with Will. It is reasonable to divide people into, those who are shooting at me and those who are not. Objecting to that division as “divisive” makes getting shot more likely.

    The question of whether that is a valid analogy is, purely and simply, whether the class struggle as the fundamental driving force of society is objectively true. I believe it is. Thus, *refusing* make that division on our minds does nothing except make it easier for the enemy to, well, shoot us. More and more, this is true literally.

    So I think that is the issue on which we disagree: is the class struggle not only real, but objectively the fundamental force that moves society.

  27. “And I disagree with your contention that weak Sapir-Worf is well-supported.”

    The computer-language example is a very good one.

    When you’ve experienced it, you won’t deny it.

    Like when you learn a foreign language well enough to notice how different you feel when you think in it. With foreign human languages it’s kind of subtle. With computer languages it hits you over the head.

    You have to learn to think in terms of the strengths of the particular language, and put aside the tools it doesn’t support.

  28. Jonah, I’m not saying framing is irrelevant. I’m saying people overrate it. Look, for example, at the ways people kept coming up with new polite terms for black people, only to have the new term become an insult in the mouths of racists. People adapt to framing very quickly.

    Geoff, if it’s any comfort, for socialists the division between between working class and bourgeois is not a hard line like those identitarians use when they talk about white privilege or mansplaining. The socialist terms are objective. The question for us is which class you support, not which class you currently occupy.

  29. Language lets you communicate. It makes some ideas easier to communicate than others.

    Some people think that if they change the language they can prevent other people from having ideas they want to have.

    There might be ways to do that sometimes, but it’s very hard to get people to forget ideas they like. George Orwell in _1984_ had the idea that it was possible to get people to not think of ideas using special language. He wound up suggesting that people do “double-think”, where each time they think of something they look at it and decide whether it’s a forbidden idea and then dismiss it if so. People do that.

    It seems like it would be very hard to come up with a version of the language that does not let you insult people when you want to insult them.

  30. Insults have more to do with the tone than the literal meaning.

  31. Yes, exactly! So PC people tell others they can’t use a word that has traditionally been used in an insulting way, and then people use another word in an insulting way until the PC people say that word is now a bad word too.

    This is not an effective way to use language to influence people’s thinking. One of the reasons it doesn’t work is that it’s entirely reactionary. They wait until a word has insulting connotations before they try to ban it. And their intention is to prevent people from insulting each other, when people want to insult each other.

    Language influences thought a lot.

    And the idea that I will choose the language you use so that your thinking will be decided for you, is incredibly elitist. It assumes that I am way smarter than you.

  32. I’d say PC people tell others they can’t use a word that was traditionally used in a respectful way, but now the PC people have decided it’s an insult. So Colored becomes Negro becomes Afro American becomes African American, and Retarded becomes Handicapped becomes Differently Abled. But the attitudes of the people using the words don’t change, no matter how much the PC people hope a magical word will change things.

  33. skzb

    Huh. Weirdly, I think the weak version of Sapir-Wharf is true, and I agree with Will that changing the terms does far, far less (effectively nothing) to change attitudes than proponents of PC-speech think. I’m not sure if these beliefs are contradictory. If they are, I’m going to have to figure that out.

  34. It’s true that the way people use language affects their thinking. But….

    Here’s an analogy. When you seduce a woman, your nonverbal communication makes a big difference. You must let her know how you feel, and not just by your unemotional words.

    If a person knows that, and therefore approaches a woman by grabbing her, kissing her, and making sure she smells his armpit, would you be surprised if his method is not always totally successful?

  35. Apologies for delayed reply… traveling for 2 days.

    Feel free to disagree with my example of how computer programming languages and mathematics provide different constraints from those imposed by everyday language = weak Sapir-Worf. “Reality is that, which when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”–P.K. Dick

    I think we’ve staked out our positions well enough that readers can decide which one they choose to believe. I leave you the last word.

  36. (Apologies for shotgun replies… many issues being conflated in a series of posts, so replying to all in one post would be complex.)

    Will wrote: “This isn’t just a matter of lumping people into random groups. It’s a matter of understanding capitalism, a system that divides people into owners and workers.”

    “Random” is your word, not mine, and in the interest of productive debate, I’d ask that you not put words in my mouth to support points that I didn’t make. Neither should you assume that I’m ignorant of the broad brushstrokes of the socialism vs. capitalism dichotomy; your wording has been patronizing and unproductive.

    There’s nothing random about owners vs. workers. It’s a valid empirical dichotomy. The problem with focusing on that point is that in my reading of history (to be clear, reasonably broad but unquestionably ***shallow***), this pigeonholing inevitably degrades into us versus them name-calling and ends badly. YMMV. The productive point is what benefits and drawbacks different paradigms (here, socialism vs. capitalism) reveal and how those worldviews can be reconciled to improve our lot. Focusing on labels doesn’t help in any way imho, and as your disagreement with my terminology reveals, obfuscates more than it clarifies. (Some time back, our good host and I disagreed on the connotation, if not the denotation, of socialism. Once we’d defined our terms, we found we agreed more than we disagreed.)

    That being said, I’d love to see our good host create a new blog entry that discusses historical examples of cases where socialism or capitalism has worked for the benefit of the people in the long run without a tension between it and the other dogma keeping the two sides honest and working towards the same goals. You’ll undoubtedly see this as trolling rather than as an honest request for a deepening of my understanding. I hope others will read this in the spirit in which it is intended.

    fwiw, I’m one of those despised in-betweeners who believes that given the weaknesses of human nature, a socially responsible hybrid of socialism and capitalism is probably the best we can hope for. (For examples, consider Canada’s socialized medicine and universal social support programs, and FDR’s “New Deal”. God willing, we’ll see AOC’s “New Green Deal”. accomplish similar miracles.) But at least 2 participants in this discussion are bright and well-read SF/F authors who can provide important insights into this notion that I may not have considered or stumbled across in my reading. But please… start a new post to hold that debate.

    Will: “Historically, bourgeois people were proud to be bourgeois. That you think it is offensive tells you socialism is growing.”

    I’m not sure how you’re trying to spin my words here. I’m perfectly content to be bourgeois, having achieved that status through a combination of being born into the right place (a middle-class family in a prosperous social democracy) while also working my ass of to benefit from that running start. I seek opportunities to use my privilege to make things better for those who are less blessed than I am in several ways, following the examples of my grandfather and father before me. My point was and is that I’ve never heard “bourgeois” used in any way other than to denigrate people. The least negative spin on it that I’ve ever heard is that we bourgeois are at best fence-sitters unwilling to commit to the struggle for what’s right. At best, patronizing (“épater la bourgeoisie”). Again, YMMV and I leave you the last word.

  37. Will noted: “if it’s any comfort, for socialists the division between between working class and bourgeois is not a hard line like those identitarians use when they talk about white privilege or mansplaining. The socialist terms are objective. The question for us is which class you support, not which class you currently occupy.”

    And yet, your response is self-contradictory. If it’s *not* a hard line, why do I have to choose which *of two* classes I support? What if I choose to support both? You seem to have missed how your reply assumes and therefore creates a clear division between us (in your case, the worker class) and them (by implication, any class that is not the workers). The problem is *not* that the dichotomy lacks empirical evidence. It’s the problem I spend a dismaying amount of time trying to teach the scientists I work with: If there’s considerable evidence for two competing ideas, odds are good that both are right because they’re describing different aspects of the same problem. The reality is usually more complex than the binary, and understanding that gives much room for progress.

    If I had to sum up my argument in one overly simplistic phrase, it’s that I fear how binaries seem to inevitably degrade into “if you’re not with us (i.e., if you have any sympathy for “them”), then you’re against us”. That prevents dialogue, and it’s why I disagree so vehemently with relying on a definition of class or of struggle; it starts with the assumption that the world is divided into two groups (us versus them) rather than “we’re all in this together and need to find a way to live together.”

    Naive? Sure. Could it work on a large scale? No idea. It might be nice if we tried it just once to see. I know it works on a small scale because my mother’s cousin is one of the foremost labor arbitrators in Canada — consensual arbitration based on finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs, not the toxic “forced arbitration” we see so often in the U.S. that only meets the employer’s needs. Again, I leave you the last word in this. Hope we’ll cross paradigms again in a new blog post.

  38. “If it’s *not* a hard line, why do I have to choose which *of two* classes I support? What if I choose to support both?”

    I don’t think the claim is that there are only two classes. I think the claim is that at any given time there are only two classes that *matter*.

    There’s the class that’s currently on top. It would be appropriate to call it “the ruling class”.

    There’s the class that’s best positioned to take over from them. That’s “the revolutionary class”.

    There are other classes which don’t currently matter. For example the beggar class. They will ask for goodies from whoever has them, and it doesn’t really matter what they want. They’re only going to get it if somebody is nice to them. They don’t matter.

    Marxist theory says that currently the capitalist class is the ruling class, while the working class is the revolutionary class. Someday the wheel will turn, and the capitalists will fall off and the workers will be on top, the ruling class, exploiting anybody who’s available to be exploited. Or rather, creating peace and freedom for all.

    It’s only two classes that matter, like it’s only two political parties that matter. If you aren’t a Democratr or a Republican, then you’re nobody. You might as well cheer for the party you despise less. If you aren’t a member of the ruling class or the revolutionary class then you are irrelevant but you can cheer for one class.

    Are they right? Will it be the working class that takes over? Not the spook class, that monitors everyone and has the best information? Not the behavior-mod class that knows best how to manipulate people? Not the preppers that believe they are most ready to survive the coming catastrophe? I dunno.

  39. EDIT: Decided to drop this.

  40. Has everyone been paying attention to what’s been happening in Oregon? The Democrats there hold a supermajority in both houses and the governorship. They were just about to pass some genuinely progressive legislation, and the Republicans simply fled the capitol to deny them a quorum. And some militia gun nuts marched downtown and shut down rge physical building. The governor threatened to send Sherrifs to round them up, but then backed down. The progressive legislstion was abandoned.

    So that’s where party politics got our Oregon friends.

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