Left vs Labor

For the longest time, the Left everywhere dreamt of massive popular uprisings of labor against capital. The whole point of the Left was that in the conflict between labor and capital one had to be on the side of labor. But the moment labor does rise up against exploitation by capital and the power structures that are subservient to it, the Left turns its nose at the protesters.

This is not a new development. The Left lost most of its battles against capital because it always found the people it’s supposed to represent kind of distasteful. Russia’s great writer Solzhenitsyn was a passionate Marxist-Leninist who was all about the rights of workers and peasants until he met some actual workers and peasants and discovered that they weren’t very cultured and smelled kind of funny. And that was that for his interest in the working classes.

This is a story that keeps repeating itself in different eras and different places. Capital has learned how to make itself look very seductive to the Leftists. It says all the right things, it doesn’t permit itself to give off even a whiff of un-PC ideas. Capital just smells nice. And those unhappy, angry workers can never win that competition. They can never manage to use the correct slogans or show up at a convenient time. As Solzhenitsyn observed in 1950s, they are way too emotionally attached to having enough food to eat and enough clothes to wear, and that’s boring and not exalted enough for anybody to support them. It would be so easy to be on their side if they came out chanting “hey-ho, white supremacist imperialistic patriarchy has got to go.” Instead, they show up to oppose a fuel tax which just isn’t exciting and smells kind of nasty. Plus, they look uncouth in their vests, and might they actually be right-wingers? Fuck them, let’s wait for the real working classes instead, the ones that will be internationalist, recognize their privilege, and finally be the way the Left always wanted workers to be.

15 thoughts on “Left vs Labor”

  1. \ As Solzhenitsyn observed in 1950s, they are way too emotionally attached to having enough food to eat and enough clothes to wear, and that’s boring and not exalted enough for anybody to support them.

    I understood he wasn’t even ironic when he made the observation. In which book did he write about it?

    Reminded of Auden’s piece among his ‘shorts’:

    To the man-in-the-street who, I’m sorry to say,
    Is a keen observer of life,
    The word intellectual suggests right away
    A man who’s untrue to his wife.

    // Plus, they look uncouth in their vests, and might they actually be right-wingers?

    True Left is supposed to be above the tribalism of left vs right (with a small letter) because the real divide is between the (currently global) rich and (currently local) working classes regardless of whether workers were trained to think of themselves as right or left wing. Isn’t it so? I thought the term “false consciousness” of workers and peasants could be applied to this situation too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Most lefties I know are either unaware of the protests or support them. I should ask around more, but that’s been my experience


    1. This isn’t getting one percent of coverage that the ridiculous Mueller thing gets or refugees in Europe. I go on FB, everybody is a bleeding heart leftie and despises me for not participating in the endless hand-wringing over refugees. But this subject isnt even mentioned. The most popular Christmas cause are winter clothes for refugees. And my cause is the food pantry in our opiod-afflicted area nearby. Let’s guess how many people supported my cause as opposed to the refugees. Zero percent. I’m not saying it’s a bad cause but why is it never the local poor?


      1. Nobody gives a damn about international politics and that’s not about to change now, it’s pretty sad though. I’m with you on local causes but some people like to help out with whatever’s flashy. People where I am seem to be somewhat into helping local people though, hadn’t thought to be thankful for it but now I am. I’m hearing more about the local senior center possibly closing than anything to do with refugees.


          1. They did. Here, people also posted weepy stories about a local homeless man who froze to death at a bus stop. Then there was a lot of fundraising for the homeless shelter after that. People here often prioritize dumb bullshit like the streetcar and renaming Columbus day over addressing the real problems facing our city, and national politics take priority over local politics. But there is still some sense of community and place here and it shows. I hope that’s still around in 10 years.


  3. “the Left turns its nose at the protesters”
    On another forum I was involved in a discussion with German about this very topic. The German simply thought they’re lazy French bastards blocking awesome-boy Macron’s needed reforms and no evidence was budging him.

    Germans…. honestly, you might as well go talk to a bunch of large rocks…..


    1. The Germans always had a hostile relationship with the French, and I’m sure there is some unconscious schadenfreude at play. Also, they are the largest winners in Europe of neoliberal policies, so why should they mind? Until they have a reason to mind, which will happen soon enough. Everybody loves fluidity until it bites them on the ass. But by then it’s too late to do anything.


      1. “The Germans always had a hostile relationship with…. EVERYONE AROUND THEM!!!!”
        I fixed that for you.
        As you said the system is working for them…. now, so they don’t care what happens to any other countries (while convincing themselves that they deserve their problems) but then whine about the need for “Solidarity” whenever German interests are at stake – not the most endearing set of policies.


  4. Socialism is not about the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Socialism lives and dies on the presumption that middle-class intellectuals are smarter, morally superior, and better suited to run society than businessmen. When it comes to redistributing wealth, from Bismarck to Trump, it is important to recognize that the right can do it just as well as the left with the added advantage that they can pile on xenophobia to their heart’s content.


    1. Absolutely. Socialists are always “yay for the working classes” until they meet actual workers and go all “what, you haven’t read Derrida? You don’t deserve my support, you dirty hick.”


      1. For a Weberian type (middle-class as the key revolutionary group) look at medieval political rebellions, I suggest Norman Cohn’s Pursuit of the Millenium. There is an important economic model used that is critical for understanding contemporary populism. You have an economic boom that benefits some people more than others. The non-winners can live with that on the assumption that eventually the boom will catch up with them. The boom ends without that happening, leaving a great sense of frustration. This sets up all kinds of conspiracy thinking as people look for scapegoats. In comes the demagogue willing to play on these beliefs and translate them into an actual revolution.


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