The last post put me in mind of a matter that I have been pondering for decades ie the misuse of language by "the left". God knows there are dozens upon dozens of examples where the use of a term works to prevent thought rather than expedite it, and the "left" is hardly the only sinner in this regard. Still, being 'of the left', however much I may be a protestant against a lot of its rhetoric, I choose the following as examples, both old and new. So, starting from the last post, here are a few examples and criticism of them. I have no doubt that readers could contribute others.
1)Bourgeois (British term 'Middle Class'):
Beginning as a French term for 'town dwellers' this is perhaps the granddaddy of all abused leftist terms. While it has an actual meaning in leftist economics/sociology (despite the great confusion about what the prefix "petit" means) as the "owners of the means of production" it is only very rarely used in that way today (or for many decades previously). It would actually be very hard to use this term accurately in any modern economy where a large segment of the economy is directed through the state and another very large segment is "owned", if not controlled, via dispersed stock ownership such that the "working class" are the nominal owners of same.
Accuracy, however, is a very minor point when the real point is to insult. Historically the term has been used by socialists to insult their socialist opponents. It has also been used, very unfortunately, to refer to the opinions of those who disagree with the particular flavour of socialism that the insulter favours. This would be harmless is it were merely a matter of sectarian politics, but it unfortunately usually generalizes into an arrogant condemnation of the majority who disagree with the socialists. In the present day this arrogance has been raised to an art form by various 'primitivist' and 'post leftist' perversions of anarchism in the USA. They have elaborated this insult term into essays that take up thousands of words of nonsense.
2)Working Class: After 4 decades of experience I have come to know that people who use this term have nothing but the best intentions. God knows I have used it myself at times and, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, will undoubtedly use it again. The intent is good, but the effect is not necessarily as good. Marx had his own private definition of something called "the proletariat" which someone who, like myself, is willing to subject themselves to reading his too often quoted but rarely read 3 Volumes of 'Capital' can discover. To say the least it is not what leftists today refer to as the "working class" , or even what Marxists usually referred to in their bids for power. Marx was very clear about what the "proletariat" was ie a class of people who sold their labour (and were thereby exploited by selling their labour for less than its actual value) to produce a "commodity" that would be sold on a 'close to free' market where the cost of the commodity would approximate the labour cost of its production. Such "free markets" were very much an ideological construct of the situation where Marx wrote Capital. Today the whole idea is quite absurd as such "commodities" are very much a tiny minority of the goods and services of any developed economy. State services are not sold. The prices of other goods are "set" by mechanisms that have nothing whatsoever to do with the labour involved in their production.
All that is merely a criticism of Marxism. The more important point is that there is not a "working class" but rather many working classes. People who work are very much divided by a number of different factors such as the source of their income (state versus private), the "necessity" of their work (luxuries such as social work and jewelry versus food production), the degree with which they exercise "authority" in their work, the status of their work, the remuneration of their work, etc.,etc.,etc.. It makes no sense, no matter how ideologically satisfying or "apparently" useful politically to pretend that there is one working class. The use of the term "might" be justified in terms of propaganda. Myself, I prefer to use terms such as "workers" or "ordinary people" that leave such sociological questions in abeyance.
This is a new one that I have only seen popping up in the last few years in anarchist and general leftist propaganda. It is very much the creation of an "academic name" for something that is simple common sense ie that there are "many" different ways in which an individual exists in the world. At its best- though it rarely is at its best because it is an academic creation-this would lead to a certain scepticism about the claims of liberation movements a to z because life is always more complicated than ideologues can describe. At its worst it's one more way for leftist academics to not just build their careers but also to paralyze the movements that they claim to support via endless personal disputes. The examples are endless. At its worst it is also one more way whereby "politics" is reduced to "psychology", once more I would submit a particularly American vice. At its best it is merely a statement of the obvious. A common sense observation that we all have as long as we are not in "ideological church". I especially object to the use of this buzzword in public statements that are presumably meant for the average person.
This is an "old one" and something that is mercifully no longer in fashion, at least from what I read from the effusion of academic bullshit today. They have their own nonsense that makes them appear profound and hides their ignorance. The original meaning of "dia" "lectos" in Greek philosophy was actually very simple. The conversation between two people whereby one took the premises of the other as given and "questioned" the consequences until one arrived at either a logical contradiction or an absurdity was actually a "method". The pretensions of the heirs of Germanic philosophy that they have a "method" of acquiring truth are absurd. Unless, of course, you think that taking a given aspect of a situation as its "essence", abstracting that and doing "logical calculations" on these terms with no reference to reality. Neither the right wing justification of fascism nor the traditional Leninist "dialectical materialism" had any relation to reality beyond the coincidental.
With the end of Stalinist hegemony there were many attempts to "recast" dialectics as some sort of superior way of thinking that went beyond ordinary logic and empiricism. All of those were tainted by the will to power of their exponents, and, at best, they put common sense observations such as "things change" or "things should be looked at in their history" into arrogant academic language. At their worst they shaded into the academic cult of post modernism. But that is another and disgusting subject.
Some of this is due to the jealousy that some leftists have for those with a genuine scientific background. Trying to appear "smart" without knowing that much. Perhaps there is less of this then there used to be. Then there are the fools who squander their own intrinsic abilities and ... well ... enough of that.
you forgot "Ultra-left" and "liberal" which are all the rage insults in the platformist side of the anarchist spectrum.
I prefer the IWW concept of working class - everyone who has to live by selling their labour to an employer, ie wage slaves. Cuts through all the crap about "middle classes" "professionals" and such
Some members of the educated working class, as it used to be called, are groomed to identify with management in order to gain access to knowledge beyond the "pointy haired boss". Think how many engineers end up this way ( another one that hurts,sorry ).
Bourgeois also make reference to something quite specific in marxism. Not only those who own but, more importanly these days, those who control the means of production (and reproduction for that matter). I agree the term is not really usefull, especialy in english where, from what I gather, it never went into the common language. In this context, I prefer to use the word 'elite' or, quite simply, 'ruling class'.
Working class. For a long time I was really jealous of you anglo because you had a word for that class that did not sound like an old reference (like our classe ouvriere in french wich is more a reference specificaly to manual workers working in factories). One old word that I like is 'toiling masses'. But it does not look modern... To the great displeasure of my marxist friends [who like 'precise' terminology] I've come to use more and more 'classes populaires' [but I'm not sure you really have a precise translation for that that would not look like that... i.e. a translation]. In the end, if we use 'elite', then why not use 'people' quite simply? That's my best bet.
You have the elite, part of the ruling class, and you have the people, the popular classes (or working classes). Is that a deal?
I don't know if "ultra-left" is used that much amongst platformists, and if it is it is usually used to refer to the likes of council communists, autonomists, Deleonists, libertarian marxists, situationists, insurrectionists etc.. I stand to be corrected on this point, however. The term "liberal", however, is of wide usuage amongst anyone to the left of Obama, and here I am certain !!!! that the platformists are not the chief offenders. That "award" certainly belongs to the post-leftists, primmies and their ilk.
I actually began a search for the term "liberal" as a swear word. I can remember just how popular it was amongst the Marxists of my youth, but that sort of things is very much on the 'engangered species' list these days. When doing a general search I rapidly found out that the use of "liberal" as a term of abuse by the "left" is swamped (by a factor of 10s of thousands to one) by its use by the right. These people, of course, wouldn't know a "liberal" if they were suffering from acute flatulance and the liberal came up to defend their ass' right to speak freely. It may be that the "right" is indeed much more numerous than the "left", but I also think that they have a propensity to insult that dwarfs most (not all) leftists.
The whole thing is complicated by the fact that there are two types of REAL liberals in the world, the free market, half way to libertarians (The Economist is the most famous example) and the statist North American variety.
Be that as it may I tried to narrow the search to anarchist uses of the term as an insult. I couldn't find a platformist reference in the first 100 hits. I DID find its use on places such as LibCom (class struggle but not platformist), the book 'Rebel Alliances' about British anarchism and at least one site put up by the clowns who try to marry anarchism to fascism. However, I did hit paydirt in the 'Anarchist News' site. I suspect that IN ONE WEEK the commentators (of various hues, some of which I have mentioned above) there use it as an insult more than it has EVER been used by all the platformists in the world ever. Or ever will be, world without end Amen.
I know what you are getting at. There are indeed a small number of platformists who take the idea of "ideological and tactical unity" to an extreme level. I would however, submit a)that they are a small minority amongst the platformists and b)their (undoubtedly hopeless)desire to enforce ideological conformity is dwarfed by the continued efforts of others who do not share their views and who DO succeed at least in small closed circles.
Please understand that I AM NOT A PLATFORMIST, and one ! of the reasons is that I see no reason to present a dishonest public face by claiming group unanimity. That being said I don't think the average platformist group actually attempts such a thing, no matter how much some within such may hold it up as an ideal.
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