Jim heartfield jim at
Mon Dec 14 02:55:28 PST 1998

When I wrote about the way that the left tended to guilt-trip workers in the advanced nations about their "excessive" consumption Louis P. objected that

"solidarity activists of the 1980s, including me, never spoke about the American people exploiting" the people of the third world "The guilt- baiting that Jim is referring to was typical of SDSpetty-bourgeois radicalism" which, according to Louis was a thing of the past.

But what I had in mind was precisely what Louis said before:

>The only problem is that Marxists have an obligation to explain that
>current consumption patterns in the industrialized countries can not be

In other words 'all you greedy people in the first world are taking more than your fair share'. To my mind this has a rather clear implication that working class consumption in the first world is excessive, unsustainable, and in singling out the consumption patterns of the first world as the problem, portraying these as exploitative in relation to the third world.

Guilt-tripping first world workers about their consumption patterns, whether of cars, cigarettes or resources in general seems to be precisely the SDS approach that Louis is following.

The same approach is contained in this comment from Andy Austin, who normally prides himself on his orthodox Marxist approach, but here takes a complete departure:

"today the
>survival of the species depends on reducing levels of consumption and
>redistributing the surplus from world production.


Can Austin mean what these words say? Does he really want to increase the rate of exploitation, and redivide the fruits of that exploitation between those classes that live on the surplus product? Why does the survival of the species depend on cranking up the rate of exploitation? Is 'survival of the species' nothing more than a euphemism for the interests of the capitalist class in this formulation? -- Jim heartfield

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list