Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Jan 4 13:38:04 PST 2000

At 11:17 AM 1/4/00 -0800, Sam Pawlett wrote:
> The lumpen (unemployed, street hawkers, serious drug users, thieves,
>welfare recipients,students) are the ones who suffer the most by
>capitalism and are the weakest in terms of political power.
> Marxists and the left generally must organize the lumpen and
>unemployed because political enemies on the right are already doing so.
>The lumpen--as Marx and Engels pointed out-- traditionally play the role
>of strike breakers, death squads and fascist parties. Organizing the
>lumpen would lessen the liklihood of these kinds of organizations
>flourishing, though I know by personal experience that organizing the
>lumpen today is a somewhat Sisyphean struggle.

Sam, in my reading of the old man, the organizing part is done by the factory regime instituted by capitalism not by conspirators - and this affinity ot the prevalent mode of production is what makes the proletariat a revolutionary force while lumpen are tool in bosses' scheming to break up labor solidarity.

If you'd rather prefer a more modern sociascientese lingo - individual's consciousness is a product of that individual's life experience, living conditions, social institutions, interactions with other individuals etc. Consequently, participation in organized economic activity molds one's consciousness as a producer of socially useful products (rather than a consumer) - all that is needed is a 'spark' that transforms that consciouness into the awareness of being the producer of social order.
>From the resource mobilization point of view, capitalist organization of
production has a latent effect of mobilizing large human and material resources that can be then used against the class who nominally control them.

Lumpen, on the other hand, lack these two elements. They lack the life experience that would form their consciousness as producers - instead their consciousness is molded by "culture of poverty" into a desire of individual advancement i.e. breaking away from its own social class. An because they are disorganized, lcoked into small "pockets of poverty" and isoloated from the rest of society, their effective mobilization is extremely difficult.

BTW, that debilitating effect of poverty on human consciousness and behavior is precisely the main reason why it must be abolished by any means. If people could develop a "true" consciousness regardless of their material living conditions, then why should anyone fight against poverty and the system that produces it? All we'd need is consciousness enhancement programs and psychotherapy.

To summarize, real social change can come only from the working class not from the lumpen. The only hope for the lumpen is to become a part of the working class. That is unlikely to happen in the US, but despite all their imperfections, many socialist countries effectively eliminated the lumpen by incorporating them into the working class.


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