[lbo-talk] Lionizing Wealthy Americans, Rather Than Taxing

c b cb31450 at gmail.com
Thu Dec 8 09:04:30 PST 2011

Chris Sturr

I wasn't following Carrol, I was following Marx, who, as I pointed out, disdained moral arguments (or at any rate arguments about "right" and "desert" and "justice"--what he called "juridical" arguments) because he regarded them as idealist (i.e., as ideological). But I am happy that Carrol emphasizes that point frequently.

^^^^^ CB:Ok I apologize. Well if you are following Marx and not CArrol,fine (smiles)

This is a well known question and the specific liberal ideals you mention, Marx and Engels did specifically disdain; or Marx did in a passage in Capital. But I think that is a rhetorical tactic concrete to their historical situation which was a milieu in which there was still some revolutionary juice in the bourgeois historical contribution in the form of liberal ideals. Marx and Engels wanted to distinguish the working class ideology from that, because the latter was new , and had distinguishing characteristics in this area. However, in references to the _oppressed and exploited_ working classes in The Manifesto and "Workers of the World, Unite; you have only your chains to lose and a world to gain"., there are I would say appeals to ideals particularly justice. Why mention the exploitation and oppression except to mean those conditions are unjust and are justly overthrown. The "chains" unjustly bind the 99% , so they are justly thrown off.

Also, technically appeals to morality or ethics are appeals to someone to be self-less. A moral appeal says to someone " do something for someone else in need". Marxism appeals to the self-interest, not selflessness, of the working class. It urges the working class to act in its class _self_ interest. So it is not a moral appeal . It _is_ a moral appeal to the bourgeoisie, because it is an appeal to help the "other" class , not bourgeois self-interest, but self-less interests. Marxism simultaneously appeals to both classes, but of course only expects a minority of the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeosie to respond, to join the working class cause, as Marx, Engels, Lenin and others did. The appeal to those bourgeois class members is a moral appeal to do for others. Also, appeals to ideals to inspire action are not technically _philosophical_ idealism. Materialists do not deny that ideas influence the actions of humans; but that the ideas are ultimately determined by the status of the class struggle. If Marx and Engels didn't think ideas and the battle of ideas within the working class was not important, they wouldn't have written 100 volumes of ideas trying to raise working class consciousness in order to inspire revolutionary action,no ?


I have become less rigid in my anti-moralism lately, though, so I'm willing to entertain strategic arguments like the ones you're making here. But check out this piece from liberal George Lakoff, in response to Frank Luntz's worry that OWS is making Americans think capitalism is immoral: http://www.truth-out.org/words-dont-work/1323270276. I do tend to think moral arguments = idealist = ideological = liberal.

^^^ CB: Yes,. I just sent it to the list . Lakoff gets into the language and concepts of "earning wealth" that I want left economists to develop. The 1% don't earn all they make . Simple enough. Then speaking of "morality" there was no moral hazard ( the 1%'s term) for Wall Street in the bailout, moral hazard that they insist all the little people in the 99% suffer ( see Occupy goes home yesterday). The good ole hypocrisy argument is good to use on Wall Street. Marxists can get into "immanent critiques" of bourgeois appeals to morality. And then 'what's good for the goose is good for the gander" is a materialist moral argument, I think ( smiles). It is really equality at base , which is at the base of the justification of expropriating the expropriators. As equal human beings , 1 hour of my work produces as much as 1 hour of a CEO's work. So, I guess I'd say that the "ethics" of equality is fundamental to the thesis of _The Manifesto of the Communist Party_. Exploited classes have been struggling against exploitation down through history because a sense of equality to other human beings ( a sense of human species-being and we are all the same species) is instinctive to humans , buried deep below all the ideas of the ruling classes that are the ruling ideas of all ages; like the 99%ers in the Tea Party who make arguments on personal responsibility and moral hazard concerning other 99%ers who r foreclosed on in predatory lending.


You say "The 1% make moral arguments concerning moral hazard and individual moral responsibility, work ethic," etc. But the 1% also exploit people--should we? So the 1% depend on obfuscating ideology--does that mean we should? Christians speak of "sin"--does that mean we should? Why shouldn't we instead go for analytically rigorous and illuminating arguments, vs. mystifying ones?

^^^^ CB I don't think Marxists should dishonestly emphasize Christian arguments ( although there are Christians in the Communist Party). However, Marxists can support Christians in making Christian arguments ; and point to the inconsistency of right-wing Christians in not following Jesus' very communistic anti-1% pro 99% fundamental teachings. Also, from a historical perspective, early Christians were a slave class revolt. Engels wrote essays on Christian history. At one point, he says early Christian collectives were something like workers' collectives in the 1800's. Engels , of course, formulated the philosophical distinction between materialism and idealism. It's like anarchist arguments. Many Anarchists, especially the ones in OWS, are substantially correct on the fundamental opposition to Wall Street and capitalism. Communists should unite with them in this concrete struggle of OWS. For broad left unity. Agreement on this minimum at this point is sufficient.

On Christians , Communists totally supported Martin Luther King's efforts framed in Christian terms.


But maybe you're saying we should throw anything and everything at the wall and see what sticks. Which I admit has some appeal. I mean, I wouldn't have bet on "99% vs. 1%", but as a slogan it's been very powerful. But the 99% vs. the 1% is pretty analytically rigorous compared to stuff about moral hazard, individual responsibility, etc. It at least roughly identifies classes, vs. referring to idealist nonsense.

^^^^^ CB: Yeah not quite anything. Basically, anyone who adheres to 99 vs 1, focus on Wlall Street , a private not government institution, and focus on the $ 7.7 to 16 trillion bailout of Wall Street and still getting justice for that is in the new working class Party, however they reach that conclusion . This is the US with a Pluralist , e pluribus unum, political cultural tradition. We must fit into the American historical and political cultural tradition.

We might discuss the nature of philosophical idealism some more.

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