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The failed experiment

If we don’t talk about ‘class’ the species will go extinct.

Marx’s original concept of class is that:

There is only the working class and the capitalist class.

The concept of a ‘middle class’ is a necessary fiction that is fostered by the capitalist class (who generally realise that there are only two classes – being ‘us’ and ‘them’).

If you have to work to support yourself then you are in the working class.

If you do not need to work then you are a capitalist.

The distinction pivots on the perception of the individual relating to their own circumstances, not on the degree of capital that an individual might possess.

Marx talks of a class ‘in itself’ as the objective reality of the relations of production. A class ‘in itself’ is defined by whether or not an individual must sell their labour to survive, regardless of whether or not the individual might believe they are actually in ‘the working class’ or the ‘middle or upper class’.

So the definition of a class ‘in itself’ is an objective appreciation relating to the relationship of the individual to the means of production. If an individual need not work at all then they are in the capitalist class ‘in itself’. In modern parlance we would say that they are ‘objectively’ (i.e., by appreciating the facts that are evident) in a situation where they need not work because they can comfortably and trans-nationally live off accumulated capital without diminishing the sum of the available capital. The only class that is currently ‘in itself’ and ‘for itself’ are the rich elite. (Consider that at the moment more than half the fungible wealth in the USA is under the direct control of less than ten people. Moreover, the richest .001% of the worlds population control more than 80% of the capital resources on the globe).

If it is apparent, objectively, that you cannot simply put up your feet and make a living by using your capital to generate more capital (sufficient to not only surviving but also generating a further surplus), then you are a member of the working class ‘in itself’. Regardless of what you might say yourself.

The terminology of a class ‘for itself’ is, therefore, a reference to the subjective appreciation entertained by an individual relating to their own economic and social status. In this manner, the ‘middle-class’ does exist as a class ‘for itself’ (i.e., as a social definition) but not as a class ‘in itself’.

The easiest way to work out if you are in the working class ‘in itself’ is to think about whether or not you would be ‘wiped out’ in a substantial downturn in the marketplace (think about something like a housing market and stock market crash). Capitalists retain their capital during downturns and make surpluses during upturns. This is because their wealth (stolen labour) is sequestered in fungible forms (land, plant, political hegemony) across a number of jurisdictions. Their primary calling is to accumulate personal wealth so their allegiance is to the retention of wealth (objects) not other people (subjects).

Our PM (for example) is in the capitalist class because he has a gazillion dollars squirreled away in overseas accounts. All of the capitalist class are similarly ‘economically’ rational and so ‘economically motivated’ (above all else). If you gave our PM (or any other of his class) the option of living as a worker in Australia without property, or elsewhere with their current wealth, then …

Marx theorized that revolution occurs when the degree of alienation of the working class is such that it remains impossible for the bulk of the workers to maintain their fictional self-conception as being members of a class ‘for itself’ and realise that they are simply wage takers (and part of the working class ‘in itself’). In other words, when they realise that their primary class allegiance should be to other subjects; not to a pile of objects.

In the original thesis proposed by Karl (in the unpublished German Ideology and the Grundrisse) he proposed that the ‘alienation of the working class’ will dissipate when the wage takers of society become wage setters. So, breeding a revolution has nothing to do with brainwashing people but rather the opposite. Marx proposes that social revolution begins with individual enlightenment. When the majority of the citizenry decide to objectively and communally re-negotiate what is valuable and what is ‘freedom’ – then we will have achieved class liberation.

The emancipation of society is all about the education of the individual and development of a just and equitable society that is in balance with the environmental, agrarian and industrial base’s of production.

Unless we do change our systems of distribution and common assessments of ‘value’ then we are stuffed. The human experiment will be snuffed out for want of facility and ability. Like 99.999% of all the species that have gone before us, we will pass away. Perhaps so shall consciousness. That self-aware spark of magic we think of as ‘us’ might very well fade away even before we get any real chance to become truly self-aware. I find it difficult to smile at the irony of this prospect.

It is relatively certain we will go extinct if we do not work out a system by which we can say ‘no’ to both the imperatives of capital and those of our own literature. Who will say that the current system is either rational or just? Yet so many amongst us yearn to retain our ever-failing traditions? This is simply a longing for annihilation as a species.

If you say we can never contain the imperatives and the violence of capital, upon the citizenry and the environment, then you are saying that mankind cannot survive.

Marx proposed that the central urgencies which make sense of our current system is the logic of the .0001% of the population who own virtually everything on earth. He proposed that as soon as the ‘working class in itself’ suddenly realise that there is actually enough ‘stuff’ for everyone on the planet, revolution will occur.

We either contain the ravages of ‘the rationale of capitalism’ or we fail.

We must make it impossible for individuals to gain control of large aggregations of capital and then pass this on to their offspring. This is because the rationale of capital is to make more capital irrespective of the individual, environmental and social cost.

As a species we only get one shot. Just like the 99.999% of species that went before us. But it looks like a tiny group of rich arseholes are going to entirely stuff it up for the rest. Apparently the need to be able to own sixteen cars and a house in five countries is more important than the need for fresh water and food for the children and the future of our species upon the globe.

Right at the moment I am not confident. People keep on telling me that I am the one who is a ‘radical’.

But (I keep stuttering) …
– the Great Barrier reef is crumbling and going white
– people are working ever longer hours to pay ever inflated prices for virtually everything
-we are wedded to environmentally catastrophic products that we throw away and repurchase weekly
-across the world we spend five hundred times as much on armaments as we do on feeding the poor
-our oceans are dying
-our planet is warming.

Yet the mainstream press and most of our citizenry are continuing to work hard to prop up this failing system whilst inanely prating inanities about how great the modern capitalist world is and how wonderful all this ‘economic activity’ is for ‘jobs and growth’.

What I find ‘radical’ is the sort of hypocrisy that is mainstream in our society. That we should all be happy to trade our current spurt of economic sunshine (being entertained by a tiny minority of the worlds population) for the whole of the worlds environment and the future of our species. I think that is ‘radical’.

Yet I am labelled a radical for ever trying to progress the needs of the species? By proposing that inanimate objects are not valuable. But rather that I am valuable and you are valuable. And that my time and your time is valuable. All the rest is bullshit.

I think it is radical that we are living in and fostering the perpetuation of a society where you and I – and everything we care about – can be weighed against a small pile of coinage and legal documents. And sick.

If mankind does not abandon many of its ‘cherished traditions’ then the experiment will fail.

James Moylan
Midday December 29th
(any given year on the calendar)


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  1. Maxoz

    But every time, since the French, whenever the plebs take over, the good old “me first” comes into action. We became the dominate species by being the nastier; nothing has changed. We killed off the (peaceful )Neanderthals, and haven’t
    Looked back.

  2. Jack Russell

    That .001% have a global support network of many millions insulating them from the consequences of their behaviour, in exchange for cash, perks and power.

    That leaves many BILLIONS who have other ideas. At some stage there WILL be a flash point and the tide the .001% most fear will rise.

    The aftermath is the unknown quantity. The thought of what that might be is somewhat of a handbrake right now I suppose but, in the end, the willingness to face it, come what may, won’t be a choice.

  3. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Whether or not there is a middle class is debatable. There is definitely a labour aristocracy as well as a class of working poor. Bernstein argued the middle classes kept reappearing in different forms. But strictly speaking most a wage earners ; and capitalists try and divide us against ourselves ; and even to divide the working poor against the most vulnerable welfare dependent. Then there is the ‘petty bourgeoisie’ – literally small business owners ; and in the traditional sense. (ie: GENUINE small business ; not ‘only’ 50 employees) It’s worse in the US where this fiction of ‘the middle class’ is strongest… In the US the so-called ‘middle class’ is really middle income working class. Who are disciplined by the fear of becoming working poor. And the working poor disciplined for fear of becoming utterly destitute. And the disengagement of the working poor and destitute helps maintain the whole situation.

    Mobilising and educating the broad working class to be “a class for itself” is crucial. It requires – amongst other things – a counter-culture strategy on the part of unions, social movements, left parties. Ideally Labor should play a role. But maybe Labor is too accepting of the mythology of the middle classes ; ‘aspirationals’ etc also.

  4. Matters Not

    Re the opening sentence (where I stopped reading for the moment):

    If we don’t talk about ‘class’ the species will go extinct.

    The species will go extinct? Correct me if I am in error but isn’t class an intellectual construct? A concept that aids the exploration of social relationships, broadly defined. And therefore, like any concept, subject to refinements and perhaps redefinition(s) over time? Seems to me that its survival (as a concept) will be determined by its usefulness (or not) by current and future generations.

    Remember the concept of phrenology – it was once considered useful because it (supposedly) explained how mental faculties and character traits were indicated by the configurations of the skull. Now it’s in the historical dustbin. No longer considered to be useful.

    Can’t see how the class concept is in danger in the immediate future. Also, can’t see how it’s a species .

  5. Matters Not


    Whether or not there is a middle class is debatable.

    Indeed! But doesn’t that debate depend on the definition employed?

    Seems to me that the (class) definition utilised in Marx’s writings ought to be given due (historical) consideration but only as a guide (or a basis) for further developments. Marx would be aghast if that didn’t happen – surely?

    But I agree that mobilising and educating the broad working class to be “a class for itself” is crucial

  6. Max Gross

    Guillotine Day cometh… The Oncers are guaranteeing their own demise…

  7. A.W.L.

    That’s a serviceable intro to marxist thought, James. Thanks for taking the time and trouble.

    The era of capitalism, and of the sovereign nation state, has definitely been and gone. The sooner we get rid of both and establish a global classless as well as stateless civil society, the better for all of us.

    And indeed, why this hasn’t been sorted yet baffles me, too! But I guess there are just way too many and varied vested individual interests at all levels of society that aggregate towards the perpetuation of the status quo – a kind of supersized Prisoner’s Dilemma. Or as Upton Sinclair put it: It is very difficult to explain something to a man, when that man’s salary depends on his not understanding it.

    In that context, note that, generally speaking, those who wield disproportionate influence and decision making powers within the present social, economic and commercial, and also political structures are also the very ones who have most to lose were the system to change significantly – hence the inbuilt systemic inertia, or path dependence, which will yet turn out to exact a heavy price on all of us.

    The fish rots from the head. A “Rise and Fall of the (Roman) Empire” sort of situation, that has played out many times in human history. Compare also Hegel’s “Owl of Minerva”, which only ever “takes flight at dusk”.

  8. Harquebus

    Hear hear!
    There are no wide expanses of untouched productive land and no resources of a sufficient magnitude to carry us over the next downturn which, will be the one that brings it all down. The elites also and we are going down with them.
    My strategy now is to outlast the ignorant and join with the survivors to create something better from the ruins if, the climate is still amenable. It is unfortunate that most of my critics will not be there to participate.

  9. Jack Russell

    Far too much of the knowlege, and many of the necessary skills, have been lost H. Doing it youself has been outsouced for far to long. Sad.

  10. Wam

    Yes, James, the worker has joined the endangered species.

    The power of the slogans have transfixed many of former labor supporters and the blight of fear is spread by right and exacerbated by the loonies. Both safe in the knowledge that labor cannot mount a defence neither against the slogans of the former nor the back stabbing of the latter.

    The Australians of 66 years ago when pig-iron tried to ban the communist party are long gone and such a referendum would have easily passed since migration.(those of 50 years ago are also gone and that referendum would be close to failing)

    Have you seen the birth rate of the ignorant and the elite?

    I remember pissing myself at the queen’s husband commenting on the people of the sub-content family. “They breed like rabbotts” this is from a prick with a wife and 4 kids who easily utilise the earth’s resources of half a dozen indian families.

    Our only chance is AI injecting intelligence into the society.
    These machines may well decide to equalize the remaining resources by intelligence not inheritance and caring humans like elon musk not trump will prevail?

  11. Phil

    You won me with that argument, not that I have ever travelled far from the core. There were many times in daily life that I have unthinkingly succumbed to the capitalist ethos, rationalising my gains against the losses incurred by others and the planet.

    We appear to be at a global tipping point with huge changes visible on the immediate horizon. We can try to steer some of these changes by critically educating ourselves, abandoning acceptance of the ‘system’ – or we can continue with BAU as passive victims and cop it in the face – its each persons choice.

    I’m with James M – and Marx

  12. paul walter

    Do people grasp yet WHY the Turnbull experiment is a “failure”? I mean fully?


    Add this sort of thing to all the weird stuff with asylum seekers.

    It is not an experiment in the way someone like Einstein would describe as an experiment, eg some thing that determines a theory rooted in a rational exploration of reality.

    More, of the sort of sick behaviour indulged in by Dr Mengele, where the experiment represents not an experiment in a reasoning sense so much as an alibi for the outworking of a sick and irrational pathology that gains relief in the exercising of cruelty.

    What sort of people aspire to validate this sort of thing?

    The voters of Bennelong?

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