The title may seem absolutely provocative, but the emerge of a new proletarian monster with mestizo characters requires the use of the term “anachronistic” when the forms of class struggle referred to are those determined during the development of forces and capitalist relations of a whole previous cycle that characterized the old labor movement of the past century.
Many times we have read and reread the work of the young Engels of 1844 (then twenty-four years old) the Condition of the working class in England and in particular the specific passage on the Irish proletariat. This work by Engels helped to forge the first drafts of scientific socialism and the revolutionary theory of Marx and Engels since its inception in the Communist Party Manifesto of 1847, first published in 1848. Let us read carefully what Engels wrote in the chapter V about Irish immigration:
“These Irishmen who migrate for fourpence to England, on the deck of a steamship on which they are often packed like cattle, insinuate themselves everywhere. The worst dwellings are good enough for them; their clothing causes them little trouble, so long as it holds together by a single thread; shoes they know not; their food consists of potatoes and potatoes only; whatever they earn beyond these needs they spend upon drink. What does such a race want with high wages?… He builds a pig-sty against the house wall as he did at home, and if he is prevented from doing this, he lets the pig sleep in the room with himself. This new and unnatural method of cattle-raising in cities is wholly of Irish origin. The Irishman loves his pig as the Arab his horse,..
What else should he do? How can society blame him when it places him in a position in which he almost of necessity becomes a drunkard; when it leaves him to himself, to his savagery? With such a competitor the English working-man has to struggle, with a competitor upon the lowest plane possible in a civilised country, who for this very reason requires less wages than any other. To become a mechanic, a mill-hand, he would have to adopt the English civilisation, the English customs, become, in the main, an Englishman. But for all simple, less exact work, wherever it is a question more of strength than skill, the Irishman is as good as the Englishman. Such occupations are therefore especially overcrowded with Irishmen: hand-weavers, bricklayers, porters, jobbers, and such workers, count hordes of Irishmen among their number, and the pressure of this race has done much to depress wages and lower the working-class. And even if the Irish, who have forced their way into other occupations, should become more civilised, enough of the old habits would cling to them to have a strong, degrading influence upon their English companions in toil, especially in view of the general effect of being surrounded by the Irish…“.
Engels gives no hope of social redemption for the ragged Irish proletariat, which only the struggle and organization of the English workers’ movement will be able, under certain conditions, to allow it to rise to a civilized proletariat and in struggle for the socialism. This is a harsh, objective photograph of the working class condition in England, which must rightly be considered from the point of view of the revolutionary scientist and without any moralistic and humanitarian suggestion . How much this first analysis about the situation of the English working class and its “ragged” component (which will then be commonly defined with the term underclass) will then be summarized three years later in the Communist Party Manifesto itself according to the category of lumpen proletariat and we find it in the following passage within inside the historic manifesto program:
“The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.“.
When Marx and Engels wrote this suggestive picture it is the Irish proletariat they were thinking to first of all, whose willingness to be super exploited in exchange for the necessary for a drink of brandy hinders the struggle of the workers’ movement and the English working class. Indeed, it is capable of becoming an anti-proletarian instrument for the use and consumption of the bourgeois counter-revolutionary reaction.
In essence, the emancipation of the ragged Irish proletariat cannot be by itself, but by the action of the most ‘ advanced ‘ movement of the English working class.
How this first vision was totally wrong it is not a heterodox interpretation of this blog, but they are Marx and Engels themselves who make it clear , who write it with chisel in revolutionary scientific criticism, clearly sculpting the European workers’ movement theory, which in the meantime was organizing itself. in his First and then in its Second International, what vice versa the heavy and impersonal laws of capitalism were determining.
Marx wrote to Engels on 10 December 1869 about how he intends to set up the discussion in the next session of the First Communist International [Marx Engels correspondence Rinascita edition – letter 1326 page 447 – from the Italian to English translation is freely made by this blog]:
“The way in which I will start the matter next Tuesday is this: abstracting from every phrase ‘justice for Ireland’ both ‘international’ and ‘humanitarian’ – a phrase that in the ‘International Council’ goes without saying – it is ‘absolute interest and directed by the English working class to get the rid of their present connection with the Ireland’. This is my deepest conviction for reasons that I cannot partly communicate to the English workers themselves. For a long time I believed that it was possible to overthrow the Irish regime through the ascendency of the English working class. I have always supported this opinion in the ‘New York Tribune’. A more in-depth study has now convinced me otherwise . The English working class ‘will never do anything’, before it has got rid of Ireland. From Ireland it must to leverage . This is why the Irish question is so important to the social movement in general.“
Marx insists on this point in the 9th April 1870:
“..And most important of all! Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland. This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.”.
The question was perfectly clear to the first violin (Marx) and the second violin (Engels), that the “Moro” writes in the overview:
“..After studying the Irish question for many years I have come to the conclusion that the decisive blow against the English ruling classes (and it will be decisive for the workers’ movement all over the world) cannot be delivered in England but only in Ireland.” (Marx to Sigfrid Meyer and August Vogt, in New York, April 9, 1870).
So Marx and Engels, erroneously, thought roughly until 1867 that the question of the oppression of Ireland could be solved by the English working class revolution, then they had to change their thoughts, how the scientist investigates the course of the disease, identifies its cause and how it effects the human organism. Of primary importance for them was the battle within the First International to overturn the previous erroneous scheme and they continued to hit this key even after its dissolving.
But the churchmen of Marxism and Social Democracy (minimum programs in faithful continuity with the Manifesto of 1847) continued to read the historical process not with the attitude of the revolutionary scientist, but rather with those of the petty bourgeois underlying the inexorable development of large-scale capitalist relations of production. So much so that Engels still in the early 80s of the nineteenth century had to groom the most advanced workers “party” of the time and its leaders:
“..And–apart from the unexpected–a really general workers’ movement will only come into existence here when the workers are made to feel the fact that England’s world monopoly is broken. Participation in the domination of the world market was and is the basis of the political nullity of the English workers. The tail of the bourgeoisie in the economic exploitation of this monopoly but nevertheless sharing in its advantages, politically they are naturally the tail of the “great Liberal Party,” which for its part pays them small attentions, recognizes trade unions and strikes as legitimate factors, has relinquished the fight for an unlimited working day and has given the mass of better placed workers the vote.“. (Engels letter to Bebel, 30 August 1883).
How much the scenario of submission to the laws of the capitalist accumulation process and its material force of subsumption to the commodities and value production has benefited precisely from this racist polarization of the international proletariat that the Jim Crow regime in the United States tell us about the Capital America, where the slavery has continued and persists in another form since today. As well as the new European “Jim Crow” laws (the Unique Text laws on immigration in Europe and Italy and its armed fortresses against immigrants), and those existing at the world scale (think for example of the Citizen Amendment Act of the Modi government in India) are another realization of the material strength of capitalist relations of production that hinders the reaction of the proletariat facing the general crisis, through polarizing and fragmenting it along the lines of colors and races and throwing it into tragic competition inside the commodity workforce world market.
The material strength of US capitalism coming from its leadership in imperialist rule and from the racial structure of internal social and production based relations, based on white supremacy and black oppression, not only it has kept the proletariat divided, it also has determined it the political nullity of the American working class movement and with direct consequences on the international one in the face of capitalism. Its immediate organization and its struggle to defend its living and working conditions led to the inevitable development of the old traditional workers’ movement into a corporate and lobbyist movement against big capital and the bourgeois democratic state.
The general and pandemic crisis that since 2008 and especially since last year is shaking the foundations of social order of capitalism, is opening the possibility for the emerge of a new mestizo proletarian monster.
Precisely the USA recent events demonstrated, that on despite the black population represents only 13% of the national population, and the exploited and proletarians of color only a small minority of the American proletariat, its struggle assumes a potential power really incredible in our days. Contrary to those who believe that the struggle of the colored proletariat against racism has no future as long as it is separated from the working class struggle, rather it is that the “traditional” working class struggle simply on the questions of wages and hours is absorbable (it’s nothing) in the context of the conservation of capitalist exploitation, if it does not place the question of racial oppression against blacks, Latinos and immigrants at the center of its organization and of its struggle.
It did not take Marx and Engels to prove it, it is the ongoing process of capitalist relations of production and the accumulation of surplus value inside a deep crisis that instinctively pushes millions of young white proletarians without any reserve to stand up in solidarity and complicity with their blacks, bipocs, latinos and natives class brothers. In the United States of America, where 50 million proletarians are experiencing feeding insecurity, the struggle for decent wages for a guaranteed minimum hourly wage of $15, led mainly by black and brown proletarians and by black and brown proletarian women, it is started precisely from the “marginal” sectors of the proletariat employed and exploited in the various McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFc, Starbucks etc. It has found a new impetus with the strikes at the end of January and the beginning of February 2021 and it has a long past, but it was able to do so precisely because it kept the battle against racial discrimination along the lines of the color that imposes the worst starvation wages at the center of the battle for wages. This renewed impetus, which offers an objective hook for the entire proletariat of the United States, calls Biden and the large corporations to run for cover (or to suppose concessions) precisely because they are frightened by the unprecedented welding in the multiracial movement of the new mestizo proletarian monster against systemic racism capitalism of 2020 (the George Floyd rebellions), where the white proletarians have put the life of the blacks at the core of their destiny.
These struggles, like any movement, can be absorbed again and reduced again to impotence through the concessions that multinationals such as Amazon and the Biden government find themselves having to recognize. Surely this would be achieved more easily if the struggle put aside, even for a moment, its indissoluble link with the abolitionist struggle and against systemic racism fight. And it is precisely this season of struggles – which mainly arise from black and brown proletarians and young white proletarians – that we are told that it is nonsense to distinguish between the question of class oppression from the racial oppression. That it is nonsense to see the balance of the struggle power from the point of view of the percentage number of blacks compared to the entire population. Class oppression and racism merges creating a solid noose around the neck of the white and colored proletariat which means precisely that racial oppression must never be reduced to an aseptic question of the ‘working class’ within the which the oppression on the lines of color gradually takes on a ‘secondary importance’. That this is not the case is the intuition realized precisely with the experience of the revolt of 2020 which never as before has begun to crack in the white proletarian youth its privilege based on the whiteness.
The struggle of blacks, even when the struggle of the black proletarians is alone (which as we saw in 2020 it has been not alone) already exerts a material lever that undermines the current and pre-existing domination relations of capitalist class power, shakes the chains that nail white workers to their nothingness.
Faced with the general and unresolvable crisis of world capitalist accumulation, where millions of landless and unreserved exploited are forced to press from Latin America or Bosnia towards the United States wall and towards the fortress Europe, every conquest obtained by struggle (or by specific concession) would be easily stolen and subsequently and immediately frozen the deployment of a political autonomy of the proletariat thrown into the most tragic competition with the pressure of the “damned of the earth”, in the acute material competition on the market of the arms that this human movement caused by the mechanisms of imperialist robbery provokes.
Even before the collaborationist policies of the European and Italian workers’ trade unions in recent years, it was the material force of the double oppression against the immigrant human tide, that reaches “our” coasts and border, that is conveyed and functionalized to the capital needs and disposed through the European “Jim Crow” laws represented by the many Unique Text laws on immigration (the “Turco Napolitano” law, the “Bossi Fini” law, the “Orlando Minniti” law and their related amnesties for undocumented immigrants), which acted as a material weapon to disarticulate the workforce market regulations, then to demolish past workers wins like “article 18” and to introduce the various Job Acts, just to name a few.
Through the establishment of the link between the stay permit document and the employment contract (i.e. through a new segregationist and racial labor market legislation), even if it was implemented against a minority sector of the proletarians, the resident immigrant one, it was then possible to demolish all resistance to increase in exploitation, impose deregulation of the labor market, freeze wages, increase the pace of production and exploitation, and make submission to the inevitability of the economic crisis and the sacrifices to be made.
The immigration policies of the last 40 years in Italy and in Europe, the open-air lager camps in Bosnia or Greece (supported as a European borders bastion rediscovered) of these past months, the “CPR” (Italy lagers equivalent to the U.S. ICE camps), the imperialist domination and plunder of Italy in the exploited countries of the “colored peoples” continue to exercise the material and social weapon that brings about the political nullity of the European proletariat in the face of the depths of the crisis. There is no way out hoping for a before and after a step by step process of the arise of proletarian class conflict through a gradual accumulation of white working class forces simply on “salaries”.
Today, putting at the center the battle against the constraint of the job contract for the stay permit document granting (that, indeed, must be unconditional and for everyone), against the walls, the CPR and against the armed fortress of Europe against immigrants, assumes the same crucial importance that the Irish immigration and the Black Slavery subjects (in their just subsequent historical correction) assumed for Marx and Engels, as a main needs for the English, continental labor movement and its international organization. This issue is all the more necessary precisely because racism is essentially democratic, precisely because the limited number of amnesties are even necessary for big capital. But while the amnesty is granted, the job contract and the stay permit linkage and the criminalization of the so-called undocumented people is strengthened in material social relations, whose is guilty of clandestinity charge is one-off and pro quota then amnestied. The need for capitalism is to segregate the great mass of immigrants and then include a growing shares of them as a cheap labor force commodity at slavery conditions, competing with the rest of the native workers and among the already staying immigrants themselves. The these days images of the open-air concentration camps in Bosnia represent a nightmare for the workers, who intuit the effect that this picture will cause on the warfare competition on the commodity workforce market, and it is a material weapon to make them to accept the conditions that the capitalist crisis imposes.
And not only to European and Italian workers, but also to those immigrants who in the meantime through their self-organization and their struggle (mostly isolated from the rest of that of European and Italian workers) have slightly shortened the gap in general conditions that it divides them from European workers.
As long as the regime of European Jim Crow laws remains intact, the use that will be made of the human tide of the damned of the earth pressing on the borders of Europe by the capitalists and by the banks will serve to try to get rid of the recent self-organization of immigrant workers of the warehouses. It is a regime of social segregation created between indigenous workers and immigrants, but also between indigenous workers, regular immigrants, those who can be healed once and according to temporary needs and those “undocumented” immigrants to be beaten.
Faced with the birth of the new woo-woo government of Mario Draghi (considered an EU Banks representative), anything cannot get out of the current impasse and nullity of proletarian antagonism, simply by claiming an anachronistic battle for wages and to make the bosses pay the economic crisis, which, you can bet, it is perceived as unrealistic by most of the European workers themselves. Most of the workers, as a legacy of previous years, probably look to the new government in the hope that it will know how to do what and better than the previous Conte government, perhaps even putting the social costs of an unstoppable crisis a little also on the ‘richest’ field (perhaps reforming in a progressive sense the taxation also on business incomes and assets) and therefore the “working class” will be better disposed also to the recipe of the stick.
This blog therefore believes that the same warning of Marx and Engels in correcting their positions on the relationship between the English and Irish proletariat applies today. Engels whipped Bebel and the leaders of the German Social Democracy that the hard rules of capital lead to increased competition between workers that on the basis of divisions by race, religion and nationalities will lead to a real genocide not limited to the Irish proletariat (he was right, was not he?).
Welcome the new Draghi government by preparing a May Day of workers who forget, or simply put in the background the issue of racist policies on immigration and about the stay permits (in the tenth point of “our platforms”) focusing essentially on the issue of wages and on the job exploitation of the “working class” would be a huge underestimate.
When in the name of democracy and human solidarity the coachman and Christian flies of democratic capital will impose a next sacrifice also to ‘save the weakest’, the risk that the defense of proletarian living conditions in the face of the tragic consequences of the unstoppable competition between proletarians may stumble upon the web of Eurocentric and sovereign supremacism already woven and widely adorned by the real powers that impose the agendas of governments.
How does it come out? By verifying precisely the unprecedented energy arisen from the new movement of the mestizo proletariat seen the past year, which even here in Italy has begun to peep out from the logistics warehouses, from that sector of the proletariat erroneously considered “marginal” because “porter”, because “farm laborer”, because “immigrant”, to whom the separation from the traditional worker sectors would have given no hope of resisting and organizing. This experience that is just behind us demonstrates the opposite and a lesson for the future.
Against the capitalist lever of racism, the answer cannot only be about more wage claims and perhaps an enlarged amnesty, contingent upon and determined by the racist European “Jim Crow” of the Consolidated Laws on immigration (and added at the end of our claims) and get there after having won with the fight better wages. ” From Ireland we must leverage “, from the stay permit for all and without any conditions, for the abolition of the CPR and against the war to immigrants at the European borders, this leverage should be used, because the current state of racist segregation, which with different modalities hit immigrants, create a social prison for all proletarians in the face of the crisis.
If from the farm territories of the enslaved immigrant laborers and from the cities where a marginalized and precarious immigrant proletariat lives, we receive a request to support their struggle, then a May Day of immigrants, immigrant workers and for the support of the lives of immigrants without reserve locked up in the armored or open-air concentration camps of Fortress Europe, it is the essential “hook” around which the reaction of all workers against the crisis can be reorganized. This “hook” is the inexorable run of the general systemic crisis that it is preparing, while at the same time it is creating the material conditions to wield it forcefully.