The 100%’s

Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa. Bandiera rossa, bandiera rossa!

Replying under PM Carpenter’s latest dissection of David Brooks – a post that moves through an assessment of the OWS/”99%” movement, and turns into a late obituary on the Marxist Left – commenter Robert Lipscomb ups the ante to 99.9%, or maybe 99.99%:

One needs to look at the 400 families who own half of the wealth of the country to see that the 99 percentile are just not in their league or country club or country. Yes, the couple who are making $500,000 a year are getting screwed by the patriarchs, just as we are.

No.  Not just as “we” are.

Since this discussion proceeds under the heading of “end of Marxism,” I’ll use the Marxian terminology for old times’ sake:  So, to begin with, Comrade Lipscomb’s couple belong to a very different petit bourgeois stratum… and this opens up a whole discussion of class consciousness, false consciousness, and different relationships to “the system” and to each other…

Consider the recent apparently conservative-sponsored reply to the “99%” slogan: Compared to rest of the world (insert photograph of child-victims of some unspecified African famine), “you” are a member of the 1%.I say “apparently conservative-sponsored” because, in another moral calculus or another era, the sentiment might have been a religious or revolutionary or religious and revolutionary call to solidarity with  100% of humanity.  As a conservative’s riposte to OWS, however, it is as true-enough as it is nakedly amoral, a brute appeal to material self-interest, a reminder that membership in the club is contingent on continued good behavior.

All of us are writing our assessments of the state of politics and history as interested parties. So we of course reject the notion that our consciousness could be false. What else would someone suffering from false consciousness do?

We as in anyone reading this may be “getting screwed” along with the 500k/annum lackeys by those at the tippy-top, but everyone’s screwed. Wherever you stop on the ladder, you find someone who cannot find satisfaction in the position afforded him or her by Capital. Marx, at least in his Young Hegelian mode, understood this, but praxis, as usual, tended to override such insight in favor of action, which in political terms often seems to mean finding, naming, and, if possible, destroying enemies.

In the 20th Century, bad praxis almost totally overwhelmed its supposed philosophical bases, to the point of fully obscuring them. Nonetheless, the neo-Marxian critique of Late Capitalism, and specifically of financialized neo-liberalism against the declining rate of profit in high tech industry has been rather well borne out in recent history, up to the present moment.

As the early dialectical materialist Lao-Tse put it, nature empties that which is full, and fills that which is empty. The communist moment has not passed: It’s just taking its world-historical superhuman time to arrive, and works by mysterious means. As the early Marxist prophets explained, a thousand years is only a blink of an eye for the Almighty World Revolution.

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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

14 comments on “The 100%’s

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  1. Viva La Almighty Revolucion, and may it include all beings as recipients of their spiritual birthrights. Oh, wait, we already still have our spiritual birthrights. Well, VIVA anyway!

  2. The 1% idea is more than a mathematical pronouncement. People are coming together as “The 99%.” It’s a name. Naturally, the 99% in this country is not to be compared to what those numbers would mean outside of the country. If the movement succeeded it would benefit the poor in other countries because the disappeared middle class Americans used to be the most generous section of society. They were closer to the problems than the very rich, so they were more philanthropic. Without a middle class, the poor suffer more. And I don’t think The 99% are blaming the 1% so much as they are just contesting unfair policies. I think The 99.9% is a better name. 99% is still okay. It’s not a perfect name, but it’s better for us to rally around an imperfect name, let things evolve from there, and then end up pushing for the things that will empower all people.

    • You will not be shocked to learn that I agree with you. In fact, if I had thought about the subject longer before posting, I would have made a different or more organized and detailed argument about the 99% term. First of all, what’s kind of been bothering me all day, is that I don’t know if anyone’s pointed out that the notion that 99% of the world is starving children is an ugly, ethnocentric exaggeration. It’s “true enough” only in the sense that for a lot of the kids occupying Wall Street, trying to live like the wretched of the Earth live would be impossible. They might as well be starving children as workers on a Southeast Asian assembly line. But the average citizen of country a, b, or c doesn’t think of his or her life as a desperate starvation begging for a handout. They have pride in themselves, their families, tribes, nations, religions, cultures, etc.

      But if you take away the ugly photo, the idea that “99%” ought to be globalized would from a zombie-Marxist perspective be very consciousness-raising. It would require us to look at class instead of abstract income/consumption figures. But we’d still have the very real problem that most Americans have a great deal of difficulty identifying and aligning with the global proletariat, and, in the classic p.b. manner, enjoy, rely on, and will aggressively defend the bases of their actual material superiority and associated sense of personal superiority.

  3. “Paredon, Paredon’ (to the Firing Squad) that was the chant of the 99, back about 50 years ago, when they took a flier on ‘Hope and Change’, And a dozen years ago, in Caracas, more in the ‘boiling frog’ mold. But you did hit upon Obama’s M.O, to redistribute our resources, to world’s ‘99%

  4. Yes, hope is the enemy, and we must never change anything. Even time should stop, and for that reason I support a ban on clocks.

    miguel cervantes: Obama’s M.O, to redistribute our resources, to world’s ’99%

    Would that be the pipeline carrying our precious bodily fluids directly to Sri Lanka? Seems like a good plan to me, now that the aircraft carriers have hauled the last of our redwoods to Indonesia.

  5. And you know how Chris Rock proved that we could sell “black” hair instead of Indian hair. Seriously, did you see his movie “Hair.” It was a real eye-opener to me. In India, they take advantage of woman willing to do a certain supposed religious sadhana (practice) involving shaving their heads. The temples sell the hair for big bucks. So, going along with the facetiousness of comments here, I thought of claiming that African American hair could be sold abroad. In the movie, Rock tried to sell it to people selling Indian hair here and they stared at him in absolute puzzlement.

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Noted & Quoted


TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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