Part 3: Against More Left Slander and Stupidity 

by Paul Street

February 5, 2024

Editors’ note: This article by Paul Street, historian and author, originally appeared on January 30, 2024, at The Paul Street Report. Part 1 of the series is available here and Part 2 is available here.

Dear readers: here concludes my defense of Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, for now. I have certainly left out some attacks made against Avakian and the Revcoms and I have certainly not made all the defenses/arguments that longtime Revcoms and Avakian himself would make. I have responded in this series to attacks specifically sent to me.

Re: “The RCP’s Analysis of and Struggle Against Republi-fascism Makes Them a Front and Tool of the Democratic Party” (See Part 1 for a listing of all the moronic and mean-spirited charges against the Revcoms sent to me in the last few years).

This is an idiotic allegation both logically and empirically. Let’s say that my neighbor has two vicious and sociopathic dogs, both of which menace my neighborhood and both of which I have denounced. But then let’s posit that only one of these two dangerous canines has recently been infected by rabies. If I point out that one of the dogs is now rabid, does that mean I am somehow embracing the non-rabid dog? Of course it doesn’t. 

To carry the absurdity of the “Trumpenleft” criticism further, let’s imagine that I have consistently pointed out that the non-rabid dog has been a complicit enabler and conciliator of the rabies that has infected the other dog — and further that I have argued that the dominant social and political order that both of those dogs support is the generator of the rabies that now threatens life on our block.

That’s some of the RCP’s take on the Democratic Party: a vicious US capitalist-imperialist dog that poses grave menaces to humanity while enabling another vicious US capitalist-imperialist dog that has now crossed over into domestic political fascism — the Republi-fascist Party. The Revcoms have never stopped criticizing the first (Democratic) running dog for its capitalist-imperialist nature and they have consistently seen the Democrats as deeply complicit in the rise of Republifascism.

Avakian’s breaking of form to say that people should vote “for” Biden to block a second Trump term in the remarkable circumstances of 2020 was clearly and explicitly about nothing more than creating some “breathing space” (an especially relevant term as Covid-19 spiked with Trump’s help) for progressive, radical, and revolutionary forces to survive and expand without a rabid fascist in the world’s most dangerous and powerful office. This is something ballot-fetishizing “radicals” don’t understand. (For many electoralist third party addicts I hear from, the question of how one votes or doesn’t once every four years under the imperialist masters’ quadrennial candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas and preposterous slaveowners’ Electoral College is a holy matter.) 

Avakian’s 2020 tactical advice came only after it was clear that three-plus years of calling for Trump’s removal through mass anti-fascist resistance in the streets and public squares had failed to elicit the popular rebellion required. That resistance was meant not just to remove “the Trump-Pence regime” but to set new and radical terms for US and world politics from the bottom up.

If “the left” hadn’t been so quiescent and lame during the first Trump presidency, with many of its “intellectuals” denying that a fascist regime occupied the White House — a stupid “Trumpenleft” denial that continued in some cases even after January 6! — Trump could possibly have been removed from power without folks having to resort to the bourgeois electoral bullshit (the “BEB,” Avakian’s acronym) in 2020.

Backers of the Clinton-Obama-Biden Dems? Avakian and the RCP have long and consistently denounced the Democrats as a vile, mass-murderous capitalist-imperialist entity and indeed as the bigger, more effective imperial criminal between the two reigning US parties. Check out this current Revcom poster on Biden:

A January 2, 2024 commentary on the Revcom website says that the US-Israeli genocide “being seen by the eyes of the world” in Gaza “is exposing the true nature of the U.S. and Biden as vicious war criminals, ripping off the façade of the U.S. as some ‘defender of human rights’ to people all over the world, and in the U.S.” A consistent theme on the Revcom site and the Revcoms’ weekly Revolution Nothing Less show is the sheer moral bankruptcy of the 2024 presidential choice being offered the US masses: either the Orange Fascist Menace Trump or the vile corporate imperialist warmonger “Genocide Joe” Biden. The Revcoms quote Avakian from last fall on why Biden has backed Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza and how that backing helps make the case for world socialist revolution:

Why is Biden, and basically the entire government and ruling class of the U.S., supporting Israel in carrying out genocide against the Palestinian people, before the whole world? This is not because of ‘the power of the Jewish lobby’—or because of some ignorant, ridiculous and outrageous notion that ‘Jews are controlling everything.’ It is because Israel plays a ‘special role’ as a heavily armed bastion of support for U.S. imperialism in a strategically important part of the world (the ‘Middle East’). And Israel has been a key force in the commission of atrocities which have helped to maintain the oppressive rule of U.S. imperialism in many other parts of the world. This—maintaining and enforcing the murderously oppressive domination of U.S. imperialism—is the same motivation for why Biden is pushing to further escalate the proxy war the U.S. is waging against Russia in Ukraine, as well as further preparation for war with China, even at the cost of risking the very existence of humanity. …All this is basic truth about essential reality. And it sharply highlights once more the profound importance of my statement that We, the people of the world, can no longer afford to allow these imperialists to continue to dominate the world and determine the destiny of humanity. They need to be overthrown as quickly as possible. And it is a scientific fact that we do not have to live this way.”

That’s pretty far from “fronting for the Dems.” 

Re: “They are Grifters”

The “grift” charge is nothing less than pure slander. It is made without the slightest wisp of a hint of a scent of an iota of a tad of a fraction of a scintilla of evidence. All political organizations raise money to carry out their functions. The first of the RCP’s six basic “points of attention” forbids personal profiting from the organization and movement.

Re: Violently Stupid Nonsense on Violence 

The two opposite violence-related charges against the Recvoms — “the RCP advocates violence” and “the RCP is too pacifist” — are both absurd. The Revcoms rejects revenge and the socio-pathological notion that “the ends justify the means.” Avakian and the RCP are deeply critical of violent revenge-ism and the bloody Biblical notion that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” — an axiom that amounts to nothing more than an inversion of position, payback and retribution without systemic change. At the same time, the Revcoms have no illusions about the ruling class and its hirelings and supporters giving up power peacefully. They recognize revolutionary people’s right to self-defense. They are aware that revolutions involve the taking and exercise of state power and that state power relies among other things on the use of force. The notion of a completely bloodless revolution to overthrow capitalism-imperialism is historically absurd. So is the notion of shirking our responsibility to fight for a better world because doing so will elicit repression against us — and/or because keeping a socialist revolution will require using repression against those who will try to restore capitalism by any and all means. Are we really supposed to stop struggling to replace an exterminist and apocalyptic system (capitalism-imperialism) that is cancelling all prospects for a decent human future because “somebody might [will] get hurt” when we fight to bring a whole new liberating and sustainable way of life into being? People who answer yes to that question have embraced pacifism as pathological surrender to a profoundly and even pathologically violent and indeed violence-based social order. 

Re: The Supposed Sin of “Scientific Communism”

The claim that Avakian and the RCP advocate a cold and soulless notion of communism as pure science is woefully ignorant. The Revcoms call for a scientific — theory and practice based on evidence and testing — approach to nature, history, politics, culture, and society, something that hardy precludes the relevance of human agency, accident, and contingency and something that is hardly meant to cancel wonder, poetry, and spirit. Avakian argues that practitioners of science (and the arts) must be free to “do their thing” without political fear and control. Avakian argues (correctly in my view) that Marxism is a scientific paradigm of history and revolution and a scientific take on the nature and destructiveness of capitalism-imperialism, not the master of all science and not the only scientific approach that can inform revolutionary theory and practice. He says that Marxism should “embrace but not replace” the best of philosophy, art, literature and science.

At the same time, Avakian and the Revcoms take the opposite of a cold, clinical, and laboratory-like approach to history and society. They combine a science-based perspective with a “heart and soul” commitment to going “for the whole thing” — for revolution. There’s no real paradox in this unity of opposites. Possessing a Marxist/science-based understanding of how anarchic capitalism-imperialism “works” to quite possibly (almost certainly if not radically replaced by revolutionary socialism) end chances for a decent human future (via my aforementioned “four horsemen of the capitalist-imperialist apocalypse”) can and ought to fuel passionate moral opposition to the reigning system. Having a scientific awareness that oppression and exploitation are unnecessary and that another and liberating way of structuring society is possible can and ought to fuel passionate commitment to revolution.

Re: “The RCP is disqualified from radical leadership because its leader is an old white male. He’s got no business crossing race, gender and generation lanes to tell us about revolution!”

The claim that Avakian can and should be ignored because of his race, gender, and age is a perfect embodiment of the left pathology of Wokester identitarianism, intimately related to the mental affliction of “standpoint epistemology.” Acting like the reverse image of their white Christian nationalist/neofascist-Amerikaner enemies, left Wokesters bestow exaggerated and even outrageous intellectual and political privilege on one’s skin color and/or gender and/or sexual identity and/or ethnicity and/or (in the proletarianist version of the standpoint disorder) class over and against basic scientific investigation and rigor and principled revolutionary activism. Left wokesters’ left-ness is all about who you are, with the who being all about your race and/or gender and/or sexual identity and/or even class instead of what serious intellectual and political work you’ve done and how you work and/or propose to work with others to liberate humanity from exploitation and oppression. Their “standpoint” is identity rather than science, experience and feeling over objective reality and theory tested by evidence. This is deeply reactionary. 

Left woketarians are invested in cancel culture, which is a real and obstructionist thing even if the right exploits and distorts that pathology for revanchist purposes. Confusing victimization with moral and intellectual attainment and political vision, the hyper-identitarian standpoint-epistemological left promotes an “Oppression Olympics” mindset that seeks to determine who are the most truly oppressed people of all instead of how to build a revolutionary movement against/to defeat all oppression. Without such a movement, left-identified folks are left with nothing but milquetoast reformism, the usual bourgeois electoral bullshit (reflected in Palestinian solidarity activists’ chant telling Biden “we’ll remember in November”), utter passivity, and/or bitter revenge-ism. Karl Marx, the founder of the science of historical materialism, and his close collaborator Frederick Engels were old white males dedicated to the abolition of class rule, class division, and all forms of oppression and exploitation.

In his opening social media post last Thursday, Avakian made a properly angry response to the demented “woke” bullshit that cancels a radical thinker and activist because of that thinker-activist’s age, skin color, gender, culture, and/or sexuality, etc:

“And for any of you ‘woke’ posers and hustlers out there: don’t even bother with all that ‘who are you to say all this?’ I’ll tell you who I am. I am someone who is heart and soul, hardcore serious for a revolution where people can get all the way free, someone with a scientific understanding of the need, and the possibility, for this revolution. As serious as this is, I don’t have time and we don’t have time for any of this going nowhere good garbage about who has a right to say this or that. Everybody has the right and the responsibility to learn the truth, and to speak the truth, especially about truly life and death matters, dealing with the whole situation and the whole future of humanity, and everyone has the responsibility to act on that truth.”

I have many stories to tell of “woke” left folks absurdly dismissing me and otherwise shutting me down simply because of my gender, race, and, increasingly, age. During the 2020 George Floyd Rebellion, to relate just one of these stories, teary eyed white college students explained this to me when I agitated for them to resist the neoliberal Obamanite Iowa City mayor’s call for people to end their occupation of Interstate-80: “He’s Black and you are white. We’re going to do what he says!” 

During the 2014 Ferguson/Black Lives Rebellion, I once — during a small rally outside the Iowa City Police Department — pointed out that the IC cops did in fact kill a Black man in cold blood — John Deng in the summer of 2009. A white female sociology student came up and told me that “white men don’t say one word at BLM rallies.” I thought John Deng’s killing deserved brief mention when a speaker said “it could happen here.” 

And then there’s the out of control faux-radical Democratic Party-affiliated Woketarians who in 2022 told militant abortion rights fighters with RU4AR not to use the words “women,” “forced motherhood,” and “female enslavement” — and who then doubled down on their jaw-dropping buffoonery by telling you that you were “anti-trans” (“TERF”) if you did not submit to their idiotic and reactionary demand to delete half of humanity (females) from your agitation against a vicious patriarchal-fascist project aimed clearly at that (female) half of the human species! Total “Woke Lunacy,” to use the title of a recent lecture given by the leading Revcom and RU4AR co-founder Sunsara Taylor. 

I have had more than a few ugly confrontations with zealous Woke folk who seem far more interested in the asinine changing of words than in changing the world. I find these sorts of left-identified people to be every bit as irrational and ridiculous as the Christian Fascists they claim to oppose and with whom they are engaged in a mutually reinforcing game of anti-scientific identitarian thuggery. 

“Avakian Backs the Police”

Please. “Anarchist” and some very confused social-democrats I know say they want to “Abolish the Police.” There’s a noble sentiment there, to be sure — a desire to live without a coercive and punitive state. But where on Earth do they think modern, ever more militarized policing comes from? It is a clear historical product of capitalist class rule designed to protect bourgeois property and to discipline the impoverished, wage-earning, sometimes rebellious and even at times revolutionary masses. Over time the domestic US police state has taken on a variety of lethal repressive methods and weapons developed in capitalism’s endless imperial wars. How you gonna abolish the police without overthrowing capitalism-imperialism?! 

Furthermore, let’s say we got our shit together and had a socialist revolution over the next five years, something we very much need to do in light of the fact that capitalism-imperialism is (I say again at the risk of beating a dead horse) cancelling all prospects for a decent future. Would that mean that there would be no more gendarmes? No. Let’s be serious. On top of the fact that lingering problems of inequality, sociopathy, gun proliferation, and alienation would fuel the persistence of crime and violence even in a new socialist order, you would also have to deal with a significant mass of violent counter-revolutionaries determined to undo the new socialist state with disruptive terror. The new revolutionary state would of course have to be prepared to suppress violent counterrevolutionaries.

But in a revolutionary socialist society, Avakian argues, the role of the police would be fundamentally transformed. The police would no longer be enlisted in the protection of the wealth and privilege of a ruling bourgeoisie and its affluent servants. The cops would no longer enforce racist apartheid. They would be out of the business of terrorizing, torturing, and gunning down people of color and poverty. They would no longer be enlisted in the creation of a giant racist incarceration state and the branding of millions of disproportionately poor and non-white people with the crippling lifelong mark of a criminal record. They would be part of a new political superstructure dedicated to moving humanity beyond class rule and all forms of exploitation and oppression — towards a communist society in which state coercion would in fact become a thing of the “pre-historical” human past.

Re: The Discourse Critique 

Avakian doesn’t sound and write and cite like an academic? Good! What’s so great about academic discourse and composure these days (or ever)? Avakian has never written or spoken to meet the tastes of academic publishers and hiring committees. He’s not up for tenure, he’s up for revolution. He dropped out of college to become a full time revolutionary in the late 1960s. And one of the refreshing and welcome things about Avakian is that his writing and speaking has always been aimed at a broad range of people including the most oppressed, not just intellectuals trained and pontificating in universities where basic historical and dialectical materialism (Marxism) is absurdly marginalized and dismissed in favor of various forms of elitist and nonsensical career-advancing, power-serving thought: identitarian and post-modern subjectivism, “standpoint epistemology,” pragmatism, positivism, empiricism, electoralism, nihilism, fatalism, determinism, neoliberalism, and more. 

How is bourgeois-academic discourse, even in very occasional Marxian forms — much of it ponderous, passionless, indecipherable, and hopelessly incestuous  — working for the cause of socialism, exactly? We need more and more intellectuals to step away from the BAB (the bourgeois academic bullshit) and come down from their safe Mandarin perches to think, write, and act like revolutionaries, with a very different audience than each other and very different goals than professional advancement. We need them to get out of their painfully narrow lanes and tepid frames, to lift their sights, and to lend their service to what Marx and Engels rightly called the only alternative to the “common ruin” of all: “the revolutionary re-constitution of society at large.”

Re: “The RCP Abandoned the Working Class and Class Struggle” 

This is a curious claim to make against a party that calls for a proletarian revolution meant to abolish the systematic exploitation of the working class and indeed to end class inequality altogether. Avakian and the RCP didn’t abandon “the” working class, they left behind nose-in-the-ground economism and the fetishization and tailing of a proletariat that has been remade by global capitalism in ways that seem entirely lost on those leftists who make constant ritual invocations of “the working class.” The RCP and Avakian have abandoned/rejected the following quasi-religious and anti-scientific left ideas: that objective truth has a class character (the myth of “class truth”); that “the” working class possesses some special “purchase on truth” by virtue of its exploited position and place in society; that the proletariat is destined by historical law to be a revolutionary socialist class. As a Revcom once explained to me, “if simply being working class made people into socialists, we’d be living in full communism by now.”

The RCP and Avakian reject the class reductionism that brings everything down to the conflict between employers and employees. They point radicals away from the quadruped-like focus just on the hallowed class division and contest between labor and capital, challenging them to look higher with Marx and Lenin at other contradictions at the heart of the destructive “anarchy of capital[ism]” — at fundamental ongoing and history-driving conflicts between:

  • highly organized social production and parasitic private appropriation.
  • capitalist firms in constant expand-or-die competition with each other for profit shares.
  • different national bourgeoisies1 and capitalist-imperialist states fighting each other for shares of global plunder.
  • the rich capitalist-imperialist nations in the parasitic core of the world capitalist system and the super-exploited masses on the periphery of that system.
  • the ceaseless growth and profit commands of capitalism and livable ecology.

Avakian and the Revcoms rightly channel Lenin by refusing to romanticize American trade union struggles to win US workers a larger share of the profits wrung from the global proletariat and the planet by US capitalism-imperialism — struggles managed by organizations that became appendages of the imperialist Democratic Party long ago.

For the RCP and Avakian, disillusioned ex-radicals who claim that Marxism is invalidated by the “failure of the proletariat to rise up against capital” have missed the most enduring points in Marx. Marx’s core historical-materialist discovery was that, as Engels explained in 1888, “In every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch.” Each historical period combines an underlying mode of production (combining technical forces with distinctive social relations of production) with an overlaying political and ideological superstructure both serving and conditioned by that mode of production. 

The RCP and Avakian advocate a political/superstructural revolution meant to replace the (frankly eco-exterminist) capitalist mode of production and superstructure with a revolutionary socialist one led and fought for in such a way as to overcome all forms of oppression and exploitation including but not restricted to class rule. Avakian and the Revcoms understand and target racism and sexism as key forms of oppression in their own right while arguing that (contrary to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois identitarianism that is rampant in US liberal and left circles) neither racism nor patriarchy (deeply and properly understood) can be overcome under capitalism-imperialism.

That’s not “abandoning the working class.” It is understanding proletarian lives and struggles within a properly deep and many-sided understanding of the dominant and ever-changing system and of what’s required to overthrow the destructive anarchy of capital.

It is of course true that Marx and Engels claimed that the proletariat was destined to be a revolutionary class. “What the bourgeoisie…produce, above all,” Marx and Engels wrote in 1848, “are its own grave-diggers. It’s fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” This was a romantic and religious belief reflecting a teleological mindset inherited from Hegel. It was an understandable and seemingly “scientific” if mistaken projection to make amidst the turbulent European times marked by epic class struggles fueled by industrial and bourgeois political revolution, Eric Hobsbawm’s Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 transitions into his Age of Capital: 1848-1875.2

Marx and Engels seemed to know better in their real political lives. For people who claimed to think the rise of a revolutionary proletariat was inevitable, they sure spent a Hell of a lot of time and energy arguing with workers and activists to make it so and to enlist other bourgeois and petit-bourgeois intellectuals in the cause of “once and for all emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions, and class struggles” (Engels, 1888). 

Lenin famously and rightly abandoned the socialist habit of fetishizing, sentimentalizing and tailing the supposedly inevitably revolutionary proletariat in his important 1902 pamphlet What Is To Be Done?:

The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia.”

The core notion running through What Is To Be Done? is the need to train professional revolutionaries who go beyond the selfish and economistic orientation of the “trade union secretary” (who fights merely for more for workers under the existing system) to become “tribunes of the people” in the many-sided struggle against all oppression and exploitation – for the revolutionary transformation of society. 

While he might have advanced the “inevitabilist” (Ishak Baran and “KJA’”s useful term — see below) notion of the proletariat as a class destined to overthrow capitalism, Marx spent countless hours trying to bring science and theory to the working class and wanted bourgeois and petit-bourgeois class defectors to join him in that endeavor. The real-world Marx — the dogged leader of the International Workingmen’s Association — does not seem to have really believed that the proletariat would create socialism without any relevant help from bourgeois and petit-bourgeois class allies and class defectors like himself and Engels. Marx never wrote about the necessity of a vanguard communist party necessarily including revolutionaries from elite classes in the task of enlisting and mobilizing workers as “tribunes of the people” against all oppression — that would fall to Lenin in What Is To Be Done? — but two lines in the Communist Manifesto are suggestive of the beginning outlines of this comprehension:

“a portion of the bourgeois ideologists …have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.”

and especially this:

“entire sections of the ruling class are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat, or are at least threatened in their conditions of existence. These also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress.”

The second line, unlike the first one, involves folks from elite classes not merely rising to the level of the imagined revolutionary proletariat but bringing “down” some of their knowledge — “fresh elements of enlightenment and progress” presumably including a theoretical grasp of history — to the proletariat.

None of which is to deny the elementary truth that the abolition of the proletariat’s exploited position and status would mark a far-reaching revolutionary transformation for all humanity. 

Recommended Reading

“The left’s” multi-faceted dismissal, ignorance, defaming, and dismissal of Avakian and his Revcom comrades is nothing less than ridiculous at this point. With the stakes as incredibly high are as they are today, everyone looking for a way out of the current apocalyptic capitalist-imperialist nightmare should seriously examine the work of Avakian, the world’s foremost international revolutionary communist. For anyone seriously interested in Avakian’s remarkable body of intellectual and activist work, which merits strong consideration, I recommend first and foremost his own books and essays. I would start with his engaging memoir From Ike to Mao, which provides essential personal and historical context for the development of his ideas. Conquer The World? The International Proletariat Must and Will (1981) and Phony Communism is Dead—Long Live Real Communism (1992) are remarkable deep engagements with big questions about Marxism and communism (including significant criticisms of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and even Mao) that I was barely starting to grapple with as an undergraduate Marxist history major (in a once remarkably radical history department) — questions I largely dropped as I fell into the deadening grips of professional specialization.

For an excellent summary of the Avakian-inspired Revcom take on the Russian and Chinese revolutions, an important antidote to US “left intellectuals’” reflexive anti-communism, consult “The Communist Revolution and the Real Path to Emancipation: Interview with Raymond Lotta,” Revolution, No. 323, Special Issue, 24 November, 2013, reproduced and updated for April 30, 2014 here.

I highly recommend this remarkable philosophical essay, penned in response to a post-modernist bourgeois-democratic “Marxist” attack on Avakian made by the ex-communist charlatan “comrade Ajith”: Ishak Baran and KJA, “Ajith—A Portrait of a Residue of the Past,” December 2014, read online at http://demarcations-journal.org/issue04/ajith_a_portrait_of_the_residue_of_the_past.pdf. The Baran and KJA essay may be especially useful for academics as it is written in a style amenable to their discursive sensibilities and provides an able summary of many of Avakian’s key philosophical, activist, programmatic, and scientific contributions.

_______________

FOOTNOTES:

1.  An interesting line in The Communist Manifesto, written before Marx dove into his core political economic work (in Capital, volumes 1, 2, and 3), which placed a huge emphasis on the driving force of competition between capitals, not just the intimately related struggle between exploited wage-earners and surplus value-extracting employers: “The bourgeoisie [capitalists – P.S.] finds itself involved in constant battle. At first with the [feudal] aristocracy, later on with…portions of the bourgeoisie itself…, at all times with the bourgeoisies of foreign countries.”   [back]

2.  The notion of the Western proletariat as a history-ordained revolutionary class seemed to make a lot of sense in Marx and Engels’ time. It was a very understandable and perhaps unavoidable thing to believe. The British and European working-class movements and struggles of the early and mid-to-late 19th Century and the proletarian movements in the United States after the Civil War (read Bruce C Nelson’s excellent account of radical working-class Chicago in the 1880s ) were extraordinary. They really did seem to beckon the arrival of a new socialist order stretching from Chicago to Danzig. The Western working class was being significantly remade and expanded during these years. Millions of European artisans and peasants were having their worlds turned upside down by a vicious process of proletarianization and were none too happy about it. They had living recollections of very different labor processes, communities, and lifeways before the oppressive and alienating onset of despotic industrial capitalism, which they confronted and understood as a new and terrible kind of system. Remarkable new working-class uprisings, unions and socialist parties sprung up across the West in response to the new Age of Capital. The world had never seen such giant concentration of workers as were evident in the new factories, mines, and mills of Europe, England and the United States. It must have all seemed very much like a fulfillment of the prophecy laid out in The Communist Manifesto (1848).  [back]