The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Amazon review of "Are They Rich Because They're Smart?: Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism"


July 5, 2016


Marc Lichtman

This review is from: Are They Rich Because They're Smart?: Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism (Paperback)

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, including Theses on Feuerbach (Great Books in Philosophy)).

Every ruling group since the end of pre-class society (SeeOrigin of the Family, Private Property and the State [Paperback] [1972] Friedrich Engels) uses myths to explain their exalted position; once people believed in “the divine right of kings.”
Force alone is not enough, although there’s plenty of that—just look at the number of workers, especially African American ones, shot down by cops, or those in other countries killed by US drones. (Does anyone actually believe the Obama administration’s claim that airstrikes it has conducted outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan have killed only 64 to 116 civilian bystanders and around 2,500 members of terrorist groups?)

Capitalism requires its own myths to explain why the people who do all the work wind up on the bottom of society, while those who own land, mines, mills, factories, laboratories, offices, and so on can be at the top. Labor and the earth are the only two sources of wealth. How is it that a small number of people come to own the earth, and it’s products, and we have to sell our labor power to them? Are we really not as capable of running society as they are?

Unfortunately, the “Occupy” movement presented a wrong view of class relations in the US, which many accepted. It’s not 1% percent v. 99%. The actual capitalist class is only a few hundred families, but there are millions whose position in society is based on their loyalty to ruling class ideas. Some of these are directly involved in high levels of government, or in the officer corps of the armed forces, or in the many, many cop agencies, public and private.

And there’s a growing wealthy layer, a self-anointed ‘meritocracy’ with little relationship to production, who serve as the ideologues, and tell us what they think is best for us. They’re convinced we’re too stupid to figure it out for ourselves.

A number of developments have recently underscored this:

(1) In the United Kingdom millions of workers protested in a non-binding referendum against the status quo, and the liberal and conservative media and political leaders act like the sky is falling! They consider all these workers to be stupid, and claim they all acted out of hatred of immigrants and narrow national interests, when they’re clearly protesting the economic crisis that the rulers like to pretend doesn’t exist. Plus why should any European worker want to have to deal with two bureaucracies—one is bad enough! We communists, contrary to popular belief, are not for big government!

(2) The bourgeois media and politicians in the US have analyzed the vote for Donald Trump the same way. The whole “white working class” is reactionary and is backing Trump for his racist, anti-immigrant views! Instead they should vote for the “liberal” who stands by her husband’s gutting of social benefits, and sending huge numbers of non-violent offenders to prison for years. Clinton is currently under government investigation, she continues to lie about the unemployment rate, and she told West Virginia miners that if elected she’ll take away the only good paying jobs in the state! (Talk about stupid....) Again, it’s a protest vote, similar to the vote for Bernie Sanders. Neither of these people represent any threat to capitalism, but the fact that workers aren’t voting for who they’re supposed to vote for has some middle class elements in hysterics. And, just like the EU vote, they can’t restrain their contempt for working people.

In the last chapter, Jack Barnes talks about “preparing the working class for the greatest of all battles in the years ahead—the battle to throw off the self-image the rulers teach us, and to recognize that we are capable of taking power and organizing society.”

The three chapters in this book originally appeared in two previous books by Jack Barnes: Capitalism's World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium andMalcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power. They have been updated a bit, with new statistics and new events that have happened since their last publication, and presented with an introduction by Steve Clark. But those books are still worth reading in their entirety, along with two other books by Barnes, The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions and Cuba and the Coming American Revolution. I would also suggest another book on the Cuba Revolution and the US: It's the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US Justice System: The Cuban Five Talk of Their Lives Within the Us Working Class.

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