A letter from a reader: Do all Americans live like Bill Gates?
28 June 2012
We received the following letter:
“I do not agree with the positions of Leading Light
At the time of Marx sub continent was a colony of British Imperialism. Many other Asian countries along with Afrcian and Latin American countries were colonies of European Imperialist Countries. But there was also exploitation going on in Britain, France, Holland and other world powers.
Marx condemned this Imperialist exploitation along with the exploitation of workers inside those European countries and raised the slogan of “workers of the world unite!”
At the time of Lenin difference between First and Third world was also there. Russia was a backward country whereas Germany, Britain, USA etc. were advanced capitalist countries. But Lenin always emphasized the role of International unity of working class.
Lenin and Trotsky built Third International which was also called Communist International or Comintern. In which comrades from all countries around the world were welcome.
If we will condemn the workers of advanced countries or consider them same as capitalists and Imperialists then we will make a big blunder theoretically.
There is a big class divide even in advance capitalist countries of West. There are billionaires and there are people who live in poverty. Many live in difficult economic conditions.
Though these conditions are much better than those in backward countries but how can one say that there is no class divide exist in USA, Britain, France.
Does all people in USA live like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey etc? No”
Thank you for raising important issues. True revolutionary scientists, Leading Light Communists, do not fear debate. True revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, is an all-powerful weapon that can solve the problems facing humanity and our planet today. We thank you for having the courage to engage with new scientific breakthroughs. Dogma must be left behind if we are to really win. The exploiters, their intellectuals and intelligence agencies, have been perfecting the science of oppression. To defeat the oppressors, we must perfect the science of revolution. It is absolutely imperative that we spread Leading Light consciousness amongst the masses.
There are several points that need to be addressed.
1. It is true that Marx witnessed the birth of earlier phases of imperialism. Marx commented on the crimes of imperialism across the world, in places as diverse as Ireland and India. Also, Marx raised the slogan “workers of the world unite!” in the Manifesto. Even so, just because Marx raised a particular slogan does not make it true. Similarly, just because Lenin and Mao asserted something does not make it true. Marx, Lenin, and Mao were not infallible gods. Marxism is not religion. True Marxism is not simply what Marx said. True Marxism, today Leading Light Communism, is the most advanced form of revolutionary science. True Marxism, Leading Light Communism, is applying the most advanced science to the problem of ending all oppression. Real scientists do not appeal to Marx the way that Christians appeal to the Bible. Just because Marx called on all wage earners to unite a century and a half ago does not make such a slogan eternally true. Just because something may have been true then does not make it true now. It is important to elevate science, not metaphysics.
Marx raised that slogan a century and a half ago when the world was very different. Marx looked at the trends he witnessed in Western Europe at the time, especially industrial England. He saw that as England was industrializing, two great classes were emerging: the capitalist class and the class of wage earners. Marx identified the latter class as the proletariat of his day. In the Manifesto, Marx projected that this pattern would be repeated globally. As it turns out, the world developed in more complex ways. In his more scientific works, like Capital Vol. 3, Marx began to note that all workers did not have the same relationship to the means of production. Even in Capital, Vol. 1, Marx speaks of “how industrial revulsions affect even the best-paid, the aristocracy, of the working-class.” In addition, Engels, toward the end of his life, noted that imperialism had a profound impact on the class structure of what would become the First World. For example, Lenin quotes Engels as early as 1858 as stating:
“The English proletariat is becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy, and a bourgeois proletariat as well as a bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world, this is, of course, to a certain extent justifiable.”
Arguing with the social-imperialist revisionist Kautsky, Engels stated:
“You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy? Well exactly the same as they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal Radicals, and the workers merrily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the colonies and the world market.”
Lenin too noted changes in class structure resulting from imperialism:
“Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.” (1)
China’s great Maoist general Lin Biao pointed to important transformations in the global system since World War 2:
“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (2)
Great Marxists of the past stated many things. At times, they noted the tendency of imperialism to transform some workers into a new type of bourgeoisie. At other times, they made statements contradicting this. Other writers have also noted the effect of imperialism on the class structure of the First World. However, the Leading Light was the first to fully understand and synthesize global class analysis scientifically. It is not important to list all the quotes one way or another. Reality is what is important, not what Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Mao may have said. It is important to realize that, in the case of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, they were writing at a time when the First World had not fully formed as the First World. The different statements in their work reflect the transitory period of the time in which they wrote. Today, there are imperialist countries of the First World, like the United States, that lack a significant proletariat. There are also imperialist, semi-imperialist, and emerging imperialist countries that retain a significant proletariat as Russia did in 1917. It may have been correct in Marx’s day to raise the slogan “workers of the world unite!” even in imperialist countries. However, it does not apply to today’s First World.
2. When Marx described the proletariat, the modern revolutionary agent, in his day, he was describing the emerging industrial worker in Europe. Marx described the proletariat as only making enough to reproduce his own labor from day to day. Marx described a class that was only paid enough to survive, not enough to accumulate. Marx described the proletariat as having no other income source but its labor. Marx described a producer class. Marx described an exploited class. Marx described a class that toiled in misery, a class that “has nothing to lose but its chains.” Marx described it as a revolutionary class. Even if we were to accept Marx’s description of the modern revolutionary social base, the proletariat, as religious scripture, Marx’s characterization of the proletariat would not describe most workers in the United States and other First World countries. Firstly, most workers in the United States do not produce. Most are employed in management, services, and distribution. Industrial production has been in decline for a long time in the United States. The value that props up the economy of the United States is mostly created outside the United States. Just as the traditional bourgeoisie is parasitic, so too does the working bourgeoisie of the First World receive its income through exploitation of the Third World. Secondly, the First World working bourgeoisie often receives income and wealth from sources other than its labor. Many earn interest on bank accounts, receive social-democratic benefits, own stock — often through retirement plans, own small businesses, etc. They are not the simple worker that Marx described. Thirdly, they are not exploited in any significant sense. They currently earn more than they would under an equal system, a socialist system. Their lifestyle of consumption isn’t even ecologically sustainable. They would lose out under socialism, materially speaking. Fourthly, they do not toil in absolute misery as Marx described. They usually work in relatively comfortable environments. They earn vacation time. Their experience and lifestyle are closer to their own bosses than they are to the average Third World person. Fifthly, they have far more to lose than their chains. Sixthly, there is a whole history that confirms that the working bourgeoisie of the First World aligns more with its own overlords than with the proletariat of the Third World. They are not a revolutionary strata.
3. You ask the question whether all people in the USA live like Bill Gates? Does the man who makes a billion dollars (83,272,800,000 BDT) live the same as the man who makes a million (83,272,800 BDT)? Does the man who makes a million dollars (83,272,800 BDT) a year live as the man who makes 60,000 (4,910,000 BDT) dollars a year? Of course not. There is a great deal of stratification amongst exploiters (and exploited) everywhere. This is true in the First World also. A billionaire receives more of the social surplus than a millionaire. This does not mean that the millionaire is exploited. A millionaire receives more of the social surplus than a man who makes 100,000 (8,327,280 BDT) dollars a year. This does not mean the man who makes 100,000 dollars (8,327,280 BDT) a year is exploited. A person who makes 30,000 dollars (2,498,000 BDT) a year is not exploited either. The average person in the United States is not exploited either:
“The average ‘Joe American,’ who is 25 or older, has an income of 32,000 dollars (2,665,000 BDT) per year. By contrast, most people in the world barely survive on less than 1,000 dollars (83,000 BDT) a year. For example, there are more people in India who make under a dollar a day than there are people residing in the United States. With his high income, the average Joe has access to luxuries and a lifestyle that is far out of reach for most people in the world. With this income a decent house, a car, a computer, stereos, a modern kitchen, swimming pools, education, vacation travel, entertainment, investments, are all within reach of Joe. Joe earns far in excess the value of his labor. With this income, Joe has more access to capital than many capitalists in the Third World. Joe earns far in excess of the amount that would be entailed by an egalitarian distribution of the social product worldwide. In other words, socialism would entail a big pay cut for Joe. He would lose most of his income according to a global, socialist distribution of income. He would lose his American lifestyle under socialism. In other words, Joe has about as much interest in socialism as the imperialist bourgeoisie. And he knows it, which is why again and again Joe lines up with his own bourgeoisie against the Third World.
According to the myth, Joe is a blue-collar worker… The reality is different. The average Joe holds a white-collar office job. These jobs are not the backbreaking, body-wrecking, life-ending jobs that many in the Third World endure. By comparison, Joe’s job is incredibly high paying, comfortable, with short hours and long breaks. The culture associated with this kind of job has less in common with the work culture of the proletariat of the Third World, and more in common with the work culture of the bourgeoisie. Also, Joe does not identify himself with the global proletariat, those Marx described as ‘having nothing to lose but their chains.’ It is more common that Joe identifies himself with the imperial bourgeoisie.” (3)
We do not oversimplify. Even though the poorest working people in the United States are within the richest 15 percent globally, pockets of genuine poverty and exploitation do exist in the First World, especially amongst the homeless, migrants, drug addicts, etc. However, these pockets of poverty and exploitation tend to be unstable, scattered, and small. They do not provide a significant social base capable of making revolution in the First World. These pockets are surrounded by class enemies. In addition, because of class mobility in the First World, even the most impoverished tend to align with the system rather than against it. Asking people to make revolution is asking them to make sacrifice. It is asking them to risk losing their home, family, and life. Even the poorest in the United States have too much to gain by aligning with capitalism-imperialism. Revolution is the hope of the hopeless. Even amongst the most impoverished in the First World, too much hope remains.
There is only so much value created in the world. The vast majority of people in the First World earn more than the value of their labor. In other words, they directly and indirectly appropriate value from others. They are exploiters. The vast majority of the population in the First World would lose out under an equal distribution of the global social product, under a sustainable socialist system. This is true of both the traditional bourgeoisie and the working bourgeoisie in the First World. Organizing the First World working bourgeoisie around their immediate and mid-term economic interests, organizing around their class interest, is organizing them to secure a bigger piece of the global social product. It is organizing them for a bigger piece of the global pie. However, both the traditional bourgeoisie and working bourgeoisie of the First World already receive more than their fair share due to imperialism. To dangle the carrot of more wealth in front of First World peoples is to agitate for more imperialism. The Third World pays the price. In addition, the vast majority of the population in the First World have lifestyles that are unsustainable. The bourgeois way of life that most First World people enjoy cannot be maintained forever. The planet simply cannot endure such a parasitic way of life forever. The vast majority of First Word people would see their incomes and wealth reduced under socialism. The global bourgeoisie, including most First World people, as a class have no economic interest in socialism.
Generally speaking, organizing First World peoples along economic lines is a characteristic of fascism and social-fascism, not genuine socialism. Both traditional fascism and social-fascism are an alignment of social forces where the lower bourgeoisie puts pressure on the upper bourgeoisie in order to secure a better deal for itself. The upper bourgeoisie enters into this arrangement with the lower bourgeoisie in the First World in exchange for social stability in the First World and to launch attacks on the global proletariat in the Third World. Since the upper bourgeoisie’s main source of income is imperialist exploitation, increasing the lot of the lower bourgeoisie in the First World usually means an increase in imperialist exploitation of the Third World. Fascism in the First World can take on two varieties. It can appear as traditional, conservative, rightist. Or, it can appear social-democratic, liberal, socialist, communist, leftist. This latter form often “waves the red flag to oppose the red flag.” The latter form is social-imperialism or social-fascism. Currently, there is a resurgence of fascism and social-fascism in the First World due to the economic crisis. The Occupy protests in the United States, for example, do not aim at global socialism or communism. They do not aim to return the wealth stolen by the United States to the Indigenous peoples of North America and Third World peoples. The Occupy protests aim to protect the imperial standard of living of the lower bourgeoisie in the United States. The Occupy movement is contradictory and diverse, but its overall direction is social-democratic and social-imperialist. This is repeated over and over in the First World. Almost all revisionist parties, all First Worldist parties, are social-fascist in some aspects. By contrast, Leading Light Communists do not advocate for more wealth for the First World. Leading Light Communists advocate true equality and sustainability. For true equality and sustainability, for true socialism, for Leading Light Communism to exist, the First World way of life and the First World must cease to exist as it has. In the First World, the Leading Light organizes First World peoples not for their class interests, but against their class interest to stand with the exploited and oppressed in the Third World. The Leading Light organizes for true global equality and sustainability, not more privilege and consumption for the First World. Leading Lights in the First World advocate a healthier life that is based on global equality and sustainability. Since most First World peoples are class enemies at present, most will reject the communist message.
4. The Third International or “Comintern” welcomed all comrades of all countries. This is the correct line. Politics should be in command, not identity. There are true communists in the First World just as there are true communists in the Third World. Just because the First World as a whole is bourgeois does not mean that true communists do not exist there. Engels was one of the Leading Lights of his day. He came from a bourgeois background. Marx too was not a traditional proletarian. He was from an intellectual background. Lenin was trained as a lawyer. Mao was a privileged peasant who was able to go to school in the city. Che Guevara was trained as a medical doctor. Many of the greatest revolutionary leaders had access to bourgeois education. They had access to the world of science. They also had a foot in the world of the masses. They were bridges, conduits. The most advanced ideas of science passed through them to the masses. They forged ideological weapons that could be wielded by the masses. There are many First Worldist revisionists in the Third World just as there are many First Worldist revisionists in the First World. Also, there are Leading Light Communists, true communists, who are from the First World just as there are Leading Lights from the Third World. The criterion for whether one is a member of the true communist movement is not whether one is rich or poor, First World or Third World, etc. The criterion is whether or not one upholds the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. Leading Light Communism is what it means to be a true communist today. Politics in command. Leading Light Communism in command.
5. There is no scientific reason to claim that the working bourgeoisie of the First World and the workers of the Third World are the same class in any meaningful sense. There is no real evidence to suggest that there is potential for a revolutionary alignment amongst these groups; there is no evidence they share material interests. There is little history of genuine solidarity of any kind. Again and again, the First World working bourgeoisie aligns with its own traditional bourgeoisie in support of the capitalist-imperialist system. Again and again, it aligns against the Third World. The First World working bourgeoisie has far more in common with those above it than they do with the vast majority of humanity in the Third World. Real science is not dogma. Science is about predicting and explaining the world. First Worldism generates false predictions over and over about the revolutionary potential in the First World. It does not explain the real world. First Worldism is fantasy. Leading Light Communism, by contrast, predicts and explains how people actually align and potentially align. Reality is the basis of science, not what Marx may or may not have said.
The world is much different than Marx described in the Manifesto. Not all those who are paid a wage or salary are revolutionary or potentially revolutionary. Even CEOs are employees of big corporations. They receive a salary, but that does not make them revolutionary. Police earn salaries yet are some of the biggest defenders of the system. The same can be said of management even though they earn wages or salaries. This has long been recognized by revolutionaries. This point can be extended to most First World people as a whole. The First World working bourgeoisie has far more in common in terms of its interests, culture and lifestyle with those above it than with those below it. Many First World working bourgeoisie have more access to capital than many capitalists in the Third World. They have access to capital in the form of loans, credit, homes, land, cars, etc. Just because they happen to earn a wage or salary does not make them revolutionary. Some, not all, earn more than capitalists in the Third World. In addition, ownership in the modern world is not as simple as it was in Marx’s time. Maoists began to discuss a new type of bourgeoisie that emerged in China within the Communist Party. It was not as though Liu Shaopqi or Deng Xiaoping literally owned factories. Yet Mao still called them a new bourgeoisie. Earlier, Lenin began to discuss the role of banks in the socialization of ownership across the bourgeoisie. Today, this socialization has democratized in various ways in the First World. Many of those who work in the First World buy stocks in corporations or own them through retirement plans. They earn interest on their bank accounts from their bank’s investments, exploitation of the global poor. They receive social-democratic benefits and the benefits of their state’s imperialist adventures. Many of those who work in the First World also own small businesses. The person who works in the First World is not the worker or proletarian that Marx described. There has been a kind of socialization of wealth across First World society. What makes First World affluence possible is imperialism, the impoverishment of the Third World. This is why there are never any real, significant socialist movements in the First World. This is why there is no history of real revolution, even though there is a long history of fascism and social-fascism. This is why there is a long history of social democracy, but no socialism.
Real communists represent the exploited, not the exploiters. They represent those who have a material interest in socialism, not those who have an interest in capitalism-imperialism. The world’s resources are not infinite. For the Third World to be equal, the First World must reduce its standard of living. Real communists do not stand for inequality; they do not stand for the preservation of the First World and continuation of exploitation. Real communists stand for global equality and sustainability, not for the continuation of First World privilege and mindless consumption. We do not stand for the continuation of the imperialist, unsustainable, consumerist, First World, American way of life. We stand for a healthier, simpler, funner, more colorful, more intelligent, more heroic way of life. Leading Lights stand with the global poor who are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Third World. Leading Lights serve the people.
Saying Marx said so is no argument, especially since Marx’s real views are not as simple as they have been presented in your letter. If we are really to make revolution, we must look at reality, not dogma. We are raising the scientific bar. The way forward is clear. Leading Light Communism is the weapon of the most advanced revolutionary science. Armed with Leading Light Communism, led by the Leading Light, the masses will wipe away the old world. Down the First World and its agents! Up the poor peoples of the Third World! Global People’s War of the Leading Light! Our day will come.
* currency conversions from June 28, 2012 http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/time-zone/asia/bangladesh/currency-bangladesh/index.htm