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Context : PoliticalStuff, OnEconomics

Quora Answer : How do most serious Marxists view the idea of class warfare in America? Do they believe class warfare is inevitable? Do they feel obligated to promote it?

Jun 24, 2020

"Class warfare" is just what Marxists call that thing that other people call "economics"

The basic question of economics is this : you have a bunch of resources. You have a bunch of competing needs for or uses of those resources. How do you decided how to allocate the resources to the uses?

Economics is nothing but the study of allocating resources to needs.

The difference between Marxists and non-Marxist economists, is that non Marxist economists tend to think of economics as a kind of mathematical problem-solving activity.

We are all rational people, they think. We are all following the same rules. We all have good will. And so the questions of economics are how to calculate the "best allocation" of those resources. And a market is a kind of signalling system which "solves the calculation problem" ie. finds the best allocation of resources through everyone sending signals about what they want, and what they are willing to provide, through their buying and selling decisions.

Marxists, on the hand, are (depending on your perspective), either more "realistic" or more "cynical". And they see the resource allocation problem like this : society contains a bunch of different interest groups, with different amounts of power, and each interest group is trying to use their power to grab as much of the resources as they can for themselves.

This is "class war". Class war is not a cinematic civil war with the workers taking up pitchforks and trying to eat the rich. "Class war" is the everyday competition between these different interest groups, the "economic classes", for how much of the economic pie, each will get.

Now you might think to yourself "Well that's not very exciting. War, is a bit of a hyperbolic, overblown term for what's basically a little disagreement about how much everyone gets paid"

Except it is, literally, a matter of life and death.

Today it's reported that millions of Americans can't afford water. America is a spectacularly, phenomenally wealthy country. And yet millions are now so poor they can't even get access to something as basic and plentiful as water. COVID is killing poor people at a higher rate than rich people. But if you are scared by COVID, wait until you see cholera and dysentery back and spreading in America, because the country can't even manage to allocate the resources to guarantee clean water to its people.

America is not failing to provide water because it lacks the resources. It's not failing to provide water because it lacks the know-how. Failure to provide water is NOT due to America being unable to solve a "calculation problem" that would discover that, hey, guess what, people need water! Who would have imagined it?

No, America is failing to provide water to people who need it, for exactly the reason that the Marxist would predict. The economy is not just a calculation problem. It is a battle-field. On which there is a struggle to the death between different factions, over who will get the resources.

And the rich would rather grab the resources for their own self-indulgence, than allow enough to trickle down to the poor to ensure that everyone can afford clean water.

That's a Marxist view on class war in America :

It is ongoing.

And in fact, it has been going on in America since the beginning of capitalism.

Right now, in an era of neoliberalism and spiralling inequality, where the rich are accumulating an increasingly large proportion of all the wealth. Where millions of Americans can't even afford water or are relying on food-stamps. Where poor people are being forced to go out every day and risk dying from COVID, in order to keep the shops open and businesses "alive", so that shareholders don't lose their investments.

In that America, on that battle-field, it's clear that capital is killing way more workers than workers are killing capitalists.

And that needs to change.

Now, I am NOT a "class warrior". When I say that needs to change, I am not saying that we need to kill more capitalists.

I'm a class-war pacifist. I want to see the class-war ended.

But it will only be ended when the distinct roles of "capitalist" and "worker" have been abolished. And we have an economy which isn't split into distinct blocks with distinct interests in conflict with each other.

The goal of Marxists is not to fight class-war. But to finish with it. But you only end the class-war when you end the structural division of the economy into these different classes. As long as you allow the classes to exist, they will be in a state of conflict.

Update : Apparently in 2020 researchers are "shocked" (SHOCKED! I tell you!) to discover that, yes, indeed, class war is happening and the rich have been successfully grabbing more wealth than even they imagined :

Quora Answer : The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. To what extent do you agree with this Karl Marx quote?

Jun 21, 2017

Well it's the equivalent of saying "evolution is the story of the war between carnivores and herbivores"

Clearly there's more to evolution than this. There's intra-species competition and sexual selection. And the war between herbivores and plants. And carnivores eating other carnivores. And epigenetics. Etc. etc.

But there is an awful lot of herbivore-carnivore action in natural history. Everywhere you look. And every species has been shaped by it. And as a first cut, "principle component" understanding of evolutionary history. To get a rough idea what's going on. It's not a bad place to start.


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