Re: Criticism of Eugene Ruyle

Sat, 7 Mar 1998 01:52:21 -0800
Clayton Bagwell (cbagwell@island.net)

Hello to the group,

I am an electrician living and working on Vancouver Island in British
Columbia. I was notified of this seminar by another list that I read.
I would like to comment on the article by Eugene Ruyle, "The Communist
Manifesto in the Light of Current Anthropology."

I think the article would be stronger without the denegration of the CM
as "Euro-centric." The roots of mdern capitalism are easily traced to
Europe. To conclude therefore, that the description of the influence
capitalism was to have upon the globe as a whole is Euro-centric is
incomplete logic. The story of capitalism as told in the manifesto would
have the same essential character regardless from which continent it might
spring, for it is the story of the conflict between labor and capital, the
dialectic of capitalism.

In the CM, culture is describe as bourgeois culture. Part I paragraph
18 says,"The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases
the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle
everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere." In
paragraph 21 says, "Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns,
so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries (a poor choice of
words, but the sentiment of this historical fact is there-CB) dependent on
the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on
the West." And so it is that bourgeois culture is spread around the world.
Even today we see the struggle of local artists to preserve their national
cultural heritage in the face of global capital. It is my guess that local
production of culture will give way to trans-national capital production of
culture just as local productive industry has given way. I think Marx was
wholly correct in his reference to bourgeois culture snuffing all others
wherever contact was made. But I don't think this is Euro-centrism.

I think this weakness in the article appears in other ways.

I enjoyed the formulation of mal-development. The notion of structural
underdevelopment and overdevelopment as opposed to advanced and backward
offers useful analogies for problem solving . I concur that the present
rate of consumption by the overdeveloped world cannot be extended to the
remainder of the globe. Indeed the present rate of consumption in the
overdeveloped world may not be sustainable as overproduction starts to clog
the arteries of the global economy. New proletariat are sought in lands
where slaves and peasants were formerly sufficient for the production of
wealth as the bourgeoisie seek new markets to relieve the pressures of
overproduction from a system beyond its control. What is different from
Marx' time is the strongly international character of the capitalist class.
Investments have surpassed national boundaries, and wealth has concentrated
to such an extent that relatively few centers control virtually all of the
productive wealth of the earth. Thus they are entwined, and new regulations
are needed to establish ground rules for the exploitation of the earth as a
whole by the international bourgeoisie. We speak of economic regions
instead of nations, and trade agreements assume a different form and purpose
(e.g. MAI).

At this point in the article Ruyle comments that, "The Communist
Manifesto of one hundred and fifty years ago does not, and can not, provide
us with concrete answers." Here, the weakness of the Euro-centric argument
appears again. By belittling the Manifesto with this decriptive, Ruyle
overlooks the central theme: the advance of history through class struggle.
Ruyle sees the description of the proletariat as a European concoction
instead of a truth as universal as the bourgeoisie. Although the structure
and shape of the proletariat changes over time with the changes in the means
of production (how could it be otherwise?) the proletariat stubbornly
remains as those who have only their labor to sell for the production of
capital. Not Ruyle nor anyone has shown that capital can exist without the
proletariat, so the dismissal of the proletariat remains a bourgeois
fantasy.

The solution to ever-increasing exploitation by the capitalist class
remains the same as in the Manifesto of 150 years ago: the organization of
the proletariat into a revolutionary class that assumes political power and
abolishes bourgeois property. This is not a Euro-centric phenomenon, but
one that must take place every where bourgeois property exists.

It was not the role of Marx to describe the 21st century. The Manifesto
gives us the most concrete answer possible: the conclusion of the
capitalist dialectic is the movement of the proletariat to take political
power and abolish bourgeois property. According to the Manifesto, Part II,
para. 7,8,9:
"The immediate aim of the communists is the same as that of all the
other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class,
overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the
proletariat.
"The treoretical conclusions of the comuunists are in no way based on
ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that
would-be universal reformer.
"They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from
an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our
very eyes...."

Some contributors to this list point out, almost gleefully, that the
necessary organization of the proletariat has not come about. That is true,
but that is about the only thing in the Manifesto that has not come about,
and the bourgeoisie have spent untold billions to oppose this occurrance.
The organization of the proletariat into a revolutionary class means the
dissolution of the captalist means of production. You can bet that the
capitalists are not going to let such an organization occur if they can help
it. So far, it has not occurred; but the threat of that occurrence remains
constantly present - the specter of an organized proletariat, the specter of
communism.

As Marxist, as adherents to the dialectical materialist description of
history we must understand the role in the advancement of humanity, beyond
the confines of bourgeois society, that the proletariat plays. Once in the
know of this, the next step is to work in bringing about class
consciousness, the key to victorious class struggle. Bring it about in
the class rooms, offices, factories and streets. Beware of Part IV sections
2 & 3 of CM.

After minimizing the proletariat as Euro-centric, in closing his article
Ruyle quotes a Brazilian priest:
".....So only to the extent that the First World stops being first will we
be able to stop being third. In the United States and in Europe, I think
the church should be a kind of fifth column dedicated to undermining the
present undemocratic capitalist system, to end imperialism and all forms of
domination and cultural colonization."

And then what? A utopian Christianity? I don't think the hearts of the
authors of the Manifesto would be particulary warmed by this. It is too
Euro-centric.

Clayton Bagwell
Union Bay, B.C.