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The Lumpenization of the World Proletariat

Since the sub-prime crisis of Sept.-Oct. 2008, the world economy has been in a slide with an estimated over 200 million new unemployed (Jan. 27th, 2010), from an estimated 58.8 million at the end of 2009. These new unemployed are entering a world drifting to the Friedman doctrine of “absolute capitalism” where there are few or no resources of support to carry them over to a new employment opportunity. Many try to emigrate to areas where they perceive that opportunities may be in more abundance only to meet anti-immigrant hysteria and in some cases driven back or assaulted because they are “stealing jobs” from locals. Others resort to other survival tactics and strategies, such as begging, petty theft (usually from tourists), drug pushing, gambling, sex working, garbage or landfill picking, extortion, break and enter, looting and like activities as they no nothing else like living off the land or practising agriculture. Many have been raised from infancy to be city bred and bound workers who know nothing else but to fulfil jobs designed by capitalists who require temporary variable capital. Education has consisted of nothing more than regimentation and preparing up and coming proletarians to fulfil the job and profit needs of the bosses. Add to this the upcoming unemployment of rocket scientists, astronauts and support people in the US as NASA is scaled back and dismantled. Many new unemployed also worked in banks, offices for big business, dot com enterprises and the like. These form the new flotsam and jetsam of capitalism in its death agony. These former professionals are being dumped into the lumpen-proletariat.

Let us now clarify what exactly is a lumpen-proletariat.

1. A lumpen-proletariat is the lowest, most degraded stratum of the proletariat. It was used originally in Marxist theory to describe those members of the proletariat, especially criminals, vagrants, and the unemployed, who lacked class consciousness.

2. A lumpen-proletariat is the underclass of a human population. In India, this class is referred to as the untouchables. In the developed world we are creating an untouchable class of the new lumpen-proletariat.

Karl Marx also considered them (the lumpen-proletariat) ignorant of the nature of the class struggle and further, that if informed they would be against it as the current order allowed them to continue a life of parasitism off the proletariat that was still working. Therefore he saw them as useless, even blocking the way of the cause of communism and the revolution.

“The word “lumpen-proletariat” is a German word, which literally means "rag proletariat". It is a term first defined by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The German Ideology during 1845 and later elaborated within other works by Marx. The term was originally was coined by Marx to describe that segment of the working class that would never achieve class consciousness, and was therefore worthless in the context of the revolutionary struggle to achieve the overthrow of capitalism and the setting up of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a communist world order.

In the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon written in 1852, Marx refers to the lumpen-proletariat as the 'refuse of all classes,' which includes swindlers, confidence tricksters, brothel-keepers (pimps and madams), rag-and-bone merchants (the underground economy based on recycling and garbage picking), beggars, and the 'other flotsam (and refuse people) of society.' In the Eighteenth Brumaire, Marx describes the lumpen-proletariat as a class fraction that constituted the political power base for Louis Bonaparte of France in 1848. In this sense, Marx argued that Bonaparte was able to place himself above the two main classes, the proletariat and bourgeoisie, by resorting to the lumpen-proletariat as an apparently independent base of power, while in fact advancing the material interests of the bourgeoisie and himself. This kind of trickery is used to this day as people advance their political careers by opportunistically exploiting the underclass in public relations exercises to gain personal advantage while benefiting no one but the bourgeoisie and themselves.” (1)

These 212 million plus and growing unemployed proletarians are being pushed into the ranks of the lumpen-proletariat due to the cost cutting and profit making tendency of capitalism. Almost all of them are not class conscious. Further, while capitalism functions to their collective detriment, they still support a corrupt and dying system that increasingly relies on multi-trillion dollar budgets for warfare in order to destroy old markets and artificially create new ones based on disaster capitalism mediated by the Friedman shock doctrine. There is almost nothing for social programs in this time of recession/depression, but more than enough for bankers, CEOs and the military in the corporate welfare scheme of the Obama administration. As the hundreds of millions of newly unemployed fall into the ranks of capitalism's flotsam and jetsam identified as the lumpen-proletariat, a new crisis emerges in a rapidly expanding class of developed and emerging world untouchables. These former employees are almost imposable to organize and creates a logistical nightmare. Organization into unions should have occurred during the time of employment. There has been a terrible failure of leadership on all fronts, which has ended in the current dumping of innocent humanity into the scrap heap created by capitalism.

“27 January 2010 – The mounting number of jobless people around the world has climbed to an historic high with nearly 212 million unemployed last year (2009), or a 6.6 per cent (registered) of the global workforce, and the situation in Europe is likely to worsen before it gets better, according to a new United Nations report.

In its annual Global Employment Trends report the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 34 million more people joined the ranks of the unemployed in 2008 and 2009, pushing the total number of out-of-work adults to a record high.” (2)

During March 2010, in the US saw an increase of employment by 190,000 who found jobs, but the announcement of the end of the space shuttle program and the cancellation of its replacement Constellation program means that 90,000 jobs in total are now at stake. These high end 'rocket scientist' and 'astronaut' jobs mean that these unemployed are now fodder for low end jobs or the street. This is how capitalism has treated it employees. Given what is going on, it is entirely possible for anyone to become a lumpen-proletariat by mere definition and thus subject to demonizing by those who are class conscious and should be doing something to educate and organize instead of condemning the newly unemployed who are not class conscious. What we have is a massive failure of leadership that blames the new victims of capitalism instead of leading by education, organizing and leading by example. Blow is a quote concerning the upcoming loss of the US space program.

“Fri. Apr. 2, 2:34 pm ET

Now, as NASA prepares to ground its shuttle fleet permanently — just four more launches are planned, including one early Monday — Titusville's 45,000 residents are left to wonder what's next.

The hope around Titusville and Kennedy Space Center was that most of the 8,000 NASA shuttle contract workers would simply flow into corresponding positions in the Constellation program. But preliminary projections two years ago found that Kennedy could lose as much as 80 percent of its contract workforce, about 6,400 jobs.

As if that wasn't bad enough, this year Obama revealed a 2011 budget with no money allocated for Constellation, effectively cancelling Bush’s plan and instead recommending that the focus be on privatized spaceflight. Though Congress still has to OK the measure, Titusville faces the possibility of another economic upheaval.” (3)

It is well known, at least by the author, that most workers in the US, Canada and in Great Britain are not class conscious; this the result of decades of anti-communist hysteria and propaganda. This has switched to terrorist hysteria since the demise of the USSR. They have drifted to fascism and are now targeting immigrants in their blind hysteria. The proletariat therefore has fallen pray to the propaganda and the censorship of information and knowledge of real historical truths and have been fed “the opium of the masses”; religion in its place. Clearly, a new wrinkle has evolved under the demise of corporatist monopoly capitalism and what is happening to the proletariat. A new understanding and response is required. It is clear that the lumpen-proletariat in the old sense is not a reliable resource for revolution, but the lumpen-proletariat has mushroomed by some 212 million in less than two years. This single change means that the lumpen-proletariat potentially contains a large sector of class conscious members and needs to be addressed instead of summarily dismissed just because the traditional catechism says so.


  1. Wikipedia



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Tags: Lumpen-proletariat, bourgeoisie, capitalism, proletariat, rocket, scientists, unemployed


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