Class, Irish farmers and the movement of movements

One of our ideas with running the Rethinking Revolution discussion series is to try and return to old core concepts for the left in fairly fresh and non dogmatic ways.  It probably comes in part from a view that a lot of the 'movement of movements' left are tending to throw the baby out with the bathwater on some of these concepts in focusing on quite narrow, orthodox interpretations of these issues.  The audio with this blog 'How do we know who will Struggle?' was the first of the meetings where we tried to return to the importance of class through a somewhat indirect route.

The introduction by Paul is long but well worth listening to as a lot of it is about taking apart the simplistic way the orthodox left talks about class while still arguing why it remains of central importance.  The discussion afterwards wanders through a number of important arguments including the revolutionary potential of classes outside the working class, the peasantry and the 'middle class'.  Now I was stuck charing the meeting and therefore unable to comment (this is I think good practice) but I'd have liked to make the argument that those classes in the contexts they are referred to are really what I'd consider part of the working class.  However I made that argument at some length in my blog response to the Better Questions 'Community Development Lessons for Social Movements' which I see some 550 people have now looked at.

The idea of the peasantry in particular as a non revolutionary class distinct from the working class is a very narrow 19th century marxist one that anarchists never really held with.  It obviously makes no sense in relation to the Chinese Revolution but its also not even true of any proper understanding of the Russian revolution that recognises that the revolutionary movement cannot be reduced to the Bolshevik party.  Not only were huge numbers of peasants outside of Moscow and Petrograd active fighters for the revolution (often through the left Socialist Revolutionaries) but the reality is most Moscow and Petrograd factory workers were ex-peasants or the sons and daughters of peasants who retained real organic connections with the countryside.  When I visited Chiapas in the 1990's it was a revelation that the 'traditional Mayan peasants' at the heart of the insurrection very often (as least for the young males) were also an ex oil or construction workers.  As is pointed out in the discussion there aren't many peasants in Ireland today but often a huge number of farmers, particularly under the Celtic Tiger, are really workers who farm part time as part of a familyn tradition as much as a way of making a living.

Which is way off topic, the audios of the talk and discussion are linked below

The left talks a lot about class but in a manner that often confuses more than it clarifies. In this audio recording of a Rethinking revolution seminar at Seomra Spraoi Paul Bowman wonders just how useful the classification obsessed approach of the left actually is.

Rethinking revolution is a series of discussions in Dublin about the core ideas those of us who want revolutionary change think we have in common and so too often neglect to discuss. The discussions will be kicked off by an opinionated presentation of one or more approaches on these questions with the purpose of drawing all present into a discussion that we hope will continue long after the meeting. The talks are organised by the Outreach group of the WSM and inspired by those arguments we keep having in the kitchen at parties.

If your on Facebook you can receive notification of future discussions by joining the Rethinking Revolution group

Listen to the audio of Paul's presentation

Listen to the discussion following the presentation


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