Monday 25 March 2024

New Left vs the Masses

"There is one line by [New Left hero Herbert] Marcuse that is quite telling about the essence of the New Left:
"‘If the worker and his boss enjoy the same television programme and visit the same resort places, if the typist is as attractively made up as the daughter of her employer, if the Negro owns a Cadillac, if they all read the same newspaper, then this assimilation indicates not the disappearance of classes, but the extent to which the needs and satisfactions that serve the preservation of the Establishment are shared by the underlying population. (…) The people recognise themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment’. (One-Dimensional Man, pp. 10-11). 
"For Marcuse, a worker who can afford a resort place, a working-class girl having access to amenities that were previously only available to the elites, and a person of colour owning a car, are all problematic. People escaping the drudgery of millennia means they can’t anymore play the convenient role of the victim in the intellectual’s schemes of class warfare. Which is why Marcuse gives up on ordinary people as political agents, and looks instead to the ‘lumpenproletariat’ for his new revolutionary subjects. 
    "The masses and their aspirations are a problem!
    "Notice also the anti-materialism: how dare these proles enjoy amenities! How dare they enjoy that split-level home! They’ve lost their souls, but I, Marcuse, can tell them what’s good for them - know your place proles! 
    "No one saw as clearly this shift of the Left, from promising abundance to problematising working class people having stuff, than Ayn Rand: 
'The old-line Marxists used to claim that a single modern factory could produce enough shoes to provide for the whole population of the world and that nothing but capitalism prevented it. When they discovered the facts of reality involved, they declared that going barefoot is superior to wearing shoes'."

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