[26 FEB 2021] This article is a stub. It will be expanded, as time and labor constraints allow.
[1 MAR 2021]
[Last modified on 1 MAR 2021 at 04:53 PST]
[26 FEB 2021] This article is a stub. It will be expanded, as time and labor constraints allow.
[1 MAR 2021]
[Last modified on 1 MAR 2021 at 04:53 PST]
Behind the News, Doug Henwood (b. 1952), Dr. Alex Williams, Dr. Nick Srnicek (b. 1982), KPFA, Marxian economics, neoliberalism, Occupy Wall Street, Pacifica Radio Network, refusal of work, transcript, unconditional basic income (UBI), universal basic income (UBI)
LUMPENPROLETARIAT—As we’ve noted recently at Lumpenproletariat, discussion of an unconditional basic income (UBI, or universal basic income) policy proposal has increasingly become something of a trending topic on the left. The refusal of work as a human tendency or behaviour, with or without a political or philosophical program, goes back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. And, since at least the time of classical political economists, such as David Ricardo, the notion of technological unemployment has anticipated that automation will lead to mass unemployment or the obsolescence of wage labour. In other words, machines are anticipated to eventually replace human workers in most areas of society.
Although wage labour is usually taken for granted as an inevitable fact of modern life, diverse theorists and thinkers have questioned its necessity. And, given technological unemployment, at least regarding simple reproduction and the social provisioning process, the question becomes: What should society do about its redundant population? Should they be criminalised as vagrants, profligates, or debtors for their inability to find work and pay their own way? Or should the redundant population be emancipated from the increasingly arbitrary world of wage labour? (On a related philosophical thread, this also touches on various movements to abolish money.) 
Addressing some of these questions on this week’s edition of free speech radio’s Behind The News, economic journalist Doug Henwood spoke with Dr. Nick Srnicek and Dr. Alex Williams about their 2015 monograph, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (Verso Books), which was revised and expanded in October of 2016. The interview delved into the monograph’s topics, including a critique of contemporary political timidity on the left (e.g., Occupy Wall Street’s aversion to defined direction and clearly articulated goals), a review of neoliberal successes on the right (e.g., Hayek‘s Mont Pelerin Society agenda), and an advocacy for an unconditional basic income as a path towards ending the contemporary sociopolitical hegemony of wage labour relations. Notably, however, the interview lacked an awareness of another class consciousness-raising policy, of which most UBI advocates are usually ignorant, the MMT-based job guarantee (JG) programme (or ELR, employer of last resort). The UBI and the JG/ELR are often viewed or presented as being incompatible, although they need not be. Listen (and/or download) here. 
[Working draft transcript by Messina for Behind The News and Lumpenproletariat.]
BEHIND THE NEWS—[6 APR 2017] [KPFA announcement] [station identification by Erica Bridgemen(sp?)]
“Hello, I’m Doug Henwood. And we’re moments away from Behind The News. Today, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams will talk about moving beyond folk politics. But, first, some [KPFA] News Headlines.
[KPFA News Headlines (read by Max Pringle) omitted by scribe] (c. 6:10)
DOUG HENWOOD: “Hello; and welcome to Behind The News. My name is Doug Henwood. Two guests today, and simultaneously, not in sequence: Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, co-authors of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. The book was first published by Verso in 2015 and, then, reissued in an updated, expanded edition last October.
“The broad topic of the book is contained in its title. It is a critique of the timidity of so much left politics today and an argument for a future, in which machines do more of our work and humans do less. An important part of it is this advocacy of a universal basic income (UBI), an idea with a long history, that has recently gained adherents and critics across the political spectrum. It refers to a provision by the state of a basic monetary grant to all citizens, which runs into the problems of citizenship, which we’ll hear later, regardless of their work status. We’ll have more on the UBI on future shows.
“Now, Nick Srnicek—he’s the one with the Canadian accent—and Alex Williams, with the English accent. [Audio seems to cut to pre-recorded interview.]
“The book opens with a critique of folk politics, which I found very invigorating. Although, you seemed to [chuckles] step back from it in your afterword. What is folk politics? And why should we, uh, be concerned about it?” (c. 7:48)
DR. NICK SRNICEK: “I think another name for folk politics might have been, uh, a politics of immediacy. And, partly, our argument was against this sort of turn towards a lot of localised ideas, local alternatives, and the idea that these things are sufficient on their own—the same sort of tactics, that were used in Occupy Wall Street, where they just simply don’t scale up beyond, you know, maybe, a few hundred people. And these sorts of things become really problematic when you want a politics, that actually can grapple with global complexities.
“It seemed to us that it had become sort of a common sense idea that these sort of tactics and these ideas and strategies, uh, they needed to be critiqued because, in part, they were at the heart of why something like Occupy Wall Street, despite mobilising millions of people, still failed in the end to make any sort of significant social transformation.” 
DOUG HENWOOD: “There’s also a reticence about goals. How does that fit in with the organisational issues?”
DR. ALEX WILLIAMS: “Well, I think the issue about goals, as we recall a particularly important one for Occupy Wall Street, but also for other movements around the same time—so, there was a student movement in the U.K. around the same time, which was very much sort of ideologically and organisationally structured in a similar way. It’s based on consensus decision-making and a deliberate refusal of leaders and even a kind of refusal of, kind of, goals. Although, that did have a bit more of an obvious protest dimension to it.
“What we kind of see is that there’s a kind of refusal of goals, which is partly because of the fact that the way these organisations are kind of internally structured meant that they wanted to enable consensus decision-making to occur, which always involved pushing back as much as possible a definitive programme, even at the level of kind of large-scale future goals. As soon as you say that you want something, then that means that certain groups will be annoyed by that; certain groups won’t want to take part anymore.
“There was a privileging of the kind of organisational form over its political efficacy.”
DOUG HENWOOD: “Did this all emerge from a reluctance to make demands, that would prove to be divisive, that would threaten the group’s unity? Or is there something else at work, an unwillingness to think grandly or to speak of where one wants to go because it would exclude other destinations? How do you link this, this combination of organisational diffusion with a reticence about goals?” (c. 10:13)
DR. ALEX WILLIAMS: “The two always occur together. You know; it’s partly that there has been a lack of large-scale leftist thinking. Or there has been. I think this is improving now. But I think that in the kind of era around, and immediately in the wake of the [Global] Financial Crisis, what it really exposed was the paucity of detailed leftist political thinking, that wasn’t massively academic in its focus. And it’s just this sheer absence of viable options beyond windy declarations around some sort of metaphysical communism or sort of very milquetoast Keynesian, social democratic options. The coverage was a bit threadbare.
“So, I think the fact that people hadn’t really thought of what they want, that maybe they know what they didn’t want, but defining down exactly what they did want, I think that there was definitely an absence there. And this absence was there for historical reasons.” (c. 11:04)
DOUG HENWOOD: “It’s funny. We’re recording this on the anniversary of, uh, Joseph Stalin’s assumption of the role of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [chuckles]. But there is that spectre of Stalin, that was hanging over these conversations about, both, organisation and goals, that people think you’re moving in a Leninist direction or a Stalinist direction if you start talking about some kind of enduring organisation; but you’re also putting us at risk of gulags, if you start talking about major, ambitious transformations. So, the way of avoiding these problems seems to be, uh, to be modest in terms of organisation and ambition.”
DR. NICK SRNICEK: “Yeah. And I think, partly, it leads to a really sort of defensive and small-scale, small-c conservative idea about what politics is all about. It becomes a matter of just, you know, defending people and their situations, as they exist now, without any sense that we can actually transform the conditions, which are leading to these sorts of outcomes.
“It’s partly a matter of the defeat of the left. The left has been knocked back for decades now. And, as a result, the idea of dreaming big has been lost.”
DR. ALEX WILLIAMS: “I think also, in terms of the kind of issue of Stalinism, we need to think about the broader kind of historical sequence here. And you can see organisations, like Occupy Wall Street, you know the immediatist politics, as very much being the result of a particular dialectic. So, this begins with the New Left in the 1960s, 1970s—and is associated with feminist and natural rights movements— who make accurate, for the most part, criticisms of some of the existing leftist organisations, that they tended towards unchecked authority. It was often abusive. And these are criticisms, that we largely share.
“If you take that kind of vector and you continue it too far, you end up with this totally acephalous, amorphous form of politics, which is, you know, even to the extent where you have people saying: Well, I can’t speak for anybody else in this movement. There’s a degree of individualism, which, at times, I think, with digitally-mediated movements can be good ‘cos it means there’s very low costs of entry. They can kind of customise the kind of messaging of the organisation. But, at the same time, the rejection of any long-term goals or any kind of persistent institutions is problematic.
“Persistent institutions need not be equivalent to Stalinism. That seems kind of a hyperbolic argument to suggest that. What’s necessary is to come to terms with the accurate aspects of the New Left—a critique of the older left organisations—but not, basically, junk all persistent institutions or goals because you end up with a kind of politics, which is continually having to reinvent the wheel, continually having to learn the same lessons because it has lacked any institutional memory. And this is paralysing, I think.” (c. 14:03)
DOUG HENWOOD: ” [additional transcription pending] “
[snip] (c. 59:59)
Learn more at BEHIND THE NEWS.
VERSO BOOKS—[accessed 6 APR 2017] A major new manifesto for the end of capitalism. Neoliberalism isn’t working. Austerity is forcing millions into poverty and many more into precarious work, while the left remains trapped in stagnant political practices that offer no respite.
Inventing the Future is a bold new manifesto for life after capitalism. Against the confused understanding of our high-tech world by both the right and the left, this book claims that the emancipatory and future-oriented possibilities of our society can be reclaimed. Instead of running from a complex future, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams demand a postcapitalist economy capable of advancing standards, liberating humanity from work and developing technologies that expand our freedoms.
This new edition includes a new chapter where Srnicek and Williams respond to their various critics.
Learn more at VERSO BOOKS.
The book begins (chapters 1–2) by critiquing dominant left-wing thinking in the West, suggesting that since the cultural upheavals of the 1960s it has been characterised by a “folk politics” which aims to bring politics down to the “human scale”. By emphasising temporal, spatial, and conceptual immediacy, folk politics tends to privilege reacting to change (through protest and resistance) over imagining new long-term goals; the immediate and tangible over the abstract; personal involvement in direct action over institutional responses; single issues over complex strategies; horizontal organising over hierarchical; and the local over the large-scale. While arguing that these approaches are important and can at times be effective, Srnicek and Williams argue that they are insufficient to tackle global capitalism and specifically neoliberalism.
In chapter 3, Srnicek and Williams contrast left-wing folk politics with the success of neoliberalism in achieving global cultural hegemony. This is illustrated by the long-term, top-down strategising characterised by the Walter Lippmann Colloquium and Mont Pelerin Society, the development of networks of think-tanks, and positioning of neoliberal ideas and thinkers in government and media. This strategy enabled neoliberals to offer a set of ready-made policies to leaders looking for new ideas in the wake of the collapse of the Bretton Woods system and the 1970s oil shocks. Srnicek and Williams suggest that the Left needs to adopt similar strategies. Accordingly, in chapter 4 they argue that the Left needs to offer a positive vision of a new modernity, embracing the importance of dismantling hierarchies of gender and race while also accepting that promoting universal human values is necessary to achieve a progressive vision of the future and positive freedom.
Chapter 5, ‘The Future isn’t Working’, identifies a crisis in capitalism’s ability (and willingness) to employ all members of society, arguing that ‘there is a growing population of people that are situated outside formal, waged work, making do with minimal welfare benefits, informal subsistence work, or by illegal means’. Chapter 6 argues that a ‘Mont Pelerin of the Left’ should press for:
Srnicek and Williams argue that it is necessary to raise the costs of labour in order to incentivise investment in labour-saving technologies, envisaging a positive feedback loop between a tighter supply of labour and technological advancement. Chapter 7 argues that to achieve these goals, the Left must invest in establishing a new hegemonic status for these ideas, building on the successes of capitalism, repurposing its structures, and investing in scholarly research and the modelling of emergent policies.
The final chapter argues that an ‘anti-work’ or ‘post-work’ politics—providing a clear vision of a future where people work less—should appeal to a broad enough range of different interest groups to be the basis for a populist movement. The chapter sketches how this populism needs to be harnessed to get post-work politics into mainstream media, intellectual life, trade unions, and political parties, and how the pressure points where direct action can be targeted have changed as capitalism has undermined the power of organised labour to disrupt production.
In November 2015, the book was the subject of a symposium, involving its authors and a number of other thinkers who presented critical responses to the book. The proceedings was published in blog format at the academic International Relations blog The Disorder of Things.
Reviews of the book include:
Learn more at WIKIPEDIA.
 On the abolition of money, the anarchist schools of thought have been some of its biggest advocates. Mutualism is an anarchist school of thought which can be traced to the writings of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who envisioned a society where each person might possess a means of production, either individually or collectively, with trade representing equivalent amounts of labor in the free market. Since the time of Proudhon, collectivist anarchism (also known as anarcho-collectivism) has represented a revolutionary doctrine, which advocates the abolition of the state and private ownership of the means of production. Instead, it envisions the means of production being owned collectively and controlled and managed by the producers themselves. This contrasts with anarcho-communism where wages would be abolished, and where individuals would take freely from a storehouse of goods “to each according to his need.” The Anarchist Editorial Collective’s FAQ contrasts collectivist anarchism with communist anarchism this way:
The major difference between collectivists and communists is over the question of “money” after a revolution. Anarcho-communists consider the abolition of money to be essential, while anarcho-collectivists consider the end of private ownership of the means of production to be the key. As Kropotkin noted, “[collectivist anarchism] express[es] a state of things in which all necessaries for production are owned in common by the labour groups and the free communes, while the ways of retribution [i.e. distribution] of labour, communist or otherwise, would be settled by each group for itself.” Thus, while communism and collectivism both organise production in common via producers’ associations, they differ in how the goods produced will be distributed. Communism is based on free consumption of all while collectivism is more likely to be based on the distribution of goods according to the labour contributed. However, most anarcho-collectivists think that, over time, as productivity increases and the sense of community becomes stronger, money will disappear.
 Terrestrial radio transmission, 94.1 FM (KPFA, Berkeley, CA) with online simulcast and digital archiving: Behind The News, this one-hour broadcast hosted by Doug Henwood, Thursday, 6 APR 2017, 12:00 PDT.
 Dr. Williams and Dr. Srnicek critique folk politics, which is akin to the critiques of the contemporary left posited by Dr. Jane F. McAlevey, which seeks to move the left beyond the constraints of temporal and shallow mobilisations and defanged advocacy to goal-orientated organising.
[Image of book cover by source, used via fair use.]
[6 APR 2017]
[Last modified at 19:56 PST on 7 APR 2017]
The people’s free/collaborative encyclopedia offers us the following useful definition:
Lumpenproletariat is a term, which was originally coined by Dr. Karl Marx to describe the layer of the working class, which is unlikely ever to achieve class consciousness and is, therefore, lost to socially useful production, of no use to the revolutionary struggle, and, perhaps, even an impediment to the realisation of a classless society.
Imagine. How tragic is it to think that any layer of the working class, that any one of us, may be so hopelessly ignorant as to be unlikely ever to achieve class consciousness? Depending on one’s disposition, perhaps, it’s disappointing enough when one has a measure of class consciousness, but given to political inertia. With or without class consciousness, we do not lead revolutionary lives. This seems inevitable in the USA, given our largely uncritical educational standards and hedonistic culture.  So, we draw attention to the lumpenproletariat precisely because of the contentiousness of the debate over its meaning and role for revolutionary struggle and emancipatory transformation. We need to shake up complacent liberals and uncritical progressives and reactionary proletarians. Is one revolutionary or counter-revolutionary?  Is one’s political agency and/or conduct conducive to human emancipation? Helping us make sense of these philosophical questions, from an MLM perspective, of course, the excellent M-L-M Mayhem! archives offer us some clarity in an article originally published for a popular audience, entitled “The Slippery Concept of ‘Lumpenproletariat’“, by Dr. Joshua Moufawad-Paul (or JMP, as he signs his blog posts). 
I may have decided against naming this website Lumpenproletariat had my favourite Marxian theorist, thinker, and colleague (and friend), someone I respect, not given it favourable feedback. Lumpenproletariat is, indeed, a slippery concept. It seems Dr. Marx has not written very much about, nor defined very sharply, this socioeconomic class he coined as the lumpenproletariat. But, as Dr. David Harvey has said, there are things Marx helps us understand; and, then, there are things we’ll have to figure out for ourselves. At the time, back at the University of Missouri-Kansas City at their heterodox economics department, I had concluded that the lumpenproletariat represented the greatest untapped potential for revolutionary transformation. This lumpenproletarian seemed best exemplified by the street personality known as Detroit Red, but after expanding his consciousness in prison under the influence of the Nation of Islam, he came to be known as Malcolm X. This was, to me, a perfect example of the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat. As Malcolm X evolved and matured beyond the limitations of The Nation of Islam, he came to be known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. JMP cites “Ali La Pointe“,
the protagonist of Battle of Algiers, who began as a street hustler, was politicized in prison when he realized that the main reason for his imprisonment was his status as colonized, and who eventually became a disciplined cadre because, once given the opportunity, he abandoned his criminal behaviour.
M-L-M MAYHEM!—[3 JUN 2012] Marx and Engels‘ categorization of the lumpenproletariat as a counter-revolutionary class is well-known by those familiar with the term. In The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx refers to the lumpenproletariat as “the refuse of all classes” and points out how they were connected to reactionary, counter-revolutionary forces in France. And then there is the famous passage by Engels, in The German Revolutions, that is clear about the class consciousness of the lumpen:
The lumpenproletariat, this scum of the decaying elements of all classes, which establishes headquarters in all the big cities, is the worst of all popular allies. It is an absolutely venal, an absolutely brazen crew. If the French workers, in the course of the Revolution, inscribed on the houses: Mort aux voleurs! (Death to the thieves!) and even shot down many, they did it, not out of enthusiasm for property, but because they rightly considered it necessary to hold that band at arm’s length. Every leader of the workers who utilises these gutter-proletarians as guards or supports, proves himself by this action alone a traitor to the movement.
Aside from these historical assessments and the odd throwaway quote, Marx and Engels did not spend very much time trying to establish a scientific assessement of lumpenproletariat as a class category, as they do with proletariat and bourgeoisie for example, using the concept only in their analysis of historical moments, as a classification for an underclass that consisted of swindlers, gangsters, thieves, and criminal elements in general. Their “gutter-proletariat” was not in itself a precise class positionality because, at the same time, it was also composed of “the refuse of all classes” or “the decaying elements of all classes.”
If the class categories that Marx and Engels spent a lot of time trying to establish scientifically (proletariat and bourgeois) have led to innumerable confusions and debates, often being reified into essential identities, then the categories they did not spend very much time theorizing, such as lumpenproletariat, are even more historically slippery. The term is often misapplied, or taken as a universal class category, just as often as it is clumsily reclaimed.
|Reclaimed and celebrated with hats even!|
I would imagine that Marx, when he was speaking of this disparate underclass, was thinking of the character “Thenardier” in Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables: a gangster who controlled a band of impoverished thieves––a vicious counter-revolutionary. Clearly, this type of criminal does exist as a counter-revolutionary force; we only need to think of drug traffickers who have infiltrated and ruined revolutionary movements, sexual predators who lurk around movement circles, thieves who only want to get rich at the expense of other poor victims of capitalism, pimps who profit from the oppression of women.
At the same time, however, we cannot claim that, if we were to define lumpenproletariat as “criminal underclass”, it would be universally counter-revolutionary. Take, for example, Frantz Fanon‘s discussion of this class in The Wretched of the Earth. Although Fanon agrees that the criminal underclass composed by the colonized in a settler-colonial society can be counter-revolutionary (and we must remember that the FLN, the group Fanon supported, went to great lengths to stamp out criminal behaviour amongst the colonized), he also argued that they possessed great revolutionary potential. If they are condemned to an underclass only because colonialism has excluded them from society, Fanon argued, then the colonized criminals possess some conscious understanding of their oppression, marginalization, exclusion––a consciousness that is possibly revolutionary. Here, we only have to think of the “Ali La Pointe“, the protagonist of Battle of Algiers, who began as a street hustler, was politicized in prison when he realized that the main reason for his imprisonment was his status as colonized, and who eventually became a disciplined cadre because, once given the opportunity, he abandoned his criminal behaviour.
Of course, Fanon never argued that engaging in the sort of “lumpen” activity critiqued by Marx and Engels was universally revolutionary. While it might not be counter-revolutionary to rob and cheat the colonizer, it was not automatically revolutionary to do so… and it was clearly counter-revolutionary to turn this behaviour upon other colonized peoples. Unfortunately, however, there have been various attempts to argue that this sort of criminal behaviour, since the very concept of “crime” in capitalism is based on bourgeois law and because cops are pigs, that such lumpen activity is essentially revolutionary. Assuming that this sort of behaviour is revolutionary, when it is so often performed out of selfishness and at the expense of the proletarian in general, is extremely utopian: the Thenardier-style gang chooses the easiest targets, the already-existing victims of bourgeois society rather than bourgeois society itself, and thrives through its parasitism. Gangsters, the mob, pimps, street hustlers: these illegal vocations, though themselves symptoms of bourgeois law, are not revolutionary.
What I find more troubling than these utopian attempts to reclaim lumpenproletariat are the hasty generalizations of this concept across entire sectors of the population that are used to dismiss those who might not easily fit into a neat definition of proletariat. For there are those who, by defining the proletariat as only the “industrial working class”, will imagine that this working class’ underclass must be the lumpenproletariat despised by Marx and Engels. According to this slipshod definition of lumpenproletariat, impoverished colonized people, migrant workers, contingent labour, sex workers, the entire jobless and desperate poor––basically any worker or out-of-work worker who is not a member of some Platonic industrial working class––is part of the lumpen. Thus, anyone who seeks to organize this supposed “underclass” is a lumpen organization.
Such a definition of the concept, however, is little more than a mindless dogmatic adherence to one of Marx and Engels least theorized class categories––as the regular reader will be aware, I have little patience for this religious form of marxism. It also ignores, especially when it categorizes contingent workers and homeless populations as lumpenproletariat, much of what Marx said about the proletariat in Capital that contradicts this spurious definition of “lumpen politics”. Take, for example, Marx’s concept of the “reserve army of labour” that is a key component for the composition of the proletariat as an exploited class:
The labouring population therefore produces, along with the accumulation of capital produced by it, the means by which it itself is made relatively superfluous, is turned into a relatively surplus-population; and it does this to an always increasing extent… But if a surplus labouring population is a necessary product of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist basis, this surplus-population becomes, conversely, the lever of capitalist accumulation, nay a condition of existence of the capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if the latter had bred it at its own cost. Independently of the limits of the actual increase of population, it creates, for the changing needs of the self-expansion of capital, a mass of human material always ready for exploitation. (Marx, Capital vol. 1, chapter xxv, section 3, emphasis added)
And it is not difficult to recognize that a large portion of this reserve army will dabble in supposedly lumpen activities––petty theft to get more money and things, drug abuse because it’s shitty to be jobless––just as exploited workers have engaged in similar activities due to their frustration and exploitation. Indeed, it would make no sense to claim that this disparate population that often engages in criminality is Marx and Engels’ lumpenproletariat considering the current trend of labour casualization at the centres of capitalism where there is an attempt to push every worker back into contingency (a reality for workers everywhere else in the world) and thus more like the working class that Marx had in mind when he was writing Capital and never thought of as the same as his concept of the lumpenproletariat. That “mass of human material always ready for exploitation” is not at all the same as “gutter-proletarians”; the former is essential to Marx’s concept of the proletarian, the latter is a vague definition belonging to various non-rigorous statements that seems more to be about a class consciousness than a concrete class position.
Moreover, we need to recognize that––along with, and not mutually exclusive to, the reserve army the reserve army of labour––there is a massive working “underclass” upon which the existence of the supposedly “proper” proletariat rests. The now trade unionized working class, the predominantly white and first world working class, depends on the more exploited labour of this working underclass. The latter outnumbers the former, both abroad and at home, just as the former’s wages are dependent on the labour of the latter. And if this is a fact, though it may also be a fact that contingency is becoming more widespread, then this supposed “underclass” has more of a legitimate claim to the title of proletariat than this traditional sector.
What really seems to be the problem with this spurious and rigid definition of lumpenproletariat is the fear, amongst some marxists, of being unrespectable. That is, it is far better to associate with the respectable members of the “proper” working class (i.e. unionized workers) then this supposed “lumpen” who are sometimes desperate, criminal, and frightening. These types of “communists” would run screaming from the working class of Marx’s day, then, and probably define them as lumpen as well even though Marx and Engels did not. Terrified by some supposed lumpen politics, these marxists embrace bourgeois respectability, hiding amongst a petty-bourgeoisified class that they imagine is the proletariat.
Clearly, a certain type of criminality is a problem for any revolutionary organization: stealing from other members of the proletariat, endangering the movement unnecessarily, putting comrades at risk through drug abuse––all these are issues of discipline that any properly revolutionary organization, from the days of Marx and Engels, has had to deal with. At the same time, though, there is the type of criminality, wrongly called “lumpen” by those marxists who seek respectability, that is actually the proper and militant behaviour required of a communist. The claim that criminal dissent is lumpen behaviour is becoming less and less tenable now that the sphere of criminality drawn around dissent is widening.
Those who speak negatively about lumpen behaviour and lumpen organizations, then, do not realize that their anxiety about this supposed counter-revolutionary problem really only exists to mask the actual counter-revolutionary problem: that they themselves, in their pursuit of petty bourgeois respectability (a problem that so many of us, including myself, face), are the ones who are actually courting counter-revolution. Thus, the danger at the centres of capitalism is not the lumpenization of a movement, or lumpen communist organizations that do not (no matter what some groups might claim) exist, but the very real and existant fact of petty-bourgeois consciousness.
[End of blog post; only the aqua-coloured embedded web-links above were originally included by the author; red-coloured web-links were included by Lumpenproletariat to aid understanding and encourage further reading.]
Learn more at M-L-M MAYHEM!.
 Of course, all of this is assuming the validity of the premise of class consciousness, which views the working class as a class for itself, which self-aware of the class dimensions of our lives and orientates its political theory, such that it becomes organised in active pursuit of its own interests.
 Interestingly, the Marxian term lumpenproletariat is being ‘reclaimed’, sometimes clumsily, as Dr. Moufawad-Paul comments, and as exemplified by the ‘Lumpenproletariat material’ hedonist baseball cap.
In Chicago, interestingly, Lumpen.com states that they have been: “Operating a Front for The Left in the Arts since 1991”. This apparently Marxian website is a project of the Public Media Institute, a “non-profit 501(c) 3, community based, art & culture organization located in the neighborhood of Bridgeport in the city of Chicago. Lumpen.com is to be commended that they emphasise “gentrification, development and revitalization in our communities” through a cultural perspective, which employs a Marxian language. But it’s uncertain whether their ‘reclaiming’ of the lumpen terminology fully understands the actual concept they are employing.
 Coming soon to Lumpenproletariat, we’ll discuss the concept behind the neologism lumpenbourgeoisie, which is a term often attributed to Andre Gunder Frank in 1972 [a] (although the term is already present in Paul Baran‘s The Political Economy of Growth from 1957) to describe a type of a middle class and upper class (merchants, lawyers, industrialists, etc.); one who has little collective self-awareness or economic base and who supports the colonial masters. The term is most often used in the context of Latin America.
[17 NOV 2016]
[Last modified at 19:18 PDT on 19 NOV 2016]