Thursday, June 15, 2006

Class Struggle

When Karl Marx wrote of class struggle, he wrote of the struggle between capital and labour.  Karl Marx was writing from Europe, at a time of relative peace and prosperity.  Karl Marx did not live through the Great Wars.  He did not view television footage of the ravages of postcolonial wars in Africa.  He did not witness the Balkan wars, the Gulf wars, or the destruction of the World Trade Centre.  He did not live in a time of global jihad.

For me, the struggle between labour and capital, described by Marx, was a mere sideshow, a symptom of a more fundamental demarcation.  For me, the real class struggle, the one which has dogged us throughout history, and which is likely to be with us for the rest of eternity, is the struggle between warriors and settlers.

I define settlers as those who in ancient times were inclined to plant crops and to coral animals.  In later times, they evolved into the bourgeoisie, by which I mean really all law abiding citizens: peaceful workers who go home to their families at night, artisans, tradespeople, professionals and the clergy.  When Jesus said: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”, I believe he referred to these people.

I define warriors as those who in ancient times maintained a preference for hunting and gathering, and who in later times hunted and corralled the settlers, and gathered the fruits of their labour.  These people may initially have been opportunistic raiders, then organised warlords, with supporting armies, and eventually they became aristocracy and nobility of the various so-called civilisations of history.

Karl Marx displayed some confusion in his argument.  His symbolic struggle was between the proletariat selling his labour and his nemesis, the capitalist.  Yet in the detail of his text, Marx makes frequent reference to the bourgeoisie, who seems to be allied with the Capitalist and the enemy of the worker.  Yet it is not made clear whether the, bourgeoisie, who may own some shares but work as a teacher, is definitively Labour or Capital.

I regard the Marxian Capitalist as descended from the warrior class, and the bourgeoisie as descended from the settler class.  I regard the Marxian working class as a mixture of the two.  The trade union leaders I regard as warriors, the rank and file as settlers.  Margaret Thatcher implicitly recognised this in her political strategy.  Rather than regarding ordinary workers (as distinct from the union leaders) as intractable enemies, she regarded them as aspirants to the middle class.  And in selling them council houses and shares, she granted their wish, and effectively brought an end to the classic Marxian class struggle in Britain.  She also won their votes, and thwarted the traditional rhetoric of the Labour Party.

In early human history the warriors held sway in most of the world for most of the time.  More recently the settlers have gained ground in certain areas.  China is one; Europe is another.  In Europe the settlers have strengthened their control over society gradually during the last fifteen hundred years or so.  Coincidentally, European systems of government have become more democratic over the same period.  As a result of this coincidence, many make the mistake of associating the peace and stability of settler dominated societies with democracy alone.

Saddam Hussein was a warrior, and he dealt with his enemies in a warlike way.  Settler types in various governments blamed Saddam Hussein for violent acts being carried out against the people of Iraq, and made the mistake of believing that if they removed Saddam Hussein, Iraqi society would at once snap into conformity with peace loving European Nations like Belgium or the Netherlands.  

Almost by definition, settler domination cannot be achieved by an act of war.  Rather it evolves from the inside as a complex and delicate web of institutions, cultural practices and beliefs.  In Europe this process took fifteen hundred years.  It was frankly absurd to assume that Bagdad could be transformed into Brussels by driving one man into hiding.  It was equally absurd to assume that peace and prosperity would reign over Africa after the dismantling of the European empires.

Which begs the interesting question: what should the settlers have done, and what should they do when they face similar threats in the future?  The settler way is to solve problems by talking.  But as the Carthaginians discovered to their cost, having a good talk fest may not always be the best method of dealing with a powerful and belligerent enemy.

The dilemma applies not only in foreign affairs, but also in dealing with warrior throwbacks at home.  The traditional enemies of the settlers are the warlords, or kings, and their foot soldiers.  The traditional thrust of the settler types in domestic society has been to curb the powers of the kings and their enforcers, which in modern society means the police.  But the kings and their armies are descended from opportunistic robbers and raiding parties.  And in response to weakening police powers, a new generation of organised criminals is spawning.  Will the criminal gangs of today evolve into the nation states of tomorrow, or will the settlers submit themselves once again to the authority of warriors in order to fend off the criminal gangs?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I love watching gang violence in third world countries on the TV news.  I love even more reading about similar violence in Europe during the Balkan wars of the late 20th century.  I love it because lends credence to my belief that the human being is a primitive and stupid animal; and it puts the history we were taught at school into its proper perspective.

At school we learnt about kings and generals.  We learnt about the great civilisations of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Western Europe.  We were taught that our society was descended from these civilisations, and that it was the greatest civilisation of all.

In Religious Education classes we were also told that our species had been fashioned in the image of a great and loving god, and that it stood high in the Cosmos, second only to the great God Himself.

The reality is very different.  The human being is nothing more than a grubby little ape.  The instincts of the human being are as strong, and essentially the same, as those of out primate cousins, and many other animals.  We desire food, sex, and prestige among our peers.  Some human beings have slightly higher intellects than the majority, and they have applied this ability largely as a tool of exploitation.

Those kings and generals we learnt about at school evolved originally from thieves, armed robbers, and gang leaders, into warlords of varying stature.  What we now call rent was originally protection money levied by warlords from the local population, and what we now call taxation was a variant of this – a levy on the warlords themselves by an overlord or king.  And the edifices of those great civilisations were the product of exploitation of the weak by the strong.

I laugh when I watch modern documentaries going to great lengths to explain that those who built the pyramids were not slaves but free men.  Even after schools our teachers go to great lengths to explain how civilised and genteel we are.  And what rot it is.  If a group of armed men came to your village and announced that the king needed young men to build a pyramid, do you think anyone really had the option of saying that they’d stay at home and decorate their hut this year!

Our society is not nobly descended from great civilisations.  It has evolved from the coalescence of gangs and pacts between their leaders.  Our system of laws is not the product of just design, but a cobbled mass of decrees, and agreements between factions of the powerful.