File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 522

Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 00:30:25 -0500
Subject: Re: M-I: welfare queens

Louis G writes:
>Steve, all I am saying is that poverty debilitates to the point where the
>poor cannot even take full advantage of those programs still left after the
>Republican revolution of the 'eighties and 'nineties.  The struggle for
>survival on welfare benefits produces behavior and a cast of mind which
>progressively insulate the excluded from the workings of everyday society.
>They are not, for example, positioned to use informal channels of finding
>work, segregated as they are in the least accessible corners of urban
>communities.  And even when they are able to present themselves for work,
>prolonged poverty and its social accoutrements make them unattractive to
>prospective employers.
>The alleviation of human wretchedness is the first duty of any Communist
>wherever one finds oneself.  Be it as a member of a "left" parliament of
>bourgeois reformers or at the head of a revolutionary government, the
>conscientious Communist will always fight for the right of all to a life
>free of poverty, exploitation and fear, for a society where one has, in
>Bakunin's memorable phrase, "the opportunity for creative activity".
>But is this enough?  The social democrat seeks to fetishize the institution
>of poverty as both an unavoidable social cost of capitalism and as a
>mechanism for the reproduction of its own constituative power.  It is an
>inevitable corollary of their frank acceptance of the capitalist system, as
>well as their unabashed pursuit of those limited ends which can be achieved
>within that system.  A Communist refuses to accept the tautological premises
>of the welfare state, criticizing its defects while recognizing the
>potentialities of those who suffer under it.
>One cannot be both a Communist and a social-democrat.  The social-democrat
>criticizes capitalism, but in the last resort defends it.  The Communist
>rejects it, and believes in the end it will destroy itself.  But the
>Communist is, at the same time, conscious of the strength of forces-- like
>the welfare system-- which still uphold it.

It seems to me that one doesn't have to subscribe to the "culture of
poverty" discourse in order to criticize the social democrats or to refuse
to settle for the welfare state. And I think that's what Steve, Rakesh,
etc. are trying to get at.


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