Worker immiseration, nationalism, and cooperative movements

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Jacob Richter
Worker immiseration, nationalism, and cooperative movements


Although much of this letter is a reiteration of what I've said in programmatic material elsewhere, Arthur Bough is being overly dismissive of so-called 'Lassalleanism' (

This letter will address three things briefly: Lassalle's agitational skills regarding the situation of workers; the national question; and cooperatives.

Disproportionate immiseration

I've written about how boring and academic 'relative immiseration' sounds, and I reflected upon Lassalle's agitational skills. One should admit, first off, that between Lassalle and Marx, Lassalle was by far the superior agitator. I've summed up relative immiseration in modern conditions, and have termed it the 'iron law of disproportionate immiseration':

  1. In the 'trickle-down' best of times, workers' incomes do not rise as rapidly as the incomes of those above them, and while immiserated further by interest on the growing but hidden consumer debt slavery, they can be subject to the disproportionately immiserating effects of inflation.
  2. When rates of industrial profit fall during recessions and otherwise, workers' incomes are fully subject to the disproportionately immiserating pressure coming from elsewhere in the 'freely' and 'socially' exploited labour market - "namely from the reserve armies of the unemployed" - and, specifically, unprotected workers' incomes are fully subject to the disproportionately immiserating effects of inflation.
  3. When rates of financial profit fall during recessions and otherwise, much of workers' incomes are diverted to consumer and mortgage debt payments, while still fully subject to the disproportionately immiserating pressures and effects noted above.
  4. During depressions, the absolute immiseration of workers' incomes towards subsistence levels is in full effect.

The national question

On the national question, I of course oppose nationalism, but nationalist sentiments amongst workers could be used in the short term as a two-edged sword. As part of the proletariat "rising to be the leading class of the nation, constituting itself the nation" (Communist manifesto, chapter 2), populist charges can be levelled against national bourgeoisies everywhere regarding their common financial cosmopolitanism - 'industrial' (via outsourcing) or otherwise (look no further than to capital flight phenomena and discussions on half-hearted 'Tobin tax' measures). Outsourcings and capital flights should be described as 'ever-unpatriotic' whenever communists appeal to nationalistic workers, while the capital flight phenomenon can even be described as a form of 'economic terrorism' (terrorising the population at large to the whims of the capital flight lobbyists).


As for cooperatives, of all people, Bough should know the political weakness of cooperatives as a movement foundation. I wrote of the need to partially rehabilitate the 'producer cooperatives with state aid' slogan. No, it isn't the stuff of maximum programmes, but there are justifications:

  1. The Eisenach programme;
  2. The Paris Commune (by compensating capitalists who abandoned factories taken over by workers, the state is providing 'aid' in what should be seen as a de facto worker purchase of the factories); and
  3. Venezuela (well, not so much this case of abuse, because lots of 'co-ops' are mere means for individuals to get state credit for more personal reasons).

The second justification is the primary basis for what I wrote programmatically: the genuine end of 'free markets', including in unemployment resulting from workplace closures, mass sackings and mass lay-offs, by encouragement of, and unconditional economic assistance (both technical and financial) for, pre-cooperative worker buyouts of existing enterprises and enterprise operations.


Jacob brother, take a deep breath.