The Proletariat: What it is, what it ain’t

by Kenny Lake

The Proletariat: What it is, what it ain’t is the opening Iessay in a four-part series The Specter that Still Haunts. Parts two, three, and four will appear in kites two, three, and four respectively. Originally written in 2015 and published in Uprising (a previous theoretical organ of Revolutionary Initiative’s), the whole series can be found at

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First, to put aside some objections…

Looked at through the prism of the postmodernist philosophy that is so popular among the petty bourgeoisie at present, the elevation of the proletariat to a leadership role in the path towards human liberation presents itself as privileging one particular struggle and one specific social formation over others. Objections abound to what is seen as putting the question of class and the oppression faced by a particular class over the questions of “gender,” “race,” etc.1 But from the communist perspective, locating a revolutionary class has never been about prioritizing one social group, form of oppression, or particular struggle over others. The question communists ask is what social force can pave the way in radically changing all existing oppressive production and social relations. Therein lies the significance of the proletariat. While the postmodernist objection will remain, let it do so as opposition to any and all universalist projects that would dare to transform today’s decrepit society from top to bottom, for communists have no team to root for in a moral contest over what form of oppression is the most important.2 That contest never gets beyond, in politics, what the independent producer never gets beyond in their daily life—exchanging commodities on the market in order to advance their own position in opposition to others.3

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