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Is there Now, or Has there Ever Been, A Working Class?

Bryan Palmer looks at the dialogue between Marxism, class struggle and working-class identity in the changing fortunes of working-class history in North America and beyond.

It is a curious conjuncture of our times that the much-proclaimed end of Marxism is somehow related to the end of history as we know it. Who would have thought that history, both as an unfolding process and a set of interpretative writings, would come to an end when Marxism as a ruling ideology in what has passed for socialist political economies crumbled and lost its appeal to many academics? No Marxist ever accorded his or her world view the apparent force and influence – intellectual and practical – that this current coupled understanding of the end of Marxism/history suggests.

At the centre of this linked termination is the long-standing disintegration of Soviet rule. The socio-economic implosion of nationalist, free-market, anti-Semitic, and right-wing powder-kegs throughout Eastern Europe is, oddly, taken as a repudiation of Marxism as an analytic framework, Communism as a I possible way of life, and history as the ordered trajectory of twentieth-century events. What is distressing about the current proclamations of the end of this and the fall of that, is the crudely ideological purpose of the exercise.

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