Still stuck on the question of consciousness

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Still stuck on the question of consciousness
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Hello friends,

I was yet again thinking about consciousness and the working class today and wanted to pose a question. We always talk about working class consciousness vs. bourgeois consciousness, communist consciousness vs. capitalist, immediatist perspectives vs. far sighted approaches. But what we never seem to talk about is what the consciousness of the working class actually is to workers themselves. What the workers discuss among themselves on a day to day basis, etc.

Imagine for a second if we had a way to clue into all of those discussions, the ones workers are currently having right now, and this information was searchable and sortable and repliable? Well we kinda do! It's called the internet!

Why does the ICC not take more time to interact with workers on their channels, on topics that interest them the most? Does it somehow feel all discussion beyond the shop floor just serves to convolude the communist perspective in some manner? Instead of discussing the maturation of consciousness, as if it were a fine wine we had been cultivating for years, maybe it would be more useful to understand the discussions workers are having today, on the socio/cultural level. I don't think working people are as shallow and simple as they are made out to be by certain groups. There has to be substance to their interaction with the world beyond being at work and coming home and being brainwashed by the spectacle. If we had a effecient way of catalouging, analyzing, and discussing what the talk of the town in the working class is in a given time period than maybe we could more clearly see which directions the class is moving towards.

Alf
the question - how do we

the question - how do we assess the 'consciousness in the class' at a given moment -  is valid, but how do you propose a tiny group like the ICC can be physically present in anything but a miniscule number of 'channels' used by workers? And what would these channels be exactly? 

In order to gain any sense of what's going on in the class, we need to start with a method, the same method that enabled Marx to see the revolutionary potential of the working class in the strikes of the Silesian weavers. And that method includes developing theoretical concepts such as the 'subterranean maturation' of consciousness, as well as looking at the more open manifestations of the class struggle. 

Redacted
Thanks for the reply

Thanks for the reply Alf.

What else does this method include? Is it set in stone? Could Marx ever have guessed that a hundred years or so after his death the average worker would have access to almost any kind of information out there, instantly, via tiny computers we allc carry in around with us in our pockets? Computers more powerful than all those used in the Gemini rocket program combined?

Whatever the very theoretical concept of the smc actually is, wouldn't it help to have some kind of actual data, metrics, etc. to really take the "pulse" of the working class in order to back it up scientifically?

What would the channels be exactly? Not sure, but what are the channels workers use to communicate ideas in their daily lives? Facebook and twitter have hashtag systems now, you can follow internet search trends, etc. Wouldn't this be helpful in precisely aiming interventions and literature?

Alf
Jamal: Two questions: How

Jamal:

Two questions:

How could a dialectical method be set in stone?

Would one of your channels be internet discussion forums involving various groups in the proletarian camp, such as it is?

 

Welcome, J.Jazz. Does the first J stand for anything?

I agree entirely that class consciousness cannot be reduced to a quantity. Not so clear what you are saying about the group and the individual; also, I would see some 'Facebook groups' or internet forums as expressions of class consciousness, but I don't know whether you would or not.

Redacted
Thanks again for your time

Thanks again for your time and responses comrades.

I'm not sure if I agree with JJs assertion that the parts don't equal the sum, in terms of the individual consciousness vs. the consciousness of the whole. Maybe I'm not understanding something correctly? Seems like it could be discussed more, if not for clarification only.

Also, presuming that strikes and protests and anti-capitalist Facebook groups allow us to "clearly" see which direction the class is moving in, isn't the point of being able to collect and catalouge this information in the form of data and metrics still valid?

lem_
it does make sense to say

it does make sense to say that ndividuals can't be more ot less class concsious, but only if you do away with the concept of the individual and see history as a succession of objective laws and tendencies. isn't the materialist conception of history based on the interface between the subjetive and the objective?

A.Simpleton
Good thread

J.Jazz wrote:

it is only the struggle of the class (bear in mind that when I speak of the working class, that I view it as a whole, together with its revolutionary minorities) that holds the potential for negating the spectacle of everyday machinery, with its potential for uniting the working masses, with its strenght in numbers and militancy, it represents the real world negation of the spectacle and not just its intelectual understanding. In the end, the bourgeois ideology will not be broken by some good written theory, or some well argumented debate, but by a real mass movement of the proletariat.

Absolutely on the mark; 'the real world negation of the spectacle' : Marx wrote, leading up to his his leap of historical depiction that communism was the last negation of the negation (i.e. 'the negative spectacle' - the capitalist mode spectacle and its self justified eternality is the final tyranny which negates/disallows human life)

He adduces the example of Atheism: only a liberation from 'God Rules' in the sense that it posits the existence of self-creating humanity by negating some greater alien thing beyond/above/apart/ from humans by putting a 'middle-alien' in.

Also on the mark is:

J.Jazz wrote:

On the other hand, "what the workers discuss among themselves on a day to day basis" I think is of lesser relevance, because the same workers can on a daily basis function completely within the mental framework of the bourgeois ideology, when some unforseen event (such as a strike, or a protest) can spark a struggle that would awaken those "sleeping" workers and provide them with energy to express beliefs that would otherwise be suppressed by the everyday mechanisms of the bourgeois ideology.

A worker said to me some months ago:' it's all smoke and mirrors; and they hide the smoke and mirrors behind smoke and mirrors' so this 'individual' has rumbled the spectacle but then he added 'I'm suprised there hasn't been a revolution'.

Not hypnotically mystified but it's 'someone else's job' or perhaps more accurately 'where can I go to join in?' and I get from J.Jazz the important focus of the spark, unforeseen event, which allows that spark to 'spread like wildfire' as Rosa Luxemburg witnessed personally.

Marx wrote a great deal about the individual and the social context the individual: even pointing out that the most oppressive capitalist does not cease 'to be a person' because he is a capitalist. 

I hear what you say _lem or maybe mishear -apologies-  :@} I don't think 'individuality' in the sense I think you mean it is somehow threatened by all this: it's hard to express ...er... my 'individuality' can be now 'applauded' or then 'trashed' by the arbitrary laws of capitalist mode .. (I'll try and put it better in a pm maybe) 

Am I making any sense here?

AS

baboon
Yup

Yes, I agree with a lot of that AS, along with the quotes of J Jazz.

Alf
individual and class

Jazz (because it can also be a first name): this is the bit I am still trying to understand:

Now, I'm not sure, but this may be my original ideas, and maybe that's why its hard to explain: I've always faild to accept the idea of class consciousness as something that can be manifested in the ideas of an individual (thus ideas shared by a group of individuals). In such cases it was more acceptable for me to speak of one's understanding of class society, and of class consciousness as something I restrict to the class. As I've mentioned, its expressions are existing class struggles as well as its politization manifested in the growth of political (politicizes minorities) and revolutionary groups.

 

Question 1: are revolutionary groups not "groups of individuals"? i cannot understand how class consciousness can become manifest without evolving through the minds of individual human beings. This doesn't contradict the fact that in a proletarian organisation, the relationship between the individual and the 'collective' is one of the hardest problems to understand and to take forward

Question 2: do you think that this problem is in any way linked to your doubts about the 'subterranean maturation' of consciousness?

lem_
I hear what you say _lem or

I hear what you say _lem or maybe mishear -apologies-  :@} I don't think 'individuality' in the sense I think you mean it is somehow threatened by all this: it's hard to express ...er... my 'individuality' can be now 'applauded' or then 'trashed' by the arbitrary laws of capitalist mode .. (I'll try and put it better in a pm maybe)

i wasn't making a point about individuality really, though i have done before - here i just meant the somewhat undeniable point that, however much a party or class or even just co-operation adds to individual persons, they are also composed of individual decisions and actions. and i struggle to see how a class conscious working class cannot be composed of class conscious (individual) people. how would the class / group act in its interest, otherwise?

so the subective pole of materialism - whatever we "start" our analysis with, includes my consciousness, yours, etc..

A.Simpleton
Understood

Yup: as you say 'the somewhat undeniable point' is ...just that. I won't blather on (for once) and obstruct Alf's questions.

AS

 

 

 

 

Fred
communist individuality

Alf wrote:

Jazz (because it can also be a first name): this is the bit I am still trying to understand:

Now, I'm not sure, but this may be my original ideas, and maybe that's why its hard to explain: I've always faild to accept the idea of class consciousness as something that can be manifested in the ideas of an individual (thus ideas shared by a group of individuals). In such cases it was more acceptable for me to speak of one's understanding of class society, and of class consciousness as something I restrict to the class. As I've mentioned, its expressions are existing class struggles as well as its politization manifested in the growth of political (politicizes minorities) and revolutionary groups.

 

Question 1: are revolutionary groups not "groups of individuals"? i cannot understand how class consciousness can become manifest without evolving through the minds of individual human beings. This doesn't contradict the fact that in a proletarian organisation, the relationship between the individual and the 'collective' is one of the hardest problems to understand and to take forward

Question 2: do you think that this problem is in any way linked to your doubts about the 'subterranean maturation' of consciousness?

 

 

I vaguely understand what Jazz is saying - and it is difficult to say - because I too also think (suspect) that class consciousness somehow transcends the individual by expanding and creating a new individuality in ways we don't really know about yet but was described by Rosa Luxemburg in her "Mass Strike" essay when she said about "waves of fructifying  consciousness" spreading, apparently spontaneously,   through the class.  A result I guess of solidarity, and feelings of togetherness;  which expresses a unity of being and purpose not available to ordinary citizens; but produced and enjoyed  by proletarian consciousness as a new sense of revolutionary freedom.  This breakthrough for the class, and ultimately for humanity, signals the opening up of new cognitive processes,   sensations and ideas for the proletariat as the revolutionary-class-in-action;  aware of itself and its purposes.  It is an evolution for humanity in which, for the first time,  we consciously start to understand and take responsibility for ourselves, our lives and each other,  as a class of individual personalities who understand  personal individuality not as ego expressiveness but as a part of a greater whole: ie the species.  

 

 

A strictly personal egotistic notion of individuality is a bourgeois prison.  We  can   only really enjoy our "individuality" when we escape it and join the communal being and communal consciousness of the class as a whole and then as a fully conscious species.  

 

 

 

As to the question: aren't revolutionary  groups not groups of individuals?  Yes I think they are.  That's a difficulty I believe.   But until the class rises up internationally and begins to recognize itself for what it is, and for what it is doing, which is furthering the evolution of humanity in unimaginable ways, and unlocking untold powers, I  believe we cannot escape the limitations of how we understand individuality today: in decomposing capitalism. Although we can think about it and try to talk about it,  though it isn't easy as Jazz said.

 

Wasn't  Pannekoek curious about the new kind of humanity and a new kind of thinking which he thought he detected in the working class as a class-for-itself? 

 

lem_
it is not through their minds

it is not through their minds that it manifests, but through their collective activity

this is a good point, but you originally said

class consciusness... [is not] a state of mind of... the individual

which is a kind of further step...

it is true that indviduals on their own cannot bring an end to class. but without individuals doing so, likewise there can be no communism. and if consciousness arises and is expressed by individuals. then how is it not "a state of mind of the individual". regardless that is, whether thinking it in those terms is the most helpful way of analyzing it.

baboon
I missed the point of this

I missed the point of this discussion earlier but think that any individual, in Caracas or Milton Keynes, a prince or a pauper, can come to a communist consciousness but an essential part of this communist consciousness would then be to work collectively and organise with others of like mind.

Alf
debate among revolutionaries

Thanks Jazz for your considered reply. I will try to come back on subterranean maturation specifically but wanted to respond on this point:

To my knowledge, historic course is another one of the ICC’s great works and while the ICC has given many good arguments against mechanistic view on class consciousness, I don’t see why the existence of historic course should be one of them, because there is no consensus on it among revolutionary groups today. Here the ICC is explaining the importance of its theory that was brought into question by another revolutionary group by arguing that it is important because of yet another theory of the ICC that other groups have doubts about. Such a behaviour I would say is incautious and, I’m afraid to say, is leading ICC into isolation

 

This seems to imply that we should refrain from developing one theory on the basis of another theory, which seems to undermine the concept of an entire body of work that revolutionary groups need to develop. The theory of capitalist crisis in marx is based on theory of value, and both are disputed, but should this have led Marx to be cautious, even given the threat that he would have to defend his ideas in relative isolation?

I don't think we should fear 'isolation' because others in the proletarian camp prefer to stick to common sense and empiricist notions of the historical process, of class consciousness, etc. We have to expect this if we are putting forward views which at the theoretical avant-garde, just as we have to expect an even more difficult isolation from the class as a whole when its consciousness is in retreat (or has gone underground...). There are numerous elements who complain about 'yet another ICC grand theory' (which includes the historic course, subterranean maturation, clans and parasitism, decomposition, and of course decadence, among others) but it is precisely the role of the revolutionary vanguard to provide a general, historic and theoretical framework to udnerstand the apaprently disparate phenomena we are confronted with. 

Alf
new thread

If you go to the main list of the discussions threads you can do it by clicking on 'add new thread' top left.

lem_
i think i understand what you

i think i understand what you are saying jazz: that individuals can't act alone and there's no way to understand class consciousness on the level of individuals (though it is something that is composed of individual actions and consciousnesses).

but if you replace the AND above with SO, that doesn't follow except dogamtically.

and you do raise some interesting questions about the problems of analyzing the consciousness of individuals. but just because it raises a raft of problems, that doesn't mean that class consciousness simply doesn't exist for individuals.

... even if those problems prove insoluble, that doesn't mean individuals aren't class consciousness, just that we are unable to understand much about it at that level. perhaps "abstraction" would be the rightt term for that, i don't know.

"if we were to speak of it as a quality of the individual, without being able to define what exactly makes an individual class conscious, we would then be understanding class consciousness as an abstraction. "

as a rough beginning - i would say that individuals are class consciousness to the extent that they share in the goals and methods of any (genuine) communist party, and / or are sympathetic to it. so nothing to do with describing themselves as communists - IMVHO; anymore than any anti-capitalist is proletarian.

Off topic, what does “lem_” mean?

lem is an acronym for law of the excluded middle, and the first name of someone famous that hit on my (ex) girlfriend years ago - it's been my internet handle for years and years, i was just trying to find a nonsense name to use, but that is why i thought of it... haha.

A.Simpleton
Simple but not easy

I don't think the workers just lie down mystified and I do think revolutionary organisations can help.

Marx-consciousness is the awareness that everyday, everything you see, use, walk on, travel in, eat etc is a thing made by a human maker who has had three-quarters of their effort ripped off : who could have made the thing in a quarter of the time 'allegedly' required 'at work': even if 'it' is 100 years old it the visible, tangible form of ripped of labour-power: dead labour in this case.

It is also pretty clear where the ripped off profit goes

Not far behind is the awareness that your, his, her, their creation is taken away and - though you, he, she, they made it it is not any longer yours, his etc.

Why? because it has become the unquestioned, eternally necessary thing a 'commodity' (Ware : in German) hence stone-ware, hardware,software. Allegedly the equally unquestioned, eternal basis - nay pinnacle - of "human society".

Not far behind this is standing in Tescos and realising that if you didn't make it , grow it etc. some other worker did and like you they were ripped off : and ...hold on Tescos is a building that other workers built, glazed, wired : the concrete was mixed delivered by vehicles that were made - if not by you - then by another worker who was/is ripped off.

You or they made and did everything : it belongs to you and them: the class that sells its make-and-do-skills for peanuts.

I think that millions of workers 'know' this in some way see it clearly perhaps only briefly because of the 'immediacy' of nappies and feeding the kids .

I think that millions of workers 'know' in some way also because when you, he, they stop doing , stop making, the garbage piles up, the dead remain unburied, the lights go off.

This is where class consciousness begins: BUT the immediacy of life prevents the joining up of the dots, the glimpses, the further consciousness that the class has a history etc.

AND PRECISELY because the basic dots aren't that hard to join up for the real owners of the world : constant, relentless, by any force necessary, prevention of any gap, dot, glimpse let alone the joining up of them is ruthlessly repressed by the imposterous thieves who lay false claim to our world.

**

This is to me where Revolutionary Organisations find their vital function: to have the sharpened reflexes born in the tradition of action and knowledge of Proletarian history and of theoretical clarity.

My worst subject at this school is 'The Form and Function of the Party' : Avant-garde a clue.

I'll just be a cook : I do good Italian,Chinese,Japanese,African (not very good at burgers) food and await the workers' recipes.

AS

lem_
consciousness is important. i

consciousness is important. i think the problem with late capitalism is not so much about production freezing but it inciting worse and more barbrous and hostile / divided consciouness.

and in all this the proletariat in its true sense i think has no sense of its empowerment.

 

pretty much my only hope is that this develops via rapid technological control of the workplace. that capital begins again to create the seeds of its own downfall...

A.Simpleton
Yup

There has been and is a manifest and exponential multiplication of confusion and ramping up in volume of the Bourgeoisie's propaganda: 

i think the problem with late capitalism is not so much about production freezing but it inciting worse and more barbrous and hostile / divided consciouness.

and in all this the proletariat in its true sense i think has no sense of its empowerment.

My 'that it somehow still knows' could well be wishful thinking. You may have the telescope the right way round. 

Of necessity Capital (150 years ago) had to rotate tasks in the workplace: obviously once the workers had literally worked their fingers to the bone through repetition, the fingers could do no more: the more varied-skilled capable worker was born which Marx saw as an unwitting seed of downfall.

Genuine request: could you expand on your last bit re rapid technological control? Is it along the same lines or have I got the wrong end of the (dialec)stick?

AS

lem_
i left it abstract cos i

i left it abstract cos i don't know what it could mean the concrete - sadly.

but yeah... i do think the workers need a change - and not just more [social?] crisis, before they can awake.

lem_
how about
Redacted
So AS...do you see a need to

So AS...do you see a need to some how overcome the immediatist mindframe in order to be able to connect the dots? Because from my perspective I get confused. Comrades seem to be suggesting in this thread (and might have times in the past) that we need a moment of unprecedent mass consciousness in order to help give way...to......erhmm........an even bigger moment of unprecedented mass communist consciousness?

The ICC likes to raise historical examples, recent and not so recent at all, of events that sort of "spawned" larger activity and reflection within the class. Strike actions that spread to other workplaces and geographic regions, etc. The 1919 Seattle General Strike for example. But how did these actions come about? It seems that even with a sound understanding of substitionism, how we can get trapped in it, and why exactly its harmful, maybe there is still a little bit of this chicken vs the egg stuff?

Also I'm still wondering about the role of the individual "non-conscious" worker who might be searching for deeper answers to deeper questions? It's pretty obvious joining revolutionary communist groups isn't exactly what the kids are doing these days, at least not in any significant way.

A.Simpleton
Hello Jamal

I agree: it seems a paradox.

As you say:

It's pretty obvious joining revolutionary communist groups isn't exactly what the kids are doing these days, at least not in any significant way.

As you also say:

Comrades seem to be suggesting in this thread (and might have times in the past) that we need a moment of unprecedent mass consciousness in order to help give way...to......erhmm........an even bigger moment of unprecedented mass communist consciousness?

I pondered in a similar way to a c'rade in a pm not long ago :

...the practical punching through/lifting off of immediate stuff is a sine qua non BUT ...the immediate stuff so stinks of the 'consciousness that won't help': ergo abolishing the immediate stuff only helps the 'bootstrapped' consciousness to arise if the immediate stuff is consciously grasped/revealed as the imposterous alien that it actually is: in fact it is only stinking consciousness that has described it as 'stuff' at all ... hmmm.. but this 'bootstrap' consciousness is surely a necessary part of the impulse to act which ....er.... brings with it the arising consciousness ..

Stuck is the word. I personally find the Theses on Decomposition to be, in general, an accurate depiction of the state of affairs: there it is outside my door.

'The stalemate' as the theses describe it and there is no denial of the difficulty this poses for The Proletariat and indeed the Milieu.

So I am as stuck as you methinks:.

There is still active resistance, there are constant 'just can't take any more' outbursts everywhere and it is not trivial resistance but - pardon the crude sketch - it always appears to be the 'wrong' kind of resistance: and analysing that wrongness is a duty. there are nonetheless significant instances of a Proletarian presence seeing beyond localism/nationalism amid amorphous protest  - as Baboon consistently researches and informs. 

But then I'm a '68er: on the train to school each day there was ' U.S.OUT OF VIETNAM' sprayed on parapet and bridge or  : 'Imperialist Napalmers' :still plenty of traps to fall into ..but I would say more places for a 'searcher'.

Leave it there for now

AS

 

 

 

lem_
most discontent seems to be

most discontent seems to be directed toward the far right. i know we're not really selling an alternative to her, buit imagine if all la pen's voters were Communists... lots of highly succesful parties are couched as a radical etc. solution.

 

it fills me more with fear than hope tho.

Redacted
Thanks again to the comrades

Thanks again to the comrades for the stimulating discussion. Just want to point out that I almost always catch responses soon after they are posted. It just takes a few days/weeks to form a thoughtful response sometimes...

So while I'm still stuck for the most part, like us all...all we can do is keep inquiring. My latest questions revolve around these different "types" of consciousness that AS has pin pointed. I see them as helpful and valid distinctions even if not yet fully formed.

When I spoke earlier of "connecting" with workers "on their channels"...I meant the exact same thing as AS when he says, "the practical punching through/lifting off of immediate stuff is a sine qua non"...

Writing about issues workers are concerned with, linking them to the class struggle. Even if the thing workers are concerned with at the moment is Kim Kardashian...I believe there are still valid points regarding communist consciousness to be drawn from this...especially with dedicated militants who are also great writers and are there to tie it all in.

If you can present a "method" through these pointed critiques...wouldn't regular readers start questioning other issues with the same method in the same manner? In the same way the ICC and other groups encourage geniune proletarian workplace fights to spread to other workplaces and internationally...so too should workers be encouraged in every day issues to apply a critical method to the information bombarding them and take their questioning further. I cannot see one left communist group doing this in an effective manner today. Thus the whole "connecting with workers on their own channels" thing.

Am I making any sense?

A.Simpleton
Yes

' in every day issues to apply a critical method to the information bombarding them and take their questioning further.'

I'll ponder ..