Maturation of Consciousness: Let's Discuss

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Pierre
Maturation of Consciousness: Let's Discuss
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“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” - VI Lenin

Stemming from the thread on the threat of Imperialist war, there are a number of themes/questions/points brought up that keep appearing in almost any discussion we have with and within the ICC.

1. What is the best way to measure the level of class consciousness in the working class?

2. Is the "subterrean maturation of consciousness" a real phenomenon? Is the dichotomy between subterreanean maturation and open movement from the class a safe one to emphasize?

3. How does the maturation of consciousness (and/or the "search for deeper answers") on the level of individual workers or elements outside of open struggle relate to existing communist organizations?

4. To quote Alf, "Will the existing communist organisations connect with the new generation of 'searchers'?" What type of actions are or should be involved in these processes?

I've got A LOT more reading to do in order to come close to being able to give my own thoughts on these issues. But I'm very interested to see what other comrades think. Please include as many links and references as possible in your comments, if feasible. Thanks!

Bonus question: What's to be said about the recent strikes we've seen popping up all over the world? Have they become more frequent since the late 80's? Is the class, or are elements of the class on the move?

jk1921
Wow, big questions. Props to

Wow, big questions. Props to P_P for posing them in a clear way. I am not sure how to begin, but I did like the Lenin quote. I might change it a little so that it would read like this: There are decades where nothing appears to happen; and there are weeks where the lessons, frustrations, and developments of the precedeing decades come to the surface.” But then it wouldn't be quite as elegant as how Lenin put it.

Fred
"Will the existing communist

"Will the existing communist organisations connect with the new generation of 'searchers'?". To be or not to be, that is the question! I like the idea of "searchers" , though they can frequently come across as rejectors. (Please note that anything I say on here is based on a very limited and miniscule experience of living and radical youth. But I like to think I'm on their side.) It may be a bit of a give away to ask "will the existing communist organizations connect..." as it suggests they don't. So the question is: why don't they? Some searchers see them as lacking humility, and being proud (why shouldn't they be proud, as representatives of the revolutionary class?) and find this offensive: or present themselves as "offended". It's as if the searchers feel compelled to believe there has to be something horribly wrong with any organization that has the cheek, and dares to push itself forward as "communist". It's as if they, the searchers, can't accept that this could be where their searches lead. Is this because they find the said organization a disappointment, or because it presents itself as having many of the answers (which it does!) in a cocky and self-confident manner which appears tosay: challenge us if you dare; ask us a question if you like, but make sure it's not moronic else we'll eat you for lunch in public.

Despite what the ICC says to the contrary there is a generation gap,not so much between the old and the young in terms of years, but between
a mature generation of militants -the class of '68 - and the searchers. To the searchers like myself, this mature generation can come across as a bit jaded, a bit cliche ridden in their repetition of well tried formulas, and a bit off-putting to someone trying to show enthusiasm for a revolution that's always just over the horizon and appears to have lost the enthusiastic attention of the wise and aged militant. Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings, as T. S.Eliot once enquired. Well, if it wants to impress the searchers it'll have to make an effort, if only to earn it's keep.

Is the subterranean maturation of consciousness a real phenomenon asks p_p? One word answers will not be accepted. "Subterranean" always bothers me but I suppose it's Marx's "old mole" is that right? But connecting "the maturation of consciousness" with "the search for deeper answers" is good p_p. You are clearly a searcher yourself.

jk1921
I think its a mistake to

I think its a mistake to think that the disconnect between the generations (however you want to define them) can all be put off on the pathologies of the ICC or other organizations. The case Fred cited in the other thread of Bilan texts being dismissed as "dusty old books" is a case in point. What an unfortunate attitude. But how do we react to this? Why should we assume that the problem is all on the side of the organization? I think this really demonstrates a lack of confidence in ourselves. If this is the attitude of the "searchers" in general we have bigger problems than style to worry about it.

Fred
It's not a lack of confidence

It's not a lack of confidence to consider the organization could be at fault. It's the beginning of wisdom. In fact it's the searchers who lack confidence, and we should be brave enough to reach out and help. The huge fault line created by the long counter-revolution, has broken the connection between the working class and even the idea that it should have organizations and politics that speak its thoughts. If the searchers don't yet understand the relevance of the history of the class to the re-emergence of communist ideas now, then of course Bilan is a dusty old tome. It's the job of the revolutionary organization to prove the relevance of such texts, not just to provide links to them and expect nature to do the rest. I have nothing against links, but occasionally a link needs a bit of explanation/ justification, to persuade folk to follow it up constructively.

Does class consciouness just fall ready-made from the sky? No of course not, though it may seem as if it did at the eureka moment. I think it goes through subliminal processes, as people are (a) discontented with their current situation (b) wonder occasionally if there's an answer or an alternative (c) may be fortunate enough to come across information that rings a bell, like being given a leaflet at a TUC meeting that initiates them into communist ideas (d) search for solutions for themselves, probably on the internet if they're young. But because of the break in communist continuity, even the emergence of sufficient consciousness to persuade a person that there is a valid, historically necessary and better alternative to capitalism - which is the stage that the searchers on red-marx and elsewhere may be at - doesn't mean necessarily that they can embrace an already existing communist organization now, when they thought there weren't any, and which existed before they were born, and at a time when they had thought communism to be dead, or to be Stalinism, or to have been betrayed by Lenin and his party, and they have doubts. This forces them to question everything this organization does. Being young they have to test it. This is good, and we must help,not hinder, and try not to get pissed off by the stupid questions and irritating mockeries.

I don't think this all comes down to just a question of style, but of being able to explain patiently, and patiently explain again. It's interesting to me that the symbol used at the top of the red-marx site, is of the older Marx watering a tiny plant.

LoneLondoner
Deep questions on consciousness

Well, p_p has raised a lot of questions here, and they are deep and complex so I won't even begin to try to answer them all in depth, but instead provide some pointers (and yes, links as requested).

  1. How can we measure class consciousness? Here, the first problem is defining what exactly is meant by class consciousness since until you decide on this you can't work out what it is that you are trying to measure. This debate goes back a long way, at least as far as Lenin's What is to be done? One thing we can say is that you cannot simply measure it statistically (unlike the German Social Democracy for example, which tended to measure class consciousness in terms of votes for the Party in elections, only to see the Party collapse completely in 1914 when it supported the war). You cannot measure it simply in terms of strike days lost, or in terms of numbers in demonstrations (though these of course are material events which have their importance): for example, the Popular Front movements in France and elsewhere during the 1930s heralded, not a revolutionary upsurge as Trotsky expected but on the contrary the integration of the workers into the anti-fascist imperialist front for WWII (as the Bilan group of the Italian Left pointed out in relation to the movements in Spain); similarly, the wave of massive and militant strikes immediately after WWII (see the striking description in Howard Zinn's splendid People's History of the USA for example) did not herald the upsurge of revolutionary struggle but the beginning of a period of profound defeat which did not end until the beginning of the 1960s. In a period where communist organisations are tiny and do not have their own "feelers" installed massively in the class (ie a mass of militants actually able to report on what workers are thinking and saying world wide), one technique is the indirect reflection of proletarian class consciousness in the opposing activity, especially ideological activity, of the ruling class (to give a rather extreme example, it is very difficult for revolutionaries in the Western countries to have any estimate of what workers in China are thinking, but we can note that the Chinese bourgeois state spends more on internal security than it does on the military). A bit like looking for the Higgs Boson if you like.
  2. So now we get back to what exactly is meant by "subterranean consciousness". The ICC actually developed this term, and this idea, in response both to the rise and fall of the mass strike in Poland 1980-81, and in opposition to councilism - councilist ideas which had also made an appearance in the ICC. I won't try to argue the point here, because it is set out in some detail in two articles published in the International Review: one from an internal debate with the "tendency" which was later to form IP, and the other a polemic with the CWO on the same question, which tries (amongst other things) to set the notion of "subterranean maturation" in the context of Lenin's ideas in What is to be done? Nearly thirty years on, some of the references in these articles to current events might seem a bit obscure, you can always ask for explanations here. But I strongly recommend reading them, both because they relate directly to what you are asking and because they provide a kind of "lead-in" to looking at the debate between Lenin and Luxemburg on this question.
  3. How does the maturation of consciousness relate to existing organisations? I'm not sure if this goes to answer your question, but here is a reflection for your consideration. It often seems to me that there are two big differences between the "68 generation" which founded the ICC, and the young generation today:
    1. For the "68ers", the potentially revolutionary strength of the working class was blindingly obvious since we had it empirically demonstrated to us: 1968 itself, with 10 million workers on strike in France and the whole country at a complete standstill, and (in GB to give just one example) the imposition of a three-day working week by a right-wing government... because the coal miners were on strike and the power stations were running out of coal. For young people today this strength is by no means so clear.
    2. Despite the influence of councilism, "organising" as a political force seemed the obvious thing to do (actually even the councilists organised, though their organisations have disappeared since then). It seemed obvious that taking part in the class struggle, or developing ideas, above all developing ideas in an organised form, was not something that you could do by yourself, and for different groups appearing locally, joining together seemed a natural thing to do (not without its difficulties and failures of course). Hence the ICC, and up to a point the ICT also. My impression is that many younger people today are either afraid of organising, or else just don't see the point in it - I would be interested in other comrades' impressions of this. Now of course, not everybody feels ready straight away to sign up to a full-blown political organisation, which is why in our view discussion groups have huge potential importance in the development of class consciousness: there is an article on WR's concrete experience in this respect with the Midlands Discussion Group which you might find useful.
    3. A third point (sort of part of the second) is that we were reacting against a tendency, which was often called "modernism", to imagine that the "old workers' movement" (which basically meant everything before itself) had nothing to teach. We on the contrary were profoundly convinced that we could only develop class consciousness on the basis of what had gone before, and been buried under decades of counter-revolution.
  4. Will the existing organisations connect up to the new generation? I won't try to answer the how here - this post is already long enough - but I will just say this: if this does not happen, then either it means that the proletariat is beaten and humanity's future is grim indeed, or else it means that the next generations will have to laboriously struggle to repeat and relearn everything that we have both done (including our mistakes), and learned from our predecessors. At the very least that will make their task immensely more difficult.
jk1921
Marketing?

Fred wrote:
It's not a lack of confidence to consider the organization could be at fault. It's the beginning of wisdom. In fact it's the searchers who lack confidence, and we should be brave enough to reach out and help.

No, except when the organization is not at fault. I can't see how the organization can be at fault for such a dismissive attitude as to suggest the texts of the past are "dusty old tomes." This attitude is the height of arrogance. Does it come from an underlying lack of confidence? A fear that there is so much material that it cannot all be mastered? I don't know. But the organization can't do it all. There has to be a certain receptiveness there among the searchers already. To think it is always the fault of the organization, always the organization that can't relate, seems to me to risk a certain substitutionism. Either the searchers are open or they aren't; its not clear to me what the organization can really do to change that at a fundamental level. Yes, there are things that the organization can do to break out of some of the old schemas and attitudes of the past, but I think we have to be careful not to fall into a "marketing" mind set.This would seem to open the door to various kinds of opportunism. (Something which the ICC has already been charged with by various elements in the milieu, vis the opening to international anarchism).

The searchers lack of openess to the past and to the organizations that came out of '68 would suggest to me fundamental weaknesses of the working class as a whole.The class struggle is what has to prepare the openess. We can only do so much. Sometimes the door has to be opened from the otherside. We don't have a magic key that unlocks all doors.

kollwitz
my general, and preliminary,

my general, and preliminary, impression is that, without the historic dimension, causes, and  development of the counter-revolution resulting in the organic break between revolutionaries, organizations of the class, and the class itself,

1. two historically significant events of the past century--the collapse of the eastern bloc, and the onset and development of decomposition--have created such disorientation and confusion as to have a definite impact on even class combativeness.  to this, we must add the temporary paralyzing effects of the not-anymore-so-recent economic crisis.

2.  the conditions that decadence imposes on the way the class organizes itself --the betrayal of the mass parties and the unions-- have definitely placed those organizations on the other side of the fence and made the constitution of permanent workers' organizations impossible outside of periods of open struggle.  they also fragmented and contributed to the splintering of the existing revolutonary forces.  these conditions are exaccerbated  under decomposition, to the point where, as fred effectively pointed out, it is a real question for the younger generation coming to the struggle and to searching for a political direction whether thes organizations even existe or ever have existed.

under these conditions, the only 'empirical' evidence of class antagonisms, the only aspiration and even perspective to questioning the existing order can be ignited only if the class engages in open struggles, which, however, has been nothing compared to the resurgence of struggles in the late 60's, considering the young age of many of the searchers.  so, here, is the first disadvantage the young searchers find themselves in:  without an effective organic break, and without an effective counterrevolution, there still remain quite tenuous links to the history of the working class movement, and the class itself has not been in a trajectory of keeping the momentum of the struggles it does engage in. 

i think this can contribute to a sense of things being incongruous once it is indeed found out that there are revolutionary organizations out there, and even something called left-communism that sounds genuine:  it is incongruous that the class is not in a revolutionary period and movement, yet there are these rev. org. who hold so much experience and memory of the working class movement.  it is also incongruous that the consciousness of these organizations must be so much more advanced, at least for now, than that of the rest of the class.  in fact, even though we keep saying that revolutionaries and their organizations are part of the class and are secreted by the class, it may seem to be just wishful thinking.  i think it may be very confusing:  this incongruence must mean either that the organization is NOT a part of the class, or that the consciousness of the class cannot develop or is not developed.  these are, by the way, the unaviodable pitfalls in which in many historical examples councilists groups fell into: from questioning the organization of revolutionaries the logical conclusion could only be that the class itself could not ultimately develop the consciousness necessary to fulfill its historic mission. 

i think there is the sense of this incongruence some behind p_p's questions.  am i so off the mark? it also must seem very difficult, from the perspective of the young generation, to see the development of class consciousness and combat with  patience and some detachment.  the urgency to change the world is obvious.  the explosions by the class encouraging.....the revolution SHOULD already be happening!  so, the questions p_p poses about the subterranean maturation of the class, and its relationship to rev. org. are actually good questions.  revolutionaries do not base their thoeries on wishful thinking, and it is the atsk of both organizations and searchers to help re-appropriate this theory, assimilate it and actually use it for an understanding of reality.  without this theoretical assimilation, those questions can actually very easily lead in the direction of political void, b/c it is then not clear whether what is being questioned is either the validity of organization, or the validity of the class, or both 

jk1921
Councilism

kollwitz wrote:

these are, by the way, the unaviodable pitfalls in which in many historical examples councilists groups fell into: from questioning the organization of revolutionaries the logical conclusion could only be that the class itself could not ultimately develop the consciousness necessary to fulfill its historic mission. 

I don't think it necessarily follows from a rejection of the revolutionary organization that the working class is not revolutionary. Its true many councilists have gone that direction, but the other possibility is falling back into a kind of mystical--almost gnostic--faith in the working class that it will one day come to its senses on its own.

I think that is what motivated Fred's original questioning in the previous thread--is the idea of the "subterreanean maturation of consciousness" an article of faith, if we can't really measure it in some kind of reliable way? How does the "subterreanean maturation of consciousness" differ from the "wait and see" approach of the councilists? And what does this all have to do with the revolutionary organization? If consciousness develops subterreaneanly, what is left for the organization to do?

 

Fred
Thank you so much kollwitz

Thank you so much kollwitz for your very helpful post. In this paragraph you are able to say what I was struggling to say: "I think this can contribute to a sense of things being incongruous once it is indeed found out that there are revolutionary organizations out there, and even something called left-communism that sounds genuine:  it is incongruous that the class is not in a revolutionary period and movement, yet there are these rev. org. who hold so much experience and memory of the working class movement.  it is also incongruous that the consciousness of these organizations must be so much more advanced, at least for now, than that of the rest of the class.  in fact, even though we keep saying that revolutionaries and their organizations are part of the class and are secreted by the class, it may seem to be just wishful thinking.  i think it may be very confusing:  this incongruence must mean either that the organization is NOT a part of the class, or that the consciousness of the class cannot develop or is not developed.  these are, by the way, the unaviodable pitfalls in which in many historical examples councilists
groups fell into: from questioning the organization of revolutionaries the
logical conclusion could only be that the class itself could not ultimately
develop the consciousness necessary to fulfill its historic mission. "

And thanks too to jk for his conerns about the subterranean development of consciousness which I share and which he states so clearly.

As kollwitz dares to ask: what is being questioned here (1) the validity of the organization (2) the validity of the class! (Im so glad that someone has put this into words at last - because occasionally I wonder in isolation if Marxism isn't just all a fascinating invention (3) jk's point about if consciousness develops on it's own, what is left for the organization to do? and (4) what about the young "searchers" where have they come
from and how will they "connect"?

And then there's LoneLondoner's important question. "Will the existing organisations connect up to the new generation? I won't try to answer the how here - this post is already long enough - but I will just say this: if this does not happen, then either it means that the proletariat is beaten and humanity's future is grim indeed, or else it means that the next generations will have to laboriously struggle to repeat and relearn everything that we have both done (including our mistakes), and learned from our predecessors. At the very least that will make their task immensely more difficult."

It strikes me that we have at this moment come across a vital and exciting set of questions.

Fred
The links you provide

The links you provide LoneLondoner are excellent. The ones relating to the subterranean development of consciousness do not provide an easy read, and, as you say, refer to matters of a previous era in which they were written. But they contain a compelling argument for the validity of the class, the nature of the development of its consciousness, and the validity of the revolutionary organisation as a product of the class. The article about the Midland study circle upsets me for reasons I can't explain yet. It's the question of the ICC versus the "searchers" again; in which it seems that the searchers are always having to be held in check and kept in their appropriate place; and prevented from getting the wrong ideas about who they are and their necessary submissive (?) role in relation to the well-established Rev. Org. Something like that. But I have to read it again.

So it doesn't really answer the vital question of how "existing organizations connect up to the new generation.". Or even connect up to each other!! (A minor off-shoot question this. If you can't connect to each other, how do you connect to anyone else?) And I was shattered to read in one article that you lost 40 members in the "debate" over consciousness. An expensive debate this. I wonder whether it was worth it, and whether this disaster shouldn't have been avoided/prevented.

Will I be able to post this I wonder?

Fred
Good paragraph from "Reply to

Good paragraph from "Reply to the CWO: on the subterranean maturation of consciousness"
"The recognition by communists that they are a product of the subterranean maturation of cons ciousness in no way implies a passive attitude to their tasks, an underestimation of their indispensable role. On the contrary, to recognize that only the communists, in the ‘normal' course of capitalist society, are explicitly aware of the underlying processes going on inside the class, can only increase the urgency of applying all the necessary organization and determination to the work of transforming this minority into a majority. As we have already stressed, there is no automatic link between the historic being of the class and its consciousness of that being. If this transformation from minority to majority does not take place, if the consciousness of the class does not become class consciousness in the fullest sense of the term, the proletariat will be unable to carry out its historical mission, and all humanity will suffer the consequences."

So where do we stand now? Where can we go from here?

Alf
 "And I was shattered to read

 "And I was shattered to read in one article that you lost 40 members in the "debate" over consciousness"

I think you may be mixing up two crises - one in 1981 (the 'Chenier affair') which did indeed cost us dear, though I'm not sure whether 40 is correct, and the split with the 'External Fraction'/Internationalist Perspective in 1985, in which the question of consciousness was a factor, but I would say much less so than the question of organisation (which is of course related). In any case, the split was still costly in political terms as most splits are, but nowhere near that in numerical terms.

On the MDF, I don't know which phrases you felt had this "here is the truth, on your knees" flavour. It's certainly possible that such attitudes do creep in to our language, attitudes, prejudices, etc, because we never escape the ideological influence of the dominant class entirely... but it's certanly not our conception.

slothjabber
On the MDF

I suspect that Fred's concerns relate to the penultimate paragraph, where the ICC warns about the danger of the MDF constituting itself as a political group. It comes across (now) as a little 'know your place'. But, for those that don't know, it was written ten years ago in the midst of the events its describing - the meeting on communism that it's criticising was in August or September of that year, this piece was written on October 4th, so it's not exactly a considered retrospective, it's a contribution to an ongoing debate.

 

For what it's worth, I think it was right of the ICC to point out the 'dangers' of becoming a political group, though I don't know if 'dangers' is really the word I'm looking for, maybe more like 'logic' or 'trajectory'. I don't think it would have been a wrong move for (some of) the participants of the MDF to have formed a political group, but I do think that blundering into becoming one by accident would have been a mistake. As a result of the collective clarification of the role of the discussion forum, we were very clear on seperating the MDF from the No War but Class War group in Leicester the following year; even though most of - possibly all - the MDF participants took part in the NWBCW group, and subsequently some participants in NWBCW also participated in the MDF. The MDF and NWBCW existed for very different purposes, and due to the effort that we and the ICC had put in to clarifying what the role of the MDF was during 2002, we were much clearer on that than we had been early in 2002 when we held the first 'public meeting' - with the title 'No War but the Class War'.

 

I also don't think that the holding of the 'public meetings', where the one of the members of the MDF attempted to give some sort of presentation on a question, was a mistake. The point was never to set ourselves up as a political group, but to make more widely known the debates we were having. Not sure that the two 'public meetings' really helped all that much, but we needed to make those 'mistakes' (if mistakes they were) for ourselves. Valid experiments at that point, anyway, in my estimation.

 

The closest we have come since that point to the same kind of 'public meeting' was a meeting in 2009, and another in 2010, to which we invited a variety of groups including the ICC, ICT, Internationalist Perspectives, the former-CBG comrades, the Commune, as well as the Anarchist Federation, SolFed, the IWW, and the SPGB. The first five groups sent delegates to the first, the first four to the second, and an IWW comrade (or do we call them 'fellow-worker's?) also came to the second meeting. But certainly at the first of these meetings, the MDF wasn't presenting its views to the meeting, the organisations themselves all made short presentations and we discussed them afterwards. I don't remember the second of these 'big meetings' (not a technical term) so clearly; I think we returned to the idea of us, the MDF, giving a presentation. That probably was a mistake, and it may be one contributary factor in there not having been any follow-up meetings of a similar kind. But the MDF has more-or-less stopped learning from its mistakes, as it's been on hiatus since last summer and in something of a crisis for the best part of 2 years; but we're hoping that some new contacts will breathe new life into the old dog yet... if that's not an over-mixed metaphor.

Fred
Quote:Since its Fourth

Quote:
Since its Fourth Congress (1981), the ICC has been through the most serious crisis in its existence. A crisis which...profoundly shook the organization, very nearly making it fall apart, resulting, directly or indirectly in the departure of forty members and cutting in half the membership of its second largest sect ion. A crisis which took the form of a blind ness and disorientation the like of which the ICC has not seen since its creation.
Fred
Quote:The MDG initially based

Quote:
The MDG initially based its work on the lessons of the wider experience of the working class, especially that of the Zurich discussion circle. However, the full assimilation of these lessons has been hampered by confusions within the group about its relationship to the ICC. Some elements, whilst initially seeing the need for an open forum, began to see the function of the MDG as being a place for the discussion of the positions of the ICC. This vision tended to see the group as kind of ante-chamber to the ICC. The ICC firmly rejected this vision and has often stressed the need for the group to discuss the wider history of the workers' movement and the positions of other communist organisations....The ICC has always held the view that discussion circles are places for clarification, not appendages or the property of proletarian political organizations.

I don't understand what's wrong with workers in search of greater clarity wanting to discuss the positions of the ICC. Isn't the ICC and it's positions the very essence of "the wider history of the workers' movement" which you say they ought to be discussing, along with the positions of other communist groups, whose positions can't be all that different from the ICC's can they, if they're communist positions? Is the perceived problem that of workers achieving clarity too quickly!? Or is it something else I'm missing. Why the apparent urge to control?

It's like the situation of Internationalism in the States, where workers mustn't be told that the unions are not on our side, because the workers may not be ready to hear this. But something else they may not be ready to here is that they are now redundant, possibly as a result of negotiations undertaken on their behalf by the very unions the rev.org. was reluctant to criticize. Still, I suppose this constitutes a hard lesson learned tbe hard way. Similarly, militants who say we shouldn't talk about capitalism to people who dont yet know what it is should consider the rev.org's function; which is too criticize capitalism relentlessly as the thing we must get rid of. So, the sooner workers who don't know which side their bread is buttered - if they can afford to buy it - learn a few fundamental facts in the furtherance of class consciousness - like the unions work for the the capitalists, who screw us, are past their sell-by date, and are destroying all of us and everything there is, including the very planet we depend on for life - the sooner they learn this, or are told this, the better. Isn't this right?

shug
"It's like the situation of

"It's like the situation of Internationalism in the States, where workers mustn't be told that the unions are not on our side, because the workers may not be ready to hear this."

I'm a bit puzzled by this comment. Can you explain, or give a reference?

Fred
Hi shug. I think it was

Hi shug. I think it was mainly here for the moment.

http://en.internationalism.org/inter/160/verizon-discussion

jk1921
In regards to "workers not

In regards to "workers not being told the unions aren't on our side": I don't think that was the conclusion of the discussion in Inter. What I interpreted that to mean is that in a conjunctural situation in which the unions are under existential threat at the hands of an particularly aggressive faction of the bourgeoisie, and, as a result, the workers have a certain insitinctual reaction to anyone who appears to be attacking the unions--it may not be best to show up at a demonstration and the first thing we do is denounce the unions. There are other ways to crack this nut that do not carry the same risk of being immeditealy assimilated with the fruit cake right wing and thus dismissed--and indeed that is precisely what happened when Inter intervened at this demo. Its a tactical issue--but I don't this equates at all to "not telling the workers the truth." It simply means we need to be smart about how to approach workers at a demonstation when the national political discourse is dominated by a discussion about either scrapping the unions altogether becasue they hinder economic growth or defending them at all costs as the last bulwark of the "middle class."

Fred
Of course we've had this

Of course we've had this exchange of views before on the "How to intervene in the class struggle" thread a year ago. That was frustrating too. Incidentally jk, the intervention I was referring to wasn't a demo but a quiet discussion between some workers and a couple of comrades. Anyway, I sort of give up. It seems left communists. can spin cobwebs out of nothing when they want- read LoneLondoner, Soyonstout and even jk on the relevant thread to which I can't give a link! And thinking that a rev.org should be helping the working class understand what capitalism is, and the role of the unions within it, and that workers aren't "middle class" (that this is a bourgeois mystification) and that a particularly aggressive section of the bourgeoisie is making all the running and therefore we sort of need to hide till they go away, and find a different way to "crack the nut", is doubtless the sensible correct and diplomatic way to go, and so....well, let's just sit quietly and wait, and sink gently into the decomposing manure.

jk1921
Fred, I think the discussion

Fred, I think the discussion you are referring to was an attempt to make a balance sheet out of an intervention at a demonstration/picket line during the Verizon strike. I don't understand your point about "spinning cobwebs out of nothing." Can you explain?

Fred
 “…If I was a non-communist

 “…If I was a non-communist worker on strike for the first time and my union had pretty much given me a narrative that they were under attack along with me and my pension, and some people came to our demonstration talking about how no union under any circumstances actually fights for its members and signed something saying they were communists--I would not really have any experience or information to go on, other than the fact that I’d heard the union say that the bosses and republicans want to destroy the unions, which is what these communists want too. I don’t think I’m babying the working class in saying this because I think the working class in struggle needs specific ideas just as much as they need general ones. I don’t think anyone is suggesting tricking the workers into deserting the union or self organizing, or hiding our views of the unions, but rather that what is relevant about our views on the unions to workers on strike is precisely what they mean for how to go forward and fight better in the future."

I call this a cobweb, because it's (a) speculative "if I was a non-communist worker...." (b) is vague "the working class needs specific ideas just as much as general ones" (what does that mean? And anyway so what? Isn't the fact that the unions serve thebourgeois a specific fact?) then (c) mystifying as in: we don't want to TRICK (sic!) the workers into deserting the unions: we don't want to hide our views of the unions (really?) and(d) then some stuff about workers on strike and"how to go forward and fight better in the future.". It hardly makes any sense and it lacks COHERENCE which I start to believe is the number one essential for any intervention by communists towards our class.

In it's defense you might say well okay it's not very well written. But something worse is at play. It's badly written because it's confused as to its intent. Does it want the workers to see clearly what the unions are up to or not? Well it does and it doesn't. It does really; but it's scared of saying the wrong thing and frightening the workers away. If the workers think the union works for their interests, and you tell them it doesn't, and explain why, then what if they don't believe you, what if they think you are a secret Tea Party infiltrator, and so on? So you have to take a risk.You're not trying to deceive or trick them are you, so you must tell them the truth, trust that they will understand, and not add to confusion with garbled gobble-de-gook? So if they reject you, so what? You haven't done any real harm, you've just been misunderstood, and can try again another day.

We're talking about class consciousness here and how to develop it. Dissimulation isn't going to get far. Honesty is a good policy. Trust the workers, they are your class. Be strong! You can do it etc.

petey
iternationalism

Fred wrote:

It's like the situation of Internationalism in the States, where workers mustn't be told that the unions are not on our side, because the workers may not be ready to hear this.

i can state from direct experience that internationalism does not obscure its position on the unions.

Fred
Hi petey. I am very relieved

Hi petey. I am very relieved to hear that Internationalism does not obscure it's positions on the unions, but that's not true of some of the stuff it writes. The quote I gave above is a bit on the obscure side to say the least. And then there's other stuff available on the Google link under "Verizon" which is also a little obscure - or shall we say confusing? - when it comes to discussing the relationship between the class, the unions, and the stance of ICC militants in the States. Please note "in the States". The situation in Europe is very different. There the unions are always being denounced by the ICC in a clear and unmistakable way. But thanks for sharing your experience comrade petey.

jk1921
Fred, I understand the point

Fred, I understand the point you are making and it is a serious one. It goes back to the birth of left communism during the revolutionary wave, when they argued against Social Democracy and against the growing opportunism in the Comintern that communists must always tell workers the truth. Adopting a "tactical" approach to the class struggle could only lead to opportunism. The communist approach was one of principal as opposed to tactics.

Still, I think you are being a little unfair to Inter. I think what you cite was less an "article" and more a transcript of a discussion. Inter hasn't rejected the ICC platform. Still, they were faced with a very concrete situation (intervening at a strike demo) which caused them some pause and forced them to reevlauate their approach. Part of the goal in publishing that, I think, was to show that revolutionaries are not "monolithic." They have doubts, questions and controversies within their ranks like everyone else. Faced with a new situation: the attempt by part of the bourgeoisie to destroy the unions rather than prop them up, and the workers insitinctual defense of the unions (something which is quite new), isn't it only natural that this would provoke some discussion and questioning?

I wouldn't conclude from this that Inter is on the verge of rejecting the need to denounce the unions. There is a big difference between telling workers and communists to "go into the unions" (as the communist parties did from about 1920 on) and considering whether communists should consider a different lead when intervening at a strike given the historic conjuncture.

Pierre
proper_propaganda wrote: 1.

proper_propaganda wrote:

1. What is the best way to measure the level of class consciousness in the working class?

2. Is the "subterrean maturation of consciousness" a real phenomenon? Is the dichotomy between subterreanean maturation and open movement from the class a safe one to emphasize?

3. How does the maturation of consciousness (and/or the "search for deeper answers") on the level of individual workers or elements outside of open struggle relate to existing communist organizations?

4. To quote Alf, "Will the existing communist organisations connect with the new generation of 'searchers'?" What type of actions are or should be involved in these processes?

jk1921 wrote:

How does the "subterreanean maturation of consciousness" differ from the "wait and see" approach of the councilists? And what does this all have to do with the revolutionary organization? If consciousness develops subterreaneanly, what is left for the organization to do?

Fred
Thanks p_p for coming back

Thanks p_p for coming back and posing your questions so clearly and simply. I don't know whether the sub. mat of consciousness is real or not.But I believe I am suffering from it now - is it all illusion? - and if it's happening to others then that's good, and if it isn't...well we'll have to manage without it. As to all the talk on the other thread about the class not being the same as it was in 1848 or whenever...well I don't think it matters! The class today may not dress the same, or talk like it did in 1848, but there is still an exploited class in existence, and the bourgeoisie still goes off with all the funds. The class may have been reconstructed, deconstructed, sand-blasted or turned into floaty blue humanoids as in Avatar: but it's still around, and still screwed. It may no longer live in huge masses in N.W. Europe, but it certainly does in China, India and elsewhere.

As to Alf's question which you quote. I still visit red Marx from time to time though I have recently been slagged off again for being delusional. This was for saying that left-communism represents something hopeful for the class. It's too small repeat the nay-sayers. But what have we got as an organization instead? Not much! I think there are some people - not many - who post on red marx who should somehow establish friendly connections with left-communism, to the mutual benefit of both parties. I don't how this would be done. There are regular posters on red marx who I think act like bullies and stamp quickly on the feet of anybody so cheeky as to show an interest in left, or even any kind of genuine communism, almost as if permission is required, or as if to raise real questions, as opposed to taking a line, is an offense. (I exaggerate of course, but this is my response.) It would be interesting to see what happens should someone like you p_p ever try his luck in that bit of a no-man's land named for Marx. But it all seems a bit sad to me? How can something called red marx be so apparently reluctant to open up to Marxism. ( I suppose now that I won't really ever be able to go back? Curses!).

Your point 3 p_p about the relationship between forums and people like those on red marx - I go on about red marx because I like it! - with already existing organizations like the ICC (the longest running proletarian show!) well I don't think there is any and it's sad. jk won't let me blame the ICC because he occasionally thinks they are beyond all blame, if it suits him, and so it has to be the fault of tbe young people on that forum.But this is not possible either. I think what is needed is for more "ordinary" people to come out of the closet and start posting, and just saying what they feel in "ordinary" English: at least for some of the time.
And thanks again p_p for coming back, if only momentarily.

jk1921
I agree with Fred in regards

I agree with Fred in regards to the critique of the atmosphere at Red Marx and other forums. The bullying, oneupmanship, bravado and even machisimo on display are disturbing even if they are only reflections of the broader culture. This only emphasizes the need for taking the entire question of the "culture of debate" seriously again. That said, I sense a troubling trend towards personalization on this fourm lately that seems should be cause for some concern.

LoneLondoner
What is the best way to measure the level of class consciousness

proper_propaganda wrote:

1. What is the best way to measure the level of class consciousness in the working class?

Since there is a lot to be said on a lot of questions, I thought I would start with one. One difficulty I have with this question is the notion of "measure". If you simply mean quantitatively (eg strike days lost), then I think this is not a fruitful approach. Let's take an example:

In France 1936 there was a huge upsurge of class struggle leading to massive demonstrations, strikes, and factory occupations: the movement was so vast that Trotsky thought it could be the basis for a new revolutionary movement.

In fact, as we can see from hindsight (and as the Bilan group said at the time) the Popular Front was a crucial moment in the historical process which tied the working class to the defence of democratic ideology in preparation for World War II. One of the most significant events was the appearance in demonstrations of the red flag, brandished by the Communist Party side by side with the Tricolor (French national flag). The mass demonstrations represented a victory for nationalism.

For a marxist, nothing in history can be judged "in itself". History is a moving process, and what determines the movement is the relationships between the different actors of the historical process. If I wanted to be provocative, I would be tempted to go so far as to say that there is no such thing in history as a "fact", there are only the moving relationships between them.

jk1921 wrote:

How does the "subterreanean maturation of consciousness" differ from the "wait and see" approach of the councilists? And what does this all have to do with the revolutionary organization? If consciousness develops subterreaneanly, what is left for the organization to do?

When we originally developed the notion of "SMC", we distinguished between what we described as the two "dimensions" of class consciousness: breadth and depth. The depth of class consciousness refers to its theoretical dimension, the breadth to the extent that communist positions find an echo in the class.

"For all these reasons, there exists, in the moments between the open struggles, a ‘subterranean maturation' of class consciousness (the "old mole" so dear to Marx), which can be expressed both in the deepening and clarif­ication of the political positions of revolutionary organizations, and in a reflection and decantation throughout the class, a disengage­ment from bourgeois mystifications."

Note that this does not mean a case of "upward, ever upward". The years after 1989 saw a severe retreat in class consciousness (in the sense of the class awareness of and confidence in itself). In our view the tide turned at the beginning of the 2000s.

jk1921
Reversal?

LoneLondoner wrote:

jk1921 wrote:

How does the "subterreanean maturation of consciousness" differ from the "wait and see" approach of the councilists? And what does this all have to do with the revolutionary organization? If consciousness develops subterreaneanly, what is left for the organization to do?

When we originally developed the notion of "SMC", we distinguished between what we described as the two "dimensions" of class consciousness: breadth and depth. The depth of class consciousness refers to its theoretical dimension, the breadth to the extent that communist positions find an echo in the class.

"For all these reasons, there exists, in the moments between the open struggles, a ‘subterranean maturation' of class consciousness (the "old mole" so dear to Marx), which can be expressed both in the deepening and clarif­ication of the political positions of revolutionary organizations, and in a reflection and decantation throughout the class, a disengage­ment from bourgeois mystifications."

Note that this does not mean a case of "upward, ever upward". The years after 1989 saw a severe retreat in class consciousness (in the sense of the class awareness of and confidence in itself). In our view the tide turned at the beginning of the 2000s.

 

So then there is such a thing as a a "subterreanean 'regression' of consciousness"? i.e. the example given above of the Popular Front in which "on the surface" there appeared to be a great enthusiasm for communism, but in subterreanean reality the proletariat was becomming progressively tied to the state?

jk1921
Facticity

LoneLondoner wrote:

If I wanted to be provocative, I would be tempted to go so far as to say that there is no such thing in history as a "fact", there are only the moving relationships between them.

Is this Lukacs' "so much the worse for the facts" or is there a different point here?

LoneLondoner
Since I don't know Lukacs...

Long time since I read Lukacs so this is certainly not anything from him. The thought springs more from my recent readings of philosophy of science and trying to relate that to what Engels says in the Dialectics of Nature.

And yes, I think there clearly is such a thing as a subterranean regression in consciousness, in its dimension of breadth within the proletariat. Only in the Popular Front it wasn't subterranean, because the proletariat was clearly expressing itself in very visible struggles in favour of a Stalinist vision of communism and had given up its political autonomy to the bourgeois state.

Link
Thank you Lone Londoner for

Thank you Lone Londoner for returning to the original questions here and your explanations of subterannean maturation of consciousness.  I read this thread with interest for some clear explanations. Basically it seems you me the idea is reflecting the recognition that workers struggles dont develop in a linear way ticking off bourgeois ideologies overcome step by step before getting to a revolution.    

Do you consider this to be a view that is really only visible in hindsight however?  How for example would you use this idea to characterise the situation in Britain at present?  Over the last decade for example I have looked at the british situation and thought that the relative docility of the working class here suggested that we would see at some point an explosion of struggle as it broke out of the ideological constraints which impose austerity.  This period of docility does seem to go on however while parts of what was called the Third World has seen large and violent struggle.  Workers in Britain have as yet been and still seem unable to confront the idea that struggle wont help and just hurts everybody else, despite the economic and politics attacks on them. 

Im not trying to be present a negative diagnosis here just setting a framework for my question.  How do you use the idea of the subterannean maturation of consciousness to judge the what is going on in Britain today

Pierre
The seperate notions of

The seperate notions of "breadth" and "width" of class consciousness seem to be more useful than lumping everything together under the umbrella of SMC.

Echoing Link's post when he asks how we should use the idea of SMC to judge whats going on today, I wonder what LL and jk think about the historically low width of class consciousness in the current period?

Surely at some point "depth" becomes irrelevant when there are so few left on the planet that understand and apply the marxist method. I think Fred was in agreement when he said "I think what is needed is for more 'ordinary' people to come out of the closet and start posting, and just saying what they feel in 'ordinary' English: at least for some of the time." Aren't these more so questions of width rather than depth?

That old saying "You can kill a revolutionary but you can't kill an idea" seems like a "load of bollocks" to me.

jk1921
Class Consciousness

proper_propaganda wrote:

Echoing Link's post when he asks how we should use the idea of SMC to judge whats going on today, I wonder what LL and jk think about the historically low width of class consciousness in the current period?

This was sort of the topic of the other thread wasn't it? There are ideological explanations for this--the working class is tricked, confused disoriented by bourgeois ideological campaigns around things like the "death of communism," or  "democracy" or "making capitalism work for people," or "defending the unions," etc. Then, there are sociological explanations--the working class no longer exists in sufficient concentrations at the point of production to develop its consciousness and thus class identity fragments.

Of course, one could construct an explanation that combines these two approaches (which I think the original article that sparked the other thread attempted), but it seems pretty clear that the ICC does not like the sociological explanations very much. Presumably, this is because it paints a very grim perspective for the future, in which the class is objectively blocked from developing Class Consciousness (in the dimension of breadth).

If you think the main problem is ideological, then it is still possible to see a way out as the economic crisis should push the working class to move past the various ideological illusions. In other words, the problem is mostly subjective. The crisis is actually (as the ICC has written before) "the best ally of the working class." I suppose you could also interpret the low breadth of class consciousness as the result of an insufficently severe economic crisis. But regardless the class remains intact and can still move past the illusions at some future juncture.

The problem today of course, is that the gravity of the attacks in the current economic crisis has not led to the kind of "massive response" one might expect from the working class. This begs the question of whether something fundamental has changed (sociology) or whether this can still be explained as a subjective ideological problem--a symptom of disorientation, etc. But this would in turn beg the question as to why bourgeois ideological campaigns continue to work?

I don't have an answer. Comrades have to make up their own minds as to whether or not they are convinced that this is mostly a problem of subjective confusion or whether there is something more ominous afoot today. Of course anyone who wants to change the world in a positive direction and thinks this has something to do with the working class shouldn't like grim sociological explanations, but does that stop them from being "true"?

proper_propaganda wrote:

That old saying "You can kill a revolutionary but you can't kill an idea" seems like a "load of bollocks" to me.

Can you explain a bit more about what you mean here?

LoneLondoner
Some points about the present state of class consciousness

I think it's a mistake to judge the level of class consciousness "in the absolute" so to speak (this was what I was trying to get at earlier when I said that "facts" only exist as relationships between events).

I think you could argue (indeed, the ICC thinks you should argue) that there is a very big difference between the context of struggle in the 1970s (when there was no shortage of massive struggles) and that of today.

To be very brief, in the 1970s workers still had huge illusions about what they were struggling against: unemployment was much less of an issue, there was no such thing as outsourcing, and the vast majority of workers thought that a massive struggle within the confines of the company, the industry, or at the absolute maximum the country would be enough to push back the attacks of the ruling class.

Today, a lot of those illusions are gone. Workers are far more aware that they are up against a far bigger problem than they could see in the 1970s. How, for example, do you struggle to maintain your wages when the boss' immediate answer is "Ok, I'll shut the plant down and move it to Roumania (or Mexico)"?

In addition, the collapse of so-called "communism" (plus the experience of decades of left-wing governments imposing austerity) means that there is no longer an easy reference point for something different (today you vote Labour for example, more out of a fear of something worse than out of a hope for something better).

In other words, it is far more difficult to struggle today because the workers generally have a clearer idea of what they are up against, and a much vaguer idea (or even none at all) of what the alternative could be.

(in passing, I was struck by what I read of Occupy, by how parochial it often felt: "bad capitalism" often seemed to be identified more as bad American capitalism - I don't know what p_p's experience was in this respect).

The other aspect is resistance to war - but I'll keep that for another post.

LoneLondoner
Sociology?

On the question of the "recomposition" of the working class, I can't resist adding this factoid which I read in the Economist the other day: India's biggest private employer is Tata Consultancy Services (IT, call centres, etc); India's second-biggest private employer is.... wait for it.... IBM

mhou
Quote:Today, a lot of those

Quote:
Today, a lot of those illusions are gone. Workers are far more aware that they are up against a far bigger problem than they could see in the 1970s. How, for example, do you struggle to maintain your wages when the boss' immediate answer is "Ok, I'll shut the plant down and move it to Roumania (or Mexico)"?

In France, the bossnapping phenomenon is occassionally the response- during May '68, these were mostly done to secure wage increases and improvements to the job. Since the crisis in '07-'08, they've returned, but the tactic in struggle is for a much larger severence pay package (at one factory, after the boss had been bossnapped and the workers threatened to burn down the factory or dump gallons of sulphuric acid in the nearby river, some workers were gaurenteed a severence package paid over 10 years nearly equal to their annual salary- thus being able to avoid the proletarian condition as long as possible). Sic has a really good article about all this.

The flipside are examples like the Republic Windows factory; which went through unionization (Teamsters), union decertification (oust the Teamsters), unionization again (this time with UE), a factory occupation/sit-down strike to prevent the business from moving machinery out of the factory, secured a new buyer for the business, then when the 2nd company wanted to close down, another sit-down strike/factory occupation, and now attempts to 'buy' the machinery and factory and run it as a unionized worker owned co-op.

But so far there hasn't been much extension of struggle across national boundaries. Some of the 'in' crowd/one of the left-labor cliques is really keen on the idea of multinational unionism, accomplished lately with a "merger" of USWA and one of the British unions that covers steelworkers. That one clique in the union apparatus is toying with the idea of cross-border unionism; I don't think it will take off the way they hope, but it is possible that struggles will cross national borders in cases like this, but it's a stretch.

Fred
Lone Londoner wrote: In other

Lone Londoner wrote:
In other words, it is far more difficult to struggle today because the workers generally have a clearer idea of what they are up against, and a much vaguer idea (or even none at all) of what the alternative could be.

Agree that workers are far more aware of the pointlessness of struggle for gains within the system than they were 35 years ago ( this must be a plus for consciousness), even though there wasn't a lot in fact to be gained in those days. But do we have a VAGUER idea of the alternative now? I doubt it. Back in the seventies we were all so involved in trying to better ourselves, and in the novelty of struggle for struggle's sake - the joy of being anti-authoritarian - that I don't think the question of any alternative ever came up (except at meetings of militants). It mightn't come up much now either. But as there's nothing left except the unspoken unacknowledged alternative ( the longing for communism that dares not as yet speak its own name) then it must inevitably emerge sooner or later, unless of course we're all in fact brain dead. But this happy bourgeois solution doesn't appear likely, does it?

Fred
I suspect the trouble is

I suspect the trouble is that nobody really knows what communism is anymore. We had it's death of course in 1989, but for sixty years before that didn't everyone assume that communism was Stalin? And do they know yet that it wasn't? And do they have any idea that REAL communism has never been tried anywhere yet, and so couldn't possibly be regarded as having failed? This subject "What is communism" just never comes up anywhere does it - without it being taken for granted that it's what happened in Russia. It's so maddening!

jk1921
Popular Front?

LoneLondoner wrote:

And yes, I think there clearly is such a thing as a subterranean regression in consciousness, in its dimension of breadth within the proletariat. Only in the Popular Front it wasn't subterranean, because the proletariat was clearly expressing itself in very visible struggles in favour of a Stalinist vision of communism and had given up its political autonomy to the bourgeois state.

Was it that the workers were expressing themselves in favor of Stalinism or was it that they were in favor of something that they believed was communism, but turned out to be something else? Or is it that the "political content" in the various countries in this period was irrelevant--the Popular Front mobilizations were for all intents and purposes the same as fascism?

 

jk1921
Alternatives?

LoneLondoner wrote:

In other words, it is far more difficult to struggle today because the workers generally have a clearer idea of what they are up against, and a much vaguer idea (or even none at all) of what the alternative could be.

 

Hmm, does this not put the cart before the horse a bit? Is the working class supposed to start out with an embryonic communist perspective or does that emerge in the course of the very struggles that they are finding it so hard to begin? Or do you mean something less ambitious in regards to "alternative" here? Aren't the struggles supposed to be in part what leads to a different perspective?

kollwitz
these are all very

these are all very interesting and important questions.  i think that all the posters, regardless of their specific angle of vision, demonstrate a concern with understanding how class consciousness develops, assessing where it is at at this point, presumably with the purpose of finding ways to adequately intervene in the struggles and in discussions with coworkers.  some posters suggest that the level of class combativeness is so low that we should read in it the inability of the class to take on its historical task.  others suggest the class may have a level of consciousness but it is on the way of finding objective obstacles to its development in the facts of de-industrialization.  some of the things said on this thread echo the ones broached on the other on why it is so difficult to struggle.  it is abundantly obvious there is an urge to undersatnd and clarify on the issue of class combativeness and consciousness.  but marxism understands human consciousness on the basis of the material experiences of living in any given society.  the slaves knew he/she was a slave.  the serf also knew he/she was a serf.  the working class also does know it is the exploited class.  but this consciousness, this reflection on the conditions of life and the relationship of exploitation is something that is tested only through the class conflict, the confrontations with the enemy. any exploited class can accept its condition sof exploitation as long as they do not threaten its conditions of survival, but also, to a very important extent, its sense of self-dignity. denying this for the working class would amount, i think, to denying its own history of struggles and methods of organization.  this is why the ideology of the ruling classes is so important to denounce and fight against and it is one obstacle the working class has to confront and resolve: democracy, parliamentaryy elections, the unions, nationalism......Not so simple. so, there exists a whole bunch of obstacle already to developing the consciousness of being a class in itself.  however, against the idea that the breath of consciousness is very low, we can cite the examples of solidarity in virtually every important struggle since france 2006 or nyc transit around the same time (? not sure of the exact date), which does speak a lot in terms of consciousness of being a class in itself.  the other very difficult issue is that of the communist perspective, and , even before reacing that , the revolutionary perspective.  i cannot be too long and will get back to this, but it is really important to undersatnd the impact of the ideological campaigns after the collapse of the eastern bloc.  if i do not have a vision for an alternative, what is th epoint to struggle?  it is not only the issue that strikes do not get you to improve your lot, is that the communist vision seems not a chimera or utopia, but unreachable.  for the class, then, the struggles that happen 'under the breath' description, so to speak, have an impact only if they give birth to a sense thatthis communist project now starts to feel more concrete, more doable.  this is the relationship between breath and depth, or one of the relationships at least.

so, in light of this, what do you guys think, for example, the significance of the recent resurgence of protests in egypt is?

jk1921
I think part of why the

I think part of why the "sociological thesis" is attractive for some is that is more amenable to "empirical investigation." It seems difficult, if not impossible, to verify that the proletariat is not struggling at the level it should for ideological reasons. How could we do this? Take a public opinion poll? But even if we could do this, which we can't, we would still need to employ some other hermeneutic method (Freudianism, perhaps?) to interpret what the results actually mean. Although would this be any different from what armies of bourgeois politcal consultants get paid lorry loads of money to do everyday? Read betweens the lines of poll results to tell politicans and bureucrats what "really "motivates the public, the voters, unions members, etc. What they are really thinking?

But the idea that the proletariat has been "deconstructed," or "liquidated" as some have put it, would seem to be open to verification through some kind of accepted sociological method. Consequently, it would also seem possible to refute or at least moderate this thesis through the same methods. And attempts to do just this have cropped up from time to time over the course of this discussion, i.e. asserting that massive concentrations of workers still do in fact exist, especially in places like China and India. Regardless, the issue is that there is a real objective fact here than can be known, as opposed to attempting to read what the proletariat as a whole (as opposed to an aggregation of individuals that can be broken down into percentages and quantified through regression analysis) thinks at some inaccessible collective sub-conscious level.

There is a debate going on over on the Internationalist Perspectives website between IP and some Greek communisation group over just this very issue: "Is the Working Class Liquidated?" The communisation people believe so (even if they don't take this to mean no resistance to captialism is possible), while IP--although accepting that the proletariat has in fact been reconstructed--still think that the "collective worker" is a valid revolutionary subject. Still, they don't seem to offer any real "evidence" for this, other than continuing to assert that capital cannot survive without a value producing proletariat, something that guarantees an oppostion between the interests of capital and the "collective worker." In the end though, IP seems to accept the epistemological uncertainty of this position arguing that the question of whether or not the proletariat is revolutionary can only be answered retrospectively.

Here is a link to a recent installment of the debate:http://internationalist-perspective.org/IP/ip-archive/ip_55_working-class.html

 

jk1921
Which Protests?

kollwitz wrote:

so, in light of this, what do you guys think, for example, the significance of the recent resurgence of protests in egypt is?

Which ones? The attempt to break the prisoners out of jail after the courts handed down 21 death sentences in relation to the Port Said soccer riots?

mikail firtinaci
one of the problems

I think one of the issues causing the problem we discuss is definitely related to the restructring of the working class. Since 1980s the global composition has dramatically changed. Now the vast majority of the workers are in east and south Asia, Africa and South America. It is an irony of the history that these continents are the ones that LC is weakest or practically non-existent.

So we are in a situation in which the communist thought is detached from the workers continentally. In the 19th century the divide was between the reading classes (middle class professionals) and manual laborers. Now it is geographically dispersed.

As ICC correctly detects (but somehow phrase differently), this is caused by the post WWII situation of Europe and US. In the west it was no longer an option to exclude the left from the parliaments as the liberal and conservative coalitions and parties did in the 19th century. However, bringing the social democratic left to the fold had its limits. The governments could no longer openly massacre workers (except in extreme cases) without radically shattering the illusion of participatory democracy. Hence, we had the stalemate situation.

However, in the East and the South, the social democracy neither developed nor had any political meaning in the face of the radically brutal state capitalisms. The short interval of flirtation of the left with 3rd World nationalisms during 60s and 70s have all ended with terrible disasters. And the third world is brutally proletarianised now - providing a temporary relaxation to the stalemate situation in the First World at the expense of restructuring and prolonged economic depression.

I hope this does not sound a little maoistic. I think restructring was only possible after the certain defeat of workers' movement. And the share of third world independance is obviously great in this.

However now, the challenge is then to unite the geography that accummulated the militants and the past experience (west) with the geography of militant spirit and struggle (East). Just as the communist movement  in 19th century had to bridge the class divide between the socialist intellectuals and the workers we have to bridge the geogprahy divide. This time hopefully with an international organization which is conscious of its obstacles and has a willlingness to set up a plan to overcome them.

ps. It is only telling why the ICCs discourse (with its workerist and partyist overtones) is less attractive in the west where communisation can be more attractive. This is very similar to the early 19th century escapist utopian socialisms a la Fourier, Cabet and Owen. However, the new sections of ICC are in Turkey and Philliphines - at the borders of the Asian working class hearhlands. In case of Turkey, it is definitely a region of transition where old working class is restructured in Western fashion but at the same time the new working class has also been flourished. Politically also, Turkey is always something between brutal state capitalism and Western democratic state capitalism. It has a historically strong buraucracy but late coming nationalism etc.

 

 

jk1921
http://www.leftcom.org/en/art

http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2013-01-20/michigan-protests-a-defeat-led-by-the-unions

The ICT has an article on the recently passed Right to Work legislation in Michigan that serves to illustrate some of the issues surrounding the "recomposition of the proletariat" and how one's take on this question conditions subsequent analysis. The ICT has long given much greater creedence to these ideas than the ICC. In this article, the RTW laws are understood as an attempt to "make workers more flexible to mangement." Although it is not stated directly, it seems implicit in this analysis that this desire to make workers more flexible corresponds to some kind of functional requirement of captialist accumulation in this period. The unions, once guarantors of peace on the shop floor, are no longer necessary or no longer worth the difficulties they pose on "labor flexibility." Although at the same time, the unions appear here as the main buffer between an angry population and the state that derailed popular anger into impotent electoral dead ends (so still the guarantors of "social peace"?). The ICT had a similar analysis of Scott Walker's union busting legislation in Wisconsin in 2011. There seems a bit of a contradiction here, but regardless the point is that there is some underlying economic logic driving the union busting, which corresponds in some way to broader structural changes in the nature of captialist accumulation and the working class itself.

The ICC on the other hand has argued against these kinds of functionalist readings of the union busting laws, seeing in them as an irrational expression of the decomposition of  parts of the bourgeois state apparatus that would cut off its nose to spite its face, eliminating the main buffer between the state and a purportedly still intact and revolutionary class waiting to visit its now unmediated class fury once pushed far enough.  See this article in which Internationalism spelled out its differences with the functionalist approach: http://www.en.internationalism.org/inter/158/editorial

This may all seem on the surface like a minor point of contention about the precise location of the union bureacracies in the structure of the capitalist state, but it seems there are deeper issues at foot here regarding the overall point the crisis has reached, the gravity of the objective situation facing the working class.,the potential for Class Consciousness emerging as a result of the attacks, etc. 

LoneLondoner
Where are the workers??

mikail firtinaci wrote:

I think one of the issues causing the problem we discuss is definitely related to the restructring of the working class. Since 1980s the global composition has dramatically changed. Now the vast majority of the workers are in east and south Asia, Africa and South America. It is an irony of the history that these continents are the ones that LC is weakest or practically non-existent.

I don't have time to go into this at length but would just make this point: mf's point is only true if we limit the working class to industrial workers. But this is to take leave of a marxist definition of class in relation to the creation of surplus value, in favour of a sociological definition.

The working class has certainly not disappeared from the industrialised nations, it is just in different kinds of workplaces (to a large extent, not entirely by any means - look at Germany). There are huge numbers of workers still in Europe working in health care (the hospitals and health centres in Houston alone account for more than 150,000 workers), transport (someone on this forum mentioned the tens of thousands of workers at Heathrow, but of course the same is true of Chicago, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, JFK, etc etc), logistics (think Amazon, UPS, DHL, etc), distribution (supermarkets, hypermarkets), financial services, call centres, and of course IT (programmers, network technicians, telephone engineers, etc etc.), the latter now being the largest single category of workers (having overtaken the building trades).

mikail firtinaci
Comrade Lonelondener

Please don't misunderstand me. I did not try to say that working class disappeared in the west. On the contrary. However the comperative weight of the class is in Asia. It should not be that surprising since more than half of the world population is living in the Asian continent... Obviously the relative weight of the Asian section of the world working class is undeniably significant. Just as the German and American workers were at the center during 1900s...

Also I think you are confusing the sociological definition of the class with the class combativity. I think it is an undeniable fact that the class combativity in Asia is far ahead compared to the Western European and American sections of the class. This is not sociologism or nationalism. It is just a plain fact. I don't want to say that this is positive or negative, I am not trying to make any moralistic judgements. I am just saying that this is a fact that has to be taken into consideration at least in terms of tactics.

mhou
Isn't it possible that both

Isn't it possible that both phenomenon are at work? That what has been a general tendency (toward extraction of relative surplus value since the restructuring of capital in the 1970s-present) comes into conflict with the existing Western labor regime, which produced both a need of the present cycle of accumulation to reduce costs, as well as expressions on the political terrain to meet those needs (going after vestiges of the Fordist compromise, usually in unionized workplaces), yet sometimes these political expression of the needs of capital (due to economic forces) take on a life of their own and become ideologies unto themselves (attacking trade unionism as an institution even though the history of the trade unions in decadence is the complete openness to negotiate away gains, such as the Verizon, Lockheed, Boeing, Hostess [BCTGM was an anomoly; the other 11 unions wanted the new contract], Wisconsin 2011, UAW, etc etc etc) even if they act against the best interests of a peaceful labor force and the peaceful negotiation away of the costs the companies and the state want to eliminate or cut?

Just about every union (in the US anyway, though I imagine much of Europe is the same) is more than happy and proven to be very capable of negotiating backwards, giving up the cuts and take-backs that the companies and/or the state want (it wouldn't surprise me if we see the container royalty fund going the way of ex-Bell Systems workers company paid healthcare)- attacks on the trade union institution, after it has been merged into the state, is largely irrational (as was expressed by AFSCME's Wisconsin local president who said clearly, "We will give you all of the cuts you want- just don't take away our right to collective bargaining!")  isn't it? We've seen countless examples of the unions acting as an arm of the state and of capital in ensuring companies and the state get the cuts they need or want, while removing the unions creates a variable and removes a willing partner.

Hopefully the clear and constant attacks will have a positive effect in changing the environment toward one favorable to the development of greater levels of class consciousness.

baboon
Agree with Lone

I agree with Lone's post above about the working class in the west while not denying the numbers or combativity in and around Asia.

To Lone's list I would add the industrial workers of the electrical and nuclear industries, gas and water suppliers, which must run into hundreds of thousands in Europe with many more in the US, Canada. These workers alone have a weight and enormous potential. A strike, an effective strike, in any one of the industries above would cause immediate serious problems for the state which explains why they have been, and to some extent continue to be, relatively well paid and heavily unionised.

kollwitz
 it is indisputable that the

 it is indisputable that the unions in the period of decadence have been the shopfloor cops for the bosses and have been cooperative with their class brothers the bosses to secure labor peace while helping to pass cuts and all sorts of other attacks.  in the period of decadence, with the unions integrated in the state apparatus, it has always been the case of 'making the workers more flexible' for the needs of capitalist accumulation.  that, the bourgeoisie has always understood,  comes with a little price:  higher wages and benefits. in this sense, it is difficult to believe that the existing labor regime has come into conflict with the needs of capitalist accumulation, as mhou suggests.  as mhou later suggests, the unions can find ways to ingratiate the ruling class, help it pass the attacks, and mainatin control among the workers for labor peace ON CONDITION that the workers do not mobilize and react seriously.  it seems to me that the real issue is that in its irrational way of trying to make the workers pay for the crisis, the union-busting temptations of the ruling class are taking a gamble based on the current state of disorientation and difficulty the working class is having in extending the combat and regaining confidence.  but that is what it is:  a gamble. as mhou points out, removing the unions creates a variable, but for now the ruling class thinks it can control that variable.  this does not mean it does not have a startegy and that other sectors of the ruling class do not know how to still make use of the unions.  thinking this way would really make workers vulnerable to the strategies already being implemented:  long battles of attrition, showcasing smaller 'successes' among less important sectors of the working class (janitors in houston, for ex), isolating the larger, more important sectors, derailing the struggle into the legalistic terrain (most notably the NBLR) etc.  the unions still do have a role to play.  i think i read somewhere else, too,  that the economics of union busting in  the wisconsin case just did not add up to the depleted conditions of the state's coffers.

it is true that, especially in the US, there is a long history of disputes within sectors of the ruling class regarding the value or necessity of having a unionized labor force, but it is only in the last decade or so that the anti-union stance has become an issue that provokes either deep divisions (see the failed attempts at making unionization easier only 5-6 years ago) within the ruling class or big embarrassment, like in the case during the chicago teachers' strikes, when a democratic mayor and a democratic candidate up for re--election either took a union-busting posture or kept silent, even at the risk or losing out on the votes. (did it come as a surprise to the ruling class that the discontent created at the workplace could be diverted by the unions into the electoral mystification?  did any sector of the ruling class wisen up as a result of the unions' loyal work? will this stop the most vicious proponenets of union busting from attempting to 'bust unions' even more?  it is very unlikely)  i think it is correct to say that this is the result of the economic crisis pushing sectors of the ruling class to madness, meaning, to lose sight of its own best interest in the wider context, only to give in to the pressures of the day, and of the effects of decomposition on those sectors of the ruling class which have always been historically more reactionary--even though now even the democrats are taking the lead.

implicit in the issue of the relative free-hand the ruling class has had with passing attacks (and thinking it can dispose of the unions) is again the question, raised again, of the recomposition of the working class.  deeper still, the issue of how the consciousness of the working class develops, and what to make of, or even if it exists, the SMC.  my post is already long, but it is clear these questions keep coming up, a sign, that a satisfactory understanding has not yet reached, and that we need to dig deeper.

i do not understand what is meant by "the structural changes/reconstruction of the current cycle of capitalist accumulation".  can you expalin? 

mhou
Quote:i do not understand

Quote:
i do not understand what is meant by "the structural changes/reconstruction of the current cycle of capitalist accumulation".  can you expalin?

I'm not sure how many of these facets others agree to when talking about the reconstruction of capitalism, but it usually refers to:

-Changes in international capitalist organization since the return of crisis after the post-war boom

-The change from Keynesian to neo-liberal policy

-The shift of productive industry largely from the central capitalist countries to emerging economies

-Capital's setting up of zones of production (such as the SEZ's/cluster of super-exploitation where labor laws are very liberal and extraction of surplus value is greater, such as the cluster in East Asia around China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea- not just manufacturing, but also agricultural clusters, zones where the majority of either manufacturing or agricultural is 'made' for the world); capital acting like an international, integrated system (rather than nationally or locally based), placing these zones according to the interests of the international system

-Corresponding changes in the working-class (in the central and peripheral countries), a 'recomposition' of the working-class due to these changes

-Some date this process from 1968 (time when the falling rate of profit collided with worker's struggles), 1971 (Nixon Shock, the collapse of Bretton-Woods), 1973 (oil crisis), and 1975 (Bordiga's predicted year that capitalism would re-enter crisis).

Edit: about the cycle. Some people have written about this era (post-1968) as defined by the form of the class struggle, that in a post-Fordist world that the forms of class struggle have changed as well. Then there's the economic business cycle views, that since the return of crisis and reconstruction, we're in a new cycle of accumulation/new business cycle. One example is the Trot Ernst Mandel, who wrote in the late 1960's that the boom was about to come to an end and crisis would return by using kontradieff waves to analyze the past. If a new long wave (kontradieff cycle) business cycle started at the end of the 1960's, we'd be near the end of it today.

LoneLondoner
Load of bollocks?

proper_propaganda wrote:

That old saying "You can kill a revolutionary but you can't kill an idea" seems like a "load of bollocks" to me.

Well, let's take an example. Rosa Luxemburg was killed and her body dumped in a canal in an attempt to prevent it being identified.

Then the counter-revolution (both democratic and stalinist), followed by world war, steam-rollered over the working class. Luxemburg's legacy to all intents and purposes disappeared.

Then came 1968 and the new uprising of class struggle. Suddenly you could find translations of Luxemburg into all sorts of languages (and her ideas remain current: when I lost the copy of Accumulation of Capital that I had bought in the 1970s, I was able to buy another copy in a new edition brought out in the 2000s.

Luxemburg's ideas were rediscovered because the historical situation and the class struggle meant that people were once again looking for them.

If the social conditions that produce an idea exist, then the idea will emerge (though of course that only happens through the active agency of living human beings. The idea can only be killed if the social conditions are "killed".

Pierre
Re:

LoneLondoner wrote:

If the social conditions that produce an idea exist, then the idea will emerge (though of course that only happens through the active agency of living human beings. The idea can only be killed if the social conditions are "killed".

Hadn't thought of it that way. But what about periods of intellectual deterioration like the "dark ages", which can last for centuries and centuries?

Could there be such thing as a communist "renaissance" where the common sense of people changes in such a way that it is beneficial to proletarian revolution, without necessitating every worker to be a "tried and true" militant? How would that relate to the "subconscious" proletarian "instinct" of workers?

commiegal
I am always sceptical about

I am always sceptical about the idea of "class consciousness" as described by Leninists, as it assumes that the working class are stupid and have to have a party to lead them out of their illusions, in my experience this is far from true. In my opinion a huge number of people are perfectly well aware of whats going on even if their views of it don't fit into a particular "tendency" (fuck mine definitely dont). somebody who only appears to be interested in football or whatever may surprise you, and if theres one thing ive learned in my life it is that you must never judge on appearances.

the one thing I would say is that the majority of people dont see how they can change anything, and also see politics as being "not for the likes of them" both of which are often true. It is made worse by the fact that ruling class ideology tries to give people that overall impression, by the constraints of money, time etc which stops people getting involved in anything radical, and also the fact that protest movements and strikes etc seldom succeed (although they sometimes do).

Does the ICC have a different view to how I have traditionally heard class consciousness described?

Pierre
Re:

Commiegal thanks for your post. I also feel skepticism about the nature of class concsiousness. Not just the "nature" though--- but the "idea" of it as well, what people mean when they use the term, etc etc.

As an "admonisher" of the ICC (although not officially a member) I might be able to point out a few things about the orgs stance on a few of the points and questions you have raised.

Pierre
On the question of how class

On the question of how class consciousness relates to the party there a few lines. The ICC views both communism itself and the party itself to both be conscious creations of the working class. Thus implying that the working class would need consciousness to create either the party or a communist society.

This is usually the point where the ICC comrades ask, "What is class consciousness?", and mention the necessity of continued discussion (or debate as some cdes call it) on the subject. But beyond that it would be important to an ICC comrade to also mention the "transient" nature of class consciousness. That to single out "class consciousness" as "an" ideology" is to single out the nature of ideology within capitalist society altogether.

There's a quote from Marx that usually gets thrown out around this point, "Consciousness is determined by existence.” The ICC says here that "The relative degree of consciousness achieved by humans, or more precisely by social classes, in the course of the production of the means of subsistence and the shaping of the natural and social environment, is strictly determined by material circumstances."

But there is a Trotsky quote that has also been given by ICC comrades from History of the Russian Revolution,

"In a revolution we look first of all at the direct interference of the masses in the dest­inies of society. We seek to uncover behind the events changes in the collective consciousness...This can seem puzzling only to one who looks upon the insurrection of the masses as ‘spontaneous' - that is, as a herd-mutiny art­ificially made use of by leaders. In reality the mere existence of privations is not enough to cause an insurrection, if it were, the masses would always be in revolt...The immediate causes of the events of a revolution are changes in the state of mind of the conflicting classes... Changes in the collective consciousness have naturally a semi-concealed character. Only when they have attained a certain degree of intensity do the new moods and ideas break to the surface in the form of mass activities."

Pierre
Before I leave my comments up

Before I leave my comments up for discussion, here's a few more important things I left out of the first two posts.

The ICC believes the party should be distinguishable from the working class. As it says "the activity of the entire class is irreplaceable. Revolutionary consciousness, like the political emancipation of the proletariat, is the work of the workers themselves." The ICC also believes the party should be distinguishable from the state, or in the event of a international revolution the "semi"-states that would  concievably still be around for a while.

The ICC distinguishes itself from other "parties" and groups (which claim to be the holy harbingers of proletarian revolution), and most ICC comrades would probably tell you the ICC isn't "the" organization that will go on to "build" "the party" which will lead a global communist revolution.
 

Pierre
But probably the most

But probably the most fundamental point is that there is definitely a need for a international proletarian party, even with roles and functions that become highly debatable.

This isn't the ICC's idea (nor would they say are any ideas), they don't own it, and most other groups in the left comm milieu also agree with the need of this party... I think. Pretty sure.

The most compelling evidence for the need of this international proletarian party are the global events following the Russian revolution and ending with the collapse of the Third ("Communist") International.
 

commiegal
yes I agree that there needs

yes I agree that there needs to be a party. Although to be honest I don't know what I believe myself at the moment. However I always thought that the party would/should be to organise tactics and strategy better and provide practical help rather than to tell everyone what to do.

mhou
There's an article on

There's an article on ICCOnline, I don't know if it was posted by a member or supporter, that defends Kautsky's view of class consciousness in a letter to the CPGB (PCC) in rebuttal of their article on left communism. Yet in other places it's closer to Bordiga's conception (the communist minority as an organic creation of the class consciousness of the working-class, rather than outside of or above the class).

zimmerwald1915
minor point of contention

jk1921 wrote:
This may all seem on the surface like a minor point of contention about the precise location of the union bureacracies in the structure of the capitalist state, but it seems there are deeper issues at foot here regarding the overall point the crisis has reached, the gravity of the objective situation facing the working class.,the potential for Class Consciousness emerging as a result of the attacks, etc.

Where does the idea that parts of the big bourgeoisie can act irrationally, against the objective interests of capitalism, come from?  When talking about the USA, at least, the ICC always links this irrationality back to the effect of decomposition on the life of the bourgeoisie, that the bourgoisie's inability to marshal the working class leads it to all kinds of ideological flailing about.  The irony is that the theory of decomposition, which posits that the present epoch can lead to the final death of human society, leads comrades of the ICC to deny the possibility that sociological changes in the working class can contribute to this bleak outcome.

LoneLondoner
Denying sociological changes?

zimmerwald1915 wrote:

The irony is that the theory of decomposition, which posits that the present epoch can lead to the final death of human society, leads comrades of the ICC to deny the possibility that sociological changes in the working class can contribute to this bleak outcome.

Can you expand on that? I'm perplexed about what you think we are denying and why. What do you mean by "sociological changes"?

Alf
link

 

Mhou, you wrote that

There's an article on ICCOnline, I don't know if it was posted by a member or supporter, that defends Kautsky's view of class consciousness in a letter to the CPGB (PCC) in rebuttal of their article on left communism. Yet in other places it's closer to Bordiga's conception (the communist minority as an organic creation of the class consciousness of the working-class, rather than outside of or above the class).

 

can you send the link?

mhou
Here's the
Alf
quick look

I had a quick look at the article, which was written by the comrade who signs himself Zanthorus on the forums. There are things I don't agree with in the article, but I couldn't find a defence of Kautsky's theory. 

mikail firtinaci
some facts and figures

Ok. So I took my time used ILO numbers to figure out where we are statistically (http://www.ilo.org/global/statistics-and-databases/lang--en/index.htm)

The numbers below are a little bit vague. They include some high level professionals and agriculture also. I could not figure out how to exclude them but they are probably numerically insignificant - in Europe at least.

Here is the numbers:

Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Ireland, Norway, Finland, England, Poland, Check Republic, Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria): 202.727.000 workers

If you add the Balkan countries (30 mil) and Russia/Ukraine (about 90 mil) to that: 323 million (and I included the rural in this).

And if you want to have a total for the "west" and add Canada and US (162,5 mil) this will give you 485 million workers.

 

Asia: it is a little bit complicated when it comes to Asia. ILO stats include rural also w/o differentiating btw peasants and workers. But in the case of China for instance rural employement is less then half of all the employed. In the case of India the statistics are general and do not differentiate between the rural and urban even. Some countries are not even counted in the ILO numbers. But overall East/South Asia is (China, India, Cambodia, VietNam, Thailand, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines, South Kore, Pakistan, Banglades, Myanmar, Japan, Malaysia, Singapur, Sri Lanka): 1.564.000.000

Even if you assume that a significant portion of that number is peasantry (lets say lets than half because in case of Japan you can expect a very insignificant rate) it will be probably more than 800 million workers.

Only the service sector workers in China are more than 60 millions!

When you look at Central/South America (again including the rural numbers): 218 mil.

Also if you add to this middle East triangle (Turkey, Iran, Egypt): about 70 mil (almost equally distributed btw the three countries)

So Generally speaking middle East plus Half of the South/Central America plus East/South Asia counts to a number of (very roundly speaking): 1 billion workers... And I did not even added central Asia and Africa to that.

So compared to Europe and North America, "Thirld World" basically holds at least and in the loosest calculation more than 2/3s of the world proletariat.

mhou
This is the part I

This is the part I remembered:

Quote:

Conrad claims that the German-Dutch Left wanted workers' to abandon the apparently natural forms of labour organisation of the old trade union apparatus for a 'brand new and immaculate' form of organisation, which in reality was an entirely 'artificial'. A comparison is made with the  many futile modern projects to create a new 'labour' party, apparently Conrad thinks that an attempt to organise workers' outside and against the trade-union bureaucracy is in anyway comparable to Labourism, an ideology based on the upper levels of same said bureaucracy..

But what exactly does it mean to critique an organisation on the basis that it is 'artificial'? That it is not a product of spontaneous action by the workers perhaps? This is the only interpretation that I can think of. If this is so, then I think I would not be out of place in noting a 'subordination to spontaneity' in this thesis, perhaps even a somewhat 'slavish' one. Perhaps Conrad would do well to remember the 'profoundly true and important' words of Karl Kautsky to the effect that socialism itself was not a product of the proletariat but of the bourgeois intelligentsia, and that it was this strata that communicated the socialist idea to working-class militants who in their turn introduced socialist ideas into the class movement where conditions allowed. Should we reject socialism and Marxism because they are 'artificial' and not products of the 'pure' workers movement (as, I would add, some anti-communists have indeed attempted to do)? And remind me again who here is supposed to have the fetish for purity?

Fred
proper_propaganda wrote: The

proper_propaganda wrote:
The ICC views both communism itself and the party itself to both be conscious creations of the working class. Thus implying that the working class would need consciousness to create either the party or a communist society.

Yes p_p the idea and the genuine possibility of building communism is a product of working class existence - it's their idea - not a product of tbe bourgeoisie or some smarty pants intelligentsia, which may or may not include Kaustky. Marx,Engels and comrades in the Communist League didn't I believe see themselves as an "intelligentsia", even though some of them came from bourgeois backgrounds, but as the advanced guard of the revolutionary working class. Were they mistaken in this? The bourgeoisie would say yes. As a communist I say no. For who else could be a communist but someone who has understood something of the way capitalist society functions; and has become identified with, or espoused,or realized the true nature of his or her own material interests, or even some sort of "natural" or sociological connection to the life and being of the working class, and thus acknowledged his proletarian existence as a compelling and happy fact. Happy, because proletarian consciousness is a kind of freedom, and a thing to be welcomed as liberating in this capitalist hell- hole of a world.

As to the "implication" that the class would need consciousness to create either the party or communism itself...well of course it would! The realization and understanding of what we want to do in building a new revolutionary society,plus an idea of how to do it, in short CONSCIOUSNESS, is precisely the major distinction between the proletariat, the revolutionary class, and the bourgeoisie. It is this fully developing consciousness available to the working class, and not to the bourgeoisie, whose own relations of production leave them mentally backward in comparison, that make the proletariat the revolutionary class today, and not the bourgeoisie whose more or less total immersion in their own ideology - a pack of lies and deceit no less - leave them capable these days of little of a positive nature.

Either the working class in sufficient numbers internationally attains enough consciousness to make the communist revolution succeed, or it doesn't. Humanity's future is at stake. Revolutionary consciousness is irreplaceable. The emancipation of us workers, is our own job; nobody can do it for us; certainly not the Unions! And as the most conscious part of the class, at least to begin with, the international communist party is vital to our success.

Alf
next time, I'll read it more thoroughly.....

Next time, I'll read it more thoroughly. You're right, mhou, it does look like a defence of Kautsky's thesis, although it's possible that the author is being cryptically ironic about the CPGB's drift towards Kautskyism. It's a pity that he doesn't post on this forum any more, although he does on red-marx. 

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