partial struggles discussion

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jaycee
partial struggles discussion
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Thought I might go over some of the points raised yesterday in the discussion on partial struggles. 

In terms of the points I made I think I tried to go through too many ideas in one go so I'll try and be clearer here.

With regard to my point about 'whiteness' I think I was misunderstood a little bit; the idea of inequalities within the class is nothing new. Marx spoke about the way 'foreign' labour was used to undermine solidarity and drive down wages and conditions. The point I was getting at was that 'race' is an important aspect of this.

The whole notion of a white 'identity/community' has always been a version of this divide and rule. My point was that the way this effects workers on a psychological level needs to be analysed. It is ultimately no different to any other 'privilege' (the notion of privilege is a dangerous illusion for the class but also has real effects and a certain reality for and on the class). This point links also to the idea of the the 'intergration' of the class in bourgeois society/legalism. The idea of identifying with our masters is one important aspect of this tendency and in order to overcome this we need to study and discuss it with a depth that goes beyond bourgeois notions. 

My wider point was that the obsession with 'identity' is not only an expression  of decomposition/individualism taken to its logical extreme but needs to be understood in terms of the relationship between 'matter'  and ideology more generally.

Identity itself can be seen as inherently conservative as it tends to solidify,  naturalise and mystify social relations but this is only part of the story. Humanity cannot live without identity and we as Marxists have to have a dialectical approach to this question. The proletarian 'identity' is not like other identities:

Firstly in the positive sense that it represents a solution to all partial struggles and in the sense that proletarian identity is one of overcoming its limited sense of self because the real proletarian identity is an identity that aims at its own destruction/overcoming. But the proletarian identity also poses difficulties due to its 'negative' character. It is an identity of lack, of the loss of community and in a deep sense of the lack of real identity/alienation inherent in  capitalist relations. This is part of why such meaningless and arbitrary identities such as black or white can have such a hold on people and why the search for identity is so fervant in capitalist society (particularly in its most 'developed' forms i.e the West in the era of decomposition)..

Another idea I wanted to get across but don't think I did properly was that there is a question to answer regarding the motivational power of identity/ideology/myth. As Marxists we see that ideology is often a cloak for material factors but it is equally true that people throughout history have tended to NEED this cloak and I don't think this can be entirely explained by the need to obscure class relations. It seems to go deeper than this. Material factors alone do not consciously motivate people without such 'myths'. Why this tends to be the case is an important question in understanding the current state of class struggle and consciousness but also 'human nature' itself.

Forumteam
class identity is the key issue

The ICC has been discussing the question of “partial” struggles/identity politics with a number of contacts, and jaycee’s post arises from one of these discussions. We think it’s a valid concern to want to deepen the problem of identity in human history, even going back to before the rise of class society, but we also think the key issue posed in the post is that of the class identity of the proletariat, which expresses its nature as the first exploited  class in history to be also a revolutionary class, and which is the theoretical basis for our critique of identity politics and single issue movements around race and gender, of inter-classist protests, etc.  Comrades who want to develop this discussion can refer to the text presented to the 23rd ICC Congress: Report on the class struggle : Formation, loss and re-conquest of proletarian class identity | International Communist Current (internationalism.org)

joan
partial struggles & identity politcs

I think both the contribution of jaycee and of the forum team are valuable contributions to the discussion.

Jaycee :

1) It is an attitude to be appreciated and encouraged to try to clarify points of view that one has put forward and which one feels (fears) one has not been clear enough about, that there may be misunderstandings about.
"In terms of the points I made I think I tried to go through too many ideas in one go so I'll try and be clearer here.With regard to my point about 'whiteness' I think I was misunderstood a little bit..."
Such clarifications (or attempts at them) are far too few (and I, too, admit guilt in my relation to the ICC).

2) On a very first, very cursory reading, I thought: again about the partial struggle, again about "identity", again someone who thinks that these issues are "forgotten" by the ICC and other Marxists, who swear only by the working class and its class struggle, who are only interested in the "base" (the economy) and not enough in the "superstructure" (the ideological, the cultural, etc.),who , does not take into account other aspects of society and of life, all kinds of other specific forms of oppression and exploitation.
In other words, the discourse that is so often seen and heard among anti-racist activists, feminists, LGBT+ activists, environmental and climate activists, etc., whereby in the "best case" (?) the workers' struggle becomes one of the many struggles (against sexual oppression, against the war, against "right-wing", against indifference and hatred towards refugees, etc., etc.).
But fortunately nothing of the sort.
A closer reading revealed that it mainly advocates a deeper study of the aspects of "race" and "identity" in the working class struggle, without in any way diminishing the primordial role of the working class and its class struggle.
At least that is how I understand this contribution.

The forum team says :
"
We think it's a valid concern to want to deepen the problem of identity in human history, even going back to before the rise of class society, but we also think the key issue posed in the post is that of the class identity of the proletariat, which expresses its nature as the first exploited class in history to be also a revolutionary class, and which is the theoretical basis for our critique of identity politics and single issue movements around race and gender, of inter-classist protests, etc."  A

I myself have at the moment nothing to add to the subject.

I only refer to the very interesting articles on the history of the working class in the USA (and even before the founding of the USA) and on the "race question" in the USA. (Note 1)
It is clearly stated that the division into black and white in particular was from the outset a
conscious, Machiavellian policy of the bourgeoisie to divide and thus weaken the working class.

In this context, see also the testimony of the ICC militant Jerry Grevin, who demonstrates once again how "weird" and complicated the "race" question often is.

"As a militant of ICC, his political arguments would often be illustrated by vivid images, drawn from his own experience.

One such described an incident in the American South, where his gang of New York telephone workers had been sent on a job. A black worker in the group was victimized by management for some alleged misdemeanor; the New Yorkers sprang to his defense, to the surprise of their Southern co-workers: "Why bother?" they asked, "he's only a nigger". To which one of the New Yorkers vigorously replied that color didn't matter, that workers were all workers together, and that they had to defend each other against the bosses. "Now the remarkable thing", Jerry would conclude, "is that this guy who was strongest in defense of the black worker, was known in the group as a racist who himself had moved to Long Island to avoid living in a black neighborhood. And that shows how class struggle and solidarity is the only real antidote to racism".”(Note 2)

 

Note 1 

–  ‘Notes on the early class struggle in America - Part I: The birth of the Americanproletariat’,

 https://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201303/6529/notes-early-

 ICConline – 2013  » March 2013

–  ‘The birth of American democracy: “Tyranny is tyranny”’, 

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201402/9461/birth-american-dem

ICConline – 2014  » February 2014

Notes on the early class struggle in America: Part 3 - The birth of the US workers’ movement and the difficult struggle for class unity

 https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201402/9461/birth-american-dem...   ICConline – 2019  » April 2019

The American Civil War and the struggle for working class unity

https://en.internationalism.org/content/16709/american-civil-war-and-str... - 

ICConline – 2019  » July 2019

USA: the struggle of the workers’ movement against slavery and racism (Part 1)

https://en.internationalism.org/content/16962/usa-struggle-workers-movem...

  World Revolution 388 - Winter 2021 Submitted by ICConline on 29 January, 2021 -

 

USA: the struggle of the workers’ movement against slavery and racism (Part 2)

https://en.internationalism.org/content/17017/usa-struggle-workers-movem...

World Revolution 389 - Summer 2021

 

USA: the struggle of the workers’ movement against slavery and racism (Part 3)

https://en.internationalism.org/content/17078/usa-struggle-workers-movem...

World Revolution 390 - Autumn 2021

 

Note 2

The ICC's tribute to our comrade Jerry Grevin

  https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2010/03/jerry-grevin ICConline – 2010  » March 2010

d-man
a sin to err

jaycee wrote:
Identity itself can be seen as inherently conservative as it tends to solidify,  naturalise and mystify social relations but this is only part of the story. Humanity cannot live without identity ..

Leaving aside the ICC's choice of the term 'identity' (which already in 1827 was criticised, for its vacuity), the Nietzschean response to your claim about the alleged need for a mental crutch, would be, that a prime candidate for this crutch can be located in the comforting feeling of righteous indignation and outrage, expressed also during fights for social justice, against oppression of certain groups, in a revolt of the herd animal within existing mass society, against the privileged (which can mean liberal elites/the PMC, just as well as the hegemonic "conservative/backward" working class). This feeling of comfort includes hatred and resentment. It is a revolt that destroys and tears down, but, given that everyone revolts, it also is responsible for building and maintaining what exists. The identity of a pyromaniac, in a cold winter (aka the conformist rebel). The fire of revolt is heroic, beautiful, intense, but so too construction (or preservation) can be not only boring, traditional, difficult, but rather likewise a heroic, beautiful challenge of keeping the true authentic flame (of civilisation) alive, protecting it against the omnipresent dark ugliness and shallowness of barbarians who wish to extinguish it, ie to destroy (burn down) fire itself. But what is the precise error in holding this comfortable feeling of revolt, hatred, justice and righteousness?

A person without a leg is perfectly in their right to use a crutch – that's what crutches are made for, to cope with walking. If a person with functioning legs used a crutch, the crutch could cause their legs to atrophy, but then a crutch would acquire its right to be used, given that the person indeed now has become too weak to walk without it. The use of a mental crutch thus can be an inherent need, even though this need was first caused by use of the mental crutch. The answer apparently is, that the error lies in the holding of the mental feeling(/identity), because holding it, causes the need for holding it. And yet, crutches have their use, why would they have been made otherwise!, – one could reason, like a drug addict with a headache from bumping their head against a wall. If the error were like an addiction, it would not be easy to correct it. Can it be avoided in the first place? How do you recognise or judge it, if you haven't tried and experienced its taste? Or is it perhaps insulting, reductive and misleading to compare the noblest, 100% sincerest, deepest, urgent feelings of outrage, comfort, etc., to the simple effects of a mere chemical (and besides, if the brain is capable of producing dopamine, there must be a right use to it, so the error in itself cannot lie in experiencing the chemical effect)? In any case, such analogy does not seem to clarify what the mistake or error exactly is. "Haters gonna hate" (to paraphrase Nietzsche), is not an explanation. It is not even a condemnation (of sin) either, but supposedly a cool indifference (why then talk about it at all though?). No thanks will be given for such wisdom, so don't expect them. Expect more hatred from the haters, for saying such a stupid thing.

 

d-man
more on mental crutch

As I wrote above, the mental crutch that is "identity", which people rely on in order to cope "with reality", can be regarded (just on a Nietzschean level) as a mistake, but it is difficult to specify what this mistake exactly is, and avoid seeing it just as a sinful fault (requiring mere self-denunciation), so let me try again.

As noted, one method of psychologically coping "with reality" is a retreat to the comforting world-weary feeling of moral righteousness, which can involve resentment and hatred (against the privileged). This is not just external signalling of one's virtue, but a deep-felt need, a crutch.

Another psychological way to cope with reality is that of narcissistic pride in (dealing with) suffering, eg the bragging of hard men parodied in the Four Yorkshiremen sketch (so btw this is a general method, used not only by people coming from marginal groups). This focus on the ability (or self-condemning lack thereof) to cope with reality is perhaps what in online lingo is praised as "being based" or "red-pilled", and is perhaps equivalent to the conept of Being-in-the-World (Heidegger), while in Nietzschean terms, I don't know, it is perhaps called acknowledgement of the death of God and the overcoming of man. Often those who use the word "cope" as a negative (in the sense of "excuse"), pride thelmselves most of the ability to cope with reality. That is, it is grit, it is embracing depression (the world is not a happy place, not a safe space). It's not clear if this way of coping still can be classified as the signalling of a specific virtue (unlike the allleged good niceness with the first method), because the person wishes to focus just on their individual method of self-growth (their own talent, intellectual wisdom, original insight into people, etc.). If there is any virtue to be found here, it is perhaps the virtue of the survivor, of being and staying alive, of steadfast resistance (against haters or phobes). Yet despite the lack of moralistic posturing (with its hypocrisy, etc.) in this method, we have here likewise still a mental crutch, a source of pride deeply inside, a desire for self-respect, a vital and unique (special snowflake) identity or independent authentic lifestyle. To be deprived of the (illusory) ideal of oneself, would be experienced as a loss of respect, a mental breakdown, an erasure of one's very existence. But is "letting go" of this method of coping even possible? Is this method of coping even an error that could be avoided?

I write about the mental crutch of pride in (or desire for) coping with reality. A mental crutch (cope) can, it seems to me, thus also consist in having (or wanting) a crutch (mental ability to cope) in the abstract (unlike with the at least somewhat more concrete method of righteousness). It's a desire of having the right attitude/mindset, having a spirit of coping. The mental crutch is the wish itself to have a mental crutch. "Fake it until you make it" (to paraphrase Pascal, or Butler's concept of performativity). In my previous post I speculated, among others things, how the use itself of a crutch could cause the need (and so desire) for its use to arise (which would indicate the problem lies mostly in its use). Now I add, that the act of wishing for (or pretending to have) a mental crutch (ability to cope with reality), is the crutch in its pure form, which would indicate the problem lies not in its use (actually practising an identity), but in the wish for/pretense of using(/having) an identity.

If a person, whose legs function, avoids the use of a crutch (and so avoids atrophy of their legs, as in the example I gave in my previous post), it thus I think still is possible in other way for this person to become unable to walk (without a crutch), namely by having so strong a desire for a crutch (not a desire for walking, but a desire for the crutch), that, in order to obtain a crutch, they would be willing to neglect/refuse walking (ie they would refuse to get up from their knees).

 

joan
partial struggles & identity politcs

d-man,

what do you mean by the abbreviation  PMC (  #4 line 10 )?

 

d-man
I don't know what the exact

I don't know what the exact conceptual content of PMC is worth (also, I do reject the use of the concept "gender", used by the Forumteam earlier); the letters stand for professional-managerial class.

Criticism of "identity" is not just about the choice for this particular term, but refers to the whole concept of "person".

Bordiga wrote:
... it is sought to reduce the problems of social struggle and historical development ... to development, conquests or the liberation of the “human person”. ... propaganda from all sides keep calling her (ie the person) to the stage, even though she is the dumbest of all the misses or queens who “circulate” for today’s foolish and highly successful publications.

https://libriincogniti.wordpress.com/2019/10/24/on-the-thread-of-time-marxism-and-the-human-person/

But criticism of identity (/ego, self-representation, etc) should avoid falling into mere denunciation of it. The following quote, from a book's section entitled "Demeaning oneself as service: The happiness of the Christian individual", reminds me simply of Nietzsche again:

Quote:

... the method of taking one’s own weaknesses as the badge of a sort of person to be unconditionally respected, of awarding oneself a unique advantage with all one’s self-denunciation, can score a success in bourgeois society ... The Christian mania of being deeply steeped in sin, with its hypocritical humility that undauntedly claims to be fighting materialism in oneself and especially in others, is ... considered ... as a realization of the human spirit per se. ... the deepest expression of gratitude for undeserved benefit. ... neither the eating nor the knowing redounds to the individual’s finding his real humanity, and morality always appears as supreme happiness. (And there is really no more to the idea of happiness!) The demonstration of religious simpleness is not one of righteousness, but always one of happiness, which befalls mankind with Pope, liturgy, joyful renunciation, and the declaration of powerlessness.

https://en.gegenstandpunkt.com/books/chapter-11-madness-and-normality

Criticism of religion (the most famous mental crutch), I think should avoid sounding like an ex-Christian, who renounces their former Christianity, as a sin. The common criticism of the Church apropos its belief in a geocentric conception of the universe, and now even human-centric bias (there might be ET life), seems to have as its drive a moral condemnation of man's narcissism, that is lack of humility.

joan
 PMC (...) the letters stand

 PMC (...) the letters stand for professional-managerial class.

Many thanks for the explantion

joan
correction

 PMC (...) the letters stand for professional-managerial class.

Many thanks for the explanation 

jaycee
Thanks gor the support Joan.

Thanks gor the support Joan. I'm glad it's clear I'm not supporting identity politics.

D-man: I appreciate the attempt to clarify your points and to go deeper into the question of identity itself. I think that that there's an important difference between the concept of a cloak and a crutch though. 

Identity itself can certainly be seen as a crutch; a way to impose order and 'safety' on a chaotic and 'dangerous' reality but the idea of a cloak is a little wider I think. I'll come back to this distinction in a bit though.

With regards to Nietzche I think he in many ways represents highest and lowest points of bourgeois thought. On the one hand he had great insights into the hypocrisy and emptiness of contemporary ideology but could not replace these with anything of substance. Like the bourgeoisie itself he could destroy all values but couldn't replace them with anything other than those of the lone individual facing an indifferent or hostile universe. Unfortunately beliefs and values held by one person alone is ultimately just madness. 

Only a true community can develop true identity and a truly human worldview. This brings us back to the idea of cloaks; a cloak can be seen simply as a means to hide and decieve but it can also be a vital piece of clothing. Humans exist in community and hence in a world of ideas and shared values. 

In this sense the 'cloak' of mythology and identity is intimately linked to the nature of culture itself. It also seems true that these ideas are often as great and at times greater influences than 'material reality' alone. However as you have I think alluded to this attachment to these cloaks can also be a way of avoiding reality as they can be to create a new reality.

In terms of identity politics alot of the attachment has to do with avoiding the truth of responsibility; we as a species and the proletariat in particular do not want to see the true state of the world and the need for action. The scale is simply too overwhelming; risking our lives in what looks like an impossible fight leads people to chose other 'partial struggles' especially when we can still get by in our chains and material reality is still relatively comfortable.

This is where the idea of 'privilege' comes in to play; we are all part of a system that is at the root of all the oppression, environmental destruction and crimes around the world. We (in the west in particular) have been taught to a greater and greater extent to identify with our masters and this has a dual effect of increasing feelings of guilt and therefore of projection onto others while also increasing the sense of powerlessness outside of the structures of the system.

Again I'm not sure I expressed myself as clearly as I wanted but there are also important questions with regard to the nature of proletarian identity; it is revolutionary or it is nothing. This is a serious problem because revolutions are very rare. The faith it takes to make a revolution is more and more something people do not have and find increasingly difficult to even conceive of. Part of the problem is to achieve an identity which is not simply a crutch; identity which does not want to hold onto itself but to abolish itself.

This is a question which has been developed most gully and systematically in Buddhist philosophy and other mystical traditions. At least they went further than Nietzche but I will stop there before adding too many questions.

 

 

 

d-man
The notion of bliss/happiness

The notion of bliss/happiness perhaps coincides with the notion of ego-death/oceanic-feeling/Nirvanna. I insist however, that a critique of identity/personality/ego, should not be a mere denunciation of it, not be a mere call for humility, self-effacement (which is present in religion already), but should explain the precise logical error of this mental crutch, which I claim includes the attachment to the pursuit of happiness/identity/self-realisation. A self-effacing religious person would hold, that the material pursuit of (or the mere wish for) happiness is what prevents the attainment of happiness (one should strive instead for spiritual enlightenment etc.), without doubting, though, the value of bliss/knowledge of god (which exists already in everyday life or in meditation). The problem with identity/bliss cannot be reduced to its mere biological (chemical/brain-waves) manifestations, as these seem quite natural (the inducement of trance in primitive peoples, and perhaps one might find examples of such behavioural paths to ecstasy even in other species, including spiders who sense musical vibrations).

The critique of identity/the ego includes the critique of blissful self-effacement, as just another mental crutch (besides righteousness and character). In my analogy of righteousness (and other methods of coping with reality, ie conformism) to a mental crutch I specified, that a crutch in itself isn't a bad thing (how would you even try to criticise a crutch?). It's obvious that participants in (ultimately conformist) struggles feel themselves to be righteous, steadfast or humble (their opponents evil, lucky or arrogant), and that such framing keeps them busy/coping (engaged in struggle). It's another thing, to explain where their error lies and so how to avoid it.

jaycee wrote:
a cloak can be seen simply as a means to hide and decieve but it can also be a vital piece of clothing.

I try to avoid condemning the use of a crutch (identity as a way of coping, ie conforming with the world), as morally bad. Let's call it just a "non-vital" use, ie in my example by a person with functioning legs. In your analogy of a cloak, a non-vital use could be during beautiful weather. In my example, the non-vital use of the crutch causes a negative effect, namely atrophy of leg muscles, which prevents (naturally) walking. The non-vital use of a cloak (during a heat wave) causes a heat stroke. In my example, the answer to the negative effect leads to more use of the crutch, ie continued use, like an addictive drug. If I think about your example of the cloak, the negative effect (of heat stroke) could perhaps be answered by waiving the cloak (for cool breeze). Such non-vital use of the cloak has then become vital, for cooling a person with heat stroke.

To criticise conformist beliefs/identity (ie which help cope with reality), by comparing them simply to an object like a crutch (or even a cloak) would be nonsensical. I picked a crutch, which has an uncontroverted reputation as a beneficial object (unlike eg opium). My analogy was (and I should expand on it maybe further) just an attempt to locate the error of psychological coping mechanisms like identity.

Quote:
... the attachment has to do with avoiding the truth of responsibility; we as a species and the proletariat in particular do not want to see the true state of the world and the need for action. The scale is simply too overwhelming; ...  The faith it takes to make a revolution is more and more something people do not have and find increasingly difficult to even conceive of. Part of the problem is to achieve an identity which is not simply a crutch; identity which does not want to hold onto itself but to abolish itself.

I tend to hold, that the use of crutches leads people as a consequence to avoid understanding and changing the reality (ie instead they merely cope with reality), whereas you seem to hold the reverse, that people first avoid reality and thereby as a consequence they settle on the use of crutches, and this seems to diminish the importance of criticising identity/coping-mechanisms.

When we say the proleratiat needs to abolish itself, it refers to a social relation, not an identity. Why would there be a need to abolish the great "faith"/confidence (identity, a term which the ICC seems to prefer over the old-fashioned proletarian conscioussness), that is, on what grounds is there a need to abolish the understanding of the total picture of capitalism and ability to overthrow it? How could it even be erased from its memory, maybe by burning the ICC's pamphlets?

jaycee
Sorry but I don't understand

Sorry but I don't understand this: " Why would there be a need to abolish the great "faith"/confidence (identity, a term which the ICC seems to prefer over the old-fashioned proletarian conscioussness), that is, on what grounds is there a need to abolish the understanding of the total picture of capitalism and ability to overthrow it?" 

Also you seem to be separating the social relation from the identity which I don't quite understand either. Proletarian identity (knowing our social rekation/reality) is an essential step in overcoming that reality,  no?

jaycee
Sorry but I don't understand

Sorry but I don't understand this: " Why would there be a need to abolish the great "faith"/confidence (identity, a term which the ICC seems to prefer over the old-fashioned proletarian conscioussness), that is, on what grounds is there a need to abolish the understanding of the total picture of capitalism and ability to overthrow it?" 

Also you seem to be separating the social relation from the identity which I don't quite understand either. Proletarian identity (knowing our social rekation/reality) is an essential step in overcoming that reality,  no?

d-man
I quote your statement again:

I quote your statement again:

jaycee wrote:
Part of the problem is to achieve an identity which is not simply a crutch; identity which does not want to hold onto itself but to abolish itself.

^ Here, in the first part of the sentence, you speak of a proletarian identity, as something that needs to be "achieved", as something that we should build or foster. The meaning of 'proletarian identity' you use here, thus, cannot be that of the social relation of the proletariat, since the proletariat is a reality we already have "achieved", that is, it is the just existing reality. I understood you thus here to separate the existing social relation (that is the proletariat) from the (still to be achieved) identity.

Since I took your term 'proletarian identity' as meaning the ability (or wish) of the proletariat to overthrow the reality (that is the social relation of capital), my objection (or question) to you, I repeat, was: why is there a need for you to search for an identity that doesnt't want to hold onto itself, but wants to 'abolish itself'? Is there even a possiblity for a proletarian identity (= defined as the wish to overthrow the social relation of capitalism) to exist, that would not wish to abolish its identity (=defined as the social relation of capitalism)? It seemed you were worried about his possibility, and considered it as a big problem.

Now you imply that you merely hold, that since there won't be a proletariat in existence any longer (in the post-revolutionary situation), there automatically won't be a subject to practice (or uphold) this identity, and that was the only meaning of your claim, that the 'proletarian identity' will be abolished. If that was your sole (trivial) point, the problem of abolishing 'proletarian identity' would be non-existent; since once you abolish the social relation, then there is no subject to uphold the identity. You would have simply stated, that the "problem" is abolishing the reality of the social relations of the capitalist mode of production. But I don't believe that your point was simply to recall what the task of the proletariat consists of; I think rather, you wished to find or achieve a crutch, that the proletariat would need as something essential to complete its task (and you also assume that it is already conscious of the task, and of the task's great scope).

My question thus remains: if 'identity' is a tool (and not the existing social relation) that is needed to help the proletariat fulfil its task, then what grounds is there, what meaning if any can there be, in your search for the need for a desire to abolish that tool?

 

Forumteam
importance of clarification on the problem of identity politics

The discussion on partial struggles is an important one because the revival and unification of the class faced with the crisis of the system finds itself constantly obstructed by the proliferation of revolts and protests which tends to dissolve the working class into the mass of the population, or fragment it into innumerable categories and false communities. The critique of identity politics becomes a vital part in the reconstitution of the proletariat as a force opposed to capital.

The discussion on this thread has sometimes wandered off into abstraction or into other questions but the key issue can be summed up in D-Man’s last post, apparently criticising Jaycee’s view that proletarian identity has the unique project of abolishing itself:

“Since I took your term 'proletarian identity' as meaning the ability (or wish) of the proletariat to overthrow the reality (that is the social relation of capital), my objection (or question) to you, I repeat, was: why is there a need for you to search for an identity that doesnt't want to hold onto itself, but wants to 'abolish itself'? Is there even a possiblity for a proletarian identity (= defined as the wish to overthrow the social relation of capitalism) to exist, that would not wish to abolish its identity (=defined as the social relation of capitalism)?”

In our view, the proletariat needs to recover its class identity, or in other words its awareness of itself as a distinct force in capitalist society, not only to fight for its interests inside capitalist society, but in order to take power and transform the social relations of production. In moving towards a communist society, its ultimate goal is indeed to abolish itself as a class (and thus its class identity of course): not by dissolving itself into the mass of other classes, but by integrating the whole of humanity into associated labour. We thus reject the view of the so-called “communisers”, the modernists who argue that the very idea of a working class identity has become a problem in itself and that the content of the revolution is the immediate self-negation of the working class. On the contrary, the revolution is the self-affirmation of the proletariat as the revolutionary class which will ultimately end all class divisions. So, in recognising that the proletariat recovers its class identity with the final aim of overcoming it, we must be careful not to fall into the traps laid by the modernists just as we reject calls for the working class to dissolve itself into movements defined by race, sexuality, gender or any other “partial” category.

On the more concrete question of how to develop the communist critique of identity politics faced with all the ambient confusions in the milieu of the communist left, as well as among anarchists and others, we invite comrades to respond to our critique of the Anarchist Communist Group’s recent pamphlet on the question: ACG and identity politics: a very inadequate break | International Communist Current (internationalism.org)

d-man
The word/concept gender, used

The word/concept gender, used throughout the ICC's article, is a concession to identity politics. The word sex is being erased. Phrases like, "the traditional gender hierarchies of Egyptian society", also just do not sound like a real Marxist would write, or what one would expect from the ICC. I recall that, even such a modernist like Gilles Dauvé refuses to use the modernist word/concept of gender, so the choice exists, and you made a choice. Just as I have noted, that gender terminology has crept into the ICT's writings, eg: "We are the class on whose exploitation this system is built; whatever our genders, sexualities, races";" Workers of all genders, unite!". The ICT shows its preference for one side, by subsuming gender-critical feminists under a conservative approach: "The current controversy around the GRA is a recent expression of contradictions between conservative and liberal approaches of the ruling class." 

So though one may try to dodge the actual controversy (in substance primarily about gender ideology), and try to place oneself above it, the mere choice of language already betrays a taking of sides in the quarrel. A formal appeal to unity or to less divisive methods of struggle, remains without effect.

About identity politics in general, your critique of the ACG boils down to its allowance for the organisation of autonomous groups. To play the ACG's advocate though, this position could be just due to their anarchist belief in the value of a federalist structure. They would perhaps also allow affiliation of groups based around a certain trade/occupation (or eg the unemployed). Your critique seems to stay on a formal level about the importance of unity. The ACG could hold, that unity is best achieved by a federation. The subject could further shift, to the question of the right to factions within the party. But this assumes that the different groups are fundamentally already engaged in the same struggle (or would you dare to say that eg the Bund was outside the workers' movement? - I think Zinoviev showed their demands were bourgeois) and it's just a matter of finding the best way to coordinate everyone.

What defines partial struggles is not just, that they're formally partial/isolated/divisive, but that they have a different content from the "total" socialist struggle. They certainly engage in struggle, and this can include radical/illegal forms, so one can't condemn them for lacking revolutionary zeal/heart.

joan
I apologise for not answering

I apologise for not answering at this time to the invitation to respond to the article on the position of the ACG in relation to identity politics.

But I do agree with the position of the Forumteam.
Quote
"In our view, the proletariat needs to recover its class identity, or in other words its awareness of itself as a distinct force in capitalist society, not only to fight for its interests inside capitalist society, but in order to take power and transform the social relations of production.
In moving towards a communist society, its ultimate goal is indeed to abolish itself as a class (and thus its class identity of course): not by dissolving itself into the mass of other classes, but by integrating the whole of humanity into associated labour.”
(set in bold by me)
But besides the two aspects or elements mentioned (clearly defining itself as a class in itself and ultimately dissolving itself into humanity), there is a third aspect/element, which is inseparable from the other two, namely the ability of the working class in and through its struggle to unite other layers of society behind it.
By other layers I mean here those layers at the very bottom of society, who are permanently in an extremely precarious situation (and who, precisely because of this position, can understandably all too often be used as strong-arm boys (assault group) against the workers' struggle and in all sorts of "partial struggles") as well as all sorts of intermediate layers between the bourgeoisie and the working class). (Note 1 )

I think that the better the working class manifests itself as an independent force, the better it can unite other layers of society behind it, the better, the quicker it can dissolve itself, after the political revolution, as a class (together with all other classes and layers) in a world community of associated labour (without being under any illusion that this can happen immediately or at very short time(as anarchists and others imagine it)).

It is the case that for the first time in history an exploited class is also a revolutionary class, that is, a class that embodies another society.
But it is also for the first time in history that
for a revolutionary class "its ultimate goal is indeed to abolish itself as a class (and thus its class identity of course)".
The bourgeoisie, too, was once a revolutionary class

(Note 2), but it was not and is not an exploited class (except perhaps in its own image), nor is its goal, neither other ruling classes in history, to abolish itself.
On the contrary, it has the idea that its society is the ultimate, the only possible society (an idea it shares with earlier ruling classes), that the disappearance of capitalism (or the "socially corrected free market economy") will also mean the disappearance of all freedom, of all prosperity, in fact of all human existence.
This while it is becoming increasingly clear that it is precisely the survival of capitalism that threatens the survival of the human species.

And also this :
Just as for the working class as a whole, the ultimate goal of the communist minority of the working class is also to dissolve itself as quickly as possible (or at best to transform itself into a "club of veterans of the proletarian revolution").
But like the working class as a whole, it must first and foremost clearly define itself now and for the future, independently of other political currents, and certainly not dissolve into various "people's fronts".

Note 1

I remember a story (mentioned in Trotsky's "History of the Russian Revolution" ?) about a liveryman or a butler, i.e. not someone one would expect to be sympathetic or even understanding towards the revolutionary struggle of the working class who came to offer keys of a palace (the Winter Palace ?) to the proletarian revolutionaries (the Revolutionary Military Committee ?) in order to make his contribution to the struggle.
Not that that really contributed to the victory, because in revolutionary times it are rifle butts,crowbars,hammers or axes that open doors , rather than the appropriate keys.
(Sorry I don't remember it more specifically.)
Of course, there is not only such cooperation, not primarily or even not at all out of sympathy for the revolutionary struggle of the working class, but also or even exclusively because in the struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie, the working class is seen as the
winner, as the new "boss".
Note 2

The "Communist Manifesto" of 1848 is in large part a "paean" to that revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism, which is contrasted with the centuries of stagnation or very slow evolution under feudalism and the "ancien regime".
Such a "paean" was also completely justified at the time, because many still dreamed of a "feudal socialism", of being able to "avoid", to "skip" capitalism in order to be able to immediately move on to a socialist or communist society.

joan
Two quotes from the article

Two quotes from the article "ACG and identity politics: a very inadequate break" :

 

"In the section "Alternatives: fighting capitalism and oppressions", where the ACG seeks to elaborate their positive perspectives, they suddenly pull a rabbit out of the hat in the form of "the self-organisation of oppressed groups into autonomous groups, that still have a link to the general working class movement. Others in the working class can show practical solidarity, furthering the self-activity and empowerment of these groups. This is an alternative to identity politics as well as to a class reductivist approach." (p22)."

 

"But this argument is anything but clear, and it is not helped by the absence of any concrete example of such autonomous groups who, while being composed of one particular gender or ethnicity or other identity, adopt a class-based, genuinely anti-capitalist perspective and are not part of a 'cross-class alliance' campaigning for legal or other changes."

 

They remind me of two facts.

1) A group of gays and lesbians ("Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners") who in 1984 (want to) support the miners' strike in the UK , about which the film "Pride" was also made in 2014.

 

I think I am not wrong in saying that also because that miners' strike remained exclusively or almost exclusively in the realm of "trade union struggle" and also because the gays and lesbians with their "support to the miners" also remained entirely within the trade union logic (and also in a social democratic and parliamentary framework), this is actually not a good example.

"On the morning of the 1985 Gay Pride Parade, Mark returns to the group and apologises for abandoning the cause. He leads LGSM to the Parade, where they are joined by hundreds of miners in a show of solidarity. The closing scenes reveal that the Labour Party incorporated rights for gays and lesbians in their party programme under pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers, that Siân was later elected to Parliament and that Mark Ashton died of AIDS two years later." (Pride (2014 film) on Wikipedia)

It seems to me more like an example of how not to do it.

Especially in the UK, the country of trade unionism par excellence ,overcoming the trade union squeeze, with all its practical and ideological consequences, is still a very hard and difficult struggle.

See the Wikipedia entries with all reservations of possible errors (Note).

-Pride (2014 film)

-Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

-Lesbians Against Pit Closures

 

2) A better example is that of the political group best known for its militant Sylvia Pankhurst (one of the daughters of two ILP-ers) who evolved from a branch of a militant (also violent) feminist organisation to a left communist organisation by focusing more and more on workers and by World War 1 (with even a permanent break with her feminist but chauvinist mother and sister (Emmeline and Christabel).

From the "East London Federation of the WSPU" via the "East London Federation of Suffragettes" (early 1914), the "Workers' Suffrage Federation" (March 1915) (with in July 1917 a renaming of the newspaper, the “Women's Dreadnough” to “Workers' Dreadnought’),the "Workers' Socialist Federation" (May 1918), the "Communist Party (British Section of the Third International)"(June 1920) and finally the "Communist Workers' Party"(CWP) (February 1922).

Probably such an evolution was an exception rather than an example that can be repeated many times. Due to the weakness of the “Essen tendency” (to which the CWP belonged), but probably also due to the weak Marxist tradition in the UK, the group was not able to maintain itself after 1924 and Sylvia Pankhurst, after having broken with feminist identity politics 10 years earlier, fell into other forms of “identity politics”: anti-fascism and thirdworldism avant la lettre (especially in sympathy and support for "the Ethiopian cause" (support for the Negus Haile Selasse in his struggle against Mussolini-Italian imperialism). She died in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia and was 'rewarded' for her commitment to that country with a state funeral.

 

Note

See the thread "Kronstadt 1921" of this Discussion Forum #10

"Now Wikipedia is certainly not always completely accurate and sometimes it is even completely wrong.”(Note 1)”.

Note 1
One flagrant example
“The Communist Workers' Party of the Netherlands (
Dutch: Kommunistische Arbeiders-Partij Nederland) was a council communist party in the Netherlands. It was founded in September 1921, and was modelled after the Communist Workers' Party of Germany.(...)
Prominent members
- Herman Gorter
- Anton Pannekoek
- Henriette Roland Holst "
Only Herman Gorter was a prominent member (co-founder).
But neither Anton Pannekoek nor Henriette Roland Holst have ever been members of this organisation !

joan
Previously mentioned: the

Previously mentioned: the evolution of Sylvia Pankhurst, one of the daughters of Richard Pankhurst and Emmeline Pankhurst (born Goulden), from militant fighter for women's suffrage (suffragette) to left-wing communist ("Workers' Dreadnougt") to end up as anti-fascist and supporter of the "Ethiopian cause".
She thus evolved from one form of "identity politics" or partial struggle (feminism) to other forms of it (anti-fascism and third-worldism/"anti-imperialism" (support for the "third world country" Ethiopia against Italy's imperialism)).

Besides Christabel, who together with their mother Emmeline took a chauvinistic stand in WW 1, Sylvia had another sister, Adela.
She went through a similar evolution as Sylvia.
From militant feminist to, after her arrival in Australia (to which she was " banned " by her mother) pacifist (against World War 1 and against the conscription), later in 1920 co-founder of the Communist Party of Australia, to end as founder of the anti-communist "Australian Women's Guild of Empire" in 1927 and co-founder in 1941 of the far-right nationalistic "Australia First Movement. "She visited Japan in 1939, and was arrested and interned in March 1942 for her advocacy of peace with Japan.(...) In 1960, she converted to Roman Catholicism." (Wikipedia)
See more extensively on Wikipedia and the sources given there.

I certainly don't want to say here that everyone who was once a supporter of some form of "identity politics"/"partial struggle" is "doomed" to never really break away from it.
I'm sure there are examples of people who have successfully managed to permanently detach themselves from "identity politics" or partial struggle and to develop themselves into steadfast class militants.
However, the examples of Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst demonstrate once again that "no one is born a communist" and that it takes a constant struggle to maintain "the right course".
These examples make my appreciation of militants such as Marx and Engels ( who were certainly neither born communists) and, with a great leap through history, Jan Appel and Marc Chirik (*), all the greater.

(*) Indeed "nobody is born a communist".but for Marc Chirik it was very nearly so.
"Marc was born on 13th May 1907 in Kishiniev, the capital of Bessarabia (Moldavia), at a time when the region was still part of the old Tsarist Empire. He was not yet 10 years old when the 1917 revolution began. This is how he described, on his 80th birthday, this tremendous experience, which marked his whole life:
"I had the good fortune, while still a child, to live through and experience the Russian Revolution, both in February and October. I lived it intensely. You have to understand what it meant to be a "Gavroche" [2], a child in the streets in a revolutionary period, spending the days in demonstrations, going from one to another, from one meeting to another, spending the nights in clubs full of soldiers and workers, and of discussion, talk and confrontations; a time when on any street corner, suddenly, without any preparation, someone might stand at a window and begin to speak: immediately, a thousand people would gather round and begin to discuss. It was unforgettable, and of course it has marked my whole life. On top of this, I had the luck to have an older brother who was both a soldier and a Bolshevik, the Party secretary in our town, and I ran with him, hand in hand, from one meeting to the next where he defended the positions of the Bolsheviks.
I had the good fortune to be the youngest, the fifth in a family where all, one after the other, became members of the Party until they were either killed or expelled. All this meant that I lived in a house always full of people, of youngsters, where there were always discussions going on, for at first only one was Bolshevik, while the others were more or less socialists. They were in constant debate with their comrades, their workmates... It was an enormous good fortune for a child's education'.
"
 International Review no.65 - 2nd quarter 1991
Marc, Part 1: From the Revolution of October 1917 to World War II
https://en.internationalism.org/ir/065/marc-01
And the conviction he received at that time remained true to him all his life, even during the 12 long years he spent in exile in Venezuela from 1952 (breakup of the GCF and spread of the militants over several continents) until 1964 (founding of the group "Internacionalismo" in Venezuela), when he could not be a militant in a communist organisation.
See International Review 65 and 66.

 

d-man
habit

joan wrote:
I certainly don't want to say here that everyone who was once a supporter of some form of "identity politics"/"partial struggle" is "doomed" to never really break away from it.
I'm sure there are examples of people who have successfully managed to permanently detach themselves from "identity politics" or partial struggle and to develop themselves into steadfast class militants.
However, the examples of Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst demonstrate once again that "no one is born a communist" and that it takes a constant struggle to maintain "the right course".

To explain the reason for an inadequate break (with identity politics) by reference to the weakness of the working class (to break from it), would be a bit of a tautology. It's not due to the lack of a good intention, which in case of the ACG, is presumably granted to exist. Ideology can spread simply by unthinking adoption of some evocative key words (which occurs even within the ICC article – I pointed to the replacement of sex by "gender"). But instead of larger sociological explanations, I tried above to focus on an individual level, how people can really break away from mental crutches like identity politics. It's often stressed, that identity politics appeals for instance to the feeling of guilt. Suppose we acknowledge moral self-chastisement (like in a religious cult) is one of the crutches, that constitute identity politics. The problem, that also you touch, is to reject this crutch, to which one has become accustomed, as if it were the core of one's very being. Surely, it's common also to make comparisons to the addictive properties of a drug. I think Jaycee's position is that it's not possible or even sensible to try to criticise "identity", as in his view this allegedly is a trans-historical basic human need. I wrote, that when we criticise identity (politics), it should not be taken to be, in its own turn, a moral condemnation (namely of human weakness). An actual critique should simply locate the error (not "judge" it). So what is the exact error of relying on a mental crutch, that helps people cope with the pain they experience in capitalism? After all, it's nothing difficult to note the existence of various coping mechanisms. They continue to be used like an ingrained habit or ritualised custom. The fact of something being a habit (not just an alleged fulfilling desire, and not just an aspiring goal/wish), itself is even appealed to as an excuse (crutch) to justify the coping mechanism. Maybe this argument resembles the view, that in history people are caught in illusions (like with Plato's example of the cave), but adding just the further cynical shift, that they have always been caught up in it, so not only does it make no difference (to the people), but it's good for it continue like this. On the other hand, actual religion/theology itself is smart enough to know, that customs can't be justified by appealing to them simply as a (return to) "tradition". Of course, something (eg a funeral rite) cannot be called bad, just for it being a custom either.

joan
I must admit that I have not

I must admit that I have not always followed the discussion on "partial stuggles" and "identity politics" in this thread very closely.
Maybe I also don't always understand everything in the right way.
Especially d-man's contributions in this discussion are not always clear, at least to me.
I am not saying that they are not interesting, but I do ask myself whether they often deviate from the original intention of the thread.
Sorry d-man.
On the other hand, I have again learned a few, for example, I did not know the story of Plato's cave.
I repeat, I have not always followed the discussion intensively.

Nevertheless, I risk a few additions (which are perhaps not all fully in line with the subject of "partial struggles"and “identity politics”).

1)

I think the following quote from Marx's 1844 "opium text" is relevant, especially when the discussion repeatedly mentions a "mental crutch" (#4,5,7,10,11) and a comparison is made with religion / theology (#20).
Perhaps the quote has not been mentioned yet because it is so "self-evident" and especially the "shortened version" ("religion is the opium of the people") is so well known.

“The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

      1. A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
        Introduction Written: December 1843-January 1844;
        First published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm

2)

In the context of identity, more specifically the important "identity" through occupation - which is thus something entirely different from the class identity of the working class - I also thought of another quote by Marx, about the "total man" in a communist society.

Further, the division of labour implies the contradiction between the interest of the separate individual or the individual family and the communal interest of all individuals who have intercourse with one another. And indeed, this communal interest does not exist merely in the imagination, as the “general interest,” but first of all in reality, as the mutual interdependence of the individuals among whom the labour is divided. And finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but naturally, divided, man’s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now. “ (set in bold by me)

Karl Marx, The German Ideology ,1845 , Part I: Feuerbach.
Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook ,A. Idealism and Materialism ,Private Property and Communism https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm

The examples of occupations given would be filled in differently today than with hunter, fisherman, herdsman and critic,but that is not the essence of the quote.

3)
d-man wrote "To explain the reason for an inadequate break (with identity politics) by reference to the weakness of the working class (to break from it), would be a bit of a tautology."  #20

This in turn reminded me of what Marx wrote also in 1845 :

“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and ... the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, ... a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.”

Karl Marx,The German Ideology,1845 ,Part I: Feuerbach.
D. Proletarians and Communism ,The Necessity of the Communist Revolution 4)

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01d.htm

4)

But of course it would be too easy if we could confine ourselves to "hiding" behind quotes from the "great predecessors" and no longer have to think for ourselves.

It would also be in complete contradiction with the whole essence of Marxism, as a weapon of the working class.

jaycee wrote( #10)

"...there are also important questions with regard to the nature of proletarian identity; it is revolutionary or it is nothing. This is a serious problem because revolutions are very rare. The faith it takes to make a revolution is more and more something people do not have and find increasingly difficult to even conceive of. Part of the problem is to achieve an identity which is not simply a crutch; identity which does not want to hold onto itself but to abolish itself.

This is a question which has been developed most gully and systematically in Buddhist philosophy and other mystical traditions.” (set in bold by me)

This has, I think, already been well answered by the Forum team.
 "In moving towards a communist society, its ultimate goal is indeed to abolish itself as a class (and thus its class identity of course): not by dissolving itself into the mass of other classes, but by integrating the whole of humanity into associated labour. We thus reject the view of the so-called "communisers", the modernists who argue that the very idea of a working class identity has become a problem in itself and that the content of the revolution is the immediate self-negation of the working class. (#15) (set in bold by me)
Although already touched upon in #17, I would like to add some more.
Apologies for the partial repetition.
I am not talking here about an identity as an individual and therefore not about the Buddhist philosophy, but about an identity as a class, more specifically as the working class.
Earlier ruling classes (such as the slave owners in Antiquity, such as the feudal lords and ladies in the Middle Ages) saw the existence of "their" society as "eternal" and this is also how the bourgeoisie sees itself today.
There is a fundamental difference between these classes and the working class.
The ultimate objective of the working class struggle is to abolish itself as a class as soon as possible, and with it all other classes.
Its very temporary existence as the "ruling class", i.e. the dictatorship of the proletariat, is also the beginning of or an important step towards its abolition, its dissolution in the human community of the world.
This explicit aim of abolishing itself as soon as possible applies to the class as a whole, but also, of course, to its communist minority.
This is also completely different from bourgeois political organisations that not only commemorate but even celebrate their 20,50 or even 100 or more years of existence.
Often with some serious historical falsification, because, for example, the social democratic parties of today have nothing at all to do with the original organisations of the working class (such as Labour, the SPD, the PSOE, etc.), apart from perhaps the name and some "rituals" (such as playing "The International" at the end of a congress).
When bourgeois political organisations dissolve themselves, it is seldom or never because they consider their task to be finished, but because they do not obtain enough votes or because they dissolve into a larger, more powerful organisation or because of external causes, such as war, occupation or revolution (dissolving themselves before someone else, those who have the power, does it).
5)

d-man (#20) wrote : ”... religion/theology itself is smart enough to know, that customs can't be justified by appealing to them simply as a (return to) "tradition". Of course, something (eg a funeral rite) cannot be called bad, just for it being a custom either.” (set in bold by me)

 

This reminds me of the novel, turned into the musical "Anatevka" or "Fiddler on the roof" about a shtetl in the Tsarist Empire in 1905.

There is a passage in which Tevye, the Jewish milkman, gives the same "answer" over and over again for a whole series of customs and positions: "tradition".

But tradition clashes with reality.

Two examples.

– The Shtetl in which Tevye and his family live is the victim of a pogrom = unfortunately also a tradition in itself.

And as is often the case, these traditions constantly reinforce each other.

Because of the repeated pogroms, orthodox Jews were confirmed in their idea of being different or even better than others ("God's chosen people") and they hold on to their traditions (if possible even more strongly than before). But this confirms the pogromists in the rightness of their aversion, their anger, their hatred against these "others", these "enemies of the people", and they will certainly not stop carrying out progroms (With, also in "Anatevka", as in reality, eventually even result, namely the departure of the inhabitants of the shtetl to other places (America).

– One of his daughters wants to marry a revolutionary and follow him in his exile to Siberia (Tevye finally gives them his permission and even his blessing, things he first resolutely refused).

 

6)

There are "identities" that cannot be changed, such as skin colour.

- Even though the rulers in apartheid South Africa took care of this by " whitewashing" Japanese businessmen, although they belonged to the "yellow race", for their economic interest and to catoligise them legally as "white" or in “Afrikaans” "blankie".

- Many dark-skinned people did (and do?) make every effort to look " bleaker " and thus “better”(!?) with the help of all kinds of bleaching products and, on the other hand, many bleached people do much, if not everything, to get a tan, with the help of sunbathing, sun banks, all kinds of creams and lotions, etc.

The question of whether both "bleaching" and "tanning" are healthy and increase the risk of (skin) cancer is the very last concern for the industries that make a lot of money from them.

See also on Wikipedia the items

– “Sun tanning”,especially the section “Cultural history”

- “Human skin color”,especially the section “Social status, colorism and racism”.

Of course also to read with caution.See the thread Kronstadt 1921,#10

Now Wikipedia is certainly not always completely accurate and sometimes it is even completely wrong.(Note 1)”and Note 1 on the KAPN.

7)

It seems to me a good idea to focus the discussion on the texts mentioned by the Forum team (#2 and #15).

- Report on the class struggle : Formation, loss and re-conquest of proletarian class identity (23rd Congress). (I need to reread this text thoroughly.)

- ACG and identity politics: a very inadequate break 

 

d-man
habit, part II

joan wrote:
Especially d-man's contributions in this discussion are not always clear, at least to me.
I am not saying that they are not interesting, but I do ask myself whether they often deviate from the original intention of the thread.

The original post I think deals with the issue of human (individual) psychology (or, to a use modernist buzzword, "identity"). Although the title of the thread is about partial struggles of particular collectives, and there is talk about the working class findings its own "confidence" as a general collective, the discussion in fact ultimately is about individual psychology, involving psychological coping-mechanisms. For example, to name again an obvious one, the mechanism of guilt (self-chastisement). This must be analysed on the level of the individual human being. You suggest that I hereby wander off-topic, echoing what the Forumteam already suggested in a previous post. I grant, that my discussion of the individual mind, is quite an abstract topic. But every collective, including the working class, is composed of individuals, and even the most "structuralist" conception of society is accompanied with some explanation for individuals' behaviour. When in this thread there is talk about the rise of identity politics, or the failure of the working class to find its "confidence", it is ultimately about the psychology of the individual, and not just some "sociological" explanations, many of which sound just ad hoc, like the alleged increasing weight of the "Professional Managerial Class" (or sound tautological, like explaining the rise of identity politics by the historical weakness of the working class).

joan wrote:
... Perhaps the quote has not been mentioned yet because it is so "self-evident" and especially the "shortened version" ("religion is the opium of the people") is so well known.

...

This in turn reminded me of what Marx wrote also in 1845 :

“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and ... the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, ... a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.”

I wrote above why, by itself, a comparison (of coping-mechanisms) to eg opium (or to an actual crutch), is not critical, ie such a comparison does not locate the error of such coping-mechanisms. Saying that communist consciousness will be produced through revolution, likewise to me seems potentially a bit of an abdication of thinking about, ie of analysing, the conservative(/reactionary) existing consciousness of workers. I hasten to repeat, that conformist consciousness does involve struggle (for justice), involves indignation, outrage, etc.

joan wrote:
I am not talking here about an identity as an individual and therefore not about the Buddhist philosophy, but about an identity as a class, more specifically as the working class.

...
This explicit aim of abolishing itself as soon as possible applies to the class as a whole, but also, of course, to its communist minority.

As I tried to explain to Jaycee, you're dealing with a fake problem, created by the confused notion of "proletarian identity"; in one meaning, it is the simple already existing social relation of the proletarian class, in another meaning it is the (to be accomplished) task/desire/capacity to overthrow capitalism.

joan wrote:
This is also completely different from bourgeois political organisations that not only commemorate but even celebrate their 20,50 or even 100 or more years of existence.
Often with some serious historical falsification, because, for example, the social democratic parties of today have nothing at all to do with the original organisations of the working class (such as Labour, the SPD, the PSOE, etc.), apart from perhaps the name and some "rituals" (such as playing "The International" at the end of a congress).
When bourgeois political organisations dissolve themselves, it is seldom or never because they consider their task to be finished

I think one of the tasks of the communist party, is to act as a repository (preserver) of historical memory of the working class. Should the revolution succeed, there is no need to worry about some need to abolish that historical memory; again, it's a false problem. By the way, I think Bordiga said that the party will continue to exist forever. And as I asked Jaycee, what does it even mean to "abolish" the identity (eg historical memory) of the working class; burning down the ICC's literature? Or it is just a terminological question of no longer referring to a person involved in types of productive labour, by the name of "worker" (to be deleted from the dictionary)?

joan wrote:
There is a passage in which Tevye, the Jewish milkman, gives the same "answer" over and over again for a whole series of customs and positions: "tradition".

I was speaking about theological arguments (by religious scholars), in which rules and attitudes do not get settled by mere appeal to "tradition" (even leaving aside the existence of conflicting traditions). There are some divine laws, that are without apparent reasonable justification, such as kosher separation of dairy and meat products; however, even in such case I think there is a practical sense (meat is important for its iron content, but dairy contains caseins, which inhibit iron absorption in the human body).

As for Teyve, his justification for some behaviours is not really tradition/routine as such (there are many routines, besides Jewish customs, to chose for oneself if one wants routine; keep to a vegetarian diet, sport exercise schedule, clothing style):

Tevye wrote:
And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word! Tradition! Tradition Tradition Tradition Tradition Tradition Tradition Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. ...

Traditions, traditions. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as As... As a fiddler on the roof!

Habit is not really invoked as a justification on its own, ie the importance of preserving an old tradition, but rather as a coping-mechanism, a psychological certainty in people's life and survival mechanism for the community. Tevye is already speaking like a modern enlightened man, like an evolutionary-psychologist/sociologist (the musical was written in the 1960s).

The only point to be remembered is, that tradition/habit is in fact not a determining cause of certain behaviours. Traditions/habits are invoked as a determining cause, as justification for certain behaviours; most obviously eg by a drug user ("I'm drinking alcohol, because it is my habit"). But this is a coping-mechanism, an error (which, I repeat, even theology is smart enough to avoid).

Habits/routines do exist, but they are created and sustained by the behaviour of people themselves. Therefore I argue it's relevant to look at the level of individual psychology.

There's a relevant analysis of habit, as essential to obedient consciousness, and why people chose to follow habits, in chapter 7 of Max Nordau's The Interpretation of History (1910). It's a coping-mechanism:

Nordau wrote:
The normal man neither observes nor examines. He repeats mechanically what he has heard said. He is not critical : he is credulous.

...  Thus, the normal man can see no further into the connection of phenomena than their concrete and temporal aspect, while he is unable to anticipate the future, even in so far as it is conditioned by the present. His knowledge is strictly limited. ...

The desire for knowledge gives place to dulness.  ...

The man whose brain is petrified is right in dreading anything new. It makes demands which he could not meet. He prefers the often incredible misery or even acute suffering to which he is accustomed to the effort involved in freeing himself from a habit and building up the new disposition that promises to relieve or rid him of his pain. Such is the normal man. His will is of moderate force and endurance, and therefore his attention is soon fatigued, and cannot remain long at its full on one point. His perceptions in consequence are superficial and fragmentary. He completes them arbitrarily by the addition of recollections, more or less suitable, and ideas, more or less analogous. The content of his consciousness is meagre, and includes a little reality, a good deal of illusion, and a number of purely verbal symbols that possess for him no real meaning. His thought is not energetic enough to carry to its logical conclusion, its appropriate judgment, knowledge, or action any train of ideas that is of importance to him at a given moment, or assure it, when so employed, the sole possession of consciousness by keeping away the perpetual stream of ideas aroused by changing sense impressions, bodily sensations, and accidental associations. Rather he prefers to saunter along the easy path of semi-conscious reverie, that needs no concentration and attention, no effort of any kind, and leads to no clearness of view, no knowledge, no serviceable expression of will. He cannot comprehend the connection of phenomena, or trace even a few stages in their near and remote causes and their necessary effects. Within his own consciousness he cannot differentiate a reflection of the truth from an addition of the imagination. He is happy only when following a routine, and shrinks instinctively from the unknown, with its demands on attention, observation, rational interpretation, and personal judgment, action, and resolution.

...

The multitude have no historical sense ; that has already been indicated. They know nothing and care nothing about the origin of things. It follows, from their incapacity to detect underlying connections or to trace back the causes and effects of phenomena beyond a certain distance, that all existing institutions appear to them as something given, whose origin is lost, like that of humanity, of the earth, of nature itself, in the mysterious unknown. They may complain of them as they do of the cold in winter, its hail and its storms, but they accept them as they accept everything immutable. The obscurity of their origin gives them a mystic character, with which religious emotions are connected by the psychic process of analogy.

Even if we have recognised that habit is sustained by people themselves, and so (in principle) habits can be broken or changed, that does not yet mean that people (in practice, in reality) do break their habits, always everywhere, given that habit is one of the strongest psychological coping-mechanisms. Nordau writes about those who do break habit, as about superior people, and I think it's easy to call them the vanguard, leaders of the working class:

Nordau wrote:
The superior man is marked by realism. He hardly knows the flattering delight of day-dreams. His fancy does not soar into cloudy regions, into a world remote from space and time. His thought does not occupy itself with any phantasmagoria of words, or with abstractions which, being devoid of any concrete content, can float aloft above the real. No feature of the phenomenon appears unworthy of his attention ; he lets none escape him ; he tries to understand or perceive them all. He would rather admit the existence of gaps in his knowledge than hide them by meaningless words or arbitrary fancies. With careful assurance he traces the concrete event back to its causes, and thence infers the effects to which he can thus advantageously adapt himself in advance. Thus he faces nature like a skilful duellist who knows his opponent's methods of fence, foresees and easily parries his strokes

This is the purpose of the party, to provide insight and leadership, to those who are stuck in routine (routine, which, again, can include outrage and revolutionary attitude). See Nordau's distinction between uprisings and revolutions:

Nordau wrote:
A rising need not be concerted, nor planned, nor organized. It is an automatic reflex action. It breaks out suddenly, ravaging and laying waste, and passes like a thunderstorm or whirlwind, whose path is strewn by ruins and corpses. Even a rising premises the existence in the dull crowd of someone whose feelings are stronger and his reactions more energetic than those of the others. He is the first to raise his voice and fist, and show the others the example without which they can do nothing. He is a Cleon, Jack Cade, or Masaniello— simple, thoughtless, ignorant, and at times no better than a beast let loose, but obviously somewhat more resolute and somewhat less ossified by habit than the others are.

A revolution, on the other hand, needs leaders and preparations. It can only be the work of superior men organically equipped, in the first instance, to develop new ideas and combinations, then to subdue others to their will, and compel them to recognize them unhesitatingly as leaders and rulers. The first premise, therefore, is strength of will ; it is more important than knowledge, prescience, independence of thought — in a word, than intellectual superiority. .... But the power of command cannot long be exercised by a strong will and a diseased brain. It must shiver at the resistance of reality, upon which its possessor had not reckoned, and which he can neither avoid nor overcome. When power of thought is combined with energy of will, the leader forms rational plans which he endeavours to carry into execution. Then the revolution, instead of stopping at destruction, issues in the creation of new forms.

Sorry for the long quotes.

joan wrote:
There are "identities" that cannot be changed, such as skin colour.

I previously referred on this forum, in order to illustrate the argument comparing transgenderism to trans-racialism, to the example of Martina Big (a white German model who underwent melanin injections, and she wants also to have nose and lip operations). Black skin colour can be changed by a disease like vitiligo (from which Michael Jackson suffered). There are also albino children born to two black parents. And of course mixing of different colours, results in even more various gradations, that aren't anymore some defined (imagined) race "identity".

What really can't be changed is sex, a biological binary. If I recall Kautsky's point (in his 1914 book on Jews), the category of race derives from (human/artificial) animal breeding, and this paradigm of pure vs mixed races cannot be transferred to the human species. Race is an (artificial) animal identity (eg types of breeds of horses, dogs, etc.). But the binary category of sex is the natural reality in I think most mammals and birds, and not an identity, not something artificially created (adopted, chosen) or changeable.

It's certainly relevant to keep bringing up this point on the category of sex on this thread about identity politics (and the ICC's article critising the ACG). For those who have not followed events in the UK closely, listen to eg Helen Steel, a key figure. I don't think one can accuse her side of playing feminist identity politics, simply for insisting that women are a sex category, a biological reality, and not some identity (which one need not be a feminist, to maintain).

joan
Just a short first reaction

 

 

d-man wrote :

"The original post I think deals with the issue of human (individual) psychology (or, to a use modernist buzzword, "identity"). Although the title of the thread is about partial struggles of particular collectives, and there is talk about the working class finding its own "confidence" as a general collective, the discussion in fact ultimately is about individual psychology,involving psychological coping-mechanisms."

 

So I seem to have been "misled" by the title "partial struggles discussion",i.e. by a flag that didn't cover the load.

But if I am honest, I don't find the issue of human (individual) psychology that interesting or more precisely, I don't find it a subject that needs to be discussed extensively on a discussion forum of a communist organisation.

And in that sense I follow the Forum team.(Note 1)

 

In connection with individual psychology, a very concrete question : how to explain that in twins, for example, one half of a twin can develop into a class-conscious militant, a communist, and the other half has no interest whatsoever in the workers' cause, indeed considers any idea of a class or class struggle as "bull shit" ? This while they are part of the same household (of course), have been brought up in the same household, have grown up in the same town or village, have gone to the same schools, etc.

This is a hypothetical example, but I don't think at all impossible or unworldly.

(Note 2)

That is a question,I think, to which probably no psychologist, no psychiatrist has a conclusive answer and probably never will.

And then the question that follows : should we, as people who feel strongly involved with the revolutionary and historical struggle of the working class, be so intensely occupied with this individual psychology in a class society, when there are such important issues as proletarian class identity or in another word proletarian class consciousness ?

 

Of course I am going to read d-man's most recent comments in depth.

 

And who knows, although I consider the chance very small, maybe I will be convinced.

 

Note 1

This does not mean that I always fully agree with what the Forumteam or what the ICC states or that I am an echo of the Forumteam .I do think that this has already been clearly shown for example in a topic like the "International leaflet only in French " and maybe other topics as well.

Note 2

In the history of the workers' movement and the fight for socialism, there are several examples of children from the same household who took very different paths.

There are probably other, stronger examples (perhaps also of twins), but I will now give these two.

For example, Rosa Luxemburg was the youngest in a household of five: one sister and three brothers, all born in Zamosc, a small town in the "Kingdom of Poland", part of the tsarist empire.

None of them took even one step towards their revolutionary sister.

One brother became a renowned doctor in Poland, the other two brothers followed their father's career choice and became businessmen, and her sister looked after their parents for most of her life.

 

Her "brother in arms" Karl Liebknecht was one of five sons of Wilhelm Liebknecht and his second wife Natalie Reh.

Two of these sons have "disappeared into the mists of time", apparently leading a very "ordinary", unremarkable life (although not so easy with such a surname, see Otto), but that leaves three. Besides the anti-miltarist, internationalist in WW1 and eventually one of the main founders of the KPD(S) Karl Liebknecht(1871-1919), there was Theodor (1870-1948), who only became openly politically active after the murder of his brother, the last chairman of the USPD (the centrist organisation to which Karl and the whole Spartakusbund belonged for some time),co-founder of the short-lived "2 ½ Internationale" and later a member of the SAPD) and Otto (1876-1949), besides being a SPD member for many years, an apolitical chemist, chief chemist of the Degussa company, with a total of 58 patents to his name and also a professor at the University of Berlin.

"During the dictatorship of National Socialism, Otto Liebknecht and his wife Elsa (née Friedland) continued to live in his house at Griebnitzsee until 1945. The fact that he and his wife survived the anti-Semitic Nazi regime relatively unscathed, despite the Jewish origins of his wife, is probably due to Liebknecht's achievements, which were hardly dispensable even for the National Socialists, and his importance as a chemist. Nevertheless, he was eyed suspiciously by the political powers-that-be because of his prominent socialist family of origin or his relatives who were still alive, some of whom were in exile - such as his brother Theodor, who emigrated to Switzerland in 1933, his son Kurt, who had been living in the Soviet Union since 1931, or his nephew Robert (Karl Liebknecht's son, who had made a name for himself as an artist) - and was interrogated several times by the Gestapo. He was banned from teaching in 1935. It was only after the Second World War that the Liebknechts had to leave their house, as the Soviet occupation forces requisitioned all the villas around Lake Griebnitz for their own purposes.”

(Wikipedia,translated from the German with the help of Deeple translate)

d-man
no disagreement maybe

joan wrote:
So I seem to have been "misled" by the title "partial struggles discussion",i.e. by a flag that didn't cover the load.

But if I am honest, I don't find the issue of human (individual) psychology that interesting or more precisely, I don't find it a subject that needs to be discussed extensively on a discussion forum of a communist organisation.

My statement was almost banal (and uncontroversial I hoped), namely that as it is individual people who engage in identity politics, so we must analyse the thinking of the individual people engaged in partial struggles, and try to show what their errors are, if the goal is to formulate a critique of identity politics. I also contrasted this "individual" approach, to "sociological"(/institutional/historical/functional) types of critique of identity politics.

 

joan wrote:
In connection with individual psychology, a very concrete question : how to explain that in twins, for example, one half of a twin can develop into a class-conscious militant, a communist, and the other half has no interest whatsoever in the workers' cause, indeed considers any idea of a class or class struggle as "bull shit" ? This while they are part of the same household (of course), have been brought up in the same household, have grown up in the same town or village, have gone to the same schools, etc.

This is a hypothetical example, but I don't think at all impossible or unworldly.

That is a question,I think, to which probably no psychologist, no psychiatrist has a conclusive answer and probably never will.

And then the question that follows : should we, as people who feel strongly involved with the revolutionary and historical struggle of the working class, be so intensely occupied with this individual psychology in a class society, when there are such important issues as proletarian class identity or in another word proletarian class consciousness ?

The question assumes, that lived experience (or a shared trait) would determine what people think (or how they act), and your example merely disproved the assumption. I can add quite a lot more examples. So eg just because two persons have the same skin colour, it doesn't mean that they will think/act the same way. Or eg just because two persons were born in the same country and speak the same language, it doesn't mean they think/act the same way. This merely shows, that lived experience/physical traits can't explain the thinking/action of people. It's maybe behaviourist psychology, and that's certainly not what I proposed. It's maybe also typical of identity politics, namely the assumption, that the way some group of people feel/act can only be understood/defended by people who share the same characteristic as that group.

So just because I focus on the individual level, it doesn't mean I focus on the individual's experience, which we apparently agree, is uninteresting.

I get your concern, namely that a focus on the individual might obstruct proletarian class consciousness. The focus on personal identity is something that I tried to criticise, as it's typical of identity politics to center the individual experience/feeling. If you want to criticise the people who are obsessed with their own identity/personal virtue/etc., then I only note that hereby you yourself are also engaged on the level of the psychology of the individual. But it's not enough (to arrive at an actual critique of identity politics) just to note the lack of (focus on) proletarian class consciousness. You have to expose the errors in the patterns of thinking, such as eg ego-mania, that prevent a clear vision at objective reality.

 

joan
Thanks d-man for your quick

Thanks d-man for your quick response and certainly for the clarification.

You also raise important questions.

I note for the moment :

"I get your concern, namely that a focus on the individual might obstruct proletarian class consciousness. "

I'll try to respond more fully as soon as possible.