Is there a proletarian culture, morality ethics?

52 posts / 0 new
Last post
Link
Is there a proletarian culture, morality ethics?
Printer-friendly version

Im confused about what is being said about morality and ethics etc.  And I have probably confused the issue by incorrect assumptions because I thought ICC was building up to something new about morality but in fact I have now seen references to the idea from some time ago.  So I thought I should start a new thread to get some clarification. 

 

On another thread I said:

"Further I do not accept that the concept of a communist morality.  This is bourgeois society and all behaviour is conditioned by capitalism relations, when that behaviour is supporting or opposing existing relations..  Only in a genuine communist society could we talk of communist morality and only in the actual process of building of that communist society by the working class as a whole can a communist morality be discovered.  By this, I don’t exclude the need for comradeship but I think it must be accepted at this time that it has limitations and doesn’t represent islands of communist relations"

 

And KT responded: 

"Also: why the sniping at and dissing of the ICC’s attempts to understand and deepen issues of ethics and morality? “ I just question the current fixation on morality and polemic that appears to have come to the fore of the ICCs concerns.” (#62) As if humans haven’t grappled with such issues since pre-history (taboos and such like); well before the ancient Greeks who did likewise, or even the workers’ movement through texts from Joseph Dietzgen, August Bebel, Marx and Trotsky – anyone read ‘Their Morals and Ours’ for example?

Stealing from proletarian organisations, threatening or actually exposing them to the repressive arms of the bourgeois state: if one can’t say that such activities – or the failure to expose and condemn them – is the very antithesis of proletarian solidarity and behaviour, then what exactly is it we’re fighting for tomorrow? That’s not at all the same as establishing ‘islands of communism’ in capitalism. There is indeed a proletarian morality. Just see what strikers think of those who cross their picket lines, or steal from their strike funds, for example."

 

I checked up the definitions of morals and ethics, the former being right conduct and behaviour and the latter being a system of moral principles.  There is nothing then that should be tied to the dominant economic system therefore and that accepts the idea of social groups and  sub-cultures etc having different codes of behaviour.  I have agreed with KT that the idea of proletarian solidarity raises the concept of a proletarian code of behaviour ie morals.

 

Having looked back to IR109 in search of the article of organizational behaviour, I discovered however another article Trotsky and an interesting article from a youngster called CDW about proletarian culture and apparently supportive of Trotsky’s view if I have read it correctly

 

So I am back now to ask for some clarification of issues cos to my non-sociologist brain, morals & ethics = culture.  I need to ask if that is correct however.

 

Trotsky is clearly debunking the idea that there is a proletarian culture.  For him it can never exist because a new culture to replace capitalist culture can only arise and flourish in the new society itself once all vestiges of class society have been eliminated.  Everything prior to that is only ‘the germs and roots and springs’ from which a new practice can emerge

 

“But it would be extremely light-minded to give the name of proletarian culture even to the most valuable achievements of individual representatives of the working class. One cannot turn the concept of culture into the small change of individual daily living and determine the success of a class culture by the proletarian passports of individual inventors or poets. Culture is the organic sum of knowledge and capacity which characterises the entire society, or at least its ruling class. It embraces and penetrates all fields of human work and unifies them into a system”

 

So what has been the discussion about proletarian morality till now then?  If there is no proletarian culture how can there be a proletarian morality?  Is it not correct to suggest that all social behaviour today is born of capitalist society even if it in opposition to it and as Trotsky confirms a new culture can only come about from the experience of eliminating classes?

LBird
Shall we be loyal to bourgeois ways?

I wasn't going to post on this thread, Link, because I've discussed this sort of thing with you before, I think.

But, since I think that you're asking an important question, and no-one's yet taken up your query, here goes.

I think that there is not only a proletarian culture, morality and ethics, but a proletarian science, too.

All these activities are human activities, and so they are human products, and in a class society those products will be tainted by class relationships.

The notion that present mainstream culture, morality, ethics and scientific knowledge are not bourgeois, and so that we workers can take them over, lock, stock and barrel, from the exploiters, is a mistake, in my opinion.

 

jaycee
I agree LBird that things

I agree LBird that things like culture, morality and science (although I do think your views on science can at times make a fetish of democracy, that perhaps is a discussion for another time)are in the bourgois age by definition bourgeois to a greater or lesser extent and I agree that there needs to be a creative and collective process that determines which aspects can be transformed towards becoming expressions of free humanity.

this is the point about 'proletarian' culture, morals etc. As communism is the self abolition of the proletariat the idea of 'proletarian' culture etc is a tricky one. What do we call the revolutionary culture that must exist in the transition period?

communism means freeing human morality, culture and science from ideology- that is from (largely unconscious) reflections of a distorted and perverted social reality in the realm of thought, feeling etc and the creation of a true human society. What can we say about this culture now/ we can paint a general outline; it will be based on 'solidarity', community 'love' ( I prefer the Christian concept of agape for) and on the full development of each individuals capacities and life and obviously the phrase that perhaps sums all this up 'from each ones ability to each ones needs'.

Other than that it becomes more tricky. This is why i would say that while there may be aspects of morality etc which are 'proletarian' for exmple  particular 'rules' i.e not crossing a picket line, not supporting bourgeois conflicts etc the culture and morality we aim to create is simply a human culture and morality. This aim will hopefully enfuse the transitional culture/society to a large extent though.

 

LBird
New culture? Or stick with what we've been given?

jaycee wrote:
What do we call the revolutionary culture that must exist in the transition period?

The key thing is to realise simply that there will be a different culture to the existing bourgeois culture.

Whether we call that new culture 'revolutionary', 'proletarian', 'Communist', etc., is just simply an issue of naming.

Whatever it's called, it will form the basis of a truly human culture, after the overthrow of private productive property.

We could call it 'democratic culture', since private property is by its nature anti-democratic.

As to the content of this truly human culture, that's to be decided in struggle.

lem_
well i don't believe in

well i don't believe in reclaiming words like "democracy" - communists won't need to. 'ethics' is more moot, if only becayse militants can display communist ethics - but there is no "communist democracy" without communism.

i would totally expect a communist "culture" though - it would be saddening if the future world felt unable to draw from past art.

i guess ?

LBird
Is democracy only one option?

lem_ wrote:

there is no "communist democracy" without communism.

Surely it also follows that 'there is no "communist democracy" without democracy', too?

Unless there is a proposed form of 'communism' that isn't 'democratic'?

I want no part in any form of 'elite communism'.

 

lem_
i didn't mention "elite" - i

i didn't mention "elite" - i was suggesting that communists don't need the concept of "democracy". i find your reply confusing - are you saying that the only alternative to bourgeoise democracy is "elitism"? odd.

lem_
casting a vote =/=

casting a vote =/= democracy... more like, a meeting ? anyway, to clarify, i was saying that the term is a poor one, it describes something bad at present, and as soon as we communists begin to create communism, we won't need to draw from bourgeois "democracy".

you can suggest that bordiga's anti democracy was fabricated, or mere rhetoric, something he invented out of nowhere to get ahead. or - you could take his claim about the "forces of reaction" seriously, as an outgrowth of the workers movement just as much as anything marx claimed.

the liberal ideal may be anathema [?] to capitalist ideology, but it isn't socio-economically so - IMHO

LBird
Communism is democracy

I always get a strange feeling when I write 'democracy' and other posters interpret this to mean 'bourgeois democracy'.

Although I'm a Communist, talking to other Communists, do I have to always write 'proletarian democracy', or 'Communist democracy', to distinguish my use of 'democracy' from your understanding of 'bourgeois democracy'?

Or is there something else going on, and you think there is a form of 'non-democratic communism'?

If Bordiga argues for 'anti-democracy', what's his political method for decision-making by workers?

Is it 'just agree with his opinion'?

I regard 'democracy' and 'workers' power' as synonymous.

lem_
ok - i was not saying you

ok - i was not saying you support "bourgeois" democracy, i was saying that "democracy" is loaded, unuseful, divisive, and ultimately "sacrosacant" term.

if you can't see that i'm saying that, then i suggest we stop this conversation here

LBird
Mystified

lem_ wrote:

ok - i was not saying you support "bourgeois" democracy, i was saying that "democracy" is loaded, unuseful, divisive, and ultimately "sacrosacant" term.

if you can't see that i'm saying that, then i suggest we stop this conversation here

I'm merely asking you if you have a different method of making political decisions which workers should use, to 'democracy'. Do you?

I'm not sure why you find this question threatening or hurtful enough to 'stop this conversation here'.

lem_
it has nothing to do with

it has nothing to do with being "hurt" by the conversation - i simply recognize that someone who does not seem to (presumably - feigned) understand my statement, but continues to spill rhetorical statements my way, i would rather not bother talking to them - it won't do either of us any good.

i suggest you read more, learn to understand that when someone disagrees with you it's not personal and you don't have to pretend to misunderstand :)

i repeat - if you don't address my point, then i would rather not have this conversation (for the above reasons) - ok ?

"[please understand that] democracy is a unuseful, loaded divisive and ultimately "sacrosant" term".

lem_
in answer to your question -

in answer to your question - yes i have a different method of answering question to "democracy" - i believe in workers power, thanks.

LBird
Baffled

lem_ wrote:

it has nothing to do with being "hurt" by the conversation - i simply recognize that someone who does not seem to (presumably - feigned) understand my statement, but continues to spill rhetorical statements my way, i would rather not bother talking to them - it won't do either of us any good.

i suggest you read more, learn to understand that when someone disagrees with you it's not personal and you don't have to pretend to misunderstand :)

i repeat - if you don't address my point, then i would rather not have this conversation (for the above reasons) - ok ?

"[please understand that] democracy is a unuseful, loaded divisive and ultimately "sacrosant" term".

I'm not 'feigning', 'spilling rhetoric' or 'pretending'.

I'm truly baffled as to why you won't answer a simply political question.

If you're opposed to voting, how will workers make political decisions?

Why is that question 'divisive'?

LBird
Is workers power undemocratic?

lem_ wrote:

in answer to your question - yes i have a different method of answering question to "democracy" - i believe in workers power, thanks.

But I've already said that I regard these two concepts as synonymous.

So, it's up to you to say how they differ.

lem_
look, i repeat - democracy is

look, i repeat - democracy is a bourgeois term. you can reclaim the word and call your friends "democrats" if you like, but i was suggesting that it's misleading. just because you don't think that the term misleads you, doesn't mean you're not misleading.

i cannot say how the CONCEPTS are different, because i do not know the ins and outs of your ideas on what you call "workers power". but i disagree with your use of the TERM,

 

get money - eh LBird?

lem_
no you have misunderstood

no you have misunderstood me... if you can't understand what i'm saying (which substatively you do not) then please stop disagreeing with me :(

i am not opposed to "voting" and people having power through a "vote". i was suggesting that democracy is the wrong TERM. ok - do you understand now ?

lem_
i simply don't think it's

i simply don't think it's right to talk with someone about something they don't understand - !

all the best - !

LBird
Voting is democracy

If you're happy to agree that when I say 'democratic communism' that it's the same as your 'voting communism, we haven't got a problem, lem_.

So, "workers' power" is synonymous with 'voting communism', for you.

And, "workers' power" is synonymous with 'democratic communism', for me.

All comrades again!

lem_
comrades is cool days

LBird wrote:

If you're happy to agree that when I say 'democratic communism' that it's the same as your 'voting communism, we haven't got a problem, lem_.

So, "workers' power" is synonymous with 'voting communism', for you.

And, "workers' power" is synonymous with 'democratic communism', for me.

All comrades again!

yes, but i still think that "democratic communism" is a misnomer... did you really think for even a moment that i was using the icc's board to agitate for absolute Party control of the state and workplace? that doesn't even make any sense - i am not in the ICC and i guess i don't ever expect to be.

 

Link
If I can clarify my initial

If I can clarify my initial query following the point raised by lbird.  Communist society will generate its own set of morals and ethics.  We can call this Communist culture and it can only be a product of that society, developed by the practice of building that society.  Trotsky is suggesting that this culture cannot be called proletarian because it is a product of a classless society ie no proletariat.  I think we would all agree with this so far.

 

So the issue I am raising is does capitalist society, which is dominated by bourgeois culture generate such a thing as a proletarian culture within itself and alongside bourgeois culture. 

 

KT correctly raised issues relating to solidarity and strike breaking and political discussion and calls this proletarian morality.  This certainly appears to be a correct application because the proletariat in struggle clearly has needs for certain behaviours to strengthen itself against capitalism

 

Must I therefore accept that the needs of struggle should be called proletarian morals or ethics?   They are a product of the situation of the workers movement in capitalism, they are a reaction to an oppressed situation.  They may well be the seeds from which new relations germinate but they will change beyond all recognition and will be eliminated by workers in the same way as they eliminate themselves as a class. 

lem_
yes - agreed, "morals" have a

yes - agreed, "morals" have a role to play in solidarity, but they will be overturned at some point, at least if there is no evil.

LBird
Basis or not?

Link wrote:

If I can clarify my initial query following the point raised by lbird.  Communist society will generate its own set of morals and ethics.  We can call this Communist culture and it can only be a product of that society, developed by the practice of building that society.  Trotsky is suggesting that this culture cannot be called proletarian because it is a product of a classless society ie no proletariat.  I think we would all agree with this so far.

No, I don't agree, Link. I think that the basis of any Communist society will be laid in the struggle by the proletariat within bourgeois society.

Link wrote:

So the issue I am raising is does capitalist society, which is dominated by bourgeois culture generate such a thing as a proletarian culture within itself and alongside bourgeois culture. 

The answer is 'yes'. Opposed cultures are produced by opposed classes. Ruling ideas are not the only ideas. Otherwise, 'ruling ideas' would just be called 'ideas'.
.

Link wrote:

KT correctly raised issues relating to solidarity and strike breaking and political discussion and calls this proletarian morality.  This certainly appears to be a correct application because the proletariat in struggle clearly has needs for certain behaviours to strengthen itself against capitalism

This reinforces my position, above.

Link wrote:

Must I therefore accept that the needs of struggle should be called proletarian morals or ethics?   They are a product of the situation of the workers movement in capitalism, they are a reaction to an oppressed situation.  They may well be the seeds from which new relations germinate but they will change beyond all recognition and will be eliminated by workers in the same way as they eliminate themselves as a class. 

I'm not sure why the 'new relations' will 'change beyond all recognition'. I think proletarian culture is the basis of human culture (ie. Communism).

Link
So please define and describe

So please define and describe proletarian culture and morals

 

LBird
Is democracy a moral virtue for the proletariat?

Link wrote:

So please define and describe proletarian culture and morals

 

You've already started to do this, in your post #21, where you agreed with KT.

The definition is a task for the class, employing democratic methods, to create that culture and morals.

I'm not sure what you're asking of me - I can give some suggestions of what I think might be included.

One simple proletarian 'moral value' is democracy. Because private property is not democratic, this gives us an opposition to bourgeois morality, which is clearly not democratic, no matter what their ideologists say.

Any worker can say to their boss that they want a vote on where their production goes. The boss will deny democracy. No worker has to read the classics of liberal thought, or struggle with Adam Smith or John Stuart Mill - just ask the boss, and the liberal bluff about 'bourgeois democracy' becomes clear.

Do you think that proletarian morality should start with democracy? Or do you have a different view?

Link
what is proletarian culture, morality etc

No i do not agree.  I think whatever structure that democracy takes in a communist society is part of the political elements of that society.  Culture is surely about social practice, relationships, practices and standards of behaviour as well as arts and crafts

I would point that you said proletarian culture already exists in opposition to ruling class culture, so the definition is not a task for the class its already there for you to explain.

LBird
Disagreement

Link wrote:

No i do not agree.  I think whatever structure that democracy takes in a communist society is part of the political elements of that society.  Culture is surely about social practice, relationships, practices and standards of behaviour as well as arts and crafts

I would point that you said proletarian culture already exists in opposition to ruling class culture, so the definition is not a task for the class its already there for you to explain.

Well, there's nothing to explain, other than we disagree!

I think proletarian political practice in bourgeois society should be democratic, and apparently you don't.

I'd rather you said openly what method of decision-making you think that the proletariat should use, but if you won't, I can't make you.

It's up to other comrades to weigh up our disagreement, and decide for themselves.

Link
Here you go again Lbird,

Here you go again Lbird, ignoring the discussion that you enter in favour of just pushing your fixed views.  I have not entered into a discussion with you about democracy at all but that is all you appear to want to talk about.

You said "Opposed cultures are produced by opposed classes"  What do you mean?  This has nothing to do with democracy

LBird
Fixed, or substantial?

Link wrote:

Here you go again Lbird, ignoring the discussion that you enter in favour of just pushing your fixed views.  I have not entered into a discussion with you about democracy at all but that is all you appear to want to talk about.

You said "Opposed cultures are produced by opposed classes"  What do you mean?  This has nothing to do with democracy

I have 'fixed views', but you don't? Hmmm...

If you don't think 'democracy' has anything to do with culture, fair enough, but I disagree.

Once again, if you can't handle a disagreement, that says more about you (and your politics) than me.

lem_
i am guessing that more and

i am guessing that more and more in the upcoming decades the Capitalist class will attack the ideas of  proletarian solidarity as immoral... i think it's important of militants of all stripes to stress that they still have values - and that they aren't "immoral".

LBird
Our Morals?

lem_ wrote:

i am guessing that more and more in the upcoming decades the Capitalist class will attack the ideas of  proletarian solidarity as immoral... i think it's important of militants of all stripes to stress that they still have values - and that they aren't "immoral".

Yeah, but it's important to realise that the bourgeosie stress 'solidarity', as opposed to 'selfishness', when it suits them. This form of 'solidarity' is expressed through the 'nation', of course, rather than 'class'.

As for 'moral values', of course the proletariat has them.

The belief that the struggle for Communism doesn't involve morals is a mistake, I think. From what I can tell, it's 'materialists' who seem to favour 'material conditions', as opposed to 'moral ideas'.

lem_
No I don't think "moral

No I don't think "moral values" are opposed to "material conditions". I see "moral values" as an imperative for overturning "material conditions" - not a condition.

MH
Link, I feel your original

Link, I feel your original query still deserves a response.

Firstly it’s worth publicising the fact that the ICC has published a lengthy two part article on the whole question of Marxism and ethics, starting here:

https://en.internationalism.org/ir/127/marxism-and-ethics         

To attempt to summarise briefly (!!!), firstly the whole question of morality has always been essential for those defending a materialist conception of history because it was one of the discoveries of Marx that the price of labour power is determined in part by the solidarity and confidence of the proletariat; its outrage at its pay and conditions and the values of capitalist society, its willingness and ability to fight for its own interests, etc.

For Marxism the origin of morality lies in the fact that the individual has always been insufficient for the survival of humanity; our evolution as a species has always depended on solidarity and collective action and this opens up the necessity for humanity to understand, clarify and codify the nature of the relationship between the individual and the wider community.

The proletariat inherits this understanding that the progress of humanity has always been based on solidarity and collective action – an understanding that has been hidden and distorted with the development of class society, in particular with the emergence of capitalism, and above all with the decay and decomposition of capitalism. And it is the heir to the best attempts of human thinkers to clarify these issues.

In this sense, along with the spheres of art, science and culture as a whole, the proletariat defends the best acquisitions of humanity in the sphere of morality and ethics.

But it is more fundamental than this; there is a reason why questions of morality and ethics are absolutely central to the proletarian struggle, in a way that other spheres of culture are not; because the proletariat is itself a class engaged in collective labour, whose liberation – and through it the liberation of humanity – depends on collective action based on the utmost solidarity. From this flow basic ‘rules’ such as not stealing from each other, but also a concern to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, etc.

So is there a ‘proletarian morality’? I would say, no, just as there is no such thing as a ‘proletarian culture’, as Trotsky rightly argued. But there are most definitely moral values that the proletariat embodies in its struggle and must consciously defend as a class, which will form the basis of  communist society in the future

Hope this helps...

Link
Thanks MH for your response.

Thanks MH for your response.   I had discovered the texts after my earlier post and have read the first one so far.  Your explanations make a great deal of sense  and I am glad of your clarifications re the idea of 'proletarian morality' etc

I know the text was written as an internal document so its perhaps not surprising that i dont find it provides sufficient evidence of the arguments presented particularly re the supposed essential role played by an understanding of morality in the workers movement and how its been lost by the break with the past.  You echo this point above.  What concerns me here is that i do not remember the idea of morality and ethics appearing in any of the historical texts i have read - not that i would pretend to be particularly well read - so i need to more guidance here as to what to look at for support for this argument.  

I understand your point that collective action of the working class is the basis for the liberation of humanity so there is a difference to other elements of culture.  However i think i have seen this not as a   moral imperative but as a product of material conditions that first require, then facilitate and eventual enable an understanding of new relationships to emerge.  I have seen this as something that can only be a product of whole class interactions.  What we see as the nature of communist society is able to establish genuine freedoms for individuals because it releases all from the alienated constraints and demands of class society. In that sense what we see as collective action now can bear little relationship to what would exist in a communist society; we cannot envisage what is means to have the whole world cooperating and working together and to the organisation and relationships that that would require to function.  For me this does imply that even collective action must change over time and its content shouldnt therefore be codified and set into some moral stone.

I think i link ideas of morality and ethics and the corresponding immorality to social needs of the ruling ideology, hence as an imposition on the individual.  However that said not all ideas of good conduct are wrong clearly;  Thou shall not kill etc etc.   

Anyway perhaps you can disentangle these thoughts for me.

lem_
Quote:Thou shall not kill etc

Quote:
Thou shall not kill etc etc.

i think the transvaluation of (all) values by the working class will sometimes be predicated on overturning their ground rather that their content.

MH
link wrote: I understand your

link wrote:

I understand your point that collective action of the working class is the basis for the liberation of humanity so there is a difference to other elements of culture.  However i think i have seen this not as a moral imperative but as a product of material conditions that first require, then facilitate and eventual enable an understanding of new relationships to emerge.  I have seen this as something that can only be a product of whole class interactions.  

Firstly, the need for collective action does indeed arise from the material conditions – it is not a moral imperative in an idealist sense.

But what do we mean by material conditions? For LBird, who defends an idealist conception of history, material conditions are rocks that do not talk. We on the other hand, basing ourselves on Marx, have no problem in seeing consciousness – ideas, values, beliefs, etc – as part of the material conditions; even though we understand that they are shaped and ultimately determined by the mode of production in any given period.

‘Consciousness’ in this sense includes not only awareness of immediate conditions or even long term goals but also the gains of humanity about the need for solidarity, caring for others, etc; ie. moral values or, yes, if you like, ‘imperatives’, because these ‘values’ are ultimately rooted in our very nature as human, social beings.

Secondly, the need for collective action does not lead inevitably to such action, or to its success; the ability of the class to fight back against the attacks of capital depends on its willingness to struggle, its understanding of the need for the strongest solidarity and its ability to create and sustain this solidarity; its courage, anger and determination – if you like on its moral strength. This is not a given. It does not arise mechanically from the objective conditions.

The price of labour power is determined partly by the willingness of the proletariat to say to the boss: “You’re going to pay me how much! You must be fucking joking!” And on its ability to build solidarity in support of its struggle for higher pay...

Or to take a historic example, the birth of the proletariat, accompanied by dispossession from the land, branded and whipped as Marx vividly describes in Capital - all this could have led to the permanent degradation of the new class. And yet as Engels observes in The Condition…, in the hellish conditions of the new cities the proletariat constituted the most lovable, noble, human sector of capitalist society. It was able to re-affirm and to develop, through its experience of collective labour, the acquisitions of humanity on the need for solidarity, to rise above...

Again,hope this helps. I’m claiming no authority here; this is me just winging it…

 

LBird
Marx was an idealist-materialist

MH wrote:
For LBird, who defends an idealist conception of history...

MH is entitled to their opinion of my views, but, for the record, I, like Marx, defend an idealist-materialist conception of history. This involves theory and practice, consciousness and being, subject and object.

In fact, the 'materialist conception of history' (Marx never used this term) is Engels' positivist-influenced invention.

I'll leave it at that. I've only commented because I was compelled to by MH's mis-characterisation of my views.

Suffice to say, waiting for the 'material conditions' to tell us what they are, will involve a long wait!

 

jaycee
LBird I don't think you have

LBird I don't think you have an idealist view but I do think that your characterisation of the 'material conditions' as being like 'rocks' shows that despite your 'idealist-materialist' position I think perhaps you maintain too great a distinction/ seperation between the two. The material conditions are not seperate to the 'mental' sphere, at times certain trends within Marxism have painted the relationship between the two as overly one sided and only flowing in one direction, i.e. material conditions creates ideas/ consciousness etc when the truth is always more subtle and more dialectical. Perhaps you at times go too far in the oppositte direction, i.e in having a slightly overly theoretical view of revolution for example where it can seem like you believe that the revolution will only happen once everyone (or close to everyone) becomes a communist when the truth is likely to be much more contradictory/complex in terms of a dialectic between material conditions and struggle with theoretical deepening of growing sections of the proletariat.

 

 

LBird
Thanks

jaycee wrote:

LBird I don't think you have an idealist view...

Thanks for that acknowledgement, jaycee.

jaycee wrote:

...but I do think that your characterisation of the 'material conditions' as being like 'rocks' shows that despite your 'idealist-materialist' position I think perhaps you maintain too great a distinction/ seperation between the two.

You have to see my 'one-sided' comments in the context of my rhetorical attempts to wean comrades off Engels' theories.

I don't 'maintain too great a distinction', though, because I always stress consciousness and being as being inseparable in epistemology.

jaycee
while i wouldn't claim to be

while i wouldn't claim to be an expert I'm not sure where you get this idea that Engels had a completely different view from Marx, I think he may have been less subtle and was definitely I think a lesser writer than Marx was but I don't see evidence for a real break in continuity between their views. Could you explain why you feel there is?

 

LBird
Different thread

jaycee wrote:

while i wouldn't claim to be an expert I'm not sure where you get this idea that Engels had a completely different view from Marx, I think he may have been less subtle and was definitely I think a lesser writer than Marx was but I don't see evidence for a real break in continuity between their views. Could you explain why you feel there is?

 

We have had discussions about this issue over several threads in the past year, jayee, and I don't wish to go over old ground again on this thread. Many (all?) the supporters of the ICC fundamentally disagree with me, and I think that the ICC has been very forebearing about my criticisms.

If you really want to discuss it, could you read and restart one of the old threads?

lem_
philosophy

LBird wrote:

jaycee wrote:

LBird I don't think you have an idealist view...

Thanks for that acknowledgement, jaycee.

jaycee wrote:

...but I do think that your characterisation of the 'material conditions' as being like 'rocks' shows that despite your 'idealist-materialist' position I think perhaps you maintain too great a distinction/ seperation between the two.

You have to see my 'one-sided' comments in the context of my rhetorical attempts to wean comrades off Engels' theories.

I don't 'maintain too great a distinction', though, because I always stress consciousness and being as being inseparable in epistemology.

i don't think the working class are epistemologists, i think you ground material action in idealism...a material idealist :-)
lem_
Quote:Suffice to say, waiting

Quote:
Suffice to say, waiting for the 'material conditions' to tell us what they are, will involve a long wait!
don't take this the wrong way i know you have been an SWP member, but i think this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of - almost everything to do with struggle, which is active as well as creative.
lem_
e.g. when uses an echo device

e.g. when someone uses an echo device to find out how deep water is, the sea floor "tell us" what we are trying to find out. you may balk and say that it doesn't "tell" or say, material things are things not speaking people. but i thought marxism and revolutionary struggle was about social conditions, not anything so much to do with inanimate objects.

perhaps you are an objectivist idealist hah.

Quote:
because I always stress consciousness and being as being inseparable in epistemology.
i don't quite know what conversations you are referring to here, but this belief or statement anyway runs counter to much contemporary epistemology - of objects, anyway. try this link if you have the time :)

http://euppublishingblog.com/2014/12/12/correlationism-an-extract-from-t...

lem_
or maybe an objectivist

or maybe an objectivist utopian?

tell me LBird, who makes the class conscious of itself? you seem to suggest that it just appears without struggle, or via the work of some intellectual vanguard.. both IMHO denies the role of the class in constructing its consciousness of itself: objectivism. and then i would add the "utopian" or idealist tag because unlike classical objectivists, you seem to say that class consciousness is merely about material conditions, not something which is created from them.

anyway, it's preferable to ayn rand so don't feel too bad lol.

LBird
Constructivism

lem_ wrote:

the role of the class in constructing its consciousness of itself: objectivism.

This is not 'objectivism', but 'constructivism'.

Humans construct their socially-objective knowledge, and this applies to both physics and sociology. It is the scientific method. The human is active, not matter.

Thus, it requires social theory and social activity, or idealism-materialism. Theory and practice.

Materialism is 19th century positivist bourgeois science, and Engels adopted this. Marx had already rejected 'materialism', in his Theses on Feuerbach. Engels didn't seem to understand Marx - no surprise, there - who does?

lem_
ok i thnk you misunderstood

ok i thnk you misunderstood the punctuation, sorry. i was claiming that objectivists do not recognize that the working class creates its consciousness of itself. so i will ask you again - who creates the working class's consciousness of itself?

> Humans construct their socially-objective knowledge, and this applies to both physics and sociology. It is the scientific method. The human is active, not matter.

This is the wrong characterisation of both physics and sociology. Physicists, like sociologists, study active or living qualities of the physical and social world.

Constructivsts  claim to understand the results of the hard and soft sciences by looking at what drives it - society. It is not the idea that "Humans construct their socially-objective knowledge" without the world acting, and it is not the claim that the can't do science without constructivism - indeed practically no constructivist would tell a scientist how to do their job.

> Thus, it requires social theory and social activity, or idealism-materialism. Theory and practice.

No, science does not require idealism. It requires hypothesis and test, but both of these necessitate struggle - e.g. the struggle to create the higgs boson.

lem_
You charicature science,

You charicature science, philosophy, the working class, and marxism.

None of these things are a passive formulation or passing on of an idea, followed by testing it against social reality. The nearest thing I can think that does that is undergraduate philosophy lol... maybe you'd have some luck with Heidegger - who has a somewhat idealist conception of history. But he was virulently anti marxism, and the left heideggerians like Marcuse or Lefort, are critical of society from a specific position - and highly aware of what that position is (the intellectual vanguard).

Alf
morality of the oppressed

Apologies for the delay in coming back to this discussion, but since its origins go back to the origins of humanity, a week or two here and there won’t make a lot of difference.  I agree with MH’s approach in post 33 – to go back to Link’s original question, to refer Link to what the ICC has already published, and then to elaborate why morality is such a key element of the proletarian struggle (even if MH doesn’t actually agree with the term “proletarian morality”).  In Link’s original post, there is a clear opening to the latter view and even an acceptance that there is a proletarian morality. However, Link poses a valid question as to whether there is a contradiction between, on the one hand rejecting the notion of proletarian culture (as both Trotsky and the article in the communism series in IR 109 do) and arguing that there is indeed a proletarian morality. There is no easy answer to this question but the cited definition of culture by Trotsky gives us an important insight:  “But it would be extremely light-minded to give the name of proletarian culture even to the most valuable achievements of individual representatives of the working class. One cannot turn the concept of culture into the small change of individual daily living and determine the success of a class culture by the proletarian passports of individual inventors or poets. Culture is the organic sum of knowledge and capacity which characterises the entire society, or at least its ruling class. It embraces and penetrates all fields of human work and unifies them into a system”  In this all-encompassing definition of culture, the culture of any mode of production must include that of the ruling class because it has at its disposal all the material means to develop it, whether in the spheres of art, education or science. The proletariat, as an exploited class, lacks any property of its own and therefore the means to develop a fully independent culture. This is why, for example, while the proletariat can indeed appropriate the scientific method in analysing social reality, there is no specific proletarian science; nor is there a proletarian art.   The morality of an exploited class, however, is something that is not dependent on having a particular economic base and throughout history the advance of morality has often proceeded precisely through the struggle and revolt of the oppressed and the exploited. An example of this would be those elements of the prophetic tradition in Judaism, Christianity and Islam which express this revolt from below, even if the original breakthroughs in these world views were  lost or buried to the degree that they became incorporated into the morality – and the state structures – of the ruling class.  Since as MH says the proletariat is the guardian of all that is best in human history, I think it is reasonable to claim that its ability to synthesise (and thus take forward onto a far higher level) the moral advances achieved in previous social systems has a specifically proletarian quality.  Other comrades may prefer to talk about a communist morality, but what’s most important is this clear recognition of the indispensable role of the moral dimension in the struggle of the working class and of its revolutionary organisations. 

 


 

lem_
thanks for the post Alf, i

thanks for the post Alf, i thought it was good.

 

sorry if i was being amoral / etc. to L.Bird.

Link
Thanks for the responses

Thanks for the responses above on my queries here.  I have now read the responses and the 2 articles mentioned from IR 109 but  I don’t find the articles particularly persuasive Im afraid  though.  Also I think Alf missed the point about communist morality rather than proletarian morality; the former was meant to identify the morality that is a product of communist society whereas the term proletarian morality is being used by Alf and the ICC to describe behaviour within capitalist society.  It’s the latter that MH and I were agreeing was a problem.

I am struggling with the explanations given for a proletarian morality.  I can see why the ICC is particularly emphasising the quote from Trotsky at the end of the article 2 because it appears to support what I think the ICC is trying to do:   

Bolshevism created the type of the authentic revolutionist, who subordinates to historic goals irreconcilable with contemporary society the conditions of his personal existence, his ideas, and his moral judgements. …….. Only this permitted the Bolsheviks to overcome the waverings in their own ranks and reveal in action that courageous determination without which the October victory would have been impossible”

However this is a quote from Trotsky who is criticised earlier in the article as having a utilitarian morality and frankly the quote from Lukacs: "The rule of the whole over the parts signifies determined self sacrifice...Only he is a revolutionary, who is ready to do anything, in order to fulfil these interests."… which is also criticised as utilitarianist but which can be read to say exactly the same thing as the Trotsky quote however!   OK this could be a bit of inconsistency or lack of clarity in the article but basically I don’t think the arguments are convincing at all.    Are there any other articles on this topic that I haven’t found yet?

I would refer here back to Cormacks article on the Bolsheviks which  Shug mentioned on another thread (http://libcom.org/library/another-look-organisation-question) which discusses the practicalities of how the Bolsheviks were actually organised and opposes the latterday view of them as a superefficient, highly centralised organisation.  The Bolsheviks undertook bank robberies to obtain funds as I understand it, is this an example of moral activity or is it immoral?  What are the consequences for a view of the Bolsheviks if this is considered immoral?  Whatever the answer,  it does suggest the idea that we have lost a link to some proletarian morality of old is not really correct though

I presume that there will be a new morality that develops with communist society is not at issue here.   I would still argue Communist culture can only exist in a communist society.  We can identify what we think are features, we can identify what we think are germs that can flourish as and when such a society develops.  That political understanding may well affect our behaviour now but we cannot create a communist culture and behaviours in the middle of an exploitative system as I cannot yet see anything in historical development that sets specific ‘rules’ for this moral behaviour

The core of what I am struggling to understand /agree with is still the distinction between culture and morality.  Frankly behaviour is a key element of what I perceived culture to be and under capitalism it is a culture dominated by capitalist ideology and I cant see that militants in the workers movement are independent of this.  To be honest Alf’s statement that:   “The morality of an exploited class, however, is something that is not dependent on having a particular economic base and throughout history the advance of morality has often proceeded precisely through the struggle and revolt of the oppressed and the exploited”  feels like you are saying that morality has its own continuity that runs alongside economic development but I don’t really believe that is can be what you are intending to say.  It  do think that this statement is a key one that needs more explansation please as it certainly comes over as an assertion rather than a proven truth.

What are the implications of suggesting that a proletarian morality exist now.

Firstly, it still seems to me that it should generate more specific concepts of what  a proletarian morality must contain.  However what I have read leaves it all rather vague apart from say the issues of solidarity and theft.  Should it not be possible to lay down rules about comradeship, intervention in the class, discussion, telling the truth, proper referencing, money and possessions,  advertising and so forth?  As im writing that the words tradition and political principles comes to mind but traditions in the workers movement are conventions that reflect experience in a capitalist society and the consequent political understanding and not a formally codified set of  behavioural rules surely?

If these behaviours need to be codified as morals then it implies to me that there should also be the repercussions for breaking them?

Furthermore given that a view of morality must be an interpretation of history or behaviour in practice, then it is also true to say that different groups in the workers movement will have their own codes of conduct related to their particular political interpretations of society/history  There may be common elements but there will inevitably be differences.  You cannot therefore expect groups in the workers movement with differing political interpretations to behave the same.  OK a basis for discussion but there cant be a demand to behave in a particular way, only the future can determine the correct behaviours.

What also worries me here is also that the concept of morality and immorality could lead to the idea that it should it be possible to identify rules of behaviour not just for the political minorities but for the working class as a whole too?  Or are we back to the idea that solidarity the only behaviour would be included in this morality of the oppressed.

Anyway i hope i have made some sense here that is worth responding to as i definitely feel out of my comfort zone on the topics of ethics and ethical development.

lem_
i'm drunk... if individuals

i'm drunk... if individuals don't have morality then what is it that keeps them attempting to engage?