Maturation of Consciousness: Let's Discuss

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LoneLondoner
It's not just the numbers

Since this seems to be getting into a different sort of area, I thought I would start a new thread on China et al., and see where that takes us.

jk1921
Denial?

zimmerwald1915 wrote:

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

Is it that decomposition leads the ICC to this denial or is the denial inspite of what it says about decomposition? In other words, is there some kind of relationship between the theory of decomposition and turning a blind eye to sociological change restructuring the working class or is the ICC simply not following its own analysis through to the logical conclusion?

LoneLondoner
What denial?

Well like I said in my reply to Zimmerwald, it's not clear at all to me what comrades feel that the ICC is denying. Could someone clarify this for me so that I can understand what is going on, and explain why anyone thinks this?

zimmerwald1915
I don't know

jk1921 wrote:

Is it that decomposition leads the ICC to this denial or is the denial inspite of what it says about decomposition? In other words, is there some kind of relationship between the theory of decomposition and turning a blind eye to sociological change restructuring the working class or is the ICC simply not following its own analysis through to the logical conclusion?

I don't know.  That's why I never went beyond ironic observation and into actual criticism.

LoneLondoner
Oh what the heck...

zimmerwald1915 wrote:

I don't know.  That's why I never went beyond ironic observation and into actual criticism.

Go on, let's have some actual criticism just for the hell of it

jk1921
Not sure...

LoneLondoner wrote:

Well like I said in my reply to Zimmerwald, it's not clear at all to me what comrades feel that the ICC is denying. Could someone clarify this for me so that I can understand what is going on, and explain why anyone thinks this?

 

Not sure LL. I was reacting to Zimmerwald's post. It wasn't clear to me if he felt there was something integral to the theory of decomposition that led to a particular tendency to reject the entire "recomposition of the proletariat" thing or if he felt the ICC was being intellectually dishonest in not recognizing that decompostion had to be affecting the sociological integrity of the proletariat itself. I think this comes out of my previous post regarding the difference in analysis of "union busting" between the ICC and the ICT., i.e. union busting as a terrible political blunder vs. union busting as a rational, functional need of captial accumulation.

jk1921
Phenomena

mhou wrote:

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

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

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

 

I suppose its possible that both phenomena are at work. It could be functional for individual capitalists, or even entire sectors of the national capital (even parts of the state apparatus itself) to get rid of unions and still be irrational from the point of view of the entire national capital (which it is supossed to be the job of the state to look after).

But does it follow from reducing the cost of labor power and making it more flexible that unions become superfulous or does this risk leaving the national capital vulnerable to a working class that is still largely intact? What is the relationship between reducing the cost of labor power/increasing labor flexibility and the very sociological changes we have been discussing? Does one follow the other?

It seems like both processes could be at work at some level, but I don't think this means both the ICC and ICT are right simultaneously. There is a clear difference in emphasis in their analysis of the union busting, which seems to lead to different places.

Fred
confused

I wish somebody would explain clearly what exactly the "sociological changes in the working class" are, and what difference they make to the class struggle. Do these changes mean that the working class no longer exists; or that the class no longer sees itself as "the working class" or no longer knows it's an exploited class? Have "sociological changes" done away with Marx's claim that society is divided into two warring classes, and that history is the history of class struggle? Do we now have to think that history is actually the history of sociological change? I don't get it! Hasn't the bourgeoisie undergone sociological change too? But it's still successfully the exploiting class is it not? I think it was LL who pointed out that the working class is currently much better educated than it was 100 years ago, and this places it in a better position with regard to revolutionary possibilities. Also that many "professionals" are now down-graded and thus proletarianised. Is this decomposition at work, or sociological change, or just the bourgeoisie turning the screws in search of profit.

Or, is it finally that some comrades, feeling that the proletarian revolution will never happen now - because the proletariat is crushed, bewildered and rendered passive as a result of the clever machinations of the bourgeoisie, who can confidently phase in both decomposition and capitalism's economic failure without any workers noticing anything - so, these comrades, rather than just saying "the revolution'll never happen now" seek solace in the mysticism of sociological change and the restructured nature of the working class which renders it impotent. Who would have thought the bourgeoisie to be so smart? All power to money! (lol)

lem_
oh i agree with that

oh i agree with that propsotion you posted is very opaque. perhaps they mean that "sociology" is a science of capitalism that is not critical and leaves no place for hope in gains for the working class [or do they mean the poor?] outside what is probably best classed as traditional capitalist movements. oh i don't know, civil rights e.g.. the unions? i actually read someone [from the 30s] an art critic say that sociology is a precursor to fascism, simply for that reason.

 

i can't see how anyone can say that the working class is categorically defeated, i do not see why anyone would literally believe that - it's a smoke screen IMO. yeah, they seem like a very weak movement, but likewise it does seem that marx is close to being proved right, and crises will esculate in the upcoming few years / decades. it may seem like a complete paradox, but if he is right about barbarism then maybe the working class are actually as strong [even stronger!] than they were. because that is his argument, right? maybe i misunderstand the global change these past few decades has brought, but it _seems_ like it's been a period of relative strength in capitalism - hasn't it brought a concretely better life for most of the proletariat? which is not to say that it has not increasingly been riddled by crisis, perhaps the crises in question were not as overtly related to technology, but the destruction of community, ideology, even art. anyway.

anyway, if it's true that life got worse in many ways, but did actually improve in terms of [i don't know it matters what term to use - let's say] working-life, then it makes complete sense that the proletariat is not appearing to be quite the revolutionary force we might want. but does it mean that it is no longer revolutionary?

i would guess there are a few ways of approaching that question.

 

for starters, even if our class is weak at its place of work perhaps it has gained a kind of confidence in [through the degredation of] its community. caring for your community may be an odd kind of solidarity, because people can readily seem alien to it. but i also think that if that tendency is taken to its logical conclusion, it could be powerful, cos if we expect that kind of responsibility from everyone then we would actually believe that the alien and new are doing the responsible / right thing, too.

anyway back to the question of whether marx could be right about the decomposition of capitalism and wrong about who has revolutionary potential, up until the mutual ruin of the contending classes anyway. i won't pretend to know the ins and outs of his argument... and too many people think hegel is bullshit to bring up the [confusing] status of dialectics. i think the key point, is simply that [as someone recently told me on here] the working classes are working class because the bourgeoisie and bourgeois. and it may seem, to a cursory glance around the place anyway, that there are no longer any capitalists, not in the sense of those individuals that exploit the proles and are just as i said, defined in opposition to them.

but totally, ask yourself whether you are a simply a bourgeois with less free time and less money. no i am not saying you hate capitalism and so you are not a capitalist [etc.] but actually that *you* could not buy your own happiness without also shedding something else, too. call it your humanity, morals, "soul", whatever really. and while i totally agree that not many people currently see things as black and white as the posters on here do, i REALLY DO believe that a massive proportion of people live a similarly anxious, confused and unsatisfying life.

 

i guess i didn't REALLY prove my point against these [non existent?] sociologists. but actually i see no argument from them [because they don't exist?]... it may seem intuitively appealing to say that the working class is defeated, but not when one stops and thinks about it IMHO. in just the same way that rock music may seem like a crtical progression of the aesthetic forms available to past art musicians, until like, you actually think about what "critical" and "progression" mean in this context, when it is limited to art and music and we are not talking about wider cultural patterns [i.e. that the punk sells lol].

 

 

in summary:

a) sorry to make this bloated post.

b) the working class is not defeated because i) those that claim it is are offering superficial arguments and ii) even if only us select few [joke] currently know what we want, most people do want their lives to change in some form, and so what if most of the crises here in britain up until now were simply the annihilation of forms in which our lives can be changed [a destruction of ideology, community, etc.]? so what???

lem_
oh i missed my bus, so will

oh i missed my bus, so will write out another reply. siorry :D !

we might ask, if we don't think marx has been proven right yet something like:

so i'm unhappy. so what - why suppose that means i need to sieze the means of production as part of a class movement?

 

well, if we agree that it's because we can't "change" our lives, then we might be drawn to wonder what change is. dialectis i guess, and materialist - and look through historical antecdents for how to change the present scenario.

and if it's because i am not "rich", and that even being rich with my current psychological makeup wouldm't really or absolutely make me happy, then again i think dialectics is important huh but this time maybe instead of history, i will take a look at how i could be better off [rich] and then sort of overturn that, "change" its meaning. afterall, i at least think that there's little chance of overturning anything else and becoming happy! how trivial is it, the idea that the only revolution of the market that is possible is siezing it, as a class? perhaps not as trvial as i would like. but it totally seems to me that the best way to readically change something is to nullify it with its opposite. what that is here is surely obvious... ok so that sounds suspiciously like ibe - inference to the best explaination - but JUST MAYBE that's what material change between opposites is. oh i have no idea, laters.

jk1921
I feel a little like we are

I feel a little like we are going around in circles. Comrades ask, "What are these sociological changes?" But they have already been spelled out previously in this discusion. Comrades just need to go back and look at this thread and the other one. Its not a question of whether or not the working class exists or not. This is not Marcuse's argument again. This is about whether or not the working class can still be found in sufficient concentrations at the point of production to form the organs necessary to deepen its consciousness and complete a revolutionary ovethrow of the state. The ICT's thesis on union busting--that labor flexibility is more important than maintaining the union apparatus seems to possibly lead to the conclusion that it doesn't and necessitates a rethinking of the communist project. Others might accuse the ICC of sticking its head in the sand--decompostion impacts the bourgeoisie to such a point that it can often no longer act in the overall interests of the national capital, yet somehow the proletariat is still the same revolutionary class? It seems like a serious debate to me.

mhou
Your post early in the other

Your post early in the other thread prompted me to read a lot more about these changes jk, which has been very helpful. When it comes to these changes, the relationship between politics and economics appears to be very important. Lately the 1895 Engels introduction to The Class Struggle in France and Trotsky's The Curve of Capitalist Development (1923) which developed Engels' observations further have been a sticking point for me, and are very instructive- Engels/Trotsky say that the unseen/real movement of the economy is what leads to equal shifts/manifestations on the political terrain. I think the recomposition of the working-class (and the restructuring of capital) is a perfect example of this. Economic changes (specifically the falling rate of profit following the post-war boom which led to the return of crisis at the end of the 1960's, and related fallout like the oil crisis, collapse of Bretton-Woods, etc.) necessitate political changes as a demonstration of the struggling classes responding to these changes. You're right that it isn't so simple as to say "both ICT & ICC are right", but the analysis of both groups to the same phenomenon appear to focus on one aspect of these changes (economic or political). Decomposition seems like an attempt to better understand and theorize the political changes that have occurred since the 1970's; while the ICT's focus appears to be on the economic changes (and describe political changes- such as attacks on trade unionism as an instutution, through economic lenses). If capital was trying to offset the fall in the rate of profit, if a new long-wave cycle of accumulation was begun around that time (as is theorized by some like Mandel in the early 1960's), if the operaist view that the class struggle forced capital to grow wages outpacing productivity and this had to be reversed, etc whatever starting point you take at the beginning of the return of crisis, there has been definite changes in the composition of the working-class in the central capitalist countries as a result.

Fred
Since when was Marcuse a

Since when was Marcuse a communist? Sociologists usually speak from an academic/bourgeois point of view, as did tbe Frankfurt School. If a sociologist was to adapt his learning to the viewpoint of someone looking at things from a proletarian position, this might make his sociology more relevant to what we're all interested in: the class struggle.

jk wrote:
...decomposition impacts the bourgeoisie to such a point that it can often no longer act in the overall interests of the national capital, yet somehow the proletariat is still the SAME (my emphasis) revolutionary class? It seems like a serious debate to me.

Why does it matter if it's the same or a different revolutionary class, surely the point is that the working class still remains the one and only revolutionary class?

And then there's mhou's point that "there has been definite changes in the composition of tbe working class in the central capitalist countries..." as a result of something not altogether clarified, but never mind. It's the "definite changes in the composition of the working class" that is apparently significant. But is it? And if so why? Why are some comrades so anxious to establish, with no proof, that changes in the composition of the class render the class less likely to be revolutionary, or render the class incapable. Of course things aren't the same now as they were in 1848, or 1917, 1948, 1989, or even 2001. And it is in the interests of the bourgeoisie to establish something in the nature or composition of the working class which would suggest it's assimilation to the status quo; or it's loss of revolutionary potential. Rather like "the death of communism" have we now got "the death of the working class as a class" as a product of "changes in it's composition"? It's beginning to look like an own goal!

jk1921
Proof?

Fred wrote:
Since when was Marcuse a communist? Sociologists usually speak from an academic/bourgeois point of view, as did tbe Frankfurt School. If a sociologist was to adapt his learning to the viewpoint of someone looking at things from a proletarian position, this might make his sociology more relevant to what we're all interested in: the class struggle.

Nobody said Marcus was a communist. Do sociologists speak from an academic/bourgeois viewpoint or a social scientific one? What is the relationship between social science and the "proletarian position"? It seems one can make the proletarian position say anything one wants if there is no longer any requirement to ground it in any empirical social science. This raises the problem of self-referential tautology and a "so much the worse for the facts" attitude that may have flown in 1921, but it is not so clearly acceptable anymore for someone who demands more grounding. 

Fred wrote:

Why are some comrades so anxious to establish, with no proof, that changes in the composition of the class render the class less likely to be revolutionary, or render the class incapable.

I think this is some kind of logical fallacy, i.e. demanding "negative proof," (onus probandi), or something). The burden lies on those that think the working class is revolutionary, despite decades of apparent proof that it isn't, to prove that it is. Of course, this raises the entire issue of what counts as proof, which has been at the heart of this discussion as it has evolved.

But Fred, I think you have it backwards. I don't think comrades are anxious to prove the proletariat is "less revolutionary." In fact, its probably the opposite. They want to prove that it is revolutionary, but they recognize some of the problems with simply accepting this like an article of faith and demand a more rigourous level of explanation and more thourough confrontation with the many problems that come from wanting to believe in something that cannot be easily proven with standard empirical methods and when the available empirical evidence appears to paint a story of failure after failure. We need a more rigourous enagement with these issues, rather than a quick dismissal of people who raise questions as somehow tending to work against the goal we all share.

Fred
jk wrote:Do sociologists

jk wrote:
Do sociologists speak from an academic/bourgeois viewpoint or a social scientific one? What is the relationship between social science and the "proletarian position"?

You are superb at asking questions jk. I guess your answer to question (1) above is that sociologists speak from a social scientific point of view and not an academic/bourgeois point of view. (I am guessing your answer because you rarely supply one yourself. I suppose it's a technique for encouraging the culture of debate though it doesn't appear to work unfortunately.) My own irritable, simplistic and frustrated answer to question (1) is that the social sciences are largely phony bourgeois manifestations, meant to show how socialistic our rulers can be when you get down to it. (Nobody can be more Marxist than a red bourgeois.) As to question (2) this is more serious: the relationship, if any, between social science and the "proletarian position"? Does the fact that you put proletarian position in inverted commas suggest that you think there is no actual proletarian position, or that there might be but we don't really know what it is, or that there was in 1848 but it's changed since then but not everyone will admit the change etc? For myself I think that there could well be a relationship between the social sciences and a "proletarian position" in so far as both could be nonsense. However, I'm glad that you want to prove the working class is revolutionary and hope you find some way to do it. Though what would constitute proof?

jk1921
Questions?

Fred wrote:

You are superb at asking questions jk. I guess your answer to question (1) above is that sociologists speak from a social scientific point of view and not an academic/bourgeois point of view. (I am guessing your answer because you rarely supply one yourself. I suppose it's a technique for encouraging the culture of debate though it doesn't appear to work unfortunately.)

I think I ask a lot of questions Fred, because I really don't have the answers myself. As I get older, I find myself less and less certain about things and more likely to pose questions than offer quick and easy answers. I have been told this irks some people, but it is what it is. This also seems to go against much of the historical culture in the milieu, which (as I have pointed out elsewhere) seems to be built around an adversarialism of competing positions. There does seem to be a tendency to be suspicious of "questioners" after a certain point. Questions seems to be fine as long as they are leading to a predetermined end point of embracing an already existing platform, but when those questions might challenge the premises of the platform, the accepted truths, then things start to get a little uneasy and a fear emerges that one might be labeled an "academic" (of course its not clear why this is always bad), a "dilletante", committing an "own goal," etc.

Of course, it is necessary to acknowledge that the ICC has gotten much better about all this, likely as a result of its engagement with the younger "searchers," whose approach to these things is much different than that of the generation of '68 it seems to me. The ICC's emphasis on the culture of debate is very important, even if some old habits die hard. The ICT? Not so much, witnessed by their scorn for the entire question of the culture of debate as some kind of ICC game and a general surliness faced with questions and criticisms.

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