“The ‘realm of freedom’, the end of the ‘pre-history of mankind’ means precisely that the power [that is currently bound up in] the objectified, reified relations between [human beings] begins to revert to [human beings].”
– Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness
(Note: If this subject interests you, be sure to check out the bottom of this post for a list of posts I’ve made on basically the same subject.)
* What the capitalist denies is the complexity of the human soul. It regards proletarians as machinelike.
* The society we aim to create will have a culture that is the opposite of the current culture. It will not only not train people to regard certain classes and groups of people as machinelike, but it will actively seek to recognize when any treat-others-as-machinelike thinking has emerged and combat it.
* To get to that society requires a movement that can only be fueled by a type of volunteering (acting without thought of money) that the capitalist-minded think of as impossible.
* We must consciously construct and cultivate a culture that fosters this type of acting without getting paid for it–acting because it nourishes and gives play to parts of the mind that the bourgeoisie deny exist.
- This includes seeking to build a culture that fosters ways of relating to ourselves where we seek our *health*–that is, our *wholeth*, a functioning that sees to the totality of our existence. One major reason this promotes the revolution is because precisely the motivations that the bourgeoisie teach us do not exist in the proletariat and all oppressed people are those that are prone to being suppressed because they are so rarely nourished and so frequently punished in this world. Those are the ones we must tap. 
* I’m really strongly starting to suspect that somewhere in here is the need to exhort as the PCP exhorted people to revolution. According to Simon Strong, the only group that could match Peruvian people’s army in fervor were the Pentacostals, who were equally willing to die for their cause. We need more than the kind of passive, “this is what it did for me” type of arguments I’ve been making. *I* need more than this. I think we need something like church–not a commandist church that uses shame, but a mass-line church that has scientifically understood how to use forms of culture that we (Marxists, and even Maoists) don’t yet have a firm grasp on, to get people to rise up to become the bravest and most disciplined versions of themselves, in a way that doesn’t compromise their intellect but actually grants things that the intellect has sought but not found through any other avenue and thereby cleans, nourishes, and strengthens the intellect. (If you want to know what a Maoist sermon sounds like, check this out.)
I’m probably writing on this sort of prematurely. I suspect the PCP has more on this and I need to read it. But still I think it’s useful to start talking about.
And so but reading Lukacs say things like…
“The unique function of consciousness in the class struggle of the proletariat has consistently been overlooked by the vulgar Marxists who have substituted a petty ‘Realpolitik’ for the great battle of principle which reaches back to the ultimate problems of the objective economic process. Naturally we do not wish to deny that the proletariat must proceed from the facts of a given situation. But it is to be distinguished from other classes by the fact that it goes beyond the contingencies of history; far from being driven forward by them, it is itself their driving force and impinges centrally upon the process of social change. When the vulgar Marxists detach themselves from this central point of view, i.e. from the point where a proletarian class consciousness arises, they thereby place themselves on the level of consciousness of the bourgeoisie. And that the bourgeoisie fighting on its own ground will prove superior to the proletariat both economically and ideologically can come as a surprise only to a vulgar Marxist. Moreover only a vulgar Marxist would infer from this fact, which after all derives exclusively from his own attitude, that the bourgeoisie generally occupies the stronger position. For quite apart from the very real force at its disposal, it is self-evident that the bourgeoisie fighting on its own ground will be both more experienced and more expert. Nor will it come as a surprise if the bourgeoisie automatically obtains the upper hand when its opponents abandon their own position for that of the bourgeoisie.
As the bourgeoisie has the intellectual, organisational and every other advantage, the superiority of the proletariat must lie exclusively in its ability to see society from the centre as a coherent whole. This means that it is able to act in such a way as to change reality; in the class consciousness of the proletariat theory and practice coincide and so it can consciously throw the weight of its actions onto the scales of history.”
… it makes me think that we have two puzzles:
1. How to get the proletariat to see its own long term interests–that is, to become class conscious; to see that the proletariat’s historical task is to struggle for communism, abolish class, and liberate humanity.
2. How to get the masses, who are already busy and bogged down, into motion, into the movement.
And as with so many other things in life, I think we can actually solve these two puzzles more effectively if we try to find some way to solve them both at once, instead of treating them as separate questions and struggling in vain to solve them when we hold them in isolation from each other.
We want to get the masses into action, and there is a kind of conventional wisdom among leftists that this is sort of impossible because they are already tapped out–the routine they undertake for their daily survival requires them to perform actions that deplete them entirely, leaving no extra ability to act that the movement can harness.
So one part of the solution is to supply them the *stuff* to restore them materially that they are not currently getting, with, e.g., food and clothing programs, and thereby try to show the masses that only the revolution can provide them with *stuff*. Part of the problem here is that the bourgeoisie can offer this too–they try and often succeed in buying particularly disruptive members of the masses with *stuff* that allows the alleviation of the daily material grind. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, and the bourgeoisie definitely can’t afford to solve all the material problems of the masses. But I also think there’s one more way to get the masses into motion, maybe an even more important way.
That other way is, I think we also need to focus on offering people ways to act that are actually *restorative*. Normally actions are conceived of as draining, but to act in a way as to seize the future when one is denied even the present, I think those actions are something we can get people to do over and beyond their daily grind, and in fact I think they are restorative and reinvigorating up to a certain point. I think this is something that only the movement can offer people–something that acting on behalf of capitalism can’t offer *anyone*, not even the bourgeoisie.
1. By “reified” here Lukacs means what I mean when I talk about people treating each other like machines–as production complexes that create some resource or set of resources while ignoring essential parts of each other’s totalities (that is, of each other’s *health*, in this case mental health).
2. As an aside, capitalist society pays for some members of the petty bourgeoisie to have some of these motivations given play, which is part of what earns them the loyalty of the petty bourgeoisie. In return the petty bourgeoisie generates aesthetics that, while immediately gratifying, are basically anesthetic of deeper motivations (that is, the pleasure covers over the hunger of deprivation from these unmet deeper needs and the poisonous pain of acting in ways that are directly contrary to what would meet those needs). They generate beautiful music, and music festivals to appreciate that music at, and MDMA to promote a feeling of connection, but it is a oneness of form but not of substance. Or another way of putting it is that the substance is only euphoria, only to achieve serotonin and dopamine highs simultaneously–but the soul wants more than that. The soul is curious, it wants to pursue knowledge of the deepest things, the widest things, it wants power given to its curiosity to be involved in the project of investigating those things. So even the petty bourgeoisie can be won over, but the way they’ve been deprived and treated as machinelike is more difficult to state and reveal because it requires speaking about parts of the human psychology that are not well understood, nor even widely acknowledged to exist.
Previous posts on the same subject: