joseph at indigo.ie
Sun Aug 11 07:25:05 MDT 1996
Nick the following is a response to your post on Draper:
Nick Holden: I take it that we all agree with the distinctions Marx
& Engels drew between the proletariat and all previous revolutionary
classes, in that we have no means of developing our power and wealth
in advance of the revolution.
Karl Carlile: The "power" of the working class has developed under
capitalism in a spontaneous way. With the accumulation of capital
the absolute size of the working class grew. As a result of this the
work ing class became increasingly concentrated in large numbers
within the factories of industrial capital. In this way there did
take place a "natural development" of the working class.
In the Manifesto of the Communist Party of 1848 we read:
"But with the development of industry the proletariat not only
increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its
strength grows, and it feels that strength more."
Consequently it is untrue to say that the working class had no means
of developing its power "in advance of the revolution."
Nick: The bourgeoisie, during feudalism, developed their own
educational structures, began the process of accumulation of capital,
and, essentially, created the preconditions for bourgeois society
while feudalism was still in the early stages of decay. They were
able to do this because they could exploit the nascent working class,
even before they were the dominant class in society as a whole. With
no-one left to exploit, the workers do not have options such as this,
and are left, in terms of spontaneous development, continually
impoverished (economically and culturally) by capitalism, even in its
very final stages.
Karl: It is not true that the working class has been "left, in terms
of spontaneous development, continually impoverished (economically
and culturally) by capitalism".
The living standards of large sections of the working class can have
substantially increased absolutely if not relatively under
capitalism. There have been during the bourgeois cultural
developments which the working class has benefited from.
Such developments can enhance conditions for the political
development of the working class into a conscious revolutionary force.
Nick: So we cannot simply rely on the natural development of
capitalism to bring about a situation where the possibility of
revolution exists, and then allow events to take their course.
We have to intervene in the workers' movement in the here and
now, developing its sense of proletarian culture, history and so
on, its critical thinking, its Marxism. To do so, in the face of
the pressures of the whole of the rest of society demands some
level of organisation and structure.
Karl: But the very point is that capitalism has done just that. It
has through its creation of the working class created and developed
the objective conditions whereby "the possibility of revolution
Nick: We have to intervene in the workers' movement in the here and
now, developing its sense of proletarian culture, history and so
on, its critical thinking, its Marxism.
Karl: The problem here is this "we". Who is this "we"? This raises
the old chestnut of the injection of class consciousness into the
working class movement. This Leninist tenet is misconceived. This
"we" cannot stand outside the working class movement. This inner and
outer dichotomy is not an accurate description. If this "we" is the
outer that intervenes in the workers' movement then it thereby must
stand outside that movement. However it must be situated inside
"something". It cannot exist in a vacuum. It must exist within
capitalism and thereby within class relations. If it stands outsid e
the working class and the workers' movement it must exist within a
bourgeois or petty bourgeois context. But bourgeois or petty
bourgeois sources, by virtue of their class character, are incapable
of intervening in the workers' movement to develop marxism within
This being so the development of the class consciousness of the
working class must originate from within the working class movement.
Nick: Draper says that the revolutionary party will not be built by a
microcosmic revolutionary party expanding, and I think he is
right. The job of Marxists now is, as he says, to search for the
levers that will move the whole class, not merely raise the
slogans of sectish purity. But that begs the question, what form
of organisation do workers need to influence their entire class,
not just with good ideas, but with revolutionary Marxism?
Karl: The above passage smacks of voluntarism. It is not the job of
Marxists to "move the whole class". No marxist possess such
Promethean qualities. The working class moves by itself. To suggest
tha t an agency from outside the working class, as in classical Greek
mythology, has the power to move the working class is to suggest
that this class is passive in character and thereby lacks subjectiv
ity. The problem is not one of the working class "moving". The
working class is always moving whether in this country or that or in
a internationally more synchronic way. The decisive problem is how
the working class "moves". This is where marxism comes into the
picture. To suggest otherwise is to suggest what constitutes one of
the key characteristics of a sect.
Nick:The solution I would suggest is education of the cadres and the
contacts, rather than denying any form of Leninist (although I
hate the word, you'll know what I mean) party structure - a
critical thinking, activist, membership is a better safeguard
against sectism than no membership at all. Regards,
Karl: This is a rather abstract prescription since who is to educate
the educators? In short this prescription suggests that the problem
is merely one of education in the abstract. This is to deny th e
class character of education. The fact is that the working class is
being educated. This is not the problem. The problem is the class
character of that education: the form and content of that educa tion.
How the working class is to be educated together with the substance
of that education is a political issue. In many ways the class
struggle entails a struggle as to the content and form of the educat
ion of the working class.
Indeed the political differences that manifest themselves on this
mailing list are a manifestation of the differences that obtain
concerning the content and form of the education of the working
class. In short, in many ways the class struggle is a pedagogical
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