NICK HOLDEN

NICK.HOLDEN at geo2.poptel.org.uk NICK.HOLDEN at geo2.poptel.org.uk
Thu Aug 15 16:17:15 MDT 1996


I have posted separately some comments from Engels that I think throw some
light on this discussion.
But Karl is entitled to a direct (if brief) reply to some of the points he
raised himself...

> KARL: Below Nick is a reply to your message. My apologies for my
> delayed reply. I was engaged in very urgent activity not unrelated to
> the class struggle. It entailed travelling from one end o f the
> country to the other. Consequently I was unable to provide a more
> prompt reply.

Perfectly reasonable. I would have thought that all those contrbuting to
this list frequently had to carry out tasks not unrelated to the class
struggle. Is this another mistaken assumption?

>
> NICK: Karl, I do not wish to be rude, but are you a lecturer, or have
> some other academic background?
>
> KARL: Yes you are wrong. Sloppy language means sloppy thinking and
> allows for fudging and misunderstanding. If revolution is to be
> taken seriously then language must too. Language must be used with
> as much precision as possible by marxists. Furthermore it is not as
> if there was just a problem with your use of the word "education" as
> opposed to "marxist education". Both your messages are characte rised
> by a serious misunderstanding as to what marxism is. Your use of the
> word "education" is merely one of many manifestations of this
> misunderstanding.
>
> NICK: I'll try to explain what I mean.
>
> KARL: You have already done that. The problem is not how hard you try
> but  the character of your explanations.

Hang on, in one breath you cpmplain that I use sloppy language, and in the
next that explanations are not required.


> KARL:Even a quick examination of what you say you really meant in the
> current despatch of yours compels me to conclude that you are still
> wrong. Lets have a look at some of your stuff:

Are you *sure* you're not a teacher?


> NICK: I meant it's power to take state power, i.e. the power to
> actively pursue a revolutionary path.
>
> KARL: These above remarks of yours indicate your acknowledgement
> that the working class do have power before they take state  power.
> This means that you now accept that it has developed political pow er
> before taking state power. This clashes with what you claimed  in
> your previous posting.

Not at all. My original posting said that there was a difference between the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in that the former could take state power
after taking economic power in a piecemeal way. The latter do not gain any
economic power under capitalism, and are, in fact, impoverished by it at
every stage. They therefore, need some other strategy for revolution. The
bourgeoisie have no need of a revolutionary party, because they are swept
along by history, revolutionary without necessarily being conscious of so
being. The working class cannot take power without class consciousness.

I'm stunned that we cannot agree on this.

> KARL: You, in effect, collapse
> surplus val ue into surplus product  and mistakenly abstract from
> social form.

Could you explain this to me, again?

> NICK: The working class cannot become revolutionary as individuals.
> We are made increasingly powerless as individuals by capitalism. Thus
> the only way we can realise our potential is by class action. That
> presupposes some means of collective action, and that's where the
> debate about revolutionary parties comes from. I assumed Hal Draper
> took that much for granted, and that therefore you did too. Sorry.
>
> KARL: The above remarks have nothing to do with with  my criticism
> of your message. You claim that the working class can only reach its
> potential through class action while the capitalist class can r each
> its potential on an individual basis. If the latter is the case then
> none of the bourgeois revolutions would have been historically
> necessary for the bourgeoisie. This understanding constitutes crude
> revisionism.

But I think history shows that the bourgeoisie carries out its revolutions
in a very different way to the workers.

If learning from history is revisionism, then I'm guilty as charged.

> NICK: The cultural developments have, in the main, resulted in the
> acceptance into proletarian society BOURGEOIS culture. While I
> recognise the opportunities this presents (Eleanor Marx, for
> example, had to start her strike support work, by teaching
> strikers to read, never mind to read Marx - I don't have that
> problem, much), I am also acutely aware of the downside. Workers
> have been educated to accept bourgeois ideology. They therefore
> require re-educating, out of bourgeois culture into a
> proletarian one. The bourgeoisie in contrast, could use their
> wealth in feudal society to build their own universities.
>
> KARL: Now according to you there are two societies:  capitalist
> society and proletarian society.  If this is so then social
> revolution is superfluous since there is already in place your
> "proletarian society".

Sorry? Where do you get the idea that I think there are "two societies"?
Two cultures (at least) and two ideologies, certainly. But two societies?
No.

> NICK: The working class cannot. Unless they act in a conscious way,
> conscious of the need to do so.
>
> KARL: Of course the workers act in a conscious way. But what is
> required is that it acts in a politically class conscious way.

Wow. And you think that is 'serious use of language'?

How many readers of my original message were likely to think I was drawing
their attention to the fact that the workers cannot take power whilst in a
coma?

> NICK: 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: Now in the current message you shy away from your "continually
> impoverished thesis", the very thesis which I challenged and which
> you tacitly imply should take for granted.

That's no thesis. It is a description (off the cuff) of how capitalism
operates to make the working class increasingly impoverished relative to the
bourgeoisie. You blow it up into a 'thesis' and then explode it, and think
you've proved something.

I've never written a thesis.

> NICK: Capitalism provides the possibility, but unless the class
> arranges the potential, the revolution will not happen. And
> class consciousness will not happen spontaneously precisely
> because the education of the proletariat takes place in
> bourgeois terms. Workers have their revolutionary potential
> educated out of them from the day they go to school until the
> day they die. Unless some other force operates in the opposite
> direction. That force, I suspect, needs to be a Marxist current
> in the class.
>
> KARL: The above passage is nonsense. If the possibility is present
> then to  use your unfortunate phraseology "the potential" is by
> definition there. More sloppy language. Am I to take things for gran
> ted here too, Perhaps Marx should have taken things for granted
> instead of engaging in critique of Ricardo's political economy.

Perhaps the Spoons collective should not have called this a marxism list?
Now that I have learned that nothing can be taken for granted, I promise I
will not make the mistake again.


> This is astonishing stuff. If "workers have their potential educated
> out of them", as you put it then, there can be possibility of
> revolution. The possibility and potential for revolution is a class
> fact that is not determined by what does or does not happen to
> individuals workers.

My (admittedly less perfect) distinction between the possiblity and
potential for revolution was merely a second go at differentiating the
"objective factors", e.g. classes, and hence class struggle, from the
"subjective" ones (e.g. a revolutionary party in a class conscious of its
role). I thought I'd read that somewhere in Marx.

> NICK: The "we" in my posting referred to the Marxist movement.
>
> KARL: What marxist movement? There is no marxist movement. There are
> relatively small organizations and individuals who may describe
> themselves as marxists. However that does not necessarily mean the y
> are marxists. There are many stalinists who genuinely believe they
> are marxists. Yet there are trotskyists who would say that
> stalinists are not marxists.

That, then is a description of the parlous state of the Marxist movement.
Not a refutation of its existence. You have accurately described the mess we
are in. If the working class is to have any future other than as the eternal
wage-slaves of the bourgeoisie, then we have to get our shit together.

> KARL: You miss one of the chief problems facing marxism today. This
> problem is that there are no politically conscious workers that one
> can talk about. There is the odd individual worker who is class
> conscious just The problem facing marxism today is the very fact
> that there are no politically class conscious workers in any
> minimally significant sense.

What does class conscious mean? Fully worked out revolutionary? In that case
you are right - there are very few. Although "no politically class conscious
workers" may be a bit harsh, on a global level. But if class consciousness
is the ability of workers to perceive their class interest and the need for
solidarity with other workers, and so on, then even in the UK, there are
many workers who have varying levels of such consciousness. Our task has to
be to help them develop, not condemn them, don't you think?

> NICK: But alongside them
> will be the most progressive of the intellectuals & petty
> bourgeois (and even, it is possible) bourgeois - because they
> are the people who will have the time and facilities to study
> history and economics and so on and develop the theories of
> Marxism - like Marx himself. He often talked about synthesis
> between intellectuals and the class.
>
> KARL: Workers can be marxist intellectuals too.

Of course. I didn't realise I was ruling that out. I think the word
synthesis implies a merging between the workers and the intellectuals, to
ensure that workers are educated and the intellectuals are proletarianised.
But it is a task - we don't start out with the job already done.

> The aim of marxism,
> in a sense, is to convert the working class into a marxist
> intelligentsia. This is how I could say, in a previous post, that
> the cl ass struggle is, in a sense, a pedagogical process.

I though the aim of Marxism was somewhat grander than this. But then I'll
let your sloppy language go just once.

> KARL: Your concept of working class  is ambiguous. In another
> posting you seemed to suggest that non factory occupations were
> constituted working class occupations.

WHAT? You don't consider people working class unless they work in a factory?
> NICK: The one we need is Archimedes - what the marxists seek to do is
> find the right levers, and the right points of leverage to swing
> the whole class into battle in the right fashion in order for
> the working class to be victorious.
>
> KARL: Again this is to suggest that the class can be manipulated by
> an element that stands outside it. This invests this manipulative
> element with agency and thereby subjectivity which means that sub
> jectivism must be infused into the working class. This flies in the
> face of marxism.

See the quote from Engels, posted seperately on the main task being to get
the working class moving. His words, not mine.


> NICK: Of course the class moves by itself.
>
> KARL: You contradict yourself. Above you asserted the very opposite.
> I quote: "Oh sh*t. Of course it is the job of the Marxists to move the
> whole class." If the class moves by itself then marxists are not
> needed to move that class.
>
> NICK: But left to itself it moves towards trade unions and
> defensive formations. Nothing wrong with that, but without the
> conscious leadership (not injection) of Marxism, it will never
> *spontaneously* become revolutionary. It can't. The dynamic of
> capitalism works to prevent it.

I think that answers the point.

> So what is your prescription for the development of the class
> struggle? You've dissected my previous posting without once
> putting forward a practical alternative at any stage. Why not?
> Do you not participate in the class struggle, merely observe?
>
> KARL: This is an absurd question. Genuine marxists, today, cannot
> have any "prescription for the development of the class struggle."
> Marxists cannot dictate how the contemporary class struggle will
> develop.

Genuine Marxists cannot have any point to their existence, unless they try
to influence the class struggle.

> You asked  do I "participate in the class struggle or observe".
> There obtains no separation between participating in the class
> struggle and observation. Marx was a participant in the class
> struggle a nd yet a keen observer. All humanity is the participant in
> the class struggle whether as bourgeois or worker or petty
> bourgeois. It is not possible to step outside the class struggle.

Sure, swept along by the wave of history. Marxists stand out from this mass
of humanity by swimming against the tide. By taking action to influence
history instead of just allowing history to influence them.

Your reply implies that you participate in the class struggle in the same
way that a particle of sea water participates in the tides.

> Overall your response fails to challenge my criticism of your post.
> which largely consists of confusion, evasion, dishonest
> re-qualification of your last message, distortion of what I wrote
> and down right misunderstanding of marxism.

Why, thank you. 0 out of 10, I presume.

> Incidentally there were other features of your  message that were
> open to criticism, such as your irrelevant reference to your
> partner's speculations etc., which I chose to omit .

Not once she'd written to you direct you didn't. Should have kept silent, in
my opinion.


NickH



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