Alienation & democracy (was Re: Decay of Religion)

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Sun Dec 24 21:16:06 MST 2000

>>I'm not sure exactly what Jose is referring to when he talks about
alienation, since that is a philosophical concept not directly linked to
brain structures at this time.  Much of what we do with consciousness has
been shrouded in mystery.<<

Oh dear!

NEVER, ever suspect me of having something quite DEEP and SUBTLE to say when
the most superficial, even trivial construct will suffice.

By saying "alienation" I meant only this: that society, "the economy," etc.,
present themselves as "alien" to human beings, forces over them, apart from
them, uncontrollable by them. When in FACT all this stuff are just things we
make up, things we create, as we go along interacting with other human
beings. They are social products.

"Society," "the economy," and so on present themselves as being things
external to us and uncontrollable by us, when in fact they are our own

What we have is a GM assembly line where we put in all the correct inputs
and, at the other end, instead of cars we get flying toasters. Belief in
"God" is rooted in the reality that in our "social factory" there is
something that turns cars into altogether different things, apparently
without rhyme or reason.

I used the word "alienation" (or perhaps mis-used, or ab-used it) by analogy
with the alienation involved in commodity production, where our own products
become "alien" to us and become the chains that enslave us.

I don't know nothing about Mr. Frood or Mr. Young or any of the
psychoanalytic folks: never read them (or if I did I'm not telling: I plead
the fifth!).  At any rate, mostly the kind of alienists that interest me are
like those in the movies First Contact and Third Encounters. Meeting other
people from other worlds will be way cool when it happens. Nothing to do
with Vienna.

So what I was saying is that people believe there is (are) some unseen,
unknowable god(s) or force(s) that control(s) their destinies because that
is IN FACT how they live under class society. Their lives are controlled by
unseen, unknowable "forces," the ruling class and the laws that apply to
various forms of class society. And even the discovery (by Marx&Engels) of
what these forces and laws are, and how they work, is, in and of itself,
insufficient. Only when "society," "the economy," etc. become "transparent,"
i.e., only when people feel they can and do determine and shape what these
"things" do, will the *material basis* for belief in magical other-worldly
forces have been eliminated. And that is only possible with the elimination
of class contradictions. Because these "things" are produced collectively as
a result of our interaction.

    So it becomes a chicken and egg dilemma, or if you prefer, a
"dialectic." It is impossible to overcome (completely) a magical view of the
world without overcoming it, not just in theory, but in practice, in
everyday life. Yet it is impossible to overcome it in practice without
CONSCIOUSNESS that what we are now doing is creating a different kind of
society and this new society will have such-and-such characteristics and
will function in such and such a way.

    Hence the centrality in Marxist theory, and in Marx and Engels's OWN
activities, of the *communist movement,*  (or, for those who are still
attached to the fetishistic worship of one specific form, of the "Leninist
Combat Party" or the "guerrilla foco").

    There are some implications of this view of human society that may not
be obvious at first sight. One of them is that representative democracy is
to democracy as representative sex is to sex. In THIS view, our "democracy,"
that is the conscious creation of the kind of society, economy, etc., we'd
like to have, is no more possible through "representation" than sex is.
Social intercourse, like sexual intercourse, isn't something that can be
done by proxy. You are always and at all times "participating" in creating
the future of society.

    From this flows that the TASK of the workers movement is often
misunderstood by many socialists. It is NOT to make democracy more
"participatory," but how to make the really existing "participation" more
*democratic.* Thus I believe Marxists should have no "model" of the "kind of
democracy" and "democratic guarantees" we favor. To those sorts of nostrums,
we should counterpose the kind of society we favor and that working people
will consciously build.

    Our ULTIMATE, final analysis, bottom line answer to the issue posed by
Bush "winning" the presidency with a half-million votes less than Gore is
that in a socialist America, the half-million currently homeless will have a
roof over their head, and a warm meal at their table, as a matter of
elementary human rights. Of necessity, the road to those roofs and those
meals goes through denunciation of the way the elections have been stolen,
but that is because the sooner we can make the bourgeoisie actually "count
the ballots," (using that as a symbol for respecting the democratic rights
they claim to uphold), the sooner will working people realize that even the
most complete and unrestricted respect for bourgeois-democratic freedoms is
NOT their liberation, but at most a tool to achieve their liberation.

    Even the use of the term "democratic" in this context seems to me
unfortunate. It creates the impression that there is some relationship
between bourgeois "democracy" and the kind of society which we aspire to,
when, in fact, there is no relationship whatsoever. At bottom, we do not
even aspire to a majority freely "deciding" what society will be like, but
to the majority being free to CREATE the society that they want.

    In bourgeois society, politics is a spectator sport, and, in a way, it
is entirely fitting that Bernie Shaw, Peter Jennings and their ilk cover it
that way. In OUR kind of society "politics," political decisions, will be
like sex, completely and (eventually) exclusively participatory.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Doyle Saylor" <djsaylor at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Sunday, December 24, 2000 9:24 AM
Subject: Re: The Decay of Religion

Grrrreetings Comrades,
    Chris writes back in an interesting way to me, which I will use in my
sermon about Marxism below,

    Jose made a great point that "Until this [social] alienation is ended
and complete social transparency established, the idea that you're going to
do away with unscientific, irrational beliefs simply by preaching against
them is, quite simply, un Marxist."

Let me go to the front of our congregation here and speak with a deep voice
of my faith in Marxism...Ahem brethren Marxist...Giggle.

    I do notice that religion is not as important as it once was, and not
all who consider themselves members of a Christian religion attend church.
But from my experience, they are still unwilling to give up these beliefs,
no matter how watered down.  Is this the decay you are making reference to?
If yes, then I do agree that religion is decaying, but I have taken the
decaying of religion to mean a substantial loss of believers.

The primary way I understand this is to look at these things as Marx might
have, as labor processes that people do in order to reproduce themselves.
I'm not sure exactly what Jose is referring to when he talks about
alienation, since that is a philosophical concept not directly linked to
brain structures at this time.  Much of what we do with consciousness has
been shrouded in mystery.  So if one looks at various major religions such
as Buddhism one sees how much experimentation they did with meditation for
example that looks like primitive explorations of the conscious brain.
There are very silly concepts in the Buddhist practice, like the meditative
practice of stopping the talking in the mind as a part of the relaxation and
approach to Buddha consciousness.  Since they don't know what talking does
in the mind, don't know what the interior of the mind is really like they
assert things that in most senses of knowing the brain doesn't seem very
useful way of understanding what the brain is doing when one hears a voice
inside there talking.

Christianity focused upon Morality as a means to unify the church.  This
seems to me an outcome of using writing as principle means of organizing the
church (from very early bible epistles, letters from the church "Fathers",
to the doctrinal issues of the dogmas of the church, during the height of
their power in the feudal states).  Writing is a kind of brainwork.  It has
limitations with regard to carrying emotional information.  Christian moral
systems have a great deal of trouble with dealing with immoral behavior,
whether it is drinking, sex, or various other sins that directly relates to
how emotions work in human beings.

Marxist can understand and embrace a materialist point of view, and use how
computing goes in directions that enable us to re-organize human social
connectiveness materially through computing.  Jose recently was posting how
Cuba is moving toward a computer based work environment.

Where you write about beliefs above, I tend to view those as a combination
of how the human body processes emotions, and how body motion is involved in
cognition.  In a crude way, when one participates in political activity,
works on union organizing as an example, that body motion contributes a
great deal to how we feel we are a part of something.  The emotional
structure to that does not readily respond to "rational" talk very well,
since the brain structures for language is in specific neo-cortex sites, and
emotions are regulated in different structures of the brain.  Roughly like
wondering why hearing is not affected by sight.  Many workers don't spend a
lot of time analyzing why they do something, they just feel that is the
right thing to do.  This jibes well with how we understand how neural
networks function.  And this points directly at how to understand what
beliefs really are, and how to understand that as a labor process.

I've written in the past about this subject, in the basic research in
computing at places like MIT, they are trying to make practical "affective"
computing.  That is computing that records and makes transparent human
emotion.  This means that we can use our communication devices in a powerful
way to enhance how we feel about how we connect to other people.  The phrase
"conversational computing" indicates that the focus of electronic business
is toward the social structure of human communication.  These will overwhelm
the primitive labor processes of religion which tries to guess at how the
brain works.

Socialist states are better situated to utilize these tools than is the
capitalist state.  A socialist state concerns itself with the strength and
power of the whole social network of human beings.  The capitalist must for
reasons of profit create class divisions which weaken the social network of
the system.  Brainwork in movies and video games, on the internet, are where
we need to think about how we can use the tools for our benefit.  Lenin
recognized early on that movies were a powerful tool of creating mass
support for the Soviets.  We are at the brink of the same in regard to the
ground in which religion arises, as you remark above in how beliefs are
Doyle Saylor

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