Friday, December 08, 2006

Class-Consciousness

Border Fever has brought to my attention a number of recently transcribed articles by an early member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain , T.A Jackson .
I was caught by one in particular and will take the liberty of re-posting a slightly shortened version here . As another of Piers blogs has it:-
"Here is our struggle in the Socialist Party of Great Britain, you see. We depend for the success of our message on people who are prepared to THINK. We cannot do what in Lenin's day the Bolsheviks would have done, that is to seize power by a minority, and then lead the majority of sheep into the promised land."

And what can the Socialist Party do ?
As Marx recognised , the party of the working class must perservere :-
"Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention."

“Class-Consciousness”

No point in the Socialist philosophy arouses such controversy as that of the “class-struggle” and “class-consciousness.” ...What then is the meaning of this term “class-consciousness?”

At a certain stage in the life of every individual he acquires a “consciousness” of personal identity. He becomes aware of his distinctiveness, physically and mentally, from the external conditions which progressively stimulate his susceptibility to impressions, and possessed of a power to recall, combine, and analyse by successive stages of mental presentation these said impressions and emotions.
This sense of individuality, this power of ordered thought (briefly “consciousness”), is the result of the development of the requisite brain-organ; and, as each individual from conception to maturity successively reproduces the stages through which the species as a whole has passed, by comparison we can ascertain the relative degree of development reached by any individual.
When an individual has become “conscious”—has, that is, arrived at that stage of growth at which he perceives both the distinction and relation between himself and the rest of creation—he has acquired a power of reacting upon his environment; a power (limited but real) of “self-determination,” within, of course, the possibilities set by his physical powers and the said environment.

Society is an organism progressing through stages of development.

The present stage is that in which classes have been differentiated within the Social organism: the propertied bourgeoisie and the propertyless proletariat.
Whether they are aware of it or not their interests are conflicting. The workers fulfil the function of production, i.e., their associated labour adapts all natural resources to human use; the Bourgeois or Propertied Class retain ownership of the tool of production, appropriate the products and control the function of distribution.
Hence the social function of production the prime necessity for social existence and development is fettered and hampered by the survival of the obsolete Bourgeois system of exchange—Bourgeois control of the social function of distribution.

Just as the chicken developing within the shell is compelled as a condition of further existence and development to burst the shell which had till then served as a necessary condition of further growth, so the working-class will sooner or later become conscious of this hindrance to their development—become conscious that they are the only useful class and progressive force in Society—conscious that they are potentially, the Society of the Future, and bursting the shell of Bourgeois political control and consequent economic domination, act themselves (and Society) free to commence a new and higher stage of evolution.

In a word: when conditions are ripe the working class will acquire, with the recognition of their place in Society, and of their constraint and that which constrains them, and a perception of the vital organic force impelling them to struggle, their consciousness as a class—their power of “self-determination.”

To make the working class thus “conscious,” it is necessary to make it understand the relation between it and the rest of (i.e., the other classes in) Society.

To achieve this result in the class, an effective of the individuals composing it must acquired the capacity of seeing, behind apparent diversity of interests (as clerks, spinners, hammerers, and diggers) their real community of interest as a class—must have recognised their common subjection to the necessity of selling their abilities in a common labour market; their consequent common exploitation, and their common interest to emancipation as a class.
Such distinction as still survives between “skilled” and “unskilled” labour is being rapidly abolished by the extension of education on the one hand and the introduction of machinery on the other. And few know this better than the “skilled” workmen themselves...

...Class-consciousness on the part of any one worker thus entails the recognition by him of his place as a unit in a class, at present politically ruled and economically enslaved, whose historic mission it is to carry Society forward into a higher stage of development: the recognition that the interests and therefore impulses of the individuals composing either ruling or ruled classes respectively are mutual and those of the two classes antagonistic, and consequently that the development of Society more and more produces a class-struggle for the possession of political power as a necessary pre-condition on the one hand for rule and on the other for emancipation.
The working-class-consciousness will express itself in a political organisation for the purpose of accomplishing this emancipation. That worker is class-conscious who has seen the duty of enlisting under the banner of Revolution—in the Political Party of the workers —the Socialist Party of Great Britain...Socialism is possible when the workers, organised in the Socialist Party, proceed to establish it. When they do that, the whole of the “upper and middle” classes will be powerless to prevent them. Without the workers so consciously organised nothing can be done.
The first thing then is to make the working-men “class-conscious.”

T. A. J. Socialist Standard, July 1906.
Transcribed: Adam Buick

Further Reading:-
Bertell Ollman has an interesting article Toward Class Consciousness Next Time:Marx and the Working Class .

1 comment:

prolerat said...

This below is probably the best (recent)thing I have read for some time,from a non WSM member.Even this for many workers is a difficult read.(following from a point he made in the piece)
Bertell Ollman has an interesting article Toward Class Consciousness Next Time:Marx and the Working Class