File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0110, message 19

Date: Sat, 13 Oct 2001 08:26:26 +1000
Subject: BHA: On consciousnes was Re: More on the master-slave dialectic

Of course, Carroll, one should make a distinction between the movement and 
the lived reality of trade unions.   More however on that later.

What I am particularly interested in are the parallels between Bhaskar's 
notion of the dialectics of reconciliation and Lenin's remarks on the 
spontaneous consciousness of the working class.

Consider the following which of course you would be very familiar with:

"We have said that there could not yet be Social-Democratic consciousness 
among the workers. It could only be brought to them from without. The 
history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its 
own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e. the 
convictions that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employer 
and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation 
etc.  The theory of socialism, however grew out of the philosophic, 
historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated 
representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals. (Lenin, V. 
I., What is to be Done?, Foreign Language Press: Peking, 19873: 37)

I believe that Lenin's description of the consciousness of the working 
class is descriptively adequate.  In my experience of a life time of 
support work for union struggles it certainly describes what I have observed.

However I am not sure that it is explanatorily adequate.  Thus Lenin's 
formulation of the spontaneous consciousness of the working class does not 
tell us why the workers seem to stop half way as it were and to grasp 
almost any opportunity to make peace with their bosses.

I am wondering here whether Bhaskar's dialectics of reconciliation within 
the master-slave nexus can be used to make up the shortfall in 
explanation.  I am not at all sure.  It may be that Bhaskar's formulations 
are merely a more sophisticated or, if you like, complicated way of saying 
the same thing as Lenin.

Whatever the case there are I think parallels between Bhaskar and Lenin's 
thought here.  Something that is not without its irony.  However it all 
confirms for me what I have long suspected, namely that in the case of 
libertarians like Bhaskar (and myself!), Lenin remains the Great Repressed.

Now to return to your specific point of the necessity of the distinction 
between the labor movement and the trade union movement.  You see, I 
gather, the former as radical and the latter as conservative. I do not 
think, Carroll, that this would conform to Lenin's schema which surely 
locates the conservatism of the trade union movement *within* the labor 

The formulation that you advance smacks, does it not, of the Ionian 
dialectic with an original unity (the radical labor movement) descending 
into a lower state (trade union activity) with the putative return to a 
higher level in a post revolutionary society. (See Dialectic: The Pulse of 
freedom, 1993: 37).

I think a Leninist critique of this position would be to challenge whether 
the "labor movement" ever constituted an original unity which is betrayed 
and must be recaptured. The parallels with the Christian Church are indeed 
instructive as Dick has pointed out.  Of course I do not think it can be 
maintained that there was ever actually an authentic Christian Church which 
somehow got swamped and betrayed by the oligarchs.  St. Paul's epistles are 
among the earliest of Christian texts  (about 50 C.E.) and he was already 
well into establishing a hierarchical church.

So just as with the labor movement there never actually was among the 
Christians an original unity which got lost or descended.

warm regards


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