Revolutionary Organisations and
Class Consciousness
(Part 2)

2.1 Class consciousness is a product of working class’ own struggle

The view that we believe is the Marxist view, describes the class consciousness which is a product of working class’ own struggle and it is the result of class’ historical experience and its material existence. International Communist Current is one of the currents which represent this view. Although the ICC has a dynamic conception of class consciousness, still the ICC has confusion about the class consciousness’ development which we will see.

From the ICC point of view:
” The revolutionary organization is a product and a part of the class. … The revolutionary organization functions as part of the class to disseminate and homogenize this consciousness by its intervention in the class.[Our translation]”1

The question is what should be disseminated and homogenized? First of all something must be in order to be able to disseminate or not. The question is: How we can describe disseminates and homogenize? The ICC does not believe the class consciousness is the results of economic struggle and states that:

“The idea that class consciousness does not arise in a mechanical way from economic struggles is quite correct.”2

Then, how does the class consciousness occur. The following statement describes ICC’s view about the class consciousness:

“Only the proletariat is able to constitute itself into a class based on international solidarity. This solidarity is a forerunner of what social relations will be like in a communist society, and it springs up spontaneously in the struggle. It is an unbelievable phenomenon. Workers, who scarcely spoke to each other yesterday because of the infernal pressure of work, who even sometimes felt in competition with each other, suddenly find themselves talking together in the heat of the struggle, closing ranks and helping each other, feeling so united that it takes all the power of the bourgeoisie with its unions and police to break apart their iron solidarity. This is the starting-point of class consciousness!”3

The ICC asserts all the time that Proletariat must learn the lessons of its bygone political and theoretical struggle and therefore:

“For a qualitative stage to be once more passed beyond, the proletariat must draw the political and theoretical lessons of its past experiences.”4

The question still remains; how Proletariat shall draw lessons, and analyze and develop them. According to the ICC:

“It’s necessary for the proletariat to sow the seeds of its struggle by drawing sufficient lessons from its past actions in order to use such a favorable situation to generalise its political understanding. It must bring about this generalisation of its experience even in times of lull in the struggle. In such periods, the proletariat can reflect upon its past experience and draw up a balance sheet of the victories and defeats it has lived through, thus preparing itself for the future. It is in this sense, that the development of class consciousness is not the immediate reflection of a given situation.”5

It is still unclear and also abstract. Who should build this balance sheet, the whole Proletariat! The ICC view is:

“A more combative vanguard thus appears spontaneously within the proletariat, so as to stimulate and generalise to the maximum its own determination and consciousness.” 6
“In periods of social calm, the great majority of workers submit to the pressure of bourgeois ideology. The task of generalizing political gains and homogenizing class consciousness falls to the most decided, the most combative elements of the class. Thanks to this fraction, to this part of itself (defined from a political point of view), the proletariat can collectivise its gains in consciousness by raising itself above immediate contingencies and partial experiences. Because this fraction has arrived sooner at an understanding of the goals of the movement, it enables the working class to reinforce the tendency to break down the isolation and divisions which fragment and weaken its struggle. In this way, a powerful and conscious class can oppose itself to capitalism and triumph over it.
In order for these elements of the class to carry out their tasks properly, they must regroup themselves into revolutionary communist organizations."7

As can be seen the repetition of “generalise” word. Repetition of this word does not help us to explain the problem. First and foremost something must be developed in order to generalise the whole class. It should be remembered that class consciousness process is a dynamic process and. That means in practice, after a wild strike, a worker can learn a great deal, however, it is very far from class consciousness.

The ICC rejects entirely and correct the concilists’ philosophical and idealistic vision of class consciousness and the role of revolutionaries:

“For the councilists the role of revolutionaries must be limited to a philosophical one, simply as intellectual spectators; this immediately places them outside the concrete struggles of the class. Neither of the understand that a correct and dialectical conception of class consciousness and its flowering goes hand in hand with an understanding of revolutionaries as a living and active part of their class.”8

Then, how this issue can be resolved? If one is decided and want to find a “development” view of class consciousness in the ICC’s literature, one should have real patience to read 96 pages of a pamphlet which is 124 pages and still hoping that is going to succeeded. We did it and succeeded. Page 97 the ICC writes:

“In fact, the role of revolutionaries can be summed up in one sentence: it is to organise themselves on the basis of the proletariat’s historic interests with a view to giving the movement a clear political orientation and actively to aid the development of class consciousness.”9 (Our Emphasis)

We see a paradox and lack of clarity in the class consciousness view of the ICC. The conclusion is that the ICC lowers its task on the class consciousness to a revolutionary publishing level. Unfortunately, this paradox and lack of clarity has an unpleasant and harmful consequence. We are satisfied with an example of the ICC about Rosa Luxemburg’s view in this point (we must stress that Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin were the biggest Marxists that working movement have seen in its history after Marx and Engels).

“Thus the party cannot “skip a period in our historical development” and make up for the consciousness of the “great mass”. But does this class consciousness always appear as the widest majority movement? In 1916, when Rosa Luxemburg wrote these line, could the Social Democracy, which had dragged the proletariat into the war, be said to express the class consciousness? And yet the great majority of the proletariat continued to have illusions in this organization. Was this a sign of maturity and political consciousness?” 10

It must be pointed out that the ICC has quite correctly view that class consciousness and believe it has two different dimensions:
  • Class consciousness in deep, which is not something that disappears, something which expresses itself in a historical experience and learning, as Communist Program.
  • Class consciousness in distribution is determined by the immediate balance of power between Proletariat and bourgeois class at any given time.

ICC describes class consciousness' various dimensions:

“The Communist minority is the clearest, most resolute expression of the world historic dimension of class consciousness. It has not monopoly on this consciousness. Even in periods of retreat, the class is not dissolved as a whole to a history-less fusion of individuals. Class consciousness is a collective product or nothing, and it is enriched constantly of each subsequent phase in the class movement from the most immediate defensive struggle to mass actions of explicit revolutionary nature.[Our translation]”11

The ICC distinguishes between the class consciousness and consciousness of the class, although does not miss their mutual impact on each other.

"Even if they are parts of a unit, and have an impact on each other, it is incorrect to identify class consciousness with the class’ consciousness or consciousness of the class, which is its spreading at a given time... It is necessary to distinguish between the expresses continuity in the Proletarian historic movement: the progressive development of its political positions and of its programs, from that which is subject to factors of the circumstances: spreading of these, their assimilation and influence in the class.[Our translation]” 12

Class consciousness is the Proletariats consciousness about all its history, past experience, and even about its revolutionary future. When Proletariat observes this, can easily see that it does not exist only for the time being, but on a historic level also. Marx describes this in his famous work, The Holy Family (Chapter IV):

“When socialist writers ascribe this world-historic role to the proletariat, it is not at all, as Critical Criticism pretends to believe, because they regard the proletarians as gods... It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being; it will historically be compelled to do.”

To Be Continued

M. Jahangiry
25 December 2009
1. IR Nr 11
2. Communist Organization & Class Consciousness, page 54
3. As above, page 42
4. As above, page 33
5. As above, page 54
6. As above, page 93
7. As above, page 45
8. As above, page 82
9. As above, page 97
10. As above, page 99
11. Marxism contra Councilism, IR 14
12. Marxism contra Councilism, IR 14