For the people to be united, they must be conscious of their common interests, for this consciousness to have political effect, they must also be conscious of how their interests are in conflict with other sectors of society.
There must be a consciousness of class, and a willingness to understand that the only way to change their class conditions is to unite and fight.
Last week I wrote about my initiative to form a Debtors’ Party, and this is quickly gaining interest. However, many have raised questions of why I feel “Debtor” is a more appropriate term of struggle that the traditional “worker.” After all, just because the masses don’t relate to the terminology of the workers’ movement any longer, doesn’t mean that they can not do so again, couldn’t we simply campaign to recreate this consciousness?
Consciousness is not something that we are in a position to create, as the consciousness industries working for those who wish to preserve the class structure, PR, Lobbies, parties, etc, have far more resources than those fighting to abolish class.
We need to work with the consciousness we find, not the consciousness we wish was there.
Consciousness comes from conditions, not theories or opinions. The consciousness that transformed the working conditions in developed nations and built the welfare state was not created by chartist charters nor syndicalist doctrines nor the program of the communist manifesto, but by the working conditions of the workers themselves.
Yet, now the issue in rich nations is no longer working conditions, work is not something you give, rather jobs are something you get, there is no concept of the appropriation of value, as the creation of value and the locale of appropriation is too abstract and remote for the masses of workers to contemplate, it’s an abstraction, not a fact.
What is a fact to them is precarity and financial strife, with Debt being it’s measure.
Class consciousness is currently based around personal Debt. Thus, Debt is the issue that can reintroduce class conflict into politics.
If you read the manifestos, signs and slogans of any recent movement or uprising, from the Strange-bedfellows Tent Cities of Tel Aviv, to the Blackberry Riots of London, to #occupywalltreet(tm).
Newspaper artitcles are daily reporting out of control debt. The topic of Debt is everywhere, ever-present, on the tip of every tongue.
Most centrally, debt from those goods that are not perceived as elective; Education, Housing and Medicine is spreading a wide spread feeling that Capitalism is unable to provision these goods. Yet, many people who would cary a placard saying this have no clue what surplus value is, much less the alienation of labour or what it’s abolition might look like.
They demand representation! And that is what social power is built on, when classes unite and demand representation.
This is an opportunity to push politics away from the moribund margins of identities and causes, to transcend the illusory politics of a legitimation marketplace, and perhaps a chance for workers to move one step closer to achieving their historic role; the abolition of classes.
Only the masses can bring class back into politics. And they don’t necessarily do so in the traditional language of political discourse, but in their own words.
In his article on Woody Guthrie, Steve Earle notes:
A few well-meaning outsiders were sympathetic to the plight of the migrants, but they were college boys who used a lot of big words like “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” and unintentionally made the Okies feel small. But Woody was one of their own. He spoke their language and he sang their songs, and every once in a while he’d slip in one of those big words in between a tall tale and an outlaw ballad. As he became more outraged he became more radical, but his songs and his patter always maintained a sense of humor and hope. He said, “I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.”
I guess Woody would think we were on the right track.
I’ll be at Stammtisch a little late today because of meeting at my Daughters’ School, say 9:30pm, but don’t let that stop you from getting started without me.
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