(Random jottings made on the subjects which form the theme of this journal over the last year and a half.)
The place to build cadre is in the class struggle. Cadre must be "go-betweens" between spontaneous working-class self-activity and Marxist theory - they must be able to both apply theory to give leadership to the struggle, and learn from the struggle to develop the theory.
We are all psychologically damaged by being brought up in class society. But as social beings, we can never be fully healthy while we live in that fundamentally unhealthy society.
As Marxists, we don't want to run off and create a "perfect utopia" in which to be fully human. We want to mobilise the vast mass of humanity to change humanity right now.
Our job is to become conscious ourselves and to lead the class in becoming conscious. This means that Marxism is a form of magick as defined by Crowley - "the art of changing consciousness at will".
Our effectiveness as cadre is limited by the mental blocks placed in us by family, school and society to make us good slaves (or, if we come from a ruling-class background, good slavedrivers). But we won't relieve these blocks by sitting around playing with mental symbols and images. All we'll do is reproduce class society with the categories changed. We'll start thinking of ourselves as "the enlightened" compared to mindless sheep, or if we're really screwed up, the mud races.
As Lukacs said, the soviet is the end of alienation. The proletariat becomes the subject as well as the object of history.
Lame wannabe occult-fascists are all so impressed by Hitler and his mates changing the world 1933-45. What's wrong with the way Lenin and his mates changed the world 1917-1924? Because we are influenced by ruling-class elitist notions, a political movement which brought the masses to power doesn't seem to "count".
Yes, what I'm talking about could be called "occult Marxism". Or better yet, "cultural and psychological Marxism". Engels proposed that the class struggle had to be fought on the political, industrial and ideological levels. I propose to add the cultural and psychological levels (or at least point out that they're vital subsections of the ideological).
We already strive to create an International Working-Class Opposition to capitalist society in political, industrial and ideological struggles. We have to create a cultural and psychological opposition as well.
Current "Marxist cultural theory" is not actually Marxist at all. It uses Marxist categories and insights to analyse culture, but that's not Marxism. Marxism is a guide to action above all else. If it doesn't give direction for how a Leninist party should operate on the cultural sphere, then it's not Marxism.
The contradiction of capitalism is that music-as-self-expression is powerless because it becomes a cultural commodity. But music-as-commodity, in itself, has the double-edged nature of all commodity production – it can give rise to a cultural proletariat, the gravediggers of the system. Then again, music-as-expression-of-social-reality… that
Similarly, the psychological mission of a Leninist party must be to deal with any personal issues that might be holding cadre back from either working efficiently as a communist, or unhappiness in their extra-party life. (Yes, there has to be one. We must keep this distinction clear, or we'll run into the trap of becoming a Fred Newman-style mind-control cult.) The mission of psychs and counsellors in capitalist society is not to make you happy and healthy, it's to make you docile and conformist.
A society split on class lines leads to a human psyche split on class lines. The "thinking self" regards the subconscious as an unruly beast that has to be whipped into line, while the subconscious tries sabotage the thinking self whenever it turns its back. Sounds familiar?
- the Leninist party has to build on Lukacs' insights to organise counter-hegemonic cultural movements. The SWP(B) did this well with Rock against Racism - but I don't think it was theorised anywhere. When the current leadership talk about Respect building socially and culturally in the immigrant communities in Britain as well as politically, I think it's where they're getting. The anarchists and rad-libs do something similar with "culture jamming".
- the Leninist party has to train its cadres to function well as psychic units; to be able to cope not only with the political work of a cadre as outlined above, but to handle the balance between this and leading a "real life" in the nasty class society we live in. Vital parts of this will have to be identifying and dealing with personality damage which hampers one's abilities, to build towards creating an "undivided personality", in which binaries within the psyche are neither compartmentalised, nor subordinated one to the other; party work and "real life", conscious and subconscious, past and present, etc.
The definition of "personality damage" is anything which creates contradictions in the psyche. Of course we'll never really fix this before socialism. We don't aim to create a perfect, whole human being (which can't happen outside a perfect whole human society); but we want the individual party worker to become AWARE of the contradictions and to not see them as natural and inevitable.
The Universal Consciousness Process as developed by Martin Cornelius seems to work well as a quick and nasty method of integrating sections of the psyche. However, we need to figure out some method of tracking progress which doesn't rely on the bullshit Scientology "scales of consciousness".
Our mission is to RE-INTEGRATE human culture by resolving its contradictions: between bourgeois and prole, public and private morality, humanity and nature, "workers and science" (as Rosa Luxemburg put it), mind and body. First the vanguard party becomes conscious and aware of this. Then we aim to build this consciousness in the whole class. Actual work in the working class is the FIRST DUTY of the party, because it is the first step to integrate "workers and science" in the macrocosm, and thinking and feeling self in the microcosm.
We work for integration of humanity on all levels and in all spheres. We work on the cultural and psychological levels from a strictly materialist framework. The psyche stems from its real material experiences and perceptions, not the other way around. BUT we have to continue the struggle on all levels. We work for a "scientific esoteric Marxism" - materialist and scientific but based on transformation of culture and psyche along with the rest of human reality.
Because the material takes precedence, we must change the real world before we become fully human. But we change the real world in the process of becoming fully human. There must be a vanguard which leads, but we can't change the world until the vast majority are on the right track, since ONLY the vast majority can change the real world. Elites and minorities can only reinforce and perpetuate the division of humanity into classes and therefore the division in the psyche.
Therefore, no-one can be really sane until everyone's really sane. Everyone who's serious about building a sane world has to unite the only force which can do that - the working class.
Watson suggests that we look at culture from the producer’s viewpoint. Fair enough. In the realm of material production, Marxists want the collective organisation of the proletariat to expropriate the bourgeoisie. The interesting thing about the mass-market music industry is that composers and performers are in a different class situation (as opposed to the pre-Bach times, when they were the same people).
Performers are “skilled tradesmen” whereas composers are “new middle-class”, like writers or computer programmers. The difference between music and writing is the necessity for the performer as an intermediary (where the composer is not her own performer). Both of these become proletarianised the second they sign a major-label record deal – a “slavery and theft” contract as Robert Fripp would put it.
The less successful professional musician/writer sells her product as a pure commodity (advertising copy, tech writing, jingles, Muzak, etc) as something to directly contribute to commodity production or distribution – thus, this kind of music is a means of production in itself.
The more successful professional musician/writer sells her product as art – a final commodity
The “star” sells her product as above – and also is required to commodify her personality as part of the art-commodity, the Benjaminian “aura”.
The cultural commodity has a dual nature: as a commodity and as a means of communication – a bearer of meaning (symbolic or imaginary).
Socialists sell their newspapers on the streets, for which anarchist fucktards mock them. But they do that because that way the working-class fund the distribution of the ideas contained in that print commodity, which are supposed to lead to the destruction of commodity culture altogether. The socialist newspaper is thus ideally a kind of virus in the system, but sustained on the same logic as the system itself – the ideas contradict the commodity format. Ideally this should be possible for the anti-ideological artwork as well.
An idea can be distributed formally (as a cultural commodity) or informally (as gossip, rumour, a joke, an urban legend, a computer virus, “samizdat”, or like Samara’s video in The Ring).
The worst thing in the world is someone who treats an anti-commodity as if it were a cultural commodity (which confers a symbolic status on the purchaser).
Fripp says: “Mass culture lies to us for money; popular culture tells us the truth”. To put this in a Marxist frame, this is the difference between a pure cultural commodity and an anti-ideological cultural commodity. It’s a pity that Fripp is backed all the way into his petty-bourgeois view of the world (where everything would be all right with the market economy if only those capitalists would act like nice people rather than vampires!)
What I really want is some way to unify revolutionary socialist political activity, analysis of “arty fringe of mass culture” music and narrative, and my own output of music. I had to choose one to make my living from – I made a judgement call that I was most likely to strike a balance between money and time for my own priorities.. This was a judgement that the subject position of an academic (cultural new middle class) is more appropriate for political action than that of a self-employed professional musician (cultural petty-bourgeoisie). As it stands I work as an unskilled librarian (cultural proletarian).
The seductive thing about the professional musician’s life is the opportunity for “star status” – for commodification of the personality. This is of course a reaction formation for the personality damage I suffered in my childhood – I want my personality validated by the adoring gaze of the Other.
I have to write for “my people” because no-one cares if I write for myself. “My people” are obviously radicalised young-to-middle-aged overeducated white women. So be it.
Cultural analysis boils down to “how it works” – discussion of what meanings the cultural artifact embodies, and how it puts them forward. Marxist analysis goes past this to connect this to the circumstances of production of the artifact. But Marxist practice would have to subsist in reverse-engineering – that is, usuing our knowledge of how cultural artifacts work to produce anti-commodities of the type mentioned above. (If we say that that’s not possible, that you can only produce anti-commodities “by accident”, that’s a “surplus value” formation in the cultural sphere of the type that Zizek talks about – a hangover from the idea of artwork as commodity.)
Ben Watson says that Frank Zappa’s albums work as anti-commodities – your mileage may vary.
WHAT WOULD A REVOLUTIONARY CULTURAL MOVEMENT LOOK LIKE?
- It would produce theory as well as practice; criticism as well as original work.
- It would struggle to organise the cultural workers.
- It would "speak the truth" of the struggle of the working class, conceived in its broadest outlines.
- It would turn "listeners into musicians, readers into writers".
WHAT WOULD REVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOANALYSIS LOOK LIKE?
- Its theory would develop hand-in-hand with cultural theory as above.
- It would aim to help the working class "speak the truth" to themselves.
- It would turn analysands into analysts; just like the Lacanian tradition.