18 March 2013

Consciousness / Unconsciousness


Apologies for the break in service. All of a sudden, to our amazement, people have started taking CM seriously, and so I've been talking about this issues with people actually in political movements and making some excellent contacts. And some of them are with us now.

So, anyway: the goal of CM is still the marriage of Marxism and mysticism/magick, and another way into this is the problem of subjectivity. Changing consciousness at will, Starhawk's definition of magick, is one way to look at it - but why would you want to do that anyway? Answer: because your normal everyday self (i.e. the ego) can simply not see certain things. You have a blind spot, because of where you are and what you are doing and more importantly who you are.

Upton Sinclair said: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" More recently, Richard Seymour (he of the Sino-Seymourite Deviationists) has had this to say on intersectionality and the status of black female domestic workers in feminism:
Being insider-outsiders, they could perceive the routines and patterns, the assumptions, of an existing body of social theory that had been largely dominated by white men.  Importantly, this meant that their challenge would be aimed not just at inclusion in the sense of expanding the existing paradigms to 'include black women in', but at fundamentally subverting the existing paradigms by virtue of the particular forms of knowledge they were able to contribute.  But if that's true, it also has implications for intersectionality.  Insofar as postcolonial feminisms have sought to challenge a blindspot in existing feminisms, they have sought to qualitatively transform them.  

To spell it out, one's ego, or nafs, or class consciousness, or Bourdieuan habitus, means you simply don't, can't, won't look in a particular direction. The point of both revolutionary socialism and mysticism is to attempt to assume a universal viewpoint: the viewpoint of the proletariat as the "subject-object" of future history, or the viewpoint of God. Traditionally described, the point of magick is to be able to cast off one ego and put on another, which amounts to the same thing. The danger of course is that if you simply cast off your ego that's what ordinary people call "going insane", and they tend to lock you up and not give you the good pills.

The difference between revolutionary socialism and Stalinism/social democracy, as the difference between mysticism and religion, is the emphasis on agency and the subjective factor. If it's just a matter of doing the right things to achieve salvation, that leads to authoritarian conclusions, if there's only One Way and, as the traditionalist Catholics put it, "error has no rights". But if the point is to unite the objective with the subjective, then the question of will (defined in Gurdjieffian terms as the ability to do things that "you" don't like and don't want to do) is the question of the ability to create a revolutionary rupture with existing reality.

All parties, labels, dogmas, religions, and fixed identities get in the way of this, except insofar as they are supposed to be means to an end and to be burned as fuel in the struggle. Because if the workers don't burn the party as fuel, the party will burn the workers as fuel. That's what we call Stalinism, or fundamentalism. You have to be a soul and a class for yourself.