Is Jim Cairns Australia's most
Capitalists and communists substantially agree with this. Capitalists do so completely. For them, however, the `superstructure' is independent. For Marxists there is a relation between the economic structure and the superstructure, ie, the first determines the second. The economic structure is the base, the real foundation, on which there is a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness.
But how is it done? How is consciousness formed? Is it done in the economic structure? Within the means of production? By work? By the class structure? Economics is not enough to tell us how consciousness is formed. We have to go to Engels, Freud, Reich, Gramsci and Marcuse, at least, for the answer which turns out to be significantly psychological and biological.
But so far, the limitation of power to economics and of consciousness to economic experience has been a main cause of failure of revolutions and of reform in social democracy, where accepting the economic nature of power, people have never seriously tried to obtain power. What at best they have gained is office or status. Hence in capitalism, revolutions, socialism, taxes and benefits of significance are no longer an issue. Politics has more and more become merely a matter of personalities and efficiency, or what is called `sound economic management'. To get a better view of power, we may begin with Gramsci's hegemony. Every culture, society or country has a hegemony or dominant culture. In Australia it is treated, if it is treated at all, as if it were merely capitalist. But it is:
"It seems to me therefore, and in conclusion, that any group concerned about change - reform, or revolution - should be concerned with the process of radicalising human character, with the process of raising consciousness or intelligence, and with ways of generalising it from the individual to large numbers of people."|
- Jim Cairns
It seems to me that Marx's important concept of `false consciousness' can be explained only by the process of repression which creates a consciousness which is not natural and therefore false.
The features of the patriarchal hegemony give emphasis to Marx's view that our starting point must be the `selfcreation of man as a process' which has to face a world, which, in Marx's words, `...seeks constantly to take possession of man and his self-creating powers.' Marx wrote, `The more a man is able to take possession of the outside world through his senses, his spirit, and intelligence, the more integrated and many-sided this taking of possession, this `appropriation', is, the greater are his chances of becoming a real man.'
I want to emphasise at this point, the importance of understanding the nature of power and hegemony; and to desist from considering them mainly or alone as a projection of economic or class matters. They are parts of an essentially psychological process, which can be briefly summarised this way:
The mode of production, the basis of power in every culture, determines in general the hegemony of each culture. In that determination biological factors like awareness of the male role in reproduction play a critical part. The hegemony is the critical force which gives power to families, courts, churches, peer groups, governments and other parts of the super-structure in each society.
This hegemony is imposed upon each baby, infant and child, to form the character structure of each individual and in turn, of society. This is done by suppression and repression of natural biological needs, and by the distortion of those needs into anti-self and anti-social behaviour in varying degrees, or in other words, into false consciousness. Having created these distortions of behaviour the culture, claming that the result is `human nature', then uses compulsory morality, ideological and religious dogmas, and laws and punishments to try to maintain order, and to preserve the position of those in control of the means of production and its superstructure. But the suppressed and biological needs lose none of their power.
At certain stages, conflict between the repressed biological needs and the social and economic modes of living and working rises to excessive levels, largely from changes in technology which increase knowledge and expectations of the people. Qualitative changes in ways of living and working become accentuated. This era of social revolution may be protracted and its outcome is always difficult to predict. The outcome will depend upon the capacity, strength and intelligence of the people, or upon what is the same thing, their capacity for liberation, and upon the capacity of those who control the mode of production and its superstructure to suppress them and convert them to want substitutes which the system can provide.
This is a general theory of change which applies equally to countries like the Soviet Union and China as it does to advanced capitalist countries and to the third world.
I want now to look more closely at what it is that is `repressed' (in Freudian terms), or `taken possession of by the world' in those of Marx. Freud's answer is simple, it is "pleasure'; for Marx it would be `practical sensuous activity', for Reich life force or energy or orgone', and for Marcuse `functions or needs'. But it is not something ephemeral something which varies with each person, or something of recent origin. Jean Liedloff uses the term `ancient continuum' for it. And to realise that the basic needs of the contemporary person have evolved over millions of years, changing and growing in power and sophisitication, gives some idea of the importance of what it is that is `repressed', and some idea of the power and intensity of the effects of the repression.
We may consider the object of repression to be the needs or functions of the individual person, and later, to be energy or life force. Obviously functions and needs are economic - food and. shelter, physical, things which are vital for existence. Unless these are adequately met (and `adequate' means an historically rising standard, as Marx recognised) there can be no growth or development beyond what those physical needs can express. But beyond that there are other needs of which the deprivation or satisfaction means so much more than the deprivation of the basic physical ones. There is a scale of needs, as Maslow recognises, which begins with sexuality in all its sensitive and intricate expressions; there is a need for recognition, for example, of achievements from the most simple but vital kind for the child, to those which are the most vital for the adolescent and the adult, all of which might appear to be trite and unimportant to the observer. But it is the denial or deprivation of these that proves the most important and harmful and dangerous for the individual, and from which comes the most acute neuroses and violence, usually of men who become powerful or notorious, and the powerlessness, perhaps of a majority of the people.
I am convinced there can be a radical and significant change in society only if we see, with Marx, that humanity in its fullness is:
Upon what then does the growth and development of the `many-sided senses ...spirit and intelligence' depend? This is the question revolutionaries and reformers have to be able to answer and to which they have given so little attention. They happen to depend upon what socialists and most other idealists have always thought to be the `good society' the object of all the effort. They depend upon cooperation, interaction, mutual reciprocity, understanding, tolerance and love. Love is the most revolutionary factor, but love now, not in the skies. But love, as does every other aspect of human behaviour, depends upon the actual conditions of life. It is a psychosomatic process as is hate and violence. One kind of critical experience can produce love: another kind can produce anxiety, hate and violence. It is absurd to preach socialism, cooperation, Christianity, or love, in life experiences which produce acquisitiveness, alienation, hate, fear and violence. It is absurd to imagine that historical forces which are those of poverty, violence or suppression can ever produce socialism. And it is well beyond the time when we should have decided to give up being absurd.
What then are the conditions of life which produce `many-sided senses, spirit, intelligence', cooperation, love and socialism? In one way socialism was always different from other ideals of the same kind. Socialism has always contained the basic assumptions that behaviour depended upon the historical conditions of life experience, and that the `very best' and the `very worst' of individual and social behaviour could be produced by appropriate historical conditions. Unfortunately, however, socialism became limited in its view to economic and class conditions.
Now is the time to discard these limitations.
The similar functions and needs of each individual have been determined by a long chain of experience, which began with the adventures of the first single-celled unit of living matter, and has continued through all the process of evolution up to the present day. Today the principle of congruent interaction shows up in very simple forms. Whenever two like cells are in proximity they tend to function as one unit. When they are a distance apart on a microscope slide, they pulsate randomly, each at its own rate, and before they can change to any other rate, they have to pulsate at their own rate. It they are moved closer together, they will, at some point, somehow communicate with each other, and begin to pulsate together. If later in life, they are separated, or alienated, they will riot grow and develop; and if the separation is early and complete enough, even if they are well fed, theyw ill die. The basic factor is interaction is essential for life, and later, for growth and development. Aloneness or separation or alienation is life destructive.
Pearce has recognised what he calls a `biological plan for the development of intelligence', which, I am sure, applies to the whole `self-creating process' of Marx. Pearce writes:
Intelligence is the ability to interact. This ability can grow only by interacting with new phenomena, that is moving from what is known into that which is not known. Although this seems obvious it is the stumbling block to development. Most intellectual crippling comes from the failure to achieve the balance of movement. Through interaction, intelligence grows in its ability to interact. We are designed to grow and be strengthened by every event, no matter how mundane or awesome.
Congruent interaction means a growth of intelligence, capacity and strength including that for government and revolution. A break in that relationship means anxiety, fear, lack of knowledge or awareness, and of intelligence and strength to end exploitation and suppression. It is the process of exploitation and suppression. Unless this basic biological and psychological relationship is understood and applied, the schimera of concern only with economics results.
The more vast and awesome our tool production is, the greater our anxiety, hostility, fear, resentment and aggression. But the direct connection between our anxiety and tool production is beyond our grasp because our intelligence is itself the result of our conditioning by and within that very body of knowledge. Our intelligence, trained to believe that any imperfections in the reality resulting from our activities, such as personal anguish, misery and fear simply indicate the need for improvements in the body of knowledge and/or improvements in tool production, distribution and application.
This is an excellent description of the attitude and policies of most democrats and revolutionaries, of economic growth, and of modernisation. But that Marx had a very different view, one coinciding with that of Pearce, is shown by a quote from Economic and Political Manuscripts, pp 121 and 138:
Production does not only producer man as a commodity, the human' commodity, man in the form of a' commodity; in conformity with this situation it produces him as a mentally and physically dehumanised being ...The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more goods he creates. The devaluation of the human world increases in direct relation with the increase in value of the world of things.
The way out is indicated by 3 quotes. The first is from Gramsci:
One of the first priorities is to transform the character structure and personal existence that is the mechanism of repressive consciousness ...people can discover the oppressor in their own lives as' Paulo Friere suggests and struggle to become the self-affirming subjects of their own destiny, of their own individual and social existence, which Marxists have previously dismissed as trivial and subjective.
The second is from Marcuse:
...without liberation of repressed needs the system merely reproduces itself...the only change that can be qualitative or revolutionary is that which results from the liberation of repressed needs (which can come only from) a new type of man with a vital biological drive for liberation and with a consciousness capable of breaking through the material as well as the ideological veil of the affluent society.
The third is from Wilhelm Reich:
The human body is an energy generating organism. If its energy does not flow reciprocally there is a psychic resignation or shrinking - an emotional explosion. To prevent this becoming a social neurosis everything must be arranged in accordance with what the infant and child needs and in accordance with what the others need...But we need sociological and mass involvement to do it.
It is easy to state what is needed by infants and children. The basic change has to be in the mode of reproduction along lines that are becoming well known and increasingly acceptable. But what about sociological and mass involvement? That is a hidden phase of human history and it is difficult to draw aside the dark shadows which hide it, let alone devise any social methods to deal with it. To begin with it is a matter of character structure and its effect on political behaviour. Drawing on Reich we can say:
The cultured human being has come to be a living structure composed of three layers. On the surface is generally carried a mask of self-control, politeness and sociality. As part of that conscious surface he holds firm to a belief system of a personal, theological or ideological kind, and this belief system becomes the real world as he sees it. It is the substitute for experience and human contact. The second layer, or the Freudian unconscious is made up of suppressed, repressed and distorted natural needs - envy, greed, hate, fear, anxiety, and perversions of many kinds, which lead to manipulation, violence and dominance, as well as submissiveness and desire for purity. It is the product of a sexnegating culture.
Below in the depths live and work natural sociality, sexuality, capacity for work and love. This biological core of the human person is hidden, distorted and uncomfortable; it may even be dreaded.
Freud, of course, believed that the basic, biological level could not get through, that it was the second or unconscious level which actually determined human behaviour, and that the first level was merely the front used to cover up the process. What we have to call individual and social therapy, or the growth of consciousness, involves breaking through the first or superficial layer and the exposing of the dominating belief systems and artifical masks. It involves exposing the unconscious drives and motivations and genuinely acknowledging that they do operate as main motivating forces. It involves too, clearing the way through the first and second layers, so that the natural needs and forces can emerge. It involves the radicalisation of people.
How can radicalisation occur?
In the case of individual therapy we have a history of psycho-analysis from Freud, most of which was to avoid radicalisation and induce the individual to adapt to the social conditions which had brought about the repression in the first place. Radical therapy stems from Wilhelm Reich. It is not limited to conversation and interpretation. Its features are:
Whilst emphasising that great care had to be taken in dealing with individual armouring and defense, Reich found, as have many of his successors, that some physical stress, some muscular strain in appropriate circumstance, allowed the repressions to be lifted and the hidden areas to be experienced. The repression comes about as a result of displeasure or pain and its exposure and removal seem to involve the re-experiencing of that displeasure or pain. Whilst that phase is believed to be essential so that the real cause of the distortion can be recognised, the next step is even more important. People often remain stuck in the re-experienced situation, depressed and inactive. One Reichian therapist, Alexander Lowan, has emphasised the importance of pleasure which, he says, is the only thing that can wash out the pain of the repression.
Whatever be the crisis or stress situation which seems necessary for penetrating the superficial `belief systems' and for exposing the distorted unconscious, it seems that an experience of pleasure is vital. The crisis or stress needs to be in a supportive or pleasurable situation, it needs friends and the `subject' needs positive things to do. But in my experience, crisis and stress means that friends and support disappear like leaves in a strong wind.
It seems to me therefore, and in conclusion, that any group concerned about change - reform, or revolution - should be concerned with the process of radicalising human character, with the process of raising consciousness or intelligence, and with ways of generalising it from the individual to large numbers of people.
Obituary - James (Jim) Ford Cairns, PhD (1914 - 2003) Antiwar and social change activist, parliamentarian, counter cultural theorist