Is Socialism a Moral as well as a Class or Scientific Issue?

April 2024 Forums General discussion Is Socialism a Moral as well as a Class or Scientific Issue?

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  • #90627
    Hud955
    Participant

    Hi Socialist PunkI'm actually with you on what you say about using moral argument as a means of drawing people in.  I think it does no harm at all  to use it in this way occasionally.  In fact, you can see this as part of the strategy of turning capitalist morality against capitalism and showing that it leads to contradictions.  We do this sort of thing all the time in the Standard though we don't often use conventional moral language.What I'm against is incorporating moral language into our socialist world view and enshrining it as party policy.  It's when it becomes a systematic part of our case that it becomes a problem.  At that point we stop turning capitalist moral judgements against the system and start making our own.

    #90628
    twc
    Participant

    Class ConsciousnessMy point is that class-conscious socialists [which precisely means people who are convinced of our Object] must come to recognize that it is impossible to change what Marx called the social base, without first changing what Marx called the social superstructure, in order to accomplish our Object.Our non-class conscious opponents [which precisely means people without conviction in our Object] quite correctly recognize that it is possible to modify the social base, even if they harbour the fond illusion that it is they who are determining the modifications rather than, as Marx spent his working life demonstrating, the social base itself determining them to perform necessary modifications to itself.The mighty social base allocates its non-class conscious minions the necessary bit roles in its normal adjustment process that sustains the whole base–superstructure edifice as a complex self-adaptive system. They are its necessary willing unsuspecting agents, eager to resolve discord between base and superstructure. [When will they ever learn!]But the base always suggests its possible possibilities in the first place, and only actuates those modifications it can accede to, and then on its terms, and decidedly not on any of our socially unconscious opponents' terms. If only the entire social organism were as easily amenable to being changed as to being adjusted, we'd be living in socialism long ago.On the other hand, the social base allots us class-conscious socialists a different role that can only be played out in its superstructure. That role is to change the mighty superstructure itself as precondition to changing the even mightier determining base.It is only when the superstructure consciously recognizes that it no longer conforms to its base — this is precisely what is meant by class consciousness — that it can deterministically move against and redetermine its base, something that normally can't be done. The impossible becomes possible!In Marxian materialism, this is the case of determinism doing a switch-back upon itself. In Hegelian terms — it is the negation of the negation. Amazingly, the base determines its own dissolution by agency of its own determined superstructure. This is ultimately what the "reflection" process in the clause "the superstructure reflects the base" is finally about.Class-conscious socialists must, and only can, operate in the superstructure [which includes politics, art and, shudder, morality] in order to propagate our Object. The superstructure's illusions are the objects we must fight and overturn before we overturn the social base.The Party is the only political and social organization that has been doing this consistently class-consciously for over a century, and has regularly demonstrated that it can, when called upon, use morality most effectively to further its Object.Perceptions of MoralityThis thread originated from a moral judgement of the quite normally human kind made by ALB. My originating post was, perhaps naively, intended to back him up over what always comes across as a theoretical slip. In the event, it has highlighted how pervasive is fear of the capitalist social superstructure for all of us.Hud955: "Morality is merely a reflex of class interest, not class interest itself."If linked by "reflex", they are inextricably yoked together. Idealist Hegel would call them "identical" and treat them as interpenetrating ideas. Materialist Marx would link them via an intermediary "reflecting" deterministic material process — in this case, presumably a process of social practice.In passing, typically Marxian "reflex" (or reflected) processes are the interesting "dialectical" processes. They develop through stages by performing that negation-of-negation back-flip [a "reflection" that "reflects" itself] in which the determiner determines the determined to determine the determiner — in your case, morality would then turn the scales upon class interest to redirect it instead of being directed by it. That happy event, though expressed abstractly here, will befall capitalist class interest.Regarding LaFargue. His scientific account casts the origin of ideological morality out of natural social relations in a way that touches the core of our social being [despite hints of Rousseau], and we immediately feel impelled to restore tainted morality to a higher form adequate to advanced social needs [Engels] — at least I feel impelled to want to restore it upon reading him. He makes us feel the need for transforming society.But leave LaFargue and his mentor Engels, and consider their progenitor Lewis Henry Morgan [in passing a Republican congressman, no less]. Morgan wrote perhaps the finest combined moral–scientific judgement against capitalism and for socialism that we have. We know it almost by heart.The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a career of which property is the end and aim; because such a career contains the elements of self-destruction…. the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes.Engels, lost in admiration, reproduced this extract in full, leaving every bourgeois-ideologically tainted word of it verbatim, unaltered, uncommented, unexpurgated because every sentient reader knows in his heart of hearts precisely what underlying natural content is intended.Morality in its bourgeois form lacks every vestige of humanly cooperative content. At the very least, we should be able to confront the stinking perversion of a corpse that now parades in its name. We have powerful such confrontations by Marx, Engels, Morgan and, yes, ourselves as models.

    #90629
    ALB
    Keymaster
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    How can anyone explain how the harsh, "scientific", obsessive mindset in the SPGB is going to tune in to people from the Occupy movement etc, and cleanse their "unscientific" moral outrage?

    According to this BBC report, Andy Haldane, Bank of England Executive Director for Financial Stability

    Quote:
    told a meeting organised by Occupy in London that protestors had touched a "moral nerve".

    The Times today reports him as telling the meeting last night that

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    He applauded the protestors for being correct, not just in a moral sense, but also for the quality of their analysis into the causes of the banking crisis.

    Oh dear, we seem to have lost the moral highground to the Bank of England. Or is this a case of how easy it for mere "moral outrage" to be co-opted by the system?

    #90630
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Hi ALB,It would be a case of "moral outrage" being co-opted by the system if the wankers, I mean bankers, in the city were able to do something to "fix" the cause of the "moral outrage".In other words if they, advocated a complete change in the fundamental nature of capitalism that would ensure profits were not put before human need, then they would have the moral high ground. But alas those poor misunderstood, bankers and city investors can not and do not want such a change. So they try every tactic available to distract their critics from the business as usual agenda.We on the other hand do have a carefully worked out solution on offer. We just need to take a leaf out of our opponents book and use every tactic available to us to expose their lies and hypocrisy. If that means we find a way to own morality, to take it from them and imbue it with real meaning, then what is wrong with that? Unless you are of the opinion we lack the ability to do so?      

    stevecolborn wrote:
    Can you imagine, Socialism and MORALITY, in one package? Can you not imagine the impact? If it were done in, OUR WAY?
    #90631
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I see that the article in this month's Socialist Standard on the Rastafarians says:

    Quote:
    The yearning for righteousness is a very human ideal born of the suffering endemic within the exploitation of Capitalism (the Babylon System) and is shared by Socialists.

    Wow, so now we are "the righteous" too!

    #90632
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    ALB wrote:
    I see that the article in this month's Socialist Standard on the Rastafarians says:

    Quote:
    The yearning for righteousness is a very human ideal born of the suffering endemic within the exploitation of Capitalism (the Babylon System) and is shared by Socialists.

    Wow, so now we are "the righteous" too!

    Was there some doubt about that?    

    #90633
    stevead1966
    Participant

    "OUTTA Babylon"  ! is the cry everyday on the lips of the African and West Indian men at my workplace when it is time to go out on delivery.BABYLON equals the oppression of the bosses in the office, the alienation felt in the workplace. Freedom from Babylon is amongst the peoples of Battersea !Babylon is bourgeois capitalist society.

    #90634
    twc
    Participant

    Co-opting by the SuperstructureI think your point about co-opting misses the only real point — that it is the superstructure's role to annul, anesthetize, trivialize, sanitize, bastardize all threats to the integrity of the capitalist system as-a-capitalist-system by co-opting these threats into its very generous bosom. Finally, it is we who must un-co-opt the co-opted.Banker ScenarioIt's the usual case of non-class conscious "moral outrage" succumbing to the might of Marx's social superstructure doing precisely what Marx said that social superstructure was itself co-opted by class-exploitative society to do.Swindlers who swindle themselves are rescued by a trillion-dollar donation. Their representative meets hostile donors who, perceiving a shared stake in the survival of his line of business, release him on a good-behavior bond to continue swindling. Like a plot from "Hustle"."Moral outrage" is an easy target for co-opting because it can be defused in the short term as it merely threatens the stability of the system [people quickly decide it is more important to preserve an outrageous system than to preserve their outrage against it] and moral outrage never threatens the viability of the system [which, unfortunately, non-class conscious people also think is much more worth preserving].But class-conscious theory is a long term issue, and even it has proven a ready target for co-opting, by agency of our non-class conscious opponents. They have all but successfully annulled, anesthetized, trivialized, sanitized, bastardized it precisely because it does directly threaten the long-term viability of the system.Look what the non-class conscious agents of the capitalist superstructure have done to our song: "class struggle"=wages battle; "class conscious"=unionist; "Marxism"=Leninism; "socialism"=capitalism; "democracy"=dictatorship; "ideology"=superstructure; even the Party name. This is a tribute to the might of the capitalist superstructure working through its willing agents — Marx's non-class conscious political heirs!Look what the non-class conscious agents of the capitalist superstructure have done to our theory. They mathematized Marxian economics [thereby adding academic respectability to it] by co-opting it in the service of Sraffian linear algebra. When Marx's value theory proved antagonistic to its imposed environment, the whole tribe of Marxian academic economists [being non-class conscious] instinctively blamed the import and not the environment.The wondrous upshot of this mathematical amalgam of interpenetrating opposites was that value and surplus value were redundant fictions, and that man, machinery and animals are all equally exploited and all three are equally sources of profit. This is a tribute to the might of the capitalist superstructure working through its willing agents — Marx's non-class conscious theoretical heirs!This victory was celebrated in an academic festival in which the whole tribe of professional Marxist economists paraded before the amazed capitalist superstructure a job worthily done and dusted. Finally they had disproved Marx mathematically. We owe thanks to Andrew Kliman and others for reclaiming Marx [un-co-opting him] from this non-class conscious illusion.All this establishes the point that co-opting is a very serious problem indeed. But it runs deeper than moral outrage. The whole socialist case is about unmasking the illusions of the capitalist superstructure. Put another way, we must un-co-opt the co-opted.Primal Co-optionCo-opting is an essential function of the social superstructure. Otherwise we could never bring our actions and ideas into conformity with our changing world. Natural evolution works the same way — progressive adaptation of what already exists — which its theoreticians take as proof against divine [perfectly engineered] creation.In that sense, co-opting is normal. Which is why, when the superstructure of a class-exploitative base builds into itself a disingenuous component, alongside its perfectly natural component, we readily fail to detect the sleight of hand.The superstructure's disingenuous component has to annul, anesthetize, trivialize, sanitize, bastardize whatever threatens the base that raises it.Firstly, it is important to distinguish our very own capitalist superstructure's insidious deliberate cunning distortion from the naive distortion that beset the superstructure of primitive social economic formations. Their naive distortion arose from their superstructure's limited social base. For them, when grand appearance presents itself at odds with reality, their elementary superstructure seeks an imaginary reality through natural awe of the natural world. Their elementary superstructure confines all grand conceptions incestuously within its sterile self because it lacks the social base to support the science to refertilize itself.[However, their everyday life teaches them very well indeed how to distinguish between appearance and reality [= science] with a skill that elicits our admiration and gives us sophisticates a gimpse into the lost co-operative sociability of the ancestral superstructural world that we've been co-opted out of. But the grand conceptual paralysis that arises from its limited social base also shows us why the whole tragedy of civilization has been socially necessary.]Secondly, it's important to acknowledge that our very own sophisticated superstructure cannot dispense with its naive component because its base — whose sole function is to extract surplus value — necessarily relies on the growing power of objective science and equally on the vestiges of cooperative sociability [it can't fully extinguish that because the base only functions through the social agency of us sentient feeling humans].In passing, LaFargue's article is precisely his take [shades of Rousseau] on the primal co-option in which class exploitation in the social base erodes its natural reflection in the primitive superstructure and sets the superstructure off on its disingenuous course.His implied conclusion is profound. The superstructure of a class-divided society is irrevocably class divided. But it can't show it. It would be naively naive indeed of it to reveal the shameful riven avaricious soul of the base that raised it. Consequently, the naive primitive superstructure, once wholly social, undergoes a grand primal co-option in the interests of the ruling class. Henceforth it must hide its disunited social shame from itself behind a disingenuous perception of united sociability. This is the universal insidious co-option from which all others derive as instances.

    #90635
    ALB
    Keymaster

    More co-option of "morality" by capitalism from yesterday's London Evening Standard:http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/capitalism-has-to-relocate-its-moral-compass-8289264.html

    #90636
    twc
    Participant

    Wow!Thanks ALB. I'm  speechless from puking!As always, the underbelly of theology is to justify the ways of god to man — and mammon.

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