Class notions and social conditioning
In capitalist society there is a massive emphasis on the individual. It is held up that we are all individuals and in complete control of our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. The more benevolent propagators of this belief mean that everyone is a individual in a society of individuals, and that we can all work together for the benefit of all. This is closer to reality than the “individuality” that the ideologists of capitalism believe in. They propagate the world as a “dog-eat-dog” society where the strongest individual “justly” gets ahead by trampling on the others, as we see when capitalists boast of their successes. Often capitalists will put these down to their superior intellect or “strength of character”, claiming that everyone can live the lifestyle that they live if they work hard enough. That raises the question of what exactly the working class is doing if it isn’t hard work.
This kind of individuality, of getting ahead and to hell with anyone else, is in direct conflict with humans as social animals, and we can see the disastrous effect it can have. The world of miserable alienation that capitalism has created is a abomination to the irrefutable fact that humans are social creatures and function best within a form of collective community. It is often argued by socialists that this was the case far back in the mists of history, where humanity existed in a state of “primitive communism”, as in small groups of hunter-gatherers that would share the produce of their collective labour. Later, private property developed as a ruling class emerged for the first time. This new class had to defend its hold over the majority class, and in ancient society this was usually by means of a combination of superstition and violence. When the ancient world dwindled with the collapse of the Roman Empire, a new social/economic system emerged, feudalism. Feudalism is essentially a system where a feudal authority would demand payment of some form for protection against another rival authority. In time, another class – the ancestors of today’s capitalists – emerged to challenge the feudal aristocracy, and swept them away in a series of bloody revolutions, by necessity enlisting the help of the oppressed class. This led to modern capitalism. Always, the notions of the ruling class tended to become the notions of those it subjugated.
The current ruling class have cultivated such ideas as nationalism, propagating the illusion that we live in a society with a collective social interest. The more enlightened among them probably saw the effects of separating and alienating people from each other and their labour, and so stepped up the spreading of beliefs like nationalism in order to try and convince people that they were not so exploited as they really were, and that everyone had a common interest.
Nationalism is a relatively new concept for social control, since in feudal times religion was the principle method of control over the majority. The newly emerging capitalist class in Europe and later Russia had to shake the religious institutions that held sway in partnership with the aristocracy. This was sped up with the introduction of real scientific ideas, however this was not always enough to drive such ridiculous falsehoods from the minds of the people. A good example of this was just after the Russian revolution. This is generally held up as a socialist revolution, but what is clear to anyone who breaks through this misconception is that the Bolsheviks performed the role of introducing capitalist relations into Russia, and setting themselves up as a form of state bourgeoisie. Since the Russian church was a powerful ally of the Tsarist system, it had to be toppled from a position of power.
In modern capitalism, since the workers own no means of production in reality or practice, they may revolt against the unnatural separation of human from human and labour from labour, so the illusion of working collectively for the benefit of a larger community i.e. the nation, had to be propagated. To do this requires a steady flow of social conditioning and manipulation. This conditioning wouldn’t take root if people knew it was conditioning, the same way as false propaganda wouldn’t have the desired effect if people were to know they were being lied to.
It cannot be argued that the material world has no effect on the person as if every thought they have had has come from them and them alone. Human behaviour is defined by surrounding material and social conditions. Take a baby from London and raise it with a hill tribe in central Asia and it will act like one of them and follow their moral code. Take a baby from the same hill tribe and raise it in London and it will act like a Londoner, go to school, go to work, go shopping and follow the English moral code. It would be plausible to even go as far to say the idea of “individuality” cannot exist in the true sense of the word, since we are all affected by each other and the world we create, thus linked by our social nature. To be an individual in the sense that you were completely separate and define your own existence away from your species is entirely unworkable.
The representatives of the capitalist class insightful enough to understand the aspects governing human behaviour are only too eager to spread the ideas of individual “free will”, patriotism etc, as they see people coming to understand their material surroundings and the effect it has on human behaviour as a threat to the position of the ruling class. After all, if we understand each other and why people behave like they do, why would be bother with the continued existence of a minority class that conditions the majority with a worldview suited to majority exploitation?
On the whole it isn’t that calculated, because we know too well that the capitalist class have a great deal of trouble controlling the social/economic system their predecessors created. The philanthropists and reformists among them are, as always, deluding themselves by thinking that the system can somehow be turned into a society where meaning and genuine collectiveness can flourish. Often the case is that some reforms are granted, as a way of quashing worker militancy while still maintaining the capitalist class in a advantageous position. However, reforms have failed to bring comfort and meaning to most of the world’s population since the entire capitalist machine is geared towards a minority living off a majority. How can human thought and development be free to flourish when the material world that is inseparably tied to human thought is controlled by some untouchable alien power that does such horrific things as creating scarcity on purpose and making workers massacre each other for nothing but the interests of one or other ruling minority?
In our day, the capitalist class has naturally attempted to blanket the workers with its own class outlook, that of individuals and character strength determining positions of power, and that anyone who is clever enough can get to the top. While it is possible for a worker to leap up and join the capitalist class, the same way as a capitalist can be cast down into the workers, this is a extremely rare occurrence. In class society there has to be a ruling class, and a subjugated class, and since we live in capitalism, talk of “moving towards a classless society” is nothing but twaddle. The only way to truly move towards a classless society is for the subjugated majority class itself to throw off the hindering notions and ideas placed on it from its rulers, and then put a final end to the rulers, forever.