RE: false consciousness: real and virtual worlds

From: Eugene Matusov (
Date: Thu Jan 08 2004 - 14:50:42 PST

Dear Andy–


Thanks a lot for the useful reference and for your arguments. Although I
still can’t see workers as addressees and audience in Marx’s writings, I’m
very open to reconsider this. The reason I still can’t buy your argument (if
I understand it correctly, of course, – if not, please correct me) is that I
personally know well many people but often I do not write my academic papers
having them in mind (including my family). I often write to (and even with)
people whom I do not personally know (except, probably, my extensive
correspondence with my students during classes I teach). I’m not sure how
much my biography or Marx’s biography can reveal our targeted audience.


A few years ago I remember reading a study published in Chronicle of Higher
Education about loyalty of people working in academia. It showed that the
highest loyalty people have not to their colleagues or universities but to
the field in which they work.


Based on reading Marx’s writings I suspect that Marx’s audience was
revolutionary intellectuals but not workers. For me, a persuasive
counter-argument is his writing where he addressed workers, cited them, and
talked to and with them.


What do you think?



PS Andy, as I said before, I very much appreciate the interesting references
you provided and your willingness to convince me in opposite. I’d love to
see Marx’s texts written for, to, and with workers because, inspired by
Bakhtin, I’m looking for alternatives to the current academic discourse.



From: Andy Blunden []
Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 1:05 AM
Subject: RE: false consciousness: real and virtual worlds


I think it fair to say that as a youngster, Marx had never seen a
proletarian, and his early contacts with workers read like reports of the
"noble savage". His experiences in the International Workingmen's
Association however did mark a break. Living as an exile in London, he was
invited to join the General Council and for several years there he did
indeed work in day-to-day collaboration with workers. True, these were
relatively politically conscious workers, but political consciousness is not
the exclusive preserve of intellectuals. If you are talking about whether
Marx addressed himself to politically illiterate and naive people, then that
is an altogether different question. The La Liberte speech comes from the
battle against Bakunin and is most certainly addressed to working class
people. Abstention from politics was a strong current of thought among
English trade unionists.

Marx was actually opposed to radical intelligentsia like himself even being
allowed to join the IWMA. He was persuaded to agree to this, but he was
never comfortable with even his own position in the IWMA.

I don't know if you've read Francis Wheen's biography "Karl Marx", but I
found it very very helpful. Wheen is quite ruthless, but I think he
accurately brings out what were Marx's real insights in a sympathetic way.

It's not on line, but it's paperback and cheap and a good read.


At 06:17 PM 4/01/2004 -0500, you wrote:

Dear Andy and everybody


Thanks a lot, Andy, for very useful references to Marxs speeches. However, I
could not find speeches where Marx treated workers as YOU. Maybe I was out
of luck or maybe I am misinterpreting Marxs writings (speeches). Let me give
an example from Andys list. Here is a fragment from Marxs speech The
International Working Men's Association, 1872 La Liberté Speechat


In our midst there has been formed a group advocating the workers'
abstention from political action. We have considered it our duty to declare
how dangerous and fatal for our cause such principles appear to be.

Someday the worker must seize political power in order to build up the new
organization of labor; he must overthrow the old politics which sustain the
old institutions, if he is not to lose Heaven on Earth, like the old
Christians who neglected and despised politics.

But we have not asserted that the ways to achieve that goal are everywhere
the same.

You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries
must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are
countries -- such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your
institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland -- where the workers can
attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also
recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our
revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in
order to erect the rule of labor.

It is difficult for me to assume that Marx referred YOU and WE to workers.
Rather he seemed to refer workers to HEand THEM. It seems to me that WE and
YOU were revolutionary intellectuals talking and thinking on behalf of (most
progressive, those without false consciousness) workers.


What do you think?




> -----Original Message-----

> From: Andy Blunden []

> Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2003 10:59 PM

> To:

> Subject: RE: false consciousness: real and virtual worlds


> There are lots of examples of Marx talking TO working class people in his

> writings. For example his talks on Economics which were given to groups of

> revolutionary-minded workers, and his speeches at the International

> Workingmen's Association. Not that of course his more philosophical or

> polemical works weren't meant for the eyes of workers, but nor were they

> specifically aimed at working class people.


> Examples:





> A


> > I wonder how Marxist texts would look like (and if they are

> >possible) if Marx wrote not ABOUT working class (to a community of

> >middle-class revolutionary intellectuals) but TO working class people

> >as a mentor but as a "buddy"). I'm not talking about popularization of

> >Marx's ideas to working class people but again to talking to (if not

> >them. Is such text possible? Would it have "false consciousness" wording?

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