How Do We Get To Class Consciousness?

Minneapolis Teamster Strike 1934

If I believed socialists needed to win debates and cash in at the marketplace of ideas as our main tactic to win a socialist future, I would be deeply pessimistic that such a political future would emerge. As an aside though, participating in debate is still important, but should not be the top priority for socialists. 

What then do I envision as the route towards a strong working class movement with a socialist political content? The answer is in building a strong workers movement through direct action. For socialism to become an actual threat to the existing order and a force among working people, the daily lives of working people has to come into confrontation with the system. In many ways this happens to people all of the time on an individual scale. However, my notion of class consciousness emerging goes like so: working people begin to take collective action and make demand to meet their needs (there doesn’t have to be an underlying socialist politics here). As working people continue building power and making demands upon the various institutions that make up the capitalist political and economic system, the demands of the working people collide with the functioning of the capitalist political/economic system. No longer can capitalism meet the needs of the working class movement. Then as a collective movement, not individuals, the workers movement must transcend capitalism. 

Liberals  and a lot of political radical activist focus on individual opinions and believe this is the main locus of politics. I think this is not a revolutionary politics, but counterrevolutionary. Class consciousness is not the consciousness of an individual, but the consciousness of a collectivity of workers in a movement of their own. I care much more about how people’s collective actions shape their relation to the capitalist system and how a movements trajectory relates to such a system than I do about individuals political out look. Socialism will never come from socialists, socialism will come when a wide array of workers (with diverse and non-cohesive ideologies) collide with the system and transcend it.

I think this conception of class consciousness works with the libertarian socialist conception of a militant minority within a workers movement, that work to more consciously organize workers into movements that could lead to a trajectory of colliding with the capitalist political/economic system. 

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2 thoughts on “How Do We Get To Class Consciousness?”

    1. I think the IWW is potentially a good means for this. I think it is a space to meet people with similar goals and values that you can work with. I am not a purist in regards to what organization though. I think organizing with people around you and those that you have common interests with is really what matters most.

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