Solving the Riddle of History.
It was Karl Marx who said Marxism solved the riddle of history. His nineteenth-century analysis explains a lot about the world as we know it today.
People are feeling that the world is going mad. Clashing sets of values and ideas causing anger and outrage. But no one seems to be able to make this situation intelligible. Most theories that try such as Critical Social Justice Theory (1) just make people confused and angry.
Books are published on topics as wide-ranging as of the climate crisis, overconsumption, the perils of affluence and the absence of love or community. These issues are all associated with the present state of the West and by implication the state of the whole world.
A world of vastly different wealth and social and economic expectations will give rise to different ideas about what is wrong and what should be done.
The suggestions for solving the world’s vastly different problems all too often involve western people changing our lives, by for example eating less meat, being less stressed, buying less stuff, being more mindful of White privilege, more tolerant, less wealthy, critical of the past or just handing more power over to a state that likes to bully us with political correctness.
The question is, why with such a mountain of advice does nothing ever change? Why do we feel so much tension living in the early twenty-first century? Why is it always down to the western worker to change? What, if anything, has the western working class done wrong? Maybe we need to revisit Marx’s riddle of history and try to explain what has happened in the past, and what frightening prospects there might be for the West’s working people in the future unless they, -we- ‘get’ the riddle and avoid being either bullied or seduced by their elites who have adopted fashionable academic theories.
In simple terms, nothing changes dramatically because our consciousness changes far more slowly than the events that it must confront. It is largely fixed by our life experience. This is true of everyone in the world, from the tribal areas of Pakistan to the sandy beaches of Southern California. But it is not necessarily true of our ideologically driven elites who are committed to their own self-preservation by whatever means necessary.
In Classical Marxism, consciousness is what people think and importantly, why they think it. The tramlines of ‘normality’ which we carry about in our heads and which make us see certain things in certain ways. For Marxists, consciousness is determined by the nature of our economic circumstances and the level of scientific discovery upon which our attitudes are dependent.
Why do we, for example, accept women’s freedom and autonomy and some other cultures do not? Why do we value freedom of speech and other nations have blasphemy laws? Why do some people who newly arrive want to change western society so it better reflects their social expectations? What makes violence acceptable to some people to achieve ideological outcomes? It is all about consciousness, theirs, ours, yours, and mine and as significantly the collective consciousness of the people in charge of the structures that govern us, parliament, the law, councils, and courts etc. Let us decode this riddle properly.
Our consciousness and where it comes from!
Our economic system and society, plus now the internet and its vast wealth of information, create our thoughts and beliefs but give us no understanding of how that process happens. What makes us behave in the world the way we do? What makes us feel the way we do about the world or the society we inhabit?
The collective reality of billions of individual consciousnesses, navigating their world and jostling together is an unavoidable reality for humans, as we are, unlike other creatures, self-conscious animals.
Humanity makes the world intelligible by creating frameworks for understanding it. We have come to call these, cultures, religions, and ideologies. They promote the benefits of their economic and social systems and protect its vested personal and economic interests, allocating power, and justifying one dominant idea over others. The aim of culture and religion historically is to make inequality intelligible and more importantly acceptable to people, be they citizens, subjects, voters, slaves, workers or whatever.
To make society function peoples’ acceptance is needed. In the absence of this, the elite must suppress people’s opposition by force. If the collective consciousness of people is at odds with what they have to accept as their reality, or the justification for their unfair treatment is weak, there will be trouble. Revolution in fact! Are we in such a period now?
Karl Marx also observed that the history of humanity is the history of economic exploitation, how most people are taken advantage of, and how this is maintained. How does a minority, the elite, get to control the labour-power of the majority and the wealth that labour-power creates, make themselves rich and powerful and stay rich and powerful?
The process has involved an interesting cast of characters like Gods and prophets, warlords, books of revealed truths and more recently philosophers, and politicians. It all goes back thousands of years and has led to the promotion of ideas which make the people of the world think and behave in different ways. All to the same end though, to protect the rich by protecting their economic and social power structures. It is not a process linked to race, it is a process linked to class and status.
The need to understand the role of consciousness in this process only became relevant once humanity found a way to ‘make a modest profit’ initially on the back of slave labour. In traditional tribal communities, there was no wealth to control, so power structures were irrelevant.
For at least four thousand years the profit, created by workers or slaves, has fallen under the control of powerful personal or family interests. In short, the elites of every era.
We can look at different cultural influences to see what might inform different social and economic expectations. For example, Islam is an ideology that captures accurately the reality of the harsh seventh century Arab Peninsular. It is a world of warfare and submission to God with strict rules about society and sexual behaviour. The Qur’an (2) promotes this historical reality as the word of God. Today some followers of Islam attempt to introduce ‘God-given’ law by force. Whilst our elite might criticise their methods, and some academics identify cultural ‘disadvantage’, only working people will openly challenge the notion that these ‘laws’ come from God.
Alternatively, Christianity said we need peace and love. For Jesus, there were enough economic resources going around for everyone to have a reasonable share. The loaves and fishes story illustrates this point (3). So, for Jesus, whilst reality was unfair, kings had more than slaves, he said we should stop thinking about having more for ourselves and think about others; ‘Love thy neighbour’ so to speak.
The willingness to ‘believe’ something like the Gospels or the Qur’an, something beyond our actual life experience is another essential component of human consciousness. We are the only animals who can ‘believe’ things which are absurdly not true. This is great news if you want to control people without force. What we believe and why we believe it is what gives us our unique, culturally specific consciousness and its various personal variations.
What consciousness gets downloaded into our heads is complicated, but it is essentially a task for those who control society at any given time. That is until revolution forces change. Today with so much freedom and global communication, societies everywhere are a muddle with all sorts of ideas being promoted and accepted, even ones that are hostile to the concept of personal freedom itself.
Maybe we no longer know what to believe, so anything goes. Maybe there is a consciousness being engineered to shift the world towards a global consensus. Agreement about what is right and wrong. Or maybe a sort of global consciousness is just emerging nudged by our global elites so that eventually everyone from the rural areas of Afghanistan to the coffee shops of New York will willingly accept it. Consciousness can and does change. Will it be good for western working people of all racial and other backgrounds though?
Since biblical times economic changes have made people’s consciousness clash with new material realities. In the modern West, these changes have given rise to a freeing up of the rules that once forced us to accept overt control by others. Our modern western world of choices and freedoms allows each of us to create our own rules within the law and decide what we accept as normal. We create personalised ‘normality’. We have a fragmented collective consciousness that reflects our fragmented western world and our fragmented but free and generally tolerant society. But much of the world is not like us. It is not tolerant, or open-minded but why?
Being able to construct personal normality has not happened by accident. The economic reality of western society built up over hundreds of years makes it impossible for us not to have evolved our thinking the way we have.
Our forebears could not have predicted the internet or aircraft travel two or three hundred years ago but how we have used these, is a result of the economic system they created, were all forced to accept, and then promoted as normal. For example, until the eighteenth century, we did not have the freedom to travel abroad. Part of their consciousness, a belief in freedom, became part of our consciousness. We, or more accurately our elites, have taken an eighteenth-century principle and woven it into our modern consciousness. Our elites have created our fragmented individualistic and personalised collective consciousness from what they and we have inherited. It is conceivable that our freedom is not a popular development everywhere in the world.
It is up to us to now understand how our individualism might go wrong. How our forbears’ house, once built on stone, has become our house built on the sand of western individualistic ‘normality’. Maybe there is pressure from a global elite to reverse this process. To create a new ‘normal’.
Our foundations: The Wests Christian consciousness.
Religion is ideology given the status of the divine or ‘God-given’. It was a trick common in the ancient world, that if you wanted your ideas to be taken seriously, you claimed they were from God and you were a prophet. Christianity went one step further claiming that Jesus was God. The message from first-century Jesus was “I bring you a revolutionary new message, love thy neighbour”. His disciples said, “copy the example set by Jesus in the Gospels”. Fairly simple stuff. Basically, be nice to each other.
Jesus was so out of step with the reality and collective consciousness of the ancient world, characterised by warfare and barbarism that within six centuries his ideas were replaced by more traditional ideas of warfare and submission to God as revealed by Muhammed in the Qur’an.
By the time Islam became the regions dominant ideology Christianity was pretty much pushed out of the Middle East and beyond. Christianity made its way to Europe, a wet, cold, and unappealing part of the world of little interest to Arab raiders. The Vikings, who knew the European territory, were responsible for Northern Europe’s seventh-century land grabs, in the name of their God Thor. That is until they converted to Christianity and the ideology of ‘love thy neighbour’ saw their distinct form of longboat barbarism slowly disappear.
This idea of love thy neighbour and the story of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary is the first step towards modern western consciousness. It represents the separation of the world of humanity from the world of God. Or in a modern take on the same theme, the separation of the world of human lives, from the world of human ideas.
In medieval Europe life was brutal, people suffered at the hands of aristocrats and kings, but the Christian Church ensured that there was always a distinction between humanity and God as represented by Jesus Christ. This separation of religion and the state became accepted as normal.
The Bible and Christianity did not combine the world of human conduct and the world of God into a single book of rules or laws. God could forgive even if humans could not. Jesus had died on the cross to forgive humanities sinfulness. This was a radical departure from earlier consciousness as prior to this an individual’s behaviour was laid down as a set of rules with punishments arising from failure to comply, all sanctioned by God. Stoning, for example, appears in both the Old Testament and in the Islamic Hadith. There is nothing like this in Christianity. Morality was more Gods business than humanities. God would sort out the unrepentant sinner in the afterlife.
Extending this idea of the world of humanity being separate from the world of God, meant that in Christianity, the poor and the pious were willingly encouraged to accept their lot in life because they knew their impoverished earthy life would secure them a place in heaven if they ‘loved their neighbour as themselves’. As the Christian Hymn has it ‘the rich man in his castle the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate’. Christianity laid the foundation for accepting things as they are. Uncomplainingly, peacefully and with a view to your love for others seeing you enter the kingdom of heaven.
This belief in the normality of poverty, the forgiveness of sin, and acceptance of the power of others, based on their use of practices like coercion, and compulsion, defined European consciousness for hundreds of years. Indeed control, coercion and compulsion are, as we will see, the default position for all elites who are not forced to accept freedom as a basic right for everyone.
Back in Medieval Europe whilst on earth everyone was unequal, by showing love to others, even the rich, you would gain equality with them in heaven. This belief endured for centuries until the Church itself departed from Christian doctrine. The Church failed to follow the word of God.
The Christian Church in the form of Catholicism failed to reflect the basic biblical requirement to ‘love thy neighbour’. The Church became bloated, bureaucratic, and self-serving. It was increasingly seen as incapable of extending the love of God to anyone. It became a reflection of earthly power, status, and wealth. The corruptible world of humanity replaced that of love thy neighbour.
Rather than simply tolerate poverty the Church began to create poverty by taking wealth from ordinary people using compulsion and coercion. By doing this the Church departed from the message of the Gospels and gained many critics.
An emerging revolutionary Christian elite began creating a new consciousness, and in doing so challenged coercion and compulsion eventually creating consent-based choice or ‘freedom’. This better reflected emerging economic and social reality.
Freedom would eventually lead to freedom of speech and would allow people to abandon the Catholic Church, create different types of Christianity, and succeed in the world unimpeded by a greedy church or state. Christianity had served the feudal state well by making poverty acceptable to rich and poor alike. But times were changing driven by new economic realities.
With an unwillingness to accept centuries of personal poverty as normal, this Christian revolutionary class started to gain strength from the sixteenth century onwards. Over time it changed the consciousness of the political elite, emerging the victorious class by routing feudalism at the end of the seventeenth century. These revolutionaries were called the Bourgeoisie. They created the principles of contract, choice, consent, freedom, and democracy which now form a major part of our modern western consciousness. These principles were known as bourgeois principles.
With these principles, the bourgeoisie created capitalism and built a political and legal system supporting their new revolutionary view of consent-based personal choice and freedom.
Their new consciousness over time became our consciousness, whether we know it or not, or liked it or not. We value the freedom and consent-based choice they created, which some other ‘rule-based’ cultures do not recognise as legitimate. Our consciousness based on freedom ‘buffers’ with rule-based consciousnesses. Even today political correctness and wokeness challenge concepts of freedom (4). Both are part of a new rule-based ideology, that is attempting to return us to a world of coercion and compulsion in thought, language, and behaviour.
The eighteenth-century development of western consciousness founded on consent-based choice or freedom has been unique, formed as it was in a furnace of economic change. Capitalism required freedom in a way that feudalism or slave societies did not. Principles like contract, choice and consent were legal principles underpinning freedom and were ruthlessly defended in the criminal courts of early capitalism. Of course, freedom was not welcomed by everyone. There would be numerous push backs.
The feudal system might have kept you powerless and poor, coerced and compelled but the church would give you food or alms and tell you that you would be guaranteed a place in heaven because of your poverty or if you repented of your sins.
Capitalism created poverty too if you were unable to use your freedom to get rich unlike feudalism, it was happy to let you starve. Alternatively, it would execute you if you stole the private property of others. It was OK to contract for something, but to take it without consent was a capital offence. The courts put on trial thousands of petty thieves who were then executed. Transportation to Australia and the workhouse eventually became the capitalist systems way of treating criminals ‘humanely’.
Eventually the English church by now no longer Roman Catholic, thanks to Henry the Eighth, stopped supporting the poor. Slowly the state stopped using coercion, control and compulsion and embraced a brutal new reality; freedom backed by Protestantism, and all based on contract, choice, and consent. The Protestant work ethic was born.
People were free to become rich and in doing so acquire power, status and influence, but they were also free to starve, to be exploited by capitalists (5) and to experience a hard life of misery and ignorance whilst other people, the bourgeoisie or capitalists got rich.
Get rich without adopting capitalist principles and it was the hangman’s noose or the debtor’s prison. This early capitalist system was brutal. No wonder people came to hate it so much, people like Lenin (6) and Trotsky (7) who were Russian revolutionaries in the early twentieth century.
Capitalisms eighteenth and nineteenth-century history remain the benchmark by which the western world’s traditional left-wing view capitalism, even in the twenty-first century. But most on the traditional left, and those who adopt Critical Social Justice Theories have a very crude understanding of capitalism and overlook the fact that like many ideologies, including socialism, it had its good points, like contract, choice, and consent as well as its bad points like continuing to promote status, inequality, and unfairness.
Of course, whilst contract, choice and consent were getting established as principles underpinning capitalist freedom and democracy for the elite, the old principles of earthly power based on coercion, control and compulsion had not gone away completely. In fact, the economy of the eighteenth century was a confusing mixture of both feudal and capitalist principles with the ‘theory’ of freedom coexisting with the ‘reality’ of compulsion based on the need to avoid starvation.
It depended on your social position, as to how much contract, choice and consent or freedom you could enjoy and how much control, compulsion, and coercion you could avoid. Initially, the capitalist class was seen by the poor as worse than the old feudal barons, they at least had provided land to be worked and poverty was a virtue.
It has taken centuries for the consciousness of the working people to uncritically accept contract choice and consent. This is because the worker’s economic situation made it impossible for them to exercise what were their legal rights. What made early capitalism so brutal was working people were forced by poverty to ‘freely’ choose coercion and control on pain of starvation for themselves and their families.
Imagine the anger a situation like that would cause. It is this anger that marks the next great stride in our western consciousness. We started to reject the idea that contract, choice, and consent should be used by a greedy economic and political elite to trap us into accepting coercion and control.
For thousands of years, humanity accepted violence and barbarism as a way of life. This violent activity was part of our consciousness, it was tolerated as ‘normal’. In the first century, Christianity adopted a revolutionary way of thinking, ‘love thy neighbour’. This idea was eventually superseded by the re-establishment of more traditional behaviours typical of the area and era such as holy war and rule-based submission to God.
Christianity moved into Europe and began promoting the idea that we accept our lot in life peacefully, and uncomplainingly, as Jesus had when he died on the cross. This idea of being passive and accepting coercion and compulsion lasted until the church became hungry for power. A new set of economic opportunities and legal principles emerged, contract, choice, and consent. These created the concept of freedom available to an elite and eventually, it gave rise to democracy.
Capitalisms freedom was brutal. Freedom to starve and if you disobeyed the rules by ignoring contract, choice, and consent and for example stole, the early capitalist state would hang you with little mercy.
Making Capitalist values the new normal: A consciousness being born!
With the old ways of compulsion, coercion and control being slowly superseded by an implacable application of contract choice and consent, the world was in for a turbulent two hundred years or so. Capitalists, who acquired the power of money, became just like their feudal predecessors, rich and obsessed with status, sitting on top of a political system which looked after their economic interests. They even found ways to rig the anarchy of the capitalist system so they could ape the lifestyle of the old aristocrats. This was the world of monopolies, mergers, and super-profits.
The churches stopped assisting the poor emphasising the virtue of hard work, not poverty. A new world was emerging and with it, a new consciousness was being formed. The anarchic early capitalist world of traders and merchants settled down to a new order of inherited privilege, status, unfairness, and inequality. All based on legal principles of choice and consent.
The population in the early capitalist world fell into two camps. Those who saw freedom based on contract, choice, and consent as capitalisms most valuable contribution to human life. These people then and now tend to see economic failure as a personal problem caused by fecklessness. Alternatively, there were others who saw contract, choice, and consent simply as ‘bourgeois values’, a way of bullying vulnerable workers into accepting low wages, poor conditions and poverty to make someone else rich under the pretence of ‘freedom’ and liberty.
These conflicting views have shaped different forms of consciousness in different parts of the western world. All claim to desire freedom based on consent-based choice but with different levels of control applied by the state, depending on how successfully ‘freedom’ is seen to be making individuals rich.
Britain was the first properly capitalist country. By the mid-eighteenth century, capitalism was augmented by industrialisation to make Britain powerful enough to create an empire and extend capitalism via trade to much of the world.
Britain was so wealthy the idea of capitalism needing to use feudal and barbaric principles of compulsion, control and coercion in its economic affairs was challenged, and rightly so. As a result, politicians and thinkers came to argue for constraints upon capitalists, holding them hard to bourgeois principles of contract, choice, and consent. Thus, slavery was challenged and eventually Britain abolished it.
Britain has helped to confine that disgusting practise to the dustbin of history, at least in the western world. Slavery still prospers as it always has done in countries that allow the powerful to ‘own’ people using control, coercion and compulsion and then steal their labour power for self-enrichment. Labour power rightly belongs to the slave. In capitalism, it is not stolen but ‘contracted’ with ‘consent’ to an employer in exchange for a wage. This is accepted as fair in a free society.
The extent of contract, choice and consent being ‘believed in’ among the general population determine a nations political maturity, compared with ongoing belief in earlier power structures like authoritarianism and feudalism. The larger the group who could enjoy freedom based on these principles the freer and more liberated a country could claim to be. The counterpoint, however, is the society would probably remain just as unfair, elitist, and unequal Thus there is a tension between freedom being valued and freedom being challenged.
Because early capitalism generally improved the lives of most people, elitism, status, and unfairness eventually became accepted by most. Under mature capitalism, the views of all but the most hardened revolutionary would be, “using freedom based on contract, choice and consent, I too could become rich and have status, be part of an elite and accept unfairness as ‘normal’.
This is the world today and it is unravelling before our eyes because the system that underpins it, capitalism is now in trouble. To make capitalism work we now must use personal and national debt, not ‘capital’ (8) as Marx would have understood it.
Capitalism in crisis is challenging us all to find solutions, it is shaking our confidence in our political and economic system and is reshaping our consciousness. It is possible to detect a trend against personal freedom because freedom is again being blamed for inequality, elitism, and unfairness. The advance of political correctness and wokeness are the ideas at the forefront of this attempt to return to compulsion and coercion to ‘prevent’ economic inequality and unfairness. But as always it will be at the expense of personal freedom.
Apart from a small but growing band of politically correct or woke activists, most westerners now believe in bourgeois values. They associated them with personal success and freedom. In the past, there was a good chance that anyone could achieve some personal success within the capitalist system. Our great grandparents and great, great, grandparents would have measured their success in terms of material comfort, the quality of family life, and the positions they held in the community. They would have accepted that there were ‘their betters’ and that even though life was typically unfair and unequal, they all had a fighting chance to make a good life.
The Elitism, inequality, and unfairness inherent within capitalism would have been part of their collective consciousness, but it would have been viewed as the price worth paying for living in a free society. Capitalism is unique in that people consent to their inequality. It is a trade-off.
By the nineteen fifties Britain was becoming a nation of individuals defined by a belief in good principles of contract choice and consent and bad but generally tolerated principles of elitism, inequality, and unfairness. It is important to grasp that bourgeois society accepts these six basic ideas in their totality. For Marxists, it is important to emphasise that the purpose of revolution should be to preserve the first three and minimise the impact of the latter three. That is what Marxism promotes. But why has ‘Marxism’ not delivered this reality?
By the heyday of western bourgeois values in the nineteen fifties Russia and China’s ‘communist’ revolutions had come and gone and the life of the Russian and Chinese worker was worse than that of the employee in a ‘free’ nation like the United Kingdom or the United States.
The problem for the Russians and Chinese people was that unlike their eighteenth-century Western European and United States counterparts, their twentieth-century bourgeoisie like Lenin, Trotsky, and Mao, the leaders of the Russian and Chinese revolutions, had decided that capitalism was a no go area, and so they supported state-controlled industrialisation, without the need to establish freedom through a bourgeois revolution based contract, choice and consent.
Russia and China rejected capitalism. The political elite did not like the way consent and choice-based freedom had caused poverty in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Who can blame them? Whilst history might judge them as wrong, maybe it was not so mad to try and avoid capitalism if you had seen it in action in the nineteenth-century West, as both Lenin and Trotsky had done. Cruel conditions, low wages, no healthcare, no education for workers, whilst an exploiting bourgeoisie swanned around Europe on the Grand Tour (9).
By avoiding choice and consent-based capitalism however, Russia and China oppressed their people, denying them political freedom but guaranteeing them employment in state factories or farms. A gulf eventually developed called the Iron Curtain. After World War Two the world was divided between the free world, the West, and the totalitarian single-party regimes of Russia and China.
Unsurprisingly the West came to associate Marxism with the Russian Revolution and therefore cruel oppression.
It was wrongly claimed that Marxism was the same as Leninism or Maoism. The result allowed western capitalists and politicians to persuade western workers that Marxism was a bad idea and would, just like in Russia or China, take away their freedom as Lenin and Mao had done. Such hostile views preserved the West’s unfair and elitist political and economic system and resulted in status, unfairness, and inequality going unchallenged, particularly in the United States. It reinforced in the consciousness of western workers that only capitalism guaranteed freedom. ‘Marxism’ which had analysed both the good and bad in capitalism, as we have done, was tyrannical because Russia and China were.
In Britain, there had been a socialist revolution of sorts after World War Two. Whilst extending the principles of contract, choice and consent to more and more workers, the post-war Labour government also started to end elitism, inequality and unfairness by setting up a Welfare State and providing access to the establishment for working-class children via Grammar schools.
Health care, welfare and pensions became available paid by National Insurance. This Labour government made Britain a democratic or ‘free’ socialist country. A country reflecting Marxist principles. The Labour Government too ashamed to admit that their socialism was influenced by Marxism, claimed British socialism was based on Methodist Christianity. Love thy neighbour!
Whatever the Labour Party claimed, it still did much of what Marx and Engels had urged in their Communist Party ‘Manifesto’ (10) The post-war Labour government attempted to minimise the three bad aspects of capitalism, namely status, unfairness and elitism and extend to more people the good principles of capitalism namely contract, choice, and consent. And it worked until tragedy struck in the nineteen seventies and the bad bourgeois values began to be accepted and embraced by working people and their powerful industrial unions, and again consciousness played a part in this.
In Britain, the mature post-war mixed economy of capitalism with democratic socialism was the victim of its own success. It spread its ideology, principles and values creating a society and economy that was as near ‘socialist’ as possible whilst still being capitalist and underpinned by freedom. Sadly, however elitism, status and unfairness are like an infectious disease. Empowered industrial workers in nationalised industries began to focus increasingly on the opportunities to demand preferential treatment and create for themselves a better life than that of other workers. The upshot was that by the nineteen eighties the working class was divided by race, class, industrial-strength, status, and ideology. The last thing needed in the fight against unfairness, inequality, and elitism.
Far from seeing working people as one powerless mass who should all benefit from state provision and increased democracy, these workers wanted to outdo other workers financially. They turned on the government and taxpayers demanding higher and higher wages. These workers had enjoyed the principles of contract, choice and consent and were now up for a bit of industrial elitism, status, and unfairness. This was the birth of the twentieth-century bourgeois socialist. No surprise their early leaders were called Trades Union barons. More latterly this ideology along with political correctness and wokeness has infected the ‘Left’ who no longer recognise what disadvantage really is or what needs to change to politically empower all working people irrespective of their ‘identity’. So-called Critical Social Justice Theory has only achieved further differentiation of the mass of working people.
By the late nineteen eighties individuals began pursuing their own self- interest using contract, choice, and consent in pursuit of elitism for themselves whilst becoming casual about unfairness to others. This became almost a ‘New Labour’ by-line! The bourgeois values that post-war socialism had attempted to minimise, were now driving the personal greed of the so-called free market. The fabric of society was straining as collective values disappeared or became matters of personal choice and political self-interest.
In America, a similar process was going on. Labour was getting the edge over ‘capital’. Bourgeois values of self-interest and elitism were undermining any attempt to bring solidarity to working people. Punishment and therefore prison building was the reaction of the American bourgeoisie to any challenge to the American dream or the idea of the land of the free. Socialism or any suggestion of it could destroy careers. Even with a declining industrial base and widespread poverty, America’s collective consciousness remained implacably elitist, unfair, and unequal and for most of the population proudly so.
However, change may be afoot. America the United Kingdom and Europe may be forced to change, as younger voters are becoming concerned about climate change and structural inequality, albeit with a slightly muddled idea about what Social Justice should look like. This may trigger the inevitable shift in America’s collective consciousness. America is not ready for revolution, but it desperately needs something resembling British or European socialism.
With capitalism failing and falling into debt the worlds working people will have to pick up the bill. We will inevitably have to develop a new collective consciousness that rids the world of elitism, unfairness, and inequality, whilst striving to extend contract, choice, and consent to countries with a tradition of rule-based coercion and control. But this has massive implications for the western world’s eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century institutions which were not set up to empower ordinary people, just a bourgeois elite.
The bourgeois elite now mainly holed up in the arts, media, politics, and the public and civil services will eventually have to tackle a major social and economic problem which according to Marxists is an inevitability.
What do you do when workers are happy to contract, choose and consent but are increasingly unwilling to accept the structural problems associated with elitism, unfairness, and inequality?
Working people’s consciousness is beginning to see elitism, inequality, and unfairness as major social problems, which discriminate against all those who are in the middle and at the bottom of the social and economic pile irrespective of their sexual or racial identity.
The populism evident in Europe, the vote to leave the European Union, the increasing number of people turning off the British Broadcasting Corporation or refusing to fund it via a licence fee, the rejection of ‘top pay’ for public sector workers in the United Kingdom. And in the United States a violent rejection of bourgeois power structures, all reflect the public’s growing belief that their money is paying for ‘fat cats’ and inequality. Financing with debt a remote elite who by their very existence promotes inequality and disadvantage.
The reaction of the global political and economic elite to this new awakening of workers consciousness is predictable. They use their remaining political, and economic clout to create and amplify minor differences within the mass class of working people. They finance Critical Social Justice academics and institutions that promote the idea that there are numerous disadvantaged powerless others. This has created a violent ‘Left-Wing’ groupthink based on the idea that there are numerous victim groups suffering injustice and disadvantage who need empowering, rather than one working-class experiencing mass class disadvantage.
This is wokeness. In its demand for political empowerment, it seeks to return us to a society of coercion and compulsion using the language of disadvantage, ‘inclusion’ and injustice. Maybe unintentionally it protects the global elite by taking the emphasis off class consciousness, creating fractious global ‘victims’ continuously at war with each other and their state. Its all good for global business and fuels the need for state control and state spending on ‘security’.
The more of these disadvantaged ‘others’ you create, the less likely that anyone single group of workers will be large enough to demand the dismantling of elitism and unfairness within the worlds political and economic system. Elitism and unfairness from which politicians and the economic elite benefit, whether it is in Europe or the Kingdoms of the Middle East, Russia, or China.
The aim of social progress should be to extend to all workers contract, choice, and consent to the point where it is so widespread and well understood that inequality, elitism, and unfairness is seriously tackled and replaced by cooperation, collaboration, and consensus.
The problem with any attempt to stifle social progress and prevent the expected reduction in elitism, unfairness and inequality is that people from all groups experience the world in the middle and at the bottom of society in very much the same way. So, whilst the activist is trying to create ‘awareness’ of ‘injustice’ by being ‘woke’ on behalf of one group or another, what they are really doing is creating division and differentiation.
Far from tackling ‘structural inequality’ structural inequality is being promoted. This is done by forcing working people to see a world of political or economic disadvantage that is not linked to class but to ‘identity’. Indeed, the white working class is often presented as oppressive to other equally oppressed or marginalised groups. How did we end up with so much confusion?
Maybe the consciousness of the politician, journalist, mainstream media news anchor, or the artist, actor, or celebrity is defined by their personal status, their elitism, and their lack of equality with the rest of us. It defines their lives and differentiates them from us. They do not have a consciousness that wants to eradicate unfairness, and inequality, they have a consciousness that is guilty about the existence of these things, but they are not capable of recognising in themselves that their privilege contributes to privilege or injustice overall. They blame racism, transphobia, western history, or right-wing governments. They do not recognise that racism, for example, is just one manifestation of the structural disadvantage of which they are themselves, torchbearers.
They, the bourgeois elite, are simply the poets and apologists for all so-called oppressed groups. They are not the undertakers of elitism and inequality; they are its most ardent practitioners. They are never going to change class disadvantage because they are the guilty, but willing beneficiaries of it. This is the riddle of history if not solved at least explained. Critical Social Justice Theory and Wokeness is the fog that allows the mechanism for injustice to continue. A mechanism, largely hidden from view by the politics of identity.
The revolutionary principles created by capitalism fall into two groups. In the good group are Contract, Choice, and Consent. Of course, it has taken years for many ordinary people to be able to use these principles and in some communities, for example, religious communities, women, and gay people still cannot use them. These principles underpin our freedom and democracy. In the bad corner, we have the leftovers of the feudal system elitism, status, and inequality. These are the bits of the old system that the rich and powerful nineteenth-century and twentieth-century capitalists wanted to keep. It ensured their position and more importantly our position as workers too.
Elitism and unfairness are increasingly unlikely to be promoted among ordinary working people. However, they are all too common among a privileged now largely a Left-Wing class of political activists, politicians and opinion formers who are reluctant to undermine their own class privilege, which is based on maintaining structural political and economic inequality.
Because bourgeois systems and structures use the currency of power to impose change and policy from the top, unless these elites are forced by ordinary workers to reform, they will not.
Without being forced to change the political or economic system will never get to the point where it realises that elitism, unfairness, and inequality confers no legitimate power and should be replaced by co-operation, collaboration, and consensus. That is, or at least should be a future we should all fight for. That is the riddle of history if not yet fully solved at least explained.
To show solidarity with the concept of Blue Revolution and our twenty-first-century reinterpretation of Classical Marxism try and raise your own consciousness above the economic and political world view of your childhood inheritance, what you as you grew up will have been told is ‘just the way it is’.
Think about whether you really need to work harder just for more money? What is the cost to your lifestyle and your health and wellbeing? Think the importance of status yours and others. How much does your status preoccupy you? Should status or celebrity important? How important should having power be? Could you imagine a world where all people have similar amounts of power? Have you ever knowingly acted unjustly towards someone to get power over them? Did you feel justified doing it? If so why? how much do you genuinely care about other people’s welfare? People, who have deep-seated problems? Is their inequality something to be accepted? Do you think the current political system gives you a real voice? Does the current political system listen? Do you trust the political system? Is it ‘democratic’ If you do, why? These questions can only be answered by you, but your answers will give a clue to the state of your consciousness.
Think about and talk about consciousness. How we are all, what we think, and how it makes our expectations in life difficult to change. If we see and benefit from elitism, inequality, and unfairness as the political and economic elite do, we will almost certainly find ways of using contract, choice, and consent to preserve them. Until that is the elite find ways of getting us to accept unfairness and inequality using the language of inclusion to impose control, coercion, and compulsion upon the mass of ordinary people.
Elitism, unfairness, and inequality is called Structural inequality. How it works and why governments will never ‘level up’.
A group of twenty people are in a room. They are mixed backgrounds selected randomly. They are all told to mingle and meet people with whom they might have something in common. They are then asked to form four groups of five people and then form four lines of five one line behind the other. Understandably the groups tend to form along sex and racial and other identity lines but not exclusively. Some groups are more mixed than others. Each person is given a piece of paper and is asked to scrunch it up into a ball. A plastic bin is put in front of the first row and they are told that to secure a £10,000 prize thy must get the paper in the bin. If they move away from where they are in the row, before the end of the exercise, they will lose the £10,000 and will have to swap places with someone else. They will also have to throw again from their new position. So, in theory, they could swap with someone at the back. All the front row get the paper in the bin. The whole row collects fifty thousand pounds in total. The next row back are told they have the same opportunity to get the paper in the bin and win the £10,000. The people in row two can see they have to overcome the people already in the front row. Only those in the middle nearest the bin or are tall enough to drop the paper over the heads of those on the front are successful. This row nets £20,000
The next group has the same opportunity, to throw the paper ball, and secure a personal reward of £10,000 but again must throw the paper over the heads of the two front groups as well as get it into a bin they cannot see. The front group being guilty but rich to the tune of £10,000 each, try and help by pointing to where the bin is located. They will not move away from the ‘top slot’ themselves. This is a guilty conscience, helping but really achieving nothing.
The third group and those at the back fail to get any paper in the bin. Some people at the front say the reason they failed was not that the rows in front did not try and help but because the people at the back were disadvantaged, in some other way. Some people at the back are accused of disadvantaging other people at the back by jostling them etc. One person at the back in a wheelchair is advised that this is the reason that she failed. The rest of her row is blamed by those at the front.
Do you think it is Ok to have a guilty conscience like the people at the front and talk about helping people at the back with their disadvantage, but being unprepared to do anything meaningful about it because their consciousness simply makes it OK to accept wealth associated with inequality? They accept elitism, inequality, and unfairness because it benefits them personally.
This is the difference between a guilty conscience and a raised consciousness. Only the people at the back have the raised consciousness. They can see what is really going on! They have nothing to lose by speaking the truth or sharing what they have. In life in general who would you say is at the back and who at the front? Can you think of other fairer rules for the same game?
The Riddle of History Solved- a summary
Historical era Consciousness framed b Social outcome
Tribal society coercion, compulsion, and control Collaboration, cooperation, and consensus
Authoritarian/Feudalism coercion, compulsion, and control Elitism, inequality, and unfairness
Single Party Authoritarian coercion, compulsion, and control Elitism, inequality, and unfairness
Capitalism contract, choice and consent Elitism, inequality, and unfairness
Post Capitalism contract, choice and consent Collaboration, cooperation, and consensus
Or woke intolerance coercion, compulsion, and control Elitism, inequality unfairness
- Critical Social Justice is a collection of ‘theories’ that promote identity as the only basis for disadvantage. They use the language of Marxism such as consciousness but by focussing on identity fail to either effectively analyse class disadvantage or offer alternatives to political and legal institutions that promote unfair power relationships. The aim seems to be to capture power for identity groups rather than disperse power to all people.
- The Qur’an is the book of God’s revealed truth told to the prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel in the seventh century. It is considered by Muslims to be the word of God.
- The loaves and fishes is a story in the new testament in which Jesus encourages his followers to share their food.
- Wokeness and political correctness are ideas loosely associated with Critical Social Justice Theories that prescribe ‘correct’ ways of behaving and thinking. They are against the principles of consent-based choice. They are a return to more primitive control based social models.
- Exploitation is the process by which in a free society based on choice and consent a worker contracts to creates wealth for a capitalist in exchange for a wage.
- Lenin was the leader of the Russian Social Democratic Party or Bolsheviks who came to power after the Russian Revolution.
- Trotsky was a revolutionary who was Lenin’s choice as successor but who was exiled after Lenin’s death in 1924
- Capital is money acquired by capitalists or the state via the process of worker exploitation.
- The Grand Tour was undertaken by wealthy Victorian capitalists and their families visiting famous places linked to ancient Roman and Greek history.
- The Manifesto of the Communist Party was written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and was published in 1848. It outlines their broad views about what was wrong with bourgeois society and how it should be changed
The Last Testament