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notes on Lukacs, "Standpoint of the Proletariat"

I am writing with some very brief notes on the 3rd part of Lukacs's essay "Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat," "The Standpoint of the Proletariat," which is very important for Platypus's grasp of the self-understanding of the revolutionary Marxism in 1917-19 that Lukacs was trying to theoretically digest. -- In a certain sense, this piece by Lukacs is the culmination of all the prior readings we have done by Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, Lukacs and Korsch.

For Lukacs, "proletarian class consciousness" is historical consciousness of the problem of capital, i.e., proletarian consciousness is Marx's own thought. Likewise, "reification" and "immediacy" refer not to everyday, naive consciousness, but rather to what Marx called "political economy," which in Lukacs's time took the form of "Marxism." When Lukacs writes "reification"/"immediacy" he means Kautskyan "orthodoxy" in 2nd Intl. Marxism (and not merely Bernsteinian "revisionism," let alone what Lenin called "trade union consciousness" [in What is to be done?] or what Luxemburg called "liberalism" [in Reform or Revolution?]).

Lukacs's point is not that it is the concrete sociological position (or in the process of production, etc.) that grants the proletariat the possibility of getting beyond capitalism as "subject-object of history" (the most common way of misinterpreting Lukacs), but rather that the dialectical character of capitalism/bourgeois society takes its highest, most acute form in terms of proletarian socialism. The modern society of capital goes through, broadly, two historical phases, its "bourgeois" one of emergence, and its "proletarian" one of crisis and potential overcoming, which is datable to at least as early as 1848 and Marx and Engels's realization of this in theory in practice with the Communist Manifesto -- after which "bourgeois" thought, according to Marx, becomes "vulgar," i.e., becomes concerned with affirming what has become untenable from the standpoint of bourgeois society's own emancipatory intent, namely capital.

Proletarian socialism is the most advanced, most adequate conscious expression of the dialectic of capital, through which the necessity of getting beyond capital might be made manifestly possible.

-- Those critics of Lukacs who think he is either ontologizing labor/the working class as emancipatory agent are only avoiding the most obvious question: why Marx, who certainly recognized that the reproduction of conditions of proletarian labor is precisely what needs to be overcome, still nevertheless endorsed the working class politics of proletarian socialism as the only progressive-emancipatory way out of capital.

Lukacs was merely following Marx (and the best Marxists, Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky) in arguing that capital can and must be overcome only by the wage laborers struggling in and through forms of necessary appearance, or through necessary forms of (mis)recognition.

Lukacs's "Hegelian" Marxism was not, as may be mistaken (e.g., by Postone et al.), the reassimilation of Marx back to Hegel (thus transforming Marx's thought into the affirmation of capital/labor, a la Hegel), but rather the attempt to reground the "Hegelian" dimension of Marx's thought, which was necessary precisely in order to bring a Marxian approach to critically theorizing the crisis of Marxism itself. Only by engaging the Hegelian dimension of Marx, Lukacs thought, could Marxism itself become subject to a "dialectical" treatment.

Lukacs, like Marx and the best Marxists before him, recognized that the struggle against capital is necessarily symptomatic of it. This is the meaning of the word "dialectic" in the subtitle to Lukacs's book History and Class Consciousness: studies in Marxist dialectics, which sought to analyze the social-historical phenomenon of Marxism in a Marxian critical-theoretical manner. Lukacs was not providing a philosophical justification for Marxism, but rather a Marxian (i.e., immanent and historical) critique of Marxism as it had developed up to that time.

The reason that so few can grasp what Lukacs was actually trying to do is because they don't understand Marxism to begin with.

2 comments

  • Posted 3 years ago

    thank you!

    by nin on April 7, 2017 8:13 pm

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