Consciousness and World History
by Kathy Kundalini

Table of Contents


To really seek to know "consciousness" and its relation to material reality, one cannot begin with arbitrary abstractions, and similarly, one' s procedure cannot be merely the probing of an individual brain seeking same illusioned essence inherent in each individual. To understand human consciousness one must know what human beings are — their development as a species in a real world. Consciousness is not an eternal essence devoid of content and without concrete relations to the world and social humanity. To study consciousness we must, therefore, understand it as a social and historical product of human development. From this basic position the only premise with which we can logically begin to study consciousness is that we are real individuals, with our consciousness rooted in the material conditions in which we live.

"Consciousness" cannot be anything but conscious existence, and the presupposition for the existence of a conscious individual is the existence of living human beings (socially related living organisms) existing in relation to the rest of nature.

"The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals, thus, depends on the material conditions determining their production." [c1]

Human beings have developed a 'unique conscious life activity which is realized in universal productivity. By 'universal' I mean that humans, like all animals, have a physical basis in nature, but unlike other animals which can only use that part of nature which is directly relevant to their life form, people can use the whole of nature as their direct means and basis of life and is the material object and instrument of human life activity. Nature is transformed by people into their inorganic body in which they must remain in a continuous interchange in order to live. People have the potential to put all of nature to their use. This use is the expression or our life activity — the total production and reproduction of human life itself.

"Productive life is, however, species-life. It is life creating life. In this life activity resides the whole character of a species, its species character; and free conscious activity is the species-character of human beings." [c2]

This production, both material and mental, is the basis of an active dialectical relation between people and nature, a relation which develops in the transformation of both. Productive labor is the satisfaction of human needs. In producing ourselves we transform nature and ourselves, and through the satisfaction of our needs we produce new needs. Art, literature, culture, science and technology are all aspects of this universal productivity. Through this constant interaction with nature and ourselves we create our human world.

Human existence is also social existence — the individual and her/his species are not wholly distinct, for human individuals exist only in social intercourse, in various relations to each other. Language, labor, and the conscious recognition of each other as people have all merged as social products. The individual (and his or her consciousness) exist as a product of social being.

People create themselves in history — "world history is nothing but the creation of man by human labor and the emergence of Nature for man." [c3] History is the process through which people develop the means and modes of production and corresponding social relations, and change the world and themselves.

"History is nothing but the succession of separate generations each of which exploits the materials, the forms or capital, the productive forces handed down to it by all preceding ones, and thus, on the one hand, continues the traditional activity in completely changed circumstances, and, on the other hand, modifies the old circumstances with a completely changed activity." [c4]

The Emergence of Human Conscious Activity

"The labor process is purposive activity... for the fitting of natural substances to human wants; it is the general condition requisite for effecting an exchange of matter between man and nature; it is the condition perennially imposed by nature upon human lite, and is therefore independent of the forms of social life — or, rather, it is common to all social forms." [c5]

People take possession of the natural world by transforming it to satisfy their needs. Labor, in an expanded sense of the term, is this transformation. Through it people become people. They have become this particular kind of being in particular conditions, through particular kinds or mediations, in definite forms of social relations.

The first historical act is the production of means to satisfy human needs. This is a fundamental condition of all history, which everyday as thousands of years ago, must be continually fulfilled.

The question of "which came first — tools, language, or consciousness?" is a misleading question. The evolution of human life was a many-sided process, a dialectical process of constant interaction and development. The emergence of these manifestations cannot be understood as separate phenomena, but as definable aspects of a total phenomena.

Historically and logically, "the production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse or men, the language of daily life". [c6]  Let us sketch the beginnings of this process in brief detail by outlining a few of its basic manifestations.


People began making themselves by using and making tools. While working upon natural objects, a highly developed living organism began to become human. The first such object was the human body itself in natural (animal) interaction with its  surroundings (herd-like behavior, eating, grasping, moving, etc.). There are no human beings without tools, the two came into being simultaneously, and indissolubly linked to one another. The pre-human beings continued to develop into a new quality of life through a complicated set or relationships and conditions. This process, as best as we can hypothesize, occurred something like this:

"The passing of certain biological organisms into the tree stage, favoring as it did the development of vision at the expense of the sense of smell; the shrinking of the muzzle, facilitating a change in the position of the eyes; the urge of the creature now equipped with a more acute and more precise sense of vision to look in all directions, and the erect body posture conditioned by this; the release of the front limbs and the enlargement of the brain due to erect body posture; changes in food and various other circumstances acted together to create the conditions necessary tor man to become man. But the directly decisive organ was the hand. ... the hand released human reason and produced human consciousness." [c7]

People learned how to use tools because their forefeet turned into hands, and because through both eyes we could judge depth and distance, and because a delicate nervous system and developing brain enabled us to control the movements of hands and arms in agreement with the vision of both eyes. This living apparatus was developed painstakingly slow in the midst of the struggle in the natural surroundings. The development of tools arose by experiment, imitation, and trial-and-error. Thus, developed the power to transform natural objects to serve as mediators between human needs and the rest or nature.

"The instrument of labor is a thing, or a complex of things, which the worker interposes between himself and the subject-matter of his labor, and one which serves as the conductor of his activity. He makes use of the mechanical, physical, and chemical properties of things as means of exerting power over other things, and in order to make these other things subservient to his aims. Leaving out of consideration the gathering of ready-made means of subsistence, such as fruits, for which purpose man's own bodily organs will suffice him as the instrument of labor. Thus, nature becomes an instrument of his activities, an instrument with which he supplements his own bodily organs, adding a cubit and more to his stature.... The use and the fabrication of instruments of labor, though we find their first beginnings among certain other animal species, is specifically characteristic of the human labour process, and for that reason Benjamin Franklin defined man as a 'tool-making animal'." [c8]

The discovery of ready-made objects to aid in our struggle for life developed into imitation and production. This power, discovered in our struggle in and with nature, is a power which, like nature itself, is potentially unlimited. Productive-creative consciousness developed as a result of these manual discoveries in the beginnings of anticipation of results. The development of tool-making and labor meant the transformation of being and doing into conscious being and consciousness. In the increasing usefulness of tools and their increasing specific character, in their increasing usefulness in nature, out of their increased humanization, objects were produced which could not be found 'nature'. At this stage of division and connection, the dialectical relationship of humans to nature proceeded to unfold. The anticipation of results, the satisfaction or thwarting of needs, the awareness of new needs — the struggle -- eventually became purposive reflection in practice. Beyond mere organic reaction and manual experimentation, we developed cerebral activity. Memory of experimentation became concrete experience. The natural human animal began to confront nature as a conscious subject.


"Man possesses 'consciousness'; but not inherent, not 'pure consciousness'. From the start the 'spirit' is affected with the curse of being 'burdened' with matter, which here makes its appearance in the form of agitated layers of air, sounds, in short, of language. Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness, as it exists for other men, and for that reason is really beginning to exist for me personally as well; for language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of intercourse with other men." [c9]

The evolution of the human animal towards tool-using and work in a social form necessitated a system of means of expression and communication. In social labor these living beings evolved language — their social development demanded and encouraged it.

As animals, people already had a sort of 'language'.

"All the wild and violent, all the painful sensations of their bodies as well as all the strong passions of their souls were expressed directly through screams, calls and wild, inarticulate sounds. These sands were the juices that nourished the roots of language." [c10]

As people gradually became familiar with the objects around them, they began imitating nature by sound and gesture. Imitations and gesturing became signs to indicate particular actions and objects. This "living language" developed a repertoire of signs, both visual and auditory. As experiences became more often repeated, and richer in detail (understood as different and understood through different aspects), this language became richer and more ordered. Specific signs for specific kinds of tools and activities took shape as names, or nouns.

People's awakening consciousness seized on primitive sounds and elaborated them into speech. People did not realize it at the time, of course, but they were creating concepts. This "conceptual" interaction with ourselves and nature was a vital part of the process of humanization. A means of expression — a gesture, an image, a sound, or a word, are tools, and as such are social products of humanity. Aided by the use of these tools in collective processes, human beings developed to a point where they did confront nature as active subjects. This socialization (work and communications) enabled humans to deal with nature by transforming it, and in the process, transform themselves.

"In correlation with labor and speech, the brain developed and grew larger until it eventually became that of a man. Here again the relationship is interactive... the development of the brain and its attendant senses, of the increasing clarity of consciousness, power of abstraction and of judgment, gave an ever-renewed impulse to the further development of both labor and speech, a development which both produced and was given further impetus by a new element which came into play with the appearance of fullyfledged man, viz society." [c11]

People became thinking beings — their most extraordinary tool being consciousness.

Society in Motion

"Consciousness of self is in itself and for itself when and because it is in itself and for itself for another consciousness of self; in other words, it is only by being recognized." [c12]

As I've stated before, human life is essentially social, individual consciousness is social consciousness. At the root of all human phenomena and experience are practical relations among people which correspond to their needs and productive forces. As these relations, needs. and forces develop in particular ways, so does consciousness as part of them. Thus, relations between people are not "metaphysical", but practical and historical. Before 'the individual" exists, the society exists. Only as the interdependence between people develops does the existence of the self-conscious occur.

"Since he comes into the world, neither with a looking-glass in his hand, nor as a Fichtean philosopher, to whom 'I am I' is sufficient, man first sees and recognizes himself in other men. Peter only establishes his own identity as a man by first comparing himself with Paul as being of like kind. And thereby Paul, just as he stands in his Pauline personality, becomes to Peter the type of the genus homo." [c13]

The interdependence of human beings is logically and historically found in division of labor, a principle which applies to all known types of organized society. The various stages of development of the division of labor are so many forms of 'ownership', further, the existing stage in the division of labor determines the relations of people to one another and to the material instruments, and products of labor. [c14]

People first gathered in relatively autonomous and scattered groups, in tribes. The development of productive forces was at a very low level, and the storage of supplies was almost non-existent. Production consisted essentially of hunting, fishing, and gathering. It was directly social activity, there were few exchanges, no markets. Activities were imposed by necessity, they were achieved in common and their results were shared in common. This life was no idyllic utopia, however, it was a struggle. The socialization of primitive human groups reveals the will to struggle effectively against the mysterious and terrifying forces of nature. To struggle in this natural environment, to seize upon chances of survival, could only engender a more evolved form of aggressive defense, and a less primitive approach toward the imposition of natural conditions. The struggle against the blind domination of nature became social through more developed forms of organization. But the form of these organizations meant the transformation of 'natural alienation' into social alienation. The divisions of territory and the development of hierarchies became the prefigures of class society.

The prehistoric period of food-gathering was succeeded by the period of hunting, during which the tribes formed and struggled to ensure survival. Hunting-grounds and reserves were established and used for the benefit of the whole group. As soon as these territories came to be established, the tribe finds itself confronted by a hostility which is no longer that of wild animals, weather, or sickness, but that of human groups who are excluded. Rival groups must be kept out of the territory, or survival will be in jeopardy. Scarcity requires this.

The primitive success of these tribes, however, generated a new relation which would destroy the tribal relations as such. Very gradually, technical and social progress in tool-making and, eventually, herding and farming, enabled people to produce a surplus of goods — more goods than they needed to satisfy their own immediate needs. This surplus created the possibility of exchange between communities. Commerce thus appears between communities, and then penetrates into communities as a new infrastructure, giving rise to specialized activities, trades — the division or labor. With this new productive/social relation of exchange, labor develops a double nature: production for use and production for exchange. Slowly but surely, the primitive tribe as a communal independent unit is superseded, making way for the new epoch of human development.

The ramifications of this development and its effects on the nature of human consciousness are enough to fill volumes in analysis. In it lay many of the seeds of our own historical epoch. The division of labor; the appropriation of surplus goods and 'profit' in exchange; and, therefore, the development of classes and hierarchy; the development of commodity production (or production for exchange and profit); and thus, the development or wage-labor and capital accumulation; and the development of the state as the overseer of this 'civil' society, that is, all the pivotal relations of contemporary society, had their origins in the transcendence of the primitive tribes. Of course, it would take thousands of years and the flourishing and fall or two major epochs — ancient and feudal — before the full extent of commodity production and capital accumulation would be unleashed in the world. It is to that epoch, our epoch, the epoch of capitalism to which we must now look in order to explore many aspects of the consciousness of our historical moment.

"Our conception of history depends on our ability to expound the real process of production, starting out from the simple material production of life, and to comprehend the form of intercourse connected with this and created by this (i.e., civil society in its various stages), as the basis of all history; further to show it in its action as State; and so, from this starting-point, to explain the whole mass of different theoretical products and forms of consciousness, religion, philosophy, ethics, etc., etc., and trace their origins and growth, by which means, of course, the whole thing can be shown in its totality (and therefore, too, the reciprocal action of these various sides on one another)... each historical epoch have had to share the illusion of that epoch....  The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.    The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore the ideas of its dominance." [c15]

Social Relations in the Capitalist Epoch and their Corresponding States of Consciousness

To outline the nature of consciousness, I will outline three moments: (1) reality, the unity of subject and object; (2) the illusion, the relations of fragmentation, alienation and reification; and (3) transcendence, the struggle to surpass the illusion by the practical revolutionary grasping of the material basis of illusion. For myself and others, the problem of the relation of objectivity and subjectivity is not metaphysical, but social-historical and practical. It is an aspect of the real struggle in our lives.

To understand the nature of consciousness in our epoch one must approach it from many sides at once, particularly from the angle of immediacy, that is, of the illusion, and from that of becoming, of the struggle against the illusion. But just as the illusion is not merely illusory but is grounded in the material structure of society, is a reified illusion, is materially inscribed in the 'psycho-geographical' terrain of life, so is the struggle against this ideology not merely one of theory, but of practice. Indeed, the unity of theory and practice holds the key to the unlocking of all the mysteries of life and power. Just as primitive people grasped a branch and together in a collective heave used it as a lever to overturn and move boulders and logs, so the world proletariat (the vast majority of people must labor in order to attain means of subsistence, in our particular historical epoch, people must do so without control over their labor power or the products of their labor, because that control is in the hands of a ruling class — this vast majority of people, ruled by modern day profit-oriented capitalists, is known as the working class, or the proletariat) today is learning to come together and use itself as an immense fulcrum to overturn global alienation, and in doing so, it will become itself and build itself a home. Until that day, we all suffer and struggle under the dead weight of things all around.

We begin with the unity of subjectivity and objectivity. They are indeed distinct aspects of a totality, but they still form a unity. Materialism and idealism each develops one side of this unity at the expense or denial of the other. Materialism could never explain real perception and knowledge, could never grasp consciousness and action. It always explained the composition of man's body and the contents of the mind as solely the effects of energies and elements streaming in from the 'outside'. In this view, the human mind is in a passive and malleable position and experience is really unknowable (even though a materialist is experiencing all the while). Materialism could not really explain human conscious action, the human transformation of the environment. It could not explain 'redirective' activity and the actuality of human thinking. Thought and perception was reduced to the level of a passive 'afterglow' or 'reflection' in the brain (somewhere), and thus impotent to conscious]y change reality.

A one-sided corrective to this view is represented by idealism. Idealism supplies the insight into the activity of the mind — the acts of consciousness and the contents of consciousness. An analysis begins with the Subject (the philosopher or whoever) who is analyzing and experiencing. But, in idealism, the deduction of existence and the given is arrived at solely through "the activity of the mind" which is not seen as objective activity, with the potential of being translated into action, but as 'spirit' which remains unknowable. This activity of the mind becomes transformed into an absolute independence of material conditions.

In Kant's writings, 'material' conditions remain unknown. In Hegel's writings, they are reduced to the predicate of 'spirit', into momentary alienation and illusion. The point is to transcend both sides of this dualism into a new unity which retains the truth of each. As Marx put it:

"The chief defect of materialism up to now is, that the object, reality, what we apprehend through our senses, is understood only in the form of the object or contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, as practice; not subjectively. Hence is opposition to materialism the active side was developed abstractly by idealism — which of course does not know real sensuous activity as such, (Materialism) wants sensuous objects really distinguished from the objects of thought: but (it) does not understand human activity itself as objective activity....  (It) does not comprehend the significance of 'revolutionary', of 'practical-critical' activity." [c16]

Human beings are not the abstract ahistorical concept 'Man' and do not experience the abstract category 'consciousness'. Humans must be understood where they really are — in historical development. We must begin with empirical humans (including our own experience) and our needs. Our primary needs of survival and pleasure develop production, reproduction, and communication — labor, tools, division of labor, language, and the consciousness of these processes. The processes of gratifying needs develops new needs. Thus, the movement of history is not imposed by Mind, nor is it the result of merely the motion of matter. It develops from the practical activity of human beings meeting their natural and social needs.

Real needs, like tools, communications, labor, are a mediation between 'nature' and 'history'. The having and satisfying of needs begins in the biological structure of our bodies and our physical environment. The specific form through which needs are gratified, and the development of new needs and gratifications, takes place within specific material contexts and in specific forms of social organization. The constant 'interaction' and development of physical conditions and social organization, plus the continual evolution of consciousness, is history. In this dialectical process of people and nature, thought arises as an objective activity having objective effects. At the same time, the material conditions which 'determine' thought are also 'determined' by it, both as sensory activity (sensory synthesization, conceptualization, directedness of consciousness) and as the transformation of the environment according to human needs (humanization of nature). This practical conscious activity is called praxis (when activity is authentically conscious) involving the historical situation, development and possibilities.

Idealism overlooked the socio-historical material of thinking (our conditions), while materialism overlooked the concrete experience. Sensations are not merely experienced effects of things acting upon a body — they are effects of an active entity and the 'things' surrounding it. Someone must look, listen, etc., attend to particular objects and sensations. This involves both biology and social-historical relations. Tradition, education, language, all the aspects of culture are intertwined with basic modes of production, the level of technology, the division of labor and type of social relations, and one's position in all this, all influence what may appear to be pure biology or pure thinking processes. Hunger and the desire of sexual pleasure are natural facts — but the character of their gratification or denial are social-historical. How we regard, conceptualize, and relate to these needs and their objects of satisfaction is a product of human relations. The 'individual' which we know today is at the same time a particular individual and a social individual. S/he is a complex product/producer of society and history. We each develop as part of a "totality of social relations" and it is this active totality which is the essence of humanity.

The Illusion of the Epoch in the Epoch of Illusion

When we observe modern society we see, that in order to survive, most people are obliged to sell their labor power. The uniting of any and all individual capacities with the means of production comes about only through the medium of exchange: wage-labor. This social relation is both historical and transitory, although it may appear to be a 'final form' to us. It developed in history at a particular time and became the dominant productive relation only as a result of a long evolution. Looked at in this way, it seems reasonable and accurate to say that it will soon pass into past-history as its historical role comes to an end.

Alienated labor, 'value', and commodity fetishism are three aspects of the same social situation in modern capitalism — the condition of separation. Alienated labor (wage-labor) is creative energy (labor power) which is sold (exchanged for wages) to capital or state. This creative capacity is separated from the worker and embodied in commodities and capital, and circulated and accumulated as private property, or capital in the hands of the capitalists and the state. The labor which produces commodities becomes 'abstract' measured as a quantity of labor power (value), and alienated — separated from the conscious collective control of the real producers. The inherent power of the people to shape and determine the conditions of their lives is separated from us. We become the prisoners of the powers of our own creation.

In this situation the analysis of consciousness and the relations of subjects and objects becomes complicated because everything is not as it immediately appears. A spectacle of appearances dominate daily life — the illusion, commodity fetishism. Commodity fetishism is the illusion of relations between people becoming relations between things. The world around us becomes the world of the commodity dominating all that is lived. As such, this world is the estrangement of human beings vis-a-vis their labor and products. The very powers which escape us through the workings of alienated labor return over us as an alien product, not as life in self-creation, but as a conglomeration of fragments, an incomprehensible thingness. Our deceived gaze constantly meets only things and their prices.

"With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluationof the world of men. Labor produces not only commodities: it produces itself and the worker as a commodity — and this in the same general proportion in which it produces commodities. This fact expresses merely that the object which labor produces — labor's product — confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labor is labor which has been embodied in an object, which has become material: it is the objectification of labor. Labor's realization is its objectification. In the sphere of political economy, this realization of labor appears as loss of realization for the workers; objectification as loss of the object and bondage to it; appropriation as estrangement, as alienation.... The worker is related to the product of his labor as to an alien object. For, on this premise, it is clear that the more the worker spends himself, the more powerful becomes the alien world of objects which he  creates over and against himself, the poorer he himself — his inner world becomes, the less  belongs to him as his own... it is the loss of his self." [c17]

We can all observe that the relation of wage-labor is the heart of modern society,  and its basic crystallization, the commodity, is its fundamental unit. The rising of commodity production as the dictator over social life was an historical act, and required a generalized separation of human beings from the land, their tools, the process of work, each other, and their products. The thread which ties all this together is money, abstract quantification, which incident]y, Hegel described as "the life of what is dead, moving within itself." Analyzing aspects of modern reality must be done with regard to this condition of alienated production. Without this grasp upon our actual situation in its entirety we will only produce useless, partial critiques. False-consciousness (mystification, ideology) is only a necessary corollary of real alienation.

The split between subject and object appears as a real split and illusion simultaneously. The reification ('thingification' of alienation) in society occurs from two sides, that of 'human geography' (the external world) and character-structure (the internal, psychological structure of people). Externally, the whole of capitalist society becomes the objective body of capital. A 'second-nature' dominates life. The competition, connections, and accumulation in capitalist and state enterprises of property, space, time, and the creativity of the working class, as well as, the acquisition of geographical settings and natural resources, all fall under the laws or movement, definition, and objectification of capital and State. The result is the destruction of nature and uncontrolled urbanism, pollution, commodity spectacularization everywhere, in short, an alien weltanschuaang which has become actualized. Internally, the individual develops a "character-armoring". This armoring is the personal, subjective aspect of capital. It is the locality of a worker's nature as a commodity, as an obedient pseudo-object, as exchange-value, as exploitable labor power. It is also value-added labor time bestowed upon the individual as he or she 'matures' through all the factories of human commodity production (families, schools, work, etc.). Character-armoring is the internal separation of a 'subject' and 'object' — a layer of frozen subjectivity which renders people 'functional' in capitalist society. Fully developed capitalism, thus, tends towards the elimination of the limits between the self and the alien world through the destruction of the self by means of a constant reduction of the individual's humanity to the level of a commodity in a world of commodities, an object. This commodity status is part of the hierarchic, bureaucratic rationale and instrumentation which requires submission and acceptance and which presents itself as permanent actuality. While capitalism alienates human power in exile, in a beyond all around, it also perfects alienation in the interior of consciousness. This reciprocal alienation is the founding of reification and the method and essence of the existing social order.

The Breakdown of the World and the Birth of a New Humanity

The essence of this commodity system is that a relation between people takes on the character of a thing and acquires a 'phantom' 'objectivity', an autonomy that seems so rational and all embracing but denies its fundamental nature — we, the living, producing ourselves. Thus, the world appears (and tends towards being) split and inverted. Objectively, a world of objects and relations between things comes into being (the world of commodities and their movements on the market) which becomes the pseudo-Subject of human life while human life becomes a commodity and must go its way like any other commodity [LFL: as in being a passively consumed and colonizing partiality].

With this generalized alienation, every unitary viewpoint of our total situation is lost, as well as all direct personal communication amongst the world's producers. The automatic expansion of the commodity relation equals world alienation — as that which grows with the economy moving for itself can only be the alienation which was at its origin. The successes of the economic system of separation soon results in the proletarianization of the world.

Reification is the necessary immediate reality of every person living in capitalist society. Thus, the problem of overcoming the dualism of subjects and objects without falling into one-sided materialism or impotent idealism is a real problem of life. Only through the emancipation from ideological bases of inverted thought and from the material bases of enforced separation (wage-labor, capital, the states) can the self-conscious subject-object of history emerge and make its own truth conquer. This mission of installing truth in the world can be accomplished only by the immense class of enslaved humanity which is able to destroy all class relationships and separations by taking all power into dealienating forms of direct democracy where practical theory controls itself and understands its own action. Only through the revolutionary project do there emerge real individuals directly tied to universal history, only here does subjectivity arm itself and carry out real dialogue. And this power can only be effective by transforming the totality of existing conditions. We cannot assign ourselves a smaller task if we want to be recognized and to recognize ourselves in our world.

Thus, the liberation of modern society can only come through the forces it represses — the world proletariat, the class with radical chains, the class which contains the possibility of unraveling the whole of abundance from within itself. The proletariat is the first class in history which can function as the self-aware Subject/Object of the historical process of evolution. When the proletariat proclaims the dissolution of the world order it reveals the secret of its own existence. The self-understanding of the proletariat is, also, the objective understanding of the real nature of society. Authentic communist revolution is the transformation of human activity into the conscious creation of all people who, armed with an understanding of the totality of society, grasp the whole as a dialectical process, and thus, grasp control over everyday life.

"Proletarian revolution depends entirely on the condition that, for the first time, theory as intelligence of human practice be recognized and lived by the masses. It requires workers to become dialecticians and to inscribe their thought into practice." [c18]

As the various centers of capital accumulation accelerate their accumulation of contradictions and race toward the various methods of self-destruction (war, ecological disaster, etc.), we, at the heart of the global process, the dispossessed proletariat which daily produces the fantastic transformation of all the earth, must race towards our encounter with history, which in the last instance turns out to be a confrontation with ourselves. The proletariat must because the class of consciousness by grasping the immensity of our task of self-emancipation: the international dialectical assault upon capital (destruction, communalization, and realization) and thus, give these constrained and hoarded riches, and ourselves, an historic chance.

"We are nothing, we will be everything!" [c19]

The existence of real subjectivity emerges from this struggle in society, this struggle for everything. That which was the alienated it, now intervenes in history as the revolutionary I. The possible entrance of this subject depends on the outcome of the real class struggle which is now, once again, beginning to shake the earth. With the power of international social revolution, history to be lived as our own will open up around us like the sky, and daily life, rediscovered, will because the terrain of all possible creation and adventure. It is now or never, all or nothing. Let's take the gamble, the world is ours to win.

Appendix I: Excerpts from Karl Marx's "Private Property and Communism"

"Communism is the positive transcendence of separations, of private property, wage-labor, capital, and state, of human self-estrangement, and therefore is the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore is the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being — a return become conscious, and accomplished within the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed humanism equals naturalism, and as fully developed naturalism equals humanism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man — the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution." [c20]
"The positive transcendence of private property, as the appropriation of human life, is therefore the positive transcendence of all estrangement — that is to say, the return of man from religion, family, state, etc., to his human, i.e., social existence." [c21]
"Individual existence is social, individual consciousness is social. Society is the unity of the being of man with nature.

My general consciousness is only the theoretical shape of that which the living shape is the real community, the social fabric, although at the present day general consciousness is an abstraction from real life and as such confronts it with hostility. The activity of my general consciousness, as an activity, is therefore also my theoretical existence as a social being.

Above all we must avoid postulating "Society" again as an abstraction vis-a-vis the individual. The individual is a social being. His life, even if it may not appear in the direct form of a communal life in association with others — is therefore an expression and confirmation of social life." [c22]
"Man, much as he may be a particular individual (and it is precisely his particularity which makes him an individual, and a real individual social being), is just as much the totality — the ideal totality — the subjective existence of thought and experienced society for itself; just as he exists also in the real world as the awareness and the real mind of social existence, and as a totality of human manifestation of life. Thinking and being are thus no doubt distinct, but at the same time they are in unity with each other." [c23]
"Just as private property is only the perceptible expression of the fact that man becomes objective for himself and at the same time becomes to himself a stranger and inhuman object; just as it expresses the fact that the assertion of his life is the alienation of his life, that his realization is his loss of reality, is an alien reality: so, the positive transcendence of private property — i.e., the perceptible appropriation for and by man of the human essence and human life, of objective man, of human achievements — should not be conceived merely in the sense of immediate, one-sided gratification — merely in the sense of possessing, of having. Man appropriates his essence in a total manner; that is to say, as a whole man. Each of his human relations to the world — seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, thinking, observing, experiencing, wanting, acting, loving — in short, all the organs of his individual being, like those organs which are directly social in their form are in their objective orientation or in their orientation to the object, the appropriation of that object. The appropriation of human reality, its orientation to the object is the manifestation of the human reality, it is human activity and human suffering....

Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is only ours when we have it — when it is used by us.

All these physical and mental senses have therefore — the sheer estrangement of all these senses — the sense of having. The human being had to be reduced to this absolute poverty in order that he might yield his inner wealth to the outer world.

The transcendence of private property is therefore the complete emancipation of all human senses and qualities, but it is this emancipation precisely because these senses and attributes have become subjectively and objectively, human. The eye has become a human eye, just as its object has become a social, human object — an object made by man for man. The senses have therefore become directly in their practice theoreticians." [c24]
"In the same way, the senses and minds of other men have become my own appropriation. Besides these direct organs, therefore, social organs develop in the form of society; thus, for instance, activity in direct association with others, etc., has become an organ for expressing my own life, and a mode of appropriating human life." [c25]
"The senses of the social man are other senses than those of the non-social man. Only through the objectively unfolded richness of man's essential being is the richness of subjective human sensibility (a musical ear, an eye for beauty of form — in short, senses capable of human gratification, senses affirming themselves as essential powers of man) either cultivated or brought into being. For not only the five senses but also the so-called mental senses — the practical senses (will, love, etc.) — in a word human sense — the human nature of senses -- comes to be by virtue of its object, by virtue of humanized nature. The forming of the five senses is a labor of the entire history of the world down to the present." [c26]
"It will be seen how in place of the wealth and poverty of political economy comes the rich human being and the rich human need. The rich human being is simultaneously the human being in need of the totality of human manifestations of life — the man in whom his own realization exists as an inner necessity, as need." [c27]
"The domination of the objective being in me, the sensuous outburst of my life activity, is passion, which thus becomes the activity of my being." [c28]
"A being only considers himself independent when he stands on his own feet, and he only stands on his own feet when he owes his existence to himself. [c29]
"For socialist man the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labor, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, or the process of his creation....

Socialism proceeds from the practically and theoretically sensuous consciousness of man and nature as essence, socialism is man's positive self-consciousness (no longer mediated through religion, or the annulment of religion), just as real life is man's positive reality, no longer mediated through the annulment of private property.

Communism is the position as the negation of the negation, and hence, the actual phase necessary for the next stage of historical development in the process of human emancipation and rehabilitation. Communism is the necessary pattern and the dynamic principle of the immediate future...." [c30]

Appendix II: Author ?

"Considering the nature of the universally dominant system of bureaucratic hierarchical regulation whose fulcrum of power is the State and class, and whose modes of operation are commodity production, wage labor, and the dictatorship of the economy over social life everywhere;

considering the development and concentration of Capital and the diversification of its division of labor and machinery of alienation on a world scale which give rise to manipulated consumption of commodities produced in decaying abundance, and to the control of economies by bureaucrats who own the state, and to the direct and indirect colonization of all territories, including the terrain of daily life;

considering the commoditization and spectacularization of everything which was once directly lived, all that was once authentic and passionate;

considering the false forms of opposition to this situation, forms which remain trapped on the theoretical and practical terrain of alienation and, thus, serve to reinforce the illusions of capital, state, and hierarchy;

and considering the inherent tendencies toward crisis engendered by the contradictions of this system which are now accelerating alienated history toward fundamental breakdown, and already destroying vast portions of the life of the planet;

considering all this, and much more, I submit that an indivisible perspective of total transformation of all our social relations, a unitary critique-in-acts, is necessary, possible, and urgently required in order to abolish these global conditions of misery.

The factor put into question in this historical problem is the extension and modernization of the fundamental contradiction of the system, the antagonism between the enforced requirements of the system as in alienated labor, and the powers of human desire in conscious action.

To be radical means to grasp something at its roots, and for man the root is man himself. Radical theory gets hold of people because it comes from them in the first place. It is the repository of consciousness and creativity, and its job is the striking power of this creativity. The social forces which alone are capable of, and have an interest in, the practical realization of the revolutionary project are all the workers, including you and I, who are powerless over the use of our own lives and impotent in the face of the fantastic accumulation of material possibilities which we, ourselves, produce every day. Consequently, the revolutionary project must aim for the effective abolition of class society, of commodity production, wage-labor, and the state. It creates self-management. The practical means and form of effective re-appropriation of social production has already been sketched-out in the midsts of the incessant revolutionary upheavals of this century in the model of democratic workers councils. These general assemblies of the revolutionary proletariat appeared in Russia 1905, Kronstadt 1921, Spain 1936, Hungary 1956, Chile 1971, wherever hierarchical Power was authentically threatened. At their highest moments, these self-managing bodies sought extension, federation, and co-ordination by means of strictly mandated, democratically elected, and immediately revocable delegates. The program of revolutionary workers councils calls for nothing less than the total transformation of social life according to the direct democracy in action and the dictates of desire.

An authentic opposition to our present misery should thus pursue, with consequence, the international realization of the absolute power of workers' councils, and this realization will require the theory and practice appropriate to such a task. Faced with the revolutionary struggles. which are, once again, arising in various countries over various issues, it becomes increasingly necessary to understand the movement as a whole, to establish its theoretical and practical unity. A revolutionary organization can be nothing less than a unitary critique of society, a critique which does not compromise with any form of separate power anywhere in the world, and a critique proclaimed globally against all the aspects of alienated social life.

Since the only purpose of the revolutionary critique is the transformation of society in a way which surmounts all enforced separations and does not produce a new hierarchical division in society, the critique must aim explicitly for an abolition of politics. The revolutionary organizations will negate themselves through their own victory, and seek their dissolution in the higher transcendence of the global society of self-managed councils.

Similarly, the revolutionary critique will aim for the practical transcendence of art and philosophy and all cultural acquirements by their playful re-entry into the free reconstruction of the everyday life to be made by everybody. Proletarian revolution sets for itself the project of destruction and realization of the hoarded riches of the world. Only on this road to the epochal revolution can all the earth be seized by the living."


Post-Publication Notations

Release History

Release Date Released By Format and Features
v1.0 1974 Kathy Kundalini Senior year academic paper for the Philosophy Department at the University of California — Berkeley.
v2.0 November 21, 2006 Committee for Transcendence HTML for the web. Reformatted and corrected for any misspellings and punctuation errors, especially incurred during the scanning process.
v3.0 January 31, 2008 Committee for Transcendence XHTML (v1.0 strict) compliance with site-universal CSS.
v4.0 Tentative 1st quarter 2008 release Committee for Transcendence Addition of author's "Post-Publication Notations"; additional information added to the citations; external links to citational references.

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