my thirty year quest for the revolutionary agent etc
Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Sat, 27 Apr 1996 17:42:16 CDT
ago and far away) usage of *agency* for a supra-organismic unit, social
class or classes, for instance (and paradigmatically, too), whereby, in
the social-movement process(es), the unit commences the historical period
in question as a *social category*, ie, the constituent organisms howbeit
simiar-ish on one key variable, have neither opportunity nor inclination
to have anything to do with one another. Say that all discretely monadic
organisms each have some sort of "interest" or at least exhibited tendency
toward social-climbing. As the other members of the category are "mere scum
like us," and we'd be making Better Use Of Our Time sucking up to "a Better
Class Of People," why bother with folks No Better than ourselves. To use a
*reductio ad absurdum* you get behind leaving the fabric softener out of
your wash. For technical usage, one puts it in German, class "in sich."
Or, recall the cub reporter Marx covering the French election of 1848 in
the pre-polling days; nobody had much use for the peasants, "so many
potatoes in a sack of potatoes," except in that, as the vast majority
of the electorate, they screwed up the Results for Decent People, Marx
As the social movement intensifies, "social cohesion," "solidarity,"
and "class consciousness" do whateveritis they do, and let me frankly
concede that neither sociologists nor trade unionists ever adequately
defined, described, much less explained, just what *solidarity* is,
as in "Solidarity forever/for the union makes us strong" or as in
SOLIDARNOSC. Myxomatosis-metaphor aside, this is what I characterize
as a social-science JNSQ (by false etymology, from fr "je ne sais quoi,"
but actually, from Genessee, brand of beer sold in Upstate New York;
plus Irokwa *kwa*, kwa; Maureen Korp used to explain that to me). Via
state change, ie, from lumps in baggies to solidity-possessing solid,
the mere category becomes a *collectivity*. Technically, it's become
a class *fur sich*. It acts in common even after ballgames in Wrigley
Field, and even when the Crubs are on the road.
The serious purpose of the frivolity above is to render the social-
movement paradigm behind it bizarre. Merely echoing the words of Steven
D. Greenberg, credited with creation of "the new historicism" and very
bigtime litcrit person, who says his purpose in committing educational
acts is, "To make bizarre that which was once merely familiar." [Note:
SDG came from the Old Neigbourhood, same time, same place, as myself;
but he made the cover of the NY Times Magazine Section, which I did not.
My mother cried; and frankly, so did I.]
In the Marxist dialect of sociogibberish, the working class as the
*revolutionary agent*, ie, the Troublemaker Social Category in the most
Essential-ish fashion, given its structured place of Honour in the
capitalist mode of production (qv [or send e-mail, right after your
SUBSCRIBE msg, to Progressive Sociologists Network, PSN@Csf.Colorado.Edu;
Else World Systems Network, WSN@Csf.Colorado.Edu; and let me know if
anyone agrees with anyone else yet]). This is latent, like sleeping lions
or giants, during epochs of social quiescence when it's Morning in armenia
or Normalcy (a neologism of Warren Gamaliel Harding as Republican nominee,
1920). Only to reassert itself, as Theory says, during social-movement
periods such as, classically in this century, the 1930s in the United
States of armenia; and if not, False Consciousness must have supervened.
False Consciousness, it must be noted (explanations later), is much much
worse, far more serious, than [barnyard epithet]/*bullshit*. Worse than
lies. Worse, even, than *naive empiricism*, which Them, at UCLA, called
me in 1975 (never been so insulted in my life). This, because the deluded
ones truly, sincerely, and principledly *do believe in all that* rot/shit.
"Ask your local Reagan Democrat, and be sure! Look for him, in your local
Yellow Dog Pages."
When it'd become indisputable that the 1960s had become a social upheaval,
as historic as the 1930s of blessed memory, and having in common with the
latter the sole general truth that "The Left Always Has The Best Songs,"
the paradigm had gone out the window, behaviourally. No matter how often,
how beseechingly, how stridently the Thinking Wellread Element of the
Nationally Known Leadership of the Movement appealed via the Media, to
whom they were Known as Nationally Known Leadership persons, to have the
left the way the Early Proletarians in the 1930s, under the Roman Empire,
with lions and martyrdom and all that stuff which Traditions are made of;
I've emphasized the critical place of generating the sense of *time-immemo-
reality* in what "culture" is "paid for" (kidding, but it stays till
something more Serious replaces it with my approval). The Broad Masses
paid no attention, continuing to have a Left Movement perversely more
and more the way it was not supposed to have been in the sight of God.
In 1967, I decided: Instead of writing some stupid dissertation, which
will be worthless garbage or dangerous to my health after the revolution,
anyhow, I shall sit myself down and explain just why the Movement is the
way it is, not the way the sociology textbooks without exception agree
a social movement decently ought to be. (How this got called a Dissertation
anyhow, by Them, hence by reason thereof my extrusion from the labour force
was temporarily revoked and I underwent social construction anew, not once
but several more times, till de facto agreement was reached with the social
construction obtaining prior to my extrusion from the labour force in the
first place, in 1966-ish, is a sorry tale of befuddlement by the cultural
correlates of social upheaval, and back, afflicting Perfectly Decent And
Well-Meaning People, hence entirely Figures, so none of them are guilty
of aught but *diachronic illogic* which, in the nature of the thing,
they'd deny if confronted with it. So forget it; consider me sheer dumb
Dyslexic, I rapidly improved to Slow Reader with Drugs, so by this time,
1967, I'd read enough history to have dated the emergence of the class model
to the period 1829-1834. Slowly, slowly, slowly I plowed through E.P. Thomp-
son's Making of the English Working Class on the back porch, shared with a
pair of young women in the apt on the other side of the building. Concentra-
tion grew awesomely difficult; and it didn't take much Paranoia to ascertain
via inference heuristics from pseudo-unpatterned gossiplike noises that this
was a Plot. One night it was sprung; also present were the two denizens and
"Dmitri," friend of "Sergei," VP Marketing for Fred Industries, mfrs of Blue
Dot LSD, $1 ea, "Blue dot for sure shot!" Like GE flashbulbs, also made in
Syracuse. I should take off my clothes and get in the bathtub. I did something
situationally inappropriate, fleeing home. I recount this event as the Type
Case of the absence of Unity of Theory and Practice under changed historical
conditions. And have reproached myself, on the theoretical plane, for my
atheoretical stance on that occasion. As so often before and after.
To "come down" from this digression, and obviously that whence it digressed
palls, the British working class, in mass nationwide strike actions, threw
up the evanescent edifice of the National General Confederation of Trade
Unions in 1833-4.
In France, in 1831, the Lyon Silk Workers Insurrection, historic for
that nation's working class, broke out and was quickly, harshly, crushed.
In New York City, NY, USA, The Workingmen's Party was founded in 1829.
What did social movement agents, revolutionary agents under the best
of circumstances, utilize for analogous purposes, assuming, incorrectly,
it's easy to make such analogies, before the incredibly brief period of
perhaps a century and a quarter when "The International Working Class/
Will Free the Human Race!"? Something religious, obviously. Whether
Orthodox Catholic, if you're Gaelic-speaking Irish peasants with an
English Protestant landlord backed up by the English Plantation, sensu
"settler colony," in Ulster, backed up by the Protestant Ascendancy
centered upon Dublin, as the island Power Structure was called, and
ultimately by what the IRA today calls "the polical wing of the British
Army," Parliament, in London.
OtherElsewise, you'd have your schismatics, those Less So, those More
So (eg Puritans prior to and during the English Revolution and Civil War,
1640-1649. Whereof a byproduct was emigration to armenia to found Harvard,
1636. Religion, in times of social quiescence "The opiate of the people,
the heart of a heartless world," was as my own given name reminded me, at
times the amphetamine of the people. Was not Judas Maccabaeus the first
Fundamentalist? This is contingent upon one's abilty or stomach-acid limits
in retrojecting purely contemporary Protestant stupidities into Ancient
times without positing qualitative differences cosmic in magnitude; not
to gainsay the existence of stupidity appropriate to time and place in
the second century BC[E].
"Daniel" is a fictitious character in a pamplet written in support, ie,
as war propaganda, of what's today called People's War against the Seleucid
Empire. Date of writing, 165 BC[E]. Much of the text is in Aramaic, the
language actually spoken by the Broad Masses; much in Hebrew, the vehicle
for Serious religion, the ostensible reason for the war. Nobody at that
time, I believe, thought that the victorious outcome would assume the guise
of the union, in one person, of the offices of King and High Priest, without
"Foss, at this point, I'd take any kinda revolution I could get!"
-- Bob Tumposky, President, Syracuse
University SDS Chapter, 1969.
So I explained why there were new social movement agents in the 1960s;
explained what they were by giving them my own homemade names, which didn't
catch on; explained why secular-rationalistic ideologies had been superseded
by historically new types peculiar to the 1960s, and as different from those
of the 1930s as the latter were from the Medieval; explained supersession of
"formal-organizational [social-movement] cohesion" by "subcultural cohesion."
Explained the ideologically demystifying importance of LSD, which I'd have
welcomed even had I never found it useful. Meaning, the aforementioned,
incredibly complex mass of wouldbe theory, which on the descriptive level
alone I found unmanageable, would have become unthunk in short order had
not from time to time I managed to "load" the whole soggy mess into my
consciousness at once in the Drugged condition. Thanks whereto, it calcified
into an Orthodoxy long enough to write it on Eaton's Corrasable Bond Typing
Paper, using what was called a "Royal Portable." Before your time.
The real objective, as I saw it, was to forecast, without telling anyone
who might Unleash The Forces Of Repression prior to there existing aught to
Repress, what the next Movement Period, which I envisioned as scheduled for
the 1990s, now, would be like. It would be unlike the 1930s, unlike the 1960s.
It would not be recognized, most likely, as a Left at all. Owing to fatuity,
wherein I was not alone, I never imagined a fascist Right. Then came the
OK City bombing, the revelation (or shall we say "sudden enlightenment") in
and by the media of the Militias, the Montana Freemen, Aryan Nation; and
all I could do was try to fictionalize something more bizarre, always failing.
(Eg, Earthwoman Abduction Therapy, which is now going downmarket with Spring
Love Camps. The reason that the first fascist dictator of a patriarchal sexist
reactionary racist cybertotalitarian regime might be a woman is, nobody else
thought of it.)
For thirty years I sought the answers, looking in wrong places. (I may
have found the Holy Grail several times, but if so must've thrown it aside
with a shrug of "*goyim naches*" and looked some more. In 1976, Jane Linda
Lowenkron, subsequently Jane Foss ("Jane, that's not *allowed* any more.
These days, we hyphen. Either switching order of surnames, or not. Alterna-
tively, there's the concatenation method. Which is used especially for
mixed marriages, with the gentile part suffixed hyphenless to the Jewish
part. Consider, there's sociologists named Jim Dessauersmity, Ira Katznelson."
"*Nobody's* interested in anything you have to say. Stop *borchering* me!"
[Note: fake-neologistic yiddishism; contracting "bore" and "torture."])
stated, with shocking and, I thought, profoundly prophetic vision:
"Aaah, who cares about sexuality, anyway!"
Feverisly, I wrote a 52-page pile of verbiage, "The Insurrection of
the Ugly People," describing the transition from Nuclear to Modular
family, etc, etc, and reminding that, "Wnenever Them declares a
Liberation within the confines of capitalism, the fortunate few Escape;
the wretched many are Expelled." I then predicted "sexual populism," a
phony class-struggle-looking "revolt" of the losers in competitive struggle
against elite privilege, especially when they'd been congratulating them-
selves on virtuous abstention from Sin and allofasudden they were Losers
by reason of Undesirability. Where a sexual-competitive struggle, inseparable
from hierarchical economic privilege, which itself was Protected against
popular meddling, and adding additional pain to that deriving from the
occupational competitive struggle, created political space for: A would-be
Leader of the Broad Masses, who by promising to fight the haughty elitists
on sex-privilege issues (actually now euphemized as "cultural issues"),
would at least try to win the majority by a combination of Religion and
I give you Pat Buchanan, la-, uh, Femalepersons and Malepersons in the
studio audience. I'd forecast Pat Buchanan with quite good accuracy.
Considering my usual tendencies toward wildness, that is; can't usually
for the life of me get a prophecy of doom across the plate. This one,
good as it was, I threw out for the excellent reason, at the time, that
it was so flaky, wacko, not even I could take it seriously.
[Apology: The foregoing essay has been more than usually incoherent due to
difficulties in Dealing With the implausibilities of both present and past.]
Daniel A. Foss