16 July 2011

Hegemony Up To Date

Course on Anti-Imperialism, War and Peace, Part 4a

Hegemony Up To Date

We have given first place this week to Perry Anderson but his document is much too long for the normal practice of the Communist University, which is to pass around a text that is short enough for the comrades to read and digest in between one week’s gathering and the next.

In the case of Gramsci and hegemony, we have just such a readable and user-friendly text in the form of Trent Brown’s essay of that name, downloadable via the link given below.

Put briefly, the idea of “hegemony” is not different from the idea of “dictatorship”, as used in the phrases: “dictatorship of the proletariat” and “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”, for two examples.

It means class domination. We may say that Working Class Hegemony is not necessarily always coercive, and that for the most part it would rely upon consent or acquiescence. But, as Trent Brown points out, the same is true of the bourgeois dictatorship that we have at present. It generally depends upon “manufactured consent”, backed up by the threat of forces, and actual force.

Whether we are using the term “Working Class Hegemony”, or the term “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, it remains the case that the bourgeoisie still exists. Capitalist relations will still exist under working class hegemony, but they will be supervised by the working class.

“Dictatorship of the Proletariat” does not mean “Extermination of the Bourgeoisie”.

Trent Brown points out that Gramsci in particular had a well-worked-out theory of how the working class can progress from self-interested economism, otherwise called syndicalism (or in South Africa, “workerism”), through self-conscious class solidarity, to the formation of revolutionary alliances with other classes.

Comrades who may be interested in Gramsci’s legacy, beyond the concept of “hegemony”, may like to read the article “From Organic to Committed Intellectuals or Critical Pedagogy, Commitment, and Praxis” (click to access the web page). For a representative example of Gramsci’s writing, please click here: “Some Aspects of the Southern Question”.

Trent Brown puts it like this:

“Gramsci reckoned that in the historical context that he was working in, the passage of a social group from self-interested reformism to national hegemony could occur most effectively via the political party.”

Please download and read the text via the following link:

Further reading:

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