By A. Sivanandan
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Additional info for Catching History on the Wing: Race, Culture and Globalisation
Any integration at this stage would be a merging of the weaker into the stronger, the lesser into the greater. The weakness of the blacks stems from the smallness of their numbers, the ‘less-ness’ from the bourgeois cultural consciousness of the white working class. Before an organic fusion of forces can take place, two requirements need to be fulfilled. The blacks must through the consciousness of their colour, through the consciousness, that is, of that in which they perceive their oppression, arrive at a consciousness of class; and the white working class must in recovering its class instinct, its sense of oppression, both from technological alienation and a white-oriented culture, arrive at a consciousness of racial oppression.
But it is still a definition arrived at by negating a negative, by rejecting what is not. And however positive that rejection, it does not by itself make for a positive identity. For that reason, it tends to be self-conscious and overblown. It equates the black man to other men on an existential (and intellectual) level, rather than on a political one. But to ‘positivise’ his identity, the black man must go back and rediscover himself – in Africa and Asia – not in a frenetic search for lost roots, but in an attempt to discover living tradition and values.
What people do as political acts’, remarks Beatrix Campbell in the same issue of Marxism Today (with a caveat that she is possibly being ‘trivial here’), ‘is they read, they buy, they refuse to buy, and they commit all sorts of acts which are about participation in the culture. ’13 Power, for Brunt, is ‘not simply a force coming from above and governed by one set of people, the ruling class’. Power is everywhere and ‘it operates horizontally as much as vertically, internally as well as externally’.