Bogdanov's Ten Laws of Conscience

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  • Book: REVOLUTION AND CULTURE: The Bogdanov-Lenin Controversy by ZENOVIA A. SOCHOR, from 1988


Source: From the page 198 of the book by Sochor (excerpt provided by Orsan Senalp)

"In one of his last writings on proletarian culture, Bogdanov drew up a list of ten "laws of the new conscience." These laws did not represent commandments, he hastened to add, but were only "norms of expediency." They were a list of what the proletariat must do to develop a genuine proletarian culture and cultural hegemony. The list, para- phrased and abbreviated, follows:

1. There shall be no herd instinct.

A passive, submissive attitude has more to do with the petty-bour- geois fear of being different than with true collectivism. A faceless being brings nothing to a collective but mechanical force, thereby increasing its inertia. In rejecting the herd instinct, the collectivist coincides with the individualist; he differs, however, insofar as the individualist thinks only of "me and mine," whereas the collectivist attempts to elevate and perfect the collective and, in so doing, to maintain and develop his individuality together with the collective.

2. There shall be no slavery.

Slavery and its complement, authoritarianism, consist of a blind submission to a higher individual or in the demand for such sub- mission. Although members of a collective should have confidence in their leaders, this confidence should be based on proven compe- tence, not reduced to the worship of authority. Leadership requires repeated acknowledgment and verification; only in this way can it preserve the character of comradely relations, free of slave-authori- tarian elements.

3. There shall be no subjectivism, of either a personal or a group nature.

Personal subjectivism is individualism; group clan- nishness, guild narrowmindedness, professionalism, patriotism, na- tionalism. All of these orientations lead to a waste of collective energy in anarchistic confrontations.

4. There shall be no Hottentotism.

Essentially Hottentotism means "it is good if I steal; it is bad if someone steals from me." Although class struggle evokes double standards, the proletariat must eventually become the representative of mankind as a whole. To maintain the logic of the soldier is to lower the proletariat to the level of inimical classes, undermining the force of idealism.

5. There shall be no absolute norms.

Higher culture is marked by objective norms that can never be absolute because they are an expression of life; development, struggle, and creativity cannot be shackled to absolute formulas. To accept eternal truths is to adopt a path of conservatism and reaction.

6. There shall be no inertness.

Herd instinct, slavery, group restrictiveness-all inevitably have

the propensity to halt movement. Any striving toward the new and the higher threatens established harmony and the authority at the center of that harmony. Movement forward cannot be attained along smooth tracks; creativity is not only joyful but also painful, as in birth. The proletariat must learn and relearn to create a new culture.

7. There shall be no violation of the purity of purpose.

Although the revolutionary proletariat, the conscious socialist, looks to the future, much of its soul remains rooted in the past. At times, the past contaminates large goals with petty motives-espe- cially those of comfort and vengeance. These motives have a way of disguising themselves as idealistic goals, giving birth to a peculiar form of self-deception, where the lower presents itself as a manifes- tation of the higher.

8. There shall be all-mastery (vseovladenie)-the greatest goal. The collective seeks to organize the world, to gain mastery over everything, to bind everything into a harmonious whole. Toward this end, it is necessary to master techniques from past labor as well as

to seek new paths, new sources of energy.

9. There shall be all-understanding-the higher ideal of the new consciousness.

A collective must be marked by mutual understanding among par- ticipants, a continuous deepening of unity of will, mind, and feelings. This understanding constitutes the soul of a collective, its common consciousness. Words such as respect, care, and love for fellow-work- ers can only partially express the binding elements.

10. There shall be pride of the collective-the supreme stimulus of will and thought of the worker.

In previous epochs, there was a pride of serving the higher will (authoritarianism) or truth and duty (individualism). In the devel- opment of the collective, everything that requires submission or wor- ship is unmasked. Instead, the worker develops a consciousness of self as a living link of the great all-conquering whole."