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5 National-popular In previous chapters it was argued that if a class is to become hegemonic, it has to transcend its economic-corporate phase by taking into account the aims and interests of other classes and social forces, linking these with its own interests so as to become their universal representative. However, the nature of these 'social forces' has not yet been discussed. We can now take a crucial further step. A class cannot achieve national leadership, and become a hegemonic class, if it confines itself only to class interests; it must also take into account the popular and democratic aspirations and struggles of the people which do not have a necessary class character. In Gramsci's important note on the relation offorces quoted in Chapter 3, he says that the development and expansion ofa class aspiring to hegemony is 'conceived ofand presented as being the motor force of a universal expansion, of a development of all the national energies' (SPN 182). And in describing the decisive role played by the Jacobins in the creation of the French nation, he stresses the popular nature of the hegemony they established 'which in other nations awakened and organised the nationalpopular collective will, and founded modern states' (SPN 131). Thus hegemony has a national-popular dimension as well as a class dimension. As Gramsci says, 'It is in the concept of hegemony that those exigencies which are national in character are knotted together' (SPN 241). For example, a nation which is oppressed by another develops traditions of struggle for national liberation, and indeed in the 43 GRAMSCi'S POLmCALTHOUGHT course of history the people of every country develop powerful ideas, expressed by terms like 'patriotism' and 'nationalism' which can, as Gramsci says, have the force ofpopular religions. A hegemonic class is one which succeeds in combining these patriotic struggles and ideas with its own class interests so as to achieve national leadership. Many historical illustrations spring to mind, in addition to the Jacobins in the French Revolution: to take only one, the Chinese workers and peasants under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party combined the national struggle against the Japanese with social revolution. The great variety of movements for democratic rights, for freedom ofspeech and the right to vote and for many other kinds of civil liberties, which the British people have engaged in over many centuries, cannot be reduced to class struggles even though they have been closely related to them. Many of these struggles reflect a conflict between the people and the government, or 'officialdom', which is not the same as the conflict between working class and capitalist class arising directly from the relations of production. The relation between democratic struggles and class struggles is a vast subject which is opened up by the Gramscian concept of national popular.8 It has been suggested, for example, that the strength of Chartism in the 18308 and 1840s was due to the link which it established between the inherited tradition of radical politics and a developing practice ofclass struggle.9 After the period ofChartism, however, the British bourgeoisie was particularly successful in achieving leadership in the process of broadening parliamentary democracy and in strengthening its hegemony by this means. This led many communists and others in the past, and Lenin's influence was especially strong here, to take the view that parliamentary democracy was an instrument of the capitalist class, and to counterpose to it direct democracy in the form of soviets, shop stewards' committees and the like; and this is still the view taken on the whole by Trotskyists. A socialist revolution, according to this view, requires the replacement of parliamentary democracy by direct democracy, rather than a 44 NATIONAL-POPULAR combination of both. In consequence a whole sphere of democratic struggle is surrendered to the other side. Instead, parliament and everything associated with it should be seen as a vital terrain, on which the struggle for political and ideological hegemony takes place. The fact is that the authority of the House of Commons has been gravely undermined by a series of developments in the present century - the shift of power to the cabinet, to the prime minister within the cabinet, and to the upper layer of civil servants, for example - and is in danger of being still further eroded as a result of the authoritarian tendencies which have gained ground in the Conservative Party. There are many other social movements, apart from the struggle for civil liberties, which have...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781909831797
Related ISBN
9780853157380
MARC Record
OCLC
899261417
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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