The election of a Trotskyite in one of yesterday’s Dail by- elections brought memories of Trotskyites in college days: they knew they were right. Their radical Left wing views could be the only correct understanding of society and their prescription for revolutionary change must be the best way forward for working people. Should the working classes decide that they didn’t actually want the Trotskyites and decline to vote for them; this was further evidence of how right they had been in the first place – working class rejection of revolutionary politics was because of “false consciousness”on the part of the workers. Working people who understood the truth would see the rightness of the cause and must be educated as to their own best interests. To deny Trotskyite arguments was simply to be absorbed by the same false consciousness that enshrouded the workers.
The Trotskyite idea of false consciousness would have found a counterpart in the works of Sigmund Freud, where the hammering of facts into a shape that fits the theory seems common. Attending a psychology lecture twenty years ago, a lecturer talked about the symbolic importance of items in dreams. Things present confirmed theories and their not being present meant only that the person was in denial; either way the theory was confirmed. Freud’s writing seemed to suggest a man obsessed with seeing every moment as a confirmation of his theories regarding sex. In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life he wrote:
As the girl’s uncle, a very old man, entered the room, we both jumped to our feet to bring him a chair which stood in the corner. She was more agile than I and also nearer the object, so that she was the first to take possession of the chair. She carried it with its back to her, holding both hands on the edge of the seat. As I got there later and did not give up the claim to carrying the chair, I suddenly stood directly back of her, and with both my arms was embracing her from behind, and for a moment my hands touched her lap. I naturally solved the situation as quickly as it came about. Nor did it occur to anybody how dexterously I had taken advantage of this awkward movement.
Occasionally I have had to admit to myself that the annoying, awkward stepping aside on the street, whereby for some seconds one steps here and there, yet always in the same direction as the other person, until finally both stop facing each other, that this “barring one’s way” repeats an ill-mannered, provoking conduct of earlier times and conceals erotic purposes under the mask of awkwardness. From my psychoanalysis of neurotics I know that the so-called naïveté of young people and children is frequently only such a mask, employed in order that the subject may say or do the indecent without restraint.
Couldn’t Freud’s problem have laid in a simple lack of co-ordination? However, to have disagreed Freud’s arguments would simply have invited the accusation one was in denial.
There is a mission hall at a roadside in Co Down that has had the same sign for thirty years. Surely the failure of the hall to change or develop in decades would indicate that maybe it was getting things wrong? The people involved would not agree. If they attracted a large crowd, they would argue it was because they were teaching the truth, and the people were searching for the truth. If no-one came, they would argue it was because they were teaching the truth, and the people were rejecting the truth. Either way, the people who ran the hall were right. Not attending would be like being guilty of a Trotskyite false consciousness about one’s own interests, or like being guilty of a Freudian denial of the basic impulses in one’s life.
How does one argue with someone who knows they are right?