Nigel Collingwood

Class-consciousness and Bodies

An application of the theory of character structure

In this article I begin by looking at Bertell Ollman’s thesis1 that Marx’s theory of class-consciousness needs to be supplemented by Reich’s theory of character structure. I go on to argue that Reich’s theory itself needs to be broadened, to a point where class-consciousness can be seen to be hampered by several important, but not ineradicable, bodily factors. At the end I offer some theoretical and practical conclusions. Written 1979, for private circulation.

1. Class consciousness and character structure

Why is the working class so slow in coming to recognise its real interests and its real power? in other words, what is holding it back from class consciousness? This question is usually heard, and answered, at a political or an economic level. Less often is it taken as a question about feelings and attitudes, i.e. at a psychological level. That Wilhelm Reich took it in this way is fairly well known, and an argument of his2 is not uncommon among those interested in sexual politics. The argument is about the authoritarian family and its place in capitalist, and above all in fascist, society. Briefly it runs as follows; that parents sexually repress their children, who therefore become submissive in character and acquire deeply engrained feelings of respect for authority and for private property – just the qualities that fit them to accept exploitation obediently. However, perhaps because the argument is often couched specifically in terms of the open oppression a of fascism rather than of the more covert oppression of the western democracies, it is not necessarily seen as relevant to the general problem of class consciousness. Another reason for failing to see the connection might be a regrettable tendency, still with us to some degree, to keep sexual politics quite separate, indeed almost hidden, from the rest of Marxism. Strange – since one reason for the appeal of the argument itself must surely be that many Marxists realise that their own freedom to accept the Marxist critique of capitalism was not unconnected with their refuisl to accept the sexual mores handed down to them.

Anyhow, the relevant essays3 in Ollman’s book both expound Reich’s ideas with masterly clarity and bring out their relevance to the problem of class consciousness today. Also, by implication he makes it less plausible than hitherto to argue as though we have to opt for either socio-economic or psychological explanation, even if, as will appear later, the looked-for synthesis eludes him.

Briefly, Ollman’s thesis is this. Whereas class consciousness in Marx’s thinking is the link between social and economic conditions on the one. hand, and revolutionary practice on the other, the concept of class consciousness is not subjected to analysis. Marx simply expected workers to see their exploitation and their opportunity to change things. If they did not, the reason must lie in the underlying conditions. A century later it is less easy to blame the tardy growth of class consciousness on poor leadership, or on the truism that the time is not yet ripe. What, then, has prevented, and is still preventing, the working class from recognising its true interests, and thus becoming class conscious? Ollman approaches his answer to this question by analysing class consciousness as a process that has nine stages or phases. The sequence of stages is logical rather than temporal, so that he does not expect people to work through them one by one. But he shows how at each stage further movement towards class consciousness can be blocked. Even under promising conditions progress is far from automatic; very few make the grade to full class-consciousness. Marx’s assumption that people react to their conditions in a rational manner is not borne out by fact. Rather, the lesson learnt is all too often to be submissive. In particular Ollman suggests that lack of sexual fulfilment leads to a kind of irrationality, a distorted response to reality. Further, even when character does respond rationally to conditions, it is formed in childhood, arid there is a time lag, underestimated by Marx, before it can be deployed in effective action. Therefore, Ollman argues, there must be a place in our understanding for an internal factor, a set of learned responses which obstruct class consciousness and are deeply engrained in workers’ characters – in other words (in fact in Reich’s words) “character structure”.

The argument is impressive, even if it pays insufficient attention to the educative effect of actual struggle (I will return to this point towards the end of the article). We can already ask how far this is a tenable extension of Marx’s own theory. Marx was certainly aware of the annoying submissiveness of the German working class of his time; Ollman quotes his statement that it is a foremost task to teach them to walk by themselves.4 Ollman suggests convincingly that character structure, as one of the findings of psychology not available in Marx’s time, can well be included within an extended concept of alienation; it can be seen both as the product of other alienating factors and as a contributory cause to other alienated activity. Now, obviously we have to be critical whenever extensions to Marxist concepts are put forward. But one sign of an extension that is true to the tradition is if it enables you to see the matter under discussion as no longer static, but able to be changed. Ollman’s contribution passes this test. For whereas without the notion of character structure the failure of the working class to be conscious of itself and of its true interests even under favourable conditions appears as simply irrational, this notion enables you to see it as a case of the retardation of rationality. What is retarded can, after all, come to a belated maturity.

How can this maturation come about? How can character structure, a deeply engrained habit, be eliminated? To answer this question we must go more thoroughly into Reich’s theory. Here I depend considerably on Ollman, who has brought together a number of strands of Reich’s thinking and made them into a coherent argument.

Reich took one theme from Freud – the concept of libido, the sex instinct – and took it to its logical conclusion. In a sense he was trying to preserve the core of Freud’s system, so that it would not be clouded by the addition of a death instinct. For Reich sexual energy was central, and in principle quantifiable. Its blockage was at the root of all neuroses. True, neurotics were capable of some sexual satisfaction, including orgasm in many cases. But what he claimed to have discovered in his clinical work was that they never achieved what he termed “orgastic potency” – i.e. the capacity for a total release of the whole body, involving involuntary pleasurable movements5. This led Reich to seek to go beyond the symptoms of neurosis to the character structure that underlay them and invariably made orgastic potency unattainable.

Character structure for Reich had two aspects. Psychologically, as “character armour”, it was the set of moralistic beliefs and neurotic fantasies concerning sexuality which people in our society pick up, mainly during the childhood years of about three to five. Physically, as “muscular armour”, it was the corresponding stiffness in bodily expression which is acquired in self-defence against parental repression: e.g. steeling oneself for a spanking becomes a habitual tensing of the muscles, Whereas Freud had in passing remarked that sexual repression turned people into “good weaklings”, Reich systematically worked out the current social consequences of character structure. It deadens people, with the result that they can do boring, repetitive work; it atrophies the critical faculty and rebelliousness to the point where resignation and submissiveness become the norm. Reich saw this as an instance of a general principle, that every social order creates those character forms which it needs for its own preservation.6

Thus during his Marxist phase (1927-36) Reich was able to develop a critique of a capitalist society which was already latent in Freud’s thinking, but from which Freud himself shied away. Reich could also take Marxism a step further. For by relating sexual repression to people’s deeply engrained feelings of respect for private property and authority, he showed how these feelings could be powerful enough to prevent workers from recognising and defending their class interests. He answered the question “Why don’t hungry people steal?” and thus also answered the more general question Marxism gives rise to, namely “why don’t alienated people achieve class consciousness?”. As we have seen, Ollman sees Reich’s contribution here as an extension of the concept of alienation.

However, as Ollman shows, there is a price for this clarification. For the problem of how to encourage a change of consciousness in the working class now seems almost insoluble. How can we ever break the cycle of repression, whereby repressed children grow up to repress their own children? Reich chose an educational solution. His own talents as an educator enabled him to set up sex clinics and lectures and literature for young people, which until the German Communist Party withdrew its support had considerable success, at least in terms of attracting young people. But it is reasonable to wonder whether this approach went far enough. Again, Reich was over-optimistic in his project for the radicalisation of adults, largely by the dissemination of material about the politics of personal life. Today we must admit that although many of Reich’s ideas on sex education and the availability of contraception have been partially realised, the difficulty of how to move people to a general questioning of capitalism remains.

Expounding Reich’s ideas with clarity and sympathy, Ollman does offer some criticisms. He points out that while Reich mentions that there are variations in character structure according to a person’s position in capitalist society, he never works them out in detail. Ollman rightly insists that this must be done. The distinction between class-determined and class society-determined character must be maintained if Reich’s contribution is to remain within the Marxist framework7. He makes an analogous criticism later when he takes Reich to task for not distinguishing between different age groups and family situations in formulating his policy for radicalising adults. Only younger adults, whose children were still teenagers, are sufficiently malleable in character, he argues, to be apt subjects for Reich’s educative work. Older people will reject it. The reason why Reich could imagine that people whom he himself saw as psychologically crippled could in spite of this be radicalised, was, in Ollman’s view, that he grasped only a complementary relation between Marx and Freud, not a synthesis. Thus character structure was a meeting point, but one approached from two incompatible standpoints. Within a Freudian framework it showed that workers could not become class conscious; within a Marxist one it indicated that they could. In the end, Ollman, while approving Reich’s reformulation of the problem of the slow development of class consciousness, admits that he did not solve it. Ollman’s own suggestion to bring harmony between the psychological and the socio-economic perspectives is a concept of relations of maturation, to cover the interaction between natural growth and the sum of the conditions in which it occurs8. He thus seeks to extend maturation, a physical and psychological growth process, to include its total context, rather as “relations of production” extend production, making things, to include the totality of production, distribution, exchange and consumption.

Unfortunately, apart from a promising suggestion that puberty today can in this context be seen as a capitalist social relation, he fails to use this concept in any illuminating way. After all, “relations of production” as a concept in Marxism works only in dialectical contrast with the forces of production on the one hand and social relations on the other. Certainly his claim that by this concept humans can “be grasped as a bio-social relationship”, as it stands, simply repeats the bare juxtaposition of the biological with the social which he is trying to overcome. Has Reich, then, striven in vain? Is the psychological as far away as ever from the socio-economic? In particular , must we give up hope of finding a relationship between the obstacles to class consciousness in the individual and the reality of class oppression in society at large? I want to argue that the way forward can be found by following a trail that starts with an often neglected feature of Reich’s work. This is his view, already mentioned, that character structure has a physical, a bodily, aspect.

2. Character structure and bodies

Reich’s finding was that muscular changes, in particular muscular stiffening and tension, which originated at the time of sexual repression, could become habitual. This was the physical counterpart to the psychological changes, the acquisition of beliefs, irrational thinking processes and fantasies, which occurred at the same time and likewise became habitual. Therapy, then, needed to be twofold: physical, to unlock the tensed musculature, and psychological, to enable the person to give up her resistance. The aim of therapy was psycho-physical wellbeing, revealed by the presence of orgastic potency.

Therapy called “neo-Reichian” is still practised today. But Reich’s theoretical formulations, where a single idea is, characteristically, taken to the point of being a total explanation of neurotic suffering of all kinds, must now be rejected as inadequate. Since the time when he was writing, so much therapeutic work has led back to earlier and earlier phases of infancy as. the origin or the more deep-seated neuroses, that an exclusively sexual account has become untenable. No doubt sexuality is very important in our society. But there are other ways of rejecting children, and of over-protecting them. As the sexologist Eustace Chesser argues9, deprivation of love is as serious a cause of neurosis as sexual prohibition; nor can neurosis simply be equated with inability to achieve a certain type of sexual satisfaction.

As it stands, then, Reich’s theory of character structure, while having the simplicity which is one of the marks of a useful theory, is too simple for the evidence it seeks to explain. Ollman has, as we have seen, noticed a similar tendency in the way Reich treats class-determined character (where he is weak on the variations between classes), and age-related character (where he is weak on the variations between ages). This tendency to over-generalise perhaps helps to account for the subsequent neglect of the theory. Another reason is that it can seem very strange to attribute a relatively permanent quality to muscular changes which occurred at the period of repression. So much so, that the theory can easily be presented with all reference to bodily changes hacked away, as though it was merely psychological in range. Thus in their discussion of Reich under the heading “Materialism and Psychoanalysis” Diana Adlam et al.10, while equating “character armour” with ideology, do not mention muscular armour at all.

It is the achievement of Alexander Lowen, a patient and later a pupil of Reich’s, to hold on to the principle of bodily changes as part and parcel of character structure, while including within the notion of character structure a wide range of ways in which, and stages at which, the personality can be stunted. In his approach sexuality remains important, but no longer solely important. Thus he deals11 with five types of character, each with its own kind of bodily stunting, and each linked to a different kind of parenting: schizoid (cold parenting); oral (insufficient parenting); psychopathic (seductive parenting); masochistic (smothering parents); and rigid (sexually frustrating parents). He is not, of course, saying that people fall conveniently into one of the five types. Most people have elements of more than one of these characters.12

It is true, of course, that Reich himself also studied other characters than the masochistic one which underlies the familiar thesis on authoritarianism and submissiveness, referred to at the beginning of this article. But his excessive stress on the sexual aspects of neurosis prevented his drawing the more complex picture of character structure under capitalism that is now possible. After all, however much capitalism may tend to produce uniformity, there are nevertheless a number of ways in which patriarchy, its typical form of family relationship, can be mediated in different families. The overbearing father, and self-effacing mother, for example, offer quite a different milieu to their children from that provided by, say, the withdrawn father and managing, somewhat obsessional mother.

3. Character structure and ideology

Lowen is no Marxist, so it is left to us to rework his development of Reich’s methods within the Marxist context where Reich first propounded them. Clearly the stress on bodily factors harmonises well with Marxist materialism. Yet the psychological dimension is not denied. Hence there is the basis for a genuinely dialectical understanding, that is, one where mental activity is neither split off from bodily activity nor reduced to it.

However it is necessary to draw out an important implication of the notion of character structure. For although Reich and Lowen see it largely in terms of bodily stunting and psychological malfunction, character structure can also be seen as a systematic, though selective, avoidance of reality. At the bodily level muscles are held in to avoid the release of tension, to avoid the expression of feeling, the existence of which the person habitually denies. At the psychological level a person’s habitual attitude to life narrows their appreciation of, and their response to, what is happening; whatever does not fit into this selective vision is avoided. Seen in this light, character structure ties in with the Marxist view that socio-economic reality is overlaid with misleading appearances. Our characters make it easy for us to be misled, to be mystified.

Thus although it is possible to relate the new insight into the bodily aspects of character structure straight back to the problems about class consciousness with which we began, a closer engagement with Marxism will be possible if we first bring them into contact with the theory of ideology. If we define ideology as the sum of the ways of thinking which the ruling class teaches and employs in order to give some meaning and justification to the irrationality of aapitalism, clearly we are dealing with beliefs, values and assumptions which will be embodied variously in the fabric of our lives; e.g. in clichés, in works of art, in the media. They will be supported by institutions such as the family and the school. Now it would be easy to rule out the question of the relationship of ideology to the body out of court, on the grounds that thinking is a mental and not a bodily activity, But such a dualism is itself ruled out by the dialectical method just alluded to, as well as by the basic Marxist assumption that social being determines consciousness. Yet a radical distinction between thinking and bodily existence is still so much part of our way of interpreting the world that it requires an effort to grasp any connection. Happily, Reich’s and Lowen’s work provides us with the necessary basis for doing this. What follows is an attempt to explore a hypothesis. The hypothesis is that between certain ideological themes and each of the character structures there will be an affinity, so that one would expect the possessor of this or that combination of elements of character structure to find themselves particularly at home with the corresponding ideological themes. Since character structure pertains to bodily posture and muscular holding as well as to emotional tendencies, the expected affinity will extend to muscular armour (bodily character structure) itself. Unless and until we can devise practical tests of this hypothesis, it would be premature to go beyond the concept of affinity to suggest any kind of causal relationship in either direction. But such testing might investigate whether there is indeed a causal relation between character structure and the hypothetical experience of being at home with certain ideological themes. Beyond that would lie the question of whether the ideological material in turn influenced and reinforced character structure.

Let us look, then, at each character structure in turn, always remembering that they are merely “ideal types”; in practice most people possess elements of more than one. There is space only to give a hint of the numerous bodily factors charted by Lowen. (Still less, of course, should anything written here be used as the basis for any facile labelling of character structures, whether one’s own or other people’s. Diagnosis is a skilled business). Although in each case the focus will be on the affinity to ideological themes, mention will be made of factors linking character structure to the relations of production.13

Rigidity. - Everyone who copes at all with such a competitive society as modern capitalism has some rigidity. It is a difficulty in being spontaneous, in letting go, which is experienced physically as a tension in the long muscles of the body. Sometimes this character goes with a compulsive neatness and orderliness. Rigidity is required by capitalist society, so that people can be disciplined, punctual and able to do repetitive work. It is rooted in the sexual repression learnt at home and at school. Ideological correlates to rigidity: the belief in the values of self-control and deferred gratification; the importance attached in schools to getting things “right” as opposed to the values of creativity. “Boys don’t cry” (a prohibition masquerading as a fact). “Keep a stiff upper lip” (dated, but more than a metaphor, of course).

Masochism. - The masochistic character is not so much the desire to suffer and be punished, as a complaining, whining submissiveness – covering up a good deal of spite and feelings of inferiority. The body is short, thick and muscular, somewhat gorilla-like, with a short neck. The typical family pattern is of a passive father and a smothering mother, who crushes spontaneity out of her child. The advantages to the smooth running of capitalism of this submissive element are obvious. Its particular relevance to Fascism has, of course, been extensively worked out by Reich.

Ideological correlates: the belief that it is dangerous to go out on a limb, to stick one’s neck out. “Don’t rock the boat”. Also (feeding the spite while alleviating the inferiority feelings) “It’s all the fault of the Jews, blacks...”

Psychopathic character. - The basic experience of this character is to have been used. They will relate to others by using them, manipulating them – either by bullying them or by seducing them. The bullying psychopath has a disproportionately large upper half of the body. This character can be useful in the more openly repressive areas of capitalist society, providing candidates for the police, the army, the prison officer service, as well as some prison inmates.

Ideological correlates: the ethos of political “realism”; the principle that torture is justified in certain circumstances, likewise napalm, area-bombing, endangering future generations with our nuclear waste. “I’m all right, Jack”.

Oral character structure. - The basic feeling here is of neediness, emptiness, with a tendency towards being dependant and towards depression. There is also a tendency towards expecting things to come along without effort on one’s part, as though “the world owes you a living”. The body has poorly developed muscles, and tends to be thin for its height. Fallen arches are common. Orally inclined people often seek to compensate for not having been sufficiently loved by giving a lot of love, e.g. as social workers, counsellors. Thus capitalism has a good supply of “caring” people to mollify the callousness of the system.

Ideological correlates: the ethos of the “compassionate society”; “don’t fight for higher wages (especially in a ‘caring’ profession)”

Schizoid character structure. - With this character there have been early experiences of loneliness and terror owing to parental rejection. The infant splits off its experience in various ways. Physically there is a disconnectedness, head from the rest of the body, or upper half from lower half, etc. Such people tend to withdraw into themselves, away from intimate relationships, often compensating for this by developing intellectually. Capitalism needs its shy, brilliant “back-room boys and girls”, who will not ask awkward questions about the use to which their research may be put.

Ideological correlates: the separation of theory from practice, mind from body, head from heart, male from female; the belief that education should be about the “three R’s”, not about living in society.

4. Class consciousness and bodies

We are now at last in a position to return to the question of class consciousness. Central to class consciousness is the ability to see clearly the true interests of the working class. The reason why character structure prevents this clear vision is that it gives rise to false, side-tracking interests of its own. Thus rigidity brings an interest in holding back the anger which might help to generate political change. Masochism brings an interest in a thorough, if grumbling, preservation of the status quo. Psychopathy ultimately means being interested in oneself alone (although its readiness to use other people is perhaps conducive to a hard, uncompromising militancy it lacks the ingredient of trust, which is essential to class consciousness). Orality has an interest in helping individuals, as opposed to social and political change. The schizoid character has an interest in withdrawing into an ivory tower.

If we now go on to bring in the ideological correlates as well, we must not forget their merely hypothetical status in the argument. Nevertheless, if the hypothesis is confirmed, further ways in which class consciousness is hampered will become clear. “Defer your gratification” is likely to make a lot of sense to people with a rigid character structure. Since rigidity is in the make-up of virtually everyone in our society, the dampening effect on working-class militancy can be expected to be considerable. The same is true of the maxim “Don’t rock the boat” (e.g. don’t upset the economy by strikes), which is likely to appeal to the masochistic element. The oral element can be expected to encourage its possessor to see a lot in the dependant, mother-child, relationship conjured up by the myth of the “compassionate society”, whereas class consciousness is built on relationships that are mainly fraternal. Finally, the person with schizoid characteristics, apt to withdraw from political activity anyway, is likely to be fortified in doing so by the split between theory and practice, and thus to undermine class consciousness by exaggerating the role of “intellectuals”.

Since each character structure has its bodily components, the resistance to class consciousness is located in people’s musculature as well as in their heads.

In view of this, the. question arises as to how class consciousness can ever occur? Is it possible only in those rare persons who have very little by way of character structure, i.e. who place very few blocks, emotional and muscular, between themselves and reality? Certainly the argument can appear to have proved too much. But in fact it harmonises well with with the view that political “conversion” takes place mostly in the course of actual political struggle. For the kind of experience that might occur on a picket line, and enable a person to make a rapid advance through some of the stages analysed by Ollman, is an experience involving mind, feelings and body; it could have the quality of sudden enlightenment which can occur when someone is receiving successful therapy. For it is a feature of the therapy devised by Reich and Lowen that the enlightening experiences involve elements of understanding, emotional expression and muscular release. Hence there would seem to be at least an analogy between political conversion to class consciousness (as understood in the “activist” tradition favouring conversion through struggle) and the type of therapy developed precisely to cope with the problems of character structure. So the idea is worth investigating (on another occasion) that in spite of the hampering effects of character structure on class consciousness, political experience may itself be “therapeutic”. If this is so, the thrust of the present argument will be towards explaining not merely why class consciousness is so reluctant to emerge, but how it emerges when it does.

5. Conclusions

The argument of this article has been to follow Lowen’s broader account of character structure to the point where class consciousness is seen to be hampered by several character structures widely diffused within our society, possibly with the support of corresponding aspects of the prevailing ideology. Care has been taken to keep intact the bodily dimension of character structure, since it is easily forgotten, in spite of being excellent grist to the Marxist mill. While the suggestions about ideology are admittedly tentative, a case has been made for taking character structure seriously, both in our understanding of the current antipathy to revolutionary politics among huge sectors of the working claps and in our strategy to combat it.

First, theoretical conclusions. The link between the socio-economic and the psychological is the body. Clearly this is no more than a starting point for theory, especially since “the body” is a heavily ideological concept. For this reason I have preferred to write “bodies”, in an effort to draw attention to the actual, breathing, bodies that we have and are. Reich and Lowen may be guilty of “essentialism”14 (i.e. of basing their understanding on a fixed essence of humanity), but if we remember the basic bodily needs for air, water, food, etc., we can see that at one level there is indeed an unchanging human essence. The same bodies whose needs and wants are the basis of production are the location for the feelings, attitudes and habitual responses which help or hinder our contact with our environment (people and things). Just as “beneath” the relations of production lie the forces of production, so “beneath” the “relations of maturation” (if we may somewhat restrict the extension of Ollman’s phrase) lie the bodily processes which can either flow freely or be held back and stunted with relatively permanent effect through character structure. Once the centrality of the body is recognised, there is room in our analysis for such matters as the emotional effects of malnutrition15. One factor I have not gone into at all is the influence of group processes; it is very important, not least in the area of what has here been referred to as political enlightenment or conversion.

The detailed account of character structure now available will allow us to identify not only the forces which obstruct class consciousness, but also those attitudes in revolutionaries ourselves which, in spite of our personal enlightenment, may continue to hamper our activity. It also enables us to pose the painful question whether, paradoxically, our character structure might even be helping us in our commitment – as though we were, to any extent, “enlightened” for the wrong reasons.

Secondly, and finally, practical conclusions. Clearly the argument presented here, if valid, points towards a gigantic task, that of breaking the cycle of emotional deprivation and stunting In the working class, so that character structure can be sufficiently reduced to allow class-consciousness to emerge freely. There is no reason to believe that political struggle alone, however enlightening it may on occasion be, is going to have this effect. After all, no one denies the need for intellectual education to consolidate the gains of enlightenment gained during struggle. What is also needed is emotional education, in other words training in the expression of feeling and the loosening of muscular tension. Until recently, such a suggestion would have been greeted with howls of derision. Now, however, many revolutionaries are ready to look at their own personal lives and relationships on such issues as sexism. Some are beginning to realise that this entails using whatever is of value in the various therapeutic traditions. Among the latter, that of Reich has already won a certain, rightly critical, acceptance. What follows from the argument of this article is that revolutionaries need to pursue the more recent extensions of his approach made by Lowen.

Our pursuit must clearly be in stages. The final aim must certainly be that therapy (i.e. help from a sufficiently trained person) reaching to the level of character structure be made available to each and every member of the working class who wants it. A less remote aim must be to work for a climate of opinion wherein character structure is understood in its socio-economic context and is known to be corrigible. A more proximate aim must be that members of the revolutionary party ourselves understand character structure, and become walking proof that it can be corrected. This aim fits admirably the aspiration that the party should foreshadow the comradeship of post-revolutionary society; in fact it is a necessary condition of that aspiration’s fulfilment. No-one who has been convinced by Reich and Lowen can deny that this means therapy, at least if we are severely stunted by our character structure. Fortunately, in addition to a method of therapy appropriate to this theory, Lowen has developed numerous physical exercises, designed to loosen tension and improve posture; they not only improve our general well-being, but often enable us to see what are the issues over which we would benefit from therapy. These exercises need to be incorporated in the repertoire of every revolutionary. Clearly a pilot scheme would be needed in the first instance. But anything less would fail to meet the present argument.

As a conclusion this may appear bizarre. Yet this is probably because of the influence on us of the current ideology, according to which body and mind are separated, and the body is valued only insofar as it produces or consumes. As Marxists, and enemies of alienation, we cannot but be concerned with bodies as sensitive, bodies as expressive. After all, one way of describing the Marxist project is as the task of making the fullest possible sensation and expression, now blocked by capitalism, available to all. Moreover, not only for the argument of this article but for the project as a whole, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.


1 Bertell Ollman, Social and Sexual Revolution - Essays on Marx and Reich, London, 1979.
2 Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, trans. V. R. Carfagno, New York, 1979.
3 See especially essays (i) Towards Class consciousness next time - Marx and the working class; (vi) Social and Sexual Revolution; and (vii) The Marxism of Wilhelm Reich: the social function of sexual repression.
4 op. cit. p. 31, footnote 39.
5 see W. Reich, The Function of the Orgasm, trans. V. R. Carfagno, New York 1975, pp. 84 ff, especially definition on p. 90
6 W. Reich, Character Analysis, trans. Theodore P. Wolfe, London 1950, p, xxii (the reference is misprinted in Ollman op. cit. pp. l74 and 202).
7 Ollman, op, cit,, p. 185.
8 ditto, p. 199.
9 Eustace Chesser, Reich and Sexual Freedom, London 1972.
10 Diana Adlam, Julian Henriques, Nikolas Bose, Angie Salfield, Couze Venn, Valerie Walkerdine, Psychology, ideology and the human subject in Ideology and Consciousness No 1, May 1977, p. 37.
11 cf. Alexander Lowen, The Language of the Body, New York 1971, and Bio-energetics, New York 1975.
12 If the bodily aspects of Lowen’s claim sound preposterous, I would suggest that before dismissing them you attend a workshop where a bio-energetic therapist is reading people’s characters from their bodies.
13 In this section in particular, as well as throughout this article, I am grateful for the suggestions put forward by members of the Personal Politics group of the Socialist Workers Party.
14 see Diana Adlam et al., op. cit.
15 see, for instance, R. Mackarness, Not all in the Mind, London 1976.