Archive for the 'Marxism' Category

Ian Bone: How Crass’s Penny Rimbaud Saved EP Thompson from Being Decapitated by Class War

[Ian Bone describes how Class War is being confrontational towards speakers at a CND rally in Hyde Park in October, 1983]

Next up is silver-mained EP Thompson, author of The Making of the English Working Class, a book we all hold in great esteem and whose mob traditions we even feel we’re part of. But no matter—[Class War’s] Doc Whelan’s limited patience threshold has well and truly been breached. He has a glass cider flagon which he was reserving for Kinnockio [Neil Kinnock] but decided ‘some fucking professor’ will do just as well for a target. He has a sighting heave with a piece of concrete which whistles past EP Thompson’s locks on a still rising trajectory. He starts to spin like a hammer thrower with the flagon as the hammer. EP Thompson’s health is seriously at risk, and I’m doing fuck all to protect one of my favorite writers from decapitation. Thankfully, others aren’t so paralyzed. A firm arm grabs Doc’s wrista move usually likely to incur the dreaded Whelan forehead crunching down on the bridge of your nose. Doc recognizes the owner of the arm as Penny Rimbaud. ‘He’s not the one that deserves that,’ says Penny, ‘save it for later.’ Wise words and Doc concurs.

= = =

Ian Bone, Bash the Rich: True-Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK (Bath, UK: Tangent Books, 2006), pp 139-40.

Dorothy Healey on Angela Davis and Eastern European political prisoners

The Angela Davis defense campaign had been the biggest [U.S. Communist] Party-initiated movement of the entire decade, and it was the one occasion on which the Party was really attuned to the political mood of the younger Left. It had a big effect on the Party and brought in a number of young recruits. Indeed, whatever political credibility the Party had to draw upon from the early 1970s was largely a product of that campaign. Certainly nothing else it has done since compares with the importance of Angela’s defense campaign in terms of image and the ability to interest outsiders. Angela Davis, not Gus Hall, has been the most attractive public face the Party has had to offer. But one of the sadder aspects of the whole episode was the impact it had on Angela herself. She felt that it was the Party and the Soviet Union which saved her life. She became unwilling to consider any criticisms of those she regarded as her saviors. When she was released from prison, the first thing she did was embark upon a tour of the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and Cuba to thank them for supporting her during the trial.

Miss Charlene Mitchell, a close friend of Angela Davis, the black militant, said today that Miss Davis would not be responding to the appeal for help from Mr. Jiri Pelikan, one of the leading figures in the “Prague Spring” now living in exile.

Miss Davis, she said, did not think that people should leave socialist countries to return to the capitalist system. This was a retrograde step, and even if such people said they were communists they were still acting in opposition to the “socialist system,” objectively speaking.

In his appeal, which was published in The Times today, Mr. Pelikan asked Miss Davis to call for the release of political prisoners in Eastern Europe as well as in capitalist countries.

Miss Mitchell, who said she was acting as a spokesperson for Miss Davis, took the line that people in Eastern Europe got into difficulties and ended in jail only if they were undermining the government. ­­­ —(Manchester) Guardian, July 29, 1972.

While Angela was on her tour and not always available to western reporters, Charlene and other Communist leaders sometimes put words in her mouth, denying that there was any political repression within the Soviet bloc. Not that Angela was willing to do anything to challenge that view. In fact, within the next few years, she accommodated herself to the stalest clichés in the Party’s outlook. She remains to the present an important public figure, able to attract larger audiences than any other Party leader. But rarely if ever in her speeches and writings today will you see evidence of the kind of fresh thinking of which she was once capable. Whether she is capable of breaking free from the Party orthodoxy is a question still to be answered.

& & &

Dorothy Ray Healey and Maurice Isserman, California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990/1993), pages 220­–21.

“Some Questions of Socialist Construction and of the Struggle Against Revisionism”

Some Questions of Socialist Construction and of the Struggle Against Revisionism: A C(ccp) Monster coloring book,” 2003.

Brilliant stuff. Click on link above to view as a single PDF.

revisionism.monster_Page_01

revisionism.monster_Page_02

revisionism.monster_Page_03

revisionism.monster_Page_04

revisionism.monster_Page_05

revisionism.monster_Page_06

revisionism.monster_Page_07

revisionism.monster_Page_08

revisionism.monster_Page_09

revisionism.monster_Page_10

revisionism.monster_Page_11

revisionism.monster_Page_12

Gramsci on Lukács and the dialectic in human vs natural history

Note: One must study the position of Professor Lukács towards the philosophy of praxis. It would appear that Lukács maintains that one can speak of the dialectic only for the history of men and not for nature. He might be right and he might be wrong. If his assertion presupposes a dualism between nature and man he is wrong because he is falling into a conception of nature proper to religion and to Graeco-Christian philosophy and also to idealism which does not in reality succeed in unifying and relating man and nature to each other except verbally. But if human history should be conceived also as the history of nature (also by means of the history of science) how can the dialectic be separated from nature? Perhaps Lukács, in reaction to the baroque theories of the Popular Manual, has fallen into the opposite error, into a form of idealism.”
= = =
Antonio Gramsci, ‘The Concept of ‘Science’ section of “Problems of Marxism,” in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971), page 448.
The Popular Manual Gramsci is referring to is Nikolai Bukharin’s Historical Materialism.

Gabriel & Daniel Cohn-Bendit: Louis Aragon vs the Parisian students of ’68

As the students stood talking they were joined by scores of passers-by, among them Louis Aragon, that venerable bard and prophet of the Communist Party, the man who had sung paeans of praise to OGPU and Stalinism, and who had come to take his place among those who “remind me so movingly of my own youth.” A group of students recognized him and greeted him with cries of “Long live OGPU! Long live Stalin, the father of all the people!”

The Aragon episode, in itself banal and without political importance, nevertheless shows how politically aware the young demonstrators had become. They would have no truck with members of a party whose official organ, L’Humanité, had launched what could only be called a smear campaign against French youth. The revolutionary movement did not deny the importance, and even the necessity, of a dialogue with the rank and file of the Communist Party, but it did try to unmask the opportunist strategy and counterrevolutionary attitude of its leaders, including Louis Aragon, the poet laureate of the personality cult. He could not make himself heard simply because those participating in the “teach-out” knew that he had nothing in common with them. His bold assertion that he was in the Party “precisely because he was on the side of youth” merely turned him into a laughing stock. By refusing to act honestly for once in his life, and to denounce the machinations of his Party, he threw away his chance to join the student movement, and incidentally saved his leaders a great deal of embarrassment.

= = =

from Gabriel Cohn-Bendit & Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Obsolete Communism: A Left-Wing Alternative (London: Penguin, 1968/1969), pp 61-62.

RADICAL ARCHIVES NOTE: The OGPU were the secret police under Stalin.

Foucault on the Frankfurt School (1978)

Duccio Trombadori: With the events of ’68, another theoretical current regained strength and was confirmed as a point of reference of notable importance in youth culture. I’m speaking of the Frankfurt School: Adorno, Horkheimer, and much more than them, Marcuse, found themselves with their works at the center of student ideological debates. The struggle against repression, the anti-authoritarianism, the escape from “civilization,” the radical denial of the “system”: all these were themes that with more or less intellectual confusion were debated as watchwords by masses of youths. I’d like to know how your thought is related to that theoretical current, also because you don’t seem to have dealt with it directly.

Michel Foucault: It would be necessary to understand better why, despite the work of many of its exponents in Paris after their expulsion from German universities by the Nazis, the Frankfurt School passed by unnoticed for a long time in France. It began to be discussed with a certain intensity and frequency only in relation to the thought of Marcuse and his Freudian-Marxism. In any case, I knew little about the Frankfurt School. I had read certain texts of Horkheimer’ s dedicated to an entire ensemble of discussions whose meaning I understood with difficulty, and in which I felt a certain laxness, above all concerning the historical materials analyzed. Then I recall having read a book on penal problems and the mechanisms of punishment that had been written in the U.S.A. by Kircheimer.

At that point I realized how the Frankfurt people had tried ahead of time to assert things that I too had been working for years to sustain. This even explains a certain irritation shown by some of them who saw that in France there were experiences that were- I won’t say identical but in some ways very similar. In effect, correctness and theoretical fecundity would have asked for a much more thorough acquaintance with and study of the Frankfurt School. As far as I’m concerned, I think that the Frankfurt School set problems that are still being worked on. Among others, the effects of power that are connected to a rationality that has been historically and geographically defined in the West, starting from the sixteenth century on. The West could never have attained the economic and cultural effects that are unique to it without the exercise of that specific form of rationality. Now, how are we to separate this rationality from the mechanisms, procedures, techniques, and effects of power that determine it, which we no longer accept and which we point to as the form of oppression typical of capitalist societies, and perhaps of socialist societies too? Couldn’t it be concluded that the promise of Aufklärung (Enlightenment), of attaining freedom through the exercise of reason, has been, on the contrary, overturned within the domain of Reason itself, that it is taking more and more space away from freedom? It’s a fundamental problem that we all debate, that is common to so many, whether Communists or not. And this problem, as we know, was singled out by Horkheimer before the others; and it was the Frankfurt School that measured its relationship with Marx on the basis of this hypothesis. Wasn’t it Horkheimer who sustained that in Marx there was the idea of a society as being like an immense factory?

Duccio Trombadori: You assign great importance to this current of thought. To what do you attribute the anticipations and the results attained by the Frankfurt School that you’ve briefly summarized?

Michel Foucault: I think that the Frankfurt School had a greater likelihood of knowing and analyzing early on with exact information what was happening in the U.S.S.R. And this was within the framework of an intense and dramatic political struggle, while Nazism was digging the grave of the Weimar Republic; this was set against the background in Germany, where Marxism and theoretical reflection on Marx had a robust tradition of more than fifty years.

When I recognize all these merits of the Frankfurt School, I do so with the bad conscience of one who should have known them and studied them much earlier than was the case. Perhaps if l had read those works earlier on, I would have saved useful time, surely: I wouldn’t have needed to write some things and I would have avoided certain errors. At any rate, if I had encountered the Frankfurt School while young, I would have been seduced to the point of doing nothing else in life but the job of commenting on them. Instead, their influence on me remains retrospective, a contribution reached when I was no longer at the age of intellectual “discoveries.” And I don’t even know whether to be glad or to feel sorry about it.

= = =

From Michel Foucault, Remarks On Marx: Conversations with Duccio Trombadori, trans.  R. James Goldstein and James Cascaito (New York: Semiotext(e), 1991). Originally published in Italian in 1981, the interviews were conducted in 1978. From Section 4, “Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse: Who Is a ‘Negator of History’?,” pages 115–20.

Bruce Dancis – “Safety Pins and Class Struggle: Punk Rock and the Left” (1978)

One of the few articles on punk that appeared in a leftist journal in the 1970s, this insightful and prescient piece by radical cultural critic Bruce Dancis holds up well today. He dissects the tensions between punk’s political potential and its nihilistic streak, and is particularly good about its ambiguous relationship to fascism, violence, and sexism. Also fascinating today is his documentation of the organized British left’s response to punk, beyond just the obligatory mention of Rock Against Racism. About punk he says:

“At its best, punk rock represents not only an energetic aesthetic attack on the dominant trends within popular music, but also a working-class protest against youthful unemployment, poverty, government censorship, authoritarianism, racism, fascism, the record industry, the star system, and the traditional performer/audience relationship. At its worst, punk is a manifestation of cultural despair and decadence, featuring nihilism, sexism, a glorification of violence and fascist imagery, sado-masochism, and musical incompetence.”

Dancis wrote for many years about music and politics, and his articles from In These Times from 1977 to 1981 are available here. This essay is reprinted with his permission.

= = =

Bruce Dancis, “Safety Pins and Class Struggle: Punk Rock and the Left,” Socialist Review #39 (vol. 8, no. 3), May-June, 1978, pp 58-83.



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers