Albert Einstein

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Scallywag
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Jul 25 2014 23:40
Albert Einstein

Just wondering if he (Albert Einstein) is held in as high esteem within the libertarian communist community as he seems to be almost everywhere else, and what we think of his political views.

He helped facilitate the development of the Atomic Bomb after all, surely that isn't a good thing.

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boozemonarchy
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Jul 26 2014 16:20

Meh.

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Jul 26 2014 18:19

I just don't get physicists

factvalue
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Jul 26 2014 21:03

The FBI had a sizeable file on Einstein in the 1950s, mostly for writing stuff like this:

http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism/

excerpt:

"I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate (the) grave evils (of capitalism), namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society."

For all his pacifism and his principled stances on civil rights in the US, Einstein never claimed to be and most certainly was not the greatest political thinker in the world (world government with nuclear weapons (!), so forth). He not only switched positions on nuclear weapons, he also did an about-face after advocating a Jewish 'homeland' and calling Menachem Begin's murderers
'Nazis' in 1948, to offering unequivocal public support for the State of Israel. Having written (in 'Our debt to Zionism') that 'I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain—especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state,' when President Chaim Weizmann died in 1952, Einstein was asked to be Israel's second president. Although he declined, stating that he had 'neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings,' he also wrote: 'I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.'

Far from being the secular saint of his carefully sculpted public persona, what is truly striking for me about Einstein and his scientific work is that miraculous and beautiful science such as that can be created by an adulterous, egomaniacal misogynist who may, according to his friend Michele Besso - who'd gone round to Einstein's house and been curtly turned away at the door on a number of occasions, noticing on one of these that Mileva in the background had a black eye - to have beaten his first wife.

The following is probably the best source on his life:

http://bookos-z1.org/book/1239154/a6244b

but you can get a real flavour of the contradictions within Einstein from reading him in his own words (there really isn't very much of interest to libertarian communists here - you'd never confuse this following piece with the AF publication of a similar title):

The World as I see it

What an extraordinary situation is that of us mortals! Each of us is here for a
brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he
feels it. But from the point of view of daily life, without going deeper, we exist
for our fellow-men--in the first place for those on whose smiles and welfare all
our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown to us personally with
whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy. A hundred times
every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours
of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in
the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly
drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am
engrossing an unnecessary amount of the labour of my fellow-men. I regard
class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I
also consider that plain living is good for everybody, physically and mentally.
In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever.
Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance
with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do as he will, but
not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a
continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the
hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the
sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralysing, and it prevents us
from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of
life in which humour, above all, has its due place.

To inquire after the meaning or object of one's own existence or of creation
generally has always seemed to me absurd from an objective point of view.
And yet everybody has certain ideals which determine the direction of his
endeavours and his judgments. In this sense I have never looked upon ease
and happiness as ends in themselves--such an ethical basis I call more proper
for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time
after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth,
Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind,
of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable in the field of art
and scientific research, life would have seemed to me empty. The ordinary
objects of human endeavour--property, outward success, luxury--have
always seemed to me contemptible.

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always
contrasted oddly with my pronounced freedom from the need for direct
contact with other human beings and human communities. I gang my own gait
and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my
immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never
lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude--a feeling
which increases with the years. One is sharply conscious, yet without regret,
of the limits to the possibility of mutual understanding and sympathy with one's
fellow-creatures. Such a person no doubt loses something in the way of
geniality and light-heartedness ; on the other hand, he is largely independent of
the opinions, habits, and judgments of his fellows and avoids the temptation to
take his stand on such insecure foundations.

My political ideal is that of democracy. Let every man be respected as an
individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the
recipient of excessive admiration and respect from my fellows through no
fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire,
unattainable for many, to understand the one or two ideas to which I have
with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware
that it is necessary for the success of any complex undertaking that one man
should do the thinking and directing and in general bear the responsibility. But
the led must not be compelled, they must be able to choose their leader. An
autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force
always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule
that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have
always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and
Russia to-day. The thing that has brought discredit upon the prevailing form of
democracy in Europe to-day is not to be laid to the door of the democratic
idea as such, but to lack of stability on the part of the heads of governments
and to the impersonal character of the electoral system. I believe that in this
respect the United States of America have found the right way. They have a
responsible President who is elected for a sufficiently long period and has
sufficient powers to be really responsible. On the other hand, what I value in
our political system is the more extensive provision that it makes for the
individual in case of illness or need. The really valuable thing in the pageant of
human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the
personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such
remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.

This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military
system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation
to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been
given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This
plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed.
Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that does
by the name of patriotism--how I hate them! War seems to me a mean,
contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such
an abominable business. And yet so high, in spite of everything, is my opinion
of the human race that I believe this bogey would have disappeared long ago,
had the sound sense of the nations not been systematically corrupted by
commercial and political interests acting through the schools and the Press.
The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental
emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who
knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good
as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery--even if
mixed with fear--that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of
something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest
reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in
their most elementary forms--it is this knowledge and this emotion that
constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a
deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes
his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves.
An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my
comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or
absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of
life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the
single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the
reason that manifests itself in nature.

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Jul 26 2014 21:17

A world-shaking theoretical physicist who had contradictory ideas (mostly lining up with centrist social democracy) throughout his lifetime, held to account by radicals who only accept flaws and shortcomings in their closest comrades? A wife-beater? A nuclearist? A Zionist? A non-radical human being who failed ethical tests designed for radicals? The horror!

factvalue
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Jul 26 2014 22:01
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held to account by radicals who only accept flaws and shortcomings in their closest comrades

Righto! Who are these 'radicals'?

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Jul 26 2014 23:34

factvalue, previous post

boomerang
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Jul 27 2014 05:25

i don't know much about him, but i know he had socialist leanings (i'd read that monthly review article before). he wasn't libertarian-socialist, but the fact that he was as pro-socialist as he was i think can and should be told to others to help them open their mind to it, because einstein is so highly respected by so many people.

factvalue
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Jul 27 2014 06:59

Black Badger wrote:

Quote:
factvalue, previous post

OK, you don't like the existence of this thread. You tell those radicals BB! After the publication of The Private Lives of Albert Einstein that first drew public attention to a few things the Einstein estate managers had wanted kept quiet (such as the illegitimate daughter he and his first wife gave away and his neglect of his second, mentally ill son) the adopted daughter of his first son (or, as she said she was later told, his second illegitimate daughter with a ballerina) Evelyn Einstein, said 'Nobody likes to see their sacred cow criticised, but it is about time the real story came out.'

boomerang - there's a little booklet about his politics (Helen Keller appeared in the same series) but I can't remember the title, and there's always stuff about his beliefs in some publication at any given moment e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/albert-einstein-socialist_b_4.... Yes it's not a bad idea to mention him but as the real warts and all human being not the comic book media character.

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Jul 27 2014 11:49

Here, have a different set of warts:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4os7g99Xa8BYTJkMDU3Y2EtZTcyZi00YzkxLTgw...

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Jul 27 2014 12:15

I'm shocked. Does this mean that certain people who made worthwhile contributions to the world, and maybe had some valuable ideas, were dodgy in their personal or private lives? Surely some mistake. I'll never be obsessed with celebrity again sad

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Jul 27 2014 14:50

Coming soon to a thread near you - Karl Marx suffered from flatulence and once got caught wanking by his mum. Allegedly.

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Jul 27 2014 14:54

And this is what he told her (allegedly);

Quote:
"Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love." - Marx, The German Ideology.

Scallywag
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Jul 27 2014 16:45
Webby wrote:
Coming soon to a thread near you - Karl Marx suffered from flatulence and once got caught wanking by his mum. Allegedly.

Well if Karl Marx being the figure of importance he was ever said, did or held views contrary and oppossed to communism, anarchism and against the working class, then I would want to know about that before viewing him as some kind of exemplar or someone whose politics I totally support.

The same goes for Einstein, because he is someone of importance who made a huge contribution to our understanding of physics, and whose actions (helping to develop the atomic bomb for example) have helped shape our modern world.

Obviously I don't care about every dirty little detail of his personal life, just his politics.

S. Artesian
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Jul 27 2014 16:47

Gee, I thought Einstein was held in high esteem because of his contributions to physics. What a boor I am.

Difference between Einstein and Marx? You mean besides 60 or so years? Einstein didn't present himself as an analyst of the social organization of labor as the basis for the reproduction of human relations. Marx did. More than a technicality.

I don't admire Marx for his behavior inside/outside his family. I admire his critique of capital; his development of historical materialism.

I suspect Einstein is held in high regard for parallel reasons, and for parallel exclusions.

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Jul 27 2014 18:02

Fwiw, I think he also wrote a review of Rocker's Nationalism and Culture. I can't find it anywhere though.

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Jul 27 2014 18:12

As long as Einstein and Marx didn't buy vegan cupcakes in Camden I'll let any other supposed misdemeanours pass.

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Jul 27 2014 18:37

**WARNING / TRIGGER CONTENT**

Karl Marx was a cupcake miser, and he ratted Eleanor's birthday cupcake once because as he said, to each according to his need. Though everyone knew it was to Marx according to his greed. Engels tried to console Eleanor by mansplaining that the dictatorship of the proletariat in her father's heart needed to requisition cupcakes in times of low blood-sugar levels. That's how you shape children's political beliefs the hard way

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Jul 27 2014 19:23
Scallywag wrote:
Well if Karl Marx being the figure of importance he was ever said, did or held views contrary and oppossed to communism, anarchism and against the working class, then I would want to know about that before viewing him as some kind of exemplar or someone whose politics I totally support.

The same goes for Einstein, because he is someone of importance who made a huge contribution to our understanding of physics, and whose actions (helping to develop the atomic bomb for example) have helped shape our modern world.

Obviously I don't care about every dirty little detail of his personal life, just his politics.

Your words seem to imply that you do care about the dirty details. Karl Marx, as a human being and as an individual, is no exemplar. Nor should he be. Some of his ideas, however, are invaluable for an understanding of capitalism, even though he was a shit in aspects of his personal life and dead machiavellian with his political rivals.

Einstein didn't work on the atomic bomb either - though his ideas were used by those who did. Why the obsession with exemplars? I thought we didn't do hero worship.

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Jul 27 2014 20:31
sabot wrote:
Fwiw, I think he also wrote a review of Rocker's Nationalism and Culture. I can't find it anywhere though.

Not sure about that, but he did know Rudolf Rocker personally and helped him obtain a visa to emigrate to the USA in 1933. See Einstein's letters to Rocker in the International Institute of Social History: http://www.iisg.nl/collections/einstein/rocker.php which can be read online. Rocker's letters to Einstein are held in the Albert Einstein Archive in Jerusalem.

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Jul 27 2014 20:59
Karetelnik wrote:
Not sure about that, but he did know Rudolf Rocker personally and helped him obtain a visa to emigrate to the USA in 1933. See Einstein's letters to Rocker in the International Institute of Social History: http://www.iisg.nl/collections/einstein/rocker.php which can be read online. Rocker's letters to Einstein are held in the Albert Einstein Archive in Jerusalem.

Nice, thanks for sharing that.

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Jul 27 2014 21:13
Serge Forward wrote:
Scallywag wrote:
Well if Karl Marx being the figure of importance he was ever said, did or held views contrary and oppossed to communism, anarchism and against the working class, then I would want to know about that before viewing him as some kind of exemplar or someone whose politics I totally support.

The same goes for Einstein, because he is someone of importance who made a huge contribution to our understanding of physics, and whose actions (helping to develop the atomic bomb for example) have helped shape our modern world.

Obviously I don't care about every dirty little detail of his personal life, just his politics.

Your words seem to imply that you do care about the dirty details.

I don't and thats a fallacy, all I was asking is whether he is someone an anarcho-communist can really respect, admire or agree with, because of his political views, and the things he did politically, not dirty little secrets a celebrity gossip magazine would want to hear about, and I am asking this because he was an important person. What is so hard about that to understand and why do you and others assume I have some other motivation?

Quote:
Karl Marx, as a human being and as an individual, is no exemplar. Nor should he be. Some of his ideas, however, are invaluable for an understanding of capitalism, even though he was a shit in aspects of his personal life and dead machiavellian with his political rivals.

Einstein didn't work on the atomic bomb either - though his ideas were used by those who did. Why the obsession with exemplars? I thought we didn't do hero worship.

It was a bad choice of words I guess, but I don't think I've ever viewed anyone as an 'exemplar', and it's exactly that mistake I want to avoid doing. There are people I highly regard though for their political views, Noam Chomsky and Kropotkin for example, and I think there is a diffrence between regarding them highly and viewing them as exemplars. Exemplar to me would mean someone who is without fault, and thats not really something I believe in because even the best of human beings I think would have some faults. Then again maybe it's bourgeois ideology to think that every human being has to have something bad about them, and that no one can be perfect?

Again what I am asking is whether Einstein is someone I can regard highly (although not an exemplar), and can agree with politically or whether his politics are oppossed to ours and if he worked in the intrests of the rulling classes.

I didn't know that he didn't work directly on developing the atom bomb, although I wonder what his views on nuclear weapons were, and whether we would agree with them.

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Jul 27 2014 21:46
Scallywag wrote:
Again what I am asking is whether Einstein is someone I can regard highly (although not an exemplar), and can agree with politically or whether his politics are oppossed to ours and if he worked in the intrests of the rulling classes1.

See the problem here mate is that none of us can really tell you since we don't know where you draw the line on who regard highly or not. We can give more information about the guy but thats it, you'll just have to make up your own mind.

1: Well of course he worked in the interests of the ruling class. Everyone works in the interest of the ruling class until they actively resist. And resistance short of social revolution is temporary.

For example Einstein worked for the ruling class in Germany and globally until the Nazi's showed up. He resisted them, including going to Nazi meetings and heckling the speakers. He then went to America and resumed working for the ruling class their with his work on physics.

Quote:
I didn't know that he didn't work directly on developing the atom bomb, although I wonder what his views on nuclear weapons were, and whether we would agree with them.

I'm curious what exactly made you think he did work on the atomic bomb?

When approached about working on atomic weapons he argued against them and urged the US to pursue atomic energy projects instead.

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Jul 27 2014 22:25
Reddebrek wrote:
Scallywag wrote:
Again what I am asking is whether Einstein is someone I can regard highly (although not an exemplar), and can agree with politically or whether his politics are oppossed to ours and if he worked in the intrests of the rulling classes1.

See the problem here mate is that none of us can really tell you since we don't know where you draw the line on who regard highly or not. We can give more information about the guy but thats it, you'll just have to make up your own mind.

All I meant was someone whose politics we can agree with.

Quote:
1: Well of course he worked in the interests of the ruling class. Everyone works in the interest of the ruling class until they actively resist. And resistance short of social revolution is temporary.

For example Einstein worked for the ruling class in Germany and globally until the Nazi's showed up. He resisted them, including going to Nazi meetings and heckling the speakers. He then went to America and resumed working for the ruling class their with his work on physics.

Yes, but I was concerned that perhaps he consciously worked for them, or whether what he did for them is something that we can't just shrug off.

Quote:
I'm curious what exactly made you think he did work on the atomic bomb?

When approached about working on atomic weapons he argued against them and urged the US to pursue atomic energy projects instead.

Well I thought he had a hand to play in it, and apparantly he wrote a letter to Roosevelt urging that the bomb be built.

"I made one great mistake in my life... when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification - the danger that the Germans would make them"

factvalue
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Jul 27 2014 23:56

Quick reminder:

Scallywag wrote:

Quote:
Just wondering if he (Albert Einstein) is held in as high esteem within the libertarian communist community as he seems to be almost everywhere else and what we think of his political views.

I’ve been interested in and studying Einstein’s physics and it’s applications for decades and I can confirm that it really is as good as its public reputation. It seemed natural to me to want to find out about the man who created it as I went along, in the same way as anyone reading a lot of Shelley would want to find out about the creator of the works. But of course with poets and other artists, the darker or more tortured the private world or the racier the social life, the more one is supposed to be confirmed in the opinion of their 'genius'. How strange then, the priggish po-face one has to suddenly assume when presented with the work of scientists, historians or social theorists. Or maybe it’s connected with a view of science which seems to be abroad in certain circles?

Serge Forward

Quote:
I'm shocked. Does this mean that certain people who made worthwhile contributions to the world, and maybe had some valuable ideas, were dodgy in their personal or private lives? Surely some mistake. I'll never be obsessed with celebrity again

I find that most extraordinarily interesting but I suspect that’s because your celebrity status on libcom has blinded me to the fact that taken on its own merits it’s really just fatuous doggerel // O fuck me! You mean that people who are fuckwits in their private lives can still create at the highest levels? YOU’RE FUCKING JOKING RIGHT? THANK CHRIST I LOGGED ON AGAIN TONIGHT, I’VE BEEN LIVING IN A DREAMSTATE!! [Please choose one]

Red Marriot

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"Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love." - Marx, The German Ideology.

Einstein’s favourite philosopher was Spinoza. Even though he recognised that Leibniz had the greater technical facility, he thought Spinoza was a greater philosopher because Spinoza was so much better than Leibniz at applying his own philosophy to the conduct of his life. So I suppose here at least is one example of a parallel between Einstein and Marx..

Black Badger

Quote:
Here, have a different set of warts:

I read that when it first came out. Maybe I’ll give it another go, I thought it was really good at the time. What a fucking dickhead Marx was, no? That an asshole such as that could do the incredible job of destructive criticism of bourgeois political economy that he did and present with such comprehensiveness and cogency of argument his understanding of labour as the constitutive power of social existence for me only makes his achievement all the more impressive. But I think the parallels to be drawn with Einstein are limited by the fact that unlike physics historical materialism is not a science, so it’s difficult to know how much to pay visible and quite inconsequential homage to the virtue of crotchety priggishness with respect to Marx's private life.

S. Artesian

Quote:
Difference between Einstein and Marx? You mean besides 60 or so years? Einstein didn't present himself as an analyst of the social organization of labor as the basis for the reproduction of human relations. Marx did. More than a technicality.

I don't admire Marx for his behavior inside/outside his family. I admire his critique of capital; his development of historical materialism.

Although he became uncomfortable with the quantum theory as the role of chance within it opened up a schism in his beloved causality, with his early and important contributions to this theory - from his 1905 photo-electric paper through to his 1924 quantum statistics right up until his 1935 EPR paper - and of course through his creation of relativity, Einstein did as much as anyone to overturn the crude materialism of the physics he was bequeathed by the nineteenth century. The difference between Marx and Einstein is also the difference between nineteenth century and current meanings of this word.

From the (far too)many previous discussions I’ve witnessed over the years around this subject I think that many if not most people who say they value reason have as their model a blind worship of science. This can be particularly acute among quite a few of those who self-identify as ‘materialists’, some of whom would take a bullet to defend this version of ‘reason’ (as well as, of course, their other all-important axiom of ‘self-interest’) thereby putting their ‘materialist’ dogma before matter itself. This seems to me contrary to Marx’s essential message: FFS think independently.

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Jul 28 2014 03:55

Einstein causes dissent among libcom read on pg. 7

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Jul 28 2014 04:09

dissension

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Jul 28 2014 06:29
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Karl Marx suffered from flatulence

To be fair, he did use to write letter to Engels describing the "boils" on his ass in great detail.

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Jul 28 2014 06:44

Nonetheless, no doubt that Einstein was socialist.

S. Artesian
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Jul 28 2014 14:05

So was Kautsky

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Jul 28 2014 14:07
franco8 wrote:
Nonetheless, no doubt that Einstein was socialist.

Ahem, a state capitalist to be precise, but nonetheless, he was a great man and we will surely miss him. (sips cup of tea)