Egypt: What exactly are you supporting?

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Boris Badenov
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Feb 4 2011 16:08
Red Marriott wrote:
The absence of your preferred models of organisation drawn from the workers movements of 80 or so years ago is unlikely to be a problem! Appropriate organisation can emerge from the needs of the struggle (as it apparently has already), it will have to if those struggles are to advance; organisation is the organisation of struggle and its development, if it's anything; the existence of struggle is a form of organisation. The emergence and experience of self-organisation in these events is already a partial victory worthy of study and analysis

Well put; points in bold especially worth remembering.

MT
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Feb 4 2011 16:24
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admin: flaming removed. Let's try to be polite everyone, including MT

don't worry, i am totally disgusted from this debate and won't participate anymore. i was not impolite to anyone, perhaps with very few exceptions when I defended myself against the attacks. if some of you don't like one sentence reactions (basically questions asking people to broaden their argument) and think that every person is able to respond immediately in foreign language in long posts, then something is very wrong with you guys... anyway, this topic isn't about me, but about egypt, so no need to make this post any longer.

oh, if someone is able to respond the core question - if there is more than one selfmanaged company (or how is it doing now) and some committees - I would be glad (I have read I believe 90% of all the posts on every egypt, tunisia or other related thread and found only this two examples which I find very interesting).

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Steven.
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Feb 4 2011 17:26

MT you seem to have the mistaken impression that everyone here is supporting these protests uncritically in their entirety, when this is not the case

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Hieronymous
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Feb 4 2011 17:39

I want to agree with Steven. and say that it was MT who was being unprincipled and antagonistic, based on nothing more that saying we weren't answering his lame questions. Unless he explains further, MT's "provocation" was pushing his own Leninist organizational orthodoxy; so it's good for this thread that he's leaving. While I didn't always agree with his positions, I do thank Kontrrazvedka for taking the time to elaborate them; after doing so, I ended up agreeing with many of his points.

__________________________________________________

A council communist in Cairo is interviewed by a member of the Kurdish Anarchist Forum in Germany.

KAF: Please tell me your name and what movement you are from.

NT: I'm Nidal Tahrir, from Black Flag, a small group of anarcho-communists in Egypt.

KAF: The world is watching Egypt, and even moving in solidarity. However information on the ground has been difficult to find. Can you tell me about what has happened in Egypt in the past week? What did it look like from your perspective?

NT: The situation in Egypt is so critical right now. It began with an invitation to the "day of rage" against Mubarak regime on January 25th. No one expected an invitation to a day of rage from a loose group via a Facebook page, not really organized, called "We are All Khalid Said".

Khalid Said was an Egyptian youth who was killed by Mubarak's police in Alexandria last summer. It was that Tuesday which started everything, it was the spark for the whole fire. On Tuesday big demonstrations were in the streets in every Egyptian town, on Wednesday began the massacre. It began with trying to stop the sit-in in Tahrir square on Tuesday late night, and continued in the following days, especially in Suez. Suez has a special resonance in every Egyptian heart. It was the centre of resistance against Zionists in 1956 and 1967. In the same district that fought Sharon's troops back in Egyptian-Israeli wars, Mubarak's police carried out a massacre - at least four people killed, 100 injured, gas bombs, rubber bullets, live gunfire, a strange yellow substance thrown over the crowd (maybe mustard gas). Friday was called the Jumu'ah of Rage. Jumu'ah is Arabic for Friday; it's the national weekend in Egypt, in many Islamic countries also; it's the holy day in Islam, because there are the big prayers on this day, called Jumu'ah prayer. It was planned for demonstrators to go on a march after Friday prayers, at noon. The police tried to prevent the marchers, with all of their power and violence. There were many clashes in Cairo (downtown, in Mattareyah [east of Cairo]), and all over Egypt, especially in Suez, Alexandria, Mahalla (in the delta, one of the centres of the working class). From noon to sunset people marched in Cairo downtown, to begin a sit-in in Tahrir until the Mubarak regime is removed, chanting one slogan, "The people demand the removal of the regime".

At sunset, 5:00 p.m. CLT, Mubarak declared a curfew and brought the army into Egyptian towns. This curfew was followed by a planned manoeuvre by the police, letting out the criminals and thugs called baltagayyah. The police planned a great escape of criminals from many Egyptian prisons to scare people in Egypt. With no police, the army troops couldn't control the streets. It scared people, and it was followed by a news blackout on Egyptian TV channels, radio and newspapers, talk of Luddites in many towns, of thieves firing at people. Local residents organized "people's committees" to secure every street. It was welcomed by the regime to make people more scared about instability in the country, but it was at the same time a point from which we could start to build workers' councils.

KAF: As of Wednesday, there have been clashes between pro- and anti-Mubarak people. Is that the correct way to describe it? Who are the "Mubarak supporters"? How are these clashes affecting the attitudes of average working class Egyptians?

NT: It's absolutely wrong to call them clashes between anti- and pro-Mubarak. The pro-Mubarak demonstration consisted of many baltagayyah and secret police to attack the protesters in Tahrir Square. It only began after Mubarak's speech yesterday, after Obama's speech too. Personally I think Mubarak feels like a slaughtered ox that tries to throw its blood over the slaughterers; he feels like Nero, who wants to burn Egypt before his removal, trying to make people believe he's a synonym for stability, safety and security. In this way he has really made some progress. A holy national alliance has now been formed against Tahrirites (the Tahrir protesters) and the Commune de Tahrir.

Many people are saying, especially middle class people, that the demonstrations must end because Egypt has been burned, famine has begun, but it's not true at all. It's an exaggeration. Every revolution has its difficulties, and Mubarak is using fear and terror to stay longer. Personally I'm saying that even if the protesters were responsible for this situation, even if this is so, Mubarak must leave, he must be gone.

KAF: What do you see happening in the next week? How much is the position taken by the US government affecting the situation there?

NT: Nobody can figure out what will happen tomorrow or next week. Mubarak is a stubborn idiot, and the Egyptian media is mounting the biggest campaign in its history to contain the protests on Friday, February 4th. There are calls for another million march to Tahrir Square, called "Jumu'ah of salvation"; the position taken by the US government is affecting us more than the demonstration. Mubarak is such a monster that he could kill the whole population, but he can't say no to his masters.

KAF: What has the participation of class struggle anarchists been? Who are their allies? (Obviously keep security in mind)

NT: Anarchism in Egypt is not a big trend. You can find some anarchists, but it's not a big trend yet. Anarchists in Egypt joined both protests and popular committees to defend the streets from thugs. Anarchists in Egypt have put some hope in these councils. The allies of anarchists in Egypt are....the Marxists! We are not now in a moment of ideological debate. The whole of the left is calling for unity and will argue the rest later. Anarchists in Egypt are a part of the Egyptian left.

KAF: What forms of solidarity can be built between revolutionaries in Egypt and revolutionaries in the "West"? What can be done immediately and what should we do in the long term?

NT: The most difficult obstacle Egyptian revolutionaries are confronted with is the cutting-off of communications. Western revolutionaries must put pressure on their governments to prevent the Egyptian regime from doing this. That's for now, but no one can say what will happen in the long term. If the revolution wins, then western revolutionaries must build solidarity with their Egyptian comrades against expected aggression from USA and Israel. If the revolution is defeated, then there will be a massacre of all Egyptian revolutionaries.

KAF: What will the main tasks be once Mubarak leaves? Has there been much planning about this on the street level? What have anti-capitalist revolutionaries proposed?

NT: The main task now - speaking about street demands - is a new constitution and a provisional government, and then new elections. There's much planning about these issues within many political tendencies here, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Anti-capitalist revolutionaries are not very big in Cairo - the communists, the democratic left and Trotskyites are making the same demands, for a constitution and new elections. But for us, as anarchists, we are anti-capital and anti-state too - we will try to strengthen the committees that have been formed to protect and secure the streets, and try to turn them into real councils.

KAF: What do you want to say to revolutionaries abroad?

NT: Dear comrades, all over the world, we need your solidarity, a big solidarity campaign and the Egyptian revolution will win.

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Khawaga
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Feb 4 2011 18:29

Great post Red Marriott.

fort-da game
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Feb 4 2011 19:22

Congratulations to K and MT for their tenacity in keeping the problem unresolved – without their intervention there would have been no discussion only further consumption of news items. What a fantastic job they have done in creating the space for others to express themselves.

It seems that Samotnaf proposes, and Valeriano Orobó agrees, that ‘we’ have failed morally, that we have achieved nothing because we are not out on the streets lynching mannikins. The normative masculinist motifs of ‘risk-taking’ correspond to the conception of communism in terms of making war... even though war over this or that cause has defined capitalist stability for more than 2 centuries.

It is true that I/we do not conform to type, and we do not see why we should cede the ideal of communism to those who conceive of it as equivalent to bungee jumping, an event to relieve their boredom and confirm their masculinity. As to the notion of risk, we have risked thinking differently, thinking against type and against our leftist inheritance. We acknowledge that this is the same order of risk as someone building a cathedral out of matchsticks, or a domino cascade. But that’s the kind of people we are, we are not street fighters, we hum Dean Martin’s ‘gentle on my mind’, we wear cordurouy slacks and v neck jumpers. We are not radical subjects and we don’t want to be, we like baked potatoes and allotments and homemade marmalade.

As for the allegations of spamming/self-advertising. You may take my word as a gentleman that the opening post of this thread is not contibuted by its author (and I am not familiar with the person who posted it as being part of our ‘group’/’network’/’project’/’circle’/racket/gang/sect). In fact most of us have deliberately scrambled their passwords so as not to be able to return to Libcom.

I welcome ‘eating poultices’ interest in our work and his/her distribution of it, but we would have preferred a further comment and a re-presentation (hopefully pushing the logic of what we are saying even further into clownish extremity). Even so, and behold, our ‘risk’ of thinking otherwise, has contributed to a discussion of current events (running to 118 posts and 4 pages). We are interested in pursuing our own life-project very quietly, like little mouses, but if others seek us out we are also happy to explain to hem what our project involves.

I would just like to note here that there have been a number of positive comments on ‘self-organisation’... I think this is an extremely unhelpful and problematic ‘ideal’ as no society could possibly function in a ‘self-organised’ manner given the recursive nature of human culture. It is like proposing an invented language. Every institution is linked horizontally and vertically to every other insitution (in the Castoriadis/lacanian sense), interest constantly leaks and therefore self-management/organisation becomes another form of arbitrary demarcation/ownership. But perhaps someone would like to start another thread on this.

I have made a further theoretical elaboration of birdwatching versus radical news consumption at the Letters journal blog website.

no1
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Feb 4 2011 20:10

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQFKtI6gn9Y

RedHughs
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Feb 4 2011 20:46
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I would just like to note here that there have been a number of positive comments on ‘self-organisation’... I think this is an extremely unhelpful and problematic ‘ideal’ as no society could possibly function in a ‘self-organised’ manner given the recursive nature of human culture. It is like proposing an invented language.

What a fine statement of Dupontism.

It seems as if the disagreement I have with Dupontists is that I believe that a process of 'self-organization' indeed has the potential to 'invent a new language' - not automatically or instantly but still fairly quickly when the need and circumstances arise (and that isn't saying we're even at that point with Egypt). Of course, the point isn't that I expect things to keep on an apparently-structureless path indefinitely. Rather, the process of self-organization can be a midwife of a new order (though said said order naturally would composed of elements of the old order, rearranged with additions and subtraction). This also isn't saying communists shouldn't put forward our ideas - we should but naturally, we must also be part of a collective creation of a new order rather than the blue-print writers/readers.

Also, do the Dupontists defend the converse to this statement? Do they claim that unless people have their language worked out beforehand, no action can succeed?

Samotnaf
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Feb 5 2011 06:22

fort-da-game:

You're very obviously pleased with yourself . Well, someone has to do it.

You clearly think your contrived contortions are very clever, but such mental acrobatics just come over as being a pretentious pratt. For example:

Quote:
The normative masculinist motifs of ‘risk-taking’ correspond to the conception of communism in terms of making war... even though war over this or that cause has defined capitalist stability for more than 2 centuries.

You really can't see that conflating capitalist war with class war indicates nothing other than a complete lack of integrity on your part, a total loss of any sense of practical reality worthy of some post-modernist philosopher's labyrinthine sophistry. Words have lost all meaning to you.

In response to the end of the nationwide movement in France this last autumn, which originally came from your assessment of the movement in France in 2005, you said:

Quote:
The state knows exactly how long demonstrations and rioting last... it has its stopclock running on your marks, get set, go: first there is the cause, then there is the outbreak, followed by the wildfire, then there is the street fighting, then there is the consolidation and the mass mobilization, then there is the defiance and movement for continuation, then there is the full-stop mass demonstration, then the melting away to other matters. In all, the fever takes about two weeks to pass.

This aloof attitude , which is frightened of being surprised, could equally be your view of the Egyptian movement. For you, nothing happens between the "beginning" of a movement and the "end" of it (ie "beginning and end" in the fictional forms of dominant discourse, which abstract a short period of time from the advances and retreats of struggles and history over epochs) that could inform the next wave of struggle. Continue in this narrow tautological delusion and you will certainly make no possible contribution to the future waves of class war that are bound to take place in this epoch other than as just another stifling blasé blockhead talking for the sake of talking.

One of the products and producers of ideology (and of character, in Reich's sense) is a refusal to be influenced and consequently an inability to influence. You're clearly happy to remain isolated, retreating futher and further into abstraction, separated both from any possible social movements and from any chance of being moved. You probably think that it'd be beneath your dignity to admit that this is what you're doing, so you dig your heels in.

By all means, continue pleasuring yourself, but do we all have to watch?

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Rob Ray
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Feb 5 2011 10:59

ouch!

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Ed
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Feb 5 2011 13:08

Fantastic post, Sam..

fort-da game
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Feb 5 2011 16:27
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The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert that God spake to them; and whether they did not think at the time, that they would be misunderstood, & so be the cause of imposition.
Isaiah answer'd. 'I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover'd the infinite in every thing, and as I was then perswaded, & remain confirm'd, that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I cared not for consequences but wrote.'
Then I asked: 'does a firm perswasion that a thing is so, make it so?'
He replied: 'All poets believe that it does, & in ages of imagination this firm perswasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm perswasion of any thing.'

I saw a man from Egypt on the television news. He said his mother said he had to fight because she wanted him a hero. The interviewer did not ask why his mother wasn’t at the square and why he had not stayed at home to scrub the step.

In a 30 second snapshot we are reintroduced to Marx’s unfinished examination of the problem known historically as the ‘Russian road to socialism’. The objective historical role of capital has been to disconnect populations from their culture and introduce representative abstractions (cyphers for Value) in their place. The dis-attachment of populations from their specific history becomes an objective condition for their pliant reorientation towards different, perhaps, communist values.

The question of the ‘Russian Road’ asks whether a society may reach a communist consciousness without their pre-modern cultural practices having first been deconstructed by the process of capitalist re-valuation. Clearly, Marx did not get to the bottom of this question and the subsequent efforts of anti-imperialism and national liberation have been signally unsuccessful in everything but the further mystification of the capitalist productive relation. There are no proletarian states.

In the case of the days of rage in Egypt of January/february 2011, we see a ‘modern’ social revolution defined entirely by its unreconstructed bourgeois aspirations. There are mass prayers. There are national flags. There is a hated personified oppressor. There is an externalised enemy. There are calls for democracy and constitutional government. There is ‘self-organisation’ around the defence of property. There is the continuation of traditional roles between men and women.

In a situation such as Egypt where the question of communism is raised as a possible outcome, communism itself must take on the role of a corrective consciousness and do the work which otherwise would have been undertaken on the unconscious of the population by capital. It occurs to me, that Freud’s structural model is appropriate here... in this scenario, communist consciousness becomes the nagging superego, perpetually illuminating the shortcomings of the proletarian/popular ego as it attempts to realise objects from the tensions within the specificity/objectivity of its unconscious.

Where communism does not take this corrective role, (and who could suppose it could ever have a positive outcome except in conditions of complete economic breakdown?), bourgeois categories of national liberation will continue to be generated, and even within the pro-revolutionary milieu:

Quote:
Suez has a special value in every Egyptian heart. It was the centre for resistance against the Zionists in 1956 and 1967, in the same district. It fought Sharon's troops back in the Egyptian-Israeli wars.
Nidal Tahrir, from Black Flag, a small group of Anarcho-Communists in Egypt

Up to the point of writing this, communists have not dared to revile the fetish-object of the hero’s spilt blood from which the romance of bourgeois revolution is generated. They have defined themselves in terms of involvement in rather than separation from received historico-cultural conventions. But a communist revolution is defined precisely by its generation of new terms, of new roles; by a great flourishing of gestures and extended innovatory logics, the transformation of the entirety of conditions and lives. A revolution cannot be reduced back to the atavistic romance of red guards against white guards.

We are presented then, in the absence of such a flourishing, with the task of manifesting negative thought... of separating ourselves from enthusiasm and irrationality, from received and barbaric practices. Intelligence is defined by critically diagnosing conditions and identifying what is absent, it is not an accident that Marx talked of communism in terms of ‘criticism after dinner’. The communist role is essentially therapeutic, it coolly observes and quietly questions ongoing processes which it can neither initiate nor halt. People involved in struggle (i.e. the entirety of the human race) must process the vast accumulation of their inheritances, they must revalue their preconceptions and they must work through their history in order that they might escape from it. The communist is society’s therapist, he supplies, in the objective absence of spontaneous new forms and new relations, continued opportunities for transference in terms of provocations, doubts, telling criticisms.

The forms of struggle developed by the proletariat (e.g. its self-organisation) must be criticised not supported and must be criticised until it criticises them itself, until it abolishes its forms itself. Up to this point in the Egyptian events, pro-revolutionaries have been beholden to twitter feeds and 24 hour news coverage. Their thirst for contingent facts has completely obscured their critical faculties. The absence of innovatory thought, the failure in the character of their response, which has not yet got beyond a sluggish affirmational sentimentality and the mystification of solidarity, is the substantial proof that there is no prospect of communist revolution. Until communists are prepared to think for, and before, the Other... until they are able to think critically against their own prescriptions, and find a therapeutic path, they will not be able to escape their own dogmas.

I like the daily mail crossword. I like suduko. I do jigsaw puzzles. My shirts come from Marks and Spencer, my socks are cotton rich. My tie is made of acrylic-ah.

Quote:
I also asked Isaiah what made him go naked and barefoot three years? he answer'd, 'the same that made our friend Diogenes the Grecian.'
I then asked Ezekiel why he eat dung, & lay so long on his right & left side? he answer'd, 'the desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite; this the North American tribes practise, & is he honest who resists his genius or conscience, only for the sake of present ease or gratification?'
Mark.
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Feb 5 2011 16:50
fort-da game wrote:
Up to this point in the Egyptian events, pro-revolutionaries have been beholden to twitter feeds and 24 hour news coverage. Their thirst for contingent facts has completely obscured their critical faculties.

Why on earth should reporting or following what's happening be incompatible with people using their 'critical faculties'?

fort-da game
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Feb 5 2011 17:48
Samotnaf wrote:
This aloof attitude , which is frightened of being surprised, could equally be your view of the Egyptian movement. For you, nothing happens between the "beginning" of a movement and the "end" of it (ie "beginning and end" in the fictional forms of dominant discourse, which abstract a short period of time from the advances and retreats of struggles and history over epochs) that could inform the next wave of struggle. Continue in this narrow tautological delusion and you will certainly make no possible contribution to the future waves of class war that are bound to take place in this epoch other than as just another stifling blasé blockhead talking for the sake of talking.

One of the products and producers of ideology (and of character, in Reich's sense) is a refusal to be influenced and consequently an inability to influence. You're clearly happy to remain isolated, retreating futher and further into abstraction, separated both from any possible social movements and from any chance of being moved. You probably think that it'd be beneath your dignity to admit that this is what you're doing, so you dig your heels in.

By all means, continue pleasuring yourself, but do we all have to watch?

It's a good point but one that I have factored in from the beginning and one that I like to reflect upon. Intellectualisation is one of the defences. Which of the revolutionaries 'change' in changing circumstances is an interesting question. I fully admit that I perform a role but it is interesting to me to see where that goes. I did not raise this subject here, I did not seek out discussion with you. Your moral condemnation is a continued avoidance of the fact that until the article was pasted here there was no theoretical discussion of the events on this site. Your personal attacks, and avoidance of the discussion are also psychologically driven.

I should also like to point out that I do understand that class struggle and imperialist war are both violent expressions of the contradiction inherent in the productive relation... class war is nothing to celebrate. It is the mechanism of this society, that which we seek to escape. If you revel in the image of it, then you have a problem.

Why does news preclude thought? It is the nature of mass media. The pertinent fact is the absence of theoretical discussion and a correlative plethora of news links. I understood that links without discussion was considered spam on this site.

Valeriano Orobó...
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Feb 5 2011 18:21
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as no society could possibly function in a ‘self-organised’ manner given the recursive nature of human culture. It is like proposing an invented language. Every institution is linked horizontally and vertically to every other insitution (in the Castoriadis/lacanian sense), interest constantly leaks and therefore self-management/organisation becomes another form of arbitrary demarcation/ownership.

Nihilism is an accusatory finger hanging in the air that neither goes forward nor backwards that, like an amused lazy hegelian, shouts at everything that moves: “appearance, appearance!!”

That revolution usually fails is so blatantly obvious that i find it superfluous to constantly state it. "Homo homini lupus", "man is sinner, he's failed therefore he needs god", "laws of commerce are the laws of nature and therefore the laws of god"...All the assertions always made by conservative thinkers about the lacking nature of human condition it seems that some way have penetrated pomo thinking, i'd say through structuralism and althusser. Try a healthy dose of EP Thompson.

I don't care if my aim is Sisyphus one, what i do know is that i'm not happy living in our (yes, yours too) filthy sewer passively. Equally i'm no prophet to predict which will be the results of any upheaval. The limitations are quite obvious in egypt as in the uk or spain and we were wondering about them in the whole thread.

The problem with the assumption that any protest feeds capital and only helps it to manage dissent better in the future is that it doesn't offer any alternative other than a peaceful zen or sufist attitude towards external world, as if both realities (inner and outward) were cleanly separated. I don’t miss clarity or security anymore. I know they won’t come back that’s supposing they some time existed which i very much doubt. I as you am working tentatively here, in a dark forest and you cannot claim any other thing. The difference is that i try to trace my map WITH others instead of pointing at them a supposedly right road that I don’t know just like you. I don’t know why do you bother considering the great fun you find in your ivory tower. And as for your ridiculous psychological statements about “masculinity”, try something less cheap than ad hominem attacks.

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Feb 5 2011 18:01
fdg wrote:
Your moral condemnation is a continued avoidance of the fact that until the article was pasted here there was no theoretical discussion of the events on this site.

this is patently untrue, though no need to let facts get in the way of your assertions.

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Feb 5 2011 19:14

FGD broke the thread. MT actually said more in his snide one liners than FDG does with 1000s.

RedHughs
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Feb 5 2011 23:09

FdlG's point that it is important for communists to criticize rather than merely cheer is good.

What I'd add is that it is also crucial for us to learn from movements.

The communist perspective is indeed simply a small corrective on the vast, overall process of transforming human existence that history has thrust upon all of humanity. It is an observation concerning certainly structural tendencies of society ("a few notes on where various kind of social relations tend lead us").

The question is whether that correctively should be rigorously separated from the rest of this transformation or whether it should "wade-in" and engage with those in the process of change.

I would view a dialogue as authentic when both parties learn something. Regardless of the many weaknesses which one can see in recent revolts, these revolts have naturally involved a process of mass dialogue.

I would claim that the communist position needs to both be rigorous and engage in authentic dialogue - meaning be prepared to learn something.

The parts of the communist position that are "purely objective" are so simple anyone could repeat them. The difficult task to build a bridge between these "facts" and everyday experience. I would claim that such a bridge requires authentic dialogue as well as logical rigor.

One point is that I would interpret Forte's posts as well as his general delivery as involving an intention not to engage in dialog with individual posters here but to harangue "libcom" in his "interventions". I think that is a mistake considering that the hostile harangue has become the dominant quality of discourse in this era. I'm personally aiming to engage in respectful discussion as much as is practical currently given both the importance of dialogue and its rarity.

I will admit that I've taken a bit of Situationist's style of dismissiveness at times as being a reasonable approach. It is worth noting that the SI's approach was aiming at authentic dialogue as well and their dismissals aimed at cutting away the ideologues who were incapable of such dialogue. Those were different times. Today, ideology permeates the social fabric and I don't believe a process of "cutting away" can succeed. Instead, teaching by example seems in order. Given the present era, it seems worthwhile to act oppositely to the standard of the flame war, to discuss question respectful and sincerely regardless of the noise going on around one and to avoid blaming individuals for that noise.

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jesuithitsquad
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Feb 5 2011 23:54

I agree on all points RedHughs. Certainly, I would give FDG's points a fairer hearing if they weren't always presented as if they were the only ones with a ('true') pro-communist perspective and if there was some noticeable effort to engage in a remotely honest manner. Acting as if prior to this "intervention" we were all blood-thirsty, unite behind any resistance, let's go! rah-rah! leftists is very typical of what we've seen many times from FDG's and co.

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Feb 9 2011 03:55
Valeriano Orobón Fernández wrote:
Try a healthy dose of EP Thompson.

My words exactly! I was about to post the same recommendation myself. Especially the way Thompson elaborated how class is not a static category but instead is a “process” and a “relationship” and that “class is something that happens in human relationships.”

E. P. Thompson wrote:
And class happens when some men [and women], as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs. The class experience is largely determined by the productive relations into which men [and women] are born--or enter voluntarily. Class-consciousness is the way in which these experiences are handled in cultural terms: embodied in traditions, value-systems, ideas, and institutional forms. If the experience appears as determined, class-consciousness does not. We can see a logic in the responses of similar experiences, but we cannot predicate any law. Consciousness of class arises in the same way in different times and places, but never in just the same way.

[...]

The question, of course, is how the individual got to be in this “social role,” and how the particular social organization (with its property-rights and structure of authority) got to be there. And these are historical questions. If we stop history at a given point, then there are no classes but simply a multitude of individuals with a multitude of experiences. But if we watch these men [and women] over an adequate period of social change, we observe patterns in their relationships, their ideas, and their institutions. Class is defined by men [and women] as they live their own history, and, in the end, this is its only definition.

...we cannot understand class unless we see it as a social and cultural formation, arising from processes which can only be studied as they work themselves out over a considerable historical period (The Making of the English Working Class, pp. 9-11)

Correction: a case of mistaken identity. My apologies to the person I wrongfully referred to.

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Feb 6 2011 01:50

I had to take the above from articles I've written, but at one time I scanned the entire preface; I can't seem to find it. If I do, I'll post it up.

The whole preface to The Making of the English Working Class is available on google books though. It's well worth reading and is the best definition of class consciousness I've ever read.

Valeriano Orobó...
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Feb 6 2011 17:47
Hieronymous wrote:
I had to take the above from articles I've written, but at one time I scanned the entire preface; I can't seem to find it. If I do, I'll post it up.

The whole preface to The Making of the English Working Class is available on google books though. It's well worth reading and is the best definition of class consciousness I've ever read.

the preface is extraordinary (as almost anything Thompson wrote) but i was thinking more in Poverty Of Theory, where he elaborates more on the class formation notion against althusser's approach. Experience is another key concept too.

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Hieronymous
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Feb 6 2011 22:00
Valeriano Orobón Fernández wrote:
Experience is another key concept too.

Exactly! And the dialectic between working class agency and consciousness. Or as Marty Glaberman used to put it: consciousness as activity.

Here's something fitting to what the insurgents on the ground in Egypt have been saying about the euphoria bred by their youthful revolt:

Wordsworth wrote:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!--Oh! times,
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Hieronymous
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Feb 9 2011 17:29

The post that began this thread asked: "Egypt: What exactly are you supporting?"

Many of us answered "class struggle." Many of us don't disparage the fight of other members of our class because of their skin color or ethnicity. As internationalists, we are in solidarity with all expressions of the self-activity of our class.

I know that this has to be seen through the distorted lens of the New York Times, yet it still makes our case (but the Egyptian workers haven't made a "turn" to strikes, since there's been a strike wave since the winter of 2006):

Quote:
Protest in Egypt Takes a Turn as Workers Go on Strike

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: February 9, 2011

CAIRO — Protesters demanding the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak appeared on Wednesday to have recaptured the initiative in their battle with his government, demonstrating a new ability to mobilize thousands to take over Cairo’s streets beyond Tahrir Square and to spark labor unrest.

As reports filtered in of strikes and unrest spreading to other parts of the city and the country, the government seemed to dig in deeper. Mr. Mubarak’s handpicked successor, Vice President Omar Suleiman, warned Tuesday that the only alternative to constitutional talks was a “coup” and added: “We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.”

But the pressure on Mr. Mubarak’s government was intensifying, a day after the largest crowd of protesters in two weeks flooded Cairo’s streets and the United States delivered its most specific demands yet, urging swift steps toward democracy. Some of the protesters drew new inspiration from the emotional interview on Egypt’s most popular talk show with Wael Ghonim, the online political organizer who was detained for two weeks.

At dawn on Wednesday, the 16th day of the uprising, hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators remained camped out at Parliament, where they had marched for the first time on Tuesday. There were reports of thousands demonstrating in several other cities around the country while protesters began to gather again in Tahrir Square, a few blocks from Parliament.

By midday, hundreds of workers from the Health Ministry, adjacent to Parliament and a few hundred yards from Tahrir Square, also took to the streets in a protest whose exact focus was not immediately clear, Interior Ministry officials said.

Violent clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr. Mubarak led to more than 70 injuries in recent days, according to a report by Al Ahram — the flagship government newspaper and a cornerstone of the Egyptian establishment — while government officials said the protests had spread to the previously quiet southern region of Upper Egypt.

In Port Said, a city of 600,000 at the mouth of the Suez Canal, protesters set fire to a government building and occupied the city’s central square. There were unconfirmed reports that police fired live rounds on protesters on Tuesday in El Kharga, 375 miles south of Cairo, resulting in several deaths. Protesters responded by burning police stations and other government buildings on Wednesday, according to wire reports.

On Tuesday, the officials said, thousands protested in the province of Wadi El Jedid. One person died and 61 were injured, including seven from gunfire by the authorities, the officials said. Television images also showed crowds gathering in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city.

Before the reports of those clashes, Human Rights Watch reported that more than 300 people have been killed since Jan. 25.

Increasingly, the political clamor for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster seemed to be complemented by strikes in Cairo and elsewhere.

In the most potentially significant action, about 6,000 workers at five service companies owned by the Suez Canal Authority — a major component of the Egyptian economy — began a sit-in on Tuesday night. There was no immediate suggestion of disruptions to shipping in the canal, a vital international waterway leading from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. But Egyptian officials said that total traffic declined by 1.6 percent in January, though it was up significantly from last year.

More than 2,000 textile workers and others in Suez demonstrated as well, Al Ahram reported, while in Luxor thousands hurt by the collapse of the tourist industry marched to demand government benefits. There was no immediate independent corroboration of the reports.

At one factory in the textile town of Mahalla, more than striking 1,500 workers blocked roads, continuing a long-running dispute with the owner. And more than 2,000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in the city of Quesna went on strike while some 5,000 unemployed youth stormed a government building in Aswan, demanding the dismissal of the governor.

For many foreign visitors to Egypt, Aswan is known as a starting point or destination for luxury cruises to and from Luxor on the Nile River. The government’s Ministry of Civil Aviation reported on Wednesday that flights to Egypt had dropped by 70 percent since the protests began.

In Cairo, sanitation workers demonstrated around their headquarters in Dokki.

While state television has focused its coverage on episodes of violence that could spread fear among the wider Egyptian public and prompt calls for the restoration, Al Ahram’s coverage was a departure from its usual practice of avoiding reporting that might embarrass the government.

In the lobby of the newspaper, journalists on Wednesday were in open revolt against the newspaper’s management and editorial policies.

Some called their protest a microcosm of the Egyptian uprising, with young journalists leading demands for better working conditions and less biased coverage. “We want a voice,” said Sara Ramadan, 23, a sports reporter.

The turmoil at the newspaper has already changed editorial content, with the English-language online edition openly criticizing what it called “the warped and falsified coverage by state media” of the protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.

The paper described how “more than 500 media figures” issued a statement declaring “their rejection of official media coverage of the January 25 uprising and demanded that Minister of Information Anas El-Fikki step down.”

Members of the Journalists Syndicate moved toward a no-confidence vote against their leader, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, a former Mubarak speech writer, the daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on its English-language Web site.

Several of the dozens of protesters occupying the lobby on Wednesday said the editor of the English-language division heads to the square to join the protests every night, joined by many of the staff.

The scattered protests and labor unrest seemed symptomatic of an emerging trend for some Egyptians to air an array of grievances, some related to the protests and some of an older origin.

The government’s bid to project its willingness to make concessions has had limited success. On Tuesday, Vice President Suleiman announced the creation of a committee of judges and legal scholars to propose constitutional amendments.

But all the members are considered Mubarak loyalists.

The Obama administration was continuing its efforts to influence a transition. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called Mr. Suleiman on Tuesday to ask him to lift the 30-year emergency law that the government has used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders, to stop imprisoning protesters and journalists, and to invite demonstrators to help develop a specific timetable for opening up the political process. He also asked Mr. Suleiman to open talks on Egypt’s political future to a wider range of opposition members.

Mr. Suleiman has said only that Egypt will remove the emergency law when the situation justifies its repeal, and the harassment and arrest of journalists and human rights activists has continued even in the last few days.

And while he raised the prospect of a coup, he also said, “we want to avoid that — meaning uncalculated and hasty steps that produce more irrationality.”

“There will be no ending of the regime, nor a coup, because that means chaos,” Mr. Suleiman said. And he warned the protesters not to attempt more civil disobedience, calling it “extremely dangerous.” He added, “We absolutely do not tolerate it.”

On Tuesday , young organizers guiding the movement from a tent city inside Tahrir Square, or Liberation Square, showed the discipline and stamina that they say will help them outlast Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Suleiman, even if their revolt devolves into a war of attrition.

Many in the crowd, for example, said they had turned out because organizers had spread the word over loudspeakers and online media for demonstrators to concentrate their efforts on just Tuesdays and Fridays, enabling their supporters to rest in between. And while Mr. Mubarak remains in office, they say, there is no turning back.

Many in the crowd said discussed the inspiration they drew from the interview with the freed organizer, Mr. Ghonim. A Google executive, he had been the anonymous administrator of a Facebook group that enlisted tens of thousands to oppose the Mubarak government by publicizing a young Egyptian’s beating death at the hands of its reviled police force.

In the tearful conversation on Egypt’s Dream TV, Mr. Ghonim told the story of his “kidnapping,” secret imprisonment in blindfolded isolation for 12 days and determination to overturn Egypt’s authoritarian government. Both Mr. Ghonim and his interviewer, Mona el-Shazly, appeared in Tahrir Square Tuesday to cheer on the revolt.

Some protesters said they saw the broadcast as a potential turning point in a propaganda war that has so far gone badly against them, with the state-run television network and newspapers portraying the crowds in Tahrir Square as a dwindling band of obstructionists doing the bidding of foreign interests.

Organizers had hinted in recent days that they intended to expand out of the square to keep the pressure on the government. Then, around 3 p.m., a bearded man with a bullhorn led a procession around the tanks guarding the square and down several blocks to the Parliament. Many of the protesters still wore bandages on their heads from a 12-hour war of rocks and stones against Mubarak loyalists a few days before.

“Parliament is a great pressure point,” said Ahmed el-Droubi, a biologist. “What we need to do is unite this protest and Tahrir, and that is just the first step. Then we will expand further until Mr. Mubarak gets the point.”

Back in Tahrir Square, more members of the Egyptian elite continued to turn up in support of the protestors, including the pop star Shireen Abdel Wahab and the soccer goalkeeper Nader al-Sayed. Brigades of university employees and telephone company employees joined the protests, as did a column of legal scholars in formal black robes.

Many at the protests buttonholed Americans to express deep disappointment with President Obama, shaking their heads at his ambiguous messages about an orderly transition. They warned that the country risked incurring a resentment from the Egyptian people that could last long after Mr. Mubarak is gone.

fort-da game
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Feb 10 2011 16:08

It is true that we dispute political representations of solidarity and internationalism, and see them as a confusion of categories, the sentimental alibis and misdirections of political rackets. I do not see this critical approach as particularly racist. It seems unlikely to us that categories of race and ethnicity play a major role in our attempts to interpose a degree of critical separation between events and theory but as nobody has disputed the acceptability of this claim, perhaps it is widely thought. Perhaps you think we are capable of anything, even racism...

I have quoted a number of some of our earlier statements below as an attempt to explain the basics of our perspective on the events in Egypt. I hope the administrators of the site will find this permissable and not delete it.

Quote:
The dictatorship of the proletariat
We would re-emphasize that we do not see the working class take over of the factories as a revolution as such but simply the downfall of capital, we see the revolution (and communist consciousness) arising after this period of crisis when a a new material base of reality is coming into existence: we see revolution as being in two stages and it is in the second stage, the becoming human stage, that the vast mass of human beings participate (via consciousness by which we mean organization/common values, etc, which is determined by the new material conditions). The occupations of the factories are only a means and not an end, therefore we are not 'ultra-councilist' as those who would marginalize us would have it; we do not propose workers' councils at all, we do not presume to call for any specific political institution, we leave that to the participants at the time. We say only that, for capitalist process to be suspended, the ownership of production must directly pass to the workers, without any mediation by political institutions or bodies.
2003

....

Quote:
We welcome the passage of social disputes into a phase of industrial crisis as we see the breakdown of the class structure of capitalist society as the precondition for social transformation. The passage of economic crisis into industrial dispute is an indication that its disputes are getting closer to the heart of things, the question of how society is produced and to what end. However, whilst we recognise a temporary identity between proletarian revolt and a potentially realisable humanity in the struggles against the hold of dead labour over lived life, we see the entirety of the struggle (including the proletarian elements) as being expressive of the capitalist crisis rather than of its overcoming. Strikes, occupations, demonstrations, riots signify the presence of crisis in the existing productive relation and are not the building blocks of a new society. We do not foresee communism being established by any of capitalism’s components - these must all be removed from the world before communism becomes possible. Communism is not a revolution-event, nor a movement within capitalism, but an unprecedented social relation that emerges after the final crisis of capital. We therefore reject all theoretical approaches that do not seek to problematise events by situating them as ambivalent expressions of existing conditions.
2011

....

Quote:
4. Thus a radical transformation of the protest dynamic would depend upon (i) the participation of other sectors of society (most importantly industrial workers); (ii) the distribution of protest from out of its Haussmanised geography; (iii) the extension of protest's temporality beyond the two week/month fever. Most importantly however the uprising must cross the cultural boundary and leave behind it the terrain of political campaign issues and enter instead the intimate and troubling matter of being able to directly articulate alienation and thus formulate demands to address this. In short, protest will be escalated when it engages the participation of capitalist society's 'cynical subject'.
2007

...

Quote:
It is not for anarchists to celebrate when 'the people' take over. Anarchists ought not to be so amazed at examples of natural ingenuity and resilience, that is after all what they base all their principles on. Unfortunately their proper political task is less appealing and more controversial, it is to poke their fingers into the wounds of revolution, to doubt and to look for ways in which the Zapatistas, FLN, ANC or any other bunch of leftwing heroes will sell out, because they always do. The questions we must ask of civil emergency and economic breakdown, which are the occasions where various social and pro-revolutionary movements appear is how exactly does capital re-establish itself again and again despite the apparent revolutionary intent of the general populace. Anarchists must say what only anarchists can say, it is important to remain true to their theoretical positions and not get too caught up in apparent resurgences of popular dissent.
2003

I have decided this is my final post on Libcom, as I think we will all agree that 5 years of mutual incomprehension is more than sufficient.

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ocelot
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Feb 10 2011 16:34
Quote:
Dementors

The Dementors are soulless creatures considered to be among the foulest beings on Earth. They are soul-sucking fiends who, as their name suggests, dement people who encounter them for too long. ... they grow like fungi in the darkest, dankest places, creating a dense, chilly fog. They appear to possess a few traits of magic, such as unlocking doors and notably, their ability to glide unsupported in either world...

Being blind, Dementors hunt their prey by sensing emotions. They feed on the positive emotions, happiness and good memories of human beings, forcing them to relive their worst memories. The very presence of a Dementor makes the surrounding atmosphere grow cold and dark, and the effects are cumulative with the number of Dementors present. Despite their attachment to human emotion, Dementors seem to have difficulty distinguishing one human from another...

Besides feeding on positive emotions, Dementors can perform the Dementor's Kiss, where the Dementor latches its mouth onto a victim's lips and sucks out the person's soul. After such a Kiss from deadly creatures, the victim is left as an empty shell, incapable of thought and with no possibility of recovery. It is believed that existence after a Dementor's Kiss is worse than death.

Because they are immortal, very few methods exist to repel a Dementor; one way to shield oneself from Dementors is to use the Patronus Charm to drive them away. Chocolate is an effective first aid against the effects of mild cases of contact, which may suggest a non-magical, physiological effect on a person's endorphin level. Dementors are invisible to Muggles, but affect them in the same way.

...it is [said] that dementors create excessive amounts of fog, noticeable to wizards and Muggles alike.

chocolates all round

bzfgt
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Feb 10 2011 20:36
ocelot wrote:
Quote:
Dementors

The Dementors are soulless creatures considered to be among the foulest beings on Earth. They are soul-sucking fiends who, as their name suggests, dement people who encounter them for too long. ... they grow like fungi in the darkest, dankest places, creating a dense, chilly fog. They appear to possess a few traits of magic, such as unlocking doors and notably, their ability to glide unsupported in either world...

Being blind, Dementors hunt their prey by sensing emotions. They feed on the positive emotions, happiness and good memories of human beings, forcing them to relive their worst memories. The very presence of a Dementor makes the surrounding atmosphere grow cold and dark, and the effects are cumulative with the number of Dementors present. Despite their attachment to human emotion, Dementors seem to have difficulty distinguishing one human from another...

Besides feeding on positive emotions, Dementors can perform the Dementor's Kiss, where the Dementor latches its mouth onto a victim's lips and sucks out the person's soul. After such a Kiss from deadly creatures, the victim is left as an empty shell, incapable of thought and with no possibility of recovery. It is believed that existence after a Dementor's Kiss is worse than death.

Because they are immortal, very few methods exist to repel a Dementor; one way to shield oneself from Dementors is to use the Patronus Charm to drive them away. Chocolate is an effective first aid against the effects of mild cases of contact, which may suggest a non-magical, physiological effect on a person's endorphin level. Dementors are invisible to Muggles, but affect them in the same way.

...it is [said] that dementors create excessive amounts of fog, noticeable to wizards and Muggles alike.

chocolates all round

This is a depressing reaction; if FDG was just an obstructionist wingnut, he wouldn't suck any of your soul out with his remarks. These taunts are in lieu of refutation; the arguments in favor of 'solidarity' have been increasingly axiological and moralistic which, to my mind, only reinforces FDG's basic point.

RedHughs
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Feb 11 2011 00:28

FDG says a fair amount of intelligent things.

He says a fair amount of disingenuous things.

I could dig up the thread where he expresses the need to deal with "libcom" via the "broad brush" - ie, to impute whatever one person "here" said to anyone else who posts here as well. Why this "technique of 'the amalgam'" should not be applied to him also as "member" here, he naturally never said.

I could say much more (I did write much more). It's rather pointless. Given Forte's amalgam system, there much I've written that he's failed to respond to.

Quote:
These taunts are in lieu of refutation; the arguments in favor of 'solidarity' have been increasingly axiological and moralistic which, to my mind, only reinforces FDG's basic point.

Solidarity means plenty of different things to different people. Giving simple visibility to the Egyptian revolt provides some small but useful level of resources. Are you actually against this?

From there, some might given unquestioning allegiance, other might simply view the situation as promising or merely ambiguous. For example, I would agree that taking over workplaces is more significant as a tactic against the present order than as a step in building the new order. At the same time, I think it is reasonable for those in revolt to determine their own tactics.

Anyway, trying to shoehorn all these reactions into some single position is kind of ridiculous.

Hieronymous's picture
Hieronymous
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Feb 12 2011 09:37
RedHughs wrote:
At the same time, I think it is reasonable for those in revolt to determine their own tactics.

And based on their own class relations and experience of struggle. Transhistorical formulas are no better than dogma.

Historically, the errors committed by a truly class conscious movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest duPontilist.

Fort-da game, for all your academic erudition you seem completely ignorant of history (or perhaps it's your stance, à la Henry Ford's "History is bunk").

It seems reminiscent of the inter-war right-wing anti-capitalists, the conservative thinkers whose willful ignorance of the lived experience of the working class became a cornerstone of PostModernism. As Valeriano pointed out, your posts here are more rooted in Structuralism and Althusser than the lived experience of Egyptian workers, slum dwellers or youth -- or of their class consciousness, experience of class agency or history of struggle. He also had the perfect antidote for the weakness of your theorizing:

Valeriano wrote:
Try a healthy dose of EP Thompson

I'd suggest "Eighteenth-Century English Society: Class Struggle without Class?" in Social History, Vol. 3, No. 2, May 1978.

I can guarantee that it would be infinitely more helpful to shaping your worldview than playing crossword, suduko, and jigsaw puzzles, or shopping for shirts, socks, or acrylic neckties (and anyway, isn't all this "over-sharing" more appropriate for your facebook or wikipedia entry?).

bzfgt
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Feb 11 2011 14:12
Quote:
Solidarity means plenty of different things to different people. Giving simple visibility to the Egyptian revolt provides some small but useful level of resources. Are you actually against this?

I made a comment about the arguments for solidarity being made here, not about the merits or meaning of 'solidarity.' The Egyptian revolt is plenty visible with or without Libcom, but the question is of course interpretation not visibility, or at most perhaps visibility of certain aspects of the revolt...anyway I'm not 'anti-solidarity', I was merely a bit chagrined at Ocelot's reaction. On the merits I think FDG has made more substantive points than many other posters on this thread, because even if we reject his position it is helpful to temper enthusiasm with critique, whereas often calls for 'solidarity' have little content.