"the great treasure house of mankind"

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Devrim
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Apr 21 2007 08:50
"the great treasure house of mankind"
jeremytrewindixon wrote:
The working-class is the key to general human liberation; but what shape is this liberation to take? Surely the right to resist cultural extermination must be part of it. You may not care if "aboriginality" disappears but quite a few Aborigines do, which is more to the point. Still more to the point is that it would be loss to the world if aboriginality disappeared. That doesn't mean I support tyrannical practices on the grounds that they are "part of the culture" , as an Anarchist I manifestly don't fetishize my own beloved culture in that way so damned if I am going to fetishize anyone elses.

But cultural diversity is part of "the great treasure house of mankind"

I would take issue with this idea that 'cultural diversity is part of "the great treasure house of mankind"'.

What is referred to as 'culture' is generally a product of class society. In what way is feudal culture superior to modern capitalist culture? Both are expressions of class society.

Is it the task of revolutionaries to defend feudal culture?

Why would it be a loss to the world if 'aboriginality' disappeared?

Devrim

lumpnboy
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Apr 21 2007 09:46

The struggle for communism is also a series of struggles to create a world in which we can freely and continually invent new ways of living and relating. In so doing we don't want to erase memory or history, and "cultural diversity" could be just a stand-in for the use and detournement of past 'cultures' - ideas, practices, relations - as elements in the experimentation that is and will be communism. As such not a reification, and certainly not, in fact the opposite of a suspension of critical capacity in relation to such cultures. In this sense I think that we could talk of a "great treasure house of man[sic]kind", though this wouldn't entail an automatically inherited or locationally determined culture in the senses usually meant.

As I've said on the thread from which this arose, I don't think there is necessarily anything of value lost if people stop identifying as particular cultures. But there is indeed much that can be lost. It won't necessarily bother me if no-one identifies as jewish anymore: it would bother me if some ideas, relations, histories and practices which arose within Jewish communities were erased and forgotten.

Benjamin

jeremytrewindixon
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Apr 24 2007 09:53
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What is referred to as 'culture' is generally a product of class society. In what way is feudal culture superior to modern capitalist culture? Both are expressions of class society.

Devrim, I certainly don't advocate feudalism and I don't know that I ever thought that feudal culture was superior to modern capitalist culture.....but waht the hell, I'll play. Feudalism does emphasise different aspects of the human condition. I would not want to bring feudalism back, but we would be the poorer without the Second Shepherds Play from the Wakefield Cycle and while maybe that or something valuable in the same way could have been written without feudalism, surely it could not have been written without the cultural sensibility associated with english feudalism.....

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Is it the task of revolutionaries to defend feudal culture?

No.

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Why would it be a loss to the world if 'aboriginality' disappeared?

At a minimum because the various related aboriginal cultures emphsise different aspects of the human condition to those found in "mainstream" culture.

I think I'm roughly on the same page as lumpnboy here except that I imagine I value "automatically inherited or locationally determined culture" more than he does.

jaycee
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Apr 29 2007 11:43

marx said that communism would be a 'return at a higher level' to primitive communism. i think this is a good summary of what we will attempt to do, regain what has been lost, i.e a greater connection with nature, ourselves and others as well as getting rid of the parts of traditional cultures which are no longer necessary and would be a step backwards (such as the circumcision of grown men).

This is basically the difference between a primitivist and a marxist position on this question, while primitavists idiolise these societies and simply wants to return to them comletely the dialectical view of marxism sees communism as the culmination of millenia of human development and thus the ability to combine the positive aspects of all past societies and philosophies, including the incites of religion particulaly its mystic tendencies with the technological and scientific advances of capitalsim.

ernie
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Apr 30 2007 19:59

Luxemburg in a letter to Franz Mehring says something very interesting related to this whole question:

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You have saved the last cultural treasures of the bourgeoisie and have brought them to us: those in the camp of the socially disinherited. Through your books and articles, you have linked the German proletariat not only to classical German philosophy, but to classical poetry as well: not only Kant and Hegel, but Lessing, Schiller, and Goethe are now connected to us by indissoluble bounds. Every line of your wondrous pen has taught the German proletariat that socialism is not only a question of the knife and fork, but of a cultural movement and a great and proud worldview. To defend this worldview, to stand watch at this tower, has been your lifelong task. Currently since their terrible collapse in the world war, the inheritors look like miserable beggers, eaten alive by vermin. But the iron law of the historical dialectic, which you so masterfully expounded to the proletariat day in and day out, will force these beggers to stand up and turn into proud and tough fighters. As soon as the spirit of socialism returns to the ranks of the German proletariat , their first gesture will be to grope for your writings, those fruits of your life work whose value is eternal and represents the spirit of a noble and strong worldview

Luxemburg to Mehring 27.2.1918

The proletariat is the inheritor and defender of the cultural treasures of the whole world. It is only the proletarian revolution that can save tens of thousands, if not hundreds, of human cultural development from destruction (Gothic cathedrals and illuminated manuscripts, along with the cultural heritage of aborigines, included)

petey
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Apr 30 2007 21:40
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What is referred to as 'culture' is generally a product of class society.

what are the items which you think comprise 'culture'?

jeremytrewindixon
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May 2 2007 04:17
ernie wrote:

The proletariat is the inheritor and defender of the cultural treasures of the whole world. It is only the proletarian revolution that can save tens of thousands, if not hundreds, of human cultural development from destruction (Gothic cathedrals and illuminated manuscripts, along with the cultural heritage of aborigines, included)

Yep. So far so good.

I'd add , thinking of lumpnboy here, that while culture is an intentional thing and in the future different "cultures" will overlap and will not be bound to specific ancestry or geography.....still that ancestry and geography is not irrelevant either, they provided the material basis on which cultural diversity grew. While I do not suggest that lumpnboy is or should be imprisoned in his Jewishness, or that the cultural riches of Jewry should only be available to people of that ancestry; still lumpnboy I imagine would lose something of value if he forgot his Jewish ancestry. Where we come from is part of our identity etc.

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May 2 2007 06:54
jaycee wrote:
getting rid of the parts of traditional cultures which are no longer necessary and would be a step backwards (such as the circumcision of grown men).

Surely the circumcision of infants is far worse.

Daniel B
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May 2 2007 14:04
jaycee wrote:
getting rid of the parts of traditional cultures which are no longer necessary

Is there some way, then, to reach a general consensus on which parts are unnecessary? I give as an example my own view that a concept of God is infantile. For me this is something to be grown out of by all people, yet it's the whole centre point for a lot of cultures.

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May 2 2007 22:27

Daniel; jaycee mentiioned some of the aspects of primitive societies that would indeed be 'restored at a higher level': "a greater connection with nature, ourselves and others", because alienation in those societies had not reached the heights (or depths) it has reached in this civilisation. What's your view of that?

On things that will not be necessary one day: certainly we will outgrow the idea of God and other mythical figures, but not before we have acquired a profound understanding of the real origins of myth and religion. To do that we will certainly have to delve back into the great treasure house of mankind.

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May 3 2007 13:31
jaycee wrote:
marx said that communism would be a 'return at a higher level' to primitive communism. i think this is a good summary of what we will attempt to do, regain what has been lost, i.e a greater connection with nature, ourselves and others

Indeed. The classic Marxian values that inform the whole of leftist ideology and supply its quasi-religious underpinning render it either impotent or anti-working class (and not in a good way either). The value of these “greater connections” is woefully overrated by communist psychologies, so the working class will remain a constant enigmatic disappointment to communists. “Rutting pigs” as Reich called them.

jaycee
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May 4 2007 13:22

i would agree that theorising on mans connection with nature is something which is not immediately recognisable as an everyday subject and could put off a 'normal (non-marxist) person'. This doesn't mean it isn't an important question in general though. For example,many questions which are of critical imortance for communists such as whether or not capitalism is decedent , or the nature of communism etc , on the surface of things is not something which much concerns the everyday worker (at least not consciously). But my question to you would be:

do you think alienation exists?

if you do then surely you see its importance. also i think that the marxist view of alienation is actually of interest to a lot of people. I say this because it can offer a real understanding of the question that a lot of people are asking these days as to why even though people in the west own a lot more than they did about 50 years ago they aren't any happpier.

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May 4 2007 13:52
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For example,many questions which are of critical imortance for communists such as whether or not capitalism is decedent , or the nature of communism etc , on the surface of things is not something which much concerns the everyday worker (at least not consciously).

Or at all. Reich was a proper communist in Germany at a time when there was a genuine communist revolutionary movement in that country (and when he still had his marbles) and I’m reminded of his famous quote...

Reich wrote:
One of the reasons for the failure of the revolutionary movement is that the real life of individuals is played out on a different level than the instigators of social revolution believe
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But my question to you would be:
do you think alienation exists?

In a sense, sure, for instance we subjugate our libidos to an abstracted sense of duty or other behavioural proxy.

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if you do then surely you see its importance. also i think that the marxist view of alienation is actually of interest to a lot of people. I say this because it can offer a real understanding of the question that a lot of people are asking these days as to why even though people in the west own a lot more than they did about 50 years ago they aren't any happpier.

Do they own a lot more? 50 years ago we were full of hope for a new age, the fact it never materialised and we’re back on the same treadmill, the lack of hope and no prospect of the lush self directed existence to which we aspire is bound to be a bit depressing. 35 years ago, our parents had much better prospects in terms of housing and economic security than that afforded to us. It needs a lot more capital advanced to get resources out of the ground than it used to, technological advance has taken the edge off some stuff with our shiny gadgets etc, but working class people are taking much longer to break free from their traditional family units for mostly economic reasons which causes significant psychological damage. So yeah, but understanding our unhappiness is more to do with economic pressure and communication media showing us that another life is possible if we had any talent, but there’s no escaping our inadequacy. Generally the people I know who own a lot of stuff are pretty happy compared to highstreet beggars. One more thing, 50 years ago people were more inclined to believe that their suffering would be paid back in the after-life, which cheered them up. Not so nowadays.

jaycee
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May 4 2007 14:51

yeah i agree that the idea that we are 'affluent' now is in general a bunch of crap. I'm not arguing that working class people are materially any better off than they were in the 60s, in fact probably the majority are worse off, but i think you underestimate the importance of alienation.

you say that we supress our libido when we work, but there is more to it than this. the fact that the central human charactersitic of creating is turned in to a monotonous chore is surely as important as our libido. Also being under the control of alien powers, bosses and money in general is also as important in damaging peoples psychological well being as the suppression of the libido is.

the quote from Reich is good, but it doesn't mean that the 'abstract' ideas of alienation are not important and in need of clarification. They probably won't be of major significance during and immediately after the revolution but they are vitally important in shaping a truly human way of living.

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May 4 2007 15:22
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you say that we supress our libido when we work, but there is more to it than this. the fact that the central human charactersitic of creating is turned in to a monotonous chore is surely as important as our libido

More than "work", but the whole cycle of duty including supporting families and maintaining appearences or social status, over eating, buying gadgets, gambling you name it. Just to take our minds off the fact that no-one loves us. As for monotony, let me tell you comrade, when you’ve spent a few years on the professional leading edge you’ll be glad of the opportunity for a bit of monotonous order following. Balanced job complexes? No thanks.

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Also being under the control of alien powers, bosses and money in general is also as important in damaging peoples psychological well being as the suppression of the libido is.

Nah. As long as I’m dripping with bitches and bling, I couldn’t give a stuff if some little boss thinks “he’s controlling me”. You’re assuming someone else’s poor aesthetic taste is a sign of psychological damage, when in fact they just have a different value system.

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but it doesn't mean that the 'abstract' ideas of alienation are not important and in need of clarification. They probably won't be of major significance during and immediately after the revolution but they are vitally important in shaping a truly human way of living.

Kinda. I mean, I’ve got a sort of vaguely pro-situ outlook so I see where you’re coming from, but over time my take on alienation has become more to do with becoming conscious of your individual role in history-as-creation. I refute the ideas are "abstract” at all, but grounded in the actions of self management and self direction. There is no “truly human” way of living, it’s just an expression of a niche psychological predilection common in those drawn to communism, especially in its current state of marginalised decline. Furthermore, I’m not sure if the idea of there being a clear “before, during and after” a discrete event called a “revolution” is necessarily going to play out in quite the way communists in your tradition expect.

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May 4 2007 20:08

In the manuscripts of 1844, Marx demonstrates his break with radical democracy and his adherence to the communist movement. But the communism he glimpses has already taken a qualitative step beyond its earlier predecessors:

Crude Communism:

The first positive annulment of private property – crude communism – is thus merely a manifestation of the vileness of private property, which wants to set itself up as the positive community system.

And then something Marx describes as 'merely political' communism:

(2) Communism (a) still political in nature – democratic or despotic; (b) with the abolition of the state, yet still incomplete, and being still affected by private property, i.e., by the estrangement of man. In both forms communism already is aware of being reintegration or return of man to himself, the transcendence of human self-estrangement; but since it has not yet grasped the positive essence of private property, and just as little the human nature of need, it remains captive to it and infected by it. It has, indeed, grasped its concept, but not its essence.

Finally he declares that the new movement - the movement of the proletariat for its own self-emancipation - will, by departing from real bases, and not only dreams, bring about a complete transformation of the human species:

(3) Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.

A discussioin about why Marx describes this qualitative leap as "a return accomplished consciously" would be useful here. It would help us understand the next phrase, "embracing the entire wealth of previous development".

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May 11 2007 19:38

Lazy, I'm disappointed in you. This whole post was clearly written with you in mind, and you haven't come back to it.
I was however struck by the fact that you paused to consider what jaycee was saying, if only briefly.

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May 12 2007 11:07
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Lazy, I'm disappointed in you.

Sorry. "The conflict between man and nature" isn't a conflict in the literal sense, it's a set of games in the mathematical sense. Creation is the result of this “conflict”, so whilst it could be resolved finally by the deep psychological adoption of communist values, it wouldn’t be in our interests to do so. That is to say, in the logic of collective action, total altruism (communist ethics) does, as you imply, make a large group act in the interests of its members. However, the outcome of total altruism (in ending conflict) also ends creation, contrary to Marx’s notion that it would enhance it. Frivolous individualism, not the resolution of conflict and alienation, is the mother of invention. As Marx himself demonstrated by generating all those words.

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May 12 2007 23:31

Well, I disagree, but I think your argument has some validity. When Marx envisioned communism, he didn't see it as the end of all history, as stasis, or as the end of all conflict. In the Economic and Philosophical manuscripts, he doesn't even see communism as a final goal:

"Communism is the position as the negation of the negation, and is hence the actual phase necessary for the next stage of historical development in the process of human emancipation and rehabilitation. Communism is the necessary form and the dynamic principle of the immediate future, but communism as such is not the goal of human development, the form of human society".

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May 13 2007 14:57

Interesting quote. I'm reminded of Castoriadis' points about self-managed society as a continually self-redesigning society, and Reich's (and, distressingly enough, the Buddha's!) idea that the path is the goal.