Monsieur Dupont?

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Tom Henry
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Jan 12 2022 23:59

R Totale wrote:

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The Kautskyist-Leninist thesis in fact denies the working class all power of original creation when not guided by the party, (as the fusion of the working class movement and socialism).

I think it is the case that many of us have not read Lenin carefully enough over the years – this certainly has been true for me – but perhaps we should.

Lenin's text below contradicts R Totale's assessment above, and is useful in investigating the similarities between current communist rhetoric/strategy (eg Endnotes, Ill Will Editions, etc) and Lenin.

[In 1906, Lenin articulated the Party approach to partisan actions in a short article titled ‘Partisan War’ or ‘Partisan Warfare.’ This title is usually translated into English as ‘Guerrilla War,’ but this is a little misleading. The word ‘guerrilla’ comes from Spanish and is used in western European countries, and anglophone countries, in its original form (‘guerrillito’ means ‘little war’). In Russian, the word ‘partisan,’ an important word in the ‘Soviet’ lexicon, is used — not the term guerrilla. Therefore, I have amended the translation below to be true to the original.]

Lenin writes:

“The question of partisan actions is of great interest to our Party and the masses of the workers… In the first place, Marxism differs from all primitive forms of socialism by not binding the movement to any one particular form of struggle. It recognizes the most varied forms of struggle; and it does not ‘concoct’ them, but only generalizes, organizes, gives conscious expression to those forms of struggle of the revolutionary classes which arise of themselves in the course of the movement. Absolutely hostile to all abstract formulas and to all doctrinaire recipes, Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the mass struggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class-consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defence and attack. Marxism, therefore, positively does not reject any form of struggle. Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at the given moment only, recognising as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation, changes. In this respect Marxism learns, if we may so express it, from mass practice, and makes no claim whatever to teach the masses forms of struggle invented by ‘systematizers’ in the seclusion of their studies. We know — said Kautsky, for instance, when examining the forms of social revolution — that the coming crisis will introduce new forms of struggle that we are now unable to foresee.” (Part I)

“We have not the slightest intention of foisting on practical workers any artificial form of struggle, or even of deciding from our armchair what part any particular form of partisan warfare should play in the general course of the civil war in Russia. We are far from the thought of regarding a concrete assessment of particular partisan actions as indicative of a trend in Social-Democracy. But we do regard it as our duty to help as far as possible to arrive at a correct theoretical assessment of the new forms of struggle engendered by practical life. We do regard it as our duty relentlessly to combat stereotypes and prejudices which hamper the class-conscious workers in correctly presenting a new and difficult problem and in correctly approaching its solution.” (Part IV)

Interestingly, if one replaces the word ‘Marxism’ with ‘communization’ this could be an exemplary text of the revolutionary milieu that developed the theory of ‘communization’ (for example, Gilles Dauvé, Théorie Communiste, Evan Calder Williams, Léon de Mattis, Endnotes, etc. (Perhaps one could also replace the word Marxism with ‘destituent partisanship’ to see how the text fits with Agambenist perspectives.)

Even more interestingly, if one reads the above, then reads the article Revolutionary Motives by Jasper Bernes in Endnotes 5, particularly the last couple or so pages (“hijacking trucks,” etc), one can see how close Endnotes (and others, such as Ill Will Editions) are to Lenin in their perspectives on how to engage with ‘the class’ in revolt. If present day communist theorists begin at the same point that Lenin did, then why might they be any different in the long-term, or if ‘successful’?

adri
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Jan 13 2022 00:30
TH wrote:
Lenin's text below contradicts R Totale's assessment above, and is useful in investigating the similarities between current communist rhetoric/strategy (eg Endnotes, Ill Will Editions, etc) and Lenin.

Just fyi that's Dauve and not Roman Totale; the latter just didn't put it in quotation marks or explicitly attribute it to Dauve for whatever reason

Tom Henry
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Jan 13 2022 03:34

Thanks for pointing that out. My point still stands ofc.

adri
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Jan 13 2022 21:50

I agree with TH about reading Lenin, or anyone you choose to disagree with. However I think Lenin and the Bolsheviks before seizing power is a bit different from Lenin and the Bolsheviks after seizing power. I think you could actually find a number of "libertarian" writings in Lenin before the October Revolution, such as his description of the dual power situation in Russia (i.e. the soviets versus the bourgeois Provisional Government) that arose after the abdication of Nicholas II, and especially Lenin’s calls for "all power to the soviets" in the April Theses and elsewhere. Regarding the dual power situation, and the Bolsheviks’ reluctance to grab power from the Provisional Government without popular support, Lenin for example wrote, "We are not Blanquists, we do not stand for the seizure of power by a minority. We are Marxists, we stand for proletarian class struggle against petty-bourgeois intoxication, against chauvinism-defencism [i.e. some socialists’ support for Russia’s involvement in the Great War/WWI], phrase-mongering and dependence on the bourgeoisie." Of course there are the eternal debates about whether the reactionary turn after seizing power (the undermining of the organs of workers’ power which Lenin had at first supported, Kronstadt etc.) was caused more by the objective conditions, such as the Civil War and the failure of revolution to spread, or by the people in power (which I kind of think is a mix of both). It also wasn’t like the Bolsheviks didn’t have popular support in overthrowing the Provisional Government (even from anarchists for a short time after); support for the Bolsheviks had been steadily growing.

There were of course more moderate "socialists" who argued against seizing power and that Russia was too backward for proletarian revolution (which we need not really worry about today!). Interestingly Herzen and Marx, as far as the 19th century is concerned, saw potential in the development of the Russian mir/obshchina to directly transform to a socialist society while avoiding, in Marx’s words, "all the fatal vicissitudes of the capitalist regime." It's worth pointing out that Marx really wasn't the first to see potential in the Russian mir, and that this was a popular idea with the populists/narodniks. (Marx by the way also mentions "1861" in the letter, which was when serfs were emancipated.) Herzen for instance, who influenced the narodnik movement, and which itself would later develop into the Socialist Revolutionary Party (popular among peasants), praised the Russian mir by writing in an 1856 article entitled "Forward! Forward!" (at the end of the Crimean War), "Our peculiarity, our originality is the village [mir] with its communal self-governance, with the peasants' meetings, with delegates, with the absence of personal land ownership, with the division of fields according to number of households. Our rural commune has survived the era of difficult state growth in which communes generally perished and has remained whole in double chains, preserved under the blows of the owner's stick [i.e. serfdom, which still existed in 1856] and the bureaucrat's theft." The Russian mir itself, which existed through serfdom, had its own issues, particularly its patriarchal structure with male village elders at the top (who were also the chief decision-makers), in addition to generational conflicts between villagers, all of which were arguably exacerbated under serfdom and by the demands of lords.

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Jan 14 2022 14:31

Yet again, TH’s idealism at work; his conclusions about the Bolsheviks are based solely on their writings, totally divorced from their actual social practice – a completely ideological assessment trapped in the detached world of ideas. This is the worst approach to understanding the Bolsheviks and their historical agency. It’s like the academic history that judges events and actors solely by official documents and official institutions. TH has an ideology to realise; to map the supposed continuum between all revolutionary thought, leninist and anti-leninist alike – so as to try to justify his own reformist turn. Just as shabby as the right wing fake amalgams.

We've seen ex-Class War members supporting Farage's UKIP, Schmidt the anarcho-syndicalist revisionist pseudo-historian turning racist, Aufheben's Dr J’s academic career aiding police tactics and being defended for it, various 'anarchists' supporting Corbyn's Labour party, various ultra-lefts mirroring the far-right in being anti-distancing/anti-vax etc... Is there any definite common pattern to this? Only, perhaps, desperation to seek a sense of identity to replace the failure of class struggle to deliver the change and solidarity people collectively hoped for and once got from it. Identity – whether behind the new leftist messiah, nationalism, whiteness, an academic niche role or heroic defenders of humanity against Big Pharma poisons etc – is a shared security of the like-minded in an insecure world. People seek a practice for their ideological beliefs and as that has become harder for genuinely radical views they will resort to the pseudo-radical or worse; this necessarily means suppressing contradictions, criticisms and doubts and overriding them with the new-found passion for a shared Cause.

Tom Henry
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Jan 14 2022 20:44

Red Marriott, whoever you are, you do seem to hate me. That’s fine of course, and as I have said I don’t expect anyone here to agree with anything I am saying, since it goes against what Libcom stands for.

But you are quite wrong in your assumption that I am trying to justify my reformist turn with the use of various texts. One would see this if one read what I have written on here and elsewhere a bit more carefully.

What has actually happened - as I have written elsewhere - is that the reformist turn I have taken has come about through my years of investigation into all this stuff - see my book which (via the directly anthropological stuff (population, etc)) is the major step I made toward where I am now. Fascinatingly, for me, and as I think I have also written elsewhere, I never expected to come to this position. (And I thought that this was worth sharing with the milieu I once associated with.)

But the thing that has really cemented this position for me has been my recent investigations of the links between Bachofen, Benjamin, Heidegger, Agamben, and Camatte. I found Camatte’s willingness to work with the extreme right to get his work published - since the early 1970s ffs - to be shocking. I then was able to work out why such alliances were made possible through his ‘politics.’ At the same time the whole farce of Agamben’s covidskepticism, shared by Frere Dupont/Monsieur Dupont, just put the last pieces into place.

So, I think your interpretation of ‘me’ is far too crude and simplistic, as well as being irrelevant. To reduce all this stuff to some kind of character analysis of me misses (perhaps deliberately?) the uncomfortable connections I have made between millenarianism (communism) and the enabling of reaction. Instead of character analysing ‘me’ it is better to just say I am wrong, with proper evidence, of course, if possible.

But, having said this, i didn’t really expect anything other than your kind of response on a place like here, and indeed, I am surprised that the usual people have not just sworn at me. Although the “mic drop” comment (I pictured Chelsea Peretti from Brooklyn 99 in the ‘if I had a mic, I’d drop it now’ scene) did make me laugh.
Anyway, all the best.

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Jan 14 2022 21:17

I don't think what RM writes comes off as being hateful as such. Certainly, it is very strongly critical of your ideas, but you've certainly written your fair share of stuff that's been very strongly critical of other people's ideas in the past, and indeed up to this day: does that mean that you hate us millenarians?
Can't say I know much about Bachofen, but are you implicating Benjamin as sharing the undesirable associations of Heidegger/Agamben/Camatte there?
And as others have pointed out, I don't think that you have shown there's anything unique in milennarism/communism and the enabling of reaction, as it's just as easy to find examples of social democrats or liberals enabling reaction. Or indeed of reactionaries enabling liberals, or social democrats enabling liberals, or communists enabling social democrats, etc.

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Jan 14 2022 21:57

Seems like you can dish it out but can't take it; cries of "hatred" at the sight of any criticism - when your whole persona and stance has been extremely vocal criticism of others for decades.

As RT says, your claim that because Camatte & co has apparently had associations with the far-right then all of communist thought is tainted is absurd - as absurd as claiming that, cos anti-semitic/racist views can be found among the writings of Marx & Bakunin, that all the movements derived from them in 180 yrs since are tainted with that.

As RT says, many more similar associations could be found from the reformist leftism you now choose to align with but you happily turn a blind eye to that.

TH wrote:
But the thing that has really cemented this position for me has been my recent investigations of the links between Bachofen, Benjamin, Heidegger, Agamben, and Camatte. I found Camatte’s willingness to work with the extreme right to get his work published - since the early 1970s ffs - to be shocking. I then was able to work out why such alliances were made possible through his ‘politics.’ At the same time the whole farce of Agamben’s covidskepticism, shared by Frere Dupont/Monsieur Dupont, just put the last pieces into place.

Yet again, this is a purely ideological judgement. Most communists, even if they took some influence from those writers, would condemn any far right associations. To claim this as proof of irredeemable pollution of revolutionary thought is ridiculously over-blown and self-serving. To "put the last pieces into place" you've had to get your knife out and carve some odd shapes to make them appear to fit; which is why I say this amalgam bodge is really only an attempt at self-justification. You're the only one here moving rightward.

Tom Henry
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Jan 15 2022 04:05

I have written a lot elsewhere that you two have not read, and if you read that stuff you might see how it fits together and what I am arguing. Again, though, I don’t expect you to agree with it. I am also not asking you to read it, but it’s there if anyone else is interested.

On ‘moving rightward’ - the libertarian communist position surely sees itself as neither Left nor Right - or rather beyond the Left? Indeed, the anti-left Marxists see themselves as such, and Frere Dupont writes, as I am sure you would agree (and I certainly now don’t): “we must transcend the left.”

But maybe you see yourselves as ‘far left’? If you describe yourself as ‘ultra-left’ then maybe that also means transcending the Left? If you describe yourselves as anarchist then that is a transcendence of the Left from the get-go?

I presume we all know where the terms Left and Right wing come from? My argument now is that to abandon work within the ‘left wing’ is to leave the field open to reaction. And I have explained why I think this in the few twitter threads I have written.

To be clear then: I have moved from a position favoring transcending ‘the left’ (the libertarian communist position) to the Left itself, this is not “moving rightward” - or it is under your perspective if you think I was far left previously, or if you think you are far left now. My previous criticisms of the kind of ‘libertarian communism’ expressed on this site were all grounded in what I saw as a failure of logic here. That is, I thought people here generally mixed up their categories, and therefore failed to be coherent. I still think this, but I no longer care about it, because I disagree with my previous position. However, in your “move rightward” you once again mix up categories and lose coherence, unless you advocate working within the left (by which I mean any and all movements for as much social justice as we can get) for reforms while keeping the (hopeless) dream of communism as a secret desire which affects no one. My arguments here have ever only been about logic and working out where things lead.

When I wrote “you seem to hate me” it wasn’t a ‘cry of hatred’ as you hyperbolically interpreted it - I think you need to be less defensive and lighten up a bit smile . I don’t care if you criticise what I write (and if the criticism is valid/relevant I will take it on board) but I do think you should criticise what I actually write, and not make assumptions or create an image of my, or anyone’s, supposed character.
But no worries.
Although, as we are now talking in circles there is no point going any further.
Best.

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Khawaga
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Jan 15 2022 13:14

What's the over/under on Tom's next "conversion ". Last time he railed against everyone for not really getting real subsumption, this time for reading too little Camatte and Heidegger. Next time, Tom will have found Jesus.

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 15 2022 13:55
Tom Henry wrote:
On ‘moving rightward’ - the libertarian communist position surely sees itself as neither Left nor Right - or rather beyond the Left? Indeed, the anti-left Marxists see themselves as such, and Frere Dupont writes, as I am sure you would agree (and I certainly now don’t): “we must transcend the left.”

But maybe you see yourselves as ‘far left’? If you describe yourself as ‘ultra-left’ then maybe that also means transcending the Left? If you describe yourselves as anarchist then that is a transcendence of the Left from the get-go?

if someone uses "the left" to mean the broad political grouping in society that identifies as left and has certain shared pariaxis (mainly voting with a bit of unions) then it makes sense to say anarchists/the ultra left/etc are out side this
but if someone is talking about the relative political positions of groups/people etc, it makes perfects sense to say that anarchists/the ultra left are positioned left of "the left", that they take left wing ideas farther etc
this also corresponds to popular usage where ideas like communism, workers control etc are universally seen as "left", and given that terms like left, ultra left, anarchism etc are not precisely defined technical terms i'm not sure what the problem with using them this way, which everyone understands, is

radicalgraffiti
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Jan 15 2022 14:06
Tom Henry wrote:
Yes, indeed! What I am saying is that we can understand how they work and how we are deeply part of them (we are them, in fact), but we cannot dissolve them or transcend them, and so, with this knowledge we must work out how best to work within them. We cannot escape this way of living, and so we must try to make it as 'palatable' as possible, which requires being involved at all levels to protect and enhance 'social justice.'

Whatever we do - whether it be stage 'a dictatorship of the proletariat,' become 'destituent partisans,' or work, reformingly, for social justice - we help capitalism develop. We can do nothing else, since capital is our society, it is us, we are its subject and its motor.

(Of course, I don't expect anyone here to agree with any, or much, let alone all, of this.)

so why is this any more the case than it was in any proceeding form of society? why is this the end of history?

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Jan 15 2022 14:35
TH wrote:
So, I think your interpretation of ‘me’ is far too crude and simplistic, as well as being irrelevant. To reduce all this stuff to some kind of character analysis of me misses (perhaps deliberately?) the uncomfortable connections I have made between millenarianism (communism) and the enabling of reaction.

You seem to be trying dress up a dull banality – that political allegiances have always shifted in sometimes seemingly contradictory and myriad paths – as some new unique revelation. The only person likely to claim to be “shocked” or made “uncomfortable” by this is you. Maybe that’s your new specialist pet theme now you’ve discarded the old Nih-comm/Dupont line. Maybe that will curry favour among social democrats you want to be close to and your forthcoming book will be an expose of this great non-revelation eagerly applauded by reformists who want simplistic criticisms of revolutionary theory.

Quote:
I have written a lot elsewhere that you two have not read, and if you read that stuff you might see how it fits together and what I am arguing.

You’ve written a lot here in earlier posts and then quickly deleted it because it’s part of your forthcoming book. Why – some weird marketing strategy for the great masterwork?

All the hairsplitting semantics about left/right; usage of these terms varies in their context, such as left & right wings within a party or movement, wherever they might fall on the wider political spectrum. Applying it to a shift from revolutionary to reformist positions is easily understandable to most people. Regarding your own shift, I think you just don’t like hearing it said out loud so try to gloss it up as something else. [Edit: better explained by radicalgraffitti above]

Quote:
Instead of character analysing ‘me’ it is better to just say I am wrong, with proper evidence, of course, if possible.

The evidence for ‘my’ smile criticisms is in your posts on this thread, that’s what I’ve dealt with – while you’ve only responded by moaning at being criticised. BTW, you’ve produced no evidence here for your own claims. But whether or not an obscure 85 yr old (ex-)marxist who’s lived for decades on a remote French farm used a right wing publisher in the 70s is not going to alter, for most people, the history of radical anarchist/communist theory much at all; it isn’t gonna bring down the whole edifice like a house of cards and leave you triumphant atop the rubble. If you think many people will be made “uncomfortable” by that you’re utterly deluded and your assessment is distorted by your intellectual obsession with abstract ideas and their producers.

But yes, off you go Tom – you have a book to peddle to social democrats and Trots.

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Jan 15 2022 17:03
Khawaga wrote:
Next time, Tom will have found Jesus.

My money's on the Greens or Lib Dems. Or Tom decides he IS Jesus.

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Jan 16 2022 07:21
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I think you could actually find a number of "libertarian" writings in Lenin before the October Revolution, such as his description of the dual power situation in Russia (i.e. the soviets versus the bourgeois Provisional Government) that arose after the abdication of Nicholas II, and especially Lenin’s calls for "all power to the soviets" in the April Theses and elsewhere.

How was the description of the "dual power" situation or wanting a majority mandate from the soviets "libertarian"?

adri
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Jan 16 2022 13:38

I’m guessing your objection is to me "dragging Lenin’s name through the dirt" by associating his pre-October writings with the word "libertarian"? I was using it kind of loosely to describe Lenin’s emphasis on the organs of workers’ power (soviets, factory committees etc.) against the Provisional Government (especially his calls for "all power to the soviets"), and the Bolsheviks’ reluctance to overthrow the Provisional Government as a minority party.

We could take Alexander Berkman saying the same if you like (the other bits of which I do not agree with): "Together with their opposition to the Constituent Assembly the Bolsheviki borrowed from the Anarchist arsenal a number of other militant tactics. Thus they proclaimed the great war cry, 'All power to the Soviets,' advised the workers to ignore and even defy the Provisional Government, and to resort to direct mass action to carry out their demands. At the same time they also adopted the Anarchist methods of the general strike and energetically agitated for the ‘expropriation of the expropriators.'"

Tom Henry
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Jan 19 2022 03:22

radicalgraffit wrote:

Quote:
Tom Henry wrote:
"Yes, indeed! What I am saying is that we can understand how they work and how we are deeply part of them (we are them, in fact), but we cannot dissolve them or transcend them, and so, with this knowledge we must work out how best to work within them. We cannot escape this way of living, and so we must try to make it as 'palatable' as possible, which requires being involved at all levels to protect and enhance 'social justice.'
Whatever we do - whether it be stage 'a dictatorship of the proletariat,' become 'destituent partisans,' or work, reformingly, for social justice - we help capitalism develop. We can do nothing else, since capital is our society, it is us, we are its subject and its motor.

(Of course, I don't expect anyone here to agree with any, or much, let alone all, of this.)"

so why is this any more the case than it was in any proceeding form of society? why is this the end of history?

(Most of the below is from an article of mine on the Ill Will Editions website (things can be found if one looks). I was amazed that they published two of my articles there since both articles were against their central project, and against Camatte. Eventually, I asked them to remove the articles as the site contains a lot of silly academic and Heideggerian/Agambenist stuff which I did not want to be associated with, but they refused, I think as a kind of punishment! So, they are still there, which is now highly amusing for me.)

Is it not the case that every escape from capital or the State, or things as they are, every sect, or movement — from the Vikings who escaped the burgeoning power of Harald Finehair’s expanding kingdom by settling in Iceland, to the tragedy of Jonestown — that has gone somewhere else to found a new world has just brought the sickness with them?

The problem is centred on whether one can will a genuine change in one’s life, as an individual or as a group. If one is willing the change then it is logical to assume that the imagining of the change emerges from the very circumstances of the thing one is opposing – the desired change is bound by the parameters of the original thing one is trying to escape. We are social beings, we are socially constructed, we can only see the world through our own perspective, though we can recognise that there may be other perspectives.

It is useful here, in order to explain what I mean, to think about how the concept of time is perceived in two different eras: the modern era (capitalism), and the European Middle Ages (feudalism).

We can, for example, understand when someone tells us that medieval peasants lived by a cyclical calendar derived from agrarian existence but, despite this, we are unable to view time as a rotation because we cannot look up from this page and comfortably accept, or throw out the notion, that time is not linear. As historian A. J. Gurevich [‘Categories of Medieval Culture,’ 1971] writes of the transition from feudal to urban capitalist conceptions of time: “The alienation of time from its concrete content raised the possibility of viewing it as a pure categorical form, as duration unburdened by matter.” It was the success of the modern economy, which needed coordination to operate efficiently, that changed our conception of time. It was the introduction of supply chains, distribution, and factory work, culminating in railway timetables, that led to the abandonment of any sense that time was ‘cyclical,’ ‘seasonal,’ or connected to the earth. This linear expression of time is now hard-wired into our brains because it reflects our everyday existence, therefore this interpretation of time also affects how we act in the world. How we are created is how we create.

We cannot see through the eyes of a person inhabiting a different mode of living. Our consciousness is determined by the daily life we live, and the principles and values generated by and acting upon this actual daily existence. Once a society is established, then that society becomes an organic whole, a mode of living (not necessarily an ‘economy’). A twenty-first century Parisian can as little decide to understand time as cyclical as a medieval European peasant could decide to understand time as a separate linear category of the universe.

One can also see how change in oneself is often impossible through simple willing. Genuine, grief, over the death of a loved one, for example, cannot just be wished away, it slowly lessens over time, or is forgotten in other pursuits (as long as those pursuits are not taken up specifically to forget about one’s grief, in which case the pursuit itself is a constant reminder). Therefore, it would be true to say that the solution to disabling grief does not come from our thinking about it and putting it into perspective, but from time. Genuine changes — or solutions — are always delivered to us on levels other than our conscious willing.

In an articulation, or extension, of Marx’s historical materialist proposition — “People make their own history, but they do not make it freely, and not in circumstances of their choosing, but under circumstances that are proximate, pre-existing, and handed-down” — the Marxist scholar Ernest Mandel formulated the term parametric determinism. This is a useful concept to utilise when thinking about the limits of our possible understandings of other eras, or other cultures… or other animals. He argues:

“Most, if not all, historical crises have several possible outcomes, not innumerable fortuitous or arbitrary ones; that is why we use the expression ‘parametric determinism’ indicating several possibilities within a given set of parameters.” (Mandel, 1989, MIA)

We could substitute the words ‘historical crises’ with ‘situations,’ or even ‘imaginings.’ The point being that we are products of the society we are born into. We cannot simply will ourselves to be the products or functions (or reproducers) of another society (for example, ‘a truly communist’ society), no matter how close we feel to understanding the particular social organisation we are observing or considering. Radical changes in society – such as the transition from feudalism to capitalism - do not happen via human will, they happen on other levels. The revolutions that made capitalism official – such as the English, French, and Russian – were the institutionalising, or ratifying, of an economic force that had already achieved actual predominance.

The difference between life in a civilized society and life ‘before’ civilization’ is that in civilization there is constant social discontent. This is because hierarchy and exploitation are built in to civilized society. It as never the choice of a non-State society to become civilized, it was forced upon them by circumstances beyond their control – either population growth that could not be controlled, or in our own times, colonization.

The latest variant of civilization utilises the discontent in the most democratic way, enabling it to inform actions at all levels of society, thus creating a situation of constant technological and social revolution. But this is never a revolution that does away with capital (our society) itself, since we are unable to do that. If ever civilization (or capitalism) disappears it will not be because a group of people, or a mass movement has willed it. We are the functions of civilization (or capital) and our antagonism toward our situation is one of the key motors of capitalism – it is used by capital (that is we use it for and against ourselves). This is one of the striking things that makes our present society different from all previous civilizations. Antagonism has been democratized, fully and effectively. But no one planned this.

There has never been a case of humans in a society escaping or abandoning the essence of their society – it cannot be done, because the humans involved are the society. (Don’t believe the stupid academic rubbish, or general idea, that implies that ‘cavemen’ were just waiting for fire, agriculture, and refrigeration, etc.)

So, no one decided we would have a capitalist society (see ‘What is so Special about Relative Surplus Value?’[unpublished] and ‘The Freedom of Things,’ etc). But people have decided (as they have done since Zoroaster, that is, since the beginning of the State) that we should have a communist society (in macro or micro form, eg, Russia or Münster). And each time, of course, what has been created has been an extension or variant of civilization/capitalism.

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Jan 19 2022 21:27

So Tom is now just become a full on apologist for the way things are. Not only that, this is an expression of some essential feature of "civilization". I guess now I understand how all of those Trots ended up as neo-cons.

adri
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Jan 19 2022 22:28
TH wrote:
(Most of the below is from an article of mine on the Ill Will Editions website (things can be found if one looks).

Sorry I'm slow (and was too busy squabbling over academics... and the strange association of class struggle with a socialist/revolutionary perspective) is Tom Henry one of the Monsieur Dupont people, Peter Harrison? This is the article I think he's just mentioned, https://illwill.com/the-gemeinwesen-has-always-been-here-an-engagement-with-the-ideas-of-jacques-camatte. If so, what's up with all the pseudonyms?

TH wrote:
We cannot escape this way of living, and so we must try to make it as 'palatable' as possible, which requires being involved at all levels to protect and enhance 'social justice.'

TH wrote:
If ever civilization (or capitalism) disappears it will not be because a group of people, or a mass movement has willed it.

Anywho, it's a pretty unconvincing kind of pessimism (economic determinism?) to say that all we can do under capitalism is "try to make it as 'palatable' as possible," with no possibility of transcending it through our own actions, especially when one considers how capitalist social relations have already spread throughout most of the world.

So what exactly is the agent of change, if all we can do is just "improve" our conditions under capitalism via various forms of "social justice," voting for the "lesser evil," etc.?

Tom Henry
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Jan 20 2022 03:17

‘The agents of change’ are us and everyone - but the change cannot be a change to a new society, it can only be a reform of the one we are the functions and motors of.

As I argue elsewhere, and as Camatte/Bordiga/Agamben etc confirm, the attachment to a ‘revolutionary communist’ position/perspective leads to inactivity and irrelevance, and worse, the 'enabling' of reaction (eg as Camatte says, anti-fascism is worse than fascism).

Tom Henry
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Jan 20 2022 20:23

Below, for example is Frere Dupont on his Nihcom blogspot (I have never had anything to do with this blog, btw, or any of his others).

FD appears to have now given up writing anti-left essays, as he says, but perhaps the territory is already owned by @BCryptofash, @ELLange6, and Aimee Terese?
FD writes:

Quote:
“There won’t be any more attempts at theory. Just a few random notes. Nobody wants to read another essay on why leftists are moronic, or why antifascism is a trick, or why exported US anti-racism is the cutest mystification yet of US imperialism. There isn’t going to be anything like that. No more essays. Just notes. Just that. Nothing else.”

Firstly, I am sure plenty of people want to read more articles on “why leftists are moronic” - the far-right would love them, as would conservative Christians, anti-feminists, those who are anti-gay marriage (eg Camatte), anti-abortion, indeed all the traditionalists who complain at ‘modernity,’ which includes much of the revolutionary communist milieu – there is much to complain of in ‘modernity,’ but we are stuck with it, and those who would attempt to replace it would give us regimes like Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, or Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Secondly, I am presuming that the assertion that “anti-fascism is a trick” means that it is a trick to stop revolutionaries being revolutionary. Which is what Bordiga and Camatte insist too. They were right, but it is a 'trick' that is beneficial to us. Better to be anti-fascist than to be silent and hopeful in one’s prayers for communism.

I don’t know what is meant by “exported US anti-racism is the cutest mystification yet of US imperialism” - certainly the US has a hegemony in the distribution of ideas, and all our ideas end up in the service of our hierarchical and exploitative society, But I suspect that it is really just another way of saying ‘anti-racism is bad,’ in the same way as saying ‘anti-fascism is worse than fascism.’

Ultimately, it is difficult to find any effective difference between the anti-left politics of FD and others, and the far-right and Christian conservatives.

#

An early version of the current anti-left Marxism is to be found in parts of the writings and trajectory of the UK group, Wildcat, in the 1980s. They produced the text Outside and Against the Unions – looking at this now one might almost think that it was written by Margaret Thatcher in order to further destabilize the unions, put radicals off actually doing anything, and stem any chance of effective/useful working-class intervention in society. (I am told that one of the key members eventually actually became a fascist, but I can’t verify this, so if anyone can correct me?) Wildcat were also anti-democracy and anti-anti-fascist…

(The best thing we can do in society politically is defend pluralist democracy, so being anti-democracy just adds to the Trumpist rhetoric – read Jan-Werner Müller’s ‘What is Populism?’)

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R Totale
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Jan 20 2022 09:47
Tom Henry wrote:
Firstly, I am sure plenty of people want to read more articles on “why leftists are moronic” - the far-right would love them, as would conservative Christians, anti-feminists, those who are anti-gay marriage (eg Camatte), anti-abortion, indeed all the traditionalists who complain at ‘modernity,’ which includes much of the revolutionary communist milieu – there is much to complain of in ‘modernity,’ but we are stuck with it.

What role does the unlimited consumption of fossil fuels play in modernity, in your estimation? Do you honestly think that's something we're "stuck with" indefinitely?

Quote:
Secondly, I am presuming that the assertion that “anti-fascism is a trick” means that it is a trick to stop revolutionaries being revolutionary. Which is what Bordiga and Camatte insist too. They were right, but it is a 'trick' that is beneficial to us. Better to be anti-fascist than to be silent and hopeful in one’s prayers for communism.

Fwiw, I was never "anti-anti-fascist", I always thought that that was a label that could cover a wide range of different positions and so it was better to explore what was actually meant rather than just taking the brand name at face value and then making sweeping generalisations. I see that your recent ideological developments have not affected your fondness for such generalisations, though.

Quote:
I don’t know what is meant by “exported US anti-racism is the cutest mystification yet of US imperialism” - certainly the US has a hegemony in the distribution of ideas, and all our ideas end up in the service of our hierarchical and exploitative society.

I mean, for someone as intelligent and thoughtful as you would appear to be, I would have thought it was pretty obvious. The US is a place with a particular racial order, and strains of anti-racist thought that, while they vary in quality, have arisen in response to that particular racial order; attempting to apply those forms of anti-racist thought in European contexts, let alone Asian or African ones, can lead to serious distortions, and ultimately serious distortions that reflect the old assumptions of American exceptionalism, importance, etc.

Quote:
An early version of the current anti-left Marxism is to be found in parts of the writings and trajectory of the UK group, Wildcat, in the 1980s. They produced the text Outside and Against the Unions – looking at this now one might almost think that it was written by Margaret Thatcher in order to further destabilize the unions, put radicals off actually doing anything, and stem any chance of effective/useful working-class intervention in society. (I am told that one of the key members eventually actually became a fascist, but I can’t verify this, so if anyone can correct me?)

Having looked around a bit, you can check the wildcat (dot) international site if you want to see where they ended up.

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Jan 20 2022 11:08

There's a summary of Wildcat's evolution here:
https://libcom.org/library/wildcat-uk-magazine

"Another World Is Impossible" is not what I was expecting and I don't agree, obviously. Most of us probably are doing things that make existing society more tolerable for some people though?

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R Totale
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Jan 20 2022 15:09

Reformist defenders of pluralist democracy must say what only reformist defenders of pluralist democracy can say

Battlescarred
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Jan 20 2022 15:44

Very early on Sunday morning before last, I went for a walk around Soho in the very crisp and bright dawning. I visited the house where Hazlitt, the great radical journalist, died in poverty in 1830 and later on the walk, I visited the memorial slab to Hazlitt in the grounds of St. Ann's Church. Unlike the poets Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth, who he knew, Hazlitt remained committed to radical ideas until his death.

On Wordsworth and Godwin: 'Throw aside your books of chemistry,' said Wordsworth to a young man, a student in the Temple, 'and read Godwin on Necessity.' Sad necessity! Fatal reverse! Is truth then so variable? Is it one thing at twenty end another at forty? Is it at a burning heat in 1793, and below zero in 1814? Not so, in the name of manhood and of common sense! Let us pause here a little. Mr. Godwin indulged in extreme opinions, and carried with him all the most sanguine and fearless understandings of the time. What then? Because those opinions were overcharged, were they therefore altogether groundless? Is the very God of our idolatry all of a sudden to become an abomination and an anathema? Could so many young men of talent, of education, and of principle have been hurried away by what had neither truth nor nature, not one particle of honest feeling nor the least show of reason in it? Is the Modern Philosophy (as it has been called) at one moment a youthful bride and the next a withered beldame, like the false Duessa in Spenser? Or is the vaunted edifice of Reason, like his House of Pride, gorgeous in front, and dazzling to approach, while 'its hinder parts are ruinous, decayed and old'? Has the main prop, which supported the mighty fabric, been shaken, and given way under the strong grasp of some Samson, or has it not rather been undermined by rats and vermin? At one time, it almost seemed, that 'if this failed,

The pillar'd firmament was rottenness
And earth's base built of stubble.'

and on Southey: Mr. Southey, as we formerly remember to have seen him, had a hectic flush upon his check, a roving fire in his eye, a falcon glance, a look at once aspiring and dejected. It was the look that had been impressed upon his face by the events that marked the outset of his life. It was the dawn of Liberty that still tinged his cheek, a smile betwixt hope and sadness that still played upon his quivering lip. Mr. Southey's mind is essentially sanguine, even to overweeningness. It is prophetic of good; it cordially embraces it; it casts a. longing, lingering look after it, even when it is gone for ever. He cannot bear to give up the thought of happiness, his confidence in his fellow-man, when all else despair. It is the very element, 'where he must live or have no life at all.' While he supposed it possible that a better form of society could be introduced than any that had hitherto existed, while the light of the French Revolution beamed into his soul (and long after, it was seen reflected on his brow, like the light of setting suns on the peak of some high mountain, or lonely range of clouds, floating in purer ether!) -- while he had this hope, this faith in man left, he cherished it with child-like simplicity, he clung to it with the fondness of a lover. He was an enthusiast, a, fanatic, a leveller; he stuck at nothing that he: thought would banish all pain, and misery from the world; in his impatience of the smallest error or injustice, he would have sacrificed himself and the existing generation (a holocaust) to his devotion to the right cause. But when he once believed after many staggering doubts and painful struggles, that this was no longer possible, when his chimeras and golden dreams of human perfectibility vanished from him, he turned suddenly round, and maintained that 'whatever is, is right.' ...His opinions are like certain wines, warm and generous when new; but they will not keep, and soon turn flat or sour, for want of a stronger spirit of the understanding to give a body to them. He wooed Liberty as a youthful lover, but it was perhaps more as a mistress than a bride; and he has since wedded with an elderly and not very reputable lady, called Legitimacy.
And on Coleridge: He hailed the rising orb of liberty, since quenched in darkness and in blood, and had kindled his affections at the blaze of the French Revolution, and sang for joy, when the towers of the Bastille and the proud places of the insolent and the oppressor fell, and would have floated his bark, freighted with fondest fancies, across the Atlantic wave with Southey and others to seek for peace and freedom . . .

Alas! "Frailty, thy name is Genius!" What is become of all this mighty heap of hope, of thought, of learning and humanity? It has ended in swallowing doses of oblivion and in writing paragraphs in the Courier. Such and so little is the mind of man!

He has sunk into torpid, uneasy repose, tantalized by useless resources, haunted by vain imaginings, his lips idly moving, but his heart for ever still, or, as the shattered chords vibrate of themselves, making melancholy music to the car of memory! Such is the fate of genius in an age when every man is ground to powder who is not either a born slave, or who does not willingly and at once offer up the yearnings of humanity and the dictates of reason as a welcome sacrifice to besotted prejudice and loathsome power.

The poets, the creatures of sympathy, could not stand the frowns both of king and people. They did not like to be shut out when places and pensions, when the critic's praises, and the laurel wreath were about to be distributed. They did not stomach being sent to Coventry, and Mr Coleridge sounded a retreat for them by the help of casuistry and a musical voice. "His words were hollow, but they pleased the ear" of his friends of the Lake School, who turned back disgusted and panic-struck from the dry desert of unpopularity, like Hassan the camel-driver.

Tom Henry
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Jan 20 2022 20:24

We are slaves in slave world, while it is sometimes useful to read what ‘great thinkers’ (other slaves), or anyone, may have written, it is best not to romanticize or demonize them as persons.

William Hazlitt, despite being almost constantly in debt, was a central cultural figure in early 19th century Britain, and it seems that twenty-odd years ago he became a little fashionable again in the UK (his gravestone was restored by the philosopher AC Grayling and others, and unveiled in 2003 by Michel Foot). Anyway, his apparent misogyny led him to prefer the company of prostitutes because they were lower class, and his use of them seems to have continued throughout his life (maybe this contributed to his financial woes). He also idolized Napoleon Bonaparte (the inheritor of Jacobinism), and in his last years produced a massive biography of the French leader.

So, as might be the case with Sartre (apologist for Leninism/Stalinism), one can read some of what Sartre wrote (I choose not to), but one, surely, would not weep sentimentally for him at his graveside?

Battlescarred
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Jan 21 2022 09:25

Who said anyone was weeping sentimentally? A nice little diversion involving character assassination and Hazlitt's unfortunate worship of Napoleon to distract from the apposite observations on those red-hot radicals who turned their coats in later life.
Ah, do you remember when you argued vehemently within the ACF that we should not support a victimised member of the Spanish CNT because somehow , in your book, he was a union bureaucrat ( he was secretary of his local CNT branch)? Now we have your pathetic self-justifications for your latest turn, which frankly, no one wants to read.

Battlescarred
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Jan 21 2022 09:48

And, as you say as regards Hazlitt -"it is best not to romanticize or demonize them as persons" -he was far from perfect and had misogynist tendencies . He was a product of his times. That doesn't mean that some treasures cannot be found in his writing. If I adopted that attitude to every writer or musician I read or listen to, there would be precious few to enjoy. Anyway, that is by the bye. Hazlitt's comments on Wordsworth and co. still stand up today and fit you to a T.

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Jan 21 2022 10:58

TH is eager to miss the point, the applicability and the truth of Hazlitt's words by trying to distract with comments about Hazlitt's personal imperfections. I doubt TH will try to apply that trick to the left bureaucrats and politicians he's now eager to follow.

Tom Henry
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Jan 21 2022 14:11

No, I don’t remember the CNT member thing - but if that’s what I did then I hope the rest of you didn’t go along with me. If that was the case, my arguing against supporting the person, and I am sure you are right that I did that, then I was wrong.

This is the point I am trying to make. At that time I was ‘politically’ ‘outside and against the unions’ (even though I was in a union and have been in a union most my working life, sometimes more active than others - we often say one thing but do another). I was an anarchist-communist/ultra-leftist/millenarian, and by promoting such I was just adding another poison to the social/political water.

On here previously I have argued against the leftism (I think) and the Leninism I saw on here. I still think the Leninism should be interrogated - because one can’t be a millenarian without essentially being a ‘leninist’ - but I was wrong to argue against the ‘leftism’ (I can’t remember, but I’m sure I did). I do remember at the end of my last stint I was supporting the UBI and suggesting how we could all become more effective anti-fascists by dropping our millenarianism (communism/anarchism) and getting involved on any levels we are able to.