Why are some communists considered to be to the 'left' of others?

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RedHughs
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May 9 2010 06:40
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It is notorious that anarcho-situationist egalitarianism has always refused to recognise the real hierarchical organisation upon which it has functioned.

I'm not sure what "anarcho-situationist egalitarianism" is in this context Situationist International certainly did face the question of inequality among member in various debates, some of which are quoted above.

Further, the question of "gangs" isn't merely the question of whether one can find one or ten supposed examples of "gangs promoting hierarchy" or something. The other necessary condition for the "gang theory" to have validity is for the concept of gang to be well-founded, ie, not a title arbitrarily bestowed on those you dislike. As many have rightly ask, what separates the organization of communists from the organization of the working class?

I mean, unless your definition of gang is reasonably coherent, your evidence concerning "the behavior of gangs" is no more useful than statistics you might present to us tallying-up which animals the clouds reminded you of today.

I think there is a difference between the situation of a minority attempting revolutionary action when they are, say, distributed through-out a city (a la a communist agitation group) and a minority who might be concentrated in a single factory (who might go on strike, say). But it's a complex, relative difference that involves the over-all situation of revolutionary struggle. What's unfortunate is how the "anti-gang" and such position fails to begin considering these concrete considerations and instead puts the whole question into a kind of ontological realm.

fort-da game
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May 9 2010 14:40

I can't much be bothered to answer Red's implication of my self-hate except to say I lurv myself to what I think is an appropriate degree and I'm thoroughly enjoying the people, groups and projects I am involved with and which I have invited Red to participate in – as to the psychology of self-hate, yes of course this feeds into a sense of powerlessness (I don't want to judge other people's pain, or the means by which they cope with it). Yes, contradictions scream in people's faces, yes these people pragmatically deal with them in everyday life, but still the way the problem is presented, the framing of the problem at the critical moment is what counts – i.e. the proletariat has the capacity to solve the problem of itself but only at certain junctures. My main interest though is in recursivity in communist theory, i.e. the appropriate location of particular problems. As an aside, Red does not suggest which big 'O' organsiation we should be organised in.

Joseph Kay wrote:
fort-da game wrote:
the point for communists is to present the problem to the working class, which must be resolved at a 'higher' level of recursivity than that at which communists operate, i.e. the bind must be released by the practice of the class. I think communists crystallise or embody theoretical problem, in this way they reverse the 'organisationalist' relation by which the 'party' brings meaning to the proletariat. I think it is the proletariat that brings meaning to the communists.

the problem here is an absolute separation of "communists" from "the class", as if we're not workers. the thing is (for the most part), we are. thus the 'problem' of capital is one we face day to day, whether through shit at work, crap from landlords or other problems arising from alienated society (racial/gendered violence, depression...). organisation then should serve the purpose of aiding communist workers to engage in the process of organisation against said conditions, which of course we can't do on behalf of the wider class but as a part of it (that is to say, with our workmates, fellow tennants etc).

I work for the NHS, I live on a council estate, I have two children at school – I share with everyone else the 'struggle' to live and I am organised and organising as I think fit... that is to say, I try and conduct my relations with others as humanly as possible, in my own peculiar jargon, I 'visit my frailty into the context'; to what extent my pro-communism is objectively separate or not from everyone else's life is not for me to say. But I do not think there is a necessary connection between this struggle for life under present conditions and social revolution which articulates a break from that life... Of course as capital imposes the intensity of the struggle so my activity is altered and measured, so I become more interested in either its quantities or my own qualities. I have no means to 'bring the fight' to it, the very idea is an absurd inversion.

I think presenting problems as they occur to us as communists and inviting answers is a fantastic means of engaging with people (of course it is something of an 'answer' in itself). This is not my invention, Gorky reports on this (almost socratic) method in My universities as a strategy of the 'going to the people' movement. The 'party' is not the actualisation of history etc etc. It is not our role to bring truth or tell people how to live their lives, how to conduct the struggle of their existence. Other people do have the answers, it is 'just' a matter of asking the right questions, drawing out what they know (under optimum conditions).

I really do think communists are absolutely separated from the class by virtue of their consciousness. I think we are extraordinary individuals produced by ordinary conditions and we have to deal with the fact of our exceptionality... i.e. we cannot identify a means by which we can by our activities induce millions of others to become communists. We have to deal with the actual situation in which we find ourselves, this cashes out in the form of a question which asks how small groups relate to much larger formations (certainly not dictate to them, certainly not recruit millions, certainly not live in a wigwam, certainly not wear donkey jackets and talk about the match, certainly not conduct 'civil war'). Again, perverse as it may sound, I think the class must solve 'our' problem (the problem of exceptionality in relation to ordinary reproduction) which we are setting to it and after it has solved that problem we will set it new problems or the same problem in different terms. The reality of situation is that it is not feasible to adsorb the class into our structures but the class may include us into its (an ambivalent fate I grant you). I am hopeful that as capital dictates the next set of moves as an 'austerity package' other people will become more receptive to the reframing of the issues that are screaming in their faces. 'We' must finally put to bed the big baby of radical subjectivity.

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jura
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May 9 2010 20:21

I must say I really like what you just wrote, fort-da game!

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Noa Rodman
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May 28 2010 12:17

I think it was mcgiver who linked to a text in which it's mentioned how Adorno theorized the notion of racket. But although it's true that Adorno used himself the term 'racket' for fascist (very important, just fascist, he doesn't expand it to all political organizations like Mcgiver or Camatte seem to be advocating), he criticized exactly the people who use such notions! So the people who use the term 'racket' as a key part of their political doctrine to label unions, political organizations, etc. are themselves authoritarians as Adorno writes in the Authoritarian Personality:

Quote:
Knowing that he can get hold of his followers only by satisfying this craving, he cuts his imagery to fit their psychological desires. The general scheme of this imagery is the characterization of Communism as a conspiracy. This concept being a mirrored reflection of the conspiratorial character of his own racket.

Here is more from Adorno's studies on the AP:

Quote:
As to the high scorers [of the survey], the key theme of their antilabor ideology is that of the racket. They regard the pressure exercised by organized labor as illegitimate in a way comparable to organized crime and conspiracy - the latter being one of the high scorers' favorite topics anyway. To them, whose moralism has been emphasized from time to time in this book, the concept of the free market coincides with the moral law, and any factors which introduce, as it were, an extra-economic element into the business sphere are regarded by them as irregular. Incidentally, this suspicion does not pertain to industrial monopolies and their pricing agreements but merely to the supposedly monopolistic structure of unions. Here again the idea of "legitimacy" - of identification with the strong comes into play. Industrial combines seem, according to this kind of thinking, to be the outgrowth of a "natural" tendency, labor organizations a banding together of people who want to get more than their due share.

Viewed from a purely psychological angle the idea of "labor racketeering" seems to be of a nature similar to the stereotype of Jewish clannishness. It dates back to the lack of an adequately internalized identification with paternal authority during the Oedipus situation. It is our general assumption that the typical high scorers, above all, fear the father and try to side with him in order to participate in his power. The "racketeers" are those who by demanding too much (though the subject wants as much himself) run the risk of arousing the father's anger - and hence the subject's castration anxiety. This anxiety, reflecting the subject's own guilt feelings, is relieved by projection. Thinking in terms of in- and outgroup, the high scorer who wants to "outgroup" the others is continuously prone to call them the ingroup. The more he tends himself, on account of his pretense to "status," to circumvent the "normal" channels of free competition, the more he is likely to blame those he deems weak for the very same thing. Workers become "racketeers," criminals to him as soon as they organize. They appear as the guilty ones after the pattern of "peddler bites dog." Such psychological tendencies are, of course, magnetically attracted by any elements of reality which fit into the projective pattern. Here, labor organizations afford a rare opportunity.

M 352, a shift foreman who calls himself a "head operator," scores high on all scales.

"Well, at Standard Oil, no unions recognized. I've never been a union man. Through union there is strength, if it's run okay, but a lot of unions of today have developed into a racket, and a source of political influence. The C.I.O. Political Action Committee particularly ... politics and unionism shouldn't become too involved. The unions shouldn't become a political organization; and the A.F.L. has developed into a racket for making money. The officers keep themselves in positions practically until they die, with no strings on how they use the money, and that should be controlled . . . but if the local organization can run itself in an orderly fashion, okay, if the officers are conservative, but the minute they get too liberal, use a strike as a first weapon instead of as a last resort . . . etc."

Here, as in many instances, critique is directed against the largeness of unions per se; with the romantic idea that purely local organization, being less institutionalized, would be better automatically.

M 658, the San Quentin man quoted above, goes so far as plainly to advocate the abolition of unions: [..]

But as I said, I don't agree with these kinds of psychoanalytic explanations (I don't think Camatte's coinage of the 'racket' is due to his lack in identification with paternal authority in the oedipal phase). The same for the notion of parasite.

Boris Badenov
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May 28 2010 17:01
fort-da game wrote:
I really do think communists are absolutely separated from the class by virtue of their consciousness.

I honestly don't understand what you're trying to say here. How does "consciousness" separate me from the working class? Does having a "capitalist consciousness" make you a capitalist?
Class is a material reality, and I certainly don't feel myself separated from it in any meaningful way by virtue of my political convictions. At most I feel a certain isolation from what is perceptively a very hostile political mainstream, or the desolate apathy, of most people. But that doesn't make my position structurally separate from them.

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I think we are extraordinary individuals produced by ordinary conditions and we have to deal with the fact of our exceptionality...

Extraordinary in what sense?

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i.e. we cannot identify a means by which we can by our activities induce millions of others to become communists.

If you're saying what I think you're saying, then I agree. The enormity of "millions of others becoming communists" as most people here understand the term is a 800 lb gorilla for any communist in good faith. I think it's hard to find even one example of millions of people "becoming" anything. The vast majority of conversions to a new system of thinking and relating to the world, have always been pragmatic adaptations to the requirements of the present rather than enthusiastic "born-again" experiences. So unless the present imperiously demands communism, even contemplating the possibility of a "means by which we can by our activities include millions of others to become communists" is a dire waste of time.

Quote:
We have to deal with the actual situation in which we find ourselves, this cashes out in the form of a question which asks how small groups relate to much larger formations (certainly not dictate to them, certainly not recruit millions, certainly not live in a wigwam, certainly not wear donkey jackets and talk about the match, certainly not conduct 'civil war'). Again, perverse as it may sound, I think the class must solve 'our' problem (the problem of exceptionality in relation to ordinary reproduction) which we are setting to it and after it has solved that problem we will set it new problems or the same problem in different terms.

Except this problem (of being a minority) is a problem only for us, which is why the class will never solve it. Maybe I'm being more pessimist than the Pessimist Mr. Dupont here, but I don't think this problem will ever be solved, because as you say, dictating is self-defeating but then so is conspicuously not doing anything (and perhaps trying as hard as possible to just "blend in"). The only moments in history when communists have actually been useful was in moments when "the class" had already taken unto itself the task (albeit not through a conversion to the pure communism of "extraordinary" individuals) of building the new world in the shell of the old. But again, I don't see this as the class solving "our problem" (one that exists only for us), but as solving thee problem, the one that everything else boils down to.
So what does this leave us with? I think not having any illusions about the importance and usefulness of communist/anarchist organizations does not mean abandoning the notion of organization itself as a useless artefact of the extraordinary (yet irrelevant) minority. Insofar as these orgs. are useful in better organizing everyday struggles (even if it's simply just offering support to striking workers), they are useful pure and simple. Not by any means special, not by any means the first step towards the coming utopia, but a means to an end (limited as it may be). The fact that they do not attract support from the majority of the class says nothing either for or against communism (for reasons that I've tried to explain above).
Why then so much time wasted on critiquing organizations (unless you think that they are responsible for the image communism has for most workers)?

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The reality of situation is that it is not feasible to adsorb the class into our structures but the class may include us into its (an ambivalent fate I grant you).

I agree with this (I think this is what I've been trying to articulate above). An ambivalent fate yes, but the only one possible.

Quote:
I am hopeful that as capital dictates the next set of moves as an 'austerity package' other people will become more receptive to the reframing of the issues that are screaming in their faces. 'We' must finally put to bed the big baby of radical subjectivity.

Although the increasingly tight grip of capital should not get any of us sounding the bell for the world revolution. The class response is not, and will never be, what "extraordinary" individuals want it to be.

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Red Marriott
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May 28 2010 18:02
NoaR wrote:
I think it was mcgiver who linked to a text in which it's mentioned how Adorno theorized the notion of racket. [...]

Well, not really, the text emphasised the fragmentary nature of Adorno's statements and how it wasn't developed in relation to political groups;

Mciver wrote:
TW Adorno (1903-1969), like Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School, analysed how individuals were damaged under an increasingly administered society. However, Adorno’s writings on rackets (he used the term) seem, in English, to be scattered and unfinished. According to Rolf Wiggerhaus, the theory of rackets developed by Horkheimer and Adorno remained an ‘unfinished torso’. This is a pity. Nevertheless, across much of Adorno’s dense prose we capture gems like: "Anyone who wants to change the world must on no account finish up in the swamp of petty rackets where fortune tellers languish with political sectarians, utopians, and anarchists.’ (4) You have been warned.

In Adorno, rackets seem to be mainly criminal (economic ones), and how the specifically political ones operate is not clearly dealt with. Still, many insights on rackets in Minima Moralia are mini-concentrates, rich in meanings. http://www.left-dis.nl/

Yet Noa claims;

Quote:
But although it's true that Adorno used himself the term 'racket' for fascist (very important, just fascist, he doesn't expand it to all political organizations like Mcgiver or Camatte seem to be advocating), he criticized exactly the people who use such notions!

Nope. As the quote above about "the swamp of petty rackets where fortune tellers languish with political sectarians, utopians, and anarchists" shows, you're wrong - it wasn't "just fascist" in its topic. As you could've seen if you'd read what you criticise.

The rest of the quote is about survey results of conservative workers who see unions as rackets - ie, self-interested, greedy etc. Even if some of those basic criticisms of unions are shared by those left organisationalists who would reject Camatte's rackets theory and also by Camattists alike - it is not in any way a refutation of either the theory of rackets under discussion (or, fwiw, of organisational leftism), nor of any radical critique of unions. Your use of it is only a crude and poor attempt at amalgamating largely opposing views on the basis of largely different conceptual uses of the same word (much like you did with 'parasite' earlier). There is also no recognition in those quotes that US unions were often 'rackets' in the more conventional sense of being dominated by organised crime.

Your repeated misuse of arguments from your intellectual authorities is tying you up in knots - your application of them is necessarily often inappropriate, inaccurate and out of context - not surprisingly, as the use of quotes appears to be largely a substitute for bothering to develop your own understanding/thought processes.

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Noa Rodman
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May 28 2010 20:48
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Well, not really, the text emphasised the fragmentary nature of Adorno's statements and how it wasn't developed in relation to political groups;

It wasn't developed much in relation to political groups, but Adorno did use it explicitly and most often with regard to fascists.

Quote:
Quote:

But although it's true that Adorno used himself the term 'racket' for fascist (very important, just fascist, he doesn't expand it to all political organizations like Mcgiver or Camatte seem to be advocating), he criticized exactly the people who use such notions!

Nope. As the quote above about "the swamp of petty rackets where fortune tellers languish with political sectarians, utopians, and anarchists" shows, you're wrong - it wasn't "just fascist" in its topic. As you could've seen if you'd read what you criticise.

Fair enough, but the point is that it's selective quoting (to use an understatement) of Adorno's pronouncements on rackets, making it seem as if his theory of rackets was especially about left organisationalists. But although it's true that he uses the term racket for leftist groups in that one quote, Adorno's keypoint is that those who despise what they term rackets are in fact themselves, rackets or hope to become so.

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Even if some of those basic criticisms of unions are shared by those left organisationalists who would reject Camatte's rackets theory and also by Camattists alike - it is not in any way a refutation of either the theory of rackets under discussion (or, fwiw, of organisational leftism), nor of any radical critique of unions.

I already refuted the "theory" of rackets so I didn't bring up Adorno for that reason, as I even stated that I don't agree with his psychologising approach. It was just to show the misuse of Adorno's intellectual authority in mciver's text to give credit to a notion of rackets. The attempt to enlist every figure from Machiavelli to Simmel as a racket-theorist is quite breath-taking (though Plato is missing), amalgamating their use of 'racket' with its widely different meaning.

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Your use of it is only a crude and poor attempt at amalgamating largely opposing views on the basis of largely different conceptual uses of the same word (much like you did with 'parasite' earlier).

I am in fact the only one who has bothered to critique the notion of parasite on this thread. I didn't amalgamate different uses, I merely showed there were non-racketeerists who use the term 'parasite' for political analysis, granted with a different meaning, but I didn't claim otherwise.

Quote:
There is also no recognition in those quotes that US unions were often 'rackets' in the more conventional sense of being dominated by organised crime.

Yes, there is, but I don't see what you're point even is:

Adorno wrote:
Workers become "racketeers," criminals to him as soon as they organize. They appear as the guilty ones after the pattern of "peddler bites dog." Such psychological tendencies are, of course, magnetically attracted by any elements of reality which fit into the projective pattern. Here, labor organizations afford a rare opportunity.
Quote:
as the use of quotes appears to be largely a substitute for bothering to develop your own understanding/.

How about you develop some of your thought processes by reading this point which you ignored;

Adorno wrote:
The general scheme of this imagery is the characterization of Communism as a conspiracy. This concept being a mirrored reflection of the conspiratorial character of his own racket.

or this;

Adorno wrote:
the key theme of their antilabor ideology is that of the racket.
Garco
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May 29 2010 07:24

Dear Vlad336,

I think that possibly part of the reason you say you cannot understand what fort-da game has written about, specifically the ‘separation’ of ‘communists’ from the main object of their theories (the working class), might lie in the theoretical or strategic approach which you use to confront the world around you. (See paragraph ten, below, this being paragraph one).

Firstly, I would like to ask how one regards, for example, Quakers, and their relationship to the working class? For myself, I think that Quakers, as Quakers, are separated from the working class because of the view they have which says that their ideology is right and if everyone came to the same conclusions as they did then the world would be transformed into a better place. On the other hand, I would say that Quakers are not separated from the working class because they have lives and jobs which could be defined as working class.

Ah, but what about middle class Quakers? Are they separated again from the working class because of the managerial or expert work which they perform? But Quakers do not worry so much as people like us about the position one occupies in class society, so it is not so much of a question for them. For people like us, however, it is a big question. Is a Quaker teacher, journalist, media worker, scientist, social worker, union official, doctor, lawyer, dentist, professor, supervisor or manager (etc!) really middle class? (I think so, by the way). More importantly though, what is ones definition of the middle class and what role do you see it as having in the development or otherwise of class relations in terms of the relations to production as well as in terms of the relations between classes?

But there is more to it with the communists, they really do look closely at the working class in particular and they see in the working class the gravedigger of capitalism, not just an amorphous mass of people who could see the light, become Quakers, and live happily.

Then again, Quakers are not separated from their class because too many people in the class (whichever one we want to talk about) have ‘crazy’ ideas. Some members of the working class, for example, follow certain religions, or support the Monarchy, want to be capitalists, or believe in ghosts, are members of an anarchist organisation, or think everything was better in the old days. The class is chock-full of different ideas. All the classes are similarly full of different ideas. So much for ideas…

So, the question is raised. What is the difference between the ideas of communists and the ideas of Quakers in real terms, in relation to the working class, or in relation to human existence on this planet? Our answer could go like this: the difference is that we have seen, partially at least, how the economic basis of society has to be transformed before humans can escape exploitation.

Is this the difference? That we offer the prospect of ‘happiness’ based on the transformation of the way we all ‘make a living’? Is this what separates us from the Quakers?

Is the real separation between us and everyone else the fact that it is only us who say that the entire economic system has to be broken down, overthrown and ground into obliteration? Is it that every other ‘ideas merchant’ offers the consciousness-raising model to achieve happiness, while we offer not some happy harmony of minds set to a common goal of happiness, but the cataclysmic destruction of the economy, in which people will be forced to live differently, ‘make their living’ in a different way, and who may then, therefore, see the opportunity to live humanely. (For a reference point on which to think about ‘calamity’, the First World War and its aftermath in Europe is a good example).

It is important to identify ourselves with the ‘ideas merchants’… in order to see where we are in the world. It is important to critique the ‘ideas merchants’ in order to separate ourselves from them.

Communists for a very long time have been saying that the working class needs to have ‘consciousness’ and those who say this obviously believe that they themselves have this consciousness…

In short, Vlad336, how can you not feel separated from ‘the class’ if you have the consciousness which they need and which you (presumably) are spending many of your waking hours trying to impart? I, too, have your consciousness. Why doesn’t everyone else? How could they get it? These are the problems we are investigating. If perhaps you re-read the above few paragraphs again, it might become apparent that where we think we (as communists) can achieve genuine theoretical traction (instead of floundering in a soup of leftist, democratic and populist notions) is in exploring the relations of people to the material base (the way we all make a living).

The questions we face are not political questions; they are much bigger than that. They concern how human beings have lived (‘made their living’) previously, and how they might ‘make their living’ in the future. There is no way that we should have any place in ‘the political mainstream’ (Vlad336 seems, to me, to suggest this with: “At most I feel a certain isolation from what is perceptively a very hostile political mainstream, or the desolate apathy, of most people.” Please, Vlad336, don’t fixate on this one observation, I do not fully understand what you mean here, and it is highly probable that you mean something other than what I have partially picked up). The point is: Once our ideas or our papers become popular then we know for sure that we have got it very wrong.

Vlad336 writes, in response to fort-da game: “Why then so much time wasted on critiquing organizations (unless you think that they are responsible for the image communism has for most workers)?” I am presuming here, that you mean those organisations (or individuals) which identify themselves as ‘revolutionary’ in some way. Organisations and individuals are critiqued by us not because of any “image” damage they may be causing themselves in the working class, we are not concerned one iota about image – we critique them because we think that they are going in the wrong direction; because they have illusions about themselves; because, ultimately, we think that these practices and illusions have been recuperative of capitalism in the past and will serve to recuperate capitalism in the future.

Wellclose Square
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May 29 2010 12:19

Noa Rodman wrote:

Quote:
I already refuted the "theory" of rackets

Presumably, you 'refuted' in the sense that Richard Nixon 'refuted' the charges against him (when what he really meant was 'denied'). Oh, silly me, I'm afraid I've been unable to locate any of your 'refutations' on this thread; perhaps you'd care to find them and repost them - that's assuming they amount to anything more than your now legendary one line dismissals, or a mass of tangential verbiage with which to convey the impression of erudition.

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May 29 2010 12:34
NoaR wrote:
the point is that it's selective quoting (to use an understatement) of Adorno's pronouncements on rackets, making it seem as if his theory of rackets was especially about left organisationalists.

I fail to see (to use an understatement) how that is so, as mciver concludes;

mciver wrote:
In Adorno, rackets seem to be mainly criminal (economic ones), and how the specifically political ones operate is not clearly dealt with.

Again, if you'd bothered to read what you claim to criticise....

Noa wrote:
Adorno's keypoint is that those who despise what they term rackets are in fact themselves, rackets or hope to become so.

There's no reason to assume (unless thinking it somehow always refutes those who ever talk of rackets) that Adorno was stupid enough to present this as an eternal, universal and automatic truth in the way you appear to be trying to use it here. He was applying it to the specific context he used it in. You also seem to be coming close here to using those very "psychological explanations" you claim to hate.

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I already refuted the "theory" of rackets so I didn't bring up Adorno for that reason

You've shown little evidence of understanding it, never mind "refuted" it (as seen in posts 75, 76 & 77 - and as Wellclose notes) - despite it being explained at length here. You merely dismissed it as "psychological...silly" etc and avoided elaborating.

Quote:
It was just to show the misuse of Adorno's intellectual authority in mciver's text to give credit to a notion of rackets. The attempt to enlist every figure from Machiavelli to Simmel as a racket-theorist is quite breath-taking (though Plato is missing), amalgamating their use of 'racket' with its widely different meaning.

Pots & kettles come to mind here; it is yourself who have relied on 'intellectual authorities' to make your arguments for you. While mciver was, in my understanding, citing precursors to Camatte's theory while explaining himself at some length.

Ret wrote:
There is also no recognition in those quotes that US unions were often 'rackets' in the more conventional sense of being dominated by organised crime.
Noa wrote:
Yes, there is, but I don't see what you're point even is

I meant there wasn't any recognition in Adorno's interpretation of what the workers said. As I said, my point is that "US unions were often 'rackets' in the more conventional sense of being dominated by organised crime" and direct experience of this may well have influenced the anti-union views of the workers quoted; so those views can't necessarily simply be explained, as Adorno naively assumes (judging by these quotes alone), by some inherent or acquired Authoritarian Personality. What Adorno presents as explanation;

Quote:
As to the high scorers [of the survey], the key theme of their antilabor ideology is that of the racket. They regard the pressure exercised by organized labor as illegitimate in a way comparable to organized crime and conspiracy

- does not necessarily explain criticisms we can all recognise as long being characteristic of unions,eg;

Quote:
... Through union there is strength, if it's run okay, but a lot of unions of today have developed into a racket, and a source of political influence. ... the A.F.L. has developed into a racket for making money. The officers keep themselves in positions practically until they die, with no strings on how they use the money, ...

Adorno's interpretation (assuming the quote selection is not misleading - it helps if you post links to the full text where possible) seems more like the arrogant Authoritarian Personality of the detached academic making simplistic and patronising judgements - based on naive leftist assumptions that unions always act in the best interests of workers and that any criticism of them is always conservative.

Nor is it clear how the 1st quote on Communism as a racket is related to the 2nd quote; who is trying to "get hold of his followers" for "his own racket"? Surely not the workers in the 2nd quote? (More likely a union leader?)

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Noa Rodman
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May 29 2010 13:13

Could I just make the request that you and welliclose actually say that you believe in the theory of rackets. It doesn't matter to the debate or to the validity of the theory, but if you don't believe in it, although we still both might learn something from discussion, this is a waste of time.

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May 29 2010 13:59

I have the impression "believing in" something may well mean, for you, something along the lines of an absolute eternal truth, a concept I wouldn't share. But we already said;

Noa to Ret, post 74, page 3 wrote:
My claim is that both terms (parasitism and racketization) do not explain anything. [...] I bet that you agree with me on this, but of course that is just a hunch.

I replied in post 75, which I just referred to in my last post;

Quote:
You bet wrong. I believe concepts such as 'parasitism' and 'swamp' are aspects of the sickness (to borrow their metaphor theme) that has 'infested' the ICC body politik like an auto-immune disease for decades, and that political rackets do exist in the sense already described. So, depending on how and where it's applied, there can be some truth to the concept. ...

But as I also said in post 101;

Quote:
I say all this not to even defend Camatte's theory - I could completely disagree with it and still make the same criticisms of the shallow dismissals and misrepresentations attempted here.

I dont think the way you engage in discussion is so much to "learn something" as to reinforce existing beliefs and dismiss with little consideration anything that feels a threat to your cherished beliefs. There's some of that in all of us, but, without deliberately remaining aware of that when reflecting on your own thought processes and interaction (rather than seeing it as some virtuous kind of uncompromising rigour or whatever) you tend to just end up mechanically defending rigid positions endlessly. And when groups of people do this collectively... well, there's a theory about that... But I'm sure you'll dismiss such notions as just another worthless "psychological explanation"...

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May 29 2010 15:29

I remember what you wrote, and it confirms what Redhughs said, namely that you're arbitrarily using the term 'racket' for whatever group you don't like. As to your appeal to free discussion, see Marcuse's essay on 'Repressive Tolerance'.

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May 29 2010 17:59
Noa wrote:
I remember what you wrote

Then why ask again?

Quote:
... and it confirms what Redhughs said, namely that you're arbitrarily using the term 'racket' for whatever group you don't like.

.

Ret wrote:
depending on how and where it's applied, there can be some truth to the concept. ...

That's arbitrary? Your comprehension/grasp of what others actually say is hopeless.

Quote:
As to your appeal to free discussion, see Marcuse's essay on 'Repressive Tolerance'.

There you go again, endlessly slavishly citing your intellectual authorities rather than developing and expressing your own opinion, as if their reflected 'authority' automatically refutes the argument. A self-repression of independent thought.

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May 29 2010 18:42
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There you go again, endlessly slavishly citing your intellectual authorities rather than developing and expressing your own opinion, as if their reflected 'authority' automatically refutes the argument. A self-repression of independent thought.

What is independent thought?

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May 29 2010 19:21
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Noa wrote:
Could I just make the request that you and welliclose actually say that you believe in the theory of rackets.

To actually say 'you believe in' something implies the adherence, as Ret has pointed out, to 'an absolute eternal truth', and your question makes me wonder whether, for you, it's important to adhere to certain articles of faith. Is there some way in which you feel that a 'political identity' (for want of a better word) that you have constructed for yourself (let's say, the affirmation of a set of organisational principles/ group membership, etc.) is threatened by a 'theory of rackets'. As to whether I believe in such a theory, then no, not as an article of faith. I would say, though, that it has a certain explanatory power when it comes to trying to understand 'the dynamics of organisational behaviour' as described by mciver in other posts, at least to the extent that 'if the shoe fits, wear it'. I don't feel particularly attached to this theory, or Camatte, and I would concur with Ret in saying 'I could completely disagree with it [Camatte and 'racket theory'] and still make the same criticisms of the shallow dismissals and misrepresentations attempted here'.

While we're in 'confessional mode', I might as well respond again to Vlad's enquiry as to where I'm coming from...

Quote:
Vlad336 wrote: So let me just ask you right now, are you one of these "nihilist communists"? Because that would certainly explain why you're so defensive about someone who, if not a primitivist, is at least in the same class as the post-Marxist mystics who trumpet the dissolution of the proletariat and the end of class struggle (people like Postone and others that usually get ripped to shreds around these parts, and for good reason). Or maybe you just like Camatte for some strange reason. Who knows...

Who knows, indeed. In the past I've aspired to the apparent coherence of the Debordian SI and its aftermath, parroting the Hegelian style of the writing (I might even post some of it up sometime, as a historical curiosity); been drawn to the proletarian intransigence of the German and Dutch communist left (especially Otto Ruhle), as well as the 'spontaneism' (correct term?) of Echanges et Mouvement (which appealed to my 'anything for a quiet life' tendencies - let the proletariat rise up in its own time, etc.); Italian autonomism; autonomist Marxism; the heterodoxy of Asger Jorn, and of course the whole 'ultra-left' stuff associated with Bordiga, Camatte, Perlman, Dauve, etc. All of this, and more, sometimes all at the same time. Yes, I'm all over the place... These days I'm even less certain (!). The Endnotes stuff I find quite interesting, as also the nihilist communism and anti-political communism, though I remain a complete agnostic and reserve judgment (and judgmentalism) - probably indefinitely. Will that do, your honour?

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May 29 2010 19:23
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Noa wrote: What is independent thought?
piter
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May 29 2010 19:40

can someone explain what is nihilist communism and anti-political communism?

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May 30 2010 15:37

http://tinyurl.com/27lgzdb - nihilist communism
http://tinyurl.com/2e7q33y - anti-political communism

i don't mean to insult your intelligence. but really a refined google search should help. google translate also is your friend. grin

piter
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May 30 2010 17:16

thanks for the links.

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May 30 2010 20:13
Wellclose Square wrote:
As to whether I believe in such a theory, then no, not as an article of faith. I would say, though, that it has a certain explanatory power when it comes to trying to understand 'the dynamics of organisational behaviour' as described by mciver in other posts, at least to the extent that 'if the shoe fits, wear it'.

Sure it may try to understand those undefined "dynamics", but the point is that the notion of racket doesn't explain anything really.

[\independent thought]

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May 30 2010 21:28

arguing that all communist political organisations are rackets is a good example of nihilism, but 'nihilist communism' strikes me as a ridiculous misnomer

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May 31 2010 10:34

I have always looked at rackets in terms of the dynamics of class struggle, which does not proceed in a linear fashion, but moves backwards and forwards in floods and ebbs (or an amplic and chiselling pahse as the Lettrists put it).
When a struggle is on the ascendency, workers find themselves thrown into a whole range of activities, new organisations are developed and some old organisations try to climb on their backs and control them.
Then, the struggle reaches an apex, its high point, society can be structurally changed. Then there is an ebb of struggle and many of the individuals who had played a positive role can no longer move forward, can no longer enjoy the thrill of ever mounting struggles. Their activism becomes mundane, run of the mill. And as for the organisations, they too can become rackets, living on their history, and the sentimentality of those who once made history returning to their prosaic lives.Organs which once had stood erect, ejaculating like a fountainhead of proletarian wisdom become flacid . . .
laugh out loud

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Jun 1 2010 00:07

NOA RODMAN

Regarding the dynamics that occur in rackets, these have been explained in various texts by Camatte and Collu (especially in 'On Organisation') and others mentioned in various Libcom threads and by Palinorc in 'Rackets'. They don't exhaust the topic, but there's no need to repeat these dynamics here, go to those texts and criticise them following the rules of logical discourse. I can see that for you these 'undefined' dynamics don't exist, because in your view rackets don't exist. On post 72 of 25 April 2010 you assert:

Quote:
Oh I know racketization and parasitism are terms that name certain concepts and describe certain phenomena, they just don't explain anything, that's all.

A jolly 'that's all'! However, the reality and concept of rackets won't be dispelled by your tedious and infantile one-liners.

Your 'political label' in Libcom is 'left communist'. You may belong to a racket, but I can't tell which one or your location. Let's just guess: Germany, as you place yourself in 'Western Europe'. I can't imagine a French left communist admitting this domicile, he would be French -- above all Parisian, and proud of it. The other franchises from the ICC, ICT and Bordiguists, in Belgium, Spain or Italy would also not say 'Western Europe. What for? So you are possibly an isolated left communist sympathiser in Westeuropa (Germany), looking for a home. If so, you have no personal experience of rackets. But you certainly wish to be a member of one, as left communist loners don't count for much. Dismissing the 'theory' of rackets would be an entry point in your favour. Thus there's nothing detached and neutral about your denial antics.

Your own label left communist would define you as somebody who believes in 'organisation'. As most left communists are not 'council communists', I would say that you defend a Leninist type of party organisation. I'm not going to define Leninist or 'centralised' organisation' for you, as there are ample examples online selling 'the organisation of revolutionaries' by left communist rackets or free lancers like RedHughs. It's obvious that you won't call your future Heimat a racket, sect, cult, clique, gang, band, platoon, apparat, etc. or give any validity to the reality and theory of rackets. That would disqualify you instantly as a potential egocrat or trooper.

But this also confirms that exchanges with true believers are pointless. Even 10 Ret Maruts and 10 Wellclose Squares wouldn't suffice to refute all your sophistries, non sequiturs and blatant admissions of slothful disregard for texts and actual arguments. And believe me they have shown a patience and acumen second to none, all to reply to a fatuous apparatchik-to-be. Incidentally my name is McIver, not Mcgiver, learn to respect the written word. And are you studying where? I hope German academic standards remain high as they used to be, and that you are flunked a few times so that you absorb stricter standards.

You also dismiss the term 'parasite', a despicable insult which many reject as part of a repressive practice, unique to the ICC and common to Nazis and Stalinists. But my rejection isn't the same as yours. You reduce 'parasites' to an undefined term again, but that's a whining you should take to the ICC, who have extensively used the notion for years. You ignore their infamous 'Theses on Parasitism', a seminal ICC text written by their top gurus and zealously supported by the likes of Alf and other ICC jugglers. If you were to have some credibility, criticise that mendacious piece, not with your usual one liners like 'silly', but seriously, like launch a thread: 'The ICC's Theses on Parasitism, No, Thanks!'. Surely that would be more relevant to your milieu of left communists, than waffling about Zizek. But I don't think you will, you are a doormat and your future Zentrale will be grateful.

In April I asked you:

Quote:
Although you reject the notion, how would you define a group that made this malignant notion a cornerstone of its existence?

Your sophistic reply was:

Quote:
Okay, I searched 'political organizing parasitism' in googlebooks and came across it in 'Faith in action: religion, race, and democratic organizing in America' by Richard L. Wood. 'Parasitism' strikes me as a term any old sociology professor would use; just like 'racket' (used by Weber, Simmel, Adorno,..as the text you referred to shows). I say leave it up to political sociologists to define what they mean by parasitism and rackets. There is nothing in these terms that contributes knowledge to us.

(post 67, April 24 2010)

In this way the fearless RODman, he of 'Abandon all hope ye who debate with me' covered up for the ICC's 'parasitism', diverting the issue to 'political sociologists' and the irrelevant usage by an American academic, thereby shielding the ICC egocrats. Their use and definition of the notion 'parasites' was and remains the issue.

REDHUGHS (post 71 April 25 2010)

According to you, the 'anti-organizational position' is to be found in the 'smells', of Cammette [sic], Freddy [sic] Perlman and Sam Mose [sic]. Let's not dwell on 'smells' or your seeming incapacity to spell names (three sics of out three!). Moreover, see below, it's 'fort-da game', not 'fort da la game'. By your own admission you are 10, maybe that explains it. But by now you should learn to use your eyesight more than your nose?

Quote:
Ah,
Scanning the racket's article referenced by McIver, I'm not sure if it's religious or not but it does have the smell of the broad anti-organizational position; Mix later Freddy Perlman, Cammette, and Sam Mose and you've got yourself a position that's leaning heavily in the direction of "all organizations are rackets!"

I'm not an ICCer and have never had much contact with the ICC. Obviously, they've made mistakes in the past.

Could you elaborate on their 'mistakes in the past'? Can you cite only one little 'mistake'? That would suggest a more serious contact with the ICC than you reveal, or you're just another of those one-liner addicts.

Quote:
However, I am in favor of the most advanced "elements" in a revolutionary struggle organizing themselves as effectively as possible. Centralizing communication and acting decisively clearly seems like it will be necessary. Being aware of the particular conditions of whatever upsurge one is a part of will also be necessary. Organize well and flexibly. Discussion the crucial issues of the day publicly.

I mean, we self-conscious communists probably won't create the spark

[even to entertain this as 'improbable' reveals a delirious appetite for omnipotence]

Quote:
that sets off the world wide fire and we won't be necessary once this spark has burned fully. Our only relevance will be in terms of our part in the coming "transition period", a time which clearly will involve a complex churning of troubled waters [insert 18th Brumaire quote here]

[[sorry, no quote appeared, but even without the careless slip, the feverish delusion stands]].

Quote:
In another thread on another topic, the infamous fort da la game said my arguments "smelled too much of eggs and omelets" (paraphrasing). I suppose it comes down to a tale of two smells; whether the messiness and mistakes

[these are not explained or described, your apologetics rely on trite generalisations of this type, like the 'Bolshevik mistakes' of the ICC]

Quote:
implied by organizing doom one failure or whether one really has any choice in the matter (since "non-organization" is simply poor organization or the informal dictatorship of those in the right place on in their social graph)

.
Could you name ONE existing organisation that conforms to your perfumed, albeit permissive, dream?

Quote:
I don't believe that all organizations are inherently rackets. But also, I don't think there's any credible anti-organizational revolutionary position since revolution will rather clearly be an organized activity - not a clean, clearly or fully organized activity of course but also not a pure product of animal spirits or something.

But perhaps chicken eggs.

I also don't think that any organisation, like study circles, or networks of friends, are automatically rackets. But the type of organisation described by you, probably yes, in all cases.

Sam Moss replies quite well to your claims, in a text from 1930, in International Council Correspondence. I wouldn't go along with some possible implications, like the affirmation of a 'labour republic' organised by a Leviathan of workers' councils. But that's another issue:

Quote:
But this question may be raised, why, then, realizing the futility of the act, do you band together into groups? The answer is simply that the act serves a personal need. It is inevitable that men sharing a common feeling of rebellion against a society that lives by exploitation and war should seek out their own kind in society, and in whatever weapons fall to their command. Unable to rebel against the system with the rest of the population, they will oppose it alone. The fact that they engage in such action however futile it may appear establishes the basis for the prediction that when the large masses, reacting to the compulsives of the objectively revolutionary situation, feel similarly affected, they too will band together out of the same urgency and they too will use whatever weapons fall to their disposal. When they do so, they will not rise from ideological factors, but from necessity, and their ideologies will only reflect the necessities then, as do their current bourgeois ideologies reflect the necessity today.

The view of the revolutionary ineffectiveness of small groups is accounted a pessimistic one by revolutionary organizations. What if this view does indicate the inevitability of revolution? What if it does point to the objective end of a pre-established leadership of the masses, and to the end of all exploitation? The radical groups are not happy with this picture. They derive no pleasure from the prospect of a future where they have no more significance than their fellow human beings, and they condemn a view of such a future as a philosophy of defeatism. But, actually we have spoken only of the futility of small radical groups; we have been quite optimistic as to the future of the workers. But to all radical organizations, if their groups are defeated, and if their groups are dying, then all is dying. In such pronouncements therefore they reveal the true motivation for their rebellion and the true character of their organizations. We, however, should find no cause for despair in the impotence of these groups. Rather we should behold in it reason for optimism regarding the future of the workers. For in this very atrophy of all groups that would lead the masses out of capitalism into another society we are seeing for the first time in history the objective end to all political leadership and to the division of society into economic and political categories.

(From 'The Impotence of the Revolutionary Group')

VLAD336 (posts 91 and 93)

You write:

Quote:
I don't see how [the concept 'racket'] is useful as a "concept." All political groups want to influence the ideas that are dominant in society. Some political groups' ideas are reprehensible, others have good ideas but some of their members are less than adequate. This is what life is like. I don't see a need for a "theory of rackets" as if this "racketeering" was some unique historical development. Opportunism, profiteering have always been around; simply acknowledging this and being wary of it does more than the whole tedium of the "rackets vs. parasites" debate (both concepts being equally superfluous as someone has already stated; I thnk it was Noa)

Yes, it seems that the expansion of political 'racketeering' becomes a unique historical development in our period. This period has been explained by some as the formal domination of capital. To Camatte and Collu of 1969, this period had profound consequences on the class struggle and worsened the erosion of the social individual. Adorno, Horkheimer, Perlman and others tried to explain this increasing atomisation as well, but avoiding, or implicitly rejecting, the law of value as a key explanatory factor.

There is a regressive content in the practice of leftist groups, 'groupuscules', rackets, gangs, sects, cults, etc. What happens inside them has been looked at and analysed, although not exhaustively, but it is clear that a pathology exists when you compare that reality to the external posturing of good militant behaviour. Awareness of this phenomenon has been much more timely and deeply treated in France than in the UK since 1968. I found it quite disturbing that even an ICC member like Devrim admits that the ICC

Quote:
... must have destroyed or demoralised many people who were involved in it in its time. This is itself is bad enough without even mentioning the damage that people in the ICC did to themselves and the organisation.

(post 27, April 14 2010) Yet Devrim remains in his racket, in spite of the reality. In our cynical times, this Realpolitik is common. How can organisations that carry out these practices be linked to a vision of human emancipation? Can they change? Perhaps this is an open issue, but I've never seen a racket that humanises itself.

But the concept 'parasite' has no analogous content as 'racket', it's simply an enraged slander from egocrats against internal and external dissidents. All the evidence exists that this is a totalitarian invective, and there's no need to beat around the bush on this. Yet to you, such repressive racketeering '... is what life is like'. I would agree that it is life, but a healthy resistance to such salvoes from apparats is also part of that rich tapestry, so right on Jacques, Teddy and Fredy.

Still, you admit that there's a problem, but only around the question of Party organisation, something 'self evident', perhaps due to human nature. Which leads you to underestimate the racket notion and problem:

Quote:
The Party has historically been used, esp. by the Bolsheviks as a way to retard revolutionary efforts rather than advance them. This is because once in power, people want to stay in power. Again, not sure why the racket theory is necessary to explain this when it is pretty self-evident.

However, great revolutionary waves will happen again, and in this sense, one must always be on one's toes when it comes to the Party and its nefarious influence on the working class. Here I agree that critical observation is necessary and highly useful.

ALF (post 142, May 31 2010)

Quote:
arguing that all communist political organisations are rackets is a good example of nihilism, ...

Rackets are an example of a dead end, of a contradiction between what is claimed and what is practiced. They are 'nihilist' in the sense that they reject in practice the solidarity and mutual respect that defines social individuals. They empty spaces between individuals and close doors, they foster paranoid separations but proclaim doing the opposite. Their internal histories define them much more accurately than all their texts. Of course why they emerged in history, especially in the 20C, and why they must operate in this way needs further explanations. Rackets are not the product of a Manichean plot or due to stupidity. How would you explain why a group behaves in this way, and what would you call a group like this:

Quote:
... which political organisation has been at the forefront of destroying as many militants as it could over the past fifteen years? Which organisation has denigrated its own militants and once they have left or been expelled has done its damnedest to ensure they have abandoned political life altogether? Which political organisation has labelled its critics as scum, agents of the bourgeoisie and police spies? Which political organisation has traduced history in its quest for self-justification? In other words which political organisation has contributed most to the present appalling situation? Why, the ICC of course!...

(Ingram, Open Letter to the International Communist Current)

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May 31 2010 14:53
Quote:
I can see that for you these 'undefined' dynamics don't exist, because in your view rackets don't exist. On post 72 of 25 April 2010 you assert:
Quote:

Oh I know racketization and parasitism are terms that name certain concepts and describe certain phenomena, they just don't explain anything, that's all.

A jolly 'that's all'! However, the reality and concept of rackets won't be dispelled by your tedious and infantile one-liners.

Let me try to ask you as well, do you actually believe in Camatte's theory of rackets? I hope you will give a straight answer.

soyonstout
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May 31 2010 15:53

Mciver, what do you want to convince people of? What should we all do, in your estimation? Give up politics? In the middle of the most serious economic crisis we've ever lived through? Or just be involved in politics as individuals? What do you think the working class can/should do in response to the crisis and the austerity measures planned?

Maybe this seems like a diversion, but the title of this thread is about "why some communists are considered to be to the left of others" and it is essentially a mixture of you denouncing the ICC and a conversation about Camatte, so I don't feel that bad about that. And no, I'm not trying to cover-up the serious mistakes that it seems the ICC (or any other organization, for that matter) has made in the past by turning it around on you. But I think there's a fundamental difference that all your calling people "true believers" and many others on this forum who feel that the world is getting much worse and that the working class can change this and thus feel a responsibility to the working class to try to encourage or help them fight back in effective ways. I'm sorry for everything that happened to you when you were in the ICC and shortly thereafter, and I don't know the whole story, but I don't know what you're trying to do here and I don't know what you would posit as positive (no pun intended there wink ) alternatives to all the "true believer" "militantist" "racket" behavior you denounce.

-soyons tout

mciver
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May 31 2010 23:41

Noa Rodman

As I have made positive references to Camatte and Collu's 1969 text, it is clear that, to me, theirs is a contribution to the concept, notion or theory of rackets. That I actually 'believe' in their theoretical contribution? I think Ret Marut (post 132) and Wellclose Square (post 136) answer this with their usual elegant and enduring tolerance. I couldn't do better, kindly re-read what they replied to you, that's pretty much what I think too. Ret Marut also raises very interesting and true points about Adorno's survey in 'Authoritarian Personality'.

I think that Camatte and Collu could have provided more corroboration of the events and texts that led them to leave the Bordiguist racket they belonged to. This empirical raw evidence, contained in texts, and verbal accounts, can help others to expose and anticipate apparatchik ruses and manoeuvres. But it is understandable that much of this sort of narrative is difficult to write by ex-participants, because the material appears 'subjective' and therefore 'not politics'. Those in 'politics' internalise this repressive assumption, that these bureaucratic practices of domination and trickery, aren't politics. They are dismissed as personal affairs, egoistic things to be repressed. But they are politics, very much so. That is why the effort to keep records is essential, as the hidden patterns of domination are etched in them, even in mountains of boring rubbish, to be discovered years later by potential victims of rackets, or by historians.

Adorno and Horkheimer use the concept on a broader level, but Camatte/Collu and the Frankfurt School critics share the view that rackets strive to dominate, that their force thrives on atomised humans. To dismiss the notion of rackets because it's 'psychologising' or because that's just how life is, is to miss out on a real phenomenon that is detrimental to independent and critical thought.

However, to conclude that all organisations that engage in critical thought and activities are rackets, is wrong in my opinion. But that's another question.

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May 31 2010 17:42
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Adorno and Horkheimer use the concept on a broader level, but Camatte/Collu and the Frankfurt School critics share the view that rackets strive to dominate, that their force thrives on atomised humans

Adorno doesn't use the concept on a broader level, he just calls a racket what it is; a racket, a business that schemes to make money. He does not have a theory of rackets. In fact he repeatedly makes the point in his study of the AP that those who use notions such as racket are antisemitic/conservative/fascists, projecting their own secret desire. Sure, it depends how and where it's used, but obviously that goes without saying.

Adorno/Horkheimer don't share the Camatte's view that rackets thrive on atomised humans. This is not even Camatte's own theory of rackets, for crying out loud.

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May 31 2010 21:33
Noa Rodman wrote:
Quote:
This is not even Camatte's own theory of rackets, for crying out loud.

Quite revealing that you're now interested in defending the integrity of 'Camatte's theory of rackets'. Is this from the standpoint of 'Thou shalt not use other people's ideas as a springboard for further theoretical elaboration and original thinking'? That supposition would be consistent with your stated difficulty with 'independent thought'.

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May 31 2010 21:57

You're just making insinuations. If you want, I can refute Mciver's further theoretical "elaboration". For now, I'll just say it's even sillier than Camatte's theory.