Discussion:
Islamist, Socialist revolutions do not mix
(too old to reply)
Louis Proyect
2007-10-03 17:06:25 UTC
Permalink
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39503

POLITICS-IRAN: Islamist, Socialist Revolutions Don't Mix
By Kimia Sanati

TEHRAN, Oct 3 (IPS) - An attempt to rope in the son and daughter of the
Argentine revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara to forge a parallel between
Iran's Islamist revolution and the socialist revolution in Latin America
through a four-day conference has ended in fiasco.

After Aleida Guevara protested from the podium against perceived
distortions of her father's ideology by the first Iranian speaker, Haj
Saeed Ghasemi, the four-day 'Che Like Chamran' conference, that started
Sep. 25, was aborted and the Latin American guests whisked away.

'Che Like Chamran', the title of the conference, was chosen for the
alliteration in the names of the two revolutionaries and because both
Che and the Iranian, Mostafa Chamran, fought alongside revolutionaries
in other countries. But the similarities end there, no matter what the
organisers intended to promote.

Chamran, a United States-educated engineer and Islamist, helped Mousa
Sadr found the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon and fought alongside
Amal guerrillas in the late 1970s. Appointed the young Islamic
Republic's defence minister by Ayatollah Khomeini, Chamran organised and
led paramilitary forces during the early phase of the Iran-Iraq war
(1980-1988) and was killed in battle in the Khuzistan province in 1981.

"We feel responsible towards all of humanity...unity is of especial
importance to us. The reason for the relations established between our
student group and the children of Che Guevara and the Latin American
countries is what we have in common," Morteza Firoozabadi, secretary of
the Pro-Justice Student Movement (PJSM), explained to the Islamic
Students News Agency (ISNA).

"We are never afraid of death and that is what Americans are most scared
of. They cannot accuse us simply by citing things like terrorism,
seeking war or breaching human rights. We only aim to free the oppressed
and to restore the rights of all the people of the world so we do not
recognise borders and do not care what names Americans use for this,"
Firoozabadi was reported by ISNA as saying.

Organised by the student militia of Tehran University, the conference
was attended mostly by counterparts from various other universities as
well as members of hardline student groups such as the PJSM that
strongly support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies. These groups
regularly organise demonstrations and protest rallies against the US and
other western countries.

But Ghasemi, who is associated with Iran's Esteshhadiyoun (volunteers of
suicide operations) must take credit for scuttling the conference.
Referring to a translated version of a Che Guevara book that he held in
his hand, he said Che Guevara was religious and believed in God. "The
people of Cuba, Fidel (Casro) and Che Guevara were never socialists or
communists. Fidel has several times admitted that he and Che and the
people of Cuba hated the Soviets for all they had done.''

''Today communism has been thrown into the trash bin of history as it
was predicted by Ayatollah Khomeini," Ghasemi told the conference and
added that the only way to save the world was through the ''the
religious, pro-justice movement''.

An indignant Aleida, however, started her own address "in the name of
the people of Cuba". "We are a socialist nation," she asserted. She also
said the people of Cuba were grateful to the Soviet Union and there had
never been any discord between the two nations, as mentioned by Ghasemi.
She advised him to "always refer to original sources instead of
translations to find out about Che Guevara's beliefs".

"My father never talked about God. He never met God. My father knew
there was no absolute truth,'' Aleida said, responding to Ghasemi's
speech. The coverage of her address by state-sponsored news agencies
like ISNA was brief and excluded most of her contradictory remarks.

At a meeting later with students of Amir Kabir University of Technology,
where the leftist groups are particularly strong, Camilo Guevara told
students he approved of all that his sister had said at the conference,
ISNA reported.

The other main speaker, Mehdi Chamran, brother of Mostafa Chamran,
avoided mention of Che Guevara or his ideology in his address. Chamran,
who is chairman of the Tehran City Council is a loyal supporter of
Ahmadinejad.

''President Ahmadinejad's promotion of closer ties with certain Latin
American countries such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia called for some
kind of identification of his brand of Islamist militant ideas with
those of the leftists in Latin American countries,'' a leftist student
activist from Amir Kabir University told IPS on the condition of anonymity.

"Ahmadinejad has visited several Latin American countries over the past
two years. He has brought (Hugo) Chavez and (Daniel) Ortega here. Belief
in socialism is considered a crime in the Islamic state, punishable by
death. Ahmadinejad's slogans against the West and the U.S., his
pro-justice rap, and his promises of economic assistance bring them here
-- much to our disappointment," she said. "Daniel Ortega and other
leftist leaders too must clarify their position about their relations
with Iran. We feel greatly betrayed when for their countries' economic
benefit they choose to support extreme rightists, fascists like
Ahmadinejad," she added.

Following Aleida's outspoken address to the conference, the organisers
took flak from their own comrades. "It is appreciable to commemorate Che
Guevara as a revolutionary figure. Otherwise, our former perspectives on
his ideas, methods and attitude are still the same. We are Muslims and
he is non-Muslim. The difference will always remain," Mohammad Sedaghat,
the leader of Student Militia of Shahed University was quoted by ISNA as
saying.

"Chamran was a revolutionary Shiite Muslim whereas Che Guevara was
totally atheistic. The only thing they had in common was their spirit of
fighting injustice. For choosing friends we must meet other criteria,
such as being God-loving -- besides being anti-American," Sedaghat was
reported as saying.

Mohammad Jaffar Irani, a reformist student activist, was quoted by ISNA
as pointing out that the same group that organised the conference had
always considered Che Guevara an atheist. "If anyone other than the
(hardline) group that organised this event had done so they would have
gotten into a great deal of trouble,'' he was quoted saying.

"The organisers of the event were hardline supporters of Ahmadinejad who
have nothing in common with leftists, even the Islamic leftists of the
early days of the (Iranian) revolution. President Ahmadinejad has in
fact much in common with President Bush, although he may sound very
'leftist'," an observer in Tehran told IPS on condition of anonymity.

"Leftist countries must realise that if the issues that make the Iranian
hardliners confront the West such as its demand to be accepted to the
nuclear club are resolved, today's leftist allies may instantly turn
into their common enemies," he said.

"Unfortunately some wrong approaches (remarks) diverted the course of
the conference from (discussing) commonalities to the differences
(between the two revolutionaries). This caused the conference to be
deviated from its main course,'' Sajjdad Saffar Harandi, leader of the
Student Militia (Basij) in Tehran University, told the pro-Ahmadinjead
website Raja News, explaining the fiasco.
Walter Lippmann
2007-10-03 18:06:34 UTC
Permalink
There are those who would like to exacerbate divisions over what
should happen in the supernatural world, when what's most important
is what real human beings do in the actual world. Who cares how many
angels can fit on the head of a needle? Such prattle is completely
idle. I'm an atheist, and, God willing, I always will be.

Remember the friendly relations which exist between Iran's Islamic
Republican government and Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua is a
good thing, not a bad thing. Such ties of friendship and solidarity
strengthen the countries of the Third World. They help strengthen
Iran which is today under the threat of a military strike by
Washington and so Iran needs all the help it can get.

While recognizing the obvious differences between the two forms of
government, socialists and Marxists ought to keep a sense of balance
and perspective, knowing what they need to prioritize. For some
people, atheism seems to be a tenet in their religion. Atheism,
however, should be seen more as a philosophical stance, and not a
political program, though if you read what passes for analysis in
some of the left press today, you wouldn't know that. There are
right-wing and left-wing atheists, and right-wing and left-wingers
who believe in religion.

Where the left forces haven't provided leadership in today's
struggles, the force of resistance finds a vehicle through which to
organize and express itself.



Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California
=============================================================

NICARAGUAN PRESIDENT DANIEL ORTEGA'S SPEECH AT THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
They, who have persisted in maintaining the brutal Cuban blockade, for reasons
of national interest, do not pay attention to these ??democratic principles??,
when, for economic reasons, they weave common action with nations with which
they have, supposedly, ideological differences. Capital unites them and thus do
ideological differences disappear.

With what authority can they question the rights of Iran or North Korea? With
what right do they question the right of these peoples to build peaceful atomic
programs? And even more! If they want to use to use it for military purposes??
with what authority, with what right, do those that have been the only one, the
only state that in the history of humanity to use atomic bombs against
defenseless people, like they did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

With what authority?? can they condemn the people of Iran that is working for
the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes? The fact is that they
have already decided that it is not with peaceful purposes, and who has given
them that right? They give it themselves and they impose it on the General
Assembly!

FULL:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CubaNews/message/73166

================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
Marvin Gandall
2007-10-03 19:57:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Walter Lippmann
There are those who would like to exacerbate divisions over what
should happen in the supernatural world, when what's most important
is what real human beings do in the actual world...
Remember the friendly relations which exist between Iran's Islamic
Republican government and Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua is a
good thing, not a bad thing...They help strengthen
Iran which is today under the threat of a military strike by
Washington and so Iran needs all the help it can get.
While recognizing the obvious differences between the two forms of
government, socialists and Marxists ought to keep a sense of balance
and perspective...
==================================
I didn't read the piece posted by Louis as having anything to do with
religious tolerance or the lack of same.

If the article is to be believed, the Islamist militant presented Che and
the Cuban leadership to the conference as God-fearing anti-Communists. Che's
kids, who were in attendance, rightly objected to these remarks which they
considered defamatory..

Why characterize their comments as "idle prattle" which undermines
international solidarity with Iran? In what way? Should they have instead
sat on their hands? I think it was proper for them to correct the record,
and that the issue of support for Iran won't turn on this incident.

You appear to be bending the stick back too far in your effort "to keep a
sense of balance and perspective". The opposition to US aggression against
Iran may be less fragile than you fear.
Eric Johnson
2007-10-03 19:34:53 UTC
Permalink
Walter,
Iran is an oppressive religious state that kills communists and gays, If we as socialists cannot stand up against this theocracy what do we stand up against?? The iranian regime is an impediment to human liberation. AND it goes without saying that we defend the right of the Iranian people to defend themselves in the face of imperial aggression. by what ever means they find neccessary. But give no quarter to the mullahs who have been killing murdering, torturing and exiling leftists for almost 30 years. they are the enemy of the working class.
Eric


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Haines Brown
2007-10-04 16:36:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Eric Johnson
Walter,
Iran is an oppressive religious state that kills communists and
gays, If we as socialists cannot stand up against this theocracy
what do we stand up against?? The iranian regime is an impediment
to human liberation. AND it goes without saying that we defend
the right of the Iranian people to defend themselves in the face
of imperial aggression. by what ever means they find neccessary.
But give no quarter to the mullahs who have been killing
murdering, torturing and exiling leftists for almost 30 years.
they are the enemy of the working class.
Eric
I hope that everyone read the original posting in this thread
carefully. I regret that Eric was unwilling to look at the issue more
broadly.

1. The immediate conference was a fiasco for reasons that should be
apparent from a reading of the original account. However, it should
also make very clear that we need to distinguish carefully between
the general issue of islamist-socialist cooperation or alliance and
the dynamics peculiar to specific countries such as Iran and, say,
Cuba.

2. One needs to keep in mind the class composition of the Islamist
movement. I don't claim any expert knowledge in this matter, but my
impression is that Islamism crosses class lines, that very often
the most active component is petite bourgeois, but that the vast
majority of those who become engaged are working class (perhaps
I've viewed "Paradise Now" too often ;-). If it is a sector of the
working class, it must be engaged (by "engaged" I mean in
communication, a search for common ground, mutual education,
critical support).

3. Although an atheist myself, I can't for that reason dismiss people
who take religion seriously. I believe we need to look deeply into
the religious impulse (which obviously is not just a hang-over from
a less developed past) and into the working class psyche. I believe
we would ultimately find common ground (I'll be doing some work on
this issue) in that there is fundamentally a great social potential
actualized through personal aspiration and the same constraints
upon self-realization.
--
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Mark Lause
2007-10-03 20:15:04 UTC
Permalink
Hmmm. So, if we criticize a regime is intolerant, defenders of the regime
retort that we are, in fact, being intolerant of the regime.

And so grins a directionless self-confusing liberalism until, like the
Cheshire Cat, everything's gone except the hapless grin.

ML
Walter Lippmann
2007-10-04 04:30:37 UTC
Permalink
Marvin is correct to caution us against taking the report posted with
no introductory comment with a grain of salt. For most of the media in
the United States, Iran's president is being presented as a sort of
anti-Christ, a kind of "fascist gun in the West" kind of loonytick.
This is an obvious element in the effort to manufacture consent for a
military strike against Iran. I don't think any rational person can
disgree about that. From his observation post at Colombia, Louis saw
what was being done by the media, and the Columbia administration
very clearly, and his reports were quite helpful.

The strident drumbeat of hostility toward the Islamic Republic of Iran
which is posted to Marxmail at a time when the Islamic Republic of Iran
is under a very obvious threat from Washington is what caused me to say
what I did. I saw the article which Louis Proyect posted, in full, to
Marxmail. I had posted it previously, in full, to the CubaNews list for
the information of CubaNews readers. CubaNews takes pride in posting a
wide range of materials, including ones the moderator (yours truly) is
politically opposed to.

I'm not quite confident in the accuracy of the report, and we've not
yet seen any comments on the conference from anyone who participated
in it and reflected on what they saw afterwards.

Many people with different ideas try to frame things according to their
own lights. Christians see Che as a Christ-like figure. And there are
some Islamic militants who also see Che as one of their own. Why should
anyone object to that? Of course, should they state things which aren't
historically accurate, one should point point that out in a calm, clear,
pedagogical manner. Since, as we agree, we haven't seen any kind of a
report from the Cuban media or the pro-Cuban media of what happened by
someone who was present, we should take such reports with a grain of
salt.

About bending the stick too far in one direction or another as a way
of trying to guarantee objectivity: two things. First, sometimes we
may think of the "stick" as if it were a ruler or a pencil, balanced
horizontally on our finger. It should never move too far to the right
or two the left or else it'll fall off. On the other hand, thinking
of the stick as a ruler or pencil balanced horizontally, then that
means we must never veer from a perfect virticle posture, straight
up and down. Anyone who's performed the yoga posture which is known
as vkrsasana ("the tree"), which is one in which you balance on one
foot while trying to stay otherwise immobile knows how difficult it
is to maintain one's balance in that way.

So I'll agree that I may bend the stick too far in one direction,
but let's all agree that nothing which is said or done on an e-mail
list is a matter of life and death. In the end, all that this is is
electronic mail.

Politically, must we always strive to reach and maintain an abstractly
perfect, yogic balance, never deviating from an abstract norm? Such a
way of looking at life and politics is lifeless, sterile and dead.


Walter Lippmann
Los Angeles, California
===================================================
MARVIN GANDALL writes
If the article is to be believed, the Islamist militant presented Che and
the Cuban leadership to the conference as God-fearing anti-Communists. Che's
kids, who were in attendance, rightly objected to these remarks which they
considered defamatory..

Why characterize their comments as "idle prattle" which undermines
international solidarity with Iran? In what way? Should they have instead
sat on their hands? I think it was proper for them to correct the record,
and that the issue of support for Iran won't turn on this incident.

You appear to be bending the stick back too far in your effort "to keep a
sense of balance and perspective". The opposition to US aggression against
Iran may be less fragile than you fear.


================================
WALTER LIPPMANN
Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
writer - photographer - activist
http://www.walterlippmann.com
================================
Mark Lause
2007-10-04 16:51:22 UTC
Permalink
I much appreciated the efforts of Yoshie and others earlier to get us to
take a closer look at Iran. I think the initial effort was helpful.

Over time, though, this discussion degenerates into making assertions about
Iran and the Islamic revolution that send legions of strawmen to slander
anyone who questions the revolutionary merits of the jihad and to divert
non-issues and bizarre slanders that those who disagreed with the new
insights were intolerant of religion, etc.

And, gee, I really hadn't realized that Walter and Haines agreed.

So, believing that new holy war is opposed to U.S. imperialism, should we
say that "consistent Islamism leads to socialism"?

ML

PS: As an aside, the real lunatic fringe of the Religious Right in the
U.S.--the "Christian Reconstructionists"--are so fundamentally
anti-modernist that they want to restore the practice of stoning of
adulterers. So, wouldn't this wipe out most of the U.S. government and
almost the entire of the capitalist class? Just an observation....
Haines Brown
2007-10-05 11:19:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark Lause
PS: As an aside, the real lunatic fringe of the Religious Right in
the U.S.--the "Christian Reconstructionists"--are so fundamentally
anti-modernist that they want to restore the practice of stoning of
adulterers. So, wouldn't this wipe out most of the U.S. government
and almost the entire of the capitalist class? Just an
observation....
ML, I'm not challenging the truth of your aside, but it leaves me a
little uncomfortable. My comment here is not directed specifically at
you.

The term "modernism" is ambivalent, for it is sometimes used to refer
to whatever is contemporary or recent, and sometimes it refers to a
specific era that arose with the Enlightenment and is associated with
capitalism. For example, with decorative styles, "modern" is a _past_
style that most be consciously recovered (Bauhaus, Art Deco,
1950s-style home decoration, etc.) and is not at all the same as
"contemporary". The term "post-modern" is used to imply a rejection of
Enlightenment ideas, and as such can justifiably be used to refer to a
new intellectual current that is emerging in recent decades to replace
the Enlightenment tradition. For example, Marxism today could well be
described as recovering as a post-modern Marxism - a rejection of the
Enlightenment values associated with its earlier career (as long as it
is not also associated with some objectionable and well-known excesses
of post-modernist thinking). I suspect, contrary to the views of many
noteworthy Marxists, that the development of Marxist thinking has been
held back by the Enlightenment heritage and is right now entering upon
a new era of vitality (but I don't wish to pursue this side issue
here).

I mention this because it may be that the religious right's rejection
of modernism might possibly be in some cases more a rejection of
capitalism than a desire to flee to an imagined past. However, a lot
depends on just who we include in the "religious right".

My point is that there are a lot of issues here that need some careful
thought rather than hasty generalization. I say this as the husband of
a fundamentalist evangelical preacher and musician. My own experience
could offer empirical evidence pointing in quite different directions,
all at the same time. When we use the term "religious right", do we
mean political authoritarians who happen to harness religion to their
agenda, or do we mean people of a conservative religious faith who
instinctively gravitate to the political right simply because that is
the only people raising the kind of issues of concern to them?

I could go on, but my aim here is only to suggest we be careful when
we use terms such as "religious right"; that we not too quickly assume
a close functional relationship between political and religious views;
that we not assume too quickly that the outlook of religious right is
lunatic, monolithic or insensitive to the contradictions of
capitalism.
--
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
David Picón Álvarez
2007-10-05 12:47:05 UTC
Permalink
From: "Haines Brown" <brownh at hartford-hwp.com>
Post by Haines Brown
The term "modernism" is ambivalent, for it is sometimes used to refer
to whatever is contemporary or recent, and sometimes it refers to a
specific era that arose with the Enlightenment and is associated with
capitalism. For example, with decorative styles, "modern" is a _past_
style that most be consciously recovered (Bauhaus, Art Deco,
1950s-style home decoration, etc.) and is not at all the same as
"contemporary". The term "post-modern" is used to imply a rejection of
Enlightenment ideas, and as such can justifiably be used to refer to a
new intellectual current that is emerging in recent decades to replace
the Enlightenment tradition. For example, Marxism today could well be
described as recovering as a post-modern Marxism - a rejection of the
Enlightenment values associated with its earlier career (as long as it
is not also associated with some objectionable and well-known excesses
of post-modernist thinking). I suspect, contrary to the views of many
noteworthy Marxists, that the development of Marxist thinking has been
held back by the Enlightenment heritage and is right now entering upon
a new era of vitality (but I don't wish to pursue this side issue
here).
Well, sorry if this hijacks the thread, but what you're saying seems quite
the contrary to me. That said, I am not conversant with postmodernism as
such, and so I may be reacting against the excesses you talk about, but it
appears to me that the Enlightenment and Marxism are very tightly coupled.
Basically, the points at which I think this is sharpest, are the
perfectability of man and the world, the capability to utilize reason in
order to find truth and plan the future, and the very idea of planning
itself (as opposed to heuristic or random forms of development). I think few
people could deny that the Enlightenment, incomplete as it might be, has a
form and content that can be very liberating: from religion, from
superstition, from arbitrary power... Marxism in its theoretical
underpinnings is fundamentally an Enlightenment position: it uses reason in
the form of dialectical thinking in order to find prescriptive solutions to
objective problems. Postmodernism appears to me to be centered on issues
like textual criticism and the negation of truth and programatic planning as
possible or desireable, so I don't see how a postmodernist marxism is at all
possible on those terms. In fact, marxism appears to be used by
postmodernism as merely another source of criticism, a negation of bourgeois
determinism and of infinite progress, without taking the affirmative
programatic elements of marxism itself.

--David.
Haines Brown
2007-10-06 14:41:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Well, sorry if this hijacks the thread,
I really don't think it does.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
it appears to me that the Enlightenment and Marxism are very tightly
coupled.
That may be a common view, and some do support it actively, but here
I'm disagreeing. The issue is important, I believe, and I hope we can
shed more light on it.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Basically, the points at which I think this is sharpest, are the
perfectability of man and the world, the capability to utilize
reason in order to find truth and plan the future, and the very idea
of planning itself (as opposed to heuristic or random forms of
development).
There's an interesting issue here: what really defines the
Enlightenment? I suspect we would have to engage in a lot of
discussion to come to some agreement over that. But perhaps a basic
difference is that I think of the Enlightenment as an ontology, a
philosophy of science, while you are viewing it in terms of, say,
historical development.

But to keep things simple, let me take your three points and play with
them a bit. My aim is not to build a counter argument, but simply to
suggest that things may not be simple or warrant a hasty conclusion.

1. Perfectibility of man and the world. If this is a characteristic of
modern life, then socialism would share that feature with
Enlightenment Europe, not because Marxism inherited the idea from
the Enlightenment, but because the perfectibility of man and the
world is simply a characteristic of modern life thanks to
technological development.

Everything inherits something from the past, and so it is
inevitable that late 19th century working-class ideology will
inherit from Enlightenment ideology. But your "tight coupling"
seems to imply more than that, that Marxism is an instance or
development of Enlightenment thought, and it is this with which I
disagree. That is, while it inherits much, I feel it is also a
break with the Enlightenment at a fundamental level, and I don't
even much care if Marx himself didn't realize it ;-)

To be more specific, to illustrate more than to develop the point,
the Enlightenment "man" was a generic social atom, and it develops
because the totality of individuals develop through their making
optimal (rational) choices ("rational" was understood in
instrumentalist terms: a rational choice is defined as one that
results in an increase of one's own "talents", and it has nothing
to do with logic). In Marxism, there is no generic man, but a
"social being". While the development of society implies the
development of the _individual_, it does not imply the development
of _generic_ "man". Individuals develop because they are social
beings, not social atoms; the concrete individual develops because
concrete society is part of his being, and his innate powers are
actualized and developed by society.

2. Reason as source of truth. Yes, this is an Enlightenment notion,
but it has collapsed in terms of recent philosophy of science. This
is richly discussed in many places, but I just received a book in
the mail yesterday that happens to discuss it as well (also
mathematics): Peter T. Manicas, A Realist Philosophy of Social
Science: Explanation and Understanding (Cambridge, 2006). I'm not
venturing to recommend this (implicitly Marxist, I believe) book,
for I've just started reading it. Since the collapse of logical
positivism, we tend to see reason as a tool, not a source of truth.

In particular I would mention the Marxist notion of
"contradiction". A lot of ink has been spilled trying to decide if
a "contradiction" really violates the basic rules of logic (the
rule of non-contradiction), or reduces to a Kantian real
opposition. In retrospect, all that effort was a waste of time, for
it is obvious Marx was not talking about the contradictory relation
of static entities, but of _processes_. Contradictory processes
(such as in terms of opposite direction of entropy change) are not
only possible, but common, and the emergence of any improbable
outcome is dependent on a contradiction (thermodynamic engine). In
other words, while logical coherence is one element of what
scientists mean by a "robust" theory, logic does not generate truth
about the world, and in particular, the most basic Marxist notion
has nothing to do with logic.

3. Planification. Again, it is often said that by the 17th century,
human capacities had developed to the point that for the first time
(and in Europe, of course) an ability to shape the future had
become a practical reality, and so planning now made
sense. However, it's doubtful the Enlightenment really initiated
the idea or that it is peculiar to Europe, and in fact all three of
your points to some extent have broader historical precedent. If
true, this means these elements in Marxism may not be explicitly
European or Enlightenment.

This point skates a bit on thin ice, so let me be more specific by
referencing the example of the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th
century. Alcuin and others spoke of a "renovatio" of mind, body and
spirit. Each of these three levels of development were
interdependent. The means for development of the spirit was
"devotio", prayer; the means for development of the mind was
"eruditio", education; the means for the development of the body
was "disciplina", constraint. The idea was that the development of
the physical world (coastal lighthouse system, Rhine-Danube canal,
monetary reforms; rationalized bureaucratic organization, peaceful
political relations, etc.) was a necessary precondition for the
development of the mind (using the palace school as a catalyst for
setting up of cathedral schools throughout Francia, monastic reform
that would mandate education, the import of scholars from abroad,
etc.), which was a precondition for the development of the spirit,
which allowed you to participate in god's creative (inventive)
power. Although tenuous in practice, the idea of planification was
very much present. If one concludes that is it much a part of
European culture since the 9th century, then why attribute that
element specifically to the Enlightenment?

Actually, I get the impressoin (without any more being able to
offer much of an argument in support) that the larger societies
entities in the world in about the 6-10th centuries were undergoing
a similar transformation. There's plenty of evidence for
planification in the world of Islam at the time, for example.

What I'm getting at is that looking to the Enlightenment roots of
Marxism, we are in danger of being Eurocentric and insensitive to the
longer sweep of history. In other words, we would have to show that
the the traits are really peculiar to the Enlightenment and also
fundamental to it, that these ideas were imported into Marxism without
significant change (there is danger of hypostatizing ideas that are
independent of profound historical change), and that these ideas are
essential to Marxism, rather than merely accidentals.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Marxism in its theoretical underpinnings is fundamentally an
I know that this position has been argued. All I've been suggesting is
that the argument may not be compelling and is in need of critical
inspection. .
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Postmodernism appears to me to be centered on issues like textual
criticism and the negation of truth and programatic planning as
possible or desireable, so I don't see how a postmodernist marxism
is at all possible on those terms.
Yes, agreed, but the term "post-modern" has been used in various
ways. I get the feeling (perhaps wrong) that the term is shedding its
(unfortunate) role as a kind of literary criticism popular in certain
academic circles, amd is coming essentially to mean a broadly
post-Enlightenment mode of thinking, particularly in the philosophy of
science.

Post-modernism may indeed imply a rejection of planification, but
perhaps in the less problematic sense of it being a critique of
optimal decision theory. That is, Enlightenment planification may
presume a powerful individual being in a position to shape the course
of events in response to his idea of future possibility. Both of these
presumptions today are considered problematic, not only in Marxism,
but also the philosophy of science.

Incidentally, this notion that the course of events is determined by
powerful and self-conscious individuals is certainly not new with the
Enlightenment. Check out the initial purpose of the Jesuit Order in
16th century Europe, for example.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
In fact, marxism appears to be used by postmodernism as merely
another source of criticism, a negation of bourgeois determinism and
of infinite progress, without taking the affirmative programatic
elements of marxism itself.
Yes, perhaps so. But I hope we might steal the term post-modern from
literary academics and put it to better use.

I should mention that after today I'll be gone for a week, and so I'll
not be able to continue this dialog past today. I don't want you to
feel slighted if I don't reply.
--
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
David Picón Álvarez
2007-10-11 15:59:38 UTC
Permalink
From: "Haines Brown" <brownh at hartford-hwp.com>
Post by Haines Brown
Post by David Picón Álvarez
it appears to me that the Enlightenment and Marxism are very tightly
coupled.
That may be a common view, and some do support it actively, but here
I'm disagreeing. The issue is important, I believe, and I hope we can
shed more light on it.
Right. Sorry for taking my time in replying, but this actually took some
thought.
Post by Haines Brown
There's an interesting issue here: what really defines the
Enlightenment? I suspect we would have to engage in a lot of
discussion to come to some agreement over that. But perhaps a basic
difference is that I think of the Enlightenment as an ontology, a
philosophy of science, while you are viewing it in terms of, say,
historical development.
Well, it is not easy to define the Enlightenment in a way that makes sense.
However, if I have to try, I see the Enlightenment as a point of departure
in thought from a belief in revelation and intelligo ut credam towards a
universalization of the application of reason, empiricism and distrust of
intuition, faith and authority. Even at its most metaphysical, works like
the Monadology try to explain the apparent state of the world through the
use of a rational theory. Now, I don't subscribe to a simplistic philosophy
of science, but I am not convinced that the Enlightenment did either. As a
matter of fact, my suspicion is that Enlightenment thinking did not yet have
a strictly coherent ontology or epistemology (the Newton/Leibniz dispute is
interesting in relation to this) and the Discourse of the Method doesn't
seem to me to have been uncritically accepted.
Post by Haines Brown
1. Perfectibility of man and the world. If this is a characteristic of
modern life, then socialism would share that feature with
Enlightenment Europe, not because Marxism inherited the idea from
the Enlightenment, but because the perfectibility of man and the
world is simply a characteristic of modern life thanks to
technological development.
But the conception of man and the world as 1) a potentially perfectable
thing and 2) a desireably perfectable thing is, I think, Enlightenment in
provenance. Also note that the Enlightenment has the advantage when
confronted to, say, the City of God, the fact that such perfection is bound
with liberty, and is not determined a priori but to be decided by constant
reassessment of the facts.
Post by Haines Brown
Everything inherits something from the past, and so it is
inevitable that late 19th century working-class ideology will
inherit from Enlightenment ideology. But your "tight coupling"
seems to imply more than that, that Marxism is an instance or
development of Enlightenment thought, and it is this with which I
disagree. That is, while it inherits much, I feel it is also a
break with the Enlightenment at a fundamental level, and I don't
even much care if Marx himself didn't realize it ;-)
I think the best case you can make for this, is that Enlightenment thought
(or subsets of it) has a reductionistic and individualist character, in
which agents are atomized and contract freely with each other without
friction, whereas Marxism is more holistic and collectivist (although I
think collectivism is a matter of approach, I'd argue that Marxism is
defensible on individualist grounds).
Post by Haines Brown
To be more specific, to illustrate more than to develop the point,
the Enlightenment "man" was a generic social atom, and it develops
because the totality of individuals develop through their making
optimal (rational) choices ("rational" was understood in
instrumentalist terms: a rational choice is defined as one that
results in an increase of one's own "talents", and it has nothing
to do with logic). In Marxism, there is no generic man, but a
"social being". While the development of society implies the
development of the _individual_, it does not imply the development
of _generic_ "man". Individuals develop because they are social
beings, not social atoms; the concrete individual develops because
concrete society is part of his being, and his innate powers are
actualized and developed by society.
There is (as I noted above) a case to make that the Enlightenment is
inherently individualistic. However, I think this is an accidental
characteristic of most of Enlightenment thought, and not an essential
characteristic of Enlightenment thought as such. Theories of the social
contract such as Rousseau's, seem to open the way towards an assessment of
society and collective optimization. BTW, in spite of the fact that utility
and rational choice and the like are really hard to pin down, I don't
consider them necessarily incompatible with Marxism. A decision theory can
apply to planning as well as to a market agent.
Post by Haines Brown
2. Reason as source of truth. Yes, this is an Enlightenment notion,
but it has collapsed in terms of recent philosophy of science. This
is richly discussed in many places, but I just received a book in
the mail yesterday that happens to discuss it as well (also
mathematics): Peter T. Manicas, A Realist Philosophy of Social
Science: Explanation and Understanding (Cambridge, 2006). I'm not
venturing to recommend this (implicitly Marxist, I believe) book,
for I've just started reading it. Since the collapse of logical
positivism, we tend to see reason as a tool, not a source of truth.
Well, perhaps the word source is overly strong. Certainly reason is the
primary tool to find out truth. Nothing can historically compete with it,
whether in the guise of logic or in its dialectical manifestations, in my
view. This is something of the Enlightenment I would much rather keep. My
knowledge of philosophy of science is limited. I've read _Two Dogmas of
Empiricism" by Quine, and while I admit that on that light logical
positivism or other na?ve notions are not tenable, I don't know how much new
ideas like that really help methodologically. They undermine the confidence
we might place in the scientific enterprise, but they do not replace it with
anything more useful, as far as I have seen. I'm a bit of a mathematical
platonist (which is the only deviation from materialism I allow myself)
though, so perhaps my emphasis on reason is misplaced.
Post by Haines Brown
3. Planification. Again, it is often said that by the 17th century,
human capacities had developed to the point that for the first time
(and in Europe, of course) an ability to shape the future had
become a practical reality, and so planning now made
sense. However, it's doubtful the Enlightenment really initiated
the idea or that it is peculiar to Europe, and in fact all three of
your points to some extent have broader historical precedent. If
true, this means these elements in Marxism may not be explicitly
European or Enlightenment.
Even if so (I'm not taking a position on whether these elements existed at
the same time and to the same extent elsewhere or elsewhen) it is clear that
Marxism took them from Enlightenment thinking. Enlightenment is part of our
heritage and even to the extent that we disagree with Enlightenment position
of individual atomization, we do so in an Enlightenment way. The things that
have value for us, human development, substantive freedom, material
progress, those things we took from the Enlightenment.
Post by Haines Brown
This point skates a bit on thin ice, so let me be more specific by
referencing the example of the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th
century. Alcuin and others spoke of a "renovatio" of mind, body and
spirit. Each of these three levels of development were
interdependent. The means for development of the spirit was
"devotio", prayer; the means for development of the mind was
"eruditio", education; the means for the development of the body
was "disciplina", constraint. The idea was that the development of
the physical world (coastal lighthouse system, Rhine-Danube canal,
monetary reforms; rationalized bureaucratic organization, peaceful
political relations, etc.) was a necessary precondition for the
development of the mind (using the palace school as a catalyst for
setting up of cathedral schools throughout Francia, monastic reform
that would mandate education, the import of scholars from abroad,
etc.), which was a precondition for the development of the spirit,
which allowed you to participate in god's creative (inventive)
power. Although tenuous in practice, the idea of planification was
very much present. If one concludes that is it much a part of
European culture since the 9th century, then why attribute that
element specifically to the Enlightenment?
Because the Enlightenment actually took the idea seriously enough to
implement, and, more importantly, because in the Enlightenment we have
materialist planning, as opposed to an idealist attempt to transcend
(instead of radically alter) reality.
Post by Haines Brown
What I'm getting at is that looking to the Enlightenment roots of
Marxism, we are in danger of being Eurocentric and insensitive to the
longer sweep of history. In other words, we would have to show that
the the traits are really peculiar to the Enlightenment and also
fundamental to it, that these ideas were imported into Marxism without
significant change (there is danger of hypostatizing ideas that are
independent of profound historical change), and that these ideas are
essential to Marxism, rather than merely accidentals.
On your first point, I think it is clear that those ideas are a fundamental
part of the Enlightenment, and I am not convinced to what extent we must
demonstrate that they are peculiar to it. Even if they exist in other
manifestations in history, that's where marxism imported them from, not
Islamic thinking or some other non-European source (marxism is a European
idea, in provenance if not in application and vocation, like it or not). On
your second point, I think that many ideas and values of Enlightenment
thinking were imported perhaps not intact but in recognizable forms into
marxist thinking. Sure, the dialectic is a twist on reason, but it is still
recognizable. On your third point, I don't see how those ideas or values
could be detached from marxism, and, more importantly, I don't see what good
it would do to try to detach them. If they're not essential (which I would
argue they are) at least they form an important element of marxism as it is
known, and I cannot envision a marxism that lacks them.
Post by Haines Brown
Yes, agreed, but the term "post-modern" has been used in various
ways. I get the feeling (perhaps wrong) that the term is shedding its
(unfortunate) role as a kind of literary criticism popular in certain
academic circles, amd is coming essentially to mean a broadly
post-Enlightenment mode of thinking, particularly in the philosophy of
science.
Could you clarify this a bit? Also, in your view, is it possible to preserve
marxism's essential nature while placing it over a different epistemology?
Post by Haines Brown
Post-modernism may indeed imply a rejection of planification, but
perhaps in the less problematic sense of it being a critique of
optimal decision theory. That is, Enlightenment planification may
presume a powerful individual being in a position to shape the course
of events in response to his idea of future possibility. Both of these
presumptions today are considered problematic, not only in Marxism,
but also the philosophy of science.
Optimal decision theory does not bring with it a requirement that an
individual has to foresee the future alone and choose an option that
maximizes his utility. It's just a formalism that can be applied to
different modes of thinking about agents conducting themselves in a knowable
world.
Post by Haines Brown
Yes, perhaps so. But I hope we might steal the term post-modern from
literary academics and put it to better use.
I don't know to what extent the suggestion is serious, but why would we want
the term? What good does it do us, especially considering the association it
has already gained as an antiprogramatic, antiobjective, antiscientific,
antiprogress, antitruth philosophical viewpoint espoused by people who can't
do maths?

--David.
Haines Brown
2007-10-12 17:39:04 UTC
Permalink
David, thanks for the interesting reply. I returned last night after
an absence, and reply to your message without first checking the
backlog of some 1300 messages.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Post by Haines Brown
There's an interesting issue here: what really defines the
Enlightenment? I suspect we would have to engage in a lot of
discussion to come to some agreement over that. But perhaps a
basic difference is that I think of the Enlightenment as an
ontology, a philosophy of science, while you are viewing it in
terms of, say, historical development.
Well, it is not easy to define the Enlightenment in a way that makes
sense. However, if I have to try, I see the Enlightenment as a
point of departure in thought from a belief in revelation and
intelligo ut credam towards a universalization of the application of
reason, empiricism and distrust of intuition, faith and
authority. Even at its most metaphysical, works like the Monadology
try to explain the apparent state of the world through the use of a
rational theory. Now, I don't subscribe to a simplistic philosophy
of science, but I am not convinced that the Enlightenment did
either. As a matter of fact, my suspicion is that Enlightenment
thinking did not yet have a strictly coherent ontology or
epistemology (the Newton/Leibniz dispute is interesting in relation
to this) and the Discourse of the Method doesn't seem to me to have
been uncritically accepted.
I don't necessarily disagree with your comments, but only want to
suggest that maybe we need to step back and look at the problem (to
what extent is Marxism the heir of the Enlightenment) more broadly. I
suspect you might agree that the "Enlightenment" is a very complex
(i.e., not entirely coherent) intellectual movement and therefore can
be legitimately defined in a number of ways. I would suggest that
since the context here is the relation of Marxism to the
Enlightenment, and since Marxism is basically a working-class
ideology, to compare the two we must define the Enlightenment as
bourgeois ideology. So let me rephrase a rather obscure hurried point
I made before: In intellectual terms, Marx and everyone else was
necessarily heir of the Enlightenment, but to the extent Enlightenment
and Marxism are defined as class ideologies, we would see them as
opposite.

I resist the best I can the pleasure of exploring the specific issues
(ideas), but permit me to mention briefly just one thing, for you
appear to make it central. You seem to define the Enlightenment as a
phase of intellectual history. As such you seem to stress something
you call a "rational theory", which in your view represents a break
with the past. I fear things are not so simple. True, during part of
the feudal era in Western Europe there was a rationalist intellectual
tradition named scholasticism, and one, although important, trend in
scholasticism suggested that faith was the precondition of an
understanding (of the world). For some obscure reason, this is not in
your view a "rational theory". It is worth exploring in what sense
scholasticism was not rational. Then we come to the very complicated
issue of the scientific revolution. One standard view is that it
represented a anti-aristocratic reversion to an earlier feudal
artisanry tradition. Another standard view is that it was made
possible thanks to the diffusion of platonic mysticism. Then there's
Bacon, who is credited with the scientific method of inductive
reasoning and the exclusion of "idols" (superstitions). All this is
pre-Enlightenment. So how did Enlightenment thinking differ? It
invented the term "rational," but this rationality had nothing to do
with philosophy or with reason, but with measurement, with "ratios".
It was what we could today call optional choice theory (that is, those
choices made among talents available in one's environment that result
in an increase in one's own "talents" are defined as rational choices
- as having the greatest return for what one initially invested.

Just to be sure I'm not diverting the thread, let me rephrase my
original concern. Marx lived in the second half of the 19th century,
so it is only natural that any thinker of Marx's time, including Marx
himself, will be deeply influenced by Enlightenment thought, such as
the rights of man and democracy. Only we today, I believe, are really
breaking with that intellectual late-feudal/Rensaisasnce/Enlightenment
tradition in fundamental ways. If this is so, do we a) transform
Marxism in a way that sloughs off its Renaissance/Enlightenment
baggage, or do we b) presume that this baggage is essential to Marxism
and proceed to develop a new working-class ideology that is more up to
date and does not carry the "Marxism" label?

That is, as you hint, defining the Enlightenment would be a
challenge. To decide whether the Enlightenment elements in Marx are
essential or accidental would, I'm sure you would agree, be another
very difficult task. Perhaps we should instead set out to define
working-class ideology today and make secondary the issue of what
extent to call it "Marxist" (and/or heir of the Enlightenment). I
suspect this would be the simplest and most constructive approach,
although obviously controversial. I know many informed people with the
best of intentions who embrace the Marxist label first and then try to
adjust the content of Marxism to our new circumstances. The danger is
being torn on one hand between a sterile dogmatism that is useless for
building a global working-class movement and on the other so
transforming Marxism that, like the Cheshire Cat, it slowly disappears
until all that's left is its smile. Because of the danger of being
caught between this Scylla and Charybdis, I suspect the only safe
thing to do is to define working-class ideology today as our primary
concern and call it Marxist, not because it mindlessly embraces all of
Marx's way of thinking or representing things, but because Marxism
marked the beginning of an ideology specific to the modern working
class.

You make several points about the perfectibility of man. I would
suggest the idea is very old, and even its dependence on technology
arguably goes back to the 6th century (see Lynn White on this, for
example, although Al Gore disagrees with him sharply). As for Marx
himself, is it the perfectibility of the individual man or the
perfectibility of the social man (i.e, of society as actualized in the
individual)?
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Also note that the Enlightenment has the advantage when confronted
to, say, the City of God, the fact that such perfection is bound
with liberty, and is not determined a priori but to be decided by
constant reassessment of the facts.
Yes, you are probably right here. But this "liberty" is not so much a
political form (such as democracy), but free choice in the market
place. I suspect this "liberty" goes back to optimal choice theory,
and thus to market liberalism, which I don't believe is part of
Marxism. That is, there's a difference between having power and having
free choice. I see little evidence the Enlightenment advocated the
former. For example, in the US, the property qualification for voting.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
whereas Marxism is more holistic and collectivist (although I think
collectivism is a matter of approach, I'd argue that Marxism is
defensible on individualist grounds).
I'd prefer the term "systemic", for I'm not sure just what you mean
here by holism and collectivism. I've no idea what you mean by
suggesting that collectivism is a matter of approach. And I'd sharply
disagree with you over "defensible on individualist grounds". However,
this point is important, for it explain why you see an affinity
between Marxism and the Enlightenment. I suspect to resolve this
difference, we would have to explore the notion of "social being" and
just what is implied by working-class solidarity.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Well, perhaps the word source is overly strong. Certainly reason is
the primary tool to find out truth. Nothing can historically compete
with it, whether in the guise of logic or in its dialectical
manifestations, in my view. This is something of the Enlightenment I
would much rather keep.
Your assumption that reason (logic, dialectical logic) is the primary
tool to discover truth is exactly what has been challenged since the
1980s (incidentally, not many Marxists today can mount an up to date
and realistic defense of dialectical materialism). Analytic philosophy
of science (Quine) has been roundly criticized as being entirely
unrealistic (as well as the so-called "scientific method" embedded in
old textbooks). Now, of course, my suggesting these things might sound
anti-intellectual, off-the-wall, or arrogant, but I believe that if
you were to explore the new consensus in the philosophy of science
(that is, since, say, 1990), you would find, I believe, that these
suggestions are neither irrational nor unrealistic, and arguably aim
to introduce greater realism into the philosophy of science. It's good
to keep in mind that there's no question but that Quine is an exponent
of bourgeois ideology in science.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Even if so (I'm not taking a position on whether these elements
existed at the same time and to the same extent elsewhere or
elsewhen) it is clear that Marxism took them from Enlightenment
thinking. Enlightenment is part of our heritage and even to the
extent that we disagree with Enlightenment position of individual
atomization, we do so in an Enlightenment way. The things that have
value for us, human development, substantive freedom, material
progress, those things we took from the Enlightenment.
Yes, the Enlightenment was the intellectual prior stage in the
development of thought, and so Marxism is Enlightenment's direct
heir. But is this really so? Everyone seems to agree today that Marx
was a realist, and so by definition the opposite of Enlightenment
empiricism. Also, it is easily argued that Marx had a systems theory
in which wholes acquire properties or behaviors as a result of the
relation of its parts. Do you find a theory of emergent wholes in the
Enlightenment? Adam Smith, who was well placed to grasp that surplus
value was a system effect, just didn't get it. Marx was also a process
theorist (the centrality of contradictions being the prime example),
while the Enlightenment was capable of no more than Kant's real
oppositions. That is, in terms of ideas (an approach I don't
recommend), one could well argue that on the most fundamental matters,
Marx was alien to Enlightenment assumptions. However, this is not my
point, which is only that in terms of the history of ideas, one can
argue almost anything. That's why I would prefer the class-ideology
perspective instead.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Because the Enlightenment actually took the idea seriously enough to
implement, and, more importantly, because in the Enlightenment we
have materialist planning, as opposed to an idealist attempt to
transcend (instead of radically alter) reality.
I've no idea to what you refer. Who implemented what? What kind of new
materialist planning? It is easy to show the origin of the
transformation of rather than merely transcendence of material reality
in the Benedictine Rule (which Lynn White makes much of), in the
Carolingian era, and much else. You seem to have a much broader notion
of the Enlightenment than I. If we are not careful, things are too
generalized to make much sense. For example, couldn't I just as well
argue that Marx was the product of Romanticism (the anti-Enlightenment
movement)? I'm not saying he was, but a solid argument could be
presented. Look at his gravestone and you are seeing a Romantic
figure.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
On your first point, I think it is clear that those ideas are a
fundamental part of the Enlightenment, and I am not convinced to
what extent we must demonstrate that they are peculiar to it. Even
if they exist in other manifestations in history, that's where
marxism imported them from, not Islamic thinking or some other
non-European source (marxism is a European idea, in provenance if
not in application and vocation, like it or not).
OK, I see what you are getting at. I didn't grasp your position very
well because I do not understand at all your concept of "importing
ideas". I take a rather different approach to acculturation, which is
that each person or era exists in a cultural milieu that exists in the
_present_, not something imported from the past, and from this milieu,
elements are selected and transformed into something fundamentally
new. That is, even if there are elements of continuity, to preserve
them is a creative choice, because much else is expunged and what is
preserved exists in a new framework.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Sure, the dialectic is a twist on reason, but it is still
recognizable.
Really? In terms of logic, it is impossible (except as a Kantian real
opposition). After all, one of the main tenants of logic is the law of
non-contradiction. The problem is that these lows of logic (and more
broadly the Enlightenment) see a static world of empirical facts, not
a world of processes (which looks back more to Romanticism). With
processes, contradictions are not only possible, but normal. This may
be a twist of _logic_, but hardly a twist of _reason_. There's nothing
at all unreasonable about a thermodynamic engine (environmental
dissipation driving a system toward lower entropy).
Post by David Picón Álvarez
On your third point, I don't see how those ideas or values could be
detached from marxism, and, more importantly, I don't see what good
it would do to try to detach them. If they're not essential (which I
would argue they are) at least they form an important element of
marxism as it is known, and I cannot envision a marxism that lacks
them.
The problem here is the project of distinguishing essential from
accidental ideas in Marxism. The search for essential traits is itself
philosophically problematic. What makes some features of a thing
"essential"? Why, their persistence in space-time. Why does
persistence in space-time elevate the significance or value of certain
traits? Only because to make a fetish of persistence is a result of
political conservatism and a reductionism. If, on the other hand, our
aim is change (revolution) and our outlook is systemically universal
(global working class), then change (process) is normal, and stability
(persistence) problematic. We start by assuming all is in flux, and
then try to understand the conditions that produce stability. What is
most fundamental to things is causal relation (process), not static
empirical traits (that is why class is defined as a relation of
production). So, if you will excuse the looseness of my presentation
here, one might have another reason to argue that Marxism is the very
opposite of Enlightenment thinking (but all I'm really arguing is that
the issue is not obvious).
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Post by Haines Brown
Yes, agreed, but the term "post-modern" has been used in various
ways. I get the feeling (perhaps wrong) that the term is shedding
its (unfortunate) role as a kind of literary criticism popular in
certain academic circles, amd is coming essentially to mean a
broadly post-Enlightenment mode of thinking, particularly in the
philosophy of science.
Could you clarify this a bit? Also, in your view, is it possible to
preserve marxism's essential nature while placing it over a
different epistemology?
I was afraid you'd ask me that ;-(. The term "modern" is often used to
refer to what is new, up to date, but that was not its original
meaning, and it may be changing. For example, up-to-date furniture
style is "contemporary", not "modern"; modern refers to a past style,
like Victorian. In art, modernism began late 19th century and was
superceded by post-modernism. My point is that there's no definition
of modernism carved in stone, and I get the sense that it is
gravitating to the equivalent of Enlightenment values. But what then
of Romanticism?

Post-modernism is also an ambivalent term, but seems to mean a
movement critical of modernism, bourgeois values, and positivism,
among other things. If we grant that post-modern is moving toward a
world view that is fundamentally different than the modern, then the
transition may be from World War II to the beginning of the 21st
century (again, I don't know if Romanticism should be considered an
anticipation of it). It seems from my perspective on things that it is
only incipiently coherent and so far primarily a rejection of
modernism, but that an important part of it is becoming identifiable
as Marxism (I don't know if anyone in the world would at all agree
with this, however). In the philosophy of science, it seems to
consist basically of a rejection of positivism: a scientific realism
(rejection of positivist analytic empiricism), the development of a
neo-Kantian social constructivism (more in its Marxist sense than that
of Thomas Kuhn), the view that methods are intrinsically theory laden,
a rejection of foundationalism (of the idea that basic axioms are
autonomous), etc. In other words, I'd adopt the outrageous view that,
far from being Enlightenment, Marxism is an anticipation of
post-modernism and only now about to come into its own.
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Optimal decision theory does not bring with it a requirement that an
individual has to foresee the future alone and choose an option that
maximizes his utility. It's just a formalism that can be applied to
different modes of thinking about agents conducting themselves in a
knowable world.
You loose me. If our choices are evaluated in terms of their likely
outcome, is this not foreseeing the (near) future (in probabilistic
terms)?
Post by David Picón Álvarez
Post by Haines Brown
Yes, perhaps so. But I hope we might steal the term post-modern
from literary academics and put it to better use.
I don't know to what extent the suggestion is serious, but why would
we want the term? What good does it do us, especially considering
the association it has already gained as an antiprogramatic,
antiobjective, antiscientific, antiprogress, antitruth philosophical
viewpoint espoused by people who can't do maths?
Well, I don't know to what extent it is serious, either. One
consideration might be that if "modernism" refers to the bourgeois
era, then anything "post-modern" has got to be a good thing
;-). Another consideration is whether we are so challenging
conventional meanings are to be whistling in the wind. I would have
said so in the 1990s, but today I'm not so sure.

Let me check with that great font of knowledge, wikipedia, to see what
the terms seem to imply today. On modernism, it suggests that it is a
term refers to the broad changes taking place in West European society
from the mid 19th century. It description of the term makes me think
of positivism. The Wikipedia might imply a distinction between
Enlightenment and modernism in that the former is bourgeois ideology
while the later is associated with industrial capital, but it does not
say so explicitly. It points out that some people see post modernism
after the Second World War as a continuation and phase of modernism,
while others see it as a rejection of modernism. In other words, the
Wikipedia article is not all that helpful, but it does seem to imply a
triumphalist industrial capitalism we associate with the term
positivism. I've seen the term modernism extended back to the
bourgeois revolution, but the Wikipedia article gives no support to
the idea.

Now, how about post-modernism? The ambiguity noted above persists when
it generally characterizes post-modernism as either emerging from, in
reaction to, or superseding, modernism. Obviously it is a term with a
variety of meanings. It also says that post-modernism tends to refer
to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central
hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity,
contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, and interconnectedness or
interreferentiality. This suggests that what is being termed
"post-modern" is also incipient, transitional, not yet fully
structured.

How about your concern that it is anti-rationalist? This seems to
refer more to the literary arena than other fields. Here the term is
closely linked with poststructuralism (Derrida) in terms of a
rejection of its bourgeois elitist culture. This often means a
rejection of Enlightenment norms, and any rejection of norms in theory
means opening the doors to anomie, and indifference to morality to
critical judgement, etc. But I don't believe this is the primary
understanding of post-modernism today. Nothing in the Wikipedia
article suggests that a hostility to reason is part and parcel of
post-modernism in the sense that it might apply to Romanticism. In
fact, in some areas of culture (architecture), post-modernism refers
to a return to traditional norms that were rejected in modernism. In
other words, the term is up for grabs. I'd like to appropriate it as a
term for post-bourgeois (Enlightenment) and post-positivist
(industrial capitalist) culture.
--
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Les Schaffer
2007-10-12 16:12:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Haines Brown
David, thanks for the interesting reply. I returned last night after
an absence, and reply to your message without first checking the
backlog of some 1300 messages.
People should remember that they can disable Marxmail delivery while
they go away. just log into your Options page and set Disable Delivery.
Here are the instructions:


http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2004w19/msg00292.htm


Les

John Obrien
2007-10-05 23:38:07 UTC
Permalink
Are Some poor and working people, more important than other poor and working people?
Why do some marxists want poor and working people to play musical chairs with their lives?

Could it be in the year 2007 that some people who label themselves as Marxists and emphatically state they care for working people, but it turns out - they do not care for ALL working people?
A poor woman in Iran or even a poor Lesbian in Iran, does not merit support, as compared to the important male president of Iran (who has more power), because he is SUPPOSEDLY challenging U. S. rule. History has shown that the Iranian regime currently in power has made a number of deals with U. S. imperialism and their allied governments (Contra-gate, War on Taliban, etc.)

Long before the current conflict between the governments of the United States and Iran - there was little concern, for poor women and particulalry poor Lesbians in Iran. This has also been true in the United States and many other countries in the world.

Working people who want control over their bodies, insisting on birth control, abortions, condoms and whom they choose to have sexual relations with - are not liked by many non-marxists, because of racial, gender, sexual, age and disabled biases - based on various religious cult views, that are against scientific facts and reality and against a view of caring for people.

Some of these faith held beliefs, urged that disabled people should be disriminated against - should marxists respect that view and not challenge it? For example - at sometime in most people's lives, they will become disabled to some degree. Are we saying that this discrimination is wrong - but the others maintained by the same prejudice, are to be tolerated? Should marxists pick and choose which working people lives should be improved - or should we build the class and strengthen the whole - to form a mightier weapon, against our common oppressors

It is the duty of marxists to break down discrimiantion that DIVIDES working people - not just SOME working people. There have been some marxists, who believed the value of white males was greater and should have their humanity defended, but that women, People of Color, Gays and disabled - are expendable and do not need to be defended - or their lives uplifted to be stronger and thus strengthen the working class.

We have seen sadly the justification for this usually around "what is more important". This was said to justify many times the continuing discrimination and oppression of various working people who were "unpopular" - as compared to what others saw "as popular".

Of course, we must ALL oppose any military attack by the United States and/or its allies, against Iran - because such attacks will injure Iraninan working people. These attacks are also done to intimidate others, who might desire to not go along with the U. S. Empire's rule. But this does not mean we should be supporting some Islamic Religious current and their rules and regulations, against working people in that country.

We should be able to both oppose all efforts and demands by the U. S. government and its client states on coercing other nations, for the benefit of those seeking control of resources and lives - AND in still being principled in opposing the oppression and division of the working class.

In recent times, I have seen speakers being added at anti-war rallies, in many countries who are representatives of various nonmarxist Islamic currents - but I have not seen any balance of Gay or woman speakers added to these stages - to focus on the ongoing special oppression they suffer in such places as Iraq, etc. It seems the Islamic speakers were added to show opposition about racism aimed at Arab and Muslim people - but in not having speakers speak on Gays being murdered in Iraq, the message seems to be clear - Some oppressions and some working people are more important than others? We do not want to embarass a speaker from a religious cult, who is asking to not be discriminated against - by having "those people" on the same platform?

Perhaps a way to break down ignorance and for people to learn in what we all have in common, is by uniting and not harming each other. This should be the more important message for REAL permanent change and not keep going around like musical chairs, with what group today is the focus and will be lucky to get a chair and who will not!

Supporting divisions and overlooking oppression - is NOT what is to be done!

John O'Brien
Date: Fri, 5 Oct 2007 07:19:04 -0400> Subject: Re: [Marxism] Islamist, Socialist revolutions do not mix> > ML, I'm not challenging the truth of your aside, but it leaves me a> little uncomfortable.
When we use the term "religious right", do we> mean political authoritarians who happen to harness religion to their> agenda, or do we mean people of a conservative religious faith who> instinctively gravitate to the political right simply because that is> the only people raising the kind of issues of concern to them?> > I could go on, but my aim here is only to suggest we be careful when> we use terms such as "religious right"; that we not too quickly assume> a close functional relationship between political and religious views;> that we not assume too quickly that the outlook of religious right is> lunatic, monolithic or insensitive to the contradictions of> capitalism.> > -- > > Haines Brown, KB1GRM> > > >
Mark Lause
2007-10-05 14:06:44 UTC
Permalink
I wrote, "the real lunatic fringe of the Religious Right in the U.S.--the
"Christian Reconstructionists"--are so fundamentally anti-modernist that
they want to restore the practice of stoning of adulterers."

In reply to this particular comment, Haines wrote, "my aim here is only to
suggest we be careful when we use terms such as 'religious right'; that we
not too quickly assume a close functional relationship between political and
religious views; that we not assume too quickly that the outlook of
religious right is lunatic, monolithic or insensitive to the contradictions
of capitalism."

Blimey! How much more fracking "careful" could anyone be? I described a
very specific, describing a self-defined tendency (the Christian
Reconstructionists) with self-described political and religious views as
being "the real lunatic fringe." And Haines replies that it would be wrong
to consider all religious people are whackos...

So it goes. One side says something very specific and particular and other
generalizes it into a strawman, then asserts that the former should avoid
careless generalizations.

Believe me, not only do I realize that all followers of Jesus are not
lunatics, but have encountered numerous followers of another bearded Jewish
thinker who have proven more as fully capable of irrationality as any
Christians.

Still, everybody has to have a hobby, I suppose.

Off to work...

ML
Haines Brown
2007-10-06 16:03:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark Lause
I wrote, "the real lunatic fringe of the Religious Right in the
U.S.--the "Christian Reconstructionists"--are so fundamentally
anti-modernist that they want to restore the practice of stoning of
adulterers."
In reply to this particular comment, Haines wrote, "my aim here is
only to suggest we be careful when we use terms such as 'religious
right'; that we not too quickly assume a close functional
relationship between political and religious views; that we not
assume too quickly that the outlook of religious right is lunatic,
monolithic or insensitive to the contradictions of capitalism."
Blimey! How much more fracking "careful" could anyone be?
Yes, I probably should apologize. I took "Christian Reconstructonists"
in terms of the definition offered in Wikipedia, and that is always a
risky thing to do.
--
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
Ralph Johansen
2007-10-05 20:40:34 UTC
Permalink
As far as I have seen, there has been little discussion on this list or
elsewhere that includes some of the reasons for the existence and spread
of religious beliefs, historically and more recently. That might be a
timely, clarifying discussion.

For example and for obvious causation, what think people about the
current pervasiveness of religion as a source of solace, in the terms
used by Marx as a "sigh of the oppressed", in a soulless world ?

When the promise of socialism has been eclipsed, however temporarily,
and the lessons from failed attempts are fresh, and the claim of the
left, that the agency of social change is and can only be the working
class, has to put it tamely not been borne out, do we have any good
reason to wonder that more and more have turned to religious movements
all over the world, not only for solace and community in a world of
systemic isolation, but also for solutions, orientation, and as a
bulwark in a world of gathering chaos?

What brings it right home for me is that three of the children that I
have sired have turned to religion, without any encouragement or example
in their family background: one to Hebrew orthodoxy, one to Buddhism and
one to the born-again Christian movement. My next-door neighbor is an
enterprising pastor in a large fundamentalist church in a small town
where his ministry seems to be reaching many people where they feel
need. My wife hears him in the backyard on his cell phone, enjoining
parishioners to "cast out their demons".

The religious movements, as exemplified by the Hezbollah in Lebanon and
Islam elsewhere, as well as the right wing fundamentalist movements in
the West and in the Southern hemisphere, inveigh against the "godless
state" and communism for attempting to impose what they characterize as
misguided, inadequate, monolithic-bureaucratic solutions to social problems.

They buttress this negative conception of the alternative by themselves
providing social services of all kinds: acting locally to meet community
needs through charitable agencies, finding employment, ministering to
sickness, emotional stress and family disruption, providing child care
and help for the aged, maintaining schools, clinics, hospitals, and
financing services through tithing that includes the genuinely concerned
and opportunistic wealthy as well , and now in the US through growing
"faith-based" government support - all in the service of a salvationist
gospel and a solution that is supported by capital and its right wing
governments and agencies as a bulwark against imposition of state
responsibility in providing these essential social services.
Furthermore, the offer of such assistance means that in order to avail
themselves people must commit to and accept the whole enchilada. That
involves numbers of the working class who exist only marginally, in
increasingly financially insecure situations.

Bush can find popular support, against interest, through the spread of
these views for his veto of the child health care legislation just
passed, as well as for his announced justification - that it's a step
toward socialism.

There was a time when the left, through ethnic, trade union and other
organizations, acted in a similar way in local communities to provide
needed social services and support to working class militancy, promising
solutions through collective action. Whether that's feasible or useful
now, what does at a minimum still seem practicable is for the enfeebled
left to unite where appropriate with religious groups on issues where
there is common cause, but never concede more.

Ralph
Néstor Gorojovsky
2007-10-05 22:05:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ralph Johansen
As far as I have seen, there has been little discussion on this list or
elsewhere that includes some of the reasons for the existence and spread
of religious beliefs, historically and more recently. That might be a
timely, clarifying discussion.
For example and for obvious causation, what think people about the
current pervasiveness of religion as a source of solace, in the terms
used by Marx as a "sigh of the oppressed", in a soulless world ?
I would rather ask a different question. Isn't this rebirth of
political-religious militancy a reaction to the failure of the lay
revolutionary promises starting with 1789, and growing in 1917 to
reach its apex by the mid-1970s? Religious politics, bigotry and all
that, aren't an answer to that failure both from the side of the
oppressed _and_ that of the oppressors?

Just asking. Back to my hole.
Joaquin Bustelo
2007-10-05 23:00:02 UTC
Permalink
This pretty much speaks for itself.

Joaquin

Oct 5 (Reuters) - President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has issued a surprise
decree ordering foreign oil companies to hand over 99 percent of the extra
crude revenues they earn over a benchmark price set in their contracts.

The law previously obliged them to hand over half of the extra windfall
revenue, and the companies could lose a total of $830 million a year from
the change.

The average benchmark price in the contracts is about $23 a barrel, while
Ecuador's Napo and Oriente crudes traded at an average of around $60 a
barrel in August.

[http://www.reuters.com/article/companyNewsAndPR/idUSN0521849020071005]
Haines Brown
2007-10-06 16:32:05 UTC
Permalink
Ralph, I jump in, although I'll not be around after today to help
carry things forward.
Post by Ralph Johansen
As far as I have seen, there has been little discussion on this list
or elsewhere that includes some of the reasons for the existence and
spread of religious beliefs, historically and more recently. That
might be a timely, clarifying discussion.
A traditional approach is to bifurcate between what is roughly an
anthropological approach, which is to look to origins in order to
grasp why religion is an expression of the human psyche, and a
sociological approach that looks to the social function of religion to
explain it. Both approaches are subject to criticism.

You are probably right that there's a lack of solid discussion in
Marxist circles, at least ones that escape the criticisms. Given that
religion obviously is not simply a hang-over from more primitive
society and that in some obvious ways it is socially dysfunctional, I
get the feeling that it should be addressed in a fresh (Marxist) way.

Rather old-fashioned, but nevertheless a very useful discussion of
religion from a sociological perspective is that of Bryan Wilson,
_Religion in Sociological Perspective_ (Oxford, 1982). Not a
conventional view, but nevertheless very interesting from an
anthropological perspective is Stanley Jeyarija Tambiah, _Magic,
Science, Religion, and the Scope of Rationality_ (Cambridge, 1990). A
psychological view is that great classic that is a must-read: William
James, _The Varieties of Religious Experience_ (1902). Oh, and I
suppose one can't get very far without reading the theological view of
Paul Tillich, _The Courage to Be_ (New Haven, 1952).

Books like these offer an essential background, but I wish I could
also recommend a good Marxist discussion. I know of none (my fault,
I'm sure). Alexander Saxton, _Religion and the Human Prospect_ (New
York, 2006) is the closest I can get to it.
--
Haines Brown, KB1GRM
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