left conservatism

Jim heartfield Jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk
Sun Jun 21 04:16:02 PDT 1998

In message <001c01bd9c78$4d6f72c0$a380b1cd at maxhome>, Max Sawicky <sawicky at epinet.org> writes
>Then Cmd. Heartfield surprizes.

>>2. A preference for state action over independent initiative
>Lear's query is relevant. JH protests that state
>and collective need not coincide. Nonsense. Institutionalized
>collective action is just another word for government. Now,
>for a given area more than one government may exist, and their
>functions may overlap and conflict in various ways. This is
>true even if we confine our attention to the U.S. Federal
>and state governments. For the first time, I see a glimmer
>of LP's "libertarian" accusation against the LM group.

I find this Hobson's choice between individualism or statism a bit depressing, really. The great social movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were far from being either. The incorporation of the left in the mid-twentieth century was the beginning of the end. Far from entrenching collective values, this corporatism left most people atomised, having surrendered all collective initiative to a power ranged against them. The new social movements differ from the old in that they are all incorporated from the beginning. If insisting upon independence from the state makes me a libertarian then so be it.

>>3. An innate distrust of ordinary people
>Sounds like many members of this list.
It was an implicit criticism, yes.
>This sounds like irony,
It's not. I find the knee-jerk hostility to car-drivers, suburbanites, Sun-readers, football fans and the rest of the hoi polloi all too characteristic of the left.
>>5. A preference to see identities entrenched rather than revolutionised
>or transcended (I am thinking here of Marx's view that the goal of the
>working class is its own abolition, for example).
>Ditto again.
It isn't irony (though perhaps the example was). I mean to say, to the Black caucus that Carrol cites, perhaps, that identities are something that we need to overcome, not revel in. We have no country, race, gender or any other kind of vested interest in things as they are. Marx came in for a lot of stick for saying that the liberation of the Jews implied liberation from their Judaism, but I think his point is basically right. The 'secular Judaism' of the Menorah Journal only indicated that that anti-semitism had not been defeated, and that even secular Jews were driven to reinvent a Jewish identity, even if it was not an overtly religious one.

I think the only thing that I would argue with on Yoshie's list is this: Racial and sexual oppression are indeed premissed upon relations of production. However, identity politics does not find its foundation upon those divisions, but on the consumption of the surplus. I don't see the Women's studies courses related in any way but the most tangential to the oppression of women. On the contrary, their preoccupation with the symbols of oppression arises from their concern with the cultural life of unproductive consumption, as opposed to the world of production.

In message <199806201842.NAA17444 at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu>, Carrol Cox <cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu> writes
> I will assume that the task of
>would-be leftists is to explore how they will relate to this newly
>established left.
>It is called the Black Radical Congress.

Since I'm barred, I don't see how I could relate to it.

In message <v03102807b1b267cf7af6@[]>, Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at osu.edu> writes
>Why not organize nonblacks along the line that Black Radical Congress is
>proposing? If we get to do that, indeed it will be quite revolutionary. Any
>reason not to do so?

I missed what the Congress was advocating for whites, so I'm curious. Do whites organise separately as a White Radical Congress (I guess that already exists, but its hardly a model of radicalism)? Or do we organise as a support group for the Black Radical Congress, which sounds a bit patronising, and unattractive? -- Jim heartfield

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