Albert article

Dennis R Redmond dredmond at OREGON.UOREGON.EDU
Tue Jun 23 18:08:05 PDT 1998

Albert's article says, at one point:

> I believe that class focus had a weak basis because the intellectual
> framework and practices that sustained it were not only not truly
> committed to unequivocally pro-working class agendas, but were highly
> attached to not revealing, even to themselves, often, their other class
> allegiance, to a coordinator vision and practice with intellectuals in
> command.

OK. All due respect to Albert and the Zeta gang, who are hardworking rads like the rest of us, but this is the old, "we were betrayed by self-seeking intellectuals" line, which just won't fly. We have to be more specific, and ask why it was that the US Left mever coalesced into coherent parties, why unions were always structurally weak, etc. The answer is, America was until recently a superpower and didn't *need* Left parties. We had the surplus-rents of the Empire instead (in the form of military Keynesianism, absolute economic hegemony over the world-economy, etc.). The whole idea of Marxism being the ideology of the coordinator class won't fly, either -- you could argue social democracy was this ideology, especially in Europe; the US tended towards a kind of sinister technocracy, where Federal planners administered the "War on Poverty" like they administered the war on the Vietcong, i.e. with malign intent in mind. The so-called Marxism of the Eastern bloc was a crude power-ideology and a dim-witted copy of the US Empire, and had as much to do with Marx or socialism as Voltaire had anything to do with Napoleon's wars of primitive national accumulation.

> Create a conceptual framework that pays proper regard to all critical
> sides of social life, in particular economics, polity, culture, and
> kinship. Create movements that combine autonomy (projects and movements
> with prioritization of focus will emerge and exist and indeed need to
> for constituencies to find their own agendas) and solidarity (we must
> attain it for anyone to win and for any one agenda to be fully informed
> by essential insights from all the others). Okay, sure, the arguments
> involve more than two steps. But it isn^t rocket science. It is as clear
> as the world around us and has been for decades now.

Yes, we need solidarity, but are the answers really lying all around us? In late capitalism, nothing is simple or clear, everything is mediated. Our cognition of the world is not something controlled by the Republican-Democratic combine or by giant corporations; it's mediated, rather, by probably the most complex, sophisticated, and damn utopian consumer culture on the planet. If you turn on the TV, what do you see? Michael Jordan walking off the court in triumph. You don't see or hear about the Indonesian kids working in slave-labor conditions to make Nike shoes. Folks nowadays live in a dense ecology of local, regional, state-level, national and transnational markets, each with their own claims, their own class struggles, their own identity politics, etc. Making our way through this stuff requires lots of hard work and careful analysis, plus meticulous organizing and organization, which simply can't be wished away.

That said, I'm intrigued by the whole ParEcon thing, which at least raises the issue of democratic planning. One could argue that the whole Linux phenomenon is something like the concrete realization of this idea. But Linux was supported by skilled workers operating in a frontier environment (the Internet), so maybe there are some hefty preconditions to the whole participation thing; maybe it's that meditations on democracy need to be grounded in the materiality of identity politics (human rights issues, lesbian-gay liberation, feminism, etc. etc.) more generally, if they're really to say anything meaningful at all.

-- Dennis

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