I am not a racist

Jim heartfield jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk
Wed Apr 28 23:01:28 PDT 1999

In message <v04011704b34d131bb579@[]>, Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> writes

>Isn't there a sense in
>which we can call feudal Europe, feudal Tibet, the American South of the
>early 19th century, Peru in 1999, classical Athens all class societies?

(having just asked 'Who said anything about dehistoricized essences?')

In looking at these questions I am thinking about Marx's methodological points about 'production in general': "so-called general conditions of all and any production, however, are nothing but abstract conceptions which do not define any of the actual historical stages of production" (Introduction to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Lawrence and Wishart, p 193). So I tend to agree with the first clause of this following,
>that I think it's very important to think much more about class society in
>general than that, but what society since the Fall (a little religious
>language for Chuck Grimes!) hasn't been internally stratified and in

But less with the second. In the above quoted Marx dismisses the ever- present condition of private property, pointing out that communal property (and hence classless societies) amongst Indians, Slavs and ancient Celts 'plays a significant role for a long time'. There is that unfortunately bombastic passage in the Manifesto. But later, in a letter to Joseph Weydemer (see previous posts from Michael, I think) Marx says that 'no credit is due to me' for discovering class struggle, which, as he says, is a staple of bourgeois sociology. His unique contribution is to suggest that class struggle leads to its own supercession. In other words, class struggle is not a universal historical law, but rather an historically bounded condition.

>How did Athenians feel about non-Athenians? Chinese about non-Chinese?

What are Athenians, in this context? The women, the slaves, who made up three quarters of the population, the metics? But to strip back a little further, in what sense did ancient Athenians have *feelings*. The story is told of Julius Caesar that it was considered sorcery that he read without speaking out loud. Can people without personalities, as we now them, be said to feel things towards other people at all. In the vastness of China, what feelings could an ordinary peasant have had towards 'non-Chinese'?

-- Jim heartfield

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