[lbo-talk] [pen-l] Historical materialism and social revolution

Cox, Carrol cbcox at ilstu.edu
Fri May 26 10:31:22 PDT 2017

(I'm tempted to change the Subject Line, but can't figure out a more useful version)

This thread points back to a number of issues extensively ('usefully'?) explored in the early years of lbo-talk. Here are some of them:

Spontaneity vs Worship of Spontaneity. (I argued that Lenin condemned worship of spontaneity BUT his thought presupposed the existence of spontaneous resistance.)

Desire for a Scenario of Revolution: I rejected this desire.

"Criticism" of "The Left" -- I rejected this on the grounds that "The Left" had no referent. I think that is still correct. There are thousands, perhaps millions, of "leftists" in the U.S. but there is nothing that can make sense of "The Left." Our immediate task is to bring some sort of coherent (though not necessarily "united") Left into existence.

. . . . . . .

Some further concerns or issues

1. The organization that has profited most from the Sanders campaign and the Trump victory is the DSA. This is horrible, for despite the hopes of many, DSA politics (even of its left caucus) will inevitably collapse into tailing the DP.

2. I hate to say this but probably 'the model' for a new Party has to be the pre-1912 SPD. Such a party is more likely than not to plunge into radical opportunism, but still what we need is a party that has visible left, center, and right factions. (It seems to me that Lih drove the last spikes into the coffin of "Democratic Centralism."

3. As some anarchists claim, the U.S. is not and has never been a Democracy. In fact, Madison in Federalist No.10 specifically argued that the Constitution did _not_ create a democracy. Nevertheless, there is a real authoritarian threat to the current imitation of democracy. BUT throwing around the term "fascism" cripples resistance to the anti-democratic forces. Fascism was a a particular species of tyranny and existed only in the interwar period. Attempts to build some mythical "untied front against fascism" could seriously cripple the struggle for democracy and against tyranny. That struggle must be grounded in opposition to the war on drugs, the prison system, oppression of undocumented immigrants, and U.S. military action or military aid anyplace.

4. All of this will fail if there is not a 'spontaneous movement among workers for a 32-hour week.

5. As the best available 'portrait' of current conditions I suggest _Bleak House_, _Little Dorrit_, and _Our Mutual Friend_. Those novels exhibit the material content of Neoliberalism.


-----Original Message----- From: Marv Gandall [mailto:marvgand2 at gmail.com] Sent: Friday, May 26, 2017 11:49 AM To: Cox, Carrol Cc: pen-l at mail.csuchico.edu; LBO Subject: Re: [pen-l] Historical materialism and social revolution

> On May 26, 2017, at 8:06 AM, Cox, Carrol <cbcox at ilstu.edu> wrote:
> Ralph Johansen: "I offer a friendly amendment."
> -----
> Accepted. Probably there could be lengthy (and useful) quibbling over details, but the general picture Ralph presents is profoundly (and tragically) correct.

Depends how you view primitive communism, which is what Ralph seems to be projecting when he writes that the current crisis of the system is “prefiguring fundamental change” - but only after capitalism has further run roughshod over the working class, and produced even greater misery and inequality, alienation and the destruction of the natural environment.

Socialism or barbarism, or socialism AND barbarism?

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