Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Update and an Appraisal

Dearest comrades,

I have not written here for a long time and feel neglectful of this small space. However I have to report that I have been enormously productive in reading, thought and research proposals. Among the specific activities that I have been busy with are: A study of the Frankfurt School of Critical theory with an old German radical religion professor, an examination of existentialism, phenomenolgy, a study of Habermas, and an overall reexamination of the progress of academic schools of Marxism and sociology through the twentieth century. I have also busied myself in my spare time with the pursuing the thought of Slavoj Zizek, my favorite living philosopher.

So what has this time generated for the development of Marxism?

One crucial insight, even simplistic, is that we all should go through a ruthless self-criticism, not in the show trial sense of self indictment, but in the phenomenological, ethnomethodological and epistemological sense. How do we know, what we think we know about politics, about globalization, about movements, about classes, about peoples everyday experiences, about what people want and what we think they want? We really should ask these questions about ourselves.

Second, we should question our background assumptions and our taken-for-granted knowledge. Anyone who calls them-self a Marxist (or any other kind of intellectual/radical) should ask the question 'why do I believe what I believe'? Do this for every proposition. The vangaurd party, the degeneration of the revolution, the supposed method of raising class consciousness, "inevitable" crisis tendencies, the historic mission of the proletariat, the crisis of capitalism and its death agony.

Let's just take a few of these. Trotsky (whom I hold in the highest esteem) described capitalism as being in its death agony (1938) and in a period of intense shifting from highs to lows very rapidly, and in these rapid shifts space opens up for revolutionary activity. While I think there is much to be said of this we can also say a lot about the ability of capitalism to right itself again, to steer clear of crises, to co-opt and incorporate opposition, things that Lenin and Trotsky were, at least in part, aware. Capitalism has now become a lifestyle capitalism. According to Zizek capitalism enjoins everybody to enjoy, to fulfill their dreams, to pursue self-actualization, to be whoever they want to be, and capitalism has a commodity and a cyber-space cite to help you do this? How is socialism to compete with this capitalism that offers, supposedly full self actualization and fulfillment through it? Just answering from Marcuse, it is generating "false needs" or that this is "false consciousness" is just a cop out and easy answer instead of an analysis. What are the "real" needs? There are people who are not working at mind numbing jobs, though they are generally from more well off classes. By what objective standard are we to determine others needs and their fulfillment? These are not question to steer you away from radicalism but to help inspire thinking.

A second thought, inspired by Zizek has to do with Trotsky's entire analysis of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. Even if Trotsky won out 1926-28, the Soviet Union would still be totally isolated and in desperate need of rapid industrialization and a type of collectivization which was Trotsky's plan in the first place before Stalin stole it and carried it out in a most frightful manner. If Trotsky was there instead, he would have had to finance industrialization in some way. What else but agricultural exports leaning on the peasants, especially the 'Kulaks'? So then, some kind of campaign against the resistant peasant demanding a better price for grain? And what of the extension of the revolution internationally as opposed to 'socialism in one country'? Would this not have only brought another and greater imperialist intervention into the Soviet Union that might have meant its downfall? I do not think that Trotskyism or Marxism in general has come to grips with 'Stalinism' as really not just an aberration but a potentiality in the dialectic of revolution.

These were merely a few reflections, very undeveloped but in need of expression.

Friday, January 02, 2009

50 Years of the Cuban Revolution
This is a clip of the "Rebel Quintet" that played for Castro's guerilla's. they tell an interesting story about how their father, a farmer sympathetic to the guerillas, provided the land for Castro's base and encouraged his sons to work with the movement. Listen for their discussion of "ideology" it is quite interesting. Similar to stories from my grandmother of her mother helping Macedonian rebels at the turn of the century.

The picture is of course of Castro and Malcolm X on Castro's trip to New York, in 1960 I believe, when he stayed in Harlem.  To paraphrase Mohammed Ali, Castro never called me n-----.