WeeklyWorker

18.12.2014
Historical clarity is vital

Fantasy history, fantasy Marx

Chris Cutrone’s arguments are characterised by dogma and vacuous circularity, writes Mike Macnair

Chris Cutrone’s article, ‘Democratic revolution and the contradiction of capital’ (Weekly Worker October 16 2014)1, is a reflection on (aspects of) my 2008 book Revolutionary strategy: Marxism and the challenge of left unity. In response to a letter from Sean Thurlough objecting to the article as obscure (October 23 2014), comrade Cutrone’s November 20 letter2 attempts to clarify an aspect of his argument. But I have to say that the argument overall is indeed obscure. It nonetheless raises important issues and is therefore worth a reply.

I made the point back in 2011 that there is some tendency for myself and other Weekly Worker authors, and Platypus authors, to ‘talk past each other’.3 We do so to a considerable extent because we are using words in general English use, like ‘history’ and ‘politics’, and common terms in leftwing jargon (like ‘crisis’ and ‘Bonapartism’) in radically different ways. For example, ‘crisis’ for me means an acute-phase chaotic moment, like a financial panic or the partial collapse of a state. For Cutrone it is, rather, a standing condition of capitalism (etc). ‘Decoding’ the common ground between us (there is some) and the differences therefore involves a certain amount of translation.

The problem works both ways. On the one hand, I (and others) may misunderstand Cutrone. On the other hand, in part of his discussion comrade Cutrone is ‘translating’ parts of my argument into his own ‘sort-of Frankfurt school’ framework. The result in my opinion does some violence to my arguments. In places, in addition, comrade Cutrone seems merely to have misunderstood what I am arguing. It is probably best to begin with what at least at first sight appears to be common ground before moving to the apparent differences.

Common ground?

In my original exchange with Platypus comrades in 20114, I identified common ground at the most basic level in an aspiration to generalised human emancipation. Such an aspiration is pretty much necessitated either by self-identification with Marx or as being in some sense ‘of the left’. I am, however, a little less certain in assessing it as common ground in the light of comrade Cutrone’s lauding of Moishe Postone’s arguments in his ‘When was the crisis of capitalism?’ (Platypus Review No70, October 2014) and his reliance in his November 20 2014 letter on Dick Howard’s The Specter of democracy (2002), which contains more or less standard liberal/cold war-Marxological arguments against Marx; both Postone’s and Howard’s arguments imply, in different ways, that general human emancipation is an illusory goal. It may be that in reality all comrade Cutrone is actually seeking is small-e enlightenment or ‘self-knowledge’ (as Howard puts it) ...

The second element of common ground is that the existing left is in severe decay. This problem is now actually fairly widely recognised by the generation of activists who remember the 1960s-70s, for all the relentless ‘official optimism’ the leaderships of the organised groups commonly feel obliged to put out for the benefit of potential new recruits. Platypus calls the left ‘dead’, but this is merely Spartacist League-style sectarian rhetoric. Like the Sparts, Platypus is a ‘fighting propaganda group’, which aims its fire on the left. ‘Dead’ actually asserts not that the existing left does not exist, but that it must be razed to the ground to begin on a new (for the Sparts Robertsonite, for Platypus Frankfurt-school philosophical) foundation.

This at once takes us from common ground to difference. In my opinion the ‘existing left’ is an aspect of a social stratum which is thrown up by the ‘objective’ fact that the proletarians, members of the propertyless class who must live on wages or the ‘social wage’, can only defend their (individual and family) interests under capitalism by collective action and are driven by their position towards forms of collectivism in politics.5 Collective action beyond the most elemental form of the riot requires some degree of permanent collective organisation, and organisation requires activists. This objective dynamic, in other words, produces a stratum of activists seeking to defend worker interests and further collectivism - most obviously, trade union activists, the activists of socialist or labour parties, cooperatives, tenants’ associations and so on. This stratum includes the (mainly) ex-student radicals of the organised far left/left intelligentsia, who attempt to involve themselves in the broader workers’ movement.

It is true that this social stratum is ‘part of the problem’ by virtue of the dead-end character of its dominant political commitments, producing repeated ‘diminishing returns’. But it is also not capable of being razed to the ground except by actual massacres, because it springs from an objective dynamic of capitalist society. And the stratum is, therefore, also unavoidably ‘part of the solution’. The attempt to ‘create a new left’ by going to ‘fresh forces’ thus necessarily produces merely another competing splinter group.

Since the time of the 1950s-60s ‘new left’, and perhaps since the time of the Comintern in its ‘leftist’ phases (German March action, ‘third period’ and so on), the far left has suffered from a repeated temptation to believe that ‘the membership has failed us: we must elect a new membership’, in the form of the idea that the social democratic activists, or the ‘old left’, and so on, are irredeemable: hence, the task is to reach out to fresh new forces. Platypus seeks to find these new forces on the university campuses, and ‘engages with’ the rest of the left in order to display to the ‘new forces’ it attracts that the rest of the left is ‘dead’ (just as the Sparts offered ‘extreme’ requirements of ‘orthodoxy’ to ‘expose’ the opportunism of the rest of the left to their ‘new forces’). But apart from these particularities, Platypus is like the rest of the far left.

Politics

The third area of possible common ground is in fact on an aspect of Howard’s claims. Though I have just been rude about Howard’s arguments against Marx, I personally agree with him and with Cutrone that it is illusory to imagine a human future without politics. I emphasise that this is not a CPGB position as such. ‘Politics’ is ambiguous and the assertion of the permanence of ‘politics’ can risk ‘buying’ liberalism, or the permanence of the state, or - worse - some variant on Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt’s ‘decisionism’. It is therefore necessary to specify what I mean by ‘politics’: that is, disagreements and conflicts, including sharp ones, about the common affairs of human society as a whole and/or of particular human groups and about the application of their resources, and the associated phenomena of argument, coalition-building, institutions (whether formal or customary) for decision-making in the face of disagreement, and from time to time coercion.

Howard’s arguments are vulgar ‘Marx leads to totalitarianism’ stuff, not much improved by being passed through French former leftwing ‘anti-totalitarians’ (Cornelius Castoriadis and Claude Lefort), combined with speculative, idealist (roughly, symbolic-interactionist) readings of recent French and US history - and with low-grade Marxology, which takes no account of the arguments of Hal Draper and others. Cutrone’s ‘Lenin’s liberalism’ (Platypus Review No36, June 2011) and ‘Lenin’s politics’ (October 2011) combine arguments like Howard’s for the liberal insistence on the separateness of politics as a domain, with the ortho-Trot fantasies about What is to be done?, 1903 and the virtues of splitting, which have been disproved by Lars T Lih.

That politics, in the general sense in which I have described, will persist is nonetheless an important point. There is no ground either in anthropology or recorded human history for supposing that the supersession of class or, for that matter, of occupational specialisation, will lead to the disappearance of human disagreement. Most fundamentally, even if the result of future capitalist or socialist development was that resources became genuinely unlimited (as in the science-fiction dream of ‘my own uninhabited planet ...’), everything we know about humans indicates that in spite of real diversity we are a social rather than an individual-territorial species. Social interactions are seriously important to human wellbeing. And social interactions imply disagreements ... Secondarily, but more immediately, we are unlikely ever to arrive at abundance in the sense of ‘Anyone can have whatever they want’ (even if, as some theorists argue, aspirations to unlimited acquisition are an artefact of capitalist, or of class, society).6 And many individual dreams will require cooperative action to be put into effect. Plenty of space for disagreement and conflict here.

The immediate political significance of these ‘after the revolution’ speculations is that it is a present political vice of both mainstream politics and the left to try to do politics without disagreement. In mainstream politics the phenomenon appears as the drive towards ‘consensus’. In the left it can take the forms either of the suppression of dissent (as, for example, in Stalinism, in Blairism, and in the Socialist Workers Party’s ban on ‘permanent factions’); or as that of diplomatic unity, in which disagreements are self-censored until they become actually intolerable (the practice of the Mandelite Fourth International, as applied by its British section, Socialist Resistance, in Left Unity). Both forms produce the sort of politics displaced into clique intrigues, which characterised the ‘factionalism’ of renaissance courts.

Howard explains the phenomenon of aspirations to social order without politics (or, as I have just put it, politics without disagreements) following Lefort - by the ungrounded character of democratic legitimacy as a radical novelty in ‘modern’ society. This account depends on Weberian or Tönniesian historical fantasies about the supposed static, organic, ‘blah-blah’ character of ‘traditional’ societies (already incorporated in the early Frankfurt school by way of the influence of Weber on György Lukács). These fantasies should not have survived confrontation with the products of 20th century research on pre-modern histories. Cutrone tends to explain the phenomenon Frankfurt-school style by the ‘authoritarianism’ of the pre-1914 German Social Democratic Party (SPD). In ‘Lenin’s liberalism’ he links this false idea to the truth that early modern political thinkers, and many down to the 20th century, were hostile to political parties (damned as ‘factions’). His connection is via the notion that the idea of the ‘party of the whole working class’, which Lukács and others attributed (falsely, as Lars Lih and others have shown) to Karl Kautsky and the SPD centre, is a version of the ‘organic unity’ opposition to parties as such. We are again in the territory of historical fantasy (here, since the false idea is widely believed on the far left, myth).

If we move from the ambiguities of ‘politics’ in the utopia of ‘social order without politics’ to the more precisely defined utopias of ‘society without disagreements’ or ‘politics without disagreements’, it should be apparent that the explanation can be much more straightforward. Politics is about disagreement in making decisions for collective action. ‘Politics without disagreement’ is an ideologisation of the real need to actually be able to take and implement collective decisions: ie, that it is necessary that the ‘losing side’ be bound by a collective decision when it comes to be implemented. The implication is that there comes a point at which dissenters have to - at least temporarily - shut up in order to get on with the common action decided on.7

The ideology inflates this valid point into the idea that agreed collective actions without disagreement would always be better. In spite of its presence as ‘anti-factionalism’ in early Tory, republican and liberal thought, workers’ and socialist organisations are in fact more prone to the actual application of this ideology than pro-capitalist ones. (For a recent example, the Conservative Party has become partially Stalinised by copying the Blairite Stalinisation of the Labour Party.) The reason has already been given: the proletariat as a class needs collective action, and hence binding decisions, in a sense more immediate than the capitalists, or ‘middle class’ farmers, small businesspeople, the self-employed, and professionals/managers. Hence workers’ organisations are particularly prone to ideologise common action to the point of trying to exclude disagreement; though, in reality, as Marx, Engels, Liebknecht and Bebel already saw against Lassalle, the attempt to exclude disagreement in fact weakens the ability to achieve common action.

The ‘classical liberals’ thought, and their ‘neoliberal’ successors think, that politics in this sense (the need for binding collective decisions) can be avoided or minimised because the ‘hidden hand’ of free markets would solve most collective-action problems, so that the social need for consciously collective actions can itself be reduced to the role of the law and the ‘nightwatchman state’. Or - put another way - ‘civil society’ can limit ‘the state’. The problem is that the ‘hidden hand’ is straightforwardly false: free markets do not tend to equilibrium, but to cyclical panics and social polarisation. Equally, property is useless without public rights of way to access it (and of little use without more extensive public infrastructure). In reality, the overt action of the state is a constant necessity in ‘market society’, and hence the liberal capitalist state is stronger and more pervasive in its operations - exercising more control over the daily lives of its subject population - than European absolutism or the Tokugawa Shogunate ever was (let alone antique and tributary empires, however much Pharaoh might be called a god or dead Roman emperors be deified).8

The straightforward falsity of liberalism’s (necessary) economic assumptions therefore means that liberalism necessarily produces its ‘other’ - if not socialism, increasingly violent forms of conservative communitarianism (fundamentalism, nationalism and so on).

In other words, by addressing what appears to be common ground between Cutrone’s views and my own, I have been led more or less immediately into differences between us; and, in particular, to two of the central issues: attitudes to the existing left, and the relations between Marxism and liberalism.

Differences

I do not intend to recapitulate yet again what I have argued before against comrade Cutrone. Hence it is necessary to list the exchanges (see note 4) before comrade Cutrone’s latest article; readers who want to can follow them up themselves. In our 2011 exchange I argued that the Frankfurt-school methodology advocated by Platypus is based on a series of historical fantasies (the ‘authoritarian’ SPD, Bolshevik uniqueness and ‘1903’, the ‘crisis of Marxism’, mass working class support for Hitler; to these should be added the myth of the radical divide between ‘modern’ and ‘pre-modern’ societies). And I argued that, by its philosophical presuppositions, the methodology creates an intellectual closure against interrogating the historical fantasies, and hence against any arguments which do not fall within the framework of accepting them.

Comrade Cutrone’s July 7 letter did not attempt to actually answer the arguments of my article, ‘Divided by a common language’, but merely reasserted his claims. In his August 11 article, ‘Defending Marxist Hegelianism’, he did not offer an answer either, moving sideways onto a critique of my 2003 review of the books of John Rees and David Renton on dialectic and on ‘classical Marxism’.9 This sideways move, since it addressed a much less developed version of my arguments, enabled him merely to reassert his adherence to Platypus’s version of the historical fantasy and its methodological defences. As the article contained no new arguments (beyond the claim that Socialist Workers Party authors vulgarised Lukács, which I thought at the time might well be true) I did not bother to reply.

Subsequently, James Turley wrote at length on Lukács, and Lawrence Parker responded criticising both Turley’s, and my, linkage of the views of the young Lukács with the pre-war Second International ‘mass action’ left and with the ultra-left wing of the early Comintern.10 Comrade Parker, like Cutrone, also objected to the linkage Turley and I made with the SWP, and insisted that Lukács was attempting to theorise Lenin. I responded to Parker in a presentation to Communist University 2013, which was later published in the Weekly Worker.11 That presentation had two points. The first was to accept that Lukács was attempting to theorise Lenin, and in particular the ‘1921 Leninism’ of the Comintern resolution,‘The organisational forms of the communist parties’. The second was to show, by quotations mainly from History and class-consciousness (HCC) and Lenin: a study in the unity of his thought, that the SWP authors are, indeed, faithful followers of the young Lukács as a theorist of the errors of the early Comintern, rather than vulgarisers.

In January 2014 Cutrone replied to this article with ‘Why still read Lukács’.12 This article defends HCC as “about class-consciousness as consciousness of history”. But this “about class-consciousness as consciousness of history” is (at least for Cutrone and probably also for Lukács) merely consciousness of the Weberian fantasy conception of ‘history’, in which there is a complete caesura between ‘traditional’ society and modern, or 19th century (and after), ‘industrial’ society. This conception is anti-historical, and supported by post-Popper liberal, positivist, etc, academics, because it is anti-‘historicist’: ie, anti-Marxist. To attribute it to Marx relies on the flowers of rhetoric about the revolutionary character of the bourgeoisie in the Communist manifesto to the exclusion of very large parts of the rest of Marx’s writing. To attribute it to Hegel is to exclude the arguments of the Philosophy of history and much of the Philosophy of right.

In both cases what is involved is a direct falsification. In the young Lukács this concept of ‘history’ served as an element in arguments for the attribution to the proletariat of a hypostatised class-consciousness which could be ‘actualised’ only in the ‘Leninist’ party and was opposed to the actual consciousness of the proletariat and that of the social layer of activists which grows out of the struggle of this class - in order to justify the minoritarian claims of the 1920-21 Comintern which came to be called ‘Leninism’. In Cutrone it plays a different role. Class-consciousness becomes impossible in declining capitalism, he argued in 2012 - in face of the actual, if certainly imperfect, class-consciousness displayed in the popularity of the ‘99%’ slogan and a series of other events.13

I have emphasised this point about Weberian historical fantasy disguised as ‘Marxism’ here and above because the artificial foreshortening of historical perspective involved in this approach is fundamental to the use, misuse and critique of my arguments in Revolutionary strategy in Cutrone’s October 2014 article.

My starting point is completely different from Cutrone’s Frankfurt-school methodology. I am interested in the truth about what Marx (and Engels) argued, but I am not seeking to restore a ‘pure Marx’, free from the supposed vulgarisation of Marx by Engels, the ‘Second International Marxists’ or even the Stalinists. I argued for an alternative approach in the first article I ever wrote for the Weekly Worker - my December 19 2002 review of Stephen Jay Gould’s The structure of evolutionary theory. I suggested there that we should approach Marx in the way that Gould approached Darwin: rather than ‘citation grazing’, we need to look for the logical core of Marx’s arguments and consider how far they have been confirmed - or falsified, or require modification - in the light of subsequent work. I do not exclude a priori the possibility that either ‘Second International Marxists’ or ‘official communists’ (particularly but not exclusively the historians) may have things to say that need to be taken into account in this process. Nor, on the other hand, am I committed to the truth of any of Marx’s or Engels’ particular claims. I also suggested that some of the substance of Gould’s approach - in particular the ideas of emergence, nested levels of analysis, and explicit recognition of the real role of contingency and “path dependence” - might allow Marxists to escape from the antinomies of structuralism, post-structuralism and its various rebrandings, and so on. This last point is directly relevant to Cutrone’s argument for “symptomatic” forms, which involves an excessive determinism.

Revolutionary strategy attempted to apply this general method of approach to the specific problems of long-term strategy for attaining working class political power, and the related issues of ‘unity of the workers’ movement’ or ‘left unity’. As I said early in the book, in spite of its fairly wide range it did not offer a ‘general theory of everything’. I assumed a whole set of general points, which I have argued more explicitly elsewhere: particularly that fundamental social change takes place in the longue durée with episodes of rapid change, the latter particularly associated with the overthrow of state forms.14

Fantasies

Cutrone’s article muddles my arguments with his own and produces varieties of fantasy history and fantasy Marx in support of his themes. I do not have space here to explore every point, but I have already addressed in relation to ‘common ground’ his use of Howard and the latter’s illusory version of ‘democratic revolution’. I will select only a few exemplary points related to the Frankfurt-school method’s tendency to rely on fantasies.

Cutrone builds his argument in the article extensively from an aspect of Marx’s 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: the argument that the state escapes from the control of society because of “the historical condition in which the bourgeoisie could ‘no longer’ and the proletariat ‘not yet’ rule politically the modern society of capitalism”. The problem is that, in spite of the - many - merits of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, this analysis (even if Marx was directly quoted) is not one of them. It is perfectly plain with the benefit of hindsight that Louis Bonaparte’s regime was a capitalist nationalist regime, or at least one of further rapid steps in the transition to capitalism which had already begun; though it was one which based itself politically on alliance with the old rural classes and the clerisy, it presided over rapid commercial, financial and industrial development and hence a major expansion of the urban proletariat. This form has been repeatedly imitated in ‘third world’ countries and, to the extent that it involves ‘balancing’ between classes, the classes involved are the capitalists and the old classes.

Marx’s immediate diagnosis that Louis Bonaparte would be followed by the working class could be given a sort of confirmation by the Paris Commune - were it not for the fact the Commune remained restricted to Paris, and that Marx himself privately thought the Communards’ attempt was premature and came in behind them as a matter of public political choice. It is not unreasonable to argue that the mid-19th century represents for Britain the point at which the capitalist class reached its apogee and entered into decline: that is, that the imperatives of controlling and ‘managing’ working class movements began to override the pure imperatives of expanded profit. However, to call the failure of revolution in 1848 “unprecedented”, as Cutrone does, is, in terms of political regimes, nonsense: the English revolution of the 1640s ended in protectorate and restoration, the French Revolution of 1789 in empire and restoration, and the partial ‘successes’ of the French and Belgian revolutions of 1830 were matched by failures elsewhere. The overall pattern is usefully reviewed in Marc Mulholland’s Bourgeois liberty and the politics of fear.15

For Cutrone,

The bourgeoisie’s ‘ruling’ character was not a legal-constitutional system of government descended from the 17th century political and social revolutions in Holland and England so much as it was a form of civil society: a revolutionary system of bourgeois social relations that was supposed to subordinate the state. What requires explanation is the 19th century slipping of the state from adequate social control, and its ‘rising above’ the contending political groups and social classes, as a power in itself.

This is not merely false - since Louis Bonaparte’s regime was capitalist-developmental, albeit politically based on the older classes - but vacuously circular, since ‘civil society’ is merely bürgerliche Gesellschaft - bourgeois, urban or ‘commercial’ society, as conceptualised by 18th century ‘civil history’ writers and others down to Hegel, from whom Marx took the terminology. On the contrary, as I have already argued, ‘civil society’, as in ‘market society’, requires the strong state, and gets it even in liberal states.16

Cutrone then argues that Louis Bonaparte’s coup as ‘tragedy repeated as farce’ was,

according to Marx, the essential condition for politics after 1848 - the condition for political parties in capitalism. That condition was not only or primarily a matter of politics due to constitutional legal forms of bourgeois property and its social relations, but rather was for Marx the expression of the crisis of those forms as a function of the industrial revolution.

This is also nonsense. Political parties begin with Whigs and Tories in England in the 1680s and more clearly from 1688; they appear as Jacobins and Girondins in the French Revolution. They have a remote sort of precursor in Guelfs and Ghibellines in the late-medieval Italian city-states. They are, in other words, inherent in bourgeois politics, irrespective of the degree of development of the proletariat as a class. There is not the slightest support for Cutrone’s claim in Marx and it is flatly inconsistent with Marx’s arguments for a workers’ political party before 1848. For Marx the rise of the proletariat as a class justifies in itself the struggle for a workers’ political party. Cutrone is prone to saddling Marx with ‘Cutronism’ (without citations) and this is an egregious example.

In the following argument Cutrone uses a weakness in one of my own formulations to saddle me with ‘Cutronism’. I mistakenly used the shorthand that the proletariat as a class is “all those dependent on the wage fund”; but, as Maciej Zurowski pointed out to me not long after the book came out, the ‘wage fund’ is a non-Marxist (pre-Marxist) concept. What I should have said is that the proletariat is the class of those who can only subsist directly or indirectly from wages - with ‘wages’ including here the ‘deferred wages’ or ‘social wage’ of welfare benefits, which are substantially paid for from tax deductions from wages.17 Cutrone then uses his ‘Cutronised’ version of my argument (which was aimed at grasping what the proletariat is as a social class, as against the syndicalists) to argue for class to be defined ‘negatively’ and class parties defined ideologically, by reference to their “historical horizons for discontents within capitalism”. The result is again vacuous circularity.

Later, Cutrone argues:

One key distinction that Macnair elides in his account is the development of bourgeois social relations within pre-bourgeois civilisation that will not be replicated by the struggle for socialism: socialism does not develop within capitalism so much as the proletariat represents the potential negation of bourgeois social relations that has developed within capitalism.

More Frankfurt-school short-horizon stuff, here directly incompatible with Cutrone’s proclaimed combination of Frankfurt with Trotsky. This is Trotsky in The revolution betrayed: “The axiomatic assertions of the Soviet literature, to the effect that the laws of bourgeois revolutions are ‘inapplicable’ to a proletarian revolution, have no scientific content whatever.” Incompatible, too, with Marx’s arguments from 1846 to the end of his life for political action of the working class, and with most of what he wrote in the period of the First International.

Fantasies about history, and fantasies about Marx, maintained as dogmas.

mike.macnair@weeklyworker.co.uk

Notes

1. The article was originally published as ‘What is political party for Marxism’ Platypus Review No71, November 2014.

2. More fully in Platypus Review No72, December 2014.

3. ‘Divided by a common language’ Weekly Worker June 30 2011.

4. Macnair, ‘No need for party?’, May 11 2011, ‘Theoretical dead end’, May 19 2011; Cutrone, Letters, (‘No need for party?’, May 12 2011), ‘Fish nor fowl’, May 26 2011; Macnair, ‘The study of history and the left’s decline’, June 2 2011; Cutrone, ‘The philosophy of history’, June 9 2011; Macnair, ‘Divided by a common language’ June 30 2011; Cutrone, Letters (‘Useful platypus’) July 7 2011.

5. See M Mulholland, ‘Marx, the proletariat, and the “will to socialism”’ Critique No37 (2009), pp319-43, and ‘“Its patrimony, its unique wealth!” - labour-power, working class consciousness and crises: an outline consideration’ Critique No38 (2010), pp375-417.

6. A convenient literature review on consumerism can be found in MN Dalal, ‘Questioning consumerism’ Journal of Economics and Development Studies March 2014. That such aspirations may be an artefact of class society is suggested by luxury consumption as a form of social status display in pre-capitalist societies: ‘I want a bigger pyramid for my monument’ is also a form of unlimited demand.

7. Continuous unresolved disagreement is only possible in the academy and similar prior social institutions. (For a wide-ranging review of ‘similar prior social institutions’ see, for example, R Collins The sociology of philosophies Harvard 2000).

8. This is already visible in the 18th century contrast between ‘enlightened’ Britain and ‘absolutist’ France, when this is examined in retrospect. See J Brewer The sinews of power London 1989; MJ Braddick The nerves of state Manchester 1996; D Lemmings Law and government in England during the long 18th century Basingstoke 2007; D Parker Class and state in ancien régime France Basingstoke 1996; Hilton L Root The fountain of privilege Berkeley 1994.

9. ‘“Classical Marxism” and grasping the dialectic’ Weekly Worker September 11 2003.

10. J Turley, supplement: ‘The antinomies of Georg Lukács’ Weekly Worker January 24 2013; L Parker, ‘Lukács reloaded’ March 7 2013.

11. ‘The philosophy trap’ Weekly Worker November 21 2013.

12. January 23 2014.

13. ‘Class consciousness (from a Marxist perspective) today’ Platypus Review No51, November 2012.

14. For example, in the Weekly Worker in my reviews of Boris Kagarlitsky’s Empire of the periphery (April 1 and 8 2009), of Henry Heller’s The bourgeois revolution in France 1789-1815, of David Parker’s Ideology, absolutism and the English revolution (June 3 and 10 2010), and of Jairus Banaji’s History as theory (January 20, 27, February 17, 2011); or in my responses to Paul Cockshott’s critique of Revolutionary strategy (June 24, July 1 2010).

15. Oxford 2012; see also my review Weekly Worker July 17 2014.

16. Cf also W Bonefeld, ‘Adam Smith and ordoliberalism: on the political form of market liberty’ Review of International Studies No39 (2013), pp233-50.

17. Cf Arthur Bough’s argument in his post, ‘Cut and run’, September 20 2009: http://boffyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/cut-run.html (though I do not buy the package, the points are illuminating).