Simon Wells wants us to believe there were no alpha-males during the period of primitive communism (Letters, February 28).
There are some important things about primitive communism which we ought to know. Firstly, its existence proves that the Marxist theory that communism is a result of advanced productive forces is erroneous. Secondly, there is no evidence, as far as I know, which proves that there were no alpha-males during the period of primitive communism. The need to hunt and defend the community from hostile tribes or animals would have made alpha-males a necessity. Finally, as a general rule most heterosexual women are not sexually attracted to non-alpha-males, who psychologically resemble females to them.
The problem is if we always focus on the negative side of the alpha-male we will miss the positive sides, such as leadership. The feminist assault on leadership, which the non-alpha-males like to join in with, needs to be exposed. The truth is that Wells is a feminist and wants to defend this nonsense in the face of historical truth and need.
Yes, the left has a problem with democracy, but it is not going to be resolved by resorting to feminism, as Wells wants, or by teaching men to become women, as the feminists want. When the crisis comes or, should I say, gets worse, it’s not the women or feminist men who are going to save us from fascism, but the alpha-males on the left.
I very much enjoyed comrade Toby Abse’s enlightening piece last week on the nature of the new electoral force in Italy and its media personality leader, Beppe Grillo (‘Nothing left about Five Star’, February 28) - an important corrective to what we saw in the Socialist Worker newspaper.
An article in this week’s Socialist Worker describes Grillo, the ‘brooks no democracy’ comedian as a “populist” (March 9) rather than calling the Five Star movement he heads “leftwing”, as the paper did last week (March 2). However, Panos Garganas - the author of the commentary piece and editor of Workers’ Solidarity, the Greek version of Socialist Worker - reminds us that “Surveys say over 54% of those who voted for Grillo define themselves as ‘left of centre’.”
As pollsters have noted in the UK, some of those whose votes have gone to the British National Party or UK Independence Party can be viewed as ‘typical Labour voters’, but this does not somehow indirectly confirm the hidden leftwing nature of those parties.
Garganas could, of course, have intended this quotation as a warning that without a clear alternative the most vile political freak-shows will fill the vacuum caused by the absence of a viable left, but he and Socialist Worker have no solutions. No lessons have been drawn from the experience of Rifondazione Comunista, which provided for a brief time a mirage attractive to the SWP, nor from the failure of Respect. Comrade Garganas concludes his piece by wishing that those who presently cast votes for Beppe can be drawn into yet another amorphous ‘anti-capitalist’ movement - which, one presumes, he and Socialist Worker believe wouldn’t implode like Rifondazione or Respect.
“Building the revolutionary left in Greece, in Britain and across Europe can help make this happen,” we are told, meaning of course the building of the SWP and its international franchises. The problem here is that the ‘revolutionary’ SWP and the ‘anti-capitalist’ movements in general are basically the same, only the SWP is more heavily centralised organisationally. Like those movements, the SWP is ‘anti-politics’, although with a Marxist gloss and weekend speechifying about the socialist never-never.
In the present faction fight in the SWP, the central committee may complain about how unpolitical the moderates of In Defence of Our Party are in their factionalism, but this is bit rich, given the utter aimlessness of the SWP itself, which in the present seems to have no purpose, no strategy at all, beyond its regular activities and meetings. It is this lack of purpose, intrinsic to SWP-style politics, that is reflected in the circular, ‘learn nothing’ character of Garganas’s article.
Weakness combined with aimlessness can easily lead to a kind of substitutionism, as we saw in Socialist Worker’s claim that the Five Star movement is “leftwing”, on the grounds that it is anti-corruption and attracts some self-defined ‘centre-left’ voters. Everyone and anyone even marginally opposed to the present system, or even just a single aspect of it, can be welcomed as some kind of political alternative, which can be built on incrementally, perhaps even ‘transitionally’, step by step, until ‘After Beppe, our turn’?
The finding of substitutes to take the place of open revolutionary Marxism will continue.
Chris Cutrone ducks, dives and weaves; but he does not answer the challenge in my previous letter: namely, to deal with Lukács’s (and my) arguments as they actually are, not as he would like them to be (Letters, February 28).
Again, Lukács’s History and class consciousness is recast as a “critique of the Second International”, a subject on which it says almost nothing (five or so pages of polemic in the first chapter against Rudolf Hilferding and Max Adler, plus a few scattered and unenlightening footnotes); indeed a subject on which, as is clear from Lukács’s later Lenin: a study in the unity of his thought, the author was pretty ignorant.
For pointing out the blindingly obvious - that Lukács is talking about, er, history and class-consciousness in bourgeois society as such - I am accused, on the one hand, of erecting a Chinese wall between bourgeois society and the Second International as a component of it, and, on the other (even more oddly), of artificially separating Lukács’s account of history from his account of class-consciousness.
The first argument is simply facile - I do not and have never argued that the Second International existed in sublime separation from bourgeois society in general; only that Lukács’s arguments are pitched at the latter, higher level of generality and must be assessed as such. They are much stronger on that ground, for what it is worth, than they are as a critique of Second International Marxism, which Lukács treats only in caricature.
The second argument, again, misses the point - of course history and class-consciousness are inextricably linked in Lukács’s view; I argue only that his view of this relationship (the ‘self-consciousness of historical reality’ line) is ultimately idealist, and thus contrary to the core premises of what is properly called orthodox Marxism; indeed, contrary to Lukács’s description of the latter as a “scientific conviction”.
Instead, we face the oldest cliché in the Hegelian Marxist book: “Hegelian and thus Marxist dialectics is not extrinsic to its object, but rather critically reflexive of it: how to understand history from within the process of historical development?” This, I am afraid, is a problem which tortures Hegelian Marxists exclusively. You do not hear many theoretical physicists tormenting themselves with the problem of understanding quarks, Higgs fields and the rest, while being composed and constituted by them. There is no search for the elusive ‘Archimedean point’. They do the maths, do the experiments and get on with the rather unromantic business of incrementally improving our knowledge of the natural world.
Does this mean “the dialectic [is] ruled out of court?” No - because a scientific understanding of history requires understanding it as process, as the interaction of contradictory elements that are as distinct as they are inseparable. Dialectical thought, in one form or another, is rendered indispensible simply by the demands placed upon historical materialism by the nature of its object - just as the complex mathematical systems that form the core of theoretical physics are made necessary in that domain.
The proper and scientifically justified use of abstraction and analysis of contradictions is the difference between, say, viewing the present economic crisis as an incomprehensible calamity caused by a little dodgy mortgage trading, and viewing it as the outcome of determinate economic and political processes. (It is often joked that such is the predictive power of Marxism that we have foreseen 10 out of the last five crises - but that is still a better hit-rate than the big fat zero predicted by bourgeois economics.)
By conceiving dialectics in a strictly Hegelian fashion, however, Lukács commits himself to a far stronger claim for its utility than can be justified by reference to mundane reality (hence his hostility to ‘facts’ and experimentation, which is “contemplation at its purest”), which is that - in the form of Marxism, the imputed class-consciousness of the proletariat - it is the self-understanding of history. As I argued in my essay, this leads him necessarily to idealism, because nature must either be cleaved from or folded into history.
Even worse, history for Lukács then equally has its ‘owl of Minerva’, despite his criticism of this motif in Hegel. History may not have actually been completed, but we are told in no uncertain terms what that end will be. Are there “no self-contradictions and no need for self-overcoming transformations in the history of Marxism?” Cutrone asks. Of course there are - strip out the jargon and this is nothing more exotic than the scientific method - but in Hegelianism as a method, and thereby Marxism as it is conceived by Lukács, there cannot be, because the Hegelian method is an exercise in circular self-justification.
So much for Lukács. What words are put in my mouth this time? Apparently things are going from bad to worse - from having been some kind of “Lacanian-Heideggerian”, I have now become “avowedly pre-Socratic!” It is as much a surprise to me as to anyone else, but then we seem to be faced with a sort of ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ school of ideology critique here - viz, I quote Althusser, therefore I endorse Althusser’s work in total, therefore I endorse his late enthusiasm for Epicurus and Heidegger and simultaneously his early enthusiasm for Lacan (a feat he never managed himself), therefore I am a pre-Socratic Lacanian-Heideggerian.
What a peculiar diagnosis indeed! After all, Lacan was a Hegelian - his work is full of the dialectics of this and that, and his principal ‘innovation’ in psychoanalysis was to bring heterodox Hegelianism, via Alexandre Kojève, to the table (along, later, with Levi-Strauss’s structural anthropology). The ‘Heideggerian’ component of post-structuralism comes later, principally through Derrida, a lapsed Sartrean.
Even worse is the small matter that Hegel himself openly advocated versions of pre-Socratic philosophy. The transition from being to becoming - which, according to one Georg Lukács, “contains the whole of [Hegel’s] philosophy” - is in fact more or less directly lifted from an aphorism of the pre-Socratic Heraclitus.
For clarity’s sake, my interest in Althusser is in his militant defence of that ‘vulgar’ thesis, that ideology and science are epistemologically distinct and irreconcilably opposed; he defends it reasonably well in some places and terribly in others, and makes a series of interesting and provocative points along the way. I do not buy the ‘materialism of the encounter’, which Cutrone is so keen to pin me to; I do not buy ‘Freud and Lacan’, although his clandestine critiques of Lacan are interesting. As for Heidegger, the whole point of his philosophy is the exact reverse of the militant defence of the sovereignty of science - a straightforward irrationalist onslaught. I should not have to refute this ‘charge’.
At 4.25pm local time on March 5 Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died.
Earlier in the day, a joint meeting of the government with the military high command and the country’s 20 governors belonging to Chávez’s Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela had decided to take a series of measures against the campaign of destabilisation and sabotage carried out by the oligarchy and imperialism. There were specific announcements of measures against the sabotage of the electricity grid and the sabotage of the economy.
It was also announced that two officials of the US embassy in Venezuela, the air attaché and his aide, had been expelled from the country for contacting Venezuelan active-duty military personnel with the aim of organising a conspiracy against the democratically elected government.
Although the government had already reported a deterioration in Chávez’s health, with a new and severe respiratory infection, and Chávez had been battling cancer for the last two years, when his death was announced, it came as a shock. There are many reports of people breaking into tears in the streets or becoming silent. As soon as the death of the president was known, people started to gather in the centre of cities and towns across the country.
Thousands came to Bolivar Square in Caracas, from where they marched to the Miraflores presidential palace. They shouted slogans of defiance: “The people united will never be defeated”, “They shall not be back” and “The struggle continues”.
The Hands off Venezuela campaign was set up 10 years ago with the aim of defending the Bolivarian revolution led by president Hugo Chávez. In the last decade and even further back, Chávez and the revolutionary people of Venezuela have been an inspiration to all those of us struggling against imperialism, capitalism and for a better, more human world - socialism.
At this moment we would like to send our heartfelt condolences to the Bolivarian people and authorities. We make an appeal to the workers, youth and progressive people of the world to redouble our commitment to defend the Venezuelan revolution from foreign imperialist intervention and also from its own internal enemies. As Chávez once said, the best way to defend the Bolivarian revolution is also to spread it to our own countries.
Long live the Bolivarian revolution! Hands Off Venezuela! No volverán!
The one socialist country standing up for itself and opposing imperialism is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Its recent nuclear test shook US and world imperialism rigid. However the DPRK does not get the solidarity it deserves from the British left (including the Weekly Worker). Recently the Morning Star has refused to publish letters in support of the DPRK’s nuclear test and in support of its stance against the US-inspired United Nations security council sanctions.
The nuclear test of the DPRK was a just and correct self-defensive measure taken by the DPRK government to defend its independence and sovereignty in the face of extreme measures taken by the US imperialists and their lackeys to deny the independent right of the DPRK to pursue space exploration. US and world imperialism conspire all the time to stifle the socialist system of juche established in the DPRK and restore the capitalist system in order to make the Korean people the slaves of the multinational corporations and banks.
It is a great thing that the DPRK has defied the threats and intimidation by the US imperialists and their marionette, the UN security council, as well as the pressure of those big powers that cooperate and compromise with US imperialism. By carrying out the test, the DPRK has shown that it is the most independent country on the face of the planet and that it is able to do and say as it wants. It is able to say what it likes and likes what it says! Other countries in the world cannot do this, but live in meek submission to US imperialism and the new world order of globalism. The nuclear test of the DPRK is a powerful and practical demonstration of the juche idea in action.
The US imperialists have no face to criticise the DPRK for its nuclear test when they have carried out over 1,000 nuclear tests, have used nuclear weapons twice and keep 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea. Others who are clamouring about the DPRK’s test also have nuclear weapons and are therefore maintaining double standards.
The DPRK has become a socialist nuclear power of juche and will march powerfully along the road of songun to final victory under the leadership of dear respected marshal Kim Jong Un. The DPRK’s nuclear test will inspire the oppressed peoples of the world in their struggle against US imperialism and gives a powerful impetus to the anti-imperialist independence cause.
If the US really wants peace it should revoke all security council resolutions against the DPRK and pull its troops out of Korea at once. However, instead of doing this, the US is going ahead with aggressive military exercises against the DPRK, namely ‘Foal Eagle’ and ‘Key Resolve’, which last for two months and involve up 10,000 US troops and even troops from the UK (under the guise of being “observers of the UN command”). The DPRK faces another round of sanctions from the US imperialists and their sycophants.
It is vital for British communists and progressives to show their solidarity with the DPRK. The DPRK’s victory in the all-out struggle against US imperialism will be a great victory for the international communist movement and anti-imperialist forces.