Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 21, 2006

"Revolutionary" and "Scarcity"

by citizen
(lifted from a comment)

At LeSpeakeasy, b real brought up for question Bookchin's use of the terms "revolutionary" and "scarcity". I answered there, and will cross post here:

About scarcity:

I took Bookchin to mean something like what Malooga referred to the other day with the story of yeast in a culture – Two outcomes, either the yeast run out of sugar and die off for starvation (scarcity) or they don’t run out of sugar but do end up awash in a wealth of toxins that also kill off the culture (post-scarcity). Malooga I thought was citing a kind of nightmare, and I think it is the one that Bookchin could see coming all too well.

About revolutionary:

I dislike this term for a couple reasons, but for the main problem is that it seems to be begging for arrest. I imagine Bookchin chose it because he wanted to be absolutely clear about the conservatism of most so-called revolutionaries, because he wanted to declare that the capitalist rules/game serves humanity 0%, and therefore must eventually betray us all, and so with such an opposition there can be no accommodation, only opposition. The game MUST be changed.

But since I see no need to discredit myself as a proponent of humane society, and because I agree with you that revolution is imagined by most readers in a reactionary imagery, I would prefer a term more like “communalist,” and so did Bookchin in the end.

But I wanted to start with “Listen, Marxixt!” because so many at MOA clearly identify with the left, and I want to discuss what it means to identify and ‘steer’ left. I am grateful to Bookchin for putting so clearly that “appearing” left is a disaster. For Bookchin, nothing was to be idolized, and especially not ones politics. Politics are to be worked out in dialog, and that can never be done honestly when one wants to appear to know all the answers.

A question now being addressed at MOA: do we identify with particular anti-imperialists simply because they fight imperialism? If we fail to make such solidarity, do we make ourselves tools of the capitalist game/rules? My guess is that Bookchin’s take on fashionable Marxians offers some guidance:

Let us contrast two approaches, the Marxian and the revolutionary. The Marxian doctrinaire would have us approach the worker--or better, "enter" the factory--and proselytize him in "preference" to anyone else. The purpose?--to make the worker "class conscious." To cite the most neanderthal examples from the old left, one cuts one's hair, grooms oneself in conventional sports clothing, abandons pot for cigarettes and beer, dances conventionally, affects "rough" mannerisms, and develops a humorless, deadpan and pompous mien.

One becomes, in short, what the worker at his most caricaturized worst: not a "petty bourgeois degenerate," to be sure, but a bourgeois degenerate. One becomes an imitation of the worker insofar as the worker is an imitation of his masters. Beneath the metamorphosis of the student into the "worker" lies a vicious cynicism. One tries to use the discipline inculcated by the factory milieu to discipline the worker to the party milieu. One tries to use the worker's respect for the industrial hierarchy to wed to worker to the party hierarchy. This disgusting process, which if successful could lead only to the substitution of one hierarchy for another, is achieved by pretending to be concerned with the worker's economic day-to-day demands. (Listen, Marxist!)

The last line here is tough on us - it demands that we stop fooling ourselves, and choose real strengths rather than make believe ones. Bookchin seems to demand that we not pretend to care about people whom we know nothing about, Rather, if we are honest, we will forthrightly state that we do not know Hassan Nasrallah, and that any opposition we have to anti-freedom imperial politics is based on very local intimate knowledge that we actually can speak to authoritatively. Any sympathy we might have for someone fighting empire in Lebanon is speculative.

However, it is not speculative to say, we are against babies screaming pitifully for milk because an American made bomb has destroyed the baby’s mother. We can speak as authorities on babies crying because we have heard them and knew that the one thing for the hungry baby is its mothers breasts - living breasts preferably. And no armament profit will excuse that murder, that double murder. And of course the armament profit will not even bother to excuse such murders, but will simply sweep them aside. That is reason enough, reasons we understand, to oppose the bombing.

We can speak as authorities on the evil of murdering mothers by bombing them in their beds at night, or while cooking for their families in the day, because we know that every child has one mother, only one irreplaceable mother. We do not have to pretend exotic knowledge and concerns – we already know enough about what it means to be a Lebanese human being, because we know what it means to be a human being.

We have our own ‘bombed-out’ city of New Orleans, and know the human need in a capitalized society for assistance from the government. We know that Cuba prevented casualties from hurricanes. And we know that Lebanese displaced people are being housed without being imprisoned, that HB is already rebuilding houses. What is the US and Louisiana state record in like matters? I support the people who actually build communities. My sense is that Bookchin is saying to first revolutionize the hearts around you, and demand to have a say in how your community plans and directs itself. Then, as a community, decide which other communities to support. My sense is that the Bookchin answer for most is to build community assemblies, and lobby to have them support other communities in the world.

This seems more demanding to me, and so perhaps revolutionary because it would demand that we first revolutionize oneselves. Rather than talking first about whom we support, better we should work to understand the point of working to create local assemblies, then actually create general support for local assemblies, then to create actual local assemblies, THEN to work to get that popular assembly to speak in the voice of popular sovereignty, and it could say – “stop bombing mothers.”

That’s revolutionary.

Posted by b on August 21, 2006 at 7:32 UTC | Permalink

next page »

(might be useful to put the Bookchin quote in blockquote.)

Posted by: Argh | Aug 21 2006 10:24 utc | 1

@Argh - (thanks done)

Posted by: b | Aug 21 2006 10:42 utc | 2


Posted by: citizen k | Aug 21 2006 13:08 utc | 3

UScam earlier referenced Graeber's work. I don't have the full link but
the Charlie Rose interview is interesting and
there is a good article in New Left Review.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 21 2006 13:16 utc | 4

((citizen, I told you I haven’t read the book))

Scarcity. The process Malooga described is one of biological inevitability affecting very simple organisms, though it permits them, so far, to have survived. I don’t remember the context of M’s passage so I am not arguing against it.

For humans, scarcity is defined by desires, unsatisfied greed, productive, political and social, which includes economical, arrangements. I am finding avocadoes scarce, as they all come from Israel and so cannot buy, that is a bit flippant, never mind.

Even the bedrock of human survival - food, water, shelter in cold climates - is organised and dependent on social (widest sense) structure. Susan George followers endlessly point out that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, the problem lies with the West’s domination, transport routes, a crazy economy, etc. Everyone knows those arguments, they are good ones. Nevertheless, by bemoaning the lack of the just, moral, right, relation between one crucial resource (food) and its production, then, distribution, or re-distribution (etc.) they leave the whole problem hanging in the air, and have no solutions to propose except the ‘stopping of exploitation’ and local measures, ideas that don’t address root problems but simply point to absurdities and unfairness.

They set aside the fact that the Green Revolution and technological progress have seen to it that the world’s population has multiplied and multiplied again, that many people in poor countries do today have a better existence than they would have had without them, indeed, without they would have had no existence at all. (Sophisticated Yeast!....) Others of course are worse off and some European greens and the like would prefer to see poor Africans living a pastoral life style complete with cute cows, quaint customs, cinematic ceremonial dances and health care parachuted in or provided by Western contractors in luxury mobile hospitals. Absurd arrogance.

Revolution. has a bad smell, as pointed out. Who would join the revolution today to take over the means or production, to get rid of the landowners, the industrial patrons (shortly put - I realise these are offshoots...) A fabulously rich famous football star? My banker, who by any definition belonged to the bourgeoisie and was fired last week and is on the dole with 3 children? My Colombian frined, who is a illegal cleaning lady and pays no taxes? It is easy to argue that the capitalist system has invaded all and that that is unspeakably ugly...

The problem with Marx, beyond the outmoded definitions of class, these can be handled or changed in function of today’s world (as I see it and I am no expert) is that he considered the Earth as a flat table, a landscape that was out there, a backdrop that was subject to human action, completely amenable, because not defined or described. Marx’s equations are man to man, Yeast and forests and oil and micro organisms are not part of the picture.

Some thoughts...

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 21 2006 14:33 utc | 5

One person doesn't make a revolution. They either jump off the bridge or end up in prison.

Mass movements do need a charismatic leader who reflects and communicates their beliefs and goals for victory. But, the movement starts and builds by the conditions imposed on the group externally. Out of control foreign invaders will forage mass movements. One is in its incipient stages in Iraq or is fully formed in Southern Lebanon.

There are only three options: 1) Allow revolution continue till its maturation; 2) Co-opt the revolution; creating a middle-class and jailing the dissidents, or 3) Genocide.

These are the three basic outcomes for the US intervention in the Middle East. The only possible outcome of the current Bush policy of killing every Islamofacist is genocide.

Posted by: Jim S | Aug 21 2006 15:28 utc | 6

Marx’s equations are man to man

Actually, economic man to economic man. Economic Women, Nationality, gender, race, religion, sociology, biology, etc. are ignored. Considering that the rise of socialist movements in Europe was devastatingly stopped by the tsunami of nationalism and the invention of marketing as a scientific discipline in the early 1900, it's sadly incomplete. The motto of the South African miners union in the 1920's was "white workers of the world unite" and after a century of ethnic cleansing, we need to realize that even within human society, economics is not always determinative.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 21 2006 16:58 utc | 7

About bookchin’s take on scarcity: the critique in the ecology book on realm of necessity/freedom clarifies this. bookchin declaims marx on this point because the concept of needs/freedom is arbitrary in a “post-scarcity” society such as ours, and:

History seemed to be poised at a juncture: society could still choose to follow a course that yielded a modest satisfaction of needs based on complementarity and the equality of unequals. Or it could catapult into capitalism with its rule of equivalence and the inequality of equals, both reinforced by commodity exchange and a canon of "unlimited needs" that confront "scarce resources."

Against this, marx, a certain kind of reading of marx to be sure finds:

To compare the outlook of organic society to this ensemble of ideas is literally to enter a qualitatively different realm of imagery and a richly sensuous form of sensibility. Organic society's image of the world contrasts radically in almost every detail with Marxian, scientistic, and frankly bourgeois notions of matter, labor, nature, and techncas-indeed, with the very structure of the technical imagination it brings to bear upon experience. To speak of organic society's "outlook" toward these issues or even its "sensibility" rarely does justice to the polymorphous sensitivity of its epistemological apparatus.

Bookchin argues for reclamation of first, organic nature—the nonhierarchized society of equality among unequals—a society that, for bookshin is unrecoverable by Marxism. Why? Not merely is the problem one of Marxist reproduction of hierarchy, but the old conundrum whether modern technologies are capitalist and cannot be used in the service of socialism. Marx himself seems to vacillate on this question.

so, on the question of scarcity, the problem is that scarcity for bookchin is defined and organized by the means of production, removing humanity from the awareness of a freedom, & necessity based in organic forms of human solidarity. this, as i understand it, is the basis of bookchin's "social ecology."

I don't agree w/ this thesis.

later. can't seem to login to speakeasy.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 17:15 utc | 8

economics is not always determinative.

in the first intance, baby.

determinative enough.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 17:17 utc | 9

Sloth: So explain what changed economically (in the Marxist sense) in Europe and US between 1900 and 1919 to account for the massive political change: the destruction of every powerful internationalist workers movement and its replacement by state power and even a "communist" movement that was really a front for Russian nationalism. After WWI, economics seems relatively unchanged - the movement of capital and gunboats over the remnant carcass of the world just accelerates, the centers of power and the mechanics of production suffer no sea change, but politically the world looks entirely different. Debs is in jail, Jaures is dead, the SDP is dead although still twitching. That is, the means of production in the central areas changes linearly, but the distribution of political power goes over a precipice.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 21 2006 17:46 utc | 10

@ Noirette:

It's not a book, just an article posted on the web:

Listen, Marxist!

I haven't been able to logon to Speakeasy either, but will respond tonight.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 21 2006 18:06 utc | 11

Marxian doctrine intended to adjust the Euro-centric class system, not to create a new class system.

And from a contemporary standpoint, the admission of Turkey into the EU as a full-fledged member would represent an interesting adjustment to the Euro-centric class system.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Aug 21 2006 18:20 utc | 12


the mode of production was confined to regional monopolies and empires. the welfare state and nationalism/fascism averted crises, even if the solution was world war. the development of global capitalism creates crises whose scope and magnitude are unresolvable by keynesian stimulus or nationalism, for that matter, even as the crises are not in any sense new to the capitalist mode of production.

only the global solidarity of the oppressed to confront capital can be any answer to the usual problems of exploitation and accumulation.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 20:39 utc | 13

Sloth, you're not getting to the question. If economics is deterministic to first approximation than what happened economically to explain the destruction of the internationalist unions/parties at the start of WWI? It's not good enough to say capitalism has crisis -bfd. Marx and followers confidently predicted both crisis and continuing growth of working class resistance and militancy. Things worked according to schedule until around 1913 and then, during a boom, a thunderclap and wow, in 1922 we have feeble attempts at revolution in defeated Germany, but US,France, UK and Russia are all under the control of strong states that brutally crush any resistance. Let's see a fact fitting that resurrects the predictive value of economics.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 21 2006 21:01 utc | 14


you mistake a moment of development for a global totality of development.

g-5 countries in the period you identify have all benefitted by welfare-state and militarism/empire to raise consumption and incomes at the expense of workers in the colonies. this system of domination is coming to a close, replaced by a transnbatinal capitalist class anbd the increasingly deligitimated management of labor and consumption in the metropolitan/core. the reproletarianization of the core's "service" workers, and the leveling of wages esp. among knowledge workers on a global scale in tenuous, but could help a global capitalist class to continue to manage the creation and deployment of global labor indeinitely. but, one only has to look at the trade deficits, mounting accumulation of capital, and inflation to see that no return to keynes or nationalism can rescue the system as effectively as the period you refer to.

but, the shithouse won't fall unless it's pushed. and only a global solidarity of workers can make this happen.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 21:29 utc | 15

so the "failures" you mention. simple. no socialism in one country, comrade.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 21:31 utc | 16

also, afa bookchin goes, he did not, afaik, consider globalism as the complement to his anarchism. the chaos of deregulated capitalism--this neoliberalist end of history horseshit--has been ruthlessly dismantling the hierarchies of the social in ways that encourage the creation of local solutions to the decay of institutional succor. why, this should be the age of the libertarian wetdream, in which every locality suffers a vacuum of authority, and pynchon-like zones offer both violence and the hope of "communality."

we need strong global institutions of social security and succor now more than ever.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 21:45 utc | 17

a nice little ditty, explaining the developing global economy and its effects:


Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 22:11 utc | 18

For the love of God Montressor, don't brick me into the tomb of Marxian mechanical economics. If the best you can do is some "crisis, then change of mode" you are vague enough to "explain" the physics of black holes. Here's my take, the power of tribalism and marketing at times transcends mere economics and can cause people to act in ways totally unrelated to how they earn their living or the economic system in which they live. WWI was an artificially stimulated episode of tribal warfare that allowed the victorious states to crush both "workers" movements and recalcitrant property owners who were not ready to cooperate with state capitalism. One problem with the "left" is that it has not accomdated to a world in which wars can be sold like automobiles and consent can be manufactured using sophisticated techniques undreampt of in 19th century middle class German society.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 21 2006 22:18 utc | 19

@citizen re: scarcity:

I don't remember saying this at all. I find your description of what I said to be eloquent, and, dare I admit, above me. Unfortunately, it does tend to imply that we are currently experiencing the burning and pain of a global yeast infection ;-)


and have no solutions to propose except the ‘stopping of exploitation’ and local measures, ideas that don’t address root problems but simply point to absurdities and unfairness.

Localizing, or "municiplizing" as Bookchin would term it, is a viable solution -- and it is happening in many places, even despite the fact the the opposite trend of globalizing is still happening faster.

Despite our wishes, we all know there are no easy solutions to these problems; and none which do not at some time inevitably come into confrontation with power. I too think some of George's prescriptions are a little naive, but I can't fault her for the effort she makes to solve these problems.

Saying that "they" have "no solutions" is too easy. And praying for the final show-down between capital and the oppressed is even more hopeless than reciting "Namyo renge kyo." There are always partial solutions, which in the absence of a complete solution, should not be negated. Guerrilla tactics -- choosing how, when, and where to confront the leviathan on our own terms, is a viable partial solution. It sure beats joining them, and saving up for that brand new banana yellow hummer!


only the global solidarity of the oppressed to confront capital can be any answer to the usual problems of exploitation and accumulation.

I hate to be cruel, slothrup, but have you read the article, and are you critiqueing it -- or are you merely spouting Marxist cant from memory.

Bookchin notes:

The process of class decomposition must be understood in all its dimensions. The word "process" must be emphasized here: the traditional classes do not disappear, nor for that matter does class struggle. Only a social revolution could remove the prevailing class structure and the conflict engenders. The point is the traditional class struggle ceases to have revolutionary implications; it reveals itself as the physiology of the prevailing society, not as the labor pains of birth. In fact the traditional class struggle stabilizes capitalist society by "correcting" its abuses (in wages, hours, inflation, employment, etc.). The unions in capitalist society constitute themselves into a counter-"monopoly" to the industrial monopolies and are incorporated into the neomercantile statified econnomy as an estate. Within this estate there are lesser or greater conflicts, but taken as a whole the unions strengthen the system and serve to perpetuate it.

To reinforce this class structure by babbling about the "role of the working class," to reinforce the traditional class struggle by imputing a "revolutionary" content to it, to infect the new revolutionary movement of our time with "workeritis" is reactionary to the core. How often do the Marxian doctrinaires have to be reminded that the history of the class struggle is the history of a disease, of the wounds opened by the famous "social question," of man's one-sided development in trying to gain control over nature by dominating his fellow man?

Bookchin is saying that you can't cure the disease of "classism," of oppression, by dealing with its outermost symptoms -- namely, by "curing" inequality and taming capital flows. Working soley with those mechanisms, perversely, only strengthens the structure by alleviating the its most salient inequities.

A deeper way is required (unfortunately the text we are working with ends cryptically, like the a fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls), which requires becoming aware of the effects that our domination of nature is having upon the world. Our awareness of this process is happening naturally -- albeit at great, and possibly irremedial, cost to the planet -- freeing us from the useless "shoulds" and "musts."

Our preoccupation with our position vis-a-vis others in the world, only blinds us to the ramifications of our position within the rest of the natural world.

So, we must think deeper; we must think more integratively.

Even these most basic of questions --

Who are the oppressed? Do they conceive of themselves as oppressed?

Who do they blame for their oppression? How are they being oppressed?

Or from the other side:

How can we convince the oppressed that they are not?

How can we deflect awareness of who is doing the oppressing?

How can we manufacture buy-in to this system? How can we foster complacency with this system?

-- must be addressed from a deeper level which takes the entire world into consideration.

As Bookchin says in What Is Social Ecology? :

Although always mindful of the need for spiritual change, social ecology seeks to redress the ecological abuses that society has inflicted on the natural world by going to the structural as well as the subjective sources of notions like the "domination of nature." That is, it challenges the entire system of domination itself and seeks to eliminate the hierarchical and class edifice that has imposed itself on humanity and defined the relationship between nonhuman and human nature. It advances an ethics of complementarity in which human beings must play a supportive role in perpetuating the integrity of the biosphere, as potentially, at least, the most conscious products of natural evolution. Indeed humans are seen to have a moral responsibility to function creatively in the unfolding of that evolution.

Which is, I believe, what we are attempting to do here.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 21 2006 22:38 utc | 20

If economics is deterministic to first approximation than what happened economically to explain the destruction of the internationalist unions/parties at the start of WWI?

Besides the obvious covert programs of infiltration, assassination, and delegitimisation; there is the re-engineering of work. A small percentage of the world toils in large factory environments -- far smaller than Marx foresaw. Having us parcelled out into myriads of sub-trades and specialties weakens collective forces.

we need strong global institutions of social security and succor now more than ever.

Or we can deligitimate unnecessary global institutions and, using Solari-like methods, regain local control of capital. Then we can build local safety nets -- and eventually tie them in to each other, creating new, limited, global institutions of our own making.

This is not a complete answer, but rather a suggestion for a direction on how to proceed.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 21 2006 22:53 utc | 21


"but taken as a whole the unions strengthen the system and serve to perpetuate it."

as i said, malooga, bookchin is correct here about the orientation of political consciousness to a specific, national/imperialist, moment of the development of capital. that workers in the u.s. were disinclined for revolutionary praxis is hardly surprising given the realities of this development.

afaik, bookchin bases a rejection of marx, as did others in his generation including the city college cohort of bell and others, on the prevailing ways in which american capitalism surmounted the threats of worker antagonisms.

but bookchin wrote a great deal, perhaps he has something to say about global capital.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 23:43 utc | 22


sounds to me you have the makings of a critique of ideology, there. and, i'd never deny the power of false consciousness to compel anyone to watch nfl football and yearn to murder ragheads. but this fact is the fault of the "left" only to the extent the general effectiveness and ubiquity of the dominant ideology survives whatever scattershot opposition it receives from the likes of us.

like i said, we'll remove sumner redstone and install you as cultural programmer. that should work.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 23:48 utc | 23

anarchism/libertarianism is a pointless detour. and bookchin was detoured without good justifications, imo.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 23:50 utc | 24

"spout off"

wtf? malooga.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 21 2006 23:52 utc | 25

Sloth: So the bottom line is "economics is determinative to first approximation except where false consciousness gets people to behave in ways different from what theory would predict" ? Why is this better than "random variables are determinative"?

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 22 2006 1:35 utc | 26

I'm trying to follow this conversation as best I can....

Is Bookchin observing that in order for things to get better they always have to get worse first? Or that when things get better incrementally, then the motivation to address the underlying cause is lost? If so, makes sense to me.


Also I am reminded of my 'secondary earner' tax rants that demonstrate how middle and upper class married women are also oppressed. But don't let classist thinkers hear that women of all classes are oppressed. [Even tho Marx himself said it.] Poor and working class women don't need sister solidarity with other women: it doesn't fit the post-Marx ideological straight jacket of class struggle which claims that all motivation is purely economic. Ergo, being economically comfortable disqualifies one from motive and ability to join forces with the oppressed in addressing class inequity.

Recipe for revolution failure: petty dismissal of disgruntled potential allies living behind enemy lines. The capitalists are winning because they actively infiltrate and turn the workers against each other. Meanwhile the revolutionary workers refuse to infiltrate the capitalist camp. They just are too purist to bother to turn managerial class against capital class nor bothering to turn oppressed wives and daughters against capitalist husbands and fathers.

Posted by: gylangirl | Aug 22 2006 2:01 utc | 27

because the justification of material economy dibilitating to most persons requires both a mystification of social relations and the cultivation of the legitimation of these social relations even among those most harmed by the prevailing social relations of production. the inducement of false consciousness is not a "random variable" of domination but is constitutive of the form of domination peculiar to capitalism.

you'll no doubt insist on the inherent irrationality of humanity. but what you discover as irrationality is an effect and a crucial element sustaining the domination of the capitalist mode of production. you'll no doubt also offer some other example of precapitalist relations demonstrating false consciousness. I don't deny this, notingvthe various ways in which persons are coerced to legitimate their own suffering under various forms of power. i']m merely showing the specific ways in which capitalist society accomplishes such legitimation which is always done to vindicate the capitalist mop.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 2:04 utc | 28

For My good Friend Slothrop:

The Origins of Political Correctness

An Accuracy in Academia Address by Bill Lind

Variations of this speech have been delivered to various AIA conferences including the 2000 Consevative University at American University

Where does all this stuff that you’ve heard about this morning – the victim feminism, the gay rights movement, the invented statistics, the rewritten history, the lies, the demands, all the rest of it – where does it come from? For the first time in our history, Americans have to be fearful of what they say, of what they write, and of what they think. They have to be afraid of using the wrong word, a word denounced as offensive or insensitive, or racist, sexist, or homophobic.

We have seen other countries, particularly in this century, where this has been the case. And we have always regarded them with a mixture of pity, and to be truthful, some amusement, because it has struck us as so strange that people would allow a situation to develop where they would be afraid of what words they used. But we now have this situation in this country. We have it primarily on college campuses, but it is spreading throughout the whole society. Were does it come from? What is it?

We call it "Political Correctness." The name originated as something of a joke, literally in a comic strip, and we tend still to think of it as only half-serious. In fact, it’s deadly serious. It is the great disease of our century, the disease that has left tens of millions of people dead in Europe, in Russia, in China, indeed around the world. It is the disease of ideology. PC is not funny. PC is deadly serious.

If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism the parallels are very obvious.

First of all, both are totalitarian ideologies. The totalitarian nature of Political Correctness is revealed nowhere more clearly than on college campuses, many of which at this point are small ivy covered North Koreas, where the student or faculty member who dares to cross any of the lines set up by the gender feminist or the homosexual-rights activists, or the local black or Hispanic group, or any of the other sainted "victims" groups that PC revolves around, quickly find themselves in judicial trouble. Within the small legal system of the college, they face formal charges – some star-chamber proceeding – and punishment. That is a little look into the future that Political Correctness intends for the nation as a whole.

Indeed, all ideologies are totalitarian because the essence of an ideology (I would note that conservatism correctly understood is not an ideology) is to take some philosophy and say on the basis of this philosophy certain things must be true – such as the whole of the history of our culture is the history of the oppression of women. Since reality contradicts that, reality must be forbidden. It must become forbidden to acknowledge the reality of our history. People must be forced to live a lie, and since people are naturally reluctant to live a lie, they naturally use their ears and eyes to look out and say, "Wait a minute. This isn’t true. I can see it isn’t true," the power of the state must be put behind the demand to live a lie. That is why ideology invariably creates a totalitarian state.

Second, the cultural Marxism of Political Correctness, like economic Marxism, has a single factor explanation of history. Economic Marxism says that all of history is determined by ownership of means of production. Cultural Marxism, or Political Correctness, says that all history is determined by power, by which groups defined in terms of race, sex, etc., have power over which other groups. Nothing else matters. All literature, indeed, is about that. Everything in the past is about that one thing.

Third, just as in classical economic Marxism certain groups, i.e. workers and peasants, are a priori good, and other groups, i.e., the bourgeoisie and capital owners, are evil. In the cultural Marxism of Political Correctness certain groups are good – feminist women, (only feminist women, non-feminist women are deemed not to exist) blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals. These groups are determined to be "victims," and therefore automatically good regardless of what any of them do. Similarly, white males are determined automatically to be evil, thereby becoming the equivalent of the bourgeoisie in economic Marxism.

Fourth, both economic and cultural Marxism rely on expropriation. When the classical Marxists, the communists, took over a country like Russia, they expropriated the bourgeoisie, they took away their property. Similarly, when the cultural Marxists take over a university campus, they expropriate through things like quotas for admissions. When a white student with superior qualifications is denied admittance to a college in favor of a black or Hispanic who isn’t as well qualified, the white student is expropriated. And indeed, affirmative action, in our whole society today, is a system of expropriation. White owned companies don’t get a contract because the contract is reserved for a company owned by, say, Hispanics or women. So expropriation is a principle tool for both forms of Marxism.

And finally, both have a method of analysis that automatically gives the answers they want. For the classical Marxist, it’s Marxist economics. For the cultural Marxist, it’s deconstruction. Deconstruction essentially takes any text, removes all meaning from it and re-inserts any meaning desired. So we find, for example, that all of Shakespeare is about the suppression of women, or the Bible is really about race and gender. All of these texts simply become grist for the mill, which proves that "all history is about which groups have power over which other groups." So the parallels are very evident between the classical Marxism that we’re familiar with in the old Soviet Union and the cultural Marxism that we see today as Political Correctness.

But the parallels are not accidents. The parallels did not come from nothing. The fact of the matter is that Political Correctness has a history, a history that is much longer than many people are aware of outside a small group of academics who have studied this. And the history goes back, as I said, to World War I, as do so many of the pathologies that are today bringing our society, and indeed our culture, down.

Marxist theory said that when the general European war came (as it did come in Europe in 1914), the working class throughout Europe would rise up and overthrow their governments – the bourgeois governments – because the workers had more in common with each other across the national boundaries than they had in common with the bourgeoisie and the ruling class in their own country. Well, 1914 came and it didn’t happen. Throughout Europe, workers rallied to their flag and happily marched off to fight each other. The Kaiser shook hands with the leaders of the Marxist Social Democratic Party in Germany and said there are no parties now, there are only Germans. And this happened in every country in Europe. So something was wrong.

Marxists knew by definition it couldn’t be the theory. In 1917, they finally got a Marxist coup in Russia and it looked like the theory was working, but it stalled again. It didn’t spread and when attempts were made to spread immediately after the war, with the Spartacist uprising in Berlin, with the Bela Kun government in Hungary, with the Munich Soviet, the workers didn’t support them.

So the Marxists’ had a problem. And two Marxist theorists went to work on it: Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary. Gramsci said the workers will never see their true class interests, as defined by Marxism, until they are freed from Western culture, and particularly from the Christian religion – that they are blinded by culture and religion to their true class interests. Lukacs, who was considered the most brilliant Marxist theorist since Marx himself, said in 1919, "Who will save us from Western Civilization?" He also theorized that the great obstacle to the creation of a Marxist paradise was the culture: Western civilization itself.

Lukacs gets a chance to put his ideas into practice, because when the home grown Bolshevik Bela Kun government is established in Hungary in 1919, he becomes deputy commissar for culture, and the first thing he did was introduce sex education into the Hungarian schools. This ensured that the workers would not support the Bela Kun government, because the Hungarian people looked at this aghast, workers as well as everyone else. But he had already made the connection that today many of us are still surprised by, that we would consider the "latest thing."

In 1923 in Germany, a think-tank is established that takes on the role of translating Marxism from economic into cultural terms, that creates Political Correctness as we know it today, and essentially it has created the basis for it by the end of the 1930s. This comes about because the very wealthy young son of a millionaire German trader by the name of Felix Weil has become a Marxist and has lots of money to spend. He is disturbed by the divisions among the Marxists, so he sponsors something called the First Marxist Work Week, where he brings Lukacs and many of the key German thinkers together for a week, working on the differences of Marxism.

And he says, "What we need is a think-tank." Washington is full of think tanks and we think of them as very modern. In fact they go back quite a ways. He endows an institute, associated with Frankfurt University, established in 1923, that was originally supposed to be known as the Institute for Marxism. But the people behind it decided at the beginning that it was not to their advantage to be openly identified as Marxist. The last thing Political Correctness wants is for people to figure out it’s a form of Marxism. So instead they decide to name it the Institute for Social Research.

Weil is very clear about his goals. In 1971, he wrote to Martin Jay the author of a principle book on the Frankfurt School, as the Institute for Social Research soon becomes known informally, and he said, "I wanted the institute to become known, perhaps famous, due to its contributions to Marxism." Well, he was successful. The first director of the Institute, Carl Grunberg, an Austrian economist, concluded his opening address, according to Martin Jay, "by clearly stating his personal allegiance to Marxism as a scientific methodology." Marxism, he said, would be the ruling principle at the Institute, and that never changed.

The initial work at the Institute was rather conventional, but in 1930 it acquired a new director named Max Horkheimer, and Horkheimer’s views were very different. He was very much a Marxist renegade. The people who create and form the Frankfurt School are renegade Marxists. They’re still very much Marxist in their thinking, but they’re effectively run out of the party. Moscow looks at what they are doing and says, "Hey, this isn’t us, and we’re not going to bless this."

Horkheimer’s initial heresy is that he is very interested in Freud, and the key to making the translation of Marxism from economic into cultural terms is essentially that he combined it with Freudism. Again, Martin Jay writes, "If it can be said that in the early years of its history, the Institute concerned itself primarily with an analysis of bourgeois society’s socio-economic sub-structure," – and I point out that Jay is very sympathetic to the Frankfurt School, I’m not reading from a critic here – "in the years after 1930 its primary interests lay in its cultural superstructure. Indeed the traditional Marxist formula regarding the relationship between the two was brought into question by Critical Theory."

The stuff we’ve been hearing about this morning – the radical feminism, the women’s studies departments, the gay studies departments, the black studies departments – all these things are branches of Critical Theory. What the Frankfurt School essentially does is draw on both Marx and Freud in the 1930s to create this theory called Critical Theory. The term is ingenious because you’re tempted to ask, "What is the theory?" The theory is to criticize. The theory is that the way to bring down Western culture and the capitalist order is not to lay down an alternative. They explicitly refuse to do that. They say it can’t be done, that we can’t imagine what a free society would look like (their definition of a free society). As long as we’re living under repression – the repression of a capitalistic economic order which creates (in their theory) the Freudian condition, the conditions that Freud describes in individuals of repression – we can’t even imagine it. What Critical Theory is about is simply criticizing. It calls for the most destructive criticism possible, in every possible way, designed to bring the current order down. And, of course, when we hear from the feminists that the whole of society is just out to get women and so on, that kind of criticism is a derivative of Critical Theory. It is all coming from the 1930s, not the 1960s.

Other key members who join up around this time are Theodore Adorno, and, most importantly, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse. Fromm and Marcuse introduce an element which is central to Political Correctness, and that’s the sexual element. And particularly Marcuse, who in his own writings calls for a society of "polymorphous perversity," that is his definition of the future of the world that they want to create. Marcuse in particular by the 1930s is writing some very extreme stuff on the need for sexual liberation, but this runs through the whole Institute. So do most of the themes we see in Political Correctness, again in the early 30s. In Fromm’s view, masculinity and femininity were not reflections of ‘essential’ sexual differences, as the Romantics had thought. They were derived instead from differences in life functions, which were in part socially determined." Sex is a construct; sexual differences are a construct.

Another example is the emphasis we now see on environmentalism. "Materialism as far back as Hobbes had led to a manipulative dominating attitude toward nature." That was Horkhemier writing in 1933 in Materialismus und Moral. "The theme of man’s domination of nature," according to Jay, " was to become a central concern of the Frankfurt School in subsequent years." "Horkheimer’s antagonism to the fetishization of labor, (here’s were they’re obviously departing from Marxist orthodoxy) expressed another dimension of his materialism, the demand for human, sensual happiness." In one of his most trenchant essays, Egoism and the Movement for Emancipation, written in 1936, Horkeimer "discussed the hostility to personal gratification inherent in bourgeois culture." And he specifically referred to the Marquis de Sade, favorably, for his "protest…against asceticism in the name of a higher morality."

How does all of this stuff flood in here? How does it flood into our universities, and indeed into our lives today? The members of the Frankfurt School are Marxist, they are also, to a man, Jewish. In 1933 the Nazis came to power in Germany, and not surprisingly they shut down the Institute for Social Research. And its members fled. They fled to New York City, and the Institute was reestablished there in 1933 with help from Columbia University. And the members of the Institute, gradually through the 1930s, though many of them remained writing in German, shift their focus from Critical Theory about German society, destructive criticism about every aspect of that society, to Critical Theory directed toward American society. There is another very important transition when the war comes. Some of them go to work for the government, including Herbert Marcuse, who became a key figure in the OSS (the predecessor to the CIA), and some, including Horkheimer and Adorno, move to Hollywood.

These origins of Political Correctness would probably not mean too much to us today except for two subsequent events. The first was the student rebellion in the mid-1960s, which was driven largely by resistance to the draft and the Vietnam War. But the student rebels needed theory of some sort. They couldn’t just get out there and say, "Hell no we won’t go," they had to have some theoretical explanation behind it. Very few of them were interested in wading through Das Kapital. Classical, economic Marxism is not light, and most of the radicals of the 60s were not deep. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for our country today, and not just in the university, Herbert Marcuse remained in America when the Frankfurt School relocated back to Frankfurt after the war. And whereas Mr. Adorno in Germany is appalled by the student rebellion when it breaks out there – when the student rebels come into Adorno’s classroom, he calls the police and has them arrested – Herbert Marcuse, who remained here, saw the 60s student rebellion as the great chance. He saw the opportunity to take the work of the Frankfurt School and make it the theory of the New Left in the United States.

One of Marcuse’s books was the key book. It virtually became the bible of the SDS and the student rebels of the 60s. That book was Eros and Civilization. Marcuse argues that under a capitalistic order (he downplays the Marxism very strongly here, it is subtitled, A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud, but the framework is Marxist), repression is the essence of that order and that gives us the person Freud describes – the person with all the hang-ups, the neuroses, because his sexual instincts are repressed. We can envision a future, if we can only destroy this existing oppressive order, in which we liberate eros, we liberate libido, in which we have a world of "polymorphous perversity," in which you can "do you own thing." And by the way, in that world there will no longer be work, only play. What a wonderful message for the radicals of the mid-60s! They’re students, they’re baby-boomers, and they’ve grown up never having to worry about anything except eventually having to get a job. And here is a guy writing in a way they can easily follow. He doesn’t require them to read a lot of heavy Marxism and tells them everything they want to hear which is essentially, "Do your own thing," "If it feels good do it," and "You never have to go to work." By the way, Marcuse is also the man who creates the phrase, "Make love, not war." Coming back to the situation people face on campus, Marcuse defines "liberating tolerance" as intolerance for anything coming from the Right and tolerance for anything coming from the Left. Marcuse joined the Frankfurt School, in 1932 (if I remember right). So, all of this goes back to the 1930s.

In conclusion, America today is in the throws of the greatest and direst transformation in its history. We are becoming an ideological state, a country with an official state ideology enforced by the power of the state. In "hate crimes" we now have people serving jail sentences for political thoughts. And the Congress is now moving to expand that category ever further. Affirmative action is part of it. The terror against anyone who dissents from Political Correctness on campus is part of it. It’s exactly what we have seen happen in Russia, in Germany, in Italy, in China, and now it’s coming here. And we don’t recognize it because we call it Political Correctness and laugh it off. My message today is that it’s not funny, it’s here, it’s growing and it will eventually destroy, as it seeks to destroy, everything that we have ever defined as our freedom and our culture.

Posted by: Hezzie Grrl | Aug 22 2006 2:06 utc | 29

I wasn't attacking you personally, slothrup; I very much value your insight and input on these kinds of topics. I was trying to say that the phrase I singled out is Marxist boilerplate and only tangentially relevant to the article at hand. Bookchin makes very clear that he is not rejecting Marxism out of hand, he is transcending it:

We argue that the problem is not to "abandon" Marxism, or to "annul" it, but to transcend it dialectically, just as Marx transcended Hegelian philosophy, Ricardian economics, and Blanquist tactics and modes of organization.

Then he proceeds to clearly annunciate the reasons why it is time to dialectically trancend Marxism:

Is it conceivable that historical problems and methods of class analysis based entirely on unavoidable scarcity can be transplanted into a new era of potential abundance?

Possibly -- you would need to justify your case here.

Is it conceivable that an economic analysis focused primarily on a "freely competitive" system of industrial capitalism can be transferred to a managed system of capitalism, where state and monopolies combine to manipulate economic life?

I think he is on the money here. All studies of so-called "free-trade" show that it is anything but. Take US agriculture, where we have immense subsidies for agribusiness grown commodities, which are then bought up at a pre-determined profit by the government, and used as "foreign aid" to countries that already produce those same commodities, in order to bankrupt local small farmers and initiate a dependency cycle. That is only one of a hundred examples. Dollars and Sense carries numerous studies like this, all of which were unforeseen by Marx. Therefore, you are stuck with a Marxism which must be held together by band-aid patches if you want any rigour to your theory.

Is it conceivable that a strategic and tactical repertory formulated in a period when steel and coal constituted the basis of industrial technology can be transferred to an age based on radically new sources of energy, on electronics, on cybernation?

Possibly, but again this would need much greater elucidation before we should accept Marxist claims blindly here.

As a result of this transfer, a theoretical corpus which was liberating a century ago is turned into a straitjacket today. We are asked to focus on the working class as the "agent" of revolutionary change at a time when capitalism visibly antagonizes and produces revolutionaries among virtually all strata of society, particularly the young.

I would say this is quite accurate. At least the alienation part if not the active revolutionary part. But we surely live in an age where all manner, and class, of people are coming to the slow realization that "something" is wrong. What remains is the work of educating them. In any event, at a time when substantial minorities of children and adults are on psychotropic drugs, the capitalist structure of society must surely be to blame for at least some of this alienation.

We are asked to guide our tactical methods by the vision of a "chronic economic crisis" despite the fact that no such crisis has been in the offing for thirty years,

One might be around the bend now, but this is forty years after Bookchin wrote this -- and surely the earth reaching the limits to growth, a condition unforeseen by Marx, plays a significant role in this. Neither does Marxism have much to say about peak oil or radioactive pollution.

We are asked to accept a "proletarian dictatorship"--a long "transitional period" whose function is not merely the suppression of counter-revolutionaries but above all the development of a technology of abundance--at a time when a technology of abundance is at hand.

Bob Avakian, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Sunsara Taylor, who I've interviewed several times, both talk about China, and Mao's challenges, very convincingly. They are much less convincing when they talk about instituting a "proletarian dictatorship" here, in fact, I find the thought downright chilling.

We are asked to orient our "strategies" and "tactics" around poverty and material immiseration at a time when revolutionary sentiment is being generated by the banality of life under conditions of material abundance.

I will address scarcity in a separate post.

We are asked to establish political parties, centralized organizations, "revolutionary" hierarchies and elites, and a new state at a time when political institutions as such are decaying and when centralizing, elitism and the state are being brought into question on a scale that has never occurred before in the history of hierarchical society.

You would need to counter this substantively if you disagree with Bookchin here.

We are asked, in short, to return to the past, to diminish instead of grow, to force the throbbing reality of our times, with its hopes and promises, into the deadening preconceptions of an outlived age. We are asked to operate with principles that have been transcended not only theoretically but by the very development of society itself. History has not stood still since Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky died, nor has it followed the simplistic direction which was charted out by thinkers--however brilliant--whose minds were still rooted in the nineteenth century or in the opening years of the twentieth. We have seen capitalism itself perform many of the tasks (including the development of a technology of abundance) which were regarded as socialist; we have seen it "nationalize" property, merging the economy with the state wherever necessary. We have seen the working class neutralized as the "agent of revolutionary change," albeit still struggling with a bourgeois framework for more wages, shorter hours and "fringe" benefits. The class struggle in the classical sense has not disappeared; it has suffered a more deadening fate by being co-opted into capitalism.

Yes, we have seen the state merge with the economy: it is called the military-industrial complex. Then there are the many examples Chomsky puts forth of the state subsidizing the development of technology, then giving it away to private interests when it becomes viable -- as with the development of the internet by BBN here in Boston. Indeed, institutions like MIT would cease to exist without this melding of state and private interests.

We have see the working class neutralized beyond even Bookchin's expectations. Now mobilizations are no longer about more wages, shorter hours and "fringe" benefits -- they are about keeping jobs from leaving the country, and how much less pay and benefits workers are prepared to accept to keep those jobs.

anarchism/libertarianism is a pointless detour. and bookchin was detoured without good justifications, imo.

Nice of you to judge another's intellectual development two generations ago so blithely. In any event, he did break with both over the course of the next two decades, as described in his article What is Communalism? His description of the dynamics of achieving consensus in the Clamshell Alliance, which was formed to oppose the Seabrook nuclear reactor in the mid-1970s in New Hampshire, I find particulary interesting, both as a description of praxis in action, and because I happen to know many of the principle actors personally and have heard their stories from each of their individual viewpoints.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 2:08 utc | 30


Or that when things get better incrementally, then the motivation to address the underlying cause is lost? If so, makes sense to me.


I like the rest of your post.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 2:13 utc | 31


basic bookchin riff is the end of "hierarchy" and "reification"--you know, no more longing for truth and essence guided by our betters.

he rejected marxism because he found the movement littered w/ "hierarchy." he adopted instead a kind of libertarian communism based on local governance and economic autarky.

i am skeptical of his anarchism because of what i have so far found in his interesting writings a persistent lack of contact with globalism. he hates institutional control as, like weber, institutions are inherently corrupting.

the problem is, in a swiftly globalizing world, only institutions can deliver the kinds of reforms needed to martial "sustainability" and equity.

but, a few mad max unravelings and we'll all be farming potatoes in no time.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 2:17 utc | 32

Sloth: The issue is quite simple: can one understand social dynamics by focusing entirely on economic relations? You claim that "to first approximation" economics is enough. I don't see any evidence for this, and the history of marxist writing is stuffed with all sorts of escape routes -like "false consciousness" which is both presumptious and evasive. People have acted in ways that do not correspond to "economic rationality" through all history, because people are not just the consuming and producing machines of that classical economics claims they are inherently and that Marxism claims they are in the capitalist era . The basic idea of "false consciousness" is "my theory says these people should think X, but they don't not because my theory is incorrect, but because they incorrectly interpret the world." As if human beings are not good enough for Marxist analysis. It doesn't matter whether this "irrationality" is produced by genetics or every system of production in the history of large scale societies or by some other factors - the fact is that it is a powerful force that is able to defeat every prediction made by your theory. It follows that the theory is what scientists describe by the technical term "wrong". To be honest, I have never been blown away by Bookchin, but "Listen Marxist" was devastating. Don't dismiss it.

@Hezzie girl: Don't be silly. Many Americans have been sent to jail for "wrong thinking" well before that moron Hayek ever figured out which end of a pen had ink. Consult a history book.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 22 2006 2:25 utc | 33

And Lind Recently proposed an alliance of the Left and Right to combat the coming IRAN WAR.

It's worth a read.

Will just link to it:


Posted by: Hezzie Grrl | Aug 22 2006 2:25 utc | 34

@Hezzie Grrl:

I'm really not sure why you took up so much space on a thread about Bookchin with an irrelevant article, when a simple link and sample quote would have sufficed.

Needless to say the article you posted is complete tripe. Every single sentence is a lie, distortion, half-truth, red herring, reductio ad absudism, etc. -- indeed, it could be used as a source for understanding specious argumentation, since it contains the entire encyclopedia of deceptive rhetorical form and argument.

One single sentence of his should suffice for those without the requisite acid in their stomachs to plow through the article:

Indeed, all ideologies are totalitarian because the essence of an ideology (I would note that conservatism correctly understood is not an ideology)

Then there is his whinging on and on about how everybody feels they are a victim, but only white males (who are better qualified and find NO opportunities open to themselves) are the real victims.

Your posts earlier today seemed worthwhile, but this?

Are you a troll?

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 2:26 utc | 35

We are asked to establish political parties, centralized organizations, "revolutionary" hierarchies and elites, and a new state at a time when political institutions as such are decaying and when centralizing

this is true for those institutions arranged to improve social welfare. you'll notice, however, the international institutions of capital are doing just fine, thank you.

"transcend marx." that's pretty funny, given what marx had to say about the globalization of capital--a point of ref. bookchin seemed to miss. but i'm no bookchin hagiographer.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 2:29 utc | 36

Hezzie Girl:

Lind: "For my part, as a conservative, I am willing to participate in a Grand Coalition against imperial folly even with cultural Marxists; if they want to believe the Frankfurt School crap, more the fools they. But I will do so puffing my pipe and reading Mencken as a frolicsome Irish serving wench makes sure my glass stays full. The Politically Correct Left can put that in their pipes, but if they try to smoke it, I suspect they will turn a delightful shade of green."

What is he smoking in that pipe? Quick lass, get Mr. Lind his oxygen mask and stop that damned frolic-iing before I throw the spittoon at yer. Saints preserve us!

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 22 2006 2:32 utc | 37

Look, Lind might know something about warfare, but he is a troglodyte about anything else.

Here's one sentence from your link:

[We are people who] Reject egalitarianism and think differences between classes both natural and beneficial

Class differences are beneficial for who?

This is suppossed to be a thread about Social Ecology. Lind has nothing to add to that discussion. Neither do you apparently. Take your trolling and get out of here.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 2:33 utc | 38

the social relations specific to the capitalist mop are analyzable, and solutrions to the destructiveness of this mop are derivable from theory and practice. to be sure, not everyone can know this, which is to be expected. but you, ck, prefer to find in these failures a condemnation of any utopia.

you're such a misanthrope.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 2:37 utc | 39

Och, Hezzie Girl means well. I've been thrown outta better pubs than this.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 22 2006 2:38 utc | 40


I am not a hagiographer of Bookchin either. Personally, I think some of his thinking is already showing signs of wear, but not as much wear as Marx's thinking shows. But that wasn't the point of this thread, I thought, which was to discuss a specific article -- not throw ad hominems around with Marxist glee.

I see that you have discussed one substantive point of the ten I made. Bookchin does not claim that the international institutions of capital are ailing. You are attacking the one area where he totally agrees with Marxist theory.

Did you even bother to read the article?

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 2:40 utc | 41

There's no point to post a whole article of that length when a simple link will suffice. It is OT to the discussion.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 2:42 utc | 42

but not as much wear as Marx's thinking shows.

hehe. thanks. i needed to laugh. i'd love for you to point out the lacunae in marx's analysis of the kind of capitalism now afflicting us.

We are asked to operate with principles that have been transcended not only theoretically but by the very development of society itself. History has not stood still since Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky died, nor has it followed the simplistic direction which was charted out by thinkers

i told you, malooga, it isn't marx who has been made irrelevant by "history" but rather bookchin who, while living in the very history of capitalism's fullest development, missed this forest of globalism for the trees of the "failures" of worker opposition to state-specific developments of capital.

you'll notice my criticism of bookchin is not confined to this article, but whatever else i've read, including his opus. i apologize that your condescension obscured my presentation.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 2:56 utc | 43

christ. couldn't we read harry braverman of e. mandel? or john dewey?

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 2:58 utc | 44

or marx!!

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 3:03 utc | 45


I was attempting for the first time here to present something longer, Imitatio DEBS. I am most always cognizant of bandwidth.

And I of course don't agree with everything Lind says, some of which in the last link, I think, was a bit of snark.

And I'm not a troll, but I might be a leprechaun.

I'll just go away now, into the lonely, foggy night.

Posted by: Hezzie Grrl | Aug 22 2006 3:10 utc | 46


Scarcity had a very personal meaning for Marx, whose early threadbare existence led to the loss three children, including his favorite daughter, to disease caused by grinding poverty.

That era was a world where grinding poverty could be found anywhere in the world.

As Noisette points out, we live in an era where we are able to produce enough to meet the needs of every human, but chose not to. Clearly, capitalist structures benefit from starving workforces in the third world. And it seems fairly obvious that other impovershed populations are being slated for removal of one type or another to get at the resources.

So, it seems clear to me that the "post-scarcity" era highlights the criminal failures of capitalism even more starkly. I think Bookchin would agree with this assessment.

But there are two ways in which Bookchin's thinking (and Marx's) comes up short to me here:

First, "scarcity" is only one lens through which to view conflict.

Another lens might be termed "indigenism," whereby the struggle for land and resources is between people who want to preserve traditional ways of life vs. those who want to destroy those ways in order to integrate them into the bottom of the capitalist totem pole. To my knowledge, precious few peoples have wanted to give up their traditional ways (and lands and fisheries, etc. which this entails) in order to work in some sweatshop somewhere for wage labor. One of the reasons for the war in Vietnam, as well as those of Central America, was to break up and destroy relatively self-reliant, communal, peasant ways of life so that factories and plantations could be introduced. The result of such forcible pacification is never pretty.

Another might be termed "technologism," that is to say, the belief in all forms of technology as good. Here again, the struggles against the introduction of nuclear power, dams, terminator seeds and other GMO crops, pesticides, DU weapons, etc. CAN be viewed through a class lens as concentrating wealth, but it can also be viewed throught the lens of blind faith in technology vs. the precautionary principle -- essentially an ethical lens. It can be viewed as a struggle between centralization vs. decentralization, or control vs. loss-of-control.

There are many lens's through which to view conflict and change, and Marxist class struggle is just one of them.

Second, we may now be at the cusp of a new era of real scarcity, call it "post-post-scarcity", or "scarcity II", or "growth-induced scarcity", or post-peak scarcity -- either way the probability of its arrival increases every year. World fisheries are on the verge of collapsing, climate change is leading to increasing rates of crop failure, aquifers are being polluted and deleted, our agriculture is increasingly petroleum based and dependent, etc.

How these changes will affect political thinking and organizing in the future cannot be completely known or predicted.

Bookchin, and Marx, (as opposed to Lind, the true non-ideological conservative; and slothrup, the perfect all-knowing Marxist) recommend the use of reason, ideological flexibility, and the adapting of theory to fact, rather than the reverse.

As Bookchin said: "[T]his attempt to find a haven in a fixed dogma and an organizational hierarchy as substitutes for creative thought and praxis is bitter..."

When Bookchin says:

The complete, all-sided revolution of our own day that can finally resolve the historic "social question," born of scarcity, domination and hierarchy, follows the tradition of the partial, the incomplete, the one-sided revolutions of the past, which merely changed the form of the "social question," replacing one system of domination and hierarchy by another.

--he is challenging those like slothrup to answer why every Marxist revolution up to now has yielded less than satisfactory results without sounding like Bush defending why every intervention he has gotten us into has also sucked. Eventually, fact wins out over theory, except fot the "true believers" who will never be disuaded by any accumulation of evidence. Those "true believers" represent the revolutionary vanguard who are just waiting for the opportunity to lead the rest of us dolts. Or, at any rate, to discuss different books. Hey, slothrup, wanna discuss something else which doesn't bore you? Ask b for a thread -- or start your own blog.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 3:50 utc | 47

" Grau ist alle Theorie, nur das Business ist grün!"
(Karl Marx)

Posted by: Guthman Bey | Aug 22 2006 3:54 utc | 48

thanks, slothrop, for directing me back to the ecology book. bookchin writes

Scarcity is not merely a functional phenomenon that can be described primarily in terms of needs or wants. Obviously, without a sufficiency in the means of life, life itself is impossible, and without a certain excess in these means, life is degraded to a cruel struggle for survival, irrespective of the level of needs. Leisure time, under these conditions, is not free time that fosters intellectual advances beyond the magical, artistic, and mythopoeic.


Is is a time when hunger is the all-encompassing fear that persistently lives with the community, a time when the diminuation of hunger is the community's constant preoccupation. Clearly, a balance must be struck between a sufficiency of the means of life, a relative freedom of time to fulfill one's abilities on the most advanced levels of human achievement, and ultimately, a degree of self-consciousness, complementarity, and reciprocity that can be called truly human in full recognition of humanity's potentialities. Not only the funtional dictates of needs and wants but also a concept of human beings as more than "thinking animals" (to use Paul Shepard's expression) must be introduced to define what we mean by scarcity. ... The problems of needs and scarcity, in short, must be seen as a problem of selectivity - of choice [italics in original]

pity those poor savages who somehow managed to barely survive hand-to-mouth for thousands of years before the greeks came along, eh? methinks bookchin is a bit too ideologically rigid here & shapes history to fit his preconceptions. but that's another topic...

in the le speakeasy thread, i pointed out this article that appeared in znet the other day which nicely summarizes bookchin's contribution in a nutshell

Bookchin's rejection of Marxism as a philosophical and political programme, then, marked him off from other ex-Communists of the 1960s, and placed him firmly on the side of the anarchists. Here Bookchin would have stayed - in all probability, indistinguishable from many other anarchist critics - had it not been for the further dialectical development of his thought that occurred as the 1960s gave way to the 1970s. This development can be clearly traced through the two main conclusions Bookchin had reached thus far. First, if revolution was about the abolition of something much wider than class - i.e., hierarchy and domination - then the emergence of these conditions, and the path toward their amelioration, had to be justified and explained; just as Marx had outlined the origin of classes and the state, so Bookchin would have to explicate the emergence of hierarchy and domination. Second, as Bookchin had discounted the proletariat as an agent of revolutionary change, with what could it now be replaced? That is, if not the proletariat, what one factor or agent would be the primary drive toward revolution?

Both of these factors - the need to examine hierarchy and the need to find a replacement for the proletariat as revolutionary agent - would lead Bookchin to the same conclusion: to ecology. In the first instance, ecology would form the basis of Bookchin's critique of hierarchy: nowhere in the natural world could a similar system to the hierarchy that affected human society be found. Ranking systems amongst animals, yes; individual acts of aggression and domination by the strongest in animal groups, yes - but not the institutionalised and immutable system of hierarchy that develops in human societies. In the second instance, the fragility of the world ecology - i.e. of the world's ecosystem - brought almost to its knees by capitalism, would now be the main driver of revolutionary change. Humanity now had no choice of whether it wanted to overthrow capitalism or not (or of whether this could be delayed until a future time which would be more conducive to change) for its very survival depended on the immediate transcendence of capitalism. Under the Bookchin model, capitalism's grave diggers would arise not from the immizerisation of the proletariat, but from the immizerisation of the planet as a whole.

From the confluence of these two conclusions would emerge the complete Bookchin philosophy, that which he would call social ecology. And this confluence of conclusions would give his thought and proposed action a complete unity: for if capitalism was rendering the world uninhabitable, largely because of the existence of hierarchy and not solely economic exploitation, and if hierarchy can be shown to be unnatural, in that it is not found anywhere else in the natural world, then its dissolution must be worked for through an understanding of and adherence to the non-hierarchical laws of natural ecology. Here, Bookchin's thought comes full circle, and infuses every aspect of his output with a deep holism: the place society wants to get to has to be the place society tries to be now. This entails a re-working of every social structure, within the present society, to accord with laws of a non-hierarchical nature. Crucially though, this re-working must come from human society - the only repository of reflective ethics - and involve the active imposition of human values onto the natural world: an aspect of social ecology that would draw Bookchin into conflict with many ecocentrics in the ecology movement.

It is this overarching holism, this grand narrative of the planet as a whole - of human society within its wider ecology - which marks Bookchin off as a 'stand-out thinker' of the last 50 years. Bookchin's thrashing-out and professing of his vision is even more remarkable in light of the fact that over the same period we have seen the near total rejection of the concept of a 'grand narrative', in both the academic and activist world, in favour of a relativism, or an individualism, often as indefinable as it is unworkable. And the Bookchin narrative is as grand as any could be: the full reformation of the human condition to more fully accord with the non-hierarchical striving and growth found in a natural world. Bookchin was fully aware of the scope of his project, of its utopian nature. Indeed, he once wrote of the 'unabashed messianic character' of his work, of the striving toward defining an almost objective process toward a utopian freedom. But in keeping with his commitment to dialectic, the messianic Bookchin laid his theory open to the dialectical tension he 'valued the most': that between the reader of a book and the writer. In other words, his work was to be taken on by others, to be refined and re-worked.

while there are differences i have w/ many of bookchin's "presuppositions", i cannot disagree w/ the general thrust of his thinking. indigenous peoples have been trying to get this message out to us forever, so if it takes a dialectical approach couched in a particular lingo to reach one portion of the population. that's cool w/ me so long as it eventually gets around to the same grounded essence - it's always about the landbase. personally, i think that's an easier selling point to the public for dismantling the master's house/plantation, in terms of influencing changes in perception & attitudes re what we currently tolerate, than trying to convince a heavily-indoctrinated, self-centered citizenry of the importance of drawing meaningful distinctions between the eurocentric concepts of capitalism, socialism, & communism. it's a quite simple equation to work from - no local life-sustaining landbase, no future. and it benefits everyone - euro, non-euro, and non-human alike.

Posted by: b real | Aug 22 2006 4:11 utc | 49


Sorry you had trouble at LeSpeakeasy. I reset your password to your email domain name (8 letters, starts with "c"), try again and let me know...

Posted by: OkieByAccident | Aug 22 2006 5:46 utc | 50

I agree with your perceptions, b real.

Nice article. I shoulda just looked around and posted that instead of trying to express it far worse myself.

Crucially though, this re-working must come from human society - the only repository of reflective ethics - and involve the active imposition of human values onto the natural world: an aspect of social ecology that would draw Bookchin into conflict with many ecocentrics in the ecology movement.

I'm a little unsure of emphasis here, too; perhaps I also would have it the other way around. Or I would add a spiritual component to the mix: with all indigenous people, their behavior is based upon their spiritual outlook of the world -- where man resides within nature, not above it. When we lost that with the Abrahamic religions, we gained dominion over the world.* But that dominion has shown itself to be a cancer; capitalism is but one large and ugly external growth of that cancer. But the real disease, and its etiology, reside deeper within the spirit of man.

To put it in the language of the quote, human values must be derived from the natural world, not imposed onto it. That was what Bookchin was doing anyway when he sought to understand the world through ecology. That is the true scientific method.**

What we call the scientific method is yet another ugly outgrowth of the same spiritual pathology man suffers from, for it seeks to derive principles from experiments which are purposely isolated from the greater world. Hence the lessons learned are always used to dominate the world, not harmonize with it; and the products engineered from such a science, by their very conception, must be destructive of life.


* I won't categorically state that man lived in a completely sustainable state before this break, but I do argue that the break accelerated the process of unsustainablity exponentially. Earlier pantheistic, and panentheistic, and even polytheistic religions had god schema that were largely part of the world, not lording over it.

I might call my conception ecological communalism, or perhaps just communalism, since ecological, like health, is a word used more in its absence than presence. Once balance is reached and maintained, the word, and the concept it stands for, drop away.

** Where else can human values be derived, if not from the natural world? Once values are derived from the world, general principles of interaction, in harmony with those values, can then be developed which can govern our own interactions with the world. Otherwise, you run the risk of a value/world feedback loop. Along with this, concepts like Progress, as we currently understand it, must be radically reformed, so that instead of meaning getting somewhere else, it means better being able to be here. Anyway, it all gets very eastern mysticism influenced and I won't develop it any more here.


Anyway, why are we discussing all this? After all Marx said everything that was worth saying. Anything else is clearly misguided, irrelevant to class struggle, or in denial of Marx's grand theory of the world. Right?

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 6:19 utc | 51

Sloth: Yer dodging. Any claimed theory that states X is a function of E that adresses each problem E(y) does not equal observed_X by noting that
E(y) = observed_X+discard_all_false_consciousness is missing something. Marxist theory predicts that the working class will become class conscous and militant due to the inexorable operation of modern industry in "the most advanced states", but history got off the tracks of this theory in WWI. You cannot recover the theory by complaining that the fucking workers are too stupid to receive their blessed consciousness instead of going to football games and reading celebrity gossip. Stop smoking whatever Lind is smoking.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 22 2006 13:04 utc | 52

malooga- my preference would be to develop these ideas in our own voices, as you do, because this forces us to think thru these positions. also an advantage in that it offers us opportunity for spontaneous creative insights. i resort to cheating, so to speak, by relying too much on pasting/posting the already polished writing of others primarily b/c i often (1) find myself overwhelmed when trying to distill what's running thru my noggin' into a coherent, logical argument which then (2) leaves me short on an already limited time to actually say anything at all.

another contrast between bookchin & marx i'd like to find time to explore at some point is this idea of domination. conventional thinking was that man's domination of nature precipitated man's domination of man. (excuse the use of gender specificity, in a rush here). bookchin flipped that and says that first there was the domination of man by man, which then spread out to the idea that man could dominate the world around him. this is where bookchin draws a lot of his focus on human-centeredness, as a key to dissolving heirarchy. more when time permits.

Posted by: b real | Aug 22 2006 15:05 utc | 53

yesterday afternoon I wrote a long response to you circa post #17

we need strong global institutions of social security and succor now more than ever.

and then realized that I want to speak more compactly here. So, compactly, I see the reasonable quality of your concern that globalism may overwhelm any localist (Bookchin) approach. However, Bookchin raises quite nicely the problem for global institutions of security and succor of who will lead them, and who will make global institutions serve human interests rather than the capital game. I imagine you agree that the further away a honeypot gets from its contributors, the more likely it is to be raided. So, the discussion seems to reach a kind of impasse between Bookchinfs distrust of hierarchy and your distrust of solidarity atomised by localism.

Fair account?

Now, b real has put on the table the problem that I believe coordinates and "globalizes" Bookchin's localism, a planetary environmental crisis. It is to this crisis that I look to radicalize people of all classes, to make them realize in a thematically Hobbesian way that capitalism may ask us to keep playing M-C-M', but we are actually being brought to a state of nature, and so screw the rules, figure out how to live in a state of nature rather than rejecting that state. This seems to me to be a motivating factor pressing enough to break through the propaganda and the worshipping of charismatic leaders.

If I've followed the conversation here correctly, the WWI break in left politics was achieved via nationalism and war, developments that depend on the people ceasing to trust their own judgment and deciding to follow the leader. Bookchin, I submit, answers this by a localism in which people stop trusting the national and international leaders because none of them have protected us from environmental disaster (and Marxist analysis of the CAP game suggests that they cannot protect us because they follow the rules of the game).

It may not be possible to have your revolution, and have it be socially led as well. It may be that we have to trust to localism. What I would like to get to, via Bookchin, is the issue of how hierarchy breeds delusion because it breeds acceptance by the followers that it is okay for them to remain ignorant, that everything will be taken care of.

In the politics we experience today in the U.S., I think we are being informed by experience that it is not possible to have at one and the same time healthy politics and "followers."

Now, if that's right, then Bookchin's critique of authoritarian left politics, or any kind of vanguard politics, may have earned our listening. Because if the environmental crisis could coordinate all that localism, then we have reached a point where a key 20th century tactic - break left politics by scaring the people into following mass media-validated leaders - may stop working because people are becoming more afraid to trust their leaders than to defy them in local assemblies.

In such a world, global institutions of security and succor would not earn trust either. Not unless they run through localist networks of trust. Maybe citizen k would accept the place of false consciousness if we renamed it "lack of sales resistance." What I'm asking for from you is how you believe that a global (systemic) approach would work if - for the sake of discussion - the pathway to it is for people to acquire sales resistance to global/systemic 'solutions' to human needs?

Posted by: citizen | Aug 22 2006 15:08 utc | 54

Slan, Hezzie girl. And the racist horseshit you rode in on.

Posted by: gylangirl | Aug 22 2006 15:11 utc | 55


technologism, indigism, whatever neologism you invent for these "other conflicts" implicate class conflict. there are forms of conflict, racism & sexism, that endure every charitable construction of reality aiming for universal manumition; and these conflicts have been masterfully exploited by capital.

no. i think if anyone took the time to actually read marx, the complulsion to "transcend him" might seem foolish to any perspicacious reader.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 15:23 utc | 56

@ b Real,

thanks for the synopsis.

It seems to me that Marx, whom I've read, was good a describing the problem and Bookchin, whom I now intend to read, is good at describing a way out of it.

The hierarchical dilemma brings me back again to Eisler's transformation theory...

Posted by: gylangirl | Aug 22 2006 15:43 utc | 57

Marxist theory predicts that the working class will become class conscous and militant due to the inexorable operation

and the globalization of the prewar period ended in slaughter, and the realignment of national powers.

we're in the beginning of a similar realignment (better brush up on your kondretieff-cycles)--a conflagration of terror that will do little to restore the staus quo.

i know it's a drag to wander like orwell among the obdurate proles, ck, looking for revolutionary inspiration. but, nobody said it was going to be easy.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 16:06 utc | 58


bust em with your rhymes, g.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 16:07 utc | 59


reducing the commodification of life and restoring unity to the setrategic binaries associated w/ capital: head/hand, conception/creation, justice/rights, will limit the dehumanization brought about by reificatilon and "hierarchy." only institutional management of society on a global scale can achieve this goal. bookchin seems to have missed this, owing to his enormous and understandable distrust of authority.

but only authority can end authority. control is controled by its need to control.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 16:17 utc | 60


Posted by: gylangirl | Aug 22 2006 16:20 utc | 61

conventional thinking was that man's domination of nature precipitated man's domination of man.

I guess I am conventional in this case, and against Bookchin.

Though it could always be a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

But then we wouldn't have a "fall."

And all of human thinking is predicated upon a fall from grace.

The alternative is that we were, are, and always will be, evil.

Much better to have to find our way back to the garden...

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 18:00 utc | 62

It seems to me that Marx, whom I've read, was good a describing the problem and Bookchin, whom I now intend to read, is good at describing a way out of it.

Whether Bookchin is good at describing a solution is debatable -- which we are doing here. What is clearly true, was his courage in even attempting this. Minds like Chomsky would never dare tread so deep into the mass of thorns that is human society. Risky business, and very commendable.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 18:12 utc | 63

no. i think if anyone took the time to actually read marx, the complulsion to "transcend him" might seem foolish to any perspicacious reader.

I guess it's too bad that in all his 85 years, Bookchin, despite basing his life work on Marx, never quite got around to reading him. Maybe if he had lived another five years; or if he had been a more perspicacious reader. Same goes for all his students at the Institute for Social Ecology -- deluded morons, the whole lot. Well, I'm glad we've gotten that out of the way.

technologism, indigism, whatever neologism you invent for these "other conflicts" implicate class conflict. there are forms of conflict, racism & sexism, that endure every charitable construction of reality aiming for universal manumition; and these conflicts have been masterfully exploited by capital.

I lived in the Virgin Islands for seven years, and spent 4 of those years living exclusively among blue-collar black West Indians, most of whom had never left the West Indies. We worked shift work, so we had tons of time to talk when on the night shift. I found my co-workers to be unusually bright and far more discerning about the post-plantation mentality we worked under than statesiders were -- and this despite their lack of formal education.

But, there was one thing I never got past -- and that was their unyielding belief that the entire world was a conflict between black and white. They could only see reality through that prism. Not that it is an invalid prism: Skin color has played, and continues to play, a huge role in the history and politics of the Carribean. There were elaborate scales of gradation of hue, all possessing unique names -- "clear skin," "yellow skinned," "cinnamon," "mauby," "blue," and so many others. Initially, I would see myself as hanging out with a group of say, five, black guys. But, talking to one later, I learned that they all knew who was what gradation of color, and how they stacked up in relation to all the others. They also knew what color the parents were, and so on, back through time. When a particularly dark man, because of wealth or position, "married up" with a "high-colored" woman, a slight scandal rippled through the community -- and there was always talk about "what else" he might possess to capture such a treasure. Eventually, I caught on, and learned to instantly perceive these heretofore invisible gradations in color, and perceive how these differences played out subtly in social interactions.

I saw the importanced that color played in that society, but I could never bring myself to endow pigmentation with the primacy that my West Indian friends did. This was at the time of the OJ trial, so you could imagine what an uproar that caused. If we, for instance, were discussing two politicians and their actions, say Condi Rice and Colin Powell, all decisions and their implications would be ascribed to skin color, and how that affected how they related to the "white man." Do you even know which of the two is darker, and how many shades darker, and what color both of their parents were? I do. I pick this stuff up instantly and unconsciously now because I learned from my time in St. Croix.

But everything, all social relations, were reduced to black and white, as if nothing else ever mattered at all. If you tried to throw your theories at them, it would be because white people have money and blacks don't, despite the numerous exceptions to this rule.

My own skin color -- I'm Jewish, but with enough pigmentation that in the Carribean sun I can pass for Mexican or Puerto Rican -- was also endlessly discussed. It was finally decided that I must have black blood in my past, which I was unaware of, accounting for my pigmentation -- this is how I was finally rendered safe for friendship. If I attempted to discuss the Levant and the pigmentation of people from around there, it was instantly reduced to black and white.

If I brought up the fact that over 1/4 of the world, up to two billion people were East Asian with yellow skin and "oriental" features, first off, the magnitude of the numbers was dismissed. Then it was posited, without any evidence, that all relations in that part of the world were also based on skin hue. And that Asians were really "white" people because they weren't black. (No, there were no Cubans in the bunch. Being familiar with Chinese, they would never come to such a conclusion.)

So, I finally came to accept that that was how the world appeared to my friends down there. And I can similarly accept that class is your singular lens and that is how the world appears to you. But it would sure be fun to throw you guys together on a slow night shift and hear you thrash it out.

Oh, and I forgot the other group, the Pentacostals, who, despite their high school reading levels, interpreted the bible literally, and believed that only their small church of less than one hundred people on this one small isolated island in the Carribean interpreted the bible correctly; and that everyone else in the world was going to hell. That crowd, dear slothrup, would rip you to shreds.


In light of your failure to defend your point of view with anything but the most cryptic of scribblings -- scribblings which wouldn't even enable me to fill a prescription from a friendly pharmacy -- I am forced into making your case.

So I went to the website of Bertell Ollman, a guy I've interviewed and like and respect, and perhaps the most renowned Marxist academic in the US, and found this Marxist rebuttal of Bookchin and Alpert:

In defense of Marxism

Z Magazine
(May 1989)

Dear ZETA,
"Reduces everything to an economic cause?" Marxism? (Spleen, Z, March) Overemphasizes, misunderstands, distorts economics—maybe. This we can argue over. But "reduces everything...", well, that's simply kid stuff. While the claim that we can find in Marxist logic the various "statist, economic, sexual, cultural and social ills" of the socialist bloc is pure rehash of the French "New Philosophers," anti-socialist all, and unworthy of a radical publication.

So why is comrade Mike Albert saying these god-awful things, even while throwing the occasional bouquet to those—like this writer—who continue to work with the Marxist tradition? James O'Connor did and admirable job (April Z) in responding to Albert's (and Murray Bookchin's—April, Z) charges in the field of ecology, but the distortions of Marxism that underlay these charges deserves a more extended treatment.

First, and most important, Albert and Bookchin seriously misconstrue the nature of Marx's subject, what he was studying, and consequently what most of his theories are about. According to Albert and Bookchin (and, of course, they aren't alone in this), Marxism is about society, each and every society and the rules that govern them. Viewed in this manner, capitalism is but Marx's most important illustration for the working out of these rules. The truth, however, is the other way around. Marx's major theories deal essentially with capitalism, with how it works, for whom it works better and for whom it works worse, where it has come from and where it seems to be heading. Certain generalizations can be lifted from this effort, to which Marx devoted the greater part of his writings, and used to help us understand non-capitalist societies and non-social phenomena, but we should not wonder at the incomplete character of such accounts. Marx's theories, for example, cannot adequately explain the origins of patriarchy or the function of religion, nationalism, racism, sexism and the workings of the economy in non-capitalist class societies, or the carry over of these functions and some of their effects into the capitalist period—nor should we expect them to. (Marx's dialectical method, on the other hand, can prove very helpful in extending our understanding to these areas).

Secondly, as regards capitalism, Marx's theories are chiefly concerned with mapping an evolving context that establishes both the broad limits and variety of possibilities (stressing what is most likely) for what can go on in it. This analysis is constructed for the most part out of two overlapping accounts, that of capital accumulation (the growth and development of the means by which wealth is produced in our era) and that of class struggle (the history of the accompanying social relations). The emphasis on economic conditions is due to the fact that what is most distinctive about this context is of an economic nature, though this must be understood in a very broad sense. (This is what Albert caricatures as Marx's "productivist bias").

Third, as a dialectical thinker, Marx cannot offer any factor, no matter how important, as a first or only cause. Whatever is treated as having a major or special effect, and these are usually—though not always—economic conditions and events, they themselves are never wholly isolated from the broader conditions out of what they arose and which continue to act and interact alongside them. (This is what Albert caricatures as "reductivism"). The trick, of course, is to sacrifice neither that multiplicity of causes for whatever deserves greater or special emphasis (as vulgar economic determinists often do) or the latter for the former (as like Albert and some other social movement theorists do).

Fourth, the various non-class dominations of special concern to social movements people have both capitalist and non-capitalist components. Marxist inspired revolutions, therefore, cannot be expected to completely eradicate any of them, at least in the short run. So why should people involved in the social movements be interested in Marxism?

Well—because most of them/us are also workers (white collar as well as blue collar), and Marxism is invaluable in helping to develop a strategy that serves their/our interests as workers. Because the other forms of domination from which they/we suffer all have a capitalist component, and Marxism best explains it. Because even those parts of these oppressions that are older than capitalism have acquired a capitalist form and function, so that a Marxist analysis of capitalism is required to distinguish what is historically specific in their operation from what is not. And, lastly, because overturning capitalism is the necessary (though not sufficient) condition for doing away with all forms of domination, including domination over nature, and only a class conscious working class has the numbers (still), the power (potentially), and the interests (always) to bring about a change of this magnitude. Hence, the priority Marxists give to class analysis and class based politics (which does not rule out organizing around other oppressions at specific times for specific purposes). The priority given to class here (not to "the workers" but to "us as workers") has nothing to do with who is hurting more or which form of oppression is more immoral or which dominated group happens to be in motion, and everything to do with what is the adequate framework and vantage point for grasping the specific manner in which all these oppressions are interacting now and how best to get rid of them all. (And this is what Albert caricatures as a "master discourse").

I do not expect that simply making these claims has convinced anyone that they are right, but I hope they help clarify where the real disagreements between Marxist and social movement theorists lie, and, hence, what is worth discussing if we are ever to construct the united movement that is needed to achieve our—yes!—common goals.

Bertell Ollman

Bookchin was a social movement theorist, you are a Marxist. Were you able to, even with a minimum level of cogency, put forth even one of these four caveats to the all-encompassing nature of Marxism, I might find an interchange with you useful and learn something. Your failure to do this speaks louder that your unalloyed faith.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 19:50 utc | 64

I agree completely w/ ollman there. he says in 500 words what i have said in 50. thanks for restoring my faith in marx there, malooga.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 20:21 utc | 65

he says in 500 words what i have said in 50
I guess that's why he's a tenured professor, and you're a...slothrup.

You did not elucidate any of those caveats.

I, obviously, am more of a social movement theorist. The wierdest part of this debate is that the level of agreement between the two camps is probably about 90%. It is only the other 10% which is fought over. That is to say, both groups acknowledge the importance, even the primacy of Marx. But you guys reduce eveything to that, while we guys allow for other influences.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 22 2006 20:42 utc | 66

watch out how many influences you allow malooga. too many and you won't have any theory left.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 22 2006 21:28 utc | 67

Fuck Theory, Sloth.

Just said it in 3.

Posted by: Hezzie Grrl | Aug 22 2006 22:42 utc | 68

Wm. Lind is Much worse than the above article illustrates. In fact, he's so far out there, that doesn't even have this piece of his, lest he lose all credibility.

Of course, like all real conservatives, I am a monarchist. The universe is not a republic. My specific attachment to the House of Hohenzollern grew as I began to comprehend the Prussian/German way of war, and its vast difference from the Franco/American approach. ...


Thus, when Americans and Europeans wonder today how and why the West lost its historic culture, morals and religion, the ultimate answer is the Allied victory in 1918. Again, the fact that World War I occurred is the greatest disaster. But once that had happened, the last chance the West had of retaining its traditional culture was a victory by the Central Powers. The question should not be why I, as a cultural conservative, remain loyal to the two Kaisers, Wilhelm II and Franz Josef, but how a real conservative could do anything else.The Prussian Monarchy Stuff

Hard to believe someone pays this clown for his thoughts!!

Posted by: jj | Aug 23 2006 1:04 utc | 69


Relax a bit. Taste the snark and smell the coffee.

Posted by: Hezzie Grrl | Aug 23 2006 1:45 utc | 70

@Hezzie Grrl:

On reconsideration, I want to partially apoligise to you for my outburst last night.

As I haven't seen many of your posts before, and you gave no indication that there was any snark involved in your post, I could not tell the spirit in which you were posting your article.

I read through 12 paragraphs of a 28 paragraph column which you posted where all he does is rant about how feminists think all of Shakespeare is about the oppresion of women, and similar red herrings. Then, I asked myself, "Why am I reading this shit?," and stopped. It turns out that in the next paragraph, he begins his history -- which, while grossly slanted and distorted -- is still recognizable.

Still, while the post is relevant to a discussion of Marxism, per se, it is only tangential at best to a diiscussion of Bookchin's work, and to citizen's post.

I guess I'm tired of every political discussion being hijacked by rigid ideological Marxists who shut down all other avenues of pursuit like Nazi stormtroopers. This has not happened here at Moon, but it has happened at ather places I frequented. There are plenty of Marxist blogs out there, if one get's a jonesin' to rant about Marx. I follow the discussions and sometimes post at "Lenin's Tomb," and learn from the discussions there.

But, as I've said before, I think people who believe that the world should be led by a small select cadre of revolutionary vanguards, as Avakian and slothrup believe, to be as dangerous as the neo-con students of Strauss, like Wolfowitz, who believe the same thing.

I'm sure if slothrup and others wanted a Marxist thread where you guys could talk about the authors you like all you want, b would give you one. But no one asked for one. Instead, slothrup uses this thread to grouse about it.

But, I was excited by the opportunity to discuss Bookchin and his contributions with people I respect. If you want to disagree with his work and show why that's fine -- that's what the thread is for.

But if you want to hijack the thread to snark or bark about Marxism (Which for Marxists is NEVER off topic), then you are trolling.

I realize that you posted what you did with an innocent heart, and that is why I am apologizing. It is only partial because of the reasons I detail above about hijacking. OT threads can be about anything. This was suppossed to be somewhat focused.

Perhaps I've been reading too much Angry Arab lately, and I've seen what unmoderated commenting can do to a good thing. (Try plowing through 200 ethnic slurs to get to one useful comment.) I just don't want to see this place become like that.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 23 2006 3:57 utc | 71

A Little Clarity: Revolution = Commodity Form stymied

According to Albert and Bookchin (and, of course, they aren't alone in this), Marxism is about society, each and every society and the rules that govern them. Viewed in this manner, capitalism is but Marx's most important illustration for the working out of these rules. The truth, however, is the other way around. Marx's major theories deal essentially with capitalism, with how it works, for whom it works better and for whom it works worse, where it has come from and where it seems to be heading.

I disagree with Bertell, but maybe I haven't read enough of Bookchin yet. In the piece we are discussing, however, Bookchin never claims anything like this. In fact, he is very specific about Marx's analysis of a capitalist class system proceeding out of a feudal class system. He furthermore refers to Marxist analysis as specific to the 19th century. So Bertell seems to be confused, referring to something else we're not reading here, or deceitful.

I'm curious why you agreed with Bertell given that he blithely smears Bookchin as being too stupid to understand that Marx's analysis of Marx is historically specific - an accusation refuted by the very text we are looking at.

Third, as a dialectical thinker, Marx cannot offer any factor, no matter how important, as a first or only cause. . . . The trick, of course, is to sacrifice neither that multiplicity of causes for whatever deserves greater or special emphasis (as vulgar economic determinists often do) or the latter for the former (as like Albert and some other social movement theorists do).

I don't disagree, but neither is there much point in agreeing. This doesn't help understand much. What might be clarifying is to point out that Marx begins his big book of analyzing capitalism with the commodity form, and then he keeps dialectically developing social logics from the commodity form for three volumes. His notes in the Grundrisse end with the commodity form too, and at that point he seems to have settled on how to write the whole analysis. So, sure, no mono-cause, but rather clarity for those reading (including movement activists such as Marx once was) is certainly not something Marx himself abhorred.

As Ollman says, Marx never specified how the revolution was supposed to occur exactly, but he's pretty damn clear that as long as everything unfolds from the commodity form, we're still in a capitalist game, still a world dominated by creation of commodities in a cycle of making money, M-C-M'. Which brings us back to Bookchin.

Bookchin actually does suggest a way to eradicate the commodity form as the basis of social rules/games: he points to a revolutionary consciousness developing among people who see their entire bio-world threatened with death, cancer, and reproductive horror. Nothing Ollman says suggests even the slightest argument about how fear of death by pollution would not equally fulfill Marx's broad predictions for how revolution might overthrow the complex game evolved via commodity form and its developments. So, although I appreciate Malooga's attempt to clarify slothrop, I don't think Ollman helps.

I don't really get everything slothrop is saying, but I wonder if he and I could agree that Bookchin can be fair-mindedly accused of not doing what all good dialectical thinkers should do - specifically to justify his solution not merely by its possibility as a solution, but to justify his approach by 1) supporting its own argument, and 2) simultaneously explaining why his opponents will fail to agree with him. This is the great achievement that Marx pulled off and one that, I think, offers slothrop solid justififcation for cleaving to a Marxixst technical vocabulary.

I cannot say that Bookchin has been as exhaustive as Marx, but neither am I a competent judge of Bookchin's more detailed theory. I do see, however, that Bookchin has used his approach to nature not only to structure his acocunt of revolution, but also to explain how domination and hierarchy will destroy all the apparently more efficient approaches to revolution nominated by revolutionary authoritarians such as slothrop suggests he may be in #60. With Bookchin, I submit that revolutionary authoritarianism historically ends in reaction rather than freedom. Bookchin's constantly open municipal assemblies, however, promise rule and a democratic rule, not mere anarchy, and so might even satisfy slothrop, if such assemblies could remain free from subversion.

But that may be a movement problem, not a theoretical one. Or is someone suggesting that environmental threats cannot, in theory, overcome capitalist determinations?

Posted by: citizen | Aug 23 2006 4:17 utc | 72

2) simultaneously explaining why his opponents will fail to agree with him

should read

2) simultaneously explain how his opponents will make their own arguments (this is the real origin of so-called "false consciousness" theories).

Posted by: citizen | Aug 23 2006 4:26 utc | 73

I appreciate your thoughts, citizen.

I think we are missing the basic point of a very simple article. Rather than discussing the entire Marxist vision(s) vs the Bookchin vision, when few of us are qualified to make this assessment, let's go back to the article at hand.

In the article, Bookchin is making one simple but fundamental claim: that the revolution, as predicted by Marx, and in the form predicted by Marx, has not happened, and will not happen, and he explains why.

Nothing that slothrup has put forth has addressed this claim in any substantive way. Neither can I find this fairly obvious predictive flaw in Marixst theory directly addressed in Ollman's writings on his website.

Ollman does say something very helpful: Marxism, as Bookchinism, and other predictive visions for the future fall under the category of utopian visions. He adds (in the final footnote of the link below):

A final word on the sources of Marx's vision of communism: having as my main purpose to reconstruct this vision and believing that it is internally related to Marx's analysis of capitalism, I have purposely omitted all mention of the Utopian socialists. Yet, there is no question but that Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Owen in particular exercised an important influence on Marx. They have been left out of this paper because I distinguish between those ideas which brought Marx to that analysis of capitalism and history we call 'Marxism' and the somewhat similar views which exist as a part of this analysis. The Utopians' vision of the future, operating as some kind of ethical ideal because it stands outside of what is understood of man and society, contributed to Marx's early political stance and clearly influenced the direction of his studies. Once Marx's analysis reached the point where he could project the real possibilities inherent in capitalist society, however, the logical status of such views changed from being the independent principle or ideal in an ethical system to being an integral (if still to be realized) part of the real world. The same analysis resulted in a sifting and refocusing of whatever notions Marx inherited on communism in line with newly discovered possibilities. Lacking such an analysis, the Utopians could only serve up a mixture of dreams, intuitions and fond hopes. If it is necessary to study Utopians, therefore, in order to understand how Marx came to Marxism, including its vision of the future, the same study may actually distort what these ideas are and confuse rather than help our efforts to judge them.

That "still to be realized" caveat, so blithely handled, has proved to be the weak link in any Marxist claims to be more than just another imagined social utopia. As it is this weakness that Bookchin, with the ruthlessness of a chess Grand Master, exploits.

Ollman concludes with this: this:

There is really only one way to evaluate Marx's vision of communism and that is to examine his analysis of capitalism to see if the communist society is indeed present within it as an unrealized potential. If Marx sought, as he tells us, "to find the new world through the criticism of the old," then any judgment of his views on communism rests in the last analysis on the validity of his critique of capitalism. This is not the place for the extensive examination that is required but I would like to offer three guidelines to those who would undertake it: 1) capitalism must be conceptualized in terms of social relations, Marx's way of incorporating the actual past and future possibilities of his subject into his study of its present forms (this is the logical basis of Marx's study of history, including future history, as a process); 2) a Marxist analysis of today's capitalism should be integrated into Marx's analysis of late 19th century capitalism (the social relations from which projections are made must be brought up to date); and 3) one should not try to show that communism is inevitable, only that it is possible, that it is based on conditions inherent in the further development of our present ones. After all, communism is hardly ever opposed because one holds other values, but because it is said to be an unrealizable ideal. In these circumstances, making a case for communism as a possible successor to capitalism is generally enough to convince people that they must help to bring it about.

So, we must ask ourselves: "Is Marxism possible?" Has Bookchin proved Marxism to be impossible, or merely highly unlikely? Is Bookchin's vision possible? If both are possible, which is more likely and why, and which is more desireable? Which description is more complete and predictive? If neither are possible, is there another vision which is possible and worth striving towards?

We must ruthlessly and honestly distinguish between imagined realities, desired realities, possible realities, probable or likely realities, and our present reality. Then we must pick a future reality, defend our choice by successfully answering the questions above, and chart a path towards that reality.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 23 2006 14:48 utc | 74


nice post. let's put some mustard on this bitch. bookchin's detachment from marx, explained in the piece you linked, was inspired by revulsion to party politics and the reproduction of hirerarchy in the movement. the justification for communalism/anarchy is worked out in a complex way in the ecology opus by deriving a moral basis of human interaction. the need to find foundational morality is important to bookchin in order to justify (de)hierarchization and reification. it's not surprising bookchin finds in the young marx the kind of inspiration he needs: that of "species-being" --the inherent compulsion of human interaction in the creation of things.

well, marx later dumps this formulation for the scientific analysis of capital. why? because the logic of capitalist development occurs very much in spite of whatever tacit morality is said the survive commodification. this is to say the structural constraints on agency determine the scope of human moral responses to the catastrophe of commodification and the "thingificatiion of people." even in habermas, communicative interaction, this moral basis of interaction in language, is profoundly "distorted" by money and administrative power.

well, bookchin says institutions/structure be damned. the latency of moral cooperation, for so long distorted by capital, will restore in universal practice what has been denied and reconfigured by all hierarchized management.

this is naive because what bookchin demands as a fact about being-in-itself as moral cooperation, is, as b real alludes to above, massively contradicted by precapitalist civilizations, not to mention the ongoing comnstruction of agency oriented to continuous commodification and irrational acquistion. rather, as can be consistently demonstrated, only global institutional arrangements of justice not based on private production can hope to create a form of life whose moral compulsion for coooperative interaction is guaranteed by the law. this, of course, is the opposite of anarchism.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 23 2006 15:59 utc | 75

we must pick a future reality

there are many of those at walmart.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 23 2006 16:02 utc | 76

just "pick" a movement.

bourgeois to the core.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 23 2006 16:05 utc | 77

Thanks for interesting posts. Have my week-end reading cut out for me, heh?

I like concrete examples::

One cotton sweater, made in Bangladesh and sold in the West for 100:

-to worker - less than 1

-indirectly to worker (insurance, unemployment, retirement, subsidised canteen, etc.) - 0

-to Western Gvmt. VAT and other tax, between 7 and 35 (can be even much more in some cases, as the importer is taxed on his profits)

-to Bangladeshi Gvmt. ? Exporter is taxed, but not much?

-to Bangladeshi exporter: 20 - 30 at least, maybe more, but pays for raw materials, etc.

-to Western importer and retail chain - remainder. Average of about 50. (?)

Energy costs of getting sweater from A to B are split up along the line and hard to calculate.

How much do Western Gvmts. give in ‘aid’ to Bangladesh? Per sweater? My calculator gave up the ghost....literally at that moment...

(from trawling the internet.)

There are no guns pointed at the workers, B. is just a marginalised, poor state, subject to In’tl domination, pressure, those other guns. And a local bizness class that sees its way to making big profits and no doubt cuddling up to the Gvmt in whatever way. Or becoming part of it. No mysteries there.

Posted by: Noirette | Aug 23 2006 17:55 utc | 78

For what it's worth, thanks for starting this thread.

Looks like not too many care to comment over at LeS( Login problems? It is a good forum site with nice features like private email once registered.

To the topic, my question citizen is in regards to my personal distaste for working in the explicit capitalist world. As a famous outlaw answered when asked why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money is." Does Bookchin shed any light on my revulsion of hierarchical organizations?

It's a serious question, although I'm not yet well-informed by the text.

It is great to read the comments above, with discursions and even a longer post by slothrop. sloth, I appreciate your longer explanations because the language of [economic theory? Marxism?] is way, I mean way over my head. We are looking for illumination and I appreciate any glimmer.

Going back to read the original thread at LeS.

While I'm at it I can recommed Rowan's comments on that thread as well, including "However, the relative ease of travel and especially communication with cheap long distance/cell phone and of course, the Internet, has created the idea of connection and roots where there are aren't really. It seems easy to move away from one's family because it's so easy to get in touch with them, but the getting in touch loses its specialness. Just because you can call at any time doesn't mean you will, and might mean you do it less."

Something which I agree with, although my take is that the instant communication belies the fact that you are still so many miles away, and with or without a phone/web connection/reliable mail system etc. you are still hours or days from any physical aid or comfort, even visiting.

Posted by: jonku | Aug 24 2006 9:53 utc | 79

log-in problems. hope to fix soon.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 24 2006 15:27 utc | 80

going back to citizen's original post, it's instructive to see how we measured collectively on this challenge
I wanted to start with "Listen, Marxist!" because so many at MOA clearly identify with the left, and I want to discuss what it means to identify and ‘steer’ left. I am grateful to Bookchin for putting so clearly that "appearing" left is a disaster. For Bookchin, nothing was to be idolized, and especially not ones politics. Politics are to be worked out in dialog, and that can never be done honestly when one wants to appear to know all the answers.

in terms of steering, we've apparently not even managed to make it out of the parking lot. pulled off a few donuts before the vehicle ran out of gas. maybe someone needs to get out and push.

allow me to bring in an idea from gramsci, as he too put a lot of thought into culture, revolution & how to bring about the radical transformation of capitalist society.

Creating a new culture does not only mean one's own individual 'original' discoveries. It also, and most particularly, means the diffusion in a critical form of truths already discovered, their 'socialisation' as it were, and even making them the basis of vital action, an element of co-ordination and intellectual and moral order. For a mass of people to be led to think coherently and in the same coherent fashion about the real present world, is a 'philosophical' event far more important and 'original' than the discovery by some philosophical 'genius' of a truth which remains the property of a small group of intellectuals. [selections from the prison notebooks]

i believe that the encroaching environmental predicaments, increasingly unavoidable, will be that catalyst for coherent thinking and action of mass numbers of the population. in my opinion, bookchin is more relevant than marx in this respect. we need to find solutions beyond basic economic relations & materialism. those are relatively recent concepts. capitalism may be one resilient mf'er, but only b/c we consent its domination over us. depending on what happens w/ the climate & the environment, that institution may become irrelevant. the proposition of just being renders our illusory desires of gaining obsolete. really, it's insane to waste efforts going down a path that seeks to perfect the industrial culture that is killing us. our civilization does quite well at redistributing inequality, death & violence.

what's worth exploring is a model for mutualism for our species. communalism, as bookchin labels it. how do we organize our communities to promote sustainability and realize our potentials? i haven't read enough of his work yet to know how appealing or practical his model is. this is a direction i would like to see our studies move toward. this is not to propose that bookchin's work is the answer we've all been looking for, but he does put down some good soil for generating wothwhile discussions. it's up to us to come up w/ the ideas for action.

Posted by: b real | Aug 26 2006 3:40 utc | 81


Are you still having LS Log-in problems? Did my email reach you? Let me know...

Posted by: OkieByAccident | Aug 26 2006 4:22 utc | 82

malooga- here's some of what bookchin has to say on the role of the domination of human by human shaping our current relationship w/ nature

The notion that man is destined to dominate nature is by no means a universal feature of human culture. If anything, this notion is almost completely alien to the outlook of so-called primitive or preliterate communities. I cannot emphasize too strongly that the concept emerged very gradually from a broader social development: the increasing domination of human by human. The breakdown of primordial equality into hierarchical systems of inequality, the disintegration of early kinship groups into social classes, the dissolution of tribal communities into the city, and finally the usurpation of social administration by the State - all profoundly altered not only social life but also the attitude of people toward each other, humanity's vision of itself, and ultimately its attitude toward the natural world. In many ways, we are still agonized by the problems that emerged with these sweeping changes. Perhaps only by examining the attitudes of certain preliterate peoples can we guage the extent to which domination shapes the most intimate thoughts and the most minute actions of the individual today.

there still are communities that live in a mutual relationship w/ the natural world, working w/ it, not over it. so i think it's incorrect to say that the human desire to exert dominance over nature led to the desire to then dominate other humans.

also, there are plenty of cosmologies out there that do not assume a "fall". native american creation stories that i've read quite clearly stress the human role in the interrelationship of species - or peoples - and the natural world. all my relations. there is no concept of introducing sin into the world or need to return to a mythical land. it's right here, right now. but these are the cosmologies of land-based peoples. different than the experiences of the peoples who wrote the old/new testament.

Posted by: b real | Aug 26 2006 5:22 utc | 83

Is it reasonable to vision a society where Marx's goals are achieved without a class struggle.

No and Yes.

First the No. From the Eurocentric standpoint, the powers of control, ownership & disposition of wealth rests with the individual. This is much less a political or economic feature than it is a cultural feature learnt from birth. Hence overcoming the incumbent thinking indicates class struggle.

Next the Yes. There have been and there still are societies (not all of which are primitive) that traditionally embrace the notion of communal wealth. Again this is culture learned from birth. In these societies, the individual who creates and/or controls wealth may be guided by the belief that he/she is the custodian (for the community) and not the titled owner in the Eurocentric sense.

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Aug 26 2006 6:23 utc | 84


The problem I have is that I don't have email at the present on my dying computer. I will try to remedy this, but I can't say when.

@b real:

I will try to repy substantively later today.

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 26 2006 14:38 utc | 85


If you would like, the quick thing to try is to reset your pasword and see if that helps. I emailed you with a new password the other day but of course that didn't reach you. If we planned a time, I could post a password in the Bookchin thread at LS, then immediately delete it.

Posted by: OkieByAccident | Aug 26 2006 15:50 utc | 86

how 'bout right now?

Posted by: Malooga | Aug 26 2006 15:54 utc | 87

I will head over and do it!

Posted by: OkieByAccident | Aug 26 2006 16:24 utc | 88


thanks for the notice. It's a subject near and dear to my heart, but it might have suffered from bad timing.

Posted by: Rowan | Aug 26 2006 19:22 utc | 89

Had to leave to engage in the class struggle. Sloth, you and Ollman are engaging in the marxist bait-and-switch, but Marx is not Marxism. By citing Marx you get to bring up the Young Marx or the Marx of the famous letter to Engels where he sez he has had enough of this "economic shit" and indicate there is more to marxism than the clockwork mechanicalism of economic determinism. Then you switch back to the claims of scientific precision when convenient. But the fact remains that Marx at multiple times CLAIMED to have discovered a predictive science and that you, like other disciples, claim that "economics is determinative to first approximation."

Bookchin is, as you note, primarily reacting against the authoritarian reactionary quality of the Marxist parties and their "vanguard" mentality - one which can easily be explained by the class basis of the Marxist parties. But independent of that, we have the simple fact that Marxism, whatever Ollman says, fails as a tool for understanding how history works because (a) it is economic reductionism and (b) Marx and his fellows failed to fully comprehend how much the advance of capital would make "melt away" because they assumed that the european middle class 19th century culture in which they were embedded was bedrock. The huge social conflicts of the last 60 years in the US over race and gender clearly result from the melting away process as, for example, the culturally assumed role of women disintegrates under assault of the wage system. Marx and Engels at times realized that the glorious proletariat in the "advanced nations" was not behaving and evolving as predicted, but "Marxism" has not accomodated to that. In the 19th century, Marx and others realized that history is not a succession of battles and great men, it takes place within a context of dynamically changing economic system. But the Marxists took that insight and, in their terminology, fetished it - claiming to have discovered the key to all mysteries and, as one might expect from simple class analysis, the class of professors who followed marxism created a guild system of obscure terminology and pseudo-science that ensconced themselves as the authoritative oracles.

To me, the crticical role of "crisis" and "false consciousness" in Marxist formulations is just bad faith. If, as Marx usually claimed, the process of historical development is a series of inexorable stages that brought the bourgeois to power over the feudal lords and would bring the proletariat to power over the capitalists, the "consciousness" of the participants should be irrelevant as they march down the roads that have been created for them to march down. In the end, what we get from Marx (and the others who were disappeared as the Marxist professors tried to wall themselves off from competition) is an idea that is powerful - an idea that class interests can subordinate national interests and that the dynamics of class and money must be understood to understand why our capitalist society develops as it does. But that's just a start. To hold onto the poverty of theory and simply correct for bad results by postulating miracles is to retreat to Creation Science.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 26 2006 21:03 utc | 90

Noirette writes: "There are no guns pointed at the workers, ", but that is not correct. Bangladesh, like many other poor societies is violent from the familiy where uppity women who defy the religious structure are beaten to death,to the village where mullahs and landlords work in perfect harmony with gangsters, to the national stage where armies and police sit on the lid, to the international stage where vig from Bangladesh's debt is collected without debate.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 26 2006 21:15 utc | 91

One of the most important points in Bookchin's essay is the role of "marxism' in suppressing dissent. Like antibodies directed at an infection, the marxists surround any new movement and poison it with their rhetoric, schisms, authoritarianism, and their discredited agenda. Look at ANSWER during the buildup to Iraq.

and sloth, that does not mean one has to reject the insights of Marx's work.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 26 2006 23:50 utc | 92


Agree totally.

Posted by: Ms Manners | Aug 27 2006 1:04 utc | 93

the role of "marxism' in suppressing dissent.

i'll ignore you as scathing exegete of marxism's occasinally stultifying demagoguery, which proves nothing whatsoever about "marxism," and prefer instead your followup there about marxism's value of analysis of what ails us all, which is what marxism is, after all.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 27 2006 18:33 utc | 94

I have enjoyed this thread, but at the moment I can offer nought but banana oil.

Posted by: | Aug 27 2006 20:13 utc | 95

that was me with the banana oil

Posted by: a sweidsh kind of death | Aug 27 2006 20:14 utc | 96

hehe skod

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 27 2006 22:08 utc | 97


Banana Oil has many uses. Lubricants, flavorings, paint thinners, this and that.

I doubt that it will ever have the same alternative fuel potential as sugar cane does, in Latin America.

Liked the Toon.

Posted by: Ms Manners | Aug 28 2006 1:23 utc | 98

Sloth people who study what they claim to be the internal "essential" meaning of phenomena are called mystics. Bookchin is not arguing about the "essence" of Marxism, he is arguing about the actual behavior of marxist organizations.

Posted by: citizen k | Aug 28 2006 1:30 utc | 99

no he's not. bookchin argues for foundational morality of human interaction and cooperation akin to marx's species-being.

marxism ought not care about morality, humanisms, essence, only the general motion of capital accumulation that rips people off and destroys the environment.

Posted by: slothrop | Aug 28 2006 2:28 utc | 100

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