[OPE-L] GPM, "Critica al neomarxista Samir Amin"

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Dec 03 2007 - 14:49:29 EST

Another thought about this, making it more explicit. Suppose you consider yourself an orthodox Marxist, then if somebody said you were a neo-Marxist you would reject that, you'd be annoyed, you would say "I am just a Marxist, the genuine article, no neo nothing". 

But what is the importance of all these labels anyway? John Holloway does not want to be compared with Ulrich Beck, and I learnt my lesson there. Actually, generally in life I found it's best not to compare persons at all, except abstractly in social statistics and/or with reference to a common characteristic they share, not the persons as a whole. And it's best not to label yourself unless there is a specific issue of where you stand, or what you are about. 

Personally I regard myself as a socialist still interested in Marx, but in fact there are all kinds of socialists, and with some of them, well, I would agree about more things with a left-liberal or libertarian than I would agree with them. Which is to say, the labels per se are not very helpful, other than signifying a broad orientation. The only definition of yourself that really matters is the definition that you make yourself in your own real life, what you (can) live by yourself. So personally I do not insist on a label, I am more interested in the meanings and actions of the person behind the label. It would be nice to think that we could label everything correctly and uncontroversially, but in real life it's more complicated. Sinead O'Connor had this very popular song, "Nothing compares 2U" but look what happened to her, I don't want to go there, I mean I respect her, but I don't want to go there.

The Dutch SP leader Jan Marijnissen, basically a sincere and honest man, no matter how dirty politics might get, gave a speech in Flanders a while ago in which he explained his own socialist stance: "I have to inform you that I rarely call myself a socialist. I find it too pretentious, but also uncomfortable, because it pigeon-holes me. And not everyone has the same opinion as to the contents of this 'pigeon-hole'. I don't think either that 'socialists' are a better kind of people. But also, it isn't what you say that determines what you do but, in my view, what you are.  But for this occasion, here at the Gent Festivals, I will gladly make an exception and explain what I understand by the terms socialism and socialist." Complete translation:  http://www.international.sp.nl/news/070717_speech_marijnissen.shtml

There would be quite a few members of the SP who do not share all of his idea, but they share enough of his idea, that they want to be a member of the SP, and actively defend ordinary people against the attacks on their way of life. Because they understand, that in the commercial world, if you give a finger, sooner or later they want to take the hand, and if you give a hand, they sooner or later want to take the whole arm. It's about the money, the revenue stream. It is a question of power and influence ultimately, and if you don't stand up for yourself, it's "tough luck mate, you only have yourself to blame". These people say, "we've blamed ourselves enough, but all that happens is that our lives get worse and worse, and we have to do something." There has also been quite a racist "tide" in Holland in recent years (in terms of popular mood) with new rightwing parties forming, and now there are a lot of people willing to form a broad anti-racist front. It is not so much that they think racism is bad "in general", but that racism is bad "in particular", i.e. they can see the pernicious effects in their own lives, the fact that people are dehumanised, because of their ethnic background. If the SP participates in this appropriately, they will get a lot more members still, it's already the third largest party in Holland.

What I've said might sound funny to someone, if they knew I just lost my job. Colleagues said, I couldn't do what they wanted, and I actually agreed with them. I suppose I could have fought against it, but I didn't see the point, no use hanging around in a situation that makes nobody happy, cut my losses, and move on to a job that fits better with me, or failing all that, be unemployed and write/research. I never get bored, always something to do till I die.

But that is just to say, life really can get terribly complicated, and that any label you stick on it, might hide more than it reveals. People like me have had a whole string of jobs, never being able to plan much ahead. Part of it is in bad choices we made, or maybe our childhood, true, but part of it is also due a society in which people (including yourself) often grow indifferent to the circumstances of others - the whole of life seems to be set up so that being concerned with the welfare of others is to a large extent an illogical move, and that you simply cannot be too overburdened with the welfare of others, if you want a life of your own, i.e. socialism is just a bit of hot air, a sort of ethical bubble. You can also get a lot more attention than you bargained for, or could cope with, in which case you batten down. Rationally, you may know exactly what the best and most ethical "life-path" for yourself would be, but can you also emotionally and practically do it? You might be able to fathom the reason behind everything, but you might not be able to live accordingly, insofar as you are an imperfect or unevenly developed human being with foibles and faults. 

The good news I suppose is that there is a solution, "if you make it". Another way of saying this, is that you have to change your problem-solving style, so you are part of the solution you want, rather than be part of the problem you don't want. But it can get a hell of a complicated at times, and labels might be no use at all there. Some solutions just ain't worth having, knowing what you know, but the thing is, that you might not even be able to avoid some of them!


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