RE: [OPE] horizontalism and the socialist intelligentsia

Date: Sat Apr 04 2009 - 18:04:22 EDT

> The kind of Marxism you propose makes sense as a
> student Marxism, where most students don't have a lot
> of responsibility and work experience, and ideas mooted may have little
> consequence, but not as a Marxism of people in the workforce. When you are
> in the workforce, you realise that some people really do know things and are
> capable, and other people do not know things and are not capable - this has
> direct effect on your own work. Thus, in the workforce, "authorativeness" gets a
> very different meaning.
(*warning*: the following starts out slow but turns into a rant.)
Hi Jurriaan:
Well, that's (willy-nilly) a nice little rationalization for the existence of
a technocracy and communities of scholars and professionals who have special
knowledge that others don't. It is true enough that there are such divisions
like this in the workforce (as was pointed out by Alfred Sohn-Rethel, himself a
technocrat by profession) which are created by capital to serve the needs of
capital. What is needed, imo, is a more empowering and participatory praxis
on the part of Marxists.
There has, I think, always been a tension in the history of Marxism, though,
between the concept of comradeship - where everyone is considered an equal and
treated accordingly - and the actual practice which relies on 'authorities',
'experts' and 'leaders' for guidance and decision-making. Perhaps the original
source of this tension was with Marx himself: he both encouraged a 'ruthless'
criticism towards all that exists and also set himself up as an authority
(who was insufferably arrogant at times towards those whose intellectual ability,
he believed, wasn't on par with his own). This reverence towards Marx (and
others: Engels, Lenin et al) is shared by most Marxists today (especially those
who are members of socialist political parties) and is a perversion of the
praxis of critique towards _all_. Instead, it is a critique of all _but_ ....
It accepts the very divisions which have been imposed on the labor force
by capital rather than practicing genuine solidarity and democracy.
This is a matter of some importance historically in the history of socialist
movements, e.g. consider the role of 'planners' (and, more broadly, of
technocrats) in the Soviet bureaucracy.
You can see this authoritarian impulse at most conferences and teach-ins,
and protests where the masses are asked to come and listen to the Leftist
experts. The "experts" and scholars are usually only too happy to oblige
with long and boring speeches and pontifications.
This same authoritarian impulse is expressed in classrooms where most (?)
Leftist teachers employ out-dated and conservative pedagogical methods
and preach to their students like reverends on the mount rather than
encouraging real critical thought on the part of students themselves.
The same authoritarian impulse is structured into the organization of just
about all scholarly conferences (which, incidentally, should be sold and
marketed as a cure for insomnia). If I attend another "Left Forum"
(used to be vcalled "Socialist Scholars Conference"), I think I'll puke.
And is there anything more obnoxious and unwelcome for a true libratory
movement that intellectuals who ride in an their high horse, dressed in
shiny diplomas and other academic paraphernalia and trinkets, who
proceed to take on the role of "educating" every other activist? I guess
humility and respect for the knowledge and experience of workers doesn't
sit well in practice with these radical scholars.
But, it's not *at all* entirely their fault. Even progressive students,
workers, and activists have come to _expect_ this. Indeed, they have
come to _rely_ on it and are sometimes disappointed if an authority and
expert isn't there who can offer guidance. If you are interested in
creating a genuine socialist society, rather than an elitist
and technocratic society, this should be of concern for you.
In a sense, then, "horizontalism" does go against much of the history and
experience of Marxism and socialism. It is an organizational form and way
of relating to others which is embraced more by more consistently
anti-authoritarian socialists and anarchists. It is an empowering strategy
and a genuinely democratic one which actually practices comradeship
and is critical towards all. It stresses real _self-_ determination and
challenges others to practice the arcane culture of listening to and
respecting everyone. How naive of them! What is really needed is more
Marxists with diplomas and more fidelity to Marx.
In solidarity, Jerry
ope mailing list
Received on Sat Apr 4 18:09:16 2009

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