Date: Wed May 18 2005 - 08:20:09 EDT
----- Original Message ----- From: "M. Junaid Alam" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: <Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com> Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 12:23 AM Subject: Re: It takes two to tango [Quick response to your second e-mail: I *did* send your original comments on the Marxism List, below my replies to them. I already told you in advance I was sending this to other lists. Furthermore, why should I be mistaken to "assume" - as you did of me vis-a-vis OPE-L, that you would naturally check in on the Marxism List? Indeed, it is a far more valid assumption, since it has about 20 times more members than OPE-L, and unlike OPE-L, anyone can subscribe there to respond.] "As for responding to the argument in your post, that seemed to me to be in order since you identified there what your "main beef" with John was." The answer to that one is simple - I was not writing a piece titled, "My main beef with Holloway", which would have been random and out of nowhere. I wrote in *response* to his piece, which did not broach the subject of the USSR or social democracy in any specific way. There was no space to simply tack on what I happened to dislike about Holloway in my piece, since I'd already dedicated ten pages to responding to what he actually said in the Z piece. No one reads lengthy exegeses on the internet and to take up the whole history of Stalinism and social democracy out of nowhere in a piece responding directly to his article would have been voluminous as well as strange. Even then, on the list-serv, all I did was briefly ennumerate a few points from which you drew long yarns and started lecturing about various historical things. Worse than this, however, is the simple fact that by grasping onto this one list-serv sentence, you carve out an excuse for yourself to ignore my *actual* critique. You have almost nothing to say on Venezuela here, and totally nothing to say in defense of the theoretical excuses employed to avoid state struggle, and also absolutely nothing to say about Holloway's simplistic view of what refusal means in a modern capitalist economy - the three main components of my critique. Not that this means I am afraid to engage on the subject of the "main beef." Hardly. In fact, please forward this e-mail to your list as a direct response to what you originally wrote in criticism of my list-serv points. I must be at least half your age, but even I know that no serious left historian (mis)characterizes history in the extremely facile Holloway does, and which you agree with - that "all history of state-centered struggle is the history of betrayal." Betrayal is a melodramatic and moralistic term that does nothing to explain material conditions, systemic patterns, or the balance sheet of forces in a conflict. In a sense, every struggle is betrayed; the point is only how far you are able to carry things forward and how well you are able to limit the betrayal such that in the end a net advance is achieved. Therefore your dismissal of the New Deal, for instance, appears very silly, as if one becomes more revolutionary by holding one's nose and declaring it "liberal". It certainly represented a concrete advance compared to the past. This kind of snobbish attitude, one of being "so revolutionary" that really-existing struggle to achieve change appears inadequate to the lofy intellectual, is the crux of Holloway's attitude and also the most wretched part of his whole outlook. In my opinion, the actual classes involved in any conflict have a slightly sharper view of the importance of influencing and/or winning state power than any erudite academic. If the New Deal was nothing but wasteful "betrayal", for instance, it's quite interesting then that most of the capitalist class, including all the newspapers, vehemently blasted FDR at the time for "betraying capitalism," and that FDR was adopting in large part the program of the CPUSA. It's even more interesting that the ultra-reactionary Bush clique has now set its targeting reticule first and foremost on rolling back New Deal gains. According to your and Holloway's logic, none of this - social security, pensions, health care - really matters since it's all just "betrayal" one way or the other. Frankly I think that one would have to be totally blind to take the Holloway position very seriously at this point. As if to slap his thesis in the face, recent history delivered us the recent debacle over Lopez Obrador in Mexico. Here half-a-million Mexicans showed up on the streets to denounce the right-wing political-judicial (ie. state-directed) farce aimed at disqualifying him from the elections. Does Holloway know something these 500,000 Mexicans workers do not? Does he know something Vincente Fox does not? The question answers itself. Above all, let us recall the exact issue for which Obrador was supposedly being punished - building a road to a public hospital on privately-owned land. No number of Zapatistas or NGOs or "refusals" is either going to build hospitals or defeat the state power the ruling class wields in order to prevent the building of such hospitals. That is an historical fact and a political reality. Let us speak honestly. The ritualistic denunciations of heirarchy, parties, and power now in vogue never were the products of any precious insight. They were merely the logical outcome of adopting a facile syllogism that has allowed radicals to feel and seem more "respectable" in the public: "Stalin = bad; Stalin = state leader/guy with power; therefore, state leadership/taking power = bad." This formula, while politically convenient in distancing oneself from Stalinism, also disguises untidy questions about pesky Marxist things like material conditions and economic isolation causing conditions in which only a Stalin could surface to the top. Adoption of this view resulted in the extreme notion that the only way forward must therefore be rabidly "anti-everything associated with Soviet socialism" - including political parties, programs, and taking state power. The resulting ideological blinders means not only that people start doing stupid things like throwing rocks at Starbucks windows, but moreover, that when someone like Chavez wins several democratic elections, there is still a paranoid sentiment that somehow he is going to introduce gulags or is a "strongman" with "autocratic tendencies" because he is a leftist and a leader. Pathetically, in adopting the bourgeois explanatons about why socialism failed in the past in order to avoid tough questions, some of us have now become our own red-baiters, and anti-ourselves. We have gotten so used to losing, we have elevated losing, elevated impotence, to the level of glory, and lost the very meaning of victory. The time for cowering meekly in the shadows of cynicism and defeatism as a result of the failure of the Soviet experiment has come to an end. It is anti-historical and anti-Marxist. No purpose is served by cop-out explanations that place blame on all past failure ritualistically on "authoritarianism" or holding state power, when in reality specific economic backwardness and political encirclement encouraged authoritarianism and crushed the potential for positive uses of power in the past. To hold the absolutist Holloway view about taking power is like saying a lake is no good for fishing simply because you went there in the winter and you couldn't fish. The winter of the Soviet period is over, and new historical seasons bring new opportunities. All some of us need to do now is un-freeze our brains. Regards, Junaid > Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com wrote: > > Junaid: > > I didn't send you a copy of my post because I thought you'd > read it yourself the next day -- since I assumed you were reading > the OPE-L archives where the Holloway-Lebowitz exchange > has been ongoing. > > As for responding to the argument in your post, that seemed to > me to be in order since you identified there what your "main > beef" with John was. Why reply to what you wrote in the essay > when in it clear from what you wrote elsewhere that your "main > beef" concerned issues that were not addressed in your essay? > > If you are disappointed, I regret that. I can only say that I am > disappointed that you did not tell the readers of your essay what > your "main beef" was. That was really not fair to them. > > Jerry > > PS: in addition to OPE-L, I sent my post to aut-op-sy and > Globolist, a small yahoo group. When I get a copy of the > digest from aut-op-sy then I will send a post which contains your > 2 replies and my 2 replies to OPE-L and Globolist. > > > > > >>I was most surprised and disappointed to see that you've been conducting > >>a kind of hide-and-seek "attack" on my politics vis. the Holloway > >>debate, sending out comments to lists without even (a) having the > >>courtesy to tell me so that I might respond, and moreover, (b) basing > >>your comments *not* on the actual article in which my ideas are > >>presented, but rather on a couple sentences written in passing on a > >>discussion list which you tore out of context and proportion. That is > >>really quite bizarre and inexcusable. > >>Thankfully I was informed of this debacle and have written on these > >>lists about this basic flaw of your argument, or rather non-argument as > >>it were, since it is not even based on anything I've formally presented, > >>and I and will continue to do so elsewhere.
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