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Tag: Loren Goldner

Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today (Goldner, 1995)

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Kevin Sloan, Our Modern Animal, 2013

Preface to the Swedish edition of Communism is the Material Human Community: Amadeo Bordiga Today (Riff-Raff)

Loren Goldner, 2002

The core of the following text was actually written in 1988, before the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and was then slightly modified for its first publication in English (1991) to briefly take note of the 1989–91 »events». Over the past decade, it has been translated into seven other languages. The fact that it was written prior to the collapse (a collapse whose imminence I, like so many others, did not foresee), and continues to arouse international interest a decade later, is one indication that, whatever its flaws, it succeeded in resonating with some deep preoccupations of the contemporary world.

Indeed, since 1988, interest in the work of Amadeo Bordiga has only increased1, and seems on its way to eclipsing (hopefully with happier results) the earlier 1960s/1970s fascination with Antonio Gramsci, who was, not incidentally, Moscow’s point man for the eradication of Bordiga’s influence from the Italian Communist Party in the mid-1920’s.Of course, the great majority of »Gramscians» of the 1960’s and 1970’s were hardly aware of Gramsci’s real political role, but then they were hardly interested in the real politics of their own era either. The postwar Gramscians, particularly in the English-speaking world (we are thinking of figures such as Carl Boggs, admirer of 1970’s »Euro-communism») rode on the wave of »culturalism» which included the Frankfurt School and French post-structuralism, which appeared to them (as to the broader social stratum from which they came, the radicalized middle classes) as the worthy successor to »vulgar Marxism». (Had they been more than dismissively aware of Bordiga, they would undoubtedly classed him with such »vulgar Marxism».) The Gramscians, like other currents of the culturalist camp, greatly preferred discussions of cultural hegemony to the »vulgar Marxist» issues such as the critique of political economy, not to mention the »art of insurrection», and the decline of their influence parallels rather concisely the decline of the illusions of culturalism. Capitalism benefited greatly from the »cultural radicalism» of the 1960’s, which turned out to be a large part of the managerial wisdom of the 1990’s3.

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Insurgent Notes #13 (Oct 2016)

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Insurgent Notes No. 13 presents an array of articles reflecting the rising curve of revolt and political turmoil in the United States and abroad. We begin with our editorial “President Trump?” on the current, fast-evolving situation of the strangest political year in the United States since 1968. We follow with Michael Hough’s historically rich article on the evolution of labor racketeering trials in the United States, culminating in the little-noticed conviction and sentencing of a Philadelphia Ironworkers’ president in 2015. John Garvey’s “Notes on a Future Politics (Part One)” offers a detailed account of the forces, over several decades, which have converged in the Trump phenomenon. Jarrod Shanahan recounts the recent revolt in the commissary at the notorious Riker’s Island prison in New York City this past summer. Following on this, and presenting a larger historical perspective, culminating in the organizing for a nationwide prison strike, Amiri Barksdale traces a history of little-known prison revolts in recent years, as well as those by immigrant detainees. For an international perspective, our Southeast Asian correspondent Art Meen’s “Strike Wave and Worker Victories in Cambodia” offers a concise overview of a militant working class in motion in struggles largely off the radar in the west. For historical perspective, Mitch Abidor writes up his recent interviews with 40-odd veterans, from across the political spectrum, of the May―June general strike in France in 1968, followed by two critical comments. Last but not least, Jason Rhodes discusses Ashwin Desai’s remarkable book Reading for Revolution.

Editorial: President Trump?

Twenty-First Century Trade Union Conspiracy Trial

Michael Hough

Notes on a Future Politics—Part 1

John Garvey

Checking Out

Jarrod Shanahan

Convict and Immigrant Detainee Struggles Converge in Strike Wave

Amiri Barksdale

Strike Wave and Worker Victories in Cambodia

Art Meen

May ’68 Revisited (and Two Replies)

Mitch Abidor

Review: Ashwin Desai, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island

Jason Rhodes

The Universality of Marx

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by Loren Goldner

(The following article originally appeared in New Politics, 1989 – an oldie but goodie)

A strange anomaly dominates the current social, political and cultural climate. World capitalism has for over fifteen years been sinking into its worst systemic crisis since the 1930’s, and one which in its biospheric dimensions is much worse than the 1930’s. At the same time, the social stratum which calls itself the left in Europe and the U.S. is in full retreat. In many advanced capitalist countries, and particularly in the U.S., that stratum increasingly suspects the world outlook of Karl Marx, which postulates that capitalism brings such crises as storm clouds bring the rain, of being a “white male” mode of thought. Stranger still is the fact that the relative eclipse of Marx has been carried out largely in the name of a “race/gender/class” ideology that can sound, to the uninitiated, both radical and vaguely Marxian. What this “discourse” (to use its own word) has done, however, is to strip the idea of class of exactly that element which, for Marx, made it radical: its status as a universal oppression whose emancipation required (and was also the key to) the abolition of all oppression.

This question of the status of universality, whether attacked by its opponents as “white male”, or “Eurocentric”, or a “master discourse”, is today at the center of the current ideological debate, as one major manifestation of the broader world crisis of the waning 20th century.

The writings of Marx and Engels include assertions that the quality of relations between men and women is the surest expression of the humanity of a given society, that the communal forms of association of peoples such as the North American Iroquois were anticipations of communism, and that the suppression of matriarchal by patriarchal forms of kinship in ancient Greece was simultaneous with the generalization of commodity production, that is, with proto-capitalism. Marx also wrote, against the Enlightenment’s simple-minded linear view of progress that, short of the establishment of communism, all historical progress was accompanied by simultaneous retrogressions. But most of this is fairly well known; this is not what bothers contemporaries. What bothers them is that the concept of universality of Marx and Engels was ultimately grounded neither in cultural constructs nor even in relations of “power”, which is the currency in which today’s fashion trades.

The universalism of Marx rests on a notion of humanity as a species distinct from other species by its capacity to periodically revolutionize its means of extracting wealth from nature, and therefore as free from the relatively fixed laws of population which nature imposes on other species. “Animals reproduce only their own nature”, Marx wrote in the 1844 Manuscripts, “but humanity reproduces all of nature”. Nearly 150 years later, the understanding of ecology contained in that line remains in advance of most of the contemporary movements known by that name. Human beings, in contrast to other species, are not fixed in their relations with the environment by biology, but rather possess an infinite capacity to create new environments and new selves in the process. Human history, in this view, is the history of these repeated revolutions in nature and thus in “human nature”.

What bothers contemporary leftist opinion about Marx is that the latter presents a formidable (and, in my opinion, unanswerable) challenge to the currently dominant culturalism, which is so pervasive that it does not even know its own name.

Today, the idea that there is any meaningful universality based on human beings as a species is under a cloud, even if the opponents of such a view rarely state their case in so many words (or are even aware that this is the issue). For them, such an idea, like the idea that Western Europe from the Renaissance onward was a revolutionary social formation unique in history, that there is any meaning to the idea of progress, or that there exist criteria from which one can judge the humanity or inhumanity of different “cultures”, are “white male” “Eurocentric” constructs designed to deny to women, peoples of color, gays or ecologists the “difference” of their “identity”.

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