Chris Burford cburford at
Sat Apr 15 10:14:44 MDT 1995

 > Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 18:56:40 -0700
 > From: Ralph Dumain <rdumain at>
 > To: marxism at
 > Mr. Burford, I hope you live long enough to equal my capacity to
 > communicate ideas to ordinary people.  Breaking down abstract
 > ideas so that the average person can understand them is my
 > specialty.

And has to be mine, Mr Dumain. Try telling one or two working class black
people in Tottenham, north London, each week, that my medical profession
has to say that they are suffering from schizophrenia. It is a humbling
experience.  As you say, the educators must themselves be educated.

I appreciated your specific example.

I am thinking of a man from
Barbados, who has had over 35 admissions for schizoaffective disorder.
He thinks as a divorced man now in his fifties stuck in Tottenham, his life
is over, which, by the laws of motion of capitalist society, it now is.

I am strangely fond of him. I accept in my choice of job I am working
through something personal, as well as objectively trying to earn a living.

He told me at our last interview about how he first became ill. He was
a trade unionist and a marxist but he found he could not talk to the other
workers. That plus pressure from the bosses, financial worries, and
friction, building up in misunderstandings with his wife.

Thanks to you, Mr Dumain, I have met CLR James. So I mentioned James to
him and he knew immediately what I was talking about, and Eric Williams
ideas, and proposed federation of the Caribbean.

Should I lend him the James book? I cannot in my position  start a
marxist reading group for unemployed mentally ill black people
in Tottenham.

 > There is an issue here that is much more profound than the
 > pretenses of those shopping around for social causes and then
 > acting superior to others who don't share in the luxuries of their
 > class position.  That is the issue of what the division of labor
 > has done to people in a divided society, both to people who toil
 > and people who think.  (Sloterdijk brings it up in his discussion
 > of Nietzsche, too.)  This is my issue.  This was Marx's issue from
 > his doctoral dissertation up through _The German Ideology_.

I feel I understand and sympathise with your views much more when you
say this. I agree quite strongly that this is a major issue. I just
had a sense of you using the German Ideology as an excuse to spray a
lot of shit around at intellectuals on this list, who in fact as a sub-
set of intellectuals in general are not that bad. Prior to your arrival
the prevailing consensus on this list was I would say, anti-post modernist.

You and I have both used a superior tone to each other. We have just
used different languages. I am glad I have had the courage to challenge
what I perceive as your violent rudeness, and I am glad we have both had
the courage, up to a point, to put ourselves on the line, and to risk
communicating with each other.

Regards and take care,

Chris Burford

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