Lumpen intelligentsia?

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Jun 25 09:00:10 MDT 1995

I realise I probably present myself to someone like Jim as a
delicate soul and maybe I don't have quite the same sense of humour
(I did enjoy his reference to the elephant however) but I
find the following exchange from Friday very disturbing.


> What I'd like to get from them, and
> sometimes do from Louis, is interesting substantive discussion.

	Don't worry; I'll have your back against the wall yet (or maybe
I'll just have you put against the wall, hnyuck, nyuck...  :)


Maybe it comes particularly close to home because I consciously
kept Justin under pressure over a period of several weeks
to clarify in what sense he was referring to Sraffa as having disproved
the law of value. I feel I learned from that exchange and my sense was
that I could respect Justin's position more as he clarified it further
on. Overall it felt to me like an exchange which perhaps got technical and
boring for many members of the list but in which there was some mutual
respect and from my point of view it failed to confirm the existence
of serious criticism of the law of value.

At moments I felt the temptation to try to "pin him down" in a coercive
way, but never to pin him to a wall.

What on earth does "hnyuck, nyuck" mean? The whole image sounds most
unappealing and really an allusion to a sort of male rape, certainly
when you consider that it is a physical and psychological violation of the
person of an extreme and dramatic form. After all most rapes by men of
women are motivated more by themes of violence and power than by sexual
gratification. But in this vernacular the image is that the male
victim's back is against the wall so of course it is not sexual, and
does not compromise the aggressor's image of his own masculinity. I don't
think that makes it OK at all. The act may not be erotic. It is highly
physical and violent.

Justin may well have a thick skin and can look after himself but other
valuable contributors to this list may not. Even if I am annoyed by
how I experience Justin at times as a self-appointed member of the
logic police, I find the prospect of watching an e-mail male rape
unartistic. If the two of you have to act this out, I would appreciate
it if you could do it off stage.

Bluntly Jim, although I want a development and application of
marxist ideas as much as you, I myself feel violated by how you appear to
have burst into this room, said "Hi here I am!" and "I enjoy putting
anyone I consider is not a marxist up against a wall and working them

Did you spend even a few days let alone a week to watch and read the
house style that has developed on this list before jumping in?
because you seem to have imported some habits from some other
e-mail culture that seem alien and destuctive, rather than creative.

I don't blame you for being unemployed, but how long have you been
unemployed, and how are you occupying your time? because frankly in
Marxist terms I think you are displaying some lumpen characteristics.
If there is a lumpen proletariat, perhaps nowadays there is such a
thing as a lumpen intelligentsia. Is your social being determining your
consciousness, Jim?

I am sure you will concede that is a very Marxist question.

Chris Burford, London.

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