Violence, verbal and physical

Chris Burford cburford at
Tue Nov 21 00:34:08 MST 1995

Iappreciate very much the way Jukka crosses swords with me on this
issue. It allows me, and anyone else, to clarify the differences
with mutual self-respect.

Jukka Sun 19th:

Ralph wrote:

"You in DC, white 'bro? Come to my house and see how long you live."

Chris interprets:

"This is a direct invitation to physical violence."

First I would explain I read different words to the words Jukka
quotes here. I read:

"The orangutans refer to -you-, you pseudo-radical piece of shit.  You
must be a Maoist monkey.  You in DC, white 'bro?  Come to my house
and see how long you live."

For me the total quotation is relevant, and the context. As for the total
quotation, Carl Davidson is invited to consider himself

1) a piece of shit
2) an orangutan
3) a monkey
4) pseudo-radical
5) a Maoist

There is a direct continuum of meaning between the violent assault on
Davidson's self respect and the suggestion of an assault on his physical

I am not aware that Davidson made any further contributions
to this list. He may have unsubscribed now.

Most people receiving such
a violently assaultive psychological attack would go away physically.
That was the purpose of the attack. It has been successful. Davidson
has gone away physically and is not part of the exchanges on this list.
This list is one unit smaller, as it happens a particularly thoughtful

I would suggest the separation of physical and mental violence is
idealist. The way Ralph gives himself licence to use the most violent
intimidatory language, is connected with his analysis that all
the violence in the international communist movement is to be seen
as the responsibility of one individual, Stalin. Ralph takes no
responsibility for his own extremely violent tendencies.

What would the list look like if everybody was as abusive as they
wished? It is chaotic enough with Ralph, Matt and Steve D taking full
use of the freedom that Spoons make clear is the right of every

The issue is not about vulgarity: it is about violence. It is not about
profanity. Ralph once reproduced in electronic words an orgasm. It was
IMO an incredible verbal achievement, thoroughly profane, - and joyous.
My concern is not about using language about cunts and pricks for example
as synonyms for latin based words such as vaginas and penises, but for
using words in a deliberately violently penetrative way. Do you recall
the post eloquently entitled "The politics of penetration".

The only excuse I can see for Ralph's intemperance is that to have 800,000
men come to his home city under the leadership of the man he detests,
would probably have felt deeply penetrative and assaultative - virtually
political gang rape.

Ralph's use of genital language is so frequent that in psychiatric
terms, one would start to wonder whether Ralph had in the past been
a victim of sexual abuse. If so, I would not press him to discuss
this on the list, but sexual abuse and other childhood abuse is
a cruel fact of life, and this list cannot necessarily be hermetically
sealed from it.

Nor is the issue one between academic language and non-academic language.
Ralph is a self-proclaimed anti-academic, but like Louis has done an
enormous amount of work -  on dialectic writers. His contributions are
learned and include many technical points which are not immediately
accessible to those unfamiliar with the literature.

If vulgar means non-academic, many people post in that style. My own
countryman, Will Brown, with whom I have some differences about the
analysis of the middle strata, posts contributions IMO as clear as a bell,
and all the better for it. They lack any claim to academic pretensions.
They also concentrate on clarifying political differences, without any
hint of personal and violent abuse.

The issue is about violence. We must take responsibility for the history
of violence in marxism, and realise there is a continuity between
physical and verbal violence.

That issue is right here on this list. Practice is connected with theory.
Each subscriber has a choice as to what degree of responsibility he or
she wishes to take for this isssue.

Chris, London.

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