Who we are/How we write

Juan Inigo jinigo at inscri.org.ar
Thu Sep 7 07:38:05 MDT 1995

Jerry writes:

>Juan's defense of his writing style has prompted me to respond since it
>touches on one of my favorite gripes against some radicals:

In the first place, I did not present a "defense" of my writing style. I
just presented the main determinations (including my individual ones, those
that arise from the real object it is about, and the general determinations
of the readers), that in their unity, form my "style" as the concrete real
form it is. By mistaking a "defense" for the exposition of these
determinations, Jerry gives his first step in turning the real question
into an abstraction. And it is on this basis that he goes on

>Juan essentially said that his writing style is a (I would add, very
>incomplete) reflection of who he is (and how he understands the world and
>interacts and communicates with people).  I believe there is some truth
>to this observation -- our writing style and our language is a reflection
>of our essence.
>What can we say about Juan's essence based on his writing style? (I am
>walking on very shaky ground here).
>Juan chooses the prose he does because he believes it best reflects his
>understanding  of the world. What does it mean, though, in terms of our
>essence when the  language that we use isn't understood by the people we
>interact with?

At this step, Jerry starts to abstract me from my personal determinations.
I have always started my developments concerning my "style" by pointing out
how my own determination as a personification of alienated consciousness
manifests itself by negatively affecting my capacity to give my research a
direct social form. But Jerry inverts this determination, presenting my
prose as emerging from my abstract "believe" about it as the best one.
Quite close to the sort of stuff rational-choice Marxism is made of: by
abstracting from its determinations the intentional action through which
any social process takes concrete form, it inverts this intentional action
into the determinant itself of that social process, thus turning it into a
pure abstraction.

At the same time, Jerry has taken at least the determinations of
present-day readers that make them believe that science must take by nature
the form of a logical representation that is for their free consciousness
to interpret (when logical representation itself and the apparent free
consciousness are the concrete forms of the alienation of human
consciousness as a potency of capital, that makes it stop at appearances),
and that make these readers believe that something like a "reproduction of
the concrete in thought" (that given its specificity gives its exposition
its corresponding formal structures) cannot exist (even when his author
explicitly points out he is producing it, and is so widely read as it
happens with Marx), and has turned them into a further abstraction, "Juan's
essence." And the same fate has been followed by the complexity of the
exposition that emerges from the complexity of the real forms at stake (and
we must not forget that social forms are the most developed ones that
science faces, since they are the specific human form taken by the
regulation of the natural process of human metabolism).

>Does Juan believe that he could converse with a group of workers using
>the same style of language that he uses with us?  If so, I would suggest
>that he visit Scott Marshall. Scott could take him on a tour of the very
>interesting sites relating to US labor history in Chicago and a tour of
>the factories and gathering places (like bars) where workers are
>congregated in the "Illinois Class War Zone."

Now Jerry completely abstracts me from my own determinations. I do no
longer produce my exposition, and therefore my research, for being
determined as a specific personification of the proletariat in what it, as
a social subject, carries in itself the necessity to produce the conscious
regulation of social life. In Jerry's abstraction, I have become some sort
of abstract intellectual that floats in the air here, while the proletariat
as a collective subject (abstracted by Jerry from its determinations as
such, to become "congregations of workers") floats in the air over there.

At the same time, Jerry abstracts himself, and abstracts the rest of the
members of the list, "us", from their own determinations; specifically,
from their determinations as the members of the proletariat most of them
are. Or, is the Marxist list mainly formed by capitalists, and not by
active or unemployed wage-laborers that can only produce their lives by
selling their labor-power?

According to Jerry's abstraction, the development of the proletariat's
conscious action is not produced _by_ the proletariat itself, but _for_ the
proletariat by some enlightened declassed intellectuals alien to it! Quite
far from Marx, and quite close to the Catholic Church, that claims that
"people" must do things _for_ the poor. No, Jerry, I do not develop my
research _for_ the proletariat because I am some sort of a "moral" person,
I develop it because I am determined as a proletarian myself and,
therefore, because my research is determined as a product of the
proletariat in itself.

What happens is that, as such members of the proletariat, all of us are
mutilated in our generic human being by capital, through the social
division of labor. We are fragmented wage-laborers, as all wage-laborers

So where do Jerry's abstractions take us to? Should the infinitesimally
tiny part of the proletariat that is determined today by capital as being
able to develop the scientific cognition of the social forms, in other
words, to develop the capacity for consciously ruling our social life, stop
its production because the immense majority of the proletariat is also
determined today by capital to be excluded from the possibility of
"understanding" (yet another abstraction I will consider later) the prose
in which this cognition can take social form, and rather, even from the
possibility of reading any prose whatsoever?

If Jerry's national narrowness (that makes him suggest as a natural thing
that I visit a place located in the hemisphere opposite to where I live)
allows him to look this way instead, he would know that the consolidated
over-population is as much a part of the proletariat as the part that
capital keeps in action. And, as it happens here, public schools are places
where many proletarian kids do not attend to learn how to "understand" any
prose at all, but to get their only daily meal. And, of course, public
schools are suffering a systematic destruction from the government itself,
as our national process of capital accumulation goes deeper and deeper into
its specific form as a reservation of pauperized over-population. Besides,
factories and bars are "luxuries" this portion of the proletariat cannot
always _afford_ to congregate. Does Jerry remotely believe that these
proletarians will understand _his_ scientific prose, of course, provided he
gives it an oral form in the limited Spanish they are condemned by capital
to use? (Maybe part of the differences between Jerry and me arise from the
fact that he lives in a city where rubbish is the main "material
production", while I live in a city that is by far the largest industrial
conglomerate in Argentina, and still the third, south of the Rio Bravo.)

In fact, Marx's own developments are not very much understood among
Argentine proletarians. The battle cry of the dominant line among the
industrial union activists goes: "Ni yankees ni marxistas, peronistas."
Furthermore, president Menem recently won his second term with the 50% of
the votes (and even more than the 60% in some industrial zones, specially
in Tierra del Fuego, where the police killed a worker two weeks before the
election during a demonstration against the massive closing of the
factories located there) while the unemployment rate reached its national
historical peak at 18.6% (above 22% in main industrial zones), together
with the rate of underemployment and the length of the working day,and
wages have been falling at a sustained pace. Does Jerry believe this
situation could be changed by changing Marx's prose in Capital to make it
more "understandable"? Jerry turns science, and therefore, both the
production of the capacity for producing relative surplus-value, which
necessarily includes the production of ideology, and the production of the
capacity for consciously regulating the production of the society of the
free individuals, into yet another abstraction.

Using a prose I find perfectly clear, in The Poverty of Philosophy Marx
criticizes dialectical logic as a scientific method that unavoidably ends
in self-contradictions or in the inversion of real determinations. And,
yet, Jerry mistakes Marx's critique of "pure reason", of logic, for a
defense of it. If I enjoyed producing abstractions like Jerry does, I could
formulate this question: does Jerry's confusion arise from Marx's prose in
The Poverty of Philosophy or does it arise from Jerry's limited capacity
for understanding it, let us say, because he didn't dedicate the effort the
critical reading of Marx demands to "understand" his revolutionary
developments? Now, however abstract this question may be, it is not
abstract enough to enter in Jerry's abstractions. For, finding himself
comfortable among abstractions, he considers himself and his peers the
"natural" standard of scientific understanding. Are Jerry's students going
to take T/F exams? Bad, says Jerry, because these exams do not encourage
what he considers the proper level of critical understanding. Do Jerry and
the praisers of dialectical logic not want to read what Marx has written
explicitly criticizing dialectical logic so they can invert Marx into the
champion of dialectical logic? Well, says Jerry, there must be something
"naturally" impossible to understand in Juan's prose, since Juan does not
only point out such inversion, that "naturally" cannot exist, but he is
even developing its real determinations by producing a logically unnatural
"reproduction of the concrete in thought," thus exceeding the scope of the
"proper" level of critical understanding.

Oh, but maybe Marx was wrong about his prose after all; and me too. Maybe I
should take some lessons with Jerry about how to make my prose more
understandable by workers. I only hope there will be some place left for me
in the immense mass of workers that Jerry's prose has won to revolutionary
action by making them find the light of understanding. But, no, let us go
back to reality. Jerry's prose was not even able to make the manager of his
nameless college understand his reasons to reject T/F exams; it seems that
the interests of capital that this manager personifies have a much powerful
_practical prose_ than Jerry. And, of course, the concrete determinations
of consciously revolutionary action go far beyond some abstract

>If we can't communicate with workers in a way that they can understand,
>what does that tell us about who we are?

By resorting to his abstractions, Jerry avoids the true consideration of
the historical forms that scientific cognition takes in its development,
from being a necessary concrete form in the production of relative
surplus-value, to become the general form of ruling the production of the
consciously organized society. Yet, this true question concerning the
development of science as a necessary concrete form of the proletariat's
revolutionary action remains immediately visible even through Jerry's
abstractions. I will summarize its main determinations here:

a.- It is the complexity itself of the real forms, since their
determinations realize themselves through their own negation, that
determines the complexity of scientific "prose." The attempt to "simplify"
(actually, to represent the concrete forms as abstractions by isolating
them from their determinations) scientific "prose" beyond this
determination, empties this prose of its content (and, rather, gives this
prose an ideological content). In Marx prose, "there are no highways to

b.- From the proletariat's point of view it becomes evident that scientific
cognition is not about an abstract "understanding" of real forms.
Scientific cognition is about ruling this and that of one's own concrete
actions through the cognition of one's determinations overcoming any
appearance. As such, it needs to take shape in the development by each
individual of the reproduction in his/her thought of the necessity she/he
is going to incarnate with his/her individual action, starting from its
most abstract form until reaching the point where the necessity in question
takes this individual action as the necessary concrete form of realizing
itself. An action based upon "understanding" an abstracted version of one's
own determinations produced by someone else, cannot go beyond being an
alienated action truly based on one's _belief_ (and therefore based on an
appearance) that this other someone has actually appropriated in her/his
thought one's actual determinations.

c.- The development of the production of relative surplus-value produces a
part of the proletariat that, overcoming the also increased ideological
pressure on it, becomes increasingly able to consciously rule its
transforming action, by making each of its members increasingly able to
develop by her/himself the process of scientific cognition that embodies
this ruling. But, at the same time, the development of the production of
relative surplus-value pushes an increasingly rest of the proletariat out
of this possibility, by condemning it to increasingly unskilled works or by
increasingly excluding it from production itself, determining it as a
consolidated over-population.

d.- So the question of the development of scientific cognition as the
necessary concrete form of the conscious organization of the proletariat's
revolutionary action, and therefore, the question of this development as an
essential determination of the proletariat's political parties, goes far
beyond the abstract question of (and it is rather the opposite of) an
"enlightened" part of the proletariat presenting its scientific results to
the rest in a "prose" they can "understand."

Still, Jerry brings down the magnitude and complexity of the task that the
proletariat faces here to an abstract exercising of one of his "favorite
gripes against some radicals." Yes, Jerry, you are "walking on very shaky
ground here", as any ground made of abstractions is.

One last point concerning Jerry's:

>I would suggest
>that he visit Scott Marshall. Scott could take him on a tour of the very
>interesting sites relating to US labor history in Chicago and a tour of
>the factories and gathering places (like bars) where workers are
>congregated in the "Illinois Class War Zone."

As a member of the proletariat that is specifically determined by the
potencies of capital to recognize his own consciousness as a form of
alienated consciousness, I lack the stupidity of the declassed
intellectuals that see themselves so far above the determinations of the
proletariat (and that therefore, see themselves as the free consciousness
in person) so as to propose a "tour" to _watch_ "workers." Moreover,
Jerry's pseudo-ingenious "suggestion" makes me recall what I felt many
years ago when I visited an art gallery that presented, as a piece of art
"with which intellectuals were able to interact", a living "worker with
family" (yes, father, mother and a couple of children in person): those
shits were not only degrading the family in exposition for a daily wage,
they were degrading me as a proletarian.

>PS to Scott: If the above comes to pass, could you please videotape it
>and send me a copy? Thanks. --Jerry

You've said it, Jerry. As we sing here in demonstrations and football (in
my prose, of course, soccer, for you) matches, to point out that our
opponent is missing the real thing, "y ya lo ve, y ya lo ve, es para Jerry
que lo mira por TV!" (literally: and now you see, and now you see, this
goes to Jerry that watches it on TV!).

Juan Inigo
jinigo at inscri.org.ar

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