Did I ruffle a few feathers? :)

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Tue Sep 19 22:25:40 MDT 1995


     My, my, my, my.... it seems as if I've caused a bit of a
stir here.  Oh well... I guess this means that I'm going to
have to jump in and defend myself again.

     First of all, thanks Steve Keen, for telling Jamal
Hannah that I'm no "cardboard cut-out Austrian."  (And I'm no
cardboard cut-out Australian either... I'm from Brooklyn!)
By way of introduction, Jamal, you should know that I was
schooled in Marxism by the great Bertell Ollman, and I have
nothing but the utmost respect for dialectics as a method of
social analysis.  I am deeply impressed with Marxism as an
intellectual project, even though I am, yes, a libertarian
"capitalist" pig.

     Now, let's take Jamal's comments methodically and
chronologically.  In his first post, he gets very upset
because I've said that he "argues like a good Gramscian."  He
takes personal insult to this because he's never read
Gramsci.  My apologies to you, Jamal.  I certainly did not
intend this as a personal insult, and if you'd paid close
attention to the sentence that followed, it was that I
thought Gramsci (and by extension, by implication, Jamal)
"was very good on these issues."  I was actually paying you a
compliment.  But no good deed goes unpunished.

     Next, Jamal gets into a dither, and asks me "why [am I]
even on this mailing list" if I do not believe in resisting
capitalism.  "To tell people it's no use. . . . Why should we
listen to you?," he asks.  Jamal, you and others are free to
delete anything I say on this list.  I've been here
practically since its inception, for more than a year, and
I've had many spirited discussions with my Marxist
colleagues, all of whom, you might be surprised to learn, do
not simply dismiss libertarian ideas.  In case you haven't
heard, central planning collapsed in the 20th century.
Something went wrong.  I think that the left AND the right
need to examine this issue very carefully, or else they are
doomed to repeat the same mistakes.  You think that I am here
to "demonize" socialism.  I would venture to say that most of
my posts here over the last year have thoroughly demonized
the United States' social economy for its neofascist
corporativism.  My commitment to "markets" is not a
commitment to "cutting down all trees with no regulations."
As my recent post makes clear, it is the very notion of
"public property" that needs to be taken to task, since it is
on "public property" owned by "everyone" and therefore, no
one, that the environment has been most ravaged for private
profit, even as risk and cost have been thoroughly
socialized.  This is the essence of fascism, not capitalism.
And whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, there is a
conceptual distinction between the two.

     Next, Jamal takes Murray Rothbard to task, claiming he
is no "libertarian."  I disagree profoundly with Rothbard on
many significant issues; my own dissertation criticizes him
on many methodological points, and I am currently beginning a
full-fledged critique -- my third book -- of Rothbardian
libertarianism and its "dualistic" underpinnings.  I am a
thoroughly dialectical theorist myself, and find many aspects
of the Rothbardian synthesis troubling.  But Jamal, he IS a
libertarian.  That label was owned by the original liberal
left long before the socialists co-opted it.  (It will be
remembered that in the French Assembly, the liberals sat on
the Left; it was the socialists and feudal aristocrats who
sat on the right!)

     I am not hiding from the more "blatent (sic) Libertarian
Party politics by claiming to be a `small l' libertarian ..."
First of all, I am not a card-carrying member, and have never
been a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party.  I am
neither a Republican, nor a Democrat.  I am a registered
Independent.  I am thoroughly disgusted with the welfare
statists and warfare statists of both parties, with the
totalitarian left and the theocratic right.

     In his next post, Jamal criticizes me for my statement
that Marx's vision of communism is too utopian "for my
tastes," stating that "the `personal tastes' of the
bourgeoise are always going to find Marx unappetizing
... but really, chris, I'm sure you can find more imaginative
negative-labels than `utopian'.  Good try though."  Hey,
Jamal, I believe that Marx was one of the most brilliant
theorists in the history of social thought, even if I don't
agree with many of his substantive theories.
Methodologically speaking however, he is a master from whom
many lessons can be extracted.

     In his next post, Jamal criticizes me for not talking
about my "own imaginary `free market' utopian ideal of state-
less capitalism."  What in God's name made you think that
THIS is the ideal I believe in?  And what makes you think
that my only purpose is "to convince Marxists that they are
statist pigs and should `accept it' . . . "  First of all, I
think that theoretically speaking, libertarian anarchists
have tons of problems that they need to work out.  Secondly,
I do not believe that ALL Marxists are statist pigs; some
leftists however, ARE apologists for Stalin.  If you don't
like that historical fact, you are free to ignore it.

     Next, Jamal tells us that Chris is "crafty" by trying
"to set up a dynamic in which the Socialists are the ones who
are `unrealistic' . . . whereas [my] own pro-market views are
the opposite... It is to laugh!"  Once again, Jamal, you are
being very presumptuous here.  My own writings show that both
the left and the right have serious utopian streaks in their
respective traditions.  If you'd like, take a look at an
article I did years ago entitled, "The Crisis of Libertarian
Dualism," in CRITICAL REVIEW (Fall 1987, 1, no.  4).  My
critique of Marxist utopianism is to be found in MARX, HAYEK,
AND UTOPIA (just published by SUNY Press, 1995).  But then
again, I don't want to be accused of such flagrant
capitalistic self-promotion, so you are free to ignore these
comments if you so desire.

     Next, Jamal states that I "slander" socialists by saying
that they have a "religious faith" in epistemic utopian
ideas, and that this claim is a way of "deligitimizing any
realistic or scientific (or philosophical) opinions they may
express."  WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.  Many on the left DO share
epistemic premises about the future communist society that
ARE utopian; but this does not invalidate many of their very
sound views in the areas of social economics, methodology,
and philosophy.

     Jamal also states that "my" notion of Capitalism has
"brought brutality to millions, for decades."  I dare say
that we have very different notions of capitalism, Jamal -
- but I certainly recognize brutality when I see it.  And I
see it throughout the 20th century whether it is in the guise
of American neofascism, or Western colonialism, or Soviet and
Red Chinese state socialism, or theocratic fundamentalism.
The brutality is all around us, and it was not simply the
"free market" that brought us concentration camps, Gulags,
state repression of gays and lesbians, and the proliferation
of nuclear weapons.

     Shifting gears for a moment, MIM asks in a posting if
the Austrians' critique of monopoly is "able to prevent
monopoly or is this criticism more like unrequited love --
ineffective?"  I would say that the Austrian economists help
us to understand monopoly -- its historical and institutional
origins and the ways in which it is structurally perpetuated
in the modern neofascist economy.  But since I am a staunch
defender of dialectics, I would also say that there is a
unity in theory and practice, and that every critique implies
a revolutionary response.  My response is not to invest the
state with full monopoly powers, but to divest corporations
of the state power that they have used in consolidating
monopoly since the 19th century.

     Returning to Jamal Hannah, I see that he has posted
material from Daniel Guerin and Peter Sabatini.  The Guerin
piece is very good.  The Sabatini piece is very interesting
and accurate from an historical point of view, but I found
many errors in the analysis of the modern libertarian
movement.  For example, Sabatini has no working knowledge of
Ayn Rand at all; he and others should look at my new book,
AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL (Penn State Press, 1995), which
has been praised by none other than Bertell Ollman, who
states:  "Ayn Rand, a radical?  A comrade of Marx,
methodologically speaking?  Libertarians and Marxists BEWARE,
because Sciabarra makes a solid case for his astonishing
claim.  An eye-opening work, and a pleasure to read!"  (After
the ceaseless attacks of Jamal, I think I deserve a few kudos
from the Left in this posting!)  I do believe, however, that
Sabatini's citation of Wieck's critique of Rothbard is very
provocative.  I think that Wieck has some very good and
critical things to say about Rothbard, my praise of Murray
notwithstanding.

     Finally, Jamal's last post places me among those on the
right who "persistently propagandize" against the Left.  He
tells us that he doesn't "hate" MIM or Maoists; I guess he
reserves all that hatred just for "libertarians."  But Jamal,
some of us really aren't all that bad.  If you'd just engage
in a bit of dialogue, rather than in a soliloquy, you might
learn something.  Lord knows, I've learned quite a bit of
great value from many of my Marxist colleagues.

                              - Chris
=============================================================
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, N.Y.U. Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at is2.nyu.edu
=============================================================


     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---

     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list