Marx, Rand

Jamal Hannah jamal at bronze.lcs.mit.edu
Wed Sep 20 23:06:19 MDT 1995


Chris M. Sciabarra typed:

> 	Jamal -- I'm afraid your being ahistorical here; this is not
> simply the method of capitalism.  It is the time-honored tradition going
> back thousands of years that one enter into a dialogue, yes, that's
> DIALOGUE, even with one's opponents, and that it is possible to reach an
> understanding of one's opponents, and sometimes, a better understanding
> of one's own premises, through that dialogue.  If I've "skimmed" good

Hmm. My main point of contention, I suppose, is your apparent insistence
that there is some authoritarian bent inherent in Marx, which I see
some of my fellow anarchists insisting on as well.  Well.  I say,
why not just leave out the authoritarian stuff, then?  Rather
than insisting that one's actions will inevitably lead to authoritarianism.
Ok.. I accept your opinion that it could (will?).. and I must admit
this is a serious concern of mine.  I'd rather utterly fail than succeed at
creating an authoritarian monster.    (This is Malatesta's position)
Does this make me a defeatist?  Unfit to be in politics?  Is it
a realistic position?  I'll never know, of course.. it's a question
asked to the black void of space.   The difference, then, between
Statist Marxism and Libertarian Marxism is primarily that one has
made the decision before-hand that they wish to avoid specific
contradictions that lead to suffering _of those one intended to help_,
instead of saying "oh, we'll burn that bridge when we get to it".

> 	Jamal, I am not here to "stroke the backs" or anything else of my
> fellow Marxists.  If I smile and act nice, it is not because I am slick;
> it is because I AM nice.  But I am not neutral, and I do not HIDE my
> biases.  You have every right to be here and to parade your biases, but
> speaking to the converted does not help you -- or me -- in reaching any
> understanding of each other, or of ourselves.

Sometimes I would feel a bit more comfortable if those who disagreed with
me would not smile and pretend we do not, or that everything is "going fine".
And then I wonder where this politeness is when people who _should_
be getting along (Trotskyist groups, anarchists, Communists), is.
I remember mentioning to a CPUSA women that it might do good for
communists to read "Getting to Yes" and "How to Win Friends and Influence
People".  I think her answer was that this approach to human relations
was inherent in American "pragmatism" (that it's best to fool people
into thinking you agree with them, even when you dont), and was
profoundly undialectical.

> 	You know... I'm perfectly willing to concede that anarchism has a
> rich intellectual heritage which includes syndicalists, collectivists,
> individualists, etc.  Jamal, it seems that the very notion that somebody
> might call themselves a "libertarian" even while disagreeing with your
> politics gets you all in a sweat.  Dry off.... because there is now a

It is not the idea that there are libertarian capitalists that bothers me
per se.  If these people were true to their rhetoric, then they would
be (possibly) amicable people I could get along with.. but all-to-many
I have spoken to have supported extreme-rightist positions (secular
ones), and place too much emphasis on profit _before_ liberty.  This
is my observation.  Also, the assumption that "all communists are
demons" is quite common.  You can imagine this would tick me off.
Perhaps this will change, in time, if the left becomes more anti-
authoritarian.  (though I would prefer that it were quite revolutionary,
and not reformist)

> calls itself "libertarian."  And if your history is correct (though I
> have already raised doubts about it), it can be said that the "liber" in
> liber-tarian is ultimately the same root as the "liber" in classical
> liber-alism.  If you are correct, then it was the socialists who
> coopted liberalism in an attempt to soften their growing
> authoritarianism.  .....

I do not think so.. because, remember, the slogan was: liberty, soliderity,
fraternity (and socialism?).  All at once.  One did not come before
the other..  they were all birthed at the same time.    Perhaps the
liberals (small-time capitalist class) of the French Revolution of 1789
used and tricked the poor masses.. they needed them to overthrow the
aristocracy, so that a bourgeois republic could be put in place.  This
is the impression I get.. and the "fraternity"/"Socialism" was thrown
out, and the "liberty" was kept.  If this IS true, you might see how
the poor masses and those liberals who broke ranks with the
propertarians would have resentment.. and the wrath which rained down
on the classical liberals from the more ardent communists, later on,
had something to do with this.

> 	Welfare was created to keep the poor in their place because the
> social economy of the early 20th century was careening from one statist
> crisis to another, smashing up in the Great Depression which was caused
> by Federal Reserve monetary manipulation.  Corporations and unions JOINED
> FDR in creating the original New Deal corporate state modelled on
> Mussolini's Italy.  Welfare was part of this corporativist structure, as
> it was for Bismark.  If it helps the poor from starving, it also helps
> the rich keep the poor from fully grasping the system that created
> poverty.  The social democrats who provided the rich with an ideology of
> altruism to help the poor may not have known that that ideology would be
> used in such an insidious way, but thems the facts.

Hmm. Very interesting.

> 	Bertell Ollman warned me that some on the left would think me
> MORE dangerous than usual.  I guess I'm FINALLY seeing what he meant.

Who is Bertell Ollman, and, was he a leftist?  Did he dispise capitalism?
or did he simply see Marxism as a hobby?  How did he feel about your
own capitalist position?

> 	I have had dialogue with people on this very list who defend
> Stalin, Jamal.  I didn't think it was necessary to list such people, they
> know who they are.  And I don't characterize the entire left as
> religious, I merely believe that there is still a strong utopian streak
> on the left AND I've admitted that this same streak is on the right as

Ok, granted this is true.  Please just remember that there are some of us
who not only disagree with Stalin-ists, (Should I scream that I "reject"
Stalinism?  Would this improve people's opinion of me?  I will if it
would.  I dunno what difference it ultimatly makes.) we are examining
utopian theories and trying to figure out whats wrong with all this
stuff.  (actually I guess that all happened a while back.. but
I suppose that utopianism is in vogue once again..)

Didnt someone once say that the closer you get to utopia, the less
utopian it seems?  Hmm.  Whatever.

> 	My book is a dialectical study of a dialectical woman; so I don't
> think that it is a coincidence that she shares much with Marx.  She was
> EDUCATED by the Soviets, and carries on many dialectical insights in her
> own social critique.

The only dialectical thing I remember about her was (or was this Branden
saying this?)  "There are 2 sides to every issue: one is right, one
is wrong, but the middle is always evil." .. this sounds profoundly
dialectical, but not when the "bad" and "evil" are always insistently
communist, altruist choices.  (I feel there is "good" altruism" and
"negative" altruism)

Aside from that, Rand's writing seemed, to me, to be profoundly undialectical
and un-philosophical.  To say "A=A", and that's that is, to me, intellectually
crippling.. but, perhaps thats the way you need to think when in
pragmatic situations, such as War.  (and in war, the less you think,
and the less you communicate, the longer the war can continue.)

> 	Rand arose to popularity in the 40s and 50s out of the cesspool
> of American culture which was stagnant and stale in many ways in the
> postwar era.  She saw big business as the architects of American statism,
> and was adamantly opposed to racism and the theocratic right.  She
> demonizes the right FAR MORE than she demonizes the left, and stated in
> print that Marx was a worthy adversary, but that she couldn't and

Hmm.  In a recent article about Rand in the New Yorker, they quoted
her in the early 70's as saying "I thought people would get-over
fads like Marx.. but Freud?"  (something along those lines).  So evidently
she was not beyond sweeping dismissals of Marx.

> wouldn't deal with conservatives who were racists and in favor of "fetal"
> rights while taking away the liberty of individuals to do what they
> wanted with their own bodies.

Two things about doing stuff with ones own body:

1) Some Rand-inspired right-Libertarians have pushed this notion that
the left is "anti-sex".. more so than the Christian Right, and this is
an underpinning of the "PC" talk that is very popular these days.  Like
demonizing the anti-authoritarian left as being "closet Stalinists",
(Ken Knudson basically did this in his massive anarchist-communism critique.)
I think this is the same thing.  (the word is: "red baiting")o
I personally feel that people should be allowed to do as they please,
sexually.. why should what others do freely bother me?  This does not
mean I will not speak about responsibility, however.
"Trans-humanism" and body altering with technology is another issue.
I'm not convinced that people are making choices about body-improvement
based on human concerns, but more often because of corporate advertising
encouraging people to hate their bodies and never be satisfied.
The Libertarian Party appears to be using such things as the "merits of
technology", pot smoking and explicit sexual freedom as "Selling Points"
to win over those who are not specifically property owners.. and this
appears to me to be as dishonest as cheap TV advertising promises.
I will _never_ promise that libertarian socialism will lead to "great
sex and the body you desire".  I would make it clear that I do not
beleave that I know what is best for others, though I might
have more experiance than they do and could offer advice.

2)  Rand's attitude about sexual relationships ultimately had some
very negative consequences, for her, for her spouse, and for her
love-interest Branden.  It's ironic that Rand played-up the personal
faults of "leftists" all through "Atlas Shrugged".. somehow the physical
and the ideological, to Rand, were linked. (of you were a commie, you
were ugly and sneaky).. but Rand's own judgements are never ultimately
used against Rand.  What does the disastrous relationship outcome of
Rand say about Rand?   I'd say one could simply dismiss it as politically
unimportant.. but then one should say the same about leftists too.
(the only problem is when one is a hypocrite.)

> It may make people think a bit more, but the war of
> ideas is far more complicated, far less apocalyptic than what you imply.

Yeah, youre probably right about that.

> > But you know how the (so-called) "Marxists" tick, dont you Chris?
> > You've been on this list for a year.  Well, live it up, smartass.
>
> 	Oh... yes.. here's that "smartass" comment I mentioned before.
> Jamal, if you continue like this, then you can engage in all the
> soliloquy you'd like.

My deepest apologies. This was purely emotional and pure arrogance on
my part.  Personal insults never get one anywhere.

> Simply put, I believe that she WAS dialectical (and the same goes for
> Hayek, as I suggest in Chapter one of MARX, HAYEK, AND UTOPIA).
> I don't believe that Marx should be buried, but I have this sneaky
> suspicion that you'd like to bury those among us who walk a different
> walk and talk a different talk.  I could be wrong, but your tone

No.. I dont want to bury people who disagree with me.  I would like
a chance in this lifetime to make a difference.  My reaction was to
your own sweeping dismissals.  What could be worse than to be told one's
efforts will lead to nothing?  I should, perhaps, not take everything
I hear as seriously as I did.

> suggests that the authoritarianism that has plagued the left still
> exists lurking somewhere in the deep recesses of consciousness.

Yeah.  This is why I think Individualism has it's limits, dude..
sometimes we need someone else around to tell us.. "slow down".
(Take this or leave it.  Some people seem totally self-regulating,
but I dunno. what you hear about people, and what actually _is_,
are two separate things)

Rand's unshakable imaginary individualist characters are simply not
real people.  I remember when a Libertarian Party friend of mine
cracked under emotional pressure and threatened someone's life.
I wonder if they felt they had betrayed some Randian principle.
(it must have been an awful mental bout of self-persecution..)

 - Jamal H.



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