A proposal for a moderated list: Is a Copy of German Ideology on the Desk Is Enough, Or we Need One on the Coffee Table Too?

Vladimir Bilenkin "achekhov at unity.ncsu.edu" at ncsu.edu
Thu Aug 29 14:05:36 MDT 1996


>
> Louis, a factory worker, has more to say about this subject than
> anybody on the Foucault mailing list, I would suspect. After all, when
> it comes to power relationships, what better place to experience it than
> in a factory.
>
> Now that M1 and M2 are going away, I am hopeful that the artificial
> line between academic "theorists" and activists can be abolished.
> Communists on the shop-floor should be talking about Foucault while
> tenured professors should be discussing the new Labor Party. The
> division between M1 and M2 was harmful.>
> Please get in touch with me if you would like to register for this list
> which carries 4 credits.
>
> Louis Proyect
>

Et tu, Louis!

	I often ask myself: How many of our marxist intellectuals have
 taken seriously, or even read the _German Ideology_, that incomparable
 columbarium that Marx and Engels constructed for blessed Maxes and Sanchos
 of all times?  In a flight of fancy, I'd like to see them having,
 under the court order, to read this book every Chrismas season as
 the only hope that it may last in their heads, perhaps, for a fortnight
 in the coming year. As for the rest of it, a copy of the book must be
 placed on their desks right in front of them as a melancholy
 reminder that even the noblest resolutions of their marxist heads
 cannot overcome the leaden laws of their social bodies.

	I have in mind, of course, the inherent propensity of the
intellectuals to construct in their heads the world upside down.
 This is what happened to our dear Louis this morning, when he
 decided - not without Robert's and my promptings, I suspect -
to "abolish" once and for all the "artificial line between academic
 "theorists" and activists" workers.   In a move reminiscent of the blessed Max's
 150 years ago, he boldly declared this line "artificial,"
i.e. existing only in our heads! (I wonder if this spark of a
genius would have actually sparked at all this morning had Louis
 to get up at 5:30 am in a Jamaica neighborhood, to board
 train#2 (the Beast), and get to a sweat shop in Chinatown
 by 7:30).  One pathbreaking solution logically led to
another: If the problem exists only in our heads it is there
that we have to .... Right. Perhaps, we should consider placing
 another copy of German Ideology on a coffee table.

There is an eerie sense of a social quid pro quo under the disguise
 of some grim Baroque drama in this vision of workers heads landing on
 the flabby professorial trunks while the bolding tenured heads
 proudly establish themselves on workers' muscular bodies.
(I leave psychoanalytical interptretation to Louis' next session
on the couch). Heads fly all over, freely crossing the
 "artificial line." Bodies, however, remain firmly where they are:
 on the shop floors and classrooms.  The law of gravitation, social
including, stubbornly persists. And so is the division of labor but again
 in a strangely displaced form.  Workers now is srewed from both ends.
Not only they continue to exhaust their bodies as before.
 They now exhaust their minds as well over, in all the world,
the modern French edition of blessed Sancho!  Professors, mind you,
continue to stay the proletarians of only "mental labor." Is this a fair comradely
arrangement, Professor Proyect?

Consider, for a moment, the Caterpillar workers who read and lively
discuss the _History of Sexuality_  in the picket line, while marxist
professors ponder on the politics of Labor Party in their offices.
 Isn't it a radical solution worthy to be announced to our Spoon neighbors?
 They will love it.  They may even grudgingly admit that the "dead horse"
of Marxism still has a spark of "sophistication" and "creativity" left in it.
 ( And this is only a beginning. What sublime vistas are going to
open before us AFTER the "reconstruction of the marxian space"!).
 Yes, I forgot about another party who will embrace this vision:
the Caterpillar management. I wouldn't be surprised if they provide
each of their workers with a complete edition of Foucault free of charge.
And in a hardcover edition at that.

But enough of sarcasm.  As many other products of Louis' fertile mind,
this project can be saved if only we inroduce in it a moment
 of dialectical motion and then project it into the future.
Say, 5-10 years since now.  By that time the workers will have become
 accomplished specialists on the bunch of modern Maxes and Panchos,
 while the professors will have become very rusty in this stuff,
but very keen on everything related to labor and its parties.
 At this point quantity will have to dialectically transform into
 a new quality, theory into practice: the workers will become professors,
 move to classrooms and teach Foucault;professors will move to the shop
floor and apply the new knowledge in their heads to the new conditions of their bodies.

This is how dialectics can help us to correct and creatively develop further
the theoretical breakthrough achieved by Professor Proyect while drinking
his morning cup of coffee at the coffee table without a copy of the
_German Ideology_ on it.

Vladimir


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