WHAT IS TO BE DONE

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Mon Feb 19 19:14:02 MST 1996


Brad Mayer needs to take a course to improve his reading
comprehension.  He made it halfway, then got stalled.  To wit:

>I prefer the R. Dumain who recently wrote on the relation of
>Marx to Feuerbach in the supersession of Hegelian idealism.  Far
>from convoluted theoreticisms, these passages cast by analogy a
>clarifying light on our own condition in the present period.

But the R. Dumain who writes on Feuerbach and Marx is a product of
one and the same methodology of his evil twin who writes on the
world crisis of alienated labor and the morbidity of the
revolutionary left.  Perhaps perhaps could both topics be
expressions of one and the same methodology undertaken for one and
the same purpose, to find a way through the crisis?

>I have for some time believed that in our own time we confront
>theoretical and practical tasks much like those which confronted
>Marx and Engels in the aftermath of the theoretical failure of
>Hegelianism and the practical failure of the 1848 revolutions.

Is this the same Brad Mayer who wrote the above quoted statement?
Maybe the other Brad Mayer should be introduced to the other R.
Dumain.

>But Marx overcame these confusions, and we can too, even if we
>have to perform collectively what Marx appeared to accomplish
>individually.  There is reason to hope ...

And did I ever say otherwise?  There is indeed reason to hope, in
the long term.  However, we are also relegated to laboring in the
short term for changes we may never live to see.  The question
here is not the possibility of epochal success in revolutionary
change a half century from now, but the magnitude of the present
crisis, and the understanding of what a pain in the ass it is to
have to live with what is going on right now.

Have you seen me bellyaching about "the crisis in Marxism",
blaming all of our failures on _Anti-Duhring_ or _Materialism and
Empirio-Criticism_, wasting my time attending Rethinking Marxism
or Radical Philosophy conferences, moaning and whining about the
death of socialism?  Do you see any evidence of an identity crisis
here?

Have I suggested that it is hopeless to fight back, or that nobody
is doing so?  If you want to get involved in something in the USA,
there are tons of arenas and organizations in which you can fight
without joining a single self-styled socialist party.  The problem
of course is not that nobody is fighting back, but there lacks a
broad overarching force such as the labor or civil rights
movements that happens to embody a world-historical instantiation
of fundamental change in the social order.

The fact is that nobody in the world but pirates and gangsters is
happy with the New world Order.  Everyone is disillusioned.  But
people all over the world -- maybe not all people everywhere, but
millions in countries around the globe -- are mesmerized by the
mysterious power of accumulated capital to produce.  At best they
dream of mitigating the predatory effects of the monster, or
supplicating or compelling it to let them in on a fraction of its
bounties, but they have not the slightest confidence in themselves
to ever be able to bring the beast down or tame it for their own
collective purposes.  In 1956 when the Hungarian workers overthrew
the Stalinist monster, they immediately established workers
councils.  When the USSR fell, some union leaders called for
privatization so that there would be a way of making industrial
enterprises accountable.  This is a world-historical difference.

I have given my spiel to variegated audiences.  The workers of the
world I know are all social democrats, no matter what country they
come from.  I know a lot of eastern European immigrants too, by
the way.  Nobody believes in American capitalism any more than
they believe in Stalinism.  But they haven't the foggiest as to
what kind of socio-economic order they want, let alone one they
could create, manage, and master themselves.  The question is not
my personal pessimism or identity crisis, but the reality that
millions of people experience.  I tell them this to their face,
and they are reduced to silence.  They know I'm right.  They know
damn well I'm right.  But they don't know where to go.  So they
get quiet.  The Americans know this.  The Eastern Europeans know
this.  They are paralyzed by the overwhelming machinery of
Accumulated Capital, which stands in the starkest contradiction to
socialized labor now more than any time in history.  It's not
pessimism that I would like to highlight, but the extremity of the
contradiction.  And it is that contradiction that must be
addressed by the boldest and most radical measures.  Not only
material organization but its mental corollary, a leap of
imagination, is required.  I thought I was going to make a
significant contribution in this area, but I am reluctant to go
public without first taking the next steps to concretize my
vision, to find that one decisive link, to paraphrase Lenin, that
will yank the whole chain.

I think we cannot predict the organizational form the next upsurge
in revolutionary movement will take.  It will probably be
something totally unexpected like the Black Panthers.  It is
unlikely that it will be something called a socialist or communist
party.  C.L.R. James said you've got to start from the highest
form reached in the previous period of revolutionary struggle.  So
perhaps we should study the Black Panthers and Paris in May 1968.
As for today, the only socialist organization in the USA I find
remotely interesting is Solidarity.  I can't speak for their
activism, their record, their organizational behavior, or even the
positions they take, but they do attract the most intelligent
people.  You've always got to look at where the smart ones are
going.  I'm not about to bother with them either, but I did renew
my subscription to AGAINST THE CURRENT after letting all the rest
lapse.

There are certain things that I must do now.  I may come back to
this theme, but I will only be moved to do so when I see some
evidence of creativity and imagination in the discussions on this
list.  I am past the point of arguing over Shining Psycho-Path or
putting Stalin on trial or pondering whether Mao's greatest
failure was neglect of personal hygiene.  The reason you are
discussing this shit is because you feel the need to discuss
something but you don't know what to do with yourselves, so you
rehash the same tired old shit.

I too get occupied with some old stuff, I admit.  That is because
it is not old for me.  In my social environment in Buffalo in the
70s, I had to deal within and sometimes against the counterculture
(which, by the way, was a multi-racial environment and not just
caucasoid Dead-heads).  I missed out on the Frankfurt School,
Western Marxism, phenomenology, etc.  Now that stuff is old hat,
and everybody that's anybody is into postmodernism,
poststructuralism, and postmasturbation in general.  But me, I've
discovered the Hegelian tradition and I'm loaded for bear.


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