Corrected version of hurtful words
joseph at indigo.ie
Mon Jun 10 06:30:23 MDT 1996
Louis: You make me laugh, Karl. You, Malecki and Rodwell throw the words
"Menshevik", "opportunist" and "reformist" more than anybody on the
List.This is what hurts, not the occasional sarcastic jibe . When I call
you an odd duck or Malecki some silly name, this should not stick to you
because it has no political significance. When, however, you throw words
around like "opportunist", you are acti ng in a much more vicious manner
than I ever have toward you.
Karl: Verbal abuse does possesses political significance. By calling an
individual a "fucking idiot", or whatever, one is attempting to demean
what is being said through an abusive attack on the individual as a
person. Instead of rational argument concerning the issue at hand the
person's character is subjected to attack. This personal vilification is
an attempt to falsely identify the politics of that person with her/his
alleged personal characteristics. We talk of racism we might just as
easily talk of "personalism". To attempt to refute an argument by calling
the person an abusive name that has to do with one's personal character
is to obscure the class interests underlying politics. It is an
expression of irrationalism. As you may know irrationalism has been very
much identified with fascist ideology.
Argument cannot proceed along a positive path when it is reduced to
verbal abuse. The argument looses its rational character and can
degenerate into farce which does not serve the interests of the working
class. Since marxism is rational irrational personal abuse will mot promote
it. Indeed the very attempt to follow the latter as tactic or even
strategy can only result in undermining its marxism very existence.
Consequently those who engage in the practice of personal abuse
supposedly in the interest of marxism are tacitly suggesting that it
cannot defend or promote itself through rational debate. If this tacit
suggestion is correct the only valid conclusion to be drawn is that
marxism is irrational both doctrinally and politically. Consequently
marxism is being undermined by some of the very people claiming to be its
promoters. Clearly these people are playing a reactionary role in
undermining marxism through the practice and advocacy of verbal abuse
against the individual.
On a different, although ultimately related, note verbal abuse parallels
physical abuse. The use of both is irresponsible and wrong. Many
individuals who engage in physical and verbal abuse or both experience
low self-esteem. Abusive behaviour as a coping strategy is generally
found to exist in individuals who lack a sense of self-control and feel
threatended by events that exist outside them. I n many ways all this is
grounded in a system of distorted cognition.
Personal vilification, in certain contexts, constitutes a form of
terrorism. It is in some ways analogous to the terrorism employed by the
storm troopers of German fascism not long before Hitler took power. Both
are designed to terrorise, intimidate, demoralise and humiliate the
other. This is largely what verbal abuse against the person achieves on
Louis: I have been fighting for socialism for nearly 30 years and have
put my life on the line on more than one occasion. When you and others
throw these types of epithets around in an unthinking man ner, you are
putting an equal sign between me and traitors to the labor movement. What
I find interesting about cyberspace is that creeps like you, Rodwell and
Malecki don't have to establish their o wn credentials before they rip
Karl: Here are further examples of Louis' cognitive distortions. I never
have thrown political taxonomy around "in an unthinking manner". Louis
is clearly a political opportunist. I make no bones about stating this.
Equally political opportunism is a form of political treachery.
Cyberspace is concerned with images, symbols and signifiers. A person
cannot be given a fist in the face, a country cannot be nuked and a
building cannot be occupied within the framework of this space. It is the
validity of one's argument that is decisive in cyberspace, in the context
of email as the Marxism List uses it, not the need to establish one's
credentials: what an unfortunate choice of signifiers Louis chooses. This
is why words are so important in cyberspace. They are the primary means of
self-expression in cyberspace. Therefore they must be used with great
care. It is this feature of cyberspace that makes it all the more
valuable. By its very essence cyberspace makes language decisive. In many
ways cyberspace, in this context, is language's natural medium.
Consequently the greater skill, creativity and imagination in the use of
language the greater is self-expression. This is why any demeaning of
language in cyberspace constitutes the demeaning of the corresponding
relationship between human beings. If the only link in the relationship
between humans is language then clearly the character of the language
existing between these human beings is an expression of the character of the
relationship between them. Barbarise the language that establishes the
link between them and the relationship is barbarised. In short, language
is of primary importance within mailspace and must never be vulgarized or
trivialized. By the sustained trivialization of language a nihilistic
statement is being made: that language is meaningless and human relations
consequently meaningless. The upshot then is that humanity is
meaningless: the human being merely a bundle of meaningless molecules.
The respect with which human language is treated, the way it is cared for,
loved and nurtured is an expression of corresponding respect, care and
love for humanity. Those who abuse language abuse people.
If marxists must develop human relations on
the net by developing language into a rich fine texture. To primitivate
language is to proceed backwards by promoting linguistic Ludditism. This
is certainly not revolutionary but reactionary. The upshot can only
Marcusian one dimensional man: the modern troglodyte.
Louis: For all I know, you have never lifted a finger in your life to
build a single struggle against capitalist oppression. So you then have the
audacity to label me as a reformist.
Karl: My autobiography is irrelevant to the validity of my arguments on
this List. What is significant is their validity. If my arguments lack
this quality then this must be established through rational discourse
rather than through irrationalist verbal abuse or superfluous references
to autobiographical questions. The road to hell is paved with good
Louis: You, Malecki and Rodwell don't seem to have the slightest ability
to be self-critical. For somebody who wants to change society, this is a
real handicap. How can you establish democratic links with the masses if
you can not conceive of yourself as being capable of error?
Karl: I have never suggested I am incapable of error.
Louis: Your readiness to denounce other people's "reformism" is something
new for you. In the past you seemed content to write very high level,
almost philosophical, reflections on Marxist theory. No w, like
Torquemada, you can't wait to find an excuse to cast me down to reformist
Karl: There is no evidence for this. My piece on Eagleton is a highly
political piece of writing which undermines the postmodernist Eagleton
who disguises his postmodernism as marxist. My piece on Gerry Adams is an
obviously political piece; my piece on Irish economic development cannot
be described as a reflection on marxist theory nor can my messages on Ian
Paisley. I very recently submitted a short piece to the List on the
question of the absence of marxism as a substantive global political
force which had a sharp political edge to it.
Louis: When I have functioned in the various mass movements of the last
30 years, there are always hangers-on who are all too happy to label an
entire meeting or demonstration as "opportunist". The Spartacist League,
a tiny Trotskyite sect which has never led a single mass demonstration or
strike in its existence, has no competition in this arena.
On this list, however, what you get are individuals who like to label
other individuals as reformists. You don't think twice about putting a
subject heading of "OPPORTUNIST PROYECT" on a post. You don't even think
twice about using it a second time after I tell you that I regard you as
a principled revolutionary.
Karl: You contradict yourself Louis. You cannot say in one breath that
you regard me as a principled revolutionary and then in the next breath
suggest that I one of the "hangers-on" that you allude to. Words are
signifiers that have signification.
Louis: The reason you can do this is related to one of the flaws of
cyberspace. It allows people to type words on a screen without witnessing
their impact. You can't see the expression on my face when I see
"OPPORTUNIST PROYECT" in my incoming email. If you could, you would never
use a term like this again.
Karl: Perhaps Louis when you verbally abuse List people there are also
"expressions on their faces too". Notwithstanding this, politics has
little to do with facial expression. If it is politically correct to make
a politically correct statement then it must be made irrespective of its
impact one's personal sensibilities. If people have suffered great pain
and died to promote social revolution t hen what is a "facial expression"
when weighed in the scales of history.
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