Pessimism of the Intellect, and the Optimism of the Will

Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at
Sat May 25 23:19:05 MDT 1996

Zeynep Tufekcioglu wrote:
> This is by Alex Callinicos. The article is "Politics of Marxism Today",
> International Socialism, 2:29, Summer 1995, pp.144

You probably hit the wrong key - it was 1985.

> (sorry, I had only the Turkish to retranslate back to English, but I think
> it is clear enough)

It is - but just for the record: Here is the original English:

_Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will_

"The phrase has its uses, but it is ultimately an undialectical way of
putting things. It suggests that reality is harsh and unyielding,
constantly frustrating the 'optimistic' will which, in defiance of reason,
seeks to transform it. One can respond to reality thus viewed in one of
two ways - ultra-left voluntarism or reformist adaption, suicide or
surrender. Marxism is distinguished from other forms of socialism precisely
by its claim that the possibility of social transformation depends on the
existence of tendencies in reality itself working towards that
transformation. The point of socialist organisation is to act on those
tendencies, identifying in every conjuncture 'What is to be done'.
Rolland's formula (*) obscures this interaction between Marxist theory
and social reality, mediated by the revolutionary party."

> (*) According to Callinicos, the "Pessimism.." formulation was first made by
> Romain Rolland, and Gramsci picked it up from him.

In Gramsci: Selections from the Prison Notebooks, London 1971, p. 175.

> btw, It still seems to me as if we've already hit the bottom, and things are
> changing worldwide. Anywhichway, I completely agree, to hell with sobriety!



Jorn Andersen


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