Fidel vs LM

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Wed Aug 25 16:04:37 MDT 1999

On Wed, 25 Aug 1999 14:07:46 -0400 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at> writes:
>Paul F.
>>The problem with LM is that having hit upon the fact that the way
>>Aids in Britain was being used as a moral panic, with actual facts
>>submerged under a deluge of scare propaganda, it went on to say that
>>practically everything else that the government or concerned bodies
>>on health and similar issues must also be based on a similarly
>>fraudulent methodology.
>Although most of the time I react to LM on a visceral level,
>Birkenstock-wearing vegetarian that I am, there is a more interesting
>question from a theoretical angle that I don't have the answer to, nor
>has the usually sharp-sighted Paul F. addressed.
>Which is the turn away from Marxism. I actually had a falling out--one
>many, I must ruefully add--with a young Marxist scholar named Scott
>who is on the editorial board of Lingua Franca, and CLR James expert.
>collection "CLR James and the Negro Question" is indispensable. When I
>in the midst of a flame war with Jim Heartfield on the old
>Marxism-International list, Scott informed me that he had been asked
>to do
>a profile on LM for Transitions, a black-oriented journal edited by
>Soyinka. Good, I told him, it was about time for somebody to publicize
>networking with Ron Arnold, etc. In other words, I expected him to do
>kind of article that Lingua Franca eventually published, but not by
>him. It
>was also the same sort of article that appeared in the Guardian.
>Scott wasn't interested in the kind of "go for the jugular"
>reporting that I like to do. He was much more interested in
>them as a legitimate Marxist current. This was only 2 years or so ago,
>they had not dissolved their party and still retained the iving arxism
>LM. He opined that their outré positions on fox-hunting, nuclear
>etc. were within the framework of Marxism. I said--HEATEDLY--what kind
>Marxism was THAT? He came back that Marxism in the 20th century had
>come up
>with all sorts of awful "positions"--just take a look at Pol Pot. At
>point I blew my stack at him, stating emphatically that if he couldn't
>the difference between supporting nuclear power in Europe in the name
>Marxism, and the mass movement that included E.P. Thompson that
>opposed it,
>then he shouldn't bother to write the article. I don't think he ever
>In point of fact, he had just informed me that he was no longer a
>and had joined the Swedenborg church as part of a retro version of
>"the god
>who failed". Some people Scott's age are rediscovering the 1960s. He's
>more into the 1950s apparently. In the latest Lingua Franca, I should
>he has a long profile on Ayn Rand giving the old buzzard much too much
>credibility if you ask me.

Much of McLemee's article focuses on Chris Sciabarra's book
*Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical*.  Sciabarra is a libertarian
who did his doctorate under the Marxist scholar, Bertell Ollman.
Ollman is noted among other things for his studies of Marxist
dialectics in which he applied the American idealist philosopher's
analysis of internal relations to the elucidation of dialectics.
Sciabarra has in several of his works attempted to apply Ollman's
approach to provide reconsiderations of libertarian and classical
liberal thinkers like F.A. Hayek, Karl Popper, and Ayn Rand.
In the case of the first two thinkers, Sciabarra's approach seems
quite plausible since despite their avowed anti-Hegelianism both
Hayek and Popper in their mature thought advanced evolutionist
conceptions of history and culture.  Both Hayek and Popper were
not incapable of subtle thought. Their are IMO aspects of their thought
that can indeed be understood as being dialectical in character.
BTW the Soviet philosopher, Igor Naletov, arrived at an evaluation
of Popper's mature thought that is similar to Sciabarra's.
(Indeed, Sciabarra was most intrigued when I pointed this out
to him a while back, I am even supposed to be given credit for this
in a forthcoming book on the dialectics of libertarianism or some
such thing).  In the case of Rand though, this argument carries
IMO much less plausibility, if only for the reason she was such a
crude and often dishonest thinker.  I dare say that Chris Sciabarra
is far more learned and intelligent than Rand ever was and he
tends to read back into her a work a subtlety of mind that he
himself possesses but in which Rand was lacking.

Much of Sciabarra's book is devoted to tracing the influences
of Russia's Silver Age on the genesis of Rand's thought.
In particular he points out the influence of Nietzsche on her
philosophy, something that she was most loathe to admit
since Rand and her Objectivist disciples have always dismissed
him as an irrationalist.  Of course Rand's Nietzscheanism
ought to have been apparent.  After all, the hero oh her novel,
Howard Roark, was based on the architect Frank Lloyd
Wright who was very much a professed Nietzschean.
It is true that Barbara Branden in her biography of Rand
 noted her youthful infatuation with the
writings of Nietzsche and the impact of Nietzsche on the
development of her own ethic of egoism and on her romantic
individualism.  That didn't stop orthodox Objectivists from
denying the influence of Nietzsche on Rand but on this point
Sciabarra has made a persuasive argument that has given
the orthodox Objectivists much trouble.  In general Rand
was very reluctant to admit to being influenced by other
thinkers.  She claimed that her thought stemmed from Aristotle
and from the free-market economists.

Rand was also arguably quite dishonest in her denials that she
was influenced in any significant way by contemporary philosophers.
Her book *Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology* includes
among other things a sustained argument aimed at demolishing
the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions.
For Rand the analytic/synthetic distinction was at the root of
nearly everything that she thought was wrong with modern
philosophy.  So far, so good but what she didn't say in her book
was that Harvard philosopher, W.V. Quine had years before
published a demolition of the analytic/synthetic distinction in
his famous essay "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" in his book
*From a Logical Point of View*.  Perhaps, Rand can be excused
or forgiven for this lapse since she was not a professional
philosopher but how does one explain the fact that the essay
by Leonard Peikoff on the analytic/synthetic distinction which
appears in Rand's book makes no mention of Quine either?
Peikoff who was Rand's designated intellectual heir (after
she had dumped Nathan Branden).  Peikoff unlike Rand is
a professional philosopher with a doctorate in the subject
and he has served as a professor at several universities.
What's his excuse?

                Jim Farmelant


>Louis Proyect

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