Libertarian polarisation

GBandLM Graham at
Mon Aug 30 16:15:53 MDT 1999

FROM: Graham Barnfield
Editor, Culture Matters CMCRC strand:
Subject: Re: Libertarian Polarisation

Louis P. says
> I have no idea why the LM comrade feels the need to re-invent the wheel.
> Gramsci, one of the 3 muses who inspires this mailing list, discussed the
> role of social workers in Henry Ford's employ at length in his prison
> notebooks. The gist of his analysis is that the social workers were used
> a form of social control in the household, as an extension of the kind of
> labor discipline that went on in the factory.
Much as I'm flattered by comparisons with Gramsci. - modesty forbids, etc.
- Lou P.  misses my point. Gramsci cuts little ice today with most
families, who nevertheless resent social workers butting in on the running
of their families, but assume it's OK with other, 'problem' families.
(Annecdotally, meeting up with the parents I mentioned in a previous
posting for the first time in over a decade confirmed this. 'Obviously you
Barney would look after your daughter, but as for other parents ...' was
the direction of the conversation.)
Therefore an  anti-state interventionist intervention in a publication
intended for widespread circulation makes sense, in order to undercut the
wider pro-interventionist sentiments - hence, in part, LM's libertarian
tag.  Along the way, anything to disuade the youngsters who wish to enrol
on social worker training courses as a step toward changing the world
('though nowadays 'the meja' is more popular) is worthwhile.
Lou says
> I have a strong sense that the defeatist mood that gave rise to
> Marxism also accounts for the right turn of the ex-RCP.

Although the RCP as was took issue with Analytical Marxism in 'Marxism in
our Time', _Confrontation_ Vol. 1, No. 1, among other places, but that's
another story.

Also, I'm not entirely sure how to reinvent Gramsci's wheel and end up with
a 'right turn' either, although in real terms this has happened within the
academic cultural studies tradition, which now emphasises consumerism as
resistance etc.
> If the USSR and the welfare state have collapsed, it is a seductive
> argument to say that we have to bypass traditional methods of class
> struggle.

Would Lou not accept that the real deveopments impact upon the classes that
used to engage in class struggle on a far wider scale than today?  When the
welfare state had a positive ideology behind it - 'homes fit for heroes',
as I was told as a kid - then ordinary people were happier to defend it. In
contrast, when it's seen as a problem that consumes resources, creates
dependency and doesn't work, the bare minimum is that Marxists take this
change in perceptions into account and write the propaganda accordingly.

>Especially when your position in bourgeois society (tenured
> professor, television producer, software engineer) gives you a bit of
> leverage over what the average wage worker enjoys.

Lou is rather speculative about what ex-RCPers and LM contributors do for a
living here, but I can live with that ...

> So if such a person already enjoys job security and a generous wage,
naturally > the issues that seem most important fall outside the rubric of
traditional Marxist
> discourse, such as the freedom to hunt foxes or sit on the beach without
> worrying about skin cancer.

Back to the wonderful worlds of fox hunting and skin cancer ...
On the former, it's irrelevant how individuals dealing with Mr. Reynard. As
I see it, he's vermin, but - like Paul F. - I see chasing him to death with
hounds as degrading to the (human) participants - it's not a fair fight.
I'd gladly catch fish or shoot deer, given the time and opportunity. It's a
personal prejudice as to how we treat animals (objects with instinctive
behaviour), although cruelty is sometimes close to an ersatz barbarism. The
point for me was when New Labour went for a foxhunting ban - via a private
member's bill in parliament - as an opening salvo in the wider bid to
regualte leisure activities, I was dead against it.

As for sunbathing, at least twice this summer I've had officials tell me to
get sunblock and/or hats on my daughter.  In terms of sunburn, this makes
sense - and I'd already done it without prompting. In terms of skin cancer,
it's nonsense - it discounts factors like length of exposure, genetic
pedispositions to cancer etc.,  needlessly scaring parents and other

As such issues prey on the minds of many people, a rational response makes
sense. If this means losing the tag of Marxist, so be it.

Graham Barnfield

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