Doug Henwood/Mark Jones exchange (from LBO-Talk)

M A Jones jones118 at
Mon May 1 00:46:40 MDT 2000

Ah! I smell troll-spoor...

Mark Jones

----- Original Message -----
From: "Sol Dollinger" <soldoll at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Sunday, April 30, 2000 9:41 PM
Subject: Re: Doug Henwood/Mark Jones exchange (from LBO-Talk)

> C.L.R. James was not a great Trotskyist.  He retained his own political
> group within the Schachtman party and also within the Socialist Workers
> Party.  His state capitalist position was an obstacle to complete
> integration in either organization.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Mark Jones <jones118 at>
> To: marxism at <marxism at>
> Date: Sunday, April 30, 2000 1:34 PM
> Subject: RE: Doug Henwood/Mark Jones exchange (from LBO-Talk)
> >Nestor  dijo:
> >>
> >> > Well, well, Nestor, you continue to surprise me with your elegant
> >> > thought-processes. But what does this exactly mean:
> >> >
> >> > > The whole long debate on the autonomy of economic forces, a debate
> >> > > where the Soviet bureaucracy put to work some of the best minds in
> >> > > economic policy of their time (Varga, Lange, and others), would
> >> > > been spared with just presenting the points of view of Social
> >> > > Democrat economists, such as the Swedish school of welfare state
> >> > > economics.
> >> >
> >
> >Well, no sabres intended, just clarification sought. And thank you.
> >
> >I agree entirely and I'm gonna quote myself to prove it (sorry for
> >repetition):
> >
> >CLR James, in 'Notes on Dialectics: Hegel-Marx-Lenin' reflects on the
> >sense of mounting excitement he felt when he first seriously addressed
> >the Hegelian insight of the later Lenin, and hoiw this forced its
> >way through the discourses of Lenin's praxis so that the recognition of
> it's
> >presence was both unexpected and almost epiphanic for James. In the
> >(p146), James describes the puzzlement he (James) felt at reading another
> >Lenin speech about trade unions:
> >
> >'I have read those last articles of Lenin's till I understand,
> >not only what he wrote, but what was implicit. In the beginning of one
> >of them, 'How to Reorganise the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection', he
> >[Lenin]  says: "This crisis is a crisis like the Civil War, in other
> >words, it is the gravest crisis of the Russian Revolution." He says then:
> >"How did we meet the crisis of the Civil War? We dug deep down into the
> >deepest layers of the population, to find the most devoted, self-
> >sacrificing forces." Then the article seems to fall away from this
> >level. He goes into details about choosing good administrators and
> >training them carefully. But think of Lenin as he had always been.
> >Also let us recall here this very Civil War. In the Crisis of the Civil
> >War, in his speech to, I think, the Fourth Conference of Trade Unions,
> >he makes what is the most revolutionary speech I have ever read anywhere.
> >It is possible to read that speech for years and not understand it.
> >On that I can give unimpeachable evidence. At any rate I understand it
> >now. It says approximately this: "The revolution is in desperate crisis.
> >The only thing that can save it is you, the workers, organised in your
> >factory committees (the basic organisation of the workers). Take over.
> >RUN PRODUCTION.  Run everything. If you take over everything we can
> >win. If you do not take over..."
> >
> >'Those who read this _may_ understand it (CLR James continues). That I
> >have leave to doubt. It is very VERY, VERY hard to realise what this
> >means. So ingrained is the bourgeois habit of thinking in terms of
> >organisation, leaders, policies, instructions, discipline: discipline,
> >which is very good medicine for petit-bourgeois radicals but is not
> >needed by the proletariat. But you do not understand Lenin in 1923 [sic:
> >the speech was made in 1920 or 21, I think: MAJ] unless you understand
> >this uncompromising appeal to the masses _in their factory committees_
> >to take over.'
> >
> >James ends this thought with the notion that before his death Lenin was
> >proposing to embark on a kind of Cultural Revolution: 'a tremendous
> >appeal in the old leninist manner to the great masses of the workers --
> >the deepest layers'.
> >
> >In these pages, incidentally, the great Trotskyite CLR James criticises
> >Trotsky's stance on trade unions and workers control as ruthlessly as
> >Lenin himself had, when he harshly castigated, time after time, the
> >emptiness of Trotsky's posturing about 'democracy' while always couching
> >his demands in a kind of abstract, bureaucratic formalism of shuffling
> >functionaries around. And James adds: 'In these last articles [of
> >Lenin's] the emphasis that Trotsky has given to the attacks on Stalin
> >and the petty measures about the administrators is totally false'.
> >Rereading some of this material, I too was struck with the degree to
> >which Lenin's bete noire, in his very last writings, was Trotsky, not
> >Stalin, although I don't offer this thought as some kind of reflexive
> >protectiveness about Stalin, far from it. In terms of their
> >administrative methods, there wasn't much to choose between Stalin and
> >Trotsky.
> >
> >Alfred Sohn-Rethel, in his _Intellectual and Manual Labour_ discusses
> >Taylorism at length, and without reading this seminal work, no
> >discussion of Taylorism and industrial democracy is worth jack shit.
> >
> >Braverman knew Sohn-Rethel, and acknowledged so far as I know the
> >difference between them: Braverman was an industrial sociologist of
> >Marxist hue, Sohn-Rethel a very great philosopher, not a kantian as some
> >who presumably have not read him say, but the greatest Marxian
> >critical-liquidator of kantianism. Sohn-Rethel's principal contention
> >was that in the monopoly capitalist labour-process the division of
> >mental and manual labour is inscribed in the Newtonian (classical)
> >physics which underpins the very machinery of production.
> >
> >Indded, fixed plant and machinery, almost until the present day, has
> >represented the accumulation of capital (C) in relation to (V) in the
> >form of the modification of natural materials according to the simple
> >dynamics and geometries of the Newtonian synthesis. According to Sohn-
> >Rethel, the essence of Newtonian mechanics over its Cartesian etc.
> >competitors was not just that it worked, but that it was based on
> >an immanentism of space and time and the nature of objects suspended
> >within space and time, which Kant tried to capture theoretically.
> >
> >Newton took the guesswork out of such things as describing the parabolas
> >of cannon balls or the shapes of engineering structures or the dynamics
> >of steam engines. Capitalism enshrined the objectification of labour in
> >machinery by first of all installing it inside the heads of the
> >draughtsmen, engineers, who designed the machinery according to the
> >Newtonian calculus.
> >
> >Artisans were downgraded not merely by the deskilling piece-production
> >beloved of Adam Smith but by the fact that the world they fashioned in
> >iron, steel and concrete, came to them preconceptualised, and the
> >master-code of capitalist control of all social reproduction processes
> >was buried within the blueprints they worked from. As for the manual
> >labourer doing the actually shearing, grinding, riveting, etc, while
> >as Marx rightly said, there was gold also in his head, nonetheless his
> >objectification within the great Newtonian machinery was for all
> >practical purposes, absolute.
> >
> >>From that moment, when the production of absolute surplus value
> >in the manufactory had become the production of relative s-v in the
> >true industrial factory, and capitalism at last stood on its
> >'adequate' (Newtonian) basis, labour in production lost all
> >objective possibility  of control over its own process, i.e.,
> >the capitalist labour process,  and with that, the working class
> >lost all possibility of its own immediate emancipation and self-
> >transcending. In Lenin's terms, the Party that appealed
> >to the 'Dark Forces', the people of the abyss, to save the revolution,
> >and promptly incarcerated them within its facsimile of industrial
> >capitalism -- that Party became an uneasy battleground,
> >a two-way transmission system, within which this truth was set after
> >1920 to work itself out in history. But, as they say, there was
> >No Alternative.
> >
> >This was the mode of production and its agents, which the Bolsheviks
> >inherited. Unsurprisingly, it was the most advanced sectors of the
> >Russian proletariat who proved most reactionary in practice, as we have
> >seen, and they did their best to advance their own sectional
> >interests and to thwart the revolution even at its direst moments of
> >truth. Bolshevik distrust of intellectuals (engineers, scientists) was
> >born then as well as earlier; Stalin solved the problem of the _trahison
> >des clercs_ in his well-known way. Lenin time after time did it by
> >appealing over their heads, over the heads of his whole party in fact,
> >to the 'deepest layers', the darkest forces whose emergence into the
> >light of history after July 1917 delighted him as much as it dismayed
> >Menshevik members of the aristocracy of labour and terrified the middle
> >classes and true intelligentsia.
> >
> >I think that this breach with what I should call the post-kantian
> >rationalism of the Enlightenment, which forms the basis of
> >all political discourse on the 'organised' Left thru the workers'
> >movement from 1848 to Lenin's time, is also the essence of Maoism
> >and the specific content of the GCPR. This is why I am uterly convinced
> >(as Sohn-Rethel was) of the profound historical and materialist
> >significance of Maoism, and since as Goldner says it is not a question
> >of 'right or wrong', for Marxists, but of disineterring the material
> >basis of consciousnes, discourse and action (not that you'd think so
> >from this hate-infested, judgmental and paranoid M-Int list, I'd have
> >to believe almost axiomatically, and I DO believe as a matter of
> >materialist conviction, that if Maoism was capable of this kind
> >of post-enlightenment breakthru, it was because history istelf
> >allowed it and ordained it, and that's important.
> >
> >
> >
> >Mark Jones
> >
> >
> >PS what's a facon anyway?
> >
> >

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