Fwd: Re: Zizek's Lenin (Ken Lawrence)

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Thu May 4 12:57:59 MDT 2000


Doug responding to me:

>  >     So let me try once more. The doctrines that are called Leninism are
>  >straightforward and clear.
>
>  Really? How do they apply to the U.S. or any other First World
>  country in 2000? The analysis of imperialism? The party model? What?

    I summarized them before. Clear and unambiguous slogans and programs.
Explicit revolutionary aims that foster no illusions about reforms, even when
compromises must be made. Sufficient organizational discipline to foster
strong, unified action. Revolutionary defeatism.

>  What in life is straightforward and clear? I often find life very
>  confusing, don't you?

    Sure, but the aim of Marxism -- particularly Marxist politics -- is to
demystify it, not to embellish the mystifications. Compare Zizek to Georg
Lukacs, say, to see the difference between a self-absorbed mystic and a
dialectician.

>  >  Lenin's are intended to incite action; Zizek's, to discourage it.
>
>  Speaking of caricature....

    This is not caricature. An elementary precept of Marxism is the
requirement to take sides when masses are insurgent, and to subordinate one's
criticisms to that larger and more important requirement. See Marx's writings
on the Paris Commune, or consider his and Engels's decision to suppress their
Critique of the Gotha Program, despite its critical/theoretical importance to
Lenin, and to every later generation of Marxists. Zizek does the opposite,
just like his adherents on this list; scholastic critiques are the pretext
for avoidance, never are they subordinate to declarations of solidarity, let
alone participation alongside the insurgents, whatever the criticisms may be.
This is particularly disgraceful coming from scholars who never bothered to
offer a constructive program in support of immigrants' rights, but then sit
back and take potshots at the mass movement that emerged to fight for those
rights.

>  You may not approve, but he's very serious. His book on Lenin is due
>  from Verso next January, by the way; his book on "totalitarianism"
>  and his exchange with Judith Butler and Ernesto Laclau later this
>  year.

    If it is as flippant as what you posted here, and as ignorant of the
revolutionary upsurges of the past as other stuff of his you have quoted (for
example, on the relations between Marxists and radical Christians), it will
perfectly fit the Genovese model of mountebank Marxism.

>  >     Ken M adores Zizek, and particularly his opacity and political
> passivity,
>  >so his reply was pro forma. But Doug claims to be an enthusiastic
supporter
>  >of activists in this country (Seattle and Washington), while not
> criticizing
>  >Zizek's opposition to similar stirrings in Europe.
>
>  More caricture. He was criticizing the wisdom of mobilizing against
>  Haider in the way that people mobilized against Haider, and asked
>  some serious questions about where Haider came from.

    Again, as above, because he regards his own arrogant assertions as
superseding any need for an expression of solidarity -- indeed, to the point
of being more strongly opposed to the workers' and antifascist movements than
to those who terrorize immigrants -- it is not in the least a caricature.
Further, his proposal to clown as being in opposition to mass action showed
his true colors, because every mass movement employs every weapon, including
mime, parody, and so forth, but no serious radical ever deserts a movement
because it is insufficiently enamored of his particular tactical suggestion.

>  I think the organization model of the Direct Action Networks is very
>  interesting - it's very disciplined and flexible, consensual and
>  effective, serious and witty. I don't know where it can go, but maybe
>  it's the organizational model for a different century you're looking
>  for. It doesn't look much like the Bolshies, but it's not 1917
>  anymore.

    Yes, but that is about how the 1960s began, and rapidly proved
insufficient, which is precisely why hundreds of thousands of activists who
had shunned traditional Marxist and Leninist doctrines -- which challenged
their deep-rooted cultural individualism -- eventually found their way to
old-style socialism and communism. They did not succeed in overthrowing the
world's most powerful bourgeois state, but they came closer to it than any
previous generation, and that occurred only after the most thorough
radicalization since the one that World War II nipped in the bud.

>  >     Instead of vacuous catcalls
>
>  I prefer my catcalls to be stuffed with content, not vacuous.

    I would hope for that, but the first round that you aimed at me were not.

Ken Lawrence


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Doug responding to me:

>  >     So let me try once more. The doctrines that are called Leninism are
>  >straightforward and clear.
>
>  Really? How do they apply to the U.S. or any other First World
>  country in 2000? The analysis of imperialism? The party model? What?

    I summarized them before. Clear and unambiguous slogans and programs.
Explicit revolutionary aims that foster no illusions about reforms, even when
compromises must be made. Sufficient organizational discipline to foster
strong, unified action. Revolutionary defeatism.

>  What in life is straightforward and clear? I often find life very
>  confusing, don't you?

    Sure, but the aim of Marxism -- particularly Marxist politics -- is to
demystify it, not to embellish the mystifications. Compare Zizek to Georg
Lukacs, say, to see the difference between a self-absorbed mystic and a
dialectician.

>  >  Lenin's are intended to incite action; Zizek's, to discourage it.
>
>  Speaking of caricature....

    This is not caricature. An elementary precept of Marxism is the
requirement to take sides when masses are insurgent, and to subordinate one's
criticisms to that larger and more important requirement. See Marx's writings
on the Paris Commune, or consider his and Engels's decision to suppress their
Critique of the Gotha Program, despite its critical/theoretical importance to
Lenin, and to every later generation of Marxists. Zizek does the opposite,
just like his adherents on this list; scholastic critiques are the pretext
for avoidance, never are they subordinate to declarations of solidarity, let
alone participation alongside the insurgents, whatever the criticisms may be.
This is particularly disgraceful coming from scholars who never bothered to
offer a constructive program in support of immigrants' rights, but then sit
back and take potshots at the mass movement that emerged to fight for those
rights.

>  You may not approve, but he's very serious. His book on Lenin is due
>  from Verso next January, by the way; his book on "totalitarianism"
>  and his exchange with Judith Butler and Ernesto Laclau later this
>  year.

    If it is as flippant as what you posted here, and as ignorant of the
revolutionary upsurges of the past as other stuff of his you have quoted (for
example, on the relations between Marxists and radical Christians), it will
perfectly fit the Genovese model of mountebank Marxism.

>  >     Ken M adores Zizek, and particularly his opacity and political
> passivity,
>  >so his reply was pro forma. But Doug claims to be an enthusiastic
supporter
>  >of activists in this country (Seattle and Washington), while not
> criticizing
>  >Zizek's opposition to similar stirrings in Europe.
>
>  More caricture. He was criticizing the wisdom of mobilizing against
>  Haider in the way that people mobilized against Haider, and asked
>  some serious questions about where Haider came from.

    Again, as above, because he regards his own arrogant assertions as
superseding any need for an expression of solidarity -- indeed, to the point
of being more strongly opposed to the workers' and antifascist movements than
to those who terrorize immigrants -- it is not in the least a caricature.
Further, his proposal to clown as being in opposition to mass action showed
his true colors, because every mass movement employs every weapon, including
mime, parody, and so forth, but no serious radical ever deserts a movement
because it is insufficiently enamored of his particular tactical suggestion.

>  I think the organization model of the Direct Action Networks is very
>  interesting - it's very disciplined and flexible, consensual and
>  effective, serious and witty. I don't know where it can go, but maybe
>  it's the organizational model for a different century you're looking
>  for. It doesn't look much like the Bolshies, but it's not 1917
>  anymore.

    Yes, but that is about how the 1960s began, and rapidly proved
insufficient, which is precisely why hundreds of thousands of activists who
had shunned traditional Marxist and Leninist doctrines -- which challenged
their deep-rooted cultural individualism -- eventually found their way to
old-style socialism and communism. They did not succeed in overthrowing the
world's most powerful bourgeois state, but they came closer to it than any
previous generation, and that occurred only after the most thorough
radicalization since the one that World War II nipped in the bud.

>  >     Instead of vacuous catcalls
>
>  I prefer my catcalls to be stuffed with content, not vacuous.

    I would hope for that, but the first round that you aimed at me were not.

Ken Lawrence


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------





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