The Necessity of a "Moral Police" (was Re: renouncing whiteness?)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Nov 29 00:02:15 MST 2000

Justin writes:

>Jim says:
>  >Doesn't this appeal to renounce whiteness succumb to precisely those
>  >errors that Engels describes in Utopian and Scientific Socialism: namely
>  >that it is an appeal to moral action without identifying the material
>>foundations for such an action?
>What does this mean? That we have to always show that moral action
>is also in ouir interests, or it is futile to appeal to morality?
>ALthough I agree that it's unrealistic to expect people to act
>against their long term group interests, I also doubt that it's
>plausible to suppose that people only respond, or respond best, to
>"material" appeals. Outrage that motivates is fostered by a sense of
>injustice, of having been wronged, not just harmed.

While I have & will argue against Moralism (which I define as the
compulsive reduction of political questions to matters of moral
choices, esp. individual moral choices), I agree with Justin here.
What J. S. Mill disparagingly calls a "Moral Police" below is
absolutely necessary.  Implicit or explicit appeals to morality have
& will be part & parcel of the enforcement mechanism of class
solidarity (it goes without saying that I believe _implicit_ appeals
are much more effective than explicit ones, for the latter may
produce "contrarians" -- e.g., sophomoric individuals who revel in
"anti-PC" swagger):

*****   It is known that the bad workmen who form the majority of the
operatives in many branches of industry, are decidedly of opinion
that bad workmen ought to receive the same wages as good, and that no
one ought to be allowed, through piecework or otherwise, to earn by
superior skill or industry more than others can without it.  And they
employ a moral police, which occasionally becomes a physical one, to
deter skillful workmen from receiving, and employers from giving, a
large remuneration for a more useful service.   (J. S. Mill, "On
Liberty," _On Liberty & Other Essays_, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991,
pp.97-8)   *****

As Mill notes correctly, such a "moral police" must sometimes become
a physical one.  Recall the following sequence from Sergei
Eisenstein's _Potemkin_, at the slain revolutionary sailor
Vakulinchuk's funeral:

*****   Everybody excitedly waves their hands and shouts:

[TITLE:] 'Down with the autocrats!'

The excitement of the crowd
...ever higher
...and higher,
...and draws near its peak.

A suspicious-looking man in a straw hat, his hands tucked insolently
into his waistcoat, looks on with a disdainful smile.

The woman shouts:

[TITLE:] 'Mothers and brothers! Let there be no distinctions or
enmities among ourselves!'

...and she exhorts the crowd.

The suspicious-looking man in the straw hat smiles disdainfully.

The woman continues her speech.

The suspicious-looking man in the straw hat cries out:

[TITLE:] 'Down with the Jews!'

...and smiles insolently.

The men standing near him
... and angrily, ...
after another,
...turn their heads.

The reactionary [a member of the Black Hundred, a virulent
anti-Jewish society] continues to smile insolently.

One of the men advances towards him angrily.

The reactionary grows frightened.

The man continues to advance towards him.

The reactionary pulls his straw hat over his eyes and tries to walk
away, but he is stopped.

The man looks at him in fury.

The reactionary surrounded by men.

They pull his straw hat over his face and
...begin attack him.

<>   *****


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