Re.: Chomsky cheers the popular uprising in Serbia: Noam Chomskyon Serbia

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Oct 14 10:14:00 MDT 2000

 From Nestor to Mine:

>Perhaps a detour could be useful here. If we look back to the
>"classical" tradition in Marxist thought as regards Anarchism, we
>finally rediscover the fact that this ideology is the best suited one
>to the petty bourgeois. Marx himself stated, in what is usually
>misunderstood as an easy witticism, that an Anarchist is "a liberal
>with a bomb in one hand".  This idea has more depth in it than many
>can see.
>Anarchism has been a strong movement in the Italian and Spanish labor
>formations of the first third of the 20th. Century. This cannot be
>read as a sign of progressiveness, this can only be read -from the
>point of view of social structure and its workings- as the expression
>of a working class that has not completely been severed from
>peasantry or urban petty artisans, as the expression of an incomplete
>process of class differentiation, as the expression, in short and
>risking to be grossly misunderstood, of an excessively youthful stage
>in the history of the class. The system of ideas that such an
>existential position generates is, precisely, that of a fierce
>individualism that opposes the state (where the petty bourgeois
>places what in fact belongs to the bourgeoisie...) <snip>

A wonderful post, Nestor!  I think we can also learn from Gramsci's
criticism of "theoretical syndicalism":

*****   Economism -- theoretical movement for Free trade --
theoretical syndicalism.  It should be considered to what degree
theoretical syndicalism derives originally from the philosophy of
praxis, and to what degree from the economic doctrines of Free Trade
-- i.e. in the last analysis from liberalism....

The nexus between free-trade ideology and theoretical syndicalism is
particularly evident in Italy, where the admiration of syndicalists
like Lanzillo & Co. for Pareto is well known.  The former belongs to
a dominant and directive social group; the latter to a group which is
still subaltern, which has not yet gained consciousness of its
strength, its possibilities, of how it is to develop, and which
therefore does not know how to escape from the primitivist phase....

The ideas of the Free Trade movement are based on a theoretical error
whose practical origin is not hard to identify; they are based on a
distinction between political society and civil society, which is
made into and presented as an organic one, whereas in fact it is
merely methodological.  Thus it is asserted that economic activity
belongs to civil society, and that the State must not intervene to
regulate it.  But since in actual reality civil society and State are
one and the same, it must be made clear that _laissez-faire_ too is a
form of State "regulation", introduced and maintained by legislative
and coercive means.  It is a deliberate policy, conscious of its own
ends, and not the spontaneous, automatic expression of economic
facts.  Consequently, _laissez-faire_ liberalism is a political
programme, designed to change -- in so far as it is victorious -- a
State's leading personnel, and to change the economic programme of
the State itself -- in other words the distribution of the national

The case of theoretical syndicalism is different.  Here we are
dealing with a subaltern group, which is prevented by this theory
from ever becoming dominant, or from developing beyond the
economic-corporate stage and rising to the phase of ethico-political
hegemony in civil society, and of domination in the State....It is
undeniable that in it, the independence and autonomy of the subaltern
group which it claims to represent are in fact sacrificed to the
intellectual hegemony of the ruling class, since precisely
theoretical syndicalism is merely an aspect of _laissez-faire_
liberalism -- justified with a few mutilated (and therefore
banalized) theses from the philosophy of praxis.  Why and how does
this "sacrifice" come about?  The transformation of the subordinate
group into a dominant one is excluded, either because of the problem
is not even considered (Fabianism, De Man, an important part of the
Labour Party), or because it is posed in an inappropriate and
ineffective form (social democratic tendencies in general), or
because of a belief in the possibility of leaping from class society
directly into a society of perfect equality with a syndical

A few characteristics of historical economism: the search for
historical connections it makes no distinction between what is
"relatively permanent" and what is a passing fluctuation, and by an
economic fact it means the self-interest of an individual or small
group....In other words, it does not take economic class formations
into account, with all its inherent relations, but is content to
assume motives of mean...self-interest....

(Antonio Gramsci, "The Modern Prince,"_Prison Notebooks_, pp. 158-63)   *****


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