Leo Panitch on 9/11

Mark Jones mark.jones at tiscali.co.uk
Sat Dec 8 13:22:14 MST 2001

At 08/12/2001 19:20, Carrol Cox wrote:

>This is unfair to dogmatic marxism to equate it to aggressive
>non-marxism. I see no even distant relation between what you quote from
>Henry and any position ever held by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Che,
>Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Cabral, or any other marxist I have ever
>come across. If you take Stalin at his word, it doesn't even relate to
>anything Stalin ever claimed to stand for.

It seemed to me that, far from being un-marxist, Henry to the contrary was
restating some very important and politically elementary facts, and there
was nothing  insulting about the way he did it either. Once you make
'democracy' an end in itself (and once you start making comrades of people
who are your deadliest political enemies) than you instantly cease to be
either marxist or revolutionary. The proletariat (is one still allowed to
even use the term, in this age of democratic servility and leftwing
abjectness?) has no interest whatever, no stake at all, in democracy as an
end in itself, its only interest is in democracy as a *means* to an end,
and the main reason for this if you like "calculation" is that its social
masters, the ruling elite, ie, dare I say, the *bourgeoisie*, being both
predatory and profoundly cynical, both murderous and hypocritical, also has
*no interest or stake whatever* in democracy. Capitalism, rumours and
half-baked history to the contrary, does not and never has needed democracy
as a condition of its existence, and all the social and political rights,
including the franchise, were merely expedients to gain time or were forced
concessions to be retracted whenever conveniently possible. The only rights
the masses have are those which they are capable of defending in struggle.
The very notion of right is grounded in private property, meaning above
all, private ownership of the means of production. If you socialise the
means of production than, obviously and self-evidently, you also and
immediately do away with bourgeois right. That this was the work of many
centuries and that it has become ritualised and internalised into mass
consciousness in the forms of common law and custom and practice, changes
nothing. You cannot be a Marxist and also believe in the absoluteness of
and transcendental meaning of social, civil and democratic rights. Rights
like the franchise are contingent, provisional, and finally have no meaning
for the proletariat except as *the instruments of social emancipation of
the exploited masses*.

To talk about 'democratic renewal' is not merely some kind of slip of the
tongue, it is to announce your binding commitment to bourgeois renewal in
general, it is to announce the fact that you are a *counter-revolutionary*.
The same thing applies ipso facto to education. It was Lenin (not Tony
Blair, altho he repeated it!) who said 'Education! Education! Education!'
and whose whole political life from his earliest days in Petersburg social
democratic circles in the 1890s, was all about educating the masses, about
stripping away false consciousness and mystification. At the same time, the
idea that 'education' can substitute for revolution-making is wrong both in
principle and practice. The idea that education can be the prime mover of
emancipation was criticised early on by Marx who said 'Who will educate the

To hold political discussion meetings, have 'Capital' reading groups etc,
is obviously very important, but that is NOT what Henry was getting at.

Now, Stan wrote:

>But my real issue right now is that people I have reposted widely, and for
>whom I have a great deal of respect (intellectually), seem to all think
>they are Lenin incarnate, and respond to real questions and issues not as
>comrades, but with insults and invective.

But if rational arguments were enough we'd already be living in a utopia of
social justice and fair play. But they aren't enough, so more is needed if
you want to win. The other main thing that is needed is organisation, but
that requires drawing a sharp line between the camp of revolution and the
camp of social opportunism. The opportunists, the well-funded NGO
thinktankers and the timeservers of labour bureaucracy, always answer
criticism the same way, by talking of the need for 'Democracy' (ie, more
space to manouevre and be opportunistic in) and for avoiding 'dogmatism'
(ie, avoiding being too principled). These self-styled 'democrats' are, of
course, never themselves open to persuasion and do all they can to *avoid*
debate. You have to make clear who and what they are, and this is not
insults and invective, but absolutely politically necessary. This is
especially true now when there is such a sharp chauvinist mood and a sharp
swing to the right. At such moments even someone like Panitch can appear to
be a genuine leftist, but he is not: later, when there is a swing back to
the left, it is precisely the social-democrat *traitors* who historically
have garnered the political dividends, and what made that easy was the fact
that we, the real revolutionaries, gave them our imprimatur and called them
'comrades', we gave them a halo of leftwing respectability, earlier on, and
the result was always disaster. This is an elementary lesson from history.
We must not make that mistake now. Now is the moment to make clear the
sharp division that exists between the camp of revolution and the camp of
social treason

Organising work which goes in for ideological trimming in order to gain an
audience, is simply another kind of political hypocrisy, of political
chicanery. People who have already stepped out on that road, and who reveal
their fraudulent, self-serving politics in everything they say and do,
cannot be the comrades of revolutionaries. They are the deadliest enemies
of the revolution. Their whole purpose in life is to make the very thought
of revolution seem absurd, impossible and utopian, when it is clear that in
fact *there is no alternative to revolution* except barbarism, ecocide and

Mark Jones

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