finding the truth - and using it.

Stewart Sinclair stewsinc at
Mon May 14 22:09:24 MDT 2001

I'd like to do an other take on the problems of carrying on a political
discussion - written and verbal.

I think that one of the difficulties here on the net, as well as in direct
one to one contact, is that all political discussion (in my experience) no
matter how "theoretical" is among other things an ego driven social
activity.  To put it crudely there is quite frequently an element in these
kinds of exchanges that  can be seen as contestations for dominance among
the Alfa males.  I'm sure everyone has noticed how few women there are on
this list or in Marxist left politics generally.  This "feature" is not
limited to left politics of course but is imported into our
social/political milieu for the increasingly dysfunctional class society as
a whole.

The reduction of this type of competitive social process seems to have been
one of the main functions of male education in most of the so-called
primitive tribal societies.  The trial by ordeal (Walkabout in Australia,
vision quest in North America, the killing of a lion with a spear among the
Masai, etc), the man hood ceremonies, etc. all seem  to be focused on
forcing males to grow up and minimizing competition between them.  This
kind of socialization is crucial to the survival small groups that
continually live on the edge.

In the mainstream sciences the accumulated traditions of testing for
repeatability, peer review and more clearly defined structures for
establishing objectivity, help to draw in most of the best minds of the
modern intelligencia.  This process combined with depolitisization of the
sciences by the ruling class deprives the revolutionary project of their
services.  This is in deep contrast with the condition of the intelligencia
in Russia at the turn of the century.  The weakness of the Autocracy, as
Trotsky pointed out, was not so much the physical backwardness of the
infrastructure as it was the stupidity and boredom of a ruling class that
could not create an attractive home for the intellectuals.  Thus they
nearly all ended up in the opposition in one way or an other.  Out of that
pool of talent the RSDLP (B) was able to fashion a capable fighting force
which was able to pickup the power when the Tzar and the ruling class fell
apart and left it lying the streets.  Keeping the power of course was
another matter and is the subject for another contribution to this discussion.

In short it is the ability of modern capitalism to provide satisfying
outlets for the intellectuals through the physical and narrowly defined
human sciences along with the corresponding inability of the left to
attract their attention on a large scale that gives modern capitalism much
of it's stability.  It's interesting that no traditional left force - in
the US or overseas - has any real connection with the Free Software
Foundation.  This is a radical force in the computing world which has
grievously upset Micro$oft and other "pigs at the trough" in this
business.  Most leftists I know don't even have it on the radar, so to speak.

In 1900 the job was done for the Russian revolutionaries by the ruling
class.  The partly feudal ruling class was stuck in a culture that totally
alienated the intellectuals.  Now, in the advanced countries the problem is
qualitatively more difficult.  In the developing countries the problem may
be even worst because of Imperialism's direct intervention in and
subordination of the local elites combined with it's global labour market
for elite workers.  Intellectuals are no longer forced to solve the problem
at home - they can more easily escape.  Some of the colonial elites have
always been able to serve as local overseers for imperialist interests but
for those who are genuinely talented and find this kind of work distasteful
there are always contracts in the developed capitalist countries for
various software and computer hardware firms.

The deepening contraction of global capitalism combined with a genuine fear
of the destructive impact of the global climate change being driven by
human industrial activity will no doubt precipitate an increasing number of
scientifically trained intellectuals into the ranks of the broader
left.  We need to be ready to receive them.  And this brings me full circle
back to the opening of this rather far flung dissertation.  We won't do it
so well if we don't stay conscious of all the dimensions of our own

Stew S.

PS if some one finds these ideas outrageous, try holding your temper and
explain the concrete problems - somewhat in the manner of a journeyman
mechanic explaining the errors in diagnosis to an apprentice.  Keep an
educational tone.

PPS Please do not bother lecturing me about the necessity of winning the
workers and having working class based movement.  To me, this goes without
saying.  It just that after 25 years working medium and large unionized
factories it is clear to me that Lenin's essential thesis was correct - the
working class cannot produce produce a revolutionary leadership solely and
directly out of it's own ranks.  It requires a union of the best
intellectuals with the advanced workers to do that.  Furthermore that's
what most class conscious workers I've worked with expect and look
for.  Most are aware of their own inadequacy and want trained professionals
on their side.

>Date: Sun, 13 May 2001 11:15:46 +0800
>From: Greg Schofield <gschofield at>
>Subject: Re: finding the truth
>Here! Here!
>100% agreement in this and we do need to cut out a lot more static than is
>sometimes the case now. This contribution deserves serious and open replies
>- - clarity in discussions is a political question that needs to be redressed
>more than is always the case now.
>Greg Schofield
>Perth Australia
>At 09:09  12/05/01 -0400, you wrote:
> >posting messages is a strange sort of activity. If I begin a discussion, I
> >am addressing the community of list members. if I am responding to a
> >question someone else has posted, I am addressing that person, but the rest
> >of the community gets to hear what we are talking about. this relationship
> >confuses common notions about the separation between private and public. if
> >I don't like what someone else has said, I can try to convince them of my
> >point of view, and if I am criticized by someone on the list, I may get
> >defensive and try to prove them wrong. my point here is that we all learn
> >through participation in a collective discourse. sometimes people may just
> >be wrong. however, knowledge comes about through an exchange. one person
> >says something, and the next takes it to the next level. this is what I
> >would call a dialogue. now, in reality, things don't always work this well.
> >people sometimes talk at cross purposes. the result is noise or distortion.
> >and as we all know, some of us are not always perfectly rational in our
> >discourse. we become frustrated or impatient with the Other.
>End of marxism-digest V1 #3498

More information about the Marxism mailing list