Religion/Luxemburg

OpenSentence Type Foundry typefoundry at opensentence.org
Sun Nov 16 09:56:53 MST 2003


> I think it is characteristic of modern christianism to try a capture a
> monopoly of moral discourse with the suggestion that "Western civilisation"
> is really founded upon christian morality, and only christian morality can
> hold it together. But that is just a response to the crisis of capitalist
> market society, which, as I have pointed out many times, tends to forget
> that the market provides no morality of its own beyond the technical
> conditions required to conclude a transaction, and unless you are totally
> blinkered, this is amply proved by crime statistics for example. It is also
> proved by postmodernist relativism which makes any would-be moral absolutes
> an individual choice.

That's not really true (although you can be forgiven for thinking it, since
it is said a lot with much feeling); firstly, the suggestion that European
civilization, including its radical elements, is founded upon Christian
morality is much more defensible than most intellectuals today would like
you to think. That's really how Milton works, for example, and a lot of
people think Milton is much too much of a "freedom fighter" for these times;
ditto with Blake, who goes Milton one further in eliding the persistence of
classical thought in the thought of the present; and I've recently argued
that *Faust* is really about Faustus Socinius in no uncomplimentary way, but
two out of three wouldn't be bad.

Secondly, as you go on to say in your very fine comment on Luxemburg, the
market is an abstraction; but I will say, *pace* Luxemburg, that for
purposes of comparison it can be a good abstraction or a bad abstraction
(that's the kind of "split-universal" thinking a lot of postmodern
types favor) -- it can be amoral compared to substantive values which
sustain life, or amoral compared to substantive values which destroy life.
The rest of the comments on *Accumulation of Capital* (recently reprinted by
Routledge at a price affordable to many, which is no small thing) are very
well-written, but there is really only one I would like to address.

> Since, as Nicos Poulantzas once remarked, some time prior to throwing
> himself out of a window and dying, the state is "the condensation of class
> forces", it follows that the first condition for a social revolution can
> only apply when the owning classes no longer want to be ruled in the old
> way, and the working classes no longer want to be ruled in the old way
> either. Then commences an era of social revolution, which focuses on the
> entitlement to property ownership and its utilisation, and calls it into
> question at a foundational level.

This is true: considerations of consent are critical, not for the existence
of a market per se but for its legitimation, which enables it to be realized
(that's a good ole abstraction for you), and not
only consent of the workers.  But the disturbing thought is that the
fraction within the bourgeoisie whose discontent objectively corresponds
with the pressing needs of the workers may not be the "friends of the
people".  I am not quite being a third-period Stalinist here, as I do not
feel that fascists consider themselves to be anything but friends of the
people, but I am being a little ornery for a number of reasons because it is
actually my feeling that the fraction of the bourgeoisie which will enable
social revolution in a desirable sense (and transition is more
complicated than you may think) actually may not be bound at all to
proletarian morality (if that is not a pleonasm).

In other words, perhaps you won't like new the radical-chic set *at all* but
maybe they will be necessary for substantive improvements.  For a long time,
most of the self-identified left has been living in "Fourthie"; they are
highly skilled workers in large organizations, who espouse basically
Trotskyist views as a sort of personality "quirk" (of which they have many,
which is not actually all that common in society at large).  I recently
moved into this *espace mentaux*, and find it quite to my liking (for the
children's sake, think of it as a shift from being viewed as Chewbacca
to being viewed as Han Solo).  But in terms of the Fifth International, from
looking at new social movements which might comprise large parts of such a
group (and the Zapatistas are really a transitional step) it seems like the
exemplar might be something more like Luke Skywalker crossed with Luther
Campbell; they very well may appear, from a proletarian standpoint, to be
something like psychopathic in their arbitrariness and nearly unbearable in
terms of moralistic treacle which is not deeply felt at all (but actually
very politically effective, perhaps for reasons
not entirely known to them).

I find this a very disturbing thought, but much of the present is disturbing
and I think we would do well to follow the lead of the last great party
theoretician Luxemburg and consider the theoretical issues of the present
from the standpoint of practical action.

Jeff


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