Internationalism and industrialism

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Mon Nov 17 15:39:04 MST 2003


Brother,

You wrote:

The point is that Christian charity is not a sex style, except for Bob
Packwood (which should be telling people something); and there are a lot of
people in the US who aren't too democratic about their Christianity, if you
know what I mean.

Reply:

Lenin remarked rather caustically and brutally "Impotence of the exploited
classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives
rise to the belief in a better life after death, as the impotence of the
savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils,
miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives, are
taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to
take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the
labor of others are taught by religion to practice charity while on earth,
thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as
exploiters, and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in
heaven."

This remark connotes the moral duplicity or hypocrisy, which absolution
(resolving shame, remorse, regret or guilt) through charity could or might
imply. But when is charity, charity really ? And when is charity really a
form of, or name for, human solidarity ? This has not been theoretically
articulated in the Marxist tradition as far as I know, if anything taken as
obvious and self-evident (you help me so I help you, I help you so you help
me, and so on), which it may not be. Charity might be an admission of
weakness, or a show of strength, the motives might vary, and if anything
true christian charity would seem to reside in selfless giving, i.e. in its
purest expression a genuinely altruistic act performed under the condition
that this is in no way in one's self-interest, a complete surrender,
commitment or sacrifice in favour of the Other (of let us say Thy Neighbour
or Thy Fellow) as the very highest expression or dedication of love. Jesus
Christ raises this idea of love to its most extreme expression, by saying
that one should love one's enemy, in order to take away or triumph over the
animosity of the enemy, i.e. the knowledge of the enemy, which is required
to turn him into a friend, or at any rate neutralise the animosity, is
conditional on that love.

But again, the problem here is, that this "true charity" (if I have defined
it correctly) is not something unique to Christianity; a Muslim, Judaist or
Buddhist or Atheist might also likewise give himself or herself completely
to the Other, perform some sort of self-sacrificial act, in true love and
understanding for his or her people, for humanity, or for God. But the story
doesn't end there, because this sacrifice may be a stupid sacrifice, or an
intelligent sacrifice, and I suspect that it is precisely in the evaluation
of this latter question, that the real differences between various religious
or anti-religious stances begin to show themselves most clearly in their
conceptualisation of human love. But I have never pursued this abstractly,
and if anything I would be more inclined to listen to some pop music, since
I tend to regard religious wars as perverse, an apostasy of God if you like.

I do not wish to reduce Christian charity to sexual style, that would be
ridiculous and indefensible, I was merely referring to the profound
modification of the conceptualisation of Christian charity by the changes in
sexual relations which modern technology and changing social relations have
made possible. The same point applies as I made before: in one's urge to
help with good intentions, perhaps out of Christian compassion, one might
well help the Other to hell, because it is not motivated by an objective
recognition of what the Other really needs, verified through dialogue and
practical experience, but rather by the urge to satisfy one's own inner need
to be helpful, and have that need to be helpful recognised by others, in
order to be helped thereby oneself - an act of helping which could be
justified by pointing to the perceived need of the Other.

I was meditating on that before, because I considered in my thoughts that
whereas a Jew might have an impressively formidable, astounding knowledge,
with which he seeks to express to help humanity advance, it might still help
the Other to hell, because the true recognition of the "otherness" of the
Other is not contained in his formidable, astounding knowledge, there is a
blind spot; and I really think in that case, in the absence of a verifying
dialogue with the Other or practical experience, one is morally better off
acknowledging openly in all modesty just that one doesn't know what the
Other really requires or needs, and inquire into the reasons and causes for
that, so that one doesn't end up in the unfortunate position of saying in
retrospect "wir haben dass nicht gewusst". Needless to say, with a false or
dishonest consciousness, there is plenty scope for hypocrisy or disintegrity
here.

This problem I am referring to, though, immediately raises the question, as
to how it is that one could NOT know this true recognition, despite one's
formidable, astounding knowledge, and the really tricky (and possibly
perfidious) part here, is that the knowledge one has, might hide the
knowledge or capacity for recognition which one hasn't got, or indeed it
might be conditional on a crucial "not-knowing", i.e. the one kind of
knowing might rule out the other kind of knowing even although this violates
ordinary scientific logic (although Thomas Kuhn captures something of that
idea with the concept of "incommensurability" between paradigms).
Developmentally, the knowledge one has gained might have arisen on the basis
of a crucial "not-knowing" of something else, a pristine naivety about some
aspect of human experience that for others would constitute a profound
problem.

And I suspect this general problematic plays a not insignificant role in the
conflict in Israel/Palestine, along the lines of, "I cannot acknowledge the
Other, without denying myself", but my argument is typically, that in this
situation you cannot prove that this is "naturally" or "inevitably" the
case, and that you haven't created, or at least contributed to the creation
or perpetuation of this dillemma yourself. In pop music, you have that U2
number, "I cannot live with you - and I cannot live without you, I cannot
live with or without you", in other words, a mutual dependency (perhaps
addiction) has been formed which is both satisfying and self-negating, and
you wonder whether it doesn't somewhat pathetically depends on a
self-indulgence and flight from responsibility, i.e. a disrespect for one's
own true boundaries, or alternatively, on a previous violation of boundaries
which cannot be healed (it may be that one could only truly love oneself
through the love of the Other, but then again, how true is the love for the
Other if one doesn't truly love oneself ?). In the very core of the
capitalist mode of production, such a dependency also asserts itself through
objective market pressures, since capital and labour simultaneously depend
on each other but also contradict each other, i.e. simultaneously affirm and
negate each other, even with what I would describe sometimes with murderous
precision.

You wrote:

I am "none too sure" this is a post-industrial world society; but it is true
that language should move a little bit with
fashion and whatever industrial dynamics are present in the life of
developed countries today are obscured by people thinking of hard hats and
revoltin' developments of the past.

Reply:

The confusion about the meaning of industrialisation resides ultimately in
the value-form itself, the dialectics of use-value and exchange-value,
labour process and valorisation process. Quite simply, industrialisation was
popularly identified with the growth of manufacturing, and particularly
large-scale manufacturing. But in truth, for Marx, industrialisation really
does not refer to that, it refers just to mass production of commodities
enabled by mechanisation of any sort, which involves the "real abstraction
of labour", which could be described as the separation of the identity of
the worker from the labour that he performs, i.e. the subordination of
labour by exchange-value. In that sense, we can validly talk about the
industrialisation of services, as signified by the observation that many
"services" get to be presented as "products" these days. Marx doesn't talk
about industrialisation, he talks about "modern industry", but is concern is
not primarily with its technological shape, but with its social form, as the
way in which the production process is subordinated to the requirements of
capital accumulation. If he had just looked at the technological shape of
industry, his analysis would be long out of date - it is precisely his
attempt to understand the meaning of the commercialisation of production
that makes his analysis still relevant, and possibly more relevant than
ever. A Marxist would no doubt argue that industrialisation is more an
actuality than ever, and that many services aren't really services anyway
but the provision of goods.

Jurriaan



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