[Marxism] Jack Kelley, Stalinism and acknowledging your sources

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Wed Mar 24 02:52:26 MST 2004


Melvin,

1. Stalin's ascent to power was based on winning the votes and confidence of
people.

I think you ought to read some accurate biographies of Stalin. If you went
to Eastern Europe and said that, they would think you were joking or stupid.
Nothing wrong with cherishing an idea, but cherishing an idea which doesn't
really correspond to the facts of experience as we know them is not
advisable.

2. You state in no uncertain terms that the neo-con historians are
Stalinists and explain your rationalization.

I do not think they are literally "Stalinists", but analogous to Stalinists,
they show the same habits. For neoconservatives, communism is a bogey but
they don't understand a fart about it, and in practice their way of thinking
isn't very different: the same repertoire of mythmaking, dogmatism,
anti-democratic ideology, political paranoia, demonisation, repression of
opponents and dissent, the subordination of art and culture to a moral and
political ideology, and so forth. I have never found any really good Marxist
analysis of Stalinism as a political-organisational ideology and practice,
the best writing on it was done by East Europeans themselves really I think.
I don't agree all that much with Trotskyist analyses of Stalinism either.
But it's a very large topic that I cannot deal with in one mail just now. I
think even today Western ideas about Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union are
very distorted, never mind understanding the political and economic system
they had before 1989. Whatever the case, I think you have to distinguish
between Western communists who supported the USSR and communists who
actually lived there. I can get on well with many British, French, Italian
and German communists, and I have supported Jose Maria Sison's right to stay
in Holland. But for me, the main thing is, that the Stalin cult emerged in
an era where political militancy was declining and Stalinism was predicated
on the political passivity of the working classes; consequently it was a
conservative ideology. Nobody except a few small groups believes that stuff
anymore.

3. What you call Christian theology is a European mode of philosophic
dissertation that justifies the destruction of the earth based on a
metaphysical view of
man and nature.

Not sure about that, whatever it means. Christianity covers "a host of
sins", there are many different tendencies. My interest is really on
understanding the role of christian ideology in society as it is now, and
its further evolution and its social basis. Most Marxists aren't interested
in that, but I am, because I am aware of its quantitative, human and
cultural significance. Just to give you a small illustration: CSM mentions a
very popular thriller in the USA right now is Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci
Code" - the plot of this story wraps in the paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci,
masonic history, and the Holy Grail. The central character is Robert
Langdon, a Harvard professor of symbology who first appeared in Brown's
"Angels and Demons," a 2000 novel with mediocre sales (Since "The Da Vinci
Code," however, "Angels and Demons" has shot to the top of the paperback
bestseller list). The Christian Science Monitor commented: "If Jesus were
traded on the Big Board, his stock would be rising this year." While Mel
Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" has earned more than $250
million, the publisher claims Dan Brown's novel "The Da Vinci Code" is "the
bestselling adult novel of all time within a one-year period." Doubleday, a
division of Random House, said there are now some 6.8 million copies in
print.  'The Da Vinci Code' participates in the 'religion-bad,
spirituality-good' model in America," the publisher said. "It provides a way
to be spiritual while tapping into your suspicions about the Church."
Another commentator says "Americans are a religious people, but they're
suspicious of institutional religion, which, given our history, is not
surprising." Sony Pictures paid $6 million for the rights to "The Da Vinci
Code." The movie which will be released next year stars Ron Howard, Brian
Grazer, and Akiva Goldsman, the creative trio behind the Oscar-winning "A
Beautiful Mind."
>From http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0319/p11s01-bogn.html . Stalinist-type
Marxists aim to bash Marxism-Leninism into the working class and recruit
them to the vanguard party under the omnipotent leadership of the Central
Committee, but I prefer a careful inquiry into the actual consciousness of
people, and if you look at what they will read etc. then you get a much
better idea than if you talk dreary Marxist-Leninist ideology.

4. To be "in the world and not of it is" is an ideological formulation of a
profound breach in man himself.

I would agree with that. It's a kind of elitist, otherworldly philosophy.
Marx commented in The German Ideology that "The only reason why Christianity
wanted to free us from the domination of the flesh and "desires as a driving
force" was because it regarded our flesh, our desires as something foreign
to us; it wanted to free us from determination by nature only because it
regarded our own nature as not belonging to us. For if I myself am not
nature, if my natural desires, my whole natural character, do not belong to
myself - and this is the doctrine of Christianity - then all determination
by nature - whether due to my own natural character or to what is known as
external nature - seems to me a determination by something foreign, a
fetter, compulsion used against me, heteronomy as opposed to autonomy of the
spirit. Stirner accepts this Christian dialectic without examining it and
then applies it to our spirit. Incidentally, Christianity has indeed never
succeeded in freeing us from the
domination of desires, even in that juste milieu sense foisted on it by
Saint Max; it does not go beyond mere moral injunctions, which remain
ineffective in real life. Stirner takes moral injunctions for real deeds and
supplements them with the further categorical imperative: "We should indeed
possess spirit, but spirit should not possess us" - and consequently all his
egoism in agreement with itself is reduced "on closer examination", as Hegel
would say, to a moral philosophy that is as delightful as it is edifying and
contemplative".

The rise of christianist fundamentalism in contemporary Western society is
part of the social-ideological crisis, i.e. (1) the breakdown of the old
institutions and organisational forms, and the inability of the new
institutions and organisational forms to ensure social integration and
generally accepted moral norms, (2) the fact that the old ideas no longer
suffice to explain and justify the new social realities and new sexual
styles. Inchoate concepts like globalisation which can mean anything just
show the inability to theorise or explain the meaning and dynamics of modern
culture after market deregulation. Postmodernist relativism suggests that
all boundaries in civil society are relative, negotiable and contestable,
but that also creates additional uncertainty along with the extra
uncertainty created by deregulated markets, and then the fundamentalists
want to re-assert categorical absolutes and absolute cultural/moral
boundaries. In part, this is because the neoliberal premiss that "the
market" has a morality of its own is false - the market only imposes
contractual obligations, but it does not provide answers to how people
should live (that was an original liberal argument in favour of the market,
i.e. that it provided freedom in that sense). Finally, christianist
fundamentalism is linked to the project of the corporatist state to impose
ever greater social controls over people's lives, even as it provides
greater freedom of mobility for Capital. More freedom for Capital usually
means less freedom for the working classes. Christianism provides a
justifying ideology for that.

5. I correctly pin pointed your mode of exposition as a form of ideological
white chauvinism. Christian ideology cannot be separated from white
chauvinism.

I don't see why. I don't subscribe to ideological white chauvinism, whatever
that is, nor any other form of racist ideology. But let us suppose you are
correct that Christian ideology cannot be separated from white chauvinism.
How then do you explain that a very large number of American blacks are
christians ?

6. In the realm of politics our difference is why you are a socialist and I
am
the communist.

Well, quite. I'm a socialist in my brain and a communist in my pants. But
most people don't know what communism is, and therefore I don't use that
term.

7. In other words you want a society with me securely on the bottom and of
course I cannot agree with this.

I don't know where you get that from. I made no remarks about your bottom
whatsoever. In my neighbourhood, people don't say stuff like that. People
who propagate racist ideologies here are dealt with in no uncertain terms.

8.Communism means the abolition of property.

I don't know what you mean here. Looks more like a prop in the rubbish bin
to me.

9. Socialism means a transformation in the form of property.

Among other things, yes, but that is not all.

10. You can call the neo-cons "Stalinists" but they are rabid white
chauvinists.

Some of them are, but not all. It's just that the social model the neocons
pursue, doesn't benefit blacks, except for a small proportion of black
business people perhaps. Basically the main things that the neocons have to
offer to blacks is prisons, military service, unemployment and police
surveillance.

By the way, American neocons are also different from European neocons.

Jurriaan








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