[Marxism] It's the stupidity, stupid

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Wed Nov 3 16:35:34 MST 2004

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au wrote:
> There is also the other path to enlightenment.  Things will
> get so bad that class consciousness will break through as it
> did in the Great Depression.  That too is possible and
> probably much more likely than an outbreak of intelligence.

I think understanding the world in terms of intelligence and stupidity
(no matter how those terms are defined) is deeply wrong -- because such
an understanding incorporates what is fundamental to bourgeois ideology:
the assumption of the "abstract -- _isolated_ -- human individual," as
exhibited, for example, in extreme form in the theory of rational choice
individualism. As isolated individuals we are all idiots in the
etymological sense (private person). Only in so far as we find ourselved
participating in collective action do we escape this idiocy or privacy.

(The hypothesis of a conservatism grounded in religion is literal
nonsense, because it utterly obscures the more fundamental question,
which must be answered in historical and social not individualist terms,
of what are the social relations that generate that religiosity in such
a substantial proportion of the u.s. working class. Religion is not an
explanation; it is a social condition requiring explanation, and not in
abstract terms applicable to all religion everywhere but to the religion
of a specific social order at a specific time.)

The ordinary (and as far as that goes the extra-ordinary) voter finds
him/herself forced to make an abstract, free-floating choice, in
isolation from any concrete condtions, between two options, imposed on
him/her through a complex of forces which are beyond even the most
sophisticated political analyst's capacity to trace and identify. Both
candidates, moreover, are agreed on one central premise: that the United
States is engaged in a just war against a terrifying enemy. The basis
for choice is to be which candidate is most promising as our leader in
that war for survival. Given _that_ context, the obvious answer has been
around since the Roosevelt campaign of 60 years ago: Don't switch horses
in the middle of the stream.

All voters for both candidates were wrong, terribly wrong. But it is
stupid to accuse them of stupidity. They all, on both sides, made as
good a judgment as anyone caught in that trap can be expected to have

For Marxists the present is history. That means that to understand it,
to even begin to understand it, we must look back on it from a
hypothetical future, not merely, like bourgeois pundits, piddle around
in the entrails of sacrificial birds.


P.S. The issue of gay marriage, in the u.s., was given us by history.
Any left (or leftist) worthy of respect knows that we must fight for
that right. It isn't gays or women or blacks who divide the working
class: it is straights or men or whites who fail to fight sexism,
racism, & heterosexism.

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