[Marxism] re: Fanon
M. Junaid Alam
mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Tue Mar 15 20:11:51 MST 2005
Mark Lause writes:
I really do like some of what M. Junaid Alam writes, but I am very
disturbed about the tendency to speak in buzz words alternating with
some self-defined terminology."
I am not sure what about my position strikes Mark as unclear.
I think I explained my political and theoretical positions in concrete
terms. I explained why I reject the original Marxist formula that "The country
that is more developed industrially only shows to the less developed the
image of its own future," and why I reject the framework of the civilizing
mission propounded by neo-Marxists who are nestled around Michael Walzer's
Dissent Magazine, among other places.
But let me try again.
Mark mentions some story about some guy named Black Adder and then says I
come off as incomprehensibly muddled. Now I have no idea who the hell Black
Adder is, so I will just try to cut to the chase here.
Then, after attacking "the cruise-missile left" for supporting the
invasion of Afghanistan, M. Junaid Alam suggests that Marxism is
characterized by a "fetishization of the Enlightment period of which
Marx was himself a product."
Hostility to the Enlightenment? That sounds to me like postmodernism!"
When I am talking about the Enlightment, I have in mind the position of
Marxists like Stanley Aranowitz, who hem and haw about supporting
the Iraqi resistance, even critically, because after all it's not really in
keeping with Enlightment ideas. The same goes for David Harvey who simply
brushed off the resistance as "coming from appalling quarters" at the last
Socialist Scholars conference.
When I am talking about the Enlightenment, I am talking about not deifying
and swallowing it whole, since it contains such breathtaking formulations as
Kant's "this fellow was quite black from head to foot, a clear proof that
what he said was stupid", or Hegel's equally awesome declaration, "The Negro
is an example of animal man in all his savagery and lawlessnesss..."
So my criticism of the Enlightment is at its root a criticism of Eurocentrism.
I am "hostile" to the Enlightenment insofar as the Enlightment is hostile to
that section of humanity which dared to adopt a hue different from white and
a continent other than Europe. And unless you make the intellectual effort
to draw out the poison of Eurocentrism from Enlightmenment thought, and therefore
Marxian thought, you fall into a fundamental error of anti-humanism.
We can see this in the Brenner debate. Here is this chap who spends his whole life
arguing that capitalism originated in the udder of a cow in an English village -
this is his main intellectual concern. I much prefer the Marxism of someone like
Jim Blaut, who understands that what is central to capitalism as a world-historic process
is global accumulation - one rapidly precipitateed by European exploitation of non-European
Frankly, this is not rocket science. When I talk about the dangers of maximalism
within Marxism, I am referring to people like Michael Hardt, who think everything
will be solved once America establishes a McDonalds in every corner in the world,
because we will all be equally transformed into McDonaldites and be rendered on
an equal basis conducive to joint liberation. This kind of thinking has been
criticized, among other places, in Monthly Review magazine sometime in the past couple
years or so.
And speaking of Monthly Review, I think the antidote to this kind of maximalism
was that of Paul Baran, and his essay "On the Roots of Economic Backwardness", where
he explains that the penetration of capital into underdeveloped countries does not
simply tear apart feudal relations and build fresh ones, but aggravates and exacerbates
existing oppression, and allies and conspires with the existing oppressors,
to further push down the masses.
We are facing a very similar question today as posed by Comrade Feldman and his
pondering over the Arab question and neoconservatism: are imperial designs
in some sense "welcome" because they will open up more room for the genuine
democratic aspirations of the people, or will it further fracture and retard
their opportunity for development?
Of course, the only way to answer any of this is to undertake as concrete an examination
as possible. This I intend to do, and I think have tried to do, in my essays concerning
Palestine, Iraq, Zionism, and US foreign policy. Admittedly these pieces were aimed
more at an immediate understanding, with a journalistic bent, or with a polemical
aim of attacking imperialism, so much more work will need to be done to formulate
a more serious overarching view.
For those interested, I think my treatment of this subject (imperialism, Zionism, Iraq,
and the Arabs) expressed in a May 15, 2003 essay titled "The Longer View", was
correct in its essentials:
More information about the Marxism