[Marxism] New book

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Feb 24 11:29:58 MST 2007

Budgen wrote:

"Lenin Reloaded" is a rallying call by some of 
the world’s leading Marxist intellectuals for 
renewed attention to the significance of Vladimir Lenin.

Contributors. Kevin B. Anderson, Alain Badiou, 
Etienne Balibar, Daniel Bensaïd, Sebastian 
Budgen, Alex Callinicos, Terry Eagleton, Fredric 
Jameson, Stathis Kouvelakis, Georges Labica, 
Sylvain Lazarus, Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Lars T. 
Lih, Domenico Losurdo, Savas Michael-Matsas, 
Antonio Negri, Alan Shandro, Slavoj i ek


For reasons I don't quite understand, Lenin has 
become fashionable again within certain circles 
of the academic left. Zizek has had a lot to do 
with this, since he has written numerous essays 
in defense of Lenin over the past few years and 
actually organized a conference on Lenin some 
time ago. I wrote a commentary on a Zizek article 
about Lenin that appeared in "In These Times" a while back:


Some of the contributors sound like they might 
have something interesting to say. Others I don't know.

Badiou, for example, is one of those French 
theorists about whom Alan Sokal probably had 
something mischievous to say. Of course, that 
might be in Badiou's favor now that I think about 
it. Here's Badiou on Lacan, another person whose 
name starts with "L" and ends in "n":

"How are we to characterize this peculiar 
balancing of the 'grandiose' and the 'innocent'? 
The grandiose aspect lies in the conviction that 
the question of the Real is commensurable with 
that of language; the innocence is in not having 
carried this conviction as far as its true 
principle, which is mathemati-zation. You will 
recall that Lacan holds mathematization to be the 
key to any thinkable relation to the Real."

I myself hold no brief against mathematization. 
How in the world could I make sure that I was 
getting the proper change at Gristede's without it?

I do have to admit a certain consternation at 
seeing Toni Negri as contributor. I think that 
Sebastian and company would have been better 
advised in including Toni Braxton, the very fine 
jazz-pop stylist. Only 5 years or so ago, Negri 
and Hardt wrote a thoroughly silly book that 
dragged Lenin's name through the mud. Only the 
other day I was startled to learn that the poet 
laureates of the "multitude" were trying to 
amalgamate Madisonian checks and balances with 
Lenin. Certainly, the dead Russian deserves better.

Fredric Jameson, of course, is the big name 
literary theorist in the USA who won first prize 
in Denis Dutton's "Bad Writing Contest" in 1997. 
Dutton called attention to this snippet of Dutton's prose:

"The visual is essentially pornographic, which is 
to say that it has its end in rapt, mindless 
fascination; thinking about its attributes 
becomes an adjunct to that, if it is unwilling to 
betray its object; while the most austere films 
necessarily draw their energy from the attempt to 
repress their own excess (rather than from the 
more thankless effort to discipline the viewer)."

Once again, as is the case with Sokal, I might 
tend to line up with whoever Dutton is attacking, 
although this might be a toss-up when it comes to Dutton versus Jameson.

Daniel Bensaid and Stathis Kouvelakis are members 
of the French LCR, while Callinicos is a British 
SWP'er. I can never figure out if Budgen is in the LCR or the SWP. Maybe both.

Unfortunately, except for Lih--I believe--just 
about everybody else approaches Lenin from the 
standpoint of philosophical, social or political 
theory. Kevin Anderson, who is an interesting 
thinker despite his News and Letters connection, 
wrote a good book on Hegel's importance to Lenin. 
Not that there is anything wrong with making such 
a connection, but I don't think that studying 
Hegel--the subtext of the book--is very useful. 
You would be better off studying oil markets, 
like Mark Jones did at the London Library in the years before his death.

It is not that Lenin was adverse to theoretical 
questions. He did grapple with philosophy when it 
was necessary to do so, particularly with the 
challenged mounted by Bogdanov. But theorizing 
for the sake of theorizing seems inimical to everything that Lenin stood for.

At any rate, in the favor of " Lenin Reloaded: 
Toward a Politics of Truth" is the price of the 
paperback version, $23.95, a relief from the 
extortionist prices of past ventures Budgen has 
been associated with. Not in its favor is the 
title "Lenin Reloaded". The Wachovsky brothers ain't cool anymore.

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