[Marxism] Financial crisis not related to overaccumulation

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Mon Dec 8 18:09:25 MST 2008

On Mon, Dec 8, 2008 at 3:46 PM, Les Schaffer <schaffer at optonline.net> wrote:

> Gary MacLennan wrote:
> > I have just posted a response to the film  *The Assassination of Jesse
> James
> > * and if I had read Heartfield's piece first I would have placed the film
> > within the context of the collapse of subjectivity.  That would help
> explain
> > a central puzzle for me - why make a film about Jessee James today?
> >
> i'd like to hear this.
> Les

>  Well Les,

The motif I always use about historical films is to see them as "a raid on
the past to suit the ideological needs of the present". (BTW  I cannot
remember where I came across that phrase).  So what are the ideological
needs that lay behind *The Assassination of Jesse James? * Well as always we
can see things more clearly with hindsight.  The ideological needs of 1939 (
The date of the Tyrone Power film Jesse James film.) are much clearer to us
than those of 2008.  They were of course those of the Popular Front and the
need for unity at all costs against the Fascist enemy.

Still what I think we are going thru is something very like what James
Heartfield has described.  I would though lay the emphasis on the missing
agent of history the working class rather than on the missing industrial
capitalist.  So it is the refusal of the working class at least since the
onset of the Volcker period in 1979 to fulfill its historical task of being
the subject of history that explains these multiple detours which have found
expression in a bewildering number of ways.

It seems at least arguable to me that when the working class retreats that
the middle class goes crazy with anxiety and this finds expression in middle
class art.  So in *The Assassination of Jesse James* we have this brooding
psychopathic killer who can only descend into necrophilia.  In one strange
scene James stands in a frozen lake shooting at his own image. In another he
tortures a boy for information while at the same time holding a hand over
his mouth so he cannot give any information he might have.

> So the film is born out of the collapse of the hope that the slave of
> history can seize history, become its true agent and once and for all put an
> end to the master-slave dialectic. Just so much of my analysis would be
> influenced by Heartfield's death of subjectivity paradigm.

But as I always say the dialectic is remorseless.  It never dies.  And it is
the very negativity and despair  of the film that somehow or other gives it
a kind of integrity and so a kind of hope.  At least the film is not taking
part in some mindless cheer leader squad mouthing out "Yes we can!"

While watching the film I also kept thinking about the enigmatic figure of
Rimbaud and especially the famous letter to Georges Izambard his former
teacher.  There Rimabud announces his intention to be an artist and to
achieve that thru the disordering of all the senses (dereglement de tous les
sens).  He gives expression to an amazing ungrammatical sentence that really
cannot be translated "Je est un autre".  Literally "I is an other".  The use
of the third person "est" [is]  rather than the first person "suis" [am]
cues us into something like the collpse of Rimabud's self.

Again Rimbaud has to be understood in context and with him the crucial
element was the defeat of the Paris commune and with it the hope for a
decent world. The collapse of  Rimbaud's dreams and his subsequent flight
from poetry at 19 years of age were really a statement by him that life
could not have meaning and that he had missed out on the comet's pulsating
rose. It is a similar type of collapse and retreat that *The Assassination
of Jesse James* reveals.



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