[Marxism] Fair Trade (Was: Mandela and the SACP)

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at gmail.com
Sat Dec 7 19:19:42 MST 2013

> Hello Jeff
> Pleased be assured that you are not under personal attack. You are not
> "getting" anything in that regard. Your conception is simply being
> addressed and analysed and a different conception being put forward. This
> is a mailing list which, I understand, encourages discussion between
> activists, and those not so active, interested in Marx and socialism.
Thanks for clarifying, Shaun; you did seem quite vexed and I had indicated
in my original post that people might be less than impressed with my
comment on Mandela's SACP membership (including something like a curiously
underdescribed "collective responsibility" as a factor). Let me say before
I reply that I appreciate your essays on New Marxist Theory that often
appear here, although I think as you come up against more traditional
philosophers on the contemporary scene you may find there is not so much
water in the dialectical well as one might hope.

> It seems, from what you have written, that you have a past in the
> sectarian groups? We all (or most) do. Don't worry about it. How could we
> avoid them in our youth? Your remark about "rising expectations from
> militancy" is, in my opinion, one-sided in that it is not simply a question
> of the "lay of the political land". I assume by "moronic Stalinist
> wastoids" you are referring to Mandela and the ANC and by "standard of
> proletarian democracy" you are imputing that this is what others are
> suggesting he should have strived towards.
No; I was against the Twenty-One Conditions before being against the
Twenty-One Conditions was cool. Seriously, though, my position here is as a
"useful idiot", or perhaps better said "cultural dope": I think Marxist
theory is substantially the correct view of social and economic reality,
and I have spent a very long time staring at German words attributed to
a "Hegel" sometimes mentioned in Marx, but aside from a relatively brief
period doing union support I have adhered mostly to the position that the
Democratic Party was, as was once said, the "left wing of the possible" and
tried to opt for the leftmost of their candidates. This is not a very
popular position here -- and I have modified my support for the Democrats
-- but the reference was a self-reference and I roughly play the role of a
Mother Jones reader asking "What's this all about?"
(I like to think I am a little easier to take than Corey Robin, though.)

> In my sincere opinion, Jeff, we need to look at the dynamics of any
> struggle with the eye of a revolutionary critique and not with that of a
> shallow contemplative rationalism. Only in this way can we work within such
> proletarian struggles as communists and be of service in moving them in a
> socialist direction. All struggles contain their different and
> contradictory possibilities. The struggle against apartheid was no
> different in this respect. There was nothing pre-ordained about the
> trajectory taken by the struggle in South Africa. But from the very
> beginning, the SACP's/ ANC's outlook was not communist, as you imply it was
> in your previous posting. This conditioned the actual development of the
> struggle but not in a mechanically deterministic way, of course.
Revolutionary critique is a force to be reckoned with -- I remember the
first time I heard Noam Chomsky speak on Pacifica as a sort of Road to
Damascus moment mixed with a Methedrine trip -- but what I was saying quite
seriously in the original post is that to avoid what used to be called
"Blanquism" we need to be quite serious about institutions and the role
they play in structuring political discourse, even on the left. I
personally think of the SACP as frankly kind of inspirational, in that in a
post-1989 world it has continued to articulate what is at least a
"progressive" perspective through a mass membership trying to make things
happen. I suppose someone could step in and make individious comparisons to
something like Mexico's PRD, but that is what we are talking about: a
sizable political organization with an outsized impact. If Mandela was
"forced" into SACP membership by the dynamics of the anti-apartheid
struggle -- and I am quite willing to grant that something like that is
probably more likely than a genuine commitment -- that says something about
the organization's "pull" in a difficult situation.

> I am familiar with the position in your post : Mandela and the SACP/ANC
> were the dupes (puppets) of historical conditions; they had no choice and
> could only fatalistically and mechanistically follow these conditions and
> do capital's bidding; all was lost because of these conditions so there was
> no point in trying; another time, another place, etc. It's the position of
> an apologist. It is the apologetics of the ANC to this day. On this basis,
> they politically and most cynically justify the oppression and misery in
> South Africa today. But humanity creates its own conditions of existence
> and in the course of changing the conditions which confront it,
> simultaneously changes itself. History is a process. Not a pre-ordained
> fait accompli. Theses on Feuerbach?? [Mandela is not being "blamed", of
> course. It is not a personal matter]
Perhaps we could go all "Men make history, but not under conditions of
their own choosing..." and talk about a "refoundation" of leftist
critique/activism on/in South Africa given the 'trend' of the ANC towards
crony capitalism, but with an understanding of what the "right" hand is
already doing -- people were speaking warmly of Joe Slovo and Ruth First
here just a second ago, and that is certainly a milieu Mandela moved in
quite willingly. A willing forgetfulness of the Expensive Shit that has
already transpired in an attempt to get to the good parts would be, as I
said, "unhistorical".

> Throwing convenient labels ("ultra-left", "councilist"??) at the content
> of others' posts which is not in agreement with your conception (and hoping
> they will stick) is oh so reminiscent of the left-wing sect interrelations
> which many of us experienced in days of yore. So despite being "away from
> the races", as you wish us to know, you do not appear to have lost that
> characteristic habit of "racing". Many of us have gone beyond or are trying
> to go beyond all that. It is better to simply address the content of the
> posting in a lucidly articulated manner and then, perhaps, if list members
> so wish, a discussion on the questions raised can unfold.
Well if you do not see yourself in Pannekoek chalk it up to *ressentiment*:
in even a fairly 'liberal' part of the American West even the positions of
say a Tony Benn can seem marvelously impossible, such that British leftists
who act like approbation of Lenin is easy as pie and socialist democracy is
just a moment away seem un-emulatable. I understand that "Radio Friendly
Unit Shifting" is not the métier even in America for those who went through
the Occupy experience, but just thinking about how to "make the argument"
to people who are not already 99% sold introduces serious complications
that people trash-talking about Mandela seem to ignore.

Jeff Rubard

PS I hope your "pinched" period ends soon.

Unlikely. I used to have a blog called "Fortunes of the Dialectic", but it
was primarily a joke about the Fred Astaire movie *You'll Never Get Rich*
or, alternatively, the country music song "Lifestyles of the Not So Rich
and Famous". Such is life.

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