[Marxism] Nietzsche on MLK

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at gmail.com
Mon Jan 20 19:40:38 MST 2014

> Here is an old post of mine that I wrote on Nietzsche some years ago. (
> http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2007w27/msg00166.html).
> I think that any discussion of Nietzsche and politics has to take into
> account the fact that he has long been a popular figure on the left as well
> as the right. Even in his own lifetime, German Social Democrats were
> already striving to integrate his ideas into their brands of Marxism.  In
> Russia, following the failed 1905 revolution, certain Russian Marxists like
> Anatoli Lunacharsky began to take a great interest in him. Trotsky wrote a
> famous polemic against Nietzsche but one can't help feeling that the Old
> Man himself was influenced by Nietzsche.
> Jim Farmelant
> http://independent.academia.edu/JimFarmelant
> http://www.foxymath.com
> Learn or Review Basic Math

Jim, I remember this; I was knocking around the list at the time
and responded by referencing N.'s pseudo-scientific racism in *On the
Genealogy of Morals*. I don't think Gary or I are denying that there are
many arguably leftist figures, like Foucault or Deleuze, who are explicitly
admirous of Nietzsche -- and I would not be surprised to learn that the
"god-builders" of early Bolshevism took a lively interest in him. What we
are saying is that the "liberal" Nietzsche who has been made an idol of in
modern intellectual life by Walter Kaufmann and people like him is really
several shades too close to fascism -- an inegalitarian internationalist is
not really such a good friend to have -- and at this juncture in social
movement, Lukacs is a much better guide than say Derrida as to what will
put worthy "boots on the ground". I think by including a link to the online
edition of Colli-Montinari -- for "further research" as Robert Christgau
puts it -- I was not denying that Nietzsche is interesting, or worth of
study by revolutionary socialists, just that the traditional story told
about him is too simplistic.

What can be said for Nietzsche as "the Chinese Worker's Friend" (as it was
once put in NLR): this is a touchy subject because many comrades are keenly
interested in metaphysics, epistemology and value theory as exciting topics
of debate -- despite years of training, my personal attitude is more the
doctrinaire Marxist one that philosophy is merely a propaedutic to social
transformation -- and Nietzsche, as someone for whom thinking was a
"feast", a philosopher's philosopher, will deeply appeal to them. And the
"Continental" tradition, which many people outside Europe take as
definitive, can not be neatly classed into fascist and anti-fascist camps:
Heidegger, whom I was defending recently as a deluded fool rather than a
total goon, was Herbert Marcuse's *Doktorvater* and himself someone marked
by Nietzsche's influence throughout his whole work -- his omnibus lectures
on Nietzsche are certainly a very interesting attempt to enact his
promised "destruction" of the history of metaphysics -- though one might
well note their placement in history near and in WWII.

Additionally, I'm sure that the professional historians here would have us
note that Nietzsche is a respectable member of the class of mostly German
intellectuals sidling up to a forth Critique, the "Critique of Historical
Reason"; Hayden White is not exactly a blackshirt, but Nietzsche of course
receives an extensive treatment in his *Metahistory*. Finally, Foucault's
generalization of Marxist class theory to cover other domains of social
struggle and formation of the individual almost makes Nietzsche more
radical than Marx. *Fast nur*, though; Foucault is an excellent example of
postwar enthusiasm for a "leftist" melding of anti-liberal social energies
once quite comfortable in unfree Europe (Remember his famous
statement about "the sun of Polish liberty"? He wasn't talking about
Solidarnosc yet) and a slightly liberalized capitalist cash nexus -- if we
find Francois Hollande disappointing, and I don't see how you couldn't,
this "leftist Nietzsche" is partially to blame. (Although I have been
reading Carnap's *Aufbau*, and he does cite Nietzsche more than a little
bit, I move to table the question raised by your earlier comments of
Nietzsche's influence on positivism; although the "phenomenalist" moment in
analytic philosophy was not without echo in the Nietzschean corpus, and you
later see "liberal" people like Bernard Williams taking up Nietzschean
cudgels in moral philosophy, it is not quite the thing Gary is talking

So, yes, the history of philosophy since 1890 is deeply marked by the
understandable influence of Nietzsche; but I think what we are saying is
that social history since 1990 suggests "such friends are dangerous", and
that Marxist activists do need to clearly articulate a "regime of truth"
open to and respectful the cognitive rights of all people regardless of
their "will to power".

Jeff Rubard

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