From the annals of the Aesthetics, Theory, and Philosophy group: Answers to the question: What originally prompted you to explore Marxism/neo-Marxism?

Along with some erstwhile discussion of Kurt Vonnegut, Murray Rothbard, Cornel West, George Orwell, Keynesianism, the welfare state, and coalition-building on the Left

The inaugural ceremonies of the Estates-General of 1789

Sera Schwarz

I can’t thank you guys enough for the tremendous work you do here. I’m a relative newcomer to Marxist thought, and never is my ignorance more obvious to me than when I tackle some of the posts below.

Question: What originally prompted you to explore Marxism/neo-Marxism? Was it a particular idea, text, public figure…? What idea did you initially find most intriguing?

December 6, 2011 at 7:18pm

Anarcho Cynicalist

Kurt Vonnegut.

December 6, 2011 at 7:24pm

Scott Sargent

For me, Sera, I was compelled by Marx being the first to lift up the hood of capitalism, look around for a bit, and say, with absolute precision,

well, you’ve got several problems here. And the simple fact of the matter is that you’re going to keep on running into these problems unless you make some pretty fundamental changes to your machine. Yeah, you’re going to need an altogether different machine, I think, if you want to get to where you want to go.

December 6, 2011 at 7:24pm

Anarcho Cynicalist

Well, Kurt Vonnegut and Eugene V. Debs.

December 6, 2011 at 7:25pm

Rob Tarzwell

Vonnegut? Tell me more.

December 6, 2011 at 7:29pm

Lucas Sutton

It happened at Uni.

I started studying all the Marxist stuff slavishly where it touched on the subjects (Phil. Pol. and history).

In the end I became a Neo- in order to account for all the criticisms and maintain it in methodological and metaphysical debates.

I was a Marxist before that, but pretty clueless.

Reading Animal Farm as a boy and then tracking down and reading about the real life figures represented there. My initial Trot tendency probably stems from there and from being in the UK at the time.

Living in a US-sponsored military dictatorship in Argentina as a boy was also a factor.

December 6, 2011 at 7:30pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Well I was initially hesitant on Marxism because I had it rammed down my throat at college many times.

I also was suspicious of “actually existing communism” and its tyrannical forms.

However, seeing some of his economic predictions play out, and an interest in the practical system he laid out led me to reexamine him (and read the books I kept from college). I also read up on some of the more positive aspects of actually existing Marxist states.

I’m suspicious of dialectical materialism still.

I still wouldn’t identify as a Marxist per se, but I’m curious.

December 6, 2011 at 7:31pm

Douglas Lain

Turned to anarchism in the ’90s. Led there by working at what’s called a PIRG (public interest research group) the movie Manufacturing Consent, Robert Anton Wilson. I too grew up on Vonnegut, who was a socialist.

December 6, 2011 at 7:38pm

John Sabin Adkins

I’m still trying to figure things out (Marxist/Anarchist) but the dotCom bust and the recent collapse has really helped me to restructure my views on the capitalist system.

December 6, 2011 at 7:38pm

Calixto M. Lopez

John Goodman, that indeed was a motivator in looking at my views and assumptions about capitalism.

December 6, 2011 at 7:39pm

Scott Sargent

Yes. This place is a real gem, Sera. I think there’s a good chance that the saving of the planet might begin with this forum. Lots of GREAT stuff, for example, in this thread: http://www.facebook.com/groups/263895233629245/311302252221876/

December 6, 2011 at 7:40pm

Rob Tarzwell

Saving the planet?? Geez, I’m just a lousy forum mod. I can’t handle a cross that heavy.

December 6, 2011 at 7:44pm

Scott Sargent

…and I was going to say “universe”…

December 6, 2011 at 7:45pm

Rob Tarzwell

Geez, call me thick. I devoured Vonnegut when I was a freshman, but I appear to have totally missed the political implications.

December 6, 2011 at 7:46pm

John Sabin Adkins

Same here Rob.

December 6, 2011 at 7:47pm

Rob Tarzwell

I just remember finally thinking, “Oh man! Now this science fiction I like!!!”

December 6, 2011 at 7:49pm

Scott Sargent

I’m pretty sure the only Vonnegut I’ve read is “Harrison Bergeron,” which seemed decidedly anti-communist, or at least anti-aggressive egalitarianism.

December 6, 2011 at 7:50pm

Rob Tarzwell

Not to threadjack too much, but most sci-fi drives me nuts. It’s so tedious and psychologically barren. And besides, mainly, I like the spaceships. Vonnegut suddenly woke me up to the possibility of really human interactions in bizarre settings. I was hooked.

December 6, 2011 at 7:51pm

Douglas Lain

The economy pushed me to Marx.

December 6, 2011 at 7:57pm

Anarcho Cynicalist

I read Hocus Pocus.

December 6, 2011 at 7:58pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Reading Animal Farm as a boy and then tracking down and reading about the real life figures represented there. My inital Trot tendency probably stems from there and from being in the UK at the time.

On the other hand, it was the anti-Stalinism clear in Animal Farm that helped me keep my distance. Though Snowball/Trotsky was my favorite character. Still, Orwell’s skepticism about Trotsky is also rather influential.

Orwell though, along with Shaw and the other Fabians, along with the Technocrats in the US, and folks like Arthur C. Clarke have been very influential in my “left turn.”

December 6, 2011 at 7:59pm

Rob Tarzwell

To comment on the OP, I wouldn’t say I necessarily accept or reject Marxist thought. I’m a boring old centre-left pragmatist. When it comes to restaurant choices, I like market solutions. When it comes to health-care, I like public solutions. I am vehemently opposed to the oppressive misuses of power, be they from the left or the right. I think the best way to keep those in check is constant dialectical tension which speaks to whatever political system is ascendant (or, crucially, whatever cartoon version of a political system is popularly ascendant and getting in the way of useful discourse).

December 6, 2011 at 8:06pm

Rob Tarzwell

Also, wherever possible, I’m a big fan of bringing evidence to bear on policy. In Vancouver, the supervised injection drug facility, Insite, has smashed the cover off the ball as a social and scientific success. So, let’s say, “I know this hurts you deep in your soul Mr. Individual Liberty guy, but this is the data, and data doesn’t care about your cherished notions.”

December 6, 2011 at 8:08pm

Alex Libby

I moved out of my sheltered suburb and found out what real life is like.

December 6, 2011 at 8:09pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Also, wherever possible, I’m a big fan of bringing evidence to bear on policy.

Definitely a feedback mechanism to bring facts to bear both in the formulation of, and analysis of policy (and so to further refine said policy).

I find Kantrowitz and Drexler’s Fact Fora or “Science Court” to be useful in that regards.

Alex, ditto, to a degree. Having had major economic problems finding work for several years, being exploited by employers and watching ex’s look for work for years without success, and being uninsured for a long time…opened my eyes. I grew up rather sheltered too.

December 6, 2011 at 8:12pm

Scott Sargent

I think the best way to keep those in check is constant dialectical tension which speaks to whatever political system is ascendant (or, crucially, whatever cartoon version of a political system is popularly ascendant and getting in the way of useful discourse).

That’s a excellent point Rob. I think that the most fundamental thing that has pulled me to the left generally, and Marx in particular, is that things are WILDLY out of balance politically across the whole of the western world, and so what society needs now is a strong, coherent, effective left.

December 6, 2011 at 8:12pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Though Skepoet did post a note of mine explaining how I had started out rather lefty…

December 6, 2011 at 8:12pm

Rob Tarzwell

For instance, when referring to real vs. cartoon, I’d just love to magically get Keynes and Friedman in a room together to riff on Europe, the Euro, Wall St. shenanigans, robosigning, etc, etc. I imagine the discussion would yield surprising areas of agreement and disagreement and would be light years more enlightening than the stupid, shouted slogans offered in their names.

December 6, 2011 at 8:15pm

Calixto M. Lopez

There would be a lot of correspondence between the two. Friedman clearly accepted much of Keynesianism, just being a monetarist found monetary police to be more powerful. He had discussed the importance of various automatic stabilizers and other Keynesian policies.

Remember also, Friedman was an advocate of a basic income guarantee, and public works and other things extremists in his name have mostly ignored.

December 6, 2011 at 8:29pm

Calixto M. Lopez

For the record, Hayek also supported a Basic Income guarantee.

December 6, 2011 at 8:29pm

Rob Tarzwell

Don’t tell the cartoonists.

December 6, 2011 at 8:30pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Well that’s why the hardcore LVMI folks and some objectivists call Friedman and Hayek, normally considered some of the leading libertarian intellectuals, and certainly the most influential ones…Sellouts.

December 6, 2011 at 8:32pm

Rob Tarzwell

Hahahahaha!!! Also, can we please put the leftist canard to rest that somehow Friedman was indifferent to Pinochet’s thugs disappearing human beings off the streets?

December 6, 2011 at 8:33pm

Calixto M. Lopez

From what I understand he met Pinochet for a short meeting and gave him some economic advice. He also was on the record hoping economic freedom would push political freedom there.

December 6, 2011 at 8:35pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Of course those same cartoonists call Mill a sellout for turning “socialist” in his old age advocating for worker coops and critiquing capitalist wealth distribution.

December 6, 2011 at 8:36pm

Rob Tarzwell

Exactly, he was one man, attempting to exert what influence he could. He did not have magic powers of influence over a megalomaniacal psychopath.

December 6, 2011 at 8:42pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Anyway, back to the OP: I also find Analytic Marxism more interesting as I am skeptical of DiaMat, though dialectical relations can have some benefit as the folks above mentioned.

December 6, 2011 at 8:44pm

Dave Poulter

For me it was Ronald Reagan and Bill Bennett who drew me towards the left end of the political spectrum.

December 6, 2011 at 9:09pm

Nik Olas

I’ll tell you what, I have moved steadily to the left due to watching the SPUSA attack the left, discussions in this group, and Occupy.

December 6, 2011 at 9:23pm via mobile

Nik Olas

I started out a fairly orthodox Marxist.

December 6, 2011 at 9:24pm via mobile

Charley Earp

I first became a socialist from reading the Bible. First exposed to serious Marxism by liberation theologians.

December 6, 2011 at 9:31pm via mobile

Dave Poulter

Liberation theology is one of the big reasons why I’ve never gotten on board with Skepticism. I have more respect for and more common ground with liberation theologists than I do with any number of free market libertarian Skeptics.

December 6, 2011 at 9:36pm via mobile

Skepoet

I actually wrote a post on what pulled me out of it: http://skepoet.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/occupy-myself-and-demand-everything-why-i-care-about-the-left-why-i-abandoned-it-for-so-long-and-why-i-am-back/

December 6, 2011 at 9:38pm

Charley Earp

I rarely read the Bible these days, as I’m now a naturalist, but I still have a respect religion that is rarely shared by other radicals.

December 6, 2011 at 9:39pm via mobile

Skepoet

I forgive Rob Tarzwell for his moderateness. His time in the GULag will be brief, and he will be consigned to giving medical attention to those accidently injured in construction.

December 6, 2011 at 9:42pm

Dave Poulter

As for the politics of Vonnegut, he and Heller were both huge influences on me. Both espouse a strong humanist philosophy that discourages blind obedience. It’s perhaps best expressed by Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle, Player Piano, Mother Night, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and the aforementioned Hocus Pocus.

December 6, 2011 at 9:44pm via mobile

Calixto M. Lopez

Yosarian!

Catch-22 did disclose and lampoon the idiocy of arbitrary authority.

December 6, 2011 at 9:46pm

Dave Poulter

Also another factor in my distrust in any group that claims to have all the answers.

December 6, 2011 at 9:46pm via mobile

Skepoet

It’s funny because most often Vonnegut was shown to me as anti-socialist because of that Harrison Bergerson story. Oh, and now I know he has problems, but Orwell’s essays were my real introduction to meaningful socialism.

December 6, 2011 at 9:46pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Moderateness?

As in being a moderate? Or as in being moderated?

December 6, 2011 at 9:47pm

Skepoet

As in being a moderate centre-left (liberal).

December 6, 2011 at 9:48pm

Douglas Lain

I think it’s unfair to judge Vonnegut’s politics on one story written for a slick back in 1961. Truth is that Vonnegut was a FDR democrat and, by the time he died, that meant he identified as some kind of socialist.

http://www.workersliberty.org/node/8232

December 6, 2011 at 9:50pm

Skepoet

Shown to me means “taught in High School in the South.” I know his politics was much more complicated than that. It’s like saying Orwell was a rightist because of 1984 (he, however, was a snitch to the British government ultimately).

December 6, 2011 at 9:51pm

Dave Poulter

Vonnegut’s anti-authoritarian stance does lend itself to appropriation by both the left and the right. I think Douglas hit it on the head with his description of Vonnegut as an FDR Dem which would mean a godless commie in today’s political clime.

December 6, 2011 at 9:55pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Oh, and now I know he has problems, but Orwell’s essays were my real introduction to meaningful socialism.

There are passages in Homage to Catalonia which are intensely inspiring to me actually…

December 6, 2011 at 9:55pm

Skepoet

Well, we live in a time when milquetoast Keynesianism is considered a “left” position. (You know, Obama being slightly to the right of NIXON on that question).

December 6, 2011 at 9:56pm

Dave Poulter

Dude, what are you saying? Keynes totally co-wrote the Manifesto with Karl and Friedrich. I also hear he was with Mao on the Long March. It was on Glenn Beck.

December 6, 2011 at 10:00pm

Dave Poulter

And it’s pretty fucking sad that Nixon looks good nowadays.

December 6, 2011 at 10:01pm

Calixto M. Lopez

he, however, was a snitch to the British government ultimately

To root out Stalinists, whom he hated. I actually don’t blame him. After almost being shot by them in Spain, I blame him even less.

December 6, 2011 at 10:03pm

Calixto M. Lopez

And 1984 was a warning, in part of the sort of authoritarianism he was seeing as coming based in part on Burnham but also WWII and the Soviet Union, and how “liberation” can be exploited to bring control and slavery, a betrayal of socialism, which he makes clear in his review of Burnham’s book.

At one point he actually stated that he could no longer consider the USSR a truly socialist state, and in such a situation, why should a socialist support or defend it?

December 6, 2011 at 10:06pm

Skepoet

Hating Stalinists is one thing, but ultimately Orwell couldn’t drop his sentimental nationalism. That was also part of the problem.

December 6, 2011 at 10:06pm

Skepoet

why should a socialist support or defend it?

I actually have a point on this: One does not have to aid the enemy in order to oppose a degenerate worker’s state or a Bonapartist state. Indeed, this is the same logic that people use to support Hamas when opposing Israeli settler actions alone is actually the moral position.

December 6, 2011 at 10:09pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Not so sure about the nationalism bit. But if I was facing Stalinist infiltration I am not sure I’d have acted differently

December 6, 2011 at 10:09pm

Skepoet

His later writing on India show this. I have read EVERY published word of Orwell and there is definitely a right-to left-to-right because Orwell believed that Democracies of decent men would make the right choice. That was his argument against Burnham. He didn’t live to see how WRONG that ultimately was.

December 6, 2011 at 10:11pm

Calixto M. Lopez

And at that time frame, the Labour government had won, and was beginning to nationalize industries and appeared to be bringing democratic socialism (Orwell always said that everything he wrote was in defense of democratic socialism), so again, he may not have seen supporting the UK against the USSR as aiding “the enemy.”

December 6, 2011 at 10:12pm

Skepoet

I know he didn’t. He was naive on the character of democracy.

December 6, 2011 at 10:12pm

Skepoet

Hence the sentimental nationalism comment.

December 6, 2011 at 10:13pm

Skepoet

The Leftist character of the Labour party was being gutted almost immediately.

December 6, 2011 at 10:13pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Naïve on the character of democracy, probably, though democratic socialism would seem to be what Marx advocated…

The Labour Party didn’t start to turn moderate until Harold Wilson.

December 6, 2011 at 10:20pm

Skepoet

Democratic in what sense is always the issue. Democratic after universalization of a class. Marx’s ultimate goal was clearly a stateless society.

December 6, 2011 at 10:22pm

Skepoet

Democracy in the currently existing state is not a democracy in anything but form.

December 6, 2011 at 10:24pm

Calixto M. Lopez

True, but Orwell’s comments on the anarchists in Spain, implies, to me, that he too wanted a stateless society in the end.

December 6, 2011 at 10:24pm

Skepoet

I’d agree, but he wavers on this in his writings.

December 6, 2011 at 10:24pm

Calixto M. Lopez

I don’t know, but I do think that he may have been less cooperative if he knew that Labour would eventually fail from it’s promising starts.

December 6, 2011 at 10:29pm

Mike Ballard

I wanted to know why I was powerless. I found out when I encountered Marx’s critique of the social relation known as Capital. I now know that organising as a class conscious majority can lead to the abolition of the wage system, Sera Black.

December 6, 2011 at 10:43pm

Rob Tarzwell

Dave, yeah, the libertarian branch of skepticism drives me fucking bonkers. Luckily, it’s pretty rare in Vancouver, though not unheard of. It’s much more prominent at big jamborees like TAM meetings in Vegas, with Michael Shermer as the principal academic voice, and Penn & Teller being the most prominent popular voices. I can understand why rich white guys would be libertarian, but I do not understand why anybody else is.

December 7, 2011 at 3:42am

Rob Tarzwell

So, if I was to assign myself a role as one of the characters in DeNiro’s “The Mission,” I’d be one of the guys with the rifle at the end, standing against the papally-blessed Conquistadors.

December 7, 2011 at 3:43am

Calixto M. Lopez

Loved that movie, and yeah, De Niro would be me.

December 7, 2011 at 8:59am

Douglas Solomon

Calixto M. Lopez: Harold Wilson had some MINIMAL sense left about him: he ‘declined’ the “opportunity’ to “take part” in the US Viet-Nam ‘Adventure’.

December 7, 2011 at 5:17pm

Douglas Solomon

Path to being ‘here’: Jude Wanninsky provided a good bit of guidance. He wrote rather favorably of K Marx, as a conservative economist. And yes, Scientific Socialism IS conservative (small “c”), and not a fossil.

December 7, 2011 at 5:26pm

Michael Pugliese

Jude Wanniski on Karl Marx http://mailman.lbo-talk.org/2000/2000-May/010852.html

December 7, 2011 at 7:24pm

Michael Pugliese

Karl Marx as Religious Eschatologist by Murray N. Rothbard:

http://mises.org/daily/3769

December 7, 2011 at 7:28pm

Calixto M. Lopez

Interesting piece by Wanninski.

December 7, 2011 at 7:32pm

Michael Pugliese

Sera Black: What originally propelled you to explore Marxism/neo-Marxism? Was it a particular idea, text, public figure…?

Being radicalized as a child by the Vietnam War (My Lai massacre):

http://www.specificobject.com/objects/images/14318.jpg

December 7, 2011 at 7:52pm

Skepoet

Murray Rothbard and Jude Wanniski? This is regressive.

December 7, 2011 at 9:45pm

Skepoet

Although the Wanniski piece is interesting. The Rothbard piece, not so much.

December 7, 2011 at 9:49pm

Michael Pugliese

Counter-revolutionary enemies of the people, eh? See the interview with Rothbard here, Anarchism: Left, Right and Green San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1994. Rothbard worked with sds’ers , see “Radicals For Capitalism,” and

http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520217140

December 7, 2011 at 9:50pm

Skepoet

I know Rothbard well. I used to be a crypto-fascist, remember? (Not a even a libertarian, which I wouldn’t call that). Rothbard’s thinking leads to Hoppe’s eventually or it leads to mutualism à la Kevin Carson, but I have read radicals for capitalism. It is ultimately a story of unresolved tendencies which that can’t explain itself without appeal to a false notion of Lockean property. Rothbard worked with SDSers but then RENOUNCED his work with the Left in the 1960s. (Hell, Rothbard had even praised Mao at one point).

December 7, 2011 at 9:54pm

Skepoet

That fact that libertarians are willing to work within a framework against the state to save capitalism from itself (which is naïve actually) makes a lot of them interesting allies in short-term, but incredibly problematic in the long-term. Given the choice between social liberty and economic liberty, they will use the latter. Furthermore, they conceive all politics as moral but they do so with a solely negative definition of what constitutes morality with the exception of the Lockean creating property.

December 7, 2011 at 9:57pm

Skepoet

Kevin Carson has done some interesting things with middle-period Rothbard.

December 7, 2011 at 9:58pm

Northern Rage

A “Crypto-Fascist”?

December 7, 2011 at 9:59pm

Skepoet

I was. I avoided for a return to the non-elective monarchy with an economic policy similar to Pinochet when I was younger. I was stupid.

December 7, 2011 at 10:01pm

Skepoet

But I used Rothbard to justify a lot of it.

December 7, 2011 at 10:01pm

Skepoet

Calixto M. Lopez was the only person here who can vouch for that, but when he met me, I was said crypto-fascist and he was in the Young Republicans. I am sure our political enemies as we develop them will find secret rightest tendencies in our ideas. I, however, think increasingly I was always in the left-end of the far right. Dealing with reality as it is woke me up to how ugly my idealized picture of the world could be. It’s why for all my communist commitments, I says we have to be honest about the failures of the past. We have to look at how ugly part of it is and move past that.

December 7, 2011 at 10:04pm

Skepoet

I know. I founded the group. I would say that I have very little “right” left in me. Except that I love Bukharin and Adorno. So I guess I am in the center of the far, far left now. But I am off spectrum, exit left in North America and South Korea.

December 7, 2011 at 10:07pm

Rob Tarzwell

So is this the New, New Right Just a Bit Left of Left of Centre?

December 7, 2011 at 10:11pm

Skepoet

Huh? I doubt it. There also no party in any post-industrial country that is really all that left right out. (With the exception of the Southern European countries being so ingloriously gutted).

December 7, 2011 at 10:13pm

Rob Tarzwell

Better be careful, Skepoet. You’ll be a centre-left pragmatist at this rate, and there’s nothing sexy or exciting about pragmatism.

December 7, 2011 at 10:16pm

Dave Poulter

That’s true. I’ve yet to see any sort of pragmatist porn (as opposed to protest porn). Maybe some people shaking hands might qualify but really, that compared to girl clubbing cop during Poll Tax Riots? No contest for what’s making the wall of a squat.

December 7, 2011 at 10:18pm

Charley Earp

I’ll go really nuts and admit that I have a big soft spot for Cornel West, that arch-center-left pragmatist. He’s bonkers on more than one axis, but still the most visible Socialist within the US context. I really wish he’d run as an independent presidential candidate.

December 7, 2011 at 10:19pm

Skepoet

The problem with centre left pragmatists, isn’t their pragmatism, it’s that they are fundamentally unconscious of how they objectively perpetuated the problem. Ever noticed that it’s easier to get centre-left governments to cave to calls by the IMF? I have.

Now this means that centre-left individuals, I work with. They mean well. Their social goals are close to mine. Fine. However, centre-left leadership historically have been OBJECTIVELY the enemy of the left as whole. It was the fucking Social Democrats that killed Rosa Luxemberg, not fascists. Obama has made neo-conservative policies completely unquestioned in many cases in the ruling classes. It was a centre left governments that caved to the IMF in Latin America and that are caving now in Europe. Pragmatism isn’t the problem, but not seeing another future as possible is.

December 7, 2011 at 10:27pm

Skepoet

I forgive Comrade West for a lot of his nonsense. He took too long to the see the obvious with Obama though.

December 7, 2011 at 10:28pm

Charley Earp

To be honest, I see West as slightly further left than center-left.

December 7, 2011 at 10:28pm

Charley Earp

And, West makes pragmatism a little bit sexy!

December 7, 2011 at 10:29pm

Skepoet

Again, there is nothing wrong with pragmatism, as long as its pragmatism for the revolutionary. Pragmatism is a tactic, classless society is a goal. (As well as getting rid of other forms of oppression).

December 7, 2011 at 10:30pm

Skepoet

Apparently, however, its the centre-left in the North America that doesn’t sleep. The revolutionary tendencies in this group have gone to bed.

December 7, 2011 at 10:30pm

Skepoet

Except for Me.

December 7, 2011 at 10:31pm

Dave Poulter

It’s because you wear yourselves out with all that rioting. Shaking hands uses much less energy.

December 7, 2011 at 10:32pm

Skepoet

Mao was particularly good at shaking hands.

December 7, 2011 at 10:32pm

Charley Earp

It’s 9:30 central time. I do consider myself revolutionary, but perhaps we need a conversation on what that term really means.

December 7, 2011 at 10:36pm

Skepoet

It means being willing to have radical change. There would be a democratic revolution in a democracy that wasn’t a democracy just in appearance. We, however, don’t live in that kind of democracy I don’t think.

December 7, 2011 at 10:38pm

Rob Tarzwell

You can get a lot done with centre-left consensus building. It got us universal health care.

December 7, 2011 at 10:39pm

Skepoet

50 years ago.

December 7, 2011 at 10:39pm

Skepoet

It won’t work now. That’s the odd thing about the current centre-left is for all their talking about how communists live in the past like its 1917. They seem to think that the conditions exist for that. In the time period you got universal health care. Undoing a massive capitalist inftrastructure in that field wasn’t necessary, and there were real world-wide revolutionary movements with guns. Both of those conditions don’t exist anymore.

December 7, 2011 at 10:40pm

Skepoet

Look the left in Canada: For all its pragmatism can’t even beat back Harper from slowly undoing its gains. It can’t in the UK, which is gutting things faster than Reagan could have hoped. It’s time for something new. Coalition-building sure, but one with revolutionary orientation.

December 7, 2011 at 10:42pm

Rob Tarzwell

Well, that is a good point. I do worry greatly about Harper. I also admit I take comfort in the fact that he has arrogated federal power to such a degree that, with respect to his crime bill, two provinces have already signaled their intent to go into revolt by not paying. Good luck getting that deal done without Quebec and Ontario.

December 7, 2011 at 10:46pm

Dave Poulter

Hopefully at least one condition will change soon. People too quickly forget that the threat of actual revolution in the 1930s and the role the economic chaos inherent in unfettered capitalism played in strengthening revolutionary and extremist reactionary movements is a huge part of what got the Western nations their various social democracies.

December 7, 2011 at 10:46pm

Dave Poulter

And as an aside that goddamn Rothbard article keeps trying to constantly reload itself and times out while I’m trying to read it. Between this and getting my kid ready for bed I’m having a horrible time making it through the thing. Frigging “anarcho-capitalists” and their shite website.

December 7, 2011 at 10:49pm

Skepoet

Those web-sites are run on alternative currency and slivers of gold.

December 7, 2011 at 10:57pm

Douglas Solomon

Michael Pugliese: A good piece from the lamentably now late Jude.

December 7, 2011 at 11:49pm

Douglas Solomon

It was fun read, but I kept saying “horseshit” to myself. Love those free-loving Christians, though! No work, and lots and lots of tail! No wonder Karl called ’em “Utopians”.

December 7, 2011 at 11:51pm

Ross Wolfe

Sera: For me it was Walter Benjamin. Through him I discovered Lukács, Kracauer, Bloch, Adorno, Horkheimer, and Adorno.

Along the way, however, I took quite a detour. Based on all the philosophical references, I went back through the history of Western philosophy. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Montaigne, Descartes (I skipped most of the Scholastics), Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Hume, Rousseau, Smith, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.

Only after rejecting Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, however, did I return to Marx, by way of the German Idealists mentioned above. My Marxism was largely informed by the Frankfurt School that I had read before. But I also studied the writings of Plekhanov, Lenin, Bogdanov, Trotskii, Bukharin, Preobrazhenskii, and others as part of my focus on Russian-Soviet history. I was also heavily influenced by Moishe Postone’s incredibly important reading of Capital and by attending the Platypus reading groups.

December 8, 2011 at 12:07am

Skepoet

For me too it was Walter Benjamin theoretically. He was the one Marxist critic I have liked in every period of my life.

December 8, 2011 at 12:18am

Douglas Solomon

Another thing that lead me to more Marx friendly: Pat Buchanan, about 1988, saying (paraphrase from memory): “We have to tell the truth, or people will remember that we lied, and then consider those we were talking about.” And G.W. Bush drove THAT point home with a horrid vengeance, on 2001.09.11, and after, personally and by proxy.

December 8, 2011 at 12:19am

Natalia Jakubek

As a student of environmental studies, I wanted to tackle the roots of the problems… found a class called ‘The Underside of Progress’ with David F. Noble — who has written a shelf’s worth of stellar books. He gave me Bakunin’s God and the State, and I’ve never looked back.

December 8, 2011 at 12:37am

Dave Poulter

Finally got through the Rothbard article. So apparently there have been religiously justified attempts at egalitarian systems before and these bear similarities to Marxist thought? Great insight buddy. It goes back to before the Anabaptists, Diggers, and even the Joachimites. Some Jewish dude talked about how hard it was for the wealthy to achieve salvation IIRC.

As for the reconciliation between atheist Communism and Christian Communism arriving via Bloch there’s a small issue of timing. He wrote Principle of Hope between 1938 and 1947. In short well after the “messianic, eschatological vision” of Communism, in the form of Stalin’s cult of personality, had already taken the place.

But yes there are similarities between various earlier attempts at anti-materialist ideologies and more contemporary anti-capitalist ideologies. It’s inevitable that what has come before influences what comes after, very little is 100% new and original. And of course you can draw parallels between the messianic nature of Christianity and that of Marxism. But to say that Marxist alienation is basically the heretical Christian view on getting away from the material and reuniting with the spiritual God? That seems kind of grasping.

I can’t believe I put up with so many time-outs for that. Although the history lesson in heresies was neat I guess.

December 8, 2011 at 1:05am

Emmanuel Segura

Sera: I’m pretty stoked for having found this group as well, and I am fairly new radical literature. It was super slow for me, however I think it was under the surface for many years. I have family in Costa Rica and several cousins interested and enamored by the image of communism and of liberation from US imperialism. I was young so a lot of it passed over my head, yet I still connected to it. Also, as a writer and a musician, capitalism, or capitalism as it is now, completely contradicts innovation, creativity, sincerity, anti-materialistic, and the whole mess of it. But what really got me into Marxism, or the leftists ideologies intellectually was from taking college classes where I was exposed to readings on institutionalized racism, US imperialism, effects of free trade, the context of undocumented workers, gender dynamics, etc., etc., so on and so forth. I started reading about the Black Panther movement, the SNCC movement, and now I am currently delving into Marx’s Capital, some Žižek, some Chomsky, and Foucault. I’m excited to start on this journey.

December 8, 2011 at 2:44am

2 thoughts on “From the annals of the Aesthetics, Theory, and Philosophy group: Answers to the question: What originally prompted you to explore Marxism/neo-Marxism?

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