Know your enemy

Image: Pierre-Paul Prud’hon
Nemesis and crime (1808)

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It would appear that the International Socialist Organization has launched a defamatory campaign intended to discredit me. Various members of the ISO have been gunning for me ever since I leaked a number of embarrassing internal bulletins from their organization last week. These were sent to me by several different members and former members of the ISO who were troubled by some of the developments taking shape within the organization of late. Some of these documents revealed their leadership’s inaction in resolving an incident concerning a member who had been accused of rape. Apparently this went unreported to the rest of the organization’s membership for more than seven months, until accidentally being brought to light by a few errant statements made in public regarding “Comrade Daniel” (the ISO’s rough equivalent to “Comrade Delta” across the pond).

Preconvention Bulletin 19 — which was only released a couple weeks ago — explained the sequence of events as follows:

During the investigation, it was revealed that two members of the current (2013) XVBC [Xville Branch Committee] had known a year prior that an accusation had been made, one of whom was also on the SDBC with “Daniel” at the time of the incident (July 2012). As of July 2013, no one had spoken to the victim, no disciplinary action had been taken against “Daniel,” no fewer than five Xville comrades knew that there was an accusation, including two members of the (2012) SDBC, and the ISOSC [ISO Steering Committee] was also aware.

Who knows if it would have ever been disclosed to the general membership if someone hadn’t posted about it on Facebook? How embarrassing. No wonder they’re so upset.

Anyway, enough about what the ISO mishandled or got wrong. There’s a clearly established protocol for how to deal with such leaks. If they don’t like the message that someone is spreading, the easiest way to resolve the matter is to kill the messenger. So let’s what calumnies they’ve concocted to convince people that I am untrustworthy. Right now this is the message they’ve decided to circulate:

Anyone who considers defending or associating with Ross Wolfe should always have this reposted, a defense of the FBI arrests of Palestine solidarity activists, as a reminder of what he is. Not just an utterly racist, elitist, sexist troll with a creepy, nasty obsession with wanting Muslim women unveiled. But also an utter scumbag and danger to the Left, ready to call for a state crackdown on activists, no matter what their background. Know your enemy.

Pretty boring stuff, really. The only problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it loses a lot of its effect when such accusations (“racist,” “sexist,” “troll”) are so routinely and casually made. Indeed, these all come from the ISO’s standard repertoire of abuse, terms used to tar anyone who crosses their path. When articles written by a few former members of the ISO critical of the leadership were published on Counterpunch a few months back — on “The Merchants of Shame” and “The Theory and Practice of Idealism in Trotskyism and the ISO” — the response was to dismiss the criticisms out of hand based simply on the venue where the articles had appeared. Sofia Arias wrote up this neat bit of guilt-by-association in an article hilariously titled “Contributing to a Constructive Debate”:

[The Renewal faction has] definitely found a new home at Counterpunch. Counterpunch is literally the last dwelling place that anyone with principled anti-oppression politics would ever go. And I take you to be sophisticated enough to know this, which is why I’m saying it. It has a dwindling readership of the old (white) (male) left. Why? Because it continuously repeatedly uses sexism and misogyny to attract readers (“Angelina Jolie Under the Knife: Of Privilege, Health Care, and Tits”), anti-Semitism (defense of Gilad Atzmon against a campaign initiated by Omar Barghouti, Ali Abunimah, and other BDS activists), out-and-out transphobia (initiating a series of “debates” sympathetic to Trans Exclusionary Rad Fems).

Counterpunch was called out by Jacobin magazine this past summer for its transphobia, and was subsequently threatened with a lawsuit by the vile trans-misogynist Cathy Brennan, who locks arms with the state to destroy trans leftists. Which publication, Counterpunch or Socialist Worker, republished Jacobin‘s call for solidarity? You can take a wild guess.

No one needs to lecture me about some of the truly odious material Counterpunch has been known to publish. With regard to anti-Semitism, one can look not only to Gilad Atzmon but also to Israel Shamir, an apologist for Pol-Pot and Holocaust denier. Should the former ISO members’ decision to have an article published on a site like this be considered an excommunicable offense? I really could care less what someone chooses to publish an article. But evidently the ISO prefers quasi-Stalinist tactics of “amalgamation,” guilt-by-proximity.

Anyway, on to their accusations about me. Regarding “the defense of FBI arrests of Palestine solidarity activists,” they’re resuscitating an old blog post I wrote four years ago on some members of the FRSO (Fightback) who were arrested for supposedly funding FARC. This was when I was going through what I’d call a “Schachtmanite” phase. I was pissed off at the FRSO for having called the cops on some comrades in the WIL in Minneapolis during a demonstration. Plus, I’d been getting death threats from some of their members for a couple months before posting that piece, and hated Stalinists more than usual.

Still, it was a stupid position to take. FRSO members threaten their detractors with violence all the time. Nothing to get worked up about. All the same, it seems desperate that ISO hardliners would try to dredge this up again, especially since I dealt with the post in question months ago. Here’s what I wrote on the matter last March:

Having maintained this blog for several years now, some of the positions taken in pieces I’ve posted in the past may no longer even reflect my current opinion on a given issue. This doesn’t exonerate me for having written them, of course, but hopefully it will alert the reader to the relative fluidity of my perspective over time.

Opinions change. I appreciate Stalinists today more than I used to; at least they come up with cool Promethean shit like the план преобразования природы [plan for the transformation of nature] instead of lame eco-socialist crap.

Moving on: The other major accusation they level against me (regarding my supposedly “creepy, nasty obsession with wanting Muslim women unveiled”) can be dealt with relatively easily as well. At no point have I endorsed Sarkozy-esque laws under capitalism that would oblige religious minorities to shed various articles of faith, although the canonical literature on the matter is far from clear on the issue. Rosa Luxemburg of course opposed Kulturkampf-style Bismarckian laws targeting Catholics in Germany during the late 19th century, but according to her article on “The Anti-Clerical Policy of Socialism” such opposition was only obligatory under monarchies, as secularism should be the natural order of the day in parliamentary democracies.

What the ISO is likely referring to is my translation and reposting of some documents relating to the women’s liberation and unveiling campaigns undertaken by the Bolsheviks women in Zhenotdel, published in journals like Kommunistka between 1921-1923. The mere existence of these documents is an inconvenient fact for the ISO, who looked to the past for precedent in order to ground their activities in the present. Really, they should just consider themselves lucky that I’ve not translated Krupskaia’s articles on the subject from 1927.

My favorite part of the ISO diehards’ whole effort to smear me, however, is that it’s already completely backfired. Predictable though it was, I didn’t even know about this ploy until late this evening, when random people (mostly disaffected or former members of the ISO) started getting in touch with me to tell me about it. “Hey Ross, just wanted to let you know that the ISO’s McCarthyist attacks against you are actually giving you new supporters,” one wrote to me. “I’ve been enjoying your blog all afternoon. Anyways, this seems to happen whenever the ISO encounters any sort of criticism at all. Using liberal smears and Manichean characterizations, they blacklist organizations, people, and publications wholesale.”

Hopefully you now know your “enemy” a bit better than before. This is all the ISO leadership wants, after al. Judge for yourself, though, never forgetting: “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

31 thoughts on “Know your enemy

  1. At no point have I endorsed Sarkozy-esque laws under capitalism that would oblige religious minorities to shed various articles of faith.

    So if my religion tells me to do really nasty things to others or permanently places them in a bad social position and I devoutly act according to such instructions, that’s all fine & dandy? Roll out the oppressive hierarchies, cruel & unusual punishments and random nastiness! Sarkozy is a shit, but he is right in defending secular values. I can’t wrap my mind around the capitulation to religious fundamentalism most lefties seem to advocate these days. Bunch of lame shits.

    • My idea is that this has to do with the turn away from the Enlightenment, the embrace of a weird left-version of postmodernism, and a general touchy-feely anti-oppressive libertarianism. Not all of the left of course, in particular not the more weighty studies of capitalism, modes of production and all that.

      Lame shits is an appropriate term for these people. Another that sometimes pops up in my head is ‘class traitors’. This because they obfuscate and clutter the struggle against capitalism with their weird ideologies.

      • It must have been ages since I heard a prominent lefty (i.e. those who get any attention in mainstream media) mention “modes of production.” These day’s its all identitarian lifestylism mixed with charity.

    • Slightly off topic, but…That Religion is not a way forward is one thing, That working people are subjects who ought to be physically forced to change their views by means of humiliation is a gross perversion of the objectives of working class scientific socialism. The goal is to utilize scientific methodology to aid the working class as the subject makers of the transformation of class society. Politics which treat the working class as a object to be victimized into change are of the Bakuninite anarchist school and its contemporary “Maoist” manifestation. Pol Pot, Sendero Luminoso, Bob Avakian etc. Western Liberal supporters of such policies as executed by the capitalist state are heading down the path of “national socialism” and thereby are on their way toward membership in a Eurocentric version of the Taliban — Again on the unity of opposites.

  2. Anyhow, speaking as someone very unsuitable for politics, why don’t you focus more on productive matters? Nobody ever became the happier by picking an argument with a wild, vicious and flee-ridden stray dog.

    They will self-destruct or fizzle soon enough anyway.

      • I hope the ISO realise that people in Europe are watching the antics of their groupuscule.

        The language they use is beneath contempt.

        Defend Comrade Wolfie! — I really bleedin’ mean this.

  3. The weight of Stalinism on the socialist movement (within which I begrudgingly include the ISO) does not end with Stalinist — or subvariant Maoist — theory. Its impact on organizations aligned with ideological Trotskyism is, in the manner (sorry Rosa) of the dialectical identity of opposites, equivalent. On the one side is made the argument “our man is infallible and is the true continuer of the workers revolution” with the opponent making the same claim for a different man. “Our man stood with Lenin in the crucial moments,” no “Ours did.” The Cliff formations are but one step away from this. For Lenin is substituted Trotsky. Cliff is the true interpreter of the “prophet’s” words, the inheritor, the one. Yet, because his interpretation is an invitation to abandon the core and principles of the movement to which he claims to inherit, his flock is ever so much more lost.
    Only twists of theory and slights of hand can show the way in which the state capitalist theory (an adaptation of academic Maoism and accommodation to Atlantic imperial foreign policy) evolves from Trotsky (who’s greatest work, The Revolution Betrayed, presents a different theory), and an organization rooted in the universities and educational system of the imperial state evolves from Lenin’s proletarian bolshevism — hence theoretical monstrosities such as “Zinovievism” * are derived.

    The organizational formalities, and personality cult politics which are shared in common with Stalinism are all that remain and these are implanted in a petty-bourgeois milieu in which individual competition and liberal notions of freedom predominate. Rather than one big and effective personality cult the result is an agglomeration of little personality cults built around little personalities. A 5 minute review of the “Socialist” “Worker” website makes this evident. It is basically a webzine brochure for the latest journal article, dissertation or recently published book of the organization’s, leaders, their friends and their favored pupils.

    Mr Wolfe, you might enjoy this from Lenin, predating the publication of What is to be Done?:

    We have decided to publish the proceedings of the “Unity” Conference, so that all Russian Social-Democrats may independently draw their own conclusions as to the reasons for the failure of the attempt at unity made by the organisations abroad. …..

    …Of course, we shall also leave unanswered the angry words that so profusely decorate the pages of the pamphlet of the Union Abroad, including the charges of “slander”, or of our having “broken up” the Conference by leaving it. Such accusations can only raise a smile. Three organisations gathered to discuss the question of unity. Two agreed that they could not unite with the third. Naturally, there was nothing left for the two organisations but to explain their position and depart. Only those who are angry because they are wrong can characterise this step as “breaking up” the Conference, or designate as “slander” the assertion that the Union Abroad wavers in questions of principle.

    This one everyone knows. If you made any mistake it was to turn and step toward the “marsh”:

    And now some among us begin to cry out: Let us go into the marsh! And when we begin to shame them, they retort: What backward people you are! Are you not ashamed to deny us the liberty to invite you to take a better road! Oh, yes, gentlemen! You are free not only to invite us, but to go yourselves wherever you will, even into the marsh. In fact, we think that the marsh is your proper place, and we are prepared to render you every assistance to get there. Only let go of our hands, don’t clutch at us and don’t besmirch the grand word freedom, for we too are “free” to go where we please, free to fight not only against the marsh, but also against those who are turning towards the marsh!

    *(Zinoviev is no doubt warmed in his grave to now, along with his illustrious comrades, have an ism all to himself)(Readers of my blog will know that I am busily constructing a Preobrazhenskiism — it should be as arcane and hard to pronounce as possible. But what of poor Radek? Is he not deserving of his own camp either laudatory or derogatory?)

    • No need to apologise, since your comment allows me to point out that the mystical doctrine of the ‘unity and identity of opposites’, the veracity of which you seem to have swallowed uncritically, would cripple Historical Materialism. Indeed, if the dialectical classics are to be believed, this dogma, if true, would make change impossible.

      Proof here.

      • Rosa,

        It is a pity that you are so far across the pond. For I can very much imagine that I would enjoy myself seated across the table from you over a full meal and two bottles of wine. At the beginning of this I would understand neither what you were talking about nor why it is so important to you. As I emptied the last drop and was helped into a taxi by a kind stranger. I would for just a moment, before losing consciousness, understand what and why and I would be convinced that you are right. In the following morning I would awake and after strong coffee try to remember and take down some notes. Unable, however to reconstruct my lubricated thoughts from the prior night, I would return myself to more practical and immediate concerns.

      • Rawlins (I’m sorry, I don’t know your first name):

        “It is a pity that you are so far across the pond. For I can very much imagine that I would enjoy myself seated across the table from you over a full meal and two bottles of wine. At the beginning of this I would understand neither what you were talking about nor why it is so important to you.”

        1) What I have to say is infinitely more comprehensible than anything you can find in Hegel — or, indeed, the dialectical classics. If you disagree, quote something from my work you do not understand, and I’ll be happy to walk you through it.

        2) It is important since, if I am right, this theory has played its own not insignificant part in rendering revolutionary socialism the sorry mess we see today, and have seen for the best part of the last 100 years. [Notice I am not blaming all our woes on this theory; but since it *is* our core theory, it has to take some of the blame — either that, or truth isn’t tested in practice.]

        “Unable, however to reconstruct my lubricated thoughts from the prior night, I would return myself to more practical and immediate concerns.”

        And, as we know from the history of Dialectical Marxism, the chances are these ‘practicalities’ will fail. If our theory is defective (as I think I have shown) our practice can’t be anything other than unsuccessful.

        After all, history has already refuted dialectical materialism/materialist dialectics:

        http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%20010_01.htm

      • So what’s Marx on about in this passage from his widely-published 1863 text Theories of Surplus-Value? I quote:

        Mill resorts to this type of argument only when he is quite unable to find any other expedient. But as a rule his method is quite different. Where the economic relation — and therefore also the categories expressing it — includes contradictions, opposites, and likewise the unity of the opposites, he emphasizes the aspect of the unity of the contradictions and denies the contradictions. He transforms the unity of opposites into the direct identity of opposites.

        For example, a commodity conceals the contradiction of use-value and exchange-value. This contradiction develops further, presents itself and manifests itself in the duplication of the commodity into commodity and money. This duplication appears as a process in the metamorphosis of commodities in which selling and buying are different aspects of a single process and each act of this process simultaneously includes its opposite. In the first part of this work, I mentioned that Mill disposes of the contradiction by concentrating only on the unity of buying and selling; consequently he transforms circulation into barter, then, however, smuggles categories borrowed from circulation into [his description of] barter.

        I realize you’re not a fan of Marx’s rather Hegelian use of the word “contradiction,” either, but clearly his critique of Mill would lack all substance if these terms were removed from his analysis. Was Marx wrong to criticize Mill along these lines? Confusing.

      • Ross, thanks for that quotation, but Marx saw fit not to publish it.

        But he did publish a summery of ‘the dialectic method’ in the Postface to the second edition of Das Kapital — the only summary of ‘the dialectic method’ he published and endorsed in his entire life –, and here it is:

        “After a quotation from the preface to my ‘Criticism of Political Economy,’ Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:

        ‘The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence. … If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point. Such an inquiry will confine itself to the confrontation and the comparison of a fact, not with ideas, but with another fact. For this inquiry, the one thing of moment is, that both facts be investigated as accurately as possible, and that they actually form, each with respect to the other, different momenta of an evolution; but most important of all is the rigid analysis of the series of successions, of the sequences and concatenations in which the different stages of such an evolution present themselves. But it will be said, the general laws of economic life are one and the same, no matter whether they are applied to the present or the past. This Marx directly denies. According to him, such abstract laws do not exist. On the contrary, in his opinion every historical period has laws of its own…. As soon as society has outlived a given period of development, and is passing over from one given stage to another, it begins to be subject also to other laws. In a word, economic life offers us a phenomenon analogous to the history of evolution in other branches of biology. The old economists misunderstood the nature of economic laws when they likened them to the laws of physics and chemistry. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population. … With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx’s book has.’

        “Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?”

        https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/p3.htm

        You will no doubt notice that in the above passage not one single Hegelian concept is to be found — no “contradictions”, no change of “quantity into quality”, no “negation of the negation”, no “unity and identity of opposites”, no “interconnected Totality”, no “universal change” –, and yet Marx still calls this the “dialectic method”, and says of it (by implication) that it is “my method”.

        So, Marx’s “method” has had Hegel completely excised –, except for the odd phrase or two, “here and there”, with which he merely “coquetted”. [These days we’d use ‘scare’ quotes, or better still we’d stop using such terms.]

        Of course, no unpublished source can take precedence over a published sources when it comes to interpreting an author (this doesn’t mean that I think we should ignore Marx’s unpublished work, only that published sources take precedence).

        And, we can see that in this Marx was perhaps being wise, since the things mentioned in the passage you quoted aren’t contradictions, nor do they even *look* like contradictions.

        Moreover, it is also a happy accident that Marx abandoned this mystical way of seeing the world (upside down or ‘the right way up’), since, as I have shown: if this ‘theory’ were true, change would be impossible.

        Follow the link in my last post for the proof.

        But, you end with this rather odd flourish:

        “I realize you’re not a fan of Marx’s rather Hegelian use of the word “contradiction,” either, but clearly his critique of Mill would lack all substance if these terms were removed from his analysis. Was Marx wrong to criticize Mill along these lines? Confusing.”

        Well, Marx wasn’t either, so he and I are in complete agreement — for the very best Marx could do with Hegel’s obscure and incomprehensible jargon — such as ‘dialectical contradiction’ — was to ‘coquette’ with it. Hardly a serious use of Hegel’s badly misnamed book, ‘Logic’, eh?

      • Ok, Rosa, so let’s say that you are right, A judgement which I neither have the time or expertise to verify, but for the sake of argument. Let’s say that Hegel, who I have not studied seriously in over 20 years, is convoluted, badly written, poorly translated–I don’t read German, though I think that Marx did– so I was saying, Hegel is bunk.. Then what. I am not a critical theorist. I am a working class socialist militant. Critical theory is only important to me if it has a meaningful impact on my ability to develop an effective program or conduct effective propaganda in the interests of my class I do not see it as an end in itself. To the extent that I expand my intellectual or theoretical development beyond the general level required to carry out political work and make judgements as to correct program I tend to focus my attention toward economics and history rather than philosophy.
        The conversations that I have with co-workers are, for the most part: strengthening our union, looking toward class rather than national interests, solidarity with oppressed peoples, opposition to imperial war, defending the rights of women, the general viability of socialism from a systemic point of view, which usually becomes a conversation about economics, very rarely about philosophy and never once about the foundations of dialectical reasoning or the underlying logic of Marxist thought.
        I almost always use the term “Scientific Socialism” I try to avoid speaking in the name of Marx or using the term Marxism excepting in certain descriptive contexts. I also rarely call my self a Cristian or a Zinovievite–though perhaps somewhere someone is calling me that–I am in general done with the idea of building an entire theory or social movement around the ideas of one person. This also I suppose discounts the term Hegelian. I think that the “Marxist-Humanists” belong in a Monty Python skit.
        Science and Scientific Socialism are a product of human social development and are a collective product. If I want to sound radical I call myself a communist and that does the trick. So of what use to me is the question of the specific roots of dialectical thinking in Marx’ thought? I am not baiting you this time, it is a sincere question. But an acceptable answer to me must come in terms of the social interests of the working class. I am not fighting for the ascendance of an idea. I am fighting for the victory of my class. It will be impossible to convince me that the one true idea holds the key. Have you not built a neurotic faith, a personal religion–in the sense that Erich Fromm describes– around this idea? I hope that Fromm is not a dialectician too, but he probably is.

      • Maybe I am missing something, but you have in a nutshell made my point for me. I agree with you totally (and I am a working class Marxist, too): except for mystics, Hegel’s ideas are totally useless (upside down or the ‘right way up’).

        I can’t think how you managed to draw the opposite conclusion about any of my ideas from anything I have said here or elsewhere.

        This comment mystifies me, though:

        “Have you not built a neurotic faith, a personal religion–in the sense that Erich Fromm describes– around this idea? I hope that Fromm is not a dialectician too, but he probably is.”

        What “idea” is this, then? There is no single idea behind my work. Have you read all 2.5million words at my site? If not, then on what basis can you advance this rather fanciful claim?

      • Rawlinsview said, somewhat comically, “I don’t read German, though I think that Marx did.” Yes, German was actually the nationality of both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels!

        I only got a C at O-level German so have to put up with translations, and early in my membership of Militant (in Britain, not to be confused with the paper of the US SWP), I tried to read and understand the translation of Engels’ “Anti-Dühring”, which was our recommended text for dialectical materialism. [Perhaps he wrote it in English but the very title suggests it was primarily intended for a German audience.]

        I haven’t got time to plough through Rosa’s 2.5 million words, and I couldn’t get to the end of Engels’ book anyway, but I can’t really understand how she could criticise ideas that are elementary in physics (such as “quantity goes into quality” and vice versa). “Negation of the negation” is badly named – we understood it as “history repeats itself at a higher level”, which is true up to a point. What is described above as “the unity of the opposites” is probably what we called “interpenetration of opposites”. I went to a discussion on dialectics at the (British) SWP’s Marxism event several years ago, and was flummoxed by the fact that their concept of “dialectical materialism” was so different from Militant’s, with none of those four laws mentioned in the lead-off, and talked about my understanding from that perspective. I know that Rosa was a member/supporter of the SWP (I don’t know if she is now). I never understood the final one of the four laws, “interpenetration of opposites”, in my time in Militant (or the Socialist Party as it calls itself now), but later had a brainwave! I explained it in terms of our enemies (such as those in the state including the CIA or MI5) infiltrating us, so we need to infiltrate them! The Chair of the meeting had a very red face and his head in his hands after I said this! [Ironically he was one of the rebels at Marxism 2013 – I can remember his name but don’t particularly want to publicise it here.]

        “Anti-Dühring” has a number of errors, so blatantly obvious that it is impossible to believe that Engels didn’t put them in deliberately. The only one of them I remember now was “negation of the negation” being described as 2 goes to -2 goes back to 2 again. It’s a ridiculous term for “history repeats itself at a higher level”, but confusing it with the obvious mathematical understanding is ridiculous. In a biography of Marx, the British SWP’s foremost theoretician, Alex Callinicos, said something on the lines of some people thinking that Engels was “Marx’s evil twin distorting his ideas, but that he rejected that”. I will leave readers of this blog post and comments to ponder whether Engels’ distortions to “scientific socialism” (for those who use that term to encompass the body of literature written by Marx and Engels) were designed as an act of sabotage, due to Engels being some sort of infiltrator, or because Engels wanted to give off that sort of impression. Maybe it was largely subconscious – they had to move around Europe before they were allowed to settle in Britain, and the possibility of assassination must have crossed their minds!

  4. This from The Autonomization of Truly Social Forms in Marx’s Theory: Comments on money in contemporary capitalism* by Leda Maria Paulani Department of Economics University of São Paulo – Brazil

    If we adopt a dialectical (Hegelian) reading of Marx’s theory of money, we can see that money contains within it the contradiction of commodity itself (between use-value and value) and in so doing, it contains different strata of contradiction that logically and historically have come to the fore.
    In this process, the truly social forms (for example money – as opposed to commodity, means of circulation – as opposed to measure of value, inconvertible money – as opposed to commodity money, and so on) seem to be stronger than their counterparts (social forms) and, because of this, there is a movement towards an autonomization of these forms.
    In this sense, value becomes autonomous from use-value; as medium of circulation, the abstract that money represents becomes autonomous from the concrete that the measure of value requires; as medium of payment, money becomes autonomous from the commodity circulation that has produced it, and so on.

    Oh no, just when I had eschewed dialectics and succumbed to Lichtenstein’s literalism it rears its head in my study of intellectual capital and the enclosure of knowledge. I am not sure what to think. How can I synthesize these opposed concepts?

    I don’t recommend infiltrating Mi6, they seems cunning and dangerous, at least in the movies that I watch. But more importantly our task it not to fall in to the trap of the unity of opposites, that is to emulate bourgeois methods of conquest, but rather to participate in the the social battles of the working class and in that process to aid in the education and organization of our class.

    Rosa, If I can encapsulate your idea in a 400 word blog comment then what has been the benefit of 2.5 million words? And really? Hegel is too confusing so we should read Wittgenstein!!!???? I see it now, Marx, Parvus, Lenin, Wittgenstein, not-Zinoviev, Trotsky, Cliff, Lichtenstein, the true continuity of the proletarian pevolution, for a (Non-Hegelian)Marxist–Leninist–Wittgensteinian-Trotskyite-Cliffite (but there is no such thing)7th international. For the permanent (and mystical-positivist) revolution!!

    Thatcher you are blowing my mind, Marx was German? I thought that he was a Russian Communist. Next up you’ll try to convince me that Jesus was a Jew and that Zinoviev did not vote for Tony Blair. Impossible!

    Lastly Engels was no more infallible than any of the other figureheads of scientific socialism, but his place is sound and essential. (Consider The Condition of the Working Class in England and the Origin of the Family Private Property and the State, quoted heavily by Lenin in The State and Revolution, and a foundational text for feminism within socialist thought, as among Engels irreplaceable independent contributions) Not least of all we would not have Marx without him. He, for one thing, funded Marx’ work, and, for another, organized it for public consumption. Without Engels there would be no third volume of Capital and the line of continuity of scientific socialism would have been broken off at the stem. M and E were comrades in the fundamental sense of the term. Their collaboration and life commitment are to be emulated. Critics who seek the “true Marx” seek a religion rather than a revolutionary movement.
    Rosa if we are only to study the published works of Marx and at the same time to discount Engels contribution then we have almost nothing left to study.

    See also Riazanov’s classic Karl Marx and Freiderich Engels. Shit I forgot to include Riazanov in the true lineage, but then again he was an interdistricter. Double shit, so was Trotsky.. You just can’t win.

    • Rawlins:

      “Oh no, just when I had eschewed dialectics and succumbed to Lichtenstein’s literalism it rears its head in my study of intellectual capital and the enclosure of knowledge.”

      And what ‘literalism’ is this, then? Perhaps reading Marx and taking him at his word? How absolutely awful of me.

      “Rosa, If I can encapsulate your idea in a 400 word blog comment then what has been the benefit of 2.5 million words?”

      This is like someone who thinks she can encapsulate everything Marx had to say by quoting “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to her/his need,” and then asking, “So, why do we need Das Kapital then?”

      ““Anti-Dühring” has a number of errors, so blatantly obvious that it is impossible to believe that Engels didn’t put them in deliberately.”

      In fact, the first half of that book has more errors and confusions in it than there a paragraphs.

      Scores of them can be found here:

      http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm

      Or, for those who prefer shorter articles, here:

      http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Summary_of_Essay_Seven_Index.htm

      And even shorter, here:

      http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Anti-D_For_Dummies%2001.htm

      I’m not sure what to say about the rest of what you posted since it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what I have argued here (or elsewhere, for that matter).

  5. I’ll try again!

    Rawlins:

    “And really? Hegel is too confusing so we should read Wittgenstein!!!???? I see it now, Marx, Parvus, Lenin, Wittgenstein, not-Zinoviev, Trotsky, Cliff, Lichtenstein, the true continuity of the proletarian revolution, for a (Non-Hegelian)Marxist–Leninist–Wittgensteinian-Trotskyite-Cliffite (but there is no such thing)7th international. For the permanent (and mystical-positivist) revolution!!”

    1) Where have I suggested you, or anyone else, should read Wittgenstein?

    2) The rest of that paragraph is far too confused to do anything with. Perhaps you should try again with your brain engaged this time?

    “Rosa if we are only to study the published works of Marx and at the same time to discount Engels contribution then we have almost nothing left to study.”

    Where I have I suggested this? You really must learn to engage with what I have actually said not with what you think I have said.

    In fact I even went as far as to say this in my long reply to Ross:

    “Of course, no unpublished source can take precedence over a published sources when it comes to interpreting an author (this doesn’t mean that I think we should ignore Marx’s unpublished work, only that published sources take precedence).”

    And I repeatedly say at my site that I have highest regard for Engels’s work — but only when he stays away from mathematics, science and philosophy.

    Now, you don’t have to read my work — no one does — but only a fool would pass comment on something they hadn’t read.

  6. ‘Thatcher of the left’:

    “I know that Rosa was a member/supporter of the SWP (I don’t know if she is now)”

    I left the party in the early 1990s, but remained close to them politically over the next twenty years. However, if I had have been a member in 2012, I’d have resigned over the ‘Comrade Delta’ debacle.

    “‘Anti-Dühring’ has a number of errors.”

    In fact, the first half of that book has more errors and confusions in it than there a paragraphs.

    Scores of them can be found here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/page%2007.htm

    Or, for those who prefer shorter articles, here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Summary_of_Essay_Seven_Index.htm

    And even shorter, here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/Anti-D_For_Dummies%2001.htm

    “I haven’t got time to plough through Rosa’s 2.5 million words, and I couldn’t get to the end of Engels’ book anyway, but I can’t really understand how she could criticise ideas that are elementary in physics (such as “quantity goes into quality” and vice versa). ”

    1) The Q/Q ‘law’ is in fact far too vague and confused to feature in physics at any level.

    2) Even if sense could be made of it this ‘law’, there are countless objects and processes in nature and society that defy it, so it can’t be a law.

    3) You can find my reasons for saying this if you follow the above links (all of which will take you to essays which contain far, far fewer than 2.5 million words).

  7. From Rosa’s Tomb

    As Baker and Hacker noted:

    “[… ]
    “We think of necessary propositions as being true or false, as objective and independent of our minds or will. We conceive of them as being about various entities, about numbers even about extraordinary numbers that the mind seems barely able to grasp…, or about universals, such as colours, shapes, tones; or about logical entities, such as the truth-functions or (in Frege’s case) the truth-values. We naturally think of necessary propositions as describing the features of these entities, their essential characteristics. So we take mathematical propositions to describe mathematical objects…. Hence investigation into the domain of necessary propositions is conceived as a process of discovery. Empirical scientists make discoveries about the empirical domain, uncovering contingent truths; metaphysicians, logicians and mathematicians appear to make discoveries of necessary truths about a supra-empirical domain (a ‘third realm’). Mathematics seems to be the ‘natural history of mathematical objects’ [Wittgenstein (1978), p.137], ‘the physics of numbers’ [Wittgenstein (1976), p.138; however these authors record this erroneously as p.139, RL] or the ‘mineralogy of numbers’ [Wittgenstein (1978), p.229].

    It is understandable that you might forget some of what you have written y’know 2.5 million words and all. This is a refresher, ok you were quoting someone who was quoting Wittgenstein. Somewhere you claimed that there was no such thing as Cliffism. I don’t remember where. Parvus is an orginal contributor to the theory of Permanent Revolution. Zinovievism relates to the most significant theoretical conquest of the ISO and North Star which is to identify the struggle against Zinovievism–this is admittedly a key battle in the class struggle today. It is also an important contribution to Marxist-SomeofEngelsian*-Parvusian-Lenninist-NotZinovievist-Wittgensteinian-Trotskiite-Cliffite-quasiacademicMaosian thought.

    Your comments in this most recent post stand for themselves as regards Engels, who’s writings on science would in my mind include anthropology and social science–y’know ‘scientific’ socialism and all. Both you and Thatcher were on about Engels so you only get half the chaff.

    But you win. I quit. The price of victory is to read 2.5 million words, perhaps, If I am someday confined to a minimum security prison, I will bravely rise to the challenge.

    *but not Math Science or Philosophy

  8. Earlier I asked this:

    “1) Where have I suggested you, or anyone else, should read Wittgenstein?”

    You now quote Baker and Hacker, and then add this comment:

    “It is understandable that you might forget some of what you have written y’know 2.5 million words and all. This is a refresher, ok you were quoting someone who was quoting Wittgenstein.”

    Sure, I quote others who quote Wittgenstein, just as I quote Wittgenstein myself, but where do I suggest anyone should read his work?

    You have yet to address this rather simple point.

    “Somewhere you claimed that there was no such thing as Cliffism. I don’t remember where.”

    On Twtter.

    “Your comments in this most recent post stand for themselves as regards Engels, who’s writings on science would in my mind include anthropology and social science–y’know ‘scientific’ socialism and all. Both you and Thatcher were on about Engels so you only get half the chaff.”

    I nowhere said that everything Engels wrote about science was useless.

    You really must learn to read with more care.

    “The price of victory is to read 2.5 million words, perhaps, If I am someday confined to a minimum security prison, I will bravely rise to the challenge.”

    I wonder if you would extend this ‘reticence’ to your reading the fifty volumes of the Marx-Engels collected works, the length of which easily dwarfs my humble contribution?

    Or have you made a similar point over at your blog?

    Maybe along these lines:

    “If I am someday confined to a minimum security prison, I will bravely rise to the challenge, only then will I try to read the tens of millions of words Marx, Engels and Lenin committed to paper.”

    No, I thought not.

    But, my work isn’t designed for comrades like your good self, but for those who have quaffed the Kool Aid, and who are now ‘true believers’ — like Ross, here.

    Or, to be more truthful: for the many younger comrades who e-mail me all the time thanking me for posting my work on-line.

    One of them is translating it into Vietnamese, and another into Bengali. Yet another is doing a masters degree on it, and for another it is forming part of his PhD.

  9. Baker and Hacker are quoted from your work I am quoting you, quoting them, quoting W. but anyway….as regards 50 volumes, that was Lenin, and it was as to the specific point of whether it was true that the Bolsheviks had no internal documents prior to 1920, the verification of which would require a review of the entirety of Lenin et al’s correspondence, a task daunting even for one as prolific as yourself. I quoted Preobrazhensky as a refutation, pointing out that the form of democratic centralism practiced in the context of stable bourgeois democracy was an impossibility for the Bolsheviks during the revolutionary period. They operated clandestine cells, so.. like.. some documents were totally, not,, posted on the internet.
    Congratulations on someone’s PHD and such.

    There is such a thing as Cliffism but there may as well not be.
    Marx Lenin Engels, Cannon, Trotsky, Preobrazhensky and others are quoted extensively on my blog, which delves only rarely and lightly into philosophy and rather more deeply into economics, current events, and political program.
    I read enough of your tome to draw the conclusion that it is rooted in idealism no less than is the articulations of the Platypus Society.
    Study, knowledge science, these things are important but objective factors and the collective experience of our class are more important.
    My big idea is as yet quite unfinished. I am behind you in that sense.
    In a nutshell it is that the conditions are only now becoming ripe in terms of the mature formation of a conscious international proletariat. Lenin et al had the right idea, but the development of global capitalism and with it a global proletariat was fundamentally immature. This may sound like a form of Menshevism, but it is not because I believe that Lenin was right to lead a quest for power and to fight uncompromisingly to hold it. Menshevism implies waiting until….
    The weakness of Cliff and ‘State Capitalist’ analysis is that it is ahistorical and posits a pure state of socialism and so shares its place with anarchism.
    The Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution, the Cuban revolution represent real conquests of our class despite their incomplete development and the victory of reaction in Russia, less so in China and arguably not so in Cuba.
    Cuba was the first socialist revolution in history in a country in which the modern proletariat was the dominant class in the society, albeit a weak and undeveloped proletariat, but not a peasantry in the sense that existed in Russia or China. There were no true feudal relations in Cuba.
    Seen in this way the history of the 20th century was not a string of defeats for our class but a string of victorious battles each fought eventually to a standstill but not resulting in true defeat. Social relations in Russia were permanently transformed. Even in Iran and Nicaragua everything is different than it was before their respective revolutions and the social position of our class is much greater than it was under the Shah or Somoza. The progress in Latin America from Bonapartist dictatorships opposed by militarist guerrilla armies to stable social democracies is a byproduct of the victories in Cuba and Nicaragua even while it is easy to point out political failings and contradictions of all of these leaderships and temporary social forms and even while we point toward the next steps for the working class who are again in a stronger position to organize and struggle today than they were in say 1970.
    The expansion of capitalism has not been due to a “failure of the left” or the “rise of neo-liberalism [an idea]” but instead to an extension of the incomplete historical development of capitalism as a system which has only recently reached its mature development. This is why Capital and even the Communist Manifesto read as relevant documents today, and require so little revision, because the process which they describe continues to unfold.
    This is also where Trotsky is wrong and Permanent Revolution proves itself to be a subjective theory. Capitalism is ripe, but it was not “overripe” in 1930. Lenin’s comprehension of the objective pace of history and thus acceptance of formal stages and such in keeping with Engels, Plekhanov and Kautsky is more scientific and accurate than Trotsky’s radical subjectivism. That Stalin later perverted these theories is of no more relevance than is the fact that Rand Paul misquotes Adam Smith.
    This does not mean that we should not fight each battle with intent to carry our forces as far as they may run, but that we do not measure victory or defeat in ideal terms but rather in ground gained or lost and most importantly in terms of the tactical position we are in to fight again. It is the petite-bourgeois who are weaker than ever today. This is a function of the normal development of capitalism as it consolidates industry and concentrates capital. This is reflected in the frightened and conciliationist ideology of the middle-class left and the Democratic and Labor party whine about the “decline of the middle class.” Understand then how reactionary is Obama’s call to “‘restore’ the middle class, and the ‘American dream’” a refrain echoed by the ISO, Socialist Alternative, and other middle-class socialist formations. There will be no future restoration of the small and independent bourgeois or a privileged strata of skilled labor as an historical force in the developed world. There will be only their subsumation in the battle between the rulers and the class who must fight to end all classes.
    Our class is bigger and stronger than it has ever been. Our subjective role is to articulate and consolidate this fact.

    Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, Wolfe provides a service, an open and elegant venue for all this chatter and a profound and erudite approach to his subject and a respect for the material.

    • R:

      “Baker and Hacker are quoted from your work I am quoting you, quoting them, quoting W. but anyway”

      Me:

      “Sure, I quote others who quote Wittgenstein, just as I quote Wittgenstein myself, but where do I suggest anyone should read his work?”

      Once more: “You have yet to address that rather simple point”.

      R (or an edited version of R):

      “but anyway….as regards 50 volumes, that was Lenin, and it was as to the specific point of whether it was true that the Bolsheviks had no internal documents prior to 1920, the verification of which would require a review of the entirety of Lenin et al’s correspondence…. some documents were totally, not,, posted on the internet.”

      I’m sorry, but what has this got to do with anything I have said, interesting though it is?

      “There is such a thing as Cliffism”

      So Tony Cliff’s enemies keep saying, but we have yet to see the proof.

      “Marx Lenin Engels, Cannon, Trotsky, Preobrazhensky and others are quoted extensively on my blog, which delves only rarely and lightly into philosophy and rather more deeply into economics, current events, and political program.”

      Again, the relevance of all this highly interesting material is…what?

      “I read enough of your tome to draw the conclusion that it is rooted in idealism no less than is the articulations of the Platypus Society.”

      In that case, I am sure you’ll find it easy to quote something from my work that supports this allegation of yours.

      It is impossible to ascertain the relevance of the other things you had to say, so I won’t comment about it.

      https://thecharnelhouse.org/2014/02/12/know-your-enemy/#comments

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