No, Žižek did not attribute a Goebbels quote to Gramsci

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After I debunked Molly Klein’s baseless claim that Žižek was the editor of the Ljubljana student zine Tribuna when it printed a translation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a few of her dimwitted supporters kept saying that I was focusing too much on this one claim and ignoring the mountain of other “evidence” she’d compiled regarding the Slovenian philosopher. So I figured I’d have a crack at another of her outrageous claims.

By the way, I swear to god this is the last one of these things I’m going to write. Klein’s modus operandi seems to go something like this:

  1. Make as many ridiculous and poorly researched, half-literate claims as possible.
  2. If anyone disputes one of your claims or clearly demonstrates that it’s incorrect, either ignore him/her or
    1. accuse them of ignoring all the other “legitimate” criticisms she’s advanced.
    2. simply continue making same ridiculous claims despite direct evidence disproving them.
  3. Repeat.

For bonus points, call everyone a “fascist” or suggest that they’re a “psyop.” Žižek doesn’t really need my help. Still, it’s fun to beat up on feeble-minded frauds like Klein. Enjoy the carnage below.

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Another spurious claim Molly has repeatedly made is that Žižek deliberately conflated a pair of quotes by two quite distinct individuals. Namely, the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci. It so happens that the quote in question is one of Žižek’s favorites. He likes to use it a lot. So it appears in several of his texts, not just the article he wrote for New Left Review. At any rate, the quote Žižek attributes to Gramsci runs as follows: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

Recent photo of myself alongside fellow Twitter proles doing battle with Molly Klein the foul monster pictured at the top

Recent photo of myself alongside other nameless Twitter proles doing battle with Molly Klein the grotesque monster pictured at the top

Klein is convinced for some unknown reason that Žižek is in fact quoting Goebbels, with slight modifications added to throw readers off the scent. She laid it all out in a blog post a few years back. “Needless to say,” remarked Klein, “Gramsci said no such thing.” Following this there is a long quotation from the original Italian, though only one line from it was relevant: La crisi consiste appunto nel fatto che il vecchio muore e il nuovo non può nascere: in questo interregno si verificano i fenomeni morbosi piú svariati. Rendered more literally into English, as the 1971 International Publishers edition does, it reads: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born, in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Indeed, from this it would seem that Žižek either translated Gramsci very loosely, or is substituting a different quote for Gramsci’s entirely. Where could Žižek have gotten it from? Naturally, Klein’s first instinct is to look for some source in the annals of Nazism that resembles the one Žižek supposedly put in the mouth of Gramsci. A few keyword searches on Google and there you have it — gold, jackpot, Goebbels! “We know today that the old world is dying and that we are seeing the struggle for a new world,” the propaganda minister wrote in 1939, a few months before his country plunged Europe into war. Somewhat similar, sure. “Old world” and “new world” vs. “the old” and “the new.” Klein concludes: “that is Goebbels via Žižek passed off as Gramsci.” Continue reading

The works of Leon Trotsky

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This post has been a long time coming. Not only because it’s taken time to track down and convert some of these massive files into manageable sizes, though that also. Rather, it is more that I’ve been busy reassessing my own relationship to Trotsky’s works. Some reflections on his career, in thought and in deed, follow the documents posted below. For now, here are all fourteen volumes of his Writings during his last exile, from 1929 to 1940, along with his three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, his biographical works (his autobiography, biography of Lenin, and incomplete biography of Stalin), along with some of his earlier works (Results and Prospects, Terrorism and CommunismAn Appeal to the Toiling, Oppressed, Exhausted Peoples of Europe, The Permanent Revolution, Problems of Everyday Life, Literature and Revolution, and Lessons of October).

Assorted Writings
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  1. Leon Trotsky, Permanent Revolution (1920) and Results and Prospects (1906)
  2. Leon Trotsky, An Appeal to the Toiling, Oppressed, and Exhausted Peoples of Europe (1915)
  3. Leon Trotsky, Dictatorship vs. Democracy: A reply to Karl Kautsky on Terrorism and Communism (1919)
  4. Leon Trotsky, Problems of Everyday Life: Creating the Foundations for a New Society in Revolutionary Russia (1922)
  5. Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (1923)
  6. Leon Trotsky, Lessons of October (1924)
  7. Leon Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin (1928)
  8. Leon Trotsky, My Life (1928)
  9. Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What is the Soviet Union and Where is it Going? (1933)
  10. Leon Trotsky, Writings on Literature and Art (1905-1940)
  11. Leon Trotsky, Diary in Exile, 1935
  12. Leon Trotsky, Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence (1940)

History of the Russian Revolution
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  1. Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 1: The Overthrow of Tsarism
  2. Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 2: Attempt at Counterrevolution
  3. Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 3: The Triumph of the Soviets

Writings, 1929-1940
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  1. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1929
  2. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1930
  3. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1930-1931
  4. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1932
  5. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1932-1933
  6. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1933-1934
  7. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1934-1935
  8. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1935-1936
  9. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1936-1937
  10. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1937-1938
  11. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1938-1939
  12. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, 1939-1940
  13. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, Supplement (1929-1933)
  14. Leon Trotsky, Collected Writings, Supplement (1934-1940)

Enjoy. If you like this post and are looking for some other free downloads, check out my past entries dedicated to the works of Marx and Engels as well as those of Roland Barthes.

Leon Trotsky drawing

My reevaluation of the legacy of Leon Trotsky is largely due to my belated exposure to the left communist tradition. Or, more specifically, the writings of the Italian left communist Amadeo Bordiga. To be more specific still, Bordiga’s early writings — from 1919 to 1926 — have left a deep impression on me. As will become clear, I’d hardly endorse his entire corpus. Particularly his later stuff tends to be more hit or miss, though there’s still quite a bit to be learned from his undying (invariant) Bolshevism. His article “Against Activism” is an instant classic, and his longer essay on “The Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory” is epic as well.

Council communism is a tradition I’m decidedly less keen upon. Early on, in the 1920s, when the Dutch councilists Herman Gorter and Anton Pannekoek hadn’t yet completely forsaken the role of the party, there was perhaps a little more substance to their arguments. Later, when Otto Rühle and Paul Mattick took up the mantle of council communism, their politics tended to devolve into empty moralizing and a quasi-religious faith in the spontaneity of the masses. Nevertheless, Mattick’s various articles on economic theory and his critique of nationalism are excellent. They almost cannot be recommended highly enough. Karl Korsch intersects with this milieu in his flight from Leninism, but only to his detriment.

One final factor has been decisive in this process of reevaluation: the critical and theoretical edifice left by Korsch, Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm). Unlike Bordigism or council communism, I have been thoroughly acquainted with this body of literature for some time now. It has informed my own writings and opinions since college. Still, in reviewing Trotsky’s writings I have focused a bit more on the orientation of these figures vis-à-vis Trotsky and Trotskyism.

With respect to Trotskyism, the innumerable tendencies that lay claim to the theoretical and practical lineage of Bronshtein himself, I am much less enthusiastic. Like his famous biographer, Isaac Deutscher, I even find the founding of the Fourth International somewhat perplexing. Understandable, perhaps, in that his friends in the Left Opposition abroad were defecting, or else being tortured and shot, but perplexing nevertheless. It was a non-starter from the word “go.” Trotsky still put out some great essays and texts during this period, and some of his squabbles with Shachtman, Eastman, Burnham, and Rivera are entertaining, if not all that enlightening. Cannon was certainly a great organizer, but was a piss-poor theorist. Only orthodox Trotskyism has anything redeeming to say after the 1950s and 1960s, especially James Robertson and the Sparts. Today, I suppose I retain some respect for Alan Wood of the IMT, ignoring his Bolivarian boosterism, the Spart-lite star-brights in the IBT, and the polemical pricks in the League for the Revolutionary Party. But that’s it.

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The International Socialist Organization is a hodgepodge of brainless Cliffite heterodoxy, academic jargon (mostly in and through their publishing house, Haymarket Books), and the latest in trendy activism (intersectionality, “x lives matter” hashtags, and so on). I’d almost say they’re unworthy of the name. Anyone who is interested in Trot genealogies, check out this. The author is a social democrat, basically, but his sprglord game is tight and so he can be relied upon for encyclopedic information.

Robert Alexander, International Trotskyism, 1929-1985: A Documentary Analysis of the Movement (1990)

In a series of upcoming posts, I will try to briefly summarize my thoughts regarding each of these camps or schools. Spoiler alert: Trotsky belongs to a bygone era of revolutionary politics. A gulf divides his work from the present. Even within his own epoch, some of his positions seem to have been ill-advised. But perhaps this is the wisdom of retrospect, as the line he took on anti-imperialist “national liberation” was made in the context of approaching war (on the eve of each world war). The “united front” tactic is not as universally applicable as Trotskyists would like to believe; nor is it as universally inapplicable as Bordigists believes. Nevertheless, in every instance, Trotsky the man is far more salvageable than contemporary Trotskyism.

P.S. — I am of course fully aware that the headpiece used for this post is a malicious representation of Trotsky, taken from a Polish anti-bolshevik propaganda poster from 1919. Nevertheless, I have decided to keep it, because it is fucking metal.

A rooftop racetrack: The Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy (1923)

1925. Veduta panoramica dello stabilimento Lingotto dalla collina torinese1926. Stabilimento Fiat Lingotto. Rampa elicoidale

Fiat, the phantom of order (1964)

Reyner Banham
Arts in Society
April 18, 1985

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Last year’s grand international consultation (don’t ever call it a competition) on the future and re-use of the old Fiat car factory at Lingotto in the inner suburbs of Turin, was demonstrably a gilt-edged occasion, since the exhibition of the proposals, mounted in the abandoned building itself, the sumptuous accompanying literature and all the associated manifestations clearly cost a pretty lira or two, and the architects consulted included our own James Stirling and Sir Denys Lasdun, as well as other heavy-duty talents from both sides of the Atlantic.

Like the equally grand consultations to find an architect for the second Getty Museum in Los Angeles, it may prove to be one of the major architectural events — or possibly non-events — of the past year or so. But why all the bother? Locally, the issue seems to be simply that Fiat is Turin, and Turin is Fiat. The company embodies and symbolizes the industrial power of the city, and the factory commemorates all that labour history and union politics that have marked the long years of the love-hate relationship between Fiat and its workforce. Indeed, one reading of local history would insist that the plant was built in its very straightforward concrete-and-glass form in “deliberate and concrete response to the factory occupations, the demand for syndicalist control, the workers’ councils.”

More than that, however, the Lingotto plant is just the biggest thing in town. A single building four storeys high and half a kilometer long, with a press shop and other ancillaries at either end that bring it up to almost the full kilometer, it outbulks even the most grandiose of Turin’s baroque monuments. Its disappearance would not only re­move a big piece of local history, a memorial, a symbol; it would also leave a huge hole in the skyline along the via Nizza.

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It would also remove a building whose unique position in the history of modem architecture cannot be equalled anywhere in the world. Hence the international interest of which Fiat is so acutely aware. Yet it was the work of no great or famous architect, and the name of Its designer — Giacomo Matte Trucco — seems to attach to no other building that is known at all. Nevertheless, its status has been that of a masterpiece ever since it began to be known in 1920-21. It got into all the forward-striving books by people like Le Corbusier immediately, and into English language texts by the likes of Lewis Mumford within a decade. For this rapid acceptance there are two reasons, I think: one is that it fulfilled a modernist myth; the other is that it had a terrific gimmick. Continue reading

Young Lukács

An interview & photo gallery

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Image: Georg Lukács seated in
the darkness of his library

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From an interview conducted by the New Left Review, translated 1971:

New Left Review: How do you judge today your writings of the twenties? What is their relationship to your present work?

Georg Lukács: In the twenties, Korsch, Gramsci, and I tried in our different ways to come to grips with the problem of social necessity and the mechanistic interpretation of it that was the heritage of the Second International. We inherited this problem, but none of us — not even Gramsci, who was perhaps the best of us — solved it. We all went wrong, and today it would be quite mistaken to try and revive the works of those times as if they were valid now. In the West, there is a tendency to erect them into “classics of heresy,” but we have no need for that today. The twenties are a past epoch; it is the philosophical problems of the sixties that should concern us. I am now working on an Ontology of Social Being which I hope will solve the problems that were posed quite falsely in my earlier work, particularly History and Class Consciousness. My new work centres on the question of the relationship between necessity and freedom, or as I express it, teleology and causality.

Georg.Lukács and Béla Balázs

Georg Lukács and Béla Balázs

Traditionally, philosophers have always built systems founded on one or the other of these two poles; they have either denied necessity or denied human freedom. My aim is to show the ontological interrelation of the two, and to reject the “either-or” standpoints with which philosophy has traditionally presented man. The concept of labor is the hinge of my analysis. For labor is not biologically determined. If a lion attacks an antelope, its behavior is determined by biological need and by that alone. But if primitive man is confronted with a heap of stones, he must choose between them, by judging which will be most adaptable to his use as a tool; he selects between alternatives. The notion of alternatives is basic to the meaning of human labor, which is thus always teleological — it sets an aim, which is the result of a choice. It thus expresses human freedom. But this freedom only exists by setting in motion objective physical forces, which obey the causal laws of the material universe.

The teleology of labor is thus always co-ordinated with physical causality, and indeed the result of any individual’s labor is a moment of physical causality for the teleological orientation (Setzung) of any other individual. The belief in a teleology of nature was theology, and the belief in an immanent teleology of history was unfounded. But there is teleology in all human labor, inextricably inserted into the causality of the physical world. This position, which is the nucleus from which I am developing my present work, overcomes the classical antinomy of necessity and freedom. But I should emphasize that I am not trying to build an all-inclusive system. The title of my work — which is completed, but I am now revising the first chapters — is Zur Ontologie des Gesellschaftlichen Seins, not Ontologie des Gesellschaftlichen Seins. You will appreciate the difference. The task I am engaged on will need the collective work of many thinkers for its proper development. But I hope it will show the ontological bases for that socialism of everyday life of which I spoke. Continue reading