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Black Monday/Sunny afternoon

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"Theory, my friend, is grey, but green is the eternal tree of life." But the real idea behind those words, as used (often) by Marxists is precisely that the theoretical struggle is the struggle for life to break through the dull dogmas of those who simply will not and cannot analyse things as they are growing and developing.
  • by Albert

Originally posted at Harry's Place in response to brownie's post on the possible demise of SIAW (Black Monday)

(May 17, 2004 10:22 PM)


I certainly hope that wasn't a farewell post from SIAW but just some reflections on a particular Sunny Afternoon

I'd certainly miss them - just when the # permalinks were fixed so I was about to start writing some responses too! :-(

SIAW is, and I hope will remain, one of the pioneers of what is already starting to emerge as a genuine "left", sharply distinguished from the pseudo-left not only by a stronger connection with the "real world" but also by a capacity for real differences and debates to occur instead of just petty dogmatic bickering and plain nastiness.

Speaking of which, from a very different end of the left spectrum, I'd offer this thought for SIAW to ponder about the sort of pathetic attacks in the comments on Brownie's Black Monday at Harry's Place:

I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves but achieved a great deal in our work.

  • Mao Tsetung May 26, 1939, Quotations, Ch. 2, Classes and Class Struggle

SIAW has drawn a clear line of demarcation and achieved a great deal in it's work!

At the risk of perhaps seeming patronizing, I'd like to offer another perspective on the three points and conclusion in Sunny Afternoon

1) I agree that commentary on the news of the day can get repetetive and boring, especially when the current focus of both mainstream media and blogosphere "debate" is so predictable (well anyway, that's my excuse for not doing much of it, so I do empathize ;-). I also agree that others handle such daily commentary better than SIAW does - especially Harry's place, which is way ahead of other left blogs both in having an audience (due to superior journalistic qualitative skills in writing for a blog audience and quantiative ability to keep up a steady flow of current commentary - and also due to having more "mainstream" views). Harry's Place is also better at providing a platform for (very low level) arguments among people with left, pseudo-left and other (center and right) political outlooks.

But that just makes it easier for the rest of us to supplement that by avoiding daily repetition and adding different perspectives and different topics. Harry's Place also shoulders a heavy burden of having to put up with the abysmal stuff from pseudos in the comments which enables SIAW to get away with not having to cope with published comments at all ;-) I'm hoping that will also make it easier for Lastsuperpower to insist on a higher level of discussions when we reopen our forum again (soon).

Some commentary on current events is an absolutely essential complement to SIAW's real interest and strength in item 2 (below).

Why not simply refrain from blogging when it would just be repetitive or you wouldn't enjoy doing so, but instead keep up a (lower volume) flow of non-repetitive commentaries presenting current events from a different perspective to other blogs when you do have something to say? Why not also focus on covering issues that are being neglected elsewhere?

On the other hand, why not also simply embrace repetitiveness, by re-writing some of your archived material that is still relevant, editing out the idiosyncratic and peevish bits, but making the actual ideas more accessible in a second version (with permalinks ;-)

Also, I think this is precisely the wrong time to conclude that it's all been, or is being, said already, even on Iraq. Events are developing very rapidly beneath the surface. If you can't see that, it's because you aren't analysing deeply enough.

2) "to develop our own ideas about politics and related matters, from our perspective as independent, non-sectarian Marxists who are loyal to the Enlightenment"

That developing your own ideas from your own perspective is the main value I get from SIAW. For what it's worth I hope your energies are not going to be shifted towards the more "static" format of the main website. Personally I am much more interested in "theory" than commentary on current events, but I found the longer prepared articles there too long (and turgid) to get to grips with, whereas what I assume are postings based on the same outlook, expressed in the blog format of SIAW, were often much more interesting. The blog format is good for SIAW's style!(Even though it isn't really blogging but just a less static way of presenting ideas than the "conventional" web site, less abstract and more lively - due, at least in part to being closely based on, and intermixed with, current commentary and links. (THAT is what I like about SIAW as opposed to

Again, this is precisely the wrong time to be feeling "disappointed" at the level of theory and debate. At the risk of sounding even more patronizing, believe me when I say it's more like the early signs of spring returning than autumn descending into winter.

This isn't even what Maoists would call a "period between high tides" (or what "realist" Kaustskyites might prefer to call a "low tide ;-) any more. It is very clearly the beginning of a new high tide. All is chaos under Heaven, and the situation is excellent (Mao)

I speak from both experience and a genuine feeling of enthusiasm about the current situation, very different from the stiff upper lip stuff expressed in SIAW's reference to "patience and optimism in the face of forms of pseudo-leftism that were even more dangerous and reactionary than those we have to put up with now, we should surely try to do no less".

Most of the small group now participating in LastSuperpower are from the "sixties generation" (sad really) and were later involved in a small duplicated "Discussion Bulletin" started in the late 1970s, which petered out in the early 1980s (and consequently has not been available online).

It petered out because there simply wasn't an audience (or a pool of writers) interested in it continuing.

A decade later, some of us contributed to a journal Red Politics which managed only two issues spread 2 years apart, in 1993 and 1995 and then petered out too.

I think SIAW (and others) might find it interesting to tackle some of the issues raised there from their own (very different, but also somewhat parallel) perspective. I'll promise to respond.

As for the problems of repetition and stagnation, I cannot resist quoting myself from an item in the first issue, Some Questions by Perplexed (I still am Perplexed, though now more confident as the continuing evolution of my own views has been very consistent with the views I held decades ago, not refuted by the major changes in the world that were and are continuing, while already being aware nearly 3 decades ago that the 60s movement I was part of had reached an impasse and had to disappear before things could start moving on the theoretical front again):

"Reading through most of the articles prepared for the first issue of this journal brought two feelings. First, a warm glow that here at last was a journal I could broadly agree with, would not feel embarrassed to distribute, and might even get enthused enough about to write for. Second, a serious doubt that this would really become a "journal for discussion of revolutionary ideas" rather than just another propaganda magazine, perhaps with more acceptable propaganda. There is something too pat or cut and dried about the "line" running through the articles I've seen so far to really encourage "discussion" (although I basically agree with them). Yet "discussion" or development of revolutionary theory, is what is desperately needed, not propaganda."

[... and....]

"The pseudo-left views being criticized are such incredible drivel one has to wonder how they became dominant. Alternatively one has to wonder whether the circles in which they became dominant are worth polemicizing with - after all most people are not even mildly interested in the reactionary mythology of the pseudo-left."

"How many people rallied around the pseudo-left efforts to defend Iraq's occupation of Kuwait when they were deluding themselves that their mobilization in support of fascist aggression would be the beginning of a new anti-war movement similar to Vietnam in the sixties? The whole mobilization collapsed completely within days and those responsible for it have said nothing much about it since, because there is nothing that they could say without admitting that they misunderstood the situation completely. How many people actually share the pseudo-left's fundamentalist conception of the USA as the "Great Satan"? (This remark should be taken literally - one cannot argue about the Gulf War with a pseudo-leftist for more than a couple of minutes without running into the problem that those who believe in the 'Great Satan" are not amenable to rational argument.) ..."

I'm quoting that from a decade ago as documentary evidence that I'm not just bullshitting when I say that I empathize with the ennui SIAW seems to be suffering from at the moment, and as for "repetition", what more could we possibly say about the pseudo-left and its views on Iraq that we didn't say, loud and clear, a decade ago!?

But it's also true now, as it was then, that "left" views, though still incoherent, are already far more appealing to "real" people than the pseudo-left's drivel.

I really do feel refreshed again, and SIAW, like Harry's Place and Hak Mao is one of the factors contributing to that. The interaction of very different perspectives that all nevertheless have something of the "left" about them is really central to getting things moving again, so PLEASE don't back off from the blogosphere when you are just getting started.

(3) The links have indeed been very useful (eg I was led to SIAW via Harry's Place and to Hak Mao via SIAW). But my impression is that you are partly feeling bored because your links are mainly within a very limited part of the internet. There's a lot more interesting ideas being debated among right-wingers and allegedly non-political web sites than can be found in debates with the pseudo-left and liberals.

One of the things we were hoping to do at lastsuperpower is to start taking on some polemics with the thinking right (which is definately at a higher level than what passes for "left" theory these days).

For example, one of the issues that was raised, but not yet followed up at Lastsuperpower, before we went into temporary partial eclipse (almost over now) is how to analyse the "dynamist" views, expressed for example by Virginia Postrel in The Future and its Enemies. She's explicitly pro-capitalist, and apparantly almost as ignorant of classical Marxism as most Americans liberals and libertarians, but a lot of her analysis of the connection between what we would call conservatism, (technocratic) liberalism, greenies and the pseudo-left, as all being examples of "stasism" as opposed to "dynamism", is very interesting.

If the idea of polemics with our own old stuff in "Red Politics" doesn't turn you on, how about tackling the badly needed marxist response to "dynamism" in the spirit of the Manifesto?

At Lastsuperpower I think we're going to have to concentrate on issues related to Iraq for quite a while, as we do have a much more developed analysis on that than we have published so far. So the field is wide open for you to take on theoretical tasks such as the question of dynamism!

(4) Finally, the conclusion, while "Sitting under the trees in a municipal park on a sunny afternoon..." could be summarized with the words of Mephistopheles in Goethe's "Faust":

Theory, my friend, is grey, but green is the eternal tree of life.

But the real idea behind those words, as used (often) by Marxists is precisely that the theoretical struggle is the struggle for life to break through the dull dogmas of those who simply will not and cannot analyse things as they are growing and developing.

I am confident that SIAW will continue to develop its theory, from its own perspective, (and hopeful that in doing so it will eventually discard the Kautskyite and Trotskyite baggage that is the real source of its current ennui ;-)


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Created by keza
Last modified 2004-05-18 02:02 AM

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