Sunday, August 9, 2009

Comments on Irene's post of August 6

This will be my last post since I am now off line, but I wanted to sneak this in. Some of the other posts also had things that I found very interesting, but I wanted to say a couple of things to Irene’s note from August 6 – first because a couple were directed to my comments (although my comments to those are very brief – “I agree” – but I think in conversation its worth indicating when a person has said something you completely agree with as well as indicating when you disagree), and second because the other points she brought up are interesting to me.
Let me start with here comments to me and Joao Paulo form the second part, in particular the two addressed to me.
Point 1. Her first point is exactly what I think needed to be brought out, though she did so more clearly than if I had tried to express it. There is a tension there between coming to a conclusion after carefully scientific study, and simply advocating something. They are fundamentally different, but on the surface, to anyone other than someone who has gone through the stuffy process, they look the same – both are simply the assertion by someone. Politically and in the real world, this has to be taken carefully into account. We can do a scientific study of reality (and should, and must), and then put out the results. But what we then run up against (and it is particularly clear in the USA, but it exists everywhere, both in the rest of the developed world where the conservatives operate at a more sophisticated level than in the US, and throughout the Third World where the mode of operating is very different form one country to another) is that conservative (ie, defenders of the status quo) simply assert the opposite. Basically, they lie – sometimes consciously, sometimes believing what they say because they are blinded by their own ideology, and they may even consider they do scientific studies to get their results (that of course is what we up against in the hegemonic mainstream economics). Anyway, all that is to say I think Irene expressed the real difference particularly clearly, but this remains a very living issue that we will confront over and over if we, in line with Marx, try to engage in not just understanding the world but changing it.
Point 2. I agree it is a unity of moral and scientific claims. This immediately posed the question (among others) – what establishes its validity? Again, I am concerned with this not just out of intellectual curiosity (though it is a fascinating theoretical point), but because there have been (and continues to be) long debates on this by people trying to use Marxism to change the world, and I would even say that people have used wrong positions on this to justify bad political policies (I would not say the wrong positions caused the bad policies, I would find that too idealistic). Specifically, people who have wanted to downplay the moral aspects of Marxism (because their moral behavior stunk, and so they did not want considerations of the moral nature of the system to take any important role, as that would condemn their behavior and system – specifically, Stalinism) have given great support to stressing the “scientific nature” of Marxist philosophy (and they are right – it is scientific). So where do morals enter in establishing the correctness or validity of anything? Aren’t all morals entirely subjective, one set of morals just one opinion and anther set of morals another opinion? Can one claim one set of morals can be scientifically supported (again as many Marxists, here often by what I consider good progressive Marxists, have tried to do)?
OK, quickly back to the 4 points she started her note with, some new thought she threw out to think about.
Point 1 – I am not sure I fully agree with her here, it depends on what she has in mind. EXACTLY what is being thought of as “a theory of socialism.” Clearly we do not want any dogma, and clearly we do not want anything like Fourier, Courbet, St Simon, or Owen (*though they were great – especially Owen). Could we have meaningfully gone beyond Marx until some fully healthy process of social transformation beyond capitalism brought out of living experience the material that would then need be intellectually systematized as theory? One of many interesting things to possibly discuss ….
Point 2. Agreed. But that poses the two questions for people trying to change the world – what role (how important a role, etc) does the abolition of private property play in the process of transcending capitalism, and if it is not the same (and it is not), what else essential is needed?
Point 3 – sorry (or perhaps “fortunately” I have to run soon – so quickly:) I have to run, so very quickly – I agree in general with this point, and especially the role of generalizing, but I question the order some – I do not think one can “find a solution to it” UNTIL one has generalized and seen the true significance of the problem – it is then on this basis that one proposes a solution to the problem.
Point 4 – just a short point, her question on the issue of idealism is really the central thing here. One word of caution – “become aware of consciousness” can have two somewhat different meanings – one is to be award on a creation “knowledge,” argue that the social behavior indicates the calls has a tacit consciousness of a reality that they have not yet verbalized, and that needs be done, and the other is to make the class aware that it has a consciousness, ie, as a PROCESS they come to understand their reality (what Marx considered the essence of what separated us form other animals) as opposed to some content – and this is important for making people aware that they can, collectively, become the determiners of their own existence (within limits imposed by nature, but even those change with social organization)\
OK – see ya all in a week. Hasta la victoria siempre, Al

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