Critique and theory

05Dec10

I think I have linked once or twice recently to the Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society of Greater London, the UK offshoot of Junge Link. Junge Link (strapline: against capital and nation) are part of the German “anti-nationalist” movement that emerged from (and partly against) the anti-German movement. I think I’ve already featured their text “Why anti-national?”, which features in the first issue of their English language mag, Kittens. Other texts include: Freedom – fitting ideal for bourgeois society or weapon of criticism and What’s wrong with using parliament?

Not a million miles away theoretically, Juan Dahlmann at the blog L’INTERNAtionale has an impressive critique of Loren Goldner. It’s heavily influenced by Postone and takes a theoretical position very close to Principia Dialectica. You might also want to read the more recent text Towards a New Theory of Fascism or a Theory of Neo-Fascism or Something Else Entirely but Certainly Less Ambitious. Here’s an extract:

I suppose I should say that my position is strongly influenced by Moishe Postone‘s essay “The Holocaust and the Trajectory of the Twentieth Century,” which attributes modern anti-Semitism to an irrational reaction to the abstract dimension of capital, misidentified as the Jews. Since we are all in fact dominated by the “real abstraction” of capital, a kind of structural propensity towards conspiracy theories exists, because, absent a proper categorial critique of capital, one is left only with a desperate search for “guilty parties.” Robert Kurz, of the Wertkritik circle, has also argued that a critique of capital that focuses exclusively on the financial system amounts to a “structural anti-Semitism.” Both Postone and Kurz tend to pro-Zionist positions because of their diagnosis of this immanent tendency toward anti-Semitism in capitalism; I take a more critical position on Zionism and Israel, in part because I differ from Postone in that I see no reason to imply that reactionary anticapitalism manifests itself inevitably or exclusively as anti-Semitism. I think a whole host of ethnicities, religious creeds, political ideologies, and other identity formations can potentially become “biologized” as the target for irrational anticapitalism.

I’m not sure if I’ve plugged the charnel-house before, a blog dealing with Russian avant-garde architecture and with critiques of some of the bad shit on the left. I think the author, Ross Wolfe, is associated with Platypus in Chicago. I recommend Hamas, Hezbollah, and So-Called “Resistance” Against Zionist Imperialism, which shows that Lenin would not have licensed the reactionary forms of pseudo-“anti-imperialism” circulating these days. In particular, Lenin in 1920 actually showed that jihadi Islam itself is not a “progressive” anti-imperialist force:

With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal and patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind:

first, that all Communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement in these countries, and that the duty of rendering the most active assistance rests primarily with the workers of the country the backward nation is colonially or financially dependent on;

second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;

third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.

I also recommend Regressive Activism at the Recent Toronto G-20 Conference. I’d recommend this in particular to anyone interested in “Black Bloc” style anarchism. Wolfe critiques such activism as

“symptomatic of what Theodor Adorno termed “actionism” in his “Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” and in his final published essay, “Resignation” (1968)”. Adorno wrote: “Actionism is regressive.  Under the spell of the positivity that long ago became part of the armature of ego-weakness, it refuses to reflect upon its own impotence.”

Wolfe follows this line of critique via a more recent text on the “unthinking” of the anti-war movement, by Liza Featherstone, Doug Henwood, and Christian Parenti, in their 2003 article “Action Will be Taken”. Featherstone et al use the term “Activismists”. They write that:

This brave new ideology combines the political illiteracy of hyper-mediated American culture with all the moral zeal of a nineteenth century temperance crusade.  In this worldview, all roads lead to more activism and more activists.  And the one who acts is righteous.

Wolfe continues:

Those who participate in events such as the recent G-20 protests often leave with the sense of smug self-satisfaction that comes from knowing that they have “done their part” in order to somehow “make a difference” in the world.  The danger for the Left is not police repression, but rather its own thoughtlessness.  Or, as Weger puts it, in a magnificent line: “[the current crisis for the Left is] not a rain of rubber bullets aimed at it, but the perverse, perennial celebration of its own comatose state.”

A Leftist Critique of the Protests Against the Recent FBI Raids on Peace Activists covers a lot of ground, starting with a critique of the Maoist Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO – the ultra-Stalinist frso.org incarnation of that schismatic sect). It moves on to a Postone-esque critique of the wider legacy of New Left “anti-imperialism”, and its shaky theoretical foundations in Second International ortho-Marxism.

Finally, I am not sure if I have linked before to the blog/journal 491, which comes from a Cutronesque position not far from the charnel-house, and Jonathan Dettman, who explores post-Critical Theory wertkritik here.



7 Responses to “Critique and theory”

  1. …………There is a clear feeling from the Israeli point of view that what is at stake now is the very legitimacy of the state of Israel in a moral historical and political sense. ……When we get to a point when it is becoming acceptable in many places in Europe and even in mainstream opinion to label Israel as a Nazi state or in more diplomatic language an apartheid state the Israeli citizen feels that their very right to exist in any form whether politically or as a nation is being challenged…….Israelis feel that their country whatever criticisms they have of it – and Jews in Israel are gold medallists where it comes to criticising their own government – is being made into a pariah. ….People here have a sense of systematic stigmatisation and even a demonisation of Israel…..I think that one of the more hopeful signs in recent months is a growing realisation by governments however reluctantly of the need to come to grips with anti-Semitism.

    • Thank you kindly for the plug, as well as your brief summaries of some of my entries. You’re doing valuable work on this site yourself; I love reading the posts on here.

  2. I also saw that you plugged a piece I wrote for Dr. Postone on “The Transformation of Utopia under Capitalist Modernity.”


  1. 1 Principia Dialectica | Good overview of some webzine bunker bustin’ busters
  2. 2 German Translation
  3. 3 » Common Conceptions German Translation | BlackBerry News |
  4. 4 Chinese voices German Translation | Breaking News Update

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