( For the last thirty-six hours I’ve endured a sequence of caustic, implosive stomach pangs. it’s delightful. believe me that soured cafe au lait helped things. In other news, it is piercingly chilly. The seasons have changed, the clocks have fallen back. It is nice to be home. It’s almost never been so nice to ‘be’ home.)
Anyway, I left my own panel (on the ninth floor of l’hotel) for a tinier one in the basement. It was entitled “Strategies for Revolutionary Politics,” which was preposterous/earnest enough to merit my attention. The chair gave the first paper, which was a lengthy critique to the ‘deliberative’ and ‘agonal’ democratic theories of Habermas and Mouffe. The paper called for ‘fanaticism’ from the Left – political interventions that were a sort of spontaneous, anti-Enlightenment ‘other’ to democratic practice. Did I mention he was wearing a skull + bones t-shirt, and said ‘shit’ and ‘bullshit’ a lot, in effort to conjure some sort of ‘outlaw academic’ status? He might as well’ve been wearing a fucking stars n’ bars doo rag. Actually, I guess we all know that’d be a lot cooler, non?
Then came a paper about – you guessed it – pirates. A pretty credible historian wrote a perfectly thorough historical political economy of piracy, and somehow found himself misplaced on this panel.
Afterwards, a Polish phycist arose, bearing a unified, reiterable theory of revolutionary cycles. A PowerPoint ensued, during which he showed us a lot of polychrome charts. He had it all figured out.
Then a very big badass professor – who I later found out is very active in Britain’s Socialist Workers’ Party, which is a pedigree of sorts, sorta -arose to give a paper about “marxism” and “social movements.’ Early in the paper, when it came time for the prof to define his terms, he surprised the audience by saying that it was necessary to define ‘marxism.’ He did so in terms he associates with Lukacs; he maintained that marxism was above all defined by its belief in the historical, revolutionary primacy of the working class.
Now obviously, we all think of class – particulary the proletariat – when we think of marxism. But really, would you cite this (very teleological) kernel as the essential first principle of marxism? I would really like to hear people’s opinions on this, whether they feel qualified to give them or not.
For my part, I think the labor theory of value is at least definitive of the marxist analytic as the evolutionism. Do you usually think of marxism as a political practice or an analytic? Or maybe as a style? Obviously, the professor’s rhetorical flourish was meant to spur academic elites back into the gaudy arena of the ‘hegemonic struggle.’
Myself, I dunno. At a very general level, I would say that ‘marxism’ resounds most intimately within me in its insistence on the place of contradictions and antagonisms in socializing society, and its ideological agnosticism. On an even more general level, the fuck the bosses/fuck shit up/fuck you ethos of Marx’s writing is so much more than punk that I needn’t speak its name. On an even nore general level, the idea of mass, collective acts of democratic-public production/consumption (aka, socialist culture) would be the best shit ever. Such mass acts exist today, but only in the weird, glossy forms afforded by the minority in power. It’d be cool if we had a bigger playbook, is all I’m saying.
The archetypal prisonship is the Love Boat. Ahoy. Anyway, what do you people think marxism is?