‘Please allow me to introduce myself…’

September 28, 2008 at 12:00 pm (Max Dunbar, politics)

Right, the login is finally sorted and I have officially joined the boys at Shiraz. If you don’t know me, my name is Max Dunbar and I’m a Manchester-based writer of fiction and criticism.

My politics are basic democratic socialist. I think it’s possible to criticise and scrutinise democratic governments while defending democracy against its enemies. Like many in the blogosphere, I’m angry and disappointed that many on the established left aren’t able to do this, and that some will even give active support to totalitarian governments and movements as long as they are against the West/neocons/Israel. We know all this, we have banged on about it for ages and we will keep banging on about it. In particular, I am annoyed with the status-quo left’s uncritical support for religion, and for faith-based elites and societies. Without secularism there is no future.

It’s an honour and a pleasure to write for Shiraz as it’s a blog I have admired and enjoyed for some time. I’m going to kick things off with something I picked up from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. It’s a poster (25p – kerching) listing the ten Socialist Commandments.

Now, like I said, I believe the British left has suffered – and is suffering – from its association with religion. But these ten principles seem like good general guidelines for life and I thought they were worth sharing here.

1: Love your school-fellows, who will be your fellow-workmen in life.

2: Love learning, which is the food of the mind; be as grateful to your teacher as to your parents.

3: Make every day holy by good and useful deeds and kindly actions.

4: Honour good men, be courteous to all men, bow down to none.

5: Do not hate or speak evil of anyone; do not be revengeful, but stand up for your rights, and resist oppression.

6: Do not be cowardly, be a friend to the weak, and love justice.

7: Remember that all the good things of the earth are produced by labour, whoever enjoys them without working for them is stealing the bread of the workers.

8: Observe and think in order to discover the truth; do not believe what is contrary to reason, and never deceive yourselves or others.

9: Do not think that he who loves his country must hate other nations, or wish for war, which is a remnant of barbarism.

10: Look forward to the day when all men will be free citizens, and live together as brothers in peace and righteousness.

25 Comments

  1. Frequencies « Max Dunbar said,

    [...] I have just introduced myself at [...]

  2. modernityblog said,

    Max,

    welcome!

    I liked no. 2 and 8

    when does that date from?

  3. tcd said,

    Now, like I said, I believe the British left has suffered – and is suffering – from its association with religion.

    RESPECT was also an allaince with trade union bureaucrats, minor capitalists, stalinists and a bourgoeis politician. But none of this bothered you enough to mention, just “religion”. interesting. marx would have called this idealist.

  4. maxdunbar said,

    Modernity

    I’ve no idea who wrote these commandments or when. The library was selling these on sheets, typed in gothic script, from a rack near the door.

    TCD

    It was their alliance with religious reactionaries that caused the biggest compromises in terms of gay rights, gender equality, secularism and other issues. The attitude is more widespread than Respect.

    I am an idealist (as was Marx).

  5. modernityblog said,

    Max,

    from what I can see it might have been around 1910, this is a rather good page on Socialist Sunday Schools in Great Britain which includes a reference to that

    http://www.wcml.org.uk/culture/songs_sss.htm

  6. tcd said,

    Marx was not an idealist, he was an historical materialist.

    It was their alliance with religious reactionaries that caused the biggest compromises in terms of gay rights, gender equality, secularism and other issues.

    yes, but what about compromises on the issue of class independence?

    The attitude is more widespread than Respect.

    maybe. but I have a feeling you are putting groups who support third world resistance mvoements to imperialism in the same bracket as RESPECT. which is incorrect because RESPECT was petty-bourgeois and bureaucratic, whereas other groups who support anti-imperialist movements in military but not political terms, are not.

  7. resistor said,

    Dunbar is a fan of celebrity racists Martin Amis and Julie Burchill – he should fit in here perfectly.

  8. tcd said,

    Bourgeois secularists: we won’t abolish oppression, exploitation, poverty, injustice
    and daily violence, but we will demand that those who live in such conditions give up superstition instantly
    .

    yes, “without secularism there is nof uture”…I agre, religion is a cancer, but how do we get rid of it? to consider an answer, how about, “without a future, there is no secularism”.

  9. tcd said,

    actually I apologise, that was weak. I woke up with my brain dead.

    secularism is not the same as absolute anti-religion, what I described above applies more to Dawkins type people.

    secularism of course it is the seperation of religion and politics. this of course is not enough, as it implicitly admits that the human degradation which causes and which is reinforced by religiond oes not need to be fought, but just that religion and state should be seperate. as Marx noted this is the ultimate expression of religion, it’s ultimate divorce from actual human morality. in this protestan vision religion is relegated to the “abstract man” and what goes in poltiics and the market place is purged of morality, whilst religion is wiped clean of dirty contact with real human actions. in other words, religion is made capitlaist, where morality and public life are seperated.

    Max dunbar, you should read Marx’s reply to Bruno Bauer, in “On The Jewish Question”. This incidentally is also a good text to understand the diffrence between Marxism and idealism.

  10. maxdunbar said,

    Modernity

    That must be the source. I don’t agree with the idea of socialist Sunday Schools and political youth movements in general have nasty historical resonances, but I like these basic guidelines.

    TCD

    I think it’s ridiculous to say that Marx’s thinking contains no element of idealism. I don’t see why you can’t have idealism coupled with materialism. After all, most people manage to combine idealism with pragmatism in their daily lives.

    Could you clarify what you mean by compromises on class independence? (This isn’t throwing down a gauntlet, I’m genuinely interested)

    When I say the attitude is more widespread than Respect, I mean that the basic anti-imperialist/pro-faith narrative is much more influential than the SWP/Respect – just read Seumas Milne in the Guardian if you don’t believe me.

    If you’re talking about fighting poverty and exploitation, you’re pushing at an open door with me.

    Resistor

    Good to see you again. I look forward to our long and insightful discussions.

    It’s debatable but I don’t think Martin Amis is a racist. He’s someone who said a stupid and nasty thing in an interview, two years ago.

    Can you find a) a racist statement by Julie Burchill and b) a statement by me that endorses/condones it?

    (cue half an hour’s frantic googling, followed by complete radio silence and the sound of a distant, mournful church bell)

  11. tcd said,

    TCD

    I think it’s ridiculous to say that Marx’s thinking contains no element of idealism. I don’t see why you can’t have idealism coupled with materialism. After all, most people manage to combine idealism with pragmatism in their daily lives.

    I am talking about idealism in the philosophical sense, which places thought before material reality. i.e. Hegel, where material life is a spiral set in motion by the Reason, which needs to reveal itself to itself through the material world. In other owrds, material reality is a product of conscious thought. It is no coincidence that the strong secularist Bruno Bauer was a member of the Young Hegelians.

    I am talking about Kant, where each person must be seen as an end in themselves in each action you take, i.e. life is lived in accordance with a metaphysical morality and not in accordance to material needs, and where the enlightened secularists of Europe could salvage history fromt he dark barbarism of the past via empiricism, a commitment to science, technology, etc. Again, in this philosophy, thought is placed as the precursor to history.

    for marxism however thought is the product of the material conditions in society at the time. humans act back on these material conditions according to their thought, which is not predetermined, thereby influencing the material conditions in which new ideas can be thought of. however, there is no absolute mroality. communsim is not jsut “right”. the utopian socialists prior to Marx failed because the material conditions simply did not exist to allow communism to exist. Marxism can exist because the technolgoical and social advances of capitalism make it possible. placing demands on history outside of its material limtiations is futile. Marx understood this and therefore was not idealist. He was the first hitorical materialist for that reason.

    Could you clarify what you mean by compromises on class independence? (This isn’t throwing down a gauntlet, I’m genuinely interested)

    they told workers to vote for a borugeois poltiician who earned a huge wage. they told workers to support an electoral alliance with sectiosn of the trade union bureaucrayc, a sector of society which frequently attacks workers on strike. they tried to untie the “muslim community” across class lines, telling muslim workers that their itnerests were the same as landlords and Bengali millionaires. They sacrificed a genuien committment to the vangaurd workers (who inbritain I believe are int he post offices, the tube, and the public sector like state and municipal employees), by instead trying to use these workers as passive voters for their bureaucratic leaders, whicht he SWP loves. A seriosu reovltuioanry party of course, is sending its members to work int hese vanguard sectors, and slowly makign contacts, tyrign to win positions as delegates, lead strikes, form networks of delegates, resisting bureaucratic ocntrol of workers actions and strikes, trying to convince workers to make the decisions in periods of strikes through democratic assemblies of 1 worker 1 vote, instead of going through the corrupt union apapratus (the leaders earn like 10 times more than the members, not a joke my friend), etc.

    Of course to msot of the British far left the idea of having a working class job is a joke. When I suggested this on Lenin’s Tomb the response was “do yous erosuly thinkt he left ocntrols the labour market?”

    This is why they get nowhere ever. it is very simple. the struggles exist in Britain but the left is not there.

    For all of these reasons,t he disgraceful SWP/RESPECT are class collaborationsists and reformists.

    Their working with religious leaders was also a problem but actually I place it second to that other problem.. I htink it was permissable to do so in opposition to the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, or against Israel’s crimes, etc.

    When I say the attitude is more widespread than Respect, I mean that the basic anti-imperialist/pro-faith narrative is much more influential than the SWP/Respect – just read Seumas Milne in the Guardian if you don’t believe me.

    aaa ok. maybe this is true. I don’t consider the Guardian “left” though, because it supprots Labour, so we have different defintions. :p

    If you’re talking about fighting poverty and exploitation, you’re pushing at an open door with me.

    I am glad. However, can this not be done alongside religious workers? Of course, not their leaders.

    My grandmorther is Cathloci, btu due to being poor and third owrld, she knows a lot baout injsutice, and wants to resit it. This makes her much more progressive than a liberal secularist whot hinks global capitlaism is ok in my opinion.

    of ocurse I want to convince her not to be a Catholic as it prevents her udnerstandign what is going on tot he full, and ultimately elads her into class collaboration.

    However, fighting against her on the need for a “secular society” seems less improtant to me that fighting with her on economic issues where the very same people impoverishing those communities are the same ones who represent liberal secular (not athiest, an improtant difference which Marx emphasises in On The Jewish Question) capitalist “democracy”.

  12. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Yet one imagines you could, well, talk to her about both?

  13. tcd said,

    VP, yes, you are right. But with the aim of creating a marxist and as part of a fight against the conditions which create superstition. which includes fighting against secular liberal democracy.

    A struggle which of course the organs of religion always hinder anyway, and which therefore is always going to be necessarry in the long run, which is hwy RESPECT’s alliance with mosque leaders could not work.

    but this does not imply backing secular democracy as a source of human progress, which the original post here does argue. it is not. the states which cause the most human misery today are secular democracies. the dictatorships abroad are caused by the economic system the advanced powers uphold.

    this position that through secularism we can become civilised is idealist. religion exists because of the material conditions today, and those conditions will not exist until we abolish capitalism and it’s pseudo-democracies.

  14. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Nevertheless, by its own definition a socialist society would be secular and not theocratic. That’s simple logic, surely.

  15. maxdunbar said,

    TCD

    Ah – I thought you meant idealism in the everyday sense of the term.

    I’m not a doctrinaire Marxist and I think the Enlightenment was significantly propelled by ideas. Progress and change tend to be heavily resisted by elites and societies.

    Your points on SWP/Respect are hard to argue with. There is this great class/cultural disconnect between the left and the working class. I think the problem in the labour context is that the far left infiltrate unions and alienate the members by trying to get branches to indulge in meaningless gesture politics (ie. academic boycotts of Israel) when most people want to fight for pay and conditions.

    A Manchester rep told me that their union had seen membership in some branches fall from thousands to hundreds because the SWP had taken over. She said, ‘If a member asks you to represent them on a disciplinary and you say ‘No, I’m going on an antiwar demo’ they’ll tear up their union card.’

    I’ve nothing against religious people getting involved in left politics. No one is saying ‘ban all non-atheists from being involved in politics’. What I do object to is the uncritical support given to religious people or movements simply because they are religious – even if they don’t believe in freedom of religion; even if their position is of the most reactionary, fundamentalist kind. It does seem to be reactionaries and fundamentalists who have got a free ride in the last few years.

    I don’t think you can blame liberal secular democracies for all the world’s dictatorships. And face it, you do need secularism (i.e. the country not being run by priests) before you can get any kind of social progress or economic justice. This is known by anyone with the most basic understanding of history.

  16. tcd said,

    VP: Nevertheless, by its own definition a socialist society would be secular and not theocratic.

    no, it would be athiest. it would expropriate organised religion. this is not the same as secular states hwich are happy to let organised religion do the dirty work for them.

    capitalism needs religion, and so do secular states.

    I’m not a doctrinaire Marxist and I think the Enlightenment was significantly propelled by ideas. Progress and change tend to be heavily resisted by elites and societies.

    the phrase doctrinaire is often used against marxists. nhowever, Marx jsutified all his arguments with lgiical and historical examples. he was nto always right of course but his aopproach was not to state doctrines. it is also basically a term which is just used to mean “you have an ideolgoy, as a marxist, but I am jsut stating moderate common sense”. But in fact, bourgeois common sense is doctrine, it is ideology too.

    Also I do agree that the nelightenment was specifically proppelled by ideas. but the marxist position was that this was made possible by the udnerlying material progress of society and that to universalise and absolutise some of the ideas coming out of this processto all history regardless of the material conditions, is incorrect. the implication here is that we base our morality and ideals on improiving material conditions, and not on abstract “principles”.

    I think the problem in the labour context is that the far left infiltrate unions and alienate the members by trying to get branches to indulge in meaningless gesture politics (ie. academic boycotts of Israel) when most people want to fight for pay and conditions.

    A Manchester rep told me that their union had seen membership in some branches fall from thousands to hundreds because the SWP had taken over. She said, ‘If a member asks you to represent them on a disciplinary and you say ‘No, I’m going on an antiwar demo’ they’ll tear up their union card.’

    well I think this is economism on your part. the workign class needs to be aligned to all the oppressed and explotied, this means taking a stand against the crimes being committed against Afghanistan and Iraq. Why should everyone jsut have a narrow approach purely for their own pay and conditions? that way each sector of the masses is divided and easy to use against each other.

    I am for the politiciasation of the labour movement.

    furthermore I do not think the problem is a “cultural divide” as such. I find it hypocritical that you, a writer, criticise the left for being too bothered byt hings like wars and Israeli crimes. The task of the left is not to say to workers that we are fine as we are, with crap tv, crap media, crap music. the bourgeoise keeps high culture for itself because knowledge and education are empowering. “nothing is too good for workers” should be our slogan, nto “leave those things up to people like Max Dunbar on his blog and with his books, while you little people only worry about pay”.

    no. the left needs to take on the current commons ense of the workign class. Marx was correct when he said that dominant ideology in any society is that of the dominant class. The majority of the workign class is culturally confined to the spaces which the borugeoisie asigns to it and the marxist left must resist this.

    no, the problem when I say that the British left is too petty bourgeois means exactly that: it is not in the workplaces. it is not linkign the fight to economic pay to those other struggles youw ant the labour movement to betray.

    as for tearing upt he union card, this is more likely a consequence of the depoltiicised, bureaucratic eladers who attack every struggle. instead of poltiically “critically” supproting that sector of soceity the left should be organising the base of the unions, where possible.

    What I do object to is the uncritical support given to religious people or movements simply because they are religious – even if they don’t believe in freedom of religion; even if their position is of the most reactionary, fundamentalist kind. It does seem to be reactionaries and fundamentalists who have got a free ride in the last few years.

    this dpeends what you exactly are referring to. if you are referring to supproting them at electiosn or giving political supprot to these regimes, I agree. if youa re sayign the left should not spport popular reistance to imeprialism and Israeli apartheid and expansionism, regardless of the current leadership of the movements, I disagree. we should call for them to win the battles and for mass participation to make this happen, but at the same time for the leadership to be overthrown by this process.

    I don’t think you can blame liberal secular democracies for all the world’s dictatorships. And face it, you do need secularism (i.e. the country not being run by priests) before you can get any kind of social progress or economic justice. This is known by anyone with the most basic understanding of history.

    we did need secularism at one time, about 200 yars ago. now is the time for socialism.

  17. oh les beaux jours said,

    Here’s another version, though I don’t know if it pre-dates the one above or was made up later on the basis of it:

    (1) Always love your schoolmates,
    Make happy those in sorrow;
    The children of today will be
    The citizens tomorrow.
    (2) To parents and to teachers,
    Be grateful and be kind;
    For we should all love learning
    Which nourishes the mind.
    (3) Let every day be holy
    By doing some good deed;
    To all do kindly actions,
    Whatever be their creed.
    (4) Be just and fair to all men,
    Bow down or worship none;
    Judge man by what he tries to do,
    Or has already done.
    (5) Hate not, and speak no evil,
    Stand up for what is right;
    And do not be revengeful,
    But ’gainst oppression fight.
    (6) Try not to be a coward,
    But always help the weak;
    Whatever path of life you’re in,
    For love and justice seek.
    (7) All good things gathered from the earth,
    By toil of hand and brain,
    Instead of going to the few,
    The workers should retain.
    (8) Speak the truth at all times,
    And try not to deceive;
    And what opposes reason
    We ought not to believe.
    (9) Love all the races of mankind,
    Abolish war and strife,
    That we may reach the higher plains
    Of our intended life.
    (10) Look forward to the day when men
    And women will be free;
    As brothers and as sisters live
    In peace and unity.

    It was printed in The Young Socialist in 1908. Weird to think that there was once a left-wing weekly aimed at kids. Even weirder to discover (though I’ve mislaid the URL) that I came across it a few years ago at Harry’s Place!

  18. modernityblog said,

    Max,

    you’re on a hiding to nothing with tcd

    if people can not differentiate between atheism and secularism then, I assume, that they won’t understand any other of the subtleties around this topic?

  19. maxdunbar said,

    TCD

    You can surely think outside material conditions. People are able to imagine utopias despite the fact that no one has ever experienced one (or ever will, maybe).

    Most people have a few general principles that they live by. Abstract ideals are not always a bad thing. We do not just react to stimuli, like plants.

    What was it about the material conditions of the time that made the Enlightenment possible?

    Your point about the labour movement is a bit disingenuous. Trade unionists aren’t fighting for individual pay rises. They don’t organise demonstrations with slogans like ‘Dave needs to be able to build that extension.’ They agitate for the workforce as a whole.

    I agree that crimes have been committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I also think there’s a good argument for us to stay there and fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Ba’ath/Al-Qaeda ‘resistance’ in Iraq. I accept we might not be in agreement on this, but I suspect a lot of people in trade unions are sick of far left attempts to hijack the union into some dubious geopolitical position that has no effect whatsoever on the politics on Western governments. At the end of the day, trade unions exist to fight for better pay and conditions. Sure, get involved in international stuff, but the far left line on international stuff is narrow and one sided. No one’s interested in academic boycotts. It’s not patronising or prolier than thou to say this.

    Israel’s not an apartheid state and I dread to think what your examples of ‘popular resistance’ would be.

    Oh les beaux jours

    I remember that Harry’s Place post!

  20. tcd said,

    if people can not differentiate between atheism and secularism

    but I can, I corrected myself in post 9.

    it is quite strange that you spend your time telling people whot hey should and should not talk to. is it a passive-aggressive way of addressing the person themselves due to the fact that you cannot actively defend your poltiics against people less stupid than aristocratic SWP members who I have also destroyed in argument on their own site?

    You can surely think outside material conditions. People are able to imagine utopias despite the fact that no one has ever experienced one (or ever will, maybe).

    2 points: 1.) their concept of utopia depends on the material conditions they live in, doesn’t it. Did medieval christian utopian socialists imagine their “utopia” in the way that marxists today imagine a post-revolution society? I doubt it. Ability for everyone ont he planet to reahc any other point of the planet fairly easily is clearly something a communsit today seriously proposes. Was this the same in the medieval times?

    Most people have a few general principles that they live by.

    this is not a conversation about most people. Most people clearly believe in ourgeois ideology. I am arguing against the common sense of most people.

    Abstract ideals are not always a bad thing.

    OK, name me single useful ideal which is not based on improving material reality.

    We do not just react to stimuli, like plants.

    This is hardly what hsitorical materialists argue. We argue for a conscious plan, based ont he material reality of the day, to resolve the objective conditions of todays society and rapidly and ocntinually raise living standards for all people.

    This is not the same as metaphysical morality which tells you “it is wrong to kill” regardless of any rooting in objective reality.

    What was it about the material conditions of the time that made the Enlightenment possible?

    Well other people have said it much betterthan me, but try the growth of the bourgeoisie, a class in society whose rise on the back of free labour and hwose authority based on money and impersonal relationships, led to the possibility of liberalism as an ideology (i.e. liberalism is just capitalism in ideolgoical form – private property, individual rights, seperation of religion and state thereby relegating morality otuside of economics and poltiics), in opposition to the deology of the feudal aristocracy who needed to appeal to personal loyalty. Likewise, the technological advances created by the chase of profit impulsed scientific advance which undercut much irrational superstition, created a society chasing knowledge, and also created the illusion that humanity was progressing – a notion absent from feudalism – towards the eradication of human misery.

    You jsut need to read bourgeois ideolgoues today to see that capitalism no logner even believes itself that it can do these things. Today borugoeis theroists are not utopians like Adam Smith. Instead they resort to moralistic arguments rather than sayign to the masses, “look, we can create a new, better world”. This is the sign of the decadence of the system which can onyl be ovdrcome by transcending the profit motive as the reason for the mode of production

    Your point about the labour movement is a bit disingenuous. Trade unionists aren’t fighting for individual pay rises. They don’t organise demonstrations with slogans like ‘Dave needs to be able to build that extension.’ They agitate for the workforce as a whole.

    No, they are supposedly fighting for pay rises sector by sector, if they even do that any more. Certainly there is no poltiical projject to strengthen the class as a whole. The bureaucracy fights hard against cross sector solidarity in fact.

    I agree that crimes have been committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I also think there’s a good argument for us to stay there and fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Ba’ath/Al-Qaeda ‘resistance’ in Iraq. I accept we might not be in agreement on this, but I suspect a lot of people in trade unions are sick of far left attempts to hijack the union into some dubious geopolitical position that has no effect whatsoever on the politics on Western governments.

    they might be sick of this, yes. most workers do not want the far left leading them. my point is to change their mind. the far left needs to show that it’s ideas are right, and can only do this from within the class. as a delegate I would fight for those things. if I lose the electiosn to opprotunist workerist bureaucrats, so be it. I would however fight on a paltform to show why my poltiics are better for workers than his. Utlimately, we’ll see who wins.

    At the end of the day, trade unions exist to fight for better pay and conditions. Sure, get involved in international stuff, but the far left line on international stuff is narrow and one sided. No one’s interested in academic boycotts. It’s not patronising or prolier than thou to say this.

    This is the problem wit trad euniosn as they currently exist and why they must be turned into poltiical organs of a revoltuionary party. We need to convince the workers themselves to do this. it si a long way off, but it is that or barbarity.

    Israel’s not an apartheid state and I dread to think what your examples of ‘popular resistance’ would be.

    Coming from someone who supports the fight against the Iraqi and Afghan resistances, this selective “dread” is quite strange. a popular reistance looks very much like oprpessed and exploited people fighting against the oppressors and the exploiters. How else do you propose to end oppression and exploitation?

  21. David Ellis said,

    Max: welcome to the Atomic War Losers.

  22. maxdunbar said,

    TCD

    We’re getting into ontology here. The idea of ‘improving material reality’ suggests that you have some idea of a better reality with which you can compare today’s circumstances. Someone who’s grown up in the gutter can aspire to better things even if they haven’t experienced them.

    I mean, did Marx really think that the ‘don’t kill’ rule was just bourgeois morality? Or did he think it was such a basic moral given for his audience that he didn’t write about it?

    And didn’t Marx also say, in the Communist Manifesto, that there wasn’t a need for revolutionary parties as the objectives of these should be indistinguishable from those of the proletariat anyway?

    I think the Kantian ‘universal kingdom of ends’ is a good ideal and one that most people would accept even if they had never read Kant.

    I’ve never felt that capitalism is the answer to all evils, but the existing alternatives are so much worse.

    As is the existing ‘resistance’ to coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq: groups of theocratic fascists who spend most of their time killing civilians.

    Good luck in your fight against common sense.

  23. tcd said,

    TCD

    We’re getting into ontology here. The idea of ‘improving material reality’ suggests that you have some idea of a better reality with which you can compare today’s circumstances. Someone who’s grown up in the gutter can aspire to better things even if they haven’t experienced them.

    yes, because better things exist. they can hardly aspire to something which does not exist. can I aspire to own something which does not yet exist? Could someone 100 years ago aspire to the life of someone today? no. ideas are conditioned by material reality and exist within those limits. likewise ideas which demand thingsindependent of what material reality can sustain are worthless.

    I mean, did Marx really think that the ‘don’t kill’ rule was just bourgeois morality? Or did he think it was such a basic moral given for his audience that he didn’t write about it?

    “Don’t kill” is meaningless, that is my point. it depends ont he circumstance. it is empty to say t is morally wrong to kill someone. you support the imeprialsit troops fighting against the Afghan and Iraqi resistances so presumably you think it is not morally wrong to kill those same guerrillas?

    And didn’t Marx also say, in the Communist Manifesto, that there wasn’t a need for revolutionary parties as the objectives of these should be indistinguishable from those of the proletariat anyway?

    he should there should only be one, for this reason, and that that was the goal. when this is not the case,t he fight is to create one, which is the task today.

    I think the Kantian ‘universal kingdom of ends’ is a good ideal and one that most people would accept even if they had never read Kant.

    I am not familiar with this. Could you give me an example? I know hwat Kant said abut ends, and find it irrelevant to real life. Basically, emotional self-comfort for rich people.

    I’ve never felt that capitalism is the answer to all evils, but the existing alternatives are so much worse.

    So we have to live with the evils, in other words?

    As is the existing ‘resistance’ to coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq: groups of theocratic fascists who spend most of their time killing civilians.

    well firstly those who lead this resistance are not an “alternative to capitalism”, they do not challenge capitalism as a system. secondly, those leading the resistance ar enot the same as all those who resist. how do you think they get os much support? because all those poeple are fascists, or because poor communtiies int hsoe ocutnries simply resist for their own reasons of not wanting the invaders to loot their communties? and that these are lead by the current leadership because the religious and the natioanlists currently have the means to channel those struggles?

    also the point about killing civilians: there is a civil war in Iraq and Afghanistan borne out of the invasions. the occupiers encourage this, as they want Iraqis and Afghans to comepte against each other as ehtnicities, in order to cut the best deal for themseles with the invader. this is how imeprialism works. this is not the same as the resistance, which is the act of fighting the invader. what a marxist should say is to stop fighting each other and competing against each other, and to unite in a fight to drive out the imperialists, and use the wealth they currently loot for the benefit of all the nation.

    again, it is that or barbarity. it is that or civil war.

    Good luck in your fight against common sense.

    thankyou. good luck with your kantian moral dilemmas.

  24. maxdunbar said,

    yes, because better things exist. they can hardly aspire to something which does not exist. can I aspire to own something which does not yet exist? Could someone 100 years ago aspire to the life of someone today? no. ideas are conditioned by material reality and exist within those limits. likewise ideas which demand thingsindependent of what material reality can sustain are worthless.

    So… it’s not possible to imagine something that doesn’t exist? How do you explain Santa Claus?

    “Don’t kill” is meaningless, that is my point. it depends ont he circumstance. it is empty to say t is morally wrong to kill someone. you support the imeprialsit troops fighting against the Afghan and Iraqi resistances so presumably you think it is not morally wrong to kill those same guerrillas

    I’m not a pacifist. I think there’s such a thing as a just war. You obviously don’t – we’ll just have to disagree on this one.

    Kant said, essentially: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Makes sense, no?

    As for capitalism… I’m a reformist, not a revolutionary (although I think sometimes revolutions work, such as the American and French revolutions). I think that capitalism generally gets less worse over time, with the introduction of Factory Acts, welfare states etc.

    Any evidence for popular support for the ‘resistance’?

  25. tcd said,

    So… it’s not possible to imagine something that doesn’t exist? How do you explain Santa Claus?

    It’s funny, someone used this example against me before. :D

    When you imagine Santa Claus, what do you imagine? A man with a beard dressed in red. You are hardly imaginign somehting otuside of your material experience.

    This is actually good evidence of the mateiral basis for ideas. A fantasy like Santa Claus is derived from reality.

    I’m not a pacifist. I think there’s such a thing as a just war. You obviously don’t – we’ll just have to disagree on this one.

    I think you misread what I said.

    Kant said, essentially: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. Makes sense, no?

    It is quite empty really. I am against exploitation and oppression, therefore accept the need to fight to fight the oprpessors and explotiers. Would I like them to do the same to me as I would do to them? No. I would have them renoucne the struggle, and me win, because my struggle is jsut and theirs isn’t.

    Kant’s morality does nto take into acocunt the material situation and therefore fetishises the means. The means is the end in itself for Kant, no? In which case, you msut stop supporting the US troops against the resistances in Central Asia and the Middle East, because clearly, you would not have the resistances “do unto you” as you want to be “done onto them”, do you?

    And no, I am nt a pacifist. I am using your meanignless Kantian morality agaisnt you to show you why it is worthless.

    As for capitalism… I’m a reformist, not a revolutionary (although I think sometimes revolutions work, such as the American and French revolutions). I think that capitalism generally gets less worse over time, with the introduction of Factory Acts, welfare states etc.

    This is an almost mystical, long distance view. “Over time”. Let’s look at that phrase…

    The welfare states of the west have been under attack since the 1970’s haven’t they? So for a British or US worker, I don’t think capitalism has got “less bad” since then

    Likewise this process of the move to finance capital impleid stripping down the protectionism, which garuanteed some level of meagre employment, to third world workers. So again, over the last 30 years, I don’t see how you can tell workers in LAtin America that htings have got less bad.

    And capitalism wasn’t “less bad” for most workers int he 1930’s than in the 1920’s, was it?

    Or during the first world war rather than prior to it? or during the oil crisis of 73/74 than before it?

    or before Pinochet, Videla, Thathcer, Reagan, than before them, was it?

    Or in fact, it has not got less bad over time for the indigenous majority of Guatemala whot oday recieve less calories per day than they did under the Maya Empire!

    Or for the tens of millions of extra people being pushed into absolute poverty every month worldwide by this current inflationary crisis and now the subsequent recession coming on from the US financial crisis.

    Capitlaism moves in boom bust cycles. It moves constantly in time, and thigns can get better or worse depending on the stage of the cycle. But,t he point is, that when they get better it is paid for out of workers own labour – you can hardly expect people to be “grateful” to capitalism for the fact that they may get some crumbs of the amazing wealth and constant technolgoical progress they themselves produce.

    And when they get worse, as in every crisis, the workign class s brutally attacked and its living standards driven down!

    So, how is this a defence of cpaitalism.

    Ultimately though you are jsut showing up the complete moral, political, ideological, intelelctual and poltical bankrupcy of todays petty-bourgeois apologists for capitalism, who serenely shrug from a distance as the world is going up in flames.

    For example, great htinekrs like Adam Smith or Ricardo, enlightened thinkers, observing the triumph of modernity over feudalism, did not jsutify cpaitalism with a decadent “it seems to get less bad over time”. This is the equivalent of “let them eat cake” (whether she said it or not).

    No. Those thinekrs morally justified capitalism on the basis that it could solve hte problems which the masses,t he poor,t he dispossesed, were clamouring over at the time. They suporoted cpaitlaism because it was leaving the old world in its wake, and promising human liberation, and a rapid and continuous rise in living standards,s ocial conditions, and liberty for each individual. This was made possible by the drive for technological advancement created byt he need for profit.

    So, “it seems to begetting less bad over time”, is exactly the kind of indictment of the decadence of cpaitlaism today which any critic and observer of borugeois ideology needs. Adam Smith, Racardo, would be rolling in their graves!

    I mean, even feudalism and the Roman Empire seemed to be “getting less bad over time” for much of the time.
    :(

    Any evidence for popular support for the ‘resistance’?

    who are those who resist? SWP members from Oxford? Or peasant, worker and urban poor communities?

    do you really think some isolated religious people could organise a resistance to the world’s most pwoerful armies just because they thought God told them to?

    of course not! the Iraqi and Afghan people who fight are doing so because they know, for a fact, that the invaders have screwed them for the last century and are doing so again.

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