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History Matters

THE ILLUSIONS OF ‘SOLIDARITY’ By David Brown

A ‘Lost Text’ from 1975 rediscovered: David Brown on the ‘Illusions’ of Maurice Brinton and Cornelius Castoriadis

Editorial notes by the Hobgoblin Collective:

Hobgoblin has published (online) for the first time a text, written in 1975 as a letter to the membership of the Solidarity group – also known as ‘Solidarity For Workers Power’. This group was founded in 1960 by Chris Pallis, an eminent neurologist who wrote under the name “Maurice Brinton,” and Ken Weller, a young shop steward working in the motor industry. The group, initially known as Socialism Reaffirmed, published a journal, Agitator, which after six issues was renamed Solidarity. Both Brinton and Weller had previously been members of Gerry Healy’s Socialist Labour League, founded amidst the mass defections from the Communist Party after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. As Richard Abernethy put in an obituary for Chris Pallis in Hobgoblin in 2005:

“Solidarity punctured and deflated some favourite left-wing illusions. It recognised that there was no actually existing socialism, no worker’s states, in the world. Notwithstanding all differences between the Western capitalist bloc, the Eastern bloc ruled by Communist parties, and the Third World, the basic divide between rulers and ruled existed everywhere.”

The Solidarity group, despite never having much more than a hundred members, was influential, not least because Solidarity became the main conduit of the political theories of Cornelius Castoriadis aka Paul Cardan (1922-97), founder of Socialisme ou Barbarie in France.

The resignation statement by Solidarity member, David Brown, was written at a time (1975) when the group was in decline, facing splits and having to deal with the fact that Castoriadis/Cardan had, following the demise of Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1965, moved to the Right. Brown, was influenced by French ex-Bordigist, Jacques Camatte, some of whose writings he translated, by the Russian value-theorist, II Rubin, and by Karl Korsch, author of Marxism and Philosophy. According to Brown, Castoriadis and Solidarity shared with the traditional left a restricted understanding of Marx’s ideas, not recognising the liberatory core of Marx’s Capital, and taking the shortcoming of the traditional left as grounds for breaking with Marx. Brown argues that Castoriadis, Brinton and the Solidarity group misunderstood the cardinal term of the Marx’s critique of political economy – value. Brown writes:

“The attack on the labour theory of value is only a prelude to a more general attack on the materialist conception of history. By reducing the general conception of the mode of production to mean technology and the word ‘determine’ to mean the same as ‘cause’, a simple transformation of marxism into banality follows.” 

Castoriadis had argued that:

“The revolutionary movement… must become the place (the only place in contemporary society, outside the factory) where… individuals learn about collective life, run their own affairs and fulfill and develop themselves, working for a common objective in reciprocal recognition.”

Brown finds this position to be “entirely false,” and argues (following Jacques Camatte) that “all organisations are despotic” because, basing themselves on “critique of other organisations and individuals” they are “already” the conception of competitive capital.

Two of the editors of The Hobgoblin (Richard Abernethy and George Shaw) are former members of the Solidarity group. As Marxist-Humanists, we do not agree with a lot of the positions David Brown expressed in 1975. If the statement that “all organisations are despotic” means that all attempts to overcome atomization and individual isolation are doomed, then we certainly disagree, believing, as we do, in a philosophically-grounded alternative to capitalism – something Castoriadis, as a “positivist,” never even considered. Nor do we agree that “support for oppressed peoples” was part of the degeneration of Marxism (this in spite of Marx’s own statements on Ireland, Poland etc), or saying that people who voted Labour in 1974 “voted for capitalism.”

We are publishing this text not only because of its historical interest as a critique of a (dead) organization of the Left, once significant (and still influential “beyond the grave,” through the works of its theoreticians and the legacy of its activists) , but also because of the general theoretic questions it raises have, in the 21st century Left, not been surpassed.

TO READ THE TEXT IN FULL SEE THE LINKS BELOW

http://www.thehobgoblin.co.uk/2011_DAVID_BROWN_ON_CHRIS%20PALLIS_1.htm

http://www.thehobgoblin.co.uk/2011_DAVID_BROWN_ON_CHRIS%20PALLIS_2.htm

The Hobgoblin: http://www.thehobgoblin.co.uk/

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Time

THE REVOLUTION OF TIME AND THE TIME OF REVOLUTION

The Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture Student Alliance at Binghamton University (S.U.N.Y.) Presents:
*The Revolution of Time and the Time of Revolution*
*A conference*
The 25th – 26th of March, 2011

Keynote Speaker:  Dr. Peter Gratton, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of San Diego, CA

What sense of time is produced through radical politics? Is the understanding of time as future part of a radical imagination? If the commitment to radical social change involves looking forward into the future, will that leave us with a sense of futurity that depends on the linearity of yesterday, today, and tomorrow?

To interrogate the emergence of radical creations and socialities, we welcome submissions that theorize time as it relates broadly to politics, cultural conflicts, alternative imaginaries, and resistant practices. Time has historically been thought and inhabited through a variety of frameworks and styles of being. At times the present repeats or seems to repeat the past. There are actions that seem to take place outside of time, to be infinite or instantaneous.

Theories of emergence view time as folding in on itself. Indigenous cosmologies and Buddhist philosophers put forward the possibility of no-time or of circular and cyclical time.

The radical question of time is one around which the work of many scholars has revolved: Derrida on the to-come [*a-venir*] of democracy, Negri’s work on *kairos*, Agamben on kairology, Santos on the expansive notion of the present, Deleuze and Guattari on becoming. This heterological list is far from exhaustive, while hinting at the depth of the theme that our conference cultivates. A central political concern, time invokes our most careful attention and the PIC conference provides the setting for this endeavor. We must find the time for time.

At its core, this conference seeks to explore the relationship between time and revolution. Time here may mean *not just *simple clock and calendar time but rather a way of seeing time as part of a material thread that can go this way and that, weaving* *together* *the fabric of political projects producing the world otherwise. Ultimately, the question of time fosters a critical engagement with potentiality, potency, and power; as well as with the virtual and the actual, of the to be and the always already.

We seek papers, projects, and performances that add to the knowledge of time and revolution, but also ones that clear the way for new thinking, new alliances, new beings.

Some possible topics might include:

  – Radical notions of futurity, historicity, or the expansive present.

  – Conceptions on the right moment of action.

  – The political reality of time as stasis or cyclical.

  – The colonial creation of universal time, and decolonial cosmologies of time.

  – Work on thinkers of time and revolution.

  – Work on potentiality, the virtual, and the actual.

  – Capital and labor time.

In keeping with the interdisciplinary emphasis of Binghamton University’s Program in Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture, we seek work that flourishes in the conjunction of multiple frames of epistemological inquiry, from fields including, but not limited to:  postcolonial studies, decolonial studies, queer and gender studies, ethnic studies, media and visual culture studies, urban studies, science and technology studies, critical theory, critical animal studies, continental philosophy, and historiography.

Workers/writers/thinkers of all different disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and non-disciplinary stripes welcome, whether academically affiliated or not. Submissions may be textual, performative, visual.

Abstracts of 500 words maximum due by Feburary 1, 2011.  In a separate paragraph state your name, address, telephone number, email and organizational or institutional affiliation, if any.

Email proposals to: pic.conference2011@gmail.com with a cc: to clawren1@binghamton.edu

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Speed of Life

THE REVOLUTION OF TIME AND THE TIME OF REVOLUTION

Ben Linus

THE CONDEMNED

By Paul Bowman 

Jacques Rancière once lamented the loss of the word “proletarian” from common political language. Without the use of this term, a really important conceptual and political category is lost, and with it, an ability to mobilize and act politically is lost too.

This term has never really worked in the UK anyway. But clearly, the UK needs a new political term that can act as a banner to unite all of those who will bear the brunt of the political violence being wreaked by the pantomime-villain coalition government. The people that need to be united include social services (from all areas of social services, and that is A LOT), teachers, lecturers, students, Northerners, etc.

The term needs to ‘work’ in the way that Stuart Hall argued the word “black” came to *work* at a certain point in history: namely, to connect diverse ethnic identities in terms of their shared experience of racism in the UK. It needs to be a rallying point, a point of and for identification and the establishment of political identity.

We can’t have anything ‘left-wing-sounding’, as this is clearly too partisan. It isn’t going to work in Britain. It just isn’t. So we need to be creative and discursive and not obviously party political. No one wants to be obviously party political. But remaining single-interest is a dead end.

So may I suggest that the term we adopt to name (and rally) all who suffer under the obscene acts of this shocking government is “The ConDemned”.

And may I suggest that we use this term to try to forge links and alliances and chains of equivalence with all areas of UK society, rather than singling out “the students” as if they are some single interest exception to the norm. We need to show that The ConDemned are the norm – are becoming the norm.

But – and this is the crucial thing – we need to be clear that this is not a group or an entity who even want to exist. We certainly don’t want to continue to exist as a group. We desire not to exist. We want to be dissolved. We are being created by the negative political energies of the Coalition government. We have been ConDemned. We will go away when they do. When their actions are stopped and reversed, redressed, rectified.

Paul Bowman at: http://ranciere.blogspot.com/2010/11/condemned.html

Just a thought:

Maybe the Coalition Government should be known as ‘The ConDemned’, rather than us. They are ConDemned (and will be consigned to history) by us.

Do we want to take on this label?

Glenn Rikowski

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Smoke Monster

THE MAKING OF THE SOUTH KOREAN WORKING CLASS

This is a radio interview with Loren Goldner speaking on The Making of the South Korean Working Class.

You can hear it at: http://www.againstthegrain.org/program/346/id/361358/tues-9-07-10-making-south-korean-working-class

Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk