"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 10, 2010

Not A Throwaway Post

While attempting to connect with other lefties in my area, a few years back, I came across the tremendously gifted Rosa Lichtenstein, using RevLeft. Rosa has set herself the project (and I consider it vital) of methodically challenging the ruling class mystifications inherent in socialist and communist theory.

Rosa does not parse words, and she appears to know exactly what she believes, as well as the limits of those beliefs. I find that refreshing.

Her writing is extraordinarily accessible, even if her focus can at times seems pointillist. I assure you, it serves a worthwhile purpose.

But, I don't recommend Rosa's site because she makes one of the best cases for a position - any position - I've ever read.

I recommend it because she does so with a wit I appreciate with naked awe and admiration. When she savages her philosophical opponents, she doesn't just damned skewer them. She does so with humor and an elan that few can translate to the page.

I have fun, reading Rosa - all the better, I guess, that I agree with her.

Either way, enjoy (or not):



fwoan said...


Anonymous said...

Jack, her ripping on "dialectics" reminds me of why I never liked forums where Marxism is the coin of the realm. They love their insular jargon, their mandatory doctrinal truths, their insistence that one must be obeisant to Glossy Karl and his Shiny Statements... however obfuscatory, however convoluted, however distracting.

All hail Glossy Karl and his Dialectical Dissembling!

Jack Crow said...


You're welcome. Rosa's chomped out almost a million words, nearly all of it readable - but it's a weighty body of work that takes some time getting through.


I still correspond with Rosa from time to time (and she "hangs" @ RevLeft, if you're ever interested). She's definitely worth the trouble, however sometimes caustic in her savaging of idiots.

She's a comrade, for sure - and far more dedicated to struggle than most, probably owing to long membership in the British working class movement.

Not for nothing, Britain manages to produce actual working class agitators instead of academics toying with Habitat for Humanity for a summer, like here in the States.

Don't get Rosa wrong though - she's definitely a Marxist, in the sense that she agrees with Marx's (non-dialectical) analysis, especially in Capital, supports working class revolution where possible, and international solidarity.

It's just that she hates the mysticism of dialectics.

I tend to agree with her, too. Marx is really useful if he's not treated as (1) an oracle, or a prophet, (2) a guy who cannot err and (3) a dead guy with some good ideas, but certainly not every possible answer.

Jack Crow said...


#3 is really poorly worded, since I included it as a bullet point instead of as a counterpoint.

gawdamnit, I never proof well enough.

#3 is supposed to be a counterpoint to #s 1 and 2, in that final paragraph...

Anonymous said...

Jack --

Why must ownership of one's labor be discussed within the narrow confines of Glossy Karl's take on things?

I didn't need to read Glossy Karl to have the light-bulb-atop-noggin of realization that my labor is my own, and that I own myself, and that monetary systems are premised upon wage slavery.

All I had to do was work a few jobs, observe how the American system of employment actually works, and think about how it could be better.

Following Glossy Karl ensures that people must be either academically oriented (the stupid pedantic insular jargon and its hyperbolic tendency to cloud rather than clarify) or auto-didactic (wading through the Church of Glossy Karl and finding clarity somehow as a blind squirrel finds an acorn).

Talking to people about their interests and their personal freedom or lack thereof, that doesn't require revering Glossy Karl, nor does it require reference back to Glossy Karl.

Glossy Karl is pretty well irrelevant.

Yet some --nay, many-- have deified him as if he were Jesus of Nazareth and the world were one big Protestant Church.

I guess that's a fine tack to sail if one's aim is to convert middle and upper-middle classed people, but it seems pretty ineffective and somewhat derisive to use Marx with lower-class, poorly-educated folks.

Al Schumann said...

I'm pretty close to Charles's point of view on this. I've read and appreciated quite a bit of lefty Essential Book writing on political economy, including Marx, and found that at best it gave me a framework for talking to other people who had done a lot of the same reading. But what liberatory thinking I've managed came from living through McJobs and McSchooling. I knew they were wrong and why that was so before I had the words to nail them down thoroughly. What I've learned of remedially liberatory conviviality, the only counter to their baneful effects, came from trial and error.

That said, I don't wholly despise the Essential Book stuff. The framework does facilitate the discussion that really helps put fuck-ups in perspective.

Jack Crow said...

Charles, Al -

I don't personally intend to deify Marx. I just wanted to clarify that while I definitely recommend Rosa for her complete dismantling of rubbish Marxism, Hegel, Lenin and Trotsky - she is still a Marxist.

I find Marx useful, myself - but I feel the same way about Bakunin, Nietzsche, a host of science fiction writers and all of the writers in my blogroll.

The ideas from these sources don't replace actual experience. They add quality and insight to it.

Which brings me back to Rosa. Her theme, over and over and over again is that professional leftists are as bad as professional liberals - that they don't use ordinary language to explain ordinary occurrences, which means they'll never make one wit of difference to actually working people.

Al Schumann said...

Jack, my apologies for the wandering digression. Of course Rosa is right about that. A replication of corporate liberalism is the kiss of death for any left politics. Who needs another set of jargon-crazed managerial aristocrats? It's nothing more than a re-branding of hostile, vengefully irrational authority.

Anonymous said...

Jack -- I didn't mean you are one of those who deifies Marx. I'm really just offering my thoughts on how frustrated I get with Marxists and their enslavement to a man who supposedly wanted people to be free.

Al -- I agree with you. I don't mean that Marx should be ignored. I mean only that his place should be one of touchstone, or waypoint, rather than as central focus or, as I belabored earlier, as deity.

Jack Crow said...

S'all good. I was just responding for the sake of full disclosure.

JRB said...

Very interesting. You folks make a great forum. Thanks.

Jack Crow said...

De nada, JRB.

Rosa Lichtenstein said...

Thank you for your kind comments, but I think it important to add that I'm not 'anti-Trotsky' nor 'anti-Lenin'. In fact I'm both a Leninist and a Trotskyist; I merely criticise their adoption of this mystical 'theory' -- just as one can be a Newtonian without being a fan of his alchemical and Hermetic ramblings.

Rosa Lichtenstein said...

Oh, and by the way, your link to my site is out of date. The new link is this:


Jack Crow said...

Rosa, thanks for the clarification. As usual, I got it wrong.

Rosa Lichtenstein said...

No worries.

Under which name did you post at RevLeft?