How do we make sense of Karl Marx's utter disdain for
In a letter to Engels of 14 February 1858, Marx says: “Moreover a longish article on Bolívar elicited objections from Dana because, he said, it is written in a ‘partisan style’, and he asked me to cite my authorities. This I can, of course, do, although it is a singular demand. As regards the ‘partisan style’, it is true that I departed somewhat from the tone of a cyclopedia. To see the dastardly, most miserable and meanest of blackguards described as Napoleon I was altogether too much. Bolívar is a veritable Soulouque [the former slave, later President of Haiti].” Karl Marx's scathing 1858 entry on Simón Bolívar for The New American Cyclopaedia (1858): Bolívar y Ponte, Simon, the “liberator” of Colombia, born at Caracas, July 24, 1783, died at San Pedro, near Santa Martha, Dec. 17, 1830. He was the son of one of the familias Mantuanas, which, at the time of the Spanish supremacy, constituted the creole nobility in Venezuela. In compliance with the custom of wealthy Americans of those times, at the early age of 14 he was sent to Europe. From Spain he passed to France, and resided for some years in Paris. In 1802 he married in Madrid, and returned to Venezuela, where his wife died suddenly of yellow fever. After this he visited Europe a second time, and was present at Napoleon’s coronation as emperor, in 1804, and at his assumption of the iron crown of Lombardy, in 1805. In 1809 he returned home, and despite the importunities of Joseph Felix Ribas, his cousin, he declined to join in the revolution which broke out at Caracas, April 19, 1810 but, after the event, he accepted a mission to London to purchase arms and solicit the protection of the British government. Apparently well received by the marquis of Wellesley, then secretary for foreign affairs, he obtained nothing beyond the liberty to export arms for ready cash with the payment of heavy duties upon them. On his return from London, he again withdrew to private life, until, Sept. 1811, he was prevailed upon by Gen. Miranda, then commander-in-chief of the insurgent land and sea forces, to accept the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the staff, and the command of Puerto Cabello, the strongest fortress of Venezuela.
In response to The Bolivarian Revolution
by Simon Bolivar
Why is it $50 or $95 dollars? Wouldn't you want to allow the dissemination of such "weapons for the renewal of the left" to happen more easily than by limiting their availability to those who could pay that much for a single book?
In response to The New Spirit of Capitalism
by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello
In this remarkable book, American journalist and researcher Christian Parenti shows how the USA’s economic and social crisis has produced a huge growth in criminalisation, especially through the war on drugs. He explains how capitalism creates poverty, through both crisis and policy.
From 1966 to 1974, profits fell by 30%. Reagan put interest rates up to 16.4% in 1981, causing a slump – ten million people were unemployed by 1982 and wages were slashed by 8%. Real unemployment for African American men has been more than 25% for three decades.
As Alan Budd, an economic advisor to Thatcher, said, “Rising unemployment was a very desirable way of reducing the strength of the working classes.” Capitalism creates a surplus population, the reserve army of the unemployed, to drive wages down.
To manage the rising poverty, inequality and unemployment that capitalism causes, the state uses paramilitary forms of repression, segregation and criminalisation. These include paramilitary policing, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, zero tolerance policing, national surveillance and mass imprisonment. Both crime control and crime keep the people suppressed.
The US imprisonment rate was 100/120 per 100,000 until the 1981 slump. 31% of prisoners are in for property offences, 30% for drug offences, 9% for public order offences, and 29% for violent offences.
Parenti examines the USA’s appalling prison industrial complex, which surely provides the rest of us with a model – of how not to run prisons. However, this has not stopped Labour ministers rushing to the USA trying to copy their masters.
Parenti shows how US prison guard unions have often successfully opposed the opening of privatised prisons, which have proved to be even worse than the public ones. Prisons have become ever bigger, with Titan prisons making the problems even bigger as well.
Everyone has to choose whether to blame the system that produces poverty, or to blame the poor. Parenti quotes Lenin, “every state is a ‘special repressive force’ for the suppression of the oppressed class.”
Parenti concludes, “My recommendations, as regards criminal justice, are quite simple: we need less. Less policing, less incarceration, shorter sentences, less surveillance, fewer laws governing individual behaviors, and less obsessive discussion of every lurid crime, less prohibition, and less puritanical concern with ‘freaks’ and ‘deviants’.”
In response to Lockdown America
by Christian Parenti
Fetishization and Reification, Human Constants or the Particular Products of Capitalism?
Grappling with Marx's theoretical dilemma on whether class struggle is the product of capitalism, coterminus with it or its condition, Zizek suggests that this same dilemma illuminates the difference between Lukác's History and Class Consciousness and Adorno & Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, wherein he latter authors "cut [the] link" (that Lukác maintains) between fetichization and reification on one hand and captitalism on the other, considering them products of "instrumental reason" (e.g. using people as a means to an ends), "...which functions as a kind of a priori of thewhole of human history but no longer rooted in any concrete historical formations. The over-arching totality is thus no longer that of capitalism, or commodity production : capitalism itself becomes one of the manifestations of instrumental reason." (p. 204)
This problem is resolved if we merely extend our notion of "human history" to go back to Pleistocene (hunter-gatherer) times and follow it through the agricultural revolution and the dawn of civilization, viz. citification, the creation of cities. Hunter-gatherer cultures are dominated by scarcity of the means of survival. There is a social hierarchy, but it is not based on possessions, because most daytime activity is devoted to the search for food. Once agriculture is discovered, however, a few milenia after the last glacial maximum around 12,000 years ago, there is surplus production, permitting substantial population grown and eventually leading to the establishment of cities, around six or seven thousand years ago. With surplus production comes the accumulation of wealth, the creation of classes (workers, owners, priests, etc.), the establishment of chiefdoms and then city-states, and finally conquest, as some city-states covet the resources of their neighbors, devote a certain amount of their surplus to military materiel, and gobble up their neighbors.
It is an abstract nicety to call the motivations for these appropriations "instrumental reason." They could also be called greed, covetousness, or imperial arrogance. In any case, they only arise when there is surplus, and the first sustained surpluses in human history (starting at least 40,000 years ago and not 5,000 years ago) come with the invention of agriculture.
Capitalism from this perspective is merely a concentration, institutionalization, mechanization, and acceleration of organizations based on technological advances and greatly expanded populations, to produce exponentially more surplus value and its resultant accumulation, and finally engendering the inequality and suffering that we are so familiar with, and which motivated Marx to deconstruct it.
So Adorno & Horkheimer had the right intuition; they simply lacked the expanded perspective in pre-history to concretize it.
In response to Living in the End Times
by Slavoj Žižek
Not new. not a review by Marx.
These translations are not, as is alleged here, "new". Hanfi translated them 40 years ago. The review "Luther between Strauss and Feuerbach", quoted from here, has been known not to be by Marx for almost as long. See MECW Vol. 1, 1975.
In response to The Fiery Brook
by Ludwig Feuerbach