Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Just done all my Christmas purchasing and if I may congratulate myself like Mark from Peep Show it was 'bloody top shopping'. It was demon xmas shopping - quick, efficient and no mercy shown. None of this standing around window shopping crap, or walking slowly around the shopping centre - it was straight in to target shop, get the xmas tat, straight out and on to the next target shop. No fucking around. No moving aside for doddering old ladies. That's how real men shop. It was all over in less than 2 hrs, which isn't bad but not as good as my personal best (45 minutes 23 December 2003) - I dithered in Waterstones you see.

The reason I dithered was because, while in the deepest, darkest part of Waterstones - the part where nobody goes (the politics and history section) - my attention was grabbed by a little book called 'Introducing Marxism' and I spent about 20 minutes skimming it. It was one of those cartoon books - part of a series on various thinkers and so on. You've probably seen them.

It seemed quite good for the most part - with a section on Western Marxism, the Frankfurt School and (moving via Althusser) finishing up in the realms of post-structuralism and 'Post-Marxism' (ie Laclau). The writer's post-Marxist sympathies were very much in evidence towards the end of the book - but this, in itself, didn't annoy me too much. What annoyed me was the list of ten bullet points which concluded the book. They included 3 rather awful judgements.

Firstly (and I'm quoting from memory here) the author claimed that 'class and class differences were fast dissolving in the contemporary world' - this is just mind-numbingly stupid. Of course, it's what you'd expect from a Laclau, Mouffe, Stedman-Jones fancier - but it just strikes me as obviously wrong if we are working with the Marxian definition of class (which in a book on Marxism you would suppose the author might work with). Class is not discursively constructed (one's particular identity might be, but class as a social category is not). Perhaps I missed it, but as far as I am aware the means of production, distribution and exchange remain privately owned for the most part.

Secondly, the book solemnly announced that experience has taught us that socialist change would have to come through democratic means. Well duh, yes - but what do you mean by 'democracy'? What he means, of course, is 'parliamentary democracy'. Now one can make a perfectly respectable argument (like Bernstein or Kautsky) that socialism must come through liberal constitutional means, but to conflate - as necessarily synonymous - democracy and parliamentary democracy so easily is, it strikes me, rather a school boy error.

Thirdly the book wittered on about pluralism and (I think though I can't be sure) mentioned the term 'cosmopolitan democracy' - all the familiar post-Marxist, postmodernist tosh. For the record I'm all in favour of pluralism and indeed 'cosmopolitan democracy' sounds very very nice and everything but I'd rather be in favour of the elimination of some forms of pluralism - extreme wealth and poverty for example and the abolition of some manifestations of social 'difference' and forms of 'identity'- sayyy... ooohhh... racists, serial killers, drunk drivers, stockbrokers, Jeremy Clarkson.

The pronouncement which really riled me, however, was this one:

'All revolutions turn out bad or they don't happen'.

Well, first of all, what do you mean by revolution? Wasn't the 'Orange Revolution' a revolution? Wasn't the 'Velvet Revolution' a (set of) revolution(s). Wasn't the American war of Independence a revolution? Did they all turn out badly? Or perhaps, the writer is referring to more far reaching social revolutions rather than simple 'political revolutions'? Or perhaps the writer is refering merely to socialist revolutions? It is not made clear. This is sloppy writing. But even then, how many socialist revolutions have there been? Many would argue there has only ever been one. Is it, then, permissable to look at one failed socialist revolution and to make generalisations about all possible socialist revolutions?

Secondly, to concentrate on the second part of the above statement, it seems to me that the writer is, effectively, saying the following:

'Revolutions never happen, except when they do (in which case they turn out badly)'.

Well, fuck me - revolutions never happen except when they do. That's brilliant. That's absolutely brilliant.

Of course, one should only expect such platitudinous bollocks from 'post-Marxists'. Here's a thought, though: when the 'Introducing' series commissions a new version of the book on Marxism, perhaps they should ask.. ohhh, I don't know.... a Marxist to write it?

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