File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 519

Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 19:30:47 +0000
Subject: Re: M-I: James Heartfield versus the trees and the flowers and all the little bunny rabbits

In message <l03102801b0790a67abdb-AT-[]>, Doug Henwood
<> writes
>You seem to think that there are only two ways to view this - either the
>exploitative one of the bourgeois industrialist (no matter how dressed up
>in quotes from Marx),

I don't really understand what you mean by this. Are you saying that
when Marx championed the development of the productive forces that he
was adopting the standpoint of the 'exploitative bourgeois
industrialist'? That is a respected point of view, I know (Baudrillard,
Mirror of Production, for eg) but not what I think you mean. Or are you
arguing that circumstances have changed since Marx's day such that the
growth of the means of production (considered apart from its social
form) is no longer a good thing?

> or the drippy romantic green. That's not what Marxism
>is supposed to be about, at least in my view. 

>It's supposed to take a
>critical attitude towards scientific progress,

That's seems wholly alien to Marx's intentions to me. This was a man
whose patron saint was Prometheus, not remotely a critic but a keen fan
of the natural sciences, whowanted to dedicate Capital to Darwin. Well,
maybe he was wrong and Adorno was right. Maybe man's alienation is not
to be located in capital, but in industry as such. But that is a message
of despair, because, unlike the capitalist form of production,
production as such is an ever present condition of human existence.

> much like its attitude
>towards capitalist industrialization,

Given that the greater part of his theoretical work was given to
distinguishing between the social form of production, 'capitalism' and
its production as such 'industry' it seems a shame that you should so
effortlessly recombine them.

> acknowledging that it's a complex mix
>of horror and glory.

If by 'it' you meant capitalism, I would agree. But the elements of hte
mixture are these: the development of the productive forces (glory), the
limitation of the productive relations (horror). A bit schematic I know,
but think of it like this: it is not the fact of building houses or
offices that makes the construction industry one of the highest risk
occupations (at least over here), but the low value that the
construction industry puts on human life. We will always need homes,
whether its capitalism or communism, and theire production is in itself
a good thing.
> Your attitude towards capitalism's appropriation of
>nature seems similar to your attitude towards Third World "development" -
>largely of the celebratory mode.

Well, if capitalism hadn't appropriated nature, then there would be no
possibility of socialism - except of the romatnic model. As to the third
world I do celebrate the emergence of the Far East from the debilitating
backwardness that colonialism bequeathed it, but I deplore the limited
basis of private appropration on which that development has taken place.
It is the capitalist cheese-paring that means that work relations for
South Koreans are so onerous, and industry so highly-polluting. But
industry as such is not the problem, except to those Western
commentators for whom any Eastern development is a threat.
> Much of the left these days has gone over
>to the other side, lost in romantic localisms, and reflexively opposed to
>bourgeois notions of development and progress. Marxists should do better
>than this

I couldn't agree more, except, I suppose to say that the identification
of development and progress with the bourgeoisie was always contingent,
but today unsupportable.

James Heartfield

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