File spoon-archives/marxism2.archive/marxism2_1996/96-07-31.055, message 64

Date: Mon, 22 Jul 1996 00:18:18 -0700 (PDT)

Alex Trotter, I dealt with this load of crap about Marx and
Stirner a couple of years ago.  How could you have missed it?  Or
perhaps the debate was held on the Hegel list and not
marxism-undead.  I'm going to make this brief.  If I cross-post
this to other lists, please don't get too confused, whoever it may
concern.  The background information here will be of use in
certain ongoing discussions.

A couple of years back I read a number of treatments of this
Marx-Stirner business stating the party line you espouse.  The
refreshing exception was Paul Thomas' KARL MARX AND THE
ANARCHISTS, which blows this silliness out of the water.  Thomas
claims that Marx was in fact interested in the concrete individual
and the conditions that foster or hinder his individuality, and
not in any defense of collectivism against individualism or the
un-psychological scientism you are spouting on about.  Nowhere in
his oeuvre that I have seen, does Marx espouse a collectivist
ideology, and sometimes he inveighs directly against it.
Collectivism was the invention of Joseph Stalin, or at least was
patented by him.

Stirner was the last in a progression of the Young Hegelians.
Bruno Bauer, apostle of self-consciousness, tossed theology
overboard and called Hegel on his equivocations, claiming that the
contemporary demands of self-consciousness require throwing the
alienated ideology of self-consciousness, i.e. Christianity,
overboard, thus smashing the religious element of Hegel's
philosophy.  Feuerbach upped the ante by claiming that all of
philosophy, not just religion, was theological and represented
alienated consciousness.  But all Feuerbach had to offer was
abstract philosophical anthropology and an abstract conception of
man, love, etc. etc.  Stirner attacked this as yet more theology
in disguise, more idealistic fol-de-rol.  Further, he claimed that
it was one more illusory idealistic abstraction set over and
against the concrete individual to which to enslave the latter.
This is what made Marx stand up and take notice.

Stirner just about finished off Hegelianism.  (The funeral was
presided over by Karl Schmidt, but that need not concern us here.)
Marx in turn finished off Stirner.  Marx demonstrated that
Stirner's own individualism was yet another abstraction, in that
long line stretching from Bauer to Feuerbach.  Stirner's man was
insubstantial abstract man, the petty bourgeois who thinks he can
free himself from all social relations by his consciousness alone
(Have you heard this somewhere else?  Of course you have!), and it
is just the continuation of the same abstract approach to human
existence that characterized the whole tradition after Hegel's
death.  Hence to finish Stirner off was to commence a radically
different point of departure, i.e., to look at the development of
the concrete individual as a product of historical social
relationships, dealing with real, material history, and not just
Hegel's dream-history.

The capitalist mode of production, in the form of its organization
of industry and labor, was destroying concrete human
individuality; so dealing with that reality, not the pompous
declarations of petty bourgeois philosophers, was the only way to
deal with the question of individuality in the only way it could
possibly matter to millions of people.  This, and not Stirner's
illusions (nor Bakunin's foolishness -- "no God! no state!") could
properly address the real social basis of the development of human

This load in your diapers about the change from romantic Marx to
scientific Marx needs to be disposed of.  It not only serves
shallow-minded anarchists such as yourself, but served Stalinism
quite handily, in recent decades in the hands of the Parisian
Strangler (Althusser).

As for ignoring psychology, this void came into existence after
the deaths of Marx and Engels.  The continuing violence of
abstraction served the needs of state capitalism and its
subordinate labor bureaucracy (the Comintern) in the west.  The
rest of your post on scientific objectivity is a load of shit like
the rest.  Your concept of psychological man is itself a detached
abstraction floating on nothing at all.

As for the relation of the sense of self to physico-chemical
processes, I don't think this is yet well understood.  Nor do I
think this was something either Marx or Engels gave themselves
time to think much about after 1845.  Well, Marx did deal with the
effects of the capitalist mode of production on subjectivity at
least.  Therefore I don't think Marx or Engels can be blamed for
suppressing this issue.  The reclamation of "subjectivity", which
did die out during the time of the 2nd International, of course
was revived by the Hegelian Marxist tradition in the 20th century.
Even Lenin, privately in his philosophical notebooks, recognized
this matter by 1914-5, though he didn't take it very far.  I do
think that various strands of Hegelian Marxism have best
understood this.  Let me correct myself: they are the ONLY ones
who have understood it.

You will perhaps wonder why I've spent so much of my time
uploading posts on William Blake to _this_ forum.  I stated that
one of my intentions was to place Blake as a mode of knowing in
the universe of (secular) knowledge.  This is compatible if not
exactly in tune with, strange as it may seem, Lenin's 1915
realization about the profundity of human cognition.  (One Blake
scholar backs me up on this.)

Also, it is necessary to revise that old saw that historically the
materialists are always the good guys and the idealists the bad
guys.  In the modern period, the issue is much more complex.  The
reason for this is that bourgeois naturalism and its state
capitalist variants could never deal with the depth of human
subjectivity, and so those with a stake in defending the "reality"
of their own consciousness or their own inwardness against the
darwinian trivialities of the mechanized social world of Blake's
Ulro, where man is a "grovelling little root outside of himself",
have often felt a threat from the ideological world of naturalism.
Of course, reactionary petty bourgeois ideologues have felt this
threat too, very intensively from the mid-19th century on, and
also the Catholic Church, that set about all its resources to
combat naturalism.  My argument is that Blake's project has little
in common with this whole strand of the idealism of these
philosophers, nor with Neo-Platonism, nor with Berkeley, nor with
traditional religion or mysticism.  To understand why Blake
believed in the reality of his own consciousness in the oppressive
conditions under which he was living (as well as understanding the
actual content of that consciousness) is to understand something
very deep about consciousness and the transformation of the social
order.  And this too is a political task, but not in the sense of
commandeering the arts in the service of the Revolution (no more
of that!).

You talk about psychological man, and here is another opening for
a theme I am developing.  Just as some have claimed erroneously
that Stirner is the complement of Marx
(individualism/psychological vs. social/collectivist), others have
claimed that Kierkegaard is the complement to Marx in the
divergence of Hegelianism in the psychological and social
directions.  I intend to smash these pernicious lies into pieces.
Both oppositions rest on a faulty characterization of Marx as well
as Kierkegaard (as well as Stirner).  Adorno has written about
Kierkegaard, so perhaps the task has been accomplished with him.
I can't be sure until I check up on it.  But Kierkegaard partakes
of the same petty bourgeois narcissism and abstractionism as his
forbears.  He is no more a complement to Marx than is Stirner.
Feuerbach still stands out as the best of them, though a child in
comparison to the cunning of a Nietzsche.  But I've mastered the
method and I'm loaded for bear.  I intend to prove that the true
complement to Karl Marx is .... William Blake!

One more thing.  I've spent a lot of time here discussing the
niceties of dialectics and how it relates to mathematics, logic,
natural sciences, etc.  While this is a vital subject, it is
ironic that I should spend so much time on something I'm not
actively studying right now, because my real object is to wrest
the study of _culture_ (rather than natural science) away from the
Cultural Studies degenerates.

Studying subjectivity in 1996 is the flip side of studying the
objectivity that produces it.  In a period of social decline and
utter bankruptcy and cynicism such as we live in, such study
becomes ever more urgent, not to mention active intervention.  It
also requires a method that goes much deeper and that is much more
ruthlessly honest than ever before.  This society and the people
in it have hit my last nerve.  Anyone who runs around preaching
the subversive value of gangsta rap or tells you how wonderful
poor people are should be shot on sight.  To lie to and about
oneself and others is far more cynical an act than the real,
honest cynicism that is required to survive in the midst of people
as they really are.  Even the best of left-wing academics are
drowning in disillusionment, cynicism, and despair.  People in
general don't know in what direction to turn, where to go, or what
to do.  They have not a clue.  Not here in the US.  Don't let them
send you to your doom.  While they are falling to pieces, somebody
has to maintain a militant vigil and a sense of direction and
understanding of how people attempt to fulfil their desires,
however ineptly, in the world in which they live.  In a world of
dehumanization, shallowness and self-deception, and intense,
explosive contradiction, this arduous task requires greater depth
and mental self-discipline than ever before in human history.

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