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TSE  November 2010

TSE November 2010

Subject:

A Tal of a Tub

From:

Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sun, 21 Nov 2010 14:03:12 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (71 lines)

The human struggle over the last two centuries has been for equality, by
which I mean the merely formal equality of citizenship. That struggle was &
is a mere precondition to what must become  the center of future struggle,
the struggle for freedom. That is, the real Marx must replace the Rousseau
whose thought  has dominated that struggle for equality.

Perhaps some of this may be made clearer by a hypothetical division of U.S.
history into three "Republics." The First American Republic (1780-1860) was
a slave republic, ruled dover by Slave owners and their allies.  It was
ended by the crushing of the SlaveDrivers Revolt. Then followed the
Interregnum of Reconstruction. The end of Reconstruction broguth in the
Second Republic (1876-1965), the republic of the White Male. See Griffith's
Birth of a Nation. Woodrow Wilson (a professional historian as well as an
explicit racist) sponsored the premier of that film in the White house,
approving of it as a legitimate presentation of U.S. history. The Third
Republic was ended by the Revolution of 1956-1970. This revolution achieved
the _formal_ equality of Blacks and women. (The society is still poisoned by
de facto sexism and de  facto racism, but the formal  exclusion from
citizenship was ended by that Movement of Movements we call "The '60s).
(Gays and migrants along and some others are still excluded.)

Whether humanity can achieve freedom in coming generations is by no means
certain. What we call "Progress" (implicitly structured into history) was a
myth generated in the 19th-c by technological development and the dxpansion
of European domination over most of the globe (the equation of the latter
with progress is the theme of Kipling's "White Man's Burden," written in
praise of the brtutal U.S. pacification campaign in the Philippines (a
campaign later emulated by the Japanese in China). Mark Twain was among the
first to denounce that myth ("The United States of Lyncherdom," "To the
Person Sitting in Darkness," and "The Mysterious Stranger." But first
explicit recognition of the myth's falsity was by Rosa Luxemburg in the
second "Junius Pamphlet," and sereiously theorized by Walter Benjamin.
Luxemburg's formula, "Socialism or Barbarism," was not a slogan but a
statement of equal probabilities in the human future. Clearly, as she had
forseen, the 20th-c was indeed a continual plunge into barbarism: barbarism
is not a future to be feared but a present to be overcome if possible by
collective struggle. The prospects are dim, but as someone said, it is
better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees (which may be taken
as equivalent to Gramsci's formula, "pessimism  of the intellect, optimism
of the will").

History of course never repeats itself (as either farce or tragedy), and The
60s will never return. Moreover, as someone has said, the only lesson we
learn from history is that history teaches no lesson. Certainly nothing is
to be learned from the mistakes of the past, since the context of those
mistakes never reoccurs, and hence recognition of a past mistake does not
lead to any awareness of what the "same" mistake would look like in the
present. But by careful abstraction one can, provisionally, learn something
from what a given historical epoch discovered that was right. So with the
'60s. The period made two major political breakthroughs. The first is
indicated by the phrase I used above, "Movement of Movements."  That is,
effective unity of struggle may be achieved WITHOUT a single hegemonic
Party. Even bitterly quarrelling organizations often contributed to rather
than threatened this coherence. And the effect was to give a political
thrust even to non-political or anti-political events (the riots in the
central cities, the so-called "hippies"). This achievement of the '60s
provides a non-sectarian perspective on political activity of the present
and future.

The second achievement is more concrete: The Black Panther Party for
Self-Defense solved the century old difficulty of the u.s. left: that of
Black/white unity in the struggle, and a very simple solution it was, though
it could only be achieved in concrete action, not in mere theory. The
Panther Party was a Black party (though some whites were members) grounded
in and serving the interests of the Black community BUT also a
fullyparticipaing part of the "total left." Only two weeks before his
assignation by the FBI, Fred Hampton co-led a mostly white anti-war march in
Madison, Wisconsin. This was typical: one had only to ask for help and the
Panthers would respond.

Carrol

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