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July 02, 2010

Comments

Tom

Just in case anyone wasn't aware, Boris Johnson's 'culture' advisor is an RCP'er called Munira Mirza, who I believe is actually a Manc originally. True to form, her first act was to sabotage the Rise anti-racism festival by, er, removing the anti-racism from it, on the rather eye-opening grounds that this excluded sections of the capital's population.

I'm by no means convinced that's all the influence they have down here*, either - if you're that way inclined, getting a plum position from an Eton-and-Oxford libertarian Tory with a history of writing brainless right-wing bullshit and whose mind is only half on the job at the best of times must seem an excellent idea.

* For example - who on earth introduced her to Boris originally? It's not like he's likely to have moved in that kind of circle.

jamie

Self-presentation was always a huge part of the RCP ethos, as was the adoption of a kind of hyper normality. They probably just wangled an introduction and then impressed him with thee general cut of their jibs.

Blimey, now if we could expose the RCP as a deep penetration SRV group...they're exactly the kind of people who could do that job.

Phil

Social Role Valorization? Simian Retrovirus? Socialist Republic of Vietnam? Stevie Ray Vaughan? Sewer Relief Vent?

I feel a party game coming on ("...but it must incorporate at least three of the top five definitions for your chosen acronym...")

ejh

I can't remember on which blog I last discussed this lot, but I remember two ppints:

a. they're up to something, but nobody can work out what

b. for quite a long time they don't seem to have produced any defectors or renegades, which is very unusual indeed.

Unless Jenny Turner has said differently, and my copy won't arrive until next week.

ejh

(Or I could just read it online I suppose. Duh.)

Ken MacLeod

I had a conversation recently with a guy who has some connection - I don't know how close - with them. I kept pushing him on why they maintained that capitalism wasn't the end of history, given that they also maintained that the working class had ceased to exist. He eventually said that the working class did exist, but in China and India. And that would be enough of a global proletariat to lead the world socialist revolution.

I've never heard this from anyone else in the ex-RCP electron cloud, but if this is the real perspective it accounts for a hell of a lot of their positions. Anything that might impede the development of capitalism in China, India and (presumably) elsewhere in the global south must be opposed: Western military interventions, 'human rights' and 'global justice' campaigns, environmentalism, anti-consumerism, carbon emission reduction schemes ... you can see how it all hangs together. The apparently unrelated libertarian cultural stuff functions to wind up and enrage the mass base for such liberal imperialist meddling, i.e. the Guardian-reading middle classes.

Result!

ejh

Having now solved my new-technology-baffles-pissed-old-football-supporter problem, I'll say I think the Turner piece is pretty good. I'd disagree with this or that, but I like the tone and balance (there's no sense, for instance, of putting these people beyond a political line where anything can be said about them).

I don't remember them coming up to paper sales and passing provocative remarks at all. The whole point about them was that you never saw them. This wasn't completely true, there was a nice RCP woman in Oxford who even came to some meetings when there was a defend-abortion-rights campaign (not the Alton Bill, I think, but the time after) but normally, they just advertised their meetings, never came to yours, and the most you saw of them was when Living Marxism started appearing in WH Smith.

On my limited experience, the people who they appealed to were the sort for whom no normal political activity is of any use because the system is still there. But not of the anarchist variety, nor of the sort of Trotskyism which uses the term "illusions" a lot. There was no interest in the labour movement whatsoever, which is partly why you never saw them. They were virulently against No Platform. (I think there's a genuine crossover with people who would read Pual Morley and Jon Savage, particularly the latter.)

Some people said they were "so far left they were right" which is true, in a way, if unfair. There's a certain intellectual method, not entirely rare among religious or political sects, which involves taking a basic premise(here, "reforms to end end capitalism", or something similar) and taking it on a long process of logic-chopping in which it is the axe which cuts down everything else. You end up with the premise and nothing else except a set of very strange and destructive attitudes to everything else based on the supremacy of the premise. In many ways it's stupid, but in other ways it requires considerable intellectual skill and for this reason it tends to attract young intellectuals with little interest in practicality but very great interest in argument and ideas.

I guess some people like that would be anarchists of one sort, but the thing about anarchists is that they have traditions, different ones, and spend much time debating these and fighting about them. I wonder if the appeal of the RCP may have been that they seemed to have no history or tradition. Everything was new and clean and pure. So having started by saying how I like balance and not just saying anything you like about people, I'll put it to the panel that the closest equivalent for that process I can find in political pracice would be Pol Pot.

Phil

So the great RCG/RCP split was ultimately a difference over tactics. We're back with "encircle the imperialist metropolis", but the idea is to encircle it with the contradictions of capitalism. That's either brilliant or insane - either way it's like something out of a book by... er...

So, Ken, does your life often imitate art?

Ken MacLeod

Following up my own comment - it's only just occurred to me that there is a somewhat larger nominally communist party about which people ask: 'Why are they so pro-capitalist? Are they still communists underneath it all? What are they really up to?'

Ken MacLeod

Phil - sometimes. Most recently: the DPRK claim to have developed fusion power (cf The Execution Channel), and the Belgian police raid on the offices of the Catholic Church (cf The Night Sessions).

When I was outlining The Restoration Game (which revolves around a fictitious statelet on the border of Russia and Georgia) I reached the point where I wrote down something like 'and then the tanks roll in' on one of the first days of August 2008. I was originally going to set the book in the indefinite near future, and then hastily reset it in 2008. It's my first SF novel entirely set in the past, so the world is safe.

Phil

"reforms to end end capitalism"? Not being snotty, I genuinely can't parse this (and I'm still puzzling over 'SRV').

jamie

I meant "SVR", and who knows? I think we should be told.

jamie

"it's only just occurred to me that there is a somewhat larger nominally communist party about which people ask: 'Why are they so pro-capitalist? Are they still communists underneath it all? What are they really up to?'"

It occured to me the other day that a large number of the positions the CPC evolved in the eighties as compromises between pro and anti reform factions are still operative or have in fact hardened into permanent policy: "guard against the right and oppose the left", "the state intervenes in the market, the market drives the enterprise" and so on. So I guess one answer would be "muddling through."

Richard J

So I guess one answer would be "muddling through."

What's the Chinese equivalent of Système D?

jamie

IN terms of semi-official pronouncements, I think it would be Deng's remarks aboyt making your way across the river by feeling for the stones.

Cian

Being in the belly of the 'Land of the Free' (SC - fuck yeah!), I see a lot of similarities in style between the Republic wing nuts and the RCP. It makes sense for the wing nuts. They're not interested in how the world works, or changing it, but only in defending the class interests of capital. Pure propaganda for the plantation owners. Not sure what the RCP get out of it. They'd all get hired by the AEI/whoever if that's what they wanted - particularly as American wing nuts assume ex-RCPers are British wing nuts.

Another observation. Most of the libertarians I've met have shared their snot-nosed obsession with being really vicious. In fact (sorry Ken) I don't think I've met a decent Libertarian. FWIW.

Simstim

My single encounter with them was in 1990 when I started Uni. I can't remember much but being a naive young Red-Green I went along to a RCS meeting in the Student Union and it wasn't a fruitful experience. My impression is that they're for Progress, which means unfettered, unconstrained capitalistic development with lots of Science along the way. Whether that's with the ultimate aim of enhancing the fundamental contradictions of capitalism or they've got seduced along the way, I don't know.

Helen

"they're up to something, but nobody can work out what" - it's never anything less than world domination, is it?

Cian

Of course when RCPers talk about science, what they actually are talking about is technology. Not the same thing at all, though I don't think they realise that.

ex-RCPer

Ken,

'I kept pushing him on why they maintained that capitalism wasn't the end of history, given that they also maintained that the working class had ceased to exist. He eventually said that the working class did exist, but in China and India. And that would be enough of a global proletariat to lead the world socialist revolution.'

I'd be very surprised if that was a widespread view among ex-RCPers.

Speaking for myself, the continued physical existence of the working class and the persistence of wage labour / capital relations are not in doubt (although as always social realtions are subject to some development through time). As Living Marxism and LM - and indeed spiked - said again and again, the working class has ceased to exist politically. That's where all the obsession with agency, ideas and culture comes from.

Certainly what is happening in China and India is important and in many ways exciting. But the one question the RCP tradition built on more than any other was that class consciousness does not arise spontaneously. It won't come back in the west spontaneously and it won't be invented in China spontaneously.

So why not say that history ends with capitalism? I don't think it makes any sense to think of history 'ending' (see e.g. Marx's critique of Hegel). What I think has been lost is the chance for collective conscious intervention in history that developed out of Marxism. Marxism still provides a very strong starting point for further development of social theory, but without a working class movement it is essentially dead.

I think there are many worthwhile things that can be done today to improve things (that the RCP might have denouced as reformism). At the same time there is no need to give up on the possibility of creating a new chance for collective conscious intervention in history.

I don't recognise the bizarre idea of 'Leninism' put forward by Jenny Turner. But I do think that it will require those who want to try to give a lead, to fight to develop ideas and inspire others. Whatever the future looks like, I think it is clear that the past will not repeat itself. There will be no return to left and right mass movements. I can see the glimer of an abstract possibility of a 'revolution' in the sense of a fundamental transformation of social relations creatively engaging the mass of the population to overcome barriers to progress.

But not being a Turner style 'Leninist' I have no secret plan. By definition such a movement must engage the whole of society - it cannot be anticipated in any real sense.

What I can do is argue for what I believe, what I think is good and bad, the direction I think the world needs to move in, and point to unrealised possibilities. The end point maybe social change, but the individual is not nothing. I'm just disappointed my efforts seem to be so hopeless. Given the amount of time and effort I have put into arguing about science and technology the only conclusion I can draw from Cian's comment is that I am either dim or a very poor communicator.

dsquared

I meant "SVR", and who knows?

Standard Variable Rate? What has mortgage pricing got to do with all this?

Alex

Everything, D^2. I think Chris Williams has said before that Decadent Action are the only ultra-left group whose strategy to destabilise capitalism has been a total success.

Guano

Jenny Turner's article is indeed a good one. She also has a good take on Nick Cohen, on where he is right and where he goes completely OTT.

Ken MacLeod

ex-RCPer: But the one question the RCP tradition built on more than any other was that class consciousness does not arise spontaneously. It won't come back in the west spontaneously and it won't be invented in China spontaneously.

and:

Marxism still provides a very strong starting point for further development of social theory, but without a working class movement it is essentially dead.

So ... there can't be a working-class movement without Marxism, and there can't be Marxism without a working-class movement. I think I see the problem.

My own opinion is that now that Marxism is out there, it has the potential almost anywhere of rebooting from memory.

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