"She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." (1873)
-- Louisa May Alcott
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Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 09:09:09 -0400 (EDT)
From: George Pennefather <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Reply-To: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
To: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Jim Heartfield: Here George is abusing the appearance-essence category by making it
into a dogmatic insistence on the correctness of his analysis even where it is
contradicted by appearance. No matter what the evidence is, he is saying, the essence
is reactionary, so you do not have to pay attention to any facts that might contradict
George Pennefather: Facts always merits attention. However they must be analysed in
the context of the establishment of the specific way in which they constitute a
manifestation of the essence of imperialism.
Jim: But appearance and essence are never wholly contradictory, form is the form of
its content, not of another content. It *appears* that there has been technological
progress because there *has been* technological progress, and no dialectical juggling
will wish that away.
George: Under imperialism form contradicts content. The forms of production,
capitalist social relations of production, retard the development of the forces of
production which is why capitalist forms lead to the development of technology in the
form of nuclear weapons etc. --a technology that is not "progressive".
Jim: The dialectical approach would posit the contradiction *within* the essence
itself. In other words, capitalism combines destructive and creative elements. It
develops the forces of production, but on a narrow and exploitative basis.
George: I never denied that the essence of contemporary capitalism is not
contradictory. Of course it is which is why there necessarily obtains a contradictory
relationship between essence and appearance under imperialist capitalism.
Jim: The definition of imperialism is not one in which no progress is possible, as
Lenin makes abundantly clear, but rather one in which the destructive features
predominate over the progressive, making imperialism as a totality negative, but not
denying that there can be progressive developments within it. One such, for example,
is the numerical growth of the working class. Let George say that is
George: Jim's artificial construction of a false dichotomy between the alleged
positive and negative features of imperialism constitutes an ideological illusion
which opens a window for the entry of reformist politics. It creates ideological
justification for promoting putative good side of capitalism as opposed to the
putative side. If capitalism has a progressive character and even essence then there
is no necessary reason why the quantitative or mathematical relation between the good
and bad sides of imperialism cannot be reconfigured --a reformist notion.
The numerical growth of the working class is not necessarily progressive. The American
working class is among the biggest in the world and yet it is quite reactionary in
political character --essentially it supports American imperialism.
The issue is not so much a matter as to whether the size of the working class is
growing or not --Jim seems to have a penchant these days for mathematical relations.
Today it is the political character of the working class that is significant and not
as some neo-Pythagoreans may think the size of the working class. The objective
conditions for communist revolution have been present for some time now --whether the
working class is growing in size, then, cannot be significant. Perhaps Jim's view is
that the bigger the working class grows the better the politics.
Anyway even Jim's abstract claim that the working class is growing is rather
questionable --again the absence of dialectics. In much of Africa it is questionable
as to whether the working class is growing. Some would say it has been shrinking. The
making of abstract statements such as Jim's do not amount to a contribution to the
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