Monday, June 5, 2017

Crisis+Quotation: Gramsci, Chomsky, Corbyn, "Freedom" + About Gramsci

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Quotations (about Gramsci)
3. Crisis Files

This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 5, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with my computer, my modem, the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible, and my health.

It may be that I'll be off for a few weeks, that is, I will publish nothing or little for a few weeks. I don't know yet, but I will keep you informed in Nederlog.

And what I will do for the moment - since I am still looking at 35 sites every morning - is to list the items I selected, but without any of my comments. Today I selected four items, and they are below and link to the originals, but on the moment I have no comments, basically because that takes too much work on the moment.

2. Quotations (about Gramsci)

As I have said above, I am writing less these weeks for various reasons. I like good quotes by good writers, but today I'll be doing it a bit differently from before, because I will review four quotes from Chris Hedges about Antonio Gramsci, that are all taken from the first crisis file below. My reasons to do so is that I like Chris Hedges, and that I have a quite Marxist background, that I gave up in 1970 (when I was 20) for very good reasons (because I had made a serious study of Marxism, which in fact extremely few nominal Marxists did).

I will give four quotes from Hedges, but I will not give them in the order they are presented in the article (which you find here).

The first quote is about democracy:
Democracy throughout most of the history of the West was an anomaly. After the collapse of Athenian democracy in 322 B.C.—and this democracy was only for men and excluded slaves—it was 2,000 years before another democratic government came into existence. It has only been in the later part of the 20th century that democratic governments, now under assault from protofascist movements, were able to flourish, however imperfectly.
Precisely. In fact, in both the USA and in Holland women got the vote (after agitating for it since the 1790ies, "a mere" 130 years) in 1920. This was at the time that the few rich made incredible profits for themselves, which lasted until 1929 and the Wall Street Crisis, which created poverty for very many, and also quickly produced fascism in Germany (it existed already in Italy) and Spain, and then started World War II.

After that, in 1946 Keynes and a few others started an economical system that I identify as capitalism-with-a-human-face, which also was combined with a kind of democracy, in considerable part because the lower classes had learned to read and write (which few of them could do in the 19th Century) and because the press was somewhat free.

This set-up was (slowly) destroyed by Thatcher and Reagan from 1979 and 1980 onwards, which ushered in a new kind of capitalism, which I call capitalism-without- a-human-face, that basically consisted of a government and policies from the rich, for the rich and by the rich, that also combined with the rise of computers, neoliberalism, the transportation of most industries to the poorest countries, and the corruptions of the press, that were in part generated from centralization, in part from loss of advertisements, and in part from simple greed and egoism of many of the editors.

In brief... "democracy" flourished the last 2400 years for about 30 years between 1946 and 1976. There was no democracy - government and policies from the people, for the people, and by the people - from (at least) 322 B.C. till 1920 A.D. and since 1920 it was extremely partial, for in fact the rich ruled all the time, both in industries and in governments. [1]

Next, there is this about "mass culture":
Mass culture is a potent and dangerous counterrevolutionary force. It creates a herd mentality. It banishes independent and autonomous thought. It destroys our self-confidence. It marginalizes and discredits nonconformists. It depoliticizes the citizenry. It instills a sense of collective futility and impotence by presenting the ruling ideology as a revealed, unassailable truth, an inevitable and inexorable force that alone makes human progress possible.

Mass culture is an assault that, as Gramsci wrote, results in a “confused and fragmentary” consciousness or what Marx called “false consciousness.” It is designed to impart the belief to the proletariat that its “true” interests are aligned with those of the ruling class, in our case global corporatism.

We are a product not of nature, Gramsci wrote, but of our history and our culture. If we do not know our history and our culture, and accept the false history and culture manufactured for us, we will never surmount the forces of oppression.
I more or less agree with the last part, about Gramsci: I think human beings are the products of their natures, their history and their culture, and I agree with Gramsci that there is no "progressive arch of history" and that history is not pre-determined, as Marx and Engels seem to have believed it is.

As to "mass culture": I don't know. I am from genuine proletarian descent; I am the first who got academic degrees in my family in the last 200+ years, at least [2]; and I point out again that most proletarians could not write until the end of the 19th Century; that a good education is a university-education and that was open to very few until the 1960ies (!) (both of my parents were easily intelligent enough to study in a university, but both had to work by 14 or 15); and that it is rather easy to mislead, deceive, and propagandize people who lack a good education - which is what the majority does lack, and always lacked, while "the majority" is on average also not intellectually gifted.

Then there is this about Gramsci:

Gramsci deviated from the Marxist belief that the inherent contradictions of capitalism would of themselves usher in socialism. He was opposed to the iron control of a Leninist revolutionary vanguard. Revolution, he wrote, would only be achieved when the masses had gained enough consciousness to exert personal autonomy and see through the mores, stereotypes and narratives disseminated by the dominant culture. Revolutionary change required the intellectual ability to understand reality.  Hegemony, for Gramsci, refers to how ruling elites, through the organs of mass culture, manipulate our understanding of reality to promote their interests.
I agree with Gramsci about Marxism (and I had given that particular bit up by age 19), but I disagree with him about this:
Revolution, he wrote, would only be achieved when the masses had gained enough consciousness to exert personal autonomy and see through the mores, stereotypes and narratives disseminated by the dominant culture. Revolutionary change required the intellectual ability to understand reality.
For "the masses" never did so. Also, while some born proletarians did have both the intellectual ability and the stamina "to understand reality", this always was a fairly small and gifted minority.

And my own reply to this difficulty is that all revolutions, of whatever kind, are made by minorities, and that most revolutions fail.

Finally, there is this about Gramsci vs Marx [3]:

Gramsci’s understanding of how ruling elites manufacture consent separated Gramsci from Marx. Marx saw critical theory as preliminary to the construction of an egalitarian and just society. In the just society, critical theory, like the state, would, however, wither away. Gramsci knew that the elites would continually reproduce conditions and ideologies to maintain or take control.
Gramsci held up human agency—breaking again with Marx—as essential. History is made, he said, by human will. It is not predetermined. How we gain consciousness and how we achieve revolution cannot be understood by solely examining the means of production. We cannot, he warned, predict the course of history. We can go backwards as well as forwards. We must, therefore, create a vibrant counterculture that ultimately makes revolution possible. This makes Gramsci, as we too recoil from the onslaught of corporate fascism, our contemporary.
I more or less agree with Gramsci, but as I said "a vibrant counterculture" is that of a minority: The majority, especially the mostly uneducated not very intelligent majority, will always follow the leaders that are put up for them to follow, except perhaps in times of major crisis.

3. Crisis Files

I have been writing on the crisis since September 1, 2008 (Dutch) and with considerably more attention since June 10, 2013 (English).

If you check out the
crisis index you will find that I wrote in over eight years nearly 1600 files, that nearly all consisted of a reference to one or more articles that were partially quoted and mostly commented.

I will continue with that, simply because I think the crisis is a very important social, political and economical event, but meanwhile I have turned 67 and need a little rest,
so what I'll be doing the coming weeks (at least), is selecting 3 to 6 files from the 35
sites I consult every morning to see what's happening in the world of politics and econonomics, and present them, but now without my comments.

Here is today's selection:
1. Antonio Gramsci and the Battle Against Fascism
2. Noam Chomsky on Trump: The Worst Is Yet to Come
3. Jeremy Corbyn Was Right in 2003, and He Is Right Again Today
4. Many Americans Don't Know It, but Their Employers Can
     Censor Their Political Speech
These are all well worth reading.


[1] These are the simple facts. Besides, I should also remark that in Aristotle's opinion (and it seems also in the opinion of quite a few ancient Greeks), democracy is a kind of government (and state, and perhaps culture) that tends to be intermediate between oligarchy and tyranny.

[2] This is based on the fact that my father's family belonged to some minor nobility until 1795 (when all existing nobility was squashed, in the ten years of the Batavian Republic). But that is all I know.

[3] This is for the really intelligent: Antonio Gramsci was friends with Piero Sraffa, who was an extremely intelligent Italian economist, who also opposed Italian fascism, and who got a job in England mediated by Keynes, who did not like fascism, and who was impressed by Sraffa. I (more or less) refuted Marxian economics when I was 20, because I had found a difficulty in it that was later (in 1977) elucidated (and treated better, and independently found) by the British economist Ian Steedman in his "Marx after Sraffa". Finally, Sraffa also wrote a very important booklet on a new kind of economics, "Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities" (<-pdf) that is much closer to Marxian economics (and Ricardian economics) than all non-Marxist later economical theories, but which also has some quite non-Marxist consequences. (I recommend it, but you do need - at least - some mathematics to follow it.) In case you are interested in Sraffa, here is a link to "Piero Sraffa" by Alessandro Roncaglia.

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