Marxist History lectures 1-5: Hegel – Writing the Manifesto
In this section we will post the lectures given by comrade Wilhelm Palmira which he began presenting for our group (then part of CPSL) in November, 2009. We feel that Second Life is a very good place to use as an educational medium, a place where we can consider and discuss a subject together ‘live’, even though the participants may be thousands of miles apart. Thanks to comrade Wilhelm for his ongoing hard work and enthusiasm which has helped to make SL Marxists a place where people come to discuss and debate the most vitally important topics we face as a global society. Understanding what has gone before us is part of the deep education we need, so that we can confront the present.
November 29, 2009
Lecture 1: Hegel and Dialectics
Wilhelm Palmira: We’re just discussing philosophy – and starting with Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: What can we say about Hegel?
Wilhelm Palmira: What does everyone know about Hegel – most common associations with Hegel is the Dialectic?
Arnold McKeenan knows nothing of hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: Thesis – atithesis and synthesis
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – let’s start with Thesis – A postiion or a statement of belief or fact
Wilhelm Palmira: The world as seen in a certain way
Wilhelm Palmira: Every position creates is oppostiion
Wilhelm Palmira: I believe in Capital let’s say as the ruling order
Wilhelm Palmira: – so that automatically creates an oppositon
Wilhelm Palmira: the Anti-capitalist
Wilhelm Palmira: postion opposition – Thesis – antithesis
Wilhelm Palmira: how do we get out of this
Wilhelm Palmira: there are only two choices – like an American Election
Wilhelm Palmira: Can you vote for a third party?
Wilhelm Palmira: In Hegel’s world you can
Wilhelm Palmira: there is Synthesis
Wilhelm Palmira: something that subsumes and goes beyond the binary deadlock of postion and oppostion
Wilhelm Palmira: the third party option
Wilhelm Palmira: Combining overcoming – smashing – parents producing the child
Wilhelm Palmira: all of these metaphors have an accuracy to Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: Now what did Hegel mean specifically?
Wilhelm Palmira: If you go to the text – he isn’t explicit
Wilhelm Palmira: he doesn’t even use many of the terms we associate with him
Wilhelm Palmira: With Hegel – no matter what he talks about he always puts into three parts
Wilhelm Palmira: as a rule
Wilhelm Palmira: why I don’t know
Wilhelm Palmira: there is however a german phrase “Alles ist besser sind drien”
Wilhelm Palmira: ” all is better in threes”
Wilhelm Palmira: which is probably where Hegel got it from
Arnold McKeenan: does he mean three, or just more than two?
Wilhelm Palmira: He was trying to envision something that is very deeply engrained in Western philosophy — Judeo-Christian-Islamic philosophy — The idea of Eschatology
The idea of all of what we know coming to an end and something knew being born
Wilhelm Palmira: Hegel is looking for something outside of the here and now
Wilhelm Palmira: to him that meant outside of what is our mental framework
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: so his sythesis would be that…
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – more than two – but it developed further
Wilhelm Palmira: Kant – who comes slightly before
Wilhelm Palmira: was aiming to make the biblical texts make rational sense
Wilhelm Palmira: he was trying to take the lessons from the bible and make it workable in terms of rational – reasoned – thinking
Arnold McKeenan: a bold move lol
Wilhelm Palmira: Hegel – continues in this project
Wilhelm Palmira: instead of taking ethics and making it rational and bible-free
Wilhelm Palmira: that is, free of having to refer to the text as the reason why
Wilhelm Palmira: instead using reason itself to show the ethics is valid
Wilhelm Palmira: without resoringt to faith alone
Wilhelm Palmira: reason alone is the essence
Wilhelm Palmira: the same with Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: development of life to a higher order
Wilhelm Palmira: the apocalypse
Wilhelm Palmira: so how do we all escape this wicked world full of sin?
Wilhelm Palmira: Hegel – points to rationalist society as the answer
Wilhelm Palmira: everything flows toward the higher order of Prussia
Wilhelm Palmira: and being a university professor in Prussia
Wilhelm Palmira: and specifically being Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: Good old Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: Of course some people found fault with this
Arnold McKeenan: the not-Prussians?
Wilhelm Palmira: Can anyone take some guesses?
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – that’s a good one
Wilhelm Palmira: any more?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: wait i’m confused
Wilhelm Palmira: Please – go ahead..
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: Hegel was an idealist philosopher
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – the ideal will make itself real
Wilhelm Palmira: a gradual unfolding of an idea
Wilhelm Palmira: and the idea – or ideal will be made real
Wilhelm Palmira: Now – I think it would be best at this point to give a concrete illustration of the link from Hegel to Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: Imagine if you will a fall semester course in Hegel’s Univeristy
Wilhelm Palmira: In one class is Hegel and in the other is Schaupenhauer
Wilhelm Palmira: Hegel is making the idea real
Wilhelm Palmira: and for Schaupenhauer none of this is real
Wilhelm Palmira: Hegel approaches reality – constanlyt working from the idea to the real
Wilhelm Palmira: Schaupenhauer works in the opposite direction: Let’s escape the flesh which is unreal – to the higher essence – life is the is an illusion we must escape from
Wilhelm Palmira: In the words of Schaupenhauer – It is best to not be born
and second best to die young
Wilhelm Palmira: So much for Schaupenhauer
Wilhelm Palmira: lets return to the class run by Mr. Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: In that class are three lovely students
Wilhelm Palmira: all together at the same time
Wilhelm Palmira: all representing different ways of reacting and developing Hegel that link to today
Wilhelm Palmira: One is the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, beloved of many a Danish Socialist of the time
Wilhelm Palmira: KeirkegaardfFell deeply in love with a woman whose life he had manipulated from birth to fall in love with him
Wilhelm Palmira: Alas – he found that love to be empty and rejected her – loving her until his death with her name the last word to come out of his mouth
Wilhelm Palmira: So the melancholy Dane is in Hegel’s class to be convinced that Hegel has the answer
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: she did not love him
Wilhelm Palmira: No she did – Kierkegaard’s plan worked
Wilhelm Palmira: He felt the victory was hollow
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: i dont get it Wilhelm
Wilhelm Palmira: love, like everything in our social world is hollow to Kierkegaard
Wilhelm Palmira: so he goes to the philosophy Prof who says that life is good and we are moving to the higher
Wilhelm Palmira: rationalism leads to something better
Wilhelm Palmira: whereas Kierkegaard saw rationalism as a way of fooling ourselves – giving meaning – where there really is none
Wilhelm Palmira: How does this sound to people?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: existentialism?
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – the birth of Existentialism
Wilhelm Palmira: And Kierkegaard has an ally in Nietzche
Wilhelm Palmira: who says that Hegel worships a step that occurs on a series of steps
Wilhelm Palmira: one step just leads to another – not one better than the other, to Nietzche
Wilhelm Palmira: we only convince ourselves we’re going some place
Wilhelm Palmira: This is the essence of the existentialist assault
Wilhelm Palmira: Now we have two others in the same class
Wilhelm Palmira: Bakunin, The great Russian Anarchist
Wilhelm Palmira: He like other Russian revolutionaries is prepared to go the full distance
Wilhelm Palmira: and trust me in his life he did
Wilhelm Palmira: He saw the absolute goal of Hegel and he wanted to get there and go as far as he could to achieve it, no compromise
Wilhelm Palmira: and to the Russian Anarchists – the Narodniks, they take Hegel and they will stand no oppostion or compromise with the antirationalist antimodern Czarist government
Wilhelm Palmira: Bakunin – did not have a particular care for the society as much as the individual’s developement to the highest absolute rationalism of Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: Bakunin said his ideal society is the United States
Wilhelm Palmira: A nation he visited – crossing the old west by stage coach from California to Boston
Arnold McKeenan: because of the personal freedoms people had to do as they wish [in the USA]?
Wilhelm Palmira: Essenitally yes
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: he thought people had flexibility there to become what they wanted
and in Russia it was almost feudal then
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – that and the fact he was also a Panslavist and wanted to free Poland from Russian domination
ilhelm Palmira: so he had a really good time being celebrated by Poles living in America
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: oh so the American revolution impressed him
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – and at the time – America was Anti-Imperialist or had pretentions to being so
Wilhelm Palmira: if we don’t count Mexico
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: ha
Wilhelm Palmira: or numerous other places
Arnold McKeenan: hahaha
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: if we dont count the genocide of the Native Americans
Wilhelm Palmira: Death to the European imperialists was the American Moto
Wilhelm Palmira: which served Bakunin well
Wilhelm Palmira: from his position – as long as you did not look at reality too closely – and only dealt with the ideals then America was perfect
Arnold McKeenan nods
Wilhelm Palmira: Now – So much for the second person in the class – what about the third?
Wilhelm Palmira: Any guesses who he was?
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: I sometimes wonder if those three cheated off each other in the final exam
Arnold McKeenan: lmao
Wilhelm Palmira: Now Engels was a rich kid
and very smart, and was about to take his gap year off and live in Paris before heading to Manchester to fall in love with a poor Irish woman and run the family factories
Wilhelm Palmira: So he had a head for business – and new languages to a high degree
Wilhelm Palmira: Concrete – examples of how rationalism makes the world better, makes better products, better laws, corrects injustice
and so forth
Wilhelm Palmira: So Engels takes Hegel – and as Marx so correctly puts it – stands him on his head
Wilhelm Palmira: One hates to say it but the words of Nietchze seems to apply
Wilhelm Palmira: the world of Marx and Engels is that of the English Merchant class
Wilhelm Palmira: ideals are important only as they relate to the world we live in, the emphircal reality – so to speak
Wilhelm Palmira: Nietzche called the English “dull headed”
Wilhelm Palmira: in that they were not lost in the great fantasies of either ‘the great man’ or the world of the higher society
Wilhelm Palmira: To say what was the specific interpretation of Hegel to Marx and Engels
would take a lot longer – but I would like to recap a little
Wilhelm Palmira: The great philosphical tradition of Hegel is in its borrowing
Wilhelm Palmira: all of history is copying and re-interpretation
Wilhelm Palmira: and nothing is ever perfectly repeated
Wilhelm Palmira: that is my axiom
Wilhelm Palmira: so the french try to recreate the wisdom and rationalism of the ancients
Wilhelm Palmira: and they create the encyclopedist tradition of understanding the world
Wilhelm Palmira: making the foggy thinking into the clear rational light of day
Wilhelm Palmira: or if you will – taking the white mist of religion and making clear crisp texts we can understand
Wilhelm Palmira: Hegel – looks to the French – the revolution – the scientific advances – the better organization of France – its wonderful health care – birth control – religious tolerance
Wilhelm Palmira: and says YES – I got to get me some of that
Wilhelm Palmira: So he writes and encourages his society in this direction
Wilhelm Palmira: and his society likes this direction more or less
Wilhelm Palmira: and Hegel says – look the ideal is made real
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx and Engels say the ideal is IN the real
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: the french had birth control and wonderful health care in 1840??
Wilhelm Palmira: Actually – believe it or not – by comparison yes
Wilhelm Palmira: their population did not expand at the same rate as the rest of Europe in the 19th century
Wilhelm Palmira: why?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: hard to know why since they were a catholic country …
Wilhelm Palmira: because they did not need to have tons of kids – they could depend upon methods of birth control and an health system that was more developed than elsewhere
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – the advances in science and administration in France by the Revolution
was kept in subsequent regimes
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: yes they were not so dominated by religion as other places were
Wilhelm Palmira: Because of this the French Industrial revolution was far less nasty than the English – not great but not as bad
Wilhelm Palmira: People just had to go to Paris to see the advantage
Wilhelm Palmira: Any how that’s basically it for the day – Are there any questions?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: zillions
Arnold McKeenan: no, but i’m still digesting a lot of it lol
Wilhelm Palmira: I have to run – bye guys
December 13, 2009
Lecture 2: Karl Marx and Background Leading to
the Developement of Dialectical Materialsm
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay so – where were we last time?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: we stopped when Engels got the idea to turn dialectics on its head
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – and then being one of the rich he heads off to Paris
Wilhelm Palmira: His family’s businesses were doing quite well in Germany and England
Wilhelm Palmira: but good old Engels had already declared himself an Atheist, and his family were none too happy with his politics
Wilhelm Palmira: so -where do you go – if 1) you are quite rich 2) have radical ideas 3) are quite handsome and romantic?
Wilhelm Palmira: Answer: Paris
Wilhelm Palmira: So he heads off to Paris and of course you all know he meets Karl
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: how?
Wilhelm Palmira: Well – as Marx put it – to be young and revolutionary in Paris was Paradise
Wilhelm Palmira: Everyone radical known to man was hanging out in Paris, it was a radical scene for a number of reasons, one of course was the on and off again political toleration
Wilhelm Palmira: So they end up meeting and they talk like there is no tomorrow
Wilhelm Palmira: Now who was Mr. Marx?
Wilhelm Palmira: everything about Karl begins seriously in the late Hellenic period of ancient Greek history . Because Marx first was a scholar of Greek philosophy, a classicist
Wilhelm Palmira: and he hung out with an aristocrat – went on long walks with – the father of his future wife, Jenny Von Westphalen
Wilhelm Palmira: In the time period of the nineteenth century there was great interest in the Greeks: in primarily the late Hellenic period
Wilhelm Palmira: why?
Wilhelm Palmira: because archeologists of the day had dug up a lot from this period
Wilhelm Palmira: And with this, theories were developed that socieities went through three stages – based on their understanding of Greek history
Wilhelm Palmira: (a theory that doesn’t hold much confidence today)
Wilhelm Palmira: that societies – have three phases – Archaic, Classical, Decadent
Wilhelm Palmira: The old order hangs on to its archaic political set up perserving its power
Wilhelm Palmira: That societies decline – and new ones rise
Wilhelm Palmira: it was a big question in the nineteenth century – why do societies rise and fall
Caramelito Arguello: isn’t it still?
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes the question is still very much with us – and in particular how can a society rise from imperial subjugation
Wilhelm Palmira: how can a society exploited and under the thumb of foriegn empires – rise
Wilhelm Palmira: The question was most acute for Germans in this period
Wilhelm Palmira: We all know Germany today as a strong power – politically, industrially, culturally
Smoke Wijaya: The whole idea of declining society from a perceived ideal starting point very much comes already from Plato as well
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – the idea is common – the difference in the nineteenth century, the emulation of England and France with the ancient world of Rome
Wilhelm Palmira: the use of Greek decline to Roman accension as a metaphor to understand the world they lived in
Wilhelm Palmira: The Greeks flowered and rose to great power in the supposedly decadent phase
Wilhelm Palmira: it was a contradiciton that the nineteenth century could not explain
Wilhelm Palmira: Do you mind a slight detour to explain?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: not at all
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – you all know about Alexander the Great?
Wilhelm Palmira: before him the Greeks were not united and not that powerful
Caramelito Arguello: yep
Wilhelm Palmira: hard to imagine but true
Wilhelm Palmira: after Alexander a massive Greek world emerges – as one scholar put it – Greek civilization on Steriods
Wilhelm Palmira: most of the statues we have and buildings we can find of Greek civilization are from this period
Wilhelm Palmira: because it was massive and powerful – and spread out from India to Marseilles
Wilhelm Palmira: it was big – the previous Greek society was nothing by comparison
Wilhelm Palmira: it also stretched from Russia to lower Egypt and Ethiopia
Wilhelm Palmira: so imagine for a moment you are Karl Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: and you are living in a land of small states
Wilhelm Palmira: the largest ethno-linguistic group in western Europe is the Germans but they are broken up into smaller states
Wilhelm Palmira: and two massive power houses of sheer naked power – Britain and France – run everything
Wilhelm Palmira: they are the most powerful
Wilhelm Palmira: so how can a society rise – like Rome did – in the face of that power
Wilhelm Palmira: the important thing that I can make out in Marx’s classical studies – is the understanding of Imperialism and how to overthrow it; the essential question that forms the back bone of Marxism
Wilhelm Palmira: Anyhow – like most Doctoral graduates he leaves the university with lots of ideas about how societies develop
Wilhelm Palmira: and also how the French revolution was a development of the ideas of the ancient world
Wilhelm Palmira: rationalism
Wilhelm Palmira: And that something new was emerging – because the British Empire and all the monarchies of Europe were decadent
and something new was developing
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx stated that he saw society as in a period of decadence when something new and reviving would emerge
Wilhelm Palmira: I’m simplyfing obviously
Wilhelm Palmira: but Marx became an editor of a newspaper
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: question…
Wilhelm Palmira: yes
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: hmm but what made Marx interested in the idea of Revolution?
Wilhelm Palmira: Because the revolution – the idea of cyclical or spiral development – was the essential ideological drive of the French Revolution – that had changed just about everything
Wilhelm Palmira: France had developed its economy and reorganized itself – its sciences, its government, its economy – on a more rational and productive basis
Wilhelm Palmira: In England the scientific ideas had developed its economy – the democratic ideals of England (hard to believe now) – all showed that revolution made for a better world
Wilhelm Palmira: The revolution of rationalism, science, ideals of progress, democracy – not only worked but they were essential if a society wanted to free itself from foreign subjugation
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: hmm England, democratic? but they had a King
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – and they also cut a kings head off
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: or Queen rather [in Marx’s time, Queen Victoria]
Wilhelm Palmira: at the time the other Europeans saw England as embodying democratic ideals and political toleration
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: they only cut one kings head off
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – as Engels put it – the English had an incomplete revolution
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: and that was 200 years before Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: but compared to the absolute monarchies of Europe – festering in their backwardness – it looked advanced at the time
Caramelito Arguello: lol that they only cut one king’s head doesn’t mean they take much notice of their kings but for PR nowadays. I don’t think in Marx’s time democracy in GB was in an way cut short by the monarchy
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: but..what could have looked advanced? they had a strict class system
Wilhelm Palmira: The idea of political liberation, democratic re-ordering of society and developing industry and ideas were linked
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – England was completey evil at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx and others did not want a New England – they wanted to go way beyond it
Wilhelm Palmira: they saw the French revolution as going way beyond it
Caramelito Arguello: in comparison to most of Europe at the time, I think England was a model of modernity Lisa, or so they make us believe
Wilhelm Palmira: and they were embracing ideas of that revolution
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – well – we are talking of Pre-1848
Wilhelm Palmira: we are talking of a Europe where radicals were sitting around and asking questions such as – what was the French Revolution, what does it mean
Caramelito Arguello: true
Wilhelm Palmira: how do we formulate this and re-create the ideal again – in the flesh
Wilhelm Palmira: and so we see lots of French political philosophers at the time doing just that
Wilhelm Palmira: And of course we have Proudon as being one of the foremost thinkers of that period
Wilhelm Palmira: Can I back track for a moment?
Wilhelm Palmira: Where was the world Socialism first used?
Wilhelm Palmira: and when?
Wilhelm Palmira: Any guess?
Smoke Wijaya: France
Wilhelm Palmira: Italy in the 18th century
Smoke Wijaya: oh
Caramelito Arguello: blimey
Wilhelm Palmira: the idea was used without an idea of the radical revolutionary context we have now
Wilhelm Palmira: it was something that came from three very basic trends – merging and forging in France around the time of Marx in Paris
Wilhelm Palmira: There was an Enlightenment usage of the world to mean reorganizing on a rational basis – a political context
Wilhelm Palmira: then in England there was [Robert] Owen around the time of the Napoleonic wars
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: 1820’s yes?
Wilhelm Palmira: He was good friends with Queen Victoria’s father – best friends
Wilhelm Palmira: yes the earlier part – exact dates are not so important as the terms I think
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: sure but we just like to keep in miind a general time frame
Wilhelm Palmira: The idea of Owen for socialism was more economic equality, the development of cooperatives
Wilhelm Palmira: so we all become joint owners – everyone has a share
Wilhelm Palmira: in France the idea is more associated with political liberation – with Revolution
Wilhelm Palmira: So when Marx arrived in Paris – people were still questioning what was the French Revolution and also they were struggling to define terms
Wilhelm Palmira: to create a movement
Wilhelm Palmira: uprisings and demonstrations in France still were using the old terms – such as ‘Jacobins’
Wilhelm Palmira: Now Marx is a rationalist and very good thinker and he finds lots of people going mystical, looking at the recreation of utopian societies – apart from the world
Wilhelm Palmira: communes, communities founded in the Americas – to be self sustaining
Wilhelm Palmira: and in Paris – the ideas develop in little relation to the ideas that were important to Marx – such as economic development, something very keen to Germans at the time generally
Wilhelm Palmira: So Marx, Jenny and Freddy meet
Wilhelm Palmira: sorry that is a lot territory – any questions?
Smoke Wijaya: nope
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – now Marx and Engels start on a project to essentially rationalize the thinking of the time
Wilhelm Palmira: and Marx wants solid, logica,l well-developed ideology
Wilhelm Palmira: why?
Smoke Wijaya: scientific outlook to analysis of society
theWilhelm Palmira: because of his academic training – his basis in systematic thinking of the Greek philosophy he comes from
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – to put the world on a more rational basis
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: ok moment…
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: in other words to move societies away from religious thinking, correct?
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – mystical almost
Wilhelm Palmira: I am very much making things simple
Wilhelm Palmira: but in essence what Marx and Engels found in Paris was lots of wonderful revoltionaries
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: Idealist perspective as embodied by Plato yes?
Smoke Wijaya: Hegelians
Wilhelm Palmira: it was the lack of really good thinking
Wilhelm Palmira: Greek philosophy often makes people infuriated with its developed forms of logic and argumentation
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx was a power house of clear thinking and he took ideas to their logical conclusions
Wilhelm Palmira: he was very fastidious
Wilhelm Palmira: example
Wilhelm Palmira: there was once a public meeting with a union leader from Thuringia
Wilhelm Palmira: in Germany
Wilhelm Palmira: and the leader was very brave and well-liked, but very disconnected in his thoughts
Wilhelm Palmira: mystical – a Christian socialist of sorts
Wilhelm Palmira: he loses every argument to Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: until he gets so upset
Wilhelm Palmira: he says to Marx – well what have you ever done?
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx smashes his fist on the table and says – Stupidity never helped anyone
Smoke Wijaya: and there the primacy of thought already appears
Wilhelm Palmira: that is Marx more or less – he found himself – for one reason or another – among reovlutionaries – and as a revoltuionary
Wilhelm Palmira: a trained thinker amidst people who were not trained thinkers
Wilhelm Palmira: so he found a niche, a job to do
Wilhelm Palmira: to give good clear thinking to a movement that lacked it
Wilhelm Palmira: as he saw it at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: I do not know if this means a supremacy of thinking
Wilhelm Palmira: just, that was his particular contribution
Wilhelm Palmira: very few of the revolutionary exiles in Paris at the time could do that job
Wilhelm Palmira: Mr. Engels would have a very different contribution – but to tell that story
would take longer than I have – and it also involves lots of romantic encounters – high and low
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: so we did not yet get to the point where we stopped at last time
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – I am preparing for what will happen next when the two begin to dance
Wilhelm Palmira: this is a big subject
[2009/12/13 8:51] Lisabeth Nikolaidis: but that is ok…we have all the time in the world i hope
Wilhelm Palmira: And if you like I can continue next time
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: of course we like
Wilhelm Palmira: any how I must hop out now
Wilhelm Palmira: bye comrades
January 10, 2010
Lecture 3: Friedrich Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay if you guys don’t mind I’d like to re-cap a bit?
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – we have been following the development of Marxist dialectical philosophy
Wilhelm Palmira: Week one we discussed Hegel
and his lovely classes with Bakunin, Engels & Kierkegaard
Wilhelm Palmira: with some mention of my personal favourite misery guts – Schopenhauer
Wilhelm Palmira: then we proceeded in week two to discuss the early development of Karl Marx and Jenny VonWestphalen, in particular why Ancient Greek Philosophy was important
Wilhelm Palmira: now we are in week three and I intend to talk about Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: So I shall begin – its Paris in 1840s and Mr Marx is about to meet Mr. Engels
and the world will change radically
Wilhelm Palmira: we discussed previously that in Paris at the time – in the Left in general – there was a lot of hazy, mystical thinking
Wilhelm Palmira: and Marx was a professional and adept thinker who wanted to get some clear thinking injected into the Left, and Engels was to bring something different into the mix as well
Wilhelm Palmira: but we did not say what that was
Wilhelm Palmira: lets open it up a bit
Wilhelm Palmira: what do we think of when we talk about Engels?
Wilhelm Palmira: any thoughts?
Smoke Wijaya: Uhmm, well one
Wilhelm Palmira: yes?
Smoke Wijaya: I wonder what the mystical thinking it is you point at? Any general groups/views?
Wilhelm Palmira: in general we have the thinking of Saint Simon and Proudhon?
Smoke Wijaya: oh..that was not a thought about Engels…sorry
Smoke Wijaya: ah ok
Smoke Wijaya: right
Wilhelm Palmira: thats okay
Wilhelm Palmira: the thoughts at the time were often looking back and trying to make sense of what happened in the French Revolution
Wilhelm Palmira: Jacobin-ism
Wilhelm Palmira: and when Marx arrived he tried to bring some kind of systematic logic to what he found
Wilhelm Palmira: lots of them had really their hearts in the right place – with the workers and revolutionaries, but a bit muddled
Wilhelm Palmira: logic not too consistent
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx tried to make thoughts a little clearer
Wilhelm Palmira: his motto could have been, as he said often, ‘Stupidity never helped anyone’
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels was a lot like the others
Wilhelm Palmira: heart in the right place – a real wild child
Wilhelm Palmira: the Bart Simpson of his era
Wilhelm Palmira: and I mean this quite literally
Wilhelm Palmira: he was passionate and loved to be with other people
Wilhelm Palmira: very very social – friendly and romantic and loved champagne and romancing women
Wilhelm Palmira: and talking about revolution
Wilhelm Palmira: Now Engels’ parents figured the way to fix up their ‘black sheep’ and get him to stop talking about revolution was to send him to England to work in a factory they had shares in?
Wilhelm Palmira: his parents were solid bourgeois Lutheran pious folks from Wuppertol
Wilhelm Palmira: anyone know Wuppertol?
Smoke Wijaya: no
Fayne Querrien: nope
Wilhelm Palmira: its middle Germany and very boring to a young Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: he loved poetry and read in several languages and was the family’s great promise; very educated and very bright
Wilhelm Palmira: too bright to live the kind of life that his parents wanted him to lead; you know – running a business, working the stock market, and being a respected member of the reformed Lutheran church
Wilhelm Palmira: he found all the work they gave him to do too easy, so he ran away to Berlin to learn to be a soldier and attend Hegel’s classes
Wilhelm Palmira: he liked the uniform and to practice at military exercises, which is how he got his nickname – The General – which was more of a joke than anything
Wilhelm Palmira: his parents want to fix the wild child who has run off to Berlin so they send him to Manchester, England to work running their business there
Wilhelm Palmira: and there he meets two women he falls in love with
Wilhelm Palmira: as luck would have it they were sisters and Irish and dirt poor working in the factories
Wilhelm Palmira: So the wild-eyed romantic poetic revolutionary was suddenly in the middle of the centre of the industrial revolution
working the cotton exchange and factories during the day and living his life of immoral unmarried revolutionary pleasure with the two sisters in the evening
Smoke Wijaya: He was “revolutionary” already then?
Wilhelm Palmira: Revolutionary is a term in development at this point
Wilhelm Palmira: for Freddy I mean
Wilhelm Palmira: Freddy had romantic notions that were prevalent at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: his rebellion was first against religion and the moral totalitarianism of his father’s house
Smoke Wijaya: right
Wilhelm Palmira: then it turned in degrees
Wilhelm Palmira: until he met the two sisters Mary & Lizzie, the Burns sisters, and they show him the darker side of the industrial world
Wilhelm Palmira: imagine the scene
Wilhelm Palmira: Along comes bad boy Freddy
Wilhelm Palmira: he walks into the factory and sees a woman and starts talking to her
Wilhelm Palmira: I’m a revolutionary socialist – down with the Capitalist he says
Wilhelm Palmira: and the sisters say to him – Oh really?
Wilhelm Palmira: and they show him exactly what is going on
Wilhelm Palmira: not just in theory, but show him in great detail the slums – the misery and the factory conditions
Wilhelm Palmira: they set it as their great task to educate this “revolutionary”
Wilhelm Palmira: here Freddy gets all of his documentation and experiences for “The Conditions of the Working Class of England”
Wilhelm Palmira: he goes pretty deep in four years with the sisters, he basically marries both of them, but not in the “legitimate” sense
Wilhelm Palmira: he has one house in the city that is a fake home
Wilhelm Palmira: and one just outside the city for the sisters and him – where he can live a revolutionary life with his two women
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – so Freddy gets the inside scoop of the industrial revolution from the top to the bottom – from the workers and the capitalist perspective
Wilhelm Palmira: he is in fact a well respected member of the Capitalist factory owner society in Manchester, and also writing for socialist revolutionary papers as well
Wilhelm Palmira: two lives, two wives and he is still itching for more to do
Wilhelm Palmira: he knows languages – probably a dozen by this point, and he wants to do something else, something more – but he does not know quite what
Wilhelm Palmira: so after four years – a very different man comes out of Manchester and goes to Paris on his way to get back to Germany
to visit the family back in Wuppertol and Bremen
Wilhelm Palmira: there he meets lots of flabby street socialists and armchair revolutionary thinkers
Wilhelm Palmira: and then he meets someone with a rigorous mind
Wilhelm Palmira: a man who can synthesize experience and make thinking clear
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels was many things but he was not a great thinker and he knew it
Wilhelm Palmira: and he moved in elite circles and also in the circles of the revolutionary and the poor
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Fayne Querrien: yes – how did Engels manage his two lives?
Fayne Querrien: that is — was there overlap, and if so, how did he handle it?
Wilhelm Palmira: with great difficulty – but it got worse as time went on
Fayne Querrien: you’d think neither group would approve of his courting the other
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes Marx kidded Engels about this constantly saying that he would be glad to roast him and his friends over the fire of revolution when the time came
Fayne Querrien: ha-ha
Wilhelm Palmira: and Engels never changed who he was
Wilhelm Palmira he: always liked the champagne bottles and conversation and enjoyed life
Wilhelm Palmira: much to the inconvenience of Marx when he needed him
Wilhelm Palmira: sometimes Engels let him down – being busy traveling in France
Wilhelm Palmira: but without Freddy their probably would have been no Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: can anyone guess the reasons why?
Wilhelm Palmira: Or perhaps you know?
Fayne Querrien: funding?
Smoke Wijaya: yeah..
Wilhelm Palmira: Partly yes
Wilhelm Palmira: without funding it would have been a problem
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels supported the families of the Burns sisters and the Marx family
Wilhelm Palmira: without any word of regret,
and continued to support the Burns family long after the sisters were dead and Karl was dead
Wilhelm Palmira: the poem of Whitman applies – ‘I am large, I contain multitudes’
Wilhelm Palmira: this was Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: but not a great thinker
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels left Manchester for Paris to find such a thinker
Wilhelm Palmira: one that could make sense of the dual worlds he was living in
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: so we have the hazy thinking of Engels
Smoke Wijaya: well, yes…
Wilhelm Palmira: he thought many things and said many things before Marx would correct him, and Engels would say thanks
Wilhelm Palmira: but in return Marx got two critical things from Engels
Smoke Wijaya: …I mean, did Marx and Engels have correspondence before Engels met Marx in Paris? What was it that Marx saw in Engels if he was such a hazy thinker?
Wilhelm Palmira: good point
Smoke Wijaya: oh…?
Wilhelm Palmira: they had met before and corresponded, but they had not recognized each others skills
Wilhelm Palmira: on the way to Manchester Engels had met Marx, but had not understood the value of clear thinking
Wilhelm Palmira: it was not until he had been involved in Socialist politics and writing that the need for clear thinking was apparent
Wilhelm Palmira: you work yourself into logical contradictions supporting a number of contradictory things at the same time
Wilhelm Palmira: so one opposes imperialism,
but wants to increase industrial development so people don’t starve
Wilhelm Palmira: so how does one do this?
Wilhelm Palmira: industrialisation has the evils that he sees in Manchester
Wilhelm Palmira: but is there a way of understanding the relations of capital to the worker in terms of clear scientific understanding?
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels had learned that having a heart for revolution was not enough
Wilhelm Palmira: the revolutionaries were speaking one language without understanding the inner workings of capital he saw on a daily basis in Manchester as an agent of the capitalists
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels spent time talking with people and understood many languages
Wilhelm Palmira: he went the distance in gathering informationWilhelm Palmira: but he needed understanding, some way of synthesizing
Wilhelm Palmira: this is what he found in Marx,
or at least so he said
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: What did Marx get from Freddy?
Fayne Querrien: yes – as Smoke asked earlier — what did Marx see in Engels?
Smoke Wijaya: Well, the question remains what Marx needed Engels for then…?
Wilhelm Palmira: besides the funding, which was significant, he also got two things?
Wilhelm Palmira: 1) a voice
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels could talk and work the political field very easily
Wilhelm Palmira: his military background gave him a sense of tactics
Wilhelm Palmira: and he was always looking for the tactical advantage
Wilhelm Palmira: he also knew languages way better than Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: a lot of Marx’s articles were written by Engels as a ghost writer, because Marx did not have a flair for writing especially in languages other than German
Wilhelm Palmira: 2) Engels brought to Marx a world of experience he could not gather himself. Marx was the consummate introverted thinker – a powerhouse of thought
Wilhelm Palmira: but none too good at parties
Wilhelm Palmira: and Engels was the original party animal
Wilhelm Palmira: his socialist meetings did not end until 2 in the morning, with lots of dancing, singing, smoking cigars and well … you can imagine
Wilhelm Palmira: he liked to have a good time. people liked to be with Engels, and Engels took the time to listen and learn
Wilhelm Palmira: he wanted to understand people. any questions?
Smoke Wijaya: no
Fayne Querrien: none
Wilhelm Palmira: I’ve talked now for quite a while – where would people like to go next – learn next?
Wilhelm Palmira: we are on the edge of getting actually into the works of Karl and Freddy
Wilhelm Palmira: its a big step
Wilhelm Palmira: Next week I would like to talk about industrial development and some of the benefits that Engels got from his threesome with the Burns sisters
Wilhelm Palmira: but we could go in any direction
Wilhelm Palmira: Imperialism and its development is another angle
Wilhelm Palmira: this is really critical to understanding why and how things developed the way they did with the heritage of Marx and Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: As just a peak – you all remember what I was saying about the dual life of Engels?
Wilhelm Palmira: well it got significantly more complicated later
Wilhelm Palmira: because he lived until the 1890s
Smoke Wijaya: I think the industrial development would be a good focus for next week
Wilhelm Palmira: do we have agreement?
Fayne Querrien: yes
Hermes Szondi: where are we now? about 1840?
Wilhelm Palmira: yes about the 1840s
Wilhelm Palmira: Karl and Freddy have finally met
Wilhelm Palmira: really met
Wilhelm Palmira: and they are going to get their act together – but it takes three critical failures before they really get moving
Wilhelm Palmira: does this conform to your understanding before I started speaking,
or did you learn something new?
Fayne Querrien: My understanding of Marx starts with Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts
Fayne Querrien: almost all of this is new to me
Smoke Wijaya: Yes Wilhelm, it comes close. But I actually did not know about the Burns sisters, about the polygamy of Engels.
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – its important
Wilhelm Palmira: you must know something else about it
Hermes Szondi: ja es hat auch für mich biographisch neues, das ich nicht wusste
Hermes Szondi: indeed it is new biographical information, I did not know before.
Fayne Querrien: I’m curious to know how that polygamy might have affected his take on ownership of means of production
Wilhelm Palmira: this is the thing
Wilhelm Palmira: very important and I’m glad that you raised it Fayne
Wilhelm Palmira: Now Engels said to his revolutionary chums that he did not get married because he did not believe in marriage because marriage was about property relations only
Wilhelm Palmira: not about real love
Smoke Wijaya nods…
Wilhelm Palmira: so in that sense we have a statement that it had something to do with how he saw politics
Wilhelm Palmira: but that is not the whole storyWilhelm Palmira: and here we get into the “he said.. ” “she said…” category that we have all experienced when talking to friends in relationships
Wilhelm Palmira: according to the Burns sisters
it is different
Wilhelm Palmira: they recognized that Freddy was a dreamer, a lovely man, but one that could not be tied down to a home life, the regular running of family
Wilhelm Palmira: he was responsible, but they, or Mary said, “no” when Freddy got down on one knee and asked to marry
Wilhelm Palmira: but Mary said, you can buy me a house so I can live there with my sister?
Wilhelm Palmira: infinitely practical
Wilhelm Palmira: and it shows something very important about Freddy
Wilhelm Palmira: he was often wrong in his ideas, but he was willing to learn
Wilhelm Palmira: Any how – Marx said that Engels would retreat to his happy home with the sisters
Wilhelm Palmira: that was where Engels felt the happiest
Wilhelm Palmira: and as time developed it became even more domestic
Wilhelm Palmira: How am I doing? I have a little bit left if anyone is interested
Fayne Querrien: I’m interested, yes
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: yes please
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – this is jumping ahead a bit, but its important to bring it in now
Wilhelm Palmira: After Marx died in the 1890’s, the world- wide revolutionary Marxist movement
had made Engels and Marx virtually idols
Wilhelm Palmira: groups did not want to speak to Engels because it might upset their idealization of the philosophy
Wilhelm Palmira: this is opinion – but it has some basis
Wilhelm Palmira: except for groups of Russians
Wilhelm Palmira: The Russian revolutionaries had reached a critical stage in their development
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels knew most of the Romance languages from his early youth
and the Scandinavian languages, so he could read Spanish like a first language
Wilhelm Palmira: but Russian he learned later
Wilhelm Palmira: and realized that these Russian revolutionaries were quite serious
Wilhelm Palmira: very serious
Wilhelm Palmira: and encouraged Marx to learn Russian
Wilhelm Palmira: in the 1890s Engels had his home full of Russians
Wilhelm Palmira: in particularly Kautsky and his family
Wilhelm Palmira: so what does this mean?
Wilhelm Palmira: not sure – but what I can say is this – Engels would be the connecting influence in revolutionary struggle – but maybe not an understanding connection
Wilhelm Palmira: and he continued to be Mr. Social of the revolutionaries from the beginning to his death
Wilhelm Palmira: that is perhaps the great importance of Engels, he goes deep and he never stops making connections, learning and trying to understand.
January 17, 2010
Lecture 4: More background: What lead to the development of Dialectical Materialism
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay to begin I should lay the ground with three important things to remember
Wilhelm Palmira: first: history is subjective
Wilhelm Palmira: we pick and choose what we consider to be important
Wilhelm Palmira: since the stated purpose of this course is to look at dialectical history,
we are looking to see here the important events that lead to the development of dialectical understanding
Wilhelm Palmira: dialectical materialism,
or the development of dialectical materialist understanding that is Marxism
Wilhelm Palmira: second: that there is a lot we don’t know, lots of elements in dispute, and we may never know a lot of the events that are important in human history
Wilhelm Palmira: and third: this is really important: some of you here might know a heck of a lot more about some of this, so please feel free to jump in
Wilhelm Palmira: Any questions?
Fayne Querrien: nope
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay. When Marx and Engels met in Paris they were looking to understand history as a process; a backwards and forwards process leading from Hegel, the foremost philosopher of history at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: so they look to the development of historical science and archeology that are just beginning at this time
and they draw some conclusions
Wilhelm Palmira: in “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State” – written quite late – Engels details a lot of their understanding of history and a lot of this holds today
Wilhelm Palmira: the works of Marx, as we will see, deal a lot with the historical development of the material conditions
Wilhelm Palmira: now although their understanding was fragmentary – their work was seminal and can be used still as a guide to understanding history
Wilhelm Palmira: however there was a lot they did not know and could not have known at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: so a lot of things we talk about now, Marx and Engels could only have guessed at
Wilhelm Palmira: Anyway as Marxists let’s start with the very beginning of Farming
Wilhelm Palmira: does anyone know when it began?
Wilhelm Palmira: roughly 10,000 years ago
Wilhelm Palmira: now we have certain ideas in Marxism that we have to confront
Wilhelm Palmira: the first is primitive communism
Wilhelm Palmira: this is something posited by Marx, and it was speculated by other philosophers and thinkers at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: current study backs this up – societies that were nomadic and not farming existed in a state of primitive communism
Wilhelm Palmira: that i,s without contradicitons,
without hierarchy, although there was some differentiation in roles that could and did occur
Wilhelm Palmira: so farming began
Wilhelm Palmira: can any one tell me why?
Wilhelm Palmira: was it to make us healthier?
Wilhelm Palmira: No. nomadic peoples were much healthier, better diet, more control over their lives
Smoke Wijaya: (But let’s face it, nowadays, primitive ‘anything’ will ask for a conscious killing off of the majority of the human population.)
Wilhelm Palmira: ‘Primitive’ in the sense used by Marx was not primative in that sense
Fayne Querrien: I thought the advent of farming had to do with feeding more people while taking fewer resources?
Wilhelm Palmira: we are using a lot of the terminology that is very outdated but at the time these were the terms used for what we now call Neolithic societies
Fayne Querrien: as compared with foraging
Wilhelm Palmira: Not exactly no. It appears from archeological data that there was very little benefit to farming
Wilhelm Palmira: but it did allow people to stay in one spot for quite a while – which did have its benefits such as for having more children perhaps – its not quite clear from the evidence
Smoke Wijaya: the enclosure of lands into property relations with certain tribes…
Wilhelm Palmira: perhaps those may have been a part of it – but one thing is clear
Wilhelm Palmira: that sexism and hierarchy of class and ownership did not exist for the majority of the time we have been farming
Wilhelm Palmira: only in the last 5,000 years can we really start to distinguish sexism proper
Wilhelm Palmira: and the development of property relations
Wilhelm Palmira: its quite surprising that much what we consider as part of Civilization and the world we live in – such as class and imperialism are really brief epiphenomenon quite unrelated to the majority of human experience
Wilhelm Palmira: even the first civilizations such as the Egyptian and Chinese civilizations
were comparatively egalitarian
Smoke Wijaya: I did not mean any legal based “property” yet, but somehow an emergence/need by outside causes to enclose certain land…
Smoke Wijaya: to secure something.
Wilhelm Palmira: this comes a good deal later
Wilhelm Palmira: but the essential idea postulated by Marx in the Communist Manifesto
Wilhelm Palmira: that “primitive” communism existed appears to have been proved correct – but the evidence is still coming in
Fayne Querrien: and after a geological event like the Younger Dryas, you’d think it’d take humanity awhile to recover our ability to survive in varied climates — I couldn’t imagine much of a need beforehand for territorialism?
Wilhelm Palmira: This is a good point
Wilhelm Palmira: the geological evidence does show we have problems – lots of problems presented by nature in the development of stable agricultural socieites
Wilhelm Palmira: this leads to the development of societies in hillier environments like the Zagros mountains around Iran
Wilhelm Palmira: and in Southern China
Wilhelm Palmira: even though areas of first development occured in other areas
Wilhelm Palmira: and in the devleopment of farming we can also see developments that are important later as well
Wilhelm Palmira: and in particular to Marx and the Dialectic
Wilhelm Palmira: history is not a straight line.
it goes backwards and forwards and laterally in its developments
Wilhelm Palmira: so back to the theory postulated by Marx – there are essentially three aspects to his history of the development of farming to industrial development
Wilhelm Palmira: One is the essential nature of man living in communities in what we could call communism
Wilhelm Palmira: and then there is the development of property relations and eventually through a series of struggles we head back to something we might call again communism
Wilhelm Palmira: clear – but that misses a lot I’m sure – since we all probably have knowledge to marxist history to a certain degree – what is important to you?
Fayne Querrien: What changed about 5,000 years ago, socially? Was it our relationship to scarcity? Some weapons development?
Fayne Querrien: that is — what pushed the proto-communist societies to be more property and hierarchy driven?
Wilhelm Palmira: This is a good point – we don’t know for sure – but we have the development of property and ownership and patriarchy at the same time
Wilhelm Palmira: In some respects property relations are always a moving target historically
Smoke Wijaya: I wonder about what you just said about history Wilhelm. Doesn’t dialectical materialism more posit history as linear?
Wilhelm Palmira: Not exactly no. it posits that development itself is part of a process
Wilhelm Palmira: there are two ideas that develop in history about ancient societies
Wilhelm Palmira: one is the cyclical theory
Wilhelm Palmira: and the other is the eschatological – or this is all leading somewhere – linear approach
Wilhelm Palmira: and then there is cyclical progression, one that was articulated by the 18th century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico that history is both cyclical and linear
Wilhelm Palmira: so it is leading somewhere,
and it also goes in cycles
Wilhelm Palmira: and this forms the basis of enlightenment understanding of history
that Marx, Engels draw from Hegel
Wilhelm Palmira: so when they try to envision what history was to them in the 1840’s
until the rest of their lives
Smoke Wijaya: Right, but I don’t think that a teleological definiition of history allows for “going backwards”.. but maybe that is merely semantics..
Wilhelm Palmira: it is a process of development where a struggle for conceptual understanding develops between groups trying to reorder how the body politic is organized
Smoke Wijaya nods
Wilhelm Palmira: So when Marx looks at property – the definition of Proudon that property is theft, Marx argues that while it is correct – it does not go far enough
Wilhelm Palmira: he asks HOW is it theft? how is property created? what is property? is property not a manufactured concept, one that changes over time, that means one thing when we first started farming, and quite another in the eighteenth century?
Wilhelm Palmira: and how do we own?
Wilhelm Palmira: how do we exploit natur?e
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx looks back to the beginning of time and says that these concepts of property and our relations to what we produce changes
Wilhelm Palmira: that the process of production is understood through ideological understanding
Wilhelm Palmira: So let us look at two example:s
slavery in the ancient world and today
Wilhelm Palmira: the Roman empir,e like the Britis,h was essentially a kleptocracy
Wilhelm Palmira: you know, going around stealing stuff and taking slaves
Wilhelm Palmira: the British took about 18 million [slaves] over time
Fayne Querrien: *smiles* Like that term.
Wilhelm Palmira: with an average life expectancy ranging form 3 to 10 years [from capture]
Wilhelm Palmira: and lots of devastation everywhere
Wilhelm Palmira: so the British owned the slave,
but the ownership had very a small relation to the Roman variety
Wilhelm Palmira: why?
Wilhelm Palmira: because of the means of production: how we produce stuff and the politics of how we divide it up
Wilhelm Palmira: for one we have industrial machines operating in the Carribean that have humans as an integral part of the machinery,
and the slaves getting trapped in the machinery was a big problem
Wilhelm Palmira: and there was little chance of freeing the slaves like there was in Roman
Wilhelm Palmira: Manumission – freeing a slave – was something much easier in Rome, why?
Wilhelm Palmira: Racism
Wilhelm Palmira: Romans could be quite nasy in their concept of superiority but they recognized in their slaves far more of a human being than the British
Wilhelm Palmira: the machines themselves worked humans as part of a large industrial complex, big factories
Wilhelm Palmira: when Marx and Engels looked at their society at the time they had to basically start with the concept that there is not an ideal behind this that creates reality
Wilhelm Palmira: but the material condition itself establishes what is normal; how we relate to the world
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Fayne Querrien: none yet
ilhelm Palmira: So when the Marx starts to envision the state of the world in Hegelian terms he must begin with understanding the mechanism of change
Wilhelm Palmira: and this starts with the struggle for resources and the establishment of relationships of power in the division of labour and the distribution of production
Wilhelm Palmira: and this creates a position of normalization
Wilhelm Palmira: as Marx points out – in any era – historical understanding within the period is difficult
Wilhelm Palmira: as in Slave societies such as ancient Athens, the slave economy is unquestioned
Wilhelm Palmira: and it portrays in its view of the world that it has always been this way and always will be
Wilhelm Palmira: What we have with Marx is a question itself of what is normal and how can we envision a better society
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: sorry comrades I don’t appear to have got into much of the details.
Miles Macpherson: Not questions. No.
Wilhelm Palmira: perhaps you would like to add something?
Fayne Querrien: My curiosity here is how this relates to the later development of reification — but I’d imagine that’s the … territory (heh) of a later class
Miles Macpherson: Well, the issue of pre-class societies was something our organization studied intensely after the Lakotah Republic was formed in December 2007.
Wilhelm Palmira: what did you find in that study?
Miles Macpherson: I could present some remarks at some point.
Wilhelm Palmira: I would be interested to know
Miles Macpherson: (I didn’t want to interrupt.)
Wilhelm Palmira: The point I wanted to make regarding Marx at the time is that there are two elements that really make up the development of his theory
Wilhelm Palmira: one is that as European historians and archeologies look back
they discover that what is considered normal is in fact a manufactured understanding
Wilhelm Palmira: to justify how that society divides up the labour and distributes the production itself
Wilhelm Palmira: this is the basic discovery of archeology at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: as the very question of historical understanding comes under fire
and the beginning of anthropology is created
Wilhelm Palmira: in that it is not just important to know what they do, but also to understand what they think they do
Wilhelm Palmira: that forms their ideology
Wilhelm Palmira: this we find first with the basic questioning of the Bible
Wilhelm Palmira: and other aspects of common understanding that come under the scrutiny of scientific discovery
Wilhelm Palmira: the second aspect is the particular philosophical understanding of economics at the time
Wilhelm Palmira: so 1) that historical understanding itself is Ideological 2) there is a particular ideological argument insipient in current economic theories
Wilhelm Palmira: so its not history itself that is so important as the fact that we are part of a historical development as a society in how we understand the world
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: Any way that’s all i have for the day
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: i know Miles wants to tell about his study, so go for it Miles
Miles Macpherson: OK.
Miles Macpherson: I’d like to start by suggesting that Engels’ “Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State”, which is traditionally held up as the seminal work of historical materialism, is fatally flawed.
Miles Macpherson: The flaw was only discovered relatively recently, when historical researchers found what are being called Marx’s Ethnographical (or Ethnological) Notebooks.
Miles Macpherson: In those notebooks, Marx returned to the study of pre-capitalist, and pre-class, societies, based on literature that had been published since the 1840s on Native American societies in the Americas.
Miles Macpherson: In particular, Marx made an intense study of the Iroquois Confederacy and how they developed as a classless society — their rituals and rites, their political and economic structures, their social relations.
Miles Macpherson: From reading Marx’s Notebooks, which is what Engels distilled down into “Origins”, it seems that Marx was seeing not one singular “primitive communism”, but a “primitive communism” that also had a kind of “higher” stage that diverged away from the development of the rudimentary class divisions that led to the slaveholding society.
Miles Macpherson: For the Iroquois, and for other indigenous nations in the Americas, geographic dissipation and relatively low population density, combined with a migratory farming system (summer crops in higher latitudes and winter crops in lower latitudes) and more efficient hunting techniques, allowed for these societies to maintain an equilibrium, both with nature and with society.
Miles Macpherson: Agriculture underwent a form of planning in order to keep arable land from being depleted. Hunting was maintained at above-sustenance levels. Population growth was controlled through division of the community into autonomous entities.
Miles Macpherson: While Marx is not explicit about it, and Engels all but ignores it, it does appear that Marx’s Notebooks point to a “higher” form of “primitive communism” — indigenous communism.
Miles Macpherson: This discovery was important for Marx, because it related directly to previous discussions he had with Russian communists about the character of the pre-capitalist peasant commune.
Miles Macpherson: It appears, looking at the body of Marx’s work in his later years, that he was questioning much of his earlier, more rigid concepts of societal development, especially the relations between pre-capitalist societies and whether each step he had analyzed in years past was “necessary” or “inevitable”.
Miles Macpherson: (I had been typing this up. This is as far as I got, but it covers most of it.)
Wilhelm Palmira: This is not too out of step with other problems Marx faced his look at India and China suggested to him that these societies did not fit the development pattern he had first postulated
Miles Macpherson: Agreed. Marx wanted to go back and address the so-called “Asiatic mode of production”, but never had the opportunity.
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx lived in a very strange time – perhaps more strange than today
Wilhelm Palmira: I mean there was a period European racial hegemony
Wilhelm Palmira: that blinkered the approach of thinkers to an unheard of degree
Wilhelm Palmira: so there was a myopia on the part of thinkers
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx was busy trying to get beyond the ideological blinkers of his own era – a very difficult prospect at the time
Miles Macpherson: And you can see that, even in “Origins”. There is a Eurocentric feel to it, especially with its use of terms like “savagery” and “civilization”.
Miles Macpherson: I think that the overall lesson is that, when it comes to dialectical or historical materialism, the method is more important than specific quotes of a given period, since it offers us insight on how to approach today’s problems.
Wilhelm Palmira: I would agree
Fayne Querrien: *nods*
Wilhelm Palmira: within a fifty year period form 1800 China had gone from 25% of global production to less than 4%
Miles Macpherson: Yes, losing out to Britain, then the U.S.
Wilhelm Palmira: Most of Africa was under the imperial control of Europe and India was experiencing constant famine under British control
Wilhelm Palmira: and Africa in some places had superior steel production before the British invaded
Wilhelm Palmira: and Indian technology in textiles was superior to that of the Europeans
Wilhelm Palmira: all over the world before 1800 there was scientific development often superior to that of the Europeans
Wilhelm Palmira: but by the time Marx was writing – there was almost complete domination
Fayne Querrien: and India is still eperiencing famine through Monsanto’s influence
Fayne Querrien: (seed patents, etc)
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – very true – but it was the ideology that Marx was trying to see through – an ideology that had created an imperial hegemony claiming all other socieites as primitive
Wilhelm Palmira: when the reality was quite the opposite
Wilhelm Palmira: we still have this today
Wilhelm Palmira: can any one tell me who first invented calculous?
Wilhelm Palmira: Newton or Liebnitz perhaps? No the Japanese scholar, Sek Kowai
Wilhelm Palmira: it was very difficult for the ideological blinkers to be taken off
Miles Macpherson: What time period?
Wilhelm Palmira: 1500s I believe
Wilhelm Palmira: I can find out the details if you like
Fayne Querrien: 1700s, IIRC
Miles Macpherson: I thought the Caliphate mathematicians had a workable calculus three centuries before that.
Fayne Querrien: Depends on your definition of calculus — algebraic calculus, numeric analysis, and geometric algebra all took different (squiggly worm/ not straight line) paths through history
Fayne Querrien: what we call calculus nowadays definitely had some wide-sitting roots (across most of the known world at the time between the 1500s and 1700s)
Miles Macpherson: Well, it’s all … derivative. *smiles*
Fayne Querrien: lol!
Wilhelm Palmira: there was a free flow of informaiton in science before the development of modern capitalism and patents
Fayne Querrien: Man. apologies, but I have to head out for the morning
Fayne Querrien: just as this is getting to something I actually have a background in.
Wilhelm Palmira: ideas passed rapidly and so simultaneous development was often simultaneous
Wilhelm Palmira: bye guys I have to head out too
January 24, 2010
Lecture 5: The Writing of the Communist Manifesto
Wilhelm Palmira: first of all any questions or comments on what is probably the most important document in human history so far?
Alys Abruzzo: it gets more and more relevant today
Wilhelm Palmira: I think so too – at the time it turned out to be quite out of step
Wilhelm Palmira: It all began with French radicals having big banquets, big feasts
Wilhelm Palmira: Karl and Freddy and Jenny were all hanging out in Paris having a pretty good time coming up with philosophical materials
such as the German Ideology
Wilhelm Palmira: and things were going well until the French Monarchy started to crack down on radicals, Marx being one
Wilhelm Palmira: The French Monarchy was tied to a form of representative government
but only 1 percent of the country could vote:
the very rich
Wilhelm Palmira: and 99 percent of France was rather upset by this so they had demonstrations
Wilhelm Palmira: and the Monarchy said No,
and banned demonstrations
Wilhelm Palmira: so a great tradition started
of having a big outdoor feast
Stefanos Martynov: this kind of vote was called “censured vote”
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes, exactly and it divided the bourgeoisie between those who had the vote
and those that did not – the Petit-Bourgeois
Stefanos Martynov: Only nobles and very rich bourgeois had the right for that
Wilhelm Palmira: in the 19th century – its the Petit-Bourgeios that are the major revolutionary force, along with the peasants of course
Wilhelm Palmira: they were the artisans, guild workers, trades people
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: the Middle class yes?
Wilhelm Palmira: yes they had rights and benefits others did not enjoy
Wilhelm Palmira: these were created in old medieval period
Wilhelm Palmira: the Petit-Bourgeois had education and had some “means of production” – shops and the tools of their trades
Wilhelm Palmira: and they saw their rights being lost and they were becoming completely without anything but their labour to sell,
they were becoming Proletariat [from L. proletarius “citizen of the lowest class,” in ancient Rome, propertyless people, exempted from taxes and military service, who served the state only by having children]
Wilhelm Palmira: It is a term the Petit-Bourgeois used at the time to mean ‘completely without anything’ – this is what they feared
Wilhelm Palmira: the big industrial factories were rising and the big monied capitalists were destroying their power
Wilhelm Palmira: so Karl, Freddy and Jenny were in Paris in the early 1840’s
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions so far?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: the Petit-Bourgeois used the term Proletariat?
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – it was their term [Fr. prolétariat] – at first ill-defined – it was the big devil they feared, they did not want to become Proletariat
Wilhelm Palmira: it was a term used throughout Europe at this time
Wilhelm Palmira: they wanted to preserve their rights principally they wanted a say in the government. So they and other discontented people demonstrated
Wilhelm Palmira: the demonstrations were supressed, so they had outdoor feasts
which were little more than demonstrations covered up as a party
Wilhelm Palmira: the agitations got worse
and the government banned the feasts
and kicked out all foreign radicals out of Paris
Wilhelm Palmira: this included the Marxs and Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: they ended up in Belgium
where they ran into the League of the Just,
German exiles who were led by a fellow by the name of Wietling, a messianic semi-religious Petit-Bourgeois mystical anachist revolutionary
Wilhelm Palmira: to cut a long story short
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: an idealist materialist?
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – he came from a very old tradition, the old anabaptist tradition that saw a new world being created from a Christian brotherhood, it was the old ideology of the guild workers
Wilhelm Palmira: it was very strange, he wanted to reconstitute the world based on this mystical brotherhood, but it wasn’t very defined
Wilhelm Palmira: Anyway in a meeting in Brussels Marx made mince meat out of him
and the group saw how Weitling did not know anything, and couldn’t reason at all, so the group decided to elect Marx as the leader
and Weitling went off and emigrated to the USA
Wilhelm Palmira: and the group renamed itself – the Communist League
Wilhelm Palmira: but it did not have an idea of what exactly it was and the members of the group were spread out in Germany and in other centres of exile particularly London and Brussels
Wilhelm Palmira: So Marx as the head decided to go off and visit the exiles where they wer,e
and where they were was principally in a pub in London’s Soho district, The Red Lion Pub
Wilhelm Palmira: this is were Marx developed the Communist Manifesto
Wilhelm Palmira: it was supposed to bring to the group a sense of ideals and purpose it lacked under Wietling
Wilhelm Palmira: Wietling was brave and inspiring but did not know exactly how to go forward, what to do if you did get power
Wilhelm Palmira: So in the winter of 1847 there was a lot of debate and beer in the Red Lion Pub
Wilhelm Palmira: Any questions or comments so far?
Alys Abruzzo: this is interesting background to what I already knew
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: how did the concept of communism actually occur to Marx and Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: This is interesting
Wilhelm Palmira: no – the concept of Communism – the means of production being held in common – was already around – but not well-defined
Wilhelm Palmira: and it where it was defined it was in terms of religion – with no relationship to the actual industry and economy of the day
Wilhelm Palmira: most of the radicals in exile – were not university professors like Marx or Industrialist Directors like Engels
Wilhelm Palmira: the radicals were mostly people who had spent their lives up to that point working 16 hour days until in a revolt here or there they ended up as leaders of revolutionary movements
Wilhelm Palmira: there are no schools for revolutionarie,s unfortunately
Wilhelm Palmira: So Marx and Engels tried to turn the Communist League from a collection of ill-defined radicals with ill-defined radical ideas into something workable
Wilhelm Palmira: Any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – so what is so special about the birth place of the Communist Manifesto – the Red Lion Pub?
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: well…its Red
Wilhelm Palmira: Good point
Wilhelm Palmira: and it was the centre for radical exiles from 50 different countries more or less at one point or another
Wilhelm Palmira: lots and lots of different radicals went there, and so Marx had almost an internationalist conference of radicals to comment on the drafts every night including Turks, Americans, Spanish, Russians… well everyone just about
Wilhelm Palmira: And of course he had some family difficulties there as well
Wilhelm Palmira: The head of the Prussian Secret Service had his eye on Marx as a particular case that must be supressed
Wilhelm Palmira: now you may think to yourself – why?
Wilhelm Palmira: after all Marx had done fairly little at this point to deserve the particular attention of the most powerful German states Secret Police
Wilhelm Palmira: Well his wife [Jenny VonWestphalen] was the Baroness of Westfalia before she married him
Wilhelm Palmira: Jenny’s brother, the Baron of Westphalia, was the head of the Secret Police of Prussia, and his police agents were following Marx everywhere
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Alys Abruzzo: back to your point of Marx not doing anything before
Lisabeth Nikolaidis: did Jenny give up her title when she married him?
Alys Abruzzo: wasn’t he involved with an uprising in Germany as editor of a newspaper?
Wilhelm Palmira: Now – Marx and Jenny may have ad their arguments but she was just as revolutionary as he
Wilhelm Palmira: Yes – Marx had been a radical news editor and was to become again during the 1848 uprisings
Wilhelm Palmira: He was quite radical and had got some attention – but he did not have command of revolutionaries at this point,
at this point he’s just talking
Wilhelm Palmira: The head of the Secret Police of Prussia, Jenny’s older brother, sends letters to the British Prime Minister saying that Marx is going to kill the Queen of England
Wilhelm Palmira: The British PM figures that anyone who upsets the Prussians can’t be all bad and says he won’t arrest him
Wilhelm Palmira: after all – Marx is just talking – and the PM says I can’t arrest him for just talking
Wilhelm Palmira: any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – so Marx gets lots of advice on the Manifesto from the comrades in the Red Lion pub, but the very first draft is not Marx’s at all
Wilhelm Palmira: Marx had originally used a work by Engels as the template for the Manifesto
but Marx so dramatically changed it from the Engels original that Engels claimed he had no part in writing the Manifesto
Wilhelm Palmira: Engels claimed he had been put on as an author out of courtesy from Marx
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – so the Manifesto gets published in German in February, 1848
Wilhelm Palmira: and its first reading is in the pub, where a Scottish Feminist did the first English translation which was published two years later
Alys Abruzzo: any idea how many in that meeting?
Wilhelm Palmira:varying numbers. people came and went because it was all very informal
Wilhelm Palmira: but there was little more than about 20 or so Communist league members there at the time – not quite sure on that though
Alys Abruzzo: were they all German exiles then if the manifesto was in German?
Wilhelm Palmira: well Germany at the time also included Venice and areas now considered Poland and so the map of who was from where is difficult
Wilhelm Palmira: so nationality was not really defined either but most of the radicals in the pub spoke German whether they were Turks, Americans or Italians or Russians
Wilhelm Palmira: So even though the Communist League was addressed to a German-speaking group, you can see in it that it really goes beyond that and speaks to an International — the International of the Red Lion Pub
Wilhelm Palmira: Any questions or comments?
Alys Abruzzo: fascinating so far
Wilhelm Palmira: It really is the forces of repression and reaction that forces the revoltionaries into an International
Wilhelm Palmira: you drive people from country to country and eventually they end up in Britain, a country that likes to cause trouble for the governments on the Continent
Wilhelm Palmira: so Britain lets the Continental radicals stay while supressing its own radicals – especially the Irish, and the Red Lion pub starts to take on the appearence of a Radical International conference where everyone brings their ideas and their knowledge
Alys Abruzzo: benevolent British imperialism
Wilhelm Palmira: they thought local – but decided to act in a global capacity
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – in Britian at the time benevolent British Imperialism was committing genocide in Ireland
Alys Abruzzo: and facing down Chartism
Wilhelm Palmira: The famine in Ireland had begun in 1845, and the Chartarist democracy demonstrations had begun in earnest
Wilhelm Palmira: all over the country a petition for votes was developing into a movement that included millions
Wilhelm Palmira: eventually these would lead to a massive demonstration in 1848
Wilhelm Palmira: but the environment at the time for workers went in two directions: One was democratic right to vote (this was all over Europe) and the other was workers rights, benefits and the ability to survive in the face of economic crisis
Wilhelm Palmira: so workers were facing unemployment and had no benefits to survive.
big industry was undercutting the small business men the Petit-Bourgeois
Wilhelm Palmira: Any questions so far – I’m about to jump into the 1848 revolutions?
Wilhelm Palmira: Okay – so back to France
Wilhelm Palmira: the Government cracks down on the street parties, and the government is overthrown in a popular uprising, and when this happens, all over Europe – as soon as the trains come in with the news – revolution breaks out
Wilhelm Palmira: the news that the red flag was flying above the National Convention in France
Alys Abruzzo: nice concept the revolutionary train
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – the means of transportation – new at the time – of trains created a situation in which revolution occured in many places all at once — except in Russia — because they lacked trains and just couldn’t communicate with each other, and the Czar at the time was particularly repressive
Wilhelm Palmira: and so there was lots of people on the streets demanding popular government
Wilhelm Palmira: the party at the Red Lion Pub breaks up and Marx and Engels heads to Germany – to Cologne, and open up his radical paper, and with the Manifesto in hand he enters into the political debates of the German Parliament that has just been formed
Wilhelm Palmira: Any questions?
Wilhelm Palmira: So all over Europe popular assemblies start up with the purpose of creating constitutions for popular government
Wilhelm Palmira: and the debates start, and continue, and exhaust themselves with complete indecision
Wilhelm Palmira: all of the assemblies amount to nothing except for the Swiss, who created a workable constituion they keep modifying as a national sport to the present day
Wilhelm Palmira: of course there was also fighting, as the forces of repression against popular government send in the troops
Wilhelm Palmira: the Southern German Confederacy was where we find Engels as an officer in the revoluionary forces
Wilhelm Palmira: The Prussian abosolute Monarch sends in 60,000 troops to kill the radicals
Wilhelm Palmira: and the Russian Czar threatens with lots threats and breaks up the German Parliament by making the Saxon contingent back out
Wilhelm Palmira: so they are all crushed and the forces of repression come back in – in France Napolean the Third comes to power
Wilhelm Palmira: and the revolutionaries all go into exile – known in history as The 48ers, many of whom resurface later – some in as fighters in the Union Army of the American Civil war
Wilhelm Palmira: And Marx is left to ponder what went wrong
Alys Abruzzo: wasn’t this seen as the failure of the German bourgeois revolution?
Wilhelm Palmira: the reasons are many, but to Marx he saw it as almost his own failure, and he drew some lessons from it
Wilhelm Palmira: Any thoughts on what he might have considered his failures?
Alys Abruzzo: his paper not been clear enough to call for revolution?
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – exactly
Wilhelm Palmira: it seems clear now but at the time Marx was sucked into the political games of the assembly
Wilhelm Palmira: there were four groups that emerged from the revolutions of ’48
Alys Abruzzo: but weren’t the German bourgeois terrified by the masses?
Wilhelm Palmira: yes – and this is one of the great contradictions of ’48
Wilhelm Palmira: the popular assemblies contained 4 elements
Wilhelm Palmira: Nationalists, Socialists (mostly utopian), Conservatives and liberals
Wilhelm Palmira: everyone sat around debating
and there was no satisfying the utopians
Wilhelm Palmira: they wanted heaven on earth and had little knowledge about how to run an economy
Wilhelm Palmira: they wanted a return to the old guild system
Wilhelm Palmira: but to do that was impossible because industry did not work that way any more, so they could not be satisfied
Wilhelm Palmira: and as Alys pointed out the Bourgeois were scared silly, even though the assembly offered them the power they wanted they were afraid of the masses, and so sided with the conservatives and the monarchies of Europe
Wilhelm Palmira: So Marx decided that he must educate the Left with a clear understanding of political economy, and force revolutionary unity of the Proletariat as the main objective of the Communist League, which he had disbanded in 1848 because he wanted to negotiate with the other groups
Wilhelm Palmira: when he arrived back at the Red Lion Pub in 1849 he was convinced that there must be a clear direction and foundation of the movement based upon the needs and aims of the Proletariat
Wilhelm Palmira: that class which had nothing but their labour to sell, no control over the means of production
Wilhelm Palmira: which meant sections of societies like within England, or entire societies
such as India which Marx said the British had made entirely Proletariat
Wilhelm Palmira: those who had a little were too scared of losing what they had, and those who had nothing did not know what to do with their power – when they had it in their hands
Wilhelm Palmira: so Marx went back to London to create a work on Political Economy that would help the movement understand political economy and from that be able to run a government of the workers
Wilhelm Palmira: this is the beginning of ‘Kapital’
Wilhelm Palmira: and that’s all i have for the day