Self-proclaimed “Tech Blogger. Lifestyle Guru” Sam Kriss has taken it upon himself to “dialectically critique”(1) the theory within my last post, which asserts that the renewed insurgency in Iraq is but a continuation of the NATO/GCC-sponsored insurgency in neighboring Syria; an element of the wider imperialist war on the classes that form the Resistance axis. (2)
Analogies of childhood paranoia within a polemic against alleged “conspiracist thinking” seems an odd juxtaposition, nevertheless, it may have inadvertently provided us with a source of Kriss’ distinct adult aversion to concrete analysis and determinations that tend to upset his metaphysical sophistry. Kriss throws his accusations of faulty theory like toys from a pram, but any concrete evidence to convincingly refute alleged fault is somewhat lacking. We will address the claims regardless, in concrete historical detail.
Firstly, we must ask why Sam Kriss chose to scrawl two paragraphs on my admittedly blunt refusal to engage a comment from a Libertarian under my last post – rather than say, concentrate on the concrete facts held within the assertions he claims are “shoddy and speculative”. But perhaps Kriss is in fact using the Libertarian as sock puppet because his “Marxist” analysis practically mirrors that of the apologist for American imperialism, with his confused reductionist ramblings. This becomes further perplexing when you consider Kriss’ befuddled attempt to define Marx’s dialectical method in one sentence; something Marx never actually got around to doing himself, but more on that later. We must be ready to meet such obfuscation with the instant dismissal it deserves, and further disregard all the petty bourgeois frat-boy snark posing as intellectual scholarship – as there is much more of the same quality of “critique” for us to work through. For “as long as we do not understand [details], we do not have a clear idea of the whole picture.”. (3)
Let us proceed to correct (make sense of?) Kriss’ distortions of Marx’s third term in relation to the dialectic, the transient aspect, and specifically its relation to the dialectical method of understanding things; the negation of the negation, the unity of opposites, the concrete determinations between the “unity, identity, struggle and transformation of opposites”. Contrary to the concrete objective analysis required even to begin employing the dialectical method, Kriss has deformed and attempted to replace this most essential characteristic into a subjective landscape of confusion. As Lenin rightly said with regard to the essence of dialectics:
“The splitting of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory parts is the essence (one of the “essentials”, one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of dialectics. That is precisely how Hegel, too, puts the matter.”
Put simply, to understand the totality of any thing we must first begin the process with the precondition of the real, but “chaotic” whole, then break this abstract whole into classes and their elements, their interconnections and their contradictions, “from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until [we] arrive at the simplest determinations.(4)” – a process achieved on my part with regard to imperialism in Iraq while being wholly ignored on Kriss & Co’s. And then through making analytical determinations via dialectic (the unity of opposites, determining the principal aspect in each contradiction), we will eventually arrive back at the thing — but never as the “Absolute” totality of the preconceived whole, but as a “rich totality of many determinations and relations” containing their own Absolute truths that contain further relative truths within them. In his Notes on Dialectics Lenin wrote:
“The distinction between subjectivism (scepticism, sophistry, etc.) and dialectics, incidentally, is that in (objective) dialectics the difference between the relative and the absolute is itself relative. For objective dialectics there is an absolute even within the relative. For subjectivism and sophistry the relative is only relative and excludes the absolute.” (5)
That last part is crucial to understanding Kriss’ sophism; for those applying subjectivism, the relative is only relative and excludes the absolute, they negate each other and this is the only way to arrive at permanent, metaphysical, Absolute truth. Kriss achieves this perversion of dialectic under sleight of hand – or blind luck and stupidity – by defining faulty interpretations of what Marx determined “essential” within the dialectic. For Marxism, the determination of the concrete, followed by the “retracing of the journey” does not produce Absolute concepts of the preconceived chaotic whole, but delivers a continuous “rich totality of many determinations and relations.”
“It seems to be correct to begin with the real and the concrete, with the real precondition, thus to begin, in economics, with e.g. the population, which is the foundation and the subject of the entire social act of production. However, on closer examination this proves false. The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for example, the classes of which it is composed. These classes in turn are an empty phrase if I am not familiar with the elements on which they rest. E.g. wage labour, capital, etc. These latter in turn presuppose exchange, division of labour, prices, etc. For example, capital is nothing without wage labour, without value, money, price etc. Thus, if I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception [Vorstellung] of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts [Begriff], from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had finally arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations.” (6)
Meaning that, contrary to Kriss’ reactionary Weltanschauung, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao have all shown us through conscious scientific practice(7) – ie: dialectical materialism(8) – that although there are Absolute truths to be found, they are not static abstract eternal truths, but constantly changing and evolving within themselves relative to history, motion; the transient aspect of all things. But according to Kriss the transient aspect is in fact Marx’s third term between exchange. This rank sophistry is an attempt to pluck words out of context and use them to distort dialectics to his own subjectivist fancy. Marx’s third term is the sublation/negation of qualitative difference, but not, however, a “pure” quantity in which identity/unity obliterates that difference; it does not “bring opposition into motion”, nor does it permanently solve contradiction into abstract metaphysical unity. In Kriss’ muddled equation, the third term – the distinct property within each aspect of a contradiction that is common to them both, but not indifferent, and not exclusive to the transient aspect – has become “essential” and “revolutionary” to the dialectic. It is no longer the dialectic itself that is revolutionary to the subjectivist, but a static, metaphysical aspect within it. Contrary to this twaddle, and as Marx’s quote confirms, the transient aspect of the dialectic must only be grasped “as well” as its other aspects and not above or superseding them. The dialectic “does not let itself be impressed by anything” – and that includes its transient aspect and the sublation of qualitative difference. It is in fact Kriss who has fallen foul of Marx’s warning and become “impressed by things”; impressed by his static metaphysical permanent concept of resolvable contradiction through a grotesque interpretation of Marx’s third term. As Engels clearly states:
Truth lay now in the process of cognition itself, in the long historical development of science, which mounts from lower to ever higher levels of knowledge without ever reaching, by discovering so-called absolute truth, a point at which it can proceed no further, where it would have nothing more to do than to fold its hands and gaze with wonder at the absolute truth to which it had attained. (9)
If a concept is not to be closed and static, it must contain inner conflict, moreover, the limitations to objective, absolute knowledge are historically conditional, and only historically conditional. As Lenin reiterates:
From the standpoint of modern materialism i.e., Marxism, the limits of approximation of our knowledge to objective, absolute truth are historically conditional, but the existence of such truth is unconditional, and the fact that we are approaching nearer to it is also unconditional. The contours of the picture are historically conditional, but the fact that this picture depicts an objectively existing model is unconditional. When and under what circumstances we reached, in our knowledge of the essential nature of things, the discovery of alizarin in coal-tar or the discovery of electrons in the atom is historically conditional; but that every such discovery is an advance of “absolutely objective knowledge” is unconditional. In a word, every ideology is historically conditional, but it is unconditionally true that to every scientific ideology (as distinct, for instance, from religious ideology), there corresponds an objective truth, absolute nature. (10)
Kriss’ denies this principle with subjectively interpreted dogmas that serve as justification for the revision of Marxist practice: voluntarism. Metaphysical concepts such as the “US-backed Iraqi government” – as if this balance of relations is set in permanency and can never change; or those such as the bourgeois, outright reactionary concept of a “Sunni insurgency” – as if the fundamental principles of materialism itself – the relations of production and the relations of exchange – have suddenly been subordinated to sectarianism, religious thought, ie: pure idealism! Kriss has become so “impressed” by his deformed idea of the transient aspect within a contradiction that it has become a static obstruction to dialectic, a permanent, isolated, thing-of-itself.
The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse. It appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of concentration, as a result, not as a point of departure, even though it is the point of departure in reality and hence also the point of departure for observation [Anschauung] and conception. Along the first path the full conception was evaporated to yield an abstract determination; along the second, the abstract determinations lead towards a reproduction of the concrete by way of thought. In this way Hegel fell into the illusion of conceiving the real as the product of thought concentrating itself, probing its own depths, and unfolding itself out of itself, by itself, whereas the method of rising from the abstract to the concrete is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as the concrete in the mind. But this is by no means the process by which the concrete itself comes into being. For example, the simplest economic category, say e.g. exchange value, presupposes population, moreover a population producing in specific relations; as well as a certain kind of family, or commune, or state, etc. It can never exist other than as an abstract, one-sided relation within an already given, concrete, living whole. As a category, by contrast, exchange value leads an antediluvian existence. Therefore, to the kind of consciousness—and this is characteristic of the philosophical consciousness—for which conceptual thinking is the real human being, and for which the conceptual world as such is thus the only reality, the movement of the categories appears as the real act of production—which only, unfortunately, receives a jolt from the outside—whose product is the world; and—but this is again a tautology—this is correct in so far as the concrete totality is a totality of thoughts, concrete in thought, in fact a product of thinking and comprehending; but not in any way a product of the concept which thinks and generates itself outside or above observation and conception; a product, rather, of the working-up of observation and conception into concepts. The totality as it appears in the head, as a totality of thoughts, is a product of a thinking head, which appropriates the world in the only way it can, a way different from the artistic, religious, practical and mental appropriation of this world. The real subject retains its autonomous existence outside the head just as before; namely as long as the head’s conduct is merely speculative, merely theoretical. Hence, in the theoretical method, too, the subject, society, must always be kept in mind as the presupposition. (11)
For example, from the whole “chaotic” preconception, in this case US imperialism, a plethora of historical evidence is analysed, understood and determined, in turn a concrete concept is formed; not as an abstract totality of the preconceived whole, but as a “rich totality of many determinations and relations”. From this the quantitive assertion that US imperialism is directly linked to the ISIS insurgency is posited. If Kriss is to then claim this historically concrete assertion is “refuted” by an evidence-free claim that “the Saudi’s are not openly funding ISIS” – a refutation so hollow it is forced into near complete retraction – then what we are witnessing is not dialectical critique, but subjectivism, scepticism and sophism.
Now let us address the details of this sophism, the specific refutations of supposedly “shoddy and speculative ontological signifiers”.
Kriss’ vast exposition of “reports coming out of the area” is indicative of nothing but an uninformed Orientalist relaying western media’s tales of “other” savages and barbarians. He quickly informs us of the static, wholly abstract balance of forces within his sectarian Iraq contradiction: it is a “Sunni insurgency” opposed to the “US-backed Iraq government” we are informed, and this alignment of forces, this assertion without evidence, is all we are provided with to refute the much richer, deeper concept provided. To suggest the ISIS-led insurgency is in fact a “Sunni insurgency” is to employ all the wrongheaded analysis thoroughly exposed as ideological propaganda in the original piece, but Kriss ignores it; evidently, he has neither read the notes nor has any understanding of Iraqi society. (12)
The opposing force to Kriss’ apolitical “Sunni insurgency” is apparently the “US-backed Iraq government”. But what is the reality of the Iraq governments current relations with US imperialism and why are we only given another static, ahistorical, abstract definition of this relationship? Is it non-changing, permanent? Or is it changing before our very eyes? Are we not already seeing that held within the original Iraq theory? ie: US leaders placing the blame for the insurgency on the Iraq government and pressuring the administration to step down, to form “unity governments” that are amenable to US “national security” and oil-producing interests; is the Kurdish regional government signing long-term oil deals with NATO-member Turkey?
Kriss throws the accusation of “depoliticizing tragedy” while employing bourgeois sectarian motifs to mask political processes, therefore metaphysically aligning the current, yet ever-changing balance of power within the Iraq antagonism in the complete opposite to reality to form his false concept. To then suggest anti-imperialists “have abandoned reality-based analysis” while positing muddle-headed theory is indicative of the cognitive dissonance required to uphold such base scepticism.
The main objection within all this waffle disguised as intellect seems to be that years of analysis and determination, concrete historical evidence in various forms of media, is mere “speculation” and the concept that the ISIS insurgency in Iraq is a continuation of the imperialist war on Syria is fundamentally flawed. But Kriss fails to offer any specific evidence, or any concrete refutation against the masses of objective historical evidence provided within the text or in the notes. Rather, Kriss attempts to cherry-pick quotes and build fallacy through false attribution. He breathlessly asks: “Is the capitalist class actually decaying”; is the “simple presence” of capitalist decay a sufficient condition for something – ie: the imperialist class – to be characterized as fascist; is fascism a sufficient condition for culpability in this precise situation; and the final question for the bewildered Kriss: how does destabilizing Iraq stave off capitalist decay? Of course Kriss doesn’t see destabilization as a means of dominating, as he is ignorant of history and the principal characteristics of class war.
As it is clear Kriss is unable to see the wood for the trees, we must explain the answers to his muddled questions clearly. Is the capitalist class actually decaying? Kriss asks. Why any “Marxist” needs to ask this historically answered question is quite difficult to ascertain. Of course the capitalist class is decaying through the inherent contradictions within the capitalist system. And just as importantly, this decay does not negate progress, periods of economic “boom”, nor does it predicate the downfall of the class as a whole; as the class objectively, consciously fights for its survival in the class war by all available means. Primarily, and particularly during times of crises, those means are extreme violence and demagogy; the quintessence of fascism.
Within this period [the period of imperialism that is still upon us – PG] fascism represents the desperate attempt of the doomed capitalist class to maintain its power and overcome the contradictions by extreme violent means, and thus to maintain the existing social forms at the expense of the development of the forces of production, in particular: (1) to throttle the class struggle by suppression of all working class organizations; (2) to overcome the economic contradictions by active state intervention, so-called “planning”, subsidies, restrictions of production and trade, etc.; (3) to overcome the inner contradictions of the bourgeoisie by the unification of a single governmental party replacing the older political parties and divisions; (4) to overcome the international contradictions by intensified organization for war and world conquest.(13)
Do these particularities apply to the current American ruling class in the current era of imperialism? I am of the opinion that they do, and that they have done since the end of the second world war at the very least. To deny such objective historical reality, rich in content , is to deny historical materialism. To deny the current relations between the opposing forces within the class war – in its international totality – is to deny dialectical materialism. Therefore, we can safely assert that the current American imperialist class is fascist in form by its objective social condition, by its very being within the imperial system of production and exchange.
With regard to imperial fascism “being a sufficient condition for culpability in this precise situation”, no such absurdity is claimed with regard to the specific particularities or wider concept of the Iraq equation, so, Kriss will have to answer that piece of scepticism disguised as critique in his own special way.
How does destabilizing Iraq – ie: destroying, dividing, dominating, the subsequent supplanting of free competition: the fundamental feature of monopoly capital, the quintessence of imperialism – stave-off imperial decay? Kriss asks. This is akin to asking the question: how does capitalist appropriation afford profit for the capitalist; the question should not need asking.
Moving on, Kriss feebly attempts to refute the balance of forces, and the principal aspect in Iraq, by asserting that Egypt, who have played no political role in Iraq for quite some time as a result of their internal and external contradictions, their ongoing antagonism within the imperial system, and are therefore less of a connection to the Iraq equation than the principal classes and principal aspects within the specific contradiction; along with Qatar – who are incidentally included in the Gulf Cooperation Council under the NATO/GCC axis – form “inconvenient facts” (static abstract “facts”, by any chance?) as they “bring too much reality into [my] symmetrical abstraction of a concrete analysis”. The Qatar fallacy is immediately removed by the fact it is a subordinate class actor in the totality of the international perspective under the GCC. Regardless of its own contradiction; these internal and external contradictions do not, by any means, negate the external, nor do they negate or supersede the principal aspect within the Iraq contradiction Kriss has arbitrarily applied them to. One can only assume these two states have been given as refutation of imperialism due to geographical (or perhaps ethnographical?) determination alone.
Instead of addressing these many contradictions, analysing them concretely, demarcating and balancing the power of forces, and then retracing them to a specific and richer concept, Kriss the mechanist floats them in completely arbitrary fashion as cause to invalidate the correct balance of power between the principal aspects of the Iraq contradiction. It is nothing but scepticism, subjectivism and sophistry.
It seems Kriss is also under the impression that prior relations between classes – in this case the US imperial class and the Iraqi ruling class – equate to a permanent static unity/identity that cannot change, or transform into its complete opposite. Indeed, this absurdity is compounded by the assumption that US imperial adventures (so light-hearted the fantasy of “imperial adventure” is the murder of millions to the coddled petty bourgeois!) may well depend on being able to point to Iraq’s post-withdrawal “stability”. It is to expose that to Kriss US imperial “adventures” are predicated on the perception, or historical record, that they have achieved “good results”. By this we must assume he means social progress for the indigenous population that imperialism is having its “adventures” upon, or at least an end to the temporary crises that supposedly forces the imperial class to “intervene” in external contradictions. But alas, there is not a shred of historical evidence to prove this warped conception is the case, in fact every piece of historical evidence and dialectic on the subject shows the precise opposite has, and still occurs. US imperialism certainly holds the false perception of benevolence, but it takes a devout partisan to determine this perception is in fact related to the reality of imperial predation within the contradiction that is the class war. We are surely not at the stage where we need to physically show the historical record of US imperial destruction to a supposed “Marxist”. But if Kriss and his subjectivist cohorts are indeed oblivious, then examples of “political reaction all along the line” concerning the last seventy years of US imperialism can be provided, at request.
“The precise economic processes behind this manoeuvre aren’t clear, even if the profitability of the arms trade is taken into account,” claims Kriss. The fact the arms trade is but one element of finance capital, ie: imperialism itself, and that militarism forms the “vital expression” of capitalism, and is therefore interconnected with all other forms of imperial profitability, is to Kriss totally irrelevant and can be brushed aside – yet another static abstraction separated from the whole. In a state of utter petty bourgeois delirium, and without a shred of self-awareness, Kriss asks aloud: “Maybe imperial economies are literally sustained by the suffering of the third world”. Maybe Kriss has just inadvertently answered his own question and nullified his entire “critique” with this somewhat crass realisation, or maybe he actually believes that the suffering of the lesser aspect within a contradiction – within the class war – is not the exact requirement for the progress of its opposite. For there to be acquisition, profit and progress within a contradiction, there must also be loss, decline, and decay. Translated to the concrete, as to the “really existing” within the dialectic, Marx explains as thus:
Suppose a being which is neither an object itself, nor has an object. Such a being, in the first place, would be the unique being: there would exist no being outside it – it would exist solitary and alone. For as soon as there are objects outside me, as soon as I am not alone, I am another – another reality than the object outside me. For this third object I am thus a different reality than itself; that is, I am its object. Thus, to suppose a being which is not the object of another being is to presuppose that no objective being exists. As soon as I have an object, this object has me for an object. But a non-objective being is an unreal, non-sensuous thing – a product of mere thought (i.e., of mere imagination) – an abstraction. To be sensuous, that is, to be really existing, means to be an object of sense, to be a sensuous object, to have sensuous objects outside oneself – objects of one’s sensuousness. To be sensuous is to suffer.
Man as an objective, sensuous being is therefore a suffering being – and because he feels that he suffers, a passionate being. Passion is the essential power of man energetically bent on its object.
<But man is not merely a natural being: he is a human natural being. That is to say, he is a being for himself. Therefore he is a species-being, and has to confirm and manifest himself as such both in his being and in his knowing. Therefore, human objects are not natural objects as they immediately present themselves, and neither is human sense as it immediately is – as it is objectively – human sensibility, human objectivity. Neither nature objectively nor nature subjectively is directly given in a form adequate to the human being.> And as everything natural has to come into being,man too has his act of origin – history – which, however, is for him a known history, and hence as an act of origin it is a conscious self-transcending act of origin. History is the true natural history of man (on which more later).
Thirdly, because this positing of thinghood is itself only an illusion, an act contradicting the nature of pure activity, it has to be cancelled again and thinghood denied.(14)
Evidently, no space remains for metaphysical conceptions, permanent identities, the static abstractions of Kriss and the subjectivists; the “US-backed Iraqi government” cannot stand alone in conceptual isolation, it can change, even to its complete opposite. And it will, it is already in the process.
“As it happens” Kriss tends to agree that sectarian conflict is “often” encoded with class-political content – not always, only “often”; implying the root causes of all contradiction and antagonism are not in fact of the economic and can therefore be identified as principally sectarian; ideological. So in a fuzzy, woolly kind of way, Kriss agrees with the fundamental principle of materialism, but he leaves enough room for doubt, or more specifically; for non-dialectical materialism: dialectical idealism.
Nevertheless, with the bold claim against my analysis of the class composition – in the totality of the international perspective, under which modern capitalism, imperialism, operates and is therefore bound by its interconnections, relations and contradictions – is both lacking attention and “stumbling back into the ontological priority of ethnic divisions”; we are left with another blind assertion.
No specific refutation of actual, “real existing”, historically concrete objective fact that supports the wider concept (the balance of forces concerning the contradiction and its principal aspect – as “contradiction is the basis of life and drives it forward”(13)) is even addressed. Kriss is forced to semi-retract his empty assertion: “its true… many of the groups and class sectors have been armed and funded by Saudi Arabia”. An effort to mask this sorry excuse for an argument is brought about with the colourful insinuation that it must be “strange cosmology” to posit the theory US imperialism would feign opposition to its clients contras; as if there is no historical – interconnected – precedent; as if there is no rich concrete evidence of these political actions being undertaken, analysed, documented and determined for the last three years and many more preceding. But even this vacant “critique” must be qualified with the trickery of caveat and Kriss is once again forced to half-retract the faulty, metaphysical concept by offering historical precedent – the only worthwhile concrete observation in the entire piece.
Kriss’ overt misrepresentations further regress into the mind of a six-year-old with his next baseless and confused accusation. Apparently, the Iraq theory did “indeed take pains to point out the contradictory nature” of the NATO/GCC axis, but “now this posture has vanished”. How exactly, we must ask, has the concrete alignment of forces within a specific determination of a specific contradiction “vanished” if it hasn’t even ended? The contradiction remains: the Iraq theory offered no permanency to the alignment of forces, the opposing aspects. Of course they will change, but they will not change the historically concrete alignment of forces, which “really exist”, which have been documented and determined, with their principal aspect identified, in the historically absolute truth that contains the relative within it.
Kriss is effectively applying the subjectivists permanency, the non-dialectical, static, unmoving conceptions of the objective forces onto my analysis while claiming the virtue of dialectic; utter sophistry! The crux of the Hegelian masquerading as Marxists’ argument seems to be then: “Saying that objecting to a shoddy and speculative reading of the situation in Iraq means denying historical materialism betrays a very low regard for the practice.” This is the theoretical foundation of Kriss & Co’s “dialectical critique”. Minus the sophistry and wrongheaded appropriation of Marxian dialectic, the accusation is that my claims, my assertions, concrete analytical observations and subsequent determinations with regard to the principle aspects of the Iraq contradiction are “shoddy and speculative” in comparison to those of Kriss and Co. Considering the aforementioned, does this accusation hold water, and what exactly is given to prove it other than empty indictments followed by half-hearted retractions?
The empty assertions, that are invariably followed by the sophistry of semi-retraction, are then moulded into the wonderfully absurd axiom that for “US imperialism to function effectively,” says Kriss, “it needs to maintain Saudi acquiescence”. This is nothing but the “Israeli-lobby theory relocated to a Gulf context”, to borrow the words of comrade Higgins, and again Kriss finds himself in the camp of the Libertarian apologists for American empire. It is to suggest that the Saud monarchy, built and sustained via western imperialism, with its US-reliant ICBM’s; its US-reliant military and intelligence infrastructure; its US-reliant oil production and export infrastructure; its US-reliant economy, all this is meaningless in the objective balance of forces. Kriss posits the reactionary, non-dialectical, subjective assertion of the promoters of the Protocols of Zion and NatSec Professors in DC.
The ideological backdrop to all this reactionary fallacy is of course to be found in the social condition of those promulgating it. The subjective assertions and regression into idealism are the expression of the vacillating petty bourgeois intellectual – or in this case the aspiring petty bourgeois intellectual. As Lenin noted:
The flaunting of high-sounding phrases is characteristic of the declassed petty-bourgeois intellectuals. The organised proletarian Communists will certainly punish this “habit” with nothing less than derision and expulsion from all responsible posts. The people must be told the bitter truth simply, clearly and in a straightforward manner.. (15)
The extravagant verbiage that represents Kriss’ summary seems to be an exercise in grandstanding alone. Nevertheless, a few “salient points” should be addressed in the spirit of etiquette.
The attempt to ostracize through conspiracy-smear permeates like a bad smell, but beyond the vitriol it gives us another delightful semi-retraction to add the list: “I don’t mean to deny that there are, occasionally conspiracies”, says Kriss, and remarkably, one of these concrete conceptions of “conspiracy” is Syria. But why has the imperial war against Syria been given this concrete determination and its corollary in Iraq denied? For Kriss and Co. there is no rational answer, and the objective concrete evidence that he “borrows” from one contradiction and “separates” from another which is in fact directly related and interconnected through its principal aspect – imperialism – stands in the face of Kriss and Co’s metaphysical subjectivism, non sequitur, and outright sophism.
What we are given as “critique” is merely wavering, a non-commitment, a vacillation; at every opportunity a move away from the concrete and into the abstract. The petty bourgeois sophist wants to float “Left” phrases and denounce concrete analysis while pandering to the dominant aspect within the contradiction; that which his social condition is reliant upon: the western imperial class.
Proudhon had a natural inclination for dialectics. But as he never grasped really scientific dialectics he never got further than sophistry. This is in fact connected with his petty-bourgeois point of view. Like the historian Raumer, the petty bourgeois is made up of on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand. This is so in his economic interests and therefore in his politics, religious, scientific and artistic views. And likewise in his morals, IN EVERYTHING. He is a living contradiction. If, like Proudhon, he is in addition an ingenious man, he will soon learn to play with his own contradictions and develop them according to circumstances into striking, ostentatious, now scandalous now brilliant paradoxes. Charlatanism in science and accommodation in politics are inseparable from such a point of view. There remains only one governing motive, the vanity of the subject, and the only question for him, as for all vain people, is the success of the moment, the éclat of the day. Thus the simple moral sense, which always kept a Rousseau, for instance, from even the semblance of compromise with the powers that be, is bound to disappear.(16)
“Lifestyle Gurus” such as Kriss, and the idealist deformities they promote, represent the expression of their social condition. Such comrades are entirely disconnected to the realities of the proletariat, specifically in the international perspective. The Orientalist outlook and tendency to apologise for the crimes of the western imperialist class upon the “lesser” nations endlessly exploited to bring about the superprofits that afford their coddled “lifestyle” is the result their inability to solve the problem of “for whom?”.
…these comrades seldom come into contact with the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers, do not understand or study them, do not have intimate friends among them and are not good at portraying them; when they do depict them, the clothes are the clothes of working people but the faces are those of petty-bourgeois intellectuals. In certain respects they are fond of the workers, peasants and soldiers and the cadres stemming from them; but there are times when they do not like them and there are some respects in which they do not like them: they do not like their feelings or their manner or their nascent literature and art (the wall newspapers, murals, folk songs, folk tales, etc.). At times they are fond of these things too, but that is when they are hunting for novelty, for something with which to embellish their own works, or even for certain backward features. At other times they openly despise these things and are partial to what belongs to the petty-bourgeois intellectuals or even to the bourgeoisie. These comrades have their feet planted on the side of the petty-bourgeois intellectuals; or, to put it more elegantly, their innermost soul is still a kingdom of the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. Thus they have not yet solved, or not yet clearly solved, the problem of “for whom?” This applies not only to newcomers to Yenan; even among comrades who have been to the front and worked for a number of years in our base areas and in the Eighth Route and New Fourth Armies, many have not completely solved this problem. It requires a long period of time, at least eight or ten years, to solve it thoroughly. But however long it takes, solve it we must and solve it unequivocally and thoroughly. Our literary and art workers must accomplish this task and shift their stand; they must gradually move their feet over to the side of the workers, peasants and soldiers, to the side of the proletariat, through the process of going into their very midst and into the thick of practical struggles and through the process of studying Marxism and society. Only in this way can we have a literature and art that are truly for the workers, peasants and soldiers, a truly proletarian literature and art.(17)
But there is more! “Certain anti-imperialists” says Kriss, “..will go through astonishing conceptual acrobatics [no irony here-PG] if it means not ever having to admit western imperialism is capable of fucking up.” But what is the context behind this empty phrase-mongering? Does the Iraq concept not offer numerous historical examples of empire “fucking up”, as Kriss so eloquently puts it? For Kriss to offer a precise definition of what “fucking up” entails would provide a major development in his dialectical capabilities, especially considering his petty bourgeois white supremacist ideology obstructs him from conceiving his bourgeois master as anything other than benevolent peace broker. The concrete historical reality that is the class war, the battle between competing classes as result of the social condition, the contradictions of capitalism, the destruction of entire classes and societies to subordinate, extract and exploit, is clearly an alien concept to someone weaned on petty bourgeois western chauvinism.
“Fucking up” is all part of the dialectic, and is accounted for in relative contingency through conscious scientific practice; the practice of war, the class war at its highest stage within the totality of the international perspective. Western imperialism has been royally “fucking up” for centuries, but Kriss’ ideological affinity for Great Western benevolence in tandem with a fundamental perversion of dialectical materialism completely blinds him and his fellow deviationists – concocting vulgar materialist concepts rendering camouflage to their vulgar idealism – to concrete analysis, perceptions, concepts and their historical position within a “rich totality of many determinations and relations”.
Kriss informs: “Marxism means identifying the class oppressors and the means by which they carry out their oppression.” The problem is, Kriss & Co. want to achieve this via reductionist subjective “analysis” with ideological conjecture. For all the whining about my faulty alignment of forces, Kriss has failed to provide a concrete determination of his own. Yet apparently my approach is only concerned “with seeing real contradictions and resolving them into false unities”. And this falsehood is the crux of the sophism. He is accusing my dialectic of forming false unities while employing the very method to negate the principal aspect of the Iraq contradiction: his western bourgeois master.
Contrary to the grand pronouncements on “what Marxism means”, Kriss has failed to dialectically challenge any of the specific assertions or conceptions within the Iraq theory at the very first hurdle, because the subjectivists, the sceptics and the sophists, the “Left” Communists, are unable to surpass metaphysical conceptions. What is the “Sunni insurgency” but apolitical bourgeois reductionist absurdity, and what is the “US-backed Iraq government” other than non-dialectical anachronism? The subjectivist allows himself to be “impressed” by the futile search for Absolute truth through the negation of the relative. The “revolutionary quality” of those who vacillate toward bourgeois idealism is lost; they cannot see the wood for the trees. (18)
1.) Simpletons, Charlatans and Hacks – Sam Kriss – https://medium.com/lexical-detritus/simpletons-charlatans-and-hacks-a55804e430c4
2.) ISIS: An Expression of imperialism in Iraq – https://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/isis-an-expression-of-imperialism-in-iraq/
3.) Socialism: Utopian and Scientific – Frederick Engels – https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch02.htm
4.) The Method of Political Economy (Grundrisse) – Karl Marx – https://www.marxists.org/subject/dialectics/marx-engels/grundisse.htm
5.) Summary of Dialectics – V.I. Lenin – https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1914/cons-logic/summary.htm
6.) See 4.
7.) On Practice – Mao Tse-tung – https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_16.htm
8.) Dialectical and Historical Materialism – J.V. Stalin – https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1938/09.htm
9.) Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy – Frederich Engels – https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/ch01.htm
10.) Materialism and Emperio-Criticism – V. I. Lenin – https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1908/mec/two5.htm
11.) See 4.
12.) The sectarian myth of Iraq – Sami Ramadani – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/16/sectarian-myth-of-iraq?CMP=twt_gu
13.) The Question of Fascism and Capitalist Decay – R. Palme Dutt – https://www.marxists.org/archive/dutt/articles/1935/question_of_fascism.htm
14.) Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General – Karl Marx – https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/hegel.htm
15.) “Left-Wing” Childishness – V.I. Lenin – https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/may/09.htm
16.) On Proudhon – Karl Marx – https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/letters/65_01_24.htm
17.) Talks at the Yenan forum on Literature and Art – Mao Tse-tung – https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-3/mswv3_08.htm
18.) Anti-Dühring – Frederich Engels – https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/anti-duhring/introduction.htm