Correspondence Cont’d

Continuing anonymously to copy cranky emails exchanged with an old friend.

*

I’m beginning to wonder if your NYR positions are not so much due to the fact that it has changed, as you.

It is true that I have become disaffected as well, though I think I’ll stay on for another year. But after the roaring Sixties, when it briefly appeared the NYR was going to be radical or at least New left (I’m thinking about the notorious cover with the molotov cocktail instructions), it has been a voice of liberal, Yankee positions, a solid bastion of literary conformism with a few little teasers thrown in now and then. As we both knew, a style to be emulated, as if the content didn’t matter. Not to open a discussion about form and content …

I do share the perception you also took from the Feldman piece, that there is a contradiction lurking in the three Scalian precepts, and that the pivotal point will likely be “judicial restraint”. I also agree that the intrusion of morality or rather moralism into the public sphere is a huge US problem on all sides. Always has been. It’s the nature of the beast. A beast which IMHO does not feed off the old high 17th century Anglo-American tradition, rather has always been “populist” in its ideology while elitist in its political substance. In other words, the “low” obscurantist Anglo-American tradition.

Also thanks for the Chemerinsky piece in the New Republic, which journal has for a while now been hiding behind the acronym TNR. I actually met the gentleman. He was hired from Duke (Dook not Dyuk) as Dean of Law here the same year Nasrin was, but after one term moved up to UC-Berkeley. More of a nerd than a nebbish, though wilth characteristics of both.

The pieces are in fact reflective of his positions, as I understand them. On which point it is worth mentioning that I nodded at your remark about a screed of this sort against any given religion would offend the sensitivities of many. Let’s start with religious/ethnic affiliation of Chemerinsky himself. The gentleman does come ethno-religiously speaking, from the Pale (not beyond) and any text with such a script as his against Judaism and a Jewish conspiracy would raise hackles far and wide.

These are, in my mind, peripheral issues, since I think the whole American ideology including the bizarre exceptionalism which shows up in the tripartite division of govt into three sectors, including the strange (to me) idea that the US is somehow such a font of democracy and its going off track needs correction, is BS. To put it bluntly.

I am delighted to not have Trump to kick around any more but I do think you are being peremptive in your suggestion that there are no significant changes in Biden’s so-far-announced edicts (which is about all he’ll be allowed).

One significant change is cosmetic in part, but largely procedural. Look at the selection process of his cabinet etc. I don’t like many of them (as you know I not only considered abortion to be an innate human right, above juridical judgment, but I consider R2P to be inherently imperialistic). We’ll have to see how well (or how badly) Biden plays the mixed hand he was dealt, but I suspect he’ll be sucked into more foreign wars under the false guise of defending “democracy”. In the meantime, he has sought out the company of the “experts” — which, being one or sort of one myself, I tend to respect.

As for the Capitol Riots, they certainly were not the equivalent of the Reichstag burning. But the participants broke innumerable local and federal laws, apart even from homcide (can’t say State because DC is not a State). They should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as should Trump, who undeniably and stupidly encouraged those responsible. We’ll see.

As for AOC, she will not be the member of the Squad who will have a lasting career. Her sudden evocation of sexual abuse, while not surprising (I am sure she was “sexually abused” but that has nothing to do with the Capitol Riots) was revealing of a lack of personal control essential for a political leader I would vote for. Though of course there are many I would never vote for who have lasting political careers.

Do you subscribe to the London Review of Books? Here is a piece, first of three, by Perry Anderson, that stalwart of the New Left Review which was rec’d to me by my friend Louie in Toronto, whose name you will have heard. https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n24/perry-anderson/the-european-coup

It is a heavy slough but offers a change of perspective, not only taking us away from the US conundrum but also containing interesting leads to Euro thinkers I was unaware of. Parts two and three I haven’t read yet but Louie describes them as conforming more to the New Left Review model. Let me know if you can’t get behind the firewall.

Love reading about the ongoing production of Charcuterie. My own production is much less serious. Here is an brief summary of my kitchen work for the past couple of weeks. A lot of soups, but hearty ones.

Grilled Eggplant Glazed with Miso. 6 Feb. https://pickledplum.com/nasu-dengaku-recipe/

My Moroccan Granny’s Okra and Green Pea Soup. 1 Feb.

Roast Parsnip, Garlic and Parmesan Soup. 25 Jan.

Chicken, Chestnut, Chickpea and Coconut Soup. 19 Jan.

Beet and Pomegranate Chicken Soup. 12 Jan. https://www.theguardian.com/food/2021/jan/09/yotam-ottolenghis-recipes-warming-winter-soups-spinach-dulse-dal-pita-noodle-meat-broth-pomegranate-beetroot?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Soupe aux Patates et poireaux. 9 Jan.

Soup joumou ayisyin. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/haitian-beef-and-pumpkin-soup-soup-joumou

Cheers,

George

Incomplete Dialectics of the Woke

I would love to have the chance to lecture the offended Ottawaian anglo-students, many of whom are not black, that their attack on racism is essentially racist. Exactly the case in the US with the Woke, who are surprisingly though incompletely “dialectical” in their reactions. Thesis –> Antithesis –> …  but NO SYNTHESIS.

At least in the Sartrian (Hegelian) reading of Négritude there was a Aufhebung, a sublimation, an erasure, if you like, of the conflict, a transformation of its terms, per Sartre though not in fact, into universal post-racial citizenship and thus into class conflict.

https://dl1.cuni.cz/pluginfile.php/489096/mod_resource/content/1/03b%20-%20Orphée%20noir%20-%20Sartre.pdf

Dammit, I said all this clearly in my 1977 dissertation, which has had zero effect in/ on the World 😉

Loaded Diplomatic Words

The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, crafted or had crafted a superb note of official congratulation to the newly-elected US President. Dripping with irony but absolutely correct in terms of expected language, formula and cliché, Kantian to boot.

“Germany and America are bound by their values: democracy, freedom, the respect for the law and the dignity of human beings, independent of their origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political position. On the basis of these values I offer the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, close cooperation.”

„Deutschland und Amerika sind durch Werte verbunden : Demokratie, Freiheit, Respekt vor dem Recht und der Würde des Menschen, unabhängig von Herkunft, Hautfarbe, Religion, Geschlecht, sexueller Orientierung oder politischer Einstellung. Auf der Basis dieser Werte biete ich dem künftigen Präsidenten der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, Donald Trump, eine enge Zusammenarbeit an.“

Full report in the FAZ: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/deutschlands-politiker-reagieren-gemischt-auf-trump-14520543.html

China’s Silk Road Imperialism from a Leninist Perspective

Liberals, neo- or not, tend to dismiss Marxist theory as voluntarist drivel, a reflection of evil intentions, not analysis amenable to verification. Hence my surprise the other day in reading this excerpt from the Financial Times in a series on China’s Great Game in Central Asia:

Lenin’s theory that imperialism is driven by capitalist surpluses seems to hold true, oddly, in one of the last (ostensibly) Leninist countries in the world. It is no coincidence that the Silk Road strategy coincides with the aftermath of an investment boom that has left vast overcapacity and a need to find new markets abroad.” (13 Oct 2015, p. 9)

The debate over the economic causes of imperialism survived the crisis in orthodox, state-sanctioned Marxism, in part because it had been incorporated into Third World and World Systems theory then embraced by the anti-globalization movements which address the inequities among the most, the more, the less and the least economically developed societies around the globe. Inequities also prevail within each of those sectors.

Here, in what we persist in calling the West, prolonged stagnation of income, pervasive impoverishment and creeping lumpen-proletariatization have meant slumping internal markets. To export their surplus of profit, corporations based in the capitalist democracies now need foreign consumers — the unbridled creation of credit, aka debt, to feed domestic consumption having revealed its shortcomings in 2008.

In China, given its recent boom, the problem is similar, though more acute.

Beijing must find sufficient external demand for its products and goods to avoid recession, depression or even collapse, of the economy first, then of the regime. This is why China must expand into Central Asia. Its province of Xinjiang (New Frontier  新疆, or in its other official, Uyghur transcription شىنجاڭ) as well as the hinterland in the Stans are as important to this recently established, naturally continentally-minded dynasty as its maritime zones of influence, both the seas adjacent to the western Pacific which bear its name (East China Sea, South China Sea), and the “String of Pearls” which connects its prosperous coast through the Strait of Malacca to the Middle East and Europe. From a Leninist, though even from a purely merchantilist perspective, the Trans-Pacific Partnership which excludes China from crucial east Asian and west Pacific markets will push China even more strongly into central Asia.

Lenin’s argument was initially directed against his rival Karl Kautsky’s 1914 typically social-democratic bout of wishful thinking that capitalism’s tendency towards cartel monopoly would lead to a phase of ultra-imperialism in which the great powers subsume their nationalist antagonisms and cooperate jointly in the exploitation of the periphery, thus avoiding war. Lenin correctly saw — retrospectively in 1917, let us note — that the ever-shifting balance of powers among competitive capitalist states precluded such co-operation. Put another way: state politics trump economics.

So it is not odd, in fact the odds favour that the capitalist powers, soon prima inter pares China, will  be drawn into military conflict in a tragic reprise of the internal contradictions which engendered the First World War, but also the first explicitly anti-capitalist revolution, the one associated with Lenin’s name. The next anti-capitalist revolution remains to be imagined. If the past is any measure, it will  follow upon a cataclysm unavoidable as long as the logic of capitalist accumulation prevails as international law.

*

The Financial Times article can be accessed in on the Uyghur Human Rights Project / UHRP website (no firewall). http://uhrp.org/featured-articles/china’s-great-game-new-frontier-old-foes

Lenin’s theory of imperialism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperialism,_the_Highest_Stage_of_Capitalism

World Systems Theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World-systems_theory

Kautsky’s Ultra-imperialism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-imperialism

China’s Silk Road initiative: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Silk_Road_Economic_Belt_and_the_21st-century_Maritime_Silk_Road

China’s String of Pearls strategy:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/String_of_Pearls_(Indian_Ocean)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Pacific_Partnership