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Sunday, January 10, 2021

COMING TOGETHER AND MOVING ON

Let me begin by reproducing a Facebook post by my son, Prof. Tobias Barrington Wolff:

 

“One of the things that is making me so angry that I cannot yet process it is simply this: You know who has never engaged in a violent insurrection against the U.S. Capitol and destroyed and defiled the seat of Government? Black Americans. Native Americans. Chinese Americans. Female Americans. Japanese Americans. Mexican Americans. Muslim Americans. Jewish Americans. Guatemalan / El Salvadoran / Nicaraguan Americans. LGBQT Americans. Despite the decades and centuries of history that could make those groups feel, you know, “angry” or “frustrated” or “not listened to” or “not seen” or “like they cannot make politics work for them.”

We are going to talk about this, White fragility be damned.”

 

First of all, the importance of all of us “coming together.” Politics in the United States is a never ending activity of compromise, even on matters near and dear to our hearts. It Involves running for election to public office, which requires persuading large numbers of people with quite diverse interests, passions, and commitments to join in voting for a candidate who is never the ideal and perfect representation of the totality of one’s beliefs. It continues with the enacting of legislation, the drafting of which involves endless compromise with those seeking different outcomes from one’s own desired goals. All that is required to participate in this political process is the willingness to continue to fight for what one believes in.  All of that is coming together.

 

There is no coming together with those who attempt by violence to destroy the political process itself. There is only war. After one wins the war, there can be a time for reconciliation but not before. As my son rightly points out, the assault on the Capitol was carried out not by those who have for generations been abused and oppressed and exploited, but by those who feared that their dominant position in America was beginning to slip away from them and who could not bear the thought of sharing their power with those whom they had for so long dominated. Those now issuing calls for us to “come together” are the Neville Chamberlains of American politics

 

As for “moving on,” there will be time for that after we have located, charged, tried, convicted, and jailed every last one of those insurrectionists whom we can find. I see no reason why that should interrupt Biden’s ambitious plans for his first hundred days.

 

One final word before I stop. Biden has chosen for his Atty. Gen. someone who was an undergraduate majored in the Social Studies Program of which I was the first head tutor at Harvard 60 years ago. I hope he is not going to make me sorry for what I did.

55 comments:

Anonymous said...

If by “war” you mean identifying and prosecuting as many of the insurrectionists who invaded the Capitol as possible – but not those who merely marched on the Capitol but did not breach its doors or clamber all over its façade - I agree with you. And I agree this can be accomplished without disrupting Biden’s legislative agenda. But after this has been accomplished, what “war” is there to continue against those who will continue to support Trump? No one who supports Biden is advocating “coming together” with his misguided minions, but we should move on by ignoring them, unless they also turn violent, in which case they should be met with overwhelming force and jailed as well.

If, however, you mean by “war” not seeking any common ground with progressive Republicans (which many may regard as an oxymoron), then I do not agree. For some aspects of Biden’s legislative agenda (the scope and parameters of which we do not yet know) he may not have the support of all 50 Democratic senators, and may have to compromise with those of his party who do not support the agenda 100%, or with Republicans who do not support the proposed agenda 100%. I have no quibble with vigorous advocacy, if that is what you meant, but in war, whether literal or figurative, truth, pragmatism and judicious decision-making are often the first casualties.

Anonymous said...

Your son is correct that no Mexicans or Nicaraguans/El Salvadorans/Guatemalans have violently invaded the Capitol. A minor qualification, for historical accuracy:

“[O]n March 1, 1954, by four Puerto Rican nationalists; shot 30 rounds from semi-automatic pistols from the Ladies' Gallery (a balcony for visitors) of the House of Representatives chamber in the United States Capitol. They wanted to highlight their desire for Puerto Rican independence from US rule.

The nationalists, identified as Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irvin Flores Rodríguez, unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and began shooting at Representatives in the 83rd Congress, who were debating an immigration bill. Five Representatives were wounded, one seriously, but all recovered. The assailants were arrested, tried and convicted in federal court, and given long sentences, effectively life imprisonment. In 1978 and 1979, their sentences were commuted by President Jimmy Carter;[2] all four returned to Puerto Rico.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_United_States_Capitol_shooting#:~:text=The%20nationalists%2C%20identified%20as%20Lolita,were%20debating%20an%20immigration%20bill.

s. wallerstein said...

The liberal listing of identity groups at times can be irritating. I'm relatively sure that among the thousand or several thousand people who attacked the Capitol building some were LGBQT, some of them out of the closet, others not. As for Female Americans, listed above, there were several, including one who died.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Wolff,

If you want to improve the cordiality and participation of your blog, and are willing to go the route of kicking out ill-tempered online citizens for wider peace and stability, then my recommendation is to ban s. wallerstein. I've yet to find a single useful or sensible post from that user. Almost everyone is a disruption. Not a single post advances the discussion.

Thanks.

--Dave F.

Anonymous said...

> As for “moving on,” there will be time for that after we have located, charged, tried, convicted, and jailed every last one of those insurrectionists whom we can find.

So speaks a self proclaimed anarchist and marxist... Reminds me of hollywood movies where a scared hysterical prostitute runs to her pimp for "protection"...

LFC said...

s.wallerstein
You're missing the point, as I think a couple of moments of reflection would likely make clear. The Facebook post is referring to organized *groups* or at least people acting in some kind of collective capacity, so the fact that individual Trump supporters also may happen to be female, LGBT, or etc. is beside to the point.

LFC said...

Correction: beside the point.

Anonymous said...

s. wallestein, in case you care, just wanted to say i have no difficulty whatsoever following your logic

what professors Wolff and Wolff are saying indicates imo how low american academic marxists have sunk... i feel if Marx read it he would again pronounce himself a non-marxist

LFC said...

Anonymous @5:58 p.m.

What makes you suppose that Prof. Tobias Wolff is (or considers himself to be) a Marxist?

Anonymous said...


Riots and rioters have distinct characteristics, in spite of the fact that riots are homogeneous in many respects -- such as that they result in broken glass, and that the participants are angry in their perceived powerlessness. But consider the two classes of protests we've seen recently. What's bothering each? Consider their several slogans. One group simply, plaintively wishes they'd be seen as men; that their lives "matter" for a change. The other group, wishes, no *demands* they were great "again" -- and what can that mean? That their lives should matter more than others'. Which others are they? Presumably those who've stepped out of their proper place. Americans know perfectly well what that means. It is the poison at the heart of the inheritance. The poison that Jefferson feared would mangle that inheritance. There is no reconciling.
-Livy

Jerry Brown said...

I just want to say that I often appreciate the comments that Mr. Wallerstein makes. Far more often than comments from the persons who are 'Anonymous'.

Anonymous said...

+1 for Wallerstein's comments. +1 too for the Anonymous comments. I am not biased whatsoever. I swear.

David Palmeter said...

I agree with Jerry Brown. While s. wallerstein and I agree on few issues, I find him to be an intelligent commentator whose views I find stimulating even in the many cases in which I don't agree with him. From my perspective, this blog could use more wallerstein's and fewer anonymati.

Alex said...

I am very worried about this "we're at war" framing that seems to be the knee jerk response. I think accusing half the country of being domestic terrorists or sympathizers is the surest fire route to actually creating a ton of real domestic terrorists.

It's already playing out. Anyone with the wrong opinions will be censored, banned from social media, hounded out of their jobs. Let's massively increase internal surveillance of this new threat -- but don't worry, I doubt any such new power will radically expand beyond recognition. Isn't this exactly what we did after 9/11 to such wonderful results? Please, let's not do to ourselves what we did to Iraq.

What happened to that old debate about treating terrorism as a criminal matter instead of a war of good vs. evil? The latter is necessarily prosecuted by a scorched earth, kill em all mentality, "you're either with us or against us", and giving up so many of the values we say we hold dear.

Anonymous said...

"What happened to that old debate about treating terrorism as a criminal matter instead of a war of good vs. evil? The latter is necessarily prosecuted by a scorched earth, kill em all mentality, "you're either with us or against us", and giving up so many of the values we say we hold dear."

How does one deal with a terrorist underground; its cells; its plans; its networks of communication? They may be inept today; but they'll learn from their mistakes. You can take *that* to the bank! And make no mistake about it: they're not coming back into the fold. If they'd rather show their shitty little chevron-beards; that the liberty of not "muzzling" their canine-teeth -- if that's the rallying standard in the middle of the epidemic, you are kidding yourself if you can fight them with your "goodness" and your high-standards.
(Sallust)

Anonymous said...

"How does one deal with a terrorist underground; its cells; its plans; its networks of communication? They may be inept today; but they'll learn from their mistakes. You can take *that* to the bank! And make no mistake about it: they're not coming back into the fold. If they'd rather show their shitty little chevron-beards; that the liberty of not "muzzling" their canine-teeth -- if that's the rallying standard in the middle of the epidemic, you are kidding yourself if you can fight them with your "goodness" and your high-standards."

So you'll be wearing a shitty little chevron-beard yourself only while you fight them off?

Oh wait, no, you'll just appoint others to do it for you at least.

s. wallerstein said...

I want to thank those who supported me above, especially Jerry Brown and David Palmeter. Since David Palmeter and I have argued many times, his support is especially meaningful to me.

As to being Jewish and somehow excluded by society, as is suggested above. I recall a young lady who refused to go out with me because she "did not date Jewish boys" (that could be put in more vulgar terms) and probably there were a few others who were less frank. I probably did not get invited to a few parties here and there, but I was admitted to an Ivy League university and if I had had other values, I have no doubts that I could have ended up working on Wall St. and made a lot of money. My first cousin who has other values than mine held an important post in the Clinton administration. So to place Jewish-Americans in a list with Black Americans as victims of the system seems a bit out of place.

I know that on the left today it's more "in" to be not privileged than to be privileged, but whether I'm in or not, as a Jew, I've always felt privileged and the Jews I know are too.

None of the above is meant to provide a pretext for anti-semitism, just as the observation that many members of the 1% are WASPs should not provide a pretext for prejudice against WASPs or against any ethnic or cultural group. I'd also observe that many people associate Jews with Israeli repressive policies against the Palestinians and that leads to anti-semitism too, even though many Jews, like myself, support Palestinian rights and a two state solution based on the borders pre-1967 War, meaning an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

Anonymous said...

My dear friend at 9:47 PM. I certainly do not wear a little beard. I've never been able to grow one! Fighting them off? Well, in theory that's what we pay the police to do -- to keep order. So I guess I do appoint others to do the job. But my point was that the job, under the present circumstances seems comp-li-ca-ted, doesn't it. I do not know how to cultivate the good-will of the semi-circular bearders anymore. I am trying to say -- I will say it again -- the manipulation of the epidemic response, so that it becomes a standard for their manhood ... or whatever the devil it means to them not to be "muzzled" ... this tells me I (and my lawyerly associates) are out of our league. (Sallust)

LFC said...

In case it wasn't clear, I certainly don't think s. wallerstein should be banned, per Dave F. above. The suggestion is clearly unwarranted, imo. I don't always agree w s.w.'s posts or find them to my taste all the time, and he can be a contrarian, but that's all par for the course in a way, and no reason at all for banning.

LFC said...

P.s. and what he has to say about Chile, which he obvs knows well, and certain other topics is usu. informative and interesting.

henry said...

"Biden's Ambitious plans".

Come on, he is a neoliberal corporatist who will just fix cosmetics without touching real issues in a substantive way.

Not a surprising statement from you since you get your news from cable news; a philosopher should know better and have more discipline.

Stop clutching at straws at the expense of the young! We can no longer take the indulgence of baby boombers!

After all, Biden did say about those is college debt fairly recently 'I have no sympathy for them'.

LFC said...

@ henry

RPW is not a 'baby boomer', a term that usu. refers to those born between 1946 and 1964 (if I remember correctly).

henry said...

LFC,

Practically same meaning in this context.

Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,

Just because the majority of Jews living in America are living relatively comfortable lives does not mean that anti-Semitism in America has disappeared. It is, in fact, on the increase.

Witness the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue which occurred in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Witness the armed assault which occurred at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, in 2019.

Witness the desecration of synagogues in Los Angeles which occurred during the Black Lives Matter protests.

Witness the Jewish professor at Point Park University in Pennsylvania who is being discriminated against because she has expressed her support for Israel.

Witness the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents which have occurred in the U.S. during the last four years. “The 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2019 in the United States included deadly attacks by gunmen at a California Synagogue and a New Jersey kosher grocery store, and a fatal stabbing at a rabbi’s home in New York.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-antisemitism/watchdog-reports-record-number-of-anti-semitic-incidents-in-u-s-last-year-idUSKBN22O1LK
Witness the increase in anti-Semitic incidents around the world, whose perpetrators use their opposition to Israel as cover for their anti-Semitism. “Surge in Anti-Semitic Attacks Has Caused a 'Sense of Emergency' Among Jews Worldwide, New Report Says.” https://time.com/5580312/kantor-center-anti-semitism-report/

It is ultra-liberal Jews like yourself who are willing to minimize and rationalize these events as mere outliers so that you can feel you have successfully assimilated. Remember the cry, “Never forget!” It is Jews like you who have already forgotten and are willing to sweep these events under the carpet.

Zettelkasten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"RPW is not a 'baby boomer', a term that usu. refers to those born between 1946 and 1964 (if I remember correctly)."

OK boomer.

"Witness the..."

I can see that AIPAC still has quite a bit of influence over the hearts and minds.

Anonymous said...

The structure of human society is like a pendulum swinging between two impulses, two evils in polar opposition, despotism and anarchy. The further it gets from one, the nearer it approaches the other. From this the reader might high on the thought that if it were exactly midway between the two, it would be right. Far from it. For these two evils are by no means equally bad and dangerous. The former is incomparably less to be feared; its ills exist in the main only as possibilities, and if they come at all it is only one among millions that they touch. But, with anarchy, possibility and actuality are inseparable; its blows fall on every man every day.

Schopenhauer

Achim Kriechel (A.K.) said...

1002 / 5000
Übersetzungsergebnisse
what I would like to comment on are the statements here about the storming of the Capitol. Especially with the Republicans in mind. I know that historical comparisons are always problematic. Nobody goes into the same river twice, according to old Heraclitus. On the other hand, however, comparisons can form the background to contrast the here and now. As for the events in Washington and Trump's entire term in office, there are a few things that remind me of the collapse of the first young democracy in Germany almost 100 years ago. As is well known, it was nationalist industrialists and publishers, as well as a large number of conservative politicians who ALL thought they could instrumentalize the Nazis for their purposes. In the beginning, the Nazis had no chance with the workers. When I see Pence, McConnell, or Graham today, I think of the state of mind of conservatism at the time that wanted to keep power and got a deal with the devil.

Anonymous said...

LFC said> What makes you suppose that Prof. Tobias Wolff is (or considers himself to be) a Marxist?

apple. tree.

but ok we can focus on Non-Tobias Wolff. he does proclaim to be a mix of marxist and anarchist. judging by how quickly he runs to the bourgeois state for protection he is neither

that's an observation. not a judgment call

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Banning Wallerstein? WTF. That’s absurd. Count me in with Jerry Brown, David Pameter, LFC, et.al.

s. wallerstein said...

Thank you, Christopher Mulvaney.

Eric said...

Count me, as well, among those who enjoy reading Wallerstein's comments here. The overall blog experience would be impoverished by their absence.

Anonymous@Jan 10, 11:10pm wrote, "It is ultra-liberal Jews like yourself who ..."
The main points in that post could have been made without the ad hominem.

Anonymous@Jan 11, 1:44am, I don't know much about Schopenhauer's work, but if that quote is at all representative, OMG.

s. wallerstein said...

Thank you too, LFC.

Yes, I am a contrarian and have been one since grade school.

However, in my limited experience studying philosophy, it's a sport for contrarians.

I had only one philosophy course, an introductory one, with a fairly young Arthur Danto (I believe name dropping is permitted in this blog) and Danto would write an argument on the blackboard, something outrageous and contrary to hegemonic common sense, like the ontological argument for the existence of God, and then defend it against a classroom full of argumentative students. So it was one contrarian versus many contrarians.

s. wallerstein said...

Eric, I also thank you for the words of support.

Eric said...

I have counted RPW remarking no fewer than three times in as many months that, in essence, "they" have all the guns.

Here's some food for thought in the following posts.
(I believe Marcuse gave this interview just a few months before he died, in 1979.)

@ 4:38
Herbert Marcuse interviewed by Helen Hawkins (1979)

Eric said...

Helen Hawkins: Now it would appear from what I have read of your work and the comments that I have seen on it that the kind of social change your critical philosophy would lead toward might involve the necessity for revolution.

Herbert Marcuse: (nods)

Hawkins: For you what kind of a revolution does that mean. Is it revolution in the sense of violent upheaval? Or gradual change? Or what?

Marcuse: Well, we can not, if we look at history, we cannot find any example of a non-violent revolution. [my emphasis] Including the American Revolution. So we cannot expect that this continuity of violence would suddenly stop.

Although Marx himself has foreseen the possibility of a peaceful transition to socialism. And he has even mentioned in this connection the United States as one the countries whereby democratic route socialism could gain a majority. I must say frankly it seems to me the chances for such a non-violent revolution are worse than they were before.

John Rapko said...

I think I've already mentioned in a previous comment (perhaps from my 'anonymous' days) how much I enjoy and have learned from Mr. Wallerstein's comments over the paste 5-7 years. And we contrarians have to stick together; or rather, we would if we weren't in principle opposed to sticking together. Along the lines of Mr. Wallerstein's Arthur Danto story, I'll share one of my favorite academic contrarian: the great philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend used to challenge people in his classes (I took one undergraduate class and one graduate seminar with him) to provide an argument against the existence of the gods--not God, but of plural gods. No one could produce one that he couldn't eviscerate in a few sentences.

Eric said...

(contd)
Hawkins: Do I read you correctly though then that a philosopher should encourage revolution?

Marcuse: A philosopher and especially a philosopher working at the university should not encourage and should not advocate.
If he or she presents the facts as they are, and the tendencies that are observable in our society, then the students will by themselves get the idea that a good change is necessary and is possible.

@ ~26:02

Hawkins: If one argues for change, and if that change will require revolution, and if revolution is unlikely to come about without violence, does not that then give validation to violence, which in turn may perhaps validate terrorism?

Marcuse: Advocacy of violence is under all circumstances in our situation—should be taboo. Violence may be considered justified only as counter-violence. In [unintelligible] "Repressive Tolerance," I explicitly said that there is a so-called right of resistance. A natural right of resistance for suppressed minorities after all legal means have been exhausted. I also added that if then these minorities rebel that might break the chain of violence which we had throughout history. I am a little less optimistic[?] with respect to this topic. I would say that the breaking of the chain of violence is probably only thinkable in a long historical process, but not that quickly.

s. wallerstein said...

John Rapko,

Thank you for the support. Great story about Feyerabend!!

Anonymous said...


Comment after the Schopenhauer quote above. There is a third way and it is seen in the troubles of late republican Rome, in the Clodian mobs, in the Catiline mobs. And that is anarchy promoted by a despotism. This was the model for the SA German rabble.

s. wallerstein said...

The Jews.

Lots of people hate Jews or at least don't feel good about them. At the same time anti-semitism is a very different phenomenon that anti-black racism.

First of all, although Jews are disliked by many, they are not oppressed or excluded in any Western Democracy I know of. They don't even tend to be discriminated against much these days in business or in public life: there may be some golf clubs where Jews are not welcome, but otherwise the doors to success and prosperity are open to them and in contemporary capitalist society what counts for 99% of the people is success and prosperity. Blacks on the other hand are often oppressed and excluded.

Next, the stereotypes people have about Jews are oddly positive. Jews are seen as ambitious, smart, and calculating, qualities which in reality contemporary capitalist society values, even when it pays lip service to Christian morality or sermons about public service. The stereotypes racists have about blacks are downright degrading: no need to list them here. I don't want to participate in them by listing them.

Police don't stop and frisk Jews on the streets as they do blacks. I've never seen any figures that indicate that Jews are disproportionately the objects of police violence as blacks are. Jews are not condemned to prison for minor offenses like dealing small quantities of pot as Blacks are.

I could on, but although anti-semitism is ugly and can turn violent, it just not in the same league as anti-black racism.

Still, in my experience non-Jews either like or detest the Jews. Very few are neutral or indifferent about them as most people might be indifferent about, say, Swedes.

Anonymous said...

By any of the standard economic measurements of "success" in Western capitalism too, Jews, on the whole do quite well (I believe better than any other group other than perhaps Asian-Americans). Blacks, latinos, and others, not so much.

Comments calling S Wallerstein whatever the Jewish equivalent of an Uncle Tom is, incoming in 5, 4, 3,...

Howie said...

Dear S Wallerstein

Racism and antisemitism follow a different dynamic. In modern times African Americans get treated like animals- there is violence but no campaigns of extermination.
Historically Jews alternate between the role of acceptance as insiders, or even favored minority to be treated worse than animals, to be treated as filthy as the devil.
Others have expressed this contrast more eloquently than I have and I think it has to do with the fact that African- Americans were slaves, which is a bad type of discrimination while Jews are discriminated against because of theological reasons with variations due to the state of Israel.
For African Americans their existence is downgraded to that of the animal; while for Jews our very existence does not just cause violence, our very existence is called into question.
There might not be a repetition of this cycle- maybe things have changed- but just as Aristotle recognized different ways of uttering to 'be' there are different ways of being the hated 'other'

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Eric, thank you so much for the link to the interview with Herbert Marcuse. I was totally unaware of it. I just finished watching it and it was wonderful to see him and hear him again. I have always felt quite honored to have been his friend and co-author for a little while.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Addendum: if I ever do get to give my course on Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Herbert Marcuse, I will ask the students to watch that interview.

Anonymous said...


S. Wallerstein: the difference must be understood functionally. Both the blacks and the Jews are "other", but the respective roles of this "other" in the psycho-social scheme are quite distinct. The role of the Blacks: they fill the role of the ones marked to be beneath; which pleases the many, by distracting them from facing their own powerlessness -- it lets them say "There, then is someone more miserable than I; and so I am content". The role of the Jews: they fill the role of the ones suspected of keeping "us" in our miserable fixity of condition; because they are an archaic super-national clique; because they have never accepted the other-worldly strictures -- the Christian disdain for the temporal order, the absurdity of its turn-the-other-cheek -- which bind the common man so rigidly to his little raft; they are suspected of complicity in every recondite mystery; by the nationalist-cults of being communistic anti-nationalists; by the communistic cults of being the hidden motive force behind the feudalistic burdens born because of international capital. The Blacks are feared because of the role they are made to play: the id which from time to time cannot but burst out of its bounds in elemental rage. The Jews are feared because of the role they are made to play: the original destroyers of the favored idols, be it those of Abram's father Terah's workshop, or the more familiar one, lately of the cross.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5:10 PM,

The name which comes to mind as the most likely candidate for a Jewish Uncle Tom is Flavius Josephus, who deserted the Jewish fighters resisting Vespasian and befriended first Vespasian, and then his son Titus, and prepared a written record of the defeat of the Jewish rebels during the 1st Jewish-Roman War in 67-70 CE, and then served as witness and recorder of the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the massacre at Masada under Titus. So indebted did he feel to Vespasian that he took his family name, Flavius, as his own. He is generally despised in Jewish history.

David Palmeter said...

Your description of Flavius Josephus reminds me more of Benedict Arnold than Uncle Tom.

Anonymous said...

David,

I believe in both there is a combination of subservience to your people’s oppressor, and thereby betrayal of your people.

Anonymous said...

This morning I watched the video of the interview of Herbert Marcuse for which Eric provided the link above.

I was frankly surprised to hear Prof. Marcuse assert that throughout history there has never been an example of a successful nonviolent revolution. The fact that he used as an example the American Revolution made clear that in terms of the use of violence, he was referring to the means used by the elements seeking the political or social change. In this respect, his assertion was clearly historically and factually erroneous. Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience in order to compel Great Britain to grant India its independence is perhaps the most prominent example. Although the British used force in its effort to defeat the revolution, Gandhi opposed the use of force with nonviolent civil disobedience. The same is true of Matin Luther King’s advocacy of nonviolent civil disobedience as the guiding force in the American Civil Rights revolution which achieved the defeat of Jim Crow segregation in the South. And in fact, it was the nonviolent protests against the Vietnam War, in which most of the violence was committed by the forces supporting the war, e.g., the Kent State massacre, which played a significant role in bringing that war to an end.

Although Marcuse stated that it is not the role of an academic to advocate for the use of force or violence, he proceeded to state that young students can be expected to draw their own conclusions from the facts as he presented them, which was an implicit endorsement of the use of violence by young students if they wished to achieve revolutionary social change. In light of the fact that Marcuse’s assertion that there has never been a successful revolution which did not use violence, his implicit endorsement of violence by young people was disgraceful. It is highly unlikely that a violent revolution in the United States in order to advance a socialist agenda will ever succeed in this country, and Marcuse’s suggestion that such a revolution could only succeed via violence was highly irresponsible. Even at the end of the interview, which occurred in 1974, 26 years after Gandhi’s nonviolent revolution had succeeded in liberating India from British hegemony, he expressed the view that he was not optimistic that the chain of violent resistance to change by the status quo could be overcome, yet the revolution in India had already proved him wrong.

Anonymous said...

The new anonymous’ post at 8:34 am is simply a crock. Working one’s self into a pique of self-righteous indignation might make you feel better but it does not contribute to a cogent analysis. Nor does condemning someone with a huge body of writings based on one interview, though if that person is a Marxist, that is all some people need to know. I am surprised to learn that MLK led a revolutionary movement, and just as surprised to learn that Indian independence was gained through non-violence alone. Historians, who typically date the start of the war for India’s independence in 1857, have a somewhat more nuanced view.

Anonymous said...

Surprised to learn that Martin Luther King led a revolutionary movement? Really? And though the efforts to win India’s independence from Britain may have begun in 1857, it was not won – and decisively won – until Gandhi emerged in 1915 and led the crusade of nonviolent civil disobedience against British oppression. It is quite amazing how the supposedly erudite readers of this blog will find anything to quibble about, merely to preserve their self-image of superior intellectual sophistication and that of their iconic idols. The fact of the matter is that Marcuse made a blatantly false historical assertion. Period.

s. wallerstein said...

Couldn't Marcuse simply be making an honest mistake?

I agree that the Indian non-violent independence movement can be described as a revolution and we might even add the Glorious Revolution of 1688 as an example of non-violent revolution. Whether Martin Luther King's movement was revolutionary or reformist could be debated.

I'm sure that we've all had the experience of taking a test or engaging in a debate and afterwards realizing that under pression we made some mistakes or forgot to mention something important or simply didn't realize what our best argument was.

I imagine that could happen to Marcuse too, especially in an interview where short, instant answers are called for. Part of the problem is in the questions that the interviewer asks as if Marcuse were some sort of great guru, not simply a philosopher who, as far as I know, is very knowledgeable about Hegel, Marx and Freud.

By the way, I participated fairly actively in the new left from 1964 to the mid 70's when the movement more or less died out and I never thought of Marcuse as a guru nor as my political mentor nor did I know anyone who did. I read One Dimensional Man around 1970 and it more or less said what everyone on the left said at the time. I read Eros and Civilization a few years later and while it seemed more of a novelty to me, I can't say that it changed my life nor that of anyone I knew.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
Eric was kind enough to provide above transcriptions of parts of the interview which contradict your claim about Marcuse’s views on violence.
Marcuse cites, in the material below, an essay he wrote which was published in a book titled A Critique of Pure Tolerance.” Drs. Barrington Moore and Robert Paul Wolff contributed the other essays. As it pertains to a discussion of Herbert Marcuse, it is clearly you who lacks the necessary erudition. As to your historical interpretations, they are, as Dr.William Connelly used to say, “highly contestable.”

Hawkins: Do I read you correctly though then that a philosopher should encourage revolution?

Marcuse: A philosopher and especially a philosopher working at the university should not encourage and should not advocate.
If he or she presents the facts as they are, and the tendencies that are observable in our society, then the students will by themselves get the idea that a good change is necessary and is possible.

@ ~26:02

Hawkins: If one argues for change, and if that change will require revolution, and if revolution is unlikely to come about without violence, does not that then give validation to violence, which in turn may perhaps validate terrorism?

Marcuse: Advocacy of violence is under all circumstances in our situation—should be taboo. Violence may be considered justified only as counter-violence. In [unintelligible] "Repressive Tolerance," I explicitly said that there is a so-called right of resistance. A natural right of resistance for suppressed minorities after all legal means have been exhausted. I also added that if then these minorities rebel that might break the chain of violence which we had throughout history. I am a little less optimistic[?] with respect to this topic. I would say that the breaking of the chain of violence is probably only thinkable in a long historical process, but not that quickly.

Anonymous said...

s. wallerstein,
I am not willing to give Marcuse a pass on what your regard as an innocent, inadvertent misstatement regarding revolution and history. He stated that in the course of history, without exception, there had never been a successful revolution which achieved change without violence, and he was referring to violence by those seeking change. The counter-example of Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience had happened during his lifetime, and not so long before the interview. A person who holds himself out as an expert on social and political revolution should not make such a mistake, particularly when he followed that remark with the following: “If he or she presents the facts as they are, and the tendencies that are observable in our society, then the students will by themselves get the idea that a good change is necessary and is possible.” Having opined that no revolution had ever succeeded without those seeking change using violence, what “tendencies” was he referring to that students should use if they “get the idea that a good change is necessary and is possible,” other than that it is only possible by the use of violence? He was giving a wink-wink, nod-nod to the use of violence, despite the purported disclaimer that Anonymous above invokes in Marcuse’s defense.

Anonymous,

In your defense of Marcuse, you redact from the dialogue offered by Eric, Marcuse’s unqualified assertion that no revolution has succeeded in history without violence, when in fact history demonstrates that he was wrong. Given his premise for a successful revolution that violence is unavoidable, what advice was he giving to students to follow their natural “tendencies.” You are attempting to white-wash the implications of what Marcuse stated.