From: "Daniel F. Vukovich" <vukovich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 14:41:27 -0500
I think Doug Henwood is right on in re. the putative charge against
Marxism/the CP/socialist history. I hope the quote from Foucault is as
out-of-context as it seems, just as I don't see how the letter from M to E
illustrates the racism inherent in (their) revolutionary thinking. Which
is not to deny their understandable, but by no means justifiable,
eurocentrism and real inadequacy in regard to gender and sexuality. Didn't
the Lingua Franca -- a fun, but liberal rag if ever there was one --
article say that essay and its volume are yet to be published?
Anyway, I'd like to query John Ransom's response: Isn't the level of
abstraction -- and the homology it would require -- needed to equate the
"purification"-impulse within revolutionary movements/moments (and I
wouldn't agree with the word-choice here, myself), to racial
purges/cleanses a rather high one? Too high, I'd argue, because it negates
the specificities of each of these moments. And their considerable
discontinuities from each other-- as if all revolutionary histories, and
their "purges" as well as their *class* struggles post-seizure of power,
were alike. The USSR from 1917-1923, or China from 1949-1969, were much
different entities than these same places post-Lenin or post-Mao (which is
not, of course, to see the former as pre-lapsarian).
"A desire for purification typical of communists"? I don't think so.
Sounds like a cheap-shot to me, though I don't wish to sound hostile.....
At any rate, if that LF article is accurate, then this sounds like Foucault
at his worst, not least because he's forgotten his own lessons about
discontinuity, dispersal, abstraction and homolgies.
Reminds me of the passage in HS I, where he notes the vagrant ("idiot"?)
who fondles some local farm girl and quickly becomes subjectivated by the
powers that be: I wonder about the "point of view" implicit in this, and I
see a lot of missing details, questions begged.
Hope this doesn't sound anti-Foucault. I in fact take him quite seriously,
and believe he has much to teach those who, like myself, cut their teeth on
western marxism. And I'm down with the "cleansing operations" he found
himself having to perform in a French context, so as to make room to think,
to go on thinking.
Anyone interested in starting a thread in re Marx (or whoever tread the
paths laid down by him, such as Lukacs and Adorno, etc.) and Foucault?
Specifically a thread in re. more recent essays on these twin foundational
thinkers of modernity? (I mean post-Barry Smart and post-Poster, as
interesting as their work is.) How about Abdul JanMuhammad's essay on "F's
disavowal of Marx" (not at all dissmissive, contra the unfortunate title)
or Spivak's readings of F in the "Teaching Machine" collection? Or
At 12:53 PM 9/18/97 -0400, you wrote:
>foucault-digest Thursday, September 18 1997 Volume 02 : Number 095
>Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 11:46:25 -0500
>From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood@xxxxxxxxx>
>Subject: racism & revolution
>The September issue of Lingua Franca has a short article by James
>Surowiecki on the publication of Foucault's late lectures at the College
de >France. Here's an excerpt:
>"More explicitly, he examined the relation between racism and
revolutionary >thinking, pointing to the reliance of both fascism and
ultraleftism on talk >of exclusion and extermination. He quote Marx writing
to Engels: 'Our class
>struggle, you know very well where we found it: we found it in the work of
>the French historians when they tell the story of the war o races.'
>Insofar as socialist states were concerned with internal purification -
>with the elimination of class enemies and of those deemed opponents of the
>state - they were, Foucault contended, necessarily marked by racism."
>Is this a fair rendition of Foucault's argument? (I sort of know
>Surowiecki, and he's a smart fellow, so I'm giving him the benefit of the
>doubt here.) If it is, it strikes me as pretty demented. Not only could
you >argue that the modern notion of "race" has its origins in capitalist
>slavery and imperialism, the actual history of Marxist and other socialist
>movements worldwide has been, if not perfect, marked by anti-racist and
>anti-imperialist stances. For all its countless faults, no predominantly
>white organization did as much to fight anti-black racism in the U.S. as
>the CPUSA from the 1930s into the 1950s.
>What do others think?
>Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997 12:51:32 -0400 (EDT)
>From: John Ransom <ransom@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>Subject: Re: racism & revolution
> But perhaps Foucault's point (I'm going to have to go look at the
article; >thanks for mentioning it) is not that Marxist and socialist
countries were >racist but that, at a certain level of abstraction, the
desire for >purification typical of communist and racist outlooks have a
great deal in common.
>> For all its countless faults, no predominantly
>> white organization did as much to fight anti-black racism in the U.S. as
>> the CPUSA from the 1930s into the 1950s.
>What about the NAACP? Though I certainly agree with you that the CPUSA was
>a front-line participant in anti-racist struggles during the period you
English; Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign