Friday, 16 March 2018

Dissecting Bernstein: Bernstein in the 1910s.

Last week we examined one of Matt's claims for the resurrection of Eduard Bernstein. Today we'll consider another one. In Matt's gospel, Bernstein had been a Pharisee. He, however, had an epiphany and converted Reformism. According to Matt, Bernstein heard the words "Eduard, Eduard, why persecutest thou me" as early as the "1910's".

Is Matt right?

The short answer:
It's a good legend, one that Bernstein himself may have contributed to create. The problem is that all evidence seems to contradict it. Bernstein is not a trustworthy source.

Let's proceed by steps. By now, careful readers -- even if they didn’t read Preconditions -- know that "as early as the 1910's" is another howler: Voraussetzungen was published in 1899. By this measure, you are over 11 years late, Matt.

Like in the literary executor thing, however, there's more beyond that. Unlike in the literary executor thing, Matt's latest brain fart has far deeper consequences.

Nowhere in Preconditions Bernstein mentions it (neither does Tudor), but in September 17-18, 1879 Marx and Engels wrote precisely about Bernstein’s reformism. They were seriously pissed off, too, to the point of threatening to publicly denounce the SPD, then underground. Yup, believe it or not.

By this second measure, you are late by some thirty years, Matt. Yes: 30.

Bernstein's omission is tantamount to a lie. As Engels' literary executor he was responsible for curating the latter's papers. He otherwise quoted them liberally when it suited his purposes, yet, that letter's text was only made public in its German original in 1931 (a "mainstream Marxist" initiative) and in its full English translation in 1984, with MECW vol. 24 (pp. 253-269).

There's more. MECW vol. 45 (published in 1991) shows a paper trail starting at least the previous June. In it both Engels and Marx detail their increasingly harsh opinion of Bernstein. At least August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Nikolai Danielson, Friedrich Adolph Sorge, Johann Philip Becker and … Eduard Bernstein himself had been privy to that.

That material is copyrighted, but here is the partial text of Marx's September 19 letter to Sorge in Hoboken. "The Leipzigers" are August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, among others. "Their Zürich allies" (variously referred to elsewhere as the "Zürich trio" or simply as "Zürichers") are Bernstein, his master Karl Höchberg, and one Karl August Schramm.

The sobering thing is that that lie may not be the most egregious in Bernstein's case.

The longer answer:
The short answer is not satisfactory, though. There’s heaps left out.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Friday, 9 March 2018

Dissecting Bernstein: Was Bernstein Marx's Literary Executor?

According to Matt, Bernstein was one of Marx's literary executors. Is Matt right?

The short answer:

Wrong beard, Matt (Freudian slip?). Bernstein was one of Engels’ literary executors. Marx’s literary executor was … drum rolls, please … Engels!

I can, however, be generous to Matt. So, to save time, I'll put it plainly: that's just a brain fart, embarrassing, but by itself it doesn't demolish the whole of his argument. It does say something, however, of his and Bernstein's credibility.

I can afford generosity, because what's telling is how I learned the right answer. Rather funny, actually.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Weather Alert.

Sarah Ferguson presented and Michael Brissenden reported "Weather Alert" for Four Corners, by ABC Channel 21, last Monday.

Friday, 2 March 2018

An Online Argument for Bernstein's Resurrection: a Dissection.

To critique something, one must first understand what we are critiquing: what does what, how things fit together, what goes where.

That's what we are going to do now with Matt's comments.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Anecdotal Evidence.

Another summer is gone, woo-hoo!

This was a strange summer. I don’t think it was nearly as hot as last year’s, but I reckon it was a lot drier. There were some strangely cool spells (rather nice, actually), interspersed with extremely humid (mostly in the early morning) heat waves lasting a week or ten days. But no rains.

And something I really loved: no mozzies! You know how it is: no rains, no mozzies. Sure, there were cockies galore, but mozzies? Nope.

Come to think of it, I saw very few spiders and flies.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Taking a Stroll Down Memory Lane (iii).

I suspect one must be really interested in Marxist and socialist history for the name Eduard Bernstein to ring a bell. I am and I have already written about him, without focusing specifically on him.

The bottom line is that Bernstein has been forgotten, but he would be a case study in the unintended consequences of the kind of charlatanry the liberal/leftish intelligentsia mastered.

Monday, 19 February 2018

So, How is the World Ruled?

Well, judge by yourself.

Sep. 28, 2017.

Billionaire Donald Trump promises to cut his own taxes:


Friday, 16 February 2018

Taking a Stroll Down Memory Lane (ii)

Resuming from last time: Signs that things weren't fine for capitalism and that people started to notice didn't end with a few scattered economists discussing things among themselves, or some economics students demanding unspecified changes in academic syllabi. Not even with the mega rich performing their annual rituals at Davos.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Rural Idiocy of Sacks of Potatoes.

Whether one likes it or not, Marx and Engels didn’t think much of rural life.

This is an early example (1848):
“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.”
Now, let’s pause. Those guys used the word “rescued”. It’s there. You can see it: I emphasised it.

Time to use our noodles. Marx and Engels used the word rescue and we know that to rescue something is to save that something from a danger or a difficult situation. Right?

Friday, 9 February 2018

It's a Long Way to the Top (ii)

Welcome to the second part of my "It's a Long Way to the Top" series: an absolute beginner's guide to optimisation … by an absolute beginner to optimisation. :-)

In the first installment we went through an intuitive exposition of the logic of optimisation. Now it's time to put that in a slightly more formal language. Here is an intuitive explanation of what a function and its derivative are and how to find its maximum. It's not meant to be complete and readers interested are advised to consult a text (you can try here, but it's up to you).

Mathematically one represents Fateful Mountain (from our previous post) like so

y = f(x).

Friday, 2 February 2018

Taking a Stroll Down Memory Lane.

It doesn’t take a sharp observer to realise things of late are going pear-shaped for capitalism, one needs only to follow the news: globalisation gone mad, financialisation, private debt growth, housing bubble burst, GFC, bailouts, repos, recession, unemployment, inequality in all shapes and colours, wage stagnation, the bloody aftermath to the Arab Spring, terrorism, rise of the surveillance state and the far right, Europe, US, South America. And that’s without mentioning climate change, ocean acidification, mass extinction, the risk of global pandemics, and now the growing likelihood of Cold War 2 or even a nuclear war.

Don’t believe me? Even as I wrote this, our reptilian plutocratic overlords were performing their ultimately inconsequential but newsworthy Davos annual hand-wringing ceremonies.


Things didn’t seem so bad twenty years ago, yes?

Monday, 29 January 2018

Mutatis Mutandis.

I'm a fan of Corey Robin. In "Democracy is Norm Erosion" he discusses the current polarised state of American politics and how people might react to it. It's fascinating and all, but that's not why I mention it here.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

It's a Long Way to the Top.

"Off you go".

Those were the Queen's final words. No more pleas; no buts nor ifs. It's a do or die situation. You are to climb to the very summit of Fateful Mountain to plant there HM's Royal Banner. Success will be handsomely rewarded; you'll pay failure with your life.

However high the stakes, the task is simple … or so you think. That's what I haven't told you: you are a termite. You are blind.

How will you find the summit?

Friday, 19 January 2018

What is Reformism? The British Case.

Let’s talk about “reformism”.

Once upon a time, that word (plus “reformist” and “reform”) had a precise meaning for Marxists. Over time, however, that meaning changed: the original nuances behind “reformism” were lost. Nowadays those are merely words of abuse.

Because of that it has become, paradoxically, possible to reclaim them. That would be a serious mistake and we might be running out of time for mistakes.

But before tackling “reformism”, it seems wiser to explain “reform” first. To make the discussion more accessible to the public and hopefully less dry, I’ll try an unusual approach.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Stephen Hawkings on Robots: It's the Distribution, Stupid.

I’ve seldom experienced déjà vu as strongly as I did reading Alexander C. Kaufman’s recent note on Stephen Hawkings’ brief Reddit AMA (h/t David Ruccio).

A member of the public asked:
  1. "Have you thought about the possibility of technological unemployment, where we develop automated processes that ultimately cause large unemployment by performing jobs faster and/or cheaper than people can perform them?
  2. "In particular, do you foresee a world where people work less because so much work is automated?
  3. "Do you think people will always either find work or manufacture more work to be done?"
See “technological unemployment” there?

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Cuck Fight!

Man, you've gotta love US politics!

The book records Murdoch's reply: "Donald, for eight years these guys [Silicon Valley honchos] had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don't need your help."

Trump is quoted as saying the companies "really need these H-1B visas".

Wolff writes that Murdoch suggested a more liberal stance on H-1B visas would sit oddly with Trump's hardline stance on immigration, to which the president-elect replied: "We'll figure it out."

Wolff writes that Murdoch shrugged as he got off the phone, and said: "What a fucking idiot." (Here)
Everybody knows government is not the executive committee for the bourgeosie, uh Brad?

06-/01/2018. Amid a desert storm of denials from most of those quoted by Michael Wolff, The Donald and the White House came out really hard, all guns blazing -- like, well, all fire and fury -- on him, his book, and Steve Bannon. And then, according to the news, The Donald called his personal lawyer, Mr. Harder. Yup, that's right.

Shock and awe, man.


I can't say whether he's got a bigger and more powerful button, but at least he's got Harder. :-)

American politics is way better than fiction and it's all for free! Whoever said capitalism sucks?

Monday, 1 January 2018

Keynes: Reader's Goodwill, Intelligence, and Co-operation

"A final difference was one of intellectual manners. By the early 1930s, Keynes and his followers felt a sense of urgency, almost of desperation, to get their ideas accepted. It became the hallmark of Keynes's coterie to regard every economist outside Cambridge as mad or stupid; argumentative good manners were sacrificed to world salvation. On the other hand, there is near unanimous testimony to Hayek's intellectual hospitality."

There's no dearth of goodwill, intelligence, and co-operation towards Keynes and his coterie in the essay where that passage comes from. His author does not number among Keynes' harshest critics. What one cannot see there is goodwill, intelligence or co-operation towards those "outside Cambridge". They were simply "mad or stupid".