Postscript: “I have to confess that Jack Conrad was not impressed”
Given that scientific communists, & others, value transparency, something strongly championed by the Communist Party of Great Britain & its paper, the Weekly Worker, below are excerpts from emails to do with trying to get these three pieces into the paper.
(1) At first I thought a letter to the WW would be enough to respond to Mike Macnair’s conception of politics, but as I wrote I saw more & more interesting angles. On 16 April I emailed the editor outlining what I’d written, & a few days later, Monday the 20th, he agreed to publish the first part of it that Thursday. (That’s why the first piece posted here is in the WW‘s style – including its prohibition on the contractions we use all day long.)
But as often happens, things change, & a 3 May email said “[t]he plan now is to go for your two articles in consecutive issues starting May 14” (at that time the second article was going to cover what became #2 & 3).
(2) But then a slot appeared for the 7 May issue: “[i]t’s very interesting and clearly expressed, Jara (although I know Mike disagrees with it)” (5 May).
The same day I suggested it being three articles; the response was “in principle the idea of a third article would be fine” (6 May).
Then the day the paper came out:
“In the end we decided to use a different theoretical article to fill the gap this week.
For two reasons:
1. We do want to get Mike’s final article in the current series [on the maximum programme] out of the way before we embark on your series.
2. We would like to see your follow-ups before we commit to three articles.
I have to confess that Jack Conrad was not impressed by your first part, so it would be better to have at least the second part and then decide. We will discuss this again collectively at the weekend.
Sorry for messing you about.”
(3) A hiatus followed. The prospective second article was expanded into two, & these were submitted on Sunday 2 August.
10 August I got the request for a re-write, this being based on the opinion sought from Mike Macnair, the writer of the article that mine were a response to:
Mike Macnair has given his considered view of your three-part series and we have accepted his recommendation that it should be reduced to two parts (approx 5,000 words each). On that basis we would be prepared to publish it.
Below are Mike’s thoughts. Let me know what you think.
Note that this week’s issue of the paper is the last before our August
break: the following issue comes out on September 3 and we could possibly run your articles on September 3 and September 10 if you are prepared to rewrite along the lines suggested.
There are aspects of the text which look interesting, and it is at the end of the day an elaborate defence of Marxist “orthodoxy” as to the withering away of politics, against my point, but in an unusual way.
(a) It takes up much too much space for what it is (total 18,329 words: Part I 5624 words of which 332 notes; Part II 5538 words of which 415 notes; Part III 7167 words of which 564 notes). If this was – as it could be with revision – a systematic counter to what I wrote on the maximum programme, it could be defensible; but it takes no account at all of that series (or, for that matter, of the books I reviewed in the second part of that series, though he cites Hudis with approval from an online source), but presents itself merely as a response to a couple of paragraphs in my December 2014 polemic with Cutrone.
(b) It is characterised by systematic violation of Occam’s Razor
(imperceptible entities are multiplied, i.e. unnecessary levels of
taxonomies) and by the phenomenon which made Marx characterise Bentham as the “leather-tongued oracle of the bourgeoisie”, i.e. the (often unnecessary and sometimes tendentious) invention of specific Jara-Handala-ite terminologies.
(c) I am pretty confident that the core ‘move’ in the argument, which is to argue that my definition of ‘politics’ is ‘narrower’ than his proposed definition of ‘politics’, simply fails at an elementary logical level (the nearest approach to support for it is citation in the FNN of a Foucaultian piece; when he tries to work out the implications he is forced to substitute use of “ruling” and “de-ruling” and “government” and “self-government” in ways which are both un-rigorous and internally inconsistent; there is certainly nothing like an attempt to “do” a rigorous analysis of the place
of the idea in a larger totality using Hegel’s Logic or one of the sub-Hegelian Marxist derivatives. My version of ‘politics’ is, in fact, broader than his … unsurprisingly, since my argument, to which he objects, is that there is ‘politics’ in the absence of the state and of class, so that his definition of politics needs to be narrower than mine to avoid this result.
These objections could be met by revision, cutting some aspects of the
argument as unnecessary and developing others (I probably still wouldn’t agree, but that’s neither here nor there; the question is whether the exchange would be politically/ theoretically/ educationally productive for readers).
Just to get some sense of how the 17K words (without the notes) are used:
Context and opening argument 3124
Exposition of Macnair’s point 2129
Argument for ‘politics’ to include non-issues & ‘politicising’ 1121
Human needs & ‘political living’ 4002
The ruling class does not rule (Fred Block) 842
Ruling and ‘de-ruling’ 1185
‘Communising’ and ‘self-governing’ 1866
Relation to Marx’s CGP schema 2363
I think he could not unreasonably be asked to cut to two double pages by dumping most of the first article, giving a much shorter exposition of the argument to which he objects, shortening and making more rigorous the arguments of Part II and the middle parts of Part III (e.g. either dropping the Foucaultian ‘post-Marxist’ aspects or bringing the argument more explicitly up-front so that the reader can see explicitly what it is), and dumping both the Fred Block argument (which was plausible Eurocommunism in 1977 when it was written but looks archaic now) and the material on CGP.”
The next day I let the editor know that “[u]nfortunately I won’t be able to make the time […] to do the suggested alterations (not that I follow what they all mean). Anyway the pieces only repeat what readers already know & can find in the paper. Hopefully lots of other readers will get some discussion going on both basic conceptual matters & topical problems.”
(4) Straight after submitting the articles I had emailed Mike Macnair at his college address on 4 August, saying in part, “for your information & as a matter of courtesy please find attached the three pieces I’ve written.” As I didn’t get a response, I later wrote, “I sent an email to this address the other week but I guess you didn’t receive it. I can re-send it if you want.” The comrade has yet to reply. [UPDATE: years later, still in Vladimir & Estragon mode . . .]