Believe it or not!

I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalyptic Communism by A. M. Gittlitz published by Pluto, reviewed by Ian Parker

In 1962, just as the Fourth International was preparing its reunification congress, which took place the following year, an Argentinian Trotskyist Homero Cristalli seized control. His Buró Latinoamericano (BLA), the FI’s Latin American Bureau, expelled all European sections of the International and replaced them with a ‘European Bureau’ which he personally directed. A new Fourth International was declared at an emergency congress in Montevideo, Uruguay, and it was from here that Cristalli ran his operation under the pseudonym ‘Juan Posadas’; thus was born the Cuarta Internacional Posadista.

A. M. Gittlitz tells the story of the rise of Cristalli from being a shoemaker, union organizer, league footballer and singer of tango classics to being leader of an international organisation that implanted itself in most countries of Latin America and many others around the world, with local leaderships that were usually Argentinian or Uruguayan. There were sections in Europe including, in Britain, the Revolutionary Workers Party led by miners, and the book traces the emergence and disintegration of these groups as Posadas became increasingly erratic, taking us up to his death in 1981 and beyond, to his son León Cristalli’s attempts to keep his thought alive and to a strange afterlife of Posadism on the Internet.

What Gittlitz does so well in weaving the life of Posadas with the enclosed parallel universe of Trotskyism he created is to embed that life in the particular conditions of possibility for the development of revolutionary movements in Argentina in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Not everyone ended up like Posadas and not every group became Posadist, but we can understand what happened better if we understand that context. Gittlitz describes the local context, the global situation and some of the key debates in the main Trotskyist organisations.

These were times of imminent threat of nuclear war intensified by the Cuban missile crisis after the successful unexpected revolution, and of a space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, which had succeeded in sending Yuri Gagarin up in a rocket in 1961 and which, as Gittlitz describes in some detail, had a long history, back to Lenin and Trotsky, of intense engagement with technology and even speculation about life on other planets. The US SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) programme included advocates not only of communicating with alien life forms but also with dolphins. There were many sightings of UFOs in Argentina, and much popular discussion about what they were and what they portended, and there was Peronism, a peculiar blend of quasi-fascist populist rhetoric and incorporation of trades unions into state power that divided the revolutionary left.

There are plenty of amusing anecdotes in this well-researched book, one of which indicates the high stakes and macho braggadocio that ran through the rival revolutionary organisations bidding to become sections of the Fourth International in Latin America after the Second World War and before 1962. One contender for leadership of the Latin American Bureau, who eventually became part of the mother-ship, Nahuel Moreno, claimed, in a meeting with Posadas during a meeting of the Argentinian POR, that he had read all three volumes of Marx’s Capital; not to be outdone, Posadas shouted that he had read six. The underlying question was who would rule the roost.

Populism and power

It was that last aspect of Peronism, authoritarian populism, that fed the imagination of Posadas, and so one of his most powerful and lasting deviations from Marxist organisational practice was what he called ‘monolithism’. In place of democratic centralism – democratic debate and application of a common line by the organisation – was the direction of the party, and all parties in the Cuarta Internacional Posadista, by the leadership, by Posadas himself. That leadership was abusive and dictatorial, entailing humiliation and expulsion of dissidents and control of women, including the demand that wives and girlfriends must be members of the party and, almost inevitably, that they be available to sleep with Posadas.

Gittlitz weaves another technological element into his story of the rise and fall of Posadas, the invention of the tape recorder, which enabled the great leader to speak for hours on end and to dream up new theoretical innovations as he spoke. It was something like the opposite of psychoanalysis; here it was free association driven by the belief that everything that was said was true, and must be told to the world. It was not Posadas who began to speak about flying saucers, but one of his followers Dante Minazolli who insisted on the question; one that Posadas answered with the suggestion that other planetary civilisations advanced enough to arrive on Earth must, by definition, be socialist. The suggestion became a fetish, and made the Posadists the laughing stock of the rest of the left, and out of that spun other SETI-like ideas, about talking with dolphins, for example. That is what he is most remembered for now. Minazolli continued to propagate these ideas, and there were radical attempts to intervene in UFO-watching circles, after Posadas’ death.

It is here that Gittlitz spins a little too easily into common characterisations of the Posadist problem as to do with his mental health, something that leaders of the Fourth International who had to deal with him before 1962 had already rehearsed. We are told that the tape recorder allowed Posadas to convey his ideas more easily, for example, because writing was hindered by his ‘attention deficit disorder’; later his ‘mania’ increased, and his paranoia, and the narrative leads logically to his later ideas being plain ‘crazy’, culminating in his death-bed claim that although he may die, he would, he assured his followers, rise again.

In some ways Gittlitz is too hard on Posadas and in others too easy. From his own account we can see that the melange of weird ideas that made up the stuff of Posadism was quite understandable. In other times in other contexts, some of them could be articulated with revolutionary Marxism. Posadas’ signature claim, one that really underpinned the formation of his own Fourth International based in Montevideo, was that nuclear war was going to happen, and that it would be better if the Soviet Union was to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike so that from the wreckage some socialist future might be built. It was a stupid political line, and one that led to a break with the Cuban regime, of course, where the Posadists, the only Trotskyists in the island, were then suppressed.

But, for all this exaggerated threat and fervent belief in the onward march of humankind, it was actually a line that was not so very far from that argued by Michel Pablo, secretary of the Fourth International. The world was changing fast, and was under threat, and revolutionaries were struggling with what to make of that situation. Posadas ability to take complete control is something that ran contrary to the dynamic of Trotskyist politics, and we do not need to resort to diagnosis of him being ‘mad’ to formulate a thorough critique of his methods, something that would be helped by a good dose of revolutionary socialist feminist theory of organisation.

After Posadas

León Cristalli is still churning out stuff in memory of his father in Argentina, but the only functioning Posadist political organisation in the world now is in Uruguay. I visited the headquarters of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario (Trotskista, Posadista), POR, in Montevideo last year, and had a friendly chat with comrades there. The POR was founded in 1944, with continuous existence, the very same organisation that was seized by Posadas in 1962, and which became an active part of the progressive Frente Amplio which governed the country from 2004 until a few months ago. They were happy to meet someone from the International they had left so many years ago, but blanked me when I asked them about revolutionary nuclear war.

What Gittlitz omits from his account, and there is the very briefest mention of the group in Montevideo in which he indicates that they didn’t want to wax lyrical about Posadas to him either, is the very difficult journey that some leftists have had to make through Posadism and out the other side, back into socialist politics again. Posadas’ homophobia, his misogyny and his moralistic control of the personal lives of party members is now but a bad memory. The POR shop-front was sprayed with fascist graffiti; the organisation had recently come under attack because of its support for progressive Frente Amplio legislation over LGBT rights.

Although it was buried deep in that broad front, the POR also sold Posadist pamphlets, including those that claimed that the nuclear war had happened, but through other means like Swine Flu, and it called for support for the ‘regenerating’ socialist states, including Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela. One Posadist publication edited by León Cristalli included two articles by Vladimir Putin. Again, these are political questions, mistakes and debates that cannot be written off as signs of madness, for there is much the same in much propaganda among our divided left.

This book is zippily written, more engaging than most histories of the Fourth International, but with some political formulations that will jar for some, including the brief description of the Bolsheviks seizing power and establishing a dictatorship. No, it is not as simple as that. The Russian Revolution was contradictory; an opening, which was fought for by Lenin and Trotsky and present in the later debates about democratic centralism, and a closure around Stalin and the bureaucracy in which the centralist aspect took precedence and blotted out democracy altogether.

Overall the political tone and line of the book is not so much concerned with retrieving a revolutionary history from the Posadas debacle but transcending it. Gittlitz looks back, sometimes with a too-mocking journalist gaze, on these sorry episodes in the history of our movement and the lessons they hold for the way we organise now, finding some redemption only in whimsical intergalactic Posadist memes that circulate on Facebook, seeing in those an opening to the ‘otherness’ of other forms of life. It is as if Homero Cristalli did all these bad things but at least he made for some good jokes about old Marxism.

The book is well worth a read, and might even bring some new activists into first contact with Trotskyism, which is what Gittlitz does claim at some points, but is rather too quick to play up the ‘fun’ aspect of Posadism. You will learn many things about Posadas that you didn’t already know. Posadas, apparently, had his own theory of humour, declaring that while jokes are a function of contradictions under capitalism, under socialism jokes would no longer exist. Posadism itself was not funny, but tragic, and when we laugh at it we do need to ask ourselves what we are doing and what we are failing to learn in the process.

 

You can read and comment on this article here

 

This is one part of the FIIMG project to put psychopolitics on the agenda for liberation movements

 

Introduction to Mapping the English Left Through Film

The FIIMG project mapping the English Left through Film is but one way of describing the way the favourite narratives of the left groups work separately and in relation to each other. The project picks up and develops a series of existing older commentaries on the nonsense that divides us. The left does not spring out of nowhere, but is embedded, whether it likes it or not, in a series of other powerful popular cultural narratives about power and resistance, and filmic representation is one of the most accessible of these popular cultural forms. Most of us escape from our dear comrades at one time or another and find refuge in film, and so it is all the more disturbing, perhaps, to find that films provide persuasive frames to illuminate what the left is up to as it tears itself apart instead of tearing down capitalism.

Tempting though they are, jokes about the People’s Front of Judea are trite, partly because they have been repeated so often against the divided left – a measure of incomprehension at what the political divisions are about – but also because the left itself already recognises the problem and enjoys those caricatures so much. It is often forgotten that most of the richest veins of humour concerning the fragmentation of the left, and their supposed humourless complaints about ‘political correctness’ actually have their roots in the left as reflexive self-critique. To do that constructively, we also need to know something about the shape of the problem on the ground. This is where this mapping through film project should help, so you know something of the terrain of the left in England.

The organisations covered in this guide are ordered roughly in order of size, but we know that this is, strictly speaking, an impossible exercise because left groups are notoriously cagey about their membership figures and prone to exaggeration about their influence. Like cult films, their weight in the left does not so much lie in how many audience members they have, nor what positions they hold in the social movements or trade unions or labour bureaucracy but in their perceived influence. So, the ordering here reflects a rough guess made from working through an equation that factors in claims for size, their impact on the political scene and, to be honest, where they appear on the radar in Manchester in the north of England, itself not a good guide since so much political work is centred on the capital, London, in the south.

Not only is this a geographically limited survey inflected by my own sectarian inclinations, limited to England, not including Scotland or Wales, and confined mainly to the Trotskyist tradition (or how organisations impact on or are impacted on by Trotskyists), but there is a limited time frame to the account. The time frame is set by the period during which the pieces were first written and revised, by a radical leadership of the Labour Party, that is, between September 2015 and April 2020. This was a time of high hopes, for a left government with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm who had his own history of engagement with the revolutionary left even though he was not a revolutionary.

Back to the Future

We begin with the Labour Party, a very large mass-membership socialist party, and trace our way down, second, through Momentum operating wholly inside the Labour Party. Although the time-period in which we freeze-frame each organisation is within that nearly five-years, the narrative must, of course, trace where each group has come from. The Labour Party is not only the largest but the oldest of the organisations, founded in 1900 and for many years part of the ‘Second International’ or ‘Socialist International’ (which still exists, bringing together social democratic parties from around the world). Each of the groups has its own origin story and, in some cases, chosen trauma to mark its appearance in the world, its break from or expulsion by another group. History is crucial to each of these accounts, history which interweaves the fate of each of them and ties them together as much as it separates them from each other.

Once upon a time, the fourth organisation in this account, the Communist Party would have been second in size and influence, after the Labour Party. The Communist Party, now a shadow of its former self after the fall of the Soviet bloc from which it was guided in its political manoeuvres, was once the British Section of the ‘Third International’ or ‘Communist International’ founded by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution and then controlled and manipulated by Stalin. The degeneration of the Third International led to the formation, by Leon Trotsky and his followers, of the Fourth International, which operates as the compass for so many of the rest of the groups (with the exception of the Socialist Party of Great Britain which wanted nothing to do with the Russian Revolution and plods its own path, and Plan C which emerged from the more autonomist socialist groups operating in parallel to the Trotskyists). The Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee) is a mutation of an opposition group inside the old Communist Party, taking its name from the old CPGB, and from that old group comes the present day Communist Party of Britain, which has remained more faithful to its old Stalinist heritage.

It is from the Fourth International in its various incarnations that the rest of the groups emanate, and here we can identify three broad sub-traditions which depart from and sometimes reconnect with Trotskyism. The first sub-tradition is that of the second group discussed here, the Socialist Workers Party (the British group, not to be confused with the US-American organisation that was for many years the American section of the Fourth International). What became our SWP broke from the Fourth International during the Korean War with its own distinctive analysis of the Soviet Union (and China) as ‘state capitalist’ rather than as a workers state (and so, logically, unlike Trotskyists, the SWP tradition would never support the workers states against capitalist states). And then, from that we have a constellation of groups that were purged or split from this SWP (or its previous incarnations), that include Counterfire, Spiked, Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century, Alliance for Workers Liberty, the Revolutionary Communist Group, Workers’ Power and Socialist Fight.

The second sub-tradition comes from the fateful division of the Fourth International into two competing internationals from 1953 to 1963, and from one side of the split which called itself the International Committee of the Fourth International, ICFI, which was led in Britain by Gerry Healy and which eventually took form as the Workers Revolutionary Party. It is from that ‘Healyite’ sub-tradition that we have still with us the present-day Workers Revolutionary Party, a very different and reduced beast now, and the Socialist Equality Party, the International Socialist League and the barely-existent Spartacist League.

The third sub-tradition comes from the ‘International Secretariat’ of the Fourth International, the other side of the 1953-1963 division, and then the ‘United Secretariat’, USFI from 1963. (The reunification of the Fourth International was, of course, incomplete, with the Workers Revolutionary Party keeping its own ICFI going until it imploded.) It is from the USFI sub-tradition that we have emerging a third constellation of organisations that include Socialist Appeal, the Socialist Party, Socialist Action, the Communist League, and, of course, Socialist Resistance which is the present-day section of the USFI, and whereupon comes FIIMG, the Fourth International in Manchester allied with Socialist Resistance. Members of the three sub-traditions encounter each other from time to time in the Labour Party, Momentum and in Left Unity.

This is not going to be a best-seller. It is a very niche project about warring niche organisations vehemently defending their turf against each other. There is something of Blue Velvet running through these accounts, and you might imagine yourself as Jeffrey Beaumont peering from the closet to see scenes of incomprehensible stupidity. In some cases there is misogyny too, some groups behaving worse than others, but in all cases you will notice that it is men who are usually in command, and men who, with power, tempted to abuse it. There are few leading roles for women, and we will need a more powerful socialist feminist movement inside these organisations to match and extend the #MeToo movement in the film industry. This is where we are now. These are twenty five uneasy pieces.

This is the introduction to the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.

 

 

Bibliography for mapping the English left through film

Bibliography for mapping the English left through film

 

Aguirre, C. and Klonsky, M. (n.d.) As Soon As This Pub Closes… http://www.whatnextjournal.org.uk/Pages/Sectariana/Pub.html (pathbreaking)

 

Callaghan, J. (1984) British Trotskyism: Theory and Practice. Oxford: Blackwell. (useful)

 

Callaghan, J. (1987) The Far Left in British Politics. Oxford: Blackwell. (dated)

 

Frank, P. and Bensaïd, D. (2010) The Long March of the Trotskyists Contributions to the History of the Fourth International. London: Resistance Books. (good)

 

Gittlitz, A. M. (2020) I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalyptic Communism. London: Pluto. (zippy)

 

Kelly, J. (2018) Contemporary Trotskyism: Parties, Sects and Social Movements in Britain. London and New York: Routledge. (terrible)

 

Maitan, L. (2019) Memoirs of a Critical Communist: Towards a History of the Fourth International. Dagenham: Merlin Books. (impressive)

 

Mitchell, A. (2011) Come the Revolution. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing. (sad)

 

Parker, I. (2017) Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left. Alresford: Zero Books. (excellent)

 

Riley, S. (2019) Winter at the Bookshop: Politics and Poverty St Ann’s in the 1960s. Nottingham: Five Leaves. (nostalgic)

 

Splits and Fusions (m.d.) Splits and Fusions, https://splitsandfusions.wordpress.com/ (indispensable)

 

Tate, E. (2014) Revolutionary Activism in the 1950s & 60s. Volume 2. Britain 1965 – 1970. London: Resistance Books. (interesting)

 

Thornett, A. (2010) Militant Years: Car Workers’ Struggles in Britain in the 60s and 70s. London: Resistance Books. (inspiring)

 

This is part of the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.

 

International Socialist League

The very short unfinished film of the very big classic book Moby Dick was made by Orson Welles in 1971. He wrote it, directed it and took all the roles. This 21-minute film has a history, of course. Welles had appeared in the John Huston 1956 version of Herman Melville’s novel as Father Mapple, an ex-whaler who gives a stirring sermon, about what Ishmael will face when he goes to sea. The novel is great; all you want to know about whales is crammed in there. It is as obsessed with whales as is Captain Ahab who searches out the great white whale Moby Dick.

The novel has spawned a whole industry of literary interpretation, with the whale functioning as metaphor for what both drives and pulls us, and as an object lesson in obsessional lusting, both for revenge against what has deprived us of what we once were and for something that will make us whole, fully-present in the world. The whale stands both for nature that must be tamed, brought under control, subdued, and for the highest cultural goals, emblem of success. In the meantime, we plot and rage and seize every opportunity to convey to others the importance of our quest. That is precisely why it would have been such a spectacle, authentic to the book, to have the same actor play the crew-member Ishmael, the sermonising Father Mapple and the main protagonist Ahab.

What better actor-director than Orson Welles to take charge of this, and how great he would have been as Captain Ahab, driving his ship through the sea in search of the object cause of his desire, willing the crew on, taking them through the perilous journey. Orson Welles’ 1971 film, if it had been finished, could have taken us way beyond the John Huston version, and we would then really have had a driving force, with the energy not only to guide and lead the mission but to be present in every figure that appears onscreen, in full charge of what was going on.

ISL

Revolution is not yet in sight for the crew of the International Socialist League, ISL, but their doughty leader Martin Ralph guides them from the port of Liverpool, and has much larger ambitions than just taking Old Swan ward in Wavertree constituency. His ‘international’ is the LIT, of which the ISL proudly declares itself to be the British section. We in Britain should really translate that Latin-America-based network as the ‘International Workers League’, but the Liga Internacional de los Trabajadores (Cuarta Internacional), is usually known by members and ex-members alike simply as ‘the LIT’. Even the ISL is usually known as the LIT, or often hereabouts as ‘the Ralph International’.

It has a few members, and does some quite good work locally, but Martin Ralph is the guiding light, a driving force, so much so that it appears to outsiders to be a one-man band, even when Ralph appears at local events with groups of Brazilian visitors in tow, or makes amazing claims about the even more amazing numbers his group has leading the masses across Latin America.

The LIT are ‘Morenoites’, a species of Trotskyist we don’t often encounter in the UK, though occasionally in the North West in the form of Martin Ralph. Nahuel Moreno from Argentina was a larger than life buccaneering figure who joined the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, USFI, at the crucial reunification congress in 1963, but fell out with them after a crazy adventure during the Nicaraguan revolution when he organised the disastrous ‘Simon Bolivar International Brigade’ to go and fight with the Sandinistas in the 1980s civil war, something the Sandinistas were explicitly advising against. The British Section of the Fourth International, the IMG, expelled a few Morenoites in 1980 organised as the ‘Bolshevik Faction Group’.

The Morenoite LIT picked up its ‘British section’ from the meltdown of the Workers Revolutionary Party that ran its own ‘International Committee of the Fourth International’, ICFI. In 1988 a group led by Bill Hunter, who is no longer with us, and Martin Ralph emerged from the wreckage. Nahuel Moreno was a big man, an energetic and controlling figure in Latin America with global ambitions, and Martin Ralph is now one of the best suited to stepping into his shoes, at least around Liverpool. Orson Welles would be a fine choice to play both Moreno and Ralph.

Martin Ralph is well-known for never letting go once he gets hold of the microphone at a meeting; when he was advised by a comrade once that this might be counter-effective, he replied straightaway that revolutionaries need to seize every opportunity to give their message and speak for as long as possible. The Martin Ralph international in Britain it was that, along with Bob Myers, another old WRP-hand, steered the ‘Workers Aid for Bosnia’ outfit in the 1990s, building a base in the North West. So significant it was that Alan Thornett, from the group that became Socialist Resistance (and so in the USFI tradition of Trotskyism that the ICFI always pitted itself against and that Moreno had fallen out with over his intervention in Nicaragua) came to Manchester to try and mediate between Workers Aid for Bosnia and another broader alliance ‘International Workers Aid for Bosnia’, IWA. The mediation might have worked because Thornett was once upon a time in the WRP with Bob and Martin, but that might have antagonised them even more. It failed.

We knew that the hopes for a regroupment of the far-left in 2013 were really scuppered when a few groups, including Socialist Resistance, came together for talks but Martin Ralph turned up at a Manchester meeting. He was unusually quiet at the meeting, and it was Workers’ Power who were the real destructive element, but it was a powerful indication that the vultures were circling to pick up as many pieces as possible from the resulting quarrels. The enthusiastic participation of the Martin Ralph International in Left Unity was always a liability, one of the tiny sects that fed upon that broad alliance. He is a nice guy, but he carries with him the ambition and energy of Nahuel Moreno, and his single-minded full-on revolutionary programme interventions have their sights on the big prize, nothing less than the big prize now.

This Captain Ahab of the left is the LIT in Britain, and for that his efforts to build the world Trotskyist movement should be acknowledged, if for no other reason than that the Moreno tradition will one day need to play a part again in joint efforts to seek out Revolution, our own big whale. For the moment, though, the ISL is a very little and unfinished project.

 

This is part of the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.

 

Workers Revolutionary Party

Only a film as weird as Carlos Vermut’s 2018 Quién Te Cantará will do justice to the key question we are often posed when we see or read something, and wonder who it is for and who it is by. This is a film as much about the audience, who is to be witness to a performance, as it is about the performer and what they are trying to tell us. While ‘quién te cantará’ translates from Spanish most literally as ‘who will sing to you’, and the identity of the singer is clearly at issue here, one might most properly interpret the meaning of the phrase in the context of the film as ‘who is it that is singing to you (and who would you be that they are singing to you)’.

Famous singer Lila, played by Najwa Nimri, is a pop star who hasn’t sung for ten years and is about to make a comeback when she has an accident while swimming in the sea and loses her memory, including remembering how to sing. So, an avid fan Violeta (played by Eva Llorach) who performs a tribute act to Lila in a small-town bar is enrolled in the secret task of singing for her, singing to her, reminding her who she, Lila was, who she is. The story does and does not have a happy end (spoiler alert) depending on which Lila you are; Lila the star who does appear on stage in a successful performance or the would-be Lila who walks slowly to her death in the sea at the end of the film.

There is a sub-text of simmering violence, including, crucially between Violeta and her daughter Marta (played by Natalia Molina), and the small town on the coast where the film is shot is called ‘Rota’ which, as some admiring and critical reviews have pointed out, could be both the name of the place and a descriptor of ‘broken woman’. This is one of those rare films about relationships between women, with very few men on the scene, and about women, who they are when they must perform to others.

WRP

A key question for anyone who stumbles across the Workers Revolutionary Party today is, Who reads their daily newspaper News Line, and who are they that would produce and sell this thing? That there is a daily newspaper of the revolutionary left in Britain is still quite incredible, but it is now only on odd occasions that the thing pops into view; in a public square in Manchester, for example, when the old-timers on their collapsible chairs admit that they have travelled over from Leeds to sell it even though they claim to have hundreds of members in the city; or in the centre of London late on a deserted dark night outside a University library; or, most alarmingly during the COVID-19 crisis, on a street in the East End of London knocking door to door to sell the paper.

Once upon a time the answer was clear, if not to the readers at least to the members of the WRP, then the largest Trotskyist organisation in Britain and convinced that if they were not on the brink of power, they were at the edge of the cliff, at the point in history when there would either be socialism (under their leadership, for any other version could not be socialism at all) or barbarism. Many branches of the WRP, those that did not consist of resting actors battling for leadership of their trade union Equity, had a family-clan structure, with kids around the country enrolled into the desperate and unceasing task of cycling to the railway station late at night, every night, and then delivering the news of impending dictatorship if there was no revolution. Gerry Healy led the outfit and succeeded in recruiting working class families, and some prominent actors into his party that started as The Club in 1947, became the Socialist Labour League in 1959 and blossomed into the WRP in 1973.

The ten-year division of the Fourth International from 1953 to 1963 saw Healy’s group recognised as one of the halves of the International when the division began, of the so-called ‘International Committee of the Fourth International’, ICFI, a designation the WRP and News Line, retains for its almost non-existent network of sister organisations in different countries to the present-day. The reunification of the Fourth International in 1963 was, predictably, an incomplete one, and the SLL, as it then was, stayed out, battling for what it continued to call the ‘ICFI’ on the world stage obsessively pitted against the ‘United Secretariat’, the USFI which was led for many years by the Marxist economist Ernest Mandel, an International Healy branded as ‘Pabloite’ (after FI secretary Michel Pablo, even if there were actually few self-declared ‘Pabloites’ around).

The time for not one, but two, and then many Workers Revolutionary Parties came in 1985, when Gerry Healy was expelled, basically for sexually assaulting over twenty women in the party, and then Corin and Vanessa Redgrave were expelled for supporting him. Here indeed there was a sub-text of simmering violence against women in the group, and desperate attempts to remind Healy what he was once was, what he should be as a revolutionary leader instead of a mere abusive crook.

Different editions of News Line reported that Healy had been expelled and that he hadn’t – a case of Schrodinger’s trot – and the two different fragments then each published versions of the newspaper for a while. One fragment eventually mutated into the Socialist Equality Party, while another was still headed by Gerry Healy and Sheila Torrance, one of the few women still loyal to the old brute. Healy and the Redgraves then, in the name of the ICFI, expelled people who produced News Line and formed the ‘Marxist Party’ in 1987 oriented to the Soviet Union (a very untimely move, in retrospect) before dissolving after Healy’s death and re-emerging as the ‘Peace and Progress Party’ before disappearing into the wilderness.

There are actually very few people in the film Quién Te Cantará, and they move around quite deserted bare settings as they attempt to act out and re-establish the lives they once had, trying to remember how and why they once did what they did, and who they are. This is a very miserable and reduced game of doubling and identification, each pretending to be someone they are not, something that ends in tragic violence, with women suffering, as they so often do at the hands of male leaders in corrupted sectarian left groups that become little worlds enclosed and closed in on themselves.

So, we are left with Sheila Torrance still claiming that her WRP and her newspaper News Line is the real deal, and she continues the well-established Healy tradition of feting Arab dictators (something Healy’s WRP was willing to do in return for hard cash, but which Torrance does now, it seems, for free). What Torrance is doing in keeping the Healy legacy alive is anyone’s guess, and who she is doing it for is an even bigger question.

Healy himself met his maker a while ago now, and, fortunately, there hasn’t been another quite like him to take his place, thank goodness. Gerry Healy was no Lila, no superstar, even if the Redgraves and the rest of the gang treated him like one, and so it will be Eva Llorach who will be condemned one day to play Sheila Torrance on the big screen, Sheila mimicking the lines of Gerry’s ghost. All that is left is the name of his pretend ‘International’, the ICFI, and Torrance as the sad reminder and remainder who keeps it going, as nothing, for no one.

 

This is part of the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.

 

Socialist Action

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 classic The Red Shoes is one of their best films. This was another fruit of their writer-producer-director partnership, one that starred Marius Goring as Julian Craster, a composer hopelessly in love with Moira Shearer (as Victoria Page, the ballet dancer carried away by the red shoes) who is lured away, eventually to her death, by impresario Anton Walbrook (as Boris Lermentov).

As with many films, what goes on off-set is as indicative of the underlying and most significant narrative of the film as what appears on the screen. And it is only after the event that viewers can better reframe what they have seen and make sense of what is going on. In this case it is Marius Goring who is one of those centre-stage, bewitched by the dancer with the red shoes, and in a tense rivalrous relationship with Walbrook, but given a role by his rival as répétiteur with the ballet after it has become clear that he, Marius Goring, was the composer of some excellent pieces that had been passed off as the work of another.

No rebel is Marius, though; off-screen he was one of the key players in the British actor’s trade union ‘Equity’ after having been a founding member in 1929, and president of it from 1963 to 1965 and from 1975 to 1982. A great actor but a reactionary political actor, attempting to break the union boycott of apartheid South Africa, and at war with the left who were mainly organised by then influential Workers Revolutionary Party before the WRP collapsed after the Gerry Healy ‘red in the bed’ scandal. He is a real unrecognised genius in the film, watching with horror the love of his life expire, but in real life joins the camp of those in power. One might say that just as it is Moira Shearer who is captured by the beautiful red shoes who dance their way to her demise, so it is Marius Goring who is captured by political forces that he thought he could control. The narrative that flows from the film into real life is one in which a clever writer is tempted by the promise of influence and ends up at the mercy of the objects of his love.

SA

All this takes a little decoding, something that is equally the case for the shadowy group Socialist Action that once imagined that it had influence in the British Labour Party but ended up becoming a creature of the apparatus, a group led by figures who were tempted by the lure of influence in the Chinese Communist Party but ended up as propagandists for the Stalinist tradition they were once so cleverly critical of. Much as you might like Socialist Action, you won’t find out how to join through its website or its members, but you might get a lucky tap on the shoulder and be invited in one day if you can prove how enamoured you are of it.

The group is the sorry residue of the decision by the International Marxist Group, IMG, then British section of the Fourth International, to enter the Labour Party in 1982, changing its name to the ‘Socialist League’ in the process as cover, and folding up its paper Socialist Challenge, replacing it with its own tabloid and then eventually, from 1988 a magazine called Socialist Action. A three-way war broke out, with one group vying for the affections of the Fourth International, succeeding and so splitting away in 1985; this was the group that eventually, after several more splits, mutations and fusions with some fragments of the old WRP, became Socialist Resistance. Another group, acolytes of Jack Barnes’ US-American-based Pathfinder Tendency, nearly succeeded in seizing control, and was expelled in 1988, to become the Communist League.

The Fourth International and Pathfinder Tendency which was run by what was effectively once the American section of the Fourth International are the two red shoes. What was left was the third group run by a prominent former leader and theoretician of the IMG John Ross. It is John Ross who would be played by Marius Goring in a film of these times. A very clever guy, sometimes a bit of a demagogue, author of key IMG texts under his own name and under a pseudonym Alan Jones, he wanted a new arena, new company in which he could exert some influence. After having watched his red shoes dance his old partners away from him, he searched around for replacements. There were two options, both of which are visible in the present-day productions of Socialist Action. In the process, the women, as is so often the case in left groups, disappear from the scene. There is no Moira Shearer in this story. It is Marius Goring who is the focus of attention.

One red shoe was and still is the British Labour Party; apparatchiks from Socialist Action burrowed their way into Ken Livingstone’s Greater London Council, GLC, several of them, including John Ross, functioning as advisors and authors of key policy documents. This was one machine that ran away with them, carrying them far away from their old Trotskyist roots into social-democratic administration. Livingstone had actually appeared on a Socialist Challenge platform with Ernest Mandel from the Fourth International as speaker shortly after becoming leader of the GLC, and most members of the IMG were in the Labour Party way before its transformation into the Socialist League in 1982.

Lurid stories appeared in the London mainstream press as late as 2002 fingering Ken Livingstone’s ‘policy directors’ Redmond O’Neill and John Ross, both of Socialist Action. This, we were told, was Livingstone’s ‘Praetorian Guard’. Ross is said to have courted capitalists in the City of London on Livingstone’s behalf, and raced back to London to be his economic advisor during the mayoral race from Moscow where he was advising financial institutions about how to negotiate the new capitalist reality after the fall of the Wall. He is described as a ‘jovial man’, one picture of him that IMG members will remember.

And then, it is from Moscow to Beijing. The other red shoe that was dangled in front of the group was the fabulous economic success of the Chinese regime, and so a regime that had imprisoned and murdered Trotskyists, became academic and political home for Ross, who now pushes out remarkable defences of the bureaucracy. Now Ross is Senior Fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University, and it is from that platform that he firmly denies that China is capitalist. This leads him to defend the regime, and then, just as loyally, to line up with the regime against the protesters in Hong Kong.

In Powell and Pressburger’s film The Red Shoes, the ballet company and the internal alliances and intrigues in that company are as important as the machinations of director, if not more so. This is a company firmly rooted on the European continent; the final action takes place in Italy, and the film was shot in England and France. The allure of continental Europe was always important to the IMG, and to Ross; that was always part of the appeal of the Fourth International to British Trotskyists. Now Ross’s group Socialist Action has simply transferred its affections to a much bigger continental landmass, China, one that paints itself red, and has Ross to help them do that, but in the process he has painted himself into a corner. His enthusiasm has run away with him and led him far away from his first loves, and from socialism itself.

 

This is part of the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.

 

Communist League

One of the most striking things about Lars von Trier’s 2008 film The Boss of It All is not so much the plot as the way it was made, and then the weird disorienting effect it has on the viewer as they try to work out what is going on. Everyone in the company is trying to work out what is going on, and who is in charge. That’s the crux of the plot really. The real head of a Danish IT company, Ravn (played by Peter Gantzler), has been outsourcing all the bad and unpopular management decisions to a fictional ‘Boss of it all’ somewhere overseas for years, and that means he doesn’t take the flak when things go wrong. But now when he wants to sell the company to some Icelandic guys, they want to meet the real big boss to sign the handover documents, and so Ravn hires Kristoffer (Jens Albinus) to play the part. When they encounter Kristoffer, different members of the company play out their own fantasies and theories about what kind of guy he is, assuming, for example that the dopier he seems the more brilliant a manager he actually is, and so on.

It’s a bit of a shaggy dog story from Trier, better known for his more disturbing erratic off-the-wall films. It all looks innocent enough, but, given his past form, we are always expecting this farce to slide into something worse. And there are some nice barely hidden subplots in the film, with the Icelandic buyers at one moment making demands to see the main man, behaving like US American corporate asset-strippers – that gives a particular frisson of fear to the company staff who don’t know what the transfer of management-ownership betokens – and at the next behaving like upstart entrepreneurs; remember that Iceland is a former colony of Denmark, and so there are old historical master-slave dynamics at work at different levels of this deception.

The company employees are being duped about who really runs the show, but this uncertainty about what the film is really about is replicated in the production process. Von Trier repeatedly suddenly ‘jump cuts’ from one scene to another, and the film, critics have pointed out, has an ‘uncannily detached feel and anaesthetically flat look’. At the same time, there are shifts in image and sound so that there is a sense of ventriloquism at work: bits of dialogue are assembled as if from different places, and so it is not clear at any moment who is really speaking, or, more to the point, who is speaking beyond or behind or through another character.

CL

So it is with the bit part members of the Communist League, who have managed to keep the show on the road in Britain since they were ejected from a more mysterious and deliberately secretive group, Socialist Action, in 1988. They will show up at demonstrations and unfold a bookstall with some very old pamphlets and copies of their newspaper, well, not their own newspaper, but one put together by the big boss over the pond, The Militant. The Militant was founded back in 1928, and is the public voice of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, and every twist and turn of this once-significant force on the US-American left is dictated by Jack Barnes and relayed to followers in the so-called ‘Pathfinder Tendency’ around the world, including the Communist League franchise in the UK.

Jack Barnes was elected National Secretary of the Party in 1972, and has clung onto power ever since. The American SWP was effectively the section of the Fourth International (though prohibited from officially declaring itself to be such, as it reminded readers of its pamphlets and books in a phrase pasted in as a footnote in every text, by the Voorhis Act), but the party under Barnes’ leadership finally broke from the Fourth International in 1990 after some bizarre attempts to make Fidel Castro boss of it all. Then there is a strange and sad political journey, from debates over independent revolutionary strategy in Latin America to cheer-leading the Cuban leadership whatever it does, from leading worker protests through the Teamsters Union in the US, to hailing the victory of Trump in the presidential election and then siding with the right-wing libertarian Trump protesters against COVID-19 lockdown, and from principled support for the Palestinians to welcoming the re-election of Netanyahu and explicitly supporting Israel.

You can’t understand what the Communist League is up to unless you are au fait with the twists and turns of the Barnes group, now a shadow of its former self, and its publishing arm Pathfinder Press. But wait a minute, things aren’t as they first seem. President of Pathfinder Press is Mary-Alice Waters, Jack Barnes’ partner, and the actual ownership of these entities seems vested in the Anchor Foundation, which sold off the SWP headquarters in Manhattan for an eye-watering sum, 20 million dollars. The legal tangle of share ownership of different aspects of the controlling stake in the Pathfinder Tendency and the paper and pamphlets and books that the Communist League hawk around the place in the UK is pretty complicated. Every revolutionary group has to manoeuvre its finances to escape the gaze of the capitalist state, but that is not the point now. Now it is not clear who indeed is the Boss of it all, and who benefits. This is what stokes accusations that Barnes and Walters are running a business and sit in the most expensive seats at the New York opera.

Back to the Communist League, in bad company and following Barnes every step of the way. Back in the day, in the 1970s, Jonathan Silberman, who leads the Communist League, would regale members of the International Marxist Group, IMG, with stories of his motorcycle journeys across the US to attend the SWP congress in Oberlin, Ohio. Then Barnes’ supporters would operate in Britain inside the British section of the Fourth International as the ‘Leninist Trotskyist Faction’, and a small group of Canadians ran the Pathfinder Bookshop in The Cut near Waterloo Station south of the Thames in London. What was crucial to their success was winning IMG leaders Brian Grogan and John Ross to support them. the fatal blow was struck by Barnes insisting on a ‘turn to industry’ that effectively destroyed many sections of the Fourth International for a while, including in Britain.

When the IMG changed its name to the Socialist League, went into the Labour Party and disintegrated, Socialist Action appeared as its best organised successor organisation; Ross broke from Grogan to continue with Socialist Action. The Barnes group had held on as long as they could, even winning a majority just before a conference, but the writing was on the wall, and out they went. Today they are reduced to being little more than a joke item in the bourgeois press, including the Jewish Chronicle, who didn’t know quite what to make of a self-declared communist standing for London mayor.

The giveaway about the Communist League’s political allegiances comes in rather odd references to support for ‘workers and farmers’, a legacy of the call for ‘workers and farmers’ governments everywhere, particularly Cuba. Candidates pop up in different places every now and again, in London, in Edinburgh, and in Manchester, to get derisory votes even less than random mistakes in the polling booth. Today, it is unclear which actors, Peter Gantzler or Jens Albinus, would play Barnes and Silberman in a dramedy based on the trajectory of the Pathfinder Tendency. What is clear is that the Communist League are playing supporting roles to Barnes. Silberman for one has certainly been taken for a ride, and anyone who joins them is going to go nowhere fast.

 

This is part of the FIIMG Mapping the English Left through Film project.

 

Disaster Communism

Ian Parker reads Slavoj Žižek’s PANDEMIC!: COVID-19 Shakes the World very fast.

A few days ago a little old lady at the greengrocers edged to the side of the vegetable display to let me pass, smiling as she said brightly ‘we are all enemies now’. In the midst of the lockdown, at a time when there is enforced separation from others and when we are urged, quite rightly, to engage in a measure – two metres – of social distancing, we are faced again and again with a paradox. We are divided from others, yet the very social process through which we do that brings about a heightened sense of solidarity. As we stand on our doorsteps in Britain at 8pm each Thursday evenings to clap for the NHS, we glimpse a sight of neighbours we may never otherwise speak to, and the distant glances create new forms of connection.

Slavoj Žižek’s latest book mines the possibilities of exactly these new conditions in which we respect others in a quite new way, and he repeatedly returns to the question of what kind of social link COVID-19 creates in the world now. The answer: ‘Full unconditional solidarity and a globally coordinated response are needed, a new form of what was once called Communism’. These new conditions, in which he admits to his own anxiety, and nightmares, and of the need to respond to these new conditions and the difficulty of doing that, seem to have shaken him into a new radical sensibility in which some of the more ridiculous of his recent pronouncements about politics are thankfully shorn away.

This book, some potential readers will be delighted to hear is also Hegel and Lacan-lite, and all the better; his engagement with some key ideas from these theorists is simply in order to make directly political points. It is Hegel, for example, who shows us how that paradox of distance entailing a new sense of solidarity is more than that, can be understood dialectically, we learn that ‘It is only now, when I have to avoid many of those who are close to me, that I fully experience their presence, their importance to me’. Lacan appears in the book quite late on, implicitly so in the distinction between reality and the real, and explicitly so in exploration of fantasies about what the mysterious causes of the emergence of the virus is, and who benefits.

In these terms, ‘reality’ is what we appeal to in order to make sense of the world, organised symbolic frameworks which might include ideological commonsense and also radical theoretical analysis of political-historical conditions, and we do our best to incorporate what is happening to us now into those contradictory frameworks. The ‘real’ is something else, the brute matter and unpredictability of the world which appears in the forms of shocks and trauma which disorganise our reality, throw it into question: ‘viral epidemics remind us of the ultimate contingency and meaninglessness of our lives’. What is COVID-19 but the name through which we try to tame and make sense of what is emerging, take it into reality, something senseless that is hitting us, and killing us, something of the real.

The shock of the real, of viruses of this kind, produces a sense of disorientation, but also provokes attempts to come to terms with it, and, in the process, to seize on any and every explanation that is swirling around. Here Žižek takes off into some fruitful sideways moves, into the international dimension of the COVID-19 crisis, describing how Russian media continues its programme of ambiguous and deliberately disorientating propaganda. It continues sowing seeds of suspicion of the West as site of mysterious ideas about the virus, which include conspiracy theories of various kinds, and, while reporting on these, suggests that each and every theory may have a kernel of truth. These are the masters of fake news who understand full well how it can corrode our grasp of reality and our ability to make sense of what emerges from the real.

Other theoretical forays are into a critical engagement with the work of Giorgio Agamben, the Italian philosopher of ‘state of exception’, that is, of the idea that the rule of law around the world is being suspended in such a way as to render certain categories of human being as less than human. Reporting of COVID-19 is fertile ground for exactly such a suspicion that someone somewhere is benefitting from the spread of the virus, and although Agamben is broadly on the left, it is right-wing libertarians today who are objecting to lockdown, seeing in it another attempt to impose a ‘state of exception’. Agamben himself gives licence to this kind of thing in his comments that the virus is really just a bad kind of flu, the kind of line that leads us to a Trump-like response; denial then omnipotence.

The international dimension appears in discussion of the collusive relationship between Russia and Turkey and the cynical instrumental use of war and refugees in Syria, a phenomenon Žižek refers to as ‘Putogan’. There is discussion, of course, of the emergence of COVID-19 in Wuhan, and the role of the Chinese state in covering up the extent of the crisis, and then, as they claim that the virus is under control, warning that people will have to work weekends to make up for lost time. Here, capitalism in China shows the depth of the crisis, a crisis of the political-economic system that enabled the virus to jump into human species and then spread.

Here are whiffs of Žižek’s old Maoism, and he cannot resist claiming that in the good old days, this kind of thing would never have happened: ‘if it had happened before Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, we probably wouldn’t even have heard about it.’ This present-day disaster reminds him of Naomi Klein’s analyses of ‘disaster capitalism’; the nature of shocks to the system that are provoked in such a way as to enable capital accumulation to resume upon the broken bodies of workers.

There is actually a double response to COVID-19 by Žižek in this book. The first is a rather surprising self-help message about the importance of structure and routine in a day for people suffering in the lockdown; a message to himself, perhaps. This follows a good discussion of different forms of tiredness in which he points out that there is the kind of tiredness of physical mechanical repetitive activity – classic alienating labour during the time spent exerting labour power sold to an employer – and another kind of tiredness that afflicts those caring for others, what in feminist analysis (that he does not cite) would be called ‘emotional labour’. His advice: ‘Don’t think too much in the long term, just focus on today, what you will be doing till sleep’, and here a quasi-psychoanalytic line reappears: ‘identify with your symptom, without any shame, which means (I am simplifying a bit here), fully assume all small rituals, formulas, quirks, and so on, that will help stabilize your daily life.’

This self-help motif keys into the anxieties of people rendered passive in these new conditions, but it contains within it an injunction to maintain involvement with others. And, perhaps, ‘some people at least will use their time released from hectic activity and think about the (non)sense of their predicament’. Žižek points out something that Marxists will not be very amazed by, but it bears repeating; that those who are engaged with the world, actively doing something, are less prone to fatalistic paranoid fantasies about unearthly conspiracies that are spreading now almost as fast the virus itself: ‘if there is no great change in our daily reality, then the threat is experienced as a spectral fantasy nowhere to be seen and all the more powerful for that reason’.

The second aspect of Žižek’s response comes in his recourse to ‘communism’ as a solution to the underlying problems that COVID-19 exacerbates, problems of capitalism itself, but here we have to ask what this ‘communism’ is that Žižek is talking about. It seems in most cases, and he says it himself, that this is a kind of communism that appears at a moment when we, human beings, are ‘in it all together’ and when we must call on the state to act. This is not communism as the self-organisation of workers, but communism as a necessary dialectical moment in the development of capitalism itself at a time of crisis.

Here there are old Žižek motifs of ‘overidentification’, of making claims to the state and keeping it to account: ‘People are right to hold state power responsible: you have the power, now show us what you can do!’ This crisis opens the way to what he calls ‘“disaster Communism” as an antidote to disaster capitalism’. Meanwhile, in the midst of this, there is the injunction to keep thinking: ‘We should follow Immanuel Kant here who wrote with regard to the laws of the state: “Obey, but think, maintain the freedom of thought!”’

There are limits to this strategy, of course, and another manifestation of Žižek’s own political demoralisation after his experiences of state power in Slovenia and the collapse of actually-existing ‘communism’, what we would understand as Stalinism.

Nevertheless, he argues this very neatly in this book, with some nice dialectical reversals. In a discussion of the Orbán regime in Hungary, for example, he cites the claim levelled at the left that the liberals who criticise Orbán are really communists in disguise, but worse, a liberal elite who have been educated and are all the more devious; liberals, according to Orbán are communists with diplomas. Well, Ok, says Žižek, lets reclaim this, why not, and reverse the terms of this slur: ‘those of us who still recognize ourselves as Communists, are liberals with a diploma—liberals who seriously studied why our liberal values are under threat and became aware that only a radical change can save them.’

Žižek must have written this book quicker than I wrote this review to be so fast off the track; it’s overall good stuff, and well worth reading, and if you are quick you can get a free download of it at OR Books.

 

You can read and comment on this article here

 

This is one part of the FIIMG project to put psychopolitics on the agenda for liberation movements

 

 

Twelve lessons from Freudo-Marxism

Twelve lessons from Freudo-Marxism*

David Pavón-Cuéllar

 

Freudo-Marxism and its actuality

Freudo-Marxism is usually understood in two ways. In a broad, vague and diffuse sense, it encompasses all efforts of synthesis between Marxism and psychoanalysis. In a strict sense, which we will choose here, it only includes the efforts made in the interwar period, between the 1920s and 1930s, when attempts were made to systematically integrate the Marxist and Freudian traditions under an assumption of profound affinity and complementarity between them.

Freudo-Marxism in the strict sense includes works by authors as diverse as the great Marxists Leon Trotsky, Antonio Gramsci and José Carlos Mariátegui, the Austro-German psychoanalysts Siegfried Bernfeld, Wilhelm Reich and Otto Fenichel, the Soviets Vera Schmidt and Aleksandr Luria, the Frankfurters Max Horkheimer and Erich Fromm, the surrealists André Breton, René Crevel and Tristan Tzara in France, Karel Teige in Czechoslovakia or Xavier Abril and Elias Piterbarg in Latin America, the Freudian critics of Marxism Henri De Man and Max Eastman, and some unclassifiable ones like the Brazilian Oswald de Andrade, the Hungarian Attila József and the French Jean Audard.[i]

Many of the exponents of Freudo-Marxism have already fallen into oblivion. However, as we will see, they all retain their relevance and their great subversive potential. This is why they can still give us the twelve lessons that we will summarize below.

 

  1. Remember the bodily, impulsive and sexual

Freudo-Marxists remind us that the material-existential basis of our consciousness lies not only where Marx placed it, in the social and economic realms, but where Freud located it, in the sexual and somatic spheres. It is to think about this basis that Trotsky resorts to psychoanalysis, conceiving it as a conjectural approach to the ‘physiology’ underlying any psychology.[ii]

Freudo-Marxism explains the psychological by something as subjective as the bodily, instinctual and sexual tendencies and configurations, and not only by something as objective as the forces and relations of production. Objectivity and subjectivity can even be merged and transcended into a single determining factor. This is what happens in Fromm, who argues that the adaptation of the instinctive to the economic is resolved in a ‘libidinal structure’ that in turn determines thoughts and feelings.[iii]

We think and feel not directly what is decided by capital, but what is determined by our body trapped and pierced by capitalism. Between the capitalist production and our psychological constitution, there is the mediation of what is approached by psychoanalysis. We need Freud to understand how the subject is psychically affected by what we learn from Marx.

 

  1. Do not underestimate the importance of the psyche

Freudo-Marxism also helps us to understand that consciousness is not only effect, but cause of existence. This causality, belatedly recognized by Trotsky,[iv] allows to overcome the Leninist representation of mental content as a passive ‘reflex’.[v] In addition to reflecting the socio-economic reality, the psyche ‘falsifies’ it, and it is also for this, as Horkheimer noted, that Marxism needs psychoanalysis.[vi] It needs it for something that Attila József knew better than anyone: because we are all crazy, we are not realistic, our existence does not obey socio-economic reality, but it obeys our consciousness that distorts that reality instead of reflecting it.[vii]

Socioeconomic reality also determines our psychic life, of course. However, as Reich pointed out, it does not determine it externally by reflecting on it, but internally by ‘taking root’ in it through ideology. [viii] This ideological rooting is one of the factors why consciousness cannot perceive the socioeconomic reality without distorting it.

Deforming the same reality that determines it, the psychic-ideological structure determines this reality. It is transmuted into the determinant base of the socio-economic system. This is how in the inner world, according to Fenichel, the base and the superstructure are inverted.[ix] José Carlos Mariátegui[x] and Max Horkheimer[xi] show us that this inversion is characteristic of a liberal modern society, today neoliberal postmodern society, in which everything seems to obey the subjects, their freedom, their desires and drives.

 

  1. Probe the irrational basis of scientific, technological and socioeconomic rationality

The weight of desires and drives in social life introduces an irrational dimension whose consideration requires the help of the Freudian method. This was very well appreciated in Freudo-Marxism. Breton[xii] and others taught us how to use psychoanalysis to approach a psychic irrationality that is inseparable from the supposedly rational socioeconomic system elucidated in Marxism.

The supposed rationality of society and economy in capitalism, as conceived by Bernfeld, is nothing more than a kind of ‘guilt ideology’ in which the rationalization, transposition and materialization of deeply irrational drives are carried out. [xiii] Henri De Man[xiv] and Max Eastman[xv] thoroughly analyzed how these impulsive forces underlie the seemingly rational interests that govern the capitalist system. Their analyzes highlight all the psychic irrationality of the socioeconomic rationality of capitalism.

Karel Teige[xvi] and Jean Audard[xvii] show us that even the perfect scientific and technological rationality of the productive forces is driven and sustained in capitalism by an irrational base of drives and desires. Audard[xviii] convinces us that the recognition of this basis constitutes an indispensable condition for materialism. To be fully materialistic, Marxists should also be Freudians.

 

  1. Take desire and fantasy seriously

Freudo-Marxists, consistent materialists, make us go beyond interests and their idealized rationality, beyond needs and their ideological naturalization. They lead us to the irrational and unnatural materiality of the fantasy in which the drives move and desire unfolds. They teach us that we must go through this space to reach communism.

De Man[xix] explains to us, communists, that the emancipation for which we fight cannot consist in satisfying the needs that exist in capitalism, but requires us to go beyond the capitalist horizon and conceive other needs through our fantasy and based on our desire. This conception of other needs constitutes in itself a gesture, prescribed by René Crevel, in which the ‘cowardly’ and ‘opportunistic’ realism is challenged.[xx] This is how it allows to realize the surreal ideal, enunciated by Breton, of ‘changing life’ and not just ‘transforming the world’.[xxi]

There cannot even be a true objective transformation without that kind of subjective change in which desire is involved. Freudo-Marxism reminds us that it is with desire with which history is made. The history of humanity, as Tristan Tzara said, is ‘the history of man’s desires’.[xxii]

 

  1. Consider sexuality and its repression

By making us take desire and fantasy seriously, Freudo-Marxists lead us to consider the sphere of repressed sexuality that lies beneath desire and fantasy. They also teach us that this sphere, studied by psychoanalysis, cannot be ignored by those who fight for communism. They help us to understand that we cannot ignore repressed sexuality because we are fighting against exploitation and oppression conditioned or at least favored by sexual repression.

Reich[xxiii] showed how sexually repressed people are also susceptible to being economically exploited and politically oppressed. They can be exploited and oppressed because they have already been subjugated, disciplined and tamed through their sexual repression. This repression made them obedient, docile, dominable.

If domination begins with sexuality, it is for a fundamental reason elucidated by the young Fromm.[xxiv] It is because the sexual instinct, compared to the needs of sleep, drink or food, is particularly ductile, manipulable, modifiable, adaptable, postponable, interchangeable, repressible and sublimable. This is why it represents the weak point of subjectivity, the most vulnerable to domination, that by which we must be caught when something or someone intends to dominate us.

 

  1. Confront patriarchy

Freudo-Marxism teaches us how patriarchal domination uses a supplement of repression that selectively targets female sexuality. As Reich[xxv] explains to us, if a woman tends to be sexually more repressed than a man, it is to make her show a greater submission than he does. It is also to make her be oppressed by him. It is to allow the man to dominate the woman socially, politically and economically that she must suffer a greater dose of sexual repression.

We understand, then, that the purpose of women’s liberation is fundamental to freudo-Marxism. Freudo-Marxists are among the first to understand that we cannot fight capitalism effectively without fighting patriarchy at the same time.

Andrade[xxvi] and Fromm[xxvii] even claim matriarchy as their flag. Both feel that the revolution must be feminized to be deepened and radicalized. Fromm does not hesitate to place the matriarchal ideal in the ‘psychic basis’ of the ‘Marxist social program’.[xxviii]

 

  1. Conceive a free and liberating education

Marxism requires the work of Freudo-Marxists to be well based on the subjective, psychic and bodily, sexual and instinctive plane. It is on this plane that repression in the service of domination is discovered. It is on the same level that radical forms of liberation can be conceived, such as those based on desire and fantasy, those that claim matriarchy, and those that take shape in free and liberating educational projects such as those promoted by Bernfeld and Schmidt.

Bernfeld and Schmidt, both inspired by Marxism and psychoanalysis, projected and implemented revolutionary strategies for the education of children and adolescents, which renounced repressive means and thus sought to engender the new men and the new women of socialism. In his colony of Baumgarten, Bernfeld[xxix] prefers understanding and persuasion to coercion and domestication, and tries to strengthen the feeling of community while weakening individualism and familiarism. On the other hand, in the Moscow Detski Dom, Vera Schmidt[xxx] resorts to love instead of fear and authority, and thus tries to develop in children the capacity for sublimation at the expense of repression.

Both Schmidt and Bernfeld aspire to undermine the repressive base of domination. It is for this purpose that they work in the educational sphere. They give us here a lesson in radicalism by using psychoanalysis to attack the root of what they fight against as communists.

 

  1. Recognize and respect the concrete uniqueness of each subject

One of the teachings of Schmidt’s educational method is to recognize and respect the concrete uniqueness of each subject. This singularity is not here dissolved in abstract generalizations, much less annulled by a standardization of children. In contrast to the prejudiced image of unifying and massifying socialism, Schmidt’s school in the Soviet Union is a space of singularization that was inconceivable in the capitalist countries of the time.

The consideration of the uniqueness of each one is a positive effect of the psychoanalytic gaze in Freudo-Marxism. Amongst what Gramsci[xxxi] values ​​most in psychoanalysis is its attention to the singular. Such attention can serve to avoid the eagerness to level out everyone’s experience, the eagerness of those communists who have confused equality with uniformity and community with an undifferentiated mass.

Freudo-Marxism reminds us that community is made of singularities and that equality only exists between subjects irreducibly different from each other and therefore incomparable to each other as inferior or superior. These subjects, each with his/her own history, constitute the uniqueness addressed by the psychoanalytic method. What psychoanalysis offers Marxism, as Bernfeld[xxxii] well noted, is a historical science of case by case, of the unique history of each subject.

 

  1. Do not ignore the tensions and contradictions of psychic life

Freudo-Marxists bring to Marxism a Freudian science of the subject that is not only historical, but dialectical. The psychoanalytic dialectic is indispensable to consider the tensions and contradictions of subjectivity. Bernfeld[xxxiii] shows us that this consideration requires thinking as dialectically as Freud did in conceptualizing the oppositions between the ego and the id, between the principles of reality and pleasure or between the drives of life and death.

The concepts of psychoanalysis unfold subjective division, tears in the subject, describe and explain them, rather than sidestep and hide them, as psychology generally does. In contrast to the misleading psychological images of harmonic and unitary subjectivity, the Freudian dialectical representation of the subject, as first pointed out by Voloshinov[xxxiv] and later by Gramsci[xxxv], is made up of conflicts and antagonisms that make psychoanalysis mysteriously compatible with Marxism.

Voloshinov[xxxvi] and others teach us how the tensions and contradictions that Marxists uncover in society are, in fact, the same ones that Freudians rediscover in the individual. This is something that no one could perceive as clearly as the Freudo-Marxists. We learn from them that our class struggles run through us and thus summon us to take a position within and not just outside ourselves.

 

  1. Avoid psychological dualism

Freudo-Marxists not only make us consider the inner as well as the outer world, but they urge us to reconcile them, reconnect them, reintegrate them into each other. This impulse was crucial for the surrealist encounter between the respective fields of psychoanalysis and Marxism. Between the two areas, as well as between sleep and wakefulness or between madness and reason, Breton revealed ‘capillary tissues’ and ‘communicating vessels’.[xxxvii]

What it is about, for Luria[xxxviii], is to overcome the psychological dualism in which the psyche is abstracted from the body and the world. This dualism, as Crevel sees it, obeys a political strategy that seeks to ‘divide and rule’.[xxxix] Subjectivity is divided between the soul and the body in order to use the former to dominate the latter.

Freudo-Marxists teach us that fighting domination requires leaving dualism behind and adopting a monistic vision like that of psychoanalysis. In Andrade’s terms, we must undress the ‘waterproof clothing’ between inside and outside.[xl] Subjects must be recovered as what they are, as bodies that are indiscernible from their souls, from their ideas or from their spirits.

 

  1. Do not idealize or spiritualize subjectivity

One of the greatest lessons of Freudo-Marxism is not to reduce the subjective to the ideal or spiritual. We receive this lesson from Oswald de Andrade[xli] and Elías Piterbarg[xlii] when we see them claim the material truth of body nudity against the ideas that cover it, suffocate and betray it. It is the same lesson that Xavier Abril teaches us when he rejects ‘spiritualist psychology’, opting instead for an investigation of the subject as ‘true body’, as revealed by Marxism and psychoanalysis.[xliii]

Marx and Freud inspire the materialistic representation of subjectivity by which Freudian Marxists go back from the ideas, reasons and justifications of people to their brakes and chains, drives and desires. This is how De Man[xliv] and Eastman[xlv] delve into the unconscious impulsiveness that underlies conscious rationality. This is also how Bernfeld goes beyond the ‘reasons’ given by the subject to discover the ‘repressed causes’ that induce them.[xlvi]

Freudo-Marxists instruct us in the art of not being idealistic when thinking about subjectivity. They make us accept that the existence of the subject is not guided only by his/her conscious ideas, by his/her visions, convictions, justifications and deliberate intentions. These ideal factors, in fact, do not constitute the sole determinant for the subject nor do they encompass all that he/she is and animates him/her, but are merely an expression of what is decisive.

 

  1. Distrust existing psychology and reject any psychologization

What is decisive in subjectivity, according to Freudo-Marxism, does not correspond to what is studied by academic and allegedly scientific psychology. Nor could it ever be discovered by the psychological instruments of observation. Psychology is not used here to discover anything, but only to cover up, conceal and mystify, manipulate and subdue.

Freudo-Marxists teach us to be wary of psychology. Tzara condemns it for disconnecting us from the world and for shutting us inside our comfortable interior where ‘an armchair has grown’.[xlvii] Reich denounces it for its ideological, idealistic, metaphysical, individualistic, bourgeois, normalizing, adaptive, repressive, conservative and reactionary character.[xlviii]

In addition to questioning psychology, Freudo-Marxists criticize different forms of psychologization. One, denounced by Bernfeld, claims that our thoughts and feelings are the ‘driving forces’ of the economy, when we know that they only ‘justify’ certain economic conditions.[xlix] Another form of psychologization, denounced by Reich, is that of delegitimizing insurrections, rebellions and revolutions by psychopathologizing them, explaining them for ‘irrational’ psychological reasons, when we know that they are ‘rational’ actions that are explained economically, socially and politically by circumstances such as misery, exploitation or oppression.[l]

 

Lessons for the present

The twelve lessons we have just recapitulated show that Freudo-Marxism is not only up to date, but even more timely than in its time, when it was not yet fully timely. The 1920s and 1930s were still too early to elucidate such things as psychologization, the subjective irrational background of economic rationality, or the essential link between capitalism and patriarchy. Isn’t all this better understood nowadays?

We have had to wait a century for Freudo-Marxism to stop being premature. Now it is clear that its time has come. This is why it should no longer give rise to reactions of misunderstanding, aversion and persecution like those that surrounded it in the interwar period, when it was rejected by the communist parties as well as by the psychoanalytic associations.

It is high time for Freudians to concede that they need such radical means as those of Freudo-Marxism to prevent psychoanalysis from continuing to adapt, domesticate, gentrify, ideologize and thus degrade. It is also the time for us communists to resort to a sensitivity such as the Freudo-Marxist to clarify the subjective origin of many of our inconsistencies, failures, defeats and surrenders.

 

* First published in Spanish in Revista Ideas de Izquierda (2020).

[i] For a general review, see David Pavón-Cuéllar, Marxism and Psychoanalysis, in or against Psychology? London, Routledge, 2017. For a selection of the key texts of Freudomarxism, see Ian Parker and David Pavón-Cuéllar, Marxismo, psicología y psicoanálisis, Mexico City, Paradiso, 2017.

[ii] Leon Trotsky, Cultura y socialismo (1926), in Escritos filosóficos, Buenos Aires, CEIP León Trotsky, 2004, p. 154.

[iii] Erich Fromm, Sobre métodos y objetivos de una psicología social analítica (1932), in J.-P. Gente (comp.), Marxismo, psicoanálisis y sexpol I, Buenos Aires, Granica, 1972, pp. 119, 140-141.

[iv] Trotsky, Cuadernos de Trotsky (1933-1935), in Escritos filosóficos, op. cit., p. 68.

[v] Vladimir Lenin, Materialismo y empiriocriticismo (1908), Beijing, Ediciones en Lenguas Extranjeras, 1975, p. 54.

[vi] Max Horkheimer, Historia y psicología (1932), in Teoría crítica, Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 2008, p. 32.

[vii] Attila József, Hegel, Marx, Freud (1934), Action Poétique 49, 1972, 68-75.

[viii] Wilhelm Reich, La psicología de masas del fascismo (1933), Mexico City, Roca, 1973, p. 29.

[ix] Otto Fenichel, Sobre el psicoanálisis como embrión de una futura psicología dialéctico materialista, en J.-P. Gente (comp.), Marxismo, psicoanálisis y sexpol I, op. cit., p. 183.

[x] José Carlos Mariátegui, Defensa del marxismo (1930), Lima, Amauta, 1976, p. 146.

[xi] Horkheimer, Historia y psicología (1932), op. cit., pp. 27-30.

[xii] André Breton, Manifeste du surréalisme (1924), en Œuvres complètes I, París, Gallimard, 2008, p. 316.

[xiii] Siegfried Bernfeld, Sisyphus or The Limits of Education (1925), Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973, p. 64.

[xiv] Henri de Man, Au-delà du marxisme (1926), París, Seuil, 1974.

[xv] Max Eastman, Marx and Lenin: The Science of Revolution, Nueva York, Boni, 1927.

[xvi] Karel Teige, Liquidation de l’art (1925), París, Allia, 2009, p. 82.

[xvii] Jean Audard, Du caractère matérialiste de la psychanalyse (1933), Littoral 27/28 (1989), 199-208.

[xviii] Ibíd.

[xix] De Man, Au-delà du marxisme (1926), op. cit., p. 416.

[xx] René Crevel, Le clavecin de Diderot (1932), Utrecht, Pauvert, 1966, p. 77.

[xxi] Breton, Discours du Congrès des Écrivains. En Œuvres complètes II, París, Gallimard, 2008, p. 459

[xxii] Tristan Tzara, Grains et issues (1935), París, Flammarion, 1981, p. 218.

[xxiii] Reich, Materialismo dialéctico y psicoanálisis (1934), México, Siglo XXI, 1989, pp. 60-61.

[xxiv] Fromm, Sobre métodos y objetivos de una psicología social analítica (1932), op. cit., pp. 114-116.

[xxv] Reich, La sexualidad en el combate cultural (1935), en Sexualidad: libertad o represión, México, Grijalbo, 1971, pp. 95-110.

[xxvi] Oswald de Andrade, Manifiesto Antropófago (1928), en Las vanguardias latinoamericanas, México, FCE, 2006, p. 180.

[xxvii] Fromm, The Theory of Mother Right (1934), en The Crisis of Psychoanalysis, Nueva York, Holt, 1970, pp. 109-135.

[xxviii] Ibíd., p. 135.

[xxix] Bernfeld, La colonia infantil de Baumgarten (1921), en La ética del chocolate, Barcelona, Gedisa, 2005, pp. 43-169.

[xxx] Vera Schmidt, Pulsions sexuelles et éducation du corps (1924), París, Union Générale D’Éditions, 1979, pp. 49-84.

[xxxi] Antonio Gramsci, Cartas de la cárcel (1926-1937), México, Era, 2003, pp. 301-302.

[xxxii] Bernfeld, Socialismo y psicoanálisis (1926), en Marxismo, psicoanálisis y SEXPOL I, op. cit., pp. 16-17.

[xxxiii] Ibíd., pp. 20-21.

[xxxiv] Valentin Voloshinov, Freudismo: un bosquejo crítico (1927), Buenos Aires, Paidós, 1999, p. 143.

[xxxv] Gramsci, Cartas de la cárcel (1926-1937), op. cit., pp. 382-383.

[xxxvi] Voloshinov, Freudismo, op. cit., pp. 160-162.

[xxxvii] Breton, Les vases communicants (1932), París, Gallimard, 1955, pp. 103, 160.

[xxxviii] Aleksandr Luria, Psychoanalysis as a System of Monistic Psychology (1925), Journal of Russian and East European Psychology 40(1) (2002), 26-53.

[xxxix] Crevel, Le clavecin de Diderot (1932), op. cit., p. 67.

[xl] Andrade, Manifiesto Antropófago (1928), op. cit., p. 174.

[xli] Ibíd.

[xlii] Elías Piterbarg, Manifiesto (1930), en Las vanguardias latinoamericanas, op. cit., p. 471.

[xliii] Xavier Abril, Palabras para asegurar una posición dudosa (1930), in N. Osorio (comp.), Manifiestos, proclamas y polémicas de la vanguardia literaria hispanoamericana, Caracas, Ayacucho, 1988, p. 375.

[xliv] De Man, Au-delà du marxisme (1926), op. cit.

[xlv] Eastman, Marx and Lenin: The Science of Revolution (1927), op. cit.

[xlvi] Bernfeld, Socialismo y psicoanálisis (1926), op. cit., pp. 17-19.

[xlvii] Tzara, Grains et issues (1935), op. cit., p. 66.

[xlviii] Reich, La psicología de masas del fascismo, op. cit., p. 26-31. Materialismo dialéctico y psicoanálisis, op. cit., 16-24, 65-66.

[xlix] Bernfeld, Sisyphus or The Limits of Education (1925), op. cit., pp. 63-64.

[l] Reich, La psicología de masas del fascismo, op. cit., p. 31.

 

This is one part of the FIIMG project to put psychopolitics on the agenda for liberation movements

 

 

 

Fighting Shy

Ian Parker takes a tentative peek at Hamja Ahsan’s Shy Radicals: The Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert (3rd Edition, 2019, Bookworks).

This book is no joke. Or, it is a joke that erupts, as George Orwell once said all jokes should, into a tiny revolution, giving birth and voice to a new movement of ‘sensitive introverts that you dare not fuck with’. I love this book, and that’s why I want to tell you about it. It was written, Hamja Ahsan says, ‘on the back of a lifetime of resentment’, and it throws a sharp unsparing light not only on the ‘Extrovert Supremacy’ but also on left practices that prop up the ghastly loud world of celebrity, extravagance and self-promotion that is the excessive unsustainable stuff of consumer capitalism.

We are inducted into this loud world from the earliest possible moment, with the schoolroom being one of the arenas in which we are forced to participate in all manner of extrovert-based games in order to show that we really are ‘learning’. And what we learn along the way is how to enjoy in this Day-Glo world, and show that we are enjoying to others, which includes micro-aggressive complaint when we are not smiling all the time, team-building away-days and compulsory small-talk around the water-cooler. The book shows us how we are made to accept that flashier is better and so that the more you spend the more successful you must be. The book is clearly about late-stage capitalism, but it is also about the way that the oppressed so often respond to that by resisting in such a way that buys into some of the underlying ideological assumptions about what is good and right in this world. No to pronouncements from platforms, and no to the many ways that existing self-help books have commodified shyness and allowed it to be recuperated, absorbed and neutralised by the extrovert-capitalist state. The task must be to construct ‘zones of tranquillity’, which left group meetings are so often not. Against brash arrogant ‘leaders’, and for doing politics differently, more kindly.

Good news for the left is that, against the current trend to compulsive mass participation and noisy rally-politics, there was, perhaps, something positive in intense well-organised discussion of close reading of texts: ‘Party discipline was latent Shy Radicalism’. Che Guevara can be claimed as a proto-Shy Radical; notice how the iconic photo-shots of him have him avoiding eye-contact: ‘His eyes are somewhere between that look that Extroverts mistake for aloofness, Autism, self-absorption, and dreaminess’. Good news for the ‘Sensitive White Man’ whose time came with Edward Scissorhands and which makes him one of the many possible allies for a form of Black-Black ‘Vanguard Melancholia’. The extended interview with Amy Littlewood, a Shy Radical political prisoner, is moving, as are the interviews with patients and carers in Introvert Crisis Centres.

I think the book misses a trick in lamenting the way that kids need for ‘self-esteem’ is overlooked in compulsive happiness-training; surely self-esteem itself is one of the problems, one of the touchstones of celebrity culture that forces us to value ourselves as if we are autonomous little celebrities. And the book has some disturbing consequences for those who like to connect their lives with others on social media, with a particular unfortunate down on sharing images of cats on Facebook.

This is all, at the same time, deadly serious. After a while reading the book you stop giggling and start realising that the critiques and connections that Hamja Ahsan is making are not only about the shy but also about sexism and racism. This struggle, he writes, is intersectional; it must link with and speak to every other form of oppression. So the playful turning around of received wisdom to find other readings opens the space for rethinking what we are doing. For example, he comments on Audre Lorde’s famous dictum that ‘silence will not protect you’, to point out that, no, there is a sense in which silence is exactly what can protect you. And, against Emma Goldman, it argues that her well-known anarchist demand that ‘If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution’ must be subverted; leave us in peace not to dance. What kind of world do we want if not a world where we can be left in peace?

There is sensitivity to the global dimension of the ‘introfada’ that threads its way through every section of the book, whether that is championing of the hikikomori and otaku of Japan – youth who isolate themselves at the family home who are then pathologised and tech-geeks who spend their time pouring over anime who are then conjured into the popular imagination as potential killers. Aspergistan itself has a precise location, with territories requiring a ‘shy identity-based partition’ on the Indian subcontinent which will consist of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan and semi-autonomous regions, the caves and mountainous regions of Afghanistan, excluding Kabul and the Islamic Republic of Iran, excluding Tehran. The capital will be Qom. This is but the first step, acting as a beacon of hope for all Shy, Introvert and Autistic Spectrum peoples, opening the way for an extension of ‘Shyria Law’ to purge the ‘socialite-class’. This is ‘identity politics’ with a difference, or, rather, the most radical form of identity politics, that welcomes in everyone who, to different degrees, experience the destructive injunction to ‘enjoy’, to be always explicitly publicly happy.

Hamja Ahsan knows well this international context – he mines it for cases of oppression and resistance – and he knows well how globalisation under capitalism is accompanied by border control and the intensification of imperialist power. He has been active in the international campaign to free his brother, the award-winning poet Syed Talha Ahsan, extradited to the US on trumped-up charges. And Hamja has recently joined the editorial collective that produces the radical mental health magazine Asylum. His vision of Aspergistan in this book is surely one of authentic asylum. One of the radical texts he cites in his book is the Socialist Patients’ Collective classic text ‘Turn Illness into a Weapon’. This is a book about all of us who suffer in a our different ways in a culture that demands that we must always want more and that we should show everyone else how much we are enjoying it, enforced participation in the nasty brash discotheque universe of ‘Trendy Club’.

While I was finishing reading this book, the quiet guy who comes to fix my computer came round. He is, I guess, one of the as yet un-politicised inhabitants of Aspergistan, and usually says little. But this time he commented that he had seen me on a demonstration recently, and that set him off on a hesitant but passionate rant about Brexit. This guy dislikes planes, prefers to travel by train, they are quieter, and there is less border control and security bother, and he worries about the ramping up of control as well as the looming chaos of de-alignment of trading standards, particularly about computers, but then more; he panics about the rapid unpredictable shift from comparatively smooth movement of people and goods to officials barking about who can do what. He complained about racism and exclusion and the end of toleration of difference that, he thinks, Brexit betokens. He is becoming a shy radical, and I hope he might read this book and join the dots, and that the left can build movements that are less shouty and more welcoming to people like him, and me.

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This is one part of the FIIMG project to put psychopolitics on the agenda for liberation movements