November 2010

My Draft Review of Kevin Anderson’s Marx at the Margins. Final version to be published in Hegel Bulletin of SSPT.

It is one of history’s ironies that in some ways it took the death of Marxism as an orthodox political movement for scholars to undertake serious philological study of all of Marx’s work. There are, of course, notable exceptions to this characterization. But in many ways, the work on Marx that has taken place since the 60s has been marked by the first attempts to provide an understanding of Marx based on a scrupulous philological attention to his writings. The ongoing Mega2 Project- started as a follow up to the MEGA1 project which was aborted following Stalin’s purge of the editor-  will eventually publish every known piece of writing by Marx including all of the notes for, drafts of, and editions of his published works, has been an invaluable aid in this enterprise, providing sources previous scholars did not have access to. Such work has already cleared up a number of myths and legends and given new insight into Marx’s thought.

The Marxist humanist scholar Kevin Anderson’s newest work, Marx at the Margins, utilizes this Marxological approach to tackle the nature of Marx’s thought on nationalism, ethnicity and non-western societies. In doing so Anderson utilizes a host of neglected sources to call into question the popular perception that Marx was a deeply ethnocentric thinker who held a Eurocentric and uni-linear model of historical development. Instead Anderson aims to show that Marx’s thought evolved into a multi-linear theory of history with a complex global critique of political economy.

To prove this thesis Anderson provides a diligent exegesis of Marx’s writings on nationalism, ethnicity and non-western societies from The Communist Manifesto to copious as yet unpublished notes Marx took on writings on non-western societies at the end of his life. Anderson then tries to relate these varied sources, which also include Marx’s journalism and other under utilized and unpublished materials, to Marx’s theoretical writings on political economy—The Grundrisse and Capital.

In the course of this exegesis Anderson covers some very interesting ground. He unpacks Marx’s writing on a host of non-western areas like India, China, Algeria, Poland, Ireland and Russia as well as Marx’s article on the American Civil War, demonstrating that there was a development in Marx’s thinking following the Manifesto.

Since the particular development that Anderson traces in each of these topics is too detailed to give a short recap, I will focus on the ones I found most interesting. In the case of India Anderson shows– that in contrast to Edward W. Said’s portrayal of Marx in Orientalism– Marx’s later writings on India, Algeria and Latin America possess a “harsh and unremitting condemnation of colonialism” that appreciates how “communal forms of property were directly tied into anti-colonial resistance.”

In the case of Marx’s writings on The Civil War and Ireland Anderson also shows how Marx attributed racism as a divisive and retarding factor for the Labour movement. In the case of the USA this caused Marx to presciently predict that the failures of reconstruction would “drown the country in blood.” In the case of Ireland it led the English workers nationalism to side with the English Ruling class leading Marx to argue that revolution in Ireland was a necessary lever for revolution in Britain.

Anderson relates these writings to Marx’s theoretical works by arguing that they informed important changes in Marx’s critique of political economy. Anderson argues that this can be seen in the multi-linear history that Marx provides in the Grundrisse. He also argues that “almost all of these considerations” found their way into the French edition of Capital, which Anderson argues is Marx (not Engel’s) definitive edition of Capital as subthemes. ( This is because it was the last edition Marx edited from which Engels excised 70 printed pages worth of material for later editions of Capital.) Here Anderson argues the multi-linear model of history can be seen in Marx’s statement that primitive accumulation only applies to Western Europe as well as highlighted how Marx’s example of India and Ireland portray the heinous affects of capitalist development.

Finally, Anderson closes by emphasizing Marx’s late interest in Russia, whose communal villages, led Marx to argue that Russia might transform into communism provided it had technological assistance from the West.

In all, by it diligent examination of what Marx actually wrote, Anderson’s work successfully revokes the popular conception of Marx’s ethnocentric and uni-linear idea of historical development. This puts beside other recent and important works that provide serious studies of Marx

There are, however, a number of potential criticisms of the work that might be raised.

The first has to do with the status of sources that Anderson uses, particularly the later notebooks, which were taken by Marx in his later years, which many Marxists discount as a time of intellectual decline. While Anderson acknowledges this belief he dismisses it rather then refuting it. This may be because Anderson believes the notes will speak for themselves, but if this is the case he doesn’t tie them back in to refuting this perception, which becomes problematic when Anderson speculates that these notes might form the basis of an even later and more open development of Marx’s thought.

The second has to do with Anderson’s interpretation of the nature of Marx’s critique of political economy, which outside of a few references and footnotes is largely absent. Although Anderson designates the orientation a dialectical form of a universal critique of political economy with particular examples, this omission leaves the question of how Anderson views the theoretical orientation of Capital—which many read as Marx’s attempt to depict capital in an ideal abstract form- and how it relates to the historical examples Marx somewhat unresolved. On this question a discussion of Michael Heinrich’s argument that MEGA shows that “The different drafts” of Capital “ have to be recognized as different layers of an ongoing and unfinished research process” might also prove interesting and fruitful.

Never the less, Anderson’s work does much to refute many of the leading misperception about Marx’s supposed ethnocentric uni-linear social theory. His closing argument that what he has uncovered provides a diverse truly universal critique of capital which realizes difference that  can be used in three potentially fruitful ways- as (a) a multi-linear dialectic of social development (b) a heuristic example that offers indications about the theorizing of today’s indigenous movements in the fact of global capitalism (c) theorization of class in relation to race, ethnicity and nationalism—also provides grounds for an interesting and important project that I hope he will continue to develop.

Since I’ve read lots of news and interesting analysis on yesterdays events in London, but not Brighton, I thought I’d try to represent.

I’ll do so by beginning with a confession– I didn’t make it to the 1200 rally on Sussex campus. So I don’t know what happened there. Instead I ended up watching the tv and seeing everyone at Whitehall getting entrapped and kettled before heading up to the 1400 rally on Dyke rd.

When I got there I was excited to see so many people, especially so many young people ranging from quite young to 18+:

The march itself was fun. The pace was a lot quicker then usual. More and more people joined en route. There were also quite a lot of shows of support by people in cars at work etc. and a few Christmas shoppers who looked dumbfounded but still took photos of us on their I-phones.  Most of the marchers seemed to be taking particular delight– which I shared– in chanting: “Nick Clegg shame on you/ your a fucking Tory too,” “David Cameron/Go Back To Eaton” and “Tory, Tory, Tory — Scum, Scum, Scuuum.”

When we got to the end point of the march where speeches were scheduled I started thinking about leaving. (shit to do). But the kids had different ideas. To begin with they decided to congregate outside the Uni Brighton gallery, instead of the rally point:

Then an even more brilliant thing happened: groups of kids started legging it away from the gallery towards the sea in different directions, which totally baffled and confounded the police, who had a collective delayed reaction like you see in cartoons, before running after the different groups like the keystone cops, who were now splintered

At this point it felt like everything had broken open. I had no idea what was going to happen or where everyone went. It was a remarkable feeling. Having watched youtube footage of the poll tax riots the other day, and being a bit of a muso, I had temporary visions of some type of prolonged quadrophenia like seafront battle. Then it hit me– city hall.

In the few minutes it took me to get there there was already a police chopper and loads of police. Not wanting to be kettled– which was evidently on the cards– I skirted around the periphery and got some photos:

I did this for an hour or so. From the reports I read later and the discussions I  heard there from those who were in the kettle, the police behaved disproportionately: tussling, gassing and tazing kids as young as 12. Total bullshit, but unfortunately, not unexpected since the narrative onus was on them to act to make up for their Millbank tower misjudgement. And what better to reclaim your integrity then unnecessarily brutalizing children?

As far as Aaron Porter (who should be impeached) and others say today’s participants weren’t members of the black block. They were kids, which is potentially more terrifying to those they oppose.

In all there were something like 3,000 of them in Brighton. 3,000 radicalized kids rightly outraged about their– and our– potential future. 3,000 Kids running wild in the streets confounding the cops.  Crowds of hundreds trying to occupy buildings. Even with Police forming lines and kettling them, their exuberance was unbroken.  ( I even heard some slightly distressed looking kids excitingly tell their friends they were sieg heiling or spitting on the cops who hit them.) With another day soon approaching it only seems like things will expand and heat up. Hopefully the rest of those affected, especially in Brighton which could end up looking like The Wire after the benefit cuts hit, will join in.  If the Kids are united..

This is rough and scattered like all my posts. Just dump the shit online I say.

In all the interesting posts on the Demos against the cuts, ( In particular see IT, Lenin and Federico )I haven’t seen anyone comment on how inexperience relates to several aspects of the recent demos. This is surprising because it seems like its something that might be philosophically addressed in terms of grammars, language games, form/content, learned behaviour etc.

Anyone paying any attention to these Demos already knows how many kids are involved. What hasn’t been discussed is what this means in terms of behaviour at the Demos. People like me who have attended many demos  are used to rallies and Demos following a certain predictable procedure: in terms of how we participate, how the police behave, how we interact with the  police etc. But from what I’ve seen many of the kids haven’t learned these rules. At least they don’t follow them, which is great, but also slightly frightening. Great because it has opened up so much possibility, potential and exuberance: in what happened at Milibank and in the way the kids just took off in groups from the ending rally at yesterday’s march in Brighton confounding typical rally procedure and the police. (So awesome!) Slightly terrifying, in the way that I have seen scores of them overact to tentative police movement. causing a momentary spasm of pandemonium out of fear of a stomping that could potentially go bad in the wrong circumstances (This of course is different to the many occasions in which the police have overreacted and used unwarranted force on children.)

Can it be surmised from this that the kids who behave in this manner aren’t experienced and haven’t acquired the learned behaviour of demonstrating? If this is so does this represent the development of a new form of political demonstration akin to what Marx touches upon in the 18th Brumaire? (drawing their poetry from the future not the past?) Or is it something that will be colonized and appropriated and suppressed with even more kennels and new techniques developed to counteract spontaneity?

The first in a series on reacurring themes in Fassbinder’s film. In this a list of the banal aspects in the foreground and background of many of his films:

Flickering lights

Industrial noise

Pop music

Shots that hold a little too long.

Shots from unusual angles.

Steep stairs.






Rolling on the ground.


Fassbinder’s film about making a film. (Perhaps specifically about making a Fassbinder film?) Self contained ensemble piece, (has anyone compared with Altman?) Setting, colors and Eddi Constantine bring out the Godard elements. Much of the film is structured like a fugue with reacurring motifs. (colours, drinking, Leonard Cohen, cutting between conversations in different languages) The beginning portrays what must be the tedium of working on the set: drinking Cuba Libres, socializing, fighting Strange change in tone around the middle of film, when financial trouble and romantic strife intrudes. Like other Fassbinder films moments of extended tedium interspersed with moments of genius. (people playing hand slap, the director throwing empty glasses behind his head, a posed group cuddle and a puzzled drink soaked Eddi Constantine.) Oh, and this: “its a film about brutality. What else is there? “

First in a series of short Fassbinder reviews with longer post to follow.

The American Soldier = Fassbinder’s imperialist noir. Elements of Godard and Bergman. Stylized pauses taken to almost excruciating length. Flickering lights. Repeated pop song. In beautiful  black and white.