On Giraffes and Revolutions

posted 13 Jun 2010, 23:02 by Admin uk   [ updated 18 Jun 2010, 17:53 ]
It is the fashion of some Marxists writers to denigrate intellectual and political opponents by accusing them of not recognising revolutions when they stare them in the face. 

For example Alan Woods writes.
 
“It is said that the first European explorer who saw a giraffe exclaimed: “I don’t believe it.” This was precisely the reaction of our “erudite Marxists” when they were confronted with the revolutionary upsurge in June 2009. They did not recognize the significance of what was taking place.”

  A loyal IMT member in Tasmania Damien Mc Arthur was inspired to produce a series of what can only be called Giraffitti images about this article
 "Towards a giraffe International"



Therefore if a revolution appears and some say it is not a revolution, all you have to do is mention the giraffe and the matter can be closed. Perhaps as an admonition a future great revolutionary Marxist will only need to say ‘Giraffe’ or to stretch his neck impersonating the manner of that animal, for the audience to laugh out loud at how foolish and misguided some people can be. There is a revolution and it is not being recognised by some idiotic so-called leftists, how stupid they are! Their laughter may also help to overcome the audiences’ own tendency to fail to recognise revolutions without the trained eye and guiding mind of a great genius.

I hope the reader can forgive me a short excursion into the history of the giraffe in Europe. The earliest record is of the one that appeared in Caesars’ Rome in 46 BC and was later fed to the lions, “The Romans did not know what to make of such an animal and named it the cameleopard, for it seemed to them to embody characteristics of both the camel and leopard.”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medici_giraffe 12 june 2010)
Our mythical explorer and the audience were confronted not only with astonishment at the new, but with the problem of how to identify the unknown creature so it was given a name that corresponded to two creatures of similar appearance. In order to follow the methods used by the Romans and anoint a ‘revolution’ we need to identify its appearance, which according to Woods is relatively easy.

“The chief feature of a revolution is the direct intervention of the masses, which begin to take their lives and destinies into their own hands. That is precisely what happened twelve months ago in Iran.”

That seems easy enough. Turn on your television and masses are seen carrying out ‘direct intervention’ in several countries a year. For example in the last year Marxist.com declared that revolutions broke out in Iran, Kyrgyzstan, and Thailand.

In these countries the ‘masses’ were on the streets, although numbers varied considerably. In Iran hundreds of thousands organised against electoral fraud, in Kyrgyzstan some 5000 people stormed the palace of the president, and in Thailand a few hundred thousand took part in demonstrations in Bangkok. All of these were spotted by the editors of Marxist.com and characterised as revolutions due to ‘the direct intervention of the masses’.

Now the problem lies in identifying what specific creature we are speaking of. Surely not all direct interventions are revolutions?
Let as briefly look at the position on the Kyrgyzstan ‘revolution’ in April 2010. When you begin an analysis on the basis that there is a revolution, because the masses have intervened, you may not spend sufficient time to assess what constitutes the ‘masses’. Did 5000 people out of 900,000 in Bishkek really constitute the ‘direct intervention of the masses’?

Apparently yes, Vladimir Morozov on April 2010 went so far as to claim that the “kurultais” (conventions) called by opposition forces were revolutionary organs.
“The movement, which had a purely spontaneous mass character, threw up embryonic soviets (kurultai). Yesterday power was lying in the streets waiting to be picked up.”
(http://www.marxist.com/revolution-in-kyrgysztan.htm)

I read today (12 June 2010) that the second city of Kyrgyzstan, Osh, is engulfed in ethnic conflict, a pogroms against Uzbeks. There are images of soldiers and young men riding around on military vehicles together, indicating that the state has no viable authority. This does not indicate a revolutionary situation, the ‘direct intervention of the masses’, or ‘embryonic soviets’. It is neither a revolution nor a giraffe, but a battle for power between gangs, clans, and families, taking place in a political vacuum created by the collapse of the state and the disintegration of society. Gangs of discontented, marauding men, battle for the spoils amidst the collapse of civilised life. The masses are completely absent from this process and hope for some force that will re-establish some form of civilised life. In this context the appeal by the interim president Roza Otunbayeva first for the Russians to intervene and then for the army to use lethal force will probably have the passive support of the masses.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd2qcff9w1U
When you look at the video does this not also appear like a revolution? There is even a statue of Lenin! However, unless the news channels and news stories are a unified conspiracy of lies; what some might see as the appearance of a revolutionary rising with soldiers and workers on armoured vehicles, is in fact a bloody pogrom of Uzbeks in Osh. Surely these events at least merit an article titled, “The Kyrgyz Revolution in Danger!”?
…………

The Roman world, where the giraffe was categorized as a cameleopard due to its dual appearance, gave way to one in which religious dogma forbade the study of nuance and scientific detail.

In Middle Ages it is said exotic animals were considered to be signs from God, too much interest in the character of these creatures was considered to be sinful “prying into the forbidden secrets of God’s creation”.
(Ringmar: Audience for a Giraffe p 379) So if one follows such strictures perhaps we should not concern ourselves with the small details of ethnic slaughter appearing as “the direct intervention of the masses” in Kyrgyzstan. 

In the Renaissance the collection of exotic animals was a pastime, which enhanced the prestige of the rulers making them likewise exotic. A giraffe was brought to Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence in 1486, seeing such a strange creature in these times; where there was an increasing scientific investigative spirit, encouraged exploration and the spirit of adventure.

The giraffe spurred discovery, indeed Columbus may well have observed its arrival in Florence in advance of his voyage to the Americas. In some Marxist circles perhaps gathering a coterie of ‘revolutions’ that you were the first to identify, might serve as a modern substitute for the Florentine passion to possess exotic creatures.

When in 1827 a giraffe was brought to Paris to meet King Charles X it was walked there through crowds of thronging people. The zoologist and theoretical biologist, Étienne Geoffroy, described in text and speech the creature’s characteristics to the king and court. Then this giraffe was placed on public display. The giraffe’s arrival coincided with the birth of modern mass manufacture of trinkets, in this way ‘giraffe mania’ gripped France for a short time, then faded away, a passing fad. Soon nobody was interested in the giraffe anymore. But at least this single giraffe generated mass interest and fascination, something some of our recent ‘revolutions’ have failed to achieve. We know this is not because revolutions are not of interest to the public, after all Che films still sell well, and Venezuela still holds a considerable fascination even in rich countries. 

Identifying social and political revolutions requires considerable effort to investigate the characteristics, class relations, contradictions, patterns and laws of movement in a society. One must study the birth, life and death of movements, protests, strikes, rebellions, and the nature of official organs and institutions of political life. The formula ‘intervention of the masses’ is inadequate to determine if something is a revolution or not. Add to this the tendency to see the masses intervening directly where they do not, and you have the basis for disastrous mistakes of judgement.

The science and art of revolutionary theory is to investigate both passive and active states of the masses, in order to seek out the underlying living dynamics of class conflicts and struggles. Revolutionaries must elaborate ideas that enable socialist forces to intervene in these processes, accurately gauge the direction of events and, where possible, to help shape them.

To claim that all mass protests are the same as revolutions it to apply extremely formalistic rules to complex social processes. Mechanical Marxists tend to apply the method of the Middle Ages and ancient Rome, rather than the post-Renaissance model, when considering the nature and meaning of giraffes and revolutions.

Marxism is an exciting, powerful and living revolutionary theory, precisely because it provides the tools for the inquisitive revolutionary mind to investigate new phenomena. Historical materialism provides a tool that can assist the task of finding patterns and analogies and enable us to discover what is actually happening through an analysis of real living forces.

But the method of Marxist.com is similar to a universal revolutionary cookbook replete with recipes for making revolution. This reduces revolutionary Marxism to a concoction based on voluntarism and a distorted historical materialism in which the absence of sufficient quantities of certain ingredients defeats revolutions. This method is mechanical, repetitive and meaningless except to act as a cement to miss-educate the troops of a revolutionary organisation. It produces a dogmatic over-excitement at events that require detailed and serious analysis to be understood and contextualised. 

The mechanical Marxist cookbook looks something like this:

‘According to Lenin’ there are four condition for revolution.

1.    Splits in the ruling class
2.    Vacilation of the middle classes
3.    A working class prepared to fight to the end
4.    A revolutionary party prepared to lead the working class.

In Iran last year for example, the first two conditions existed, but as the Marxist leadership of the IMT wanted the troops to be over-excited about these events, so it was claimed (by exaggeration) that the workers were prepared to fight to the end, but were just waiting for a call from above, from Mousavi.  Some more sober analysts said that the workers were not prepared to fight to the end at this stage, precisely because they did not support Mousavi. Who was proven correct?

In addition
1.    If the masses intervene there is a revolution
2.    If the revolution has no Marxist leadership it will fail.
3.    If the revolution dies down it is a lull like Russia between 1905 and 1917
4.    If there are ‘ups and downs of protests’ in a country it is like the “Spanish revolution 1931-1937”.

But one must ask why is it if the Marxist theorists are so sophisticated that their entire frame of historical reference is based primarily on analogies with revolutions in only two countries, Russia and the Spain? It seems similar to the way Caesar’s giraffe was identified as a cameleopard.

Therefore:
1.    If you want a revolution you must build a revolutionary party
2.    If the revolutionary party is not strong enough the revolutions will fail.
3.    Building the revolutionary party is the most important thing for all mankind.
4.    Anyone disputing the capacities of the leadership of the revolutionary party is either an agent of the state somewhere or a conscious or unconscious counter-revolutionary.

The characteristic of counter-revolutionaries who do not agree with Marxist.com’s definition of revolutions is that they ‘drink Herbal Tea’, but let us put our giraffe to bed before we discuss the history of teas.

...................

Some contributions mainly from IMT members on the giraffitti. Above..
Terry McPartlan
What about the Okapis? Defend those shortnecked and forest dwelling girraffids!
Yesterday at 10:09am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Damien McArthur
Damien McArthur
Okapis are not giraffes?!? Does this mean you're forming a faction Terry?
Yesterday at 10:27am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Terry McPartlan
Terry McPartlan
I assure you that they always have been girraffids... Are you a revisionist?
Yesterday at 10:35am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Damien McArthur
Damien McArthur
Oh Terry! That's just typical of the attitude of those that follow the 'official line' handed down from above by the leading clique. Give something a label and if you don't entirely agree with 'the line' then you're some sort of 'counter-revolutionary traitor' or 'revisionist'. I call it a 'giraffe with peculiar characteristics'. To say otherwise is mechanical and undialectical.
Yesterday at 10:42am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Terry McPartlan
Terry McPartlan
I suppose you'll argue that its short neck is proof of it not being a giraffe! Counter revolutionary nonsense. It doesn't have any spots either for that matter. They quite like tea though.
Yesterday at 10:46am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Jorge Martin
Jorge Martin
from Wikipedia on Okapis: "Unknown to Europeans until 1901"
Yesterday at 10:48am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Terry McPartlan
Terry McPartlan
Yeah just after 7pm
Yesterday at 11:08am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Damien McArthur
Damien McArthur
Oh! So now you resort to using the Wikipedia homepage to publicly insult us? This is just out-and-out bullying and bureaucratic maneuvering. This is not Marxism as Trotsky defended from the Stalinists. This quote explains it “Those comrades who assert most flatly, with the greatest insistence and sometimes most brutally, that every difference of opinion... is an expression... opposed to the proletariat... to apply this criterion to bureaucratism... within the Party” The New Course (1923)
Yesterday at 11:14am · LikeUnlike · Flag
Damien McArthur
Damien McArthur
@Terry: I don't believe it...
Yesterday at 11:18am · LikeUnlike · Flag
James Reeve
James Reeve
has just "friend ed" this chap who has sent me a charming document entitled "Double agents of KGB/CIA, assassins of Trotsky, Pabloite revisions, the counter revolutionary Grantite group " think Ill make him my go to guy for understanding whats happening in the Greek section
Yesterday at 12:38pm · LikeUnlike · Flag
Terry McPartlan
Terry McPartlan
Do they have Giraffes in Greece?
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · Flag
Terry McPartlan
Terry McPartlan
I think you have missed the key point here Damien, the epoch we live in is going to propel Giraffes (and their short necked Okapi cousins) into the front rank of herbiverous tea chomping mammals. They are bound to take power, perhaps in an ex colonial country ... with some giraffes in.
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · Flag
Paul Van Britsom
Paul Van Britsom
I'm sorry but you can giraffe all you want, I'm joining the Maoist Elephant Liberation Front... I mean if we're going to be bureaucrats, let us be good ones!
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · Flag
Terry McPartlan
Terry McPartlan
Pachydermist adaptation to the trade union bureaucracy... Its a sad story
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · Flag
Hamish McLaren
Hamish McLaren
As a young na... See Moreïve inexperienced comrade being ‘played’ to the net gain of a Stalinist clique prevailing at the helm of Marxist.com, I don’t know what to make of this and will have to ask the bureaucracy what I think of it. There definitely isn’t a revolutionary process going on in Iran or anywhere for that matter and the Chinese ruling class, I mean bureaucracy, I mean ruling class, I mean bureaucracy, or a portion of, are definitely opposed to the process of entrenching their position in society into property relations. I don’t even know what a giraffe is, but I am a sheep.
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · Flag
Hamish McLaren
Hamish McLaren
hey, its a good video, but no cookbook!!
7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · Flag
Heiko Khoo
Heiko Khoo
I am glad you all like this! I notice the speech by Fred on the misleading subject China communist or capitalist, abandons the position of the IMT and says China is once again, "moving towards capitalism" Fred is rather confused about the matter, as is Alan in all his speeches, perhaps Jordi can correct them?


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