Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Saturday, March 18, 2006

International Rooksbyism at the Crossroads

...Or, a case study in twenty-first century 'centrism'?


'I've always been a cautious hedger of bets. I'm instinctively a left wing social democrat. In a nutshell, I'm unhappy with certain aspects of Marxism as a theoretical tool and, in particular, highly uneasy with the revolutionary political practice to which it leads. Sorry, but there you go. I never considered myself to be a revolutionary, so perhaps the alteration here would not appear to be such a great one to any observer, but my (epiphanaic) final realisation that I am constitutionally, by nature, in my bones, a (left) reformist (that most despicable of all creatures) has had quite a powerful impact on me which it's quite hard to convey here...suffice it to say that I recoil from the idea of revolutionary change and realise that I always have. No use pretending.'

Ed Rooksby, 'Liberals', 12 January 2006.

...or Revolution?

'Unlike those undisciplined, emotional, permanently unsettled types in continental Europe, the British don't go in for coups, revolutions and the like. Of course not. We don't do political enthusiasm. Britons favour rational, consensual, measured, cautious evolution and sensible, constitutional change. Radicalism does not run in our blood - we like cricket, cups of tea, stiff upper lips and artfully meaningless conversations about the weather, whereas the Italians, the French, the Germans and so on get rather over-excited about things, gesticulate wildly when talking and, before they know what they're doing, are storming the Bastille or burning down the Reichstag.

Complete shite of course. One can only hold to such a nonsensical view of British history if one conveniently forgets such episodes as the Civil War, the removal of King Charles' head from his royal shoulders and the appearance on Britain's streets of tanks, armoured vehicles and machine gun nests during the General Strike.'

Ed Rooksby, 'We Don't Do That Sort of Thing Round Here', 15 March 2006.

Er, surely some mistake?



At 11:40 pm, Blogger maps said...

But the two statements are not really about the same thing. The first is a statement of political affiliation; the second is an interpretation of political history.

I actually disagree with both statements, but this isn't inconsistent - one can argue (I'd use the Nairn-Anderson theses) that Britain (and for that matter a former British colony like NZ) lack the revolutionary traditions of this or that other country without having to abandon belief in the necessity of revolution.

At 10:10 am, Blogger Snowball said...

I agree that it is possible to hold a position that encompasses both of the statements - if one recognises that revolution is still a possibility in Britain (albeit a miniscule one) because it has happened before but also if one recoils from the idea of revolutionary change. So you are right - on one level there is no inconsistency. I just think that it is indicative of a world view that Leninists would call 'centrist', a view that is consistent in being always between reformism and revolutionism. This is not meant as a political attack on Ed but just as a statement of political reality (as I see it).

As for Britain ( I do not know enough about NZ to comment) lacking the 'revolutionary traditions' of other countries ('the Nairn-Anderson thesis'), I disagree with you. If they are not as strong as in say France, it is because of the pioneering nature of British historical development - the first bourgeois revolution and so on - which led to a profound lack of daring on the part of the bourgeoisie afterwards - which together with Empire ensured a labour movement dominated by the most craven class collaborationists. However, to say there are no revolutionary traditions among the British working classes is to write out of History the Levellers, the Luddites, the Chartists etc etc - a rather odd position for a revolutionary to take...

At 4:40 pm, Blogger syndicalist81 said...

Is snowball becoming the weekly worker of blogs? :D

At 6:39 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Ha ha!

At 8:03 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Actually, you are probably right to pick me up here - there was an unforgiveable note of sectarianism that crept into this post, and for which I apologise to Comrade Rooksby.

PS Christ, just imagine what a WW blog would look like - its posts would not only have things like 'International Marxism not International Rooksbyism - Time to Build a Communist Blog' but also consist of things like 'Leninism vs. Lenin's Tomb, part 94', 'The Dead Men Left in crisis - is a split inevitable?' and 'Does Apostate Windbag concede ground to sexists by calling Christopher Hitchens a "Twat"?' Perhaps if I was lucky there might even be 'A Historical Materialist critique of "Histomat"'...


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