Crisis in Socialist Fight – By Gerry Downing – 3-2-20

3

03/02/2020 by socialistfight

Outright fascist sentiments – no wonder Mussolini and Hitler liked him so much.

The strongest indication of political differences arose in Socialist Fight over the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.  On 11 January 2020, I posted a political attack on Sebastian Burgen, former member of the UK SWP and editor of the Historical Materialism magazine, for promoting the works of Hitler’s favourite philosopher. I pointed out that what he had said about Nietzsche was “In no way compatible with Trotsky on Nietzsche or any other serious Marxist”. This is what Burgen wrote in an appreciative book review:

“Domenico Losurdo instead pursues a less reductive strategy. Taking literally the ruthless implications of Nietzsche’s anti-democratic thinking – his celebration of slavery, of war and colonial expansion, and eugenics – he nevertheless refuses to treat these from the perspective of the mid-twentieth century. In doing so, he restores Nietzsche’s works to their complex nineteenth-century context and presents a more compelling account of the importance of Nietzsche as philosopher than can be expected from his many contemporary apologists.”

Don’t you like the “nevertheless” bit? “His many contemporary apologists”, are, of course, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Nazis worldwide. But us liberals deserve a piece of the Nietzschean cake too, opines Burgen and Domenico Losurdo. And no, I have not bought the book and have no intention of scrabbling through such garbage.

On 28 August 2018 in the New Statesman Hugo Drochon analysed “Why Nietzsche has once again become an inspiration to the far-right” and sub headed “The philosopher was appropriated by the Nazis and now influences the alt-right. Is he doomed to be abused and misunderstood?

“It would be hard to overestimate the influence Nietzsche had on the culture of the 20th century. His literary style influenced Albert Camus, André Gide, DH Lawrence, Jack London, Thomas Mann, Yukio Mishima, Eugene O’Neill, William Butler Yeats, Wyndham Lewis and George Bernard Shaw; his philosophy Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault; and he is often considered the forefather of existentialism, critical theory, post-structuralism, deconstruction and postmodernism.” [1]

Any serious Marxist might now busy themselves at looking at what was anti-Marxist and reactionary with the above mentioned and not cite them as evidence of rectitude. One such was Ella Downing who made the following estimate of Jean-Paul Sartre in 2008:

Sartre claims to have becomes a Marxist towards the end of his career, claiming in his Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) and Search for a Method (1962) that to have reconciled his Existentialism with Marxism. By considering Sartre’s early work, this essay deals with two basic problems which might contradict this statement. Firstly, his reasoning is not sufficiently Dialectical, rejecting the nothing of synthesis. Any attempt to reconcile his approach with either the Hegelian or Marxist Dialectic is therefore futile. Secondly, his depiction of ‘self’ and privileged position of the individual in his philosophy is arguably non-Materialist and therefore at odds with Marxism. We take Hegel as Marx’s major formative influence, and Heidegger as Sartre’s, arguably the student’s incompatible notions of ‘self’ and the individual originate in their masters’ competing philosophies. Finally, this essay hopes to show the Sartre’s early writing, whilst not being Marxist, has certain Marxist sympathies which pave the way for his eventual attempted conversion. [2]

This is Friedrich Nietzsche in The Antichrist. Its ‘God is dead’ opposition to Christian charity and attraction for far rightists and fascists are obvious:

“What is good? —Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man. What is evil? —Whatever springs from weakness. What is happiness? —The feeling that power increases—that resistance is overcome. Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, virtue free of moral acid). The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it. What is more harmful than any vice? —Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak—Christianity…. [3]

The Übermensch is a concept in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. In his 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche has his character Zarathustra posit the Übermensch as a goal for humanity to set for itself. [4]

On Nietzsche’s death in 1900 Leon Trotsky in exile at 21 years old explains in detail the reactionary politics of Friedrich Nietzsche and his contempt for the oppressed:

“The social axis of his system (if it is permitted to offend Nietzsche’s writings with a term as vulgar in the eyes of their author as that of “system”) is the recognition of the privilege granted a few “chosen” to freely enjoy all the goods of existence. These happy chosen are not only exempted from productive labor, but also from the “labor” of domination. “It is for you to believe and serve (Dienstbarkeit)! Such is the destiny Zarathustra offers ordinary mortals in his ideal society, whose number is too great” (den Vielvuzielen). Above them is the caste of those who give orders, of guardians of the law, of warriors. At the summit is the king, “the highest image of the warrior, judge, and guardian of the law.” Compared to the “supermen” all of them are auxiliaries, they are employed in the “rude tasks of domination: they serve to transmit to the mass of slaves “the will of the legislators.” Finally, the highest caste is that of “masters, of “creators of values,” of “legislators,” of “supermen.” They inspire the activity of the entire social organism. They will play on earth the same role that God, according to the Christian faith, plays in the universe.” [5]

This is an extract from a longer piece I quoted on 11 January to clarify the relationship of Nietzsche with fascism. In 1993 Hans D. Sluga’s book, Heidegger’s Crisis: Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany wrote:

“The Italian and German fascist regimes were eager to lay claim to Nietzsche’s ideas, and to position themselves as inspired by them. In 1932, Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche, received a bouquet of roses from Adolf Hitler during a German premiere of Benito Mussolini’s 100 Days, and in 1934 Hitler personally presented her with a wreath for Nietzsche’s grave carrying the words “To A Great Fighter”. Also in 1934, Elisabeth gave to Hitler Nietzsche’s favourite walking stick, and Hitler was photographed gazing into the eyes of a white marble bust of Nietzsche.” [6]

Amazed and Dumbfounded

I was amazed and almost dumbfounded by the stout defence of the fascist ideologue by both Ian Donovan and TB and the very hysterical attacks on me by Ian in particular.

Here is a sample of what they said:

TB on 11 January:

“Gerry, it is hotly contested as to whether Nietzsche was an antisemite, or even a nationalist. The fact that Hitler liked his work (much of which originally unpublished was manipulated by his sister after his death in 1900 and both her and the Nazi, Baeumler, contributed to damaging any reputation he had) is neither here nor there, Hitler also liked Alsatians….. should they also be condemned? This is the reply from Hitler when asked by Leni Riefenstahl if he liked to read Nietzsche…. “No, I can’t really do much with Nietzsche … he is not my guide”. This is a complete irrelevance, there are numerous figures from History that could be quoted on either left or right, many with a contradictory past and many who do not deserve our energy arguing over. Do we really want to waste our time with this nonsense, or is there something else to this?”

We would be entitled to ask by whom is it “hotly contested”? The far right and liberal anti-Marxist capitulators to them, of course. In fact, Nietzsche was not particularly antisemitic or even nationalist. He was an internationalist fascist who didn’t mind some Jews getting in on the Übermensch action. And the Nazi ideologue Alfred Baeumler “contributed to damaging any reputation he had” in the 1930s. Trotsky got there over three decades before. And his reply to Leni Riefenstahl (when she asked) if he liked to read Nietzsche…. “No, I can’t really do much with Nietzsche … he is not my guide” was after the 1935 film Triumph of the Will, glorifying the Nazi rally in Nuremberg in 1934 and just before the 1936 Olympics in Munich when Hitler was doing a charm offensive. Hitler’s favourite filmmaker asked the question required of her and Hitler lied in response as was already clear from what I had quoted above. And as for all this being “a complete irrelevance” perhaps the 70 to 85 million dead of WWII are also “a complete irrelevance”?

 From Ian Donovan on 12/01/2020 in reply to the Trotsky quote:

“Not really off the scale at all. As there are no amalgams involved and no suggestion that anyone on the left who was discussing Nietzsche shared “fascist values” or anything like them. Oh look! A squirrel.”

The squirrel thing is to suggest that Gerry Downing and Leon Trotsky were diverting attention away from the main enemy, whom we were soon to learn was not capitalism and its blood-poisoned spawn in crisis, fascism, but “the Jewish Zionist bourgeoisie”. It certainly was not the fascist ideologue Nietzsche.

Shortly after again on Jan 12, 2020 Ian wrote the following hysterical diatribe:

“Complete rubbish. The logic of Gerry’s fascist-baiting of one of the SWP’s leading intellectuals is to advocate physical attacks on the SWP in the manner of the Lyndon LaRouche “operation mop-up” of the early 1970s where LaRouche’s group physically attacked the Communist Party USA on the grounds that the CPUSA were ‘fascists’. The LaRouche/Marcus group attacked the CPUSA with numchaus (?) and that was a key episode in their leaving the workers movement entirely and going over to the far right.”

Wilhelm Specklin from Holland defended me immediately:

“What? As but an initial immediate reaction according to you Gerry seems to be out to ‘advocate physical attacks on SWP’-leftists?!  I would like you to substantiate that kind of treacherous talk a bit further, comrade.

Later, on the 12 January Ian Donovan makes another stout defence of Nietzsche:

“This involves looking at things from all angles, even unconventional ones. That is part of what is called freedom of enquiry and debate. Any relationship of Nietzsche with the Nazis is ambiguous at best as Nietzsche died when Hitler was only 10 years old and would never have met him or any of his followers. So there is no contact, only an attempt at appropriation after death. Nietzsche in my understanding was a severely disabled man whose mother and sister were his carers. Not much of a monster then. A man with strange ideas who wrote them down that were used after his death by people he never met. And it is disputed what those ideas actually were with some Nazis having denounced Nietzsche posthumously for NOT being anti-Semitic.

This tirade is not even relevant to the struggle against fascism today. If academics, including some Marxists, want to debate among themselves precisely what made Nietzsche, or Plato, tick then who gives a damn? I don’t. It might even be of use for something indirectly somewhere. It certainly does not constitute evidence that these academics share fascist ‘social values’. The philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point is to change it. He was disabled, so me can’t really be that bad!

It is painful to have to point out the completely illogical content of these arguments. Nietzsche dies when Hitler was only 10 so he could not influence him. Jesus Christ and Mohammed are dead two millennia and a millennium and a half ago, but they still seem to influence people. How very strange! And the “attempt at appropriation after death” suggests Trotsky failed to understand the great man and Hitler and Mussolini was fooled by his sister but we Marxists must appreciate this ultra-reactionary, irrationalist philosopher. And his repulsive, fascistic ideas are just “strange” not what they really are. Those who are impressed by Nietzsche may be bogus leftist academics who are supine capitulators to a right-moving capitalist establishment. Or they may be committed KKK or Nazi supporters. Or simply very foolish people who imagine themselves leftist because anyone who hates the “Jewish Zionist bourgeoisie” must be right. Or should I have said correct?

Alonso from France

Alonso from France intervened strongly on Nietzsche on 12 January 2020:

Sorry, but this Nietzsche question is, for me, not an academic one but a principled one. The fight as Engels said is on the ideological, political and Union’s field. If you throw out materialism and dialectics and propose a sort of supermarket of thinking and make every thinker a sort of relative stuff where there is good and bad to pick or to reject, it can be the same with whatever, Marxism in the first place.

Of course, we take a lot of information and ideas from non-Marxists thinkers but that is not the point. The point is: Is Nietzsche a precursor of contemporary reactionary ideology against socialism, dialectical materialism or not? And here there’s no turning around, it’s yes or no.

This question is central for me, because I think with Lukacs (rather I follow Lukacs and the Marxist-Leninist tradition) that he is the thinker who represents the ideology of imperialism AND the parasitic bourgeois intellectuality of our time.

This is not a simple question (even less so for a worker who has never had the time to study these important questions, who has never had the opportunity to be trained by a true Marist intellectual and who has had to  content (?) himself reading difficult books in his rare moments of leisure but who has an acute awareness of the importance of the question.

All the opportunists, all the political swindlers, all the rotten left-wing intellectuals who betray the first moment the situation changes, have always put forward pseudo-relativist theories, confused and unclear on these questions. This is direct experience. I am not accusing you personally of this, I hardly know you, but these are not unimportant issues.

Nietzsche has not known the imperialist epoch, I know, but the question is not that. Some philosophers have demonstrated that all his fundamental thought is against materialism, dialectics (even if he did not know Hegel) and socialism and La Commune de Paris movement.

His aristocratic and racists remarks (some examples in the post I sent yesterday) are the intellectual feeding of the most militant fascists groups. The legend to justified himself that it was his siter who have distorted his thought being friendly and supportive with Hitlerism and has deformed Nietzsche thought for the purposes of Nazi propaganda. (This) is a false making as some intellectuals have demonstrated. Of course, any thought we must take it in every possible way and take from it what can be taken for our fight. This is the principal, the class fight.

But, in a moment or other we must define in which side of the barricade this intellectual or that other one, is. Otherwise we make a sort of amalgam that confuse every one and is the “natural cultural soup” where swim all sort of intellectual parasites, always capable of “argumentation” in one direction or the other to still be in the center of TV or selling books, or worst as (far rightist philosopher) Bernard-Henri Lévy here who get influence in promoting war against Libya and Syria, in fine, make a rotten living.

You say that he has been wrongly used by Nazis but what do you make of this\:

“All elevation of the human type has always been and will always be the work of an aristocratic society, a society which believes in multiple levels of hierarchy and values among men and which, in one form or another, resumes slavery. (…) A good and true aristocracy (must) sacrifice with a light heart a crowd of people who will have to be humiliated in its interest and turned down as mutilated beings, as slaves, as instruments”.

It is not Nazi thought in its purest form? And this:

““the blonde brute who is at the bottom of all aristocratic races”, these “triumphant monsters, which perhaps come out of an ignoble series of murders, fires, rapes, executions with as much pride and tranquility of soul as if it were not just a student’s escapade”.

Is it not what the Nazis have done to communists, socialists, French, Freemasons, Jews, and what other untermenchen they qualified based on Nietzsche’s philosophy or at least part of it?

When I read those lines, me a South American who has so a sensitive feeling on this matter because we feel the patronizing and contemplative look of so many “democrats “and even “socialists” at first look. I hate the man instantly. Nietzsche? A fascist and an enemy.

It is not an academic question for me and for many, many people who has known the “actions” of the “blond brute” of those monsters thirsty of our blood. This prose is intolerable and this “thinker” a vile scum. How can anyone after reading those sentences still defend Nietzsche? He/she is not in my camp, they are my enemy even if he can’t understand this.”

This is a very clear political piece from Alonso with which I completely agree. Those who defend Nietzsche for whatever reason have moved far to the right, are not Marxist or Trotskyists and in my opinion do not belong in Socialist Fight or the Liaison Committee for the Fourth International or any other revolutionary socialist organisation if they fail to recognize their errors and change their political stance on this. Those who defend Gilad Atzmon and his defence of David Duke and the KKK do not belong in any revolutionary socialist organisation as these matters have now been fully debated.

Notes


[1] Hugo Drochon, 29 August 2018, Why Nietzsche has once again become an inspiration to the far-right

https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/08/why-nietzsche-has-once-again-become-inspiration-far-right

[2] Ella Downing, May 2008,  Sartre and Marxism,  or How Jean-Paul Sartre tried and failed to become a Marxist

https://socialistfight.com/2017/07/15/sartre-and-marxism/

The extended essay is submitted in partial fulfilment of the Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, written 1888, first published in 1894,

https://genius.com/Friedrich-nietzsche-the-antichrist-full-text-annotated

[4] Übermensch, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9Cbermensch

[5] Leon Trotsky, On the Philosophy of the Superman: Friedrich Nietzsche https://socialistfight.com/2020/01/12/on-the-philosophy-of-the-superman-friedrich-nietzsche/ /

[6] Hans D. Sluga, Heidegger’s Crisis: Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany, Harvard University Press, 1993, p 179

3 thoughts on “Crisis in Socialist Fight – By Gerry Downing – 3-2-20

  1. Ian says:

    Why is the phrase:

    “He was disabled, so he can’t really be that bad!”

    …included in a quote from me above? They are not my words, but Gerry Downing’s words.

    In other words, a falsification of my words.

    This absurd article is titled wrongly. Its correct title should be:

    “Sebastian Budgen has fascist values. And anyone who disagrees has fascist values too”.

    Totally bizarre.

    Like

    • “Nietzsche in my understanding was a severely disabled man whose mother and sister were his carers. Not much of a monster then.”

      Your actual words, Ian. which says exactly what I alleged. Such equivocations allow you to pile abuse on me again and avoid the substance of the political arguments “a falsification of my words”. Which you have failed on every occasion to address. Because you can’t.Pathetic!

      Like

  2. Ian says:

    You’re just abusing others in the wider world as ‘anti-Semitic’ or pro-fascist presumably to atone for your own belief that you have been advocating ‘anti-Semitic’ politics for the past 5 years.

    Then abusing anyone who doesn’t salute your crap in the same way.

    It’s so transparent.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WRP Explosion

%d bloggers like this: