Bus burning: only the bourgeoisie benefits

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Bus burning: only the bourgeoisie benefits
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Bus burning: only the bourgeoisie benefits. The discussion was initiated by kinglear.
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Bus burning

them. These methods look much more like gangsters robbing a bank than a cry of despair from the urban dispossessed, writes the ICC. It's similar to the pointless smashing of shop windows in Oxford Street, scaring the workers inside but not bothering to talk to them, or have a useful discussion about the aims of class struggle. Is it nihilism? Violence for it's own sake. Frustration turned into an aimless destruction? I think nihilism and nihilists don't appear much, or at all, in classic Marxist literature, although there were plenty of them around in the second half of the 19th century - specially in Russia. And they play a big part in the books of Dostoyevskie and particularly Joseph Conrad in his 'The secret agent' and 'Under western eyes' (much of which was written in Zurich when Lenin was living there - not that I'm suggesting that Lenin had anything nihilistic about him.) But I wondered whether it might be making a comeback. Given that capitalism is decomposing fast, and as yet is unable to organize a really big and destructive war, and has no alternative way out of it's mess other than that, it wouldn't be surprising if certain elements of the bourgeoisie - far right or far left, or just lumpen - found the nihilist way both appealing and satisfying: and a means to confuse and distract from the class struggle of the workers.


I'm not sure I follow what kinglear is getting at here. But Conrad is certainly a more than interesting writer, though I dont think he can be labelled "nihilistic" or "conservative" in outlook, as the bourgeoisie likes to present him. Because he has in fact a serious concern about revolutionaries, for example, or with people who think they are, or want to be "revolutionaries"; and also with acts of "terrorism", and the psychological motivations behind them, which ought to make him a best selling author for the bourgeoisie. He isn't of course. He's much too serious in his concerns, and takes life seriously too, rather than money- making. Like D H Lawrence he thought life difficult to live without illusions. But he clearly had few himself. For the bourgeoisie he is a writer about the sea, and sailing in tropical seas. They rather ignore his anarchist-bomb-plot book "The Secret Agent" which all goes tragically, but also farcically wrong. They also tend to present "Under western Eyes" (1911) as a very difficult work, and always point out that writing it made Conrad ill. Is this meant to discourage readers from tackling it? In fact this novel reveals Conrad as knowing a lot about Russian revolutionaries, their psychology and inner feuding, who are hiding in Switzerland. (Does this remind you of anything?). And one of the characters in the story betrays a friend who committed an outrage on the Tsar to the police. This man is hanged. So was Lenin's brother, of course, for a similar crime. And the once famous literary critic F R Leavis, took tbe trouble to point out that by the end of the revolutions in Conrad's masterful "Nostromo", set in some central American country, "the marxists are on the scene". I have read this work several times but must admit sadly to
finding no evidence to support this claim.

So maybe kinglear was wrong in seeing Conrad as limited in interest to
nihilists. Though whether the revolutionaries who clearly caught his attention, were bourgeois or proletarian might be hard to
decide. But kinglear is right in saying that "nihilism" in so far as there is any nowadays, can only serve
the interests of tbe bourgeoisie. After all when not successfully making lots of money they are probably nihilists too, with nothing to live for.

Nihilism and existentialism

References to nihilism reminded me of Dmitri Pisarev of Russia. In that nihilism causes those who take an interest in it to reject concepts formerly retained, to the extent that those were largely reactionary it may have a progressive inpact, even though nihilism doesn't pretend to lead anywhere. However, if it causes anyone to adopt an existential view, opting to behave in possibly new ways, those might also depart from conformist acquiescience.  It can be disconcerting to find old ways of thinking to be unsound.  At this stage we can recall the view of Primo Levi that even when everything is lost, it is still possible to preserve one's own dignity and that of future generations.  Just how that is done is obviously open to debate.  Trying to slot folk into tidy ideological discrete boxes neglects the view of history being a seamless web.  As an anarchist once said, I'm my own kind of man.  Presumably the proletariat is its own kind of class.  That should be enough to be going on with.

Existentialist's Guide

Since my comment of Jan 27, 2012, I have just seen in a bookshop the 2012 hardback by Gary Cox entitled 'The Existentialist's Guide to Death, the Universe and Nothingness', which seems to be an interesting presentation by the philosopher, apparently not requiring too much of the average reader, thank... goodness!  It's on Amazon.  I haven't bought it.