Apology accepted - the difficulty and purpose of discussion

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webmaster
Apology accepted - the difficulty and purpose of discussion
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We accept Lbird's apology, and we hope that all comrades will take to heart the responsibility that we all have for the development of fraternal public debate on this forum.
This said, it seems necessary to us to react to some of the comments that this question has provoked.
First, Lbird clearly feels that we should have reacted earlier to the "childish" exchange between him and jk1921. The problem here is that it is not always easy to draw the line between legitimate polemic and the kind of personalised debate that in our view should be rigorously avoided: if we reacted to Lbird in particular it is because his remark was unambiguously insulting and could be readily recognised as such by all concerned. 
Radicalchains refers to an earlier post of his bringing up the question of Lenin's attitude in polemics, but limiting himself to Lenin rather misses the point: in fact, all our greatest predecessors (not just Lenin but Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, Pannekoek) were capable of being extremely sharp and biting in their polemics, absolutely unsparing of their opponents, and yet their polemics do not have the same negative effect today as the atttempts at sarcasm one sometimes finds on this forum. Why is this? Partly of course, because they were just better at it: sarcasm degenerates all too easily into insult unless it is done with a wit and an intelligence that most of us - quite frankly - do not master. But perhaps more to the point because there was also a mutual trust which came from being part of the same Party (even when this Party was quite loosely defined as it was in Marx and Engels' time). Lenin and Luxemburg could polemicise very sharply because fundamentally they were on the same side: the left of the Social-Democracy. Today, as a result of the stalinist counter-revolution, this trust has been lost. Moreover, it is generally very clear that in their polemics, our predecessors are not defending petty personal interests or responding tit for tat ("if you use sarcasm on me, then I will do the same to you" - the ethics of the playground), they are defending ideas, principles, organisations. Our generation has so much lost the habit of this - is so infested with the ambient petty-bourgeois ideology - that it descends all too easily to personalisation. As our text on the "Culture of debate" says, petty-bourgeois ideology also lies behind "the problem of impatience in the debates, resulting in an inability to listen to other arguments and a tendency to want to monopolise discussions, to crush ones "opponents", to convince the others "at all costs"".
A second point is the issue of keeping threads to subject. This was raised in relation to the thread prompted by the article on the '1914 commemoration', and in particular by Hawkeye's rather muddled efforts to smuggle in some reconciliation between nationalism and communism. The question raised here was, whether it is possible to answer Hawkeye without positing a complete epistemological foundation for the reply. Although the ICC is all in favour (as Alf said) of philosophical debate, and going to the roots of a question, it is not possible to raise every issue in every debate otherwise the thread simply turns into a formless mess. Not only that, there is also the danger that a question of life and death principle becomes an abstract philosophical discussion. After all, one can be an internationalist without necessarily espousing Lbird's epistemology, or even being a marxist if it comes to it. This tendency to "lose the thread" so to speak, has led to this particular discussion petering out into a touching (but in the broader scheme of things irrelevant) discussion about war memorials, without the fundamental issue of war and internationalism being settled. It seems to us that for the discussions on the forum to be truly fruitful, to contribute (in however limited a manner) to the advance of proletarian debate, there has to be a greater effort on the part of all concerned (including comrades of the ICC) to concentrate on the substantive issue of the thread, and when it comes to a question of principle, to try to arrive at a resolution of the discussion or at least a greater understanding of the issues.
A final point on the use of this site. Comrades should bear in mind that this site does not just contain a forum but a substantial collection of texts written over a period of 40 years and concerning many of the questions raised on the forum. We urge comrades to refer to these texts as much as possible: to take one example, if comrades want to raise a discussion on the question of morality, then this should at least take as a starting point the two-part text on "Marxism and Ethics" on this site.
LBird
Thanks

webmaster wrote:
We accept Lbird's apology, and we hope that all comrades will take to heart the responsibility that we all have for the development of fraternal public debate on this forum.

Thanks for accepting my apology. I'll try to keep my comments about other comrades within acceptable bounds, in the future.

webmaster wrote:
First, Lbird clearly feels that we should have reacted earlier to the "childish" exchange between him and jk1921. The problem here is that it is not always easy to draw the line between legitimate polemic and the kind of personalised debate that in our view should be rigorously avoided: if we reacted to Lbird in particular it is because his remark was unambiguously insulting and could be readily recognised as such by all concerned.

Well, I always think that my criticisms are 'legitimate polemic', and that it's others who initially descend to 'personalised debate' and are '(ambiguously?) insulting', simply because they can't answer my critical questions. What's more worrying, whenever I've dug deeper, it often seems that the ICC's positions are compatible with mine (if not exactly identical), and it's actually the individuals' own uninformed opinions that are suspect, from a theoretical point of view. That's why, in a nutshell, they turn to 'psychological' explanations, rather than 'philosophical' debates.

Anyway, that said, I'll complain to webmaster,next time, rather than give 'tit-for-tat'.

Fred
reply to LBird

That the ICC's positions are compatible with yours LBird,  must be very satisfying for you.  But surely you've got it the wrong  way round. Your positions  are compatible with theirs?  No? And I feel sorry too, like you, for all the poor individuals out there basking in their own uninformed opinions, with apparently no way out. 

So how did you come to form your positions LBird?  How does a person change "uninformed opinions" for political positions compatible with those of left communist comrades?  

And what's the difference between psychological and philosophical explanations/discussions/debates/clarifications and so on, such as to render the former rubbish and  the latter alone legitimate?  How do we distinguish philosophizing as it takes place in the brain, from the psychological and political frame of mind of the person doing the philosophy?  If we say that everything is at base a subjective response, then how can we separate subjectivity from the individual psychology.  Or, does the word "subjective" mean that the idea of an individual psychology and the word "psychology" itself  is no longer needed?  Everything is subjective full stop.  Enough said?  

Fred
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LBird
Appeal to webmaster for even-handed treatment

Fred wrote:
That the ICC's positions are compatible with yours LBird, must be very satisfying for you.

webmaster, doesn't this read like sarcasm to you?

No attempt to discuss opinions; no attempt to further any debate; no attempt to introduce new issues.

Just personalised commentary.

I won't descend to this level of 'childish tit-for-tat', though, after your comradely appeal. I'll just ignore it, and hope that someone has a quiet word.

Fred
no sarcasm intended

Hi LBird.  What I said above may sound like sarcasm if you don't bother to read the next sentence.  You say the ICC's positions are compatible with yours. I pointed out (not very clearly as it turns out) that it is the other way round: your positions are compatible with the ICC's.  The  ICC's  positions today are those that arise from a communist and Marxist continuity going back to at least 1847.  I think that's an important point to make.  

I also went on to inquire (in a not very well written post I will admit that!) exactly where you get your ideas and "positions" from.  Are they all "subjectively" produced or not more the result of contact with organizations like the ICC and discussion with other comrades? 

I also tried to raise the issue (in what I now realize was a very poor post indeed)  of why you approve of "philosophizing" but have no time  for "psychologising". 

So no sarcasm was intended  and if it sounds like sarcasm I'm sorry.  But surely I did attempt to further debate by asking a few screwed -up questions, but would agree that the original post does come across as muddled and condensed. I had a bad day.   And this  post may not be much better I regret to say. 

But "childish tit-for-tat" no LBird, definitely not.  I have too much respect for you for that. 

LBird
The critical is not the personal

Fred, thanks for your explanatory post, above.

Perhaps I 'jumped the gun' because of my hypersensitivity, after my bollocking.

I still think that the roots of this issue (of my uncomradely response to personalised attacks) is in the avoidance of my critical questions and the attempt to deflect those difficult issues into one of my 'style of debate' or my 'psychological state'.

As some examples, I've questioned these issues (with my position in brackets):

Who will control the weapons during the revolution? (the class, not the party);

Why look to Freud? (he's an individualist with no relevance for workers);

Why take a Engelsian, positivist, 'materialist' view of 'science' ? (Marx wasn't a 'materialist');

Where does morality come from? (society, and as such it should be decided by voting).

There are others (like 'Leninism' and 'consciousness'); that list is off the top of my head.

Now, I don't mind being argued with: that's the purpose of asking difficult questions. But, because my answers seem to be threatening to the views of others, and those others don't seem to have a worked-out answer (indeed, it's as if they've never had these questions asked before, and are at a loss on how to go about answering them, and see those questions as just 'troublemaking'), it seems to be easier to attack 'me', rather than think critically.

These issues require discussion, IMO, but if someone doesn't want to read up on these issues and have a comradely debate, why enter the thread and begin to engage with my queries? If comrades don't know anything about these issues, why have a go at me, personally?

You'll know from the 'science' threads last year, that I took great trouble to explain further my views, using analogies rather than just incomprehensible quotes, and gave 'further reading' advice for those who wanted to know more.

I don't have all the answers, Fred, and I'm keen to learn more. But I can't compel comrades to think critically about, for example, Engels' views of science.

And the reason I know that they haven't thought critically? Because they can't answer awkward questions that I pose about Engels' views, even when I produce quotes from Marx that contradict what comrades are claiming about 'Marxism'.

Some might think me an arrogant bastard, Fred, but I always try to help comrades by giving them a shortcut to the years of reading that I've done, so that they can circumvent much of the hard work. That doesn't mean my conclusions are correct, but it should help comrades formulate an answer to my questions, which suit those comrades' own views.

Many of the questions I raise are questions that other workers in the future, under the influence of late 20th century philosophy, will be asking, too. At least, comrades here (and the ICC as a body) should have some thought-out answers to this sort of questions, because they'll meet similar critical thinking in the future, as workers develop themselves.

The defensive response of saying 'LBird's style' is wrong, or that I have 'psychological problems' isn't the way forward.

More answers to difficult questions, is.