Ilan Pappe: The messages from Israel’s election

March 21, 2015
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Jewish Israeli voters have steadily turned away from liberal Zionism, preferring the “real thing.” (Matan Portnoy/Flickr)

Those of us who know the nature of the beast could not have been surprised by the results of the Israeli election.

Like many of my friends, I was also relieved that a liberal Zionist government was not elected. It would have allowed the charade of the “peace process” and the illusion of the two-state solution to linger on while the suffering of the Palestinians continues.

As always, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself provided the inevitable conclusion when he declared the end of the two-state solution — inviting us all to the long overdue funeral of an ill-conceived idea that provided Israel with international immunity for its colonialist project in Palestine.

The power of the charade was on show when the world and local pundits unrealistically predicted a victory for liberal Zionism, an Israeli ideological trend that is near extinction — embodied by the Zionist Union list headed by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

Continues  >>

Iran, Israel and the Question of Nuclear Threat

March 8, 2015

Dr Nasir Khan, March 8, 2015

On March 3, 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel delivered his speech before a joint session of the US Congress. His reception was of a kind, which has amused very many of us around the world. Still, we may ask: For what was Netanyahu accorded such a heroic reception and standing ovations? Only the AIPAC, the Zionist lobbyists or US Congress may have the answer. Somehow, it seemed the US Congress had finally found the right man, almost a messianic figure, a saviour, who was among them to their great delight! All they had to do to show their esteem and devotion. This they did and in abundance.

During his speech, the members rose on their feet repeatedly as if they heard something novel. What he offered was only a theatrical performance that could easily have moved a Sunday school congregation but was hardly worth a fig for experienced legislators and politicians. Indeed, his deceptive rhetoric in his fluent American English was well suited for the audience. However, a few things did not tally with facts. First, he is not a messianic figure or a hero. Netanyahu is a vile politician, a ruthless Zionist leader who has committed the horrendous crime of genocide in Gaza only a few months earlier. ‘The fact that his obnoxious performance was received so warmly in Congress … is not surprising, but it is nonetheless discouraging for anyone interested in peace and foreign policy restraint,’ wrote Daniel Larison in The American Conservative.

In his speech, Netanyahu did what he could to sabotage the nuclear deal with Iran that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany are hoping to finalise soon. Just to pre-empt the deal he unleashed his foray of misleading claims that was to scare Congress and the American people. A nuclear deal with Iran was therefore a potential danger to the world and Netanyahu was only trying to save the world. Such scaremongering no doubt has many followers in Congress who will do anything to implement the Zionist agenda and block any US-Iran rapprochement.

Netanyahu said: ‘In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sana. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. So at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations.’

Oh, really? Let us pause for a minute and see what the facts are. Iran has been a victim of imperial aggression for long. It is common knowledge that in 1953 the British and American governments overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Dr Mohammad Mossadegh and installed the Shah who proved to a loyal servant of his patrons. He furthered the U.S. interests in the region and was a close ally of Israel. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown and the Islamic regime took over power. The United States opposed the new rulers, not because they had introduced a religious system but because they opposed the role of US imperialism in the Iran during the oppressive rule of the Shah.

With the tacit approval of Washington, in 1980 the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein foolishly attacked and started the Iran-Iraq War that lasted until 1988. This long war proved disastrous for both Iraq and Iran. We should keep in mind it was not Iran that started this war. Iran has not invaded any country for over 200 years. No doubt, Tehran has regional interests but it has no ambitions to invade or conquer any neighbouring land or territory. If Netanyahu asserts to the contrary then he is doing it gain support for war from Congress, neo-conservatives and war hawks in America. He continues to threaten if US will not stop Iran, then he will do it. He has done his utmost to push America to war with Iran because it would serve Israel’s strategic interests in the Middle East.

In fact, Iran has no quarrel with Israel if the Zionists end the illegal occupation of Palestine and let the Palestinian people decide their destiny, live in freedom and dignity. Iran’s support for the Assad regime in Syria in the ongoing civil war has not been motivated to conquer Syria. The situation in Lebanon has been precarious due to the Israeli wars of aggression and military incursions. The Hezbollah with the support of Iran has confronted the Israeli aggressors but it is not the sole political force in Lebanon. The right-wing Christian militias have had Israel as a patron for many decades. Iran has no control over the Houthi coup in Yemen. The ‘gobbling up of nations’ by Iran is an absurd assertion by a warmonger.

If we guess what Netanyahu is good at then the first thing that strikes about him is his capacity to lie, deceive and manipulate others. At present, he has directed his energies to thwarting a nuclear deal with Iran and creating confusion between the powers involved in the negotiations. Because of his enormous political influence in Congress, and support of the AIPAC and the rest of the Israel lobby he can thwart the attempts of negotiators to find a solution. There lies the danger. In such a case, he will be free to push Washington for more punitive sanctions against Iran. In any case, his goal remains to involve the United States in a war on Iran as he previously did in the case of Iraq. Once Iran is demolished as a political force in the region, as happened with Iraq after the US invasion of Iraq, then Israel would be the sole undisputed regional superpower in the Middle East. That will enable the Zionists to pursue their objectives of further expansion and political control over the rest of the Middle East.

The Israeli leaders know that a peaceful outcome of the nuclear talks can have positive effects on US-Iran relations. They see it as a danger to their position and power within and over the United States. If United States can loosen the grip of Zionists and choose normal diplomatic and trade relations with Iran then that would mean the lessening of tensions in the region. Such a change in policy towards Iran will create an atmosphere of mutual trust and co-operation between the two countries. Other countries closely allied with America (except Israel) will also be happy to normalise relations with Iran. However, in the way of any such change stands Israel. It will not let United States follow such a course. As long as there is an unconditional support for Israel in Congress and American ruling elite, any change in US policy towards Iran will not be easy.

The Zionist leader used all deceptive ploys to make false charges of an Iranian threat to Israel and the rest of the world. He referred to the Holocaust and ‘Munich’, because the ‘genocidal’ Iranian regime wanted to kill all the Jews. To accentuate the effect of his tirade on Iranian threat, he referred to a story in the Book of Esther about a ‘powerful Persian viceroy … who plotted to destroy the Jewish people 2,000 years ago’ and ‘another attempt by another Persian potentate to destroy us’. Here this dishonest leader is distorting the facts again. In fact, in the olden times, Jews were well integrated in the Persian empires and Persians protected them. For instance, the great conqueror Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, captured Babylon in 538 BC. He freed the Jews from their former captors and allowed them to return to their native land. They were free to practise their religion freely. He also started rebuilding the Second Temple at Jerusalem; however, he died before the temple was completed. During the reign of Darius the Great the temple was completed. Such are the facts of history, which the Zionist leader did not want to present to Congress.

Only ignorant people will take the bait of a threat from Iran for real because there is no such threat. The Zionist leaders of Israel have been busy in scare mongering and nurturing such a non-existent threat for their geo-political objectives. For serious political observers and thoughtful politicians the whole game is only a baseless Zionist fabrication. Obviously, because of the Zionist power in the United States, there is much hostility towards Iran. That meets the domestic and regional interests of people like Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders; they are quite happy with this untenable situation. The speech by Netanyahu should be an eye-opener for the naïve gung hu Americans. But perhaps this writer is being over-optimist!

Only Israel has the stockpiles of nuclear warheads in the Middle East. We all know that. But Israeli leaders never say a word that they possess these deadly weapons, which can destroy the whole region in minutes. Even if (a big if though) Iran develops a nuclear device as a deterrent at some time in the future, say in 20 years, will it ever think of using it against Israel that has stockpiles of these weapons? The answer is absolutely in the negative. One thing is certain: Israel will wipe out Iran in minutes. The people of Iran are not so short-sighted; nor are their leaders ignorant of the reality of Israeli and American nuclear arsenal. At the same time, Israel is the only nuclear country that is keeping its nuclear a secret, let’s call it an open secret, which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international treaty, opened for signature on July 1, 1968 to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. It does not submit to IAEA inspections either.

This Zionist leader on whose deceptive words US Congress danced is the man who killed over two thousand Palestinians in Gaza last year and caused devastation on a scale that can be compared with the destruction of Warsaw and Stalingrad at the hands of Nazi Wehrmacht. This unscrupulous leader is blaming the Hamas without saying a word that it is Israel that is keeping Gaza under siege; Gaza is the largest prison in the world. At the same time, the colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem goes on unabated. Israeli rulers are systematically crushing the voice of a captive people who want liberation from the Zionist yoke and oppression. All this happens because Israel gets US financial and military assistance for whatever it does in the occupied Palestine. The reception of Netanyahu in Congress on March 3, 2015 was a grand spectacle of the Zionist power over the United States of America.

Book review by Jay Raskin: Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings

March 1, 2015

Canadian Philosophical Review, xv no. 6-xvi. 2 December. 1995-April 1996

Book review by Jay Raskin

Nasir Khan, Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings, Oslo: Solum Publishers, 1995

Pp. 294
at Amazon.co.uk,  £41.93

[NOTE: This book can be downloaded here ]

 This is a good book for Marxist scholars to review some important basic concepts and a good book to include in a graduate course on the early writings of Marx. It increases the understanding of Marx in two important areas. First, it clarifies the logical development that took place in Marx’s thinking as he crossed the boundary from democrat to communist. Second, it gives a precise description of the relationship between Marx’s fundamental worldview and those of Hegel and Feuerbach.

Not that others have not covered this territory before, it is just that Nasir Khan does it as well or better. Khan accomplishes this by vigorously focusing his research. He examines the period from March 1843 to August 1844, concentrating on three works by Marx: ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’, ‘On the Jewish Question’, and ‘Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844’. He further delimits his work by examining only the basic topic of alienation.

Khan demonstrates that at the time of writing the ‘Critique’, (in March through September of 1843, at the age of 25) Marx still thought that full political rights for all people and democracy would solve the problem of human alienation. In the ‘Critique’, Marx calls for the full democratization of the state (130). A month or two later, writing in ‘On the Jewish Question’ and his ‘Introduction to the Critique’, Marx rejects such a partial, purely political solution to the problem. Marx now calls for the abolition of the state (131).

This clarification alone makes the book important to Marxist scholars. The transition of Marx from democrat to communist is so swift that it is easy to miss or forget. It often appears that historical materialism just emerges full blown from the head of Marx. Khan carefully refutes this by tracing the progressive steps in Marx’s thinking from the ‘Critique’ to the ‘Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts’. He shows that Marx goes from criticism of religion to criticism of philosophy, from criticism of philosophy to criticism of the state; from criticism of the state to criticism of society; and finally from criticism of society to criticism of political economy and private property (145).

Khan’s second clarification involving the Hegel-Feuerbach-Marx relationship also merits study. George Plekhanov in his chief work Fundamental Problems of Marxism (1908), spent the first 20 pages complaining that the Marxists of his day were unfamiliar with the works of Hegel and Feuerbach, and thus had a distorted picture of what Marx was all about. This complaint still rings true today. Khan gives a clear, demystified model of the relationship.

This is not an easy thing to do. In works about Marx, one often reads how Marx turned Hegel on his head, or how he criticized Feuerbach for only conceiving of man abstractly and not as an historical and sensuous being. Yet the exact relationship among Marx’s concepts and those of Hegel and Feuerbach’s are more interesting.

Khan examines how Hegel had thought he had overcome alienation by showing that ultimately man was God (absolute spirit) in self-alienation (52). Feuerbach reversed this formula and turned Hegel upside down to show that the concept of God was really man in self-alienation. Marx deeply appreciated Feuerbach for this, but realized he had only challenged the top of the Hegelian system. Feuerbach had correctly criticized humanity’s alienation from in its holy form—religion, but not in its unholy forms—the state and private property. Marx attacked Feuerbach for not taking this next obviously necessary step. Marx himself took this step in his later writings. What Feuerbach had done to the crowning religious part of Hegel’s system, Marx did to the rest of it. Marx appreciated Hegel, on the other hand, for his introduction of the historical method into philosophy; i.e., for showing spirit as historically evolving through dialectical conflict. Marx simply replaced Hegel’s Alienated God-Spirit by actual historical man as the true subject of history and ran Hegel’s film backward to reveal that far from having overcome alienation through Hegel’s philosophy, actual man was more alienated than ever by his real socio-economic conditions. This set the stage for Marx’s later works when he delved ever deeper into the exact nature of those alienating conditions and came up with solutions for them.

In the shadowy background of Khan’s book stands Louis Althusser’s anti-humanist theory, as presented in ‘For Marx’ and ‘Reading Capital’. Althusser put forward the theory of an epistemological break in Marx’s works that turned them from reflecting a humanist ideology into a new science of society. Khan refers to this theory obliquely several times and firmly rejects it. Khan maintains ‘Marx’s ideas regarding humanist perspective and the question of alienation show continuity, but with important differences in the content and form of the concept and theory of alienation in the period under review’ (19). Khan’s work will give comfort to those who oppose Althusser’s theory, but because it concentrates so strongly on the early works, it really cannot be considered a strong refutation. Althusser would certainly grant Khan’s thesis that Marx’s early works are strongly influenced by humanism. It is the later works that Khan does not really examine that Althusser would contend go beyond humanism.

Khan writes in an easy, clear and thoughtful style. His writing is pleasantly non-polemical. Khan declares, ‘I have tried to present Marx’s views on alienation as dispassionately as possible and have not let my own likes and dislikes dictate the inquiry’ (18). It is to his credit that he presents conflicting views on many issues quite fairly.

One hears common talk of Marxism being dead as a result of the Marxist parties in Eastern Europe losing state power. Yet, Khan’s book proposes that the essence of Marxism is the overcoming of alienation, and holding state power is only a small part of that. He suggests that Marx thought of Communism in three stages. In the crude stage, equal distribution and consumption are emphasized without an understanding of the mechanism of production. In the second stage, the proletariat controls state power and thinks of society in terms of pure politics. The third stage is the positive appropriation of the human essence by and for man (246-52). If Khan is right, events in the early 1990s in Eastern Europe should have about as much effect on Marxist Philosophy as the Fall of the Roman Empire had on Christianity.

Jay Raskin
 University of South Florida

The Fear of Death

February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015

The Fear of Death
Death frightens all of us. But it frightens some more than the others. At least, a true atheist dies mentally at ease, without worrying about the punishments that await him/her after the death or gloating over some imaginary delights in Hades.
~Nasir Khan

A further remark: How people look at death is very much conditioned by their social customs and traditions. The part played by religions in depicting death and after-life have impacted humanity deeply. For some people the process of life and death is an eternal wheel that keeps on turning and is unstoppable until some big intervention or karma happens that puts an end to it thus releasing the eternal soul from the cycles of birth and rebirth, incarnations and reincarnations. However, our consciousness of death or lack of our understanding of what death is does not change the reality of death. By the reality of death I mean the inevitability of the event.
In common parlance we assume the death to be an outside factor that takes place at some time and thus puts an end to life. But is it like this? It is not a question of our different opinions about it but our realisation of the process of life, as a living organism, that ceases at some point in time and that is called death. In other words, this event is part of the process of life. How individuals reflect upon life and death in general and how they see their own lives and their inevitalbe demise is part of that multi-faceted landscape they see and experience. Finally, many readers and commentators may come up with their views and perspectives on the issues raised here, which is quite natural.

The bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalm in 1946

February 21, 2015
July 2, 1946: The King David Hotel in Jerusalem was bombed. Killing 91 people
Menachem Begin planned the destruction of the King David Hotel and the massacre of Deir Yassin. Ex prime minister, Shamir, was originally a member of the Jewish “terrorist” gang called Irgun, which was headed by none other than Menachem Begin. Shamir later moved over to the even more radical “Stern Gang,” which committed many vicious atrocities.      Shamir himself has defended the various assassinations committed by the Irgun and Stern gangs on the grounds that “it was the only way we could operate, because we were so small. So it was more efficient and more moral to go for selected targets.” The selected moral targets in those early days of the founding of the state of Israel included bombing of the King David Hotel and the massacre of Deir Yassin.

      April 9, 1948: A combined force of Irgun and Stern Gangs committed a brutal massacre of 260 Arab residents of the village of Deir Yassin. Most of whom were women and children. The Israeli hordes even attacked the dead to satisfy their bestial tendencies. In April, 1954, during Holy Week, and on the eve of Easter, The Christian cemeteries in Haifa were invaded, crosses broken down and trampled under the feet of these miscreants, and the tombs desecrated. The Israeli military conquest, therefore was made against a defenseless people, who had been softened up by such earlier massacres as Deir Yasin {250 Arabs; men, women and children were massacred there}.

Continues >>

A Preface to Marx on Alienation

February 6, 2015

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A PREFACE

by Professor Dag Østerberg

The writings of Marx occupy a paramount position within the history of ideas, not only because of their momentous impact upon the historical process, but also owing to their intrinsic value and truth.
Marx’s activity as a scientific and philosophical writer persisted during four decades – from the youthful, first attempts to come to grips with social and political reality to the gigantic enterprise of his maturity; from his partly unpublished writings to found a new doctrine of History to the masterly exposition of the capitalist mode of production and the concomitant critique of prevailing political economy. In the course of this time span, Marx, like most thinkers, changed in many ways, and this fact raises the question of continuity. To what extent is the work of Marx a unified whole? To what extent does it fall apart in to several different, even mutually exclusive, doctrines? These are not merely the questions of concern to the historian and the biographer; they direct our attention to our understanding of essential features of our society, such as, for instance, the proper relationship between politics and technics, or between individual personality and sociality.
Nasir Khan has devoted himself to the study of some of Marx’s early writings, with special reference to his treatment of man’s alienation. The notion of alienation came into the foreground after the publication in the ‘thirties of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, where it plays a decisive rôle. Since then, Marx’s use of the alienation concept has been a permanent topic of investigation and discussion, bearing on the sense of Marx’s humanist stance, and its relation to a positivist conception of science.
Nasir Khan’s monograph is another contribution to this field of research. His study is not intended as an introduction to the problematic, but rather addresses the advanced reader, who has already acquired a basic knowledge of Marx and Engels’ ‘materialist conception of history’ in  general, their main works, the history of Marxist thought and practice, and the concept of alienation as an aspect of human subjugation and suffering.
The author deals with this subject matter in a thoroughly scholarly manner. His work is based upon a close scrutiny of the original texts, and displays an impressive command of the enormous literature commenting on what Marx wrote. He himself purports, not to revolutionise the current interpretations, but to restate them a little more clearly than the preceding authors, by utilising what they have said in their texts. In this way, the present work makes a specialised contribution within the world-wide research activity.
The field of inquiry is strictly limited, concentrating on what Marx wrote on alienation within an interval of 17-18 months, between March 1843 and August 1844. This narrow scope permits a very detailed account, following the sinuosities of Marx’s itinerary as he strives for clarity, passing from the critique of politics to that of private property, and arriving at an understanding of alienated human existence, founded upon a conception of what a truly rich human existence would be. To participate in the discussion about whether the notion of alienation is essential merely in Marx’s early writings is not the main purpose of Nasir Khan. He does however make his standpoint clear, stating, and in my opinion rightly, that the concept and doctrine of alienation are fundamental to Marx’s thought from the beginning to the end.
The ‘death’ of Marxism has been proclaimed over and over again, and today, in the wake of the rapid political changes in Eastern Europe, this proclamation is perhaps made more triumphantly than ever before. But it is clear that the perishing of these regimes cannot disprove the truth of Marx’s doctrines. For one thing, the strong revival and renewal of the Marxist movement in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies took place rather in spite of, and not because of, the achievements of these regimes. Hence, their dismantling changes little or nothing on the scientific level, even if it may serve as a pretext for those who for other reasons want to break with Marxist thought. Moreover, the economic and social conditions in Western Europe nowadays do not at all warrant any en bloc rejection of Marxian conceptions. Governmental policies based upon ‘the general theory of employment’ no longer ensure approximately full employment, with the consequence that new social strata resembling Marx’s ‘reserve army’ of wage labourers have appeared. The ‘welfare state’, the declared function of which is to guarantee certain basic rights and thus to make the class struggle less urgent, shows alarming signs of weakness. All experts agree that socio-economic inequality has increased and that class cleavages have become sharpened contrary to the optimistic perspectives on our future some decades ago.

Yet, the validity of Marxian conceptions does not, to my mind, ultimately depend upon such events and trends. Rather, the basic conceptions of Marxian thought, such as that of human alienation, should be understood as an internal critique of the basic Liberal notions of the Individual, the Market, and the State. These notions are constitutive of a social order, the hypocrisy and insufficiency of which are uncovered by Marxist thought. This Liberal order and its capitalist mode of production are still expanding throughout the world. For this reason, the Marxian critique is still ‘alive’ and indispensable for the understanding of the human world, and this holds both for the critique of political economy and the critique of human alienation, the theme of the present study.

Oslo, June 1991

Dag Österberg
Professor of Sociology
University of Oslo

For downloading the book, click on the following:

Dr Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

The role of Henry Kissisnger

February 3, 2015

Nasir Khan, Feb. 3, 2015

Do you recognise the elderly man with the glasses in the photo? Do you also remember what he did when he was called ‘magical doctor’ by warmongers, reactionaries and their media? Do you remember what he did in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia? But there is no need to use abusive words to describe him and his role as an architect of genocidal wars. His historic role is closely associated with the actual role of US imperialism and its policies. He is just the visible face of that brutal power that has been ravaging different parts of the globe for so long. Those who have followed him as US secrataries of state have also done the same. Do you remember Condi Rice and what she did? Do you remember . . .
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CODEPINK Attempts to “Arrest” Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile an

                                                   Video Interview

Activists from the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he testified on global security challenges at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Thursday. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Vietnam War under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill Police to remove them.

Karl Marx on Alienation: Introduction, Part 2

February 3, 2015

(Suitable reading for researchers and students of philosophy, history of ideas, Marxism)

By Nasir Khan

Second, Marx’s critique of contemporary world is seen through the human perspective, in which alienation of labour obstructs the emergence of any true human community (Gemeinschaft) and thwarts the individual fulfilling his human potentialities. Man is reduced to a dehumanised existence. The individual and his social role form the nucleus of Marx’s thinking. Fritz Pappenheim rightly says: ‘This is the plight of the “dehumanised human being”, of the alienated man, which was Marx’s deepest concern and which became the central theme even of those of his writings which on the surface seem to deal exclusively with problems of economic history or economic theory’ (Pappenheim 1968, 83). Here the problem of man in Marx should not be seen in the narrow, factionalist discussion of ‘humanist Marx’ with another equally one-sided and illusory ‘scientism’ of some neo-Marxist writings. In my exposition, the humanistic concern of Marx is unmistakably emphasised. If we can pinpoint one theme which shows the continuity in Marx’s thought as a whole, then that is his concern for the human being, explicit or implicit, as the primary presupposition of his early, middle or mature age. I emphasise this point in the final chapter of this study as well.

Another aim of this study is to offer an adequate background to Marx’s immediate intellectual environment. First and foremost, it is the Hegelian heritage which forms the philosophical milieu of Marx’s early development. Of course, that does not rule out other influences. Merely due to the fact that Marx’s first systematic work is a critical commentary on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, I have thought it best to present Hegel’s political philosophy in Part 1 of chapter 3, followed by Marx’s exposition in Part 2. A good grasp of Hegelian ideas is indispensable for a critical appreciation of Marx even at this early stage. Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Phenomenology and the conception of alienation therein is analysed in chapter 7.

But between Marx and Hegel stands Feuerbach. At the early formative stage of Marx, Marx’s critical approach to Hegel is mediated through Feuerbach’s philosophy. Marx regards Feuerbach as the pulveriser of the Hegelian speculative philosophy; the liberator from the Hegelian ‘system’. I have considered it worthwhile to present Feuerbach’s philosophical views on religious alienation, man as Gattungswesen and his other views in some detail. Feuerbach in the history of ideas deserves a prominent place in his own right, being not merely as a secondary figure to supplement Marx. I have tried to redress the balance by offering an outline of his main theories in chapter 2. The impact of Feuerbachian views on Marx, no doubt, is substantial. For instance, Marx’s critique of Hegel takes place only under the Feuerbachian ‘transformational method’. Marx’s ideas on the question of religious alienation, his theory of man and his discussion of human nature, which form the bulk of this study, are closely related to Feuerbach’s philosophy. Even though Feuerbach is not accorded the importance, which, in the opinion of some writers he deserves (e.g. Wartofsky 1977), he continues to be of interest in our age for his critique of religion philosophically, despite its theological language. The humanist tradition has begun to see the relevance of Feuerbach in the cultural history of the present age. The theologians of established religions and of the divine mysteries meet in Feuerbach the theologian of man, who by any means happens to be a formidable figure to reckon with.

Of all the early works of Marx, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts present most difficulties with what Istvan Meszaros calls, their ‘deceptive simplicity’ (Meszaros 1970, 12; for the difficulties of interpretation, see ibid., 12-2 0). For Louis Dumont, and with some justification, they are the ‘formless draft’ as the y were written by Marx for his own use, and were not meant for publication; nevertheless, he emphasises their importance ‘as precious evidence relating to the question of how Marx became Marx, of how, in particular, he built up his basic presuppositions regarding the place of economic phenomena among social phenomena in general’ (Dumont 1977, 113). Chapters 5 and 6 are devoted to Marx’s critique of political economy and the problem of the alienation of labour. I give considerable space to the discussion of Marx’s concept of human nature which Marx outlines in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. Chapter 7 exclusively deals with Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Phenomenology and the problem of alienation in this work. In chapter 8, I conclude the study with an appraisal of the theory of alienation within the specified area and period.

Finally, a few words about the procedure. Except for a limited number of cases, the citations from Marx for the period March 1843–August 1844, are from Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3 (CW3) and the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (translated by Milligan). Beside these, I have used other translations of Marx’s early works for comparison and evaluation of translations. In places the translations of McLellan and Bottomore are more effective and easy to understand, but I have opted to use the translations from Moscow to avoid any terminological confusion: the terminology used in various translations, as I have shown in 1.2. is varied. A few quotations from the German have been used to assist the clarification or emphasise some point. All references from the secondary sources are included in the text.

I have not thought it necessary to provide any exhaustive lists of the possible reading material, because in the form of presentation I chose, too many references would have made the text cumbersome in form. But there are other standard works with a different method of presentation having detailed references and footnotes, which should also be consulted. The range of secondary sources used in the work is quite wide, and is also of unequal character. Alongside some prominent philosophers and scholars a few writers of research articles have also been included. All the italics represent italics or underlinings in the original or the secondary sources unless otherwise stated. The abbreviations used are shown on a separate list.

(To be continued )

For downloading the book, click on the following:

Dr Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

Karl Marx on Alienation: Introduction, Part I

February 1, 2015

INTRODUCTION, Part I

(Suitable reading for students of philosophy,  history of ideas, Marxism)

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By Nasir Khan

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Notwithstanding all the controversies surrounding Karl Marx and his legacy, one thing which can be said with certainty is that no other figure looms so large in the intellectual and political landscape of world history in this century as he does. His social theory, a synthesis of ideas from philosophy, history and the new social sciences is a unique theoretical construct in the history of nineteenth century. His theoretical work was intended to have a practical effect on the course of social developments in the capitalist society. Sheldon Wolin comments: ‘He founded a new conception of politics, revolutionary in intent, proletarian in concern, and international in scope and organisation’ (quoted in Thomas 1985, 13). Marxist ideas were introduced in various European countries. For instance, in Russia, by the mid-1880s his ideas were advanced by Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich and Akselrod. By the end of 1880s Marxist conceptions had become quite popular with university students and intelligentsia in St. Petersburg. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party founded in 1898 was Marxist. The Marxist ideas had made inroads into the socialist movement in the 1870s in France. In Germany, soon after Marx’s death, the SDP as an explicitly Marxist party came into existence. The emergence of social democratic parties, originally all being Marxists, in Belgium (1885), Austria (1889), Hungary (1890), Bulgaria (1891), Poland (1892), Romania (1892-1900), Holland (1894), etc. show the impact of Marxist thought. In fact, ‘by the 1890s it was no longer possible to dismiss him as just another proletarian agitator: the size of the political parties that recognised him as their prophet and the seriousness of the economic investigations that he had initiated had made him a massive force that demanded to be related in some way or other to the major traditions of European thought. As the decade wore on, a number of “bourgeois” economists and social thinkers of the most varying intellectual orientations found themselves compelled to come to grips with his doctrines’ (Hughes 1977, 67).
For evaluating the Marxian legacy in our time, it is important to ascertain, and draw the line between what Marx stood for and what he is made out to be by the one-party, authoritarian states. In this context the cleavage we meet is enormous, as Flöistad remarks that ‘when we see for what Marx and Marxism are being used and misused by the totalitarian states world-over’ (Flöistad 1983, 359). We have witnessed during the last few years the collapse of bureaucratic-socialism, the system of nomenklatura in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the USSR. The
colossal changes which have occurred so far constitute one of the major turning points in this epoch. One of the far-reaching implications relates to the question of Marxism’s responsibility for the ills of the collapsed regimes. However, the aim of this book precludes any discussion of these momentous contemporary development. My overriding concern here is to explore the rich heritage of Marx’s thought on the problem of alienation in his early writings over a limited period as part of research work in philosophy and the history of ideas.
One fertile ground of research in Marx studies, and a major attraction for Marx scholars, has been the question whether or not Marx’s works can be regarded as forming a continuous whole ever since the publication of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in 1932. Most of the writers have defended or expounded the continuity problematic in one form or the other. One notable exception in this debate was the eminent Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. He intervened as a matter of political necessity to combat the French revisionists and their views on the status of Marxism. His refutation of the continuity thesis, therefore, has to be seen in its political context. His writings polemicised the problematic intensely, with the result that it added to an enlivened interest in Marxist philosophy in the European academic world. Alex Callinicos is correct to assess him so highly: ‘It is to Louis Althusser more than to any other individual or group that we owe the current renaissance of Marxist philosophy’ (Callinicos 1985, ‘Preface’, v). The Althusserian school emerged, defending and elaborating the scientific character of Marxism. Among the well-known writers who have defended the continuity thesis are Avineri, Cornu, Garaudy, Howard, Hyppolite, Kamenka, Korsch, McLellan, Maguire, Mandel, Meszaros, Plamenatz, Ollman, Tucker, Lewis, Kolakowski and Cornforth. Whereas the Althusserian school advocates an ‘epistemological break’ in Marx’s writings, the concept of alienation is viewed as falling under the pre-scientific, early period. I mention this only to highlight the proliferation of literature around this controversy. However, in the present work this controversy is only of peripheral interest and there does not seem to be any need to enter into any lengthy discourse on the topic.
My treatment of Marx is essentially devoid of any attempts at mythicising him. There is no need for that. An over-zealous supporter or opponent of a political, social or religious cause may be a big asset for his respective group, organisation or denomination. But this sort of activity intrinsically is inimical to any meaningful discourse in philosophy or science. What Bacon calls ‘idols’, the idols of the tribe, cave, market and theatre, stand opposed to human reason and mind. Marxism in this respect can specially be singled out. It has and continues to arouse deep passions of devotion and loyalty in some or down-right rejection (and this very often with scanty knowledge of Marxism) and animosity in others. I have tried to present Marx’s views on alienation as dispassionately as possible and have
not let my own likes or dislikes dictate the inquiry. In this matter, I have found Bacon’s advice a sound one: ‘Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider’ (Bacon 1972, 150).
In a number of ways, this study has its own particular features. First of all, I reject any dogmatic approach to Marxism; and instead view Marx ism as a living and developing theory in view of social practice. Marx had articulated the practical requirements of the labour movement in its struggle for emancipation in his lifetime. I have aimed at explaining, analysing and noting the development of Marx’s ideas regarding alienation in religious, political and economic spheres up to 1844, and in this process have taken notice of any shift in the meanings as we pass from one article or essay to the other. Marx presents a comprehensive theory of alienation only in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. I have compared the positions which Marx had previously held against the one he espoused in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. By comparing and contrasting these positions I have en deavoured to show the developmental stages of the concept of alienation in Marx. A concept is regarded as a mental construct. What defines he status of a concept is the nature of essence or content it comes to embody. By comparing and contrasting I have shown how the religious concept of alienation received a definite content and theoretical form in Marx.

In view of the result, it becomes easy to approach the question of continuity or break in Marx from a new angle. This, while setting aside the either/or positions, focuses on Marx’s ideas as various and interactive phases of his intellectual development. I have maintained that Marx’s ideas regarding humanist perspective and the question of alienation show continuity, but with important differences in the content and form of the concept and theory of alienation in the period under review. This approach enables us to see the vigour and vitality of Marxism as a living theory and not as a collection of sacrosanct dogmas of a closed system.
Marx, above all, advocated the Aufhebung of the existing alienation which shows its dichotomous character in separating between ‘doing and thinking’, between ‘being and having’, ‘between public life and private life’, and between ‘theory and practice’. This dichotomy was to be overcome by a unified ‘science of man’, in place of the reified science and philosophy as Marx suggested in the Manuscripts. This task was achieved by Marx and Engels in formulating the fundamentals of ‘historical materialism’. As Maurice Cornforth writes: ‘Once the scientific intention of Marxism is grasped, the theory of mankind and society, which itself presupposes scientific theory about nature, becomes the premise for which philosophical theory about thinking — about, in Engels’ own phrases, “thought and its laws” and “the relation of thinking and being” — takes off, rather than the conclusion drawn from prior philosophical theory’ (Cornforth 1980, 45). Marx’s contribution in the matter of a scientific theory of man and society ‘marks a new departure in relation to all previous sciences. … It completes the establishment of fundamental theory for the scientific investigation of the whole of living nature, including mankind, it inaugurates a stage in which science be comes equipped to treat scientifically of everything which concerns us in life — not only of “external” nature, but of ourselves and our entire activity in which we each sustain and live a n individual life and relate ourselves with one another and with “nature” ‘ (ibid., 144; see also 145-53).
Marx deals with the same problems which had occupied earlier philosophers in metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, etc. But at the same time there is an important difference which we should not lose sight of. Flöistad points to it thus: ‘In many ways, he breaks with [that] tradition and infuses something new. Philosophy should not merely be theory but first and foremost it should be a philosophy of action. And as a philosophy of action philosophy should intervene and change the world’ (Flöistad 1983, 359). Thus the old problem of theory and practice achieves a totally new dimension in Marx. From now on, philosophy of action comes to epitomise Marxian programme in its multi-dimensional aspects signifying the unity of theory and practice. The ground work for this view was laid in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts.

(To be continued)

Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

This book can be downloaded here:
https://sudhan.wordpress.com/my-book-development-of-the-concept-and-theory-of-alienation-in-marxs-writings-march-1843-to-august-1844-1995/

President Obama in India

January 30, 2015

Nasir Khan, January 30, 2015

Professor Badri Raina is a canny writer whose obervations go deeper than merely embellishing some news for entertaining the Indian crowds. This is evident in his present article.

Obama represents the power of US imperialism and he is the president of US. But people like Modi may have miscalculated that the guy is in his pocket as a Hindutva devotee who is living far away from his Mother Country whose glorious children are scattered worldwide! So much chutzpah for Indian-ness, without realising that a foreign head of state should be treated according to the usual protocol, without owning him or her!

Then there comes in our Indian-ness. ‘He is just one of us!’ ‘The two are just like our own!’ Oh, really? Obama must have felt  highly  honoured with such adulation, no doubt!

But naivete and stupidity have no anchorage or limit. If Obama’s and Michelle’s looks were the point of focus then they certainly look like some of our Indo-Pakistani people who are dark-skinned, ‘low-caste’ people such as Dalits, the Dravadian races or swarthy, flat-nosed old tribals whose miserable lives have not changed much in the last three thousand years. BHO has a long tongue and some knowledge as well. He was not ensnared by Modi’s antics.

By the way, we don’t see such patronising attitude extended to other black African people as own lost children in the Dark Continent!

Raina has poured some cold  water of sanity on the issue. He didn’t  follow  the Indian leaders  to ‘re-baptise’ Obama and his wife in the Vedic faith and embellish them in the saffron chadars and dhotis but first rubbing  some cow dung on their foreheads to complete the sacred initiation into the Hindufold!

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Obama: he came, he saw, he gave advice

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Just when the Obama visit was going so swimmingly, bathed in the  glow of the Vedas and sundry saffron accoutrement, imagine what this Obama fellow, during an address to India’s aspirating youth, proud of the Vedic  yore, even if by hearsay, but yearning for a Yankee future, chose to do: as if  poking  a finger in the  Hindutva eye, this Obama made bold to say how “Michelle and I have been strengthened by our Christian faith.” No ghar vapsi (i.e. return to the all-encompassing original faith) there, you might well say, Vivekananda or no Vivekananda. Was he also insinuating that it might be wrong to vandalise churches etc.? In other words, teaching us tolerance on our own tolerant soil. Fingers crossed. We need his technology.

Continues >>


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