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Letters to the Editor:
Lessons from the ultra-left and history
The letter on Adorno by Richard Titelius brings up a present day problem of how to bring the revolts of non-proletarian forces into continued and developing action in the movements for peace and socialism. The actions of students and youth focused around the slogan "Books not Bombs" were in protest at the then impending war on Iraq and have not developed further. The same thing happened to the "New Left" culminating in the student demonstrations in France in 1968 when Daniel Cohn-Bendit was one of the prominent leaders. The New Left challenged bourgeois society, the foreign policies of imperialism and its economic and political repression. They reacted against bourgeois culture. They did not link up with the organised union movement or the communist parties who they called the "old ideology". Among their spokespersons were those who set out to create an up-to-date revolutionary theory, with emphasis on spontaneous actions with release of unconscious forces. These writers said they were looking for the shaping of a new culture and a new man. Marcuse, Sartre and Adorno were among the main ideological leaders at that time. Marcuse saw only a dead end. "The economic and technical capabilities of the established societies are sufficiently vast to allow for adjustments and concessions to the underdog, and their armed forces sufficiently trained and equipped to take care of emergency situations." (Bush screaming for more troops and money!) "The critical theory of society possesses no concept to bridge the gap between the present and its future; holding no promise and showing no success; it remains negative." Adorno is just as negative. He saw it as impossible to view a contradiction as soluble, and that it was wrong to envisage any definite alternative. He regarded the modern world as a contradictory chaotic chain of events not arranged in any integral system. These and other writers confused and held up the political development of many of the protesting people associated with the New Left. Their ideas have penetrated communist parties. In 1968 Dubcek, Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, called for changes for a socialism with a human face — "the good life, true liberty and a just society". In the last Czech elections, the Czech Communist Party got 20 percent of the votes. Dubcek formed and led an anti- communist pro-capitalist splinter party in that those elections. Under the banner of perestroika, Gorbachev confused and misled the CPSU and the Soviet people, and was the chief internal factor in destroying the Soviet Union. There had been a close link between Dubcek and Gorbachev. We need to study the present-day writers appealing to the youth, to understand their appeal and their weaknesses, so that we can win the new young forces emerging to progressive and consistent action. Vic Williams
In his letter in The Guardian (September 17) Richard Titelius suggests that the work of Theodore Adorno might indicate some remedy for the disasters of recent years, or if not, make us feel better in spite of them. Titelius suggests that what he calls, with some justification a "new kind of barbarism", "is not inflicted by the ruling class elites, but by a new technological consciousness which has gripped mass society". Where does Adorno think this technological consciousness came from and is this a proper description of the situation? Certainly, large numbers of people in countries like Australia have been fascinated by the achievements of science and technology and benefited from them but without having what one could call technological consciousness, i.e., they have very little appreciation of the scientific and technological achievements. Part of this "technological consciousness" could well be described as the result of advertising and the search for wider and wider markets. How many people are influenced by the use of largely meaningless terms like "natural", "holistic", "state of the art", and in contrast, in some fields of health support of medical practices by referring to their age old use! The growth of technology and unwarranted reverence for it, or at least some aspects of it, lies in the development of the capitalist economy — it is not due to some mystical consciousness — and as far as it is planned today it is the bourgeoisie; the planning is in their hands and those of their imitators. Like some of the New Left, it would seem that Adorno wished to purge "social, political and cultural thought" of any interpretation in terms of the class structure of society, and as a result in common with the New Left, of the recognition of the working class's critical position and responsibility for the changing of society. I am not clear as to the exact meaning of Titelius's final sentence in which he concludes "... there is a persistence of Adorno's thinking and ideas among those for whom the good life, true liberty, and a just society are not just a utopian dream". Does he mean that Adorno is speaking to those for whom these things are no longer a dream (the bourgeoisie?) and if not, to whom? Tom Gill
A few observations of the ongoing struggle in the six counties of Ireland: Prime Minister Tony Blair has set about dismantling the Good Friday Agreement, including the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly at the request of the Unionists. Let it be recalled that the Northern Ireland Assembly was founded by the United Ulster Unionist Council (UUUC) to advise Edward Heath before the Sunningdale Conference in England in December 1973. This conference entrenched the power of Unionism, to uphold a Protestant state, for a Protestant people. Final result — the British Government gave agreement to the UUUC that the Six Counties of Ulster would remain part of the UK. Thus the continual terror on the streets by the UDA, UFF, UDR, the abuse of school children, Sinn FC)in councillors barred from entering Council Chambers, are all part of this sabotage that includes the suspension of the Assembly, illegally preventing democratically elected Sinn FC)in members from functioning. This has to be tested in the International Court. Blair is a liar. He will not defeat the will of the Irish people, though the price paid by the people in suffering is horrendous. We have defeated British propaganda before and will do so in the future and continue with our struggle. Anne Duffy-LindsayBack to index page