The Guardian November 12, 2003

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Letters to the Editor:

The ultra-left, history and technological consciousness

The responses by Vic Williams and Tom Gill to my letter of 
September 17, 2003, miss some important aspects not only of 
Adorno's dialectics but also his engagement with Marxism, other 
left intellectuals and student politics of the late 1960's.

While I would agree with Tom Gill that this technological 
consciousness may come from and serve the interests of the ruling 
classes, what becomes popular and therefore consumed is 
determined by the masses not the ruling class elites.

Many of the most popular television shows, movies, magazines, 
music and other forms of art and culture are popular not so much 
because they may be good or bad art, but because they require so 
little moral or aesthetic effort to engage with them. It is 
easier to listen to Kylie Minogue than Beethoven or watch "Better 
Homes and Gardens" and "Australian Idol" than "The Awful Truth" 
and "Futurama", but a lot less likely that one's consciousness 
will be effected by them.

In reply to Vic William's lumping of Marcuse, Satre and Adorno 
together as the main ideological leaders of that time, this is 
deceptive and mischievous. Satre, who while he was a left-wing 
dissident intellectual, was not a Marxist and was more renowned 
as an exponent of existentialism, than a proponent of socialist 
or revolutionary thought.

There were differences of opinion between Marcuse and Adorno as 
to what each believed could be achieved by the student revolts in 
Germany, France, the USA and elsewhere.

Marcuse believed that the situation concerning the war in 
Vietnam, police repression of student demonstrations and other 
revolts against the system had become unbearable and demanded, 
"that extra-parliamentary opposition (i.e., civil action and 
civil disobedience) becomes the only form of contestation which 
can be taken".

Adorno replied that while he believed that the student movement 
had interrupted the smooth transition to the totally administered 
world, he did not think that praxis was capable of affecting a 
social intervention at this time.

Ultimately, Adorno was proved right. The revolts against the 
system were not sustained and had quietly slipped away by the 
beginning of 1973.

Here we are 30 years later and what has changed. I agree with 
Williams that the left progressive forces of politics need to 
"win the new, young forces emerging to progressive and consistent 
action". However, we are not going to win them with the out-of-
date politics and ideology of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky  
especially in the light of the spectacular collapse, though not 
necessarily failure, of the Soviet Union and its satellites.

Today, an increasing number of people in the West are becoming 
cynical about the order of the world under capital and are 
beginning to wake up from the dull, repetitive and tiring hum of 
the culture industry that acts to prop up the veneer of capital. 
People are starting to get organised for action and to look for 
the ideas and information in other places, which will help them 
get from theory into practice.

For these people there will be a persistence of the critical or 
dialectical thinking and ideas of Adorno. The idea that not only 
the means of production must be expropriated from capital, but 
also our hearts, minds and souls and in this way allow the ideas, 
thoughts and feelings for a different world to be born.

Richard Titelius

Ruddock's promotion
The appointment of Mr Ruddock to Attorney-General is a further 
example the Promotion of Proven Duds (PPD) and Reward for Failure 
(RFF) Principles of Management. Regrettably, such appointments 
are almost inevitable for Governments labouring under the 
Westminster system because the pool of Ministerial talent is 
extremely limited.

Ministers have to be "in and of the Parliament", meaning they 
must be elected MPs. Thus, at the federal level, choices have to 
be made from a mere 90 or so career politicians, mostly lawyers 
who are dysfunctional amateurs in virtually every portfolio.

Real expertise and experience is available outside the Parliament 
but the Westminster system prevents it from being fully engaged 
in the Government of the nation.

This political "culture" can and should be changed, the sooner 
the better.

Klaas Woldring
Pearl Beach, NSW
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