February 21st, 2011
Jack Crow’s post, “abandoning the past sometimes allows you to see better the present…” starts off well, but dissolves into a familiar prolier-than-thou appeal to drop “our” preconvictions about revolutions and who should lead them:
The working class, the colonized, the oppressed, the alienated and the poor don’t need theories conjured up in academic discussions, in the coffee houses which line the well paved streets of upper class neighborhoods. They don’t need special vocabularies and essays on superstructure, intersectionality and sociocultural meta-meta critique.
If there’s any socialist cliche that needs abandoning it’s the supposed contradiction between the educated ivory tower intellectual and the oppressed working classes. It’s the leftwing version of the “salt of the earth, white working class man telling it like it is”: only evoked to push through the writer’s own prejudices. Crow wants to have his cake and eat it too, by both putting himself above the “The working class, the colonized, the oppressed, the alienated and the poor” and telling us that he knows what they want.
This sort of rhetorical trick presupposes both that intellectuals cannot be part of the working classes and that the working classes cannot do theory, cannot be intellectuals themselves. This sort of distinction might have made some sense in the nineteenth century, but in today’s world most of us “intellectuals” are just as much wage slaves as your average factory workers are.
Jack Crow very much has a point that reifying dead, white Marxists is counterproductive when it comes to understanding why the Egyptian revolution is happening now, that even Marx himself can be wrong or outdated and that his works at best hands us a tool to help understand the world, not a prefabricated solution. A pity he falls into the same outdated cliches himself at the end of his post.