Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Drop the Gramsci, Step Away from the Notebooks

You may not have noticed this article last week about the book Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change. Read it now.

Note now that the predictions are based on an assumption of a global average temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. Note that that is a fairly conservative assumption in comparison to present climatological models. Note also that, when comparing past climatological models to subsequent data, they have nearly always proven to have been too conservative.

Note the following "highlights":

  • "Flooding and forced migration will push citizens to crowded cities or refugee camps, creating ripe conditions for the spread of infectious diseases."
  • "California's Sierra Snowpack, its most important water source, will have shrunk by a third by 2050. No plan exists for how the state will find enough water for its projected 50 million residents."
  • "Bangladesh alone will lose 17 percent of its land mass."
  • "Rainfall-dependent crop production in Nigeria may fall by 50 percent."
  • "Water flow to the Indus River could drop off by 35 percent, as glaciers melt. India and Pakistan, which have had 4 wars since the 1940s, will have to share this shrinking resource. At issue is life and death for tens of millions on both sides of the border -- and both countries have nuclear weapons."

Now calculate how old you will be in 2050. If you have children, calculate how old they will be in 2050. (In my case: I will be 73--an age which all my grandparents exceeded--and my daughter will be 43.) Realize that "barbarism" is no longer a matter of the implausibly distant future.

I would like to propose, therefore, to my fellow leftists, that we stop wasting time trying to puzzle out Antonio Gramsci's Prison Notebooks. Is it unfair for me to pick on Gramsci? Perhaps. After all, he was writing on whatever scraps of paper he could scrounge, trying to keep his mind alive while his body was slowly dying in a fascist prison. Just about anyone (other than a die-hard Bordigaist sectarian) would agree he was a martyr of the cause for a more human world. But consider what the fruits have been of four decades of Gramsci-vogue for everyone ranging from left-social-democrats through Eurocommunists to the softer sides of the Trotskyist movement: the "war of position" instead of the "war of maneuver," which becomes, the attempt by serious, serious people to be taken seriously by the serious gatekeepers of bourgeois seriousness. A world-view in which, for example, doing the PR that broke SWP's China MiƩville into the public eye for free when he complained that his publisher wasn't making him famous can be seen as a reasonable allocation of time for a party full-timer.

The war of position is over. The ground on which we have taken our stand is crumbling under our feet. Whatever knocks the theorists of the "war of maneuver"--Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky, for example--have taken, there are still aspects of their work that can be revised, updated, and adapted to new realities. Gramsci's war of position, however brilliant it may once have seemed, must now be classified as a failed hypothesis. One hundred years from now, if we have done our jobs, his writings will be of value once more, to hobbyists of early-20th-century Italian philology.

Until then: Drop the Gramsci, step away from the notebooks.

No comments:

Post a Comment