Ever read much of Karl Marx's Ethnological Notebooks. I bet not and that is too bad. Today, in Theoretical Weekends at Scission, we will take a peek at them through the eyes of Franklin Rosemont. Maybe you don't know Franklin. Well, he was one interesting fellow. He founded the Chicago surrealist Group. His history with the surrealist movement dated back to a 1965 meeting with Andre Breton in Paris. Franklin was also active with the IWW, the Rebel Worker group, Solidarity Bookshop and SDS.
As Paul Garon, David Roediger and Kate Khatib described the Chicago Surrealist Group:
...an enduring and adventuresome collection of characters that would make the city a center for the reemergence of that movement of artistic and political revolt. Over the course of the following four decades, Franklin and his Chicago comrades produced a body of work, of declarations, manifestos, poetry, collage, hidden histories, and other interventions that has, without doubt, inspired an entirely new generation of revolution in the service of the marvelous.
Upon his death at the age of 65 back in 2009, The Samizdat blog wrote:
Rosemont was the kind of man for whom the epithet "American original" was made. He was the real, true, independent bohemian, through and through: the son of a labor activist father and a jazz musician mother, he was a scholar, an activist, a poet, a publisher, a Surrealist, and a historian, and he was all of these things on his own terms, all the time.
Of himself Franklin wrote:
I was born the second day of October (the same day as Nat Turner) in 1943 and grew up in and around Chicago, home of the blues, non-cinematic gangsters, the Haymarket anarchists, the Industrial Workers of the World, the Water Tower and the Maxwell Street Market. Armed with Zen lunacy, Nietzsche, Rimbaud and the first glimmers of the surrealist adventure. I dropped out of high school and hitchhiked west through the giant bones of the Rocky Mountains, the bleeding deserts of Arizona and the ectodermic forests of California to those clouds of medieval radiance which is San Francisco...
I was an IWW organizer from September 1962 to November 1965: during this period I discovered the arcane proletarian revelations of T-Bone Slim (d. 1942). I studied anthropology for two years and went to Mexico in 1963, wandering through the streets of Tenochtitlan for personal illumination. If I believed in reincarnation, in former lives I would have been an Alaskan timber wolf at least once, certainly a Hopi Indian, and perhaps a comrade of Florian Geyer and the Black Troop in the 16th century Peasant Wars...
My poems and drawings erupt and flow automatically from my own psycho-physical and biomythological totality, and are offered for consideration as modest presentations of the true, delirious, electromagnetic river of surreality. I am a revolutionary mammal, an alchemical atheist, and an aquatic-aerial anarchist as well as a poet. From the past I feel closest to Paracelsus, Han Shan, Blake, Fourier, Nat Turner, Emily Bronte, John Brown, Lautreamont, Marx, Rimbaud, Lewis Carroll, Rosa Luxemburg, Charles Fort, Andre Breton, Benjamin Peret, Emiliano Zapata, T-Bone Slim, Jose Guadalupe Posada, Arshile Gorky, Simon Rodia, the blues-singers Robert Johnson, Elmore James and J. B. Lenoir, the Durruti Column, the Kwakiutl Indians and Marilyn Monroe. I am irresistably attracted to the Krazy Kat cartoons of George Herriman, the analogies of Malcolm de Chazal, and anything having to do with rabbits, Hegel, Black Hawk, Shays’ Rebellion, Nat Turner, the Ferris Wheel, Zoroaster, cocaine and the Cthulhu Mythos elaborated by H.P. Lovecraft and his circle. In fantasies I often see myself as Bugs Bunny or a zebra. I play rhythm ‘n’ blues piano and harpsichord. I take this opportunity to spit on the President of the United States and his ignominious war against the Vietnamese...
In poetry as in life I am for freedom and against slavery: for the Indians against the European invaders and the American exploiters; for the black insurrections against the white power structure; for guerrillas against colonial administrators and imperialist armies; for youth against cops, curfews, school and conscription; for wildcat strikers against bosses and union bureaucrats; for poetry against literature, philosophy and religion; for mad love against civilized repression and bourgeois marriage; and for the surrealist revolution against complacency, hypocrisy, cowardice, stupidity, exploitation oppression.
Franklin and his Surrealist comrades should also be remembered as some of the staunchest fighters against white supremacy around...and certainly amongst the most interesting.
Anyway, the following is from Class Against Class.
Karl Marx and the Iroquois
It was not mere "anthropology," however, that Marx found so appealing in lewis Henry Morgan's Ancient Society but rather, as he hints in his notes and as Engels spelled out in his Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), the merciless critique and condemnation of capitalist civilization that so well complements that of Charles Fourier.
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at a signal the sachems arose and marched 3 times around the Burning Circle, going as before by the North… Master of the ceremonies again rising to his feet, filled and lighted the pipe of peace from his own fire; drew 3 whiffs, the first toward the Zenith (which meant thanks to the Great Spirit...); the second toward the ground (means thanks to his Mother, the Earth. for the various productions which had ministered to his sustenance); third toward the Sun (means thanks for his never-failing light, ever shining upon all). Then he passed the pipe to the first upon his right toward the North…This passage goes on in the same vein for some thirty lines, but I think this brief excerpt suffices to show that the Ethnological Notebooks are unlike anything else in the Marxian canon.
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the definitive resolution of the antagonism between man and nature, and between man and man. It is the true solution of the conflict between existence and essence, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be this solution.To such ways of seeing the old Marx seems to have returned as, in his mind's eye, he took his three whiffs on the pipe of peace around the Iroquois council fire. But it was no self-indulgent nostalgia that led him to trace the perilous path of his youthful dreams and beyond, to the dawn of human society. A revolutionist to the end, Marx in 1880 no less than in 1844 envisioned a radically new society founded on a total transformation in human relationships, and sought new ways, to help bring this new society into being.
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Nowadays, we often hear it said that the rural commune is an archaic form condemned to perish by history, scientific socialism and, in short, everything above debate. Those who preach such a view call themselves your disciples…their strongest argument is often: 'Marx said so' But how do you derive that from Capital?' others object. 'He does not discuss the agrarian' question, and says nothing about Russia.' 'He would have said as much if he had discussed our country," your disciples retort…'Just how seriously Marx pondered the question may be inferred from the tact that he wrote no less than four drafts of a reply in addition to the comparatively brief letter he actually sent - a grand total of some twenty-five book pages. His reply was a stunning blow to the self-assured, dogmatic smugness of the Russian "Marxists" who not only refused to publish the letter but pretended that it did not exist (it was Published for the first time in 1924).
The analysis in Capital therefore provides no reasons-either for or against the vitality of the Russian Commune. But the special study l have mode of it, including a search for original source-material, has convinced me that the commune is the fulcrum for social regeneration in Russia.The Preface to the second Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto (1882) co-signed by Engels, closed with a somewhat qualified restatement of this new orientation:
Can the Russian obshchina [peasant commune] a form, albeit highly eroded, of the primitive communal ownership of the Land, pass directly into the higher, communist form of communal ownership?... Today there is only one possible answer. If the Russian revolution becomes the signal for proletarian revolution in the West, so that the two complement each other, then Russia's peasant communal land-ownership may serve as the point departure for a communist development.The bold suggestion that revolution in an underdeveloped country might precede and precipitate revolution in the industrialized West did not pop up out of Nowhere - every idea has its prehistory - but few, will deny that it contradicts9 uproariously, the overwhelming bulk of Marx's anterior work It is in fact, a flagrantly "anti-Marxist" heresy, as Marx's Russian disciples surely were aware. Just six years earlier, in 1875, a Russian Jacobin, Petr Tkachev', brought down upon himself a good dose of Engel's ridicule - evidently with Marx's full approval-for having had the temerity to propose some such nonsense about skipping historically ordained stages, and even the appalling fantasy that peasant-riddled Russia could reach the revolutionary starting-line before the sophisticated proletariat of the West. Such "pure hot air:' Engels felt obliged to counsel the poor Russian "schoolboy;' proved only that Thachev had yet "to learn the ABC of Socialism?"
the rural, commune [in Russia] finds [capitalism in the West] in a State of crisis that will end only when the social system is eliminated through the return of modern societies to the "archaic" type of communal property In the words of an American writer who, supported in his work by the Washington government, is not at all to be suspected of revolutionary tendencies [here Marx refers to the fact that Morgan's Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity was published by the Smithsonian Institution] "the new system" to which modern society is tending "will be a revival, in a superior form, of an archaic social type." We should not then, be too frightened by the word archaic."Scattered through the drafts of his letter to Zasulich, moreover; are a half dozen other unmistakable allusions to Morgan's researches.
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Is it to be the prerogative of man to uproot and destroy not only the masses of the animal kingdom numerically, but also the great body of the species? If the human family maintains its present hostile attitude toward [animals], and increases in number: and in civilization at the present ratio. It is plain to be seen that many species of animals must be extirpated from the earth. An arrest of the progress of the human race can alone prevent the dismemberment and destruction of a large portion of the animal kingdom… The present attitude of man toward the (animals] is not such as befits his Superior wisdom. We deny [other species] all rights, and ravage their ranks with wanton and unmerciful cruelty The annual sacrifice of animal life to maintain human life is frightful… when we claim that the bear was made for man food, we forget that man was just as much made to be food for the bear. Morgan hoped that with the development of a friendlier, less prejudiced, more intimate study of the other creatures of this planet, "our relations to them "will appear to us in a different, and in a better light?'