The Ends of the British State – Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

The Ends of the British State in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

James Luchte asks what the purpose of a ‘family of nations’ should be. If it is not fit for purpose to nurture and care for its members, then the British state is a failed and dysfunctional family and should be dismantled.

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Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

James Luchte

marx

Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.  It is the opium of the people. [1]

Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal source of consolation and justification.  It is the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality.  The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.[2]

Perhaps the most formidable obstacle in the task of retrieving a sense of the sacred in Marx consists in his repeated, and often polemical, statements against religion – or the edited selections of his editors and guardians.  Indeed, such an obstacle may in the end be one of our own making, as we are trapped within the labyrinth of our own historical understanding.[3] Yet, assuming, for the moment, that religion and the sacred are the same phenomena, if we take his pronouncement that religion is the opium of the people – which I purposely left out in the opening quotation – in isolation, we may be lead to believe that Marx felt that at best religion – and thus the ‘sacred’ – is a narcotic, which while it may be utilized to alleviate pain, remains an illusory amelioration for a situation of humiliation and despair.  Religion is an opiate in that it not only implies sedation from the pain of a life of exploitation, but also – ambivalently – suggests a systematic and strategic attempt to deaden or absorb any critical impulse to liberation.  In this sense, Marx’s characterization of religion as an opiate is a forerunner of many of the most radical criticisms of religion and ‘negative’ theology in last century – Gutierrez, Miranda, Bultmann, Heidegger, Derrida, and Bataille.  Each of these thinkers, in his own way, articulated a sense of the sacred in the wake of Marx and his deconstruction of religion as an ‘ideology’ – despite, perhaps, his own generation’s scientistic blindness to the regulative status of all ideas.

The kinship which is shared by each of these thinkers is a disdain for mere religion in favour of the ‘sacred’.[4] Religion simultaneously constructs a ‘picture’ (Bild) for contemplation (Anschauung) and an organization that cultivates our captivity to that ‘picture’ (Wittgenstein).  The sacred, on the contrary, intimates ‘love’ (Badiou), ‘binding commitment’ (Heidegger), an engaged and affirmative eruption of liberation amidst finite existence.  Religion constructs its eternal church as an everlasting perpetuation of the ‘picture’, of an idol – a captivating grammar of existence – while the sacred exults in this moment of lived existence,[5] in the haeccitas of Duns Scotus.  If religion is a ‘rational’ and ‘systematic’ orchestration of feeling and phenomena, the sacred is an attempt to seek access to a phenomenon beyond the array of objectification towards traces of the numen.  Indeed, for Otto, one need only begin amidst this singular event.

In light of this preliminary distinction between religion and the sacred, it will be the task of Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred to excavate and disclose in the writings and historical activism of Marx an affirmative sense of the sacred which is alterior to his inherently negative conception of religion.  With Marx’s empathy in his ‘sigh of the oppressed creature’, we can glimpse a sense of the sacred dissociated from a religious leviathan that merely serves to perpetuate suffering – we can begin to glimpse a sacred that exists as a radical commitment to liberation.  In this way, I will contend that Marx’s criticism of religion as an ideology of oppression and sedation in no way forecloses on a possible relationship between his work and Twentieth and Twenty-First Century attempts to articulate a sense of the sacred in the world.  There emerges in these latter attempts the possibility of an openness which discloses a topos for an encounter with a sense of a sacred not mediated by ‘ideology’ (or positive theology).

To read the book for free, please visit Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

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Introduction: Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans

Welsh Dragon

As I have not worried to be born, I do not worry to die.
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)

Ceri Evans (1965-2002) died in the same month, in August, as the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was murdered by the Fascist regime in 1936. In one of the tributes to Ceri Evans after his death, Terry Conway tells of a gift of a book of Lorca’s poetry which she had received from Dr Evans. Terry Conway makes this comparison of Lorca and Evans:

Here too was someone who had a passionate relationship with the place he was from, but was also a confirmed internationalist. Here too was someone for whom political ideas were not just found in theory, but in song, in dream, in all the small things of everyday life. (Whispers of a Forgotten Nation, p. 7)

In her elegant brevity, Conway captures both the spirit of Ceri Evans and his dialectical method in relation to the national and international movements for social justice and freedom. Evans lived the slogan ‘Think globally, Act locally.’ He fought simultaneously for historical justice in his native Wales, and, in the context of his perspective as an international socialist, for the eventual realisation of a global democratic socialist community, in which nations would enjoy equality, mutual aid and peaceful cooperation. Indeed, for Evans, the national question was inseparable from the struggle for international socialism.

Ceri Evans was a unique and creative thinker, at once a philosopher and activist (and with the mind of an engineer). He was a revolutionary socialist who wished to learn from the revolutionaries of the past, such as Lenin and Trotsky, but never merely to turn these ‘Great Men’ into dogmatic idols. He repeats this mantra over and over again in his theoretical and practical writings – that there is much to learn from these revolutionaries of the past and present, who have more experience and knowledge with respect to the building and enactment of revolutionary transformation. Yet, Ceri Evans had a mind of his own and assertively set forth his criticisms of these ‘Great Men’. In this way, he has enduring relevance as an original thinker and practical example for the understanding and practise of Welsh politics, and revolutionary politics as such.

This collection contains nearly thirty essays, discussion documents, presentations and other pieces from between 1990-2002, arguably one of the most important periods in the history of Welsh politics. These writings range from purely philosophical pieces, such as ‘Dialectics’, explorations of political philosophy, as in ‘Ten Draft Points on the National Question,’ to extremely concrete analyses and discussion documents of current political struggles in which he was continuously immersed, as with his writings on the Welsh language, the Welsh Assembly, Europe, Ireland, Israel, and the national struggles in Eastern Europe. In an uncanny manner, reading these essays resembles the experience of opening up a ‘time capsule’, one left as a legacy for those of us who would continue the struggle in the future. The ‘time capsule’ is open, and the documents it contains are a gift from the past.

To read the rest of this Introduction and to go to the writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans themselves, please visit Introduction – Whispers of a Forgotten Nation: The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans.

Jean Paul Sartre’s ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’: A Critical Reading

It may seem unfair to read Existentialism is a Humanism as a canonical example of Sartrean philosophy – although it is always the first thing anyone reads by him, and it thus, holds a decisive sociological status.  And, he did choose to present the text in the form of an address.  Indeed, much later, he disavowed this text.  Yet, the text was performed in public in 1946 and constituted the first post-War international philosophical event.  This novel and international character became explicit with Heidegger’s response to Sartre in ‘Letter on Humanism’ later that year.  In this way, regardless of Sartre’s later disavowal, it is important that the text be understood, since, if for no other reason, this is the text, or something similarsartre, with which Heidegger engaged.  Yet, the text is important in itself, especially if read in tandem with Being and Nothingness.

In the following, I would like to undertake a critical reading of Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism against the background of the persistent question of subjectivism.   Indeed, this is one of the primary charges against his philosophy with which he begins his address.  To this extent, Existentialism is a Humanism could be seen as an attempt to clarify and address criticisms of Being and Nothingness (1943), which had found many enemies amongst the public.  It could be argued that this attempt was obviously a failure and served to distort rather than clarify Sartre’s philosophy as presented in Being and Nothingness.  The dissemination of a philosophy is often fraught with misunderstanding, as it, as Nietzsche writes, wanders the earth as a fear inspiring grotesque.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Jean Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism: A Critical Reading

‘Marx and the Sacred’ – Journal of Church and State

Journal of Church and State‘Marx and the Sacred’, Journal of Church and State, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp. 413-437.

Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.Religion is the opium of the people.

Perhaps the most formidable obstacle in the task of retrieving a sense of the sacred in Marx consists in his repeated, and often polemical, statements against religion. Indeed, such an obstacle may in the end be one of our own making, as we are trapped within the labyrinth of our own historical understanding.

To read the entire essay, please visit Marx and the Sacred