“learned scribes” – Marx to Kugelman 1868

Marx writes to his publisher-friend to explain, clearly, why it is a critique of political economy:

And then the vulgar economist thinks a great discovery has been made when, as against the revelation of the inner interconnection of value and things, the proud claim is that in appearance things look different. In fact, the boast claims to hold fast to appearance, and takes it for the ultimate. Why, then, have any science at all?

But the matter has also another background. Once the interconnection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before their collapse in practice. Here, therefore, it is absolutely in the interest of the ruling classes to perpetuate a senseless confusion. And for what other purpose are the sycophantic babblers paid, who have no other scientific trump to play save that in political economy one should not think at all?

But satis superque [there you go, and then some]. In any case it shows what these priests of the bourgeoisie have come down to, when workers and even manufacturers and merchants understand my book [Capital] and find their way about in it, while these “learned scribes” (!) complain that I make excessive demands on their understanding….

From 11 July 1868 letter of Marx to Kugelman. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 250-53. The bold and the italics (except the Latin) are mine, to highlight the choice slurs, and the consequences.

Edit: Lenin says of this: ‘ It is only to be hoped that every one who begins to study Marx and read Capital will read and re-read this letter when studying the first and most difficult chapters of that book’ (Lenin: Published in 1907 in the pamphlet: Karl Marx. Letters to Dr. Kugelmann, edited and with a preface by N. Lenin. Novaya Duma Publishers, St. Petersburg. Published according to the text of the pamphlet.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 104-112. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1907/feb/05.htm#bkV12E034)


Slum tourism

I am gathering material for a review of this area and found a dissertation that discusses The Rumour of Calcutta:

“Hutnyk (1996: 10) also states that the massive tourism and infrastructure development in India and above all in the major cities might require brutal readjustment and restructuring for adapting to the West. Tourism experience in India is hybrid and mixed-up. He also suggests that without Mother Theresa and the Lonely Planet guidebook, Kolkata would have maybe been portrayed as less impoverished and run-down. Its reputation revolves around the main themes of poverty, urban decay and overcrowding (Hutnyk, 1996: 55) stemming from tourism literature, media and government and other official and institutional reports.

Slum tourism as a rather recent phenomenon in India might portray this day-to-day routine in an urban environment and might help to abolish stereotypes about the working poor, urban decay and extreme poverty. Hannam and Diekmann (2010) argue that slum tourism can nevertheless be potentially damaging for both visitors and residents if they happen on a superficial, commodified and non-mutual basis. Rolfes (2009) claims that there is only one professional and regular slum tourism operator in Mumbai which is Reality Tours. Thus, Rolfes’ (2009) analysis of tour operations in Mumbai is based on one tour operating business and might be too one-sided.

However, Hutnyk (1996) described and analysed his personal experience in Kolkata with backpacker tourists and volunteer tourists coming, watching and leaving the poor people of the city and calling their medical help and volunteering ‘sick tours’. He is one of the first to have mentioned the questionable morality that is involved once tourists come to see poor people in Third World countries already assuming the participative “voyeuristic consumption of poverty” (Hutnyk, 1996: 11) because the poor are always and unavoidably the subject of tours in India, whether consciously or subconsciously.

Almost ironically he mocks these very tourists coming to Kolkata to see ‘the extreme’ which is expected to be unusual and different to what he calls “the rumour of poverty” (Hutnyk, 1996: 20). In line with Hutnyk (1996), Hannam and Diekmann (2010) …

[Dunno if mocking is how I would describe the critique, but…]

Nevertheless, very much enjoying the thesis and hope it was turned into an article: Well done Linda Klepsch, 2010. A critical analysis of slum tours: Comparing the existing offer in South Africa, Brazil, India and Kenya,



More notes for the novel…

Brexit schzmexit we need much more to fix it so that neither Tories or Labour can govern.

While a Party of the New Type is formed and has the wherewithal to assure us (and its members) that it can deliver the means and organisation necessary to feed, warm, house, cloth and educate many populations.

FB will not help here as it would syphon off enthusiasms into some cul de sac app. It is a cul de sac par excellence. But email and instacomms will still be of use in the transition. After that we can make up new online cell structures and reading games (of our favourite communist authors and sci fi). I accept that we don’t yet know what else participatory media can deliver when nationalised and democratised as a means of government (to nationalise FB and google should be among the first actions of a new governance).

The general programme must be a variant of: first seize the banks, army, arms trade, mining and broadcast media – all for closure. Arm the people and make the printing presses a public service. Especially immediately close the arms trade and banks and reduce mining to necessary and minimum. Recall all troops and demob. Open the barracks to the people. Arm migrants as well – the militia will not be nationalist. require compulsory reading of Adorno’s essays on why National Socialism and Education must strive for the never again that is in the dark heart of corporate Europe. Corporate boards of course to be locked up – the only temporary and very last persons to be contained in jails, and even then released after reeducation (or shot as recalcitrants in a bloody purge of the bourgeois embolism).

Any similarity to persons living or dead – is a blueprint for what to do next. The novel is not a viable form in the digital age if not multi-authored and openly prescriptive. Let 1000 flowers of thought contend. Let the blood of the few nourish the many – the martyrs will be authors. The first among martyrs shall me the main character or each and every modernist drama – try Harold Bloom for treason, Gregor Sampson for false witness, Harper Lee for sentimentalism, and Naipaul for egotisms. Let them spend a month in stocks along the Thames Walk, but in comfort, with the basic needs of toilet and bathing so forth attended to by the new serving class employees of the state, the family Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Buck’s Palace will have long been transformed into a hospice for recovering homeless, refugees, migrants and as needed – no questions asked.


I want to keep this response handy.

One may think that the essay form does not suit minimalism, and really you needed just to send a postcard. Something short. But the short descriptive, meaningful and useful thing is no easy task. Adorno here might have been critical of Benjamin for fetishising, and mystifying the aura, of reducing the complexity of capitalism into something that resolved itself into a singular image – the angel of destruction, the frozen moment in a glass snowdome. Maybe Benjamin was onto something, that I also call trinketization. My preference is for Adorno’s critique though – every small trinket has become a monetary cipher, and the profound cultures of tradition and meaning, and belonging cannot be reclaimed from the market – they just become exotica, a broken nostalgia that cannot be put back. Innocent no more. We are forced to face the naked truth at the end of every fork as consumers crunch down on every every thing.

Pantomime Terror

This book is about storytelling and music video – well, also politics and terror, performance and television.

Screenshot 2018-12-21 at 20.42.16


The book tunes into music in three acts. I have written on these performers before, and so thank them again for the opportunity to return to their stories. The approach is a continuation of a research project and collective political effort that I joined when I first came to Britain in 1994. This iteration rehearses this work for London and in relation to twenty first-century terrors, as well as returning to a long beloved articulation of divergent interpretations of critical theory, especially the work of Theodor Adorno. In the introduction, there is a first rendition of the theme of pantomime, which will resonate throughout, and perhaps perversely, the end of the intro starts in on the end of the video Cookbook DIY, examined more fully in the next chapter. I advance this end because the point of this book is to record how peripheral ‘messages’ are too often ignored. In this sense, the project of ‘pantomime terror’ as distraction will be affirmed. I thank Aki Nawaz and Dave Watts for what is now a long collaboration.

The chapters are:

1. Introduction: London Bus :: Pantomime :: War Diary :: Mediation :: The Orange Jumpsuit :: Alerts.

2. DIY Cookbook: Visiting the Kumars :: A Suicide Rapper :: 1001 Nights :: Cookbook DIY :: Pantomime Video :: The RampArts Interlude (notes from a screening) :: All is War :: Back to the Kumars.

3. Dub at the Movies: Representing La Haine :: Žižek-degree-zero :: Derrida Writes the Way :: The Eiffel Tower :: Ruffians, Rabble, Rogues and Repetition :: Musical Interlude :: Riff-raff :: Reserve Army :: Coda: The Battle of Algiers :: Molotov.

4. Scheherazade‘s Sister, M.I.A.: Cultural Projects :: Storyteller Nights :: M.I.A. :: Born Free :: Sell Out, or Tiocfaidh ár lá :: Witticisms and Wagner :: Despot Culture :: Scheherazade in Guantánamo.


what do you call that reorder edit – on a crooked line of Marx

Screenshot 2018-12-17 at 13.30.47


In Marx’s own copy of the 1867 edition of Capital, we can see he changes a few things. I wonder when.
There are more changes in the copy of the first page of another of his editions, but in this one there are reasons to speculate and maybe go far too far down the rabbit hole of hermeneutics. So, facing up to the Cheshire Cat, I want to ask if anyone else finds it interesting that on page 43, for example, Marx underlines/circles/corrects the word order in the sentence:
Nur als Erscheinungsform ihres eignen Werths interesierte die Steifelwaare der Steifelknecht.
I’m not at all sure about Steifelwaare, but maybe this can translate as:​ Only the appearance form of its value is interesting in the boot to the boot maker. (Ie, its value as something the bootmaker can sell).
In his correction, Marx wants to smooth the expression out so as to reverse the order of die Steifelwaare and der Steifelknecht. So Der Steifelknecht die Steifelwaare (probably den). This can then be: ‘Only the appearance form of its value is interesting for the maker of the boot’ (my trans – not sure).
Does it matter? It seems the sentence was completely removed from the next revision (most people read the 4th Edition, or translations based upon it – but Marx revised in 1872 for the french serialisation, so unless all the changes from the hand annotated editions can be collated and dated…) so I suspect it matters not that very much. Nevertheless, if clarity of expression was key, this may be because speaking voice is crucial in the very next sentence, which was not removed – the very famous:
Konnten die Waren also sprechern, so werden sie sagen, unser Gerbrauchwerthe mag den menschen interesieren. Er kommt uns nicht als Dingen zu. Was uns aber dinglich zukömmt, ist unserer Werth. Unser eigner verkehr als Warenendinge beweist das.
If commodities could speak, what would they say: our value as commodities interests men. This come to us not as things. But what comes to us is our value. Our traffic as commodities shows that. (my trans)
The idea that commodities might speak at all is fetishism, the filthy little gossips. So we want to know what they would say, and to whom – since it implies a listener. Is it the owner or the maker or the buyer they chat with? And why do they speak in the voice of a 19th century political economist? They speak like that for the rest of the paragraph, though there is also a little reverse ventriloquy from Dogberry, who thinks it natural to write.