Annual Review of Critical Psychology Volume 3 Anti-Capitalism
Starting from a naïve position (that critical psychology can benefit the anti-capitalist
movement) this issue gradually gravitates towards querying both ‘Critical Psychology’
and the ‘anti-capitalist movement’. The questionnaire and discussion sections (before
and after the presentation of the main text) are intended to foreground the issue of class.
Melancholic Troglodytes 3
‘Critical Psychology’ and the ‘anti-capitalist movement’
(LENINIST CONTRIBUTIONS) 6
Fred Newman & Lois Holzman 7
All power to the developing! 8 Chik Collins 25
‘Critical Psychology’ & Contemporary Struggles Against Neo-Liberalism 26 Grahame Hayes 49
Walking the streets: Psychology and the flâneur 50
(LIMINAL CONTRIBUTION) 68
Barbara Biglia 69
Radicalising academia or emptying the critics? 71
(REVOLUTIONARY CONTRIBUTIONS) 88
John Drury 89
What critical psychology can(’t) do for the ‘anti-capitalist movement’ 90
Howard Slater 115
Evacuate the leftist bunker 116 Fabian Tompsett 138
Acentric Psychology 139
ESSAY REVIEWS 150
Sara Nafis - on Melancholic Troglodyte‘s Psychology and the Class Struggle 151
Jane Asquith - on Peter Good‘s Language for Those Who Have Nothing 158
Susanne Schade - on Carl Ratner‘s Cultural Psychology: Theory and Method 163
Stewart Home - on various 172
F. Palinorc - on John Holloway‘s Change the World Without Taking Power 181
Melancholic Troglodytes - on various 197
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Annual Review of Critical Psychology
Anti-Copyright @? 2003 Discourse Unit
Vol. 3, pp 3-5 (ISSN: 1464-0538)
‘Critical Psychology’ and the ‘anti-capitalist movement’
I give you the Tralfamadorian greeting: hello, farewell, hello,
farewell…eternally connected, eternally embracing…
- Billy, Slaughterhouse-Five (1971)
Read it through and laugh not at it. If thou dost I’ll destroy thee and
laugh at thy destruction.
- Abiezer Coppe, Selected Writings (1649/1987)
We are proletarian revolutionaries negotiating the space separating mundane brilliance from epoch-making genius. Naturally, the mediocrity of ‗critical psychologists‘ offends our sensibilities. On our daily commutes we sometimes come across atavistic manifestations of this discipline. We gaze upon its practitioners with undisguised disdain. Had their farce been intentional it might even qualify as comic: predictable papers chasing each other in a never-ending cycle of banality; seminars signifying nothing more than the degeneration of the chattering classes‘ art of rhetoric; and self-
serving conferences camouflaging the shortcomings of the intellectually vacuous.
With the exception of a few ‗pure science‘ subjects, such as computing, nano-technology and genetic engineering, academia has entered a process of irreversible decomposition. No method of embalming can hide the hideous mask of death and no amount of fragrance can conceal its stench. The proliferation of ‗think-tanks‘ is recognition on the part of the
bourgeoisie that it can no longer depend on its petit bourgeois mandarins within orthodox academia to ensure its hegemony. Better to transform them into proletarians producing mental labour than to let them roam lifeless academic shopping malls like so many zombies in search of fresh meat.
Does critical Psychology have anything to offer the anti-capitalist movement? This is precisely the problematic this issue of ARCP is devoted to. Most contributors are doubtful. Some are willing to concede a certain fruitful cross-fertilization between the most radical wing of Critical Psychology and the revolutionary faction within the anti-capitalist movement.
Readers may (as did the contributors) find some of our editing and stylistic choices bizarre. For instance, before participating in this project, none of the contributors had been asked questions regarding their social class and political affiliation so directly. Some responded robotically! Some refused to reply, point blank. Many responded with reservations. One or two chose sarcasm as a method of delivery. We enjoyed all their answers regardless. Readers could ignore the questionnaires if they wish or read them in conjunction with the associated text. Or alternatively, they could read the questionnaires collectively. For example, no one writer may have come up with the ‗perfect‘ definition of social class but a cumulative analysis of the responses may yield a surprisingly fresh perspective on this most thorny of problems. If nothing else this issue may initiate a serious debate about the class struggle, overcoming sedimented attitudes and fundamentalist outlooks.
Our not-so-hidden agenda also involves a devious attempt to foreground certain brilliant thinkers at the expense of the flotsam currently monopolizing debate within both Critical Psychology and the anti-capitalist movement. The brilliant thinkers include Marx, Pannekoek, Korsch, Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Leopoldina Fortunati, Sylvia Pankhurst and Debord. Our lawyers have counseled us against listing the flotsam for fear of libel action. Since Melancholic Troglodytes already possess enemies in abundance, we shall concede to their wishes!
The class struggle is heating up. Many will try to ignore the implications of capitalism‘s death agony. Most will misunderstand the changes awaiting us or grasp them only partially. Revolutionaries have no such luxuries. We must equip ourselves with a dialectically evolving praxis (self-reflecting
revolutionary practice), if we are to have a real impact on events. The articles in this issue concentrate on crowd psychology, demonstrations, protests and the relationship between individuality and collectivity. The reviews are independent contributions to critical theory and should be read as such. In bringing together writers from different backgrounds, we have
tried to create a space for experimentation and innovation. Should this issue of ARCP find an echo amongst radicals this project may yield positive results. Otherwise, it will have been yet another needlessly brutal act of tree-murder and waste, signifying nothing.
We wish to thank Ian Parker for granting us complete control over the editing of this issue of ARCP and Manchester Metropolitan University for providing us with computer-time and technical assistance. Thanks also to Paul Petard whose wonderful drawings adorn this issue. Finally, the contributors have bent over backwards trying to accommodate our 1questions. We shall be eternally grateful.
1 It is only proper to point out that although we enjoyed friendly relations with all the contributors during the editing of this issue, there was one exception. Dr. Fred Newman took great exception to the questions we asked for the discussion section. A needlessly insulting series of rude emails were exchanged in quick succession between Dr. Newman and us. In retrospect it all seems puerile and unnecessary. However, instead of covering up the incident (which might have been the instincts of an academic journal), we decided to be upfront about it. Since we still value the intellectual contributions of Fred Newman and Lois Holzman, we shall endeavour to learn from them whenever we can. Their books and articles are always thought provoking and interesting. However, this collaboration represents the last time we shall involve ourselves in a joint activity with the Newmanites.
The following three papers are by Leninists. As a ‗leftist‘ ideology (i.e., one representing the left wing of capital), Leninism has never been
revolutionary, despite its claims and rhetoric. This judgment applies to all its manifestations over the years, whether orthodox Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyite, Maoist or Che Guevarist. This does not mean, however, that the texts are devoid of value. Far from it. In some ways, and this is not easy for us to admit to, they are superior to the revolutionary contributions that will follow in the next section. They are self-assured and erudite. Furthermore, they cover an intellectual terrain (inspired by Marx, Vygotsky, Bakhtin, Vološinov and Benjamin) that is very close to our heart.
If Melancholic Troglodytes are correct in suggesting that the dichotomy
between Leninism and ‗anti-Leninism‘ (a short-hand for ‗left-wing‘
communism, libertarian Marxism, Situationism, Autonomism, class-conscious Anarchism, etc.) is one in need of supercession, then knee-jerking
reaction against Leninist
amounts to political immaturity.
It may even represent a certain
duplicity since we know of no
revolutionary who has not
benefited from studying Leninist
and Anarchist varieties of
‗leftism‘. We may not like their
politics, we may not accept them
as ‗anti-capitalist class fighters‘
and, since we know our history,
we may never trust them fully
but we will continue to take
whatever we find useful in their
work, in order to intensify the
(NEWMAN & HOLZMAN) Questionnaire
1) How would you define your social class? (Explain your terminology)
FRED NEWMAN: I come from a lower working class background and grew up in the city (Bronx, NY). I became an intellectual and, for a few years in the 1960s, an academic. I abandoned that in favor of becoming a
LOIS HOLZMAN: I come from an upper working class/lower middle class background (my parents were first generation Americans, children of Russian Jewish immigrants). I grew up in New York City and its suburbs. I became an intellectual and then an academic and a revolutionary organizer. I left academia in the mid-1990s and remain a revolutionary organizer.
2) Exactly how would you describe your politics? (Or alternatively, describe your political development to date?)
FRED NEWMAN: I‘m a postmodern Marxist. In my young years, I was an anarchist from a traditional Democratic Party (i.e., Roosevelt New Deal) family. In the 60s I came to be identified by the powers that be as a Marxist. I studied Marx and found much to support—and much to not
support—in what he wrote so I worked to reconcile this. What I‘ve come to is the postmodernizing of Marxism.
LOIS HOLZMAN: I was a closet radical distant from political activity (except a few anti-Vietnam War rallies) through my twenties. My politics
in those days were manifest in my intellectual work. In the mid-70s I met
Fred Newman and began to give expression to my politics in how I lived my life. I became a Marxist and, with Fred, have been developing postmodern Marxism.
3) What is your assessment of the current status of capitalism and the class struggle?
FRED NEWMAN and LOIS HOLZMAN: Capitalism is omnipresent, yet vulnerable, and class struggle is virtually non-existent. There is, however,
evidence of revolutionary activity worldwide and this activity-theoretic
development of Marxism continues to grow. How powerful it will become is impossible to know.
Annual Review of Critical Psychology
Anti-Copyright@? 2003 Discourse Unit
Vol. 3, pp. 8-23 (ISSN: 1464-0538)
All Power to the Developing!
Fred Newman and Lois Holzman
East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy, New York, NY
Over nearly three decades we have described our work (our politics) in many different ways. Perhaps this is an expression or result of differing elements of our joint subjectivity—a moral and scientific aversion to labels
and being labeled, an intellectual delight in the search for a (never-realizable) linguistic precision, a strong disbelief/mistrust of consistency, a political passion for creating something new out of what exists (the old), a desire to speak to and with those for whom our work (our politics) has some relevance or interest (and those whose work we find relevant or 1interesting), a playful pleasure in and tactical commitment to provocation.
With all of that, we are of course (hopefully) responding to a changing world.
Our initial formulations, in the late 1970s, drew heavily on the Marxist conceptions of alienation and class struggle. At the same time, our characterization of social therapy (the centerpiece of our psychological work and the subject of this essay) as ‗the practice of method‘ (Hood [Holzman] and Newman, 1979) was meant to underscore that it was Marx as revolutionary methodologist more than Marx as brilliant political economist and revolutionary (albeit modernist) that inspired and taught us so much. As we put it then,
Thus, the Marxian dialectic is not merely another paradigm (an
economic interpretation) or indeed even another method to be
practiced. It is, rather, a new understanding of understanding. Far
from being a new method to practice, Marxism is insistent that human
understanding and its highest form, revolutionary activity, is the
practice of method. Marxism is profoundly practical, not in the sense
of being a practice derived from a theory and/or method, but in the
sense of being a theory and/or method which is a practice (Hood
[Holzman] and Newman, 1979, p 3).
From the beginning we also drew upon the conceptions of Lev Vygotsky (whom we relate to as Marx‘s follower)—for example, in describing social
therapy (the practice of method) as tool-and-result methodology for re-initiating human development. Marx and Vygotsky, it seemed to us, were identifying (in different realms of social life) human beings as revolutionary, practical-critical, activists (or activity-ists). While a constant presence in our many articulations of social therapy, at times revolutionary activity may have seemed as background to another concept we wanted to convey (for example, ‗anti-psychology,‘ ‗anti-paradigm,‘ ‗cultural-
performatory approach,‘ ‗performative therapy‘) or to another source of inspiration (as in ‗Vygotskian-Wittgensteinian synthesis,‘ or ‗postmodern
therapy‘). In this essay, we move revolutionary activity to the foreground as we attempt, yet another time, to describe our work (our politics). The term that feels right to us in these twenty-first century post-days (post-communist, post-Marxist, post-structuralist, postmodern) is postmodern Marxism. The invitation to contribute to this special issue of Annual
Review of Critical Psychology has been the occasion for us to explore and
better understand our work from this perspective. To begin, we return to Marx.
Class Struggle and Revolutionary Activity
One can see in all of Marx‘s writings two lines of practical-critical thought:
1) class struggle and 2) revolutionary activity. The oft-quoted opening of The Communist Manifesto is a concise illustration of the former: ‗The
history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles‘ (Marx and Engels, 1987, p 12). Marx‘s somewhat less familiar third thesis on Feuerbach illustrates the latter: ‗The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice‘ (Marx, 1974, p 121).
In Marx‘s worldview, class struggle forefronts the anti-capitalist and
deconstructive, while revolutionary activity forefronts the communistic and
reconstructive. Together, they could transform ‗all existing conditions‘. In some of his writings, for example the following passages from the
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Marx made clear the necessity
of synthesizing the two.
In order to supercede the idea of private property communist ideas are
sufficient but genuine communist activity is necessary in order to
supercede real private property (Marx, 1967, p 149).
Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human
self-alienation, and thus the real appropriation of human nature
through and for man. It is, therefore, the return of man himself as a
social, i.e., really human, being, a complete and conscious return
which assimilates all the wealth of previous development (Marx, 1967,
We have seen how, on the assumption that private property has been
positively superceded, man produces man, himself and then other men;
how the object which is the direct activity of his personality is at the
same time his existence for other men and their existence for him.
Similarly, the material of labor and man himself as a subject are the
starting point as well as the result of this movement (and because
there must be this starting point private property is an historical
necessity). Therefore, the social character is the universal character of
the whole movement; as society itself produces man as man, so it is
produced by him. Activity and mind are social in their content as well
as in their origin; they are social activity and social mind (Marx, 1967,
The transformation of the world and the transformation of ourselves as human beings are one and the same task (since, for Marx, human beings are both producers and product of their world)—the historic task of the
methodology of Marxism. And yet, many readings of Marx (by his followers and detractors alike) either ignore revolutionary activity or subsume it under class struggle as Revolution (that is, a quite specific type of revolutionary activity). And while some of the Marxist Revolutions of the twentieth century were, arguably, successful class struggles, they often failed to engage the masses in continuous, day-to-day revolutionary activity, that is, the simultaneous reconstruction of human beings as social activity-
ists. Thus, both history and its left analysis have obscured Marx in the