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22 News

NEWS a: COMMENT
RADICAL PUBLICATIONS GROUP
CONFERENCE
On Saturday 17 February there was a conference
on ‘Publishing and Politics’ at the ICA in London.

It was organised by the Radical Publications Group,
a federation of left/alternative magazines including
Radical Philosophy. The idea was to consider the
whole field of publishing – books as well as magazines – from a left point of view, and in particular
to formulate attitudes and strategies in relation to
orthodox publishing in this country. Also, the hope
was to pool all sorts of relevant experience – not
only that of collectives producing left magazines,
but also that of leftists working as writers, or in the
book trade, or distribution, or in book publishing
firms of all kinds. Activities related to publishing
in one form or another occupy such a large portion
of the attention of leftists in this country that a
conference bringing people together in recognition
of this fact seemed long overdue. And in the event,
given that nearly a hund~’ed and fifty people turned
up, and that there was a lot of conversation and
swopping of phone numbers, the conference
undeniably achieved something worthwhile.

The general problem to which the conference was
supposed to address itself – at least as I, one of the
organisers, saw it – is this: should the methods and
criteria of success of mainstrearr publishing be
Simply taken over, as far as possitle, by the left,
or. are they so contaminate] that they should be’

rejectei in their entirety? Or should we adopt a
mixed attitude towards the m? And this pro ble m, it
seems to me, poses itself with particular urgency
now, given that capitalist firms are vying with each
other in producing long lists of ‘marxist’, ‘ferrinist’

and ‘radical’ books. Anticapitalist ideas, it seems,
are good fo r profits. On any orthodox view of publishing, this development should be welcomed by the
left: surely we should not be nostalgic for the d.ays.

of ill-written, mistyped, illegible pamphlets
produced on smu<:lgy duplicators in donated time?

However, it is clear that there were plenty of
people whose experience led. them to believe that
genuine problems exist in this area; and on the
whole, I suppose, these are the people who turned
up for the conference on 17 February.

In the opening session, a panel of ten speakers stiff-necked and tight-jawed on account of the subarctic conditions in the ICA theatre – suggested
various ideas about this problem. There was the
idea that left publishing should – as with the left
book clubs of the 1930s – be seen as part of a co0rdinated scheme of d.iscussion meetings, and
should encourage reCiprocity between -writers and
readers; there was the idea that authors should
eschew the kinds of rhetorics that mystify and
glamorise the publishing process and the person of
the author; and there was the idea of concentrating
on the publication of worker-writers by community

publishers; and many other ideas. An agreement
seemed to crystallise that the chief probl~m of leftwing publishing is ‘ghettoisation’: that left writing
seems poised to reach beyond its customary reaiership of left profeSSional intellectuals, and that we
need to make up our minds whether such a consummation would be a glorious victory or a cunning
defeat, neutralising our subversive intent. ‘Out of
the ghetto: conquest 0 r containment?’: that, it
seemed, was the question.

The question was kicked around for the rest of the
day, first in the context of a historical survey of
left publishing since the beginning of the nineteenth
century, and then in dis cussion sessions about the
politics of writing and of being ‘a writer’, and about
the’processes of work and decision making in publishing as a whole; and at the end of the day we came
together – strange hued, by now, because of the cold,
an1 somewhat reduced in numbers – for a final
pienary.

To judge by this final session, the basic feeling of
the conference was that we should organise ourselvee
for expansion: disperse from the gl).etto and take our
publications to new ‘markets’: to the masses. And
to this end, it was proposed that the Radical
Publications Group should take initiatives in
relation to (a) collective national publicity for left /
alternative publications, and (b) campaigning for
nationalised print and distribution organisations.

As someone chiefly concerned with Radical
Philosophy, I was so mewhat ~e mused by this
emphaSis. After all, Radical Philosophy’s circulation, whilst it could be much better, is the envy of
some (other) acad.emic journals. The appeal of
the magazine, even at its best, is bound to remain,
in several senses, speCialised. It seems vain to
regret its not being marketed to ‘the masses’.

And apart from being bemused by this emphasis
– a feeling I think I shared with a number of my
shivering co -auditors – I believe that this confident
expanSionist mood is politically dangerous. Of
course I agree that the left should try to disse minate its ideas as widely and effectively as possible;
and that leftists should engage in the work of all
(well nearly) established institutions, including
those of’publishing and the mass media, But we
should be on our guard against the rather colourless
notion of ‘disseminating left ideas’. Our problem is.

rather, to develop an appositional, counterhege monic,
resistant and subversive cultur.e – within and against
the dominant culture; and if this condemns us to
communicate with relatively small audiences, then
so be it. For some purposes, in the present
cultural and political conditions, the ghetto may be
the best place to be.

Jonathan Me
45

RADICAL PHILOSOPHY: A STRATEGY FOR
We print below a contributi?n by: two
the
Brighton RP group to the dISCUSSIon of the politIcal role
STRUGGLE?

of Radical Philosophy.

member~ ~f

This paper proposes a strategy for struggle for
Radical Philosophy directed against the monolithic
character of the philosophical establishment in the
English-speaking world. Our position is that the
best way to do this is to develop organic links with
popular mass movements. A corollar)’ to this is
that Radical Philosophy should be a movement,
rather than a group of individuals appended to an
academic journal. We have several reasons for
taking these positions.

First, it is not enough for Radical Philosophy to
direct itself solely towards professionals in the field
of philosophy. Can philosophy be changed if RP
appeals only to academics? That is, of course, the
assumption of all academic journals. But is RP an
academic journal? Does RP wish to limit the number of people co ming into the field – as do so many
professional associations – or do we wish to actively
recruit people by appealing to their interests and
needs, people who can give a new direction to
philosophy precisely because they do not develop
in the way academics usually do?

Philosophy today has a very bad name. People
don’t understand it, what’s more a lot of people
don’t trust it. It’s not merely that it’s technical,
it’s arcane. People have some notion of how chemistry or engineering can better their lives, even
though they know nothing of the theories or techniques of these sciences, but the elite philosophers
are like black holes in space: they take in a certain
amount but let off no light.

Radical Philosophy should tap into this reservoir
of dissatisfaction. If we think of this as ‘unprofess ional ” that we can see our own ideas
triumph Simply by bringing them to ‘the free marketplace of ideas’, we will get only a black eye for our
pains. The free marketplace idea is largely a myth;
the present hegemony of linguistic analysis is not
based on intellectual supre macy (though this is not
to deny its importance), but on power and prestige.

It does not enter into dialogues with other tendencies
because it’s in a position tosnub them. It can afford
to act as if they didn’t exist because it causes them
not to exist by ignoring or suppressing them.

Entrenched philosophy in the English speaking world
has more in c’ommon with multi-national corporations than it does with mercantile Capitalis m. The
present regime in philosophy is not just a set of
idea,s, more or less valid, more or less convincing,
it is also an institution protected at times by the
power of the state; witness the treatment of Bertell
OIlman, the American marxist professor who was
recently denied a Chair at the University of
Maryland solely because of his. intellectual convictions. When was the last time this sort of thing
happened to an analytic philosopher? Against such
policies clever argument alone will not suffice. In
order for philosophy to change there will have to be
some social and political struggles involving nonphilosophers as well as philosophers; for example,
student struggles directed towards greater pluralis m in courses.

This is not a pragmatic point. The intervention of
the masses doesn’t make the ideas they are fighting
for correct. It’s merely that correct ideas do not

46

win the day simply by virtue of their being correct.

How can Radical Philosophy recruit non-profession·
als to this task of changing the present character of
philosophy? We think that the most effective
method will be in pointing out the links between
philosophical theories and social-political practice.

For example, pointing out the way in which racist
theories lead to and reinforce racist practices is one
way of doing this. Martin Barker has done this
admirably in the last issue of RP. Making these
so rts of links can change the situation in philosophy.

Having said this is not to deny the importance of
meeting the arguments of the philosophical establishment fairly and squarely on intellectual grounds. A
failure to do this would be highly counter-pr01uctive.

The aim of Radical Philosophy should be to shed
light where none is being shed, so that people who
are stumbling about can move more decisively. If
we as Radical Philosophers only throw stones at
the intellectual elite and fail to convincingly counter
their ar~ments, they will continue to confuse and
disarm. “Furthermore, we, the authors ~ do not
believe that academic philosophy can be changed or
replaced by a putsch, that ruling ideas rule by
phYSical force alone and can only be replaced by
physical force. Rather, elitist ideas can’t easily be
replaced unless they lose their power to befuddle
the mind. This means that ideological struggle
(ideas in the service of a particular class or classes)
and political struggle should go arm-in-arm with
the theoretical struggle that takes knQwledge and
truth as ends.

Putting together these first two points, what we
think is needed is work on a series of levels – from
complex theory to propaganda. Perhaps RP should
view its job as one of building a ladder, making it
possible for people without a technical background
to climb 1t in one direction, rung by rung, gathering
the skills necessary to articulate their dissatisfaction with elitist theories etc, and for people who
already have these skills to traverse it in the other
direction in order to make their ideas effective in
political and social life”
Making ideas effective means, as we see it,
forming organic links with popular mass movements.

Putting ideas into practice means, for teachers,
showing students how links can be made between
ideas and social and political activity. We would
like to make several concrete suggestions about how
organic links might be forged:

(1) Radical Philosophy should initiate research
projects on such timely and important issues as
racism and the danger of fascism. We should examine racist and fascist theories in order to develop a
meaningful critique and ultimately to expose them.

This will involve more than gathering little -known
facts on immigration (for example) – it means also
examining and criticiSing certain philosophical and
theoretical ideas that make racism possible; for
example – the doctrine that there are certain innate
and unchangeable tendencies in people that create
an unbridgeable gap between whites and blacks (as
well as rich and poor) already makes certain philosophical assumptions. If the geniuses who invent
such doctrines can’t supply the theoretical backbone

for them themselves, there are plenty of others who
can. Pragmatism (to name just one body of thought)
is rife with theories that lend themselves to racist
and fascist interpretation and use. Certain brands
of episte mology and metaphysics (no less than
perverted psychology and biology) are part of the
theoretical arsenal that bolsters racist notions.

There is, in fact, an electric connection between
some ‘pure’ philosophy and living and breathing
monstronsities like racism and fascism, but they
feed each other in subterranean privacy; the
connections have to be made public. That, we
submit, is the job for an organisation such as
Radical Philosophy. As Radical Philosophers we
Should call upon such organizations as the Anti-Nazi
League to work with us. In turn, our members may
become motivated to work with groups such as the
Anti – Nazi League. The same basic strategy can be
applied to working with Anti-Sexist groups, labour
groups etc.

(2) At universities and Polytechnics RP should
fight to have these research groups made into a
formal part of the curriculum. The reasons for
this are several. Firstly, those of us who are on
the left operate for the most part in an extrainstitutional framework. The way this hurts us is
that whatever we do is against an enormous tide of
pressure from our institutions and the practical
tasks of everyday life. For example, projects of
our own always conflict with the demands of nonrelated tasks such as term papers, the pressures
of job-related publishing, teaching etc. The necessities of existence and the pressures of academic
life are powerful forces that deplete our energies
and detract from our own work. Insofar as we
function outside the institutional structure our own
work must be done in our spare time when we are
tired and least able to function well. The best part
of our life’s energy goes into tasks which are care-fully circumscribed by the university and the
so ciety. Finally, the question of status is one that
should not be ignored in this context. Insofar as we
function outside the institution we are faced with
certain psychological pressures. For example,
publishing an article in Mind lends a greater aura
of prestige to the writer (in terms of job and career
possibilities as well as recognition by ’eminent’

professionals) than publishing in Radical Philosophy.

The best way to deal with this problem, we submit,
is to fight to have RP projects recognized institutionally (though not necessarily under our name).

We think it is a realistic proposal that in at least
some schools and universities RP projects (on the
roots of racism etc) could be incorporated into the
curriculum. Students could use these projects
toward their own various degrees, working cooperatively and with supervision (if possible) by
sympathetic members of Faculty. In the words of
Robert Frost:

“My object in living …

My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight”
The University of Sussex RP group has already had
some experience in linking up with mass movements.

At our last meeting (29 Jan) Martin Barker spoke on
racis m. About 50 people attended. A great deal of
enthusias m was generated by Martin’s lively
presentation and his successful atte mpt to relate
the theory to the practice of racism. A nu~ber of
people from the Anti-Nazi League were in attendance and contributed to the discussion. Some of our
members have attended meetings of the Anti-Nazi

League as well. Our group hopes to continue this
sort of co-operation in the future. The authors
hope that in the near future we may hear that other
campus groups have been formed to pursue similar
policies. We think it is safe to say that the success
of RP at Sussex has been a direct result of the fact
that our group has moved in the direction of forming
links with mass movements such as the Anti-Nazi
League.

The policy of forging organiC links with mass
move ments will not be without proble ms. We can
foresee that we won’t all be able to agree which ~
movements to link with. If this problem is handled
incorrectly it could lead to a splintering of our
movement. Another aspect of the same problem is
that there may be within our ranks people who do not
support the monolithic character of analytic philosophy, but whose opposition to it is basically
academic. How can a movement so diverse be
united? As we see it, RP should avoid these problems by following a policy of pluralism. The aim
should be to attack the monolithic character of
ruling academic philosophy. By making this the aim
diverse tendencies can be brought together to force
conces.sions from the establishment. If one Radical
Philosophy group wishes to forge links with a particular mass movement, this will not oblige others to
do so, and in a si milar vein, people who oppose
entrenched philosophy solely on the grounds of
academic and intellectual freedom of expression
should be free to do so and not be bound to other
policies with which they do not agree.

Finally, for those of us who are interested in
forging links with mass move ments, it should be
fairly clear that this will not be possible unless
Radical Philosophy is itself a movement and not
just a collection of individuals around a journal.

Without functioning groups in Univ~rsities,
communities and eventually workplaces too, we
cannot hope to involve ourselves around issues
and movements in these localities. In short, the
difference between Radical Philosophy and other
tendencies in philosophy will have to be defined
both in theory and practice.

I hope that this position paper will encourage
debate in future issues of RP. All comments and
criticisms are welcome.

Martin John
Phil Murphy

LANCASTER GROUP
We formed an RP group at Lancaster, in the
university, last November, meeting each fortnight,
usually to discuss a particular article decided on at
the previous meeting. We began with a pie ce that
lwtd “been submitted to the magazine on the Frankfurt
School, in effect doing a ‘group refereeing’ of it;
and this led us on for a couple of meetings talking
about Marcuse’s views on liberated nature and
popular culture. This term we decided to focus on
some articles in current issues of the magazine,
beginning with Jonathan Ree’s editorial and Colin
Gordon’s response, in numbers 20 and 21. In the
discussion, there was a lot of support for the view
that the magazine lacked variety in the length and
47

depth of its material. Two positive suggestions were:

a big~page ‘request’ in the magazine for readers to
write in and say what sort of articles, about what,
they would like to see; and commissioning a series
of acceSSible, introductory articles on famous and
intimidating current theorists, such as Lacan,
Foucault, Habermas, Althusser, and so on. The
following meeting, we looked at Martin Barker’s
article on racis m. (Perhaps significantly, several
of us, despite being interesteq in the topic, had been
too dismayed by the sheer length of the piece to have
got. round to reading it until we decided to discuss
it!) We tried to work out the precise nature of the
claimed link between the new racis m and its
theoretical rationale in sociobiology; and also discussed the character of ‘everyday racism’, espeCially at what point hostility or disapproval towards
various cultural practices, which most of us actually feel, becomes ‘racist’. Our next meeting will
be on Roger Waterhouse’s ‘Critique of Authenticity’;
and this will follow on to a group refereeing of an
article by him, on Heidegger, submitted for the
next issue of RP.

So far, we’ve operated on a very small scale.

We don’t have an official ‘membership’;’but there
are about twenty interested people, of whom a dozen
or more have been along to at least one meeting,
with each meeting having about half a dozen present.

Since none of us is presently willing to put in the
time and energy to construct something ‘bigger’, we
decided on a form that was easily manageable,
whilst enabling us to relate a bit more directly to
the magazine than we previously had. We’re now
thinking of organizing a couple of .large meetings
with speakers from the editorial group; hoping, as
one possible outcome of these, to then have enough
interested people to be operating two or three small
groups, perhaps with more specialized focuses.

Russell Keat

GOLDSMITHS’ MEETING
A Radical Philosophy Day School was held at
University of London, Golds miths’ College, New
Cross, on Saturday 3 March. The sixty people who
attended were faced with a wide choice of lectures:

In one room during this day of ‘work in progress’

papers were presented on the Dialectic by Sean
Sayers, Roy Edgley and Joe McCarney, and Robert
Glaberson. In another room papers were given on
the relationship between Marx and Feuerbach by
Rip Bulkeley; on the differing meanings of culture
in Lukacsand Lenin by Madan Sarup;” and on
‘Heidegger’ and Politics’ by Roger Waterhouse.

In·a third room there were lectures on ‘Revolutions
in Science’ by John Krige, ‘On Practice’ by Richard
Norman; and ‘Person and Property in Hegel and
Marx’ by Chris Arthur. The participants appreciated
the small discussion groups, the friendly atmosphere, and the fact that it was. free: At the end of
the meeting it emerged that many people felt that
philosophy should be made more accessible – but
without being ‘watered down’, and that it should be
more related to politics. It was generally felt that
there was a need for more meetings like this, but
meetings in which there was greater participation
by women.

Madan Sarup

48

BOOKS RECEIVED
R. Bahro, The Alternative in Eastern Europ~, New
Left Books, 1978, £9.50 hb
R. Beehler, Moral Life, Blackwell, 1978, £8.50 hb
S. de Brunhoff, The State, Capital & Economic
Policy, Pluto, 1978, £6.60 hb £2.95 pb
E. Byrne, Women and Education, Tavistock, 1978,
£3.95 hb
G.A.Cohen, Karl Marx’s Theory of Histo~
Defence, Oxford, 1978, £10.50 hb
S. Cronje, M. Ling and G. Cronje, Lonrho, Penguin,
1976, £1.50 pb
R. Davies & P. Hall, Issues in Urban SOCiety,
Penguin, 1978, £1.75 pb
B. Edelmann, OwnerShip of the Image, Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1979, £7.95 hb
J. Derrida, Writing and Difference, Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1979, £12.50 hb
G. Hocquehem, Homosexual Desire, Allison & Busby
1978, £2.95 pb
T. Honderich, Essays on Freedom of Action,
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978, £ 2.50 pb
A. Kenny, Freewill and Responsibility, Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1978, £4.50 hb
D.Laing, The Marxist Theory of Art, Harvester,
1978, £8.50 hb, £3, 50 pb
S.Leys, Broken Images, Allison and Busby, 1979,
£6.95 hb
D. McQuarie, Marx: Sociology, Social Change,
Capitalism, Quartet, 1978, £5.95 hb
P. Mattick, Anti-BolShevik Communism, Merlin,
1978, £6 hb, £2.50 pb
J. Molyneux, Marxism and the Party, Piu to , 1978,
£6.60 hb, £2.95 pb
H. Newby, The Deferential Worker, Penguin, 1977,
£3.50 pb
T.Orton and B.Ollman, Studies in Socialist
Pedagogy, Monthly Review Press: 1978, £9.75 hb
R.Olson, Karl Marx, Twayne Publishers, 1978,
$10.95 hb
D. Papineau, For Science in the Social Sciences,
Macmillan, 1978, £10 hb
M. Platts, Ways of Meaning, Routledge and Kegan
Paul, 1978, £7.50 hb £3.95 pb
J. Ree, M.AYers, A. Westoby Philosophy and its
Past, Harvester, 1978, £8.50 hb
A. Skillen, Ruling Illusions, Harvester, 1978, £ 7 .95
hb, £3.50 pb
R. L. Taylor, Art, the Enemy of the People,
Harvester, 1978, £8.50 hb, £3.50 pb
H. Tajfel and C. Frazer (eds.), Introducing Social
Psychology, Penguin, 1978, £2.50 pb
J. Teichmann, The Meaning of Illegitimacy,
Englehardt Books, 1978, £1.75 pb
R. Totman, Social Causes of Illness, Souvenir
Press”1979, £5.95 hb
B. T. Wilkins, Has History Any Meaning?

Harvester, 1978, £10 hb
S. Zweig, Era~mus and the Right to Heresy,
Souvenir Press, 1979, £5.95 hb, £3.95 pb

LONDON RADICAL
PHILOSOPHY GROUP
An RP ,group has started to meet monthly in London.

For details contact:

Hugh Tomlinson, 52 Denman Road, London SE15
(telephone 01-703 5639)

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