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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

A Sharpening of Knives

A Sharpening of Knives

Dear Comrades,

In last week's Salient that Sancho Panza of the Wellington left, Mr S. Devereux, made a number of charges against me which owed more to his Inability to read and his imagination than anything else. A full reply to every charge would require the whole of Salient, so I deal only with his more obvious outrages.

i)In charging me with idealism, Mr Devereux asserts that "we being Marxist-Leninists, are of the opinion that being determines thinking." That may be his "opinion" but it is not Marxism. Marxism holds that social being determines thinking. Lenin states: "Social consciousness reflects social being — that is Marx's teaching... Consciousness in general reflects being — that is a general principle of all materialism." (Materialism and Empirio-Criticism) Yet Mr Devereux drew a clear line between us: I adhere to Marxism, he to mechanical materialism. Mr Devereux's "Marxism" would not differentiate between Marx and Feuerbach!
ii)Mr Devereux appears to believe that because all thinking in class society has a class content, people always think according to the social class to which they belong. His diffuse ramblings can have no inner logic otherwise. If he were consistent in this novel "opinion", along with roe, he would dismiss Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung from the ranks of Marxist-Leninists. (I do not place myself on an equal footing with these great teachers, let me hasten to add.)
iii)Mr Devereux castigates my rhetoric: "But will they bury their counter-revolutionary ideas?" Two points need to be made. First, I am perfectly aware of the social basis of revisionism In the socialist and former socialist countries, as anyone who read my article on Dubcek would realise. Mr Devereux's tortuous ramblings on the matter are just wind. Second, Madame Allende has answered him. During an interview in Mexico, she stated that the people were right. They should have been armed or Popular Unity should have created a new army. Madame Allende at least has begun to learn the lessons from the Chilean tragedy, despite Mr Devereux's pompous declarations.
iv)By quoting my remarks about the Brezhnev-Nixon talks in The Paper out of context, Mr Devereux creates the impression that they were directed at the Brezhnev clique. Any primary school kid who could read would realise that they were directed to Paper readers who accept the Soviet theory that war can be eliminated from society without the elimination of imperialism.

Mr Devereux charges that I hold that "power is exercised by governments which are personalised in Khrushchov, Allende, Dubcek, Hoxha, Mao Tsetung. etc." This is odd. First, I clearly pointed out that the main components of state power are the armed forces and the police. Second, nowhere did Mao, Hoxha and Khrushchov figure as leaders of governments. I quoted Mao and Hoxha in making a point of Marxist theory. Third, I used that well-known (to everybody except Mr Devereux) figure of speech synecdoche: letting the part stand for the whole. It is the same figure of speech that the Chinese use in the following: "During his term of office, he (Allende) adopted a series of policies in defence of Chile's independence, state sovereignty and national interests." (Peking Review 21/9/73, p 22). Presumably if Mr Devereux were running things in China, this commentator (translator) would be sent to a May 7 Cadre school to correct the ideological "error" of using standard Chinese (English).

I admire the grand sweep of Mr Devereux's imagination in being able to convert a mere figure of speech into a whole theory of political power. Alas, he both honours me and shames me too much.

vi)Mr Devereux bemoans that "the reader of Salient and The Paper will search" my articles "in vain to discover" what U understand by the dictatorship of the proletariat. In Salient, No. 21, I Indicate the essence of the dictatorship of the proletariat: "The working class and its allies enjoy broad democratic rights and the bourgeoisie is suppressed." I had not been asked to write, a treatise on the dictatorship of the proletariat, so I gave no exhaustive statement. Incidently, the reader can look in vain for any statement on the dictatorship of the proletariat, exhaustive or otherwise, in any of Mr Devereux's letters.
viii)Mr Devereux charges that I "consistently propagate a humanitarian, non-class, moralist approach" to apartheid; that I "oppose apartheid on the grounds that it is morally wrong."

If I were a more charitable person, I would assume that the rubber band holding Mr Devereux's spectacles to his nose had broken and they had fallen off. So he confused me with Norman Kirk because both of us were a bit overweight. But I am not charitable. As I read these clumsy fabrications, I was reminded of Lenin's angry riposte to the Machians: "Listen: lie, but don't overdo it!"

In the only thing I have written on apartheid I stated (among other things) that "its essence is the economic and political subjugation of the non-whites to produce a cheap labour force, disciplined by harsh, unjust, discriminatory laws and practices, from which the South African capitalists and the British and US investors can earn huge profits." (ML, March 1972). The article also drew readers attention to the need to enlist greater working class support for the antiapartheid movement and to support national-liberation movements.

I close by reminding Mr Devereux of some words by someone else he classified as an "idealist". Stalin once said: "Paper will bear anything."

Mr Devereux has proved this truth once again.

Yours fraternally,

Terry Auld.