In this article, which was first published in 'New Left Review', Geras begins from an astonishing fact: Leon Trotsky's prediction of the impending Jewish catastrophe, which is a common and well-grounded theme in the literature of the Holocaust that the disaster was not really predictable. He offers some general reflections on Marxism as a body of theory in relation to the Nazi genocide against Jews, presenting a couple of brief phrases on the singularity of the Holocaust and a critical review of Ernest Mandel's thinking on the subject. Mandel connects to a wider historiographical, socio-psychological and other literature on the Holocaust, adding to it, to be sure, what Marxism is best-placed to add. He asserts that the Holocaust was an extreme product of tendencies which are historically more general. But he perceives a need to balance the assertion with an emphasis on the singularity of the fate of the Jews.
In this chapter, Geras distinguishes three meanings of 'being a Marxist': personal, intellectual and socio-political. For someone to be a Marxist, in the first sense, he or she must subscribe to a significant selection of recognized Marxist beliefs, and describe him or herself as a Marxist. The second is that, as well as having some relevant combination of Marxist beliefs, a person can work, as writer, political publicist, academic, thinker, researcher, within the intellectual tradition begun by Marx and Engels and developed by later figures. The third this that a person is a Marxist if they belong to the Marxist left. Unless a Marxism of personal belief and a Marxism of creative intellectual work both thoroughly renewed and wrested once and for all from the grip of anti-democratic and illiberal themes and concepts, Marxism as a political force might just as well be dead and buried.
With the aid of the crime of 9/11, many on the Western left shielded themselves from realities they did not want to see or to assign their proper weight. In this article, first published in Dissent in 2005, Geras comments on some aspects of this theoretical nexus. He begins from a short essay by Paul Berman entitled 'A Friendly Drink in Time of War', which appeared in the Winter 2004 issue of Dissent. In that essay Berman offers six reasons why many on the left did not see things his way over the war in Iraq, which he supported. Abbreviating them, and also adding a seventh to the six that he enumerates, Geras sets out those reasons, addressing the two faces of the United States: as being the foremost embodiment of global capitalism, on one side, and regimes and movements of an utterly ghastly kind politically, on the other.
Israel has been made an alibi for a new climate of antisemitism on the left. Much of the animus directed at Israel is of a plainly antisemitic character. It relies on anti-Jewish stereotypes. This can be shown with near mathematical precision; in this article, Geras endeavours to show it by discussing four forms of the Israel alibi phenomenon. The first form is the impulse to treat such of the antisemitism as there is acknowledged to be as a pure epiphenomenon of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The second form is the plea that antisemitism should not be ascribed to anyone without evidence of active hatred of Jews on their part; without some clear sign of antisemitic intent. Gunter Grass's poem may serve to introduce a third form of alibi antisemitism that is rhetorical status of Israel. The fourth and final alibi phenomenon relates to the climate of complicity in Israel.
This chapter presents the text of the 2006 Euston Manifesto, in which Geras outlines the principles for a democratic and anti-authoritarian left-wing politics. The initiative has its roots in and has found a constituency through the Internet, especially the 'blogosphere'. The broad statement of principles that are outlined is a declaration of intent. The initiative sets forth that leftists must define themselves against those for whom the entire progressive-democratic agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic 'anti-imperialism' and/or hostility to the US administration. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda i.e. the values of democracy, human rights, the continuing battle against unjustified privilege and power, solidarity with peoples fighting against tyranny and oppression, are what most enduringly define the shape of any Left worth belonging to.
In this short article, which was first published on 'Normblog' in 2009, Geras speaks of the inclination of certain Marxists, as well as others who admire Marx's work, to deny the antisemitic material there is in his essay On the Jewish Question. Geras brings in this article Bruno Bauer's argument that the political emancipation of the Jews, their availing themselves of political and civil rights within the democratic state, was incompatible with their Jewish particularism and Marx's counter-argument that political emancipation, so far from being incompatible with religious particularisms, presupposes them. None of this, however, can obscure the themes which Marx deploys in the second part of his essay and the article presents a key passage from it. It is fruitless to pretend that these themes are expressed merely ironically when there is no clear supporting evidence that they are to be read in that way rather than straightforwardly.
It is remarkable that many have discerned, with the emergency of the materialist conception of history, a dismissal by Marx of the idea of human nature. The German Ideology, expressly criticizes the mistake of those who, ignoring what it terms the 'real basis of history', thereby exclude from the historical process 'the relation of man to nature', create an 'antithesis of nature and history'. At one point it echoes a passage from The Holy Family just in emphasizing nature's internal and external dimensions. In this chapter, Geras shows how the materialist usage of 'powers of human nature', 'natural desires', 'natural character' plays an important role in the formulation of Marx's theory of history, showcasing the concepts and arguments placed in these two works and the Theses on Feuerbach. The Holy Family is an 'early' work; it antedates historical materialism, while The German Ideology itself proposes the theory of historical materialism.
One philosopher who expresses himself emphatically about human nature, and whose works have attracted wide interest, is Richard Rorty. In this chapter, Geras explores Richard Rorty's various usages on the question of human nature and the tensions and anomalies they display. Rorty is an astute and provocative as well as influential thinker. An analysis of what he says about the idea of human nature, then, may serve a wider effort of clarification and exchange. Though Rorty's own relationship to post-modernism is not an altogether enthusiastic one, anti-essentialism is a trope he has in common with it. After some preliminary remarks, the chapter reviews the critical uses and rhetorical emphases of Rorty's omnipresent rejection of the idea of human nature. It offers a few reflections on the story they conjointly tell. The rhetoric of emancipation is not so distant from the rhetoric of 'utopia', which Rorty seems quite happy to employ.
Carter’s ambivalent cinematic fiction and the problem of
of New Eve ( 2008),9 texts whose
protagonists are obsessed with images because of the way they provide
erotic pleasure without threatening their sense of mastery. They
therefore embody what Adam Phillips refers to as ‘the self-protective
modern individual’, whose dilemma is that he ‘doesn’t (and does)
want to get too close to the things and people that excite him’ (2010:
59).10 Cinema seemingly solves this dilemma because it offers spectators pleasure held at a safe distance. As McGowan usefully explains,
Hollywood cinema creates what he calls ‘proximity from
immediate ripostes, The Eve of St Agnes and Lamia. I want
to counter the deep-set bias whereby the Gothic is narrowly read as a
prose genre, a bias manifestly not shared by Coleridge, Scott and Byron,
who understood poetry to be the most fashionable medium for the Gothic
tale of the supernatural. 6
I will depart from my earlier procedure of intertextual