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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Vingt mille lieux communs sous les gènes

by Lucien Sève

Twenty Thousand Common Places Under the Genes

Translated Tuesday 1 May 2007, by Jonathan Pierrel

Long is the list of all the economic, social, political realities which ‘can’t go on any longer,’ which should not go any longer. We shall not forget to add to this list all the related reasoning, which should not go on any more.

Example. Not everything has been said yet, and far from it, on the worrying sally of Nicolas Sarkozy about the alleged ‘paedophilic gene’ which he is ‘inclined’ to believe in, because ‘what is inborn in us plays a huge part.’ (Philosophie, nº 8, april 2007, p. 35). Of course, biologists reminded us over and over what a foolish remark it is to imagine that a complex psychic reality could be ‘explained’ by a gene. This is about as clever as to want to ‘explain’ the meaning of a painting by the chemical aspect of its colours. The fact that all the reports which pretended to have identified a gene responsible for violent, homosexual or faithful behaviour turned out to be null and void did obviously not reach the Ministry of Police: it does not fall under the responsibilities of the security branch of the police force.

Of course, there have also been a lot of people to say how this stupidity shows not only an extreme personal ignorance but a socio-political tendency which chills you. Because ‘all-genetic’ is directly linked to ‘all-repressive’ and to ‘all-conservative’. If what happens to you is mainly prefigured by your genes, do not attribute it to class struggles. Some workers come to the point of commiting suicide in their factory and leave a note where it is expressly written that the cause is the unbearable pressure that capitalist policies exert on them. Do not believe any of that, Sarkozy’s words: in fact, people commit suicide because ‘they have a genetic fragility’ (Philosophie, p35).

But on this subject, there is much more. To reduce psychic problems to genetics is to show that one does definitely not understand the fundamental difference between animality and evolved humanity, which is outrageous; but more broadly, it is to imagine that all historic fields are reduced to a natural aspect and the thing itself is the core of the problem, which will thus never change. Here lies the broadest axiom of that naturalising right-wing idea of which Sarkozy’s is an example to keep securely sealed off in an airtight bag.

Marx enabled us to understand this far-reaching truth: capital is not a material thing but a social relation. So, behind money, see work; behind profit, overwork; behind deprivation, privatisation; and so on. More generally, behind things, which can be seen, look for relations and processes through which they are created and transformed and not easily seen at first. This is dialectics. Thus, you would know how to detect where contradictions can be worked on and exceeded. The right-wing ideology which is now immensely prevalent keeps the dialectics secret and puts forward on the contrary: believe in things, which are what they are and cannot be revolutionised. Media always drum it in: in the same way that ‘intelligence is genetic’, social wealth is money, nothing else, and this will remain so; the meaning of life is property; the lower-class young people are ‘dregs’; order is police raid; French citizenship is the possession of a ‘national identity’…Readers will make the list longer themselves.

The Sarkozian belief of the paedophilic gene is a dramatic example of this reifying thought. But not the least dramatic, exactly on the same line, is his central political theme: ‘to earn more, work more!’ Because that is the monstrously falsely reifying of the relation between work and wage. There are no constant natural figures between what part of the wealth created by the inventive and productive activity of workers goes to wages and what part goes to profits. It is a historically variable balance of power which decides. And as this balance has worsened for the last twenty years to the detriment of wages, the truth is that in the end they had to work more to earn less. It is on that line that Sarkozy suggests going bravely further. That is the use of shelving dialectics.

On the same line of reasoning which reveals the stupid belief of the ‘gene of paedophilia’, we learn to look carefully at twenty thousand common places of the right-wing ideology, which spins a whole veil of ignorance that must be torn so that an anticipative initiative of striking necessity can spread out.

Those brief remarks about the ill effects of the philosophy of reifying do not only concern people from the other side. They create the opportunity to think about the anti-capitalistic fight. You can for example reify a party, which implies disastrous effects. If, whatever may happen, political communism has a good future, which is even more likely during this century than during the previous one, it is within the exact medium that its adepts will know where to gain momentum, beyond its reifying, to go further.

As Marx said, dialectics is revolutionary even though ‘it seizes all forms created in the flow of the movement’ and that ‘nothing can impose it’. It is urgent to hear it in every field.

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