Zero Squared #31: Dialectic of Defeat

Russell Jacoby’s Dialectic of Defeat: Contours of Western Marxism is the subject this week and C Derick Varn is the guest. Varn is a poet, teacher, theorist and a reader at Zero Books. This is the second time we’ve spoken about Jacoby’s book. We’re taking it one chapter at a time.

Russell Jacoby asks us to reexamine a loser of Marxism: the unorthodox Marxism of Western Europe. The author begins with a polemical attack on ‘conformist’ or orthodox Marxism, in which he includes structuralist schools. He argues that a cult of success and science drained this Marxism of its critical impulse and that the successes of the Russian and Chinese revolutions encouraged a mechanical and fruitless mimicry. He then turns to a Western alternative that neither succumbed to the spell of success nor obliterated the individual in the name of science. In the nineteenth century, this Western Marxism already diverged from Russian Marxism in its interpretation of Hegel and its evaluation of Engels’ orthodox Marxism. The author follows the evolution of this minority tradition and its opposition to authoritarian forms of political theory and practice.

In this episode you’ll here a list of moder political philosophers set to Life is a Rock by Reunion, Frederic Jameson set to music from the Manson Family Opera, an excerpt from an old episode of Diet Soap wherein I discuss Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit with my son Benjamin, and Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Partita #2.

Zero Squared #13: Heavy Radicals

Aaron Leonard is the guest this week and we discuss his book Heavy Radicals which was published by Zero Books in February. With the subtile: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists, Aaron Leonard’s book covers Maoism in America from the 60s through to 1980.

Sarah Khan at the Washington Book Review praised the book.

“Heavy Radicals is an excellent addition to the literature on the history of revolutionary groups which played important roles in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the first comprehensive and complete history of … the Revolutionary Union. It is a well-researched book which fills the gap created by the absence of historical literature on an important period in the history of the United States.”

In this episode you’ll hear a clips from Bob Avakian, the American propaganda film “What is Communism,” the 1963 instrumental hit Pipeline by the Chantays, Mario Savio at Sproul Hall in 1964, Andrew Kliman, a String Quartet cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and the aria “I am the wife of Mao Tse-Tung” from John Adam’s opera Nixon in China as well as John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances.”

Diet Soap Podcast #224: Pop the Imperialism

Imperialism is the subject this week as C Derrick Varn and I bring back Pop the Left and discuss Lenin’s pamphlet “Imperialism: The Highest Form of Capitalism.”This was to be a discussion of the notion of the labor aristocracy, but we decided to start slow and see if we could understand Imperialism first.

From Lenin’s pamphlet, here’s the definition:

[Imperialism features]

(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life
(2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy
(3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance
(4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves
(5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed.

Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.

I’d like to urge regular listeners to the Diet Soap podcast to find the paypal button at Also, the podcast is also available via iTunes and I urge people who enjoy this show to consider leaving a review at iTunes in lieu of a donation

Diet Soap #200: The Myth of the Doctor

The guest this week is one of my co-editors at the journal Former People Steven A. Michalkow discusses the myth of Doctor Who. Both of us are fans of the show, both of us were excited about the anniversary of the program, and both of us enjoy thinking too much. The conversation covers such subjects as Jung’s notion of myth, Roland Barthes idea of mythology, what it means to be a detective, and the City of Death.

Preparing for this episode I was looking for a nice quote about the Doctor, something that would set the tone for the rest of the episode. While I don’t think I succeeded, I did manage to fine this from Tom Baker:

“It’s funny, in literature no one ever goes to the lavatory.”

In December I received donations from Paul H (on my birthday no less), Jacob L, Andrew M, Ted F, Shane S, and Caytlin G. Thank goes out to all of you. And if you’re a new or old listener and would like to donate you can find the paypal buttons at You can also go to my blog and send an email, that’s through, or follow me on twitter, friend me on Facebook, or go through my private telephone records at the NSA.

There are several sound clips worth mentioning here at the outset, you’ll here a clip from the Doctor Who episodes “The Pyramind of Mars,” “City of Death,” “Family of Blood,” and the “Day of the Doctor.” You’ll also here a clip from the Columbo episode “A Deadly State of Mind,” a reading of Roland Barthes essay “Einstein’s Brain,” and at the end of the episode you’ll find a conversation with my lovely wife Miriam. Miriam returns for this episode to discuss Laurie Anderson’s song “The Dream Before” and to start what I hope will be a recurring new segment on Diet Soap that I’m calling Miriam’s Art Idea.