An interesting little letter that I’ve had emailed to me, regarding Hari and Negri.
In response to Johann Hari’s interview in the Independent 17/08/04 Matteo Mandarini and Alberto Toscano wrote the letter below – the Independent didn’t publish it:
While Johann Hari’s acknowledgment of his own ignorance in matters of social theory (‘The Nostalgic Revolutionary’, 17.08.04) is commendable for its honesty, it raises the question as to why The Independent should choose to publish such a lengthy feature article on a political philosopher that is so openly hostile to minimal standards of intellectual probity and historical accuracy. Hari seems to take pride in his bafflement at a book which many undergraduate students in sociology find engaging and not entirely mysterious. If anything, Empire has been criticised for over-simplification. Perhaps before indulging in dubious fantasies about his dictionary of sociology (‘I feel like I
have been raped by [it]‘), Hari should have consulted it. It is depressing to see The Independent air views regarding Negri’s
political past that in Italy, today, are only held by the fringes of
the right. The reference to (relatives of) Negri’s ‘victims’ is quite
peculiar, as no one to our knowledge has yet come forward to claim that status. It is ludicrous to insinuate that Negri is a fellow traveller of Al Qaida, just as it is dangerous to associate his support for diffuse forms of illegality such as workplace sabotage and wildcat strikes with ’terrorism’. To endorse such facile equations today is to consolidate the ideological (and legal) climate in which protesting at arms fairs and planning chemical attacks in metropolitan areas can be brought under the same banner.
Hari’s article is symptomatic of the fact that today philistinism about theory and dogmatism about history go hand in hand. To treat Negri’s observations regarding the creativity of Soviet society (Eisenstein, Bakhtin, Malevich…) as an apologia for mass murder and state terror is a case in point. The bête noire of Negri’s political thought (and action), for better or worse, is the state. It is the unthinking acceptance of the dogma that communism equals state socialism and that the only Marxism is a Soviet one that allows Hari to misrepresent Negri as a ‘nostalgic revolutionary’.
Dr. Matteo Mandarini
Translator of Negri’s Time for Revolution
Dr. Alberto Toscano
Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths College
As a footnote: I was the so-called ‘publicist’ mentioned in the
article(I work for Continuum, the publishers of ‘Time for Revolution’, and was involved in organising the ICA event). A few minor, but incorrectly reported, details that I have personal knowledge of (eg, there was no taxi called, I didn’t say the things ascribed to me, Negri wasn’t behaving arrogantly as suggested, there was no angry confontation with ICA staff, etc) casts serious doubt on the veracity of anything that Hari says.
The letter as a whole is obviously fascinating, as evidence that people had serious doubts about Hari’s integrity years ago. What is especially relevant to the current situation however, is the footnote. Compare and contrast that with Simon Kelner’s (Editor in chief of the Independent and Editor until very recently) 28th June Twitter claim that
Quite obviously, when you compare it with the text of the letter I’ve posted, this is false. Either Kelner didn’t know about the existence of the complaint or he’s deliberately misleading people. Either way, it doesn’t look great for him. And why did The Independent refuse point blank to publish this letter at the time it was sent? There are a lot of questions still to be answered and they go way beyond the simple issue of Hari’s actions.
See also here for conclusive proof this is hardly the first time that Hari’s integrity has been questioned.