marx/stalinism

Andy Daitsman ADAITS at macc.wisc.edu
Fri Aug 5 10:56:00 MDT 1994


Phil Goldstein writes:

>	The discussion of the German and the Russian workingclasses have
>blamed Stalinism for many difficulties but exonerrated Marx. The
>discussion assumes that oppressive, dictatorial Stalinism blocked the
>development of genuinely revolutionary movements but Marx's thought can
>still guide and direct them. Is this distinction between Marx and
>Stalinism naive? Doesn't Stalinism grow out of Marx's thought, including
>his belief that the workingclass must expropriate the expropriators or
>take control of the means of production? I don't mean that Marx was not
>more sophisticated, liberal, or profound than the Stalinists (or
>Marxist-Leninists); I mean that his views are clearly implicated in or
>complicit with the practices of the Stalinists. To deny this implication
>is to make Marx's ideas timeless, eternally valid and applicable. THat
>assumption strikes me as clearly non-Marxist.
>Philip Goldstein
>Associate Professor of English and Philosophy
>University of Delaware (Parallel)
>

I don't think I'm simply trying to defend a canon, but I do think it's
important to go back and look at the step that Phil omits in the
Marx to Stalin relationship.  I'm referring (probably too obliquely) of course
to Lenin.

Stalinism, it seems clear to me, developed quite easily out of Lenin's
conceptions of the vanguard party and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Lenin, just as clearly, based these principles on his own reading of Marx, but
we have to remember that Lenin's reading was controversial even at the time --
Luxemburg and Kautsky, just to name two, engaged him in fierce polemics over
this very issue, and the debate didn't really resolve until the Bolshevik
victory in Russia.  (At least according to my bastardized understanding of the
development of Marxist thought in the XX century.)

In other words, Marx is subject to multiple interpretations, no one of which is
universally valid, but any one of which responds to the historical period in
which it was developed.  (Truism monitor kicks in here... :-) )  Lenin's
particular interpretation of how the expropriation of the means of production
by the workers was to be accomplished has a basis in the original works of Marx,
and that interpretation, if you ask me, is the real foundation for the Stalinist
aberration.  By no means, however, should we consider Lenin's a privileged, or
obviously correct, interpretation.

This doesn't make Marx's ideas "timeless, eternally valid and applicable," but
it does contextualize their appropriation and particular use in a given historical
moment.  Now whether a new revolutionary politics can be developed based on
Marxist principles is a completely different question that Phil raises, and I'm
not ready yet to provide any kind of an answer to it...

See ya,
Andy


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Andy Daitsman                      +  "Without complete freedom of the press
Department of History              +   there can be neither liberty nor
University of Wisconsin, Madison   +   progress.  But with it one can barely
adaits at macc.wisc.edu               +   maintain public order."
                                   +     Domingo Sarmiento -- El Mercurio, 1841
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