marx/stalinism

Andy Daitsman ADAITS at macc.wisc.edu
Mon Aug 8 08:56:00 MDT 1994


Well, I take a couple of days off from the Marxism list, and come back to find
the Marx-Stalin debate *essentially* resolved.  Still, I want to add a couple of
comments.

First, is there a "close connection" between Marx and Stalin, and, collaterally,
do people who hold that there is take a "right-wing" position?  In my first
post, I argued that the Marx-Stalin relationship is mediated by Lenin.  The act
of mediation implies at least two facts: 1) there is *a* relationship, or
connection if you will; 2) the relationship is not a close one.  In other words,
the Stalinist aberration is an interpretation of an interpretation, which makes
the relationship of the second order.  Marx *is* implicated in Stalin, to the
exact same degree that a parent is "implicated" in the actions of one of
his/her grandchildren.

Marxists or post-Marxists do have to consciously come to grips with this fact:
one interpretation of Marxism produced Stalinism.  It would be arrogant of us,
even Stalinist, to contend that there is a "true" Marxism lurking somewhere
that is somehow unimplicated in the Stalinist aberration; Stalinism, that is,
really is a valid reading of Leninism, and Leninism really is a valid reading of
Marx.  But just because Marxism *is* implicated in Stalinism does not mean that
it *always* will result in Stalinism.  To argue this, it seems to me, is to fall
back into teleological and deterministic reasoning.  In fact, not only are other
"valid" readings of Marx possible, historical experience tells us that they have
occurred and have produced interesting results.

I'm not sure why Phil takes the position he does on the Frankfurt School, which
is that at root it is a right-wing deviation of Marxism.  To me it is an
alternative reading of Marx, mediated differently from the Russo-Soviet school.
(By which I acknowledge the Czarist origins of Stalinism, but still link the
ideology back to the Marxist tradition.)  I am not at all convinced that the
left-right distinction makes a whole lot of sense these days -- maybe it does
if we want to develop a class-based analysis of politics, but I just don't know
what a "left" ideology is, and much less does the term "right-wing Marxism" make
sense to me.

(Brief commercial announcement, if Chris Sciabarra is reading this thread:  I am
working on a response to your Left-Right post, but I'm doing some research and
the materials haven't arrived yet...)

Second, like Gene (and perhaps Phil, but with all his masks I'm not sure) I
think that a reinterpretation of Marx is necessary.  I actually also think that
a lot of it has already been done, and we are well on the way towards a
theoretically valid Marxist critique of capitalism.  I'm not sure about the
following point though:

Gene writes:

>     But this weeding out of Hegelianism leaves Marx's critique of
>     capitalist political economy pretty much intact -- which I take to be
>     the "basic model or plant" of Marxism anyway.  (Here I may come close
>     to reproducing Jon's earlier "thesis on marxism" whereby Marx got the
>     economics right and the politics wrong; as I see it, the political
>     question does remain open in Marxism.)
>
>     So here's where I think we finally disagree: I feel that the "basic
>     plant" of Marxism -- the critique of capitalist political economy --
>     is still healthy, but that various political offshoots of this
>     critique (often but not always inspired by Hegelian philosophy of
>     history) have proven disastrous.  These should be pruned so as to let
>     1,000 other branches bloom.
>
>     Gene Holland

Now the part about 1,000 blossoms, er branches, I don't have any problem with,
nor do I differ that the "basic plant" of Marxism is the critique of capitalist
political economy, but I really do have doubts about that plant's health.  I
mean, apologies to Chris Nagle, but what the hell have we been doing with this
whole LTV debate anyway?  It seems to me that we have raised serious questions
*within a Marxist or Marxian discourse* about the validity of the central basis
for the Marxist critique.

We are moving very far from our origins, to the point that the critique we
develop would perhaps be unrecognizable to an original, orthodox, or classical
Marxist, but our inspirations are Marxist, and the path we follow developed out
of the one originally blazed by a genius in the last century.  For me, that's
what's important -- that our theory be sound, and our motivation to create a
better world during our own lifetimes.

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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