trotsky's marxism

donna jones djones at
Sat Aug 13 12:02:03 MDT 1994

I hope that others become involved in this "conversation"--it seems to be
less and less about trotsky. Are the Grudrisse and Capital read in or
outside the university--especially as marxism becomes a subset of cultural
studies or merely a formal example of a(nother) paradigm shift in a Kuhnian
philosophy of science (doubted of course by Foucault who thought Marx fit
in quite swell with Euro-bourgeois nineteenth century thought).

 Marx critiques exactly the exaltation of the dignity of labor in the
Critique of the Gotha Programme. For him, such formulations left the door
open for a parasitic state (that created the conditions for such labor) and
the legitimation of the industrial bourgeoisie (which worked oh-so hard).
However, Marx argued that advances in social productivity would make
communism possible, as well as creating  needs that could only be satisfied
by communism (see Sean Sayers in the penultimate New Left Review). Yet it
seems to me that wealth for him was to be measured unequivocally by
possibilities for creative leisure.   When Marx speaks (in Capital) of the
capitalist labor process as the butchering of an animal for its hide, to
what else is he appealing but the potential for our many-sided development?
One cannot find--I believe--in Marx exaltations similar to Lenin's of
Taylorism or Stalin's of Americanism. It may be possible to detect in my
writings a one-sided view of human potentiality, but Marx should be spared
of such judgement. Lastly,  Marx's concern with industrial workers comes
not from a productivist ethos forged in the bourgeois revolution against
unproductive feudal lords but from both antipathy to exploitation and a
practical understanding of the potential material power of industrial
workers to overthrow capitalist society. If exploited workers who must
perform labor gratis  merely to survive did not have such potential
power--the Wobblie's still patient organizing for a general strike seems to
be based on exactly that practical understanding--it would indeed be time
to throw in the towel and despair as  new left forces (students, anti-war
protestors, bourgeois-nationalist third world revolutions and more
students) are finally petering out.

As to Alex's seeming critique of Marx's siding with the union during the
American Civil War, it is of course true that Marxism is not pacifism.
While Engels maintained some facile views on the Mexican-American War, I
believe that Marx would have sided with Thoreau's pacifist disobedience
during that War but, yes, drafted the pacifists during the Civil War.  I
don't know if this shows support for totalitarian state capitalism or for
the forcible emancipation of human beings and the recognition that slavery
was both an expansionary system--as J Cairnes also recognized--bound to
drown out liberty everywhere and the material foundation for all
exploitation (see the end of Ch.32 in Capital).

As to whether the Grundrisse is an example of the late marx, there are of
course at least two very interesting critiques of this unpublished work.
One is John Mepham's in Issues in marxist philosophy edited by him and
Ruben, and the other is Keith Tribe's in Economy and Society in 1974.  The
former convincingly argues, I believe, that Marx's theory of capital and
money were still too hegelian in that the concept of capital is somehow
derived from the concept of simple circulation.  Real social and material
history (in the form of primitive accumulation--Mepham however himself
abstracts away from the entire 32nd chapter on the colonial system) is
simply abstracted away.

Now I think philosophers such as Patrick Murray have made brilliant
contributions to the critique of political economy--for example, he shows
how the critique of proudhon and especially his understanding of money is
only possible with a hegelian understanding of the relationship between
essence and appearance (as well as with a marxist critique of religious
mediations characteristic of hegel--this is also discussed by Lawerence
Wilde who was recommended by Steve Keen); and Geoffrey Pilling has waged a
war against empiricism in his Critique of Keynesianism.  So I don't want to
be understood as arguing that the philosophical Marx should be jettisoned.
Moreover, I have learned much (but not enough) from marxist works in the
philosophy of science and explanation such as Scott Meikle's,Daniel
Little's and Kevin Brien's (and the latter is concerned to show how
un-narrow Marx's understanding of human emancipation is).

And about Marx's concern and lack of concern of our many-sided
emancipation, I can only say to Alex that, as usual,he has given me much to
think about. I have yet to read the Ethnological Notebooks.
d jones


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