marxism, positivism, diamat, etc.

Alex Trotter uburoi at
Sun Nov 13 14:24:03 MST 1994

I don't have much time to reply to recent posts by Tom Smith and Flannon,
but I'll combine things here in a brief note.

I understand positivism broadly as the philosophical position that seeks
to replace theology and metaphysics with empirical sense experience and
natural science as the basis of knowledge. I'm not super well read on
positivist thinkers, but I think this definition serves for most
versions. Tom talks of first wave (pre-French Revolution)
postivists--Berkeley and Hume, mostly, right?--and second wave p.'s
(identified with Comte). The empirio-criticism of Mach and the logical
positivism it helped spawn were a third wave. This whole current in all
its waves is what Lenin argued against. However, in opposing abstract
positivism he supported a naive materialism or positivist materialism
that agreed with the positivist marxism of the 2nd International. In this
version of positivism ("dialectical materialism") philosophy is abolished
but is replaced by crude objectivism of physical matter and the dialectic
is an automatic process--the objective movement of the economy dtermines
	No, this isn't the only form of marxism, I'm aware of that, Tom,
although I'm not always articulating my positions as well as I could. You
mentioned the Frankfurt School, but I couldn't tell if you thought it was
a good or a bad thing. Anyway, the F-S upheld historical materialism as
opposed to dialectical materialism. This concept is supposed to remain
faithful to the conception of dialectics that Hegel and Marx used (i.e.,
dialectics is the interaction of social activity and mental activity, and
lays emphasis on subjectivity rather than objectivity). At least one
member of the F-S, Karl Korsch, had contacts with the German council
communist movement, which held a similar position vis a vis Lenin's
epistemology. The council communists, however, were interested in
political action, and the F-S studiously avoided practical politics. The
councilists rejected the party concept and looked to the workers'
councils, or soviets, as the organ of workers' power. But I wonder, in a
critique of organized vanguardism, couldn't councilist as well as
partyist forms of organization become sclerotic bureaucracies
antithetical to the interests of the class they are supposed to
represent? I tend toward a spontaneist approach. And here's a question
for Tom: If the revolution is supposed to be the project of the
proletarians themselves, unmediated by other interests (meaning other
classes, presumably), couldn't their own representation confront them as
an alien interest? The party, I mean. Somehow, the necessity for workers
to become theoreticians and make their own revolution seems to fly in the
face of a concept of a formal mass party. In the French Revolution, the
intellectuals were enlightened and rejected religion, not so the
peasants, who eventually furnished the base of support for Bonaparte. In
Russia a similar thing happened; the quasi-religious nature of Stalinism
filled a need the peasants had. The party that Tom proposes sounds for
all the world like a social-democratic party, but then he says it needs
revolutionary leadership. Now it sounds like reform Trotskyism. Tom is a
very liberal guy concerning what goes on in his party, but I wonder if
the other members of the central committee will be so willing to shed
their character armor. (Will the party, in order to become and stay a
mass party, make concessions to the popular prejudices and ideologies?)

I guess we can pick up on chaos-complexity some other day. Bye now.


One more thought about the Frankfurt School--they were always fond of
German Idealism because of its emphasis on subjectivity as opposed to
crude materialism. Another link with Romanticism.


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