MARXIST THEORY: WORKING STIFFS VS HIGHFALUTIN PROFS?

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Wed Apr 5 09:35:16 MDT 1995


Given my years of resentment against professors with their eyes on
each other's footnotes and their intellectual fingers up their
asses, must I now come to the defense of intellectual work against
those sullen defenders of the "practical", who talk piffle about
the organization of the human brain and chaos theory and then cry
that our philosophical peregrinations seeking to clarify the
nature of dialectics are too abstruse and impractical to be of any
use to practical revolutionaries?  Methinks me smells a rat.  Is
it that stinky rodent of Stalinism scurrying across my
cyber-floor?  How could I be brought to the point where I feel the
need to defend Hans Despain, whom I believe has rendered a
valuable service by trying to explain the work of Tony Smith?

Very well, gents, you say: who needs these interpreters and
improvers of Marx and Engels (and Lenin); away with them and let's
get back to the originals!  By all means, let us do so.  And while
we are at it, let's collect those tens of thousands of pamphlets,
manuals, and textbooks of "dialectical and historical materialism"
written and published in all languages by all the Communist
parties of the world and toss them into one huge rubbish heap.
Funny, isn't it, how the vast majority of people, including many
of you, and not least of all in the Stalinist states, got
introduced to Marxism not through the primary sources but through
these Stalinized and bowdlerized versions of Marxism perpetrated
by professional Stalinist liars over the course of six decades.
Indeed, let's toss this whole tradition overboard and get back to
the primary sources, which, by the way, the Stalinists were never
in too much of a hurry to publish and translate, such as the
complete and unabridged works of Marx and Engels.

Please tell us how you think we should proceed to read Marx given
that he completed not much more than 50% of his intellectual
project and left the bulk of his writing unpublished at the time
of his death.  (To get an overview of the bibliographic picture of
Marx's development, see: Oakley, Allen; THE MAKING OF MARX'S
CRITICAL THEORY: A BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ANALYSIS; London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1983.)  Marx and Engels never pretended to have
created a closed and finished system.  The ball was dropped by the
Second International, and we know what became of the Third after
Lenin's death.  So much important work was neglected that people
are still publishing new, original, and important works about Marx
in the 1980's and '90's.

I would love to see all this scholarship boiled down into some new
sort of handbook or guide for the average reader, all the more
necessary as the old Communist parties are now happily moribund.
Their practice and hence their theory has now been tossed into the
ash-bin where it belongs.  We need not regard their brand of
practicality with any seriousness any more.  All we wish to hear
from them is an apology for all the harm they've done, but they
are too arrogant even to say 'I'm sorry'.  Fuck 'em!  Good
riddance to 'em!  Let's begin anew.  Now, gents, we have two
choices: either just publish and disseminate every word Marx,
Engels, Lenin, and others ever wrote without further commentary,
since you comrades with only a high-school education can so easily
understand them, or accept the validity of documentation,
commentary, interpretation, and secondary exposition.  Such is not
new, from the Stalinist doctoring of Engels' chapter titles in
LUDWIG FEUERBACH to the Stalinist metatheoretical falsifications
of a Louis Althusser, who after all was a high-level
representative of the odious French Communist Party.  In other
words, comrades, there has been plenty of selectiveness and
tampering with respect to the pristine originals; now you protest
when we show you up for the miseducation you received.

Yes, methinks me smells a very familiar smell.


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