Who Is a Marxist?

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Fri Apr 28 21:13:50 MDT 1995

Who cares who is a Marxist? The only questions that matters are: Are our
views true? Are they well supported by plausible argument? Are they
connected with something useful to the struggle for emancipation? As for
whethey they are "Marxist," remember what the Old Man said: "In that case
I am not a Marxist."

If some dubious character, a skinhead antiZionist, or, more likely, a
Stalinist or social democrat, wants to claim the mantle Marxist, I won't
dispute this. I will just disputre the accuracy and cogency and utility of
her concrete positions. If someone wants to deny that I am a Marxist,. i
don't care. I will just maintain the acxcuracy, etc.

The only boundaries that matter are those of rationality and service to
the working class and oppressed.

--Justin Schwartz

On Sat, 29 Apr 1995, Guy Yasko wrote:

> In message <Pine.3.07.9504272344.A5071-d100000 at acme>  writes:
> >
> >
> > (5) What does Guy mean when says that Marxists say that theory must be
> > constrained in some way? I hope he does not mean taht there are off-limits
> > topics for debate or claims which must be held as items of religious
> > faith. "I believe in the abolition of the market, the dictatorship of the
> > proletariat, and the labor theory of value, world without end. Amen." (
> > There--my old Catholic school training is showing through.) That's silly.
> > Everything is up for grabs. Even the labor theory of value. The only
> > constrains on theory are the usual ones--internal coherence, empirical
> > adequacy, explantory power--you know, the conditions for rational thought.
> >
>     In this particular context I meant to say that there has to be some means of
> boundary maintenance, both in terms of theory and self-definition.  Those
> probably  end up meaning the same thing.  There has something beyond
> merely formal criteria, e.g. all those who struggle in a certain way, other-
> wise, there is no means of deciding what is and what is not Marxism.  If
> one leaves this entirely open, how does one reply to the Gramsci toting
> skinheads who demand a united front against Zionist hegemony?  More
> seriously, if everything does come down to struggle, it seems difficult to
> put together a coherent movement and a program.  Backing up to '68
> again, I think you see in places like Japan and France what happens to
> movements like this. You have a many, many autonomous groups doing
> interesting, even revolutionary things.  But without a program, without
> coordination, it all fell apart after a while. I think this may have been
> quite different from the US experience where the anti-war movement
> gave a certain direction to the student movement.
> As Justin points out, the content of Marxism must be open.  I accept
> this,  but again, if it is completely open, who isn't a Marxist?  There
> are things some things I think we should be quite firm about: smashing
> racism and sexism, destroying hierarchy, total freedom of information,
> direct democracy, worker's self management.  I have no qualms
> whatsoever about this catechism.  If it prevents an alliance with the
> Michigan Militia, so be it.  I suspect Justin has a similar
> list himself.   What I should have said but didn't was that Marxism is
> a way of relating theory and practice.  The tricky part is in how you
> establish institutions and pracitices that facilitate it, and then continue
> doing it.  Obviously, the relation has to change along with society; it
> itself has to remain an open question.  I don't think Lukacs' answers
> will work for us, but I don't think anarchism has much to say about
> the problem.  Unfortunately, neither do I.  I'm still working on it.
> Anarchism's emphasis on openness and autonomy are indeed
> important lessons, but I don't we can stop there.  That is what I meant
> by anarchist optimism, which I insist bears a certain resemblence to
> liberal optimism.
> g.y.
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