ontology and political commitment (+)

LeoCasey at aol.com LeoCasey at aol.com
Mon Jul 3 19:28:05 MDT 1995

Jim --

I am not going to over definitions of ontology and 'what Marx actually said'
questions, because I don't think that we are about to agree, and I think that
others will find the back and forth interminably boring.

There are a few points, however, that may be of interest to others:

1. If you read what I actually wrote, you will see that I imputed nothing
with respect to your views of Stalinism. I raised the issue to illustrate the
importance of interrogating the Marxist tradition to try to understand what
about that tradtion made it possible for a Stalinist state to be created in
its name -- indeed, for a Stalinist state to incorporate a variation of it as
the official state ideology. In that context, I criticized a general view
that Stalinism was simply a betrayal of Marxism, and that we could therefore
happily proceed without asking any difficult questions. Now that you have
given your view -- and described it as Stalin "abusing" Marxist theory -- I
must say that if there is a significant distinction between that view and the
one I described, I don't see it.

2. You said: "The lacunae in Marxism -- the fact that it inspired a lot of
 different views -- arise partly because Marx never finished his
system." My premise is that all theoretical systems have lacunae; this is a
function of the limited nature of human reason, and the constantly changing
social world of humanity. Marxism is thus no different than any other
theroetical system in its incompleteness and gaps. It has been such a
generative, productive system ("inspired so many other views" is how you put
it) not because it was incomplete, but because it contained very important
and fruitful insights into the workings of social power, especially in the
period up through the Great Depression, and those working in the tradition
could build on those insights. Moreover, "Marx did not get around to it" is
really not a very adequate explanation for gaps as major as detailed theories
of the state, of the party and of communism itself. At a minimum, we must ask
why such a prodigiously productive author did not consider these themes
important enough for elaboration, and we might even ask whether or not there
were structural elements in Marx's theory which made it difficult to address
them. It is essential, I contend,  that we examine these lacunae in some
detail if we are to understand, at a level deeper than the "abuse" of an
ideal system, the development of a Stalinist Marxism.

I have a book shelf full of looseleaf binders on notes of the interpretations
of Draper, Et. Al., so I am not unaware of this type of Marxist
 interpretation which you cite. But it really is time for us to apply the
same standards we would use for other authors to Marx, to accept that there
may be _unintended_ consequences that ensue from his work, and to investigate
what they might be. The fact that his general vision was one of working class
empowerment is not the end of the story.

3. I do not think I agree with your interpretation of Rousseau, if I have
understood it correctly. If there is some interest among others on this
count, it could be pursued.

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