LACLAU & MOUFFE

Andy Daitsman adaitsma at mail.cc.trincoll.edu
Fri Mar 10 01:35:19 MST 1995


Justin quotes Phil:
>On Thu, 9 Mar 1995, Philip Goldstein wrote:
>
[some stuff taken out]
>> 2) Justin Schwartz made a very moving response, but I do not think that
>> he faced the main issue -- are people like Stalin Marxist or not? If
>> those people are -- and we can name many in a similar category -- what
>> does that fact say about the status of Marxism?
>
>Suppose we say they are. Marxism is a broad church. Does Stalin's
>membership (or Pol Pot's, or whoever your favorite bad guy is) is
>discredit the ideas of other Marxists who disagree with his ideas and
>practices? Suppose i were to identify myself as a Jew. "Aha!" says
>Goldstein. "Ariel Sharon is a Jew too. Doesn't that discredit Judaism?"
>This line of reasoning is absurd on the face of it.
>
>Of course Goldstein's thought is that something in Marxism--he doesn't say
>what--leads inevitably--he doesn't say how--to Stalinism. If I had ever
>heard a plausible argument to that effect, I's reconsider.

If I can defend Phil a little (and let me say here that I think Kenny was
completely out of line to suggest that Phil leave the list -- and not just
because Phil has been here since the beginning and Phil is a newbie), I
think Justin that your interpretation of Phil's argument is a little bit
different from my own.

What I understand Phil to say is that certain elements of Marxism, or better
yet certain interpretations of Marx's thought,  (specifically, its
essentialism, its implied teleology, its potential for positivistic
reformulation) developed into orthodox Marxism, and orthodox Marxism did in
fact develop into Stalinism.  I don't see Phil saying that Marxism
"inevitably" leads to Stalinism; in fact I have trouble imagining Phil
saying that one thing would ever "inevitably" lead to another (unless I
grossly misunderstand his position, but I think I'm on target).

Now if one possible development of Marxist thought, based on elements
intrinsic to that thought, can result in mass murder (and without quibbling
over the numbers, I'm sure that even Paul will agree that mass murder did
occur in the Stalinist Soviet Union), then it is incumbent on anyone who
seeks to speak in the name of the Marxist tradition yet who wants to avoid
another devolution into a terrorist state, to come to grips with precisely
how  Stalinism arose.

I don't always agree with Phil, but I think he's right on target here.
Stalin committed mass murder, and used Marxist principles to defend it.
That fact may not tar all Marxists with the brush of mass murderer, but it
should give us pause to consider how someone who purports to agree with us
on some basic principles can so grossly differ on others.

Andy

PS just for Ralph Dumain:  gee, man, I'm really sorry if my use of the
"conventions of academic discourse" offended you in the slightest.



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