stalin/Marx

Philip Goldstein pgold at strauss.udel.edu
Fri Mar 17 05:35:09 MST 1995


	Now that I have finally caught up with my email, I would like to
reply to the comments on the relationship of Stalin and Marx or Marxism.
There were three different positions: 1) one said that we need a Marxist
account of Stalin, stalinism, and Soviet communism. This position clearly
meant a classical or traditional Marxist account, not the postmodern
Marxist account of Laclau and Mouffe which I was initially and presently
defending. The trouble with this kind of account is that the Stalinists
claimed to be classical Marxists, however valid or invalid that claim is,
and so we have classical Marxists judging themselves. Moishe Lewin, an
eminent historian of the USSR, points out in the introduction to his book
on Gorbachev that, according to Marx, one does not judge or interpret an
era by its own central outlook or consciousness. This position ends
up,then, circular. What's more, if we accept the foucauldian assumption
that authoritative institutional practices show us the meaning of
doctrines, the nexus of power/knowledge, then clearly the practices of
the Soviet and the world communist parties implicate Marxist theory.
Hence, Laclau and Mouffe argue that what the Soviet experience shows,
among other things, is that Marxist theory does not guarantee its
supporters that their views are true, objective, or scientific, or that
history will come around to their position and that they have only to be
loyal to the truth -- no epistemological guarantees.
2) the second position said that I was wrong to claim that Stalinism
implicated Marxist because many serious and important Marxists opposed
Stalinism. This claim is true and right. Lukacs, for example, was a
lifelong opponent of the Stalinists. One could also cite Bukharin, who
was killed by Stalin. From my point of view, though, this claim is
comparable to the claim that you cannot blame Einstein for the atomic
bomb because he opposed it. Without his theories, no bomb. Similarly,
without Marxist theory, no Stalin. People usually object that this view
neglects Marx's subtlety, brilliance, sophistication, humanity, etc. This
objection treats Marx as the great father to whose truth we must
continually return. Althusser has shown that Marxism is a field like
natural science, where the founders, Gallileo or Newton, initiated a
discourse which has long rejected their beliefs.
3) The third position, which agreed with me, said that Soviet
totalitarianism was so horrible that Marxists should acknowledge their
complicity and responsibility for what happenned. My position is that the
Stalinists did good as well as bad things: they educated the population,
created large-scale industry, and established a large urban population --
see Lewin's book on Gorbachev for details. What's more, Stalinism has
many sources, including Russia czarist history, not just western Marxism,
as some people said.
4) all of this has led me to a new position, which is that, while Laclau
and Mouffe are right to show that classical Marxism is implicated in the
Soviet experience, its good and bad aspects, they are wrong to dismiss
Marxist science of all kinds in favor of Gramscian hegemony. I don't
agree with Chodos' kantian belief that there is a reality outthere
independent of our beliefs and that that reality, unknowable in itself,
ensures our objectivity, but I do think that, as Althusser has argued,
science is a historical matter of Marxist theory and its history.

Sorry this is so long.

Philip Goldstein


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