stalin/Marx

Kenny Mostern kennym at uclink2.berkeley.edu
Fri Mar 17 11:43:08 MST 1995


> 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.

I want, first of all, to thank Philip Goldstein for clarifying his stake
in marxism in the post from which this is cut; I continue to deny that
there is anything "marxist" at all about Laclau and Mouffe's position,
but I appreciate his indicating, in the fourth point, where he stands vis
a vis marxism as an explanatory system.  I continue to believe that this
is the essence of what we discuss here.

Beyond that, however, I want it to be clear that I object strongly at the
theoretical level to the contents of this paragraph, and believe that it
is, in every sense, inconsistent with what I understand to be marxist
thinking.  Indeed, I think it is absurd to blame Einstein for the bomb
(and my father-in-law, a socialist theoretical physicist, was there to
protest the Manhattan project from the beginning); further, it is always
in principle absurd to blame individuals as individuals for what
institutions do--especailly after their lives have ended.  (This is
certainly not a Foucaultian position any more than it is a marxian one.)

My claim has been precisely the reverse of "without marxist theory, no
Stalin".  It seems to me obvious that Stalin is hardly the only "Stalin"
of the 20th century.  What that indicates is not that you need Marx to
have Stalin, but that, like many many other "authors" (in the sense of
Foucault's "What Is An Author?", if you must know), Marx's work is
sufficiently versatile that when a given Stalin arises (or a given
social formation permits an individual like Stalin to take power) he may
make use of it.  Indeed, he
may even arise fully intending and believing that he is bringing about
"Marx's" will.  But in fact, understanding his success requires not
looking at "Marx"--least of all the historical Marx--but looking at 20th
century history and politics.  And
self-described marxist writing this century (which also refers to "Marx")
has been quite good at that.

Kenny Mostern
UC-Berkeley Ethnic Studies Graduate Group

Against:  racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, militarism
For:  the truth--and the funk!



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