Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Mon Mar 20 00:01:15 MST 1995

I find the sort of charge bruited here: Show us you're not OBJECTIVELY a
Stalinist apologiszt for mass murder!--tedious. In fact, Stalinist (in its
claim that people can be guilty of OBJECTIVE crimes committed by others
whom others associate with you, no matter how you disavow them). If I
thought that ideas were the primary cause of social phenomena, like
SZtalinist mass murder, and if I had ever heard a moderately persuasive
argument that Marx's commitmewnt to proletarian self-emancipation tended
(never mind inevitability) to produce things like that, I'd be inclined
top be more interested in this line of thought. But all we have here--mind
you, Andy does a bit better than some on this--is the suggestion that
certain elements in Marxusm were available for appropriation by
SZtalinists to justify their crimes. There's not even a hint of causality
here. Look, let Victor Serge have the last word.

As to the idea that "the germ of all Stalinism was in Bolshevism at its
beginning," Serge writes, "I have no objection to this. Only Bolshevism
[we might here write Marxism] also conmtained many other germs. To judge
the living lman by the dead germs which the autopsy reveals in his corpse,
and which he may have carried in him since his birth, is this very
sensible?" (Quoted in the preface to Serge's Memoirs of a Revolutionary)

Isn't it strange that our antiteleological and antideterminist friends who
insists on the unsuturedness (ugh!) of history go determinist and
teleological and sutured only to to Marxism to Stalinism?

Sure, we need an explanation of Stalinism. And of Nazism, and late
capitalism, and lots of other things too. The fact doesn't make me feel


On Fri, 10 Mar 1995, Andy Daitsman wrote:

> 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.
>      --- from list marxism at ---

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