stalin/Marx

Kenny Mostern kennym at uclink2.berkeley.edu
Fri Mar 24 12:23:33 MST 1995


Howie Chodos--

It sounds, from your response to Justin Schwartz, that in spite of the
fact that you know that there is nothing about our ideas that guarantees
postrevolutionary success you still want to interpret Stalinism as a
means to prevent a repeat of what is still being called "Stalinism" in
this debate.

My point all along has been that, in one sense, your insistence on
interpreting Stalinism is correct, but that precisely what can't be done
with such an interpretation is that we can, as "better" marxists, undo
it.  The possibility of making a revolution will, in probably all cases,
require a substantial overlap with the material conditions that produced
Stalinism (you can't fight the secret police without secrecy, you know),
and in any cases, whether or not it does is in every
case *out of our hands*.  That's why we have only two choices:  to advocate
revolution, knowing the possible outcomes, or to stop advocating
revolution, because we'd rather believe that things are better at
present than what might go wrong with out revolution.

I think there is incredible denial of the fact, even among marxists, that
Stalin isn't some weird thing that went wrong; rather, Stalin is now; he
rules the world.  Most of the world's population presently lives under
conditions, created by global capitalism, that make Stalinism look like a
minor variation of tyranny, with some advantages over other forms of tyrrany
(relative material comfort for people who otherwise wouldn't have had it)
and many, obvious disadvantages which are typical of tyrrany.  The fact
that no one individual leads the tyrrany of global capital is actually
its strength; Stalinism's weakness, and perhaps ours, as marxists, is
that we identify too strongly with one person.  (That's why, unlike
many others on this list, I insist on "marxism", lower case m, and
neither "Marxism" nor even, necessarily, "Marx".  But that's not really the
point of this analysis.)

So if I say we need to forge ahead its because, in spite of my relatively
comfortable position in the world, I don't see Stalinism as worse than
what goes on now.  And I don't think that the risks of Stalinism are
avoidable risks, but neither do I think at this nonrevolutionary moment
we are capable--let me repeat, right now we are *literally incapable*--of
knowing the extent and type of its real material risks, which are not
available to
theorists whose own material practices are so removed from the actual
conditions of revolution.

Know something?  In day to day practice I'm probably best described as a
"social democrat".  Not because I believe, *in theory*, that social
democracy is a possibility; but because I think that as of now no
non-social democratic practice (that is to say, no genuinely revolutionary
practice) is available in the U.S.

I believe we need to take the risk of producing something better than
Stalin, which also means taking the risk of producing Stalin, as we seek
ways of
emerging from capitalism.  I think innocent people will die in the very
best revolutionary scenario available, as they do
every day under global capitalism.  (Indeed, as a bourgeois intellectual
perhaps I will be among them.)  I also think, with Marx, that emergence
from capitalism to socialism is materially possible.  That's why I'm a
marxist, and why I persist.

Kenny Mostern
UC-Berkeley Ethnic Studies Graduate Group

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



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