Marxism, Postmarxism?

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Thu Nov 2 12:55:45 MST 1995


Louis:

Recently I took a seminar at the Brecht Forum in NY on "Marx and
New Social Theories". This was supposed to be a discussion of how
well Marx stood up under the attacks mounted by postmodernism,
postcolonialism and feminism (Irigarry, not Betty Friedan).

I took the class in order to pick up some more ammunition against all
that "neo" and "post" stuff that's been driving me batty over the last 3
or 4 years. In the very first session, the teacher, one Randy Martin,
announced that his goal was to show that Marx should not be
understood as a thinker who is to be replaced by Lyotard et al, but as
someone who "subsumes" most of the newer trends within the general
framework of his thought. Even though the aim of Lyotard, etc. is to discard
Marxism, the best way to see them is as dialectical reflections of
changing social reality. We should not dismiss their criticisms but use
them as spotlights to understand the complexities of the current world.
It is not as though Marx is "wrong" and Gayatri Spivak is "right"
about postcolonial India, but rather that her thought is a reflection of
contradictory aspects of the reality of contemporary India and can be
helpful.

Now those are Randy's arguments roughly and I can't say I've been
sold exactly. I remain a fairly vulgar Marxist as well as a vulgar human
being and will be so for some time to come, I guess. But Randy is a
subtle and challenging thinker, this despite his tenured professorship at Pratt
Institute in NYC, and is worthy of respect. He is strongly pro-Castro and pro-
Sandinista which further endears the chap to my cold heart.

Perhaps one of the side benefits from our cyberseminar will be that it will
allow us to test Randy's hypothesis to some degree. My approach to
fascism is a more or less "class-oriented" approach, heavily influenced
by Marx and Trotsky. (However, my "reading" of the 18th Brumaire
was also shaped by some of Randy's insights in the seminar -- "reading",
that is what you call analysis nowadays, isn't it?)

I think reports from Bryan, David and Jon, three thoroughly shrewd
individuals, will provide some very interesting contrasts. Perhaps I
will not be "right" in my approach and they "wrong". Reality may turn
out to be more complex. I might end up quoting Althusser to the list in
the future, who knows?

You can expect a report on the 18th Brumaire from me on Sunday or
Monday at the latest. I will post another copy of the first and final
sections of Marx's pamphlet to the list on Friday.


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