baseball bats and fascism
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Fri Nov 10 07:20:33 MST 1995
On Thu, 9 Nov 1995, Jon Beasley-Murray wrote:
> Just briefly to reply to Louis' points about us young kids with the
> baseball caps, hanging out on street corners reading Deleuze rather than
> tucked up in bed with the Marxist classics... I simply don't see the
> contrast you're making between ideology and history. How is ideology (in
> this instance the fascination and popularity of fascism) not historical?
> How do you intend to discuss fascism by going beyond ideology?
Louis: Ideology of course is historical. Marxism arose during the period
when the bourgeoisie was in its greatest ascendancy, while
fascism arises during the time of its deepest decadence.
By all means, let's examine fascism as an ideology. A number of people
are reporting on this aspect, including yourself.
The question, however, is what is there that is Marxist about the study
of ideology? Hannah Arendt has *nothing* to do with Marxism. Her method
is just the opposite of historical materialism. For her, ideas take
precedence over the material conditions of life. Her approach is
idealistic and shaped by nearly two thousand years of philosophy, dating
back to Plato. Marx represents a break with this philosophical tradition.
He, of course, recognized that ideology itself can eventually become part
of the material conditions in society, that they take a life onto
themselves and shape society. This is the main reason capitalism persists
in countries where bourgeois rule is so cruel, such as most of the third
world: ideas act as a fetter on revolutionary change.
The problem with Western Marxism, as Perry Anderson so aptly dubbed it,
is that it changes the focus from material, class relations to ideology.
Gramsci, Lukacs, the Frankfurt school, Althusser, Poulantzas, Laclau,
Deleuze, etc., observed that the proletariat failed to take power as Marx
predicted. They try to solve this problem by not examining political
problems, but problems of consciousness: how people think, how their
ideas are developed, how they are deceived. Instead of analyzing class
relations, history, economics, etc., they analyze popular culture,
psychology, sex, propaganda, etc. This is a blind-alley for Marxism.
The reason I stress works like the 18th Brumaire, Trotsky's writings,
etc. is that they are classical Marxist approaches to phenomena such as
Bonapartism and its degenerate grandson fascism. Let us understand the
classics before we steep ourselves in derivative philosophical works.
There is more to be learned in Marx's 3 or 4 essays on France in
revolution than from all of the structuralist and post-structuralist
Marxists. Go ahead and read Althusser, Laclau, etc. Just have a proper
grounding in Marxism to start with.
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