Marx & the Iroquois

Alex Trotter uburoi at panix.com
Mon Oct 23 12:17:39 MDT 1995


Concerning the "civilizing powers of capitalism," it seems that Doug 
Henwood is familiar with the MArx of political economy but not so much 
with the romantic and utopian Marx who demonstrated great enthusiasm for 
the free and egalitarian society of the Iroquois described in Lewis H. 
Morgan's *Ancient Society.* Marx had started out in the 1840s in his Paris 
days with philosophical anthropology. Late in his life, anthropology (as 
a science) became a central concern of his. The inchoate work he left, 
his notebooks on ethnology, became the basis for Engels's book *Origin of 
the Family, Private Property, and the State*, which Engels himself 
acknowledged as a poor substitute and which is the only version that 
generations of marxists and others have known. In that work, Engels takes 
over uncritically Morgan's unilinear concept of historical development, 
from which derived the familiar mechanicist dogma of the inevitable five 
stages of development that all civilizations, all peoples, everywhere 
must pass through. Marx, on the other hand, had a multilinear concept: 
there were many paths to communism, and the passage through capitalism 
was *not* a necessity in all cases. This becomes apparent from the 
Notebooks and from his correspondence with the (then) Russian populist 
Vera Zasulich.
	The Amerindians learned a harsh lesson indeed about capital's 
civilizing powers. The Indian wars in the western U.S. were raging at the 
very time (early 1880s) that Marx was doing his research on the tribes. 
And some of the very same generals (e.g., Sherman and Sheridan) that 
fought and won what Marx regarded as Lincoln's progressive war proved to 
be the most vicious practitioners of genocide against the Indians.

Now, as for Louis the red schoolmaster, who gives me failing Marx: Don't 
you leninistas usually do your grading with machine-gun bullets rather 
than red pencil? Hey, just because my sausage-eating, blue-eyed-devil 
maternal forebears from Krakow may not have been so kind to your people, 
is that why you think you can get away with being so condescending to 
me...comrade?

Fewer Maximum Leaders, more maximalists!

--AT


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