Marxism's local focus

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Thu Sep 7 06:28:42 MDT 1995


Ralph's comments on the political culture of Washington got me
thinking about how interesting it can be to get an in-depth study of
one's local ruling class.

Leo Cawley, who used to teach economics at Georgetown University,
had a radio show on the local Pacifica station up in NY called "Fearful
Symmetry". I remember one show he did on the history of the NYC
ruling classes. It was a disussion of how they made their money, how
they shaped the city in their own image, etc. Cawley was a master at
synthesizing political, cultural and economic themes in a home-spun
delivery free of academic cant. He was a Marine in Vietnam and
developed bone cancer as a result of exposure to Agent Orange. He
died a couple of years ago.

The problem with sectarian "Marxist-Leninist" outfits is that they can
describe every last detail about what happened in Spain during the
1930's but couldn't begin to tell you about politics in Baltimore,
Detroit, etc. Back when SDS was in its heyday, before it crashed and
burned, there were hundreds of little "research" groups that were
working to expose: university ties to the war machine, displacement of
the black community in order to build university facilities,
relationships between board members and the capitalist class, etc.
These skills are just the kind of skills that are needed in order to
understand phenomena such as the militias. If the 2000 or so SDSers
in Wyoming hadn't burned out in the late 60's, but had instead
developed along the lines of Marxism, we would be in a much better
position to understand the populism out there today.

There will be another radicalization in the US. The cause of this
radicalization will not be a Trotskyist leaflet, but the objective
conditions that capitalism itself is creating. As this radicalization
emerges, it will be critical to educate a whole new generation in the
principles of non-sectarian and non-dogmatic Marxism. The left has
learned some hard lessons over recent decades and they should not be
wasted.

I plan to post a report on the Comintern and the Communist Parties on
Sunday. There is simply too much interesting material to include a
discussion of the Trotskyist party-building methodology as well. I will
make that my next post.

Louis


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