questioning the desire. Some Warnings.

Carrol Cox cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Fri Apr 19 07:26:08 MDT 1996


    On 19 April at 00:47am Paul asked a series of questions concerning the
conditions of his prospective study of Marxism. The advice on reading he
has received from others is excellent and I will not add to it.

    He is right to be put off by the RCP and all other organizations which
claim to have the absolute truth of Marxism and of the road to revolution.

    He should also, however, be put off by all advice or any tendencies of
his own to regard Marxism as merely an object of "study," as an anthropologist
might regard it as a cute foreign culture to be examined from the outside.

    The cliche (true) about Marxism is that it unites theory and practice.

    But there are two ways of uniting theory and practice, and one of them
is the antithesis of Marxism. The great fascist poet Ezra Pound operated
with a slogan, "Ideas into Action." This implies that in some way or other
there exist a set of "true ideas" which one may master and *then* put into
action. This is not the unity of theory and practice but the utter separation
of theory and practice.

    Marxist unity of theory and practice holds that practice (including
the historical practice of the human species over millenia) is *prior* to
theory; that theory is always and only a desperate attempt (never completely)
successful, to catch up to, to achieve a correct theoriization of practice.

    Marxism is the summary and theorization of the revolutionary practice
of the world's working people, and it can be studied only by those who
are committed to the emancipation of humanity from the tyranny of capital-
ism.  It is not a school subject. Paul must enter into struggle, at however
apparently "trivial" a level (working for a gay rights ordinance, joining
a strike support committee, whatever. In the course of that work he must
find out more and more (mostly but not entirely by reading) about the
actual empirical horrors of capitalism, because Marxism exists only as
a response to those horrors.

    In this context he may study the works of the great Marxists, including
Marx) and of the lesser Marxists, but he goes to them because he discovers
that no amount of piddling around will even (now) win decent reforms, let
alone liberate the working class.
    In struggle and comradeship,
    Carrol


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