Further Notes on Theory/Practice

Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at vip.cybercity.dk
Mon Apr 29 08:00:26 MDT 1996

Carrol Cox wrote:

> The relationship of theory and practice is at the heart
> of Marxism, and we are not going to solve it on a maill*st,
> but I think it's important to pursue it some anyway.

Yes, but how do we advance from here?
The examples about bread-kneading and pottery are very good
examples of practice as the main ingredient in the proces.

But wouldn't it be correct to say, that as soon as *any*
production process reaches a certain level of complexity,
then the theoretical component becomes dominant? And
that it is only when we are talking about early developments
in this or that production - or when new producers are
learning the basic skills - that the formula: "Try
(demonstrate), watch, try (demonstrate) again" is working
with some success?

When some new electronic equipment, for example, is being
produced, each (or some) of its elements *might* have been
"invented" accidentally (I have been told that the modern
transistor was invented "by accident" - don't know if it's
true). But as soon as you build a new eletronic tool (like
a computer, TV-set, fax machine etc.) theory is in command:
You have a plan - and you try to work it out, put "ideas
into action" (just to get back to our starting point :-)  )

And then to Marxism (in the sense of *changing* the world):
In the class struggle there is a lot of "Try, watch, try again".
It is inevitably so as conditions change. But one of the real
big tragedies of the class struggle is that there is too much
of it. Again and again the bloody capitalists deceive us very
much the same way as they have done in the past: They promise
reform to make us demobilize, and when we have done so: No
reforms! They use the trade union bureaucracy, which we trust
though we have been betrayed by them a thousand times etc. ad
infinitum. The lessons of the past have *not* been taught to
new generations - if at all they been learned (i.e. theorized
about, found the reasons for defeat, the roots to why, say,
the TU bureaucracy acts as it does etc.).

When it comes to socialist revolution I think we can use the
same metaphor as going from simple production to a more
complex one. In my last post I argued that socialist
revolution is an example of "putting theory in command".
Some elements of course we have to "try, watch, try again"
(as Lenin said about treating the insurrection itself as an
art (no one had tried it before)). But the project as such:
You have a plan - and you try to work it out, put "ideas
into action".

Concluding: Practice may come first when we talk about the
undeveloped forms or partial elements of the class struggle.
But spontaneity (practice on the basis of poor or un-developed
theory) alone will not bring a succesful revolution. Of course
spontaneity is an important ingredient in the creation of
situations where socialist revolution is a real possibility.
But without conscious intervention by people who have a plan,
a theory and who are able to win the majority of workers for
that theory, I doubt we will have success.


Jorn Andersen


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