Labour ..Richard B's reply to Carrol. "What is...?)

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Fri Aug 16 12:31:13 MDT 1996

    On Nick's closing question: "What is to be done?"

    I'm hardly a Lenin, and I have recently reaffirmed that this list
is not a Communist Party but a (often quite wonderful) chat list.

    Lenin did not, quite, sit down before a blank sheet of paper in
a vacuum and simply stare at that question at the top. I doubt
that even mathematicians, the closest activity to a Platonic model
of intellection, do that.

    As Mao (a wonderful man with words, whatever his other virtues and
failings) put it, Ideas don't drop from heaven..

    As you probably know, Marx and Engels wrote the Manifesto on
*assignment* from the Communist League (correct title?). There is
correspondence from the Central Committee of the League to them
asking them why the hell they weren't getting along with the job
faster. I have a book hidden somewhere on my shelves, both title
and author temporararily forgotten since I read it over a decade
ago, that argues quite convincingly (as I recall my responses to
it) that Marx's developing theory was tied very closely indeed
to the concrete working class struggles of the early 19th century--
more tightly to those struggles than to either Hegel or Ricardo.
He could have (as it were) "invented Marxism" without the latter
(Hegel and Ricardo) but not without the former, the European
working class and its struggles.

    I'm moving towards Louis P's point(s) re the emergence of
party (and theory) from mass movements--not the emergence of
mass movements from pre-party grouplets or biblical theory.

    And further: not only does true (correct, adequate) theory
have to emerge from struggles in the first place; unlike biblical
theory, communist theory (established communist theory) must be
endlessly re-learned from the midst of struggle. That is one
reason Hugh's endless quotations rang so hollow (even when they
were correct quotes of correct theory)--those (most) of us reading
them in abstraction from any even verbally shared political practice
could only see them as Words words words words: electronic blips
which only had meaning when caught in the web of our neurons...ince
    Anyhow, I can't answer your question exactly.

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