Anarchism / Marxism debates
CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Thu Aug 19 10:59:08 MDT 1999
>>> "Mr P.A. Van Heusden" <pvanheus at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk> 08/19/99 04:43AM >>>
On Wed, 18 Aug 1999, Charles Brown wrote:
> >>> "Mr P.A. Van Heusden" <pvanheus at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk> 08/18/99 07:17AM >>>
> I'm with Carrol on this one. I think Marx's critique of the early Utopian
> communists in the CM (Only from the point of view of being the most
> suffering class does the proletariat exist for them.") has in it the seeds
> for a critique of any kind of attempt to 'rationally and reasonably' plan
> one's way to communism.
> Charles: Isn't Marx's focus on the working class as the gravediggers of
> capitalism some scientific, rational and , reasonable planning on the
> route to communism ? Historical materialism is a rational plan. Some of
> the road to communism is outlined by theory ,and some is discovered in
> revolutionary practice. In the aphorism "without revolutionary theory,
> there is no revolutionary movement (practice)" , the notion of "theory"
> has a sense of rational planning in it.
I kinda thought this objection might come up.
I said right at the end of my post that "I think history has taught us
sufficiently that Marx was right, and the 'plan' for a future society will
be layed, in pieces, incompletely, but always at times of real,
revolutionary working class struggle."
I would disagree strongly with your assertion that '[h]istorical
materialism is a rational plan'. What is this historical materialism? Some
plan, outside of, and above history?
Charles: No. It is a plan based ON and IN history as it really has been. Why would
HISTORICAL materialism be a plan based on something outside of and above HISTORY ?
The uniqueness of historical materialism is that it is not based on an "idea" that is
outside of the historical and the material, the real, objective reality. You seem to
be referring to historical IDEALISM.
If not, then it exists only in the
minds and the motions of real human actors - and those human actors are
currently not in any manner or means moving towards socialism.
Charles: "Currently" in the historical sense is a lot longer period of time than in
the common sense. Currently historically we are in an epoch in which real humans have
moved very much towards socialism. At the height of the first thrust toward socialism,
one-third of the world's population and a larger portion of the land mass made the
first giant strides toward socialism. There has been a recent setback ,but a huge
country , China, still considers itself to be building socialism. This thrust was also
important in ending paleo-colonialism. The setback is not unexpected , because
dialectics teaches that change is always zig-zag and not a straight line. Lenin wrote
of Two steps forward , one step backward, etc. Even the capitalist countries had to
make many social and economic concessions to the workers movement such as social
security, workers compensation, unemployment comp. welfare, all of the New Deal and
Liberal programs in the U.S., labour reforms in England, enormous go!
vernment benefits in France to this day, etc., etc., etc. are reform steps toward
socialism. The story of the twentieth century is worldwide movement in the direction
of socialism on balance. The neo-liberal counter revolution/reform has not wiped out
this on balance. The world took two steps toward socialism, and now it is taking one
All of the road to communism must be discovered in practice, or else there
will be no communism. To me this seems self-evident. That practice will be
human practice, which to me implies that theory must always stay 'close
to' the particular people who are engaged in that practice. That is why I
assert that the plan for a future society will always be layed 'in pieces,
imcompletely', just as the human organisation for such a future society is
layed in pieces, incompletely. What makes socialism (and life, in fact) is
the real, practical activity of many, many humans. Not a plan.
Charles: Marxism holds that practice is the ultimate test of truth of theory, not that
all truth is discovered in practice. The road to communism is an interaction between
theory and practice. The theory is a form of planning, as the human builder plans in
distinction to the spider or bee. Forethought is a distinguishing characteristic of
human practice , including human social engineering. The forethought must ultimately
be tested in practice.
To leave it all to practice is to give up the human advantage which is that the
hardknocks of one generation do not have to be repeated by the future generations
because humans can learn from the mistakes of past generations. This past practice
generates theory or strategy or plans for the current generation such that we are
dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.
I agree with the slogan "without revolutionary theory, there is no
revolutionary movement", but I see that as a statement about the necessity
of revolutionary consciousness amongst a broad layer of the working class.
Instead, this has often been interpreted (from the 2nd International
onwards) as meaning that all that is needed to overthrow capitalism is
that the mass of working people adopt the 'revolutionary' plan of the
'revolutionary' party. This conception - a fundamental misreading of Marx,
imo - has poisened orthodox Marxism for over a century.
Charles: This slogan is a famous quote of Lenin in his book _What Is To Be Done ?_ .
This book was a polemic against the mensheviks who had an ideology within the Second
International. In other words, Lenin was arguing against the Second International.
I think Lenin was specifically arguing against Bernstein who had the slogan ":The goal
is nothing. The movement is everything" . This slogan is exactly what the
anti-planning , practice is everything position is. "The movement is everything" is
precisely your " all of the road to communism must be discovered in practice". Your
position is exactly that of Bernstein that Lenin was arguing against with this slogan.
The road to communism is discovered in the unity of theory and practice, not just in
Back to the Chomsky / USSR debate - I had the opportunity to hear Chomsky
speak a couple of years ago in Cape Town. At that meeting, he made the
statement that 'Bolshevism is the same as Facism', a statement which
displays, in my mind, a total lack of historical analysis. That, and other
writings of his on the question of Lenin and Leninism (can't recall the
source now - it was just some stuff that got email to me by an anarchist
friend), have convinced me that Chomsky isn't much of a scholar on this
The question of the history of the Russian Revolution, and its defeat, is
an interesting one, but I doubt that a debate on a mailing list about this
question can result in anything but the same old mudslinging between rival
P.S. according to Lise Vogel, one of the most read books in the libraries
of the German Social-Democratic Party before WWI was August Bebel's 'Women
and Socialism', which gave some view of a socialist future. I think Raya
Dunayevskaya's scathing critique of the 2nd International in her 'Marxism
and Freedom' is a good critique of the role of the 'plan' in that
Peter van Heusden : pvanheus at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk : PGP key available
'The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the
demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions.' - Karl Marx
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