Anarchism / Marxism debates

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Fri Aug 20 10:58:45 MDT 1999


<<....I thinkan important point to remember though is the point made
in  the Manifesto about class struggles leading EITHER to the
victory of one class over another OR to the mutual ruin of the
contending classes. There is absolutely no teleology in this
formulation whatsoever. Every time one tries to prove to one
of these critics that society really is moving in the direction of
socialism, and that there is something quasi-inevitable about this,
one is strengthening their argument and falling into a kind of
metaphysical trap. And this is somehow a very easy trap for
marxists to fall into. I would say that the marxist critique of
capitalism shows the 'objective possibility' of socialism but nothing
that can be described as an inevitability at all.>>

Realization of this point -- of the very real pessimism (in abstract
philosophical terms) at the heart of marxism -- was crucial to
me in my process of becoming a marxist. I would like to emphasize
further the exclusiveness of the formula in the CM -- either the
triumph of the proletariat *or* the ruin of both classes: there is
no third alternative. So in this sense of necessity, that the
is ruin and (Luxemburg) barbarism, one can claim that marxism
insists on the "objective necessity" of socialism -- i.e. that the only
possible positive result of capitalism is socialism but that this
result is a contingent one, not necessary in the sense of inevitable.

Incidentally, in the post to which Tahir is responding, Charles
Brown quotes Peter,  "All of the road to communism must be
discovered in practice, or else there will be no communism. To
me this seems self-evident," to which Charles replies: "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."

I have argued with Charles several times on this (on other lists
and off-list) and will not recapitulate those arguments in any
detail. But he is clearly wrong in confusing Marxism with
pragmatism -- and his statement of his pragmatist position
here underlines the ultimate platonism of all non-materialist
viewpoints. It is not only correct ideas (Mao) but *all* ideas
that stem from practice. Where else could they come from?
To suggest that theory has an existence independent of
practice is to deny materialism. The dialectic of theory and
practice that Charles seems to posit (the dialectic of two
independent entities) can only be labelled with an
oxymoron, "mechanical dialectic." The actual dialectic of
theory and practice is a relationship *internal* to practice.


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