Jim Blaut raps it down to PEN-L'ers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Sep 28 15:19:36 MDT 1999

On progress:

It may just be that different meanings of the words "progress," "hope," and
"faith" are in play here but I really fear that matters are a lot more
disturbing than that.

If someone merely "hopes" for a better world and considers it a
"possibility," it may well be that this person isn't involved in any way in
any struggle for a better world. There are a lot of marxissant academics
around who can quote Capital chapter and verse, earn a healthy income, and
delight in debating abstruuse idea of Marx or Hilferding just because it is
fun to do so. If asked, they would probably say, "Oh, of course socialism
is a POSSIBILITY, and I HOPE we'll get it some day, but don't bother me --
I'm too busy discussing the organic composition of capital and the
fascinating AMP.

Marx would not have devoted his life to the struggle for socialism if he
had just "hoped" that it would come some day. He wrote a corpus designed to
show how to get it and to show that it is almost certain that we will get
it. That ain't "hope" in some vague "possibility."

And quite a few people have fought and died to bring socialism into
existence-- not just a "hope" for a "possibility." And some of those folks
were intellectuals, social theorists, like you and me  -- Rodney, Cabral,
Trotsky. Gramsci, Nkrukmah...

Is it a "faith?" Of course it is a faith! Is it an "ideal?" Of course!
Who is so stupid as to think that we scientists are value-free, above it
all, neutral, etc? If you don';t do Marxism because you think you're
helping to bring a better world into existence, then why are you doing it?
If you answer "because I'm interestedd in this or that and nobody has yet
done this or that," I have to answer: who is paying you to inquire into
this or that? Or is it that you have lots of liesure time to inquire into
this and that because your're not just a working stiff like the rest of us?
A Marxist scientist is like a medical scintist. Both are studying
interesting things not becaus they're interesting but because one hopes to
improve people's lives by doing this work. Capitalism, after all, is a

When a progressive comrade, a revolutionary, tries to intellectually force
the Marxist concept of social evolution into a genus of  "evolutionary"
theories, Darwinism, "modernism," etc., it depresses me no end. What are we
after, a metatheory of evolutionary theories? Something that will
domesticate Marxism into just another theory for academics to play with?

Finally, I have written a lot and read a lot about theories of progress and
non-progress and I'm certain that all of them are in one way oe another
ideological. Weber's evolutionism (probably also Darwin's) was Whiggish but
no less ideological for being so. Cultural evolutionists like Leslie White
were evolutionists because they were socialists, like you and me. When
social scientists theorize that progress and evolution are just
disconfirmable theories, they're usually trying to uphold the status quo:
no change is just as intellectually supportable as change.

Of course, as they say in Kansas, evolution is just a theory.

We Marxists believe in progrss because we wouldn't waste our time and
energy, and would not go out and take life risks, or career risks,if we
didn't have a faith in progress toward socialism.

So don't nobody try to tell this old warhorse that Marxists do not believe
in social evolution.

Jim Blaut

Louis Proyect

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