Brenner Redux (was Re: Russell R. Menard on Eric Williams)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sun Oct 22 20:31:15 MDT 2000

Hi Lou:

>This is an evasion. ATC has had a consistently BAD position not only the
>questions I alluded to before, but has had an atrocious analysis of the
>former Soviet Union which generally falls under rubric of thank god the
>nasty Stalinists are gone. In the past 10 years there has not been a SINGLE
>article detailing the general collapse of health, education, etc. Brenner's
>politics are not incidental to this. They are essential. Brenner is just
>not that interested in what is going on in places like Mongolia, while MR
>is distinguished for its determination to publish articles about what has
>happened to such a place since the fall of the Soviet Union.

I generally prefer Monthly Review to the Against the Current (I got a
permission from the sweet John Mage to quote on-line anything
published in Monthly Review without worrying about copyright!) -- so?
I read Science & Society, New Left Review, Social Text, and much else
besides that the OSU or my friends subscribe to.  I don't equate
Robert Brenner, Alan Wald, etc. with everything written in the
Against the Current; I don't conflate Richard Lewontin with
everything published in Social Text either.  (Should I?  Why?)

I have already written detailed critiques of the Against the Current
on the questions of Yugoslavia & East Timor for both your & other
lists.  To my knowledge, *no one else has*.  I've also criticized
Zizek's, Edward Said's, Chomsky's, Wallerstein's, and others' takes
on the same as well -- available to all from various e-list archives.

Really, you don't have to worry about me _ever_ taking the party line
of actual or former Trotskyists, Third-Campers, etc.  _Unlike you_,
for instance, I've _never_ joined the Socialist Workers Party,
because I thought that their attitudes to actually existing socialism
were often short-sighted.  :)

I don't accept everything written by Brenner either.  Many feminists
gave up on Marx & Marxism because they couldn't accept everything
written about sex, gender, & sexuality by Marx and within the Marxist
tradition; many of them couldn't see anything positive about actually
existing socialist countries beyond the fact that gender oppression
did not completely disappear in them & that, for instance, in
Romania, women suffered from a bizarre policy of authoritarian
pro-natalism (and problems of this nature in other socialist
nations).  This is sad & narrow-minded -- and an incalculable loss to
both Marxism and feminism.

>What is worth discussing in my opinion is how Laclau, Genovese and Brenner
>all started out from premises laid down by Maurice Dobb and how one by one
>they have made accomodations to imperialism. In Brenner's case the
>accomodation is much slighter, but it is there nonetheless.

Well, from the dependency theory camp, Cardoso, Wallerstein, Frank,
etc. went very far away from Marxism, in their respective degrees &
kinds of deviation.

We live in the epoch After the Autumn of the Patriarch, remember?
 From all schools of Marxism (the CP, Trotskyism, Maoism, dependency
theory, autonomist Marxism, etc.), we have had many, many defectors.

>I advocate an aggressive polemical stand to this type of "classical"
>Marxism and let the chips fall where they may.

I enjoy polemics also, but not all the time.  There are proper times
& places & styles for polemics.  One can polemically argue against a
particular position taken by Brenner or anyone else, without thinking
that everything written by him or her is dead wrong.

> >Not only partial truths but sometimes even erroneous views can be
> >very revealing and important to read; analyzing particular ways in
> >which individuals & schools of thought err is the very best learning
> >device.
>I have a different orientation. My training in the Marxist movement has
>made very alert to see connections and to make the most of them. Although I
>think that Trotsky had a sectarian idea about how a vanguard party should
>be organized, he was absolutely right to highlight the philosophical and
>methodological differences between James Burnham and himself. He was
>schooled in this by Lenin, who took on Bogdanov. Who learned from Rosa
>Luxemburg in her no-holds barred fight with Eduard Bernstein. The Marxist
>movement proceeds by making important theoretical differences as sharp and
>as clear as they can be. If Robert Brenner advocates sending imperialist
>troops into East Timor to keep the peace, I feel an obligation to explore
>how that just might be connected to a certain kind of accomodation to
>imperialist prejudices of a Rudyard Kipling sort. And consequently I would
>think long and hard about picking and choosing from Brenner's writings as
>if I were ordering from a desert.

I don't know if Brenner wrote anything advocating sending imperialist
troops to East Timor.  If he has, I ask you to pass it to me, so I
can criticize it (unless you want to do it yourself).


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