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

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Mon Oct 23 18:16:40 MDT 2000


Hi Lou:

>By the way, I can't recall you making a statement on the key question under
>debate. Do you agree with Robert Brenner that the mode of production in
>colonial Latin America was precapitalist? Do you agree with Genovese that
>the slavocracy was precapitalist, leaving aside the more controversial
>questions about Gramscian "consent"? These are pretty fundamental
>questions. In either case, you get an application of the Dobbs thesis,
>perhaps in a schematic fashion but it is there nonetheless.

More posts on the matter will be forthcoming, but here's a teaser
from a member of the tendency that I would like to organize:

*****   From: "Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky" <gorojovsky at inea.com.ar>
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Date: Sun, 14 May 2000 14:30:08 -0300
Subject: Re: Latin American Marxist writers

En relación a Latin American Marxist writers,
el 14 May 00, a las 0:05, Chris Brady dijo:

> Firstly, Americans (USA & English Canada), even educated types, as you
> probably know very well, are a monolingual crowd generally.  They
> cannot access Spanish and Portuguese texts.  That creates ignorance
> about their very existence.

...But on THIS side of the wall, it is the Latin American thinkers
who tend to shun the basic task of construction of a Gramscian
counter-culture. Most of our Marxists, and it is a pity, believe that
in the same manner they can consume, say, American made cheese, they
can consume American made ideas.

Ideas, of course, are not "national" in themselves. But every Marxist
(at least, every Marxist!) should know that ideas which are not roted
in the actual stream of human life within their own people will
hardly be anything but an exotic overgrowth. This is, in my opinion,
what tends to happen with most Latin American Marxists. They take the
cathegories, the result, and not the METHOD of Marx and Engels. Thus,
they try to enforce the square pegs of Latin American historical,
social and cultural reality into the round holes that result from the
Marxist analysis of other social formations.

It is a very comfortable attitude, in fact. I have a ready-made
recipe, which I apply to the country I live in (that is, NOT TO "my
fellow countrypeople", in itself a display of rash nationalism, that
is an anti-Marxist attitude, aren't Marxists supposed to be
"internationalists"?). I do not take the pain of READING WHAT IS THAT
COMMUNITY (to which I, oh surprise, belong) IS WRITING IN FRONT OF MY
EYES. I dismiss all that, as Argentinian early Marxists did, as
"creole politics",  and substitute "scientific politics" for it.

In what follows, I will adopt Jim Blaut's idea of a Larger Europe
encompassing Western Europe and Anglo North America.  The colonial
Marxist thinks, more or less, this way: Don't we have workers? Ah,
they are a proletariat, and all the categories that apply to European
proletariat apply to them. Don't we have bourgeois? Ah, they are a
bourgeoisie tout court, and all the categories that apply to European
bourgeoisies apply to them. Don't we have landowners? Ah, but then we
must be confronting a feudal agrarian structure, which implies that
we have serfdom such as in Medieval Europe... And so on. There are
variations on this theme, but the idea remains that there is NO NEED
to learn from concrete reality.

Now, you cannot do too many important additions to Marxism, neither
theoretical nor practical, when you adopt such a point of view. Why
should others be interested in you? What do you have to say of new,
of exciting, of thought-provoking? Nothing, nothing at all because at
most those who read you find themselves mirrored in a queer looking
glass, which returns to them a distorted image of themselves.

Now, if we Latin American Marxists want to be respected some day, we
should take the road of self-knowledge that has been set before us by
history. The Peruvian Mariategui was one of those who attempted that
road. In Argentina, I can speak of Rodolfo Puiggros, of Jorge
Abelardo Ramos, of Jorge Enea Spilimbergo.  In Uruguay, Vivián Trías
or Carlos Machado....

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at inea.com.ar   *****

In other words, do your questions (e.g., "Is X capitalist or
pre-capitalist?") fit the social formations that you seek to analyze?
Should the choices _only_ be "capitalist or pre-capitalist"?  Why?
Isn't that a residue of "stagism"?  :)  Do your questions help us
learn from concrete reality or excuse us from doing so?  Do they
enlighten us politically?

Yoshie






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