Reply on Religion and Marxism: 2

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Jan 2 14:01:39 MST 2001

>>> farmelantj

>Yoshie F. In that case, what's the difference between "critical realism" and
> post-modernism, Rortyesque pragmatism, & other champions of
> "judgmental relativism" & "incommensurability"?

Jim F.: I suspect that there is none at all.  It is a curious fact that
we have in recent weeks had the oppurtunity on this
list to replay the whole debate over the "god-builders"
and "god-seekers" that had Russian Marxists had
experienced following the failed 1905 revolution.


CB: I agree with Jim F.'s idea here. I have for a while thought of this period as
"metaphorical"  to the period of reaction after the defeat of the 1905 revolution in
Russia. This is why I find Lenin's _Materialism and Empirio-Criticism_ very pertinent
to today. Postmodernism is a neo-Kantianism, ( Engels terms  agnosticism "shamefaced
materialism" in _Socialism: Utopian and Scientific_) as was the trend that Lenin
argued against then. Lenin even mentions French symbolists, forshadowing the role of
semiotics in postmodernism.

Jim F. has often pointed out that Lunarcharsky and others who Lenin polemized against
then were promoting Nietsczhe. (Lunarcharsky was later Commisar of Education as a
demonstration of Leninism's openmindedness to various philosophies, its lack of petty
intellectual revengism.) and postmodernism is influenced by Nietsczhe.

The whole thing is like a de ja vu experience for Leninism.  No supernatural
implications intended, just the dialectical spiral at a different level . Trouble is
we might be at a lower level of the spiral rather than higher.


Jim F. : Just as that debate can be understood as a reaction
to the defeat  that Russian Marxists had experienced
in that time so the current version of the debate can
I think be understood in terms of the defeats that
Marxists and the left in general have been experiencing
over the past twenty years, including not only the
triumphs of Thatcherism & Reaganism in the UK
and US with their assault on the welfare state which
soon spread to most capitalist nations, then followed
by the collapse of Soviet socialism in 1991, followed
by further assaults on social democracy and the
welfare state (in many cases speaheaded by
putative social democrats).

E.P Thompson in his *The Making of the English
Working Class* noted that in Britain, religious
revivals among workers typically occured following
major defeats for that class.  I suspect that we
are seeing a similar phenomena here.  Intellectuals,
I would submit are by no means immune to the
same type of phenomena.  The religious revivals
that the US has seen within the past twenty years
including both the whole "born again" fundamentalist
revival as well as the New Age upsurge can be seen
as a reaction to the defeats of the great social movements
of the 1960s.  (In the 1960s when these movments
were going strong, secularism was much more


CB; Of course , this empirical pattern fits with Marx's "guide to action" that
religion is the opium of the people, the heart of a heartless condition, the halo
'round the veil of woe.

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