Reading recommended

João Paulo Monteiro jpmonteiro at
Sun Mar 4 16:22:06 MST 2001

Gorojovsky wrote:

>  I would contest much of your adhesion to Louis Althusser, to begin
> with. And, as you may imagine (directly linked to the above), I am not
> comfortable with "Lenine e Mao Zedong ... eran ambos comuistas (o que é já mais
> do que se pode dizer tanto de Estaline como de Trotsky)", page 98. In the end,
> what I am not glad with is with the idea of epistemological cut, which -maybe I
> am wrong- lurks beneath your affirmation above
> If you want, we can begin our wrestling contest here.

Fair deal.

Let me begin by translating the sentence you quote above from my book, pg. 98. It's
would be something like: "Lenin and Mao were both communists (which is more than one
can say of both Stalin and Trotsky)".

On its context, this was really just a side remark, totally unrelated to any
althusserian construct, least of all the epistemological cut (I wonder how you made
that remarkable association). Anyway, it begs its explanation, with all due care not
to fall in one of those arcane and sterile discussions about who were the true leaders
of the proletariat.

Let me begin by saying that I very much appreciate Trotsky as a revolutionary, writer,
historian and theoretician (by that order). I have less sympathy for Stalin, although
the man was, no doubt about it, an herculean achiever. In my opinion they were not

For all the science and reasoned articulation you drag into it, to be a communist
supposes an immense leap of faith. You have to believe in that vision of freedom,
peace and harmony. It's not all that different now from the time of the millennium
prophets. When you believe in communism, you are possessed by a sort of inner moral
rage and you don't compromise (except tactically). It gets entrailed into your being.
All of your nerves are pointed in that direction.

I can tell Lenin was a communist by the way he literally died of impotence and despair
at the sight of the resurgent grand-russian bureaucratic beast. Or the way Mao split
with Khrutchov and then launched one last desperate assault on heavens in the cultural
revolution. They were both cunning and pragmatic politicians. Men of science with more
than a touch of skeptical refinement. Genial tacticians, capable of engaging in the
most rude calculations. But with that last breath of theirs you know what they were

Somehow I can't see this in Trotsky (an haughty fellow, all so full of himself), and
least of all in Stalin. That's all I meant by that impressionistic remark. Not much we
can chew here theoretically.

On Althusser, that would be a long conversation. But, to the point, and quite
precisely, I think the epistemological cut was one of his major blunders. I have no
use for this concept at all. Of course, there is indeed a distinction to be made
between ideology and science. But this distinction is a question of practice,
historically and socially situated. Not the fixed, rationalist frontier marked on the
realm of pure intellect that Althusser made it to be.

João Paulo Monteiro

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