Scholarship and politics (was Re: Proyect v Woods)

Greg Schofield gschofield at
Mon May 21 09:57:07 MDT 2001

I think things are definitely moving in a silly direction. Sorry Jim, but
such pugnaciousness is a little over the top.

1) The original statement that Woods a premier Marxist was made in response
to her being dismissed as being serious at all. The response was clearly
rhetorical, and while the originator thinks highly of Woods I doubt that
there is any attempt to award Woods or anyone else a "premier Marxist"
award, it was merely a statement of praise raised in response to a criticism.

2) George's remark was likewise a rhetorical response to Woods' political
credentials being questioned.

To take things the next step and treat these statements as if they were
serious theoretical announcements is just ridiculous - George's response
was satirical for God's sake! And the previous remark raised as a personal
opinion, i.e. as a term of praise not as a full blown assessment of
theoretical status (do we have a premiership of Marxism?) - it only means
that the contribution is being highly respected, no more - I would think
that was obvious.

If you have real opposition, bite off something that has some meat on it,
not this furious tearing at finger-nails. I am sorry but I think this line
of debate should just be dropped.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia
At 08:18  21/05/01 -0700, you wrote:

>George Snedeker wrote:
>in a special issue of Monthly Review in I think 1999, Ellen woods, Paul
>Sweezy and Harry Magdoff were all interviewed. I think it was a 50
>anniversary year issue. in her interview, Ellen Woods says that her primary
>political work has been as a writer. . now, does this count as political
>activism? does it make her ideas more or less true? I'm not sure.
>Response (Jim C):
>Let me try once more: If her (Woods) "primary 'work' has been as a writer",
>it does dot make her words more or less true, but does it count as
>"activism", well that depends. Where does the material about which she
>writes come from? On what basis has it been derived and tested? Who reads it
>(i.e. often the subjects of "revolutionary analysis" never get to read or
>use that which has been written about them)? How is the material applied in
>concrete struggles and contexts?
>The issue is what does it mean to be a "Marxist"? Does it mean simply being
>anti-capitalist? Does it mean simply seeing the world (theoretically)
>through a disctinctive prism or paradigm? Or does it mean more than that?
>Does it mean not only seeing the world through a distinctive paradigm, but
>also applying that paradigm in concrete ways, in concrete contexts and in
>concrete struggles. I thought that the inscription on Marx's grave at
>Highgate Cemetary, from his 11th thesis on Feuerbach summed up the essence
>of Marx and Marxism very well: "The Philosopher's Have Only Interpreted the
>World in Various Ways; the Point, However, is to Change it."
>As to being published in Monthly Review, even alongside Magdoff and Sweezy,
>well, that to me is not automatically some kind of Marxist credential.
>Again, there is no crime in not being a Marxist, and not being a Marxist
>does not automatically invalidate one's analysis, but I was responding to a
>comment about Woods being "A" Marxist or "THE" premier Marxist
>"theoretician". And since I am unfamiliar with her work (I thought her essay
>was repetitive and a lot to do with very little personally; and I do not say
>that out of affection for  Jim Blaut with whom I corresponded privately and
>extensively) and I asked for some enlightenment on the subject.
>And finally I find the term Marxist activist to be as redundant as I find
>the terms Marxist theoretician or Academic Marxist to be oxymoronic. What
>also distinguishes Marxism, epistemologically speaking--from positivism,
>pomoism, reductionism--is the basis upon which knowledge is derived, applied
>and tested. Marx certainly had carbuncles on his ass from long hours in the
>London Museum library, but he was always intimately involved in concrete
>struggles of real people and real issues. I just find it interesting that a
>self-professed Marxist would describe her primary political work as a
>"writer". A writer about what, for whom and in the service of whom?
>Jim C

More information about the Marxism mailing list