A few thoughts

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Sun Jul 6 05:43:22 MDT 2003

Hi Tom,

Great to hear from you. You wrote: While you didn't go on to say "but..." I
assume there is one.

Yes, of course, this is the kind of thing which you have to think through to
the end. But I have this thing where, I don't agree with Louis, I don't have
a stake like him, in smashing other socialists intellectually, I want to
INCREASE the number of socialists, not DECREASE them. (I don't just have to
look at quality - the extent of certified 100 percent proof revolutionary
Marxism) but also quantity (the number of people who favour an equalitarian
society, with social security in the foundation of their lives, and without
enormous disparities in incomes and standards of life).

My target is elsewhere. A halfwitted socialist is better in my opinion than
highly intelligent sharks who spends billions in a most irresponsible manner
to buy all sorts of equipment to kill and terrorise other human beings with,
and destroy their lives. So I don't want to spend too much of my time
criticising halfwitted socialists, whatever they may call themselves. If you
do that, you do not have a sense of proportion.

Marx himself had a nuanced position, usually far more nuanced and with
greater human insight than the Marxists, who, in their vast majority, never
really read all his writings anyway and do not fully know what he was
committed to, within the historical context within which he lived. On the
one hand, Marx mostly did NOT condemn or castigate other socialists, because
his goal was to stimulate and strengthen the socialist movement, not pit
socialists against each other. On the other hand, he had definite ideas of
intellectual, social and political progress, and he would freely criticise
stupidity where he found it, including among socialists, and Engels was just
the same. The two aspects did not always harmoniously coexist in Marx's
personality, for example, when Marx treats Weitling in a very nasty way or
criticises other people without any shred of justification. But Marx was not
normally ARBITRARY, this is the point, he set out from the real dimensions
of class struggles in his own historical time, and not from some theoretical

Goran Therborn wrote a most interesting book once which influenced me as a
philosophy student at the end of the 1970s: "Science, Class and Society"
(Verso). In that book, he said essentially, your social theory must be
reflexive, historical materialism (or whatever you call it) must be applied
to the history of Marxism, critical and self-critical thought must be driven
through till the end to get at the truth and what is really happening, what
will happen or what has happened. So for example, if postmodernism says that
there are no more "grand narratives", then you point out that postmodernism
is "the grand narrative that there are no more grand narratives", and so on,
you don't get too impressed with the Fukuyama's of this world, you realise
they are only a hot-air fashion and in ten years the hot-air fashion is
different. My own idea is similar, however, I personally evaluate Marxism
within the framework of: "what contribution did Marx (or any latter-day
follower of his) make towards the transition to socialism, conceived as a
society based on popular liberty, social quality and cultural solidarity ?".

My own approach is therefore the exact reverse of the Marxists. The Marxists
evaluate all socialisms against the yardstick of Marxist political
correctness, I evaluate the Marxisms in relation to the transition to
socialism, in relation to the socialist movement and the socialist goal. I
realise very well that the revolutionary trend wants to pit revolutionism
against reformism, and that the reformist trend wants to pit reformism
against revolutionism, but I am equally aware that sometimes the so-called
reformists are the real revolutionaries and that sometimes the self-styled
revolutionaries are the real reformist conservatives.



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