[Marxism] Marxist orthodoxy

James Daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Wed Aug 25 10:55:04 MDT 2004

What the horrors of "Zinovievism" are for many on this list, and even more
outside it, the tyrannical icy grip of Marx/Engels amoral orthodoxy,
dialectical materialism and the juggernaut of histmat's progress, which is
the persistence in social imperialism of the Whig interpretation of history,
are for me. I hope to join the "what is Marxism" thread with a plea for an
appeal to our common humanity as not only a motive but a key to our
struggle. Lately I wrote a review of the Marxist Andrew Collier's *Marxism
and Christianity*in which I faced my bete noire. An edited extract may be of


Chapter 2, on Marxism, begins with the consideration that Marxism might be
"old hat". It therefore points to the existence of the murder of children
for the organ transplant market. Under the influence of Althusser, I
suspect, such humanist digressions are soon abandoned in favour of
"science". A theoretical section follows. It begins, somewhat eerily:

"To the question 'why should we work for socialism?', Marxism can only [???]
answer 'to resolve the contradictions of capitalism'... The term
contradiction here... [refers to]... intolerable malfunctions in a system"*
(p 13).

If Marxism is not "old hat", it is in spite of such statements. (It might be
useful to have a moratorium among Marxists on the use of the word
"contradiction"; it might be found that, like the three laws of
dialectics -- or after Stalin is it two? -- we can get along without it.
Many cadres might finally begin to sleep at night). Marx's motivation for
socialism, on the contrary, came from witnessing the struggles of the
Silesian weavers. The Young Hegelian intellectual elitist and "critical
philosophers" despised their struggles as "mere natural stomach filling",
speaking with disdain about their defeat by "a few troops" ("On the King of
Prussia and Social Reform" in Early Writings, pp 401 -- 420); they
contrasted them with the human dignity of their own struggles for the
political rights of man (smashed by the same few troops four years later).
Significantly, Marx in The Holy Family referred to their arrogant attitude
of superiority as an example of "the Christian Germanic [Protestant,
puritanical] conflict of nature and spirit" (Karl Marx Selected Writings,
ed. David McLellan, p 143), which indeed could perhaps be behind Collier's
arguments; and he wrote that the Silesian weavers' "violent" struggle -- 
which he called an example of "moral energy" and "human nobility" (ibid.) -- 
must be approached with "some love of humanity" (Early Writings, p 416); all
expressions which the antihumanist Althusser (like the theorists of the
second and third international) would banish from Marxism, but which for me
are of its essence.

"Plato, the Utopians and Rousseau" (who, by the way, were all motivated by
some love of humanity) are for Collier not "respectable political thinkers",
because, wanting radical change for human beings in general but "not
starting from where we are", their type of political thought "has rarely
been able to guide political action.... When it does grip a real movement,
the result is almost inevitably terror and dictatorship [what happened to
the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie?], since the [uncritically accepted?]
desires of existing people and possibilities of available resources [the
famous bourgeois lack of sympathy and scarce resources, modern versions of
"original sin"] are not taken into account" (p 13). Machiavelli, Hobbes and
Hume, however, are said to "'start from where we are' -- change [is] to be
implemented by existing social forces in order to fulfil the needs of
existing people..." I would say that far from this being true, Hobbes and
Hume start with an impossible fantasy of a pre-social, a-social and
anti-social individual; one which is still being forced on a resisting
world, as the shelling of the Russian parliament by "the democrats", the
bombing of Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq show.



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