[Marxism] Marx as Left of the Marxists

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Sat Feb 7 22:35:40 MST 2004


Me:

Dialectical materialism was conceived as a cosmology, there is plenty
evidence for that. This was a deliberately contrived modernisation strategy
by the bolsheviks, Stalinists and Maoists to break people out of religion
and superstition, but, because ethics, religion and spirituality were badly
understood, this failed, and Marxism itself began to function as such,
because it sought to wipe out an enduring characteristic of human beings
which you cannot do; you can only rename it or re-theorise it.

Louis:

Frankly, I think it is best not to come up with "constructive alternatives"
if by that you mean Albert and Hahnel's PARECON, etc.

Me:

Negative critiques have to be balanced with positive alternatives such that
the emergence of the new out of the old is accelerated. That was Marx's
intention. The problem with alternatives is not their proposal but the
danger of co-optation and vulgarisation by a competitive, exploitative form
of society. The strength of reformism is that it proposes real, practical
alternatives. The weakness of it is, that these alternatives become
integrated into the existing system, in a way in which the original means
and ends are lost, a ""left" cover for conservatism.

You:

...a problem of the relationship of class forces rather than a search for
correct thoughts.

Me:

But this proves my point about dualisms, because it counterposes class
forces to correct thoughts rather than examining the relationship between
them, which cannot be done abstractly. The problem of ideology that Marx is
concerned with is, in the first instance, that class society permits new
thought (maybe correct thought) to be developed in abstraction from, or
detached from, the conditions to which it really applies, and therefore that
class society distorts human thought in a systematic way. Marx's critical
concept of ideology was however subsumed in Marxist-Leninist thought by the
concept of ideology as a system of beliefs and values which people should
hold. This mistakes the meaning of the "party line". This has its origin in
Lenin's own thought, which invented "Marxism" as system of three components
that was both a science and an ideology, whereas I think Marxism ought not
to be confused with a woman.

Louis:

The only bad understanding about human psychology that I can think of is
misguided attempts to synthesize Marx and Freud. Thankfully, those days are
behind us except for certain small-circulation journals still influenced by
the Frankfurt school.

Me:

Numerous attempts to synthesize Marx and psychological sciences were in fact
made, especially in the Soviet Union, Freud being only one theorist of
interest. Almost all of those attempts are not credible, whatever insights
they may contribute. The reason is that the dialectics of the relationship
between the individual and society are not conceptualised correctly. Ernest
Mandel explicitly admits this, in the last article he wrote, suggesting the
need for further research. But this strikes me as a rather absurd stance
which is a rather devastating criticism of Marxist thought.

Louis:

Once again, I attribute opportunism to social forces rather than to
methodological missteps.

Again I note a dualism between social forces and methodological missteps,
rather than an examination of the relationship between them, a
characteristic Marxist habit of thinking. Sectarianism and opportunism are
ultimately rooted in human character; sectarianism implies a turning inward
of thought, the annihilation of the self for the sake of an idea;
opportunism involves the loss of self through a specific form of adaptation
to others. With a certain literature, you attract sectarians. With another,
opportunists. Sectarianism and opportunism are both products of an
imbalanced personality and, consequently, the question must be asked what
gives rise to this, and that must be explicated in terms of the
contradictions between the individual and the social totality of which he is
a part. Undoubtedly the "filthy lucre" plays a role, as does the actual
progress and level of mass struggles. Great wealth is a basis for
opportunism. Poverty and insularity are conducive to sectarianism. Much also
depends on the actual evolution of class conflict, political battles, social
life, economic life.

Louis:

I am not sure that religion and ethics are very useful in figuring out how
to work through an intelligent strategy and tactics for anticapitalist
movements. They are useful for coping in the world as a human being,
however. My own ethical sense was imparted from my mother and reading Mark
Twain.

Again a dualism. How can you counterpose "an intelligent strategy and
tactics" to "coping in the world as a human being" ? This is absurd. They
are vitally related to each other, and the inability to understand this
wrecked many Marxist groups. This relates to my point of the inferior
humanism of Marxism qua doctrine or ideology. Religion and ethics, and the
conflict of religion and ethics with real life, guide more human behaviour
at a higher level of human existence than anything else. If you think you
can dispense with religion and ethics as real factors, you end up in a black
hole.

Louis:

You, of course, are entitled to your opinion. I am grateful that you don't
spend much time here in open conflict with Marxism, however.

Me:

Again, here we see the Marxist attitude appearing. "You are entitled to your
opinion". This is not conducive to dialogue or changing ideas for the
better, it assumes a "position" in advance. I have no need for conflict with
Marxists, it's a waste of time anyhow. The only conflict that affects me is
if they get in the way of my life. But if it is possible to have a
constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas, that's fine. Some Marxian
authors produce excellent work from which I have benefited greatly.

Louis:

This reflects a misunderstanding of how the thought of Karl Marx has been
transmitted politically since the 1860s or so. In socialist revolutions, it
is virtually impossible to utilize something like the 18th Brumaire or the
Critique of the Gotha Programme in an unmediated fashion. Instead you have
Cuban Marxism that was influenced by Mariategui through Che Guevara's
association with Hilda Gadea, etc.

Very poetic. I admire the Cubans a lot, and intend to visit Cuba in the
future. I know a considerable amount about political transmissions because
of my line of work. I am merely saying that Marxism is not sufficient to
achieve socialism and that there are only living authorities, not dead ones.

Louis:

I think that the Dutch Socialist Party is a very useful organization for
improving Dutch society. I have to confess, however, that if a
revolutionary situation ever developed in Holland, an entirely different
type of organization will be required.

Me:

Oh, absolutely. But the one does not exclude the other from happening, nor
is it impossible for the one to be transformed into the other. The reality
is that revolutionary crises on average happen only once in one or two
generations, though it is in the nature of the imperialist epoch that the
development of revolutionary crises also occurs with greater frequency here,
and less frequency there. The Dutch SP believes socialism is about more than
just politics, it is also about the defence and cultivation of civilisation
and cultural forms. This isn't really captured in Marxist thought, although
some Marxists refer to it. In this sense, the SP is often more radical than
Marxism, because it recognises better the corrosive effect of mindless
marketisation on human culture.

Regards

Jurriaan








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