[Marxism] Re: Clones

Nick Halliday halliday.nick at gmail.com
Fri Nov 11 09:03:13 MST 2005


>>Thus Marx expressed a far greater degree of flexibility with regard
to the possibilities for Russian development in the light of its
concrete and specific historical circumstances than did Plekhanov's
rather more abstract schemas. In fact, the rather mechanical
'evolutionism' being advanced by Plekhanov seemed to have more in
common with the brand of Marxism that was beginning to emerge in the
Second International, and which was to be, at least at first,
associated with the 'revisionism' of Bernstein: a Marxism that was to
develop the structural weaknesses that were to result in the practical
disintegration of the International in 1914 and which the more mature
Lenin was to be in the forefront of opposing on the international
plane. Nevertheless, Plekhanov's conceptions predominated in the
nascent Russian movement, and it was out of this movement that the
historic split of 1903 produced both Bolshevik and Menshevik

Which means what, that Plekhanov was a Russian who was more dogmatic
than Marx? But does that make him more Eurocentric? Peasants and
agrarian collectivism and its role in social transformation were
issues in Spain, Italy, Latin America and the Asia. Native agrarian
collectivism (pre-Marx, pre-Bolshevism) is something that Iberia and
Russia shared. There was no European lockstep among socialists about
such matters (see Silone, for example, who was, predictably enough,
charged with 'romanticism' ).

Even if RR read too much in Nestor's post, it seems to have hit a
point of contention with some list members that we ought to resolve. I
find myself coming full circle on this when I read things like the


>>Opening the Bolshevism book he read the dedication I had written,
which reads: "To President Hugo Chavez with my best wishes. The Road
to Revolution passes through the ideas, programme and traditions of
Marxism. Forward to Victory!" He said "That is a wonderful dedication.
Thank you, Alan." He began to turn the pages and stopped.

"I see you write about Plekhanov."

"That's right."

"I read a book by Plekhanov a long time ago, and it made a big
impression on me. It was called The Role of the Individual in History.
Do you know it?"

"Of course."

"The role of the individual in history", he mused. "Well, I know none
of us is really indispensable," he said.

"That is not quite correct," I replied. "There are times in history
when an individual can make a fundamental difference."

"Yes, I was pleased to see that in Reason in Revolt you say that
Marxism cannot be reduced to economic factors."

"That is right. That is a vulgar caricature of Marxism."

"Do you know when I read 's book The Role of the Individual in
History?" he asked.

"I have no idea."

"I read it when I was a serving officer in an anti-guerrilla unit in
the mountains. You know they gave us material to read so that we could
understand subversion. I read that the subversives work among the
people, defend their interests and win their hearts and minds. That
seemed quite a good idea!"

"Then I began to read Plekhanov's book and it made a deep impression
on me. I remember it was a beautiful starlit night in the mountains
and I was in my tent reading with the light of a torch. The things I
read made me think and I began to question what I was doing in the
army. I became very unhappy.

"You know for us it was no problem. Moving about in the mountains with
rifles in our hands. Also the guerrillas had no problems ? they were
doing the same as us. But the people who suffered were the ordinary
peasants. They were helpless and they had a rough time. I remember one
day we went into a village and I saw some soldiers torturing two
peasants. I told them to stop that immediately, that there would be
none of that as long as I was in command.

"Well, that really got me into trouble. They even wanted to put me on
trial for military insubordination. [He put special emphasis on the
last two words]. After that I decided that the army was no place for
me. I wanted to quit, but I was stopped by an old Communist who said
to me: 'You are more useful to the Revolution in the army than ten
trade unionists.' So I stayed. I now think that was the right thing to

"Do you know that I set up an army in those mountains? It was an army
of five men. But we had a very long name. We called ourselves the
Simon Bolivar people's national liberation army." He laughed heartily.

"When was that?" I asked.

"In 1974. You see, I thought to myself: this is the land of Simon
Bolivar. There must be something of his spirit still alive ? something
in our genes, I suppose. So we set about trying to revive it."

I had no idea that the present position in the Venezuelan army was the
result of decades of patient revolutionary work. But it is the case.
Chavez went on, as if thinking aloud:

"Two years ago, at the time of the coup, when I was arrested and being
led away, I thought I was going to be shot. I asked myself: have the
last 25 years of my life been wasted? Was it all for nothing? But it
was not for nothing, as the uprising of the paratroop regiment


>>This was also the key issue in the establishment of Marxism in
Russia. Russian Marxism was born in the struggle against the naive and
sentimental ideas of the Narodniks (Populists), who based their
revolutionary activity on an idealised illusion of the role of the
peasantry. They imagined that the peasantry could overthrow Tsarism
and establish a kind of rural Communism based on the peasant commune.
Plekhanov and Lenin argued mercilessly against this idea and insisted
on the small but decisive proletariat as the key to the revolution.
Like Marx and Engels before them, they explained that, for all the
courage that they can muster in support of their cause, the peasants
cannot play an independent and leading role in the revolution, among
other reasons because social progress itself entails the abolition of
small-scale production. They can only add their gigantic social weight
to the support of one or other of the two major protagonists in modern
society: capital or labour. Or, to add a vital qualification in
today's conditions, behind regimes resting upon the respective
property forms of capital or labour: private property or state
ownership. >>

>>The real tragedy of the situation today in the Philippines is that
these traditions are buried, forgotten. Fifty years of obsessive
concentration on peasant struggles - first imposed on the PKP by the
guerrilla war against the Japanese occupation, then reinforced by
popular-frontist illusions and by the American war on the Huks, and
finally for the last twenty years dictated through Maoist
misconceptions by the CPP have left living generations of workers,
even militant activists, completely uneducated even in their own class
traditions. They are ignorant of their own history and unable to
challenge the distortions of the bourgeoisie who have canonised Rizal
and even elevated Aguinaldo into a hero. But the workers have shown a
determination to fight. The fact of the rapid growth of the KMU to
half a million members since 1980, despite the low priority accorded
to this task by the CPP, is a sign of the workers' readiness to
identify with revolutionary activity. The rise of other militant
rank-and-file groupings within the existing trade unions is another.

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