[Marxism] Models for the Latin American left

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Mon Apr 10 12:22:32 MDT 2006

mlause at cinci.rr.com wrote:
> Charles, setting aside the misleading terminology of "model," we are
> agreed that Bolivar was part of a progressive process.
> I don't know what you mean when you write, "discussing history as an
> experience to inform today's struggles is a non-scholastic way to
> discuss history as it connects scholarship with practice."  Maybe you
> could recast this is a clearer way.

Charles and I have argued this in the past. His formulation echoes that
famous (and bourgeois) injunction that if we do not learn from history
we are doomed to repeat it. That is an ahistorical view of history,
turning it into a story book of timeless lessons. One trouble with this
is that all the lessons learned are little more than copybook maxims,
which are useless until radically restsructured to the concrete
conditions of the present.

For example, a famous lesson which we are supposed to learn from the
'60s: the wrongness of the ultra-left politics of Weatherman. Everyone
can of course see now that the Weatherman politics were wrong, just as
we can see now that bloodletting with leeches was not a very good
medical treatment and that surgeons ought to wash their hands before
operating. Big deal. There is at the present a real epidemic of
hospital-generated illnesses, not one of which will be met by having
surgeons wash their hands. And the next ultra-left political line that
captures a large sector of the left will look entirely different from
the Weatherman.

This is not to deny that we need to know a lot of history. It is no
accident that two of the more cogent posters to the marxism list (Mark L
and Michael H) have such a good grip on u.s. history. But I think if one
were to study their posts in bulk one would find that that knowledge of
history shows most usefully in their pointing out that this or that
lesson someone wants to draw from history is either (a) based on bad
history or (b) not relevant to current conditions.

And incidentally, Marx's famous remarks on history repeating itself (the
second time as farce) were mostly tongue in cheek, written for satirical
purposes, and very definitely not urging us to learn any direct lessons
from history.


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