[Marxism] Quiting Marxism, embracing what?

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Fri Dec 1 17:18:47 MST 2006

Louis: "It just fascinates me to see well-intentioned people declare for the
9 millionth time that Marxism is outmoded. I think you probably began
hearing this not too long after Marx was buried."

Actually before, beginning with Marx and followed by Engels, and not once in
an offhand phrase but repeatedly, "as Marx used to say, commenting on the
French 'Marxists' of the late [18]70s: 'All I know is that I am not a

Who was this aimed at? Dogmatists who liked to suck all sorts of conclusions
out of the "theory" instead of studying concrete conditions.

What have Bustelo and Goff criticized (and it's not yet clear to me whether
we actually see eye to eye on everything but on this we do seem to agree)?

The fetishization and reification of "the working class." The downgrading or
negation of the questions of race/nationality and gender. The creation of
two, three ... many revolutionary parties, leagues, groups and
organizations, each and every one claiming to be the one-and-only true road
to salvations. 

WHY do we criticize? Because it is quite evident, on its face, that this
left, the organized Marxist left of the second half of the XXth Century in
the United States, has failed in what just about every group said was its
purpose, building a revolutionary party, as well as in countless other ways.
And when we begin to examine these failures, we see everywhere dogmatism and
idealism run amock.

And then we begin to look at the material conditions under which this
failure has taken place, and we see that in the U.S., there's not been a
real working class movement, of the class as such, for many, many decades.
And that, for a dialectical and historical materialist, DEMANDS an
explanation, REQUIRES understanding, because Marxism is not a doctrine but a
MOVEMENT, the conscious and self-conscious expression of one side in a class
struggle actually underway. 

And the absence of the working class as such, as a class-for-itself, in the
United States, as a social actor, as a protagonist in this struggle,
probably has something to do with the state of the political/ideological
movement that claims to be the expression of this class.

This is a serious discussion and, from the number of places I see similar
issues and questions being raised, I do not believe it can be just dismissed
as "the same old story." There is something wrong, seriously wrong,
extremely wrong, about Marxism as it has been understood and *practiced*
collectively by thousands of cadre from God knows how many groups. 

And, please, let's not have this idealist response that the theory, the
doctrine, is o.k., the people doing it just fucked it up in practice, sort
of what Neocons say about Bush in Iraq. The founders of Marxism insisted
that communism was not a theory but a movement. What needs to be assessed is
not ideal Marxism, but the real thing on the ground in the real world. 


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