[Marxism] Stan Goff rejects Marxism: a reply

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Dec 2 11:10:51 MST 2006

Recently Stan Goff posted an article on Feral 
Scholar that has generated a fair amount of 
discussion. Nominally an explanation for his 
retreat from sectarian politics, it touches on 
the viability of Marxist theory. While I welcome 
anybody’s decision to withdraw from the world of 
self-declared vanguard politics, I am a little 
less comfortable with some of Stan’s broader 
challenges to Marxism. Unfortunately, there is a 
tendency to obscure the points of demarcation 
between his own particular experience with 
Freedom Road, other sectarian groups and Marxist 
theory in general. I attribute this to a certain 
tendency among Freedom Road comrades to adopt a 
semiclandestine posture that was standard 
operating procedure for Maoist groups in the 
1970s. Let’s take a look at the following 
paragraph to get an idea of the sort of confusion that this leads to:

 >>One of my primary disappointments has been 
what I consider the failure to take seriously the 
struggle against patriarchy, and to give it the 
same weight in our organizing as we do class and 
national oppression. There have been only token 
efforts in this regard, and no serious initiative 
that I have seen to go outside the canon to 
understand this system. Worse, there has been a 
reactive embrace of liberal-libertarian 
“feminism” by many comrades
 which I consider to 
be a sly academic reassertion of male power in 
the consumer-choice package of “freedom,” 
undermining the whole analysis of gender as a 
system. But this is not the crux of the issue for 
me. Feminism was the gateway to a number of other 
interrogations of the assumptions of organized Marxism.<<

Who are the “many comrades” referred to above? 
Freedom Roaders? If so, why not refer to exactly 
what kind of “liberal-libertarian ‘feminism’” 
they have been espousing? Without a specific 
reference, Stan’s complaint has a somewhat vaporous quality.

If the Freedom Roaders could be faulted on their 
commitment to fighting patriarchy, at least Stan 
gives them credit for pushing “refoundation”:

 >>My own last association with organized Marxism 
was with members whose work I greatly admire. In 
particular, I was attracted to their analysis of 
national oppression, which remains in advance of 
most of the US left, and their stated committment 
to refoundation of a politically efficacious left in the US.<<

For those who follow left politics, the term 
refoundation might ring a bell. There is a party 
in Italy called Communist Refoundation, which is 
more or less of an attempt to build on 
Eurocommunist initiatives of the 1970s and that 
mixes together genuine militancy with the 
traditional horse-trading that has tainted the Italian left since WWII.

The Freedom Roaders proposed their own kind of 
refoundation in 2000, which amounted to a kind of 
embrace of the same ideas that were being 
promoted by Solidarity and Committees of 
Correspondence, which in the 1950s was called 
“regroupment”. It was an attempt to build a new 
Marxist or radical left without the traditional 
“Leninist” concepts that were actually alien to 
the way that the Bolshevik party operated. 
Although the left would have benefited from a new 
party that included all of these various currents 
opposed to sectarianism, their own habits and 
inertia prevented them from coming together.


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