[Marxism] Re: for Marxists, quitting is not an option

Philip Ferguson philip.ferguson at canterbury.ac.nz
Tue Dec 5 20:41:26 MST 2006

Carlos Petroni in response to Joaquin wrote:
>If you quit "organized Marxism," as some would put it
(there is NOT unorganized Marxism as it contradicts the
very essence of a movement which exist with the solely 
purpose of changing the world, not contemplating it)
you may very well remain a
progressive thinker or whatever, but you're not a Marxist,
as Marxism interrelate theory and practice, praxis. Outside
an organization, you're not part of the subjective factor
that may make revolution possible.

And yet Marx and Engels quit "organised Marxism" for quite a long
period.  It was during this period of being outside "organised Marxism"
and therefore, in Carlos' view, not Marxists, that they did some of
their most productive work - eg most of Marx's research for 'Capital'
(at least, vol 1), the material that later was published as 'The
Grundrisse' and, I think, all the work that became 'Theories of
Surplus-Value' (all volumes).

After the defeat of the 1848 revolutions in Europe, Marx and Engels
decided there was simply no point in attempting to build a movement.
There was a reactionary fog over Europe that could not be overcome by
sheer acts of will on their part.  They withdrew from "party-building"
for well over a decade, I think about 15 years.

Did they cease to be Marxists?  Methinks not.  Indeed, I would suggest
they spent the next 15 years far more profitably politically than if
they had've been doing the nitty-gritty of party-building work
throughout that time.  

Moreover, they are not alone in this.

One of the greatest Marxists of the 20th century in my book is Lukacs.
Lukacs periodically accommodated himself to the Hungarian regime and
certainly did not belong to a "revolutionary party" for most of his
political life.  He nevertheless understood that ideas need to take on
an organised expression if they are to have any significance  - ie he
understood the need for a revolutionary party.  He just didn't see much
point in totally prostituting himself to the Hungarian CP or emigrating
top join a sect or trying to start a sect of his own.

>That's why, in discussing with so called "free agents of
Marxism" I side with anyone who, in spite her/his shortcomings
belongs to an organization.  As long as he/she does, there
is a change of organizational reform as the class
struggle develops and facilitates that. Quitters and individual
"thinkers" are not from what revolutionary leaderships are made

I assume the second sentence as a typo and "change" should be "chance".

Sadly, I think you're wrong here too.  Long experience has convinced me
that many good people belong to left sects and place their loyalty to
their particular sect above the needs of the working class and the

Moreover, once people have been in a sect for a certain period of time
they often regard it as an "investment" which they are then reluctant to
withdraw from.  They stick with worthless sects and cults and get
politically and personally destroyed in the process.

I have no time for pseudo-Marxist intellectuals sitting on the
sidelines, making a niche career for themselves out of Marxism and other
people's struggles.  I strongly believe that a revolutionary party is
necessary to lead a revolution.  However, I also have no time for
jumped-up sects and cults which present themselves as *the* party - a
phenomenon which is at least as prevalent as, and much more destructive
than, the individual left dilletante.

Philip Ferguson

More information about the Marxism mailing list