[Marxism] Answer attacks UFPJ

Sayan Bhattacharyya ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com
Tue Jul 25 11:15:01 MDT 2006


On 7/25/06, Charles Brown <cbrown at michiganlegal.org> wrote:
>
>
> CB: It's not ridiculous. It's materialist. The proof of theory is
> practice.
> A good attitude may represent the best theory in theory, but the test of
> theory for Marxists is practice.
>
> Actually, yes, that was the way in which the Bolsheviks proved that they
> were no longer a sect, when they moved masses in practice,
> practical-critical activity.


This logic seems very like Yoshie's  logic in the unrelated,
Ahmedinejad/Iran thread.

I think someone compared this kind of logic to "Whiggish history" a few days
ago.

I think what is missing from Cde Brown's and Cde Furuhashi's approach is a
recognition of the role of contingency. The best ("right") theory does not
always win in practice, because odd contingencies arise, and it is
unrealistic to expect a theory to be able to correctly anticipate and
correctly react to all *possible* contingencies.

Thus, what ends up happening is that a theoretical current that might have
led to best practice statisitically, over the long term, often cannot
survive the contingencies that arise in the short term. And a theoretical
current whose actualized practice may be well-suited to survive the
particular contingency that arose in the short term, may well be a disaster
over the long term.

In the Iranian case, a particular contingency that arose in the short-term
and may have been decisive in the course of events has already been
mentioned in the discussion: the hostage crisis in the US embassy.

A comparison with biological evolution may be helpful here. Contingencies
often cut off promising branches in the evolutionary tree of life, and a lot
of things have to be "discovered" (by "nature") again. This is because, in
biological evolution, once a species goes extinct, its genotype is lost
forever. So, a kind of "what you have is what you get" law operates in
biological evolution.

Where Cde Furuhashi is mistaken, I think, is in thinking of history in this
exact same way. Unlike biological genotypes, ideas (which we may think of as
"memes") never go completely extinct (in this day and age) -- they at best
get merely archived. So, the "all you have is Ahmedinejad and that is what
you get" kind of logic really is not satisfactory. Yes, the "revolutionary
left" might have been physically crushed. But their ideas are still around.
So one does not  have to be content merely with what materially exists.

But I can also see why someone like Cde Brown, who is emphasizing
materialism, will dismiss this as excessive idealism. My view? Materialism
doesn't encompass merely what materially _exists_. It also encompasses
_critique_ -- "ruthless critique of all that exists", and therefore also the
supplement of critique, namely unrealized possibilities: unrealized, but
_real_, possibilities, existing as potentialities, but no less material
because of that. So the decision as to what to support (even if critically)
depends not only on "actually exisiting options" but also on options that
may currently exist merely as potentialities.

Just some thoughts.



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