[Marxism] Troubled times

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Fri Nov 24 19:04:32 MST 2006


Louis wrotes, "The CP had fucked up positions across the board. But 
rank-and-filers like Betty Friedan and Harry Hays extrapolated from 
the bastardized Marxism they learned in the party and developed core 
ideas of the woman's and gay liberation movement. The CP was an 
imperfect transmission belt, so to speak."

But leaving aside whether it was an especially distorted or pure Marxism
that such people learned, I really don't understand the point you're making.


I think even the most dogmatic sort of hyper-orthodox class-reductionist or
dogmatically distorted Marxism, provided it remains true to the marxist
method to some degree, contains within it the elements necessary for the
critique of Marxism as a whole that I am advocating, as should be obvious
from what I've been writing. 

And parts of the critique have obviously been done repeatedly. You would
probably consider it the "natural" updating of Marxism since Marx's day. I
bend the stick the other way because it is clear to me that the "don't throw
the baby out with the bathwater" conservatism of the movement has it sitting
dead in the water, going nowhere fast. 

What I am advocating is bringing all that together in a comprehensive
critique, and this because the organized activities of the Marxist movement
are such a mess that a comprehensive, top-to-bottom re-examination is called
for and necessary. There is an unresolved crisis in Marxism as you and I
more or less understand it, and I suspect our conceptions and those of many
others on the list are very similar. And that crisis is, how long can the
movement of the working class remain latent while every other conceivable
movement is blatant? We have a circle without a center.

Reading the Schweitzer discussion I came across one of Marx's letters to
him, where he makes the point that the sect movement and the class movement
are incompatible, and it is hard to read that and NOT read it as directed
not just at Schweitzer but at us, and come to the conclusion that ALL we
have is sects.

That's news neither to you nor me, you and I have both been saying that for
several years (at least). What has become clear once the past two or three
years is that we have extremely hardened sects; even the anti-sectarian and
anti-vanguardist groups turn those things into separate sectarian principles
of their own through which to justify their narrowness.

The other thing I think has become clear, at least this is my instinct, is
that there is the potential for an actual, overall movement out there. If
there is a way to escape the insanity of the sects, it would be by basing
your organization on this, in other words, creating the
organizational/political expression of this overall movement. But we have no
theory of this overall movement, for it is clearly not the movement of the
U.S. working class as a whole.

At first blush, it presents as a series of separate movements, the question
is, how to make it ONE movement of MANT movements. It involves a national
movement among Blacks and one also among Latinos. These are clearly
potentially two of the most powerful social bases for this "movement of
movements." There is also a women's movement, and very complexly interwoven
with the national movements as well as issues of class. 

And then you have other social and protest movements that seem most visible
among the intelligentsia (speaking very broadly), by which I mean social
layers moved not so much by their own immediate needs around issues specific
to their circumstances, but by "moral" concerns of justice, human decency
and solidarity, and so on. And even issues tend to transform into
"movements," for example, solidarity with Cuba, which is the central focus
of political activity of quite a few people (not just Walter). Although
Walter is I think a good example of how the specific issue/movement a given
activist centers on tends to become a lens or perspective on the world. 

There are also things we tend not to think of as political movements, though
I think they're germane, such as what presents as the schizophrenic
characterof the Internet, at once democratizing and monopolizing free
speech. YouTube and its acquisition by Google being an almost paradigmatic
example.

Joaquín

-----Original Message-----
From: marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu
[mailto:marxism-bounces at lists.econ.utah.edu] On Behalf Of Louis Proyect
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006 7:14 PM
To: Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition
Subject: RE: [Marxism] Troubled times

Joaquin wrote:
>Frankly, I am surprised by Louis's response and his point eludes me. Is it
>true that Marxists generally understood and embraced the feminist movement,
>pulling out all the pamphlets and propaganda that they had been doing over
>the years on the women question when the new wave of feminism hit in the
>1960s? Or that the CP or anyone else had a qualitatively better position
>than the SWP, which formally banned gay members?

Not at all. The CP had fucked up positions across the board. But 
rank-and-filers like Betty Friedan and Harry Hays extrapolated from 
the bastardized Marxism they learned in the party and developed core 
ideas of the woman's and gay liberation movement. The CP was an 
imperfect transmission belt, so to speak.


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