[Marxism] Scope and Limits of Theory: Provisional Draft

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Tue Jul 6 14:24:48 MDT 2010

Mark Lause wrote:
> In the interim, we prepare for this event, but I don't think we have ever
> done much to hasten it.

This seems right to me, with a qualification or rather addition.

Nothing we do now is going to have much direct impact on anything, which
is not a counsel of passivity but rather an attempt to state the
condtions of our work.

And given that, several points.

We can/need to simply "keep something alive," if nothing more than the
name and addresds of a local group that is trying! Then, under the
unpredictable circumstances of the next outburst of mass rage, people
will at least know where to go to _start_ doing something. This _can_
work no matter how incorrect or hidebound or opportunist or
what-have-you that local address may be: it's a place to start! Probably
in fact an "opportunist" group offers the most comfortable starting
point, the point from which really radical, even revolutionary, thought
and action can begin. This is one of the reason I urge people to give a
little more (charitable) thought to the work of the CPUSA after WW2. I
agree in advance to all the criticisms anyone will make of that party,
but that isn't the point. They did keep something alive  (perhaps mostly
through their 'fronts' or through the activity of ex-members or 'fellow
travellers) which new people or new organizations could start from.
(Query: Was Women Strike for Peace a CP front?) And it is worth noting
that in 2001 UFPJ might hve been the womb of a real anti-war movement --
that it was not is less do to its politics (as obnoxious as they were)
but to the lack of conditions (i.e. the Civil-Rights Movbement and the
draft) that could nourish such a movement. The conditons in 2001 (and
2010) are simply not conditions in which there could be a significant
mass public reponse to anti-war organizing. Groups _like_ UFPJ, however,
in 1965 _did_ help trigger that massive movement.

And there is one 'lesson' from Lenin that is relevant here, not a
theoretical one but a pressure which one feels in his works. Most
abstractly: If one _can_ seize power, one must, regardless of
anyassessment of "objective conditons." Generalized: One must keep
pushing: one never knows when the door will open. It turned out in fact
(and Lenin seems actually to have known this) that the conditions of
1917-1939 were _not_ favorable to the development of a socialist regime
(and this would have been the case whether the 'leader' was Trotsky or
Stalin). But they _were_ conducive to the development of a modern
industry and a military force that was first able to defeat Japan in a
short (one-battle) war in 1939 and move that army back to the west in
time to first hold off, then defeat (really without much aid form the
west) the German onslaught. No Czrist regime or Krensky heir could have
done that.

Why hold an anti-war demo once a month (as we do) or once a week (as a
Peoria group does)? Not, certainly, to stop the war -- that expectation
presents the image of the flea approaching an elephant with intentions
of rape. And the futility of that is actually apparent to everyone. But
these demos keep the banner of resistance alive here in central Illinois
(as do the activities of AWARE in Champaign-Urbana). It also maintains
(and even increases) a small cadre of people with some experience of
organizing and awareness of the difficulties involved. Whether this will
ever pay off only the future will know: Marxists have no crystal ball,
Mao observed.


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