[Marxism] on the Lincoln debate - my two cents worth

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Sat Dec 1 22:04:19 MST 2012

I have been following this thread with a great deal of interest.  I will
try and get to see the film, but it is getting longer and longer between my
trips to the cinema. Old age will do that. My two cents worth on the debate
especially that between Jon and Lou is that there are two quite separate
issues.  First there is the role of the individual in history. Some day
when I retire I promise myself I will read Plekhanov's book on that.  I
have though read Deutscher on Lenin and Trotsky and of course leaders are
important but so also is the milieu from which they emerge. In fact I am
convinced that the milieu or social context is more important.  The last 30
years of working class quietism has been a bitter lesson, surely, for
anyone who thought that leadership was sufficient.

The question though of the individual versus the collective is I
think being confused with the role of a specific individual - viz Abraham
L. Lou seems determined to dig up the dirt here and I support him
wholeheartedly.  Why? Well I am reluctant to subscribe a heroic role to any
bourgeois politician and that reluctance has contemporary resonances.  We
have all lived through the farcical "Yes we can" when Obama subsumed for a
time such a heroic role.  That turned out to be yet another instance of a
giant's robe on a dwarfish thief.

Did the Northern bourgeoisie play a heroic role?  Well I am no historian of
the Civil War, but I think they did reluctantly and as soon as the war was
over they abandoned that role. Here for me Lou's criticisms fit in
perfectly with Lincoln's probable trajectory if he had lived.  Once more
"yes we can" would have morphed into "Yes, but should we?"

A final fling at the "creature of his time argument" that Jon put up.  As a
moral absolutist I dislike such arguments. But of course morals have a
geo-temporal dimension.  Still there were exceptional radicals around in
Lincoln's time and a film that acknowledged them would have been a
revolutionary film.  And as Spielberg is a creature of hi s geo-temporal
location we should not expect such a film,  But we are quite entitled to
point out the absences and indeed it the duty of a revolutionary critic,
such as Lou,  to do so.



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