[Marxism] James and Glaberman (was Awesome Proletarian Positions)

Einde O'Callaghan eindeoc at freenet.de
Sat Apr 6 10:33:13 MDT 2013

On 06.04.2013 13:23, Angelus Novus wrote:
> Lou wrote:
>> I regard CLR James as the greatest Marxist thinker to come out of the
>> Trotskyist movement after Trotsky's death.
> And James' close comrade Marty Glaberman was precisely one of those "City College boys" that turbulo refers to.
> Marty spent decades working in a Detroit auto factory, and then went on to write (IMHO) the most insightful analysis of the shop-floor activity of the American working class.
> So I guess those "City College boys" were good for something,
Further to this unspeakable debate about the proletarian credentials of 
those that supported Shachtman and those that supported Cannon in the 
1940 split. To describe the class origins of the members who had been 
students at CCNY in the 1930s as petty bourgeois as distinct from those 
members elsewhere is stretching things a bit.

If I recall CCNY was the only institution of higher education that was 
open for the vast majority of young people of working class and 
immigrant backgrounds. It was actually known as the "college of the 
proletariat", such was its reputation.

I fail to see why former CCNY students should be regarded as petty 
bourgeois while other college boys who supported Cannon weren't. 
Examples of the latter were Joseph Hansen and Harry Braverman - until 
the latter proved how petty bourgeois he was by joining Bert Cochrane. I 
even remember reading somewhere that Farrell Dobbs had spent a few terms 
at college - and judging by the line of the CLA in the early 1930s that 
made him part of a counter-revolutionary mass - cf. A.M. Glotzer: 
Student Youth and the Workers Movement, The Militant, 1 June 1931 
- of course some might argue that Glotzer was already tainted because, 
after all, 9 years later he joined Shachtman & Co.

This is of course nonsense - but it it the level at which a lot of the 
arguments about "petty bourgeois" oppositions have been posed since the 
1940 split down to the recent past! For some "orthodox" Trotskyists all 
the articles in "In Defence of Marxism" have taken on the status of Holy 
Writ. However, some of the articles weren't exactly Trotsky's finest. 
Particularyl the articles about the "petty bourgeois opposition". It 
wasn't a good argument then and it's absolute bullshit today!

During the the war the oh so proletarian SWP was a theoretical desert - 
anybody who was in any way creative ended up being driven out of the 
movement - do we need to list them: Morrow, Goldman, Heijenoort, James 
on more than one occasion and numerous others. After the way they were 
treated it's no great surprise that many of them turned away from 
revolutionary politics. The Workers Party, on the other hand, creatively 
grappled with the new issues as they came up - they weren't always right 
but they did at least try. That they eventually burned out was as much a 
result of the objective conditions as it was of theoretical weakness on 
their part or their innate "petty bourgeoisness".

Lazy argumentation like this makes me very angry and is a travesty of 
Marxism! If you disagree with somebody, present counter-arguments! Don't 
blame your differences on the fact that you're a crystal pure 
proletarian and your opponent is an incurable petty bourgeois.

Einde O'Callaghan

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