[Marxism] Fwd: A Starting Point for Politics | The Nation

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 29 07:14:09 MDT 2016

(From Bruce Robbins's review of a new bio of Stuart Hall. This business 
about the state being "a site on which ruling-class policies can be 
contested and crucial concessions won" obviously has a relationship to 
the Syriza fiasco. What does it mean to "contest"? Does it mean voting 
for Hillary Clinton or does it mean to organize a march on Washington to 
protest nativist immigration policies? I doubt that Gramsci would have 
ever written the kind of articles that Adolph Reed has written in the 
name of Marxism.)

Although Gramsci appears only toward the end of these lectures, he is 
clearly the book’s hero. One suspects that Hall has delayed his 
appearance because, as an activist-theorist in the same vein as Hall, 
Gramsci believed that before outlining the tactics and theory of 
political action, one must first explain the conditions that determine 
whether these ideas will succeed. For Gramsci, the willingness to 
consider the possibility of the left eventually seizing power doesn’t 
come from an optimism of the will (which was not even Gramsci’s phrase); 
it comes from a “soft” but politically empowering position that the left 
takes toward the state.

In Gramsci’s view, the state isn’t simply a coercive instrument of the 
ruling class, but also a site on which ruling-class policies can be 
contested and crucial concessions won. Hall agrees: It is bad politics 
to think of the welfare state as “really just a ruse of the capitalist 
class” when “millions of people struggled for it, struggled to win from 
the State what was owed them, and continue to engage in political 
struggles to enlarge that aspect of the State.” Cultural studies isn’t 
famous for its attention to the state, but that is where Hall finally 
points it: “What sense can be made of these struggles if we talk about 
welfare as if it were just a clever way in which the capitalist class 
continues to exploit workers?”


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