[OPE-L:2746] (1) Althusser on himself

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 12:01:36 EDT

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I will try to answer Fred's question on Althusser by offering some
quotatations from Althusser. I will title the Subject line in a manner
designed to help those who want to use the "delete" button. (I find
myself a little in the situation of trying to BEGIN an explanation of

To begin: Louis Althusser, Chapter 18 of his memoirs *The Future Lasts
Forever*, discusses what he was up to. Note the conclusion that "it was
the only possible way of 'breaking' the orthodoxy of the disastrous Second
International which had given Stalin free rein."

In my judgment one cannot understand Althusser without being ready for the
major anti-Stalinist implications.

Paul Z.

"In short, I became a Marxist as a result of all my personal experiences,
as well as the things I read and the associations I made. I began to think
of Marxism in my own way, though I now realise it was not exactly the way
Marx himself thought. I can see that what I essentially tried to do was
make Marx's theoretical texts intelligible in themselves and for us
readers, because they were often obscure and contradictory, if not
deficient in respect of certain key points. I am also aware I had two
driving ambitions in undertaking this task. First and most importantly, I
did not want to resort to mere storytelling either about reality itself or
the reality of Marx's thought. Thus I sought to distinguish between what I
referred to as the ideology (of his youth) and his later thought, which I
believed represented 'nature just as it exists without any admixture'
(Engels). 'Not to indulge in storytelling' still remains my one and only
definition of materialism. Secondly, in 'thinking for myself' (a phrase of
Kant and taken up by Marx), I tried to make Marx's thought clear and
coherent to all who read him in good faith and want to understand his
theory. Naturally, it meant that my exposition of Marxist theory took on
its own particular form, as a result of which a good many militants and
specialists had the feeling I invented my own view of Marx and an
imaginary version of Marxism (Raymond Aron), which was far removed from
the real Marx. I willingly accepted this, since in fact I suppressed
everything which seemed incompatible with his materialist principles as
well as the remaining traces of ideology, especially the apologetic
categories of the 'dialectic' and even the dialectic itself, which seemed
to me to serve only in his famous 'laws' as an apology (justification)
after the event for what had happened in the uncertain historical process,
and which was used by the Party leadership to justify its decisions. On
this issue I never deviated, and that is why my own version of Marxist
theory, which offered a corrective of Marx's own literal thought on a
number of issues, brought forth countless attacks from those who clung to
the letter of what Marx had written. Yes, I accept I created a Marxist
philosophy which was different from the vulgar one, but since it provided
the reader with a coherent and intelligible interpretation rather than a
contradictory one, I thought I had achieved my objective and
'appropriated' Marx by restoring to him what he required: coherence and
intelligibility. Moreover, it was the only possible way of 'breaking' the
orthodoxy of the disastrous Second International which had given Stalin
free rein."

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