The Late Marx

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Apr 18 2003 - 10:40:20 EDT

Re a section of Rakesh's post "Gulf oil--How important is it, anyway":

> I should mention here Mark Jones who articulated the oilism thesis on
> which I challenged him (as well as Michael Klare) in private
> correspondence  (Fred however seem to have been convinced by Mark's
> argument). We disagreed strongly on almost everything...from oilism to
> Stalinism. Yet I should like to mention one of his many memorable posts,
> beautifully written though eminently controversial as was almost
> anything which he posted; here he told the story of Marx, of how through
> the sheer force of his personality he could lead even those born the
> luckiest into the private hell of poverty for the sake of revolutionary
> aspiration and how this same man became so disillusioned that his last
> years were spent in anthropological reflection on societies far away
> from that which he had sacrificed his life to overthrow.

I don't think that Marx near the end of his life became "so disillusioned."
Indeed, what you refer to as (paraphrasing Mark Jones, I guess)
reflection" was an attempt to engage the Russian revolutionary movement.
Marx's interest in the "anthropology" of  peasant communes concerned
*praxis*: thus he and Engels wrote on January 12, 1882 in the "Preface" to
the Second Russian Edition of the _Communist Manifesto_:  "If the
Russian revolution becomes the signal for proletarian revolution in the
so that the two complement each other, then Russia's peasant communal
land-ownership may serve as a point of departure for communist development."
(_Late Marx and the Russian Road_, p. 139).

Furthermore, in his reply to Vera Zasulich, dated March 8, 1881,  Marx
wrote:  "The analysis in _Capital_ therefore provides no reasons either for
against the vitality of the Russian commune.  *But the special study I have
of  it, including a search for original source-material, has convinced me
the commune is the fulcrum for social regeneration in Russia*.  But in order
it might function as such, the harmful influences assailing it on all sides
must first be
eliminated, and it must be assured the normal conditions for spontaneous
development" (Ibid, pp. 123-124, emphasis added, JL).  Some indication of
serious Marx considered this correspondence with Russian revolutionaries is
by the fact that he wrote *4 drafts* of his reply to Zasulich.  The context,
in part, is that
_Capital_ had been widely read by Russian revolutionary socialists and some
of those revolutionaries had questions about the relevance of Marx's theory
to Russian conditions (discussed in part in Marx's letter to the Editorial
of "Otechestvennye Zapiski" -- Ibid, pp. 134-137).

I have no doubt that the defeat of the Paris Commune of 1871 -- and the
ending of the First International -- led to a change in the amount of time
that he
allocated to theoretical projects vs. more direct forms of political
but he was a revolutionary to the end and his theoretical and historical
have to be placed within the context of his larger revolutionary project in
to be properly comprehended.   He might have been in despair personally,
his poor health and the poverty of his family, but I think he died with
(overconfidence, perhaps) in the future success of the communist movement.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: As for Mark Jones: it is true that he often wrote memorable and
and sometimes knowledgeable posts on the Net.   None of that can be an
for cop-baiting (recall his claim that the _NLR_ was controlled by M16?),
or libel
(e.g.  referring to other revolutionaries as "counter-revolutionaries",
provocateurs", "agents of imperialism", etc.), or  death threats [!], or
outrageous prejudice (most memorably, homophobic remarks -- also directed
against the _NLR_).

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