(OPE-L) Re: Paresh Chattopadhyay 'Capital, The Progenitor of Socialism'

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Mon Dec 22 2003 - 20:25:44 EST

Mike L asked:

>         Do you think it is? 

I think that while Paresh's position "sounds a bit like Gerry Cohen's position",
it  is different.  I think that the position that Paresh advanced at the Marx conference
in Havana (in the abstract that you posted on 12/14)  is consistent with the
position that he advanced  on the USSR in _The Marxian Concept of Capital
and the Soviet Experience:  Essays in the Critique of Political Economy_
(NY, Praeger, 1994).   His position -- which I do not share -- is in the
tradition of many other 'state capitalist' interpretations.  While theories of 
state capitalism have never made a lot of sense to me -- on both theoretical
and historical grounds -- I accept that they have an appeal to many Marxists
who I would consider to be revolutionaries.

I agree that Paresh's paper sounds deterministic (NB: I only read the abstract that
you sent and not the whole paper),   and it may indeed represent a political 
movement on his part.   Only time will tell.  

The interesting question for discussion, perhaps, is thinking about revolution as
a dynamic process rather than a set of pre-determined criteria that must be met.
Cuba is a good example of that dynamic process as the Cuban revolution, in the
course of its historical development, unfolded in ways that weren't even fully
anticipated by the revolutionaries themselves.  

Earlier today I was thinking about the Paris Commune.  In a letter to Kugelmann
(April 17, 1871),  Marx wrote that "World history would indeed be very easy if
the struggle were taken up on condition of infallibly favorable chances."  I
think we have to recognize, as I think Marx understood, that  revolutionaries
must (so to speak) 'think on their feet' and adjust and learn from the revolutionary

Revolutionaries in other countries have the responsibility -- where necessary --
to be critical,  but our first and primary role must be one of solidarity.  Even while
being critical of  some of the tactical decisions of the Communards, he wrote:

"What elasticity, what historical initiative, what a capacity for sacrifice in these
Parisians!  After six months of hunger and ruin, caused by internal treachery more 
than by the external enemy, they rise, beneath Prussian bayonets, as if there had
never been a war between France and Germany and the enemy were not at the
gates of Paris!  History has no example of similar greatness! [....] the present
rising in Paris -- even if it is crushed by the wolves, swine, and vile dogs of the
old society -- is the most glorious deed of our Party since the June insurrection in 
Paris" (letter to Kugelmann, April 12, 1871).

Marx was critical of some of the tactical decisions made by the Commune
leadership (see 4/12/71 letter to Kugelmann), but when the Commune fell he did not 
"have the last laugh".  Far from it!  The slaughter of the Communards was not 
cause for laughter.  Nor do I think that Marx would be laughing at the suffering that 
the people in the former USSR have had to endure since the downfall of the USSR 
(here I agree with what I took to be Paul B's position at the end of his 12/18 post).

Now a question:  in reading again the 4/12/71 letter to Kugelmann, I noticed 
the following:

"If you look at the last chapter of my _Eighteenth Braumaire_, you will find that
I say that the next attempt of the French revolution will be no longer, as before,
to transfer the bureaucratic-military machinery from one hand to another, but to
REVOLUTION ON THE CONTINENT." (capitalization added for emphasis, JL).

-- Do you think that this is also a prerequisite for the people's revolution in 

In solidarity, Jerry

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