Re: [OPE-L] Marxmyth or Marxfact? (M&E on economic equality for women)

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Tue Sep 13 2005 - 15:30:15 EDT

>>For instance, there were myths that developed about Lenin and
>>Luxemburg that were widely diffused following their deaths.  This
>>was not simply a matter of  poor scholarship and/or rumor spreading:
>>rather the myths were used  for (even if they might not have been created
>>for) particular (political) ends.
> may you expand on this?

Hi Riccardo:

Sure, but time permits only a brief response now.

1. On Lenin myths

There was a mythology spread about Lenin by political opponents
(e.g. that he was a German spy) and (over-zealous) supporters even
while he was alive.  Following his death,  he was 'reinvented'  by
people from a variety of Left perspectives -- all of whom had the
common characteristic of claiming that they were the legitimate
inheritors of Lenin's "legacy",  i.e. the true Leninists.  E.g. although
Lenin  struggled against Stalin (see Moishe Lewin's _Lenin's Last
Struggle_) in the last year of his life, the relation between the 2 and the
historical record had to be revised given the claims that Stalin and
his supporters were making about their own roles in the history
of the revolution and the USSR.   I.e. creating and reproducing a
Lenin mythology was part of a process of rationalizing their own authority
and existence. It certainly wasn't an accident -- any more than
building statues of Lenin (against his expressed desire to the contrary)
was an accident.

There have also been myths perpetuated by "Leninists", I think, about
Lenin.  E.g. concerning the revolutionary party (I think Hal Draper
wrote on this).  Part of this perhaps arises because of a perceived
need to defend the "legacy" of Lenin from political "opponents"; partially
this arises because of a claim that groups self-described  as Leninist
sometimes make about the intellectual, historical and political origins of
their own beliefs. I.e. they could be seen in part as an appeal to authority
(what better way to ensure that an appeal to authority works then to
re-write the authority so that the authority agrees with your position?!)

2.  On Luxemburg myths

I think that Paul Z's articles have exposed a mythology concerning RL.
The narrative of these myths is surprisingly (?) the same.

Unlike Lenin, RL suffered the burden of being transformed into a
"revolutionary martyr" following her death.  This created a problem,
though,  for those who wished to identify with the "revolutionary Luxemburg"
(the martyr) and at the same time had important theoretical and political
disagreements with her.   The reinvention of RL (by people from a
variety of Marxist perspectives) transformed her life in a sense into her
death.   All understand that she was a revolutionary and a Marxist
intellectual, but she did -- the myth goes -- make some simple "mistakes"
in her reading of _Capital_.   Despite these mistakes (and the implication
that her theoretical works don't need to be taken seriously), she --
along with Karl Liebknecht -- was elevated posthumously into martyrdom
status.  Lost also in the translation were the nuances in her political
judgment,  including her rather sharp (at times) critique of the Bolsheviks.
(I also get the sense, sometimes, that there is a strong whiff of
condescending sexism in the way in which many Marxists have
referred to "Rosa").

So, RL and KL became "martyrs" -- just as Kautsky had become a
"renegade".  Each in their own way was mythologicized as part of a
political agenda and narrative written by other Marxists.

To what extent do you agree or disagree?

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: where were you for the past 2 months?  Some place interesting,
I hope.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Sep 14 2005 - 00:00:01 EDT