[OPE-L:2842] Re: Zapatista's encuentro

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sun, 25 Aug 1996 22:49:21 -0700 (PDT)

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The "masked contributor" (Duncan) wrote in #2840 (in response, I believe,
to Massimo's #2825):

> A fantasy from the (masked) contributor:
> Maybe, in fact, the neoliberal position is classical Marxism!
> We Marxists
> have lost track of the political-economically powerful parts of the
> analysis in an excessive focus on technical details like the
> transformation problem!

I guess it depends on what you mean by "classical Marxism." The
participants in the debates among the German Social Democrats certainly
didn't loose sight of the political significance of the debates.
Certainly Kautsky, Hilferding, Bauer, Luxemburg, Sternberg, Grossmann,
etc. were acutely aware of the practical political issues behind their
theoretical debates (on imperialism, accumulation, inflation, the
agrarian question, etc.). Bolsheviks like Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin,
Preobrazhensky etc. were certainly able to discuss "technical details"
but there focus was never entirely on the theoretical to the exclusion of
the practical and the political.

> How did the political effect of the analysis become inverted? >

Perhaps the inversion happened when a new hybrid was born -- the
"Marxian." Marxians were, after all, a product of academia. They were not
a product of social struggles per se. The birth of the Marxians might be
traced to both the development of professionalization and the decline and
general weakness of workers' struggles (particularly in the West in the
post-WW2 period). Writing articles for obscure academic journals was
emphasized (in large part due to the requirements for hiring, promotion,
and re-appointment) and praxis was relegated to something that you write
about rather than do. The object was to obtain a comfy job as an academic
rather than help make a revolution.

I do find it revealing, though, that despite Fred's and Massimo's
different interpretations of the transformation and the FRP both were able
to unite around issues of political importance at the Zapatista meeting in
Mexico. BTW, I have my own "fantasy" in this connection. For the
subscribers in the greater New York area, let's agree to get together for
a march or demonstration sometime in the next year. Surely, we should be
able to find a demo that we all believe should be supported. We could
march side by side and then perhaps get together afterwards for drinks and
entertainment. Do others like that idea?

While the "technical details" of the transformation have significance
theoretically, I wonder: how important is the task of working out those
details in relation to the task of analyzing the multitude of other
theoretical issues that have significance for working people today? What
do others think? For instance, [I don't want to ruffle anyone's feathers,
but ...], how many workers have even heard of the Okishio Theorem? How
important is the task of developing yet another critique of the Okishio
Theorem when for example we can't even articulate all of the determinants
of inflation, unemployment, and poverty? Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not
saying that we shouldn't further investigate the transformation and
Okishio. What I am suggesting is that in our decisions about how to
allocate our time on investigating theoretical issues, we should ask
ourselves about the political significance of our investigations.

I expect the above will provoke some commentary from others.

In OPE-L Solidarity,