Re: [OPE-L] Marx V. Kliman: Contrasting Prefaces and Aims

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sun Sep 09 2007 - 08:20:16 EDT

> "Too much of the history of Marxism has been shaped by Marxists who have
> taken certain figures as authoritative."
> The problem you have here is that this circumstance is intrinsic to
> Marxism, a school of thought or political movement which takes at least
> Marx as its authority, which which therefore potentially faces all the
> problems which you face when you regard any particular people
> as "authorities". That is, it is intrinsic to Marxism that you will have
>  disputes about authority and authorativeness.
> The way this problem is solved by thinking people, is that you stop
> referring to Marxism (whatever that may be taken to mean) but simply
> refer to socialism or communism, and to socialists and communists, or
> that you simply drop the labels altogether, insofar as they are liable
> to be misunderstood anyway and thus get in the way of the substance of
> what you are trying to do.

Hi Jurriaan:

Even though I continue to refer to myself as a Marxist, I agree with the
points you make above.  There are alternative ways , however, to deal with
(I won't say "solve") the problem "by thinking people", e.g. they can make
it clear  they they embrace an anti-authoritarian vision of Marxism,
irrespective of whatever Marx's perspective was or was not.  More
importantly, they can through their *praxis* (and that includes their
engagement with Marxists on theoretical and political questions) that they
do not take Marx *or anyone else* as an authority who should be deferred
to and/or defended.

> I do not agree that "it is the _isolation_ of many Marxians from wider
> political struggles and from the working class (as well as non-Marxian
> scholars) which helps to breed dogmatism", because the potential for
> dogmatism is, I think, intrinsic to any creed based on an authority,
> which, being an authority, precisely cannot be questioned, at least not
> in a fundamental way - otherwise the authority would not be an
> authority. But I  do agree that thought developed in a context remote
> from the practical situation to which it refers can become warped,
> including warped by dogma. That was precisely Marx's original critique
> of the "ideologists" - they  manufactured ideas from "thought-material"
> without any awareness of the real context that gave rise to the ideas.

We seem to be saying the same thing on this point: note that I wrote that
"it is the isolation of many Marxians from wider political struggles and
from the working-class (as well as non-Marxian scholars) which *HELPS* to
breed dogmatism" (emphasis added so you can better understand my point).
In other words, it helps to create an environment in which dogmatism is
more likely to flourish: by way of analogy, isolation is like placing
Marxists in a Petri dish in an incubator in which whatever dangerous
bacteria which already exist are more likely to flourish within individual

However, I do recognize a danger which you refer to near the end of your
post: i.e. simply because a theorist is isolated in some practical way
from the working class and/or political struggles should not *by itself*
be used as a rationale to dismiss whatever that person says or writes.
There is a danger here that we know about from practical experience and
has resulted in extremis in atrocities: e.g. relocating of intellectuals
from cities to rural areas in China for "reeducation" - and even worse in

In solidarity, Jerry

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