Re: [OPE] free competition

From: B.R.Bapuji <>
Date: Thu Apr 14 2011 - 08:50:48 EDT

Thank you, Jurrian, for explaining your ‘polemical concept of a New Marxist Exploiting Class” [hereafter NeMEC] which you ‘mooted’ ‘a bit humourously’. As I am not aware of the existence of any written/published essay before on this concept, I would like to further seek clarification on the following doubts/questions.                1)            When you use the term ‘Marxism’, do you have the theory of Marx alone in mind or do you use it as a cover term that includes both the theory of Marx as well as its various interpretations by the Marxists of ‘different strands’?                2)            What do you think of the following assumptions with regard to any theory or ‘doctrine’? Ø    Correct theory + Correct Practice/Experimentation= Good results. Ø    Correct theory + Incorrect Practice = Bad results. Ø    Incorrect theory + Correct practice = Bad results.                  3)            Does Marx’s theory contain ‘germs of new forms of oppression and domination’ as the ‘20th century Marxism’ [which you mentioned]?                4)            If you think that definition of class in terms of ‘relationship to the means of production’ is too simplistic, how do you consider the following definition of class by Lenin in one of his writings? [I ask this question since Lenin’s definition does not simply refer to the ‘relationship to means of production’ alone but few other aspects as well.] Ø    “Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated by law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labour, and consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it.”                5)            If you think all definitions of various Marxists are too simplistic, what, according to you, are ‘far more ways’ or ‘many more dimensions’ that are missing in Marxists’ definitions?                6)            In what terms you ‘define’ your concept of ‘NeMEC’ other than Production Relations, Property Relations, Division of Labour and Distribution Relations, which we may reconstruct from Marx’s texts?                7)            Assuming that your concept of ‘NeMEC’ is ‘very useful and challenging’ as Marcel’s book, is there any ‘guarantee’ that it will not ‘inspire’ anti-Marxist, if not anti-working class attitudes among non-Marxist audience?   ·       Though you used the adjective ‘New’ to your concept, your observation that Marxism is a ‘mixture of truths and falsehood’, reminds me of the observation of Gaetano Mosca, the earliest and the most aggressive anti-Marx, when he said that Marx’s theory of history mixes ‘the dangerous falsehoods with a certain amount of truth’ [Mosca in 1896 & 1923:446-7. I read his book ‘The Ruling Class’ while I was working on a research project which resulted in a book “Perspectives in Social Stratification: The Problem of Classe.1991. I took up this work as a continuation of my Ph. D in Sociology on ‘Conception of Social Class in Marx: Toward a Reconstruction’, 1990.]   Bapuji.   B.R.Bapuji, Professor, Centre for Applied Linguistics & Translation Studies [CALTS], University of Hyderabad, Central University post office, HYDERABAD-500 046. (Phone: 040-23133655,23133650 or 23010161). Residence address: 76, Lake-side Colony, Near Durgam Cheruvu, [End of Road opp:Madapur Police Station], Jubilee Hills post, Hyderabad-500033. (Phone: 040-23117302)   ________________________________ From: Jurriaan Bendien <> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Sent: Thu, April 14, 2011 3:32:27 AM Subject: Re: [OPE] free competition Prof.Bapuji,   In answer to your question, I suppose a good place to start is with Marcel van der Linden's survey in his book Western Marxism and the Soviet Union (which I translated for the English reader; I had personally been interested in the topic since 1979). He discusses how different strands of dissident Marxists developed an alternative analysis of the social stratification of the Soviet Union (and by implication similar other societies) - some refer to the ruling polity as a "bureaucratic class" or "political caste", others to a "new ruling class".   The polemical concept of a New Marxist Exploiting Class I mooted (originally a bit humorously), is in substance not very different from those sorts of analyses, except (mainly) on two counts: (1) it is argued that 20th century Marxism contained within itself (intrinsically) the germs of new forms of oppression and domination, (2) it is argued that the orthodox Marxist account of class formation is deficient (with its schematic concepts, it fails to explain the formation of new classes out of the disintegration of the old society).   As regards (1), the Marxists argue simply that, if oppression and exploitation occur in the name of Marxism, then that Marxism isn't really Marxism. Thus, Marxism is "sugar and spice and all things nice". If heinous crimes are committed in the name of Marxism, then it is argued this has nothing to do with Marxism, simply because the criminals strayed from the true doctrine, and that is how they became criminal. Had they stayed with the true doctrine, then no crimes would have occurred. This sort of approach by Marxists is similar to that applied by many theologians to church history. It enables Marxists to save the doctrine, irrespective of what really happens in history.   As regards (2) Marxists define class simply in terms of ownership or non-ownership of the means of production (the relationship to the means of production), but, it is argued that this idea about class definition is too simplistic. It ignores that human beings are connected to each other, structurally, in far more ways than relationship to the means of production and thus that class structuration/stratification/differentiation processes resulting in socio-economic inequality have many more dimensions.   So the concept of the New Marxist Exploiting Class, however crazy or paradoxical it may sound, enables us to focus on many self-critical questions which Marxists studiously avoid, or cover up with apologetics. It acknowledges that Marxism, like other political ideologies such as liberalism, greenism, social democracy and conservatism, is a fairly ingenious, long-lasting mixture of truths and falsehoods.   The book by Marcel van der Linden I mentioned, though very useful and challenging as a survey of a large literature, remains of course rather superficial and ambivalent. Van der Linden - "sympatheticaly critical" in his stance - wants to be "inside" and "outside" of Marxism at the same time - he detects serious analytical/theoretical problems in the Marxist intellectual apparatus, but he is also supremely cautious, and innovates no real solutions to those problems. He raises fundamental problems about political power, but he doesn't really solve them theoreticaly. Personally, I am more interested in what kinds of solutions there are, to the problems he describes.   The concept of the new Marxist Exploiting Class does not at all deny, that all sorts of Marxist movements can be or have been very progressive. It is merely that the Marxist "label" or "brand" is no guarantee of the product, and that Marxism contains the potential, like any other political ideology, of inspiring very oppressive practices.    There have been a few attempts (not so many) of Marxists to apply historical materialism to the history of the Marxist movement itself. But my experience is that ultimately Marxists do not regard Marxism in a historical-materialist way but in an idealist way - thus, beyond a certain point, Marxism cannot be self-reflective. I suppose the biggest problem there is a concern with orthodoxy and doctrinal fidelity, the desire to prove that one is merely the contemporary executor of a long tradition; and the need for a fixed political ideology that can serve organizing purposes.    Jurriaan

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