Friday, August 15, 2008

This Week's Ten Worst and Best of Marxism

By Joe Sims

Well folks, it's back by popular demand. Yes, I've decided to do a series. Here's the latest list. Have fun!

1."Marxism is omnipotent because it is true." This quote if I’m not mistaken comes from Engels, quoted by Lenin in his succinct introduction to Marxism. Sorry comrades but the history of class struggle reveals, if anything, that truth has little or nothing to do with omnipotence!

2 “Universal human values take precedence over class values.” First postulated by Lenin in an article on the national question this dictum has been taken one-sidedly and out of context. Remember Gorbachev?? Lenin, what were you thinking?

3.“Marxism is a politics which is also a philosophy and a philosophy which is also a politics.” Antonio Gramsci's formula, true as far as it goes, only it doesn't go very far. Unfortunately one-sided, leaving out the economic side of the doctrine. Particularly interesting in that Gramsci critiqued Bukharin’s view of Marxism as a “sociology" claiming Lenin’s darling philosopher really didn’t understand “what Marxism really is.” Maybe that makes two of them!

4. “Marxism is the science of society.” Hmmm is there a hint of “sociology” here? A catchphrase often found in Soviet texts, perhaps influenced by Plekhanov. Partially true, but it too is one-sided, emphasizing the scientific side of the worldview to the exclusion of the others.

5. “Socialist Realism.” While some mighty pieces of art and literature were produced within the framework of this aesthetic school, some not so great ones were too. And by the way, what’s wrong with a little (or even a lot) of escapism every now and then? It’s hard out here, for the party of a new type!

6. “Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the will.” Gramsci’s favorite slogan, attributed to Romain Rolland was placed on the masthead of the party paper. Willful, but not necessarily intelligible unless you are a really cool person, sitting in a cafĂ©, smoking a pipe, looking for a date. But a really bad pick up line!

7. “It doesn't matter if it’s a black cat or a white cat, as long as it crosses the street.” Attributed to Deng Xiao Ping, a classless rationale for utilizing capitalist methods for socialist goals.

8. “We are optimists.” Title of report by Lenoid Brezhnev to a CPSU congress a few moments (moments in the broad time sweep of history), before the wall came tumbling down.

9. “The class struggle intensifies under socialism.” Developed during the Stalin years, this formula became an excuse for criminal acts. It may however be true in today's incarnation of the socialist "market” economy, hopefully without the same dire consequences.

10) “The Soviet revolution is irrevocable and irreversible.” Soviet philosopher Afanasyev in a text on dialectical materialism. But considering Brezhnev's blind faith maybe Antonio G was right after all about that pessimism thing...

1. "The main thing in the doctrine of Marx is that it brings forward the historic role of the proletariat in building the new socialist society." Lenin. So when reviewing today's efforts claiming socialism, apply this measure (and remember point 6 from below!) If the workers aint in control of the economy and the state it aint socialism!

2. “Be as radical as reality itself.” Lenin. Too bad the socialist realists didn't apply this formula to their work.

3. “Theory, dear friend is grey but the golden tree of life springs ever green.” Goethe. One of Marx’s favorites I remember reading somewhere.

4. “All that is real is rational; all that is rational is real.” Hegel, quoted approvingly by Engels.

5. Magical realism. Popularized by the great Garcia-Marquez often a much richer and dialectical interpretation of the inexplicable and crazy twists and turns, hallucinations and ghosts and goblins inhabiting life under imperialism.

6. “Don’t use a bourgeois yardstick to measure the working-class movement. Use a working-class one.” A broad paraphrase of Lenin, it’s an important measure many communists and socialists forget.

7. “Rosa Luxemburg is an eagle whose wing was clipped in flight and got off course. On the other hand, Trotsky, is a chicken who never got off the ground.” Lenin’s, (I think) phrase is applicable to all forms of middle-class radicalism (and chicken hawks).

8. “Keep your eye on the working class. You’ll still make mistakes, but not the big ones.” William Z Foster

9. “He who fight and run away live to fight another day.” The great philosopher and poet, Bob Marley. (And yes I know he wasn’t a Marxist!) But it’s the truth.

10. “Those who fear the "bad taste" of things will fall flat on the ice.” Pablo Neruda from Toward an Impure Poetry. This is something the Marxist "purists" should remember, but they probably won't!

Send me your quotable noteables (worst or best) and i'll post them.