File spoon-archives/marxism2.archive/marxism2_1996/96-07-31.055, message 133

Date: Tue, 30 Jul 1996 19:09:10 -0400
Subject: Marxism: Raw Meat and Lumpy Potatoes Questions?

I don't think it is really this necessary to jump all over the newcomer Mark
Adkins; maybe he is just imitating Snoop Doggy Doug Henwood without realizing
he is adopting a truculent, second rate version of Internet provocation. Yes,
his questions are far too general and broad-reaching to be all discussed in
any depth, but they are also not irrelevant -- in some ways they go straight
to the core of the relevance of the Marxian project. Why not pick up specific
elements are discuss them?

For example, it is all very well and good to suggest that he reads Engels
"Socialism, Utopian and Scientific", since anyone who wants to grapple with
the meaning of the tradition certainly should be aware of the fundamental
"founding" texts. But the implicit suggestion that the basic formula in that
text (Marxism = non-utopian science) is adequate to the task of defining the
Marxist tradition is, I am afraid, highly questionable. Indeed, I would
suggest that the way in which Marx and Engels (and most later Marxists)
defined the economic and political relations of communism, as an association
of direct producers and as direct democracy, are rather utopian. Both
elements of the definition have the utopian element of insisting upon the
supercession of mediated, indirect social relations (the market,
representative democracy), and upon the creation of direct, transparent
social relations. This utopian element has some rather important consequences
for the subsequent problems in the development of a Marxian politics.

Nor is it particularily illuminating, I think, to throw out the old hoary
opposition of reformist and revolutionary (conveniently ignoring how
thoroughly orthodox, in a Marxian sense, the Second International at its
origins was), especially when revolutionary is understood as fealty to the
total transformation envisioned by the most utopian elements of the Marxian
tradition. If one wants to hold to these oppositions, intellectual honesty
should compel us to admit that there are not exactly universally held, and
that many find them to be of little utility. Their invocation resolves

One of the more interesting issues in the study of the Marxist tradtion is
what happens between Marx's undeniably democratic intentions, however
utopian, and the various attempts at implementing these intentions. This
issue can not be resolved by reference to Marx's democratic intentions,
because the way in which Marx conceptualizes Marxism may be very much part of
the problem.

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