Left.ru ________________________________________________________________________________
Dave Silver

Reflections on the Socialist Scholars Conference   April 2001  

The usual suspects gathered at the ancient and hallowed halls of Cooper
Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.  The yearly ingathering by the
Democratic Socialists of America (City University Branch) brought
neo-marxists, New Left, Social Democrats, Pacifists, Anarchists and a
sprinkling of more “orthodox” Marxists and radicals.  Of the over 60 Panels
one cannot find the word Class, we find one Panel on Marxist Theory while
there are two Panels that have the word Socialist, namely “Socialist
Strategy”,  where we find that a featured Presenter from Berlin advocates
“Critical Theory.”  We are offered a neo-Marxian rehash of the Frankfurt
School’s attempt to consolidate Freud and Marx.  In addition these Theorists
warn against the rationality of modern science and perhaps prefer a
subjective approach.  The genius and communist Brecht called these folk the
intellectual pimps for the bourgeoisie.  The other Panel, “Heiddeger,
Socialist Revolution and Human Creativity” pays homage to Martin Heidegger
a German philosopher and Existentialist who was involved in the “cultural
politics” of the Third Reich and Hitler supporter in 1933-34.

A Saturday Panel poses the question of a “Third Way” presumably neither
capitalist nor socialist, which fits in neatly with a Sunday Panel sponsored
by the “Beyond Capital (Marx’ of course) Study Group.”  On Marxist Theory,
sponsored by the Conference organizers, we find as Presenters a Seminarian,
an advocate of so called Euro-communism (a forerunner to the counter
revolutionary “new thinking”) and a Russian academic that has bought into
Glasnost.  The “Third Way” was echoed in a Panel on Solidarity in which one
of the Speakers bemoaned that we have to find an “alternative” to global
capitalism but none was provided.

Two Panels dealt specifically with “Left Politics.”  Both are illustrative
of the reformist and neo-Marxist (revisionist) perspectives.  “Left Politics
for an Age of Transition” (to what is not mentioned) and the other Panel on
“Socialist Alliances and Left Regroupment.”  We find  Bogdan Denitch,
academic guru of the anti-communist Left who supported the NATO bombing of
Yugoslavia and neo-Marxist Immanuel Wallerstein who uses the code words of
core, semi-periphery and periphery that seems to substitute for imperialism
and colonialism thereby obfuscating the driving force of class and race.

All of the movements (from the Frankfurt School of the 30’s to the Italian
Phenomenological Marxism, Praxis Group in Yugoslavia, Marxists-Humanists in
Poland, Euro communism of the 70’s as well as  Social Democracy and the New
Left) have one central thing in common; “orthodox” or “traditional” Marxism
is outmoded and no longer the best guide for anti-imperialist struggles and
the eventual achievement of socialism. They seek to refute Marxism-Leninism
in whole or in part, deny any really existing socialism and reject as the
main contradiction that between imperialism and socialism (no matter how
decimated today) but rather in various national conflicts and therefore not
international in scope.  These essentially anti-communist trends identify
with the young Marx of the 1844 Economic Manuscripts  which talks about
alienation and the subjective side of life, while they reject the mature
“hard line”

 Marx.  Adam Schaff, the brilliant Polish Marxist comments on this in his
Marxism and the Individual (McGraw Hill 1970);  “The claim for two
Marxes—the humanist and the dogmatic materialist—has been argued over the
years in various forums and with various motives…there was doubtless, at
least in some cases, a deliberate desire to replace the scientific
motivation of Marxism with an ethical humanist one—shifting description and
laws into values and commands which fitted in better with idealist
philosophy.”  His eloquent concluding paragraph states; “As a psychological
reaction to narrow dogmatic Marxism of the pre-World War2 era, a belief has
developed in intellectual circles—it has become an international
phenomenon—that progress in the socialist movement can only be achieved by
denying its basic principles, by rejecting it.  But the truth is that
genuine progress, true innovation in the socialist movement can only be
achieved within the framework of Marxist thought.  Anyone who fails to grasp
this truth is heading for intellectual disaster of his own; he is also
harming a cause to which he is subjectively

Although the composition of the working class has changed somewhat from the
time of Marx, the revisionists and opportunists have lost confidence in the
ability of the working class as the primary agent of revolutionary change.
As Ken Cameron concludes in his Marxism—A Living Science (International
1993),  “It is time to set our sights on the future, to perceive through the
mist of capitalist obfuscation that the world revolutionary thrust that Marx
and Engels projected and Lenin witnessed is still operating, inexorably,
like the giant forces of nature—with which it is increasingly blended,”
Indeed it is.

One cannot be anti-imperialist, anti-racist, socialist or progressive and
buy into anti-communism however varnished over with code words like
pluralism, democratization and on the cutting edge Stalinism.  It is what
Marx called an antagonistic contradiction.

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