Some Thoughts on Marxism

Welcome to Marxism International, a site devoted to issues of labor and contemporary politics.   I hope you find my blog informative and worthwhile.

Marxism-International began life as a mailing list at the University of Virginia back in 1996.   We moved to Emory three years later, and left there in early 2004.   In both instances, political differences led to a parting of ways.   In Emory’s case, it was our ardent defense of Adolfo Olaechea, arrested in Spain on an Interpol warrant charging him with being part of the “general command” of Peru’s Shining Path.   Incidentally, Adolfo had been, prior to his arrest and extradition (see Links), a co-moderator of M-I, a position which I also held as one of a trio of co-founders.    Reincarnated here, Marxism-International retains the flavor of the original while continuing to grow in new and fruitful directions.   Personally speaking,  I remain in close touch with Comrade Olaechea – now under virtual house arrest in Lima – and consider him one of the most prescient and original thinkers of our time.  

A Resume of my view of Marxism:

 Lenin, in an excellent first introduction to the subject, gives a fair precis: “Marxism is an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction, or defense of [capitalist] oppression.”   It aims at nothing less than the emancipation of human society.   Communism, in the Marxian sense, means freedom for all, or freedom for nearly all, as opposed to freedom for some, which is the great achievement of our modern civilization.   To achieve this, a pre-requisite clearing away of old forms and ideas – leading to the smashing of the old state and the establishment of the dictatorship of the workers – is paramount.

Marxism is not some platonic,  pre-existing idea; rather, it emerges from the development of society itself.  Marxism seeks to provide a definitve answer to the promiscuity of need inevitably arising out of the struggle over the division of goods and services, which constitutes the salient feature of human society.  

Marxism is both the successor to, and the destroyer of, liberalism and its covenant of “rights”, which at the end of the day means nothing more than the “right” to own property and to exploit labor.   The “freedom” envisioned by the Marxist activist and philosopher is not the “negative” freedom envisaged by Mill or the Enlightenment (freedom from external coercion).   Rather, Marxism is a philosophy of liberation and development; the “freedom” to become one’s “real” essential self.    It is this “positive” character of the Marxist revolutionary enterprise which both defines it and gives it its essential purpose.

Indeed, the “role” of Marxism consists of the sweeping away of all forms of exploitation, the use of “one human being by another”, as well as the notions of “buy cheap and sell dear” with all its social and economic dimensions that mark our decadently tenebrous age.   Marxism is devoutly antithetical to the idea that, in order to “raise myself and my family, I must first place my foot on the neck of another and his family.”

The Peruvian Communist Abimael Guzman is supposed to have declared  that “the war for Communism is first of all a war against the Left”.  He was speaking I think of that hybrid of Marxism and social-democracy that has marked the western Left during most of its history and which is experiencing a painful and self-conscious demise as a dynamic force in contemporary politics.   The Marxist sees social-democracy as a strategic device at best; its credo of openess and dissent can be used to struggle for reforms as a prelude to revolution, but can never be an end in itself.    The social-democrat doctrinally eschews the employment of terrorism and violence.   Marxism, as a science of transforming society, cannot succeed without them 

One cannot be both a communist and a social-democrat.   The social-democrat criticizes capitalism, but in the last resort defends it.   The communist rejects it, and believes in the end it will destroy itself.     At the same time, he is conscious of the powerful forces here and abroad which serve to uphold it.   The role of the communist is first of all to create and develop new methods, new techniques to execute the successful undoing of world capitalism and the beasts that it is everywhere spawning.   No subject calls more urgently for the anxious consideration of the class-conscious worker and of the student of revolution, especially now that the dark night of fascism is falling all across the terrain of Western Civilization. 

Comments and opinions are valued and welcome.

Louis Godena 1/24/05



Log in