A couple of questions for my learned comrades.

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Lugius
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Jul 4 2018 07:34

Rocker's argument against material determinism is found in the introduction to 'Nationalism and Culture'.

E.P. Thompson riffed on this theme in his "Making of the English Working Class".

In Marx's time, science replaced religion as an object of veneration (scientific socialism) and he wasn't alone in imagining society as some kind of machine with levers to be pressed here and there to get the desired result.

It goes some way to explaining the average Marxist-Leninist's mechanistic view of the 'workers'.

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Jul 4 2018 08:04
Lugius wrote:
Rocker's argument against material determinism is found in the introduction to 'Nationalism and Culture'.

E.P. Thompson riffed on this theme in his "Making of the English Working Class".

In Marx's time, science replaced religion as an object of veneration (scientific socialism) and he wasn't alone in imagining society as some kind of machine with levers to be pressed here and there to get the desired result.

It goes some way to explaining the average Marxist-Leninist's mechanistic view of the 'workers'.

It certainly feels that way to me after years and years of peddling (and believing) in that kind of political Scientism. For all the theoretical twaddle that has been written about, how much has it changed anything or lead to any major, or even minor advance, in the workers movement? It just feels like sophism.Pontificating. Self-aggrandising quackery to me these days.

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Vlad The Inhaler
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Jul 4 2018 08:13

In a world of seeming endless brutality and subjugation we look for anything to make us feel more powerful, more in control, less lost. I forget who's pithy misquote it was now, but I agree that The party is the heart in a heartless world.etc You could probably say the same of a lot of Leftist politics. None of the great revolts were anything to do with great thinkers or great texts.

Ultimately I'm not sure you've got anything beyond uniting and fighting, inspiring and being the example and hoping rebellion against the system spreads that way. Social science can study the past but it can't predict the future.

Mike Harman
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Jul 4 2018 12:29
Lugius wrote:
In Marx's time, science replaced religion as an object of veneration (scientific socialism) and he wasn't alone in imagining society as some kind of machine with levers to be pressed here and there to get the desired result.

It goes some way to explaining the average Marxist-Leninist's mechanistic view of the 'workers'.

So I think Marx was guilty of this a bit, but he was less guilty of it than either his most enthusiastic supporters or detractors make out, for example:

Marx to Zasulich wrote:
In analysing the genesis of capitalist production, I said:

At the heart of the capitalist system is a complete separation of ... the producer from the means of production ... the expropriation of the agricultural producer is the basis of the whole process. Only in England has it been accomplished in a radical manner. ... But all the other countries of Western Europe are following the same course. (Capital, French edition, p. 315.)

The ‘historical inevitability’ of this course is therefore expressly restricted to the countries of Western Europe. The reason for this restriction is indicated in Ch. XXXII: ‘Private property, founded upon personal labour ... is supplanted by capitalist private property, which rests on exploitation of the labour of others, on wage­labour.’ (loc. cit., p. 340).

In the Western case, then, one form of private property is transformed into another form of private property. In the case of the Russian peasants, however, their communal property would have to be transformed into private property.

The analysis in Capital therefore provides no reasons either for or against the vitality of the Russian commune. But the special study I have made of it, including a search for original source­ material, has convinced me that the commune is the fulcrum for social regeneration in Russia.

There's another letter saying similar here: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1877/11/russia.htm

There's a similar problem with the post-autonomists obsession with the 'machine fragment' in the Grundrisse. Taking a few paragraphs from a notebook, which he didn't repeat anywhere else, and using them to contradict Capital. See F H Pitts for a comprehensive look at this tendency. Also a massive counterpoint to Marx's 'economic determinism' is his writings on the US Civil War, when he thought it was possible that the South could win and would attempt to spread slavery (both chattel but also indentured white labour) to the North.

So Marx's 'scientific socialism' was looking at material conditions/social relations, and trying to proceed from that. And sometimes he got things right (Capital), and sometimes he got it extremely wrong (supporting German nationalism).

But a Marxist-Leninist 'scientific socialism' is taking the conclusions of Marx's application at certain points, completely out of context, often misrepresenting what those conclusions are, then applying that to all societies at all points in history in this strict schema of feudalism -> capitalism -> socialism -> communism. To justify Stalin they have to misrepresent Lenin too (like the 'final testament' which criticises Stalin as a greater Russian chauvinist, or other very late Lenin where he says the state is barely changed from the Tsarist one).