Without the writings of Marx

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Divisive Cottonwood
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Sep 21 2006 09:02
Without the writings of Marx

Here's another biggie I've been thinking about.

Here's the hypothesis - could make a PhD this one.

The writings of Marx never existed. I dunno, he got run over by a horse and cart in 1844, or got that job working as a clerk on the railways...

How would consequent history of the left been different?

I really have no idea. It's just too big a What If question.

Steve
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Sep 21 2006 09:22

Personally I think things would be different within political theory but the working class would have carried on going on strike and fighting against capitalism as it did before Marx and after him. Some other middle class intellectual would probably have filled the 'void' and written loads of theoretical stuff.

Steve
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Sep 21 2006 09:27
Jack wrote:
Lenin wouldn't have had to pretend he wasn't a Jacobin.

grin

Divisive Cottonwood
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Sep 21 2006 09:34
Steve wrote:
Personally I think things would be different within political theory but the working class would have carried on going on strike and fighting against capitalism as it did before Marx and after him. Some other middle class intellectual would probably have filled the 'void' and written loads of theoretical stuff.

Of course there would have been class conflict without the writings of Marx - but who would have been this 'some other' intellectual? Were the theories of Marx like the theories of Darwin in that it was only a matter of time before somebody came to the same conclusion and articulated them...

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 21 2006 09:40
Divisive Cottonwood wrote:
Were the theories of Marx like the theories of Darwin in that it was only a matter of time before somebody came to the same conclusion and articulated them...

i think so pretty much, he merely described what he saw and critiqued the idiocies of classical political economy which were on one level autocritiquing from a workers point of view (for example adam smith stressed that property income was not related to any effort by the owner, and that state violence was needed to protect this situation).

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Khawaga
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Sep 21 2006 11:32

As with everyone else Marx was "standing on the shoulders of giants" (as they say) like Hegel, Spinoza and Leibnitz, tracing it all back to Heraclitus. There were others who were pursuing this kind of work, though I only know of Dietzgen. He basically came up with more or less the same scheme as, though independently of Marx. If he was the only one I don't know. Still Dietzgen was more into dialectics itself and did not analyse capitalism as holistic as Marx did.

Still, I don't think this is a PhD. The What ifs? in history is not really recognized as science. Still it always fun to read fiction like that. Marvel Comics what if was always a blast, and there are a few "what if?" books out there written by historians.

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sam sanchez
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Sep 21 2006 14:22

Perhaps the working class wouldn't have wasted centuries on electoral methods and taken some direct action instead.

john
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Sep 21 2006 14:24

well, He's only been dead for one full century, so I don't think he can take all the blame for that

cph_shawarma
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Sep 21 2006 14:35

I would say Marx did have an influence on the following workers' movement, but not as big as certain people would like to think. It was not because of Marx that the working class "wasted centuries on electoral methods", it was because of the class composition and the historical existence of the class, including its own nature as wage-laboured proles and including the theories springing from class struggle itself. The theories on capital has had an impact on certain levels, but the theories of the working class produced during struggle are nonetheless necessary (and not simply "false"). Roland Simon (from TC) states correctly in an upcoming interview that:

Quote:
We think class struggle is necessarily theoretical. Every struggle produces theory. Of course we have to distinguish between theory in the grand sense which I employ there and theory in the restricted sense which is the product of a few people in a group somewhere. In the grand sense the point is that the proletariat is always conscious of what it does, and if I call this consciousness theoretical it is because it can not be a self-consciousness. And this consciousness always passes by a knowledge of capital, by the mediation of capital. It is because it passes through another that I can not call it a self-consciousness, why I call it theoretical consciousness. This theoretical consciousness which exists in the global movement of the opposition to capital ends up in the reproduction of capital. And it’s at that moment that theory in a restricted sense is articulated. This restricted theory becomes the critique of the fact that the consciousness of the opposition ends up in the reproduction, in the self-presupposition of capital. In this sense theoretical production, in all its diversities and divergences, is as much a part of the class struggle as any other activity which constitutes the class struggle. At that point, the question ‘What is to be Done?’ is completely emptied of meaning; we no longer search to intervene in struggles as theoreticians or as militants with a constituted theory. That signifies that when we are personally implicated in a conflict, we operate at the same level as everyone else; and although we don’t forget what we do elsewhere, the way in which we do not forget this is in recognising that the struggle in which we find ourselves is itself reworking, reformulating and producing theory. I think that it’s in this way that we can be in a struggle without forgetting what we do elsewhere: capable of seeing the struggle itself as what produces theory. That is to say, theory can never be pre-existent as a project or as a finished understanding. For example, during the strikes of 2003 I was quite prominently involved in a strike-committee in the place where I worked. And this gave me the opportunity to see how all the positions of citizenism and radical democratism were a necessary form the struggle took, and it is only in understanding this necessity that one can criticise them, and not simply opposing them as simply false.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 21 2006 14:41
cph_shawarma wrote:
it was because of the class composition and the historical existence of the class ... the theories of the working class produced during struggle are nonetheless necessary

retrospective determinism, nice cool

cph_shawarma
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Sep 21 2006 14:46

Yeah, I'm a determinist, that's true, but I'm an active determinist. The fact of determination does not prevent or ignore action, but rather promotes it and takes action into account in determination, at least in my case...

This takes into account, for instance, the fact that the "role" of "communists" is infinitesimal, what I do in my workplace or in my neighbourhood is simply not enough, which implies that the spread of self-activity of wage-workers is imperative. There can be no central attack on value.

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 21 2006 14:55

well my view is that although as long as there is such thing as causality then determinism is true, it is nonetheless not particularly useful except in hindsight, when of course it's tautological to say 'x happened so x had to happen'. although of course accepting that there is such thing as causality does indeed promote activity

Leo
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Sep 21 2006 14:53

I would say that if Marx didn't write what he did, someone else eventually would.

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Volin
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Sep 21 2006 15:20

^

Hmmm, yes I think that's a good point; we tend to overemphasise the expressor rather than the expressed. As he was always getting at, we shouldn't take things at face value, but look at the historical contexts in which we find them. It seems almost inevitable that there would have been a coherent challenge to the 'utopian' communinists in place of a more down to earth, study of events in light of the scientific enquiry of the 19th century. His work is a product of its time. To say that is not at all to devalue the subjective element - he was a brilliant theoretician that systematically tackled a wide-ranging number of subjects and if he hadn't existed it would've been a massive loss to theoretical traditions (in hindsight). It's unlikely that we would have had another Marx - though he probably booted quite a few up and coming theoreticians from gaining prominence.

For example, on Proudhon's 'list of economic categories' on his spouting of mutualism, Marx thrashed the guy. (And it's annoying that most anarchists take a black-and-white view on this and side with Proudhon - 'because he was an anarchist', when in fact if you read The German Ideology etc. you'll find Marx's take to be infinitely more rational and indeed more anarchist.) But Proudhon's practical positions were becoming glaringly at odds with events, even in France. He maybe wouldn't have got the arse-kicking he deserved if Marx hadn't been there, but with the process of industrialisation and increasing debate on economic development Pierre would've been left behind by reality anyway.

Joseph Dejacque, Proudhon's contemporary in complete contrast developed an anarchist communist position in light of all this, through these early debates and in fact feminism. This was in the 1840s-50s, and I think quite independent of other thinkers.

Then you have people like William Thompson of Cork, who had already extended Ricardo's labour theory of value to communist conclusions - and that was before Marx. It was still very basic and too utilitarian but it apparently influenced him though he hardly acknowledged it.

-

I think Dietzgen is cool. Not only was he a self-educated worker, who independently developed an understanding of 'dialectical materialism' and contributed a lot more besides
but he deliberately tried to unite 'anarchism' and 'socialism' as he saw it;

"The terms anarchist, socialist, communist should be so "mixed" together, that no muddlehead could tell which is which. Language serves not only the purpose of distinguishing things but also of uniting them- for it is dialectic."
June 9, 1886

This perhaps was naive at the time, but he can be seen more as an anarchist as we understand it by the end of his life - ironic, because he was so praised by both Marx and Engels.

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cantdocartwheels
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Sep 21 2006 15:55

i suppose ideas much like marx's analysis may have come about by the late 19th century, by which time they would have been thought out better in terms of praxis and might have had the benefit of being perceived as beng less the product of one man and therefore much harder for any stalinist state to misrepresent

the first international would have developed a better critique of the state, but been appallingly muddled and collectivist

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Sep 24 2006 03:20

Surely without Marx there would be more discussion as to the nature of socialist economics and society. As opposed to the current onus on understanding and critiqing capitalism.

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u4117976
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Sep 24 2006 07:10

All this is really stamp collecting. Marx existed, he wrote. He got some of it right and a bit wrong. It is up to us to pull the finger out and get things rolling in an autonomist fashion. My two cents (all it's worth).

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nplusone
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Sep 27 2006 18:13
jason wrote:
Surely without Marx there would be more discussion as to the nature of socialist economics and society. As opposed to the current onus on understanding and critiqing capitalism.

I think it's impossible to discuss "socialist" economics, as we have yet to enter the "socialist" era. Any and all discussion on this is purely speculative, with no basis in a materialist understanding of history.

I feel that, if anything, the absence of Marx would have even furthered the workers' movement at a hastened pace. The co-opting of Marx's legacy by the Second International and the Leninists would never have happened, and instead the development of indepndent, autonomous working-class politics could have been the true representation of the left, instead of the Soviet bullshit. But, again, this is just speculation.