A good read, Hugh - and one I can't do justice on grounds of great dollops
of ignorance and very few dollopettes of spare time.  So I leave chunks of
your argument out - point it out if I misrepresent you as a consequence.
I've a few quibbles, anyway, natch.

Just for clarity's sake, here's your thesis again:

>This time the attack is on the face of it directed at Lenin in
>attempt to drive a wedge between him and Marx, but the real attack is
>on Marx -- and on Hegel and philosophy itself!!!

So you give an account of the Hegelian dialectic that doesn't disagree with
- actually supplements - S&C's.  Fine so far.  There's plenty left to snipe

So you go on:

> ... S & C get stuck on
>Hegel's concluding sentences in the Logics, whereas Lenin proceeds
>straight back to Marx. For Lenin those final sentences were a bit
>like tying a bow in the ribbon once you'd completed wrapping the
>present. Pretty, but not essential.

I don't really know what you mean, but submit the whole idea is to show
that Lenin proceeds straight back to Marx.  That's the bone of contention
here - for you, it should be a conclusion, not a premise.

>Hegel's definition of freedom is "Bei sich sein", being with
>yourself, ie knowing what you're doing as you do it. And the ultimate
>freedom for him was the freedom of the Absolute Spirit as it realized
>itself in the unfolding of the world. For humanity, freedom in
>Hegel's view is understanding human participation in this process of
>the realization of the spirit.

Yep.  The predicate doing the knowing, and the subject thus becoming the
object of knowledge.  So do I read that bit on H's dialectic in EPM.  Hence
the need to I reckon you did something like that in that 'proceeding back
to Marx' bit above, too, btw.

> ... the self-evident unity of mind and nature in the human production and
>reproduction of society had become so predominant and so pervasive
>that the fetishizing separation of the two and the maintenance of a
>fundamentally theological system of explanation of the world was
>becoming a sharply felt obstacle to the sharpest young minds of the
>radical bourgeoisie studying under Hegel.

The unity of mind and nature does not mean they unite as physical nature
though - that'd be a subsumption, and the kind of physicalist manouvre I
think S&C criticise Lenin for.  Social relations are the basis we're
looking for, I think. - very roughly explicable within a scope delineated
by the residual and the emerging elements of how the society physically
produces (a requisite for reproduction), but, we have to remember, not
simply caused by that.

>And of course it had to be emanicipatory, since the reality of
>society was contradictory. From the earliest preparatory work,
>through the fanfare of the Communist Manifesto to the mature work of
>the Grundrisse and Capital (ie work based on the scientific discovery
>of the role of the commodity labour-power in the process of
>capitalist exploitation and hence the formation of capitalist
>society), Marx and Engels sought to get to the bottom of human social
>reality, ie the concrete character of the problems obstructing fuller
>human development. Obviously, the fundamental characteristic of human
>society was the way it had been and was still being shaped by
>processes of class struggle. The contradictions between the great
>classes of society and their resolution formed the subject matter of
>Marx's scientific and philosophical investigations.

Nice paragraph, but I'm not sure S&C take issue with this stuff.

>And from the Communist Manifesto on, it was the fundamental position
>of Marx that human freedom at the present stage of human social
>development could only be achieved by expropriating the
>expropriators, by removing the bourgeoisie from its ownership of the
>means of production, by abolishing capitalist relations of production
>and replacing them with socialist relations of production. In other
>words by a socialist revolution abolishing the class of capitalists
>and thus necessarily at the same time the class of wage-slaves, and
>establishing a society of cooperative immediate producers jointly
>owning society's means of production.
>This is crushingly obvious in practically everything that Marx and
>Engels wrote, and nowhere more so than in the Communist Manifesto.

Right.  So?

>However, S & C mention none of this. They are extremely abstract and
>vague in their descriptions of revolutionary praxis, which, however,
>paradoxically enough, they still wish to see as an important goal of
>human activity.

Perhaps their disagreement is not with Marx.  They profess to be writing
about someone they reckon is very different.

>We could examine in detail the dialectical repercussions of Marx's
>philosophical ideas being modified by the concrete history of their
>incorporation and embodiment in the great socialist movements of the
>late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (the First
>International, the Paris Commune, Lassalle, the Gotha Programme, the
>Second International etc). The point is, however, that S & C, for all
>their boosting of Hegel, completely fail to realize that this
>contradictory interaction of mind and being (theory and practice) in
>concrete social development is what they are faced with in trying to
>characterize the relationship between Lenin and Marx.

So you're coming to the 'Lenin-is-Marx-in-practice' bit at last ...

>It is thoroughly disingenuous to claim that Lenin is
>*philosophically* a million miles distant from Marx on the basis of a
>perceived regression to mechanical oppositions of active mind and
>passive matter in Lenin's writings. And thoroughly dishonest to make
>a song and dance about the alleged rigid determinism of Lenin's views
>on class consciousness making the emergence of revolutionary ideas
>impossible to explain. The reason is that Lenin and his party were
>giving practical social expression to Marx's most fundamental
>philosophical and scientific findings. The emancipation of the
>working class by its own actions in removing the bourgeoisie and
>creating a dictatorship of the proletariat until the new society
>should be firmly enough established internationally to make any
>return of capitalist rule an impossibility.

Sound generalities.  But a lot of these words and phrases mean different
things to different ears.  'The working class's own actions' is not a very
accurate gloss on 1917 - I mean, what about the decisive role of the very
class Marx writes off in the Brumaire - what about the petit bourgeois
character of the Bolshevik executive - what about the internecone strife
played out from the Constituent Assembly to Kronstadt - what about the
contentious definition of 'dictatorship of the proletariat' - what about
the decisive role of capital Lenin's economics - what about the
undemocratic concentration of state power, at the expense of the soviets in
whose name the revolution was enacted, in the pb executive's hands as a
consequence of the April Theses - what about and what about the ill-fated
executive role said pb executive took with respect to (importantly)
Germany's incipient revolution?  I mean, a lot of that seems to contravene
pretty important Marxist tenets, too.  Lenin took a huge risk in
circumstances not at all like those Marx had done most of his writing
about, and then stuck his oar in Germany's affairs from afar and above (and
don't get me started on bloody Radek).  Which was, I suppose, because
that's where a recognisably Marxist insurrection WAS possible, and WAS the
only real hope - not as supplement to Russia's turn, but as the logically
prior revolutionary core.  Without Germany, the Bolsheviks would be
committed to a road more akin to traditional Russian revolutionary theory
and practice (terror by way of a new elite) than socialism.  I know that
makes you furious, and I don't do it lightly, but that's honestly what I
think.  I'm a bloody menshevik, after all.  Luxemburg wasn't one - but she
said a lot of stuff like this, too, no?

>So why do S & C insist on nitpicking scholastic word games in their
>criticism of Lenin? Why do they divorce his practice so completely
>from his thought?

Implicit in their argument is the proposition that his thought was (a)
wrong and (b) applied in his individual practice.

>But more importantly it's because they
>are busy moving away from concrete participation in the process of
>class struggle for the emancipation of human society.

Perhaps they think class struggle today requires a distancing from
Bolshevism?  You can disagree with 'em on that, but you're coming from the
position they've eschewed, and therefore your accusation can't touch 'em.
They think they're concretely contributing to the struggle in the concrete
moment they find themselves.  One rhetorical article ain't much to go on,
but my sympathies are with 'em.

>For them, ivory tower academic word-mongering is more important than
>shaping a powerful, conscious revolutionary workers party capable of
>challenging bourgeois rule and seizing power. They write of
>"revolutionary praxis", but it is obvious that they don't mean the
>same thing by this as Marx did, since they fail so resoundingly to
>mention any concrete examples of the revolutionary practice of Marx

You mean the 1st International?  Lenin didn't have much to do with that,
did he?

>Not only this but they regress to a position more reactionary than
>Hegel himself by failing to see the contradictory character of the
>processes of class struggle and social development in which Lenin and
>the whole of the Second International were involved.

Well, they do leave out too much contemporary context, for mine - but then
it's a short piece.  I reckon Bolsheviks (then and now) leave out the
social moment, too, btw.  Well, except when they're defending Lenin against
scoundrels like me - then they assume the position that context is
everything and certainly enough to warrant abandoning what people like me
think is essential Marxist practice (bottom-up proletarian transformations;
dictatorship by, rather than over, proletarians; transitional devolvement
of state mechanisms to the soviets; Luxemburg's preference for trial and
error on the part of the whole, rather than centralised diktat etc)

>What they should have pointed to, to give a true account of the
>development of Lenin's ideas, was the concrete and dialectical way in
>which Lenin sought the best ideas he could find and use at every
>stage of his political development. For him the political decision
>was central, and concerned the most concrete way to build the
>revolutionary party in the social reality of the time. In the course
>of doing this, disputes arose involving philosophy and science. Lenin
>gave the best answer he could, using the best authorities he could
>find, principally of course, Marx and Engels and acknowledged leaders
>of the Marxist school. That Plekhanov and Kautsky were among these
>leaders is ironic and contradictory, but until better alternatives
>were available, they were better than nothing. But Lenin's use of
>them was not derivative.

Yeah, but you accord him the role a vanguardist would!  Insofar as we're
talking revolutionary practice, that's what you have to defend against
S&C's charges.  It stands as little more than a counter-assertion here.

>This should be clear from Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. S & C's
>section on this book would be hugely embarrassing if it wasn't for
>the even worse section on What Is to Be Done? It is completely
>impossible to recognize Lenin's book in the discussion S & C claim to
>be conducting. Lenin uses Plekhanov, but also Marx, Engels and his
>own independent understanding of materialism to examine the idealism
>and subjectivism of Mach's positions. S & C argue that the book is a
>travesty of Marx's conception of materialism, but they fail to
>characterize its political relevance and the significance of the
>clash of ideas it brought into focus. The main thrust of their
>argument seems to be to try to show that Lenin is a Plekhanovite
>(therefore a Menshevik?!), whereas Bogdanov is a Bolshevik.

I'd really like to engage you on this - I agree with S&C about *What is to
be Done', but ask that you allow me to come back to this in a couple of
months.  It'd be a useful conversation, and one worth having a good go at
(and my rereading WITBD), and I can't do that right now.  So can we put
this question on the notice paper?

>They fail to note that a need
>had arisen in Lenin's mind to get to the bottom of Marx's dialectical
>method to better understand how a prominent theoretical Marxist like
>Kautsky could so totally have failed to grasp the essence of Marx's

I reckon he had an inkling that the whole movement of which he'd been part
(2I) wasn't gelling with the philosophy with which they legitimised

>Lenin was after the living dialectic in Hegel, as opposed to the
>rigid, metaphysical scholasticism of Kautsky.

Began to suspect that physicalism, economist determinism and antihumanism
wasn't working for him - that mebbe it was social relations that
constituted the material base in Marx's materialist conception of history -
all of which deserves more than I can offer now, but a few Thaxists,
including me, have talked about agency and socialised practice in that
diamat/histomat stoush already.  Like everything else here, I can't offer
what it's worth right now.

>S & C argue that there is a 180 degree turn in Lenin's thought after
>reading Hegel. This is a scholastic, rigid and superficial judgement.
>Reading Hegel brought Lenin closer to Marx and liberated him from the
>more constricting interpretations of socialist ideas formulated by
>Plekhanov, Kautsky and other Marxist authorities now utterly
>discredited by their stance on the war and other fundamental issues
>of political praxis.

Yeah, yeah.  I'm a mechanical utopian purist who refuses to countenance the
concrete situation which forced the Bolsheviks to abandon actual socialist
tenets ...

>The effects of this liberating and
>energizing confrontation with Hegel can be very clearly felt in
>Imperialism, in The State and Revolution and in the freedom with
>which Lenin swept aside unserviceable party dogma in the April Theses
>and reshaped the party (in alliance with Trotsky) for the task of
>seizing power.

The one place (and only one) where I reckon Arendt is comfortably
complementary to Marxism is on her stuff on power.  The sort of power Lenin
sought, and the power he got, was nothing new.  More somehwere between
Macchiavelli's Prince and Hobbes's Leviathan.  And neither could ever have
afforded subjects in general, and the proletariat in particular, the agency
that defines socialism.

>In short, S & C fail to demonstrate the gulf between Lenin and Marx
>which is their intention.

Nope.  But they suggest where we might look.

>What they do demonstrate, however, and very
>clearly, is the vast chasm between Marx and themselves.

I don't agree.  You've duly repeated your thesis statement in your
conclusion, but I don't reckon you've established a 'therefore' between the
two.  But it'd be nice to hear from an uncommitted Thaxist on this.  See if
you've done enough to turn a few heads, mebbe.


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