Sunday, August 2, 2009

Commnets on Letters for the Franco-German Yearbook

1) People who claim to be Marxist, consider themselves Marxists, have

been quick (in my onion) to attack people who “only” believe in

equality, etc, as “simply driven by morals.” They like to claim that

they are not driven by morals, but by a scientific analysis of

reality. I claim that as I read this material, and his attack of the

King of Prussia but beyond that the attack on all positions of power,

the call for equality as the only human relation (being dominated is

to be dehumanized), I claim that these Marxist are wrong – Marxism

has a moral position at its core (I am open to argue it has a

position that is both moral and scientific, but such a claim would

need to be carefully formulated, since it seems to go against

something that goes back to Hume and before, that there is a

difference in nature about claims of what is and claims about what

should be).

2) This is really small – just note over and over how Marx accepted

so many standard positions of the Enlightenment (which he saw in his

own way, but he did not go against them, which I argue for example

Smith’s invisible hand does). Humans using their reason could move

humanity forward (again, people who argue against economic planning

reject this, though of course one could argue about that). See p 201

– like I would say most intellectuals of the 19th century, he

considered thinking as something that characterized humans, and

something they needed do to fulfill their potential to be human. The

issue of consciousness enters into Marx’s thinking in many ways, and

we should watch out for it. I would argue that this is one reason for

rejecting so called market socialism, but we can go into that (I see

it as accepting that people are fundamentally selfish and out for

themselves and that cannot change, and so we need build markets of a

type that will harness this human weakness and make it work for human

good, even though they don’t really care since they only care for


3) P 207, the very important (and somewhat often quoted line) – “ we

do not anticipate the world with our dogmas, but instead attempt to

discover the new world through critique of the old.” Here is my

concern. This is fine for a young person like Marx who is trying to

figure out his world view. But then when you spend 20 or 40 or 60

years working out your world view, including what the human

conditions suggest would be better for people, can you still say you

can’t advocate anything (since that would be “dogmas”)? Consider

this. Marx said he was open on the form of what rule by the

proletariat should be until the Paris Commune showed it. So that

would be consistent with his claim above. But he already had ideas

about their taking power (as opposed to say sharing power, whatever).

And beyond that, it was in any case his interpretation that history

had shown it – did that experiment of hardly a couple of months

really show what a working class government must be? Could anything

like that have been sustained for a long period? Lenin set up

something related but quite different. And it turned out to be

difficult to organize just in work places, since that would give no

vote to people who did not work or did not have a fixed workplace

(like all the people who worked in homes). In any case, here is the

question – hasn’t Marx formed a dogma once he starts advocating a

government like the Paris Commune – a dogma that though Marx thought

history had showed it, may well not have been showed by history since

that form of government has not appeared again? (in passing, I am a

big fan of the Paris Commune, I think it was heroic and of tremendous

historical importance, and although such a government never

re-emerged, I would say many people have looked to it for ideas for

working class power under different circumstances and in different

times). Anyway, what about this “letting history show” claim?

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