Letters – Moysan, Graham, Morris
New Marx letter
A new Marx letter was recently found (tinyurl.com/yc3ejy5r):
It was written in French originally so I thought I’d translate it. It’s a letter to Jules Guesde. The latter’s response is already known. It doesn’t tell us anything new about Marx’s thought. Marx affirms a vision of an independent workers’ party, distinct both from the Blanquists affirming insurrection is always on the agenda and from the bourgeois tradition of republicanism. It also reaffirms his prediction of revolution in Russia and the inability of the English working class to revolt without revolution on the continent first, because of English imperialism. Here’s the translation:
‘10th of May 1879, 41 Maitland Park Road, London NW
Dear Citizen Guesde,
No French refugee who has any relation to me would have any doubt about the deep sympathy I feel for you or of the great interest I have in your work. Militant socialism certainly has many partisans in France, but there are few who unite as you do knowledge with courage and devotion. The election of Blanqui due to your initiative, is a first compensation for the sufferings and affronts that the upstarts in power inflict on you.
As for the return of the Legislature to Paris, I have pronounced myself in front of Lissagaray and Longuet in the same vein as your articles. After all, I attached more importance to the debates on this thing than to the thing itself, being well convinced that Messieurs the Gambettistes would rather live in Paris than vegetate in Versailles.
The great task for socialists in France, is the organisation of an independent and militant workers’ party. This organisation which must not be confined to the towns, but must extend to the countryside, can only be done by means of propaganda and continuous struggle, an everyday struggle always corresponding to the given conditions of the moment, to current necessities. Only posthumous Jacobins know only one form of revolutionary action, the explosive form. This is quite natural on the part of bourgeois who have only ever raised their shields after having already occupied dominant social positions.
According to my conviction revolution in the explosive form will start this time not from the West, but from the East – from Russia. It will react first on the two other grave despotisms (illegible), Austria and Germany, where a violent upheaval has become a historical necessity. It is of the utmost importance that at the moment of this general crisis Europe should find the French proletariat already constituted as a workers’ party and ready to play its part. As for England, the material elements of its social transformation are overabundant, but what is lacking is the driving spirit. It will only be formed under the explosion of continental events. We must never forget that however miserable the lot of the bulk of the English working class may be, it nevertheless participates, to some extent, in England’s empire on the world market or, which is even worse, imagines itself participating in it.
A few words on Longuet. You would be doing him a disservice if you thought he was your personal adversary. It’s the contrary, although he was invited by a few coquettish emigrants, he did not allow himself to be drawn into quips. If his opinions sometimes differ from yours in regard to the tactics to be followed, I don’t think they differ fundamentally. Finally family relations and friendships could have no influence on my political line from which I have never deviated.
In the hope that you will soon regain your freedom and your health, I am
Your very sincere friend Karl Marx.’
ERWAN MOYSAN, Cardiff
More on Marx
As a professional philosopher and a socialist I was interested to read the exchange between Brian Morris and SJW in the June Socialist Standard.
We cannot simply call Marx a philosopher, or indeed an economist or an historian. He made huge contributions to all three disciplines but more importantly he challenged their orthodoxies. He also had other things on his mind, such as fomenting a global revolution.
What shines through in all his work is a commitment to argumentation and evidence rather than just wishful thinking or arm waving. That commitment is echoed in the practice of current Marx commentators known as analytical Marxism (sometimes called by its practitioners non-bullshit Marxism). Whatever their failings politically, they too insist on logic and rigour in contrast to the flashy and obscurantist work of some other currently fashionable commentators.
An excellent example of analytical Marxism is G A Cohen’s book Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence (which I reviewed in the Socialist Standard in August 1979). In it Cohen provided a philosophical underpinning for Marx’s theory and considered what implications this had for when and how revolutionary change might occur.
I am not a card-carrying member of the non-bullshit Marxism group but I used the same analytical methodology in my book Karl Marx our Contemporary: Social Theory for a post-Leninist World (reviewed by Adam Buick in the Socialist Standard for October 1992). In it I argued that the welcome collapse of the East European regimes gave us a chance to assess Marx’s theories in their own right rather than through the distorting lens of Leninism. What emerges from that analysis is that Marx’s theories are remarkably close to the position of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Even more on Marx
I thank SJW for his response my letter. Three reflections.
- I was surprised to learn that Marx was a postmodern skeptic who repudiated all ‘isms’. I always thought that he (and his friend Engels) expressed and defended philosophical materialism as a metaphysic.
- Contrary to SJW’s assertion, I am unable to read other people’s minds. I simply interpreted Marx as a philosophical (dialectical) materialist through a serious study of his life and works extending over fifty years.
- I too am a ‘worker’ and have been so since the age of fifteen when I began work in an iron foundry. But this has no relevance at all to an understanding of Marx’s philosophical outlook. Equating philosophical materialism with ‘capitalist interests’ (whatever they may be) is hardly enlightening.
BRIAN MORRIS, Lewes