Hegel, Marx and Western Marxism

From: "Geoff Boucher" <geoff.boucher@rmit.EDU.AU>

I'm really pleased that you liked Uchida as much as I did. This exploration of the exact relationship between Hegel and Marx will, I think, bear tremendous fruit.

Briefly, on this general topic, as I mentioned I'm doing work on Surrealism and communism. Current direction is thinking that actually, trotsky's concept of a "transitional logic" has an enormous amount to offer both interpretations of culture and in terms of a progressive aesthetics.

That's probably way vague in this form. Rather than bombarding you with half finished thoughts, I'll be finishing the rough draft of the thesis in mid July, and if you feel like passing an eye over it (recognising that you're probably frantically busy, so nothing personal if you can't), I'll be soliciting comments from communists of my acquaintance, so I'd really appreciate thoughts.

But in relation to transitional logic, I've started on Hegel's Aesthetics. Like everything else of his I read, once again, the man was a giant.

Andre Breton once noted that marxist writings on culture are scattered and often uneven. That's changed since WWII, but often because marxists have taken refuge in culture under politically unfavorable conditions. And my research leads me to believe that the vast majority of western marxists were theoretically strongly influenced by Stalinism, to a degree that deforms a lot of marxist thought on culture.

I don't mean here just the Socialist Realism thing. The whole debate that framed the alternatives to SR (like Brecht, left expressionism) was profoundly influenced by Stalinism's tendency to collapse mediations between different phenomena and to abstract out one element of the totality (like say, technology, in the case of Walter Benjamin, or 'the culture industry' in the case of Theodor Adorno) and make it the motive force of culture. The result - a totality charmingly free from inner contradictions and human agency, in which the aesthetic idea unfolds in its own leisurely perfection, under the influence of purely external 'contradictions'. (Eg. Benjamin says the main contradiction moving culture is between technological reproduction of art and human sense perception ... makes little sense to me either, but it seems way wrong.)

Even Lukacs (who is one of the best, believe it or not) succumbs to this, with comments like "the art of the expressionists was the aesthetic correlate of the politics of the USPD".

Marx's comments are scattered and represent only fragments.

(As a matter of fact, Ernst Fischer's book, The Necessity of Art remains one of the best, from the perspective of an assembly of M&E into a theory.)

Now Trotsky towers head and shoulders above this, and that's not sterile hero-worship but I believe an objective evaluation. (Lenin on the other hand had an overly blunt appreciation of culture.) But of course Trotsky hardly had any time, and he never formulated an aesthetic theory (the "Manifesto" on art was penned by Breton. Later Riviera co-signed and Trotsky approved but felt it wasn't his place to co-sign.)

Which returns me to hegel. Hegel's book is comprehensive, if marked by his 'Greek-o-philia'.

More later on this.