Prolétaire 2010

Martin Axelrad

Extract from Prolétaire No. 497, October 2010.

Last August Martin Axelrad, known in the party as “Jean-Pierre,” “Nicolas,” etc., known as “Mackie” for his relatives, passed away in Rome. A long-time advocate for the right of everyone to decide his or her own end, his last fight was to get doctors to stop the relentless therapy and let him die in peace.

As a child of a Jewish Austrian family, Martin had to leave his native country to take refuge in France at a time when German troops were making the Anschluss in Austria, the unification imposed by the Nazis with Germany. Luckily his family settled in Grenoble which, after the French defeat during the war under Italian occupation, experienced little anti-Jewish measures, Italian fascism, unlike German Nazism, having resorted to anti-Semitism only in a relatively marginal way.

After the war he became a militant in the Trotskyist Youth, before coming into contact and joining our movement in 1958, following his wife. The first text he wrote for the party was an article entitled “Auschwitz or the Great Alibi” (published on Communist Programme in 1961); this article also met his personal need to demonstrate that Marxism perfectly explained the causes and reasons for the Jewish genocide – something that antifascist democrats deny with the last energy.

His last text was “Auschwitz or the great alibi. What we deny and what we say “, wrote in response to a press campaign in which the “Bordigists” were accused of being” revisionists,” “negators” of the Jewish genocide and in some way facilitators of a supposed “red-brown” alliance. As he jokingly put it, if he had physically escaped from the concentration camps, he hadn’t escaped it politically! He was proud to have written a textbook (which he found in his desire to make sculptures); and a certain mistrust of intellectuals, the “sorbonnards,” reinforced his politically motivated opposition to the intellectualist drifts of a Camatte and a Dangeville in the 1960s.

A scientist by profession, his knowledge of the subject combined with his understanding of Marxism made him particularly qualified to hold a report on “Marxism and bourgeois science” at a general meeting of the party. He was particularly attached to the defence of dialectical materialism: a discussion opposed him on this subject to a mathematician of world renown who marvelled that mathematics, pure constructions of the spirit according to him, corresponded to reality. We know since Pythagoras that being a mathematician is not a guarantee against idealism...

We do not intend in these few lines to retrace the activities of “Jean-Pierre” and “Nicolas” nor to make a detailed assessment of his positions in the internal vicissitudes of the party. As one of the leaders of the organization, he had his share of responsibility for the errors and weaknesses that ultimately led to the serious political crisis of the early 1980s.

(...) In his circular letter of 23/9/82 he wrote that he felt the crisis “as a personal failure. All materials have their ‘breaking points’ and break under too much tension. I was broken by this crisis, and a broken activist does not stick together.” It was at this time that he retired from active political struggle.

Those activists who are still new to Marxism, who have learned from him the foundations of Marxism, will not forget what they owe him.