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International Socialism, February 1975


Martin Barker

Marxism and History


From International Socialism, No.75, February 1975, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Marxism and History
Helmut Fleischer
Allen Lane, £2.50.

TO START with a quote:

‘The object of the whole of our previous discussion has been to make the point that reifying concepts should be eliminated from the discussion of Marxism. In our discussion of the objective-logical approach we saw that such categorical fetishisms are concentrated above all in the field of historical determination; they dissolve as soon as the pragmatological meaning of the Marxist categories is regained ...’

This quotation really gives the flavour of the book. Intended to reclaim Marxism from the distortions of Soviet theorists in particular, it quickly loses itself in a heavy dose of jargon.

The trouble is that it has been done before, and better. The debunking of Soviet ‘Marxism’ was done effectively enough by Herbert Marcuse, among others. Our good professor is really fifteen years too late. The intellectual reaction against Stalinist dogma, which was an important part of clearing the ground for the re-growth of the revolutionary left in the 1960s, has lost its vitality.

Because that intellectual movement had no roots in a working class movement, all it could do was to reinterpret basic texts. The problem with that is that it turns Marx’s and Engel’s writings into holy scripts. For example, Fleischer tells us that there is no support in Marx’s writings for the view that history is a straight line process from primitive society to communism, through a fixed set of intervening stages. Now who needs the texts to tell us that? A quick glance at the world would show us primitive societies still in existence, not following that straight line.

The weakness is that he wants to get his solutions to the problems of the world direct from the texts. So when he finally takes a glance over his shoulder at the nasty outside, he really flounders:

‘The Marxism of the Second and Third Internationals was ideologically concentrated on the figure of the factory worker, and this was its historical limitation.’

And the alternative hope lies with ‘highly qualified groups’, who are going to make all the difference this time.

This is a book for Marxologists, not really for Marxists.

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