From: cyrilsmith- at (Mr C Smith)

Subject: Marx.

To: labsoc- at

Dear Davie,

Your letter and the review really gave me a boost. Some people have said the book was OK, but hardly anyone has read it! You have done better than that - you have anticipated where I think we need to go next.

My trouble is that, while I know that the book was just scraping the surface, just clearing the ground for later work, and while I am sure I have taken a small step in the right direction, I am getting too old to do much about it. So hearing about younger people who see things in a similar way is great!

As you know, I am involved with this International Socialist Forum. It really is a forum, that is, a place for people to put their opinions forward. Frankly, I believe this is what is needed, and I couldn't be bothered with any kind of centralised organisation. When you look at the two issues of the journal I sent Andy, please consider joining in the discussion, especially on the Iranian document called 'A Minimum ... Platform'.

I once was a member of Ted's group! It was in 1950, and I lasted about six weeks! He is an extraordinary character, with a fantastic memory. But when he spoke about 'dialectics', the result was dreadful, as I understood even then. I looked at their book about science, and was appalled. It is just an effort by a religious group to prove that, whatever modern science comes up with, it confirms what Engels said. This is worse than useless.

I have the Anderson book, and found it very interesting. However, I can't take his account of dialectics as sufficient for our purposes. As I tried to tell Andy, I can't accept any statement about philosophy which does not place communism at its heart. Lenin had no idea about this, as far as I can see. So his reading of Hegel as the inventor of a kind of Logic is miles away from Marx's critique of Hegel's dialectic. I didn't think that Anderson had anything to say about this. However, it is a while since I read the book, so I might have it wrong.

I agree totally with you on the need to study the entire history of philosophy, including the post Hegelian period. I know I shall never be able to get to grips with it all, however. (Let me be honest: I want somebody else to read Heidegger! Incidentally, I have found his stuff on the history of philosophy to be great. When he starts on his own ideas, however, I get a headache.)

My book tried unsuccessfully to do two jobs on Marx, once he had been separated from 'Marxism'. One is to show how his conception of humanity is central to all his work. The other is to uncover what he thought his enterprise was, in other words, what his conception of science was. The article in the first issue of the 'Forum' tries to take this a bit further, but I am still not satisfied with it.

The point is very important, because is bears on the question of 'leadership', 'taking consciousness into the class' and all that jazz. I express it by talking about Marx's science as 'critical', rather than 'theoretical'. See what you think.

So, while I agree with your 'anti-anti-academicism', our attitude to what these guys have to say is always critical. I don't mean we reject what they say, but that we must never forget that all thought separated from practice is fetishised, however clever the thinker, and however well-meaning.

Please keep in touch, and thank you again,


PS I have done some other things since the book.

If you want any of these, I could send them.