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Archive for September, 2011

On/By Trotsky

Posted by admin On September - 13 - 2011 3 COMMENTS

Even his most determined enemies grant that Leon Trotsky was a great revolutionary. His leadership of the Russian Revolution and the Red Army are acts which even the unholy alliance of right wing and Stalinist historians have been unable to erase in the 50 years since his death. Among academics, if not among revolutionaries, Trotsky’s status as a theoretician is less secure. That same alliance of conservatives and Russia worshippers who have failed to eradicate the facts of Trotsky’s life have been more successful in denying the intellectual contribution that he made to the Marxist tradition. It is an ironic tribute to Trotsky’s continuing political relevance that he remains, even more than Lenin, an outcast from the ivory towers.

Yet Trotsky was one of the great original thinkers of the Marxist tradition. The theory of permanent revolution predicted the course of the Russian Revolution 11 years before it broke out. His analysis of Germany foresaw the dangers of Nazism when many, on the left as well as the right, remained blind. His writings on art and literature gained respect even from the unlikely figures of F R Leavis and T S Eliot. Trotsky’s monumental History of the Russian Revolution moved historian A L Rowse to say ‘his gift is so brilliant and incisive that one is continually reminded of Carlyle’. [1]

But even among those who are willing to grant all this, Trotsky has never had much of a reputation as a pioneer of the Marxist method. In the post-war period Marx’s philosophy has become an object of almost obsessional study. The philosophy of both Lukacs and Gramsci have produced endless debate. Even Lenin’s Materialism and Empiriocriticism and his Philosophical Notebooks have received some attention. But Trotsky it was assumed, even by some of his admirers, had little to contribute in this field. [2] This was always unjust. The evidence of Trotsky’s fine dialectical method was obvious not just in his explicit statements from the 1920s and late 1930s but also from his theory of permanent revolution and his writings on history and art.

Now, however, we have new proof of Trotsky’s original contribution to the Marxist method. In 1986 Trotsky’s Notebooks, 1933-35, Writings on Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism were published for the first time. They not only place Trotsky very firmly in the ‘Hegelian’ Marxist tradition, they also develop that tradition in a way which equips it to meet many of the criticisms that are commonly thrown against it today. It has long been asserted, for instance, that Marxism is incapable of dealing with politics and ideology other than by reducing them to economics. Or else it is said Marxism, ‘Hegelian’ Marxism in particular, argues that the course of history is predetermined, developing according to immutable dialectical laws. Any attempt to argue that the dialectic applies to both nature and society is seen as proof that the blind laws of evolution are being indiscriminately applied to society with the inevitable result that human beings are denied any conscious choice about their fate. More recently, post-modernists have argued that any attempt to see the world as a totality where each aspect of reality is linked to the others, a key Marxist concept, is a form of intellectual tyranny and oppression which can only lead to the gulag.

Trotsky’s notebooks on dialectics and his other related writings provide more than a defence of the materialist conception of history. They provide an account of the Marxist method which resolutely refuses all crude reductionism and which articulates a dialectical method which is sophisticated enough to give proper weight to all the different political, ideological and philosophical elements within the totality

Bubble of American Supremacy

Posted by admin On September - 13 - 2011 Comments Off on Bubble of American Supremacy

The Ascent of Money

Posted by admin On September - 13 - 2011 Comments Off on The Ascent of Money

Tariq Ali : The Arab intifada and US power

Posted by admin On September - 5 - 2011 Comments Off on Tariq Ali : The Arab intifada and US power

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