Monday, October 4, 2010

Marxisms, theory, yesterday and today

Answers to questions from the Russian comrades in Vpered
Daniel Bensaïd
International Viewpoint

Daniel Bensaïd
Vpered: 1. What parts of the Marxist heritage clearly belong to the past, and which ones do you feel remain equally relevant today?

Daniel Bensaïd: I’d like to start by nuancing or differentiating the very idea of heritage. There isn’t one heritage, but many: an “orthodox” (Party or State) Marxism and “heterodox” Marxisms; a scientistic (or positivist) Marxism and a critical (or dialectical) Marxism; and also what the philosopher Ernst Bloch called the “cold currents” and “warm currents” of Marxism. These are not simply different readings or interpretations, but rather theoretical constructions that sometimes underpin antagonistic politics. As Jacques Derrida often repeated, heritage is not a thing that can be handed down or preserved. What matters is what its inheritors do with it –now and in the future.

So, what is outdated in Marx’s theory?

To begin with, I would mention a certain kind of sociological optimism – the idea that capitalist development almost mechanically brings about the growth of an ever-growing, evermore concentrated, evermore organized and evermore conscious working class. A century of experiences has made plain the scale of divisions and differentiations in the ranks of the proletariat. The unity of the exploited classes is not a natural given, but something that is fought for and built.

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