Golgotha program update

Robert Waldmann

Looks like there are still people interested in Marx.

I guessed Brad would be interested (OK so I link begged but just a little) but I wouldn’t have guessed that James Wimberley would be.

Mainly this post is about an e-mail from Ben Ross which I print (with permission) after the jump

Ben Ross to me
show details 11:15 PM (2 hours ago) Reply

I was very taken by your post on Marx’s “to each according to his needs.”
It sounded plausible – I’m nowhere near enough of an expert on this stuff
to say for sure whether you’re right – but if you’re correct about the
direction that Marx was pointing, I’d like to suggest that he was
pointing there in a somewhat different way than you indicate.

I went back to the Critique of the Gotha Program which I read, of course,
a very long time ago. I couldn’t make sense of Marx’s arguments against
the “Iron Law” then and I didn’t have the time to try now. My history
books suggest that maybe nobody else can figure them out either – Michael
Harrington says Engels later conceded that Lassalle had gotten the Iron
Law from the Communist Manifesto.

If you’re right that Marx is arguing here *against* utopianism, here’s
what I think is going on. Marx is not explicitly saying that “to
each…” will not come until a year after never. What he’s doing is
critiquing Lassalleanism from the right – pointing out how Lassalle’s
slogan of equal division is impractical – and dressing it up as a left-
wing argument. He’s saying that Lassalle falls short because his version
of the ideal future is still contaminated with the left-overs of
capitalism. But he’s twisting that argument into a condemnation of
Lassalle’s immediate program, by concealing the even less utopian nature
of his own immediate program.

Helga Grebing’s History of the German Labour Movement has a somewhat
similar read on the Critique. She doesn’t discuss “from each…” at all,
but points us to the last section where Marx conceded that “we have not
the courage – and wisely since the circumstances demand caution – to
demand a democratic republic…” and then criticized the Gotha Program
for making demands that are tantamount to a democratic republic. Surely
that’s not a utopian critique! Grebing goes on to observe that “These
contradictions cannot be resolved; at best, we may try to explain them.”

The left-wing debate tactic of dressing up a critique from the right
as if it came from the left is not rare. Readers familiar with French
history may recall Leon Blum’s use of the concept of “occupation du
pouvoir” during the popular front. He fended off calls for more left
policies with the argument that his opponents are satisfied with
a mere “occupation du pouvoir” and are abandoning the ultimate goal of
“conquete du pouvoir.”

There are many other examples. I’m personally sensitive to it from
long-ago arguments with proto-neoconservatives who made Marxist
arguments in favor of the Vietnam War. I imagine one could find some
astonishing intellectual gymnastics used to justify China’s post-1980
economic policies.

Ben Ross

All I can say is that Marx had it easy. Marx had to deal with social democrats who thought they could compromise with Bismarck, but Ross tried to reason with Social Democrats who supported the US involvement in the war in Vietnam. Lassalle would never have done that. Hell Bismarck would never have done that, he was ruthless and cynical but he was not stupid.