Issue 13 – Contemporary Marxist Currents

Editors: Burak Gürel, Cenk Saraçoğlu, E. Ahmet Tonak, Erkal Ünal, Fatih Yaşlı, Mustafa Bayram Mısır, Nazım Güveloğlu

Contours of Anglo-Saxon Marxism
Alex Callinicos

This paper evaluates the place of Marxist theory in the Anglo-Saxon world. Starting with the 1930s, this paper scrutinizes all major approaches and discussions in the field of Marxist theory via relating the political context of each period to the major discussions and developments in theory. By doing this, major theoretical approaches such as “History From Below”, “Althusserian Marxism”, “Analytical Marxism” and “Historical Sociology” are discussed in this article. Although these discussions and approaches appeared as the consequences of debates which took place at an international scale, the article insists that there had been a certain indifference between Marxist intellectuals living in different geographies. Finally, the article claims that this indifference seems to disappear and thus Marxist theory has the capacity to respond to the challenge of today’s anticapitalist movement.

Keywords: Anglo-Saxon Marxism, history from below, Althusser, Analytical Marxism, historical sociology.

Beyond Limits of Western Marxism: Debord and the Ideology Problematic
Bülent Batuman

Today, there is an increasing interest in the work of Guy Debord, whose political ideas have been ignored for more than 20 years. His theoretical arguments and his political practice within the events of 1968 have created controversy in leftist circles, which had given way to a conscious silence about his thought. Recent works on Debord aim at locating him within the context of the so-called “Western Marxist” tradition, together with the dominant figures of French Marxism of the post-war period. However, this paper argues that although his theoretical background locates him close to the humanist/Hegelian tradition of “Western Marxism”, his work develops in an opposite direction and provides significant resemblances with the work of Louis Althusser, the leading figure of anti-humanist Maoism, around the problematic of ideology.

Keywords: Guy Debord, Western Marxism, French Marxism, Louis Althusser, anti-humanist Marxism.

Negativity and Utopia of the Altermondlalist Movement
Michael Löwy

This paper delineates the basic characteristics of the “altermondialist movement of recent times. This “movement of movements” consists of many diverse groupings all of which gather around some common values. Three main characteristics of the altermondialist movement are put as the negativity of resistance, the concrete propositions, and the utopia of another world. İt is argued that, rather than searching for a common project or a consensual reformist or revolutionary program, the utopia of the altermondialist movement should be traced through the common values shared by its components. The most apparent of these common values are indicated as humanism and democracy. However, it is argued, the movement questions not only neoliberalism and pro-war policies but also the very dominance of Capital, and that socialism is the name of the utopia for most of the components of the movement, e.g. for a considerable sum of Marxists, libertarians, Christians, leftist ecologists, and the militants of worker, peasant, feminist and aboriginal movements.

Keywords: altermondialist movement, neoliberalism, libertarianism, ecologist, socialism.

Thoughts about an Ecological Marxism
Joel Kovel

The aim of this study is to explore the prospects for an “ecological socialism ” (or, ecosocialism) in the face of the emerging global ecological crisis. İn doing so, it re-opens and deepens certain debates about Marxism, as the principle discourse around which both the understanding of capitalism and its socialist successor have formed. The study gives a critique of “productivist” understandings of Marx’s nature-man relations and shows that the Marxism both is capable of and provides the most convenient tool for grasping the nature as the integral of all ecosystems, in its variety whereas the capitalist relations inevitably lead to seeing the nature as a “collection
of things”. The article asserts that the adequate response to ecological crisis needs to be an ecological socialism that surpasses not only the injustice and irrationality of capitalism (such being the goal of the original socialism) but also its ecodestructivity which is a chief distinction between traditional Marxism and ecological Marxism.

Keywords: ecosocialism, ecological Marxism, productivism, ecological crisis, Marx.

Wolfgang Fritz Haug’s Proposition of “Pluralist Marxism” or the Mystification of Theory and Politics
Doğan Göçmen

This paper is about the critique of ‘Pluralist Marxism’. I focus thereby on some of W.F. Haug’s related fundamental writings. In the first two sections I point out that there is a new tendency in bourgeois ideologists’ approach to Marxism, the aim of which is to reduce Marxism to belief and religion as in the beginning of the 20th century rather than to declare its death as was the case for last 15 years. Then I endeavour to grasp the meaning of contemporary discussions about Marxism. İn the following sections after having worked out in which sense Marx made his assertion that he was not a Marxist I examine critically the philosophical and sociological aspects of ‘Pluralist Marxism’. The philosophical aspects refer to the question whether there is something in Marxism that can be referred to as its essence or foundation. The sociological aspects refer to number of questions that are raised by Marx’s conception of class and its constituting function in his theory of praxis. The main purpose of this paper is to show that ‘Pluralist Marxism’ mystifies Marxist philosophy and politics.

Keywords: Wolfgang Fritz Haug, pluralist Marxism, Marxist philosophy, Marxist politics, Marx.

Marxism and New Left in Hungary
Ateş Uslu

An important number of contemporary Marxist thinkers have a Hungarian origin. This fact is related to the specific historical and social context of Hungary, to the Hungarian intelligentsia’s path of development from imperial period to the communist regime. This historical process generated a synthesis of Hungarian philosophical and political culture with the Marxist thought. “Hungarian Marxism” has been developed in the context of the Hungarian social formation and is characterised by the importance given to various branches of philosophy (ontology, ethics, aesthetics…) rather than to the economic analysis. Hungarian Marxism is identified, from early 1920’s to 1945, with the name of György Lukács, author of several books on philosophy and literary criticism. Lukács s pupils and assistants found two philosophical currents, which this paper concentrates on; namely, the “Lukács School” and the “Budapest School”. The Lukács School, a relatively heterogeneous group, includes István Meszáros, István Hermann and other Hungarian philosophers who preserve a socialist, Marxist perspective in their analysis. On the other hand, the members of the Budapest School left their initial neo-marxian position for a postmarxist, postmodern perspective. These authors (among others, Agnes Heller, Ferenc Fehâr, György Mârkus and Mihály Vajda) wrote a considerable number of books about industrial capitalism, soviet-type societies, totalitarianism, aesthetics, postmodernity, ethics and critique of everyday life.

Keywords: Marxism, New Left, Hungary, Lukács school, Budapest school.

Theory and Praxis: What Four Marxist Works Teach

Emre Arslan – E.Attila Aytekin

This essay examines four works written by four different authors with different interests, backgrounds and motivations: Sozialismus statt Barbarei by Hans Heinz Holz, In Theory. Class, Nation, Literature by Aijaz Ahmad, Agrarian Revolution by Jefferey Paige, and The Boom and the Bubble by Robert Brenner. We argue that all four authors contribute to Marxist theory in different ways. Holz discusses the historical tasks and the material limits of communist organization and underlines the significance of the concepts of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the avant garde role of the Leninist Party. Ahmad deals with the class blindness of metropolitan leftand criticizes its idealist camera obscura way of thinking. Brenner’s highly empirical work stresses the key role of manufacturing in capitalist economies and the fragility of the US economy. Paige’s book develops a theoretical model of agrarian conflict based on scrupulous empirical research. Despite this diversity, ali four works share a common ground. Their common bases are a materialism that enables reality to express itself in new concepts and an interventionist philosophy of praxis which stresses the transformable nature of reality. They all ask fundamental questions about the social relations of which they are a product and all these questions are produced with concrete, and in the end, political concerns of the authors.

Keywords: Hans Heinz Holz, Aijaz Ahmad, Robert Brenner, Jeffrey Paige, Marxist theory.

Positivist Marxism and Its Philosophico-Political Implications

Vefa Saygın Öğütle

The subject of this study is the conceptualization of “Positivist Marxism” and the philosophical and political implications of such a conceptualization as well as its legitimacy. İt is argued that Positivist Marxist interpretation of Marxism leads to a certain metaphysics. İn elaborating this argument, I discuss, firstly, understanding of nature and dialectics in Positivist Marxism and argue that it is distorted and misleading. This discussion inevitably leads to debates about knowledge and the construction of the objects of knowledge. Positivist Marxism forgets its own historicity by ignoring and glossing over, among other things, such a discussion about knowledge. Such an “obliviousness” has naturally certain political implications. It is at this exact point that the stress on the dialectic of internal relation between nature and human beings acquires its meaning. Consequently, it is argued that ontological status attributed by Positivist Marxism to the laws of dialectic leaves us alone with the dichotomy between matter and consciousness (mind) and creates a system of metaphysical laws.

Keywords: Positivist Marxism, dialectics, metaphysics, historicity, Marx.

Critique as an Assault on Identity

Ali Rıza Güngen

Open Marxism, defined by its proponents as the attempt to emancipate Marxism, presents a convincing critique of the political strategies that base themselves on the idea of grasping political power for social transformation. Holloway, in his Change the World Without Taking Power develops this line of critique by deriving insights from Critical Theory. His argumentation on fetishism as a process and power-to-do that takes the form of power-over in capitalist social relations of production gives us the clues for a non-reductionist understanding of state-capital relations. The rejection of structuralist and functionalist lines of thinking paves the ground for a fertile floor of discussion of the implications of Marxian method. Although, the text falls short of elucidating the ways in which Marxist revolutionary organisations can contribute to the struggle for anti-fetishism, the critical exercise performed through form analysis provides the fragrance and timbre needed to bear the difficulty of flourishing negativity proposed by Holloway.

Keywords: Open Marxism, Critical Theory, anti-fetishism, John Holloway, Marxian method.