NOTES ON Althusser, L (1976) Essays in Self - Criticism.  Trans Grahame Locke. New left Books. also online:

by Dave Harris

[The bulk of this piece is the Reply to John Lewis.  John Lewis was a British Marxist who had written two critical pieces on Althusser in Marxism Today.  A lot of British Marxists were very critical about Althusser, on several interlinked grounds

—he wanted to found a new science of Marxism, and British theorists rather preferred the Marxism that had developed in the sixty's and seventy's which had focused on themes like alienation and had connected Marx's writings with those of several other philosophers

—the new science of Marxism required a rigorous intellectual approach, and only fulltime Marxist intellectuals could really be expected to develop it.  This left out popular activist paths to Marxism from below, and restored authority to the communist party

—Non scientific Marxism was condemned as ideology, and that included the radical traditions like syndicalism or chartism in Britain.  Althusser added insult to injury by suggesting that these ideologies were necessary to the functioning of capitalism.

Many of these criticisms are developed at length in Ranciere's critique].

Introduction (by Locke?)

Althusser denounced humanism in particular as an ideology.  One consequence was to see this as a restoration of the authority of the Party, and a rebuke to those who wanted revisionism after the controversy in the Soviet party, especially the Congress in 1956 where Khruschev denounced Stalin.  Debate still continued in the Soviet and other parties, however, and Althusser was condemned as a Stalinist.  There was also an activist critique from the left.  Rancière in particular has condemned him as a party functionary—'but Rancière's arguments are themselves all too obviously motivated by directly political considerations'(seven).

The discussion of Stalinism can serve as a useful introduction to Althusser's thought.  The early Soviet union faced problems to do with industrialization and the agrarian question, and these were both economic and ideological/political.  Initially, the New Economic Policy claim to focus on survival rather than tackling political or ideological problems, and this led to some commercial autonomy and private enterprise.  Counter revolution was a danger, however, from outside and within.  There is also an early recognition that modernization would create a new social groups which would not easily be fitted into the class system, and which were recognized as being hostile to the regime.  The response was to use monetary incentives at first, and to import some specialists from abroad, and then to attempt to train a whole new generation of red experts

The problems indicated the more general one about preserving a wage system in socialism.  The wage system in capitalism both reflects different prices for labour, but also ideological and political conditions which confer an advantageous market position.  This is an example of the operation of the ideological state apparatuses, who used a particular technique of class struggle in this case to preserve the overall social relations of capitalism.  The same goes for commodity production in general, which is inherently linked with the renationalization of surplus value in capitalism, and which produces a socio technical division of labour.  Labour is itself a commodity, of course: overall there are 'general connections: between commodity production, the wage system, the socioeconomic division of labour, and the extraction of surplus value'(12). The middle strata are not a coherent group.  Some get proletarianized but not all.  Some have the function of increasing extraction of surplus value.

So what happens in socialism?  We seem to persist with wage labour and production of commodities, so is surplus value still being produced?  How can a proletarian group both rely on the old specialists and yet not allow them to regain power?  Stalin kept changing his mind on these matters, sometimes stressing the need to continue to struggle against the bourgeoisie, and at others talking of the end of class struggle.  He was more interested in the struggle between whites and Reds in the Civil War, and tensions between the working class and peasantry on the one hand and the former exploiting classes on the other: either imperialism or the old elites was seen as causing the problems.

More theoretically, the development of Stalinism can be seen as both economist and humanist.  To understand this we need the concepts mode of production and social formation.  The mode of production refers to 'a given system of production relations, and secondarily the level of the material productive forces' (14).  The social formation helps to reproduce the system of production relations, and includes superstructural forms.  Economism ascribes priority to the economic infrastructure, which ignores the role of the social formation in reproducing class struggle in a way that assists the domination of the ruling classes.  There is thus a tendency to minimize class struggle as well, and to wander into humanism. 

In this sense, Stalin was both economist and humanist in his insistence on developing productive forces.  Although he constantly invoked class struggle, it was in the forms above, where certain residual struggles arose.  Given that internal dissenters might ally with imperialists, and produced terrorism or sabotage, there was a need for a strong repressive state apparatus, including show trials.

It is then possible to see the repressive aspects of Stalinism as the result of specific class struggles, not just violations of socialist legality.  Class struggle determines these events in the last instance, although this was misrecognized, and the techniques remained bourgeois ones.  This is the result of the penetration of Leninism by bourgeois theory (economism/humanism) and practice in Stalinism. 

We can see by contrast how capitalism organizes large scale repression.  In the case of Nazism for example, it was the bourgeoisie who split, and the petty-bourgeois suffered along with the proletariat.  Again it is not obvious, but fascism was rooted 'in the class struggle between labour and capital' (16)[lots to argue here]. In both cases, Stalinism and Nazism were misunderstood in an empiricist way, a too easy linkage between effects and causes.

Stalinist orthodoxy was also too simple in trying to understand the relations between base and superstructure by analogy with capitalism.  Just as capitalist modes of production produce political and ideological conformity, so a socialist mode of production was expected to produce similar allegiance and loyalty, and the end of class struggle.  However, 'there is no socialist mode of production' (17), and transitional forms were contradictory combinations of capitalist and communist modes, each taking a specific historical shape.

The extraction of surplus value in capitalism depends on the creativity of human labour power and its treatment as a commodity.  In socialism, both the wage system and commodity production continued.  Stalin realized that commodity exchange needed to be abolished, but saw this in terms of the conversion of all property into public property, which meant state property, even affecting collectively owned farms or factories.  This was of course too simple, since even state owned property produces commodities, and people would still need money to buy them, in other words through the wage system.  Stalin simply denied that the new forms were still capitalist, and that there were new socialist commodities and socialist forms of production, distinct from capitalism.  This permitted him to intervene politically and arbitrarily to solve some problems, such as the rewards for specialists.  Stalinism became a matter of public ownership and state planning, without recognizing that neither of these are incompatible with capitalist commodity production.

Seeing an incompatibility is another example of humanism, the hope that productive activity will be brought under conscious control, as a form of man making history.  What social this should be focusing on instead is contradiction between capitalist and communist modes of production, particularly rejecting the idea that building productive forces alone, not communist forms, is a sign of progress—in this sense, we might argue that Cuba is more advanced politically, than states in Eastern Europe.

If there is no coherent socialist mode of production, there must still be class struggle, so what happened to the capitalist class?  Stalinists would argue that it has been eliminated, but this ignores the way in which capitalist classes are generated by struggle.  In particular, it is struggle around surplus value and its production which creates the capitalist class.

Socialism needs to recognize class struggle head on, and to develop ideological state apparatuses of its own to reproduce the domination of the proletariat, although this would also reproduce class struggle and the new bourgeoisie, so we're talking about a long transition to communism.

Overall, this is why Althusser saw Stalinism as a deviation produced by economist and humanist thinking.  This was a political as well as a theoretical mistake, but a mistake that lay in class struggle—the class struggle in capitalism which had deeply infected the early Marxist parties, and the class struggle in socialism which was misperceived by Stalin [producing problems which seemingly required bourgeois concepts].

This account clearly denies that Stalinism was either a legalistic or a psychological development.  Furthermore, Trotsky embraced similar theoretical positions, especially in his view that the capitalist class had been abolished with the abolition of private property, and in his insistence that productive forces determine social organization.  He also overemphasized political factors, as in his complaints about bureaucracy.

The same goes for analyses which talk about the rise of a new class, the state apparatchiks [Bettelheim is been discussed specifically here].  This is apparently the view of the Chinese communist party as well, and lies behind their argument that capitalism has been restored in the Soviet union.  The objection is that such developments should not be seen as necessarily always or fully realized [the collapse of the Soviet Union clearly weakens this objection!].  There are also tensions specific to the satellite states in Eastern Europe [and several examples are discussed, 26-28].

What is needed is a proper analysis of Stalinism, and not a demand for even more humanism or economism.  It is true that the Chinese cultural revolution was both anti humanist and anti economist, but Maoist criticism still retains some Stalinist theses, such as insisting that socialist labour is not a commodity, and that in rejecting economism, the danger is to overemphasize socialist politics.  Above all, the Chinese still accept the idea of a socialist mode of production.

What of the role of the state?  In what sense can it become the dictatorship of the proletariat?  The usual view is one of an enormous machine crushing all opposition, but there is another concept.  For example Marx talks about the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, which implies that repression is not the only way to rule, and that the ideological apparatuses have a role.  However, proletarian rule cannot be the same, and the state is supposed to wither away.  What this means is that there must be a constant struggle to abolish the state apparatuses, since to preserve the state is to preserve political groups at the expense of proletarian control, a new bourgeoisie.  Even Lenin worried about the emergence of a bureaucracy and predicted that it would be difficult to overcome, but he also saw no way in which a mass proletarian organization could rule directly.  The state has to remain as a necessary evil, but the class struggle should aim at opposing bureaucracy.  The key is the development of ideological state apparatuses that will control the state and eventually replace it [this reminds me of a number of bourgeois analyses of the old Soviet System, which saw a constant oscillation between redness and expertise, with neither managing to dominate for ever].

Stalin failed to develop such ideological state apparatuses, but tended to use capitalist measures such as incentives.  He was blind to the emergence of a new bourgeoisie, and once having overcome residual elites, he considered class struggles at an end.  As a result, however, only a repressive state could counter any continuing struggles with residuals or imperialists, acting in the name of the proletariat, but acting very much as an old type state.

Khruschev's criticism did not refute humanism and economism.  John Lewis and the others still believe that more humanism and economism will lead to progress, and it is precisely this argument that Althusser is addressing.

Reply to John Lewis (Self - Criticism)

Events in various workers' movements are important, if we are not to develop some pure non political theory.  John Lewis is a philosopher who ignores politics, despite claiming to be a Marxist!  But the same time, it is true and has been recognized by all socialists that the working class needs Marxist philosophy (dialectical materialism) as well as a Marxist science of history (historical materialism).  Indeed, 'philosophy is, in the last instance, class struggle in the field of theory' (37) [a note goes on to explain that philosophy is not science, but a theory, that philosophy is particularly likely to be affected by the class tendencies of ideology, and that determination in the last instance necessarily implies that there are other overdetermining aspects.  Lenin is cited as saying that determination in the last instance also directs our attention to the weak link of determination—that is its vulnerable point, but one which helps us identify all the other links].  We have known since Engels that class struggle takes a theoretical form, and if politics is concentrated economics, philosophy is concentrated politics—so everything that happens in philosophy has political consequences.  Quoting the classics like this is to risk the charge of orthodoxy, and to look vulnerable, because this orthodoxy is now in crisis – but it always has been, and its main threat comes from bourgeois ideology.  The orthodoxy of Marxism and Leninism is the basis for this reply, and the grounds for debating with John Lewis. 

Lewis argues that Althusser misunderstands Marx's philosophy and the history of Marx's thought.  He sets out Marx's 'real' philosophy for comparison, in the form of three theses:

1.  '"it is man who makes history"', as can be seen from revolutions
2.  '"Man makes history by remaking existing history, by "transcending", through the "negation of the negation" already made history'.  This follows since if history has been made by man it can be remade, again as in revolution.
3.  '"Man only knows what he himself does"', for example scientists who have to work on proofs or experiments, but it could have been history, where man becomes self aware by considering his own knowledge of history from the inside.

The problem arises when we ask how man actually makes history.  Lewis implies that this making involves transcendence of the raw material of history, but this is already a special sense of making, where the raw material is something already made by man.  This must presumably include the instruments of production, but this is ignored, probably because this would inevitably lead to discussions of class struggle!  Instead, this all powerful man who makes history actually comes to resemble God, although a limited god, still inside history, and thus not endowed with absolute power, but still able to negate and supersede indefinitely, able to step outside reality to transcend it, embodying some radical freedom.

This is actually an old idea found initially in idealism and religion, and then revived by Hegel.  In each case, political interests were being served—in Hegel's case, humanist transcendence 'was quite simply the philosophical name for bourgeois liberty' (44) which appears revolutionary in contrast to feudal notions.  [A note says there is a strong resemblance to Sartre and existentialism].  The notion of transcendence is still flourishing in theology, but it also finds a home among the petty bourgeois intellectuals, who cling to it the more their actual liberty is denied.  In fact, liberty and struggle is really a matter of and for classes.

Then there is more discussion about whose view can be supported best by the classic texts of Marxism Leninism.  For example, thesis one is contradicted by quoting the statement [in the Manifesto]  that it is the masses who make history not man, and that it is exploited social classes in particular who play a major role in making history [so the masses do not mean simply masses of aristocrats or intelligentsia].  Similarly, for Marxists the class struggle is the motor of history not some process of transcendence.  This is important in denying that history has a subject, that the masses are not just another subject of history like man: the masses are complex combinations of fractions, not easily identified as a unified subject, so Marxism does not accept that problematic of a subject making history, and the notion of a motor also denies a subject.

Class struggle as a motor divides reformists and revolutionaries.  Reformists assume the classes exist before the class struggle [a note reports Marx as saying in a letter to Wedermeyer that Marxism has not discovered classes, but rather has pointed to the primacy of contradiction which takes the form of classes].  Revolutionaries insist that exploitation comes first and this produces class struggle and thence classes. Class struggles provide the masses with their energy and power and is the material base of class struggle [which is how Althusser reads the remarks that apparently prioritize the economic infrastructure].

These approaches destroyed the notion of the ideal man in bourgeois ideology, which is fetishized.  This term is used deliberately here to rebuke those who see the discussion on commodity fetishism as a condemnation of reification and the exaltation of the human person—'the pair of notions person/thing is at the root of every bourgeois ideology' (51).  The error extends to seeing social relations between persons as fundamental, as natural, as qualities of a substance or subject, seen best in bourgeois notions of value as some natural quality.  Seeing the class struggle as a matter of social relations helps to domesticate it with an accompanying notion of human nature as involving freedom, and the ability to make history.

To Marxists, real men should not just be seen as copies of some ideal bourgeois man, hence Marx's own anti individualism.  Beginning with 'man' is to begin with an essence, to do bourgeois philosophy, and there are clear connections with the classic political economy.  Instead, we have to arrive at real men from given social periods, class relations and struggles.  These are not just made up of individuals, but rather different social conditions produce different sorts of individuals—'in their mass, real men are what class conditions make of them' (53), and any liberty as they might possess depend on these conditions.

Marxist politics is correspondingly different, 'following the conditions of the class struggle', involving organization and mass action.  These conditions permit individuals to play a role.

To Lewis's idea that man only knows what he does, Marxists want to suggest that we can only know what exists,  that being takes precedence over thought.  This provides Marxism with materiality and objectivity.  Marxists have never denied the importance of active thought, and have even congratulated some idealist philosophers for understanding this, as when Hegel develops dialectic.  However, even this dialectic has to be subordinated to materialism if we are to avoid 'subjectivism, pragmatism and historicism' (54).[And full social constructivism would be 'crazy' idealism].

Is it being argued that because man makes history it is easier to understand history then it is nature?  For Marxism - Leninism history is difficult to understand because the masses do not have a direct relationship with it, as they do with nature.  They may have the illusion that we understand it, or adopt ideological versions of it, as when the church provided a full explanation of history is made by a god, to be followed by the bourgeois argument that history is moved by reason.  Ideology as a spontaneous belief always intervenes, and to break with this required not only substantial class struggles, but all the resources of English political economy and French socialism—all of which produced Marxism. Yet we still partially know what exists in history, and how it changes.

It is a mistake to think that science has objectively uncovered what exists—there is been a struggle to find out about existence.  Yet it is not man that drives history—history is 'a process without a subject' (56), even when considering the history of science.  This is Marx's discovery, and scientist need to be helped to see this.

These different philosophical positions produces effects in social practices, including political and scientific practices.  All philosophical theses do this.  Philosophy is never a disinterested speculation, although this is how idealists  understand it, as a process to progressively reveal Being and Meaning.  Even philosophies that look speculative and interpretive are still active and practical—'their (hidden) goal is to act on the world, on  all the social practices…  Even if only to "place them under a spell", to sanctify or modify them', often to preserve them (57).  Philosophy has an interest in appearing disinterested, in denying its practical and political effects.  This may be conscious or unconscious—it doesn't matter since consciousness has had little effect on history.

Philosophy is therefore 'in the last instance, class struggle in the field of theory' (58), as well as having political effects.  For example in its effects of the way in which theories are connected to practice, in ways which affect every social practice, from production to art, but the most relevant ones here are the effects in politics and the sciences.

The view that man makes history does not help us to produce scientific discoveries, including understanding how the class struggle works.  Lewis does not even discuss this, so perhaps we need to turn to one of his influences, Sartre, but again there is no new knowledge.  Philosophy here has had a negative effect on the development of scientific knowledge, holding it back, reverting to a prescientific notion of history.  This has happened in the past, for example when Aristotelians still resisted the progress made by Galileo.  There are still anti Freudian psychologists.  There are still anti Marxist philosophers who simply pretend he had never existed [Biesta is an excellent example].  Even philosophy that claims to be sympathetic to Marxism can tend to restrict it, although there are always contradictions.

In this way, Lewis and Sartre are positively harmful by trying to go back before Marx, and to sidestep the whole issue of knowledge conditions and forms of class struggle.  Focusing on class struggle helps us towards new scientific discoveries, identifying the way in which the masses become active classes, for example raising the question of how to take state power, relating the formation of classes and class divisions in material forms of exploitation and the division of labour it produces.  The proletariat emerges as the leading class in an unprecedented way, leading to a new kind of politics.

One theoretical consequence is to break with 'the bourgeois—that is, the economist conception—of political economy' (62), and further breaks with bourgeois conceptions are no doubt possible.

In political terms, class is only central if we reject the notion that man in the abstract makes history.  This idea was once important in overthrowing theology, but is no longer.  It seems to be universal, but in practice there are definite interests in talking about man and not the masses or classes—those of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie.  Marx said as much in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, where he criticized the overemphasis on the essentially creative nature of human labour, which left out the 'natural material conditions of labour', and the question of who controls them.  Workers might be flattered to think they are all powerful, and this diverts attention from their real lack of control and from the only way to assert it, through organization, is as a class.  In this way, humanism has served the interests of the bourgeoisie, 'even inside the labour movement (that is called reformism), and even within "Marxist" theory (that is called revisionism)' (64).  Marx himself acknowledge that there could be such a thing as humanist socialism, but saws it as conservative or bourgeois: Engels and Lenin warned about the influence of such ideologies in the development of workers' parties.

Lewis also accuses Althusser of not understanding the formation of Marx's thought.  He is right to say that the old philosophical categories of alienation and the negation of the negation persist after 1845, even in the Grundrisse, even in Capital.  However they do not appear in many other Marxist texts, especially the political ones, and nor do Lenin, Gramsci or Mao refer to them.

Nevertheless, there is an important break in 1845, as Marx himself says.  1845 saw the beginnings of a new science of history, with its new concepts which cannot be found in the early work—'mode of production, productive forces, relations of production, infrastructure - superstructure, ideologies, etc.' (66).  This can be seen in his discussions of Feuerbach and Proudhon.  In the 1844 Manuscripts, Feuerbach is admired as a philosopher, but attacked a year later.  Proudhon is similarly admired in 1844, and attacked in 1847.

The epistemological break is irreversible, and unending, even though progress in grasping the science of history is uneven.  Of course it can still show traces of the past, including old notions and categories.  Nevertheless, alienation and the negation of the negation increasingly vanish, although we have to see this as a tendency not a simple rejection.

However, it was a mistake to equate the epistemological or scientific break with Marx's philosophical revolution, and the need to be separated, since philosophy is not science.  There was no double break with science and philosophy after all, and this is the error of theoreticism '(= rationalist-speculative)' (68).  It was a mistake to think that philosophy, unlike science, has an object, a beginning, and a history like that of science.  It was wrong to argue that philosophy is the '"theory of theoretical practice"', and Althusser has made attempts to put this right in subsequent work.

Marx's philosophical revolution extended beyond the epistemological break, and preceded it, made it possible, unlike the usual case where philosophy lags behind science.  The young Marx underwent a political evolution, moving from 'radical bourgeois liberalism (1841-42) to petty-bourgeois communism (1843-44), then to  his 'completely new, materialist - revolutionary philosophy'. It is clear that the philosophical evolution is based on the political one, and that the philosophical evolution leads him to the scientific discovery of the break.  Only once he had settled accounts with the bourgeois philosophy and politics could he begin to think of the scientific theory of history, and he did this through a 'a ceaseless struggle to contain the pressure of bourgeois philosophy' (70).

This is why there are intermittent appearances of the old categories like alienation.  It is odd because they disappear and then reappear—absence from the Communist Manifesto, for example, but reappearing in the Grundrisse.  It seems that Marx had reread Hegel in 1858.  [A note points out that you can get a misleading impression just by looking individual categories or terms anyway, and much depends on their theoretical functions.  Althusser thinks that alienation, for example, can still be useful, as long as it is not equated with reification or fetishism, and only if it is seen as secondary to exploitation: in those circumstances, it can help reject a purely economist view of surplus value, and reintroduce the idea of concrete and material forms of the extraction of surplus value].

Marxist science does not progress in a simple line, as rationalism might suggest, and Marx was required to work out his positions, often against actual enemies, and 'the struggle lasted all of Marx's Life', and continues today.  The occasional occurrence of older ideas simply marks the frequent advances and retreats.

It is only possible to use the term 'break' to refer to the science of history.  The change in philosophy takes a different form, with no 'point of no return'(72).  Philosophy developed as a revolution, always open to counterattack.  Philosophy never breaks completely with older thought, and nor does it never settle disputes definitively.  This is because it is 'in the last instance, class struggle in the field of theory', affected by the class struggle, and class attempts to regain power using philosophical arguments, even if they are ancient. It is in this sense that Marx suggested that '"philosophy has no history"'[in the German Ideology].

Such is the vehemence of the class struggle that it can even penetrate Marxism as an example of  the 'terrible reality' of class conflict.  It is quite wrong to think of Marx as a modern academic, a bourgeois intellectual, always developing his own thought in a career: and this is the Marx that emerges from Lewis's account.  Both political struggle and scientific development do not proceed like this, but involve suffering and struggle.  Marx was always engaged in worker struggles personally, and its endless crises and dramas, like those after his death when Lenin and Engels struggled against idealism and revisionism.

Lenin was happy to be called dogmatic and orthodox by the revisionists.  He realized that orthodoxy was in great difficulties then as well—mostly as a result of reformism and revisionism.

Why is it that there are philosophers who claim to be Marxist but who are idealists?  Why are those communist philosophers who want to defend Marx in a minority?  Althusser says he has discussed this in For Marx, but Lewis does not seem to have read these political bits.  Those discussions were intended to be a deliberate intervention in the debate arising from the 20th Congress and the split in the communist movement.

Before the 20th Congress, communist philosophers were not welcome, even in the French Party.  When Stalinism was denounced, however, it seemed to have brought about the discussion of bourgeois philosophy in various communist parties.  This is because the criticisms of Stalinism were not done in a Marxist way: instead, the main criticism was the cult of personality and the violation of socialist legality.  The legal superstructure was not related to the rest of the superstructure, especially the state and the party, nor to the infrastructure, especially forms of class struggle in the USSR.  The cult of personality, seen as so important is not a Marxist concept by the bourgeois one, and relying on it led to Marxist versions of the rights of man, including the right to liberty, 'whose reverse is alienation', drawing on the early Marx and then on humanism generally (77).

This turn to humanism is not to be confused with the demands in Czechoslovakia for socialism with a human face—'what the Czech people wanted was socialism and not humanism for…  Or socialism whose face…  Would not be disfigured by practices unworthy both of itself…  And of socialism'.  Socialist humanism of this kind should be respected.

Note on "The Critique of the Personality Cult"

Philosophy is always connected with politics and the problems and arguments of real history.  All philosophical texts are political interventions, both in theory and politics.  The context has to be borne in mind—Althusser's work has a context in French political and philosophical history.  Indeed, communists have a relevant history as well, arising from the domination of Stalin, and things such as the perversion of science in the name of Lysenko, Khruschev's criticism, the Sino Soviet split, and May '68.  Marxists need to develop the right concepts to understand this history, a 'period of ordeals, heroism and dramas' dominated by Stalin (79).  This does not end with the death of Stalin.

The cult of personality is not a Marxist concept, although it had a theoretical pretensions, and political uses.  It did help to expose abuses and errors, but had no explanatory value.  This was no accident.  It avoided confronting particular problems with the whole of state apparatuses, not just the legal ones, and with contradictions in the mode of production.  [A note says that the western concept of Stalinism is also unhelpful, even when Trotskyists use it]. A better concept is the notion of the deviation, which can be found in Marxist - Leninist theory.

If we accept the term, we need 'serious research into its basic historical causes'(82), concrete investigations of super structures and modes of production.  A right wing critique focused only on the legal superstructure, and invoked a discourse about human rights [including setting workers' councils against bureaucracies].  This critique has become popular and has gained support from official accounts.  Trotskyist organisations have also benefited, despite their obvious lack of political success.

In general, a number of intellectuals, including some Marxist ones, went along with the notion of the personality cult, oddly enough 'following the social democrats and even religious thinkers' (83), in a motivated reading of the early works of Marx.  Marxism-Leninism 'was almost submerged'.

Althusser saw the need to intervene against theoretical humanism, the connections between science and Marxist philosophy,  and the elision of the materialist and Hegelian dialectic.  Instead, he tried to preserve what was special to Marx, and how Marx had to break with bourgeois ideology, as we still do today.

Bourgeois ideology is still dominant and must be criticised from outside.  In essence, it turns on 'the ideological pair economism/humanism'(85).  Theoretical humanism had to be attacked with its category of man, and evolutionism with its economist assumptions [Althusser insists it was the whole system of theoretical humanism that needed to be attacked, rather than just wanting to alter a few phrases].

Humanism always dominates in class struggles.  It is linked to economism in the sense that it represents dominant classes.  In bourgeois societies it hides the class determination of economic and legal practices.  Workers' organization can also be contaminated by it: man might be central, but 'Bentham comes out the victor' (86).  Second International Marxism also revealed an economist current.

The two terms of the pair are linked organically, 'born spontaneously, that is to say necessarily, of the bourgeois practices of production and exploitation and…  The legal practices of bourgeois law and its ideology'. Capitalism sees everything from the point of view of commodity relations and how they might be exploited, from the point of view of the extortion of surplus value.  Bourgeois economists merely theorize this viewpoint.  Economism is covered by humanism and bourgeois liberalism, where categories apparently are founded in law and the liberty of the person 'that is, in principle, his right to freely to dispose of himself'.  Legal categories then get lent to other ideologies, including bourgeois philosophy.

When these philosophies penetrate Marxism, they remain as bourgeois points of view.  History shows is that Marxism can indeed be practiced as a bourgeois a point of view, by '"armchair Marxists" who reduce it to academic bourgeois sociology' and also by leaders of the labour movement (87).  This historical form arises from characteristics of the class struggle, where the labour movement fuses with bourgeois ideology not Marxism.  Humanism can take on a social democratic aspect, but it still focuses on the defence of human rights, liberty and justice not the class struggle.  Economism still remains, for example in the drive towards reforming or socialising productive forces.  The key is 'the elimination of the relations of production and of the class struggle'(88).  These have to be concealed if they are to be reproduced.  When proletarian parties conceal them, however, that shows the domination of bourgeois ideology within Marxism.

This domination is apparent in the Second International, while subsequent internationals were dominated by the 'Stalinian deviation', as a kind of revenge of the second international, especially a reversion to its Economism.  [Althusser says this is only hypothetical].  We still need to analyze how it was that such Economism managed to produce such effective effects in the superstructure, and how it spread even through the communist movement.

The key here is to turn to the Lenin on analyzing a deviation.  We should look for some former or current of socialism, a remnant of a contradiction or a solution produced by a particular problem.  This is how revivals or recurrences keep appearing.  There are also some 'serious ambiguities'(90), which should serve us from blanket condemnation or reduction, even of Stalinism, who saw it was necessary to construct and defend socialism in one country.  Without this, no Stalingrad.  Stalinism was dogmatic, but it least it preserved the teachings of Lenin.  Nevertheless, the economist conception did recur, seen in the occasional humanist terminology is in the Soviet constitution. Nor did the deviation disappear with Stalin and the denunciation of the personality cult.  There is still a concern with focusing on legality and liberal rights, even in the 20th Congress.

As another hypothesis, it might be possible to suggest that the only historically existing left critique is a concrete one found in the Chinese Revolution.  It is the contradictory critique because acts and texts do not conform, and, as usual, we can only speak of tendencies.  But it is right to look at concrete questions and practices.  John Lewis should have focused on those.

Remark on the Category: "Process without a Subject or Goal(s)"

This idea goes against all the evidence of common sense or dominant ideology [ Gramsci is cited].  The usual objection is that after all the masses or classes are made up of men, if not the abstract category, than actual concrete human subjects.  Marx himself said in the 18th Brumaire that men do indeed make their own history, but this has to be understood.  Actual men are indeed subjects in history, acting in history as subjects, 'But there is no Subject of history' (94).  The construction of human beings or subjects is a scientific question, but the movement of history is a philosophical one.

Human beings are constituted as individuals, agents active in history, but that does not make them for the subjects in the philosophical sense.  The paradoxes of becoming a subject are illustrated in the essay on the ideological state apparatuses.  It is the social relations of production and reproduction which 'impose the subject-form on each agent-individual'(95), as a result of the operations of the law and ideology.  [Thus agents are activated, not self activating].

Bourgeois philosophy tries to take the notion of the subject and make your philosophical category, involving issues of knowledge, the ego, the transcendental subject and the rest.  This is an illusion and can be rejected.  Marxism rejects the idea of the subject as a radical origin or unique cause, or even as the expression of some central essence.  Instead of origins and causes, there is determination in the last instance, determination by contradictions, processes and specific moments.  Idealist philosophy needs to examine history, but not to reduce it to an origin, essence or cause, with some unified identity, or whether we are looking at classical humanism as in Kant, or anthropology as in Feuerbach.  With theories of the transcendental subject, the claim seems to be shifted: it is at the transcendental level that we become subjects able to constitute history.  This is the mistaken basis of Sartre's marxism and his ethics.

The decisive demarcation between Marxism and bourgeois philosophy turns on this issue, although it might have to be worked on and developed.  We can return to the actual quote from 18th Brumaire, which goes on to say that men do not choose the elements or circumstances in which they make their history, but rather encounter them.  The same text goes on to say that this is quite different from other writers who saw Napoleon as responsible for the coup and ignored the state of class struggle which created the circumstances in which he could act.

Elements of Self - Criticism


The first part of this was supposed to be a part of the reply to John Lewis, but he made the article too long.  It contains a critique of Althusser's theoreticist  tendency.  There is also an earlier essay on the young Marx, relating this time to an account of the political events referred to in the Reply.  [Clearly the intention is to argue that the second essay focusing on practice is a corrective to the first one.

Althusser had admitted his theoreticist error in 1967.  Actually, it is a deviation.  It is correct to say that Marxism is fundamentally antagonistic to bourgeois ideology and broke with it, but it is wrong to reduce it to a simple theoretical issue of epistemological breaks.  This is to ignore all the other social, political and ideological dimensions.  However, this rationalism took the form of contrasting truth and error in a speculative attempt to divide science and ideology as a more general form, reducing the specificity of Marx's break.

The "Break"

This is a real event, although it is wrong to reduce it to to 'a simple rationalist - speculative antithesis' (107), but worse to ignore it altogether or reduce it to nothing, as the critics did.  If we look not add individual terms, but 'the structure and mode of functioning of the texts' written by Marx, it is clear that something new appears in The German Ideology, sufficient to talk about opening a new continent.

This outline argument still needs detailed support in the texts, but it seems uncontestable— new concepts appeared: 'mode of production, relations of production, productive forces, social classes rooted in the unity of the productive forces and relations of production, ruling class/oppressed class, ruling ideology/oppressed ideology, class struggle, etc.' (108-9). The 1844 Manuscripts were based on the concepts 'Human Essence/Alienation/Alienated Labour'(109).The new approach had a different mode of functioning, operating on a new terrain, making possible a revolutionary science providing objective knowledge, and helping us finely address 'the real problems of concrete history, in the form of scientific problems' (110).  Results produced can be 'verified by scientific and political practice'.  [A note at the foot of 109 agrees with Lewis that you can certainly find concepts of political economy in the early work, which Marx borrows without modifying them: he does subject them to an external philosophical critique, initially based on Feuerbach.  But then Marx breaks with Feuerbach in the Theses, a few months later.  Additionally, we never see the full deployment of the new theoretical concepts in the Manuscripts.  When they are fully deployed, later, they change classic concept of political economy—for example, the discovery of surplus value, attributed to Engels here.  Marx's critique then becomes not philosophical but based on the reality of contradictions in the mode of production and the way in which they produce class struggle.  Classic political economy is denounced as economist and apologetic, and incapable of predicting the contradictions in capitalism.]

Explicit rejection can be found in The German Ideology, 1845, although it is still in general critique, contrasting science with ideology, and especially with philosophy.  In 1847, however, in The Poverty of Philosophy, the new scientific terrain is used to dismiss Proudhon's concepts, although he had been admired three years before.  It is not a philosophical critique, but the scientific denunciation of errors.  It is this sense of settling accounts that appears in Capital, and in later works such as the Critique of the Gotha Programme and the Notes on Wagner.  It is taken up in Lenin's critique of the romantics and social democrats, and by Gramsci's in his argument with Bukharin, and in Mao.  It is a never ending process.

Science emerges from a process of labour, sometimes inspired, but often operating blindly.  'It is born out of the unpredictable, increasingly complex and paradoxical—but, in its contingency, necessary—conjunction of ideological, political, scientific…  philosophical and if other "elements"' (112).  The connection between these elements is usually only grasped after the event.  [A note apologizes for having to talk about science in the singular or in general but says it is preliminary].  Science also emerges in a special way, proper to theory, involving recognizing error at an early stage, before all the details are established.  Official genealogies often appear afterwards, together with scholastic elaboration.  [A note says these are often ideological, denying Marx's originality].  This emergence from error can also be a continuous process, and it is this which Bachelard called an epistemological break or rupture.

Using this phrase caused a lot of criticism, from a strange alliance of the bourgeois, who wish to insist on the continuity of history and culture, but also some communists, who preferred to stick with their current political allies rather than risk excluding them.  Some critics noted that the term break was also a bourgeois concept.  Thus the debates are 'in the last resort, political' (114), seen in the passion which the debate aroused.  Defending the argument defends the whole attempts to refuse Marxist theory and practice, seen best in Leninism.

The debate is a complex and confused one, with no pure positions.  It is important to look at the effects produced.  However, it is paradoxical to try to defend Marxist theories on the basis of non Marxist positions, or to deny that Marxist theory is a revolutionary theory and science.  Lenin has shown us that we need both the revolutionary theory and the revolutionary movement, but the combination of the two opposes the normal idea about theory and science.  These are contaminated terms, but Marxists still require them.  We do have to avoid falling into 'theoreticism, speculation or positivism' (116).  But we do have to defend the term science to describe Marxism-Leninism, while announcing a real shift in the notion of science.  We have to oppose idealism, and refute the charges of the petty-bourgeois critics who have asserted that the only alternative is positivism.  It is also necessary to counter those who continue to talk about reification and alienation as equivalent to objectivity.  There is often a suppressed alternative here—the emphasis on persons, liberty [and authentic things?]. 

We have to patrol this border and take these risks because the workers need scientific knowledge in their struggles.  So do the bourgeois who simply reject the very idea of scientific theory to preserve their own ideological conceptions [the notes to the bottom of 117 talks about law as the basis of bourgeois ideology and its influence of philosophy—philosophical categories are primarily legal categories or entities.  Even when this is recognized, there is 'the trap of traps: the idea and programme of a [n abstract]  "theory of knowledge"', which still denies any material elements].

Finally, it is still acceptable to use the term epistemological break as a description of a fact, a visible symptom, as long as we do not take effects for causes instead of focusing on the 'question of the social, political, ideological and philosophical conditions of this irruption' (118).

"Science and Ideology"

This is where the theoreticist error was made, in thinking of a break in rationalist terms, between 'science (in the singular) and ideology (in the singular)'(119).  The problem is that ideology in The German Ideology means both a philosophical category relating to error, and a scientific concept relating to the superstructure.  This had the effect of reducing ideology to error and equating the two terms, although Marx himself did overcome this problem.  [A note on the bottom of 120 shows that one consequence was the case of Lysenko and the proletarian science, and that the whole notion of error also played a part in some of the political struggles in the 1960s – presumably including some of those mentioned by Ranciere].

It also made Marxism look as if it was classic rationalism, which led to Althusser's own theoreticism in seeing Marxism as exposing illusions or error.  Even so, even in The German Ideology, there was still signs of a break with the past,  a break particularly with bourgeois ideology and its practical and theoretical ideologies, drawing on the emerging idea of a proletarian ideology and proletarian politics, a real material event.  Theoreticist error did lead at least to work exposing the characteristics of bourgeois ideology as humanist, economist, idealist and so on, but this was not connected properly to the idea of an epistemological break.

The opposition of truth and error did at least serve to indicate the birth of a science.  But the notion of epistemological breaks made it look as if Althusser was advocating some dialectical opposition between science and ideology [some eternally recurring combinations of partially true and ideological elements, rather than a decisive move towards founding a Marxist science?].  There is also the danger of adopting the viewpoint that scientists have of their own activities, as a singular body of work with some evolutionary process.  Later work [the Philosophy Course for Scientists, 1967] did take on this spontaneous philosophy of scientists and its idealism.

However, seeing the break in terms of moving from error, subsequently theorized, made it impossible to explain the material basis of the break.  Instead, there was a sketch of the difference between science and ideology in general, a discussion of theoretical practice which reduced in effect philosophical practice to scientific practice, and the notion of philosophy as the theory of theoretical practice, which elevated theory to the pinnacle of thought, as in theoreticism.  [A note on the bottom of 124 says that theoreticism not only over emphasizes theory against practice, but engages in speculative rationalism, and a commitment to the importance of epistemology: again, there is room for a materialist epistemology but not a speculative one, dominated by  philosophical categories].  The notion of Marxist science also became contaminated.

This is how 'the young pup called structuralism, slipped between my legs'(125).


In particular, the notion of the effective absent cause was borrowed from Spinoza, and used to comment on the mistakes of political economy, to understand relations of production, and even to account for fetishism.  Spinoza's notion of structural causality was used to describe Marx's discoveries—really, 'dialectical materialist causality' [materialist emphasized] (126).  These notions, especially the one of the absent cause was useful as long as it was applied properly [a note on the bottom of 126 shows that it can be used to understand the development of things like Stalinism, to oppose reductionism to a single cause, to understand how things like class struggles affect existence.  Most generally of all 'to say that "the cause is absent" thus means, in Historical Materialism, that the "contradiction determinant in the last instance" is never present in person on the scene of history…  And that one can never grasp it directly…  It is a "cause", but in the dialectical sense, in the sense that it determines what, on the stage of class struggle, is the "decisive link"'.  On the philosophical level, dialectics talks about absent causes, but in a different sense, since it transcends a mechanical notion of cause].

Flirting with structuralism was intended to be ironic or parodic, since there is no attempt to refer to any Subject.  Nor was it ever a pure structuralism, since he retained categories like domination and determination in the last instance.  Nevertheless, the whole approach was called structuralist and criticised in the name of humanist Marxism, especially by social democrats.  In fact, critics should really have focused on theoreticism as the real problem.

The debate got mixed up with humanist criticisms of Saussure and his school.  There seemed to be some fundamental antagonism between structuralism and humanism, rather than a more tactical attempt to integrate and overlap.  This does of course involve risk of misunderstanding, as when Marx flirted with Hegel.

French structuralism came out of theoretical problems encountered in linguistics or social anthropology, not from philosophy, and so it was never a unified stance.  It does have the general tendency, nevertheless, towards rationalism mechanism and formalism, seen, for example in Levi Strauss, of the 'production of the real as an effect of a combinatory of elements' (129).  But it did not invent the concept of structure.

Althusser never accepted the formalist idea that the real is produced by combining elements.  Actual combinations are another matter, and Marx showed how we might predict possible combinations from existing elements.  Even when Marx uses the term träger, support, he does not mean that human beings simply embody relations and elements, rather, 'it is in order to make mechanisms intelligible by grasping them through their concept…  To make intelligible the concrete realities' (129-30).  Marx uses structuralist terms, but not in a formalist way—he wants to limit their applicability and validity using concepts such as 'process, contradiction, tendency, limit, domination, subordination etc.'(130).

Marx does indeed stress process over structure, but again there is no formalism of this process, unlike bourgeois economists.  Marx talks instead of tendencies, which contain contradictions.  Contradictions are stressed over simple processes.  These contradictions also produce revolutionary science, since it 'rests on revolutionary class theoretical positions'.  Again this was not stressed sufficiently in the early Althusserian positions.  There was always a view that Marx had developed a science unlike the others, although this was blurred in sections that implied just this,  but this was never seen in structuralist terms.

On Spinoza

Althusser considers himself to be a 'heretical Spinozist', and this was misunderstood as an allegiance to structuralism.  Formalism is the problem in structuralism, as argued above. 

Why was Spinoza required at all?  Can a person simply be a Marxist philosopher?  One problem is the existence of 'the wall of enigmatic texts and wretched commentaries on them' (133).  Marx himself frequently returned to past philosophers, not just to revisit youthful passions, but because every philosophy needs to make a detour through other philosophies, and can only proceed by establishing differences with other philosophies.  Lenin's attempt to sort out the insights from the debris in Hegel is an example.  Marx himself admired Aristotle.  These detours are indispensable but risky.

It was 'a detour via Spinoza' that was undertaken, principally to understand Marx's detour via Hegel, especially to understand how a dialectic could be inverted and demystified and become materialist and critical.  Spinoza had undertaken something similar two centuries earlier, taking a philosophy that began with God and developing a materialist and critical approach.  This is another example of how a philosophical approach can develop positions that can be useful to materialism.

Hegel begins with [God's] Logic which is alienated in Nature, then in Spirit, then in Logic again at the very end.  Being is not the origin of the process—'Being is Nothingness' (135).  Spinoza similarly denies God as an originating Subject [whose Essence emanates].  Hegel retains the notion of telos, but Spinoza's denial is so profound that he never considers any divine goals.  Hegel's telos is 'the special form and site of the "mystification" of the Hegelian dialectic' (135). 

For Spinoza, divine goals are necessary illusions: Spinoza is developing a theory of ideology—it offers an imaginary reality, is inverted, and has as its centre the illusion of the subject.  This is still abstract, but penetrating.  Spinoza even explains ideologies as connected to the state of human bodies, not just mental errors, and his first level of knowledge was grounded firmly in the material world of men and their lives.  This is a possible reading, not the only one, of course [Seems pretty close to Deleuze's too,although Deleuze rejects ideology as a concept].

Spinoza's attack on the illusory subject was fundamentally opposed to bourgeois philosophy, seen best in his attack on Descartes.  Again this is more radical than Hegel, who reinstated the subject as something beneath substance after all. 

Spinoza also worked around the problems introduced by having a criterion of Truth [the problems arise when you have to explain the origin of this criterion and what makes it true—ad infinitum].  Any criterion implies jurisdiction and a judge.  [We're talking about Truth with a capital T here, not more local and empirical truths].  For Spinoza, truths identify themselves as a product of the work of discovery, and 'this position is not unrelated to the "criterion of practice", a major thesis of Marxist philosophy' (137).  Althusser argues that what is really means is that truths emerge from a process of production, which leads to him justifying his own views that knowledge is produced by theoretical practice following scientific forms.  This point was made to counter idealism and 'open a road' to materialism.

Other theses in Spinoza can also help.  It is not enough just to criticize the notion of telos in the Hegelian dialectic, if new forms of dialectic can break free of telos only to  'revolve endlessly in the void of idealism' (138).  What is needed is a new materialist root for dialectic.

Marx approaches this issue through the topography of an edifice, leading to the famous terms about structures, bases and superstructures.  We are told that the base determines in the last instance, and that superstructures are relatively autonomous, and can react back on the infrastructure.  We are invited to think how determination of productive forces is connected to dominance of the relations of production.

This topographical notion moves beyond Hegel, who talks only of spheres within spheres, where everything eventually depends on something more abstract—'morality is 'the [underlying] truth" of law…  The state is 'the truth of' civil society'.  In Hegel, all the separate spheres are designed to produce this escalation to idealism.  The economy does not appear in its own right but as something between the family and civil society.  The abstract dialectic actually produces notions of material substance, and this is easily turned into an apology for capital—'it is (the capitalist's) labour which has produced capital' (140).

Of course Marxist topography relies on a metaphor—'in philosophy you can only think through metaphors'.  But there are materialist problems.  The spheres or levels are real.  The state is always 'above' in the superstructure, the economy appears in its own right, law is not primary.  There is no attempt to argue that one level expresses the truth of a higher level.  Indeed the state is not the truth of the economy, but 'actually produces a relation of mystification, based in exploitation, which is made possible by force and by ideology'.

There is no 'delirious idealist notion of producing its own material substance'. Marxist topography represents material conditions, and to grasp these needs more than Hegelian philosophy.  Spinoza again can help, since he was interested in material reality as not just eminent,  transcendent, not expressive of any Whole. [Silly bugger needed sociology in my view]

There is still no notion in Spinoza of contradiction.  Althusser himself emerged from Spinoza seeing 'ideology as the universal element of historical existence'(141) [as the first stage in the automatic generation of knowledge? Bogue is good on the 'spiritual automaton' ].  There was no analysis of the regions of ideology and the different kinds of class tendencies in them, or the different relations and contradictions that emerge in these regions.  Instead, theoreticism with its general categories was developed.

Nevertheless, the detour did help understand Marx's detour, and some questions about materialism were at least raised.

On Tendencies in Philosophy

There are theoreticist tendencies as well as errors, or deviations.  The term error actually still implies a rationalist conception of truth/error.  Actually, 'all' (142) theoretical errors are scientific ones, connected to the sciences prehistory.  Philosophical tendencies ultimately 'in the last instance' turn on the contrast between idealism and materialism.  Actual philosophies realize these tendencies 'as a function of class theoretical positions, in which it is the social practices (political or ideological, scientific, etc.) which are at stake'. 

The category of correctness is required, and it has a political role.  In philosophy, propositions are expressed as theses, and her thesis can be correct or not.  The same goes with tendencies which can also be correct or deviant.  Correctness comes from a theoretical process.  In bourgeois philosophy, the practical function dominates the theoretical one, and it is this that led to the thesis that 'philosophy is, in the last instance, class struggle in theory'(143).

Correctness is different from the rationalist conception of homogeneity and notions of truth or error.  It is more to do with the positions taken up and how these work in theoretical class struggle.  Positions are taken according to political struggles, and since there is never a unified enemy, Marxist philosophy does not simply reproduce systems divided into good and bad, true and erroneous.  Things are more mixed, some enemies are more important than others.  There is no miraculous route to truth through consciousness.  Marxism requires concrete analysis of theoretical and ideological terrains, and must take part in and learn from struggle.  Philosophy is always a conflict between tendencies, but materialist and idealist tendencies never appear in a pure form.  This is because 'there is something outside of philosophy which constitutes it as philosophy, even though philosophy itself certainly does not want to recognize the fact' (145). 

Mao was right to stress contradiction and tendencies in contradiction, then to diagnose principal and secondary tendencies.  Again there is no abstraction involved here, rather an attempt to identify 'a series of meeting point', eventually getting to the decisive meeting point or link, the main front or point of attack.  These involve not so much making distinctions, but identifying divisions in order to open a path.

Turning to his own philosophy, Althusser thinks the principal tendency was to defend Marxism against humanism and other ideological forms, but there was also a 'secondary theoreticist tendency' (146).  Overall, a contradictory unity was being expressed, but critics were quick to point to one issue -- a relative absence of the notion of class struggle, except as a function of ideology.  Nevertheless, a front was opened, fundamentally dialectical materialist.  There were weak points, but the whole was not properly judged, nor were the important criticisms of humanist and historicist theses.

The early work can be sifted to get rid of harmful theses.  Philosophy cannot be understood as a theory of theoretical practice.  Theoretical practice itself is ambiguous since it seems to cover scientific and philosophical practice, and this further suggests that philosophy can be a science.  Nevertheless, the concept still has a use In asserting the importance of practice to theory.  Science and ideology have been discussed above and need to be reworked to talk about the production of knowledge as a complex process involving the combination of class conflicts, practical ideologies and theoretical ideologies, as well as existing sciences and philosophy.

Other theses can be adjusted, taking the notion of theoretical class struggle as a guide.  The earlier omissions of class struggle and the theoretical effects of it have to be corrected, for example in discussions of the break which need to be placed firmly on material practices.  The break is not the last word and does not explain itself.  Instead, it should be 'explained by the conjunction of the material, technical, social, political and ideological conditions which determine it' (148-9).  It is crucial in particular to talk about class theoretical positions and particular philosophical instances.

Thus the break for Marx arose from the conjunction displayed in the class struggles of 1840--48 between bourgeoisie and proletariat rather than bourgeoisie and aristocracy.  There were complex lines of demarcation and intersections.  The main effect was to change the class theoretical position of Marx and Engels [an 'historical "individual Marx - Engels' 149].  The change can be detected in their philosophy, but it was wrong to see philosophy as just the theory of theoretical practice, denying its political effects.  Various compromised positions emerged in Althusser's earlier work, such as reworking Hegel's insistence that philosophy only arises when dusk has fallen on an event [in Lenin and Philosophy], but these are not adequate and it is necessary to see philosophy as class struggle in theory.  This will also open new fields for research.

On the Evolution of the Young Marx

Marx founded a new science as an irreversible event.  Ideological conceptions once dominated the discussion of history, and they mystified the process—'not an accident: it was linked to their function…  [as]…  the theoretical detachment of practical ideologies'(151).  Marx broke with these conceptions and opened up a new continent of history.  This was then and is now 'the object and the state of a fierce and implacable class struggle' (152).  The labour movement, however did fuse with Marxist theory, but not without work and struggle, which continues.  Nevertheless, the reality of this fusion and unity now dominates history [dear departed days].  We need to understand how this discovery of Marx appeared, not least because we wish to understand the present forms of the class struggle.  Thus what looks like a theoretical debate has clear political implications.

Althusser's early work on the break featured a formal analysis of ideology.  Comparing ideology and Marxist theory reveals clear differences in conceptual content [as above], and this difference was conceived as an epistemological break.  There are also different modes of functioning.  Marxist concepts are scientific in the sense that they offer a basic conceptual apparatus 'designed ceaselessly to pose and confront new problems and ceaselessly to produce new pieces of knowledge' (154).  Ideology by contrast claims to have already grasped the truth of history as definitive and as a closed system, so that reality only appears like a reflection in a mirror [see his essay on Rousseau here].  Marxist science can indeed be seen as a discontinuity with ideology, but not in a general abstract sense—rather as a break with its own ideological prehistory.

Ideologies present themselves as the truth, and Marxism attempts to understand them scientifically from the outside.  Sciences themselves are often forced to reject their own prehistory as erroneous, but it is wrong to philosophize about this and impose some notion of the eternal opposition between truth and error, and thus between science and ideology in general.  For Marxists, these breaks in science reveal not just early errors, but the effects of ideologies, not just illusions but the results of class struggle in superstructures: they are not just false, but believed to be true in particular circumstances.  The particular conceptions in Marxist prehistory can be best seen as 'the theoretical detachments of practical ideologies'(155), with necessary functions in the reproduction of the relations of production.

Discussion of the break is not simply an epistemological issue, but a theory of the superstructure and of material production [Althusser refers to the ISAs essay], on historical materialism.  Can Marx's own work be understood in the same terms?

Marx, Engels and Lenin discussed the three sources of Marxism as 'German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism'(156), but this still looks like idealism unless we see it as conjunction of independent theoretical elements, producing a qualitative change.  Certainly, Engels then Lenin go on to explain the historical background, decisive changes in the forces of relations, different forms of class struggle, especially the emergence of the proletariat.  For them, it is these realities that are represented in the theoretical sources mentioned above.  The material forces are distorted and mystified when they become theoretical elements.  The question then becomes how Marx managed to use them to found a science.  The answer lies in the new proletarian class positions that Marx had taken up.

This can be seen by looking at the actual sequence of the work.  1841--45 sees 'a move from bourgeois-radical and philosophical positions to petty-bourgeois humanist positions then to communist - materialist positions' (158).  The object of thought changed from law to the economy, the philosophical position moves from Hegel to Feuerbach then beyond, and the political position moved from radical liberalism to humanism and then communism.  These changes are linked, although they do not form a seamless whole.  When the object changes, the political position 'occupies the determinant place', then the philosophical position takes centre place.  'This can be verified empirically'.  Political movements were expressed in different ways, such as taking up new philosophical positions, which in turn can be seen as theoretical expressions of class positions.  Theorizing permits new kinds of thinking.

Thus although it is the changing class theoretical conditions that produce movement, the actual break appears as a philosophical one, a settling of accounts with earlier philosophy, and the development of a new position.  The 1844 Manuscripts show this 'theoretical drama' (159) where political and philosophical commitments seem to be in contradiction, where the attempt to think out communist positions in terms of the old philosophies came under strain [the actual example is trying to use the term alienated labour to grasp capitalist exploitation, and Hegel having to be brought back into Feuerbach in order to locate labour in Man or History].  The solution only appeared when Marx abandoned Feuerbach and 'the whole philosophical tradition of "interpreting the world"'.

Politics again was 'the determinant element' as Marx engaged more with political struggle, again philosophy appear to be the major mode of thought, until the new object, political economy, imposed its own requirements.  This is what the conjunction of the three sources actually produced.  'Without the politics nothing would have happened: but without the philosophy, the politics would not have found its theoretical expression, indispensable to the scientific knowledge of its object' (160).

The new position is announced, but still has to be developed, not only in Marx's work, but later in the context of the union between labour movement and Marxist theory, in Marxism Leninism.  Adopting a proletarian viewpoint was crucial to understand class societies beneath their ideological 'coating'.  Philosophies of history and the rest are just the theoretical forms of ideologies, and must be abandoned to adopt an external point from which mechanisms become visible.  A proletarian standpoint is not just a political position, but must turn into a theoretical position.

This is not just a scholastic matter.  Marx's adventure still needs to be renewed in analysing new forms of exploitation and domination, and providing better forms of union between labour movement and Marxist theory.  Proletarian positions in theory are still crucial as well as political ones.

Is it Simple to be a Marxist in Philosophy?

[These texts apparently accompanied the submission of earlier writings for the degree of Doctor of state]

None of these texts were written to be a university thesis.  LA was trying to be a Marxist as well as a communist.  The early work on the 18th century authors [including Montesquieu] was a theoretical detour.  It is necessary to develop philosophy on the basis of already existing ones, and to conduct a constant war with them.  The class struggle at the level of theory assumes a philosophical form of 'theoretical demarcation, detour and production of a distinctive position'(166), just as Marx did with Hegel.

Since it is obvious that philosophy and politics are interlinked, it was necessary also to study the political philosophers such as Hobbes, Montesquieu or Rousseau, and also to abandon the old division of labour between political and 'proper' philosophy.

There were also the implications of the discussion of the personality cult and the introduction of various right wing interpretations.  It was necessary to give an opinion and the initial intervention was a review on a collection of articles on the young Marx.

If struggle is at the heart of every philosophy, philosophy is not just polemic, but depends on a reasoned argument and some attempt to understand the positions in the struggle.  It is necessary to oppose both dogmatism and 'rightist critique'.  Reference to the labour movement and to Marx meant that they were not just simple commentaries on events, and reflected the stance of the communist militant.

There were some early misunderstandings, for example around a category of theoretical practice.  This was opposed to any form of pragmatist, defending the relative autonomy of theory against purely tactical politics.  It also opposed the 'idealism of pure theory'(169).  Another controversy arose over the issue of the validation of theoretical practice, turning on whether or not Lenin was right to argue that Marx's theory was true, and not just because it had been successful.  Maths does not require successful application, nor do the experimental sciences.  It would be wrong to revert to 'the pragmatic and empiricist lack of discrimination which made it impossible to distinguish practices from one another' (170).  Finally, there was theoretical anti humanism which brought cries of  'dogmatism, speculation, scorn for practice, for the concrete, for man, etc.'Inspiration was drawn from Machiavelli who argued it was necessary to provoke thought by expounding extremes and not relying on existing support.

Lenin had faced a similar problem after What is to be Done? and referred to the notion of the bending of the stick, the need to bend sticks in a different direction in order to straighten them [not Gramsci at all then?].  This in turn relies on the argument that ideas only have an historical existence and never exist in a pure state.  There are always 'relations of force, which place certain ideas in power' (171).  It is not enough just to claim to be offering the truth and wait for enlightenment.  A counter force must be applied.  Provocation alerts readers to the relation of forces and their materialist conditions.  Extremism belongs to philosophy, and all great philosophers practised it.  There are of course risks in bending the stick too far or not far enough: the theoreticist errors which have been admitted reveal the latter fault.

The general objective of the essays being submitted, including For Marx and Reading Capital indicate the struggle to locate oneself as a proper Marxist, free from 'all that "Marxist" philosophical twaddle about man' (173).  Since that was apparently based on the young Marx, it was necessary to return to that work and to criticize it on the basis of 'anti humanism, anti empiricism, and anti economism'.  Others have also done that [including della Volpe].  Marx himself had urged his readers to think for themselves, and the intention was to return to Marx in order to do that.

It was necessary to insist on the 'unprecedented and revolutionary',thoughts that Marx offered [the break and its political implications as above].  It was necessary to do this for the sake of the labour movement.  A clear view of Marx's philosophy was also required, although he actually left us very little except the 1857 Introduction [and Grundrisse?].  The philosophy continued in Capital 'but in a practical state, just as it is also contained in the great struggles of the labour movement' (174). It is still his view that the radical nature of Marx's work is to be found rooted in the philosophy, at least in the last instance.

The last instance is one path into the work.  Both Marx and Engels talked about the determination by the economy in the last instance, and this needs to be seen as crucial in offering a new topography, the base and superstructure [as above].  Each of these levels is distinct, and cannot be nested within each other as in Hegel.  The base determines a superstructure in the last instance—Marx argues specifically that the economic forms generating unpaid surplus labour determine the relation of rulers and ruled.  [A reference to Capital vol III].  Engels in the Letter to Bloch insisted that they meant an ultimately determining element, not the only one.  The term is rather like citing a court of last instance, which obviously acknowledges others.

This sharply divides Marx 'from all mechanistic explanations'(177) and allows us to understand the effect of other instances.  What is being suggested is that these articulate together in a complex whole [Gliederung].  'The determination in the last instance fixes the real difference of the other instances, their relative autonomy and their own mode of reacting on the base itself'.

The formulation is crucial.  Arguing for a determination by the economy departs with all idealist philosophies of history.  Arguing for a non mechanistic form of determinism is equally specific, and leads to a materialist dialectic.  The topographical metaphor also serves to guard against Hegel's view that the dialectic can produce its own material content as it self-develops—the topography constrains it as a set of 'real conditions of its operation' not 'speculative folly'(177).

This is an important way of distinguishing between Marx and Hegel, tracing the distinction back beyond the dialectic to 'the theoretical presuppositions of classical bourgeois philosophy' (178).  Marx's similarities to Hegel turned on a mutual rejection of 'every philosophy of the Origin and of the Subject', and in the specific 'critique of the legal subject and of social contract…  the critique of the moral subject, in short of every philosophical ideology of the Subject, which whatever the variation involved gave classical bourgeois philosophy the means of guaranteeing its ideas, practices and goals by not simply reproducing but philosophically elaborating the notions of the dominant legal ideology'.  Many of these features have been borrowed from Spinoza.  This deeper relationship with Hegel was never discussed openly by Marx, and so it looks as if the only issue was the dialectic.  The whole argument shows the need to look at not just what is self consciously admitted, but rather 'the whole process which, behind this consciousness, produces it' (179).

Marx's dialectic makes materialism primary.  Hegel developed the dialectic not only because of the 'dramatic turmoil of the French Revolution', but also because it was the only way of attacking philosophies that began with origins and subjects.  Hegel mystified the dialectic, for Marx, but this also shows the effects of a long discussion in philosophy about materialism, which had also rejected the idea of origin.  It was necessary to develop new categories to depart from the classical notions of origin or essence or cause, hence the term the dialectic.  This is what connects Spinoza and Hegel [and Epicurus, apparently].

Marx does not describe his relationship with Hegel like this.  He does talk about inverting Hegelian dialectic in order to demystify it.  This was not enough however to develop a real materialist transformation, and Marx had never completed the job of tracing back from his new concepts to flesh out a materialist dialectic.  In particular, Marx never decisively rejected telos [as above] which replaces the idea of an origin with the idea of an endpoint, the notion of becoming subject and so on.  Without such a decisive critique, however, 'Hegelian, mystified effects' will persist (181).  All this can be traced back to the texts of Marx and Lenin, 'and the practice of the proletarian class struggle'[so Althusser can then claim that 'I was therefore simply trying to formulate conceptually what already existed in the practical state' (181).

This is why Marx did not accept Hegel's view that we can think of society as a totality, and why he developed the notion of 'a complex whole, structured in dominance'.  The notion of a totality hinted at some pervasive essence being manifested, a centre.  Hegel thought of society as spheres within spheres, and as an expressive totality: abstract law, for example, is related to the sphere of morality and civil society through the negation of the negation, driven by an attempt to find the final truth in the State.  Each sphere expresses a particular development of the idea as a simple principle, in an expressive unity.  Marx, on the contrary, saw social differences as real and as different in terms of their efficacy, as in the metaphor of the foundation and upper floors:  the base also has greater efficacy in affecting the unity of the whole.

This is why it is important to talk about wholes and not totalities, about unevenness and complexity, determination only in the last instance.  This unevenness permits social change and class struggle, whereas Hegel has inspired no politics of change, implying that we are all imprisoned in circles.  Marx points to the economic class struggle as crucial, and argues that it should be extended into a political class struggle.  It also locates radicals in historical processes.  That identifies 'the place where you must fight' (183). This rather abstract topography guides the Communist Manifesto and Capital.  The topography 'arranges things in such a way that the workers, who Marx was talking to, can seize them' (184). 

A further departure from Hegel turns on the question of [actual] contradictions.  These are either over- or underdetermined, because of the complexity of the topography.  These are not just quantitative departures from some pure contradiction.  Instead, the argument is that apparently pure eg party political contradictions 'can only exist as the determinate product of the impure contradiction'.  This is nothing to do with simple or logical contradiction: terms are not just formerly negated but are related unevenly.  The capitalist relation of production shows this clearly.  The working class is not the negation of the capitalist class, but they are in confrontation.  That confrontation also 'reproduces the conditions of confrontation instead of transcending them in the beautiful Hegelian exaltation and reconciliation' (185).

Similarly, working class struggles are also uneven and it is necessary to examine the conditions that produce this.  All development is uneven [called 'an essential characteristic' here!].  Contradictions are uneven: there is no simple unfolding of origins or processes like alienation.

These new interpretations, especially 'the last instance,…  the structured whole in dominance,... the unevenness of contradiction'(186) were designed to free up Marxist theory from mystification, to help the labour movement reject messianic or critical idealism, in forms like the young Lukacs or the Young Hegelians, or in the form of claiming evolutionism towards socialism.  In these positions materialism is either abandoned, or reduced to a mechanical materiality of the productive forces.  However, the revolution should have happened in 19th century Britain or in other advanced countries, according to these views.

Instead, Russia or China and Cuba identified the weak link in the contradictions of imperialism, while class struggle in advanced countries seem to stagnate.  What we see is both underdetermination and overdetermination.  If we do not except underdetermination, we would not see why revolutions are premature or partial, why the [Hegelian] dialectic did not seem to work.  Only notions such as determination in the last instance can really guide us towards Marx's materialism.

On the Process of Knowledge

This discussion is heavily dependent on Spinoza, although Marx got it from Hegel.  The discussion starts with the notion of the true idea.  We can have it, but where does it come from?  Spinoza says it is the fact of possessing the true idea that is crucial, regardless of its origin or subjects, or how we might justify it.  Knowledge is acquired through three levels or moments, ranging from experience of the lived world to grasping the singular essence or the universal concrete.  Marx's position is actually close to this, in rejecting theories of the origin, subject, or justification of knowledge, and Lenin is too.  They refer to the process or production of knowledge, although at the same time there are reservations about whether we can generalise from grasping particular modes of production.  We need a 'non existent generality' (189). We can read the 1857 Introduction like this, operating with only a minimum of generality, only that necessary to grasp concrete processes of knowledge, only to be held tentatively, to disappear once concrete analysis commences.

These formulations are used to suggest that knowledge is production, in the sense both of labour, and producing the truth.  To provoke the reader, this was framed rather mechanically, as involving the application of tools to a raw material.  It was applied to theoretical practice even though Marx did not do this, and his texts had to be 'forced a little'.  This led to the Generalities model.  There are deliberate hints of Spinoza, and the crucial part played by his second level, interpreted as 'scientific abstraction'.

This helps us understand Marx's opposition to empiricism as well as to Hegel.  Marx insisted that objects exist outside of thought, and that knowledge proceeds from the abstract to the concrete.  It is a matter of coming to know reality, not producing it in the Hegelian sense.  Marx also wrote that we should start with real and concrete elements, however.  His example considers that we might start analysing the economy with notions of the population, but he then argues that population is already an abstraction.  Althusser thought that meant that all perceptions and images were abstractions for Marx, and he equated these to the status of experience at Spinoza's first level, further understood as 'in my language, the status of the ideological' (190).  It is not the case that the first level of Generality only consists of ideology, because there may also be scientifically elaborated abstractions there.  Nevertheless, if we think just of ideology, 'this borderline case', we can refer back to the split between science and ideology.  In this way, Spinoza can be read as an early theorist of the split, and of the epistemological break, detectable between the first and second levels of knowledge.  Nevertheless, theoreticism was a danger, as admitted above.

Reasoning further leads to the distinction between the real object and the object of knowledge.  This is also found in Marx's own work.  Knowledge is knowledge of the material object, or real object, outside the intellect, and this is why we must always look at social conditions first, as a precondition of understanding.  Marx's discussion of science as a process which assimilates and transforms perceptions and images into concepts leads to an overall 'thought - totality…  Knowledge of the real - concrete, of the real object' (191).  All this can be found in Marx [Introduction to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy?].

The point was to focus on the transformation, the process of knowledge, first of all on perception and images, then on concepts.  This leads to his argument that knowledge doesn't transform real objects, but only operates with concepts, 'a thought - concrete' (192), not the real object.  We can only know real objects through thought, the production of concepts.  Thought produces the objects of knowledge.  There is a relation with real objects but they are not the same—this was Hegel's mistake, but Spinoza realised that we must 'not confuse the real thing and its concept'.

There is a danger of nominalism and idealism, and Spinoza has been criticized for the former, while his insistence on substance prevented the latter.  Marx insist on the primacy of the real object over the object of knowledge, and operates with this idea of a minimum of generality, and limited space to investigate the production of knowledge.  Lenin had a similar idea distinguishing absolute and relative truth: it was necessary to prevent dogmatism in science, while offering enough guidance to stave off idealism and sophistry.  In the same way, LA's distinction stopped Marxism from being treated as a dogma and restored the need for criticism and elaboration.

This was part of a general need to break with what seemed like obvious truths even in Marxism, and restore the importance of concrete analyses of concrete situations, using the concepts, and not just grasping the concrete immediately [a bit like avoiding  identity thinking or lazy theorising?] It is also necessary to remember that knowledge adds to reality, even though such knowledge is actually already a part of reality.  In this way, the distinction between object of knowledge and real object continually risks 'the paradox that it is affirmed only to be annulled' (194).  One implication is that only the 'production of new knowledge keeps old knowledge alive' (195), in the same way that living labour adds new values to material in order to transfer the value of the old dead labour [sounds a bit cumulative and teleological to me?].  If no one continue to develop Marxism, it would turn into a frozen dogma.  Instead, we need new knowledge about matters such as imperialism and socialism.  'Marxist theory can fall behind history, and even behind itself, if it ever believes that it has arrived'.

Marx and Theoretical Humanism

A final provocation, producing a good deal of pleasurable 'ideological fireworks', worth offering just for those. It is important to stress the word theoretical, and to argue that the concept or category of man has no theoretical role in Marx.

Feuerbach takes man or human essence as the central principle, an object able to perfect its own essence, the centre of the world.  All other objects gain meaning from the activities of man, his perceptions, thoughts and feelings, and this is the essence of the human species.  However, objectification and inversion makes this essence unrecognizable, appearing as an exterior object.  Religion is an example where human productive forces are thought of as the powers of an absolute other.  Religious rituals offer the realization of human desire.  In fact, Feuerbach also discusses art, philosophy, even politics, society and history in the same way.  The aim was to invert such alienation, to claim back human essence, not in heaven but here and now, in the human community—'"communism"' (198).

Feuerbach is explicit in his theoretical humanism, but lots of his precursors were also working on this idea, sometimes in struggles against feudalism or the church.  However, 'humanist ideology…  is inseparably linked to the rising bourgeoisie, its aspirations and expressed in translating and transposing the demands of a commercial and capitalist economy'.  Man is a free subject… 'first of all…  free to possess, to sell and to buy, the subject of law'.  Man also had the right to know, either in the form of the cogito, through empiricism, or through the transcendental subject, and the right to act, becoming 'the economic, moral and political subject' (199).  Thus the category of man plays an essential theoretical role, linked with all the other categories, and as such, runs throughout classical philosophy. Feuerbach make this explicit, and overcame earlier attempts to divide man into various kinds of subjects, or to argue that sexual differences were somehow fundamental [since both are needed to perpetuate a species, and since men and species are the same, this division disappears].

Marx's rejection of theoretical humanism settles accounts with Feuerbach, but also with the whole classical tradition and with the whole of bourgeois ideology.  It takes a philosophical form, and can be seen in the discussion about affinity with Spinoza and Hegel, and the rejection of the origin of the subject.  In the 'authentic texts of Marxist philosophy' (200), the category of man does not appear, even n any of the earlier forms, and this is his major contribution.

This is not to despise men or mock their revolutionary struggles—Capital's sympathies are obvious.  However, Marx goes on to look at the mechanisms of exploitation, moving away from individuals.  It is also true that humanism has expressed revolt of the masses—Marxism has always admitted that the ideologies can play a part in the class struggle.  But what is at stake here is a theoretical issue, whether the humanist conceptions can explain adequately societies and histories.

Marx argued against bourgeois ideology that a society is not composed of individuals [apparently in Grundrisse], and that the starting point should not be man but a particular economic period [Notes on Wagner].  He also denied that labour was some eternal supernatural creative power [Critique of the Gotha Programme].  In Capital, the social formation is to be grasped as a relation, especially the production relation in the base.  This relation is not to be seen as a simple one between men or persons, but 'a relation between groups of men concerning the relation between these groups of men and things, the means of production' (201).  These fundamental relations are not just between humans but involve things in material nature.  This relation also distributes men antagonistically among classes.  Of course, individuals appear in classes, but they are held within this overall relation—this is why they are only supports of a relation or bearers of a function.

There is no intention to reduce human beings to simple bearers: the argument is that capitalism does this, as a form of exploitation.  Agents of production are only that in capitalism, and they are 'completely anonymous and interchangeable' (202).  That applies to capitalists, who must also submit to the laws of the production relation.  A theoretical reduction is necessary to understand 'the terrible practical "reduction" to which the capitalist production relation submits individuals'.  Capitalism reduces men to machines, exploits and emiserates them and creates the reserve army of the unemployed so as to put pressure on those in work.

At the same time, capitalism creates the conditions for a class struggle [through polarization].  This introduces the importance of the other relations, found in the infrastructure.  These are needed to reproduce class exploitation, so they are in this sense determined in the last instance by the production relation.  Although Marx himself is not clear, the argument is that superstructural relations also reduce concrete individuals to supports, bearers of the legal relation, simple subjects of the law, supporters of political relations as a citizen, and so on.  These relations overdetermine those found in the base.

Nevertheless, the bourgeoisie itself was a revolutionary class, and needed to enrol the workers in the struggle against the old regime.  This also provided an education for revolutionary workers, especially when proletarians were abandoned afterwards, in a clear lesson that bourgeois ideology had nothing to do with proletarian class struggle.

This is where the idea of the last instance and the other contradictory elements working in the overall topography helps explain the materialist dialectic, 'not with the help of the ridiculous concept of man' (204).  A concept of an originating subject is abandoned, together with all discussion of his apparent needs [economic man], thoughts, rights and obligations [moral man, political man].  Celebrating these freedoms simply means submitting to ruling bourgeois ideology, which is designed to conceal the real power of capitalism.  It is necessary to break with this mystification, and to start from structural causes which produce these ideological effects—the given economic formation, the relations of production in capitalism, and the effects which are determined in the last instance by those.

The intention is to show how living men are determined by these relations, as 'the synthesis of many determinations'(205).  So we end with a concrete living men rather than an empty abstraction.  Marx is never estranged from actual living men.  'Each of Marx's abstractions corresponds to the "abstraction" imposed on him by these relations' (206).  The intention was to help the working class to understand these mechanisms, to make revolutions.

It is true that some texts return to the theme of alienation, even in Capital, but this is not to lend the term theoretical significance.  It is used as a temporary term for forms which have not yet been thought out, those 'still on the horizon, of organization and struggle of the working class', a substitute for concepts not yet formed.  Concepts were not properly formed because 'the objective historical conditions had not yet produced their object'(207).  Indeed, the Paris Commune, and the political practice of Lenin 'rendered the theme of alienation superfluous'.  This raises the whole issue of the fusion of Marxism and the labour movement.

Something New

[Althusser's contribution to a discussion about the resolution adopted by the Congress of the French Communist Party 1974]

In the Resolution, the objective of class struggle is seen as democratic change based on the union of the French people who can be marshaled into a political majority.  An alliance of all parties and organizations will be brought to power, guided by the United Left [Euro communism].

What is the difference between the Alliance and the Union of the French people?  It is a matter of a relation between organizations, such as the Communist party and the Left Radicals, and a union among the masses.  These unions have arisen because of May '68 and since.  The union of the masses requires a union of organizations.

The two terms should not be confused, nor should the notion of the majority be reduced to conventional political terms: there will be a continuing struggle against monopolies after any elections, a class struggle, requiring a united people.  The union of the French people is to be based on various leftwing arguments and discussions, but what of action?

Any viable union must be a 'union of working people democrats and patriots around the working class'(210) It must involve all those masses in protest and struggle [currently?].  The union of French people which drives the struggle 'is underway', but must be strengthened.  Crises and general discontents, sectional actions will not converge by themselves—this is the 'illusion of spontaneism'.  The working class and especially the Party is the only organization to develop common political will among these sections.  This needs to be stressed in the Resolution.

This is particularly so because the Resolution talks about the French people, obviously to appeal to patriots even Gaullists in order to achieve an electoral majority.  However, communists are also aware that electoral relations can obscure class relations.  Calls for unity are just slogans, even if true ones.  It is right to identify monopolists and their agents as the enemy, but it is necessary to explain how they have managed to represent themselves as spokesman for the general interest of the bourgeoisie, how this related to support in the bourgeoisie, in the petty bourgeoisie, and 'even in a part of the working class' (211).  This activity has established a 'frontier of the mass class base of the bourgeoisie'.

It would be wrong to insist that this just depends on prejudice or to the pervasiveness of anti-communist ideas—this would be idealism.  Traditions are powerful but they are maintained by concrete links not just ideological ones [we are reminded that ideology is not just a matter of ideas].  Monopolists are able to develop their relations—they 'close their eyes to tax frauds among a certain social category; they "hold on" to some working people by the DPO' (211-12) [which could be a form of French participatory management].  Combating these relations requires more than propaganda, and study of the material and ideological elements is important. Is necessary to win over the mass base of the bourgeoisie, through political action, still based on the working class.  Monopolists will then be exposed as the true enemy of the French people [sounds like the STAMOCAP thesis -- but see below].

There are some theoretical changes as well.  The idea of the logic of needs replacing the logic of profit properly belongs to communism, whereas the need is to move democracy forward.  The Resolution still talks about policies to avoid appearing just utopian, or 'trying to outbid everyone in spiritualism' [a rebuke to a particular humanist tendency].  Democracy is not just seen as a road to socialism.  The issue is always to relate it to class content.  If reforms develop class struggle they are a step in the right direction.  There will be no revolution without revolutionary situations, a conjunction of 'a considerable number of national and international contradictions' (213), and this cannot be programmed.  The mass political line should be strong and flexible, ready to act, but meanwhile helping to prepare.

There should be no raising of false hopes about the spontaneity of history or the 'idealism of the omnipotence of "ideas"' (214).  Some remaining 'utopian idealist formulae' [and one refers to the notion of STAMOCAP, state monopoly capitalism!] must also be abandoned.

The party must be both a vanguard and a mass party.  Young militants linked to the masses in factories, for example, must be recruited and promoted.  Marxist Leninist theory must be reinstated against dogmatism and sectarianism.  Instead of emphasizing cadres, as in Stalin, we should emphasize the masses, developing local branches, including some in factories, recruiting members, taking part in mass actions, remaining, in Lenin's terms '"one step ahead of the masses, and one step only"' (215).  In the past, the party has become detached from the masses and their needs and have been left behind.  New analysis in particular is urgently required.  The development of a mass party should be emphasized in the Resolution.

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