Revisionism: Essays on the History of Marxist Ideas

Revisionism: Essays on the History of Marxist Ideas

Revisionism: Essays on the History of Marxist Ideas

Revisionism: Essays on the History of Marxist Ideas

Excerpt

It should be easy to define revisionism. It began with Eduard Bernstein's independent attempt to re-examine some of the original Marxian tenets, and the term should be used for subsequent efforts of this kind. Actually, the problem is rather more complex, and the use and abuse of the term has a long and involved history. In our own time it is applied not only to social-democratic reformists, or to disillusioned young communists, but also to leaders of the Communist establishment. Marshal Tito is officially branded a 'modern revisionist' in the Sino-Soviet bloc, the word is applied to Premier Khrushchev by the Albanian Communists, while Chairman Mao is esoterically referred to in Moscow as a 'revisionist dogmatist'.

We seem to have reached a point when Marx's spiritual heirs, legitimate or otherwise, can truly say: 'We are all revisionists now.'

This would be vehemently denied by each of the various guardians of orthodoxy, each seeing his own as the only true interpretation, while it is those who deviate from it who are the revisionists. Clearly, revisionism is to Marxist movements what heresy is to religious ones. Ideas which set into a canon sooner or later require revision. When revision comes from above, one dogma replaces another. It is then called 'a creative development of Marxism'. When it comes from independent thinkers, it is considered heresy. Heresy is the shadow of every orthodoxy, and Marxism is no exception.

The essays in this volume have been arranged with this perspective in mind.

Marxian Marxism was not only an ideology postulating change but a theory with scientific claims ('scientific socialism'), predicting future economic, social, and political developments, so it was inevitable that its forecasts should eventually be confronted with the actual course of events, which differed from the expectations universally held by Marxists on the basis of the theory. The first thing they had to discard was the belief that the proletarian revolution would occur in the economically developed countries. Originally it was axiomatic that, as Engels expressed it, 'anyone who says that a socialist revolution can be carried out in a country which has no proletariat or bourgeoisie proves by this statement that he has still to learn the ABC of socialism.' With the advantages of hindsight we know that the historical perspective envisaged in the Communist Manifesto was wrong: one hundred years later the 'proletarians' of the West have more to lose than their chains and it was Mao's peasant armies that were blazing the revolutionary trail to 'socialism'. All this hardly fitted Marx's anticipation in the celebrated passage . . .

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