Home > Juan McIver, The 'Solidarity' Group > McIver – Revolution Re-Affirmed : Problems of Method (Part 1)

McIver – Revolution Re-Affirmed : Problems of Method (Part 1)

This newly translated essay by Cardan has been presented to the London group. Actually, the essay says nothing that Cardan hasn’t said before. To answer all the questions posed by the essay is not possible here, though such a critique is indeed necessary. However, it is possible to answer some points, especially on the method used by Cardan, which determines the way he presents facts.

MARXISM
Cardan’s approach to Marxism is highly contradictory. On p2 he remarks that “What was best in Marx’s writing may…serve as an inspiration…” for analyses of phenomena previously considered “marginal.” On p6 we read:”…one of the most indestructible principles taught by Marx himself [was that’ an ideology was not to be judged by the words it uses but what it became in social reality.| Lukacs HISTORY AND CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS is considered by cardan as an advancement of Marxism (p6). There is, apparently, a dimension in Marxism which should be followed (maybe) or developed. What exactly it is is not made clear.

But the dimension which shouldn’t be accepted is the “economic system” developed by Marx in Capital (Modern Capitalism and Revolution, p33) Marx’s economic conception “…are equivalent to treating the workers in theory as capitalism would like to treat them in practice …but cannot: that is, as mere objects.” (MCAR, p23) Cardan also holds that bureaucratic politics “objectively flow” from Marx’s economic ideas: “These are the ideas that have finally culminated in Stalinism and which-shared by Trotskyism-have made it impossible for Trotskyism to clearly differentiate itself as a political tendency. For objectivist views of economics and history can only be a source of bureaucratic politics,…” MCAR, p35) This is so even if Marx himself didn’t draw such political conclusions from his economic theories. Cardan here doesn’t go far enough as some anarchists who claim that those views explain Marx’s dictatorial machinations in the First International, or that those views are some how connected to anal-eroticism.

We hold that there’s a revolutionary continuity in Marx’s writings,from the 1840’s to his death. Volumes have been written on this, and we believe that analyses such as provided by Dunayevskaya or David McLellan, Korsch, Goldman and others, are more historically accurate than Cardan’s mechanical construction of “two” Marxes. This doesn’t mean that the whole, or any. Of Marx’s works shouldn’t be continuously re-examined. We simply disagree with Cardan’s methodology. All of Marx’s writings are historical evidences. Some of his programmatic ideas can only be reactionary today – such as those expressed in The Communist Manifesto. Many of his personal scheming in the First International was unprincipled (though there’s much historical debate here, not only among “defenders of the faith”). But we refuse to allow a simplistic and reductionist theory a la Cardan, which neatly attempts to tidy up revolutionary theory by constructing a direct bridge from Marxism to state capitalism, or bureaucratic capitalism as Cardan would prefer.

Cardan’s description of Marx’ theory of wages is a more adequate description of Lasalle’s doctrinaire nonsense about “The Iron Law of Wages”. Of course, depending upon one’s personal predilections on method, it is possible to create a view of Marxism which corresponds closely to Lassalleism or Stalinism, using the appropriate dose of quotations. This approach is applicable to any social theory, including Cardan’s ideas. Humanist liberalism, grass-roots reformism and all sorts of populist experiments can easily be construed from Cardan’s views, and he will need to say ”I’m not a Cardanist”. It would be unfair. However, to draw a parallel between Marx and Cardan here. Marx was always able to quote his sources in a rigorous and scholarly manner. Cardan, who undoubtedly has learned a lot from Weber, Rizzi, Marcuse, Aron and others, usually never quotes any philosophical source. One gets the impression that his theoretical development has occurred in a vacuum or perhaps through intuition (for an incomplete through quite perceptive analysis of Cardan’s views, it is useful to read George Litchteim’s Marxism in Modern France, pp 184-192).

Having said this, nobody can deny that Marxism indeed has become a theology and a “system” of fanatical faith. However, it will take a lot more work to understand why this is so than Cardan’s unilinear explanations. Marxism is the dogma of many state capitalist societies, but it is not simply “Marxism” or “Marxism in general” (as Korsch aptly put it). “…duly edited and purged of their real theoretical content [Marx’s observations of historical development] have become the foundation of an ideology which has replaced other modes of thought over a third of the globe.” Observes George Lichteim in Marxism (pp 146-147). Similarly, Panekoek was able to analyse Lenin’s version of Marxism as a philosophical response springing from Russia’ bourgeois backwardness. Interestingly enough, in Revolution Re-Affirmed Cardan spares no detachment and even contempt for hat he calls “the ultra-left” sects without specifying who these people were or are. Is the ultra-left of the 20s meant here? Various council communists such as Pannekoek and Mattick The fact that the continuity of Marxism as a living revolutionary theory was maintained (however distortedly) by the ultra-left from the 20’s, is of no importance to Cardan.

The term “classical Marxism” used by Cardan (as a system of ideas and action which presumably was destroyed in 1939) only mystifies the historical problem. A lineal continuity is swiftly established between Marxism-Leninism-Trotskyism (pp 1-2). A scientific approach would requite an establishing not so much of common denominators between these components of “classical Marxism” but of actual differences. Even what is common to these components has varying historical nuances.

This methodology is correctly grasped by Lucien Goldman when he writes: “At any given historical moment every writer, thinker and likewise, every social group, is surrounded by a large number of ideas and positions that are religious, moral, political, etc.. and these constitute so many possibly influence. From among them the writer, thinker, or social group selects only one system, or a small number of them, and this selection will really be influential. The problem posed to this historian and socialistic then is not that of knowing whether Kant was influenced by Hume, Pascal by Montaigne, Descartes, the Third Estate of France before the Revolution by political thinkers, but why they sustained precisely this influence in this particular period of this history or their life.” (The Human Sciences and Philosophy, p92)

Lichteim observes that “Social Democracy was older than Marxism,…” (Marxism, p90) The inter-relationships, influences, and tensions which existed between Marx and Engels and the existing European labour movement have been extensively documented and that history continues to be enriched by today’s experiences and research. How and when did Marxism begin to develop as a church within Germany, or as a conspiracy in Tsarist Russia, has to be grasped in its contemporary development. To be sure, for Stalinism, that history is an inevitable progression towards the Moscow autocracy. From a different angle, Cardan arrives at a similar conclusion What we could say is that the canonisation of Marxism is a partial reflection of terrible working class defeats throughout 3 generations. To infer that Marxism is actively responsible for these defeats (because of Marxism’s economic theories) is to give too much weight to Marxism. First, it has to be proven that an “un-alloyed” Marxism was the practice of the 2nd and 3rd (or 4th) Internationals and secondly it has to be proven that millions of people actually read, discussed, adsorbed, developed, digested and criticised the texts of “classical Marxism” The idea that claims that “the working class movement, seen as an organised class movement explicitly and permanently contesting capitalist exploitation has disappeared.” (Revolution Re-Affirmed), p1) is a myth. Such a working class didn’t exist in the first place, except at the realm of production, where the nature of contestation is quite different. In an article on the working class, Paul Mattick Jr. (an unknown ultra-left sectarian) presents a different view to Cardan’s:
“What gave the appearance of a non-intergration of the working class in the past was the existence of ideologically revolutionary organisations ‘of the working class’ – the social democratic trade unions and parties the Communist parties and the unions of the Third International (and Soviet Russia itself in the age in which it was easier to believe in it as bastion of world revolution). In fact these very organisations were, at their moments of strength, also instruments for the integration of the working class. “(New Politics, Vol VIII, N3, p32) Cardan’s assumption that such an organised movement was contesting capitalist exploitation is objectively untrue, and it amounts to an implied apology for Leninism and Trotskyism,. To be sure, there were politically motivated contestations against capitalism, but these occurred mainly in revolutionary periods and in spite of Leninist of Anarchist reformism. All this is clouded by the simplistic terms “classical Marxism”.

Part 2 of this critique will bring out some of the impliations of Cardan’s ideas about “modern capitalism” and his concept of “order giver-order taker”.

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  1. AnotherMark
    April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Please can someone (perhaps ‘Mark’) give some background to this text.
    For example: Who was Juan McIver? What organisation did he belong to?
    What is the source for this text? When was it originally written? Where was it originally published?
    Also, I guess it was put here using scanning software, as there are lots of mistakes (as there are too in ‘McIver – Revolution Re-Affirmed: Mysteries of Cardanism Part 2’), so can anyone (perhaps ‘Mark’) provide copies of the originals, so that an edited and corrected version can be built (perhaps by me).
    Thanks for any help with these points.

  2. April 11, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you very much for commenting, it is good to know that some people care about my stuff.
    All texts written by Juan McIver were photographed and then typed up from the photographs.
    I just went through and made some corrections to this piece (I think I did this one on a train from London).

    Will comment again soon.

  3. April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    (Part 2) has now been updated also.

  4. April 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Now to answer your question.

    I have never met ‘Juan McIver’ but I will tell you what I understand.

    McIver was originally from Chile and left Tony Cliff’s International Socialists along with ‘F.S’ to join Solidarity, around the time of the protests against the Industrial Relations Act of 1971, he would become responsible for Solidarity’s hedghog ‘mascot’ cartoons.

    These two pieces are undated but are from the unpublished collection ‘To the silent majority’ (16.3.73.) A large internal opposition document, apparently mostly written by McIver.

    McIver was in contact with the groups that would become the ICC and split from Solidarity in April 1973. He would become a founding member of the British section of the ICC.

    Also so – http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isj/1971/no049/mciver.htm

    Hope my information is accurate.

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