Rate this Entry
I thought of making a blog before to write my thoughts from stuff I recently read, but then I realized I don't want anyone to read my banal ramblings except for me. I solved this conundrum of wanting to clarify my thoughts while not embarrassing myself among my peers by posting completely anonymously in /leftypol/ (sorry Ismail), a leftist imageboard on 8chan. I made this post on a thread where someone advocated "Revision" without realizing what theoretical revisionism meant. With a few edits, I think (and hope) it is decent enough to repost here.

"Revisionism", originally, was a reformist tendency within the Second International lead by Eduard Bernstein. Bernstein repudiated radicalism and violent revolution. His tendency eventually became the dominant Social-Democratic narrative, and is part of why Social-Democracy is the way it is today; an ideology of harmless and ineffectual left-liberals. He is most infamous for his crude bastardization of basic Marxist principles. The most famous writing against this revisionism was Rosa Luxemburg's Reform or Revolution. Opposition to Revisionism meant opposition to opportunist bastardization of Marxism.

Similar to how Lenin accused Rebochee Delo of Economism through broadening the meaning of the word [1], Revisionism eventually took a whole different meaning. The chief characteristic of Revisionism was how it was redefined; Revisionism became any 'opportunist bastardization of Marxism'. Today, 'revisionism' has become a slur as meaningless as 'reactionary', 'opportunist', or 'fascist', but we should remind ourselves it once had a meaning, and as Engels said in Ludwig Feuerbach, what matters isn't the evolution of the word itself, but what the actual phenomena the word is supposed to represent.[2] Just because 'revisionism' as a slur has been abused doesn't mean that revisionism doesn't continue to exist today.

During the philosophical debates in Tsarist Russia, there emerged a new philosophy, Machism; a philosophy who's ideas weren't that very new, but who's founder, Ernst Mach, was. According to Plekhanov in his Forward to Engels's Ludwig Feuerbach [3], the problem with merging together the philosophies of two people (Marx and Mach) who's whole methodological frameworks were wholly different would mean fundamentally misrepresenting either. The basic principles of Marxist philosophy, which provided the foundations of the whole Marxist analytical framework, were violated by the Russian Machists in their hasty attempts to reify opposing beliefs. According to Lenin in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism[4], it would have been fine if they just didn't call themselves Marxists, and it is fine to criticize Marx's "antiquated views" as long as it is clear, concise, and without ambiguity. But no, the definition of theoretical revisionism is just this; of a confused attempt of dismissing the cornerstone beliefs of Marxism (often while pretending to 'advance' it), and therefore repudiating Marxism itself.

This revisionism is something far more prevalent if you sit down and think about it. Ever since the New Left, we have had many self-proclaimed Marxists try to synthesize Marx with almost everybody else, regardless of whether or not they are actually compatible. One of the most glaring examples of bastardization is the tradition of "Marxian" (not Marx-"ist", Marx-"ian") economics beginning with Sweezy, of trying to mix together Keynes with Marx, two economists with completely different methodological frameworks, resulting with politics that often completely misunderstand how capitalism actually works. Is not the whole school of 'Critical Theory' built upon the premises of trying to reify Marx with God-knows-who? Maintaining Marxist orthodoxy means to keep together what it means to be a Marxist.

[1] Lih, Lars T. (2005) Lenin Rediscovered, page 347
[2] Marx/Engels Collected Works Volume 26, page 375
[4] V. I. Lenin Collected Works Volume 14, pages 17-18



Total Trackbacks 0
Trackback URL: