Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On Marxist criticism

Though he didn't have 21st century Marxist bloggers in mind, in 1928 Anatoly Lunarcharsky posed the interesting question, 'Are sharp and bitter polemics to be allowed?' His answer:

Generally speaking, sharp polemics are useful in that they keep the reader interested. Polemical articles, especially where both sides are wrong, all other things being equal, have more influence on the public and are better understood. In addition, the martial spirit of the Marxist critic as a revolutionary leads him to express his thoughts sharply, but at the same time it should be mentioned that to camouflage the weakness of his arguments with polemical brilliance is one of the critic’s greatest sins. Generally, when there are not many arguments but a multitude of various scathing remarks, comparison, mocking exclamations, and sly questions, then the impression may be gay but not at all serious. Criticism must be applicable to criticism itself, for Marxist criticism is at the same time scientific, and, in a way, artistic work. Anger is not the best guide in criticism and often means that the critic is wrong.

Admittedly, sometimes biting sarcasm and tirades are torn out of the critic’s heart. The more or less discerning ear of another critic, reader, and particularly writer can always distinguish between natural anger and mere malice. In our constructive effort there must be as little malice as possible. It must not be mixed with class hatred. Class hatred strikes with intent, but like a cloud over the earth it is above personal malice. By and large, the Marxist critic, without falling into cheerful indulgence, which would be very wrong on his part, must be a priori benevolent. His supreme joy must be in finding the positive and revealing it to the reader in all its splendour. Assistance must be another of his aims – to channel and to warn – and only rarely should it be necessary to attempt to undo the villain with the piercing arrow of laughter or contempt or with overwhelming criticism, which can easily annihilate any puffed-up nonentity

All worth thinking about, certainly, even if Histomat personally falls very short of this ideal. Anyway, after a brief plug for Anindya Bhattacharyya's article on 'culture, commerce and class society' and Sadie Robinson on the roots of reformism, I thought I would just highlight a few excellent little articles on the Marxist blogosphere which I found while pissing about during my lunch hour. First up, Ed Rooksby blames capitalism not the working class for the current credit crunch, Richard Seymour writes on apartheid in South Africa, and finally Louis Proyect writes on Herman Melville and indigineous peoples. I also came across a new Adorno-esque blog entitled Futures and Pasts, which I thought also deserved a mention.

Edited to add: Stuart Hall on Raymond Williams (1988)

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At 4:54 pm, Blogger DJN said...

Given the nasty shit that's thrown around on certain British "socialist" blogs, I'm wondering if any polemics on the British far left take the form of a fist in the face.

At 3:09 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Not usually Doug, no. It is rare actually that one ever has the pleasure of meeting some of the more sectarian bloggers of the British Left in the flesh - they don't tend to get out very much...

You coming to the British Marxism this year by the way?

At 10:10 pm, Anonymous Ian said...

Dear progressive blog

Please consider linking to us

We will do same in return




At 1:51 am, Blogger DJN said...

Yeah, I'd figure they'd be pasty-white geeks tapping away on their keyboards...

Unfortunately, this will be another year where I won't make Marxism, but 2009 looks good...so far.

At 10:12 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Ian - done...

Doug - Pity...


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