Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Owen Hatherley on Marx, Eagleton, Lenin and Lih

As [Eagleton] acknowledges, our age of no-strings-attached state handouts to banks and punitive cuts to social services has embraced a form of capitalism so grotesque that it resembles the caricatures of the most leaden Soviet satirists. Eagleton presents his book as the fruit of "a single, striking thought: what if all the objections to Marx's thought are mistaken?" In order to demonstrate this, each of the chapters of this erudite yet breezy (occasionally too breezy) tract begins with a series of assertions about Marx and Marxism, which Eagleton then proceeds to debunk, one by one.
From Hatherley's review of Eagleton's Why Marx was Right and Lih's Lenin. Personally I disagree very slightly with Hatherley's conclusion, at the end of his discussion of Lih's biography of Lenin:

Yet what really endures here is the sense that, for Lenin, a revolutionary leader has a duty to lead the working class into revolution, and all the theory in the world won't help if the political and economic conditions are missing. Lenin believed that the first world war offered a real chance to destroy capitalism, and when – in 1919, as revolution briefly engulfed Europe – he seemed to be proved right, he felt vindicated, even relieved. He learned his mistake, and died deeply troubled by it.

Yet Lenin was not 'mistaken' when the world revolution failed to triumph outside of Russia post First World War - the conditions did exist for the successful socialist revolution in Europe - not least in Germany which underwent two revolutionary situations in 1918 and then again in 1923. Lenin knew that making the revolution in Russia was a gamble, but, he wagered, it was right to make that gamble - a gamble after all that was critical to ending the bloodshed of the First World War and, everything taken into account did demonstrate the possibilities for socialist revolution in the 20th century. As Rosa Luxemburg noted,
'Everything that a party could offer of courage, revolutionary farsightedness, and consistency in a historic hour, Lenin, Trotsky, and the other comrades have given in good measure. All the revolutionary honor and capacity which the Social Democracy of the West lacked were represented by the Bolsheviks. Their October uprising was not only the actual salvation of the Russian Revolution; it was also the salvation of the honour of international socialism.'

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