- Category: Theory
- Created on Friday, 23 January 2009 23:08
- Written by Mike Ely
Three Essays by Mike Ely
- The Dialectics of Marx, Althusser & Mao: That Lonely Hour of Last Instance
- The RCP’s Debt to Louis Althusser: Why It Matters
- On Althusser and the RCP in Decline
A Related Letter from Karl Marx:
It has to be asserted (and thought through) that the exploration of concepts developed outside the communist movement (including by thinkers who are not themselves communists) is not inherently a betrayal of Marxism, it is not inherently a turning away from Marxism. It is one of the ways that Marxism itself learns, and expands, and deepens. And (as Marx did with the Hegelian dialectic, and as Mao did with the dialectics of traditional chinese philosophy) such borrowing is a difficult process of transformation and critical assimilation.
One example of how communist have been able to learn from others: A great deal was learned from the works of Steven J. Gould (the radical evolutionary biologist). I can’t capsulize it all here…. but his work was characterized by several things I’ll note in passing: One was the ability to appreciate the value of wrong ideas (in a provocative and materialist way) including by uncovering what was correct within concepts that were (overall) wrong. Second Gould increasingly over his life went to war with determinism and teleology — and fought against inventing non-existing tendencies within nature (for example there is no tendency for life to go from simple to complex). His explorations (even though he personally went further away from materialism in his theory of “Non-Overlapping Magisteria” NOMA) helped propell the RCP to a deeper criticism of “inevitabilism” in Marxism — taking up the battle against remaining teleology in communist thought (a battle where Althusser and others have already made great contributions)."
“I think Althusser’s concepts were included in the RCP’s 1984 book America In Decline because the co-authors Ray Lotta and Frank Shannon thought these concepts were valuable (even necessary). I think they went unacknowledged because full acknowledgment would have gone against the concept of Marxism and synthesis that Avakian was already then formulating. Avakian’s conception of Marxism’s development and leaps — first laid out in Mao’s Immortal Contributions, then elaborated explicitly in For a Harvest of Dragons has very little room, conceptually, for the engagement or indebtedness to radical thinkers outside the most narrowly defined ‘international communist movement.’”
Karl Marx writes:
"There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."