Marxism or diplomatic internationalism
Labor Tribune editor, Marcus Strom, originally produced his review of David McNight's Beyond Right and Left for the reborn Australian Marxist Review (AMR)
theory, policies, diplomacy?
The offending article, A farewell to class is here. For those wanting an insight into what's left of 'official communism' in Australia, Marcus Strom explains...
After a long dormant period, Australian Marxist Review has been revived. The usual fodder of the theoretical journal of the Communist Party of Australia had been reprints from various luminaries in the "World Communist Movement" - Gus Hall or Joe Slovo spring to mind - combined with rather tired regurgitations of the "new democratic economic system" , the anti-monopoly united front, the "government of peoples' unity" or the latest exposition of the scientific and technological revolution from Moscow's Progress Publishers.
A broader journal?
The intention of the reborn AMR, under the editorial guide of Eddie Clynes, was to be a little broader than incarnations of old. Comrade Clynes is one of the few members of the CPA leadership able to think outside the dry parameters of Progress Publisher text books from the 1970s and '80s. At the time of the Beijing massacre in 1989, I understand comrade Clynes was the only member of the organisation's executive to oppose the crackdown by the Chinese authorities. Of course, he said nothing in public about the crimes of the so-called Chinese Communist Party.
Comrade Clynes heard I was writing a review of David McKnight's Beyond Right and Left. So he called me and asked me to submit it to AMR. No worries, I said.
For the CPA to commission an article for its theoretical journal from outside its ranks may seem uncontroversial to most. However, it sent minor shockwaves through the small ranks of the CPA.
Unfortunately, my review was deemed unacceptable for publication.
Comrade Clynes told me that it was not acceptable because of how it would be received by the CPA's fraternal organisations. How could I be so dismissive of communist organisations and the history of the world communist movement?
As well as these tricky matters of diplomatic internationalism, comrade Clynes was not happy with me criticising the Greens. The Green Party forms an important part of the CPA's vision of a "Peoples' Government" pursuing an alternate economic strategy.
I wrote to the comrade:
"Your disagreements with me are just that. Disagreements. I don't see how the views of a Labor Party member can be attributed to the CPA by any of your fraternal organisations if there is an appropriate disclaimer. I'm happy to be criticised and challenged on my ideas. Most of the divergence is about the theoretical basis of activity among communist activists in the 20th century. I stand by my criticisms while feeling that I am in solidarity with those activists and strongly feel that this is the tradtions which I, as a Marxist, emerge.
"I believe that the 'Marxism' promoted by the official communist movement was in fact a betrayal of the enormous dedication and self-sacrifice of millions upon millions of communists. It derailed their activity."
Helpfully, comrade Clynes highlighted my offending comments in a returned email. They are printed below. This shows why the politics of the CPA offers nothing of interest to the working class and the labour movement. Its rejection of democracy as the heart of socialism means it can exist only as an historical curiou, a relic of a failed program from a lost century.
"And most of what parades as Marxism today is a sick parody of the methodology of historical materialism."
"The irony is, of course, that McKnight's current course is the actual last gasp of the old left. The collapse of Western Stalinism and its idealised mirror, the New Left (or Eurocommunism) is part of the same process. While some have held on to various forms of these views in a semi-religious way..."
"Of course Stalinism and Eurocommunism were both antithetical to genuine Marxism. "
"The journey from determinist Marxism to bourgeois liberalism is not uncommon. "
"It is possible to reject the knuckleheaded determinism of the "official Marxism" of the 20th century and rediscover the democratic and dynamic core of Marx's methodology."
"Of course the history of modern society, as well as all hitherto existing societies, is not that of technical progress, but of class struggle."
"Of course the modern Green Party is an unstable petty-bourgeois political formation; its overall direction is to seek a 'green compromise' with capital."
"And while some societies were built with that vision using Marx's name, genuine Marxism has nothing to do with such anti-human nostrums."
"However, McKnight's disappointment reveals a flaw in not only his own Marxism, but the Marxism dominant throughout the last century and unfortunately into the new millennium."
"Unfortunately this is true. But this version of socialism has nothing to do with Marxism and its humanist program of liberation. We have seen the decline of a mechanical Marxism that has seen its day."
"Our task now is for a renewal of historical materialism and of the politics of conviction and human liberation."