Political Practice and Theory in the Class Struggle
Author: Alan Shandro
In Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony, by means of a careful textual and contextual analysis of the writings of Lenin and his Marxist contemporaries, Alan Shandro traces the contours of the ‘(anti-) metaphysical event’ identified by Gramsci in Lenin’s political practice and theory, the emergence of the ‘philosophical fact’ of hegemony. In so doing, he effectively disputes conventional caricatures of Lenin’s role as a political actor and thinker and unearths the underlying parameters of the concept of hegemony in the class struggle. He thereby clarifies the conceptual status of this pervasive but now increasingly elusive notion and the logic of theory and practice at work in it.
Author: Alan Shandro

Abstract

Concerned to remedy the ‘state of severe disarray’ that immobilises the left in advanced capitalist countries, Howard Chodos and Colin Hay set out to inquire into ‘the organisational conditions that are necessary to the radical transformation of capitalism'. This disarray is expressed in the drift of social-democratic parties in the wake of the neoliberal mainstream, the inability of a fragmented and disappearing radical Left to orient either itself or spontaneous resistance to the global neoliberal agenda, and the failure of the ‘new’ social movements as a vehicle of ‘broader social transformation'. Against this background of fragmentation, dispersal and division, the authors spell out their central contention: the idea that ‘there is a distinctively creative component to politics', as the claim that organisation in general and the political party in particular provide the necessary context for the actualisation of ‘belief-dependent emergent capacities'. Fulfilling a ‘multi-dimensional mediating function', the party provides ‘an indispensable context in which we can define who we are and what we stand for', a locus for the definition of commonalities, and hence it constitutes a basis for strategic action.

In: Historical Materialism
Author: Alan Shandro

Abstract

Lars Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered aims to overthrow what he labels the textbook-myth of Leninism through a comprehensive reconstruction of Lenin’s relationship, both to the Kautskyite orthodoxy that dominated the international socialist movement, and more local polemics. While the resulting rereading of Lenin’s early Marxism is a powerful counter to the ‘textbook-interpretation’ of Leninism, Lih has perhaps ‘bent the stick’ too far in an attempt to prove Lenin’s orthodoxy. Importantly, he misconstrues Lenin’s critique of ‘economism’ through a too-narrow reading of ‘economism’. Lih would have been better served to recognise the importance of Lenin’s polemic as an attempt, not simply to paint his opponents on the Russian Left as ‘economists’, but, more importantly, to grasp the organic nature of reformism and thus the true scale of the difficulties involved in challenging its hegemony within the workers’ movement.

In: Historical Materialism
Author: Alan Shandro

Abstract

According to a long-standing conservative critique, the proponents of fundamental or revolutionary social change necessarily fail by sacrificing the organic complexity of society and the individual upon a procrustean bed of dogmatic and rigid universal principles. I will argue that Marx's concept of proletarian self-emancipation is not only compatible with this conservative critique but is appropriately understood as a variant of it. The self-emancipation of the working class is the core of Marx's critique of the Utopian socialists, for whom socialism is the instantiation of universal ideals rather than the product of class struggle. This critique should be construed, not as a theoretical promissory note for the realisation of these ideals through the agency of the workers, but as a criticism of the very project of founding political ethics on the basis of universal ideals. Marx's political thought bears a structural similarity to conservative thought in that each seeks to ground its political programme upon the study of society as it actually exists, rather than upon a vision of human nature considered apart from society. If Marx's critique of Utopian socialism holds water, the intellectual roots of Stalinist authoritarianism may be traced, not to the failure of Marx fully to outline the ideal communist society, but to the assimilation of elements of his thought to the Utopian style and tradition of political thought. There should be no surprise, therefore, when attempts to transcend Stalinism by basing radical politics upon sanitised versions of a socialist Utopia or socialist renditions of such universal liberal principles as human rights prove counter-productive.

In: Historical Materialism
In: Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony
In: Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony
In: Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony
In: Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony
In: Lenin and the Logic of Hegemony