RETHINKING MARXISM Volume 7, Number 1 (Spring, 1994)
In this issue Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff continue their project (begun in RM, Summer 1993) of investigating the class structure that mostly characterized the USSR during its 70-plus-year reign. Resnick and Wolff weave a fascinating tale in which the battle to establish "socialism" in the Soviet Union turned out to be the means by which the private capitalism of the pre-1917 era was supplanted by a "state capitalism" which, in turn, was ultimately rejected and replaced once again by the current movement back to private capitalism. Resnick and Wolff produce a new history of the Soviet Union in which they read the debates over state versus private Control of enterprises, industrial policy, rural transformation, and much else about the Soviet economic structure during this century as evidence of a stunning neglect of the prevalent state capitalist class processes as they partly constituted all spheres of Soviet life. As they argued in their earlier piece, the reason for this neglect has primarily to do with the conflation of the abolition of private property and the setting up of central planning with a communist class process. Resnick and Wolff show here that various supposedly "noncapitalist" forms of power and property, including worker management and social ownership of productive property, were at times intact in the Soviet Union, but clearly not in the service of communism. Rather, the capitalist exploitation of industrial workers by the Council of Industrial ministers was aided and abetted by some moves to "democratize" industrial decision making, by the elimination of private ownership, by the administering of commodity production and value relations through state rather than market institutions, and, perhaps most harmfully, through the ideological obliteration of the Marxian concept of class in the name of the victory of socialism. Resnick and Wolff's unique empirically grounded perspective positions them to see the recent downfall of the Soviet Union as the (perhaps temporary) failure of state capitalism to avoid the crises of surplus production and distribution that had emerged most forcefully by the 1970s, but that had successfully been resisted or postponed during the preceding 20 years. The current move back to private capitalism does not, therefore, represent the decisive historical defeat of communism that is trumpeted by both right and left critics today since, in Resnick and Wolff's words, "the almost tragicomic truth is that a century of hot debate over socialism/communism versus capitalism masked a set of oscillations from private to state to private capitalism."
As the events of 1989 in Eastern Europe recede now into the background after the initial flush of public exhilaration at the end of the Cold War, it is interesting to consider the cultural, economic, and political conditions that have translated the supposed struggles for self-determination into the veritable "Americanization" of Eastern Europe. Such a consideration serves as the backdrop for Reinhold Wagnleitner's spirited investigation of the similar cultural imperialism practiced to exquisite success in Central Europe after World War II. As Wagnleitner contends, the victory of Western and specifically American cultural ideals in Germany and Austria proceeded not as "a by-product of the political, military, and economic successes of the United States in Cold War Europe" but, rather, as the ideological conquest of Central Europe via the Hollywood film. Wagnleitner shows that a whole generation of Germans and Austrians, as well as the British, French, and Italians—allies and enemies alike—were virtually created in their tastes and lifestyles by the images and forms of consumption and display that were the stock-in trade of Hollywood films after the war. In telling this saga, Wagnleitner reveals the forms of mutual cooperation and antagonism that existed between the U.S. Army and other agencies of occupation and pacification and the U.S. film industry, as the Army relied increasingly on Hollywood for its propaganda efforts, and as film moguls, in too, depended upon the power of the Army and the U.S. governmment to provide the American film industry with nearly monopolistic control of the production and distribution of cinema in Central Europe. So, while the American governmment was declaring "hooray for Hollywood" as it began the process of "denazifying" Germany and Austria, the film industry was shouting "whoopie for Washington" as American film companies were able to reap monopoly profits and hegemonize their markets largely because of the deliberate destruction and control, through U.S. policy, of their cinematic competitors in the zones of occupation. For Wagnleitner, the results of this symbiotic process for Central Europeans was the "lack of control over the creation and dissemination of cultural capital; loss of sovereignty over the production of those images, which have probably become the prime movers and media of cultural self-interpretation and self-definition in the twentieth century." As the present-day Eastern European self-identity seems increasingly to be "made in America," Wagnleitner's entertaining reminder of the earlier success of U.S. cultural diplomacy and propaganda in Central Europe in creating a culture redolent with "capitalist consumption ideologies" requires a closer look at the ways in which the more recent "velvet revolutions" may, too, have been scripted in Hollywood.
Carole Stabile revives the notion of "class interests" in her stinging criticism of the postmodern tendency in Western feminism. As Stabile contends, the move to subsume the materiality of women and their bodies to the realm of discourse has had the result of privileging the particular activities, perspectives, and interests of one group of people in contemporary capitalist societies, that of intellectuals. Stabile chides feminists who follow the train of thought about power and politics a . postmodern politics of "radical democracy"—that has all but erased the traces of class experiences, positions, and forms of struggle in women's lives today. Stabile makes her case by finding the distinctive class interests that are served by the attack on class, the economy, essentialism, and materialism—that is, on the Marxist tradition in social thought and political action—in the work of Judith Butler and other leading postmodern feminist thinkers. For Stabile, feminists within the academy have disinherited class because, in the hands of Marxists, it supposedly downplays race and gender difference (again within the sphere of intellectual activities). In her eyes, this move belies the forms of capitalist exploitation and a. oppression, including those specific to women not privileged enough to avoid such exploitation, that are secured by the focus on the world of discourse and not on everyday material life. Stabile uses as an example of the mistakes in politics that are the consequence of feminism neglecting the materiality of class (and also race) in the lives of many women the reaction of well-placed feminists to the Dan Quayle-Murphy Brown debacle in 1992. As Stabile aptly reminds us, Quayle's attack on the single-parent status of the fictional TV character Murphy Brown came not only within the context of an abstract discussion of "family values" but, more insidiously, in response to the rioting in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict. Stabile regards as a prime example of the displacement to the realm of discourse of what should have been condemned by feminists as a ruse to disguise h the real conditions of poverty and neglect for poor women and blacks the too willing response to the skewering of Murphy Brown of many feminists who called for an expansion of the definition of what counts as a family. The cynical and misguided attempts by some feminists, in expanding this definition, to treat single parenting as a question of either choice or circumstance—and, therefore, according to Stabile, granting these "options" an equal standing—hid the fact that it is only a rewarding choice for those women whose class status protects them from the vicissitudes of capitalist exploitation. Thus, Stabile warns, contemporary feminism is in danger of allying itself with the forces that support a vast array of women's economic oppression by eschewing for feminist theory and politics the concept of class and the politics of class-interested subjects.
In the ongoing debates surrounding the different historical onsets of modernism and postmodernism in the twentieth century, the issue of demarcating clearly between a regime of "productionism" and then later "consumerism" has been central. In his essay, Bruce Pietrykowski argues forcefully that no such clear-cut historical rupture between the modern and postmodern can be adduced. Writing as an economist, Pietrykowski shifts our attention away from the more familiar question of the modern or postmodern status of contemporary economic theory and method to the less explored problem of ascertaining the character of the lived experience of economic agents, especially in their current exalted role as consumers. Pietrykowski finds inspiration for his own study of this lived experience in the - work of the "regulation school" of Michel Aglietta and in recent discussions of a so-called post-Fordist regime of capital accumulation. Following in the path of the regulation theorists, Pietrykowski claims that a veritable transition from mass produced techniques of production ("Fordism") to those informed by small-scale, batch production and "just-in-time" methods of inventory control and goods delivery has in fact occurred in tandem with a transformation in the role of consumers and their patterns of consumption. Yet, in crucial departure from the regulation school and others who wish to link decisively the historical emergence of postFordism with postmodern culture (here tied together by the sobriquets "consumerism" or "society of the spectacle" or even "late capitalism"), Pietrykowski shows that modern and postmodern cultural elements and modes of consumption simultaneously have occurred within both Fordist and post-Fordist regimes of capital accumulation. For example, Pietrykowski presents evidence that many of the elements of "fast capitalism" and "ephermerality, fragmentation, juxtaposition, surface, and depthlessness" that are currently attributed to post-Fordism and postmodernism can be clearly seen in the rise of consumer services and the particular aesthetics or designs—he discusses the design features, spatial arrangements, and service orientation of early twentieth-century gas stations and department stores—that attended these services during the supposed heyday of Fordism in the United States. One important and concluding implication of Pietrykowski's argument is that, while it may be useful to distinguish between Fordist and post-Fordist regimes of production and consumption, economists and others would do well to recognize that "the legacy of postmodern influences may well extend back beyond the political economic crisis of the 1970s" and, hence, may suggest "shifting boundaries between the modern and postmodern."
We are happy to include here several works as excerpts from the exhibition "This is my body: this is my blood" that was mounted in conjunction with the conference "Marxism and the New World Order: Crises and Possibilities" in November 1992 organized by Rethinking MARXISM at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. By means of introducing and presenting the works selected here by the curators of the exhibition, Susan Jahoda and May Stevens, we quote from several contributions to the catalog from that exhibition. In our Foreword to the catalog, we stated that "the human body has been embraced as the subject for this exhibition because the body mediates the crises and possibilities of our social, political, and personal lives." Fleshing out (so to speak) such a mediation, the writer and artist Robert Blake sees the body in contemporary society as the "contested site where state interests are most determined to control reproduction, nakedness, sexuality, and are equally mobilized to restrict representation." Adding to this the appropriate context then for the exhibition's focus on the body, the well-known art critic and activist Lucy Lippard noted that "as racism, anti-semitism, and homophobia ooze through the cracks in disintegrating global structures, as artists desperately seek their places among the ruins and the sprouts, and as the U.S. Supreme Court hypocritically confirms a woman's right to her body and makes it impossible for most women to exercise that right, the theme is all too timely." The specific focus in the exhibition and in several of the entries reproduced here on the particular status and representation of women's bodies and their more recent dispersion provoked Lippard's reflection that "the autobiography and narrative that underlay much . . . feminist art have reappeared in the 90s, but now they are re-informed by the shifting and wildly diverse grounds of 'multiculturalism'." The desire of the participating artists to situate representations of the body in mass and popular culture but also to shed light on their own politically informed processes of artistic representation without compromising their works' integrity led Lippard to conclude that "they put their ideas and others' bodies on the line. " This line of sight is further illuminated by Blake who views the common terrain of the artwork presented here and in the original installation to be "the representation of otherness through visual and Iinguistic projects." The transgressive character of the work, then, is attributable to a "breech of silence" about the body as the different entries taken as a whole, in Blake's words, "chart wounds, differences, openings, breaks, refusals, recollections, collective and individual sites of resistance." We thank all involved in the F organization of the exhibition and catalog and the participating artists for allowing us to present some of the results of this highly successful and provocative show to our readers.
At least since the rise of the Western New Left in the 1960s, and certainly since the publication in 1985 of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe's Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, theoreticians of "radical democracy" have chastised orthodox versions of Marxism for their disabling class essentialism, political vanguardism, and apocalyptic vision of social upheaval. The current sharp opposition of radical democracy, often drawing quite heavily from Western liberal traditions, to Marxism has relied extensively, lay Stone notes here, on a rejection of Marxism's frequent recourse to positivist forms of explanation and to totalizing notions of social change and revolutionary activity. One of the primary sources for this rejection, Stone explains, is an appreciation of post-Hegelian phenomenology and hermeneutics with its emphasis on the importance of the intersubjective (and therefore pluralistic and ever-changing) conceptions of perception and the related idea that one's thoughts and actions are always situated within particular cultural, theoretical, and political "traditions" (thus eschewing illusions of a "revolutionary break"). Stone shows that the neglect of Marxism's more phenomenological and therefore dialectical moments has ironically led many Marxists to assert the primacy of "scientific" knowledge, class struggle, and revolutionary ruptures over the plurality of perception, the recognition of the "situatedness" and transitoriness of all perspectives and subjective/political identities, and the transformation of traditions, especially those of contemporary liberalism, from "within," as it were. Thus, Stone believes that such "post-Marxist" advocates of radical democracy as Laclau and Mouffe have hit the mark in preferring to wed phenomenology's insights into discursive and cognitive pluralism (now linked to strategic political pluralism) with Gramscian notions of hegemony and "historic bloc" in order to articulate a theory of radical political action which—in their view, contrary to contemporary Marxism—is simultaneously open-ended and determined. While Stone joins other radical democrats in imagining "Marxists abandoning Marxism as an ideology proper and appropriating and resituating important elements of contemporary Marxist theory within a hermeneutically structured radical democratic terrain," he does hold out the prospect that Marxism can revive the more dialectical, antipositivist, and liberal humanist values and elements of its own tradition in order to reform itself in the direction of radical democratic theory and politics.
The first entry in the Remarx section is Erwin Marquit's reflections on the conditions that led to the tumultuous rupture in the Communist Party of the USA in 1991. Writing as a participant-observer to the events that unfolded both leading up to and after the mass defection of many dedicated party members at the Party's 25th National Convention in late 1991, Marquit describes the direction of the official leadership, under the auspices of Gus Hall, as one that mostly subverted the basic principles of "democratic centralism," that privileged unnecessarily the organization of industrial workers rather than making central to the party's activities the question of racism and African-American equality, and that neglected critical theoretical and educational initiatives in developing distinctly Marxist views on the crisis of socialism in the USSR and much else. Marquit's particular reading of the crisis in the party leads him to a mostly sympathetic analysis of the consequent formation of the Committees of Correspondence, though Marquit notes that one of the problems that has appeared is the near abandonment, despite the presence of life-long communists and Marxists, of Marxism and Leninism as the theoretical and practical foundations for this new left-wing political organization. Though concerned primarily with the "organizational crisis" of the CPUSA, Marquit's essay raises interesting and lingering problems for all Marxists in the United States and perhaps elsewhere, such as the issue of how to conceptualize struggles for democracy and the end to race (and, we might add, gender) discrimination in relation to Marxist-inspired political movements and Marxist social theory more broadly. So, while Marquit's piece is clearly meant to intervene in political events with respect to a particular organization, it is important, nevertheless, not only as a historical document of recent Marxian left activity in the United States, but also as a concrete example with which we can retheorize the very problematic formulations that have been bequeathed to us by the CPUSA and orthodox Marxism.
The Cold War is over? Not really, says Benjamin Page, as he describes in his contribution to our Remarx section the latest economic and cultural phase of the Cold War following from the abatement of military hostilities between East and West. Using the changes that led to the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1992-93 as a case in point, Page depicts the attempts by such Western-dominated international institutions as the World Bank and the IMF to impose a specifically Western agenda dedicated to the eradication of any traces of the socialist legacy in Eastern Europe. Page notes that in the former Czechoslovakia, the struggles for democracy, political freedom, and a humane socialism that coalesced in popular calls for the return of Alexander Dubcek as President in 1989 were soon blunted and displaced by projects invOlving privatization and unregulated market economics. In fact, Page contends, it was the fear and dissatisfaction with this elision of popular demands and the concern for retaining some of the material benefits of socialism that may have led Slovaks to opt for a separate republic. Page believes that Western capital and its international agents have had as their primary target in the "reform" of Eastern Europe the elimination of social programs, such as state spending on medical care, education, and the like, and any legislation or remnants of the socialist experiment, such as the fairly successful collective farms in Czechoslovakia, that stand in the way of privatization and the spread of market forces. Such moves to dismantle socialism have been underway for several years, the effects of which, by now, have been felt by many workers and others in Eastern Europe as a decline in living standards. Page believes, in fact, that while much had been promised in the way of modem capitalist concerns as the shiny-new future following from the penetration of Western interests, there is more evidence to suggest that Eastern Europe may become the source of cheap and available labor rather than an outpost of cutting edge, high-tech industry. Page extends his analysis to suggest that in this postmilitary phase of the Cold War, the real losers in the "Western agenda" may be workers across the globe since the creation of a large pool of underpaid labor in the East can and may already serve as the condition for depressing wages and resisting worker demands—all in the name of the "new competition"—in the Third World and in the West itself.
Jonathan Diskin's review of Ernesto Laclau's New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time carries forward both the theme of radical democracy developed in lay Stone's article (above) and his own past work (see Diskin and Sandler, RM, Fall 1993) on the breakthroughs and impasses of Laclau's antiessentialism. Diskin applauds Laclau's 1990 book as containing several real advances in the theory of democracy and its connection to discursive plurality, the work of which had begun with Laclau and Mouffe's Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Specifically, Diskin points to Laclau's more elaborated understanding of the "democratic revolution" of our times as being about the forces of "dislocation" and "negativity" that have made it impossible to secure closure of any presumed objectively grounded historical event or movement in the realms of politics and society. Unlike that of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Diskin notes, Laclau's presentation of the possibilities for radical democratic thought and practice proceeds here not in direct relation to the history of Marxian political and social thought. Rather, Laclau's "manifesto" talks about any movement as democratic that "weakens" the impulse or the attempt to wholly encompass subjective identities, political opposition, and the social totality as unified, centered, and objectively determined. Diskin finds illuminating Laclau's refusal of deriving liberatory political projects and the hierarchy of privilege often accorded to this or that struggle from the supposed "nature of existence itself." Laclau's discussion of the temporary unities that can occur as a result of hegemony and antagonism rather than emerge almost naturally from the "inner logic" of some historical contradiction represents, says Diskin, a laudable endeavor. This endeavor is concerned with breaking the strong causal and logic-bound link often posited by classical Marxism between political action and the "closed discursive space" of contradiction. And yet, in Diskin's eyes, Laclau's desire to break this link falters rather noticeably when he turns to discuss the "proliferations of dislocations peculiar to advanced capitalism." Diskin sees as a serious departure from his previous antiessentialism Laclau's falling back on a seemingly "real" capitalism, replete with stages in which the latest one produces actual fragmentation in global production and commodification, as a means to deduce logically (and secure closure in the "nature of existence") the forces of democratic politics and identities. As an untheorized category, capitalism is treated by Laclau as given and, in Diskin's view, this leads Laclau to pass "from the logic of a theoretical argument to programmatic notions, suggesting that the latter can be deduced from the former." So, while Diskin sees great merit in Laclau's attempts to constitute the political and social realms complexly, he chides this otherwise careful thinker for neglecting to reconceptualize economic life in a nonessentialist manner and for producing a notion of democracy that, at times, tends towards universality because of its foundation in the historical reality of the latest phase of capitalism.
In closing, we wish to offer publicly our sincerest thanks and share with readers our sense of enormous indebtedness to one of our own. From the time that RM was simply a good idea in the mid-eighties to the present inauguration of volume 7, the production of the journal has been overseen by David Ruccio. With the completion of this issue, David has stepped down (though not from the board), and the job of production editor will now be carried out by Carole Biewener. Readers should know that along with other members of the editorial board and of our parent organization, the Association for Economic and Social Analysis, and, of course, our publisher, David has worked to format, edit, and produce every issue to date of RM (in addition to his other editorial responsibilities). David's contributions to the design, formulation, and technical processes involved in the production of RM have been innumerable and indispensable. Among other things, there is no question that had he not been willing to figure out and organize the ways in which we could produce RM ourselves through personal computers (as we did during the first 3 years of our existence), the journal could not have existed. Since we never before listed his contributions as production editor anywhere else in our pages, we wished to make clear both to David and to our readers that he has not labored in obscurity and that, to the contrary, he has always had our deepest admiration and respect for his work. We are sure our readers join us in these
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