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Maurício Vieira Martins, Marxismo21

O escritor japonês Kohei Saito vendeu cerca de meio milhão de cópias em seu país com o livro O capital no antropoceno, que analisa a partir de uma perspectiva marxista as causas que promovem a aguda deterioração ambiental do planeta. Já o periódico alemão conservador Der Spiegel, na sua última edição de 2022, traz na capa um Marx de visual contemporâneo (com mangas curtas e braços tatuados…) e estampa a pergunta: “Afinal, Marx estava certo?”. Estes são apenas alguns exemplos de uma retomada do interesse pela obra de Marx que
vem ocorrendo no século XXI, a partir das evidências muito contundentes da gravidade das contradições da economia capitalista. Também no Brasil a produção de livros marxistas encontra um espaço próprio, ao qual vem se somar a recente tradução para o português do livro Repensar Marx e o Marxismo: guia para novas leituras, de autoria do pesquisador italiano Marcello Musto, professor da York University no Canadá. Dois livros de Musto já haviam sido publicados no Brasil: Trabalhadores, uni-vos!: Antologia política da I Internacional, publicado também pela Boitempo e O velho Marx: Uma biografia de seus últimos anos Boitempo (uma parceria da Boitempo e com a Fundação Perseu Abramo).

O conjunto de temas abordado por Repensar o marxismo é amplo:
dividido em dez capítulos, o livro abrange desde ensaios que se ocupam de alguns momentos determinados da biografia e do pensamento de Marx, como seus anos de juventude (capítulos 1 e 2), passando pelos estudos de economia política e jornalismo na década de 50 para o New-York Tribune (capítulo 4), chegando até o período de redação de O capital (capítulo 7). Há também dois capítulos dedicados à elaboração e posterior repercussão dos Grundrisse e de sua Introdução, famosos rascunhos preparatórios de O capital (capítulos 5 e 6). Além disso, o leitor encontrará um debate sobre a pertinência da oposição entre o chamado jovem Marx e o Marx da maturidade (capítulo 3), debate que encontra desdobramentos na investigação sobre o conceito de alienação (capítulo 8), desde sua apropriação por Marx até as repercussões na sociologia e na filosofia contemporâneas. Já o capítulo 9, “Evitar o capitalismo” discute a primeira recepção de Marx na Rússia, ainda durante sua vida. O livro se encerra no capítulo 10 com uma apresentação das novas descobertas da MEGA² -MarxEngels-Gesamtausgabe -, projeto editorial ainda em curso, responsável pela publicação da obra integral de Marx e Engels.

Dada a amplitude da investigação realizada por Musto, seria impossível comentar no presente texto cada capítulo do livro. Aqui, a opção será destacar alguns aspectos que me parecem particularmente fecundos [1], neste livro que consegue atingir tanto o leitor que tenha um conhecimento apenas inicial de Marx, como aquele que já dispõe de um trajeto na obra do pensador.

No meu entender, o primeiro aspecto a ser destacado diz respeito a uma ampliação da visão sobre qual foi o campo temático pesquisado por Marx ao longo de sua vida. Com efeito, os novos volumes publicados pelo projeto MEGA² nos apresentam um autor que inclui em seus estudos não somente a crítica da economia política e o conflito entre as classes sociais (temas classicamente associados ao nome do pensador alemão), como também outras preocupações que ingressaram com força na agenda teórica e política de homens e mulheres dos séculos XX e XXI. Dentre eles, merece destaque o interesse de Marx pela devastação ambiental levada a cabo pela produção capitalista. Nas palavras de Musto, “Marx se interessou cada vez mais pelo que hoje chamamos de ‘ecologia’, em particular pela erosão do solo e pelo desmatamento” (p. 310). [2]
Diferentemente de um elogio unilateral das forças produtivas – que supõe ingenuamente que o simples desenvolvimento tecnológico associado ao progresso da ciência seria capaz de produzir uma emancipação humana – encontramos em Marx uma preocupação com a devastação da natureza levada adiante pela racionalidade mercantil capitalista. Leitor atento das descobertas das ciências naturais de sua época – como atesta seu interesse pela obra, dentre outros, do cientista e bioquímico Justus von Liebig -, ele escreve em 1868: “o cultivo que, quando progride de maneira primitiva, não conscientemente controlada (obviamente, isso não se consegue sendo burguês), deixa desertos atrás de si” (apud p. 311). Ao invés do culto unilateral do produtivismo, encontramos em Marx a radiografia da destruição ambiental que a lógica do lucro traz em si.

O acesso a uma gama mais ampla de textos de Marx nos mostra também um pensador muito crítico à dominação colonial levada a cabo pela Europa ao redor do mundo. De modo diverso de um Edward Said que no seu célebre livro Orientalismo afirmava que Marx, excessivamente preso à ótica de sua época, não teria conseguido enxergar a alteridade de outras culturas, Musto escreve que “Entre os interesses de Marx, um lugar nada secundário foi ocupado pelo estudo
das sociedades não europeias e do papel destrutivo do colonialismo nas periferias do mundo” (p. 18). Notemos que tal alerta é oportuno tendo em vista que também alguns dos chamados estudos decoloniais mais recentes categorizam Marx como um pensador eurocêntrico, a ser sumariamente despachado para uma espécie de museu dos equívocos cometidos no passado. Todavia, quando se leva em conta principalmente os escritos tardios de Marx sobre, por exemplo, a violenta predação exercida pela Inglaterra sobre a Índia, vemos uma fisionomia bem diferente do pensador, que veicula uma crítica contundente ao próprio modo de produção vigente em sua Europa nativa. Nos Cadernos Etnológicos marxianos podemos ler: “a supressão da propriedade comum do solo não passou de um ato
de vandalismo inglês, que não impulsionou o povo indiano para frente, mas o empurrou para trás” (apud p. 266). Longe de um elogio da cultura europeia, Marx radiografa, no calor da hora, a violência estrutural e constitutiva de seu modo de produção capitalista.

Dito isso, é preciso reconhecer que descoberta de novos rascunhos, manuscritos preparatórios e cartas de Marx e Engels – missivistas contumazes – complexifica de modo considerável o trabalho dos pesquisadores que se dedicam com seriedade à obra dos autores. Basta lembrar que a MEGA² prevê a publicação de 114 volumes (cada um com dois tomos), colocando à disposição do público um material até então inédito. Esta é aliás uma dificuldade adicional para os leitores de Marx e Engels, que se veem diante de uma obra monumental, que simplesmente não cabe nos estreitos escaninhos da atual divisão do trabalho acadêmica, donde a observação: “a obra de Marx é uma gigantesca cultura de teoria crítica, que transita entre inúmeras disciplinas do conhecimento humano, cuja síntese representa uma tarefa árdua para todo leitor rigoroso.” (p.11)

Tal tarefa que se apresenta aos pesquisadores marxistas por vezes faz
pensar, acrescento, na saborosa referência do escritor argentino Jorge Luis Borges ao procedimento do Colégio de Cartógrafos de um Império fictício. Desconhecendo o princípio mais produtivo de uma cartografia – o de que o mapa deve ter uma escala significativamente diferente do objeto a ser mapeado – os cartógrafos produziram um gigantesco “Mapa do Império que tinha o tamanho do Império e coincidia ponto a ponto com ele” [3].  Mas Marcello Musto está bem longe deste perigo: ele consegue ter uma notável capacidade de síntese que lhe permite transitar por um número muito grande de temas biográficos e conceituais dentro da obra de Marx e de alguns de seus sucessores, mantendo sempre uma bússola que assegura o tônus da argumentação ao longo do livro.

Igualmente merecedor de atenção em Repensar Marx e os marxismos
vem a ser a refutação da ideia, amplamente difundida entre os críticos de Marx, de um suposto dogmatismo do autor, como alguém que veicularia certezas definitivas sobre os temas que pesquisa. Também aqui a leitura da correspondência de Marx e dos materiais preparatórios de seus livros nos mostra um pensador que, quando confrontado com limites de seu trabalho, se retifica de modo consistente. A este respeito, as sucessivas modificações que Marx imprimiu ao capítulo 1 de O capital são exemplares: ele se convence que a forma da exposição de fato não estava satisfatória. Em carta a Kugelmann de outubro de 1866, escreve abertamente: “mesmo as pessoas inteligentes não entenderam adequadamente a questão, em outras palavras, deve ter havido defeitos na primeira apresentação” (p. 204)

Mais do que isso, o próprio caráter processual do objeto de seus estudos – o modo de produção capitalista – lhe impunha a atualização permanente de suas teses. Basta lembrar o interesse com que Marx se dedica a estudar os mercados financeiros nos anos finais de sua vida, ciente das transformações que eles traziam para a acumulação capitalista: “Desde o outono de 1868 até a primavera de 1869, determinado a dar conta dos últimos desenvolvimentos do capitalismo, Marx compilou copiosos excertos de textos sobre os mercados financeiros e monetários…” (p. 209). Assim, ao invés de “vestir” a realidade com categorias previamente construídas (e aqui, a meu ver, o contraste com o tipo ideal de Weber é quase palpável), Marx se dedica a construir uma malha categorial que espelhe seu caráter processual e histórico.

Considerações adicionais sobre a disponibilidade de Marx em alterar aqueles tópicos de seu pensamento quando confrontado com questionamentos pertinentes podem ser encontradas no capítulo 9, intitulado “Evitar o capitalismo”. Nele, Musto detalha os esforços de Marx para combater uma imagem que começou a se formar já durante a sua vida, que afirmava que ele havia apresentado uma teoria universal do desenvolvimento das sociedades. O cotejamento com Nikolai Mikhailovsky e Vera Ivanovna Zasulitch sobre os possíveis desdobramentos da obshchina – comunidade rural presente numa imensa extensão territorial russa – evidencia um autor cauteloso ao lidar com questões que envolviam uma avaliação de sua própria teoria. Os longos rascunhos que precederam, por exemplo, a resposta às indagações de Zasulich sobre as transformações da obshchina mostram Marx explorando as diferentes variáveis a serem levadas em conta – sempre ligadas ao contexto histórico de cada formação social -, ao invés de pretender fornecer uma resposta pronta à sua interlocutora.
Nas palavras de Musto: “Por quase três semanas, Marx permaneceu imerso em suas cartas, ciente de que deveria fornecer uma resposta a um questionamento teórico de grande envergadura” (p. 264). Esta disponibilidade para uma atualização da teoria será reencontrada também na revisão da edição francesa de O capital, que envolve acréscimos e modificações em relação à edição alemã, a ponto de Marx atribuir à primeira “um valor científico independente do original” (apud p. 210).

Repensar Marx e os marxismos aborda também o debate em torno da
periodização da obra do pensador. Conforme é sabido, ao longo do século XX ganhou prestígio uma partição da obra que opunha o jovem Marx – que afirmava uma peculiar forma de humanismo – ao velho Marx, crítico da economia política burguesa. Por esta via, a bibliografia do século criou uma espécie de personagem que atenderia pelo nome de jovem Marx e que encontraria sua produção mais emblemática nos Manuscritos Econômico-Filosóficos de 1844. Levando isso em conta, em mais de um capítulo de Repensar Marx e os marxismos são feitas
referências a estes Manuscritos, apresentando seus méritos, mas também seus
limites reais. O texto de 1844 enfrenta de forma original questões que não eram tradicionalmente associadas ao marxismo, como aquelas referentes tanto à alienação objetiva como subjetiva dos trabalhadores, com toda a objetificação que o fenômeno acarreta nas relações humanas. A perspectiva emancipatória subjacente aos Manuscritos – publicados em sua íntegra apenas em 1932 – opunha-se à interpretação predominante de uma ortodoxia marxista, daí ser preciso enfatizar o “efeito disruptivo gerado por um texto inédito tão diferente dos cânones do marxismo dominante” (p. 94).

Levando em conta a existência de aquisições substantivas ocorridas na
juventude de Marx, Musto afirma que elas não autorizam uma partição tão excludente da obra entre o jovem Marx e o Marx da maturidade. Aqui, algumas palavras duras são dirigidas a Louis Althusser, o autor que mais difundiu a noção de uma ruptura epistemológica que separaria radicalmente diferentes fases da obra de Marx. Ocorre que a pesquisa textual e filológica posterior não corrobora tal hipótese, sustentada por Althusser mesmo em seus Elementos de autocrítica.
Lembrando que a categoria da alienação (Entfremdung) percorre a quase totalidade da obra de Marx, Musto aponta para a impossibilidade de que o suposto corte epistemológico “tivesse acontecido no desenrolar de algumas poucas semanas e pudesse ter sido concebido como algo tão rígido” (p. 84).

Contudo, feito o registro da importância de algumas categorias
desenvolvidas nos escritos de juventude de Marx, Musto não esconde suas próprias preferências: afirma que os longos anos de estudo de economia política e outras disciplinas levaram-no a alcançar patamares de investigação compreensivelmente mais elevados do que aqueles de sua juventude. Por esta razão, não é possível endossar a hipótese que seria como que a inversa da ruptura epistemológica: aquela que supõe existir uma identidade plena no interior do pensamento marxiano, “como se a obra de Marx fosse um único escrito, indistinto
e atemporal” (p. 96). Caso adotássemos esta via, ficaria interditada a apreensão do imenso esforço teórico realizado por Marx, esforço que lhe apresentou questões novas – referentes à estruturação econômica e política do modo de produção capitalista – para as quais simplesmente não dispunha de respostas em sua juventude.

Já no que diz respeito ao capítulo 8, “A concepção de alienação segundo Marx e nos marxismos do século XX”, parece-me que uma de suas implicações mais relevantes é colocar em xeque a perspectiva que supõe existir uma progressiva evolução das Ciências Sociais como um todo ao longo do tempo.
Amplamente difundida em vários ambientes acadêmicos, tal perspectiva afirma que a ciência temporalmente mais recente é necessariamente melhor do que a anterior (daí para se erradicar dos currículos universitários os autores do século XIX será apenas um passo…). Mas, ora, durante a leitura da apropriação que, por exemplo, a sociologia estadunidense do século XX fez da categoria alienação, é
impossível não pensar que tal sociologia ficou aquém da formulação original de Marx. Pois o que era nos textos deste último uma abordagem que apontava para um fenômeno social com uma fisionomia bem definida (a alienação enraizada no modo de produção da vida de uma sociedade capitalista), acaba adquirindo os contornos de uma condição humana universal. Na pena de autores como Melvin
Seeman ou Robert Blauner (escrevendo nas décadas de 50 e 60 do século XX) ocorre uma “espécie de hiperpsicologização da análise do conceito – que foi assumida na sociologia, bem como na psicologia, não mais como uma questão social, mas como uma patologia individual” (p. 231).

Se voltarmos agora a atenção para o debate político em torno do legado de Marx, o capítulo 10 de Repensar Marx e os marxismos traz vários elementos que atestam o visível contraste entre o projeto político e societário do autor e as experiências socialistas do século XX. Não seria este o momento para analisar um tema da magnitude das distorções do pensamento de Marx ocorridas nos manuais produzidos pela União Soviética, e mais ainda no cotidiano daquela sociedade. De todo modo, Musto chama a atenção para a distância existente entre
este último e o projeto societário encontrável na obra de Marx. Basta lembrar que: “Proponente da ideia de que a condição fundamental para o amadurecimento das habilidades humanas era a redução da jornada de trabalho, ele [Marx] foi assimilado ao credo produtivista do stakhanovismo. Convicto defensor da abolição do Estado, viu-se identificado como seu baluarte” (pp. 289-290). Alerta oportuno a ser feito, principalmente tendo em vista que o pensamento conservador continua a atribuir a Marx (falecido em 1883, não custa lembrar…)
a configuração assumida pela União Soviética mais de décadas após o seu falecimento. Cabe a nós, homens e mulheres do século XXI, relançar a originalidade de um projeto que esteja à altura do sentido emancipatório de seus fundadores.

Por fim, uma menção especial ao capítulo 7, intitulado “A escrita de O
capital: a crítica inacabada”. Alternando informações biográficas com decisões conceituais de Marx, nele encontramos nosso autor mergulhado na dificílima tarefa de concluir a redação do volume 1 de O capital. Musto persegue eficazmente seu objetivo de mostrar o erro que é considerar O Capital como uma obra acabada, trazendo material que atesta o seu caráter in progress, a ser aprimorado mediante o cotejamento com a realidade. No que diz respeito ao trabalho conceitual, merece destaque a importante carta a Engels, de 24 de agosto de 1867, onde Marx anuncia, orgulhoso, aqueles que lhe pareciam ser os dois melhores aspectos do volume I: “1. (isto é fundamental para toda a compreensão dos fatos) o duplo caráter do trabalho conforme se expressa em valor de uso ou valor de troca, que é trazido logo no primeiro capítulo; 2. O tratamento do maisvalor independentemente de suas formas particulares, como lucro, juros, renda da terra etc.” (apud p. 207). Incidentalmente, menciono que caberia talvez neste capítulo 7 um desdobramento, ainda que breve, do duplo caráter do trabalho a que Marx se refere. Isso nos levaria à categoria do trabalho abstrato, apontada por estudiosos contemporâneos (como Sohn-Rethel, W. Bonefeld, A. Jappe)
como uma das contribuições mais originais da economia política marxiana. [4]

Já no que tange as dificuldades pessoais de Marx enfrentadas para
concluir a redação de O capital, Musto detalha com segurança suas diferentes facetas. Num aspecto mais biográfico, salta aos olhos a situação de extrema pobreza em que vivia o autor de O capital. Acossado por credores, colocando seus bens na loja de penhores, impossibilitado de fornecer à sua família condições adequadas de vida (“as crianças não [tinham] roupas ou sapatos para sair”, ele escreve em 1863, apud p. 191), Marx estava em tudo distante da realidade vivida,
desnecessário dizer, por acadêmicos de países do dito primeiro mundo. A estas condições objetivas, soma-se também seu nível de autoexigência muito elevado, que raramente se dava satisfeito com o que escrevia (“também possuo o hábito de encontrar falhas em qualquer coisa que escrevi”, apud p. 185), modificando constantemente o material preparatório do que viria a ser O capital.
Adicionalmente, uma consciência aguda das transformações da economia capitalista o obrigava a incluir estudos suplementares, por exemplo, sobre o crescente papel dos mercados financeiros. Tudo isso resultava numa rotina de trabalho estafante: dedicando “dez horas por dia ao trabalho sobre economia” e muitas vezes sem dormir “antes das quatro da manhã”. As pressões externas e internas estouravam em seu próprio corpo. Marx passou a ser assolado com frequência por carbúnculos infecciosos que surgiam alternadamente em todas as
partes do corpo, causando-lhe um indescritível sofrimento que é descrito em detalhes em suas cartas. Marx, o mestre da pesquisa das contradições, se vê atravessado em seu organismo por elas. Descreve-se “como um verdadeiro Lázaro […], golpeado por todos os lados ao mesmo tempo’” (apud p. 194).

Para o leitor contemporâneo que acompanhe o detalhamento do
sofrimento contundente vivido por Marx e se pergunte sobre qual foi a eficácia, afinal, do trabalho estafante demandado pela redação de sua obra magna, acredito que o próprio pensador forneça a resposta. Referindo-se ao volume 1 de O Capital, ele escreve em 1864 ao metalúrgico Carl Kings: “Espero que eu agora possa, finalmente, terminá-lo em alguns meses e dê à burguesia um golpe teórico
do qual nunca se recuperará” (apud p. 281).
Não resta dúvida: o golpe foi dado.

 

 

[1] Agradeço a João Leonardo Medeiros pela cuidadosa leitura e sugestões feitas a esta resenha.
[2] Exceto quando houver indicação em contrário, as citações desta resenha são do livro de Marcello Musto. Quando sucedidas por apud, tratam-se de referências de Marx, citadas por Musto.
[3] Jorge Luis Borges. “Del rigor en la ciencia”. In El hacedor. Obra Completa, Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1974, p. 847.
[4] Por esta via, seria possível chegar também a um novo sentido do que seja abstração em Marx, afirmada não apenas como um produto do pensamento, mas como processo que transcorre no próprio real. “Essa abstração de trabalho humano geral existe…”. Marx, K. Contribuição à crítica da economia política. São Paulo: Expressão Popular, 2008, p. 56.

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Ariadna Trillas, Alternativas Económicas

Oímos hablar a menudo del fin de la vida en el planeta, pero no del fin del capitalismo.
¿Qué pensaría Karl Marx de la evolución del capitalismo de nuestros días? Crisis ecológica, retos migratorios, revolución feminista, transformaciones del trabajo… La raíz de estos grandes temas se confunde con el propio sistema económico que, de forma acaparadora, gobierna el mundo, y que, inestable, viaja de crisis en crisis propiciando la desigualdad. De ahí que tenga sentido acercarse al pensador que lo puso en cuestión, por mucho que los sistemas comunistas de la antigua URSS y sus regímenes satélites derivaran en un experimento finalmente fallido.
El sociólogo Marcello Musto lleva años batallando por la recuperación del pensamiento marxista. Y Musto es quien coordina esta obra coral, traducida al catalán por Lourdes Bigorra, con clara vocación pedagógica. Es una buena guía tanto para neófitos como para quien quiera aproximarse a Marx a la luz de interpretaciones actualizadas.

 

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Tim Hayslip, Marx and Philosophy. Review of Books

The Marx Revival: Key Concepts and New Interpretations, edited by Marcello Musto, consists of 22 chapters dealing with a wide variety of topics written by well-known contemporary Marxist thinkers. The reader is not confronted by a single argument, but rather with an overview of the remarkably fractious character of current Marxist scholarship. Consequently, any assessment of the book must inevitably be influenced by one’s overall assessment of Marx’s leading academic successors. In this brief review, I have chosen not to try to describe briefly all the chapters in the book, as an adequate treatment of each is impossible in the space allowed. Instead I have chosen to discuss some of its main limitations and consider a few chapters that focus on Marxism as a response to the conditions of the world.

Those with minimal prior knowledge of Marxist thought may benefit from beginning with the final chapter by the late Immanuel Wallerstein who provides an overview of how Marxism’s development has been connected to geopolitical developments. Wallerstein argues that the origins of Marxism both “as an ideology and as a movement,” arose not from Marx’s own conscious efforts but after Marx’s death when “Engels assumed the heritage with panache” (Wallerstein, 378). Engels’ frequent interventions into the politics of the nascent German Social Democratic Party (SPD) consolidated Marx’s theoretical legacy and established the SPD as an important locus for debates about political strategy.

Although factions within the SPD debated whether socialism could be achieved through an electoral path or if revolutionary insurrection would be necessary, and the SPD leadership spoke of the necessity of insurrection, they did little to develop a revolutionary avant-garde. The party instead focused on “creating a powerful network of structures in the larger ‘civil society’” (Wallerstein, 379).

Wallerstein describes a lasting schism developing between the factions over the question of whether to support `their’ nation’s war efforts in World War One. This schism was later solidified by the formation of the Communist Party of Germany and the course of the Russian Revolution. Conceptually, reformist and revolutionary parties diverged over the question of how to win socialism, with social democrats focusing on growing the welfare state and renouncing any attempt to control the means of production, while the USSR transformed Marxism into an apologia for ‘actually existent socialism’. However, in practice, the Soviet leadership and Western social democrats were increasingly united by supporting state-led economic development (Wallerstein, 380-2).

Yet, radicals increasingly abandoned both of these methods that “had not ‘changed the world’, as they had promised” (Wallerstein, 388). Some radicals added gender and ecological concerns to these classical Marxist concerns. Others embraced post-modernism and rejected the idea of an authoritative theory of history, a ‘metanarrative’, in favor of theoretical pluralism.

Wallerstein (389) writes that after the dissolution of the USSR, some Marxists “began to adopt openly neo-liberal arguments, or at best post-Marxist social-democratic positions. But once again reality caught up.” Reality manifested itself in the forms of capitalist malaise, neoliberalism, and the 2008 global financial crisis. Together, these realities grew the audience for critiques of the economic status quo and revived Marxism.

In the chapter he wrote, editor Marcello Musto documents how the early, utopian socialists were responding to a similar impetus: the inequalities that persisted in the wake of the French Revolution. These early socialists hoped to transform society by championing new ideas and egalitarian principles. They felt that “equality could be the solution for all the problems of society” (Musto, 27).

Marx criticized such moralism from above, insisting on the necessity of workers’ self-emancipation. The development of nineteenth century capitalism was enabling social progress that presented workers greater opportunities for personal development and enlightenment than ever before. However, they were unable to benefit fully from the “time that the progress of science and technology makes available [because what should be free time] is in reality immediately converted into surplus-value” (Musto, 43). Communism was then and still remains necessary for workers to freely control their own lives.

Musto quotes a response Marx gave when asked about the proper policy a revolutionary government would enact to establish a socialist society. He stressed that the proper policy “at any particular moment depends, of course, wholly and entirely on the actual historical circumstances” (Musto, 31). Furthermore, as Marx says, communism ought to be conceived not as “a state of affairs to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself, [but as] the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Musto, 35).

Since Marxists see reality itself as having contradictory elements, it should not be surprising that the various viewpoints espoused in The Marx Revival are contradictory. Readers familiar with Marx’s own writings and theories may also notice divergences from them. While this is to be expected given the historical development Wallerstein describes, a limitation of the book is that these dissonant viewpoints are not brought into conversation with one another.

The four entries for the “rate of profit” in the index are merely presented alongside one another. For those drawn to Marxism by Marx’s analysis of crises, the few entries concerned with Marx’s economics may itself be viewed as a shortcoming of the book, albeit a characteristic it seems to share with contemporary academic Marxism in general.

Alex Callinicos’ chapter titled ‘Class Struggle’ provides a sympathetic outline of Marx’s falling rate of profit theory. Briefly, competition forces businesses to “invest increasingly heavily in means of production” resulting in its growth relative surplus value (profit). Despite the tendency for return on investment to fall, Marx disagreed with David Ricardo’s denial of the possibility of wages and prices rising simultaneously. If an economy grows quickly enough, increasing real wages are consistent with rising inequality (Callinicos, 97). Thus, the distribution of income between wages and profits is not the root cause of falling profitability. Instead, faced with falling returns of their investments or even bankruptcy, capitalists are strongly incentivized to economize on all costs, including wages. In a related vein, Seongjin Jeong’s ‘Globalization’ describes how the development of the world market has sped economic growth and constituted “a powerful countervailing force to the crisis tendency of the falling rate of profit” (Jeong, 297).

The remaining two references for the rate of profit in the book appear in Michael Kratke’s chapter titled ‘Capitalism’. The first mention repeats Jeong’s assessment of the relationship between capitalism and globalization, while Kratke’s second mention shows the importance Marx assigned to the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the central role it would play in how capitalism “would eventually undermine itself”. However, Kratke adds that “Marx failed to establish the falling rate of profit as a law connected to technological changes” (Kratke, 21). One could say that these writers are debating but without the opportunity to address one another’s arguments.

A fifth unlisted reference to the rate of profit appears in ‘Proletariat’ written by Marcel van der Linden. He argues that since Marx describes the proletariat as the source of profit, the profitability of slave plantations was inconsistent with the labor theory of value. That profit was simply interest earned on the purchase of slaves, rather than value they had created. Marx himself “was apparently not completely convinced of his own analysis” in which slaves were categorized as an anomalous form of surplus value-producing constant capital. While neither Marx nor contemporary Marxism are without faults, I was surprised to find an interpretation that reinforces the common trope that Marx was blind to forms of exploitation and oppression aside from those faced by the working class within a book clearly intended to provide a sympathetic introduction to his ideas.

Its presence is especially regrettable when we examine a passage central to van der Linden’s argument. Marx (Capital: Volume III, Penguin, 1981, 761-62) wrote, “The confusion between ground-rent itself and the form of interest that it assumes for the purchaser of the land … cannot but lead to the most peculiar and incorrect conclusions … for the slaveowner who has paid cash for his slaves, the product of their labour simply represents the interest on the capital invested in their purchase.” Far from agreeing with the slaveowner, Marx was declaring this perspective is “peculiar and incorrect” in that it mistakes surplus value for interest. The confusingly anomalous status of laboring slaves appearing to their ‘masters’ as surplus value-creating ‘property’ while actually being super exploited people enables the production of profit without the significant exploitation of wage-earners in a capitalist framework.

Still, these limitations should not taint what is otherwise a very worthwhile book and well-rounded representation of contemporary Marxism. Musto’s main achievement as editor is in compiling a collection of contributions that demonstrate the continuing relevance of the Marxist theoretical corpus to a wide variety of topics from gender relations to nationalism and from colonialism to religion. I hope that attentive readers who notice the disagreements between the chapters are thereby spurred to deepen their investigations.

The wide-ranging contents of this collection suggests that it should serve as an excellent text for college and university students who already possess some familiarity with Marxism, as well as an introduction to some of the main themes of academic Marxism for a wider audience of activists. As clouds seem to again be gathering for a geopolitical and economic storm, the audience for Marx’s critiques will almost certainly grow, and the world may soon become haunted by The Marx Revival.

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Reviews

Marina Simonin, Politis

Travailleurs émancipés

En 1864, est fondée une organisation politique destinée à soutenir le mouvement ouvrier naissant : l’Association internationale des travailleurs (AIT), dont le conseil général siège à Londres. Elle produit des milliers de textes, un matériau destiné à nourrir les réflexions et luttes des diverses forces de gauche, de la social-démocratie à l’anarchisme en passant par le communisme. Parmi ses plus illustres acteurs, on connaît Marx, Engels ou Bakounine. On doit à l’AIT la célèbre formule : « L’émancipation des travailleurs sera l’œuvre des travailleurs eux-mêmes. » Ce recueil propose une approche panoramique de la production écrite de l’AIT, une anthologie de textes permettant de restituer la richesse et la puissance d’une organisation qui a inspiré la plupart des luttes sociales du XXe siècle.

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Reviews

Salvador Medina Ramírez, Río Arriba

Gheorghe Stoica menciona que en la Rumania comunista de Nicolae Ceausescu las directrices del partido demandaban que toda obra cultural mencionase primero la obra del líder antes que la de Marx, Engels y Lenin. De hecho, el estudio de la obra de Marx era muy escaso durante esa época, y a partir de la caída de Ceausescu prácticamente desapareció. “[E]l olvido profundo de Ceausescu y la expiación del neoliberalismo comparten un sorprendente hecho absurdo: en ninguno de los dos periodos se lee a Marx”. [1]

Esta terrible situación no es única a Rumania; la obra de Marx suele ser mal interpretada, a lo menos, o de plano manipulada por distintos espectros políticos: desde el estalinismo que establecía su propia interpretación monolítica del marxismo hasta la mala caricaturización que hacen liberales y autores de derecha de su obra en todo el mundo con el fin de desprestigiar o suplantar al marxismo. El resultado es que todos hablen de Marx sin conocerlo, sin leer ni estudiar su obra. El ejemplo de Thomas Pikkety es sorprendente, que titula su obra más conocida, El Capital en el siglo XXI, como reminiscencia del El Capital de Marx, sin siquiera haberlo leído. (New Republic, 5/5/2014).

Habría que aclarar primero que Marx fue muy prolífico. Desde su juventud hasta su fallecimiento escribió reportajes periodísticos, correspondencia, obras, y muchos materiales aún inéditos. Dejó asentadas sus reflexiones y la evolución de su teoría. En buena medida, la falta de conocimiento de toda la obra de Marx se debe a su escasa difusión en otros idiomas, incluyendo traducciones parciales, malas o poco accesibles.

Entre todos los materiales escritos por Marx, destacan los Fundamentos de la crítica de la economía política, mejor conocidos como Grundrisse (palabra alemana que designa esbozo o planos). Estos consisten en ocho cuadernos, escritos entre 1857-1858, donde Marx trata una gran cantidad de temas —algunos retomados en El Capital (en 1867)— por lo que se suele mencionar, erradamente, que estos cuadernillos fueron solamente el borrador de su magna obra.

La difusión de los mismos fue tardía debido a la negligencia y descuido del que fueron objeto los manuscritos originales. Estos fueron publicados por completo hasta 1939, en alemán, en medio de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, por lo que fueron poco difundidos. Fue hasta su reimpresión en 1953 que comenzarían a difundirse y a traducirse gradualmente, alcanzando 22 ediciones en diferentes idiomas. Su difusión inauguró nuevas interpretaciones del marxismo, enfrentando a las existentes hasta la década de 1960, pues es el primer gran análisis de la economía política donde expuso su método crítico de estudio y la complejidad del su pensamiento. También realizó una gran variedad de análisis que no desarrolla posteriormente, pero que permiten el surgimiento de nuevas avenidas interpretativas. Un ejemplo de ellas es la de John Bellamy Foster, quien por medio de estas notas ofrece una crítica marxista al impacto ecológico generado por el capitalismo. Incluso, Negri [2] menciona que en los Grundrisse puede detectarse el núcleo dinámico del pensamiento de Marx, tanto en su lógica histórica, como en su proyecto revolucionario. Por ello, tienen un gran valor para el estudio del autor, el enriquecimiento del marxismo y de su proyecto político.

Para conmemorar el 150 aniversario de estas notas, Marcello Musto editó y compiló una serie de textos en 2008 bajo el título Los Grundrisse de Karl Marx. Fundamentos de la crítica de la economía política 150 años después, traducido al español en 2018. El libro, en su versión original en inglés, se divide en tres partes, con escritos de 31 autores de distintas nacionalidades, incluyendo un prólogo del historiador británico Eric Hobsbawm.

La parte inicial, titulada Interpretaciones críticas de los Grundrisse, consta de ocho capítulos que tratan las interpretaciones de conceptos clave desarrollados a partir de esta obra. Sobre el método de producción de los Grundrisse escribe el mismo Marcelo Musto; sobre el concepto valor escribe Christoph Lieber; Terrel Craver desarrolla una discusión sobre la alienación; sobre el plusvalor escribe Enrique Dussel; Ellen Meikisins desarrolla una discusión sobre las formas de producción precapitalistas, enfatizando que para Marx los procesos históricos no están determinados; John Bellamy Foster escribe sobre las contradicciones ecológicas del capitalismo; Iring Fetshcer desarrolla la emancipación en una sociedad comunista; y Moishe Postpone realiza una reflexión entre las similitudes y diferencias de El Capital y los Grundrisse. Así, esta primera parte muestra la gran riqueza teórica de los Grundrisse para la discusión crítica.

La segunda parte del libro es de carácter histórico. En tres capítulos, busca contextualizar los Grundrisse históricamente. Específicamente, el primer capítulo, escrita por Musto, recrea la vida de Marx en este momento. Mientras los siguientes dos capítulos escritos por Michael R. Krätke, se enfocan en su trabajo periodístico y resalta cómo la crisis económica mundial de 1857-1958, la primera de su tipo, fue el impulso clave en la escritura de los Grundrisse, pues sin la escritura de los manuscritos referente a esta crisis probablemente jamás se hubieran desarrollado los primeros.

La tercera parte trata sobre la recepción de los Grundrisse en diferentes partes del mundo. Este es un trabajo monumental y colaborativo; con 12 capítulos y 11 autores, da cuenta de todas las traducciones que se han realizado y las discusiones teóricas que se desarrollaron en distintas naciones. Esto muestra el impacto que han tenido en el mundo después de más de 100 años de su escritura: traducidos a 32 idiomas e impresos al menos medio millón de ejemplares, constituyendo una gran difusión tomando en cuenta su carácter de estudios personales de Marx. Los Grundrisse tuvieron una buena recepción en Europa en la década de 1970, como parte de las revueltas estudiantiles, mientras que en el bloque soviético no sucedió lo mismo debido a las líneas de interpretación oficial del marxismo.

La edición en español, sobre la cual trata esta reseña, tiene dos capítulos adicionales desarrollados por Musto. Resultan una gran contribución para comprender los Grundrisse, conforme la tradición del mismo Marx de agregar material adicional en las traducciones de El Capital. El primer material extra es una introducción sobre el proceso que siguió Marx para escribirlos, una adición de un texto publicado originalmente en italiano. Mientras el segundo material se trata de un texto inédito, que trata sobre la vida de Marx y el enorme esfuerzo físico y mental, debido a las penurias económicas y de salud por las que pasaba, que realizó para escribir el libro primero de El Capital.

Ahora bien, un tema fundamental que resaltar tanto de los Grundrisse como de la publicación de Musto son los lentos ritmos de su traducción y difusión en español. [3] Los primeros tardaron casi 20 años en ser traducidos al español, mientras la obra de Musto tardó diez años. De acuerdo con Pedro Ribas y Rafael Pla León (capítulo 19) la primera traducción completa de los Grundrisse fue en 1971, en Cuba, basada en la versión francesa de dos años antes que fue poco conocida fuera de la isla. Le siguió la Argentina de Siglo XXI (1971-1976) basada en la publicación alemana de 1953 y rusa de 1968-1969. Teniendo otras tres traducciones en los siguientes años (Alberto Corazón en 1972, Crítica en 1997 y Fondo de Cultura Económica en 1985). Sin embargo, no profundizan en el debate que se generó en ninguno de los países, a diferencia de la sección dedicada a Alemania y a Francia.

Esto probablemente se deba a que realmente hubo un escaso debate. Por ejemplo, en México, posterior a la década de 1970, los temas más discutidos en el marxismo en México tenían que ver con Gramsci, Althusser, la transición de México al capitalismo y la teoría de la dependencia, así como las líneas ortodoxas marxistas. [4] Destaca por ejemplo la obra de Enrique Dussel [5] por ser el primer texto en español dedicado a su estudio a detalle, así como uno de los pocos a nivel internacional.

En el caso de la obra de Musto, que originalmente fue publicada en inglés en 2008, por la editorial Routledge, la traducción llegó diez años después, gracias a la iniciativa de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia y al Fondo de Cultura Económica, aprovechando el marco de la conmemoración de los 150 años de El Capital en 2017 y los 200 años del nacimiento de Marx en 2018.

De esta última, los tiempos pueden ser tomados como un mal menor, debido a las contribuciones adicionales contenidos en la traducción al español. Sin embargo, en un momento en que tanto las posibilidades técnicas y las capacidades humanas lo permiten, así como la urgencia que hay para la renovación de marxismo en América Latina y España, y por su puesto en el mundo, es fundamental recuperar el estudio de Marx. Esto nos permitirá superar los dogmatismos y su caricaturización del marxismo, y comprender críticamente las crisis del capitalismo actual en aras de hacerle frente.

Finalmente, tomando en cuenta las grandes desigualdades económicas en la región, no es posible que todos accedan a las versiones en otros idiomas o puedan comprenderlas por la barrera del idioma. Habrá así que encontrar la manera de traducir otras obras clave al español y en ediciones accesibles. [6] La difusión del conocimiento es necesario para el avance y emancipación de la humanidad.

[1] Musto, Marcello. (ed.) (2018 [2008]). Los Grundrisse de Karl Marx. Fundamentos de la Crítica de la Economía Política 150 años después. Bogotá: Fondo de Cultura Económica (FCE), Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

[2] Negri, Antonio. (2014). “Review of Karl Marx’s Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Critical Economy 150 Years Later”. Rethinking Marxism. Pags 427-433. https://doi.org/10.1080/08935696.2014.917848

[3] Una difusión y traducción rápida, si se compara con la traducción portuguesa de los Grundrisse se realizaría hasta 2011.

[4] Illiades, Carlos (2018). El marxismo en México. Una historia Intelectual. México: Taurus.

[5] Dussel, Enirque (1985). La producción teórica de Marx. Un comentario a los Grundrisse, México: S.XXI.

[6] Por citar un ejemplo, no existe una traducción completa de los Manuscritos de 1863-1865 de Marx, como asienta Carlos Herrera y Fabiola Flores (2017).

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Reviews

Francisco T. Sobrino, Herramienta. Revista de Debate y Crítica Marxista

El escritor argentino Luis Franco, definió a Karl Marx como “el hombre que sacó la filosofía de las academias y la puso en los puños del mundo”. En otras palabras, Marcello Musto afirma que “pocos hombres han conmovido al mundo como lo hizo Marx”, y que su pensamiento inspiró los programas y estatutos de todas las organizaciones políticas y sindicales del movimiento obrero en casi todo el mundo. Sin embargo, para el autor, ya en el siglo XIX habían surgido intentos para convertir sus teorías en una ideología rígida y dogmática. Lo que ayudó a consolidar esta transformación de las teorías de Marx fueron las formas en que sus ideas llegaron al público lector, debido a la reducida impresión de sus principales obras, y a las consiguientes difusión de resúmenes y compendios truncados, y a que cuando falleció, fragmentos de algunos sus textos fueron reformados por quienes los conservaban, debido al estado incompleto de muchos de sus manuscritos. Esta especie de “manuales”, aunque ayudaba a difundir sus ideas mundialmente, distorsionaba su complejo pensamiento, convirtiéndolo en una versión teóricamente empobrecida de su verdadero pensamiento..
Surgió así, entre 1889 y 1914, una doctrina esquemática, que interpretaba en forma evolucionista y económicamente determinista la historia humana, conocida como el “marxismo de la II Internacional” que creía ingenuamente en el progreso automático de la historia, y por lo tanto el “inevitable” reemplazo del capitalismo por el socialismo, pero incapaz de comprender los acontecimientos reales, que al alejarse de una praxis revolucionaria, creó una suerte de pasividad fatalista que –contradictoriamente -contribuía a la estabilidad del orden social existente, pues creía en la teoría del colapso inminente de la sociedad burguesa, y era considerada como la esencia fundamental del “socialismo científico”. El marxismo ruso, que en el siglo XX jugó un papel fundamental a partir de la revolución, popularizando en todo el mundo el pensamiento de Marx, siguió esa forma vulgarizada, aún con mayor rigidez. A pesar de los conflictos ideológicos de esa época, muchos de los elementos teóricos de la II Internacional se transmitieron así a la matriz cultural de la III Internacional.
La degradación del pensamiento de Marx culminó en la interpretación del llamado marxismo-leninismo, bajo la forma del “Diamat” (materialismo dialéctico) al estilo soviético, que copió acríticamente la gran mayoría de los partidos marxistas-leninistas” de todo el mundo. La teoría perdió su función como una guía para la acción revolucionaria y pasó a ser su justificación, siguiendo los intereses nacionales de la Unión Soviética. Este verdadero catecismo ideológico interpretó dogmáticamente los textos de Marx. Si bien con la revolución soviética el marxismo disfrutó así de una gran expansión en lugares y clases sociales a los que hasta entonces no había llegado, consistió más en manuales, guías y antologías partidarias que en los textos del propio Marx. Al ser distorsionado su pensamiento, ante los ojos de toda la humanidad, él mismo pasó a ser identificado con esas maniobras. Su teoría pasó a ser un conjunto de versículos al estilo de la biblia. Los responsables políticos de esas manipulaciones lo transformaron en el presunto progenitor de la nueva sociedad. A pesar de su afirmación de que “la emancipación de la clase obrera debe ser obra de los trabajadores mismos”, quedó como el responsable de una ideología que daba primacía a las vanguardias y partidos políticos como dirigentes de la revolución.
Sea por las disputas teóricas o por eventos políticos, el interés en su obra ha fluctuado con el tiempo y Musto reconoce que también ha pasado por períodos indiscutibles de declinación. Desde la “crisis del marxismo”, la disolución de la II Internacional, los debates sobre las contradicciones de la teoría económica de Marx hasta la implosión del “socialismo realmente existente”. Pero siempre ha habido un “regreso a Marx”. Declarado muerto luego de la caída del muro de Berlín, Marx se convierte otra vez en el centro de un interés generalizado, pues su pensamiento se basa en una permanente capacidad para explicar el presente, y sigue siendo un instrumento indispensable para comprenderlo y transformarlo.
Frente a la crisis de la sociedad capitalista y las profundas contradicciones que la atraviesan, este autor al que se había desechado luego de 1989, está siendo considerado nuevamente y se lo vuelve a interrogar. La literatura secundaria sobre el pensador nacido en la ciudad de Tréveris, casi agotada hace pocos años, está resurgiendo en muchos países, en los formatos de nuevos estudios y folletos en distintos idiomas, así como conferencias internacionales, cursos universitarios y seminarios. En especial desde el comienzo de la crisis económica internacional en 2008, académicos teóricos de economía vuelven a apoyarse en sus análisis sobre la inestabilidad del capitalismo. Finalmente, aunque en forma tímida y confusa, para Musto se está haciendo sentir en la política una nueva demanda por Marx; desde Latinoamérica hasta el movimiento de la globalización alternativa. Y en estos mismos días, la invasión rusa a Ucrania ha generado un reverdecer de las polémicas entre las corrientes que se reivindican seguidoras del marxismo.
Con ese objetivo, Musto en su introducción, acompañada de una clara y necesaria exposición de los problemas actuales que aquejan al sistema capitalista a nivel mundial una útil tabla cronológica de los escritos más importantes de Marx. El autor reflexiona sobre el cambio luego de la caída del muro de Berlin, a partir del cual Marx dejó de ser como “una esfinge tallada en piedra que protege al grisáceo socialismo realmente existente del siglo XX”, pero que aún así sería un error creer que se pueda confinar su legado teórico y político a un pasado que ya no tenía nada que ver con los conflictos de la actualidad.
Ejemplo de la actualidad que tiene para Marcelo Musto en nuestros días la obra de Marx y que reafirma el valor de su pensamiento es la continuación de la MEGA2 (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe) una proyecto que había comenzado antes de la 2da. Guerra Mundial y se había detenido entonces, donde participan académicos de varias competencias disciplinarias de muchos países, articulado en cuatro secciones: la primera incluye todas las obras, artículos y borradores (excluido El capital); la segunda incluye El capital y sus estudios preliminares a partir de 1857; la tercera está dedicada a la correspondencia; y la cuarta incluye extractos, anotaciones y comentarios al margen. De los 114 volúmenes proyectados, ya se han publicado 53; cada uno de los cuales consiste en 2 libros: el texto más el aparato crítico, que contiene los índices y muchas notas adicionales. Esta empresa tiene gran importancia para Musto, si consideramos que gran parte de los manuscritos de Marx, de su voluminosa correspondencia e inmensa montaña de extractos y anotaciones que acostumbraba a hacer mientras leía, nunca se han publicado.
Este libro incluye, en su Primera Parte, “La relectura de Marx en 2015”, a conocidos autores marxistas que estudian y desarrollan, a partir de sus diferentes lecturas de Marx. sus opiniones sobre diversos temas de la actualidad. Creemos importante detallar los distintos trabajos y a sus autores::
*Kevin B. Anderson, “No sólo el capital y la clase: Marx sobre las sociedades no occidentales, el nacionalismo y la etnicidad”;
* Paresh Chattopadhyay, “El mito del socialismo del siglo XX y la permanente relevancia de Karl Marx”;
* Michael Lebowitz, “¡Cambiemos al sistema, no a sus barreras!”;
* George Comninel, “Marx, la teoría social y la sociedad humana”;
*Victor Wallis, “El ‘mal menor’ como argumento y táctica, desde Marx hasta el presente”
* Ricardo Antunes, “Marx y las formas actuales de la alienación: las cosificaciones inocentes y las cosificaciones extrañadas”;
* Terrel Carver que , “Marx y el género”
* Richard D. Wolf, “El redescubrimiento de Marx en la crisis capitalista”,
* Meiksins Wood. “El capitalismo universal”,
* Y el propio Marcello Musto, “Revisitando la concepción de la alienación en Marx”.
La Segunda Parte del libro está dedicada a la “recepción global de Marx hoy”, y se refiere a las distintas recepciones del pensamiento de Marx en los diversos países o regiones, con referencias a las distintas situaciones que han atravesado los intelectuales y los partidos o movimientos que se reivindican marxistas. y la situación de los mismos en este temprano siglo XXI. En esta parte hay elementos interesantes, como las comparaciones (o contrastes) entre las diferentes formas de la “recepción” del pensamiento de Marx, así como los cambios en Rusia y los países de Europa Oriental y Asia que surgieron luego de la implosión soviética, o los dramáticos cambios acaecidos a partir de la “Reforma y Apertura” en la República Popular China.
En suma, nos encontramos con un libro que, como ha dicho el profesor Bertell Ollman, de la Universidad de Nueva York, “es útil para comprender por qué Marx fue elegido el pensador más grande del último milenio en una encuesta de la BBC”.

 

[1] Marcelo Musto: La Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA2) y nos nuevos rostros de Karl Marx

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Reviews

Josep Recasens Subias, Marx & Philosophy. Review of Books

The publication in 1933 of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 originated a debate around what place this text had in the work of Marx. The usage of ‘alienation’ that has a minor role in Capital rapidly established the belief of a split between the early and the late Marx. This split was defended by those who considered the early writings to be more essential than the late ones as they allegedly constitute the philosophical basis of Marxism. On the opposite camp, Althusser regarded the early writings as a residue of ‘Hegelianism’ that Marx had to get rid of before developing his relevant, ‘scientific’ thought on capitalist societies. A third position denied the existence of such a break and argued that there is a continuity in Marx’s thought, specifically on that of alienation. Nonetheless, this position was usually defended with a poor philological analysis of texts and quotations, mixing Marx’s early and late writings without caution.

In Karl Marx’s Writings on Alienation, Marcello Musto distinguishes these three positions and embraces the last one, trying to pay its pending debt, and gives a very complete selection of Marx’s writings on alienation from his main works. Musto’s central thesis is that Marx developed a theory of alienation that has a continuity in all his writings, from the Manuscripts of 1844 to Capital. This is true regardless of its progression and use of different expressions such as ‘alienation’, ‘dead (or objectified) labour over living labour’, and ‘reification’ or ‘fetishism’ (4) to explain the same phenomenon, or at least some aspects of it.

The book comprises two parts: the first is an introduction by Musto to the last century debates around alienation and the second consists of his careful selection of Marx’s writings on alienation. The latter is chronologically ordered and divided into three chapters (not treated as three different positions or stages Marx passed through), starting with the Manuscripts of 1844 and other early writings up until 1856. The second chapter contains the relevant passages from the Grundrisse (1857) and the Theories of Surplus Value (1861-63). The third chapter includes some parts of Capital and its preparatory notes (1863-1875). Each selected writings has an important introductory note by the editor that explains when and with what intention it was written, but also when it was published, by Marx or posthumously.

Musto’s introduction (almost a third of the book) has a twofold function. On the one hand, it sketches an interpretation of what Marx meant by alienation, giving indications on how to approach his work. On the other hand, Musto contrasts Marx’s theory of alienation to other philosophical theories that are supposed to treat the same phenomenon (French existentialists, Heidegger, Debord, American sociology, etc.), and also to other interpretations of Marx’s texts that were developed during the last century (Lukács, Althusser, Marcuse, etc.).

Musto reminds us that, contra Hegel’s transhistorical-ontological notion of alienation as objectification, alienation for Marx is not an ‘ontological’ conception of human beings or the condition of human labour in general. Rather, it is a phenomenon specific to the ‘capitalist, epoch of production’ (7). Central to Marx’s theory of alienation is the alienation of labour, which has a priority over the alienation from political or religious spheres. That is the reason why there are no fragments in this selection of the philosophical writings on alienation written before Marx started to study political economy. Marx accepts that ‘Labour’s realisation is its objectification’, but also adds that, ‘in the conditions dealt with by political economy this realisation of labour appears as loss of reality for the workers […] as alienation’ (52). Given that Marx ‘always discussed alienation from a historical, not a natural, point of view’ (7), his theory is not only different from Hegel’s, but also those who embraced Hegel’s conception of alienation as a phenomenon related to labour (e.g. Marcuse) and the French existentialists like Sartre who treat alienation as a kind of general human condition and not specifically in relation to labour.

Marx’s theory of alienation can be read in two different but related ways. The first emphasises the alienation of the worker from her conditions of production. Under capitalist conditions, labour takes the form of wage labour. The worker has no control over the products of her labour. Thus, ‘objectified labour, value as such, confronts him as an entity in its own right, as capital’ (102), as Marx notes. In this exchange between labour and capital, the capitalist appropriates surplus-value and invest it as capital again. If the worker is alien to the object of labour, then she becomes also alienated from the activity of labour, her species-being, and other human beings. Musto shows that Arendt and Fromm’s readings of Marx focused only on this type of self-alienation, developed in the early writings. Nonetheless, Musto correctly indicates that this subjective side of alienation is inseparable from the objective one that Marx fully developed later as the fetish-character of the commodity. With this Marx focuses on how the products of labour under capitalism dominate social relations between individuals. The editor concludes that ‘commodity fetishism did not replace alienation but was one aspect of it’ (34).

While Musto subscribes to the continuity thesis, nonetheless, he does not accept that there is a strict continuity in Marx’s theoretical position on alienation. The late works, compared with the earlier ones, offer ‘greater understanding of economic categories’ and ‘more rigorous social analysis’ (30). For example, they establish the link ‘between alienation and exchange value’ and provide critical insights on the ‘opposition between capital and ‘living labour-power’’ (ibid). The late works also demonstrate the emancipatory potentialities of the theory of alienation where ‘the path to a society free of alienation’ becomes ‘much more complicated in Capital’ (35), whereas in the early writings the philosophical conception of unalienated society remains to a large extent indeterminate and vague.

The second part of the book contains Marx’s well-known passages on alienation that are often discussed by the interpreters, including that of the Manuscripts of 1844. However, the major innovation of this editorial work lies in selecting the texts that are given less attention when the question of alienation is considered, despite some of them being the most extensive. Specifically, this omission usually excluded some late texts. One example is the Economic Manuscripts (1863-1865), written as preparatory manuscripts for Capital, whose selected paragraphs are translated by Patrick Camiller into English for the first time.

One of the main points of contestation in the debates around the theory of alienation is the apparent incompatibility or tension between Marx’s idea of workers being alienated from their ‘species-being’ and his thesis of not assuming a certain transhistorical conception of human essence. This incompatibility would raise two problems. The first, internal to Marx’s theory, relates to the incoherence of its premises. It seems inconsistent to deny the existence of a human essence but at the same time assume that workers are alienated from their ‘species-being’ (the term that can be regarded as another name for ‘human essence’). The second is ‘external’ and argues that, if one does not share Marx’s conception of human essence, then the critique of alienation cannot be accepted. This incompatibility could be solved by denying the continuation thesis and establishing that the later Marx abandoned the idea of species-being. As we have seen, Musto proposes another solution to the problem. He argues that Marx does not approach alienation from an ontological point of view, not even in the early writings, because Marx always discusses alienation in relation to a historical specific form of production. This idea allows Musto to shift the debate from the confusing philosophical and terminological debates of what human essence or ontology are, to the understanding of the specific functioning of capitalist mode of production. Nevertheless, Musto does not critically engage with the category of ‘species-being’ and its relation, if any, to Capital. Nor does Musto accept that discussing alienation in relation to a specific form of production could be compatible with the ontological point of view. The analysis of the relationship between alienation and ontology, marked with tensions and contradictions, requires further elucidation in the book.

The fact that the term ‘alienation’ is dropped altogether by Marx in his late writings could potentially call into question Musto’s thesis that the fetish-character of the commodity is an integral aspect of the theory of alienation. However, the usage of ‘alienation’ in the Grundrisse and other preparatory writings of Capital may confirm Musto’s idea that this absence was just to avoid unnecessary philosophical words in a work published for the public. Furthermore, Musto’s selection of Marx’s writings on commodity fetishism in chapter four helps us to elucidate the importance Marx gave to the theory of alienation in his magnum opus. It is true that there is no specific chapter allocated to the question of fetishism in Capital, but only a section that is considered by many as ‘unessential’ to the rest of the book. This led to the idea that fetishism, even if it is part of the theory of alienation, is not relevant to the understanding of the late Marx. Nonetheless, the so-called ‘drafts’ of Capital from 1857 onwards, mainly included in chapter three (the largest chapter of the selection and maybe the most elucidating one, despite being partially repetitive), demonstrate well that fetishism is viewed as an essential phenomenon of capitalist production and, thus, that of the critique of capitalism.

To conclude, Marx never wrote a developed account of his theory of alienation. This makes it difficult to say if there is a complete theory of alienation in Marx or just some fragmentary sketches of a possible theory that needs to be critically reconstructed. In any case, Musto’s editorial work offers an exhaustive collection of writings that allow the reader to form her own opinion without having to read the seemingly endless works of Marx. Musto does not offer a systematic exposition of Marx’s theory of alienation. Nonetheless, this is not his intention in editing this book. As he brilliantly shows in his introduction, the debate around Marx’s notion of alienation has been so distorted that it almost had nothing to do anymore with what Marx wrote. Karl Marx’s Writings on Alienation is one of the best resources we have to overcome past misinterpretations and to keep the ongoing debates on alienation close to Marx’s true emancipatory thought.

Categories
Reviews

Carlos L. Garrido, Midwestern Marx

Marcello Musto’s anthology of Karl Marx’s Writings on Alienation[1] is both comprehensive and concise, containing within the span of 100 pages the three decades long development of the theory through more than a dozen published works and posthumously published manuscripts. Additionally, Musto’s introduction to the anthology exceptionally captures: 1) the deviations the concept suffered in its 20th century popularization (both by friends and foes of Marxism); and 2) the bifurcation in Marxism which was depicted in the 1960s debate around the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (EPM), which created what Musto rightly depicts as “one of the principal misunderstandings in the history of Marxism: the myth of the ’Young Marx’” (20).[2]

The concept of alienation can be traced back to G.W.F. Hegel’s 1807 text, The Phenomenology of Spirit, where the terms entäusserung (self-externalization) and entfremdung (estrangement) are used to describe the moments wherein spirit’s “essential being is present to it in the form of an ‘other.’”[3] After Hegel’s death, the concept retained vitality through the Young Hegelians, who shifted its focus to the realm of religious alienation.[4] A leading text in this tradition is Ludwig Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity (1841), where alienation depicts the process through which the human species essence is projected onto God.[5] While shifting the focus from religion to political economy, it is from this tradition from which Marx and Engels would blossom in the early to mid-1840s.[6]

However, since the concept rarely saw the light of day in their published work, it was “entirely absent from the Marxism of the Second International,” and from general philosophical reflection in the second half of the 19th century (4). In this time, concepts that would later be associated with alienation were developed by Émile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, and Max Weber, but in each instance they “thought they were describing unstoppable tendencies, and their reflections were often guided by a wish to improve the existing social and political order – certainly not to replace it with a different one” (4).[7]
​Stemming primarily from Marx’s analysis of the fetishism of commodities in Capital Vol I, Georg Lükacs’ 1923 text, History and Class Consciousness, reintroduces the theory of alienation into Marxism through his concept of ‘reification’ (verdinglichung, versachlichung). For Lükacs, reification described the “phenomenon whereby labour activity confronts human beings as something objective and independent, dominating them through external autonomous laws” (4-5). However, as Musto notes, and as Lükacs rectifies in the preface to the 1967 French republication of his text, “History and Class Consciousness follows Hegel in that it too equates alienation with objectification” (5).

The equation of alienation and objectification is the central philosophical error which creates the grounds for the ontologizing of alienation. For Marx, objectification is simply “labor’s realization,” the process wherein labor gets “congealed in an object.”[8] When human labor produces an object, we have objectification. Only under certain historically determined conditions does objectification become alienating. As Marx writes in the EPM,

The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labor becomes an object [i.e., objectification] an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power on its own confronting him; it means that the life which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien.[9]

​​This distinction between objectification and alienation is retouched more thoroughly in the Grundrisse, where Marx says that

Social wealth confronts labour in more powerful portions as an alien and dominant power. The emphasis comes to be placed not on the state of being objectified, but on the state of being alienated, dispossessed, sold; on the condition that the monstrous objective power which social labour itself erected opposite itself as one of its moments belongs not to the worker, but to the personified conditions of production, i.e. to capital.[10]

The bourgeois economists are so much cooped up within the notions belonging to a specific historic stage of social development that the necessity of the objectification of the powers of social labour appears to them as inseparable from the necessity of their alienation vis-à-vis living labour… [But] the conditions which allow them to exist in this way in the reproduction of their life, in their productive life’s process, have been posited only by the historic economic process itself… [These] are fundamental conditions of the bourgeois mode of production, in no way accidents irrelevant to it. [11]

As I have argued in relation to the fetishism of commodities, alienation is also not simply a subjective illusion which one can overcome through becoming conscious of it. It isn’t merely a problem of how one observes the world. Instead, in a mode of life wherein the relations of production are necessarily governed by this condition of estrangement, alienation sustains an objective, albeit historically bound, existence. The ontologizing and/or subjectivizing of the theory of alienation purport key philosophical and political deviations from how Marx conceived of the phenomenon. These deviations naturalize the phenomenon and blunt the revolutionary edge in the Marxist analysis of how it can be overcome.

Musto wonderfully shows how the 20th centuries’ popularization of the term resulted in Marxist (Marcuse, Adorno, Horkheimer, Fromm, Sartre, Debord, etc.) and Non-Marxist (Baudrillard, Arendt, Melman, Nettler, Seeman, Blauner, etc.) deviations along the lines of an ontologizing or subjectivizing of the phenomenon of alienation. In some instances (e.g., US sociologists), even the critical spirit with which the theory of alienation was formulated was removed and “skillfully dressed up… by defenders of the very social classes against which it had for so long been directed” (28). In the case of the ‘Marxist’ deviations of the theory, these often ended up in a pessimism and utopianism foreign and at times antagonistic to the writings of Marx and Engels. As Adam Schaff argued in Marxism and the Human Individual, these classical forms of revisionism “lead in fact to an elimination of everything known as scientific socialism.”[12]
From this historical and objective understanding of alienation, Marx formulates in the EPM four ways in which alienation occurs in the capitalist form of life: 1) alienation of the product, wherein the object of labor confronts the laborer as something hostile and alien; 2) alienation in the process of production, i.e., in the social relations through which the work takes place; 3) alienation from the ‘species-being’ of man as an animal with the unique ability to consciously, creatively, and socially exert mental and physical labor (as a homo faber and sapien) upon nature to create objects of need and aesthetic enjoyment; and 4) alienation from other humans and their objects of labor. Apart from the Feuerbachian essentialism in the language of number 3 (e.g., species-being, species-essence), the pith of this 1844 formulation of the theory will be enriched in his later work, especially in the Grundrisse, where it is given its most systematic consideration.

Along with what Kaan Kangal has called the ‘Engels debate,’ the 1960s debate around the EPM depicted the great bifurcation that existed in Marxism.[13] On the one hand, the Western humanist tradition “stress[ed] the theoretical pre-eminence” of Marx’s early work. On the other, the Eastern socialist (and Althusserian) tradition downplayed it as the writing of a pre-Marxist Marx, still entrapped by Hegelian idealism or a Feuerbachian problematic (18).[14] Both of these traditions create an “arbitrary and artificial opposition” between an “early Marx” and a “mature Marx” (15). Those who held on to the early writings as containing the ‘key’ to Marxism were, as Musto rightly argues, “so obviously wrong that it demonstrated no more than ignorance of his work” (16). However, those who dismissed these early writings often landed in a “decidedly anti-humanist conception” (e.g., Althusser’s theoretical anti-humanism) (ibid). These two sides mirror one another on the basis of an artificial and arbitrary division of a ‘young’ and ‘mature’ Marx.

Musto rejects this dichotomy, and in line with the Polish Marxist Adam Schaff (along with Iring Fetscher, István Mészáros, and others), provides a third interpretation which identifies a “substantive continuity in Marx’s work” (20). This continuity, however, is not based on a “collection of quotations” pulled indiscriminately from works three decades apart, “as if Marx’s work were a single timeless and undifferentiated text” (ibid). This tendency, which dominated the discourse around the continuum interpretation, is grounded on a metaphysical (in the traditional Marxist sense) and fixated understanding of Marx’s life’s work. It finds itself unable to tarry with a difference mediated understanding of identity, that is, with the understanding that the unity of Marx’s corpus is based on its continuous development, not an artificially foisted textual uniformity. It would be a Quixotic delusion to read the youthful Manuscripts of 44 as identical to the works which were produced as fruits of Marx’s laborious studies of political economy in the 1850-60s. The comprehensive, concrete, and scientific character of Marx’s understanding of political economy and the capitalist mode of life achieved by the 1860s makes the indiscriminate treatment of these works seem all the more foolish.

Instead, the continuity interpretation sees what a careful reading of Musto’s anthology shows, namely, that the theory of alienation constantly develops, sharpens, and concretizes beyond the limitations inherent in the ”vagueness and eclecticism” of its initial stages (21). As Schaff and Musto argued, “if Marx had stopped writing in 1845-46, he would not – in spite of those who hold the young Marx to be the only ‘true’ one – have found a place in history,” and if he did, it would probably be in a demoted “place alongside Bruno Bauer and Feuerbach in the sections of philosophy manuals devoted to the Hegelian Left” (ibid).[15]

It is impossible to stamp out hard and fast ‘stages’ or ‘epistemological breaks’ in Marx’s thought; he was constantly evolving his thinking according to new research and new concrete experiences.[16] Such a stagist approach can only lead to a confused nominalist reading of Marx, for every time he read or wrote something new, a ‘new’ Marx would have to be postulated. Marx’s life work must be understood as a dynamic, evolving unity, wherein, as Schaff argued, “the first period is genetically linked to the later ones.”[17] The same could be said, in my view, of his theory of alienation. As his understanding of political economy and the capitalist mode of life concretizes, his understanding of the phenomenon of alienation does as well.
Concerning the global split in Marxism manifested through these debates on alienation, I would like to add that although some prominent ‘orthodox’ or ‘official’ Soviet thinkers dismissed the theory of alienation, we cannot synecdochally apply the flaws of these on all Marxist thinkers in the Soviet Union, or on Marxism-Leninism in general. For instance, in the Soviet tradition of creative Marxism, the theme of alienation is not so easily dismissed as in Althusser or the more orthodox Soviet Marxists. Evald Ilyenkov, one of the prominent thinkers in this tradition, says in 1966 that he “personally approves” of the EPM’s theory of alienation and sees it as “a healthy and fruitful tendency in Marxist theoretical thought.”[18] In addition, his reading of the EPM and the theory of alienation with respect to the rest of Marx’s life’s work falls in line with Musto’s and Schaff’s continuum interpretation. As Ilyenkov argues,

If anything has been lost in this process, it is only that some parts of the specifically philosophical phraseology of the Manuscripts have been replaced by a more concrete phraseology, and in this sense, a more exact and stronger one. What occurs here is not a loss of concepts but only the loss of a few terms connected with these concepts. For me this is so unquestionable that all the problems of the early works are actually rendered more fully later, and moreover, in a more definitive form. It is quite obvious that the process of the “human alienation” under the conditions of an unhindered development of “private property” (in the course of its becoming private-capitalistic) is viewed here more concretely and in more detail.[19]
Concerning the relation of EPM to Capital Vol I Ilyenkov adds that

The Manuscripts can be a help in the text of Das Kapital itself in scrutinizing those passages that could otherwise be overlooked. If such passages are overlooked, Das Kapital easily appears as an “economic work” only, and in a very narrow meaning of the term. Das Kapital is then seen as a dryly objective economic scheme free from any trace of “humanism” – but this is not Das Kapital, it is only a coarsely shallow interpretation.[20]

​This tendency, however, is not limited to the tradition of Soviet creative Marxism. Even in famous manuals such as the Konstantinov edited Fundamentals of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy, the theory of alienation is treated with great care, and critiques akin to Musto’s and Schaff’s are provided for the 20th century revisionist formulations of the theory.

It is also important to note that Schaff himself was largely aligned politically with Marxism-Leninism, and when criticizing the Soviet dismissals of the theory of alienation he emphasizes his political proximity to those Marxist-Leninists he is arguing against.[21] Additionally, he openly criticizes those in the West which have weaponized the theory of alienation to attack socialism, and which have reduced Marxism, through their interpretation of alienation, to moralistic discourse devoid of its scientific core.[22] There is nothing, in my view, incompatible about a non-dogmatic Marxism-Leninism and the militant humanism of the early Marx’s theory of alienation, or of this theories’ further concretization throughout his life.
​To return to the continuity thesis, Musto’s selection of Marx’s writings eloquently demonstrates the theoretical superiority of this third interpretation. Musto classifies the writings into three key generations: 1) from 1844 to 1856; 2) from 1857 to 1863; and 3) from 1863 to 1875. What becomes clear in these selections, especially in the transition from the first to the second generation, is the immense development in the categories of political economy which would ground Marx’s discourse of the phenomenon of alienation (which, as occurs throughout his work, sometimes takes place without using the term ‘alienation’ itself). By the time the Grundrisse is written (1857-58), it is as if the 1844 EPM’s theory of alienation returned with theoretical steroids, “enriched by a greater understanding of economic categories and by a more rigorous social analysis” (30). In this second generation, the two manuscripts Marx writes after he publishes A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), namely, On the Critique of Political Economy (1861-63) and Theories of Surplus Value (1862-63), will also elaborate and sharpen the understanding of the categories developed in the Grundrisse, subsequently enrichening the theory of alienation as well.

The third generation consists of Capital Vol I, its preparatory manuscripts, and the manuscripts of Capital Vol III which Engels would edit and publish after Marx’s death. Of specific importance here is the famous “Results on the Immediate Process of Production,” also known as the “Unpublished Chapter VI.” This 1863-4 manuscript was omitted from Capital Vol I for largely unknown reasons. Ernest Mandel, who wrote the introduction to the 1976 English publication of Volume one, which included this manuscript as an appendix, said that

​For the time being, it is impossible to give a definitive answer to that question… Possibly the reason lay in Marx’s wish to present Capital as a ‘ dialectically articulated artistic whole’. He may have felt that, in such a totality,’ ‘Chapter Six’ would be out of place, since it had a double didactic function: as a summary of Volume 1 and as a bridge between Volumes 1 and 2.[23]

​Nonetheless, as Musto notes, this manuscript enhances the theory of alienation by “linking [Marx’s] economic and political analysis more closely to each other” (126). Beyond this manuscript, the theory of alienation takes on a new shape in the formulation of the fetishism of commodities in section four of Capital Vol I’s first chapter. The fetishism of commodities is a new term, but not a new concept, it describes a phenomenon which the theory of alienation already explained. For instance, as stated in Capital, the fetishism of commodities describes the conditions wherein “definite social relations between men” assume “ the fantastic form of a relation between things.”[24] This same wording is used in one of the Grundrisse’s formulation of alienation:

The general exchange of activities and products, which has become a vital condition for each individual – their mutual interconnection – here appears as something alien to them, autonomous, as a thing. In exchange value, the social connection between persons is transformed into a social relation between things.[25]

​Besides section four of chapter one, Capital Vol I is scattered with commentary on the inversion of dead and living labor (especially in chapter 11 and 15), a theme which is central to the theory of alienation. These themes are also present in various passages from Capital Vol. III (1864-75), which is the last text Musto pulls from for the third generation of writings on alienation.

Lastly, the theory of alienation has always been inextricably linked with how Marx conceived of communism. As the theory concretizes, the idea of communism does as well. Under a communist mode of life, the conditions which perpetuated an alienated form of objectification would be overcome. Here, the “social character of production is presupposed” and makes the product of labor “not an exchange value,” but “a specific share of the communal production.”[26] The mediational character of commodity production and the exchange value dominated mode of life would be destroyed. Production and the mode of life in general will be aimed at creating the conditions for qualitative human flourishing. As Marx writes in Capital Vol. III,

The realm of freedom really begins only where labour determined by necessity and external expediency ends; it lies by its very nature beyond the sphere of material production proper. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature to satisfy his needs, to maintain and reproduce his life, so must civilized man, and he must do so in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. This realm of natural necessity expands with his development, because his needs do too; but the productive forces to satisfy these expand at the same time. Freedom, in this sphere, can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature. But this always remains a realm of necessity. The true realm of freedom, the development of human powers as an end in itself, begins beyond it, though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its basis. The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite.[27]

If I may add something to Marcello’s superb analysis in the introduction, it would be the ecological dimension the theory of alienation acquires in Marx’s analysis of the metabolism between human society and nature, and subsequently, of the alienating ‘rifts’ capitalist production creates in this metabolic relation. The quote referenced above shows how a rational governance of the human metabolism with nature is central to Marx’s idea of communism.

As John Bellamy Foster has argued, “the concept of metabolism provided Marx with a concrete way of expressing the notion of alienation of nature (and its relation to the alienation of labor) that was central to his critique from his earliest writings on,” and in so doing, it “allowed him to give a more solid and scientific expression of this fundamental relation.”[28] Hence, if the alienation of labor is tied to the alienation of nature, a non-alienated communist mode of life must necessarily seek to overcome this alienation of nature through the aforementioned rational governance of human society’s metabolism with nature.

Although grounded scientifically on Justus von Liebig’s work on the depletion of the soil, this ecological dimension can be traced philosophically to the EPM and the central role nature has in the alienation of labor. Faced with the existential crisis of climate change, this ecological dimension in Marx’s theory of alienation and critique of capitalist production acquires a heightened sense of immediacy.

Additionally, if we consider Marx’s concept of the metabolic rift within the theory of alienation, then its rediscovery did not have to wait until Lükacs’ 1923 History and Class Consciousness, for a part of it could be seen in the ecological dimension of August Bebel’s 1884 text Women Under Socialism, in Karl Kautsky’s 1899 text on The Agrarian Question, in Lenin’s 1901 The Agrarian Question and the “Critics of Marx,” and more directly in the work of Bukharin, Vernadsky, and others in the 1920/30s tradition of Soviet ecology.[29]

In sum, Musto’s anthology is an essential requirement for all interested in Marx’s theory of alienation, and his introduction to the selection displays that great erudition of Marxist history and theory which those that are familiar with his work hold in the highest esteem.

Notes and References

[1] The parenthetical numbers which appear throughout this review refer to pages from Musto’s book.

[2] For a more detailed assessment of this ‘myth’ see: Marcello Musto, “The Myth of the ‘Young Marx’ in the Interpretation of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844,” Critique 43, no 2 (2015)., pp. 233-60.

[3] G.W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford University Press, 1977., pp. 114.

[4] For more on the Young Hegelians see: Lawrence S. Stepenlevich, The Young Hegelians: An Anthology, Humanity Books, 1999.

[5] My video for Midwestern Marx, “Alienation – Feuerbach to Marx,” describes the concept’s transition from Feuerbach to Marx’s Manuscripts of 44.

[6] The Feuerbachian influence which the younger Engels was under is usually understated. I would direct the reader to Engels’ 1843 review of Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present (written before The Conditions of the Working Class in England), where this influence is as, or if not more, evident then than in the writings of the younger Marx.

[7] I would add to the list Max Scheler’s 1913 book Ressentiment and Edmund Husserl’s 1936 book, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, which expands on the arguments of his 1935 lectures on “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man.”

[8] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Great Books in Philosophy, 1988., pp. 71.

[9] Ibid., 72.

[10] The Grundrisse is an unfinished manuscript not intended for publication, in passages like these, where editing could’ve improved what was said, its manuscript character shines forth.

[11] Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin Books, 1973., pp. 831-2.

[12] Adam Schaff, Marxism and the Human Individual, McGraw-Hill, 1970., pp. 16. I was excited to see Musto’s frequent usage of Schaff, a thinker far too undervalued in our tradition.

[13] I use ‘depicted’ instead of ‘produced’ because the split originated well before the 1960s debate, the debate simply manifested what was already a previous split. For more on this split see Domenico Losurdo, El Marxismo Occidental, Editorial Trotta, 2019.

[14] ‘Feuerbachian problematic’ is how Althusser describes it in his essay “On the Young Marx.” For more see Louis Althusser, For Marx, Verso, 1979., pp. 66-70.

[15] Schaff, Marxism and the Human Individual., pp. 28.

[16] To see how this was done in his later years see: Marcello Musto, The Last Years of Karl Marx, Stanford, 2020. For a shortened version of some of the points made in this text, my review article might be helpful.

[17] Ibid., pp. 24.

[18] Evald Ilyenkov, “From the Marxist-Leninist Point of View,” In Marx and the Western World, ed. Nicholas Lobkowicz, University of Notre Dame Press, 1967., pp. 401.

[19] Ibid., pp. 402.

[20] Ibid., pp. 404.

[21] Schaff, Marxism and the Human Individual., pp. 21.

[22] Ibid., pp. 15-16.

[23] Marx, Capital Vol 1, Penguin Books, 1982., pp. 944.

[24] Ibid., pp. 165.

[25] Marx, Grundrisse., pp. 157.

[26] Marx, Grundrisse., pp. 172.

[27] Karl Marx, Capital Vol III, Penguin Books, 1981., pp. 958-9.

[28] John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology, Monthly Review, 2000., pp. 158.

[29] For all the flaws Bukharin’s Historical Materialism textbook has, chapter five on “The Equilibrium between Society and Nature” provides a laudable reintroduction of Marx’s concept of metabolism and metabolic rifts.

Categories
Reviews

Sean Sayers, Emancipations. A journal of critical social analysis

In the final years of his life, Marx suffered repeated attacks of bronchitis and other illnesses. On doctor’s orders, he spent weeks on end convalescing by the sea, forbidden to exert himself. In the past, most biographers have passed over this period of Marx’s life very briefly, treating it as barren and unproductive. They can be forgiven for doing so, they had little to go on. Marx published very little in these
years, and only a few of his letters were known.
This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. A steady stream of archive material is becoming available with the regular appearance of new volumes of Die Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA). This is a massive project to publish an “historical-critical” edition of all Marx and Engels’ writings in their original languages, including not only their published works, but also all their letters, drafts and notes (with all their variations, crossings out, corrections, etc.) – indeed, everything they
wrote, just as they wrote it.
This has been a very long time coming, some of this material dates back to the 1830s. The first attempt at such a publication was made soon after the Russian Revolution, by David Riazanov, the great Marx scholar and founder of the MarxEngels Institute in Moscow. He was removed from the project in 1931 (and he was
executed after a brief show trial in 1938). Publication of the volumes of this first MEGA – MEGA1 – was suspended after only 12 of the projected 42 volumes had appeared. The war against the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union then intervened and the project was abandoned. It was revived in a new and expanded form by Soviet and German scholars in the 1970s. The first volume of the second MEGA –
MEGA2 – appeared in 1975. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, responsibility for the project was transferred to a group of international scholars based in Amsterdam.
114 volumes are now planned (scaled back from the original 164), 52 volumes have appeared so far.
This new material is transforming our knowledge and understanding of some important aspects of Marx and Engels’ lives and work. It has shed a flood of new light on the last two years of Marx’s life, the subject of this book. Musto has used it to produce an exceptionally well researched picture of what was previously a little known period of Marx’s work. The book was originally published in Italian in 2016.
Since then, it has been translated into seven other languages. Now, at last, it is available in a very readable English translation by Patrick Camiller.
As Musto observes, most previous intellectual biographies of Marx have focused disproportionately on his early years. Musto cover only the final two years of Marx’s life, 1881-1883. Musto goes in detail through Marx’s correspondence and his notebooks to construct a detailed picture of what Marx was reading, writing, thinking
about and doing during this period. It is a fascinating and remarkably impressive story.
In 1881, Marx was not yet the “towering figure” (77) on the left that he was later to become. His work was familiar only to small band of followers and was only just beginning to reach a wider audience. Only a few of the works by which he is now known had been published and widely circulated, most notably the Communist Manifesto and the first volume of Capital.
Finishing Capital The main task facing Marx was to complete Capital. As Musto observes, there is no definitive edition even of Volume 1 of this work. It first appeared in German in 1867 with a second revised edition in 1873. Marx oversaw and contributed many further revisions and changes to the French translation, which appeared in instalments from 1872-1875. He planned to revise the book thoroughly for a third
German edition incorporating these changes, but he was not able to complete this.
In the 1870s he was working on Volume 2, and he produced a couple of fairly full drafts, as well as more fragmentary drafts of Volume 3. In 1879, however, because of repeated illness, his doctor ordered him to shorten his working day, and he did little further work on these manuscripts. They were edited and completed for publication by Engels after Marx’s death, Volume 2 appearing in 1885, Volume 3 in
1894.
Musto sees no evidence for the widely canvassed view that Marx was unable to complete Capital because of contradictions and problems that he encountered for his views. Marx was a notoriously meticulous author, never happy to publish until he had taken account the latest ideas and developments and incorporated them into his work.
Marx was in the habit of making notes on and copying out passages from the books that he was reading. With the publication of his notes in MEGA2 , we are now getting a very detailed record of this. He studied a remarkable range of topics. In this period, he read works on political economy, Russian society, collective property systems, anthropology, recent developments in the natural sciences (particularly
chemistry and physics) and even mathematics. Some of this reading was connected with his work on Capital, some was research to further his understanding of the genesis of capitalism, and some simply to satisfy his insatiable intellectual curiosity and desire for knowledge.
He had long decided not to attempt to reply to or correct the many
misinterpretations of his views that were in circulation, but in 1880 he read and wrote extensive critical comments on Adolph Wagner’s Manual of Political Economy (1879). [1]
He also kept up to date with many areas of the natural sciences, partly to find out about developments in organic chemistry relevant to agriculture that he was writing about in Capital, Volume 2, and partly from sheer interest. This extended even to mathematics. His study of mathematics had started in connection with economics but later acquired a life of its own. He said he thought about mathematics
for “relaxation” (35). He was particularly intrigued by problems with the calculus and wrote numerous and lengthy notes on this topic. [2]
In the late 1870s, he read a number of works on anthropology. He studied with great attention Lewis Morgan’s Ancient Society (1877), a pioneering work on American Indian tribal societies. He was particularly interested in the way Morgan showed that social relations change with the development of the productive forces.
He was also concerned to refute the then influential view, put forward by Henry Maine, in his Lectures on the Early History of Institutions, 1875, and others, that the nuclear family was the original building block of society, and to demonstrate that it was a product of later development. Engels later made extensive use of these notes, as he acknowledges, to write his account of the evolution of the family in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884). [3]

Developments in Russia
One of the main topics that occupied Marx’s attention during this period were economic, social and political developments in Russia. Earlier in his life, Marx had regarded Russia as the main centre of reaction in Europe, but after the abolition of serfdom in 1861 it became clear that things were changing. In 1869, he taught himself to read Russian, and he began to read about developments in Russia in
detail. By the final years of his life, he had studied Russian conditions very thoroughly and was in correspondence with a number of progressive Russian social thinkers.
The theory of historical development that Marx had put forward from the time he and Engels composed the writings that make up The German Ideology (1845-6), implied that a socialist society could come about only on the basis of a highly socialised system of production, of the sort that was being created by capitalism in Britain and other Western European countries. Although capitalism increased
exploitation and misery, it also created the conditions for overcoming capitalism by transforming production from an individual to a social process. This was a fundamental aspect of Marx’s theory of history, and he held to it throughout his work.
Whether and how these ideas applied to Russia was hotly debated in this period. Some maintained that the rural communes (obshchina) that still existed among the peasantry in Russia provided a basis of common ownership that would enable it to pass directly to socialism. Others argued that Russia would first have to go through a capitalist stage. Marx was often invoked in support of this latter position.
An influential writer who did so was N. K. Mikhailovsky. In November 1877, Marx had drafted a lengthy letter in reply to an article by him in a Russian periodical.
In the end Marx did not send this letter, and it came to light only after his death. In it, Marx denied that he had put forward a universal theory of history, and insisted that he never claimed that a capitalist phase of historical development was inevitable. He accused Mikhailovsky of transforming,

my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into a historico-philosophical theory of general development, imposed by fate on all peoples, whatever the historical circumstances in which they are placed, in order to eventually attain this economic formation which, with a tremendous leap of the productive forces of social labour, assures the most integral development of every individual producer. [4]

The issue was raised again in 1881 when he received a letter from Vera Zasulich, a socialist activist, asking him to set out his views on whether the rural commune in Russia could provide the basis for socialism. He drew on the letter to Mikhailovich that he had drafted in composing his response. This occupied him for the best part of a month and went through four full drafts, before the final version was sent off at
beginning of March.
Marx again insisted that his view that a stage of capitalist private property was inevitable applied only to Western Europe. Other paths were possible elsewhere. To understand real historical transformations, Marx insisted, it is essential to study individual phenomena separately. There is no “all-purpose formula of a general historico-philosophical theory”. [5]
Some have seized on Marx’s comments to argue that Marx entirely altered his views about the transition to socialism as a result of his studies of Russia in his final years. Musto sees no evidence of that. “The drafts of Marx’s letter to Zasulich show no glimpse of the dramatic break with his former positions that some scholars have
detected.” (69)
Although Marx denies that he ever suggested that all societies must inevitably pass through a capitalist stage, he did believe that socialism could be based only on highly socialised forces of production. He didn’t rule out the possibility that Russia could make a transition to socialism without going through a capitalist stage, but he did not positively endorse this view. And he disassociated himself from those, like Bakunin and Herzen, who did. Part of his hesitancy in responding to Zasulich was due to the care he took in expressing his views with precision. In particular, he argued, since Russia was,

Contemporary with a higher culture; it is linked to a world market dominatedby capitalist production. By appropriating the positive results of this mode of production, it is thus in a position to develop and transform the still archaic form of its rural commune, instead of destroying it. [6]

Just as Russia did not have “to pass through a long incubation period in the engineering industry … in order to utilize machines, steam engines, railways, etc.” – so it might be possible to introduce immediately “the entire mechanism of exchange … which it took the West centuries to devise” (67-8). Nevertheless, the rural commune was an archaic form, very different from socialism as he conceived of it,
and Marx remained sceptical that it could provide a basis for socialist development on its own. He returned to these questions in the Preface to the Second Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto written jointly with Engels in 1882. Again, he maintained that socialist transformation of the obshchina was possible, but that would depend on favourable historical conditions. He remained doubtful that it could simply be adapted as a basis for socialism. Russia would be able to avoid a capitalist stage before it could create a socialist society only,

If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that two complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for communist development. [7]

Marx and Engels
The joint authorship of this Preface by Marx and Engels is a clear indication of their agreement on these questions. Musto, however, insists on emphasising their differences. He continually contrasts the “flexibility” of Marx’s thinking, with Engels’ “overly schematic” views (27). Engels is dismissed as a precursor of “Second International” thinking that “produced a kind of fatalistic passivity, which … weakened the social and political action of the proletariat”. (32) Marx, by contrast, “rejected the siren calls of a one-way historicism and preserved his own complex, flexible, and variegated conception.” (32)
All this has a comfortingly warm and fuzzy feel about it, but Marx’s importance as a thinker is not like this. It lies in his ability to comprehend particular conditions within the structure of a quite specific and definite over-arching theory.
Marx’s “life purpose”, we are told, was “to provide the worker’s movement with the theoretical basis to destroy capitalism” (11).
The idea that Marx was champing to be at the barricades misrepresents
Marx’s character as it is revealed here. What comes out so strikingly from the picture that Musto draws is that Marx was driven, not so much by a restless activism, as by an insatiable intellectual curiosity and a desire for understanding and truth, often simply for its own sake. This is repeatedly demonstrated by the story that Musto tells,
but when he comes to summarise Marx’s attitudes in general terms, particularly in contrast to Engels, he tends to forget this and resort to platitudes. His asides about Engels constitute an unfortunate descent into caricature and stereotyping. His denigration of Engels is unwarranted and seems designed mainly to praise Marx by
comparison. It does nothing to enhance Musto’s picture of Marx and is the weakest aspect of the book. As my mother used to tell me, you can’t build yourself up by belittling your brother, and the same principle applies here.

Life and death
In the final chapter, Musto turns his attention increasingly to the domestic circumstances of Marx’s life. By 1881, Marx and his household – his wife Jenny, his youngest daughter Eleanor and their long-term servant Helene Demuth, together with three dogs – had moved from a spacious house at 1 Maitland Park Road in the
Chalk Farm area of North London into a more modest terraced house further along the same road, 41 Maitland Park Road (both have now been demolished). The house was full of books. When he was younger and poorer, Marx had relied on the British Museum Library, which was within walking distance of his homes. In his later years, he began to acquire books of his own in many languages, often donated by
admirers. Engels had by then retired from his job in Manchester and moved to an altogether grander house at 122 Regent’s Park Road, facing Primrose Hill, a 15 minute walk away. They saw each other regularly and corresponded frequently when either of them was out of London. His, wife, Jenny, was suffering from cancer of the liver. Her condition worsened in the summer of 1881, and she died in December, leaving Marx bereft.
They had been together for almost 40 years. Marx’s condition worsened. His doctor advised longer and more frequent visits to the coast to benefit from the sea air. He stayed for several weeks in Ventnor in the Isle of Wight. Then a trip further south for warmth and sun was recommended and in February 1882 he embarked on a journey to Algeria, stopping off on the way to visit his elder daughter, Jenny Longuet, and her family in Argenteuil, just outside Paris. This trip was not a success. When he got to Algeria, the weather was unseasonably cold and wet, and he suffered from a lack of
intellectual stimulation. After ten weeks he cut short his stay, and moved to Monaco on the French Riviera, and then back to England, again via Argenteuil.
He was staying again in Ventnor when he received news that his eldest
daughter, Jenny, had died of cancer. Marx was distraught. He returned to London. In the final months of his life, he was looked after by Eleanor, his youngest daughter, and their servant, Helene Demuth. He died peacefully sitting in the chair by his desk on March 24, 1883.
Musto combines a fascinating and detailed intellectual biography with an informative account of Marx’s life in his final years. His book is exceptionally well researched. In a running commentary, much of it in footnotes, he provides a detailed account of the scholarly literature in all the main European languages on the topics he is discussing. He writes in a clear and pleasing style. His book makes a major contribution to our understanding Marx’s life and work. It is highly recommended.

 

[1] Previously published as (Marx 1975).
[2] Previously published as (Marx 1983).
[3] Extended extracts from Marx’s original notes were published in (Marx 1974).
[4] MECW 24, 200. Marx and Engels works are cited from (Marx and Engels 1975),
abbreviated as MECW.
[5] MECW 24, 201.
[6] MECW 24, 362.
[7] MECW 24, 426.

References
Marx, Karl. 1974. The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx: (Studies of Morgan, Phear, Maine, Lubbock). Edited by Lawrence Krader. Assen: Van Gorcum.
Marx, Karl. 1975. “Notes on Adolph Wagner (1879-80).” In Texts on Method, 179– 219. Oxford: Blackwell.
Marx, Karl. 1983. Mathematical Manuscripts of Karl Marx. London : New York: New Park Publications.
Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. 1975. Collected Works [MECW]. 50 vols. London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Categories
Reviews

Nupur Pattanaik, Critical Sociology

Marcello Musto is a Professor in Sociology at York University at Canada and in the book Rethinking Alternatives with Marx has revealed the resilience, power of Marxist ideas in the contemporary contexts of culture, gender equality, migrant rights and protection of the environment, the brilliant book illustrates the culture and society with Marxist viewpoints. The author has put together vari¬ous prestigious scholars, activists who guide us through the frontiers of the struggle for our times, from gender and race to migration and the climate crisis which suggests that Marx’s analyses are arguably resonating even more strongly today than they did in his own time. Marcus Musto has made the book by the efficient innovative perspectives on Marx’s points of view about ecology, migration, gender, the capitalist mode of production, the labour movement, globalization, social relations and the contours of a possible socialist alternative by delving deeper into a new critical discussion of some of the classical themes of Marx’s thought.
The book consists of four parts and each part is segmented into different chapters; the first part is about capitalism, gender and social relations which have been including four chapters that reflect about factory and family as spaces of capital, followed by Marx on Gender, Race and Social Reproduction With the third chapter which is about capital as a social relation form analysis and class struggle and the last chapter in this segment is about commodity and post-modern spectacle.
But in Marx, and in Hegel for that matter, the term functioned differently, less prominently culturally, but more as regards the family, economy and the relationship of both to nature. Rethinking Marx’s treatment of ‘gender’ relations confronts us with a paradox.
On one side, Marx’s approach to ‘gender’, as discussed in his major works, is at best wanting. Whether by gender we refer to male-female relations and the rules by which they are constructed or to the history and origins of the sexual division of labour and patriarchal domination in capital¬ism, in vain we turn to Marx for an analysis of these issues. New forms of governance that depend on collective networks and solidarity rather than profit-oriented market forces and hierarchical command structures.
The second part of this book which is about the environmental crisis and the struggle for nature divulges into three chapters which highlight Primitive Accumulation as the cause of economic and ecological disaster with Marx and the Environmental Catastrophe, with the seventh chapter ‘Finding a Way Out of the Anthropocene: The Theory of “Radical Needs” and the Ecological Transition’ by enlightening the readers in sum, takes capitalism at its word, and demand that our vital and qualitative needs be at last fulfilled.
The third part focuses on the most prominent issue of Migration, Labour and Globalization with three chapters like ‘Accumulation and Its Discontents: Migration and Nativism in Marx’s Capital and Late Manuscripts’ followed by ‘Marx on Migration and the Industrial Reserve Army: Not to Be Misused!’ and the last chapter ‘Globalization, Migrant Labour, and Capitalism: Past and Present’; the chapters deal with the most pertinent issues of migration, Migrant labour has been a feature of global capitalism since the latter’s, beginning. Capitalism needed labour from colonies, semi-colonies, and other parts of the world. Thus, while Atlantic slavery was supplying labour across the ocean, there was an increase in the mobility of labour in post manumission age, when capital became global and global trade became a defining feature of global capitalism.
Communism as a Free Association is the last part of the book which consists of three chapters where the first chapter is the Experience of the Paris Commune and Marx’s Reflections on Communism by the author following Communism as Probability and Contingency and the last chapter of the book which is about Uniting Communism and Liberalism: An Unsolvable Task or a Most Urgent Necessity? This details that humanity finds itself confronted with the task of con-sciously, deliberately and very rapidly revolutionizing its metabolic process and social relationship with nature, between this heaven and earth, its task is to face the plurality of mixed communist and liberal forms of regulating the complex relations of a multiplicity of actors and to shape these forms by solidarity.
The book by Marcello Musto who is an accomplished scholar has devoted his academic career to reviving the understanding of Marx’s ideas and their applications to the contemporary world, driven and passionate about the significance of Marx’s contributions in politics, sociology, the critique of political economy and philosophy, Musto has delivered seven books within the last 3 years. Each of them focuses on a different aspect of Marx’s work and highlights his relevance for finding alternative solutions to the most pressing current issues of capitalism and how it influences culture and society. Furthermore, the book is useful for researchers, academicians in understanding more about the role of capitalist culture in different dimensions of society.

Dr. Nupur Pattanaik
Central University of Odisha, India

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Reviews

Josefina L. Martínez, Ctxt. Contexto y Acción

Tomando café con Marx
Una ola de sindicalización recorre los Starbucks de EE.UU., donde el 70% de la fuerza laboral son mujeres y un 48,2% son personas racializadas o de pueblos nativos

Poco antes del 8 de marzo, un artículo del Washington Post titulaba de forma sugerente: “Más tiendas de Starbucks quieren sindicalizarse. Mujeres y trabajadores no binaries están liderando la campaña”. Desde entonces, un centenar de tiendas de Starbucks han iniciado el proceso de sindicalización en Estados Unidos. Es una verdadera ola de sindicalismo desde abajo, diverso y militante, que no se veía en ese país desde los años 60 o incluso la década de los 30. ¿Y habéis visto los rostros de esta nueva clase obrera? Son muchas mujeres, personas LGTBI+, negras, latinas, africanas o asiáticas, con un promedio de edad de 20 o 22 años. La llaman generación “U”, por “Union” (sindicato). La rabia acumulada durante la pandemia por la falta de protocolos seguros, horarios flexibles que no permiten planificar la vida, una inflación que se come el salario, la imposibilidad de pagar un alquiler o poder estudiar, crearon un clima propicio para esta primavera de asociacionismo.

La chispa se encendió en diciembre en Búfalo, cuando la primera tienda de café logró sindicalizarse después de una huelga. En un país donde el neoliberalismo arrasó con la afiliación sindical durante décadas, encuestas como la de Gallup indican que actualmente casi el 70% de la población norteamericana ve de forma favorable a los sindicatos (un porcentaje que alcanza el 80% entre personas de 18 a 34 años).

Según un informe de la empresa Starbucks, el 70% de la fuerza laboral en sus tiendas norteamericanas son mujeres y un 48,2% son personas negras, de pueblos nativos o “personas de color”. Esto explica que sean ellas las que están al frente de esta lucha. Activistas que han sido impactadas por el movimiento feminista y las huelgas de mujeres, por la insurgencia del Black Lives Matter, las reivindicaciones del colectivo LGTBI y el movimiento ecologista de los últimos años. Es el caso de Jaz Brisack, una joven estudiante que, inspirada por los discursos del socialista Eugene Debs, fundador de la Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), se lanzó a organizar a sus compañeras de trabajo de forma clandestina en el Starbucks de Búfalo hace más de un año.

Un proceso igual de profundo se vive en algunos almacenes de Amazon, donde activistas como Chris Smalls o Angelika Maldonado han logrado organizar con mucho esfuerzo una campaña militante que ha derrotado al Goliat de la logística mundial. En el almacén de Staten Island, con 8.000 trabajadores, se ha formado el nuevo sindicato Amazon Labor Union (ALU) superando todos los obstáculos puestos por la empresa. Jimena Mendoza, editora de Left Voice en Nueva York, explica lo inédito de estos procesos de organización que “empezaron a fomentar muchísimo la unidad interracial y crearon redes dentro del almacén. Lo que han dicho los organizadores es que para algunas de las tácticas que emplearon se inspiraron en las del movimiento obrero de los años treinta, en las huelgas del acero, por ejemplo, y también utilizaron una práctica combativa”.

Eleanor Marx en Chicago

A fines del siglo XIX, el movimiento obrero norteamericano estaba en ebullición. Anarquistas y socialistas promovían la organización de nuevos sindicatos para luchar contra las agotadoras jornadas de diez o catorce horas en las fábricas y talleres. El 1 de mayo de ese año, la Federación Americana del Trabajo había convocado una jornada de protesta para exigir las 8 horas. 8 horas para trabajar, 8 horas para descansar y 8 horas para vivir. En esa lucha por la vida más allá del trabajo, estallaron en todo el país más de 5.000 huelgas. En Chicago, el 3 de mayo las manifestaciones fueron reprimidas, con el saldo de varios obreros muertos y gran cantidad de heridos. Como respuesta, los sindicatos convocaron una masiva concentración en la plaza Haymarket, a la que acudieron miles de trabajadores. La policía cargó nuevamente y, en medio de la confusión, un desconocido arrojó una bomba contra los uniformados. De forma inmediata, la policía descargó ráfagas hacia la multitud y desató una caza de brujas contra socialistas y anarquistas.

August Spies, Mihael Schwab, Adolph Fisher, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Albert Parsons, Samuel Fielden y Oscar Neebe fueron sometidos a un juicio fraudulento y orquestado. El montaje judicial fue escandaloso y se inició una campaña internacional por la liberación de los presos, algunos de los cuales ni siquiera habían estado en la manifestación. En noviembre de ese año Spies, Engel, Fisher y Parsons fueron ahorcados. Louis Lingg se había suicidado en prisión pocos días antes. En su funeral marcharon por las calles de Chicago más de 25.000 trabajadores. Los otros encausados pasaron varios años en prisión hasta que la farsa del juicio y las mentirosas acusaciones fueron desmentidas y recobraron la libertad. En honor a los “Mártires de Chicago”, se fijó el 1 de mayo como Día Internacional de los Trabajadores.

Eleanor Marx, la hija menor de Karl Marx, había llegado a Estados Unidos en agosto de ese año, cuando la campaña por la liberación de los detenidos en Chicago estaba en pleno apogeo. En cada discurso que hizo en diferentes ciudades exigió su libertad. En la gira, se interesó en especial por la situación de las mujeres trabajadoras en Estados Unidos, investigando sobre sus condiciones laborales. El trabajo en las fábricas textiles y la industria del tabaco era degradante y precario. En muchos casos, las mujeres y sus familias dormían en el mismo lugar de trabajo. La explotación infantil era otra marca de nacimiento del pujante capitalismo norteamericano.

Eleanor Marx destacó en aquellos años por su papel como organizadora en Inglaterra, agrupando a aquellos entre los más explotados y oprimidos de la clase: las mujeres y trabajadores precarios no calificados. Sectores que eran considerados “inorganizables” por las cúpulas de los sindicatos. Y al mismo tiempo que apoyaba huelgas por salarios y por la reducción de la jornada laboral para conseguir una vida más allá del trabajo, promovía la lucha de fondo por terminar con el trabajo asalariado como tal.

Hace unas semanas se publicó en castellano ¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos! (Bellaterra, 2022), una antología con escritos y documentos de la Primera Internacional fundada por Marx y Engels. La edición, prologada por Marcello Musto, permite acercarse a una historia viva de la primera organización mundial de la clase trabajadora. Muestra que su influencia crecía al calor de su intervención y apoyo a las luchas de trabajadores y trabajadoras en varios países, al mismo tiempo que se planteaba como objetivo acabar con toda forma de opresión y explotación.

Un siglo y medio después, las condiciones laborales en muchos centros de trabajo se asemejan más a aquellas del siglo XIX que a las promesas de “libertad” y “prosperidad” que el capitalismo aseguraba traer. Grandes multinacionales como Amazon y Starbucks invierten millones de dólares en campañas antisindicales, contratando a bufetes de abogados y consultoras para evitar que se formen nuevos sindicatos. Más cerca, también en España muchas empresas imponen un veto a la organización sindical mediante despidos y persecuciones, tal como lo viene denunciando la Plataforma de Represaliadxs Sindicales, que agrupa casos de diferentes centros de trabajo. O como pudimos ver hace unos meses en Cádiz, cuando el gobierno “progre” envió una tanqueta contra los huelguistas del metal.

A pocos días del 1 de mayo, frente a tantos que dieron por muerta a la clase obrera, bien vale decir: ¡larga vida a la clase obrera! Dirigir la mirada hacia lo que ocurre en las tiendas de Starbucks y los almacenes de Amazon, pero también hacia el campo andaluz, donde se organizan las jornaleras de Huelva, o hacia los suelos que limpian las trabajadoras del Guggenheim en Bilbao. Allí se encuentra una clase obrera feminizada, diversa y racializada dando pasos en su organización, en la lucha y en la solidaridad más allá de las fronteras. Y si los capitalistas siguen utilizando las mismas técnicas de represión antisindical que sus antepasados, lxs trabajadorxs también tienen el desafío de aprender de su propia historia de luchas y revoluciones. Claro que no todo siempre será igual. Hoy Eleanor Marx se sentaría a conspirar sobre cómo organizar una huelga con una joven trabajadora queer en Nueva York o con una jornalera marroquí. Y tomarían un café machiatto, claro está.

Categories
Reviews

Josefina L. Martínez, La Izquierda Diario

“¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos!” reúne documentos y resoluciones de la Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores (AIT) en sus diferentes Congresos.

El libro, compilado por Marcello Musto, fue publicado en castellano en 2022 por Bellaterra. [1]

Hasta el momento, la edición más completa de documentos y actas de los Congresos de la AIT en castellano era la antología de Jacques Freymond. [2] Una obra exhaustiva, publicada en 1973 en dos tomos que suman casi 1200 páginas. Sin embargo, estaba agotada hace tiempo, por lo que muchos de esos escritos eran de difícil acceso. De ahí que sea una muy buena noticia la publicación de esta nueva antología que recupera muchos de los debates en el seno de la Internacional. El libro reúne minutas y documentos del Consejo General de la AIT con sede en Londres dirigido por Marx, junto con registros de intervenciones de diferentes delegados en los Congresos y Conferencias de la AIT entre 1866 y 1872 (incluye también documentos posteriores). En algunos casos se trata de materiales inéditos en castellano (24 resoluciones e intervenciones sobre un total de 80 fueron traducidas por primera vez).

Después de una detallada introducción por parte de Musto, los documentos ocupan casi 300 páginas y están organizados temáticamente en varias partes: 1) El discurso inaugural, 2) El programa político, 3) El trabajo, 4) Sindicatos y huelgas, 5) El movimiento y el crédito cooperativo, 6) Sobre la herencia, 7) La propiedad colectiva y el Estado, 8) Educación, 9) La Comuna de París, 10) El internacionalismo y la oposición a la guerra, 11) La cuestión irlandesa, 12) Sobre los Estados Unidos y 13) Organización política.

Musto destaca que la compilación responde a una meta precisa: “mostrar la forma económica y política de la sociedad futura que buscaban alcanzar los miembros de la Internacional”. La selección tiene el objetivo -explica- de destacar algunos puntos clave del debate teórico-político entre las diferentes tendencias y agrupamientos al interior de la Internacional. En particular entre los mutualistas proudhonianos, los comunistas afines a Marx y los anarquistas influenciados por Bakunin.

Es un aporte, también, la hipótesis que plantea acerca de las dimensiones organizativas de la Internacional a través de los años. En base a distintas fuentes, Musto elabora una serie de datos de afiliaciones a las secciones de la internacional, señalando los que habrían sido años de mayor auge en cada país. En su pico más alto, la Internacional habría alcanzado unos 150.000 afiliados, de los cuales 50.000 se encontraban en Inglaterra, más de 30.000 entre Francia y Bélgica, 30.000 en España, 25.000 en Italia, más de 10.000 en Alemania, unos cuantos miles en el resto de los países europeos y cerca de 4.000 en Estados Unidos. Estas cifras eran considerables para aquel momento, más teniendo en cuenta que en varios países se perseguía a los miembros de la Internacional o eran organizaciones ilegales. Desde el punto de vista de su composición, la Asociación afiliaba tanto a sindicatos como a asociaciones políticas o individuos. En el caso de Inglaterra, la presencia sindical era mayoritaria, mientras que en Francia y Bélgica se combinaba la afiliación sindical con la presencia de múltiples agrupamientos socialistas y mutualistas.

No pretendemos aquí dar cuenta de todos los hitos de la historia de la Internacional ni el conjunto de los debates que aborda Musto en la introducción. Nos gustaría destacar algunos ejes que pueden tener especial interés para la actualidad: la polémica de Marx con el sindicalismo y el cooperativismo, los debates sobre el Estado y la Comuna con el anarquismo y la cuestión de la organización y el partido mundial.

Sindicalismo, mutualismo y socialismo

La historia de la Internacional no se puede separar de la del movimiento obrero de su época. Desde su fundación el 28 de septiembre de 1864 en el Saint Martin’s Hall de Londres, la organización crece en influencia, al calor del desarrollo de importantes procesos huelguísticos. Trabajadores en huelga se dirigen a la Internacional para solicitar apoyo en sus luchas o se afilian a la misma, como es el caso de los obreros y obreras ovalistas de Lyon o los mineros de Fuveau. [3] Muchos trabajadores y trabajadoras apoyan la Internacional como un espacio para la coordinación entre obreros de diferentes países, con el fin de evitar que las patronales quiebren las huelgas, como intentaban hacerlo una y otra vez, contratando mano de obra extranjera. Esa búsqueda de una solidaridad de clase elemental a través de las fronteras se encuentra en los orígenes de la Internacional.

En los primeros años, se producen debates sobre la cuestión sindical y las huelgas, ya que algunos grupos se oponían a la lucha sindical. Esto será combatido desde el inicio por Marx y Engels. Al mismo tiempo, los documentos muestran la tensión constante con los sectores sindicalistas (en especial los dirigentes sindicales ingleses) que tienden a posiciones “economicistas”. Es decir, que querían restringir la organización a actuar como una plataforma de solidaridad activa con las luchas salariales, por la reducción de la jornada o mejores condiciones laborales, sin inmiscuirse en el terreno político. Por su parte, los sectores afines a Marx y Engels defienden una perspectiva política que tiene como objetivo la emancipación completa de la clase trabajadora y todos los oprimidos.

Otro gran foco del debate se produce con los mutualistas, que durante los primeros años eran una tendencia mayoritaria en la sección francesa y tenían peso en otras. Los seguidores de Proudhon promovían la expansión de cooperativas de producción y consumo, que serían financiadas por bancos cooperativos. De este modo, pronosticaban una paulatina superación de los elementos “negativos” de la sociedad capitalista, evitando el choque entre clases. Estaban en contra de impulsar huelgas (y mucho menos revoluciones) y eran claramente un ala moderada de la Internacional. Musto explica que “Marx desempeñó indudablemente un papel clave en la lucha para reducir la influencia de Proudhon en la Internacional. Sus ideas fueron claves para el desarrollo teórico de sus dirigentes y mostró una notable capacidad para afirmarlas ganando cada conflicto importante en la organización.” [4]

El Manifiesto inaugural, redactado por Marx, señalaba en este sentido que “el trabajo asalariado, como en sus días el trabajo esclavo y el trabajo del siervo, es solamente una forma social transitoria y subordinada, destinada a desaparecer frente al trabajo asociado”. Pero la experiencia de lucha de los años previos mostraba que “para poder liberar a las masas obreras, el cooperativismo necesita desarrollarse a escala nacional y contar con medios nacionales”. Algo que será resistido por los capitalistas, ya que “los señores de la tierra y los señores del capital emplearán siempre sus privilegios políticos en defender y perpetuar sus monopolios económicos.” “De ahí que el gran deber de las clases obreras sea conquistar el poder político”, concluye. [5]

También en polémica con el mutualismo, Marx había redactado las Instrucciones sobre diversos problemas a los delegados del Consejo Central provisional de 1866:

Para convertir la producción social en un sistema amplio y armónico de libre trabajo cooperativo, son necesarios cambios generales de carácter social, cambios que afecten a las condiciones generales de la sociedad y que solo podrán llevarse a cabo mediante el traspaso del poder organizado de la sociedad, es decir, del poder del Estado, desde las manos de los capitalistas y terratenientes a las manos de los productores mismos. [6]

La derrota de los mutualistas en la Internacional se terminará plasmando en las resoluciones del Congreso de Bruselas en septiembre de 1868, con la introducción de una serie de artículos programáticos que apuntan a la socialización de los medios de producción estratégicos, como las minas, los medios de transporte, los canales, carreteras, telégrafos junto con la gran propiedad agrícola. El Congreso proponía que esas propiedades colectivas fueran concedidas a asociaciones de trabajadores para “garantizar a la sociedad el funcionamiento racional y científico de los ferrocarriles, etcétera, a un precio tan próximo como sea posible a los gastos del trabajador.” Cabe destacar que las resoluciones incluían también la cuestión del medioambiente:

Considerando que el abandono de las forestas a individuos privados causa la destrucción de los bosques necesarios para la conservación de los manantiales, y, evidentemente, de la buena calidad del suelo, así como la salud y las vidas de la población, el Congreso piensa que los bosques deben seguir siendo propiedad de la sociedad. [7]

La Comuna y la cuestión del Estado

Las definiciones sobre el Estado se concretan a partir de la experiencia de La Comuna de Paris de 1871. A partir de entonces se establece mucho más claramente una delimitación estratégica no solo con los mutualistas sino también con los anarquistas o “autonomistas” seguidores de Bakunin.

Marx escribe en La Lucha de clases en Francia que “la clase obrera no puede limitarse simplemente a tomar posesión de la máquina del Estado tal como está y a servirse de ella para sus propios fines”. La Comuna se constituye en base a representantes electos, que podían ser revocados en cualquier momento, como un órgano a la vez ejecutivo y legislativo. Suprime el ejército permanente y la policía y decreta la separación de la Iglesia del Estado. En ese sentido La Comuna “quiebra el poder estatal moderno”. Su verdadero secreto estaba en que era “esencialmente un gobierno de la clase obrera, fruto de la lucha de la clase productora contra la clase apropiadora, la forma política al fin descubierta que permitía realizar la emancipación del trabajo.” [8] Por primera vez en la historia, señala Marx, simples obreros se atreven a desafiar los principios del orden burgués y muestran que podían llevar adelante su propio gobierno. Por eso “el viejo mundo se retorció en convulsiones de rabia” y toda la fuerza de la represión estatal capitalista se descarga sobre la comuna roja.

En la parte de la antología dedicada a “La propiedad colectiva y el Estado” se encuentran varios documentos interesantes que ilustran esta lucha política y teórica con los anarquistas en el seno de la Internacional después de la Comuna. Entre ellos, un extracto del texto escrito por Marx, Engels y Lafargue en polémica con Bakunin. [9] Después de plantear que este se proponía derrotar a un “Estado abstracto”, los autores polemizan con su idea de que es igual una república burguesa que un Estado revolucionario. Y apuntan que la experiencia de la Comuna de Lyon muestra lo fallido de la doctrina de Bakunin. Señalan, de forma irónica, que por más que los anarquistas proclamara la “abolición del Estado por decreto”, el Estado real, materializado en dos compañías de guardias nacionales, bastó para “obligar a Bakunin a salir corriendo hacia Ginebra”.

La ruptura con Bakunin se formaliza en el Congreso de la Haya (1872) donde se resuelve su separación de la Internacional, una vez constatadas las diferencias y la formación, por parte de los seguidores de Bakunin, de una organización paralela dentro de la Internacional que buscaba restringir sus objetivos. Su idea de un comunismo “sin transición” resultaba muy radical en su retórica, pero en realidad era un ataque directo a la necesidad una política revolucionaria por parte de la clase obrera.

En las resoluciones del Congreso de Saint-Imier, convocado por los grupos afines a Bakunin después del Congreso de La Haya, se afirmará que “toda organización política no puede ser otra cosa que la organización de la dominación, para beneficio de una clase y en detrimento de las masas; y que, si el proletariado buscaba tomar el poder se convertiría en una clase dominante y explotadora.” [10] Una condena absoluta a cualquier intento de la clase obrera por tomar el poder político que, por lo tanto, la condenaba a la impotencia de aceptar el estatus quo actual. Entre Marx y Bakunin había posiciones irreconciliables en lo que hacía a los objetivos, los métodos y las fuerzas sociales de la revolución tal como puede apreciarse en la serie de documentos publicados en la antología referidos a la organización política.

Por último, aunque se trata de una selección acotada, son también de gran interés los textos reunidos en la parte dedicada al debate sobre Irlanda y Estados Unidos. Estos muestran la posición internacionalista de Marx y Engels contra la opresión nacional, contra la esclavitud y el racismo. Sobre la cuestión de la mujer, aparecen algunas resoluciones, como la que plantea la formación de secciones de mujeres obreras y el documento “Sobre la emancipación e independencia de la mujer” presentado por algunos delegados al Congreso de Ginebra. Aunque sobre este tema la compilación de Freymond es un poco más completa, ya que reproduce los debates entre los diferentes delegados sobre el tema.

Una Internacional para una nueva clase obrera

Marcello Musto cierra la introducción del libro señalando las condiciones actuales donde se combinan crisis económicas, sociales y ecológicas, una creciente brecha social entre ricos y una mayoría empobrecida, así como vientos de guerra. Desde su punto de vista, esto plantea a la clase trabajadora la “urgente necesidad de reorganizarse sobre la base de dos características fundamentales de la Internacional: la multiplicidad de su estructura y el radicalismo de sus objetivos” y señala que para hacer frente a los desafíos del presente la nueva Internacional debe ser “plural y anticapitalista”.

En este punto, si partimos del hecho de que la composición social y cultural de la clase trabajadora es mucho más heterogénea que en el pasado (una clase obrera más extendida internacionalmente, feminizada, racializada y diversa) no podemos más que coincidir en que sus organizaciones tienen que expresar esa pluralidad. Basta mirar las novedosas experiencias de la clase obrera norteamericana, donde una nueva ola de sindicalismo desde abajo es protagonizada por jóvenes trabajadores y trabajadoras negras, latinas y LGTBI. Sectores en los que han tenido gran impacto movimientos sociales como el feminista o el Black Lives Matter.

Sin embargo, es necesario señalar también que la experiencia de más de 150 años de la clase obrera desde la fundación de la Primera Internacional plantea una articulación muy diferente entre sindicatos, consejos obreros y partidos revolucionarios, que la que podía haber en época de Marx. A comienzos del siglo XX irrumpieron nuevas experiencias de autoorganización, como fueron los consejos obreros o soviets, que permitieron expresar la pluralidad social y política de la clase trabajadora, a la vez que permitían mantener una libertad de tendencias políticas en su seno. Al mismo tiempo, la delimitación estratégica que comenzó en época de Marx con el anarquismo o las tendencias autonomistas, se enriquece en el siglo XX con las experiencias de las grandes revoluciones de la clase obrera, pero también con las múltiples traiciones de la socialdemocracia y el estalinismo. De todas estas lecciones no podemos hacer borrón y cuenta nueva. Se trata de experiencias y luchas políticas, que, junto a las conclusiones de la lucha de clases más actual, forman las bases para reorganizar ese partido internacional de la revolución socialista que necesitamos con tanta urgencia.

NOTAS AL PIE

[1] Originalmente fue publicado en inglés en el año 2015 por Bloomsbury con motivo de los 150 años de la fundación de la AIT.

[2] Jacques Freymond, La Primera Internacional, Tomos I y II, Ediciones Zero, 1973, Bilbao. Publicada originalmente en francés en 1962 con el título La première Internationale, una colección de textos dirigida por Jacques Freymond, compilados por Henri Burgelin, Knut Langfeld y Miklós Molnár.

[3] Jaques Freymond, La Primera Internacional, Ediciones Zero, 1973, Bilbao

[4] Ver Introducción, en: Marcello Musto (Ed.); ¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos!, Bellaterra, 2022.

[5] Karl Marx, Manifiesto Inaugural de la Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores, octubre de 1864. En: Marcello Musto (Ed.); ¡Trabajadores del mundo, uníos!, Bellaterra, 2022.

[6] Citado en Marcello Musto (Ed.); ídem.

[7] Resoluciones del Congreso de Bruselas (1868), VVAA, en: Marcello Musto, ídem.

[8] Karl Marx, Sobre la Comuna de París (Fragmentos de “La lucha de clases en Francia…”), en: Marcello Musto, ídem.

[9] Marx, Engels, Lafargue; La Alianza de la Democracia Socialista y la Asociación Internacional de Trabajadores, publicado en francés en agosto de 1873.

[10] Ídem

Categories
Reviews

William Clare Roberts, Political Science Quarterly

In The Last Years of Karl Marx, Marcello Musto provides an affectionate and careful journey through the final two years of Marx’s life. These years are, as Musto notes (p. 5), frequently neglected in full biographies. Marx prepared almost nothing for publication during these years—only a short (but important) preface to the Russian edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. This was due, partly, to illness. He spent almost all of 1882 traveling—to the Isle of Wight, Algeria, and various spas in France and Switzerland—in search of relief from bronchitis and pleurisy. Moreover, these years were dominated by the deaths of his two Jennys: his wife in December of 1881, and his eldest daughter in the first days of 1883.
Despite this, Musto treats these years as intellectually fruitful. Because he was not publishing, reconstructing Marx’s intellectual life entails reporting on his reading notes. These are voluminous, even in these years of illness and grief, and the recitation of their contents can be a bit tedious. Despite Musto’s effort to inject some theoretical interest, the massive “annotated year‐by‐year timeline of world events”—from 91 BCE to the Treaty of Westphalia—that Marx produced late in 1881 (pp. 99–102) seems to have been a way of literally marking time as his wife succumbed to liver cancer.
However, Marx was also regularly corresponding with friends, family members, and activists in the international socialist movement, and his letters are a richer source of insight into theoretical and political questions. The Paris Commune of 1871 had dwarfed all the earlier experiments with communist colonies and cooperative factories. The workers had asserted their right to one of the great cities of Europe and governed it for two months. The destruction of the Commune, however, demonstrated a new that the city was dependent upon the countryside, and that a militant urban proletariat was helpless without the support of a revolutionary peasantry.
Marx, therefore, extended his research “to new areas” (p. 25), oriented above all by the possibility and prospects of social revolution in the countryside. This dovetailed with the development of revolutionary socialism in Russia, and with the question of whether or how the Russian peasant commune might play into this development. The most substantial chapter of Musto’s story treats Marx’s involvement with the Russian revolutionary movement and the questions about Russian social development that occupied populists and socialists.
At the same time, Marx was also involved in the creation and growth of working‐class political parties in France (pp. 44–48, 77–80), England (pp. 82–85), and Germany. (Musto’s book does not devote sustained attention to German Social Democracy. Engels corresponded much more actively than Marx with August Bebel, Eduard Bernstein, and Karl Kautsky, and this explains, even if it does not fully justify, this lacuna.) Musto repeatedly claims that Marx’s work in these years stands in sharp contrast with the “dogmatic, economistic, and Eurocentric” picture of Marx produced by the Marxist parties of the Second and Third Internationals (p. 4). His concluding thoughts on Marx are entitled, “What is certain is that I am not a Marxist” (pp. 118–21). Engels claimed that Marx declared this to his son‐in‐law Paul Lafargue, one of the chief propagators of Marx’s ideas in the French Parti Ouvrier. Musto’s book, however, convinces me that Marx
was very much a Marxist—not because he was actually dogmatic, economistic, and Eurocentric, nor because he actually agreed with the Lafargue and Guesde, but because Marx’s late research and correspondence presaged the debates and questions that would be the center of Marxist thought right up through 1917 and beyond. Even if this was not Musto’s intention, it is a valuable contribution.