Richard Wolff

Kayden James
Kayden James

Is he a revisionist? Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy and he’s had a lot of influence on my understanding of Marxism and the way I explain socialism to people IRL but through recently moving towards his written work I have come across things which I have never seen orthodox Marxists ever discuss. Here is Marcel van der Linden’s explanation of Wolff and Resnick’s class theories in his book Western Marxism and the Soviet Union:
They based themselves on a unique class theory, according to which society must be viewed as a totality of overdetermined processes, i.e. a complex whole in which every process ‘is determined by each and every other process constituting that society’.There existed innumerable ‘entry points’ to explore this totality, and no one entry point can be conceived as ‘the essential cause or determinant of any other process(es) in the society’.Marxian social theory’s entry point was class, defined here as the economic process of ‘producing and appropriating surplus labor’.
In Resnick and Wolff’s theory, two kinds of class processes exist: fundamental and subsumed. The fundamental class process concerns the production of the surplus-product by one class for the other. Subsumed class processes encompass the distribution of this surplus-product between other classes. In a capitalist society, productive workers and industrial capitalists are personifications of the fundamental class process, while landlords, unproductive workers or supervisory managers are personifications of subsumed class processes.
Thus, by highlighting the social organisation of surplus, Resnick & Wolff claimed that the Soviet Union was state-capitalist, where state capitalism is defined as the co-existence and interaction of two processes, namely capitalist production, appropriation and distribution of the surplus on the one side, and, on the other side, ‘processes that place state offcials (rather than private individuals) in the class position of appropriators and distributors of the surplus’.
Furthermore, Wolff and his coauthor discuss their non-traditional Marxist theory in a 2013 paper titled simply “Marxism” from the journal Rethinking Marxism, which they call an “overdeterminist class theory”. Some quotes from said paper:
This is our argument: class refers specifically to this economic process of producing and appropriating surplus or, as Marx puts it, unpaid labor. Class is not, for us, defined by the very different matters of who owns or controls means of production, who wields broad social power, or any of the millions of other social processes that overdetermine the production and appropriation of surplus.
and
A third defect is demonstrated by the twentieth-century experience of applying a traditional Marxism focused on relations of production formulated as systems of property ownership that classified populations into the propertied and the proper- tyless. Class exploitation then became a reflection of, or was conflated with, who owned what and how much of it. The consequences were hardly minor. When socialists came to power in the USSR and then elsewhere, the first order of socialist business was to radically alter the modes’ relations of production: namely, to replace the existing private with the newly established collective ownership of the means of production. The expected result: class exploitation would thereby be abolished.

Thoughts? Am I getting sucked into a revisionist whirlpool? I still think co-ops are silly but am I deviating from scientific socialism by agreeing with any of this?

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youtu.be/VdHO78PWr_8?t=1140

Jack Williams
Jack Williams

Thoughts? Am I getting sucked into a revisionist whirlpool? I still think co-ops are silly but am I deviating from scientific socialism by agreeing with any of this?
I would say your bigger problem is being hung up on whether or not you are deviating too much from Marx. The fact is that Marxism isn’t perfect, and a dogmatic adherence to it (or a particular interpretation of it) even in the face of compelling argument is idiotic. So don’t worry if you are deviating from orthodox Marxism, worry about whether or not Wolff makes sense.

Kevin Turner
Kevin Turner

Is he a revisionist?
Yes.

He preaches 100% absolutely pure and undiluted un-Marxism, while calling it Marxism. This is textbook revisionism. He is not deluded, he is not mistaken. He is deliberately lying, as he distorts the very basic ideas of Marxism (its on the level of claiming that digit "2" akshually means three, while digit "3" - two; there is literally no way he could be honestly mistaken).

he’s had a lot of influence on my understanding of Marxism
He may have influenced you, but it is not Marxism that he influenced.

and the way I explain socialism to people IRL
… I'm sorry, user.

I have come across things which I have never seen orthodox Marxists ever discuss.
Because those things are usually discussed by Anarchists. Who are opposed to Communists. And all Marxists are Communists, if there is any doubt.

Here is Marcel van der Linden’s explanation of Wolff and Resnick’s class theories in his book Western Marxism and the Soviet Union:
They based themselves on a unique class theory,
They called it class theory. However, I would object to saying that it actually describes classes. At least, those are not classes in Marxist understanding.

Thus, by highlighting the social organisation of surplus, Resnick & Wolff claimed that the Soviet Union was state-capitalist,
True.

They invented their own meaning of Capitalism/Socialism (which was based on division of labour), and - based on this newly redefined difference between Capitalism and Socialism - declared USSR (well, Centrally Planned economy; kolkhozs were deemed "Communist", I kid you not) to be State Capitalist.

The fact that Central Planning was producing for use (rather than for exchange) was considered irrelevant in the light of the fact that not each and every single decision of GosPlan was made directly by all people engaged in physical work.

I.e. appointing representatives is capitalism, if Wolff is to be believed.

Thoughts? Am I getting sucked into a revisionist whirlpool?
You might be at the bottom of it.

I still think co-ops are silly
Then you might be not at the rock bottom.

but am I deviating from scientific socialism by agreeing with any of this?
Yes.

There are many way "scientific socialism" can be understood as (Marxist ideas, Marxist-compatible ideas, peer-reviewed ideas, coherent and scientifically developed theories), but Wolff's ideas do not qualify as any.

I would say your bigger problem is being hung up on whether or not you are deviating too much from Marx.
Time is not infinite. You have to prioritize: will you spend next years wasting your precious (and expensive) free time studying works of some no-name bullshitter (until you finally get to the point when you'll see that his obfuscated ideas - not to mention constant lies - aren't worth anything), or will you study works that had been peer-reviewed for many generations and had been recognized as valid practically by everyone of note?

The fact is that Marxism isn’t perfect, and a dogmatic adherence to it
Demanding to permit people to READ what Marx actually wrote is not "dogmatic". You have to be able to assess his works before claiming that they "aren't perfect".

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Adrian Hernandez
Adrian Hernandez

How do I cure myself? Should I start reading Capital finally and reread the Marx and Engels that I’ve already read along with Lenin?

Tyler Turner
Tyler Turner

or will you study works that had been peer-reviewed for many generations and had been recognized as valid practically by everyone of note?
That’s a meaningless appeal to authority. You could say that liberalism has been recognized as valid by practically everyone of note. Unless you are literally advocating against critical thinking my point still stands, theory should be judged on its individual merits, not how closely it adheres to a particular interpretation Marxism.
Demanding to permit people to READ what Marx actually wrote is not "dogmatic".
I never said it was, I love Marx’s works. All I’m saying is that when reading theory you should be worrying about whether or not it’s arguments are compelling, not whether or not it’s “revisionist.” Especially since revisionism is just a dog whistle for “interpretations of Marxism that I disagree with”.

Christian Rogers
Christian Rogers

This sounds like are big LARP to me. The Lenin picture really accentuates that.
Can you provide some substantive argumentation for your claims?

Leo Kelly
Leo Kelly

correct me if i'm wrong but i always understood revisionism as deviating from class struggle to class collaboration, in that sense it's pretty straightforward to tell who is or isn't a revisionist

Liam Williams
Liam Williams

Should I start reading Capital finally
That depends on what you've already read/understood.

I mean, I don't know if you know what socialism is about (and how is it different from communism), what was the core contribution of Marx, what is Capitalist mode of production (and how is it different from simple commodity production), what makes Communism "historically inevitable", and the whole load of other things. Maybe you need a short introduction to DiaMat (reading comprehension might be really bad if you don't know anything about it), maybe you need Lenin's ideas on Vanguard, maybe something.

In theory - yes. I would suggest starting with Contribution to Critique of Political Economy (assuming you understand it) and then moving to Capital proper.

If you have hard time understanding Marx's ideas, you can also read early Kautsky (who is a revisionist, albeit - if compared to Wolff - of a much lower scale), or ABC of Communism, or Stalin (about Leninism), or Soviet textbook on Political Economy. For philosophy in English there is Cornforth. I'd say he is not perfect, but he does provide some insights which are not completely off-the-mark.

Jeremiah Peterson
Jeremiah Peterson

That’s a meaningless appeal to authority.
What other options are there? Wishful thinking?

You could say that liberalism has been recognized as valid by practically everyone of note.
False equivalence. It doesn't matter how authoritative someone is judged within some field, if it is unrelated to the topic.

When it comes to Liberalism, "everyone of note" support status quo - that is what Liberalism is for. However, the intent here (for OP and the like) is to change status quo. I.e. the objective is completely different.

Your argument is, essentially, based on (incorrect) assumption that all knowledge is the same (ex. learning about bee-keeping would teach you piano skills).

Unless you are literally advocating against critical thinking my point still stands, theory should be judged on its individual merits, not how closely it adheres to a particular interpretation Marxism.
And I repeat: you are missing the point of discussion. Which is called "Idealism", by the way. We are not discussing some spherical cow in a vacuum, we are talking about practical matters.

In real life, if you judge all ideas as equivalent - not until you evaluate them all - you are not going to ever finish learning them, you will never be able to pass any judgement.

In real life your "critical thinking" is simply impossible.

Demanding to permit people to READ what Marx actually wrote is not "dogmatic".
I never said it was, I love Marx’s works.
But did you understand them, anarkitty?

All I’m saying is that when reading theory you should be worrying about whether or not it’s arguments are compelling, not whether or not it’s “revisionist.”
And we are talking about situation before you start reading things.

Especially since revisionism is just a dog whistle for “interpretations of Marxism that I disagree with”.
Revisionism is about falsifications.

Revisionism is using someone else's reputation (authority of Marx, yes), i.e. the very same appeal to authority you argue against so as to push through ideas this person never supported and often argued against.

No Marxists would've had problems with Wolff, if he honestly admitted that he is peddling his own ideas. But IRL situation is the opposite: Wolff claims his ideas to be real Marxism, he distorts words of Marx and Engels, he lies about history and theory, he labels Communist ideas State Capitalism (inventing new meaning for the word "State Capitalism", just to be able to use it!), and attacks Marxists as frauds.

It is not "interpretations of Marxism that I disagree with". It is blatant substitution of Marxism with reactionary bullshit from 18th century, with ideas that had been deemed laughably stupid in 19th century, ideas that had been buried and forgotten in 20th century - which is how it isn't immediately obvious how much a fraud Wolff is.

Aaron Lee
Aaron Lee

correct me if i'm wrong but i always understood revisionism as deviating from class struggle to class collaboration
It's the objective of revisionism. But not what revisionism is.

in that sense it's pretty straightforward to tell who is or isn't a revisionist
Is it?

If you don't know the correct answer to some question, how would you know if it is the answer A or answer B that is revisionist?

Jason Peterson
Jason Peterson

i always understood revisionism as deviating from class struggle to class collaboration, in that sense it's pretty straightforward to tell who is or isn't a revisionist
that's an incredibly broad and poorly defined view of what constitutes 'revisionism'. If we went with that than Stalin and Comintern policy after 1935 (popular front) was revisionist.

Charles Cooper
Charles Cooper

If we went with that than Stalin and Comintern policy after 1935 (popular front) was revisionist.
That seems to be a very bold statement. Care to support it?

Nathaniel Flores
Nathaniel Flores

Marxism is not about dogma. People who use the term "revisionism" simply want to cut off any dialogue.

Isaac Gray
Isaac Gray

Revisionism is using someone else's reputation (authority of Marx, yes), i.e. the very same appeal to authority you argue against so as to push through ideas this person never supported and often argued against.
Except that’s not how the term has been used historically. Historically it’s been used to browbeat anybody with a different approach to Marxism, even when the distinction is on an issue that Marx himself never addressed (ie one party state vs multi party state, etc). Regardless, the entire concept of revisionism is one which holds that an idea’s validity is judged by the extent to which it adheres to Marx. If you are actually evaluating an idea on its own merits, then what does it matter if it makes a false claim to being Marxist? A good idea is a good idea, and here you are getting hung up on labels.

Nathaniel Cooper
Nathaniel Cooper

What's bold about it? The popular front theory meant communist and socialist parties associated with the comintern were meant to form coalitions with socdems and liberals in order to stop fascists getting in power. For this purpose communist parties ceased all revolutionary agitation and brought themselves in line with bourgeois liberal parties to wholeheartedly defend bourgeois democracy. You can see it in the French popular front, in the early Browder period of the US communist party, in Spain where the comintern-affiliated spanish communist party formed a popular front with liberal republicans, for the purpose of resisting fascism communist parties were encouraged to and tactically did abandon the notion of class struggle, defended private property and instructed pro-communist workers in their countries to do the same. This was all done to 1. try and prevent fascist from getting into power and 2. convince the bourgeoisie of the western liberal democracies (france, us and uk) that the soviets and associated communist parties were not an existential threat to them and they needn't resort to supporting fascism at home or abroad to combat them.
This strategy was undoubtedly (tactical) class collaborationist. However calling it 'revisionism' would be strongly at odds with what is usually typified as revisionism.

Grayson Phillips
Grayson Phillips

Except that’s not how the term has been used historically.
Examples, please.

Historically it’s been used to browbeat anybody with a different approach to Marxism
If you have approach different from the one Marx had, you are not talking Marxism. It is something different.

If you want to refute Marx - by all means. Just don't call yourself Marxist while refuting Marxism. If you will not do it, nobody will call you Revisionist.

For example, Böhm-Bawerk explicitly tried to refute Marx. But nobody called him Revisionist.

even when the distinction is on an issue that Marx himself never addressed (ie one party state vs multi party state, etc).
Are you implying something?

Because Marxist-Leninists did not preach that one party state is The Only Real Marxist Position. DDR had multiple parties, for example.

If you are actually evaluating an idea on its own merits, then what does it matter if it makes a false claim to being Marxist?
I already gave you definition of Revisionism.

It is not about subjective evaluation of ideas. It is about dishonest substitution of a set of ideas with another set of ideas. It doesn't matter whether ideas are good or bad. They are not the original ideas. And that is all that matters here.

You can disagree with this definition. You may say that you definition is better. But if you want to discuss your Revisionism, then why are you trying to do it with me? I did not ascribe to your understanding of Revisionism. I did not support position you pretend I supported.

Brayden King
Brayden King

The popular front theory meant communist and socialist parties associated with the comintern were meant to form coalitions with socdems and liberals in order to stop fascists getting in power.
Yes.

For this purpose communist parties ceased all revolutionary agitation
No. Not unless you consider only arguing for "immediate revolution" to be truly revolutionary.

This strategy was undoubtedly (tactical) class collaborationist.
If your definition of class collaborationism is used, then everyone is a class collaborationist. I.e. your position is just as vague and dogmatic (with plenty of false positives) as the one user (>>2812730) had.

Caleb Perry
Caleb Perry

No. Not unless you consider only arguing for "immediate revolution" to be truly revolutionary.
If your definition of 'truly revolutionary' includes cheerleading for the status quo and bourgeois democracy, unprincipled coalitions with overtly bourgeois liberal parties and defending capitalism then social democracy might be more your speed than bolshevism.
If your definition of class collaborationism is used, then everyone is a class collaborationist
nonsense, unless you consider working with liberals, preserving private property unconditionally while in government and discouraging revolution to be the universal modus operandi of communism.

Asher Powell
Asher Powell

Wolff sneakily represents HIS revision of Marxism as the only interepretation of Marxism, as I have learned through reading his books. He’s not awful but it’s definitely not Marxism in an orthodox sense

Cooper Morales
Cooper Morales

Is Wolff the 21st Century's Kautsky

Lucas Nguyen
Lucas Nguyen

Wolff will never receive the widespread respect that Kautsky had as a theorist of Marxism, he just doesn't have it in him. Despite all the praise Wolff has received here his ability to explain Marxism in an easily-digestible and charismatic way is above-average by modern socialist standards but still quite bad and a far cry from what we really need.

In some ways his praxis is superior to post-1917 Kautsky when he became a batshit sucdem, I grant him.

Aaron Nelson
Aaron Nelson

Tbf he looks like he's saying state capitalism in the actual sense, not >le state capitalism meme

Dominic Peterson
Dominic Peterson

all these people trying to treat Wolff as a Bolshevik intellectual from the 1910s
What level of LARPing are you on? Wolff never claims to be reinventing Marxism or whatever, he runs a fucking YouTube channel and gets invited to Jimmy Dore and Fox News, do you expect him about the fully-developed value form and the reification of social relations while quoting Lucács' interpretation of Goethe? To a fucking Fox News host?

You can have beef with his approach (muh co-ops) which I do too, because I think it's toothless, or with him shitting all over the USSR (he never does that on air btw), which I do too, he's supposed to be entry level for absolute libshits who think Marxism is when the state finances your hormone therapy, nothing more. Just let him do his thing, he's not hurting anybody and we are not close to a situation in fucking Russia 1917 where there is a violent factional conflict between various socialist strains.

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Dylan Baker
Dylan Baker

*expect him to talk about

Cameron Howard
Cameron Howard

Wolff never claims to be reinventing Marxism or whatever
He literally found an academic journal titled "Rethinking Marxism"
o you expect him about the fully-developed value form and the reification of social relations while quoting Lucács' interpretation of Goethe? To a fucking Fox News host?
Yes

Jose Jones
Jose Jones

He’s not awful but it’s definitely not Marxism in an orthodox sense
It's not Marxism at all.

The core of Marxism (i.e. what differentiates Marxism from other types of Socialism; from pre-Marxist Communism) is historical materialism - which stems from idea that society is defined and shaped through the way it organizes production of goods necessary for its existence (aka Basis). Which is why you can't have society (well, not for long) where something contradicts Basis - either society will keel over (as it can't produce means of sustenance), or offending factor will be eliminated (which is far more likely).

Hence, Marx took pains to define Capitalist mode of production, so as to demonstrate how it functions - only through this explanation does Marx introduce the idea of classes (and other concepts, like surplus value).

Marx referred to Capitalist mode of production as Capitalist because it was based on ownership of Capital.

And what does Wolff do?

First, he rejects the idea that relations of production are the main factor. He claims that is had to be supplemented by distribution of "surplus value" (which Marx refused to define outside of mode of production and ridiculed Physiocrats for doing so, as it clearly secondary to mode of production), which is also used to define classes - and only then does his idea of mode of production take shape.

I.e. Wolff moves in the direction that is the opposite to Marxism, since he starts with undefined abstract concepts and then tries to describe reality through them - rather than taking reality and defining abstract concepts through observable interactions. He goes cargo-cultist.

Secondly, he uses the term "Capitalism" to define something which is not Capitalist in any concievable way even by Wolff's own admisission. He himself openly rejects the idea that his analysis is based on ownership of Capital (not alone, at least) - hence, neither regular Capitalism nor "State Capitalism" (the word originally had absolutely different meaning) should be used to define whatever it is that he is against.

He should refer to this as Intersectionally Exploitative mode of production or whatever term would describe his ideas. Instead he goes cargo-cultist and keeps using the term "Capitalism" even when ownership __completely_ ceased to exist (as is the case under "State Capitalism").

Apparently, "Capitalism" is understood by Wolff as "something I don't like".

Wolff never claims to be reinventing Marxism or whatever
He admitted this numerous times. He also keeps making batshit crazy claims, like "Akshually, Marxism doesn't exist!".

For example, his recent reply to Jordan Peterson where he attempted to "defend" Marxism.
youtu.be/VdHO78PWr_8?t=1140
…after his [Marx's] death, his ideas spread. In the last hundred and fifty years they spread to every country on the face of the earth, to people with radically different cultures, histories, politics, and economics. They all interpreted Marxism in their distinctive ways.
There is no Marxism there are only MarxismS and if you don't have the time and interest to learn about the different ones that's fine but to use it in the singular is bizarre and says more about you than it does about the subject .

I.e. Wolff tries to act as the strawman Communist (Post-Modernist Neo-Marxist) that right-wing moron Peterson preaches about. Those two wankers literally share the same political paradigm.

he runs a fucking YouTube channel
Stop being retarded.

Firstly, he writes books and articles.
Secondly, he has a whole movement (Democracy at Work) of brainwashed "Marxists" that tries to subvert and/or destroy whatever shitty Socialist movements try to rise in the political cesspool of US.
Thirdly, if you express your opinion in public, people are permitted to reply.

Just let him do his thing, he's not hurting anybody and we are not close to a situation in fucking Russia 1917 where there is a violent factional conflict between various socialist strains.
We are approaching 1933, not 1917. Will you wake up only when nukes start falling?

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