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4203A Clarification to Jonathon Strauss and Peter Boyle - Putting the questions another way

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  • Gould's Book Arcade
    Jan 21, 2004
      A Clarification to Jonathon Strauss and Peter Boyle - Putting the questions
      another way
      By Bob Gould

      You both speak confidently suggesting that your views are a currrent
      expression of Lenin's theory of the labor aristocracy. This discussion is
      having a good effect, in that we're all digging out our bits and pieces of
      Marxist texts and knowledge to educate or remind each other. For instance,
      I'm surprised that I'd conflated Lenin & Zinoviev's 1915 and 1916 pamphlets
      in memory. Jonathon tells me, rather to my surprise, that despite the
      confident way in which he speaks about an implicitly coherent and
      comprehensive doctrine of historical materialism, he hasn't completed
      reading Lorimer's book on the subject. C'est la vie, we'll have to work with
      what we've got, what we can remember, and what we can find, now, on the web,
      which is a wonderful aid to memory.

      My core question is this: both Jonathon and Peter speak about the theory of
      the labor aristocracy and Peter Boyle expounds it a bit, explicitly
      criticising me for try to include empirical investigation of current
      circumstances in the discussion. The justification for this seems to be that
      historical materialism is a broad-brush, general, global historical kind of
      construction, which it is implied, and at times explicitly argued, makes
      contemporary data more or less irrelevant. Your replies so far, seem to
      indicate, particularly Jonathon's reply today, that you don't rely on any
      intermediaries for what you call historical materialism or Lenin's theory of
      the labor aristocracy. Jonathon throws in E.P. Thompson's The Poverty of
      Theory, a text that I too greatly admire, but the relevance of which in this
      particular discussion so far escapes me.

      When I go back to looking at Lenin on the aristocracy of labor, and Zinoviev
      on the same question, I find a lot of empirical, sociological and historical
      observations that serve to butress the theory, some of which are very
      current for that time, for instance Robert Michels in Zinoviev's pamphlet,
      which seemed to be an organic part of the theory. The theory as expounded by
      Lenin and Zinoviev at least, appears to have a series of sweeping global
      observations, into which are incorporated concrete historical and
      sociological observations and on which, to an extent, the broad theory is
      based, and by which it is informed. I'm just asking, are these empirical
      sociological and historical observations out of place in Lenin and
      Zinoviev's texts, or are they integral to the development of the theory, as
      they seem to be.

      It seems to me that it is necessary to establish this kind of framework
      before we can meaningfully discuss the theory.

      Gould's Book Arcade
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