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Western Marxism’s focus on culture generated contributions to literary criticism that have been productive even for those who don’t understand themselves to be Marxists. However we might assess the status of its activities — a distraction from real politics or a contribution to understanding the complexity of social signification and meaning-making without which there can be no politics — we are in new historical circumstances that have pushed Marxist criticism towards new objects of study and modes of intervention. This is an ongoing process; the three approaches to literature or culture that I described above continue to describe much of what is done under the name of Marxism. But the changed political circumstances of the present moment — one which finds capitalism under question, widespread expressions of anxiety about ecological futures, and so on — have pushed critical energies in other directions, and will continue to do so. One of the only positive things that Anderson says about Western Marxism is that it proved to be unexpectedly immune to reformism. Marxism is a theory of social and political transformation — of revolution, not evolution, since it understands that no amount of amelioration of existing political and eco nomic frameworks will address the broad social injustices that capitalism produces. At the moment, studies of literature within universities may not be the main site for such transformations to be better understood, or actualized — which isn’t the same as saying that such studies don’t have any value at all.

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Literature of Revolution : Essays on Marxism: Norman …

Literature of Revolution : Essays on Marxism

The Communist movement in Western Europe began, as a movementfor the violent overthrow of capitalism, and degenerated within afew years into an instrument of Russian foreign policy. This wasprobably inevitable when this revolutionary ferment that followedthe Great War had died down. So far as I know, the onlycomprehensive history of this subject in English is FranzBorkenau's book, THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL. What Borkenau's factseven more than his deductions make clear is that Communism couldnever have developed along its present lines if any revolutionaryfeeling had existed in the industrialized countries. In England,for instance, it is obvious that no such feeling has existed foryears past. The pathetic membership figures of all extremistparties show this clearly. It is, only natural, therefore, that theEnglish Communist movement should be controlled by people who arementally subservient to Russia and have no real aim except tomanipulate British foreign policy in the Russian interest. Ofcourse such an aim cannot be openly admitted, and it is this factthat gives the Communist Party its very peculiar character. Themore vocal kind of Communist is in effect a Russian publicity agentposing as an international socialist. It is a pose that is easilykept up at normal times, but becomes difficult in moments ofcrisis, because of the fact that the U.S.S.R. is no more scrupulousin its foreign policy than the rest of the Great Powers. Alliances,changes of front etc., which only make sense as part of the game ofpower politics have to be explained and justified in terms ofinternational socialism. Every time Stalin swaps partners,'Marxism' has to be hammered into a new shape. This entails suddenand violent changes of 'line', purges, denunciations, systematicdestruction of party literature, etc., etc. Every Communist is infact liable at any moment to have to alter his most fundamentalconvictions, or leave the party. The unquestionable dogma of Mondaymay become the damnable heresy of Tuesday, and so on. This hashappened at least three times during the past ten years. It followsthat in any Western country a Communist Party is always unstableand usually very small. Its long-term membership really consists ofan inner ring of intellectuals who have identified with the Russianbureaucracy, and a slightly larger body of working-class people whofeel a loyalty towards Soviet Russia without necessarilyunderstanding its policies. Otherwise there is only a shiftingmembership, one lot coming and another going with each change of'line'.

Literature Of Revolution Essays On Marxism

Marx asserts that "...stable societies develop sites of resistance: contradictions build into the social system that ultimately lead to social revolution and the development of a new society upon the old" (1088). This cycle of contradiction, tension, and revolution must continue: there will always be conflict between the upper, middle, and lower (working) classes and this conflict will be reflected in literature and other forms of expression - art, music, movies, etc.

Norman Geras, Literature of Revolution: Essays on Marxism
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