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New Left Review I/101-102, January-April 1977


Valentino Gerratana

Althusser and Stalinism

Introduction

The purpose of the following article and its sequel (which will appear in nlr 103) is simply to add a further exploratory contribution, once again partial and full of gaps, to my long-standing research on the genesis of contemporary Marxism. [*] Some provisional conclusions are contained in my Ricerche di storia del marxismo, Rome 1972). Apart from obvious personal limitations, which naturally play some role, this adoption of a ‘multilateral’ approach rather than a systematic form of research may be justified by the fact that the method I have chosen is to some extent dictated by the very character of the investigation. I have in mind the difficulties that must be taken into consideration when one tackles a subject like the relationship between Stalinism and Leninism. We are here faced not with two clearly definable categories, between which a systematic opposition may be established, but with a complex of inter-related and mutually conditioning problems, which resist simplistic attempts to draw precise lines of demarcation. The fact that Leninism was transmitted and consolidated through the mediation of Stalinism is not something that can be erased by a simple sponge-stroke of intellectual reasoning. Even when it is thought to have been refuted and discarded, this ‘mediation’ continues to operate indirectly in mental categories and structures which have taken such deep root in habits of thought that it is often not possible to recognize their origin. For this reason, the method of exploratory soundings seemed preferable to more ambitious, but perhaps still premature endeavours; their function is to prepare the ground for the recomposition of a homogeneous conceptual apparatus lacking in contemporary Marxism.

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