Dear Comrades,

It would be impossible, in a short letter, to deal with all the points raised by Miriam Glucksmann in her critique of Lucien Goldmann (and implicitly of Lukács) in nlr 56. Since, however, this article seriously misrepresents a major thinker, I would request permission to make a few observations.

I do not propose to defend the specific political positions held by Goldmann, such as his apology for the Yugoslav régime, or the apparent reformism of some of his statements, nor yet the pessimistic prognostications to be found, for example, in the essay on Valéry of 1965. The importance of Goldmann is essentially that through the difficult period of the ’fifties he revived the early work of Lukács, stifled by official Marxism, and extended it in his own concrete studies; in so doing he stuck to the central problems of Marxism, while so many others abandoned Marxism altogether, involved themselves in advocacy of piecemeal social reforms, or shifted the locus of revolution entirely to the so-called ‘Third World’. In a more hopeful period we shall have to go beyond Goldmann, but not reject his contribution.

Glucksmann’s essay gives a very partial view of the scope of Goldmann’s work; there is no discussion of the book on Kant, the essays on Piaget or the recent work on Genêt. In the listing of the basic themes of Goldmann’s thought there is no mention of what is perhaps the most central of all, the inseparability of judgments of fact and judgments of value.

It is from this neglect that the antithesis of ‘humanism’ and ‘science’ (both terms seem to me vague and confusing unless carefully defined) is allowed to dominate the essay. As Lukács pointed out in his essay on Rosa Luxemburg, if society is seen as having a rationality foreign to man, then the only responses are a fatalistic acceptance of ‘immutable laws’ or a purely ethical humanism.

But Glucksmann argues that capitalism is a ‘structure amenable to objective analysis from the outside’. (How do you get outside? Gunder Frank has shown that even the Latin American jungles aren’t outside.) David Fernbach’s piece in the same issue illustrates the meaning of this ‘objective’ Marxism when he writes ‘revolutionary Marxists need to know the pre-existing structure of the society in which they operate, the transformations that are necessary to abolish the prevailing forms of oppression, the classes that can be mobilized to effect these transformations, the correct way to construct the revolutionary bloc, and so on.’ In this view, the revolutionary party is outside the working class, manipulating it. I will concede that this is the Marxism of Mao, but it is not that of Marx and Lenin. It was against such ideas that Marx wrote in the Third Thesis on Feuerbach (Spring 1845—just late enough to be legitimate). ‘This doctrine necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, of which one is superior to society.’ Marx in 1871, Lenin in 1905 and 1917 showed that theory articulates the practice of the class and thereby helps to lead it. Lukács’s distinction of real and possible consciousness is highly relevant here.

Glucksmann’s quotation of Goldmann’s remarks on Lenin and Luxemburg is mischievously out of context. Goldmann does not offer this as an analysis, but proposes it as a field in which a concrete study might be carried out. He is arguing, not for the ‘reflection’ of experience as an adequate explanation, but for the possibility of a Marxist analysis of the history of Marxism (as proposed by Korsch). What is at stake here is the analysis of Stalinism. As far as I can see, an Althusserian approach cannot give an adequate account of Stalinism. Certainly I have never come across one. Ben Brewster, in his generally sympathetic ‘Presentation of Althusser’ (nlr 41), relies on such abstractions as ‘sclerosis’ and ‘dogmatism’.