Re: Question to ganahlmarx - "No. 3"

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Posted by rainer ganahl on November 30, 2000 at 02:20:20:

In Reply to: Re: Question to ganahlmarx - "No. 2" posted by anthony iles on November 29, 2000 at 12:47:35:

Question 3.: Anthony Iles
Mr Martin's question(2) points towards the reading Karl Marx seminars as an experiment in reading reading. I think this is an inevitable with a project that aims to look at something culturally loaded and multiply tagged "a-fresh" whilst at the same point operating at least partly within the network of artspaces and organisations. That is self-concious examination of the cultural activity of reading collectively whilst reading collectively. It strikes me that there are several ways or contexts within which we might read Karl Marx; as students, intellectuals, individuals, as part of a political programme, none of these (allowing for an inevitable overlap between these positions) matches the kind of institutionally undetermined space into which Marx's work might have arrived when it was first published. Thus an attempt to read Marx afresh outside the burden of history inevitably carries a certain nostalgia with it for that first mediation (first reading). This could be a question of what reading Marx would be like without the history,
faliure and success of revolutionary, academic and beaurocratic marxist formations of the last two centuries... or... how can we read Marx without marxism?

Question 3: Rainer Ganahl
How can we read Marx without Marxism? Marx himself once said: “I am not a Marxist” definitely pointing indirectly towards the very question: “What is Marxism?”. I find it interesting to expand this question and ask against a temporal back ground: What is it to be a Marxist today? What is Marxism today?

I was told that in New York for example, a former Marx reading circle substituted the name Marx with Brecht. Similar things happened after the collapse of the Soviet universe when suddenly western European communist parties started to rename themselves. Me too, I introduce my Marx reading project with the sentence: “I am not a Marxist.”

On the other hand, I was just told by a participant of my Brooklyn Marx reading group that some friends bought a jacket in a second hand shop that they qualified as “Marxist”. It was some kind of Soviet or Chinese army jacket and attracted their attention. They bought it because it was “Marxist”. Is Marxism chic, something to wear, something to eat, something to show off, something to consume, something to look for? Interesting enough, today even the negative imaginary is fading out like these jackets.

I still have an idea what we might sometimes associate with “Marxism” when it comes in the sentence: “Reading Marx without Marxism” and when we are not in a university campus: We associate it with a set of things ranging from Eastern Block Socialism, Communism, the opposite of Capitalism and its “Free World”, revolt, revolution, guerrilla fights, wars to all horrific crimes and systems of repressions that are done under the name of Communism and a certain doctrine of Marxim. To a certain extend the “burden of history” its horrific crimes, genocides and repressive social orders committed and justified under the banner of brutal indoctrinations and bloody interpretations of Marx and Engels - not just during the years of Stalin - can and should never be forgotten. I don’t want it to be absent. I think it is important to investigate the texts very much for their short comings. Learning from Marx today is not just projecting some of his most brilliant ideas and analyses upon the social, economic and scientific-technical situation today but to also confront them with their own history of tragic failures when certain ideas had to serve as story boards for brutally carving a forcefully better reality into people and their lives and things.

I would also like to add that the “burden of history” as well as the “the burden of the present” are reflected not only in texts by Karl Marx but in all cultural products. This was jet another reading of Marx mostly practiced by Adorno and Horkheimer.

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