Thursday, October 06, 2011

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories by Katha Pollitt (Random House 2007)

I should say that it was only for me that Marxism seemed over. Surely, I would tell G. at least once a week, it had to count for something that every single self-described Marxist state had turned into an economically backward dictatorship. Irrelevant, he would reply. The real Marxists weren't the Leninists and Stalinist and Maoists - or the Trotskyists either, those bloodthirsty romantics - but libertarian anarchist-socialists, people like Anton Pannekoek, Herman Gorter, Karl Korsch, scholarly believers in true workers' control who had labored in obscurity for most of the twentieth century, enjoyed a late-afternoon moment in the sun after 1968 when they were discovered by the New Left, and had now once again fallen back into the shadows of history, existing mostly as tiny stars in the vast night of the Internet, archived on blogs with names like Diary of a Council Communist and Break Their Haughty Power. They were all men. The group itself was mostly men.

This was, as Marxists used to say, no accident. There was something about Marxist theory that just did not appeal to women. G. and I spent a lot of time discussing the possible means for this. Was it just that women don't allow themselves to engage in abstract speculation, as he thought? That Marxism is incompatible with feminism, as I sometimes suspected? Or perhaps the problem was not Marxism but Marxists: in its heyday men had kept a lock on it as they did on everything they considered important; now, in its decline, Marxism had become one of those obsessive lonely-guy hobbies, like collecting stamps or 78s. Maybe, like collecting, it was related , through subterranean psychological pathways, to sexual perversions, most of which seemed to be male as well. You never hear about a female foot fetishist, or a woman like the high-school history teacher of a friend of mine who kept dated bottles of his own urine on a closet shelf.

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