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7 Letters Page

Dear Editors
The trouble with most Marxists,
would-be Marxists, left-wing
intellectuals, and bannercarrying hangers-on, is that they
live outside!the real classstruggle; they live in cloisters,
like monks; and only very rarely
do they ever descend into the
suppurating wound where the
organisms of inequality originate.

There is sound reason for the
belief.that no revolution will ever
take place in this country because
the intellectual forces which would
be required to give such a revolution leadership are too busy
arguing the trivial points of
socialism to be bothered with
anything as menial as a revolution.

This attitude of the left-wing
intelligentsia has done/a great
disservice to the movements of the
left; lessening their credibility
and weakening their forces.

I wonder how many readers of
this journal, radical philosopters
though they may be, have ever
lived in a slum, or been at the
receiving end of a charlatan
factor’s unscrupulous practices.

Or’ how many of them have been at
the brink of death, surviving only
by eating pieces of cardboard.

suspect most of you have come from
secure middle-class backgrounds,
and the class-struggle presents
you with a little spice; a little
revolution of your own. Do you
really care to dirty your hands
investigating the realities of

A true revolutionary socialist
should be with the workers offering them something which they

clearly lack – knowledge; how to
fight the forces of oppression,
how to recover the dignity which
the workers have lost in this time
of mass indoctrination. You should
be at the factory gate, in the
workers canteen; the workers will
never come to you, you will have
to go to them.

Endless hours of poring through
masses of socialist literature will
never right a social wrong, or
fight a revolution. An old woman
dying of hunger in Liverpool derives no consolation knowing that
in the university round the corner
there is someone talking about the
wrongs that exist in this society
which watched her die; but he is
only talking about it.

So, as a working man, who
incidentally was introduced to your
journal through the carelessness
of the cleansing department, I ask
you to throw your copy of Das
Kapital away, stop arguing, leave
your monasteries, and go out into
the streets. That is where the
fight is all happening.

George Provan

Dear Editors
Are you actually trying to move
in on the Mind market? Or is
there so little movement inside
British tertiary schools that
you are forced into almost pure
articlism? I don’t object to
the articles themselves – on
second reading I understand most
of them quite well, despite the

verbal flatulence radicals share
with their straighter colleagues
– but who is communicating to


The whole thing would start
to look more serious if, just
for a start Ca) people started
commenting on what goes on in the
journal without feeling obliged
to build verbal cathedrals;
(b) the pages of the journal
were actually usea by people who
need to get help from each other,
or just to communicate ideas
they are working on, about things
they have read, even about courses
they are trying to put on, with
‘essays’ or ‘dissertations’ they
are writing. For example, I am
trying to work out what dialectical materialism is, in the context of a third year course.

I’ve read Engels, Stalin and

I am still ‘very
unclear’. Could someone send a
useful bibliography to the
editors so they could, if they
would, publish it for me and
others like me? Maybe some
even have useful mate~ial they
could remove from under their
backsides, without solicitation.

(c) it was not felt beneath the
dignity of radical- heavies to
contest the terms in which
politicians, the media etc,
are now posing, e.g. ‘the
crisis we are all faced with’,
to descend to agitatio~a1 philosophy. Or do the masses need
to understand the labour theory
of value to know they are being
taken for a ride?

I remain, but do not rest,
Neil Thorley

of coming to grips with what
OIlman says is still in every sense
worthwhile and rewarding.

Alienation is divided into
Bertell Ollmann: ALIENATION: Marx’s
conception of Man in Capitalist
three main parts: (1) an account
Society, Cambridge University Press, of Marx’s philosophical position,
hardback £4.00, paperback El.80.

(2) an account of Marx’s view of
human nature, and (3) an account
of Marx’s theory of alienation
At a time when books on Marx and,
It is OIlman’s view – and he is
surely correct – that one cannot
still more, books on ali~nation,
understand Marx on a specific topic
lie thick on the ground, I should
like to point out that in my view
without having grasped his overall
philosophical approach. Without
OIlman’s work is something quite
this, we shall be continually

It is what occurs
asking of Marx the wrong questions
depressingly rarely in the literaand assessing him by the wrong
ture: a serious and lucid exploracriteria.

It is in OIlman’s
tion of Marx’s philosophical
account of Marx’s general philopresuppositions.

If its thesis
sophical presuppositions that the
is found convincing, then it
originality of Alienation lies.

constitutes a major original
In what follows, I shall comment
reinterpretation of Marx.

If it
fails to convince, then the exercise on each of OIlman’s three main

Marx’s metaphysics


sections in turn.

1. Philosophy
In this, to me his most interesting
section, OIlman starts by considering an interpretation of Marx to
be found in the writings of H B
Acton 1 and John Plamenatz 2 . On
this interpretation, Marx divides
man’s activities into a set of
separate and mutually exclusive
‘factors’, certain of which are
said to change independently of,
and be ultimately responsible for
changes in, the others. Having
interpreted Marx in this way, these
critics then object that social
reality cannot be so divided, that
one cannot conceive of a ‘purely
economic’ base without introducing into it legal or even moral
elements which Marx at the same

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