The Third International after Lenin

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Treason of the intellectuals redux

From Ex-Leftists to Anti-Leftists

by Emir Sader

Isaac Deutscher has an article entitled "Heretics and Renegades," delineating the path of people who begin by breaking with left-wing theories and positions and end up becoming fanatical anti-leftists.  They are characters who have, over time, populated the Right all over the world.

Some of them took advantage of Stalinism in order to condemn Lenin and, eventually, Marx and Marxism.  It's no accident that a non-negligible proportion of them have Trotskyist origin.  Proceeding to equate Stalinism with Nazism in order to absolutize "Stalinist totalitarianism" was already a step toward liberalism and anti-communism.

Here's a standard type: those who are on the Left, even militantly so, suddenly "repent," drop everything, deny and denounce their pasts and their comrades, the idols whom they worshipped blindly, in order to surrender themselves -- together with their arms, history, and, frequently, work -- to the Right.

Some of them remain on the Left, in its most moderate corner, denouncing, in a strongly anti-left tone, what's not "democratic" in the currents of the Left itself.  They are loud advocates of alliances with centrist and even right-wing currents, and they tend to dilute the distinction between Left and Right.

Others, more commonly, become militant right-wingers, of the most fundamentalist sort, in the style of anti-communists during the Cold War.  They get positions in the right-wing media -- from editorships of magazines to columns in newspapers to invitations to appear on television -- as rewards for their loyalty.

There are also writers, intellectuals, musicians, declining at the sad ends of their careers, who abandon the rebel postures of their pasts, to submit to the powers that be and the mass media in exchange for column inches, prizes, eulogies, which confirm their end-of-career losses of dignity.

Emir Sader is a Brazilian sociologist.  The original article "De ex a anti-esquerdistas" was published in Carta Maior on 21 May 2012.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.

Emir Sadr is correct that most ex-lefts began their journey by leaving the Trotskyist movement behind.  But it is also the leading cadre of the Trotskyist movement who have analyzed these treasons of the intellectuals from a historical materialism perspective.  Sadr, on the other hand, by not being concrete, leads us to think that these retreats are merely the whims and fancies of the individuals involved, as though one day Dwight Macdonald or Sidney Hook got a bee in their bonnet and headed for the hills!

James P. Cannon wrote several useful articles on the topic:

The Pathology of Renegacy [1940]

The Treason of the Intellectuals

George Novack wrote

Marxism and the Intellectuals

From Revisionism to Social-Chauvinism: The Degradation of Sidney Hook

Radical Intellectuals in the 1930s

The most sustained polemic against former Marxists seeking to return to bourgeois politics and philosophy is Trotsky's own book In Defense of Marxism:





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