Class, race and gender in the early American Marxist movement

Apsken at Apsken at
Sat Dec 19 16:22:57 PST 1998

Louis Proyect omitted Karl Marx's revealing reference [from memory] to Victoria Woodhull as a "banker's woman and all-around humbug." I imagine Marx found this easier to write than a comparable slur on Frederick Douglass.

However, for fairness' sake, it should be noted on the positive side of the U.S. First International affiliates that the New Orleans Republican Club was among them, its French-language newspaper titled La Commune. I have always regarded that as prima facie evidence in support of W.E.B. DuBois's designation of Black Reconstruction as "the dictatorship of the proletariat."

When Lenin expanded the revolutionary slogan to "Workers and oppressed people, unite!" he explicitly reject the workerist trend of Marxism, which certainly did include Marx -- the explicit political conclusion of Lenin's study of imperialism.

Racist theories of "the Asiatic mode of production" fell into disfavor among U.S. Marxists in the 1960s, especially after "Marxist" Karl Wittfogel, author of Oriental Despotism, ratted for the witchhunt. Since that was my introduction to the subject, I was surprised many years later when I encountered Engels's proud letter to Marx boasting that he had taught himself Farsi in order to verify Marx's theory of the Asiatic mode.

Ken Lawrence

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