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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 35 Number 6. April 11, 1972

Instigators [Letter from T. S. Auld]


I am suprised thet your correspondents, The Instigators (Salient March 29), felt it necessary to take note of Mr S.D. Devereaux's performance at the recent Anti-Apartheid Conference -nobody else did, apart from groaning loudly as at some hem actor in a Victorian melodrama each time he was spied making for the microphone. But they have and, as they correctly reported, "Dev" was speaking on behalf of the so-called Communist Party of New Zealand, I feel some comments are essential.

Because "Dev" peddles the confused notions of the "C.P.N.Z. some incautious people have taken him for a Marxist. This he is not. Neither is his party any longer a Marxist party. Michael Dean correctly characterised Devereaux during his closing remarks as a "19th century economic determinst", the kind of "Marxist" of whom Marx himself used to observe ironically: "All I know is that I am not a Marxist."

The economic determinist mechanically attempts to explain the whole historical process, in its infinite variety, directly by the economic factor. The Marxist recognises that the state of the productive forces in the long run determines all social relations: in the first place, economic, class relations, and then political, legal, moral, philosophical, religious, artistic etc. relations, theories and views. Each of the aspects of the activity of social man is abstracted to form a separate category, but each of these categories is inseperably connected with, and acts upon, all the others. This dialectical interplay of productive forces, economic basis and superstructure (politics, culture, etc) which arises on this basis is precisely what the economic determinists end other phoney "Marxists" overlook. For example, Marxists hold that imperialism's drive for economic control of other countries is the principal source of war in the present ere. However, in dealing with a particular war other factors - strategic considerations, nationalism, the state of the class struggle at home, etc. are also considered. It is over this dialectical interplay that Ho Chi Minh and his successors in Viet Nam part company with the Trotskyites. Ho realised the importance of the national factor and the semi-feudal conditions in Viet Nam and formulated an appropriate programme for the Vietnamese revolution. The Trotskyites, including the S.A.L., do not have this understanding, so they are reduced to raving about "Stalinism" and attacking the programme of the P.R.G. under a guise of "defending" the Vietnamese revolution.

While the productive forces and the economic basis are primary and the superstructure (politics, culture, etc.) is secondary, Marxists recognise that there are times when political and cultural changes are decisive for both promoting economic development and changing the economic basis. Far from ignoring non-economic factors, Marxists have always placed considerable emphasis on political and ideological struggle in particular. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao Tsetung in 1966 and still continuing today, has as its aim both bringing the superstructure into conformity with China's socialist economic base and promoting China's economic development.

All this is explained by Engeis in his correspondence in the 1890's. Mr Devereaux end his mentors have either never stumbled across these letters or not understood them. This is why Mr Devereaux and his mentors are reduced to pseudo-revolutionary phrase mongering and why they continually affront the commonsense of they audience whenever they speak.

T.S. Auld.

(Abridged. Ed.)