From Catholicism and the working class to communism and Marx

Garvey, John
Publisher:  Insurgent Notes
Date Written:  20/05/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23449

Garvey describes his childhood growing up in a Catholic community in New York and explains how Marx and Marxism were episodically present in the later periods of his life but first engagement with them was not nearly as deep as it needed to be. He asserts that in the 1960s Marx and Marxism that were on offer in the world of political practice were, more often than not, caricatures. What was needed in 1968 and beyond was not simply more Marx but a different Marx. At the end, he sketchs out some ideas of what a different Marx might have been and what difference it might have made.


Abstract: 

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Excerpts:

This is, in its earliest moments, a Brooklyn story-more precisely a story of growing up Catholic in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1950s. I grew up in Sunset Park, a neighborhood made somewhat famous by Hubert Selby's novel Last Exit to Brooklyn. It is also a story of education-in high school and college, still grounded in thoroughly Catholic environments but ones that were less homogeneous and had many more cross currents of interpretations (perhaps in large measure due to the continuing impact of the Vatican ii Council initiated by Pope John xxiii). At the end, in and just after 1968, it becomes a story of my efforts to work through four realities:

my continued involvement in liberal political projects;
my growing awareness of, and peripheral involvement in, erupting radical movements against the Vietnam war and other aspects of American society;
my readings of provocative critical theoretical texts and, finally,
my encounter with and eventual response to an emerging and quite dominant politics that I’d describe as a combination of the Popular Front and “soft Stalinism” and other forms of what might be considered traditional Marxism at the time.

Marx and Marxism were episodically present in the later periods but my engagement with them was not nearly as deep as it needed to be. Although I had the benefit of seriously reading Marx's early writings and the work of Herbert Marcuse, the Marx and Marxism that were on offer in the world of political practice were, more often than not, caricatures. What was needed in 1968 and beyond was not simply more Marx but a different Marx. At the end, I'll sketch out some ideas of what a different Marx might have been and what difference it might have made.
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