Commentary Magazine


Marx and Maxists

To the Editor:

In his review of Robert Heilbroner’s Marxism: For and Against [Books in Review, July], Sidney Hook legitimately criticizes the author’s labeling of the Cuban and other Communist regimes as “Marxist.” The point seems to apply as well to Mr. Hook’s use of the term “socialist.” It is not my understanding that Marx ever conceptualized socialism as simply the nationalization or state ownership of the economy. What sound basis is there in Marx for applying the label “socialist” to Russia, as Mr. Hook does in the review and some other writings? To borrow Mr. Hook’s language, perhaps moral and intellectual hygiene requires that he use the term socialist with greater precision.

Seymour Yellin
Kean College of New Jersey
Union, New Jersey

_____________

 

Sidney Hook writes:

I have long argued that the Soviet Union is not a socialist society in the sense in which Marx and En-gels used the term, since the conception of democracy was integral to their notion. But there are other conceptions of socialism. In any case, it seems to me legitimate usage to refer to the Soviet economy as “socialist.” Any other term is even more likely to generate confusion—“state-capitalistic,” “bureaucratic-collectivist,” etc.

Convinced as I am that if Marx were alive he would hold my current social and economic views, I long ago gave up calling myself a Marxist since that would make me the only true Marxist in the world, which was too much for my sense of humor. If Seymour Yellin is not careful, he will end up by defining “socialism” in such a way that it will make him the only socialist in the world.

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