With the rise of the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements after Seattle in 1999 and the deepening world economic crisis in the aftermath of the burst of ‘New Economy’ bubble in 2001, neoliberal globalization and the ideology of 'TINA' (There Is Not Alternatives), which dominated the world since the collapse of the former USSR and Eastern Bloc, is now in retreat.
The anti-capitalist movements after Seattle and the world-wide anti-war movement which culminated in February 15 demonstration, No War on Iraq campaign were the eloquent testimonies that the capitalist world economy, currently dominated by US imperialism, cannot be the alternative for the mankind in the 21st century. Indeed, the capitalism is the cause of all the antagonism of the contemporary world, including the exploitation, oppression, poverty, inequality, war, and environmental destruction.
The Anti-capitalist and anti-war movements vindicates the relevance of the classical Marxist tradition which locates the fundamental contradictions of the contemporary world in the capitalist world system itself and seeks the alternative and in building ‘socialism from below’. However, if today's anti-capitalist and anti-war movements wish to move forward to the realization of ‘socialism from below’, they need to rediscover and appropriate the classical Marxist tradition.
The classical Marxist tradition is a current of Marxism which was founded by K. Marx and F. Engels, and developed afterward by V. I. Lenin, L. Trotsky, R. Luxemburg and A. Gramsci. The pursuit of ‘self-emancipation of the working class’ or ‘socialism from below’ with the recognition of the centrality of working class as well as the unity of theory and practice is the essence of the classical Marxist tradition. The classical Marxist tradition regards the core of contradictions of the neoliberal globalization as the class contradiction between capitalists and workers and seeks the solution to this contradiction by combining the growing anti-capitalist and anti-war movements after Seattle in 1999 with the struggles of organized working class.
However, the classical Marxist tradition has been severely marginalized in Korea. Indeed, Stalinism and anti-communism have jointly prevented the classical Marxist tradition from being rooted. Stalinism had blossomed during the famous debates of the 1980s on the nature of the Korean social formation, when most Korean progressives wrongly identified it with 'true' and 'orthodox' Marxism, only to be ignominiously discredited with the collapse of former USSR and Eastern Bloc in 1989-91. After the debacle, most of ex-Stalinists have swiftly metamorphosed themselves into avant-guards of various sorts of post-ism and reformism, joining the chorus of 'TINA', ‘End of History’ or ‘bankruptcy of Marxism’, etc. However, the ideology of 'TINA', ‘End of History’, or ‘bankruptcy of Marxism’ was short-lived. As it becomes clear that the contradictions of capitalism are behind all the problems of the neoliberal globalization, more and more people are giving new attention to Karl Marx, who not only very presciently analyzed the contradictions but also provided the most radical solutions to them more than 150 years ago. Of course, we support the current 'Marx Renaissance'.
However, recent ‘Marx Renaissance’, or 'Return to Marx' is inconsistent in that it accepts Marx's thoughts on capitalism, while rejecting his thoughts on the centrality of the working class. It is also incomplete in that it delimits the 'Return to Marx' only Marx itself, never extending to the terrain of the classical Marxist tradition after Marx. If 'Return to Marx' means return to 'detonated Marx', or 'Marx without his revolutionary praxis', it will end up with an intellectual fashion, like postmodernism, flourished in the 1990s, and eventually serve to reinforce the bourgeois ideology. ‘Marx Renaissance’, in its authentic sense, should be the revival of the revolutionary idea of Marx. 'Marx Renaissance' also could be completed only if it rediscover and appropriate the 'rational kernel' of classical Marxist tradition, culminated in the October of 1917. Return to Marx while burying Lenin is just a mockery of Marx.
We launch MARXISM 21 in order to contribute to revitalize the classical Marxist tradition on a theoretical level, which is one of the most important historical tasks for the Korean progressives in the 21st century.
MARXISM 21 will promote the researches and discussions on following topics: thoughts of Karl Marx, historical tradition of classical Marxism, Marxist analysis of the contemporary capitalism and class struggles, debates between various currents of Marxism. MARXISM 21 is critical of bourgeois ruling ideas, Stalinism, reformism and various sorts of Post-Marxism, which have functioned to prevent the development of the classical Marxist tradition in Korea. However, MARXISM 21 supports the open discussion and debates between various currents of Marxism, rather than self proclaiming the 'orthodox' Marxist position. It is because we believe that the classical Marxist tradition have grown and will develope only through the constant critiques and debates.
MARXISM 21 takes an interdisciplinary and totalistic approach to Marxism. We think that the classical Marxist tradition is a totality, which cannot be fragmented as distinct disciplines, such as 'Marxist economics', 'Marxist philosophy', 'Marxist political science', 'Marxist sociology', 'Marxist history', etc. As the capitalist system, the main target of analysis and transformation in the classical Marxist tradition, is a totality as a whole, its analysis and transformation can only be properly pursued through an interdisciplinary and totalistic approach.
MARXISM 21 opposes to any repression of creative and critical approach to Marxism in the name of 'orthodox' Marxism, while maintaining the spirit of unity of theory and praxis. MARXISM 21, as an academic journal specialized on Marxism, promotes the creative and scientific approach to Marxism.
MARXISM 21 purports to contribute to the realization of 'self-emancipation of working class' and 'socialism from below' by promoting the research and discussion in the classical Marxist tradition.
August 19, 2003
Editorial board of MARXISM 21
Kang Nae-hui, Se-Kyun Kim, No-Young Park, Seong-Back Lee, Chai-On Lee, Sang-Hwan Jang, Seongjin Jeong, Jin-Sang Jeong, Choi, Kab-Soo, Byung-Doo Choi