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By John P. Gerber

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Additional resources for Anton Pannekoek and the Socialism of Workers’ Self Emancipation, 1873-1960

Sample text

The fact that this natural law became identified with a struggle for existence analogous to capitalist development did not a ffect the validity of his theory, nor, conversely, did it make capitalist competition a 'natural law'. The differences between Marx and Darwin werejust as signifi­ cant as their similarities and the failure of Marxists to recognize them was a major weakness of their scientific position. In drawing out the political implications of his analysis , Pannekoek ar­ gued that Darwinism, like all scientific formulations, was not mere abstract thought but a n integral part of the class struggles of its epoch.

Left with these shortcomings and a mbigu­ ities, Pannekoek was often compelled to revert to many of the very tenden­ cies he sought to reject. For all his emphasis on the relative and tentative validity of all forms of knowledge, Pannekoek's Marxism, with its con­ clusive 'scientific truths' and laws of development, had a powerful sense of finality, of having discovered truth or at least the way to truth. The result was that his a ttempt to revitalize Marxism as a theory of transformation ultimately floundered.

Born the son of a Calvinist pastor, Herman Gorter (1 864-1 927) was by the 1 890's the foremost poet in the Dutch language. For Gorter, the transi­ tion to socialism came out of his incessant probing into the meaning of life. Prior to becoming a Marxist, the dominant influence on his thought had been S pinoza 's philosophical writings, to which he was attracted by the em­ phasis on interconnectedness and the unity of physical and metaphysical forces . Like many other Dutch intellectuals, Gorter was first exposed to socialism through the essays of Van der Goes (who was also his cousin by marriage) .

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