Alexander Dolitsky: There is Marxism, and then there’s American Neo-Marxism

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By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY

In the early 1980s, I attended graduate school at Brown University. Then, only two Soviet-born and raised students were at Brown. I was from Kiev and Boris was from Odessa, both cities of the former Soviet Union. I was a graduate student in the Anthropology Department and Boris was a graduate student in the Math Department. 

Boris and I were a novelty and an enigma at Brown. Our Eastern European accents and mannerisms set us apart from other students and, not surprisingly, we were questioned frequently by Brown students about our country of origin and upbringing. Follow-up questions were somewhat parochial and usually included: “Alexander, are you a Marxist?” And my usual response to the question was, “No, I am an anthropologist.”

It was understandable that I was in the position of frequently having to answer such questions. At the time, the West and the Soviet Union were in the heyday of the Cold War; every Soviet–like presence was “put under the microscope” by the U.S. authorities and the American public in general.

What was surprising was that, in spite of sincerely embracing Marxist teaching, the post–graduate students at Brown, one of the oldest and leading Ivy League universities in the country, seemed to know very little about Marxism. Contrarily, during my college years in the former Soviet Union, I was well–versed and educated in the Marxist–Leninist subjects: historical and dialectical materialism, scientific communism, scientific atheism, history of the Communist Party and history of the labor movement. 

On various occasions during our discussions, I had to explain to my fellow classmates that the communist, Karl Marx, rejected utopian socialism in favor of what he coined “scientific communism.” Marx claimed that changes in the economic structure of the society of his time were the result of class conflicts or class struggles between the capitalists (bourgeoisie)  and the workers (proletarians). For Marx, social classes were defined and structured by the relations concerning: (1) work and labor and (2) ownership or possession of property.

Today, the traditional or classical Marxist economic model and definition of classes are no longer applicable to our modern and developed industrial societies.  Our present-day definition of classes and social stratification is no longer linked to a mode of production—i.e., factories and plants to the proletariat class and agriculture and farming to the peasant class.

Today, classes and social stratification are defined according to peoples’ income level and wealth, regardless of their occupation and social status—lower, middle, upper middle, high or oligarch class. Thus, plumbers, carpenters, farmers and educators, regardless of their occupation, can belong to any class that reflects their income and level of wealth.

I also pointed out to my classmates that in his book,  Manifesto of the Communist Party, published in 1848, Marx stated: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

In other words, Marx was not seeking natural or moral laws for guidance; he was turning to the lessons of history and revolutionary uprising against ruling class of the time.

In post-WWII America, there have been several far-left scholars and academicians who have advanced Marxism. As a result, they have influenced millions of far-left and progressive Americans as well as advocates of neo-Marxism. A few noted individuals are:

Howard Zinn (1922–2010) was a historian and a professor of political science at Boston University. His approaches incorporated ideas from Marxism, anarchism and socialism. Since the 1960s, he was a benchmark for civil rights and the anti–war movement in the United States. He was the author of more than 20 books, including two provocative books: A People’s History of the United States and Declarations of Independence.

Marvin Harris (1927–2001) studied at Columbia University where he also taught from 1953 to 1980, serving as chairman of its department of anthropology from 1966 to 1969. He did field work in Brazil, Ecuador, Mozambique, India and East Harlem, New York. His major book, Cultural Materialism, is based on the ideas and principles of historical materialism. Historical materialism is the term used to describe Karl Marx’s theory of history. Historical materialism posits that history is made as a result of struggle between different social classes rooted in the underlying economic base.

Noam Chomsky (1928—) is an American linguist, philosopher, political scientist and activist. He is a Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and one of the most prominent figures in 20th century linguistics. He is also recognized for his political activism, characterized by strong criticism of contemporary capitalism and the foreign policies of the United States. He describes himself as a libertarian socialist and sympathizer of anarcho–syndicalism—one of the branches of anarchism linked to the labor movement through syndicalism.

In looking at present-day society, the salient question becomes: “What are the connections and similar patterns between Marxism of the 19th century and so-called neo-Marxism as well as far-left activism in America today? 

Evidently, “white privilege” and “critical race theory” doctrines are  ideological platforms and guidelines for the neo-Marxist rhetoric of “systemic racism,” “collective justice,” “Black Lives Matter” and today’s “Antifa.” The “white privilege” and “critical race theory” doctrines claim the existence of a social or class division in society that is based on race conflictrace struggle, race warfare and race advantages between naturally born white people and other people of color.

The rhetoric and missions of “systemic racism,” “collective justice,” “Black Lives Matter” and today’s “Antifa” are a logical and direct outgrowth from the “white privilege” and “critical race theory” doctrines, with the purpose of threatening opposing ideologies, politics and lifestyles. They are the tactics and methods designed to implement “white privilege” and “critical race theory” doctrines and the notion of “systemic racism”  into our system of governing and to undermine our constitutional freedoms, especially that of all races being treated equally.

To promote “white privilege” and “critical race theory” doctrines and the notion of  “systemic racism,” neo–Marxists and far–left progressives advocate for the complete destruction of Western democracy and Capitalism—what these advocates describe as the “socio-economic system of oppression.”

As a long–time and trusted friend observed in our private correspondence:  

Well, I’m afraid it may be too late to save democracy in the U.S.A. I’m afraid it’s all gone too far down the drain already. The corruption is phenomenal, so widespread, and even so right out there in the open now; and the gullibility of the public (especially the educated elite) is also phenomenal. If House investigations in the next two years (and there is so much that needs to be investigated) don’t open American voters’ eyes, then it definitely will be too late to save the U.S. from its demise. I always knew this was coming, but I always thought it would occur after my lifetime, not during it.”

On a positive note, in response to my friend and similar thinking individuals, we may not succeed in saving traditional America and its Judeo–Christian values, but if we don’t try to fight for its preservation and traditional continuity, then we definitely will not succeed.

George Washington in his Farewell Address stated: “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” In other words, if a society is to remain free, self-government must be vested to individual citizens governing their own behavior. This is the most critical foundation of American exceptionalism since its inception. 

As a prominent American sociologist Charles Murray noted in his book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010: “America will remain exceptional only to the extent that its people embody the same qualities that made it work for the two centuries of its existence. The founding virtues are central to that kind of citizenry.”

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1976; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.

Alexander Dolitsky: Neo-Marxism and utopian Socialism in America

Alexander Dolitsky: Old believers preserving faith in the New World

Alexander Dolitsky: Duke Ellington and the effects of Cold War in Soviet Union on intellectual curiosity

Alexander Dolitsky: United we stand, divided we fall with race, ethnicity in America

Alexander Dolitsky: For American schools to succeed, they need this ingredient

Alexander Dolitsky: Nationalism in America, Alaska, around the world

Alexander Dolitsky: The case of the ‘delicious salad’

Alexander B. Dolitsky: White privilege is a troubling perspective

Alexander Dolitsky: Conversation with a progressive activist on the matter of gender identity

12 COMMENTS

  1. Sadly, Alexander, you are, as usual, spot on.
    “America will remain exceptional only to the extent that its people embody the same qualities that made it work for the two centuries of its existence. The founding virtues are central to that kind of citizenry.”
    America will never get to 250 (we are 246 now) at the rate of destruction that the left and all their woke “work” to destroy us has already imposed on us. Thanks to Mary, Lisa and Dan.
    Any of you living in Alaska believe this climate crapola? Those policies are what is choking our economy. Peltola, Murkowsky, and Sullivan are responsible in helping destroy our Alaskan way of life with their constant approval of socialist (democrat party sponsored) policies that weaken us. We cant drive, use, recreate, hunt or fish on Alaska lands due to Washington DC policies that these three approve with no regard to the impact here at home. These bills, policies, directives, whatever it is they are approving are only a new technique to tighten and strengthen the governments interference with our lives and its their method to impose more policies/laws/regulations against us. We are the enemy of the politicians, those of us that want to live free, hunt and fish on all our Alaska lands, access our own property with our own vehicles, and enjoy the vast resources (fish, game, hiking, recreating, etc) we see right outside our own homes.
    Read before you sign, dont give away our resources, fight for Alaska first, America next. That is your JOB and what you are highly overpaid to do. Start earning it.

  2. It’s so good to participate in deep scholastic efforts early in life and not stop prematurely. I appreciate the quotes of George Washington and Charles Murray. I have found others’ quotes which are persuasive and will try to add them in comments. Church and state do not have jurisdiction over each other even administratively.

  3. Marxism was simple when you only had peasants and the Tsar’s family, with a few administrators and an Army in between. America is the strongest and wealthiest and most complex country in the world. A significant part of our wealth was acquired by slave labor and discrimination, open religeous and racial discrimination is still embeded in many Anchorage Subdivision agreements. Conflating Marxism with addressing our societies wrongs is very convenient for priveleged white people

    • Are you prepared to offer proof of your claim about “many Anchorage subdivision agreements”? I have heard this allegation before but never seen proof. Even if provisions could be found, no Alaska court since statehood would enforce them. Before statehood, we would be talking about a federal court. How would that have worked, exactly?

      • Are you kidding? he can’t even back up the statement ‘A significant part of our wealth was acquired by slave labor and discrimination,’.
        One of the marks of communists/socialists is the catchy slogans that have just a hint of truth. Think of the phrase ‘black lives matter’. As a spoken phrase no person with an ounce of humanity will argue against it. But the socialists have turned that phrase into a title to bludgeon social norms of our country into submission. Don’t you like the ORGANIZATION called ‘black lives matter’?! Then you MUST be a bigot. You must be ‘white’ and trying to keep anyone else in ‘slavery’. Never mind that the organizations leaders are grifters and that many members are guilty of assault and millions of dollars in property loss. I don’t care if you call a group of people ‘the defenders of all that’s good in life’, if they cause death/destruction they are the enemy of a free and open society.
        The true communists/socialist/marxists, etc. living in the United States have always had this idea that if they could just crash our free society and impose their beliefs then ‘all men could be equal’. Except they feel that, after that occurs, they will be just a little more equal than the rest of us. A word of caution to them: in every country where communism, et al, has taken over, the first executions were of the locals that sold out their country to help with the overthrow. Why should the new overlords ever trust a person that sold out his own country?
        Frank has accused the rest of us of ‘conflation’. Well Frank, just because slavery existed at the beginning of our country’s history does NOT mean that the country was founded or built on the institution of slavery. That is like me saying that since you stole from a store when you were younger, everything that you own now was built up from that crime.

    • There are way more un-privileged white people Frank then privileged.
      We go to school with, serve in the military & work w/ people of every race & culture.
      No one gave us a free college degree or a house.
      We worked for that (President Obama) as did many of the races & ethnicities we trained with in our
      apprenticeships & schools.

      Just because well off Caucasians suffer from “white gilt” does not mean we have to tear down the system.

      I just finished a lecture on Alexis de Tocqueville (borrowed from Loussac)
      He pointed out how much happier & well off Northern States were, where everybody worked.

      Haven’t our Northern states, to this day, always been wealthier?
      How did the North attain that wealth? Capitalism ….not slavery.

      Slavery held the South back.
      Slave owners & free whites were hurt by slavery, more then helped by it.
      Read Frederick Douglas’s 1st autobiography 2 months ago; he said the same exact things about slavery; it hurt the slavers & poor free whites as well as black slaves. He plied a trade & got work as soon as he escaped to the north (although he dealt w/ prejudice from white laborers worried about their jobs)

      BTW: over 360,000 white Union soldiers died (& many more injured) stopping the enslavement of Black people .
      Go peddle your white guilt/socialist bs somewhere else.

  4. Marxism fails everywhere it’s tried. But each new group leads with the refrain it hasn’t been done right, yet.

    Probably because it doesn’t work.

    If many of the morons advocating for Marxism/socialism actually got what they wanted, they would quickly be the loudest complainers.

    The current generation of America will vote it in. Inevitability. Their grandchildren will be shooting their way out.

  5. Millions on the Left uncritically worship Howard Zinn as a deity. This includes many public school teachers. I went to college with lots of these folks — the same people that stridently opposed the Vietnam war but couldn’t locate Vietnam on a globe.

    IMO, the best and most immediate way to fight back is to publicly and forcefully reject ALL identity politics. Identity politics is the politics of division and envy. Absolutely toxic.

    • And there is nothing more perverse, more banal and more degrading that identity politics bases on one’s sexuality. I don’t know about others, but I am as a person almost INFINITELY more than my sexuality.

  6. I am not sure that today’s Left should be labeled neo-Marxists. They more aptly fit the classic definition of Fascists, where the government and corporate interests have melded together for their own gain and not the general populace’s well-being. Just look at the cozy relationship the Dems have with Woke corporations and the FBI, CIA, et al.

  7. Alexander’s subject is timely. The interaction between actual academics educated in the Soviet Union in real communism with American university students being indoctrinated in ersatz and hybrid theoretical socialism by pampered elites must have been fascinating. Our university “educators” don’t deal with harsh realities, operate or manage businesses or experience actual productive labor in anything remotely useful. These centers of “marxist” advocacy churn out masses of functional illiterates. The Soviet system, although fatally flawed and ultimately collapsing, strived to create a functioning economy and elevate the baseline of existence for its’ impoverished population. Our system is purposefully de industrializing, destroying reliable and dependable energy systems and destroying the cohesiveness and common national identity of being “American”. The goal appears to impoverish and disenfranchise the lower and middle classes creating a modern feudal system. The Soviets attempted to elevate the material welfare of what had been primarily a massive empire of impoverished serfs. We are well under way to impoverish the wealthiest commoner population in history by wealth transfer in favor of a tiny elite of oligarchs. Our elite class are not Marxists, simply extremely selfish, spoiled and incredibly ignorant products of post modern humanist doctrine. The merging of large corporations and government is a fascist model. The control of the media, internet and social platforms by government agencies preventing expression of free thought and speech completes the police state aspect of fascism. The technological tools being used to monitor Americans 24/7 by our own government surpasses by many times over anything available to the Soviet authorities.

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