TP7-8 (47-68)

The Standpoint of the Proletariat After Lukács: Lucien Goldmann and Franco Fortini, pp. 47-68

Aaron Jaffe


Abstract: This paper begins by showing how Georg Lukács’ determination of the ‘standpoint of the proletariat’ resolved the theoretical and practical antinomies of bourgeois life in a too-abstract, philosophical manner. In Lukács’ hands, the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat was construed as a philosophical necessity, and this made his thinking susceptible to substituting first the party, and then the party-leadership for necessary, but not yet complete proletarian self-transcendence. By the mid twentieth century this kind of wager was unacceptable for an increasing number of left thinkers. As paradigmatic, but selective inheritors of Lukács’ legacy, the paper then explores the theoretical alternatives posed first, by the sociology of Lucien Goldmann, and then the negating powers of literary critic Franco Fortini. In grounding the standpoint of the proletariat in the maximum consciousness appropriate to a given time and place, Goldmann avoided Lukács’ over-confidence. However, in times and places where liberal, reactionary, or a-political tendencies dominate, Goldmann’s grounding strategy risks denying that there is a properly revolutionary standpoint at all. The political stance of ‘doubt’ offered in the poetry and literary criticism of Franco Fortini then provides a fine way to thread a path between Lukács’ philosophical over-confidence and Goldmann’s potentially de-radicalized sociology. By retaining the critical register of doubt, and using it to continuously test proletarian powers, Fortini insists on challenging the forms of creative, practical, and radical organization that can orient revolutionary practice. In this way, Fortini’s commitment to communism offers an open-ended politics: the organized forms of refusing this world through which communism is pursued are as subject to criticism as they are in principle creatively inexhaustible.

Keywords: Communism, Marxism,  Lukács, Goldmann, Fortini, Dialectic.