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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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One of the references in Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow that eludes me (in its specificity, not in its generality) is the following quotation:

wait a minute there, yes it's Karl Marx, that sly old racist skipping away with his teeth together and his eyebrows up trying to make believe it's nothing but Cheap Labor and Overseas Markets... Oh, no. Colonies are much, much more. Colonies are the outhouses of the European soul, where a fellow can let his pants down and relax, enjoy the smell of his own shit. Where can he fall on his slender prey roaring as loud as he feels like, and guzzle her blood with open joy. Eh? (Pynchon, Thomas, Gravity’s Rainbow (London: Vintage, 1995), p. 317.)

A couple of critical pieces have dealt with this. Deborah Madsen, in the recent Cambridge Companion writes that Pynchon addresses Karl Marx to make the denial that colonies are just cheap labour. (Madsen, Deborah, ‘Alterity’, in The Cambridge Companion to Thomas Pynchon, ed. by Inger H Dalsgaard, Luc Herman and Brian McHale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 146–155, p. 151.) Furthermore, Michael Harris re-situates Pynchon between a Freudian and Marxist perspective through Homi Bhabha, thereby "problematizing a purely Marxist reading". (Harris, Michael, ‘Pynchon’s Postcoloniality’, in Thomas Pynchon: Reading From The Margins, ed. by Niran Abbas (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003), pp. 199–214, p. 208.)

So far, so good. It's clear that Pynchon is doing down Marx in order to intersect multiple theoretical perspectives on colonialism. I still haven't found, though, until recently (purely through my inadequate knowledge of Marx's total canon), any direct source for Pynchon's assertion of Marx as a "sly old racist". I admit, it could be that the fact he holds a purely economic view of colonialism is enough to not need a source text, but perhaps not...

The search function on the PYNCHON-L is as good as useless (I might write something to fix that one day), but I did manage to turn up the following:

Terrance schrieb:

> Marx is satirized. Oh no, this is not simply about economics
> and Profits.

Is Pynchon here suggesting a "psycho-historical" perspective à la de Mause or
Theweleit? Interesting point that Max Weber, who plays an important role in
the novel, is not accused of being a racist, though he, especially concerning
people from Poland, definitely was one.

More interesting has been, though, my recent reading of Hardt and Negri's Empire. Here, they give a good source list for potential colonial follow-ups in Marx. They suggest that "Marx has no conception of the difference of Indian society". (Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000), pp. 120, 436.)

I haven't had time to follow this up, but if anybody was interested, the suggested texts are:

Karl Marx, "The British Rule in India," in Surveys from Exile, vol. 2 of Political Writings (London: Penguin, 1973), p. 307.
Karl Marx, "The Native States," in Letters on India, (Lahore: Contemporary India Publication, 1937), p. 51.
Karl Marx, "The Future Results of British Rule in India," in Surveys from Exile, vol. 2 of Political Writings (London: Penguin, 1973), p. 320.

Hardt and Negri also point out, via Aijaz Ahmad, that "Marx's description of Indian history seems to be taken directly from Hegel":

Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (London: Verso, 1992), pp. 231, 241.

Update 4th September, 14:51

Twitter is great.

Julian1649 sends a link to a critique of Empire that features a particularly pertinent section on eurocentrism and India: August Nimtz, Class struggle under 'Empire': in defence of Marx and Engels, International Socialism Journal, Issue 96.

dannysuma suggests that Spivak "spends a fair bit of sympathetic time on the Asiatic Mode of Production in Critique of Postcolonial Reason", which is a well-indexed volume.

Finally, epiktistes gave some excellent links to direct written slurs that Marx poured onto Lassalle.