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Martin Paul Eve

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

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In Althusser's Lesson, Jacques Rancière writes: "This reading of Marx via Althusser and Lacan does little more than give a new sheen to a thesis Kautsky had already defended: science belongs to intellectuals, and it is up to them to bring it to producers necessarily cut off from knowledge" Rancière, Jacques, Althusser’s Lesson, trans. by Emiliano Battista (London: Continuum, 2011), p. 47. There is no footnote specifying which aspect of Kautsky's writing JR is referring to. I might be missing something, but it seems to me that this is a misreading of the Kautsky stuff that I do know.

For instance, Kautsky identified, in his essay “The Intellectuals and the Workers”, a set of antagonisms between the intelligentsia and the proletariat. While Kautsky noted that “An intellectual is not a capitalist” and that, therefore, “the intellectual does not stand in any economic antagonism to the proletariat” (a statement some may, now, find hard to swallow), a more general problem lies in the fact that “The intellectual, armed with the general education of our time, conceives himself [sic] as very superior to the proletarian”. In other words, according to Kautsky, the intellectual perceives, in the proletariat, a “low level of intellectual development, which it is the intellectual’s task to raise. He sees in the worker not a comrade but a pupil.” Kautsky diagnoses this as a problem and proposes a remedy. Indeed, Kautsky concludes that:

The alliance of science with labour and its goal of saving humanity, must therefore be understood not in the sense which the academicians transmit to the people the knowledge which they gain in the bourgeois classroom, but rather in this sense that every one of our co-fighters, academicians and proletarians alike, who are capable of participating in proletarian activity, utilise the common struggle or at least investigate it, in order to draw new scientific knowledge which can in turn be fruitful for further proletarian activity. Since that is how the matter stands, it is impossible to conceive of science being handed down to the proletariat or of an alliance between them as two independent powers. That science, which can contribute to the emancipation of the proletariat, can be developed only by the proletariat and through it. What the liberals bring over from the bourgeois scientific circles cannot serve to expedite the struggle for emancipation, but often only to retard it. (Kautsky 1946)

Perhaps someone with a better grounding in Rancière or Kautsky can correct me on this, but I can't understand JR's reading here at all.