I hope as this thread develops, it gets more specific and explicit about the implicit issues of the financing of Marxist thinkers as it leaves a vague and implicit sense of what is to be genuine about Marxism as opposed to its suspect support.
Marx himself was a bourgeoisie intellectual who was financially supported by a capitalist, Engels.
But I think there has to be more to it than what one's class position is and instead of an emphasis on the class character of one's thoughts and actions.
What Marx describes when he addresses the way in which economic laws play a role in determining the actions of human beings, are tendencies of members of various social groups to act in circumstances shaped through those laws, and not iron-clad predictions for particular individuals. Howard Sherman, in his 1981 paper, “Marx and Determinism,” puts this point very nicely when he writes:
Marx pointed out that one can find regularities of human behavior, that on the average we do behave in certain predictable ways. This behavior also changes in systematic ways, with predictable trends, in association with changes in our technological and social environments. At a simpler level, the regularities of human behavior are obvious in the fairly constant annual numbers of suicides and divorces (although these also show systematic trends). If humans did not, generally, behave in fairly predictable ways, not only social scientists but also insurance companies would have gone out of business long ago. Any particular individual may make any particular choice, but if we know the social composition of a group, we can predict, in general, what it will do. Thus, on the average, most large owners of stock will vote in favor of preferential tax rates for capital gains; most farmers will favor laws that they believe to be in the interest of farmers109.
As a rule, a capitalist will tend to maximize his profit irrespective of the social repercussions. A bourgeois intellectual will tend to develop theoretical justifications for the continuation of capitalism, often in spite of the glaring social contradictions.
it is possible for certain members of this class to develop a keen understanding of the social contradictions produced by class society and in some cases, even a real commitment to human development or to the eradication of such ills as global poverty or unfolding ecological destruction. Marx recognizes this phenomenon. For instance, in Capital, Marx notes that the capitalist “Robert Owen, soon after 1810, not only maintained the necessity of a limitation of the working-day in theory, but actually introduced the 10 hours’ day into his factory at New Lanark,” even though “this was laughed at as a communistic Utopia” (Capital, MECW 35:304 Note 222). Marx even goes on to credit Owen with developing an approach to education that could serve as an early model for education in a communist society...
it would be wrong to ignore that within that position and perspective there remains a wide array of open choices for individual actors and they may formulate insights and opinions that, inasmuch as they strive to faithfully reflect reality and even to progressively transform it, point beyond that bourgeois perspective.
Another example of this can be found in the work of Nineteenth Century French novelist and playwright, Honoré de Balzac. Balzac of course had not bourgeois, but actually royalist sympathies, and was opposed to the bourgeoisie at a time when it played a historically progressive role. Yet, he was one of Marx's favorite authors, an artist whom Marx describes in Capital as “generally remarkable for his profound grasp of reality” (Capital, MECW 37:44). In an 1888 letter, Frederich Engels further elucidates the genius of Balzac's realism. Engels writes the letter in response to a request that he review a novel written by a socialist author; he concludes that the novel is not very good, criticizing it particularly for being unrealistic in its depiction of the working class as a passive mass. Engels goes on to illustrate his point with a discussion of the realism to be found in Balzac's work, a realism which is achieved in spite of his royalist sympathies:
Balzac was politically a Legitimist; his great work is a constant elegy on the inevitable decay of good society, his sympathies are all with the class doomed to extinction. But for all that his satire is never keener, his irony never bitterer, than when he sets in motion the very men and women with whom he sympathizes most deeply - the nobles. And the only men of whom he always speaks with undisguised admiration, are his bitterest political antagonists, the republican heroes of the Cloître Saint-Méry, the men, who at that time (1830-6) were indeed the representatives of the popular masses. That Balzac thus was compelled to go against his own class sympathies and political prejudices, that he saw the necessity of the downfall of his favourite nobles, and described them as people deserving no better fate; and that he saw the real men of the future where, for the time being, they alone were to be found - that I consider one of the greatest triumphs of Realism, and one of the grandest features in old Balzac. (Engels to Margaret Harkness in London; April, 1888, MECW 48:168)
Figures such as Robert Owen and, I might add, Carl Sagan or Emile Zola, demonstrate some of the most progressive viewpoints possible within a bourgeois perspective. In addition to them, there are of course persons such as John D. Rockefeller or John F. Kennedy who simply seek mostly to rationally advance the interests of their class (I am speaking of course of a narrowly instrumental “rationality” in these cases).
The point is to emphasis the content of what people think and do, to reveal the social or class basis even in spite of the intentions of the person.https://marxists.catbull.com/glossary/terms/c/r.htm#critique
Critique is the practice of exposing the social basis underlying an argument. Marxist critique is generally immanent critique, that is, critique springing from inside. Critique differs from simply countering an argument with a different one or proving it to be wrong, in fact, critique implicitly recognises that the argument it opposes is right, but right in the context of a specific form of social practice which may not be declared. Immanent critique accepts the terms of a theory and pursues it thoroughly and consistently until it arrives at contradiction with itself, as must any consistent theory which pretends to be complete. This disclosure of the immanent self-contradiction implicit in a system of ideas opens the way to disclosure of its social basis and interest.
Marxism is concerned particularly to uncover class interests underlying an argument. However should not be equated with crude slander like “Engels owned a factory therefore his ideas were bourgeois”, or “Althusser killed his wife, therefore his ideas must be sexist”. Trotsky expressed it very well:
“We have said above that every important and lasting grouping in the party, to say nothing of every organised faction, has the tendency to become the spokesman of some social interests. Every incorrect deviation may, in the course of its development, become the expression of the interests of a class hostile or half hostile to the proletariat. But first of all this applies to bureaucratism. It is necessary to begin right there. That bureaucratism is an incorrect deviation, and an unhealthy deviation, will not, let us hope, be contested. This being the case, it threatens to lead the party off the right road, the class road. That is precisely where its danger lies. But here is a fact that is instructive in the highest degree and at the same time most alarming: those comrades who assert most flatly, with the greatest insistence and sometimes most brutally, that every difference of opinion, every grouping of opinion, however temporary, is an expression of the interests of classes opposed to the proletariat, do not want to apply this criterion to bureaucratism. ...
“Nevertheless, there should be no oversimplification and vulgarisation in the understanding of the thought that party differences, and this holds all the more for groupings, are nothing but a struggle for influence of antagonistic classes.” [The New Course, Trotsky 1923]
Alas, most do not do as much though and are often dismissive rather than critical as its quite a lot of work to reach such a point. But it does make one curious about what perhaps motivated his father to finance it.
Although you're at an early stage with this thread, but I speculate whether it'll go the way of saying that certain individuals were simply sell outs because they received money for their work.
Such a view itself seems to be very particular and can be criticized in that there should be a distinction in being paid for one's work and whether the payment has the effect or intention of corrupting one's commitments and values towards alternative ends.
And I'll admit I'm not familiar with the Frankfurt school myself although it seems a lot of folks in the West are into them, but they do in fact seem somewhat suspect on the basis of being academics independent any affiliation with workers. https://www.marxists.org/subject/frankfurt-school/index.htm
The founding of the Institut marked the beginning of a current of “Marxism” divorced from the organized working class and Communist Parties, which over the decades merged with bourgeois ideology in academia.
Currently Axel Honneth represents the third generation, continuing the work of Jürgen Habermas, but with a partial return to Hegel, still quite remote from any reading of Karl Marx.
After the isolation and Stalinisation of the Soviet Union, and the consequent decline of the Communist Parties in the “West,” the possibilities for the fruitful development of Marxism as a revolutionary-critical theory in close connection with the practical-critical activity of the workers movement, became extremely restricted.
The current generation of Critical Theorists, unlike previous generations, is led by women, such as Nancy Fraser, Seyla Benhabib and Agnes Heller:
The intellectuals who founded the Frankfurt Institut deliberatively cut out a space for the development of Marxist theory, inside the “academy” and independently of all kinds of political party.
The result was a process in which Marxism merged with bourgeois ideology. A parallel process took place in post-World War Two France, also involving a merging with Freudian ideas. One of the results was undoubtedly an enrichment of bourgeois ideology. In this connection Paul Mattick's Marcuse: One Dimensional Man In Class Society (1972) is worth reading. But also, despite everything, the Frankfurt School makes an important critique of orthodox Marxism.
I also wonder if this the turn to a Marxism that ends up an intellectual curiosity, where Marxism gets diced up for its interesting points as economics, historiography, philosophy, literary theory or whatever. It becomes as fragmented as the intellectual division of labor within universities and institutions.
But good luck to your project, I think it'll be interesting to see the results of it, although I hope it goes to figures less supet than the Frankfurt School/Critical Theory linage.
-For Ethical Politics