“He stole our translation”: Translation reviews and the construction of Marxist discourse
Birkbeck, University of London
Despite the centrality of translations in introducing Marxist ideas, we know little about the agendas that shaped
them. This paper investigates how reviews of translated Marxist theoretical texts, issued between 1927 and 1934 by the Communist Party of
Greece, were utilised in a struggle to appropriate Marxist discourse from its rivals. Drawing on Foucault’s procedures of discourse control,
and calling attention to power struggles among forces with counterhegemonic ideas, the paper analyses the party’s rules and conditions under
which it was legitimate for a translator to carry out a translation and for the translation to enter political discourse. It will be argued
that political tensions triggered changes in reviewing practices and efforts to renew translation quality criteria. These tensions shaped
contemporary debates on the correct interpretation of Marxism and helped advance the party’s position (a) by calling on readers to disregard
earlier translations issued by political rivals; (b) by constructing its own translations as truth-objects; and by fashioning itself as the
gatekeeper of Marxism. Studying translation reviews allows us to extend our understanding of the complexities of discourse formation, to
trace the history of discourses, to document how knowledge can be a resource in power struggles, and to understand how power struggles can
recast discursive practices.
This paper investigates how reviews of Marxist theoretical texts translated into Greek were utilised in a struggle to appropriate Marxist discourse and control its interpretation. Marxism has been enormously influential in social movements and intellectual production around the world. Yet, despite the centrality of translations in introducing Marxist ideas and developing Marxist thought in many countries, we know little about the agendas that shaped these translations and, by extension, Marxist discourse. On the other hand, although there is substantial research on issues of power in Translation Studies, its focus has remained predominantly on the binary dominant/dominated. This is both understandable and justified since capitalist societies are unequal and power is asymmetrically distributed among social classes and groups. Such studies are valuable in showing how the demands of dominant forces shape the actions of the agents involved in translation practices who may resist, challenge or conform to such demands (see Baker 2006; Rundle and Sturge 2010; Rundle 2011; Baumgarten 2016). However, some of these approaches tend to treat the ‘dominated’ as a homogeneous group, constructing a somewhat simplistic view of power relations and, thus, hindering a broader understanding of the more intricate ways in which they impact on the development of discourses. This study aims to extend our understanding of the relationship between discourse control and translation by drawing attention to power struggles for political supremacy among ‘dominated’ Marxist-oriented political forces in Greece, and proposes a way of relating these power struggles to reviewing practices. It argues that translation reviews, which evaluate translation practices and products, assisted the reorganisation of Marxist discourse in Greece in an endeavour to strengthen political positions. Moreover, it shows how changes in the political context triggered both changes in reviewing practices and efforts to renew translation quality criteria. The findings of this study are pertinent to Translation Studies but also to intellectual history and the study of social movements. The reviews were issued between 1927 and 1934 by a political party with counterhegemonic ideas, the Communist Party of Greece (henceforth KKE). The KKE developed into the largest and most successful Marxist-oriented organisation in that period and is still a significant force in Greek politics, so its statements on the translations of Marxist texts are key to understanding the development of Marxism in Greece. Eleven translation reviews are examined. They evaluate earlier and contemporary translations published by the KKE and its political rivals on the Left and critique translation practices and products; six of them appraise earlier translations of the Communist Manifesto. Their study helps us to appreciate the significance of translation evaluation in the formation and composition of discourses and uncovers practices through which power can be exercised with the effect of reconstructing knowledge.
1934 “Όταν ο γυμνοσάλιαγκας ρίχνει το βρώμικο σάλιο του” [When the slug pours out its dirty saliva]. Neoi Protoporoi 7: 277–278.
Aguilar-Amat, Anna, and Jean-Bosco Botsho
2004 “Obscured Cultures: The Case of Sub-Saharan Africa.” In Less Translated Languages, ed. by Albert Branchadell, and Lovell Margaret West, 147–164. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
2006 “Translation and Activism: Emerging Patterns of Narrative Community.” The Massachusetts Review 47 (3): 462–484.
2016 “The Crooked Timber of Self-Reflexivity: Translation and Ideology in the End Times.” In History, Ideology, Censorship and Translation: Past and Present, ed. by Martin McLaughlin, and Javier Muñoz-Basols, special issue of Perspectives: Studies in Translatology 24 (1): 115–129.
2013 “Translation and the International Circulation of Literature.” The Translator 19 (2): 157–181.
1999Social Theory: A Historical Introduction. Cambridge: Polity Press.
2006 “A Tale of two Translation Programs: Politics, the Market, and Rockefeller Funding for Latin American Literature in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s.” Latin American Research Review 41 (2): 139–164.
2012The Expanding World: Towards a Politics of Microspection. London: Zero Books.
2011 “Translation as a Means of Ideological Struggle.” In Translation and Opposition, ed. by Dimitris Asimakoulas, and Margaret Rogers, 204–222. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
1976Η Επαγγελία της Αδύνατης Επανάστασης – ΚΚΕ και Αστισμός στο Μεσοπόλεμο [The announcement of the impossible revolution – KKE and bourgeoisie in the interwar years]. Αthens: Olkos.
1992Michel Foucault. Translated by Betsy Wing. London: Faber and Faber.
1972The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language. Translated by A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon Books.
1977Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.
1978The History of Sexuality. Volume I: An Introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books.
1981 “The Order of Discourse.” In Untying the Text: A Poststructuralist Reader, ed. by Robert Young, 51–78. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
2004 “Maria-Mercè Marçal: (Re)presentation, Textuality, Translation.” In Less Translated Languages, ed. by Albert Branchadell, and Lovell Margaret West, 365–374. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
2005Foucault: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
1991The Critique of Power: Reflective Stages in a Critical Social Theory. Translated by Kenneth Baynes. London: The MIT Press.
2011 “Pamphlet or Scholarly Work? Book Reviews and Determining the Place of Translations.” In Beyond Borders – Translations Moving Languages, Literatures and Cultures, ed. by Pekka Kujamäki, Leena Kolehmainen, Esa Penttilä, and Hannu Kemppanen, 145–162. Berlin: Frank & Timme.
1927 “Introduction.” In Το Κομμουνιστικό Μανιφέστο [The Communist Manifesto], by Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels, translated by G. Kordatos, 3–16. Athens: Akadimaikon.
1992 “Introduction.” In Translation/History/Culture: A Sourcebook, ed. by André Lefevere, 1–13. London: Routledge.
2000Making Sexual History. Cambridge: Polity Press.
1997 “Translation as a Process of Power: Aspects of Cultural Anthropology in Translation.” In Translation as Intercultural Communication, ed. by Mary Snell-Hornby, Zuzana Jettmarová, and Klaus Kaindl, 123–133. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.