archive: first and last communism…
Last and First Men attempts to prompt the marxist left to a complete overhaul of its theory/practice. The world crisis deserves a better version of marxism than marxism itself can provide. Only the
realization that ‘marxism’ is entangled with Stalinism and has few chances of a second chance without a rethinking of its format, along with a repudiation of the failures of Bolshevism, will prompt marxists deadbeats to move on. Time is short, so a ‘new communism’ needs to bootstrap from next to nothing to a new movement, a new set of activists, a new critique of capitalism, a displacement of ‘marxism’ to an appendix in a new canon of action. I think the current phase of ‘anarchism’, as with the OWS, is a misguided one, yet appropriate perhaps as a way station to review the failures of the old left. The question of marxism is confusing people. Study of Marx’s ponderous tomes should be banished to academia, as protocols of critique and action are revamped completely. A lot of marxism can be recycled fairly easily as a set of costume changes. That might make some cling to the older format. Resist the temptation. If it quacks like Marx, it is an open target to every kind of rightist fanatic reaching for his
gun. Recreating a post-marxist version of a new communism 2.0 is not hard, and there is no excuse for the sentimentalists of the Marx cult to dominate a field that is the heritage of the French Revolution and its wake, not the group formed by the dogmatic confusions of the Marx cult.
Most of what is needed is already in existence under various formats, from Alternet to Counterpunch, along with a considerable literature of critique with respect to economy. A movement post-OWS to recrystallize the dynamic of a postcapitlist activism is relatively easy to formulate. If the old marxists complain, send them packing.
I was reading the Marx section of Jacques Barzun’s book on Darwin, Marx, Wagner. Familiar to me for its Darwin critique, I sat down finally and read its section on Marx, respectful yet critical. The problems with Marxism get one of the clearest accounts in print. I was surprised at the way Barzun took the criticism of the canon already in existence in the early 1900’s and clarified where marxists are going wrong, and why no one will take them seriously anymore. That was 1941 from a bourgeois professor. Gosh. That was
seventy years ago. Marxists are stuck in endless sophistical rehashes/defenses of long exposed errors, while their core critique is absolutely right-on. Why jeopardize that goldmine with a bunch of stale baloney.
We don’t need to rehash the old shibboleths. Drop them and do something new.
It may be that Last and First Men doesn’t go far enough. It still cites too much Marx and Engels and recycles some of their legacy, up to the last chapter, where they are no longer mentioned. But at least the book might serve as a form of shock treatment. Face it, Marx was a second rate thinker, who got stuck trying to finish Capital, because his theory foundations were wrong. Go back to the Manifesto period (and the two classics in the 1848 wake) and Engels great classic and re-jumpstart from theory, citing Marx/Engels in an introduction or appendix, and moving on with dispatch.