We have been critical of marxism here in a whole series of posts. In a way, it is true, marxism is obsolete. But we don’t quite say that. We critique marx’s theories taken as science, dialectical materialism as a confused swamp, but take much of marx’s discussion, for example, of class, etc, as a viable heritage. Whether marxism is obsolete or not the fact remains that the whole legacy is beset with mechanized thinking, confusion over bolshevism, and an inability to produce a creative successor to the era of Marx/Engels.
There is a kind of law of life: doctrines become mechanized and betray their followers. This has happened with marxism. At that point you must leave it behind and start over with a fresh framework, one that can invoke the legacy but which must break out of the old with a new language.
And the left is endless confused by bolshevism. The latter was a failure and completely unsafe as an indication of what to do. Lenin is simply not a good guide to the future of socialism. What to say of stalin. Leftist constantly confuse themselves with chapter and verse thinking on boilerplate taken from the canon. That canon has serious flaws and needs to be critiqued.
We live in a different era of realized capitalized development. In many ways russia was the worst place to attempt communism. As an example it will confuse us. We have cautioned that marx’s historical materialism is a millstone around the neck of the left. It is a dubious reductionist scientism and we are simply under no obligation to adopt its assumptions to realize communism. There are other difficulties. We must wrest ourselves from the tidal motion of an almost archaic legacy now.
A better approach is to try and construct in practical terms a realizable new society and its requirements. Here the marxist legacy can induce fatal confusions.
We have spoken of ecological ‘democratic market neo-communism’ as a model or tool to think through the complexity that defeated lenin and the bolsheviks as they got lost in ad hoc constructions.
This DMNC model forces you to think in terms of four things, or more: the question of politics, democracy, the issue of economy, markets, planning, and finally of a Commons. A revolutionary group will move to expropriate capital and then, what? the fallacy of state capitalism entered to wreck the whole game. A Commons is a constitutional and legal entity whereby a shared set of resources are open to all by law and with legal constructs to back that up. A one party state with a cadre that becomes a de facto ‘new class’ was the direct outcome of bolshevism. The left tends to blame stalin and rescue lenin but that is misleading. The correct analysis eludes us.
we simply move on and do something different.
We have two manifestos that go into some of the details. But an immense amount of preparation is needed. What is the legal framework needed for a Commons. The left has not done any homework because marx refused to be specific, and the result has been disastrous for the left. Another pitfall is the question of markets and planning. At the start the complete abolition of markets was assumed, but the result was disastrous, why? An immense literature has since arisen here, but the actual leftists in the field simply assume that planning is a direct goal of the revolution. It is possible that advances in technology can make this possible but the reality is that the task is so far too difficult. We suggested a mixed system with a new kind of market based on licensed resources next to a developing planning sector that can interact in an experimental derivation of a communist (neo-communist!) economic system based on communist markets and parallel attempts at planning. This very different in fact from the many attempts to consider ‘socialist markets’ because it embraces diverse possibilities and reconciles opposites (in the full model we even consider an third sector, as a semi-anarchist low level below an indifference level). The nature of this experiment is to create systems that reconcile opposites and adopt a complex systems approach to the dangerous passage using complex novelties.
The marxist left has a huge literature but at the task of constructing a viable communist society and economy they have nothing to say. And the result is they are incompetent.
Whether marxism is obsolete or not is the wrong question. It is more like a question of stale bread. We must consider the need to recreate something fresh with concepts we have considered and therefore understand, and wary of theories. The american rebs produced a first democracy. It may have been bourgeois and even fake, but they were almost the only case of a revolution that completed itself and produced a result. And the point here is that they had no theory. A blessing in disguise. They focused on a practical task of creating a republic which then moved to become a democracy of a kind. The point is that marxists have confused themselves with elaborate theory and the result is remarkable: noone knows what they are talking about.
The real task is actually simpler and noted above. The amercian rebs produced a state, and no doubt a bourgeois state. But the state and the bourgeois state, so acutely analyzed by marx, are not the same. The left wishes to smash the bourgois state, but in the process they smashed the state and replaced it with a monstrosity. To be fair, russia was an autocracy and never had a bourgeois state. And in any case smashing the bourgeois state can backfire. Reconstructing the fragments is difficult and hazardous. We don’t need to smash the bourgeois state we need to redefine that state beyond its bourgeois capture. We do that by creating a commons of the expropriation of capital, creating a new kind of market based on that commons, and creating a balanced democratic/presidential system that can balance control, democracy and and dose of anarchism. There would be no bourgeoisie in such a system but there would be near lookalikes but the result would be a complex of rough equality. Etc…
We have two manifestos on this.
In general marxists have confused themselves. I have never met anyone who understood marx. Maybe David Harvey, who knows.
It is clearly a futile exercise. There reasons are complex but the gist is the overly theoretical nature of the task in a field where theories are doomed to fail.
A simpler practical approach can demonstrate that the task is realizable in rough measure beset only by the dangers of civil war. The bolshevik case with a tzarist background and not capitalist development had it own difficulties but they are not our own at this point.