It is almost impossible to watch the news anymore without a kind of wince at the spectable of dysfunctional government and creeping social insanity. But at the same time, the old question, What is to be done? lurks without an answer: it is a question the second international seemed able to answer but which now seems to be beggared by circumstances and the memories of prior failed answers.
We have suggested that that original formulatio suffered the flaws in marxist theory and that theories are too often problematical to be useful. Marx’s theories of history convince noone anymore except the remnant believers who populate the long list of socialist this communist that as near cults of tiny memberships.
It is not a complex problem: a given mindset and its literature is played out and suffers thought-mechanization, while next to that the actual historical instances are so fatally compromised that the kind of original enthusiasm so common once in the immediate wake of marx/engels is long gone.
We have suggested disowning the legacy and starting over.
this could be done by adopting a new view of history, moving beyond historical materialism, finding a new general view of culture and history, a less reductionist view of science, history, and evolution,
finding one’s way beyond the darwinian ideology, making some sense out of bourgeois economics and its thories, and with such a new set of starting points creating a realistic model of postcapitalism.
We have commented at length on this.
But the basic point is that the current left has no viable ideology, praxis, or world view beyond marxist chapter and verse, leninist zombies and crypto-stalinist ‘good guys’.
We have a dozen texts here of greater or lesser value in trying to find a new approach:
April 15, 2019
We have tried to examine both reformist and revolutionary aspects of our thinking here but the problems with the revolutionary option seem too great for any such outcome. However sooner or later the coming crisis may change that picture. The obvious problem is that revolution is essential in principle but nearly impossible in practice.
Self-styled revolutionaries are often judgmental about reformists but those same rebels can’t even stage a protest march in the US and one suspects can’t because they won’t and are mainly just talkers rehashing marxist slogans in closed worlds of their own club.
And the powers that be have become deadly in the scope of their power. And revolution must deal with covert agencies, imperialists, an immense ‘army’ of wall street capitalists, and an entrenched military… Then again the Tzarist world was probably worse, but it simply unraveled in the first world war.
But the left must disown bolshevism to pursue the revolutionary option. Instead, sadly, the whole cadre is stuck on marxist cliches and fictions about the bolshevik era.
A revolutionary path can’t simply repeat leninism. A complete reformulation is needed.
We have suggested that Marx’s theories of historical materialism and stages of production have crippled the whole subject. Marx prophesied the coming of communism after capitalism but refused to define that and the result backfired in the stupidity of the bolshevik phase, losing a great opportunity. Much of the remainder of marxism is useful but theories of history always fail: an empirical outline of history (we have several here) is enough and an ability to critique darwinism which distorts historical interpretation.
Marx’s theory here is surely false: there is no law of history guaranteeing communism, although there is a kind of moral and practical logic to it as an option that men must create as free agents. In the failure of capitalism some version of the idea does indeed seem like a next step. But the most probable future left to itself would/will be barbarism. As for historical materialism one can see its historic context but at this point it needlessly antagonized several billion religionists. A critique of religion is perfectly suitable but it has to be a good one and the marxist take on religion is dreadfully bad and almost amateurishly ignorant. There is no problem as such with materialism, but the brand of
Marx’s generation was that dreadful scientism that greeted the era of positivism. Marxists had everythng needed to start here with a figure like Kant but they threw away the whole of modern philosophy in the arrogance so visible in Marx to have created some kind of universal knowledge talisman. The universal materialism of someone like J.G.Bennett shows how to pull off that trick: but it requires a new brand of fundamentals: materialism seems to be vanishing into quantum murkiness… Again, Bennett, like Schopenhauer divided the pie into a triad of ‘being, function, will’, and the material/spiritual dichotomy fails to even arise except as higher level jargon. Marxism can’t even handle the issue of simple consciousness (but noone else can either).
We must provide now what the earlier generations refused to provide: a detailed blueprint and a strategy for its realization that is failsafed against stalinist coup d’etat, what to say
of leninist coup d’etat (a big debate there, as always). A revolution needs to be a science, with marshals to observe and warn of lunatics making a mess of everything.
If we examine the russian revolution we see the typical jacknife between the Kerensky and the Leninist phase. Again, to this day, it is very hard if not impossible to see what really happened. It sure looks like a leninist coup d’etat, but many assure us it wasn’t so.
We have to leave behind such issues and not base the future on that legacy.
It would be better to have one plan/option at the critical juncture of revolution: our
‘democratic market neo-communism’ would be a good example: it creates democracy, a new type of planned AND market economy with a Commons realized as expropriation, etc… This is a liberal democratic system remorphed into neo-communism and the two are constructed at the same time. That would greatly clarify a revolutionary transition. But revolutionary reconstruction requires something like a science in detail with plans of action at each phase and carried out with care and marshals to observe them. Such plans appeared instantly at the start of world war 2, operations research and all that. And the whole game requires a habeas corpus guarantee, and much else, so that a bunch of fanatics don’t castle into covert agency secret police. That happened almost immediately with that famous devotee of democracy, lenin and his cheka….