Critical marxism

R48G: toward a postmarxist neo-communist platform

November 22nd, 2017 •

Our principle criticism of marxism is the core of historical materialism and its stages of production theory. The view of history as a series of economic stages simply won’t work: the stages of feudalism, capitalism, communism, as an epochal progression doesn’t correspond to the facts of the case.

First, economic systems may overwhelm history, but they don’t generate its evolution and they don’t emerge as successive epochs: capitalism was gestating in the Neolithic and is already a factor in the classical world, more or less. That’s the point: more or less, with a lot ‘more’ in the rise of the modern transition. What is the modern transition? We have suggested a different view of world history based on the eonic model and that suggests that Marx’s equation of modernity and capitalism is misleading. The period from 1500 to 1800 shows massive innovations constituting virtually a new epoch in world history and this is more than capitalism which, however, shows a stunning ‘more’ in the ‘more or less’ equation: just at the climactic ending of the modern transition we see the industrial revolution and a consolidation of a brand of capitalism that drove the early socialists taken up by Marx/Engels to their challenge. It is really the Industrial Revolution that makes us think capitalism is born in modern times, but that is misleading. The point here is that a revolutionary challenge related to socialism and the democratic revolution should have been the case from the start, but we can see that the momentum of the new brand of capitalism was too strong for the figures we see in the wake of the French Revolution, up to
1848. Marx/Engels in the early period seemed to be quite aware of this but then a strange conception of
epochal capitalism emerged in Marx’s increasingly confused theoretical framework. The issue is not to let capitalism play itself out in its own ‘epoch’ but to see the challenge of modernity is to create democracy and one that responds to the challenge of capitalism. Here the emergence of social democratic phases seems to answer to that need, but we can see that they are not robust challenges to the increasing distortion of modernity created by capitalism. In that sense Marx was correct: a full- blown communism must come into existence to challenge capitalism at its foundation. But we can see
from the case of the Bolshevik revolution that the left had the wrong conception of epochal communism
at the start and botched the opportunity. The point is to solve the economic problem and the political/democratic problem in a single formulation, and that the Bolsheviks didn’t have. The confusion over whether Russia was ready for communism was entirely beside the point. The mutual exclusion of liberal and socialist systems was a mistake of theory and the result was the elimination of democracy from the mix even as the economic question defaulted to the untried abstractions of state capitalism.

We have suggested a construct we call ‘democratic market neo-communism’ as a constructivist method to harmonize a set of opposites that is free from the ‘epochs of economy’ we find in Marx’s ‘stages of production’.

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