This is very relevant yet a bit dated already. But it is good to consider the need for renewal and we have done that here. Our efforts could be spasmodic but in principle they have addressed all the key points: a critique of Marxist historicism (to deliberately use that wretched old term of Karl Popper), models of evolution and world history, discussions of working class and universal class, ecological recasting of socialist constructs.
We have produced a ‘critical marxism’ and then left marxism behind, save as an historical resource and saga. There remains beyond the useless historical materialism the key issues studied by Marx of class, ideology, and simple economic empiricism beyond theory. But even there Marx applied theory to what should be left to itself as empirical.
Although Marx’s attempt to bring the working class to the fore in the failed histories of bourgeois revolution (which didn’t fail to establish the bourgeoisie) was his most significant achievement, but even there the old model of the working class revolution has proved an ambiguous match to the facts at hand. We have suggested a multitasking strategy. Expand the working class to a near match of the universal class, and this as a set of combined strategies. Marxists never seemed to realize the working class so rapidly became bourgeois, lost its revolutionary impetus and then saw its brilliant union movements destroyed. The idea of the working class creating socialism was hypocritical: it was imposed on a working-class rapidly turning bourgeois who had no interest in revolution, and who became a phantom in the minds of socialists who instead of creating socialism had to convince other people to do it. A bit like trying to use a yoyo while standing on your head. We have considered taking the working class to be all those passive before capitalist dynamics and ideology and/or all those who live by wage labor. But suddenly we see that class analysis doesn’t make any sense, though it did make sense in Marx’s era where the real mccoy working classes had the option to starve or work under capitalist domination. The situation is different. In a way marxism was the victim of its own success, starting with the old-fashioned proletarians at the brink of starvation taking to the streets.
But in a larger sense class analysis is not coherent. Consider a salaried manager in a capitalist corporation. Is this figure working class?
The marxist analysis ended up in a woods of contradiction and thought it possible to change history based on the mechanics of the storks in Alice’s World. And the old analysis implicitly antagonized the multiple middle range ‘classes of a kind’, who were excluded because they didn’t work in factories. In the end virtually every class save a remnant of factory workers soon a Chinese proletariat were condemned as class drones as the majority in limbo as not working class. We need to consider the motion of the multiple classes into a universal class of nearly all citizens and a revolution from and into the universal class. And working-class outreach can be thrown into the mix as focal point, or the idea of the last shall be first. But I have roamed the US and seen hundreds of labor situations with their working-classes, so-called, but I never once saw a working-class revolutionary. Apple pickers in Washington during the brief fall season arrived by freight trains to beat up jalopies but then were served three humongous meals a day by the owners, including steak and eggs on occasion: they wanted to get their crop in fast. The working class there was a very different medley. There are still many working classes zones and work spaces, like picking spinach in Arizona heat, mostly Mexican now. But the Union types wouldn’t even open a conversation with such people and were glad for tiered salary of the temps, etc…
This kind of altered picture complicates to incoherence the old Marxist picture. Why not just work with the Universal class which is all classes, but with the capitalist class singled out. Please note that almost all forms of the left now attract middle-class persons. Why make the question impossible complicated with Marxist hairsplitting?
The Universal class as working-class minus the capitalists seeks the totality but can just as well spinoff working-class outreach. The Universal class (so reminiscent of set theory) is a shifting set of cloud shapes and functions better beyond class definitions that split hairs.
The issue of climate change has forced the issue and soon everyone save the type of Trump’s base and the capitalists will be confronted with revolutionary options. Best to recast the whole basis of socialism beyond sterile marxist boilerplate.
We have ersatzed a DMNC model, or democratic market neo-communism based on ecological socialism, socialist markets and planning under a Commons, economic rights, rights of nature, civil liberties and a complex of democracy, and ecological fundamentals. Socialists (neo-socialists and neo-communists) need to have a blueprint at ready, new legal systems, ecological courts, economic courts and a Parliament under a presidential system. The trick is to make a real communism act like a liberal system with one difference, a social expropriation of capital.
Socialist renewal means abandoning Marxism, and then if necessary pilfering from Marx on an a la carte basis. From there rethinking the whole project without the muddle of Marx’s theories.
Revolutions? Next time they need to establish habeas corpus for all, including counterrevolutionaries. The Bolshevik fiasco as history has censored the grotesque explosion of violence, even before the even worse Civil War. The whole thing seemed doomed from the start.
Does it make any sense to speak in terms of socialist renewal at the beginning of the twenty-first century? The massive anti-capitalist protests from Seattle to Prague to Quebec that captured the…