I have to wonder if this essay isn’t in response to my critique of Marxism and dismissal of Capital. Whatever the case it is time for Marxists to reconsider their fundamental perspective and to stop thinking that intra-cultic defenses of the legacy are in any way convincing anymore to outsiders. The essay rightly points to the early effect and enthusiastic reception of Capital and marxism in the period leading to the Second International but fails to consider the way that early success simply evaporated in the wake of Bolshevism and then Stalinism. Working class indiviuals often have an especial detestation now of Marx and Marxism. In the age of faux populism they are no doubt the victims of ideology and, worse, that of the right, but that doesn’t explain the suspicion of Marxism which emerged long ago in the dissipation of the International. Again that is not surprising: the whole thrust of Marxism was a focus on the working class, but in practice the working class under Bolshevism were exploited by the Marxist bourgeoisie, denied their labor unions and lost the gains they had made in the capitalist realm and in conjunction with the labor movements, which were not a product of Marxism. Thirty years after 1989 the Marx cult chants the same old mantras in a droning trance, having learned nothing and caught in the cognitive dissonance of still using the same language as the gangster ‘socialism’ of North Korea and China.
The Marxists have to learn a hard lession: start over or dissipate. With a careful restart that is honest about the failure of Marxism, the larger public would once again respond with a new formulation, one that starts by disowning the Marx legaccy and its failures, and considers from scratch the meaning of socialism/communism and the way to democratic versions of such. The left must be able to produce a serious postcapitalism with democracy, some form of markets under a Commons, and no bogus claims for a science of the idiotic brand peddled by Marx, who is taken as so brilliant but who was no scientist and so muddled he could not complete Capital which he left incomplete in a kind of derelict state of writer’s block. He famous tomes were an attempt to produce a science that doesn’t exist.
That legacy in the Chinese case is especially troubling and is a toxic pseudo-socialism that is fascist, totalitarian and a fake based on luring capitalists into the Guangzu province: a capitalist socialist monstrosity based on gulags, secret police, a Marxist bourgeoisie entrenched behind its authoritarian dictatorship By and large the current left is often too flumoxed to even disassociate from this ominous leviathan beyond redemption, beyond dismantling, and liable to corrupt the remants of the old left forever.
One of the strange things about Marxism is its excessive complexity exuding an aura of the great Marx’s genius, when in reality, hardly any marxists can make any sense of their own doctrince, in the context of the tomes of Capital which was left incomplete after years of struggle by Marx to figure out his own system.
It is actually easy to produce a viable neo-socialism that is democratic, economically sane and robust, without a new class of revolutionary elites, based not on state capitalism, a Marxist bourgeoisied, free of the monstrosities of historical materialism and dialectical materialism.
We are running out of time and if the Marxist world is frozen in zombie cultism around the Holy Marx, we need to create a new kind of left that can solve the problems at hand without Marxist chapter and verse. The whole of Capital can be replaced with a thesis copied onto the back of an envelope.