Up from Marxism: moving on…

We might try to go over this post with several updates, now some concluding remarks. I started studying Marxism close to fifty years ago in the seventies of the last century. I read hundreds of books on the subject and was enthusiastic but soon encountered the chronic debate over the LTV (along with critiques of other aspects of Marxism). I was never able to resolve the debate and finally realized it was impossible to do that. The simple solution, which is to reject theory and stick with the obvious implications of wage exploitation. But the cadre can’t drop the past and move on. My stance is that if I have to read another defense of the LTV I will scream.

So it might not be clear why someone older would get so upset about reading still another article trying to rescue the LTV, in Jacobin no less. It is truly depressing to endure almost fifty years of rehashed junk theory at the core of the path to socialism. Every time you think the left will move on, we get another attempt. Marxists should have long since ditched their failed legacies and created a post-Marxist neo-socialism. But Marxist theory is easy to package, teach in college courses and seminars and constantly recycles the same old confusions. Critics are not really allowed and are dispatched asap. The result is a kind of cult. The real problem is the poor job Marx did in creating his theories even as he considered himself superintelligent and brow beat a whole generation into strict conformity. The whole package was a great success in the Second International, but the limits of Marxism were soon tested in the Bolshevik era. Marxists can’t seem to see that their subject died in the wake of Stalinism. A simple passage to a review and restart could solve the problem but Marxists can’t face the reality. And the larger picture shows that similar confusions have arisen in general sciences, such as biology where the theory of Darwin, long known to be fallacious statistically became entrenched in an even worse way than the Marxist. Darwinism shows the same problem of bad theory and the illusion of science. There is no social science, science of history, and/or a true theory of evolution, as yet. The inability of Marxists to get past Darwin is another fatal confusion. And yet they dare not question Darwinism. The whole field is a nuthouse of cowards kept in line by cancel culture. The saddest thing is that Marx who smelled a rat at the start changed his story and made Darwinism a key component of his package.  To be fair the era of Marx was a confusing period. Science kamikazis in multiple fields tried to storm the gates of theory glory and to extend the mysterious success of Newton in sociology, biology, and finally socialism. Every attempt failed (which doesn’t mean you can’t do lesser stages of research in the foothills of hard science). To make matters worse, Marx and his generation struggled with Hegel. It would have been better to have not expended so much energy attacking idealism even as one embraced the dialectic. This is a mix of subjects that will defeat even a genius. One of the neglected mysteries of the left is that the Kantian line succeeded completely with a developed package of  ‘ethical socialism’ based on Kant, a project from the Marburg school that could have resolved the foundational ‘hopeless case’ of Marxist theory at a stroke. And yet no discussion is even possible of this material. Zilch. It would still make a useful lifeboat for a Marxist evacuation of their hopeless position on theory. Instead we get Lenin’s idiotic ’empirio criticism’ and super reductionist scientism.  The whole barren wasteland of historical materialism. It is a mystery why the left got so unlucky. To be  trying to found a science even as you are dabbling in Hegelian triads would be almost comical slapstick if it weren’t so tragic. That mix is also, to be fair, a heroic battle with theory dragons, with dialectic as a stage prop. Marx was smart enough to see that a new science would encounter dialectic in the dragon’s breath. But, like the three body problem you must realize t theory will fail/succeed and retreat (as do most economists with their models and computers) to empirical computation.

I have suggested going cold turkey on Marxism. Create an historical saga of Marx and Engels, depict the drama/epic of labor, the left and the history of socialist futurism. And then displace that to the background. And then move on as soon as possible to a new  formulation. It must be simple, clear, without theory, or dialectics using simple empirical chronologies of world history, with a larger cultural emphasis than the economic which has never been resolved as a science. Respect your audience: no one is smart enough to do Grand Theory, juggling Hegel, Ricardo, etc…   Describe what socialism should be, how it is a real version of democracy, deal with capitalism by absorbing it, making ‘markets’ into socialist versions (thus solving the calculation debate), plus the new models of calculation debates.

We should have had a vibrant and successful socialism already by the time of the 1848 period. Or else a set of successful post capitalist  start ups in the twentieth century. But the whole project is a bust and a vital challenge to ecological calamity was lost. We still have time. And a new formulation is possible in a jiffy: my The Last Revolution proves it and recreates a path to socialism in less than a hundred pages plus notes. Consider the implication. It is not impossible to start over (and you lose nothing, after a clear passing of withdrawal of Marxist addiction syndrome the historical saga can be taken in a new way).


Third update: Continue reading “Up from Marxism: moving on…”

Third update:  The endless confusion in the labor theory of value….and Marx’s theories in general…Marxist muddle has stalled the path to socialism for everyone…

Here is a third update to the post on the Jacobin article on the LTV:

Those latter choices tell you everything about how Marx understood his theoretical project. Kepler assimilated the study of the heavens into mundane physics by discovering laws of planetary motion. Spartacus led a slave revolt.
Marx’s collaborator, Friedrich Engels, called their project “scientific socialism.” The idea wasn’t that social science by itself could tell you that socialism was better than capitalism. The “science” — Marx’s drive to uncover the “laws of motion” of capitalist economies — was an engineering science, one meant to understand how capitalism worked in order to overcome it and thus, in Marx and Engels’ eyes, remove arbitrary economic obstacles to human flourishing.

The author of this essay is repeating an argument that I have seen over and over again for decades. Marxists never get any feedback and repeat a strategy that failed already nineteenth century. The author points to Engels speaking of a science, scientific socialism, citing Kepler. But analogy is useless: Kepler’s work stumbled into the New Physics. Nothing in history, sociology or economics approaches the success of physics. To even think so or make the comparison is the wrong approach. Engels pointed to scientific socialism. But there is no such science, nor is one possible at this stage. Engels’ thinking is just off the mark and it confused everything by contrasting scientific and utopian socialism. If there is no science then everything falls back into the utopian folder, and while the term ‘utopian’ has problems it points in principle to a practical scheme of realization in real time, by human agent. There are not laws of the motion of capitalism. This is just a fantasy of early nineteenth attempts to create social sciences. They all failed, and worse, the biologists got stuck with Darwinism and its t theory of natural selection wrong. The Labor Theory of Value just doesn’t work, but Marxists cannot grasp this and continue over and over again with the same failed program. Scientific laws are highly unlikely to be found for socialism, so the quest should and move to something productive: practical steps to create socialism, in the realm of facts and values, by free agents, and moral men. Marx scoffed at all that and made a terrible mistake. Hegel wasn’t much help and injected his dialectic into Marxism, making the whole confusion worse. Hegel’s dialectic should be sidelined and not used for the simple constructs of practical socialism. Indian has thousands of years of non-dual yoga that makes the dialectic seem primitive. An ecological perspective is needed. And some sense on the issues of class struggle without the charade of invoking the working class and then doing nothing about it. The Last Revolution has a resolution of that aspect.

The unfortunate thing is that Marxists never learn. Another attempt to revive scientific socialism at Jabobin, after a hundred and fifty years of failure. And no one can penetrate the close cult. This post would make a good essay at Marxmail, or an essay at Jacobin. Never happen. Those who don’t toe the line on Marx are instant cases of Marxist cancel culture and must be ignored, it seems. Marx has a mystique that is difficult to penetrate, and yet as a theorist of science he was utterly second-rate and his states of production theory is a failure.
With my idea of an algebra of movements, The generic Red Forty-eight Group, you have a new starting point and this can be passed on an empirical historical chronology of civilizations, a descriptive anthropology of economic systems since the Neolithic, a set of blueprints for socialism, a philosophy of freedom, free agents, ethical agents, a careful construct of socialist markets in parallel with a planning, an construct of a Commons instead of state ownership of property (a new instant Marxist bourgeoisie).

——— Continue reading “Third update:  The endless confusion in the labor theory of value….and Marx’s theories in general…Marxist muddle has stalled the path to socialism for everyone…”

 The LTV was the worst thing that happened to socialism…

Defending the LTV has gone on for a century and a half, in the process putting Marxists, and too many leftists, permanently on the defensive, as with this article. A skeptical world, and all capitalists, have used the theory’s confusion as an argument against socialism, and a defense of exploitation. What a needless confusion. Marx’s ambitions for Grand Theory backfired…

The simple solution was always to drop the theory and take the argument empirically: workers don’t get paid enough… But the better solution is simply to start over without Marx and his ‘ism’ and as in the Last Revolution move to a new kind of path to postcapitalism…With Marx an historical saga…

Even among Marx-friendly economists, the labor theory of value has fallen out of favor. But its technical validity is less important than the core message: workers are exploited because the value they create is undemocratically taken by capitalists.

Source: Karl Marx Was Right: Workers Are Systematically Exploited Under Capitalism