“Nothing’s ever promised tomorrow today. . . . It hurts but it might be the only way.” — Kanye West, “Heard ‘Em Say” (2005)
“You can’t always get what you want / But if you try, sometimes you find / You get what you need.” — The Rolling Stones (1969)
KANYE WEST FAMOUSLY INDICTED President George W. Bush for “not caring about black people.” Mr. West now says that it’s the Democrats who don’t care about black people. But he thinks that Trump does indeed care.
West, who received an honorary doctoral degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago a few years ago, intends to move back to Chicago from Hollywood, which he describes as The Sunken Place.
West’s wife Kim Kardashian convinced President Trump to free Alice Johnson, a black grandmother, from jail, and to initiate the criminal justice sentencing reform legislation called the “First Step Act.” Prisoners are being released to join the workforce in which the demand for labor has been massively increased in the economic recovery under the Trump Administration. The reason for any such reform now, after the end of the Great Recession, will be this demand for workers — no longer the need to warehouse the unemployed.
Trump ran on and won election calling for “jobs, jobs, jobs!,” and now defines his Republican Party as standing for the “right to life and the dignity of work,” which was his definition of what “Make America Great Again” meant to him. This will be the basis now for his reelection in November 2020, for “promises kept.”
The current impeachment farce is indeed what Trump calls it: the Democrats motivated by outrage at his exposure of their shameless political corruption, with the Biden family prominently featured. After trouncing the infamous Clintons in 2016, Trump is keeping this drumbeat going for 2020. Don’t expect it to stop. The Democrats have wanted to impeach Trump from the moment he was elected, indeed even beforehand, but finally got around to it when Trump exposed them — exposed their “frontrunner.”
Trump has held out the offer of bipartisan cooperation on everything from trade to immigration reform. He went so far as to say, when congratulating the Democrats on their 2018 midterm election victories, that he would be potentially more able to realize his agenda with a Democrat-majority Congress, because he would no longer have to face resistance from established mainstream Republicans opposed to his policies. In his State of the Union Address to Congress this year, Trump contrasted the offer of negotiation and cooperation with the threat of investigations. As it turns out, the FBI, CIA and other U.S. government security services personnel who have tried to indict Trump out of political opposition are now finding themselves the targets of criminal investigation. At least some of them are likely go to prison. The bloated national security state is dismayed and in retreat in the face of Trump. — Good!
What is the argument against Trump’s reelection? That he is utterly unbearable as a President of the United States? That Trump must be stopped because the world is running out of time? Either in terms of the time spent by separated children being held under atrocious conditions in appalling immigration detention centers, or that of glaciers falling into the ocean? Both of these will continue unabated, with or without Trump. The Democrats neither can nor will put a stop to such things — not even slow them.
What is the argument for electing the Democrats, then? A Green New Deal? — Will never happen: Obama promised it already in 2008. That they will restore “civility” to American life? Like we had under Obama? In other words, the same conditions, but with a comforting smile instead of an irritating smirk?
But Trump’s supporters became annoyed with Obama, and have been reassured by Trump’s confidence in America: Trump’s smile is not sarcastic; Obama’s often was. Don’t the Democrats deserve that grin?
Will the Democrats provide free quality health care for all? — Not on your life!
Neither will Trump. But not because he doesn’t want to: he definitely does; he thinks that it’s absurd that the wealthiest country in world history cannot provide for its citizens. But what can you do?
The last time national health care was floated as a proposal was by Nixon. But it was defeated by Democrats as well as Republicans. Nixon floated UBI (Universal Basic Income), too — but it was opposed by the Democrats, especially by their labor unions, who — rightly — said that employers would use it as an excuse to pay workers that much less. Abortion was legalized when fewer workers were needed.
But that was a different time — before the general economic downturn after 1973 that led to the last generation of neoliberalism, austerity and a society of defensive self-regard and pessimism. Now, it is likely we are heading into a new generation-long period of capitalist growth — and optimism. — At least, it’s possible. Nixon and Mao agreed that “what the Left proposes we [the Right] push through.”
Are we on the brink of a new, post-neoliberal Progressive era, then? Don’t count on it — at least not with the Democrats! They won’t let their Presidential nominee next year be Bernie Sanders. — Probably, they won’t even let it be Warren, either. And anyway, after Obama, no one is really going to believe them. Even if Bernie were to be elected President, he would face a hostile Democratic Party as well as Republicans in Congress. It’s unlikely the Squad of AOC et al. will continue to be reelected at all, let alone expand their ranks of Democratic “socialists” in elected office. The DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) have already peaked, even before the thankless misery of canvassing for Democrats — not “socialists” — in the next election. The future belongs not to them, but to Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping hosted by Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Climate change must be stopped by China.
The arguments against Trump by the Democrats have been pessimistic and conservative, distrustful and even suspicious of American voters — to which he opposes an unflappable confidence and optimism, based in faith in American society. Trump considers those who vote against him to be mistaken, not enemies. But the Democrats consider Trump voters to be inimical — deplorable and even irredeemable.
My Muslim friends who oppose Trump — half of them support Trump — said that after his election in 2016 they found their neighbors looking at them differently — suspiciously. But I think it made them look at Americans differently — suspiciously. But it’s the same country that elected Obama twice.
If Trump’s America is really the hateful place Democrats paint it to be, for instance at their LGBTQ+ CNN Town Hall, at which protesters voiced the extreme vulnerability of “trans women of color,” then it must be admitted that such violence is perpetrated primarily not by rich straight white men so much as by “cis-gendered heterosexual men — and women — of color.” — Should we keep them in jail?
The Democrats’ only answer to racism, sexism and homophobia is to fire people and put them in prison. — Whereas Trump lets them out of jail to give them a job.
Perhaps their getting a job will help us, too.
So: Why not Trump again? | §
Chris Cutrone is a college educator, writer, and media artist, committed to critical thinking and artistic practice and the politics of social emancipation. ( . . . )
Chris Cutrone is a college educator, writer, and media artist, committed to critical thinking and artistic practice and the politics of social emancipation. He is the former head of the often contrarian Marxist group The Platypus Affiliated Society and in this podcast, we discuss the possibility of realizing philosophy.
In this episode of Symptomatic Redness, Derick Varn and Lexi Kay of Swampside chats. Chris Cutrone took on a variety of relatively hostile questions for a few hours. This is part one and is available for everyone. Derick Varn is a former member of the Platypus Affiliated Society. Can Cutrone hold his ground when facing hostile questions? Find out.
Prepared opening remarks presented at the closing plenary of the 11th annual Platypus Affiliated Society international convention, April 6, 2019, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A complete audio recording of the event, including response by Richard Rubin and audience Q&A, is available online at: <https://archive.org/details/Redeeming20thCentury040619>.
The 20th century
A SENIOR TEACHING COLLEAGUE of mine at the University of Chicago revised the college core syllabus, which he said needed to be “brought into the 21st century.” What he really meant by this was brought into the 20th century — specifically, the late 20th century. But the 20th century was determined by the 19th century. There was very little that was new, and most of it was bad. I spoke at previous conventions about 1873–1973, 1917–2017 and 1918–2018. In those discussions, I divided the 100-year cycles into their first and second halves of 50 years. What was new was Marxism and anti-Marxism. As Marxism died and its memory faded in the second half of the last century, there was absolutely nothing new. My colleague invoked ideas that had their genesis in the early 20th century as anti-Marxism: for example, Foucault – Heidegger – Nietzsche.
The Stalinist historian Eric Hobsbawm defined the “short 20th century” as the period 1914–91, from WWI to the fall of the Soviet Union. But perhaps the 20th century could be defined not by the catastrophe of world war in 1914 but the failure of the world socialist revolution in 1919, which was already prefigured by the capitulation of Marxism in 1914 — and the war certainly contributed to not only the crisis and the revolutionary opportunity but also the counterrevolutionary reality, in whose brutality the war continued. 2019 marks the centenary of 1919, which was not the failure of the revolution, as we marked last year in 2018 as a function of both 1918 and 1968, but the triumph of the counterrevolution.
This year we observe the 100th anniversary of the defeat of the German Revolution in 1919 and the 30th anniversary of the collapse of Stalinism in 1989. It is unclear to me which of these takes priority in my talk now. I therefore want to build upon the last two years of anniversaries I have observed in my remarks at the annual Platypus conventions, namely, the centenaries of 1917 and 1918, and 50 years of 1968.
In my remarks last year on 1918–2018 as the “century of counterrevolution,” I thematized the issue of the presence of the revolution in the counterrevolution as the converse and complement to the issue of 1917 as the presence of the counterrevolution in the revolution. Usually, the 20th century is treated by the “Left” as one of accomplishment. The supposed advances and gains of the 20th century take two forms: the so-called “actually existing socialism” of the East in the Stalinist-ruled states of the USSR, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba; and the social-democratic welfare state in the West. Today, in 2019, we are faced with what has been evident for the past few years: the reemergence of the legacies of neo-Stalinism and neo-social democracy, both of which are called “socialism.” In the Democratic Socialists of America and in the Momentum movement of the U.K. Labour Party, we see both tendencies present. In the abiding “continuing struggles” of “anti-imperialism” and “anti-fascism” — including “anti-sexism” and “anti-racism” — we find the united front of neo-social democracy and neo-Stalinism: street-fighting as well as imposed government and para-state civil society — corporate and academic — “hate speech” code restrictions.
This is because, as Trotsky and the Frankfurt School
observed already back in the 1930s, the liquidation of historical Marxism after
the failure of the world proletarian socialist revolution of 1917–19
was present in both Social Democracy and Stalinism. They are the twin
headstones at the grave of Marxism. In the 1930s, Trotsky treated both equally
as varieties of reformist opportunism, whose residual differences were actively
liquidated at the time in the Popular Front Against War and Fascism. Trotsky
anticipated by one year the official announcement of the Popular Front in 1935
with his “French Turn,” having his followers join the official
social-democratic parties world-wide in 1934. The fact that these parties had
betrayed Marxism both in WWI and in the revolutions that followed, that Social
Democracy was on the side of active counterrevolution as opposed to Stalinism’s
apparent continuity with the revolution, did not matter one bit to Trotsky:
Stalinism was just as proven in his mind to be counterrevolutionary; and
social-democratic parties were just as potentially transformable into
revolutionary socialist parties as the ostensibly “revolutionary” Communist
Parties could have been.
The first assumption I must ask you to entertain is that both Social Democracy and Stalinism were forms of avoidance of the struggle for socialism in the 20th century, and that everything accomplished under their auspices was actually stepping back and away from and not towards socialism. As such, both Stalinism and Social Democracy represented obstacles to socialism. — Here, the anarchists and “Left communist” Marxists would apparently agree. But historically, this was the perspective shared by the Frankfurt School and Trotsky, both of which must be distinguished from and recognized properly in their opposition to such “Left communism” and anarchism, for both Trotsky and the Frankfurt School represented the memory of original historical Marxism, and of its last protagonists, Lenin and Luxemburg, among others.
The forms of the liquidation of Marxism in the post-failed revolutionary aftermath of the 1920s–30s are various, but have continued to endure ever since then: they express the same problems we see on the “Left” today, in both its neo-Stalinist and neo-social democratic guises. — These problems are also present in anarchism and so-called “Left communism.” As such, they express not only problems of the “Left” but the political antinomies of capitalism itself. In this sense, they were not new problems of the 20th century, but old problems that Marxism had already addressed and at least theoretically “overcome” in the 19th century — at least, Marxism had appeared to have overcome these problems. This is the reason for Platypus’s emphasis on pre-WWI Marxist history, to find the sources for 20th century problems that were originally obvious to Marxists historically but in the meantime have become obscure, elusive and intractable today. While it would seem that history proved in fact that the old problems had not actually been overcome by Marxism, such a perspective would assume that we somehow “know better” today, that the 20th century had provided lessons that have been learned — even if some anarchists had already warned of them in the 19th century. So it is incumbent upon me in my defense of and advocacy for Marxism to prove otherwise.
The question of the potential “redemption” of the 20th
century hinges on the question of historical “progress.” If progress has been
made since 1919, then no redemption of the 20th century is really necessary: we
can simply build upon past practices in the present and proceed accordingly. So
the issue of redemption is actually based on the reverse evaluation, that the
20th century did not progress beyond the original issues of historical Marxism,
and indeed regressed below it. This was the assumption of both Trotsky and the
Frankfurt School by the 1930s. They regarded the problems of Stalinism and
Social Democracy as repetitions of past problems that Marxism had already
consciously processed in its history before WWI.
The “Left” has tried to preserve itself through
appropriating past history in a certain way. The paradox — actually
a contradiction — is as follows: On the one hand, the “Left” treats itself
as independent of the dominant society in capitalism, thus treating the society
it seeks to change as outside of itself (perhaps treating the presence of
capitalist society within itself as an outside contagion to be fought against
and expelled); on the other hand, the “Left” claims the supposed “progress” of society
in the 20th century as its own, as the result of its own doing.
But this is the way capitalist society always grasps itself:
as an autonomous subject trying to take hold of an extrinsic object. Originally,
by contradistinction, Marxism characterized itself — “communism” or “proletarian
as the “actual self-consciousness of the real movement of history.” Both
Stalinism and Social Democracy (reformist Revisionism) followed original
Marxism in this, by identifying themselves with the real movement of history.
The problem is that history and its movement in capitalism is self-contradictory, and is thus non-identical with itself. So, in identifying oneself with history, one inevitably falls into a partial, one-sided antinomical perspective that privileges some aspects of historical movement over others. The “Left” thus leaves itself at the mercy of capitalism and is merely tossed about by the Sturm und Drang of its contradictions and historical changes. When one looks soberly and honestly at the actual history of the action and thought of the “Left” — Stalinism and Social Democracy, as well as anarchism and “Left communism,” and liberalism, too — in the 20th century, one finds it always on all sides of all issues. The “Left,” in one form or another, has variously justified and supported in certain moments of history even imperialism and fascism. It has been pro-imperialist and anti-imperialist, pro-fascist and anti-fascist — revolutionary and counterrevolutionary. The actual history in its violent vicissitudes is hence forgotten — repressed. The way this is done is to resolve history by ironing it out, and rest content that, through it all, “progress” has been made in the end. — That is, until the next historical shift of capitalism unsettles history once again, throwing progress into doubt.
I have raised one set of antinomies already, namely, anti-imperialism and anti-fascism (the subject of a prior convention talk of mine in 2011). There are others. For instance, parliamentarism-electoralism as opposed to extra-parliamentary activity, or the battle of the “ballots” vs. that on the “streets.” There is also “anti-exploitation” vs. “anti-oppression,” or socio-economic “class” vs. “race, gender and sexuality.” In the time of the historical origins of Marxism, there was also “social” vs. ”political action” — the debate which broke up the First International Workingmen’s Association, in the original split in socialism between anarchism and Marxism. There is also the antinomy of political and economic struggles. What one will find today is that all tendencies on the “Left” are actually riven by such divisions, still. For instance, all these oppositions are present in the DSA and in Labour’s Momentum movement.
This shows that the 20th century is still with us —
as is indeed the 19th century. That is actually cause for hope. The fact that
such antinomies still beset the “Left” shows that the problem of capitalism as
Marxism originally understood it has not been overcome — if only we can continue to recall
These antinomies must be regarded properly as forms for the
social and political movement of capitalism itself. Capitalism is internally
divided and destroys itself periodically, only to reconstitute itself again,
through its characteristic social and political struggles, whether between “classes”
or “nations,” etc. So the first task of redeeming the 20th century would be to
recognize properly that the only “progress” made was progress in capitalism — namely, actually the regression from socialism, at least as
far as the political struggle for socialism as Marxism originally understood it
Hypothetically, the perpetuation of capitalism also means
sustaining the possibility for socialism. The only question is how this
potential possibility is manifest and grasped in practice and theory. There, we
can observe an obvious regression in political potential for socialism from the
early 20th century to today. — Unless we assume that the election and
policies of “socialist” Democrats and Labourites and/or demands of those
engaged in street fighting or guerilla warfare immediately promise the
achievement of socialist revolution, which I think we have reason to doubt: the
mid-20th century is not about to be repeated.
Indeed, the implementation of what would now be considered
“socialist” policies by either elected officials or leaders of political revolutions
in the 20th century can be considered today as part of the history of capitalism — the history for whatever
potential for socialism exists concretely in the world today, which is after
all how Marxism originally addressed capitalism to begin with: capitalism is
the possibility and necessity for socialism.
Oscillation — vicissitude
Towards the end of his life, my old professor Moishe Postone
raised the specter of history oscillating between liberal and authoritarian
state-centric forms of capital — this was always Postone’s great
apprehension and suspicion of Platypus with our positive appraisal of Lenin and
so that the state-mediated capitalism succeeding the original liberal forms of
capitalism in the early 20th century reverted by the end of the 20th century to
neoliberalism, but might be followed by another phase of statist capital as a
result of the crisis of neoliberalism in the 21st century. I addressed this phenomenon
of reaction against the failure of Marxism in my Platypus convention
President’s report in 2012, in the wake of the demise of Occupy Wall Street, on
The century of Marxism: The death of Marxism and the emergence of
neo-liberalism and neo-anarchism.”
What is striking now is how, at the terminus of the Millennial Left, anarchism has been nearly completely suppressed in favor of statist forms of “socialism,” in both neo-social democracy and neo-Stalinism. This is very different from where the Millennial Left originally started out, in the new Students for a Democratic Society (established in the same year, 2006, as Platypus), steeped as it was in neo-anarchism, especially as inherited from the 1990s anti-globalization and avowedly “post-“ if not simply “anti-political Left” of Generation X. Despite the anti-imperialism of the anti-war movement at that time, which prioritized defense of Third World regimes against the U.S., this neo-anarchism persisted through #Occupy. It can be seen in the more general anti-austerity movement in response to the post-2008 global economic crisis. But as the Great Recession wore on, eventually there was a turn to state-oriented and capitalist electoral politics, for instance with SYRIZA in Greece, but also Podemos in Spain — despite the latter’s avowedly “anti-political” stance, which, unlike SYRIZA, failed to take power and faded, Podemos having lost out to the traditional Socialists.
The turn towards the Labour Party in the U.K. through Momentum under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and towards the Democrats, first via Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for President, and then through its ostensibly “socialist” progressive liberal fringe, the Democratic Socialists of America, after the Brexit vote and Trump’s election, shows the utter collapse — indeed, I called it the “death” — of the Millennial “Left.” “Marxism” was originally disputed by the Millennial Left in opposition to both Social Democracy and Stalinism, but now has been completely assimilated to these two latter legacies. Whatever potential possibility and hope for opportunity of historical change that had come with the Millennial Left was expressed by its rejection of the traditional identification of Marxism with statism. Now this has disappeared. This repeated the failure of the 1960s New Left to overcome the problems of its elders in Stalinism and Social Democracy and subsequent assimilation to their legacy.
As I wrote in “The Sandernistas,” about the Millennial Left’s enthusiasm for Bernie, what “socialism” means is merely return to the New Deal and Great Society government programs of the Democratic Party in the 20th century. Similarly, the Corbynistas want to return to the old Labour policies before neoliberalism. Where has the original “anarchist” spirit of the Millennials gone? — This is as striking as the disappearance of ostensible “libertarian” discontents from the Republican Party under Trump, however they are still expressed positively in moves to criminal justice reform as well as “free speech” efforts against Political Correctness that Trump has initiated. Trump remains the central phenomenon of our time, however shadowed by militant neo-social democracy and neo-Stalinism in response to him. The crisis of neoliberalism will deepen before it abates. In any case, the center of action remains the state. What the “Left” wants above all is to unelect Trump and reverse the Brexit vote, to which everything else is subordinated. The calls for increased welfare provisions, nationalization of industry and other capitalist state reforms are just enabling fictions.
Statism and anarchy
Significantly, I myself would characterize the task of
socialism today as essentially “anarchist” in nature, but not as “post-political”
as with post-New Left neo-anarchism, but rather pre-political, namely, the necessity to organize the potential for
civil-social action independent of the state and capitalist politics, as a
precondition for any kind of political formation let alone socialist
party-building. This must be distinguished sharply from “movement-“ or
“base-building,” however, in that they are, by contrast, dependent on their
converse and complementary phenomenon, electoralism: the “movement” is always
understood as a pressure-tactic on elected officials, whether in government or
legislative-parliamentary opposition. The ostensible “base-building” is
according to the model of “community organizing” and NGO activism, that is, as
civil society constituencies for electoral parties, especially in the
neoliberal mode of privatized outsourcing of political action. In this way, I
would distinguish the actual present historical necessity from the past
neoliberal model which expressed not a return to but actually the thinning-out
of civil society and capitulation to statism, however post-Fordist in character.
The “Left” today is stuck in the characteristic post-New Left neoliberal
modality of social-movement activism, which is actually just a training ground
for NGO lobbyism and its group identity-politics and professional-managerial cultural
racketeering. Any pre-socialist organizing today would need to cut sharply
across the established divisions in the capitalist-state management of civil
society. The crisis of neoliberalism provides an opportunity for this —
which the Millennial Left in its death is precisely avoiding.
The new phase of capitalism now emerging from the crisis of
its past neoliberal forms since the 1970s will offer possibilities for such
organizing, as existing civil society is destroyed and reconstructed according
to the new needs of capital. This is an opportunity to return to the original
Marxist vision of socialism as immanent to and building upon the foundations of
capitalism. The statist turn of the Millennial Left fails at this in its
clinging to the established prior forms of neoliberal capitalism embodied by
the existing Democrat and Labour Parties, which will be as slow to change now
as they were in the face of the neoliberal shift beginning in the 1970s —
they didn’t complete their turn for another 20 years, in the 1990s. The
Millennials joining them now will be their unopposed official leadership in 20
years’ time, just as Hillary and Bill Clinton came to power in 1992, 20 years
after their youthful participation in the (losing) 1972 McGovern Democrat campaign
for President. The Millennials will learn through their defeats now how to
adapt to capitalist politics in the long run, as usual, through a backward and
shamefaced movement — by contrast, the avowed Right will be more
straightforward, unabashed, and hence successful. This will give the
Millennials’ electoralism and statist orientation an apparently more
“principled and responsible” character, by contrast to the more blatant
opportunism of the Right in pushing through whatever capitalism requires. But
“resistance” or not, the overall drift is the same.
By contrast to Postone, I regard neoliberalism as a form of statism and not anti-statism, with anarchism and libertarianism always marginalized fringe ideological phenomena, and so post-neoliberalism will not require any profound changes in capitalist politics at the level of the state, which however requires periodic fine-tuning. The mid-late 20th century New Left, with its characteristic confusions about the capitalist state, mistaking it as a compromise formation with socialism (in this way recapitulating the old opportunist reformist Revisionism), was always deeply ambivalent in its neo-anarchist social-movementism, by the 1980s resigning itself to and even celebrating its powerlessness as some principled virtue — the “Left” itself came to be actually identified with such powerlessness, mocking the original 1960s New Left vision of “be realistic, demand the impossible.” That is not going to change in the least with the present electoral turn of the Millennial Left. The resulting statist managerial professionals emerging from the Millennial generation will always be regarded as bastard children and not recognized as the Left’s own — just as the 1980s yuppies and the 1990s Clintons were never recognized as the offspring of the New Left that they were. But the continuing “Left” on the marginal fringe won’t matter at all, other than as the usual paragon of hypocritical denial for which the New Left has served as eminent historical example. See the “long march through the institutions” through which New Left Maoists gave us academic “Left” blather, charter schools and Obama’s Presidency. Before them, the Old Left Stalinists had always been what they ended up being, bureaucrats of corporate management and the capitalist state — many more of them lived out illustrious post-WWII careers than were purged by McCarthyism, in which they had not been “coopted” or “sold out” but rather fulfilled their original 1930s youthful Great Depression vision for reformed capitalism.
As Lenin observed and Adorno repeated 50 years later, the apparent rebirth of anarchism in the wasteland of the defeat of Marxism was only a symptom of historical failure and never more than a return of a “ghost” (or, as Lenin put it, a “phantasm”). But the ghost was not actually of anarchism itself but rather of what Marxism originally had been, the effective union of social and political action. That the historical mission accepted by Marxism became divided between the reduction of politics to statism and the reduction of social freedom to capitalist anarchy is the symptom that must be worked through towards any possibility for socialism.
Historically, Marxism already traversed this path, in the 1860s–70s, in the prelude to the mass socialist parties of the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Marxism emerged ascendant and anarchism diminished in the 1880s–90s, and the Second Industrial Revolution expanded the ranks of the proletariat and of socialist politics internationally through the Second or Socialist International, as the geopolitical order of capitalism found new players in the rise of Germany, Japan and the United States, and the older 19th century British and French socialist traditions were taken up and subsumed by Marxism. At the same time, Bonapartist states in the industrializing countries led capitalism into a new and even greater era. The freewheeling Gilded Age saw the most massive quantitative transformations in the history of civilization. The Second Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century resulted in mass socialist parties unprecedented in world history, and within a generation they were prepared to take power. This produced what Luxemburg and Lenin regarded as the welcome “crisis of Marxism” itself, which they took as opportunity to clarify the tasks of socialism. We are nowhere near such a condition today. Indeed, the question of the meaning of socialism is being suppressed through its advocacy: precisely when everyone is claiming to be “socialist” its memory is being buried. Socialism currently is being not constituted but liquidated. The last time this happened was in the mid-20th century, when Stalinism and Social Democracy liquidated Marxism and adapted to continuing capitalism. It is happening yet again.
Redeeming the 20th century, then, means recognizing its repetition today. The reigning statism of the Millennial Left arriving at adulthood, whether neo-social-democratic or neo-Stalinist, is the death-mask imposed upon it by its 20th century forebears, smothering it from birth — especially the 1960s New Left, internalizing, through “anti”-authoritarian rebellion, the mocking face of state “socialism.” Any haunting reminders of anarchism that may trouble its conscience moving forward will be a mere spectral apparition and no living spirit of socialism. That spirit can only find life in a rebirth of Marxism, which for now exists outside and against the stream of the present, and, like Benjamin’s Angel of History, sees not a chain of events, carrying us helplessly from one “damned thing” to another, but only one single mounting catastrophe. As for Benjamin, the only hope is not in the flow of time, but in the monstrous abbreviation and compression of history that can blast the continuity of the present. | P
 See V.I. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920), Chapter 4 “The Struggle Against Which Enemies Within the Working-Class Movement Helped Bolshevism Develop, Gain Strength, and Become Steeled,” available online at: <https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch04.htm>; and Theodor W. Adorno, “Resignation” (1969), trans. Henry W. Pickford, Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 292.
 Walter Benjamin, “On the concept of history” (1940), AKA “Theses on the philosophy of history,” in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 253-64. Available online at: <https://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/CONCEPT2.html>.