Chris Cutrone

Chris Cutrone is a college educator, writer, and media artist, committed to critical thinking and artistic practice and the politics of social emancipation. ( . . . )

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June 2024

Chris Cutrone with Doug Lain on Thought Taboos and the End of Millennial Marxism (video and audio recordings)

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Former president of the Platypus Affiliated Society discusses his recent publications in Compact and Sublation Magazine Download the keyboard. On July 1st Compact published “The End of Millennial Marxism” and we at Sublation published “Dogmatization and Thought Taboos on the “Left.” Cutrone attempts to discuss both of these essays while Doug persists in demanding Cutrone explain Marxism in terms of commodity production, exploitation, and value 경고음 다운로드.

“The End of Millennial Marxism” in Compact Magazine:

“Dogmatization and Thought-Taboos on the ‘Left'” in Sublation Magazine:

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Dogmatization and thought-taboos on the “Left” (audio recording)

Chris Cutrone

L-R: Jason Myles, Chris Cutrone, Spencer Leonard, Kuba Wrzesniewski
L-R: Jason Myles, Chris Cutrone, Spencer Leonard, Kuba Wrzesniewski, Norman Finkelstein

Presented on the panel “Self-censorship on the Left” with Norman Finkelstein, Spencer Leonard and Kuba Wrzesniewski moderated by Jason Myles at the Sublation Media launch party at Project Parlor in Brooklyn, NY, June 26, 2022. Published in Sublation Magazine July 1, 2022.

The title for my opening remarks is “Dogmatization and thought-taboos on the ‘Left’,” which is a phrase taken from Theodor Adorno’s 1966 book Negative Dialectics on what Marxism succumbed to in the 20th century. I want to begin with a quotation from Georg Lukacs’s essay on “Class consciousness” from his 1923 book History and Class Consciousness. Lukacs wrote that,

Only the consciousness of the proletariat can point to the way that leads out of the impasse of capitalism. As long as this consciousness is lacking, the crisis remains permanent, it goes back to its starting-point, repeats the cycle until after infinite sufferings and terrible detours the school of history completes the education of the proletariat and confers upon it the leadership of mankind. But the proletariat is not given any choice. As Marx says, it must become a class not only “as against capital” but also “for itself;” that is to say, the class struggle must be raised from the level of economic necessity to the level of conscious aim and effective class consciousness 이클립스 프로젝트. The pacifists and humanitarians of the class struggle whose efforts tend whether they will or no to retard this lengthy, painful and crisis-ridden process would be horrified if they could but see what sufferings they inflict on the proletariat by extending this course of education. But the proletariat cannot abdicate its mission. The only question at issue is how much it has to suffer before it achieves ideological maturity, before it acquires a true understanding of its class situation and a true class consciousness.

We have a lot more suffering yet to endure, it seems. The true understanding of the working class’s situation and of its true class consciousness has yet to be achieved. Marxists do not have it ready-made for them. But they act like they do. This is how and why Marxism has become a parody of itself, a farce of proletarian class consciousness. Marxism has come to serve entirely other ends than those of proletarian socialism: it has become a middle class — bourgeois — ideology of discontents within capitalism, actually of aspirations for more “progressive” capitalism, and not for overcoming it. The bitter lesson of history — attended to by the avowed Right — is that attempts to improve capitalism have made it “progressively” worse. At least worse in the sense of accumulated problems more difficult to overcome. And certainly worse in terms of a more confounding task politically difficult to engage and achieve. In comparison to past times, the working class seems hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of capitalism, confronted immediately by a host of every conceivable problem more directly than by capitalism itself 널 사랑하겠어 다운로드. It is wishful thinking or ugly naiveté to think that as Marxists we can point to all these problems and simply call them “capitalism.” In this sense, the problem of capitalism has yet to actually present itself. It must be made to. And that will not happen before the working class is organized as a social and political force to confront it. The issue is what stands in the way of that. The Left today is itself an obstacle to working class struggle. If not the most major obstacle, still a very significant one.

The topic of this panel is “censorship on the Left,” but I am going to address that indirectly, but articulating myself the Marxism that is censored on the Left, and not just recently but for a long time already. What is censored is what is tabooed, and what is tabooed is proletarian socialism as Marxism understood it. When Marxism is expressed today it is in self-censored form, as dogmatic. The certitudes of Marxism cover up a crucial uncertainty, namely the content of the task of proletarian socialism.

One thing that frustrates students of Marxism is its lack of a blueprint for the liberated society beyond capitalism — what socialism or communism is meant to look like. But while Marxism accepted and promulgated the Hegelian notion of “determinate negation,” this did not mean a determination of the socialist society. Rather, capitalism was the determinate negation of bourgeois society in the contradiction of industrial production. The proletarianized working class was the determinate negation of bourgeois social relations as objectified in capitalism, the contradiction of living and dead labor 용의자. Etc. What Marxism was certain of was not the content of emancipation — freedom — that will have overcome capitalism, but rather the negative necessity with which the working class must overcome capitalism. Capitalism is the negation of bourgeois society that must itself be negated, and by a negatively determined subject, the proletariat. Marxism was not positive about anything but this. The proletariat was not to posit its own being in the place of bourgeois society, but to abolish itself in overcoming capitalism.

The present condition of the ostensible “Left” is due to its thought-taboos about socialism. Everything flows from fear of and hostility to the working class. There is no trust in empowering the working class, which is seen as racist, sexist, homophobic etc. or otherwise ignorant and backward. Socialist revolution is regarded as impossible, unnecessary and undesirable by the “Left.” The Marxist concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, apart from any technical details, is something to which the present Left is fundamentally averse. One key reason for this is avoidance of objective criteria for societal transformation beyond capitalism in favor of more subjective concerns, indeed matters of cultural taste. The old Marxist adage that the goal and task is to change conditions not attitudes has been forgotten.

Leftist intellectuals today are unable to subordinate their activity to the requirements of building working class social and political power, but assume rather that the working class ought to submit to the ideology of the Left, a complete reversal of the historical Marxist approach Download the subtitles for free. The Left regards the working class as its instrument for implementing its ideology rather than aspiring to become the working class’s political instrument in changing society. It seeks support from the working class for its power, rather than offering its support for working class power.

Looking out onto our audience, I would love to be able to say that you are proletarian socialist revolutionaries, but, no, you are petit bourgeois intellectuals, with all the problems this entails. How do I know this? By everything that you say and do, what you think and how you feel. (I don’t mean this pejoratively or to call out or disqualify you, but just to attend to the actual roles you play and functions you perform, which cannot be changed but only potentially turned to a different purpose, to serve proletarian socialist revolution, through discipline to its social and political tasks, rather than to reproduce capitalism.) You find the problem of capitalism — when you are really considering this at all, which is very rare — to be a moral one of unfairness and injustice, of abject suffering and misery. This is not how Marxists once approached things.

Sohrab Ahmari recently published in Compact Magazine a report on the Labor Notes conference in Chicago, where he observed a cultural divide between unionized workers in attendance and the conference organizers — one might say simply, between the workers and the organized labor bureaucrats. The latter, as dutiful Democrats, engaged in woke culturalism, while the former ignored the discursive and behavioral rules for the conference, for instance neglecting COVID masking and proclamations of gender identity. Why do things like the latter matter, if they do at all? Perhaps they don’t. But in trying to model behavior prefiguratively, the Left gives a misleading impression of the kind of society we are living in and the one proletarian socialists aspire for. By following the lead of Democratic Party woke capitalism, the Left proclaims itself to be part of the ruling ideology. It wrongly identifies the interests of the working class and “socialism” itself with the political fortunes of “progressive liberal” capitalism 문명 2. They channel working class organizing and any potential struggle into the terms of the capitalist employers and managers, if not their immediate ones then the more general staff of the capitalist state and its crony corporate rackets and their interests. It is a massive concession to workplace discipline imposed by the bosses to protect them from lawsuit litigation. Indeed this is because organized labor today is mostly in the business of legal disputes over labor contracts and not class struggle at all.

How can I say that? Because I am a Marxist, and hence for me class struggle means the struggle for socialism, and the struggle for socialism means the constituting and growing, building and developing of the social and political organization and power of the proletarianized working class, leading to their taking over the control of society as a whole. Organized labor has nothing to do with that today, but only for managing an increasingly raw deal for the workers to protect the unions’ own vested interests. They are not organs of working class power but rather the opposite, for capitalist power over the workers, only negotiating the terms for the latter. This is why they concede all the major points and terms to the capitalists, all the way up to the culture demanded and promulgated by the state and corporations for the everyday practices of capitalism.

To the degree that this culture remains utterly foreign to the working class in its lived reality and consciousness, this is a good thing and a great opportunity for actual socialist organizing. If workers are cynical about the rules and etiquette they are forced to observe on the job, then this means that their hearts and minds are available for entirely other consciousness. For the most part this is taken by religion and other traditional cultural values. The latter are wise enough to concede to this fallen world its sinfulness and to “render unto Caesar” whatever might be demanded, while preserving true spiritual values separately and apart from this.

But the Left makes it seem that practical struggles over matters of life — pursuit of which was never foresworn entirely but accepted by religion, again wisely! — must take place within a framework of social and political power that must be accepted as such, and this massively undercuts and hobbles not merely the attitudes and ideas of the working class but its material concerns as well. It actively lowers the political horizon of what seems possible and necessary, and indeed creates the very space in which socially, culturally and politically reactionary ideology — and the regrettable cynicism — can flourish.

If working class people seem to agree or say what you want to hear, it is because they have learned the wisdom to keep their mouths shut and their true feelings private. They have learned to suffer in silence. Occasionally, they might find some resonance in what you say and find a glimmer of hope of recognition, but it is always qualified with a great deal of reservation, hard-bitten with past discouragement. Workers are seldom in the position to indulge in the enthusiasms of true belief. But the Left are nothing if not true believers— they can afford their illusions, however disposable they prove to be, blown from one passing fad to the next. The working class knows the difference between entertainment and real life. The Left are hucksters — who are themselves the most easily bamboozled. But socialism will not be a swindle — that is, if it is not merely another capitalist ideology. “Socialism” today is just that, what Marx criticized ruthlessly as a pernicious illusion of capitalism by another name.

This is because the Left, as a petit bourgeois intellectual phenomenon, itself can neither feel nor see let alone believe in the necessary task and potential society as a goal beyond capitalism to be engaged and achieved. The Left’s vision and imagination are conditioned by the very wrong — opposite — perspective of considering only what can be controlled or managed differently, rather than as a fundamentally different state of being.

Not that working class people can imagine or envision this, either, but at least they know that it is not a matter of managing or controlling, getting others to do what they want, or convincing themselves of something to do, since that is not true to their experience, but only of cooperation, motivated by working together. — The labor bureaucracy takes advantage of this to the detriment of the workers by posing matters as those of co-management of work by unions in cooperation with employers, labor and capital working together. A fine bourgeois sentiment, but woefully inadequate — need I say so? — to the struggle for proletarian socialism, from a Marxist perspective.

You will always remain mere petit bourgeois democrats — whether lower-case or upper-case Democrats — not socialists because you will always submit to whatever “progressive” capitalists dangle before you.

What is the true task of socialist intellectuals, then? To grasp the truth of this society that underlies and transcends its immediate realities, but which constrains things in a deformed image of what they could and should become beyond them. The trick is how to distinguish overcoming capitalism from merely its next phase. Generations of purportedly “socialist” intelligentsia have performed the function of more or less brain-trusting the renovation of capitalism. But this is actually the very least of their crimes.

The principal issues of present society, today, globally and historically — as a matter of world history — how it is that conditions everywhere came to be as they are now, are not racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. (for instance, religious sectarianism and ethno-cultural differences), which are either thousands of years old or, on the contrary, indeed very modern phenomena, but rather are due to capitalism, which is only two hundred years young.

This is not a world of blacks and whites, or Muslims, Jews, Christians, animists, Buddhists and Hindus etc., or men and women, or queers and straights, or nonbinaries and cisgendered, or Latins, Anglos, Germans, Slavs, Celts, Scandinavians, Nordics, Mediterraneans, Turks, Arabs, Semites, Caucasoids, Negroids and Mongoloids, Neolithics and Paleolithics, etc., but of workers — and a few capitalists who have thankfully saved the funds necessary for investment in old and new production.

The fact that Leftists today must mis-imagine socialism in progressive liberal terms of pluralist democracy and cultural tolerance and respect — which is actually the more or less official dogma of liberal democratic and international cosmopolitan capitalism, and not only recently, but for the past 200 years — means they are profoundly mistaken from the start, and proceeding in a way utterly foreign and alien(ating) to the working class, both of their own and of any other country in the world. If workers ever listen to them, it is actually as their social and cultural “betters,” as their friendly bosses, rather than the strict hard-asses following more directly the imperatives of capital without the polite discursive couching and legalistic disclaimers and expressions of sympathy.

Insofar as young people appear to be more idealistically Leftist, this is only because they haven’t yet learned let alone mastered the actual rules of the game, and have been misled by their teachers into thinking that something different is possible in capitalism than is actually the case — they call “capitalism” everything that thwarts or disappoints their ingenuously naïve sense — actually lack of sense — of reality.

Not that their fantasies are utterly valueless, but they must be recognized as what they are, capitalist fantasies, to be actually useful in any way. This society does generate felt senses of possibility that are cruelly betrayed constantly by the onrush of history in capitalism. But they are not exact and indeed are necessarily and not accidently indeterminate. We do not — cannot — know what a socialist society beyond capitalism will look like. This is because the future will not in fact be our doing. Nor will it be that of anyone today who is able to deliberately determine it consciously — of whom there is in fact no one now.

This is not so bad as it might sound, since we neither are nor ever will be in a position to create such a world. Only the working class could ever be in that position, precisely because the world as it is now is the result of their action — and inaction — for the last 200 years. If we hate the world as it now is, it is because it is the world the working class has created — and we hate them for it.

By contrast, if we ever confront actual capitalists about the state of the world, they can legitimately shrug their shoulders, sincerely express their regrets, and point to conditions beyond their control — by which they mean the billions of workers. If we resent them for this, it is because we are under the illusion that, if instead of them we were in charge, things would be so much better. It is not as workers but rival capitalists — as petit as opposed to haut bourgeois — that we challenge their authority (we don’t really dispute their power but only envy it).

And that is the point: The world will not be what we as Leftist or socialist intellectuals might imagine or envision or want it today in capitalism, but only what the working class might make it in the future, whether or not they ever overcome capitalism, they will have made the world as they will — and precisely not as we would. Our task is to support and help them in their overcoming of the capitalist limitations to their remaking the world.

The best we can do is to understand the limitations of capitalism. And to do so means overcoming — actually, first recognizing — the dogmatization and thought-taboos of capitalism that we will otherwise enforce, over ourselves and over any (mercifully few) workers within our reach, even and especially when we don’t think that we are doing so.

We ourselves, in everything we feel and think, do and say, are the blinders from which we as well as others must be freed. We are the instruments which will be used, more or less, to remake the world, either as capitalist — through the capitalist tools that we are — or otherwise. Can we allow ourselves to be remade — by the working class — to help remake the world other than as we would? | §

Chris Cutrone with Theory Pleeb on Lenin and Adorno (video and audio recordings)

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Chris Cutrone is back to answer the pleeb’s questions in Why Lenin and Adorno 위키독스? Chris Cutrone is the founder of Platypus Affiliated Society and he thinks that for there to ever be a Left again there are certain lessons we must learn from Lenin and Adorno postgresql odbc 다운로드. We’re going to try to figure out what that is in this stream.

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Chris Cutrone with Doug Lain on Debord, Lenin, Adorno and Marxism on history (video recording)

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This week’s Pop the Left was set up as a conversation about Guy Debord and the errors of the Situationist Internationale but ended up being a conversation about the sexual revolution, Roe vs Download Thirsty Deer. Wade, and the question of the party. As always, Chris Cutrone pushes against the current limits of “left” politics on this week’s Pop the Left Download InterestTalk.

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Chris Cutrone with Theory Pleeb on “Anti-Left Marxism”(video and audio recordings)

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“Two Marxists walk into a bar… one thinks the left is dead and needs to be brought back, the other thinks it is inseparable from the Democrats and must therefore be killed 삼성페이 apk. Happy birthday, Karl Marx! A livestream response from Cutrone to Cryptofash in lieu of a debate… Pleeb will play interviewer and occasional devil’s advocate so that we can hopefully learn something 카카오 인코딩. Read pleeb’s substack post that provides some context for this here:…

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Chris Cutrone with 99 Zu Eins on the dictatorship of the proletariat (video and audio recordings)

Chris Cutrone interviewed on “The dictatorship of the proletariat and the death of the Left”

“This is CC at his brilliant best Switch romfile. Explaining in common universalising language difficult complex categories. He manages to show very clearly that the task of reaching the mass of people by explaining in concrete terms the necessity of going beyond the present is more than achievable make it right. Most importantly there is no defensiveness, there is no need, calmly and rationally explained very well. Many fear the requirement of reaching the “masses” Download the pension lottery. The task is to educate oneself to a level of competence that we can explain as CC does here what the problem is, what the solution may be and why it is necessary to attempt to achieve it Download Xerox Driver. There is no Alternative preached Margaret Thatcher and those that have followed her since. Well there is you see. We have a world to win, when we do not know, but won it must be 울트라 문. Brilliant and so well teased out by Nadim. Well done all, inspiring stuff.”

The purpose of Marxism (video and audio recordings)

What is Marxism for?

Chris Cutrone

Presented on a panel discussion with Benjamin Studebaker, Donald Parkinson and James Heartfield at the 2022 Platypus Affiliated Society International Convention in Chicago on April 2, 2022 at Northwestern University.

Marxism is borne of critique. Critique is not mere criticism, not fault-finding or debunking or falsifying of things, but exploring conditions of possibility for change, and not merely accidental, random or otherwise “objective” change, as in entropic processes, but conditions for transforming things as subjective agents of freedom, the realization of potential in what exists beyond itself. Furthermore, critique is not opposition, not treating things as if from the outside, but finding potential from within things of which we are inextricably parts and participants. The aim of critique is to recognize the possibilities for being subjects rather than objects of change: not change as something that happens to us, but change for which we can claim responsibility as the product of our own action.

There was a socialist or communist movement before Marxism, originating in the early 19th century. Marxism was borne of the critique of an existing socialist and communist movement. Marxism sought to clarify the aims of a movement already under way, by critiquing it, finding its conditions of possibility in its symptomatic expressions, diagnosing its prognosis aoa Shim Kung.

Socialism was not possible before capitalism. Nor was it necessary, nor even desirable. Marxism hence held a dialectical relationship between capitalism and socialism. For Marxism, capitalism is nothing but the possibility and necessity of socialism. Capitalism was for Marxism the crisis borne of the contradiction of bourgeois social relations by the industrial forces of production that were the product of the historical progress of bourgeois social relations. In this way, Marxism found the industrial forces of production pointing beyond the bourgeois social relations to be the expression of the self-contradiction of those social relations. What were these “bourgeois social relations,” according to Marxism? They were the social relations of labor: the exchange of labor as a commodity as the basis for society, emerging in and through and as the product of the dissolution of the preceding caste community of traditional civilization. Bourgeois society was the liberation of production through the emancipation of labor.

The bourgeois revolution regarded itself as the revolt of labor: the revolt of the Third Estate against the illegitimate authority of the religious and noble-aristocratic orders, the First and Second Estates. The Third Estate comprised all those who worked, as opposed to those who prayed and those who fought. Bourgeois right was the right of labor against the right of might, the right of conquest, upon which the preceding social and political order had been based, and which religious authority regarded as the Divine Right of God’s (or the gods’) will, in which “might makes right.” This was the rule of society for thousands of years — perhaps of nature for eons Download The Empire of Sensibility. Bourgeois society is one in which there are “no gods and no masters,” no traditionally sanctioned patriarchs and no slaves, but only human social rights: it was the rule of freedom over nature. Marxism regarded the struggle for socialism or communism to proceed from this already accomplished bourgeois emancipation. If there was still illegitimate power — not right based on labor and its exchange-relations in freedom — Marxism regarded this not as a holdover from the ancient past but a new modern problem due to capitalism. In this respect, Marxism regarded capitalism as the regression of bourgeois society — the regression from bourgeois freedom: “wage-slavery.” It was the regression from a history of freedom to pre-history, a reversion to nature.

Marxism regarded the emerging self-contradiction of bourgeois social relations in capitalism to point beyond the emancipation of labor from traditional civilization, which was found to be necessary but insufficient for full freedom. Alongside the subjective phenomenon of the socialist or communist movement for working class freedom emerging after the Industrial Revolution, there was a new objective phenomenon of a proletarianized working class, workers expropriated of the social property of their labor as self-possessing owners of commodities, their labor-power and its products as contributions to social cooperation, participating as bourgeois citizens in society through their labor. The “proletariat” refers to citizens without property in the Ancient Roman Republic: tribal Romans who were entitled to rights as citizens despite not owning property — which meant not possessing the land of Rome’s conquests Download the Play game. (Tribal Romans were a ruling class in the sense of an aristocratic warrior caste of conquerors ruling over subjugated peoples and territories.)

But in bourgeois society, property is not a physical possession claimed through conquest, but a social right recognized through the social relations of labor in free association and cooperation. Hence, a proletarianized working class in bourgeois society is a contradiction in terms, a phenomenon of the self-contradiction of society. For Marxism, it is the Industrial Revolution that divides the bourgeois Third Estate of labor and its social relations into antagonistic interests of capitalists and workers: owners of capital as the means of social production and owners of labor-power as a commodity that is increasingly stripped of its material contribution to social cooperation. This division was an expression of the self-contradiction of freedom in social production: the self-production of society and its free self-transformation.

This is why Marxism regards capitalism as a self-contradiction and crisis of production — and not a matter of unequal distribution and inequitable consumption. It is a crisis of society and its freedom. It is a real crisis of the basis or substance of society, in which workers as citizens lose their social rights, not intentionally or deliberately, but as a result of a seemingly “objective” process of the development of social production. It is not the result of ruthless exploitation or theft — which bourgeois society condemns as not only illegitimate but criminal — by others, but Marxism thought was the result of the actions of the workers themselves, and was their responsibility centos openssl. Workers’ demands for the social value of their labor as participants in bourgeois cooperation — the cooperation of citizens in bourgeois society — is an engine driving the improvement of production, to realize and maximize the value of labor in the production of wealth, but undermines the social measure of wealth according to the time of labor, as industrial production — science and technology — outstrips the measure of human labor-time as the basis for the value of wealth in society. The unintended consequence of this is the devaluation of labor even while social wealth increases.

This is a complex phenomenon that is expressed at both a micro and macro level. It manifests as a phenomenon of the reproduction of the human species in the historical succession of generations, in which a surplus of workers is experienced as over-population — the crisis of the overproduction of both material wealth and of the human species itself. But Marxism regarded it not as surplus humanity but surplus labor and surplus capital, the waste of social production and of human life, pressing for a resolution. It was a contradiction of wealth and value, or of wealth and the means of appropriation of that wealth by society in its social relations of labor. The struggle for the appropriation of social wealth and its potentialities beyond itself between capital and labor is not a struggle for possession between groups but a self-contradiction of wealth and its social value in capitalism.

Thus Marxism regarded communism as the “real movement of history” in capitalism, namely the real potential possibility of industrial production pointing beyond bourgeois society and its relations of labor y Tragedy. But this real movement of history is contradictory. It is not only linear but also cyclical: it points backwards as well as forwards, as society struggles to restore the social value of labor even while the industrial condition of material production leaves it behind. The result of this contradictory movement of society in history is not only to divide the bourgeois Third Estate between workers and capitalists, but also and more importantly to divide the proletarianized working class between high-wage and low-wage sectors as well as between employed and unemployed, etc. in a disparity and hierarchy of exploitation and wealth and participation in social production within the working class, which takes place not only within local communities but between localities in global production; and not only in space but in time, for instance between generations, in which older workers might benefit from capitalism at the expense of younger workers or younger workers benefit at the expense of older ones.

In short, it creates competition between workers — competition within the working class — as a new dynamic of historical movement, fundamentally affecting the concrete forms of social production in capitalism, especially as the conditions for production are struggled over, economically, socially and politically. But this competition not only promotes innovation or improvement of production as in the original bourgeois vision, but actually undermines and destroys the basis of social production, and is less than even a zero-sum game, by devaluing both labor and capital, throwing human beings and concrete forms of production prematurely on the scrapheap of history before their full potentials are even begun to be realized.

In Marx’s own time, it appeared that the widening contradiction between bourgeois right — bourgeois social relations — and industrial production in society led directly to social and political crisis and antagonism — a political struggle — that demanded resolution. As Marx put it, the capitalists and workers both had bourgeois right — the right of the social value of labor in production, whether in the form of wages or capital — on their side, and that hence, “where right meets right, force will decide,” namely politics (not violence!). Hence, capitalism was a condition of “insoluble contradiction” and the “class struggle” was inevitable. This class struggle, however, was understood originally by Marxism to be not merely the antagonism of different social groups — capitalists and workers — but the struggle for the proletarianized working class to constitute itself as a social and political force and thus as a class: the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie. But since the working class not only suffers but benefits from capitalism — depending on wage-labor to survive and indeed to thrive — the class contradiction of the proletariat vs. the bourgeoisie is not the same as the antagonism of the capitalists and the workers — which itself is not identical to the contradiction of capital and labor.

The workers’ labor is capital — it is for instance, circulating capital vs. fixed capital and variable vs. constant capital, according to Marx — and so the social antagonism of capital and labor is always also an antagonism within labor as well as an antagonism within capital. It was not enough for Marxism that the social disintegration of production in capitalism manifest as antagonism, for instance the Darwinian struggle for existence among capitalist firms or among many capitals — for example, between “national” capitals — but also such a struggle among workers  — including among “national working classes [sic]” or national sectors of the global working class.

What Marxism regarded as necessary was the self-constitution of the working class as a class in-itself objectively, through constituting itself as a class for-itself subjectively. For example, Marxism recognized that, for the value of labor as a commodity to be constituted in industrial (as opposed to artisanal) production at all requires collective bargaining; without collective bargaining, for instance through trade unions, labor is not even a commodity, not even a unit of social exchange, and there is no bourgeois social relation or bourgeois right of labor to be found at all — this is why liberal democratic bourgeois thought found labor union collective-bargaining to be necessary to not only preserve but constitute bourgeois social rights in capitalism.

But the workers’ struggle to constitute their social right in capitalism was for Marxism the constitution of the contradiction of capitalism: the contradiction of industrial forces by bourgeois social relations. Society itself seemed to face the crisis — choice — between supporting human labor in the working class and supporting scientific technique and technology in production. It is society as a whole that faces the choice and contradiction of capital vs. labor. This includes the working class in its collective bargaining as a social subject in capitalism — whether this takes place economically through trade union negotiation in private employment contracts, or as the public subject of citizenry in political democracy adjudicating law and policy.

For Marxism, the limits — the self-contradiction — that the proletarianized working class came up against in capitalism had already been faced in bourgeois society and liberal democracy, in both civil society and political democracy in the early 19th century, and the struggle for socialism or communism had emerged as a consequence of such limits being reached and contradictions made manifest as an inevitable impasse in history. But this contradiction and limit had manifested and reached an impasse in the socialist or communist movement itself, producing divisions and antagonisms in both theory and practice among the socialists who predated and lived into and as contemporaries of Marx’s own time.

Not only that, but the self-contradictory character of socialism had already been recognized in bourgeois economic, social and political thought and among bourgeois politicians — sometimes more acutely than among the socialists themselves. Not only Marxists and socialists, but bourgeois thinkers and political actors found the real movement of history to lead inevitably to socialism. Conservative bourgeois and reactionary observers in the 19th century bemoaned it, but nonetheless recognized the inexorable tide of history moving against them towards socialism. So the problem was one to be faced and overcome by the would-be reformers and “revolutionaries” of capitalism themselves, whether from among the workers or the capitalists. For Marxism, the class struggle was one over the direction of society within and beyond capitalism.

Marxism began by taking up and critiquing the crisis and confusion of contemporary reformers and revolutionaries as a matter of their self-contradictory social and political aspirations and visions — how these were not observations from outside but perspectives from within capitalism itself, from within its self-contradiction and crisis pointing not only to potential possibilities beyond itself but to its seemingly inevitable end.

The purpose of Marxism in its original historical moment was to serve as a critical faculty in the progress of the proletarianized working class’s struggle for socialism. It was to arm socialists with an awareness of the reasons for the historical crises besetting their own movement, and precisely in its success and forward motion. — But not only that success and forward motion but the movement itself ended long ago.

Today, by contrast, after the rise and fall of historical Marxism over a century ago, and due to its failure, capitalism no longer appears to have an inevitable end expressed by the possibility and necessity of socialism, but rather “socialism” seems to be a mere desire, a utopian vision divorced from practical reality, whether economic, political or social — for instance, an aspiration that, as the DSA’s Jacobin magazine founder and editor Bhaskar Sunkara put it recently, is “at its core moral and ethical in nature,” but which drives not inevitably towards its revolutionary realization but rather motivates capitalist reforms to render distribution more “equitable,” and this is primarily on a national-state and not international let alone global level. It necessarily and not accidentally avoids the contradiction of capital.

The problem of capitalism is today no longer faced let alone grasped as Marxism once did, as a self-contradiction of the workers’ struggles leading to the necessity of socialism as a historic task, but is just a matter of unbearably excessive social pathologies demanding capitalist political measures to try to deal with mounting discontents: Sunkara’s Jacobin/DSA is formulating solutions for capitalism to continue.

The current crisis of neoliberalism is not a terminal crisis of capitalism — not even one that could be made so politically — but merely an opportunity for the reconstitution of capitalism, and not through the self-constitution of the working class as an economic, social and political subject of history, but just as an electoral constituency of liberal democracy — and not even a subject of liberal democracy but an object of state policy.

Jacobin agonizes over its role as would-be professional managers of the working class; really, they are not even that but just self-deluded ideologues opining their craft of spin for the latest capitalist messaging — and not even policy. More or less unemployed Millennial and Zoomer workers watch YouTube videos as neurasthenics between anxious applications for their next gigs, seeking to explain the “reasons” for their endless misery. — Hopefully they will quickly forget them for the niche click-bait ephemera that they are, in favor of more mainstream and hence more socially rational pursuits.

This is why the existential crisis of humanity and society shows up today not in the battle of politics and democracy in a proletarianized society and its working class but rather in culture and psychology, about which Marxism has nothing to say beyond how these are already expressed by humanistic bourgeois culture in crisis, including its most radical anthropological questioning such as speculations on the “trans-“ or “post-human” condition of society in capitalism. It is not raised to the level of collective politics in public life — not even as technocratic management, which is just reified and ossified mechanized humanism — but devolves upon isolated individuals in private misery.

Supposed “Marxism” today is not the critical self-clarification it once was of a historic revolutionary or even reform movement for socialism, but is just an obscure justification for choosing among policies for managing a crisis that is no longer regarded as an insoluble contradiction and historical impasse, but has become naturalized as a permanent condition of society and of humanity, purported “human nature” itself — including the degraded condition of what passes for “politics” as the gang-warfare — telling you which “side” to be on — among the ruins and desperate new upshoots of chaotic permutation in the long disintegration of decaying bourgeois society in capitalism.

Marxism today has no purpose — there is no purpose to Marxism — but serves only as a reminder that there once was a purpose, a purpose to capitalism, in socialism. Without an existing struggle for socialism, Marxism has no purpose. Without the purpose of socialism, there is no Marxism. | P