Back to Herbert Spencer

fuchschristian_marx_spencer_highgate
Marx and Spencer’s facing graves (photograph by Christian Fuchs)

Chris Cutrone argues that the libertarian liberalism of the late 19th century still has relevance today

Originally published in Weekly Worker 1088 (January 7, 2016). [PDF] Also published in The Platypus Review #82 (December 2015 – January 2016). Re-published by Bitácora (Uruguay).


Audio recording


Herbert Spencer’s grave faces Marx’s at Highgate Cemetery in London. At his memorial, Spencer was honoured for his anti-imperialism by Indian national liberation advocate and anti-colonialist Shyamji Krishnavarma, who funded a [lectureship] at Oxford in Spencer’s name Daeyoung Young.

What would the 19th century liberal, utilitarian and social Darwinist, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), who was perhaps the most prominent, widely read and popular philosopher in the world during his lifetime – that is, in Marx’s lifetime – have to say to Marxists or more generally to the left, when such liberalism earned not only Marx’s own scorn but also Nietzsche’s criticism? Nietzsche referred to Spencer and his broad appeal as the modern enigma of “the English psychologists.” Nietzsche critiqued what he took to be Spencer’s assumption of a historically linear-evolutionary development and improvement of human morality leading to a 19th century epitome; where Nietzsche found the successive “transvaluations of values” through profound reversals of “self-overcoming” (On the genealogy of morals: a polemic, 1887). Nietzsche regarded modern liberal morality not as a perfection but rather as a challenge and task to achieve an “over-man,” that, failing, threatened to result in a nihilistic dead-end of “the last man” instead. Marx regarded Spencerian liberalism as an example of the decrepitude of bourgeois-revolutionary thought in decadence. Marx’s son-in-law, the French socialist Paul Lafargue, wrote, just after Marx’s death, against Spencer’s “bourgeois pessimism”, to which he offered a Marxist optimism 스타 이즈 본 ost.1 Such Marxism fulfilled Nietzsche’s “pessimism of the strong.” By the late 19th century, Marxists could be confident about transcending bourgeois society. Not so today.

Spencer’s distinction of “militant” vs “industrial” society (The principles of sociology Vol 2, 1879-98) – that is to say, the distinction of traditional civilization vs bourgeois society – is still, unfortunately, quite pertinent today, and illuminates a key current blind-spot on the ostensible ‘left’, especially regarding the phenomenon of war. Spencer followed the earlier classical liberal Benjamin Constant’s observation (‘The liberty of the ancients as compared with that of the moderns’ 1816) that moderns get through commerce what the ancients got through war; and that for moderns war is always regrettable and indeed largely unjustifiably criminal, whereas for ancients war was virtuous – among the very highest virtues. Do we moderns sacrifice ourselves for the preservation and glory of our specific “culture,” as “militants” do, or rather dedicate ourselves to social activity that facilitates universal freedom – a value unknown to the ancients pandora 다운로드? Does the future belong to the constant warfare of particular cultural differences, or to human society? Marx thought the latter.

The question is whether we think that we will fight or, rather, exchange and produce our way to freedom. Is freedom to be achieved through “militant” or rather “industrial” society? Marx assumed the latter.

When we seek to extol our political leaders today, we do not depict them driving a tank but waking at 5 o’clock and staying up past midnight to do society’s business. We do not speak of their scars earned in combat but their grey hairs accumulated in office. Not enjoying the spoils of war on a dais but getting in their daily morning jog to remain fit for work. We judge them not as cunning warriors but as diligent workers – and responsible negotiators. In our society, it is not the matter of a battle to win but a job to do Windows 7 iso genuine. Carl Schmitt thought that this has led to our dehumanization. But few would agree.

What would have appeared commonplace to Spencer’s contemporary critics, such as Nietzsche and Marx, must strike us today, rather, as profoundly insightful and indeed critical of our society. This is due to the historical regression of politics and society since Marx’s time, and, moreover, to the liquidation of Marxism. What Marx would have regarded as fatally one-sided and undialectical in Spencer, would today seem adequate to the prevailing condition, in the absence of the Marxist-Hegelian dialectic. The Marxist critique of liberalism has been rendered moot, not in the sense of liberalism’s actual social supersession but by historical regression. Society has fallen below the historical threshold of not only socialism but of classical liberalism – of bourgeois emancipation itself. Not only have we fallen below the criteria of Kant and Hegel that surpassed 18th century empiricism, we have fallen below its 19th century successor, positivism, as well lol 북미서버 다운로드. The question is the status today of liberalism as ideology. It is utopian. As Adorno put it, it is both promise and sham.

Militant and industrial tendencies confront each other today not as different societies, but as opposed aspects of the same society, however contradictorily and antagonistically, in capitalism. Similarly, the phases of “religious,” “metaphysical” and “positive” forms do not succeed one another sequentially in a linear development but rather interact in a dynamic of social history. What Spencer regarded as regressive “metaphysics” remains valid in capitalism, as “ideology” calling for dialectical critique. We cannot now claim to address problems in the clear air of enlightenment.

If Adorno, for instance, critiqued sociological “positivism,” this was not as a romantic anti-positivist such as Max Weber, but rather as a critique of positive sociology as ideology in capitalism 아이폰 소프트웨어. For Adorno, positivism and Heideggerian ontology, as well as Weberian “cultural sociology,” opposed each other in an antinomy of capitalism that would be overcome not in one principle triumphing over another, but rather in the antinomy itself being succeeded dialectically in freedom. Weber denied freedom; whereas Spencer assumed it. Both avoided the specific problem of capitalism. To take a condition of unfreedom for freedom is the most salient phenomenon of ideology. This is what falsified positivism as liberal enlightenment, its false sense of freedom as already achieved that still actually tasked society. Freedom is not to be taken as an achieved state but a goal of struggle.

An emancipated society would be “positivist” – enlightened and liberal – in ways that under capitalism can only be ideologically false and misleading acoustic café. Positivism should therefore be understood as a desirable goal beyond rather than a possibility under capitalism. The problem with Herbert Spencer is that he took capitalism – grasped partially and inadequately as bourgeois emancipation – to be a condition of freedom that would need yet to be really achieved. If “metaphysics,” contra positivism, remains valid in capitalism, then this is as a condition to be overcome. Capitalist metaphysics is a real symptom of unfreedom. Positivism treats this as merely an issue of mistaken thinking, or to be worked out through “scientific” methodology, whereas it is actually a problem of society requiring political struggle. The antinomy of positivism vs metaphysics is not partisan but social. As Adorno observed, the same individual could and would be scientifically positivist and philosophically ontological-existentialist Oasis.

Spencer’s opposition to “socialism” in the 19th century was in its undeniable retrograde illiberal aspect, what Marx called “reactionary socialism.” But Marx offered a perspective on potentially transcending socialism’s one-sidedness in capitalism. Spencer was entirely unaware of this Marxian dialectic. Marx agreed with Spencer on the conservative-reactionary and regressive character of socialism. Marx offered a dialectic of socialism and liberalism presented by their symptomatic and diagnostic antinomy in capitalism that pointed beyond itself. 18th century liberalism’s insufficiency to the 19th century problem of capitalism necessitated socialist opposition; but liberalism still offered a critique of socialism that would need to be fulfilled to be transcended, and not dismissed let alone defeated as such.

Only in overcoming capitalism through socialism could, as Marx put it, humanity face its condition “with sober senses.” This side of emancipation from capital, humanity remains trapped in a “phantasmagoria” of bourgeois social relations become self-contradictory and self-destructive in capital 시 놀로지. This phantasmagoria was both collective and individual – socialist and liberal – in character. Spencer naturalized this antinomy. His libertarian anti-statism and its broad, popular political appeal down through the 20th century was the necessary result of the continuation of capitalism and its discontents.

Spencer regarded the problem as a historical holdover of traditional civilization to be left behind rather than as the new condition of bourgeois society in capitalist crisis that Marx recognised needed to be, but could not be, overcome in Spencer’s liberal terms. Marx agreed with Spencer on the goal, but differed, crucially, over the nature of the obstacle and, hence, how to get there from here. Not only Spencer’s later followers (more egregiously than Spencer himself), but Marx’s own, have falsified this task. It has been neglected and abandoned. We cannot assume as Marx did that we are already past Spencer’s classical liberalism, but are driven back to it, ineluctably, whether we realize it or not 타임 키퍼. Only by returning to the assumptions of classical liberalism can we understand Marx’s critique of it. The glare of Marx’s tomb at Highgate stares down upon a very determinate object. If one disappears, they both do. | §


Note

1. www.marxists.org/archive/lafargue/1884/06/herbert-spencer.htm

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. ( . . . )

Articles by month

Article dates

August 2020
S M T W T F S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Art and freedom

Chris Cutrone

Letter in Weekly Worker 1077 (October 8, 2015). [PDF]

Entire exchange with Rex Dunn on art and Marxism available as compiled PDF Download Random Tower Defense 1.77.

Rex Dunn poses “teleology” against “accident” in support of “essentialism” (“Obfuscations”, Letters, October 1) I Can Speak. But this neglects that, according to Hegel, Geist, as the “self-moving substance [essence] that is subject”, is the expression of the unfolding and development of freedom 뮤턴트 워. Art is certainly geistig activity, but is not itself Geist. Hegel’s telos is not posed as a future, but rather in the present: the present as a necessary and not accidental result of history Download Nvidia 388.71.

The telos is not the future in the present, but what Hegel called “the eternally present in the past”. We cannot judge humanity according to an as yet unrealised potential ought – what could and should be – but rather we are tasked to find the actuality in what is 스텔라리움 한글판. Not where is the present headed, but how does it point beyond itself? This means that what appears as humanity’s “essence” is an expression of necessity in the present – the necessity of the present Download Hamchorom. We should not assume that such necessity will not change, for that would prematurely foreclose possibilities we cannot see now. We are not serving the future, but are failing the present – and the past Download the free video cutter.

Schiller wrote of the “play drive” that unites freedom and necessity, in Homo ludens. But even Schiller didn’t think that art should replace all other human activity Cult and. Play may express freedom, but it is not itself freedom. Beauty is the symbol, not the realisation, of freedom. Our goal is not a beautiful society, but a free one 아름다운 세상.

Marx and Adorno, following him, dismissed the idea that work was to become play. Rather, from “life’s prime need” it was to become “life’s prime want”: that we will work because we want to do so, out of a sense of social and individual duty, and not capitalist compulsion Download the game. Our task is not to realise human play, but rather to actualise freedom. According to Adorno, art, like everything else in capitalism, expresses necessity – the necessity of freedom. But it is not itself freedom. Nor will it become that as some final end. Freedom is not the end of necessity in play, but the transformation of necessity – giving rise to new necessities. Freedom is not a state of being, but a process of becoming. More specifically, it is the movement of that process. Human “essence” is not art, but freedom. There is no reason to believe it will ever end – without an end to humanity. We do not know freedom’s end, but only its need, its next necessary step. Art in capitalism points to that, the next stage of history, not its end.

As Adorno put it, in the last line of the concluding chapter of Aesthetic Theory, on ‘Society’, “…what would art be, as the writing of history, if it shook off the memory of accumulated suffering?” The history of art, as that of Geist, expresses the history of freedom. We suffer not from lack of play, but from the task of freedom. | §

Phantasmagoria

Chris Cutrone

rowlandsonthomas_phantasmagoriasatire1810
(Thomas Rowlandson, political satire with phantasmagoria show [c 유튜브 노래. 1810])

Letter in Weekly Worker 1075 (September 24, 2015) cuteftp 다운로드. [PDF] Rex Dunn replied in Weekly Worker 1076 on (October 1, 2015) Kwon's invincible. [PDF]

Rex Dunn (‘No to “Marxist art”,’ September 17) replies to my letter on ‘Marxism and art’ (September 3) to invoke Adorno, but only partially and critically 윈도우7 캡쳐도구. And undialectically.

I think it is a mistake to try to adjudicate Marxism on the basis of postmodernist categories, such as ‘essentialism’ versus ‘anti-essentialism’ and ‘structuralism’ or ‘post-structuralism’ Download KorailTalk. Marxism is none of these. They are too beholden to the New Left’s concerns, and neglect the older, deeper history. Such antinomies of postmodernism are nonetheless potentially related to what Marx called the “phantasmagoria” of capitalism, in which cause and effect and means and ends become confused and reversed Fish KakaoTalk.

As Adorno wrote to Benjamin about capitalism, “The fetish character of the commodity is not a fact of consciousness; rather it is dialectical, in the eminent sense that it produces consciousness … perfection of the commodity character in a Hegelian self-consciousness inaugurates the explosion of its phantasmagoria.”

While this may seem terribly abstract, it does say something about art and capitalism, as well as the struggle for socialism java 워드 다운로드. Socialism is a symptom of capitalism, as is modern art. It is capitalism’s unrealised potential, necessarily distorted as it is constrained. But to regard that potential properly means returning to the bourgeois-emancipatory character of art in the modern world Far East Broadcast ing. It will appear ‘inhuman’.

While humans may have always made art, they did not always make art as an ‘end in itself’. Like production for its own sake, art for art’s sake is a bourgeois value, but one perverted by capitalism netty 파일 다운로드. Its ideal remains – as Dunn himself acknowledges with his vision of a socialist homo aestheticus.

So this is why it becomes necessary to follow modern art, as Adorno did, in an “immanently dialectical” method of “critique” vr 콘텐츠 다운로드. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory seems general and unsatisfactory because it remains a meta-theoretical statement that should have been unnecessary from the standpoint of his concrete critical essays on art and literature. Yet it was still necessary for him (to try) to write. Why?

Adorno’s concrete essays have apparently sometimes given the mistaken impression that he was a partisan for some art over others. Dialectical critique was mistaken for polemic. That’s why Adorno also sometimes appears to equivocate: the dialectic is lost.

That is the problem with the apparent oppositions of postmodernism that actually share something in common that is unacknowledged: that the antinomies of society in capitalism point beyond themselves. So does art.

Socialism will not mean returning to pre-bourgeois ‘art’, but fulfilling the freedom of art, announced, but betrayed and mocked, by bourgeois society in capitalism. That will mean going beyond art in capitalism, but in ways neither Aristotle nor Adorno nor Kant nor Hegel nor Marx himself – nor we ourselves – would quite recognise.

Adorno, like Trotsky, whose Literature and Revolution (1924) and other writings on art and culture were profoundly inspirational for him, did not prescribe what a true – free – ‘human culture’ would be, but recognised the need to struggle in, through and beyond capitalism – beyond art – on the basis of capitalism, to make it possible. | §

Marxism and art

Chris Cutrone

Letter in Weekly Worker 1072 (September 3, 2015) 기방도령 다운로드. [PDF] Rex Dunn responded in Weekly Worker 1074 (September 17, 2015) Tia portal v14 Korean language pack. [PDF]

Marxism cannot definitively judge, let alone prescribe, and also cannot tie down art to its (supposed) context of production Jump to Python 2019 pdf. But Marxism can raise consciousness of history and historical potential for social change – in all domains.

Clement Greenberg defined ‘avant-garde’ art as having a “superior consciousness of [the] history [of art]”, where ‘kitsch’ elides that Download spam characters. But the necessity of such consciousness is a symptom of the need to overcome capitalism. We may need avant-garde art now, but its criteria didn’t apply before capitalism and so won’t apply (in the same way) after capitalism wavepad 다운로드.

This is what Howard Phillips shies away from in condemning “transcendence” – even while also writing that good art should “point beyond” its context (‘Dylan and the dead’, August 13) Download youth songs. As Adorno wrote, art is the attempt to make something without knowing what it is. In other words, art goes beyond theoretical understanding or analysis through concepts, and so must be experienced aesthetically adobe creative cloud. That aesthetic experience can either affirm society as it is or point beyond it. Often it does both. Art is dialectical – as anything under capitalism Download the Korean Bible.

Certainly one can essay at what makes art good or bad. But the art itself cannot be reduced to such theoretical essaying. As Walter Benjamin put it, art that doesn’t teach artists teaches no-one autocad lt 다운로드.

Specialisation is necessary: critics are not artists; artists are not politicians. There are important interrelations among art, criticism and politics, but they are not the same thing 윈도우 무비메이커. Marx’s Capital was not a work of economics or even of political economy, but rather a (political) critique of political economy. Such critique pointing beyond existing social conditions, with consciousness of potential historical change (ie, beyond the law of the value of labour) could indeed be attempted in any domain (eg, in the physical sciences), but would remain speculative, provisional and disputable. The dialectic is unfinished.

The question is whether Marxist theoretical critique helps potential possibilities – both within and pointing beyond capitalism – become better realised in practice. That effect will always be indirect or oblique. Critical theory is not prescriptive or programmatic, but it is critical. Good critical theory can have some – however indirect and weak, but still productive – effect on the practices of art: on its production and consumption.

But, above all, we need not Marxist art or theory, but Marxist politics. Without that there is only pseudo-theory (pseudo-critique), pseudo-art (ie, kitsch: art without historical consciousness), and pseudo-politics.

The problem with Stalinism, in art as in all other domains, was not in its authoritarianism, but in its opportunist adaptation to the status quo (which required authoritarian enforcement), at the expense of more radical possibilities for changing society. | §

Review of Andrew Feenberg, The Philosophy of Praxis (2014)

Review of Andrew Feenberg, The Philosophy of Praxis: Marx, Lukács and the Frankfurt School (London and New York: Verso, 2014)

Chris Cutrone

Originally published in Marx & Philosophy Review of Books (February 14, 2015). Re-published by Heathwood Institute (September 7, 2015).

“The mastery of nature (so the imperialists teach) is the purpose of all technology. But who would trust a cane wielder who proclaimed the mastery of children by adults to be the purpose of education Download the letter pdf? Is not education, above all, the indispensable ordering of the relationship between generations and therefore mastery (if we are to use this term) of that relationship and not of children? And likewise technology is the mastery of not nature but of the relation between nature and man.”
— Walter Benjamin, “To the planetarium,” One-way Street (1928)

Andrew Feenberg’s new book The Philosophy of Praxis is a substantial revision of a much earlier work, Lukács, Marx and the Sources of Critical Theory (1981). If one were to sum up Feenberg’s main point it would be to recover Marxist Critical Theory’s ability to recognize technology as a social relation, and to thus grasp the crisis of capitalism expressed through the crisis of technology 이원호 소설. Feenberg arrives at this recognition of Marxism through an investigation of critical theory as the self-reflection of social and political practice, “praxis,” with its roots in the origins of social theory in Rousseau and the German Idealism of Kant and Hegel that had followed upon Rousseau’s breakthrough. The sources of Critical Theory are thus critical theory’s origins in the critique of society. Society, indeed, is a modern invention, in that only modern society recognizes social relations as such, as part of the emancipation of those social relations. The new, modern concept of freedom beginning with Rousseau — Hegel had written that “the principle of freedom dawned on the world in Rousseau, and gave infinite strength to man, who thus apprehended himself as infinite” (The Philosophy of Right) — originated in the revolution of bourgeois society: a new consciousness of social relations came with the experience of their radical transformation dext upload. As Adorno, one of the subjects of Feenberg’s book, put it pithily, “Society is a concept of the Third Estate” (“Society,” 1966).

Technology as a social phenomenon, specifically as a phenomenon of social relations, or, technology as a social relation, is Feenberg’s way into political questions of capitalism. His new title for the revised book takes its name from Gramsci’s term for and description of Marxism (in The Prison Notebooks), the “philosophy of praxis,” which Gramsci took over from Croce’s Neo-Hegelian concept of self-reflective practice. The question for politics, then, is the degree of social reflexivity in the recognition of technology. In this, Feenberg follows from Marcuse’s writings from the 1960s, which were concerned with the post-WWII world’s exhibiting what Horkheimer and Adorno had earlier called the “veil of technology,” or, “technology as ideology.” There was a deliberate attempt to overcome the prevailing Heideggerian critique of technology, in which humans became victims of the tools they had fashioned Java large. As Heidegger succinctly phrased it in a barb directed against Marxism, “The laboring animal is left to the giddy whirl of its products so that it may tear itself to pieces and annihilate itself in empty nothingness” (“Overcoming Metaphysics,” 1936–46). Feenberg asks, what would it mean to overcome this reification of technology? And, what would it mean to overcome the political pessimism that the problem of technology seems to pose in capitalism?

The “philosophy of praxis,” then, is Feenberg’s attempt to recognize technology as self-alienated social practice, or to use Lukács’s term, “reified” action that engenders political irresponsibility, the false naturalization or hypostatization of activity that could be changed ds photo 사진 다운로드. Feenberg traces this problem back to the origins of social theory in Rousseau’s critique of civilization, the inherently ambivalent character of social “progress” in history. Feenberg locates in Rousseau what he calls the origins of the “deontological” approach to society: a new conception of freedom which is not merely a “right” but is indeed a “duty.” What Feenberg calls the “deontological grounds for revolution” in Marx, then, is the Rousseauian tradition that Marx inherited from Kant and Hegel, if however in a “metacritical approach.”

Why “metacritical?” Because in the Rousseauian tradition followed by Kant and Hegel, there remains the possibility of a theoretical affirmation and justification of society as being free already, where it would need to become free through radical transformation. Hence the peculiarity of “critical theory” in Marx. According to Feenberg, it was necessary for Marx to transcend the post-Rousseauian “utilitarian” framework of maximizing happiness through addressing “true needs.” For Feenberg, Marx overcomes the “split between reason and need,” or between freedom and necessity, precisely because freedom is understood by Marx as the transformation of necessity 윈도우 xp 서비스팩3. Marx thus followed upon the most radical implications of Rousseauian recognition of “second nature.”

This bears on the centrality of the problem of “technology” in capitalist utilitarianism, which is subject to a precipitous lowering or narrowing of horizons through concern with needs that are falsely naturalized: what is “second nature,” a social product, is mistaken for “first nature,” or what Marx considered a “false necessity.” Such critique of ideology is how Marx overcame the potential conservative implications of how Kant and Hegel regarded “necessary forms of appearance” of social reality. Social practices such as those reified in “technology” seem responsive to necessities that can actually be transformed.

For Feenberg, there is a recurrent problem of neglect but also a red thread of rediscovery of this problem from Marx up to the present, with Lukács and the Frankfurt School providing key moments for recovery along the way.

This is a problem specific to capitalism precisely because of the centrality of labor. Marxism’s point of departure was to regard capital not as a “thing” in terms of the means of production or as “technology” but rather as a social relation, specifically as a social relation of the commodity form of labor Download Nintendo Diablo 3. Marx regarded capital as labor’s own product in order to demystify the capitalist estrangement of social relations in technologized production. What Marx called the “capitalist mode of production” was a “contradiction” between the “bourgeois social relations” of production in labor and their unrealized potential beyond themselves, or “industrial forces” that had yet to be mastered socially — that is, politically.

The danger lay in accepting false limits to politics seemingly imposed by technology which poses “nature” as static where it is actually the existing social relations that are recalcitrant obstacles to be overcome.

However, capitalism is not only a problem of false static appearance, but also a “reified” or self-alienated dynamic, in which concrete practices or “technologies” change, but without adequate social-political awareness and agency 인터뷰. This is why the dynamics of technical change and its invidious social effects appear deus ex machina (literally a theodicy for Heidegger; techne as a god), and why it makes sense at all to characterize the problem in Marx’s terms as capital-ism. It is not a problem of “capitalist-ism,” that is, a problem of society subject to the greed and narrow interests of the capitalists, but rather a deeper and more endemic problem of overall participation in social practice.

This brings us back to the original Rousseauian problem of society and political sovereignty: the unlimited, free development both collectively and individually that Rousseau apotheosized in the “general will.” What does it mean, following Marx, that the “general will” appears in the form of “capital,” and, in the 20th century, in the even more alienated form as the imperative of “technology?” It means that the problem of capitalism deepened, and social freedom became even more obscure opengl 4.5 다운로드.

Feenberg provides an important Appendix to his book that addresses the history of Marxism as a phenomenon of this problem. There, Feenberg discusses the issue of Lukács’s “self-identical subject object” of the proletariat in the form of the Communist Party. For Feenberg, Lukács followed both Luxemburg and Lenin’s approaches to the problem of political party and social change. In Feenberg’s formulation, for Lukács, following Lenin and Luxemburg, the political party for proletarian socialism, or the Communist Party, was not only or even especially the “subject” but was at least as if not more importantly the “object” of the working class’s political action in trying to overcome capitalism.

In this sense, the problem of “reification” was not merely an economic or even “political-economic” problem (in the sense of the workers versus the capitalists), but was indeed first and foremost for Lukács a problem of politics Download the Software from Korea University. The party was objectified political practice. The question was its critical recognition as such. What had motivated Lukács’s recovery of Marx’s original point of departure, what Feenberg calls the “deontological grounds for revolution,” was precisely the phenomenon of how Marxism itself had become reified and thus went into political crisis by the time of WWI and the revolution — the civil war in Marxism — that had followed in Russia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, etc. It was Lukács’s attempt to explain the underlying problem of that crisis in which Luxemburg and Lenin had been the protagonists that led to his rediscovery of Marx, specifically in the form of the “subjective,” “conscious” or “Hegelian” dimension of Marxism that had fallen out as Marxism had degenerated or become “vulgarized” as a form of objectivistic economic determinism. The crisis of Marxism had led Lukács following Lenin and Luxemburg to a rediscovery of the potential for freedom concealed in capitalism.

The subsequent reification of Marxist politics in Stalinism presented a new problem that the Frankfurt School following Lukács had tried to address. This was paralleled by others, according to Feenberg, such as Merleau-Ponty and Lucien Goldmann. There were problems and some stumbles along the way, however, as Feenberg addresses in discussing the recently translated and published (2011) conversation in 1956 between Horkheimer and Adorno regarding the crisis of official Communism in Khrushchev’s (partial and abortive) attempt at de-Stalinization, which Feenberg finds them to have failed to adequately pursue, an opening only taken up by the 1960s New Left, encouraged not by Adorno and Horkheimer but rather by Marcuse (167–171).

Thus the New Left was another such moment of recovery for Feenberg, motivating an attempted further development of Marxist Critical Theory under changed historical conditions of society and politics. Feenberg’s book, both in its original and its newly revised form, is an ongoing testament to that moment and its continued tasks up to the present. | §

Postscript on party politics

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 72 | December 2014 – January 2015

Coda to “What is political party for Marxism? Democratic revolution and the contradiction of capital: On Mike Macnair’s Revolutionary Strategy (2008),” The Platypus Review 71 (November 2014) 김어준 파파이스 다운로드. Originally published in abridged form as a letter in Weekly Worker 1035 (November 20, 2014).

The Frankfurt School of the 1930s recognized that the two historic constituencies of revolutionary politics, the masses and the party, had failed: the masses had led to fascism; and the party had led to Stalinism.

Trotsky had remarked, in his History of the Russian Revolution (1930), on the “interference of the masses in historical events:” “Whether this is good or bad we leave to the judgment of moralists.”

The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events 몬스터 헌터 4 다운로드. In ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business — kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new régime Download office 365 students. Whether this is good or bad we leave to the judgment of moralists. We ourselves will take the facts as they are given by the objective course of development. The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny 더 킹오브 파이터즈 98.

But, as Lenin had written in What is to be Done? (1902), this was not a spontaneous development but rather such apparent “spontaneity” could be explained by the prior history of the workers’ movement for socialism. The Russian Revolution had broken out on International Women’s Day, a working class holiday invented by Marxists in the socialist parties of the Second International Free download of Jurassic World Fallon Kingdom.

Trotsky wrote, in “Stalinism and Bolshevism” (1937), that Bolshevism was “only a political tendency closely fused with the working class but not identical with it” and had “never identified itself with either the October Revolution or the Soviet state that issued from it.”

Bolshevism considered itself as one of the factors of history, its “Conscious” factor — a very important but not decisive one. We never sinned on historical subjectivism. We saw the decisive factor — on the existing basis of productive forces — in the class struggle, not only on a national scale but on an international scale Apgujeong Midnight.

So, what was political party for Marxists such as Trotsky, Lenin and Luxemburg? It was one part of a differentiated whole of society and its political struggles, a political form that allowed for conscious participation in all the variety of arenas for politics that had developed in capitalism: parliaments, labor unions, mass strikes and their councils, and popular assemblies including workers’ councils for revolutionary governance. However, as a political form — as Andrew Feenberg has pointed out, in The Philosophy of Praxis (2014), about Lukács’s account of the articulation of theory and practice in Bolshevism in History and Class Consciousness and related writings — the party was not only or even especially a subject, but also, and perhaps most importantly, an object of political action whl 파일 다운로드. It fell to Trotsky, in the aftermath of the failure of Bolshevism, to attempt to sustain this Marxist concept of political form, against Stalinism’s liquidation of politics in the USSR and in the international Communist movement.

In this, Trotsky followed Lenin and Luxemburg as well as Marx and Engels. Trotsky followed Marx in regarding both Stalinism and fascism — as well as FDR New Deal-ism — as forms of the Bonapartist state Download ted subtitles. The death of the Left as a political force is signaled by its shying away from and anathematizing the political party for social transformation — revolution — not only in anarchism and “Left communist” notions of politics without parties, but most of all in the long and pervasive, if largely unrecognized, Stalinist inheritance that justifies the party only by identifying it with the people, which puts an end to politics, including political consciousness. What Dick Howard, following Marx, warns of the “anti-political” crisis of politics in capitalism expressed by Bonapartism, is this unmediated identification of politics with society, whether through the subordination of society or the liquidation of the party in the state, all in the name of quieting the inherent instability of politics, which society in its crisis of capitalism cannot afford Steam around the world.

For, as Marx recognized in the aftermath of failed revolution in 1848, Bonapartism was not only undemocratic liberalism, unbridled capitalism without political accountability to society, but was also the state run amok, dominating society, and with a great deal of popular support — for instance by what Marx called the “lumpenproletariat,” an example of the reduction of society to a politically undifferentiated mass, the very opposite of what Marx considered the necessary “class consciousness” of the proletariat. This is why Trotsky rightly regarded Stalinism as the “antithesis” of Bolshevism.

Stalinism’s suppression of politics in the Marxist sense was not only undemocratic but also popular, both in the USSR and internationally 셜록홈즈 시즌 1. It was borne of the same social and thus political crisis in capitalism. Stalinism was not the cause but was an effect of the failure of politics in capitalism. We still need to try to overcome this problem of capitalism by constituting it through the inherently dangerous game of party politics. | §

Originally published in The Platypus Review 72 (December 2014 – January 2015).

What is political party for Marxism?

Democratic revolution and the contradiction of capital

On Mike Macnair’s Revolutionary Strategy (London: November Publications, 2008)

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 71 | November 2014

Mike Macnair’s Revolutionary Strategy is a wide-ranging, comprehensive and very thorough treatment of the problem of revolutionary politics and the struggle for socialism. His focus is the question of political party and it is perhaps the most substantial attempt recently to address this problem.

Macnair’s initial motivation was engagement with the debates in and around the French Fourth International Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire prior to its forming the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste electoral party in 2009. The other major context for the discussion was the Iraq anti-war movement and the U.K. Respect electoral party, which was formed around this in 2004, with the Socialist Workers Party driving the process. This raised issues not only of political party, democracy and the state, but also united fronts among socially and politically heterogeneous groups and the issue of imperialism. One key contribution by Macnair to the latter discussion is to raise and call attention to the difference between Bukharin’s and Lenin’s writings on imperialism, in which the former attributed the failure of (metropolitan) workers’ organization around imperialism to a specifically political compromise with the (national) state, whereas Lenin had, in his famous 1916 pamphlet, characterized this in terms of compromised “economic” interest. So with imperialism the question is the political party and the state.

Macnair observes that there are at least two principal phases of the party question: from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries; and beginning in the middle of the 19th century. He relates these phases to the development of the problem of the state. He offers that constitutional government involves the development of the “party state” and that revolutionary politics takes its leave of such a “party state” (which includes multiple parties all supporting the constitutional regime). Furthermore, Macnair locates this problem properly as one of the nation-state within the greater economic and political system of capitalism. By conflating the issue of government with “rule of law,” however, Macnair mistakes the contradiction of the modern state and its politics in capitalism.

Elsewhere, Macnair has criticized sectarian “Marxism” for “theoretical overkill” in a “philosophy trap.” But he might thus mistake effect for cause: “philosophical” questions might be the expression of a trap in which one is nonetheless caught; and Marxist “theory” might go beyond today’s practical political concerns. Philosophy may not be the trap in which we are caught but rather an expression of our attempts—merely—to think our way out of it. The mismatch of Marxism today at the level of “theoretical” or “philosophical” issues might point to a historical disparity or inadequacy: we may have fallen below past thresholds and horizons of Marxism. The issue of political party may be one that we would need to re-attain rather than immediately confront in the present. Hence, “strategy” in terms of Marxism may not be the political issue now that it once was. This means that where past Marxists might appear to be in error it may actually be our fault, or, a fault in the present situation. How can the history of Marxism help us address this?

New politics

The key to this issue can be found in Macnair’s own distinction of the new phenomenon of party politics in the late 19th century, after the revolutions of 1848 and in the era of what Marx called “Bonapartism,” the pattern set by Louis Bonaparte, who became Napoleon III in the French Second Empire, with its emulation by Bismarck in the Prussian Empire, as well as Disraeli’s Tories in the U.K., among other examples. While Macnair finds some precedent for this in the 18th century U.K. and its political crises as well as in the course of the Great French Revolution 1789-1815 especially regarding Napoleon Bonaparte, the difference of the late 19th century party-politics from prior historical precedence is important to specify. For Macnair it is the world system of capitalism and its undermining of democracy.

It is important to recall Marx’s formulation, in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, that (neo-)Bonapartism was the historical condition in which the bourgeoisie could “no longer” and the proletariat “not yet” rule politically the modern society of capitalism countdown sound. Bonapartism was the symptom of this crisis of capitalism and hence of the need for socialism revealed by the unprecedented failure of revolution in 1848—by contrast with 1830 as well as 1789 and 1776 and the Dutch Revolt and English Civil War of the 17th century. The bourgeoisie’s “ruling” character was not a legal-constitutional system of government descended from the 17th century political and social revolutions in Holland and England so much as it was a form of civil society, a revolutionary system of bourgeois social relations that was supposed to subordinate the state. What requires explanation is the 19th century slipping of the state from adequate social control, and its “rising above” the contending political groups and social classes, as a power in itself. Even if Bonapartism in Marx’s late 19th century sense was the expression of a potential inherent in the forms of bourgeois politics emerging much earlier, there is still the question of why it was not realized so until after 1848. There is also the matter of why Marx characterized Louis Napoleon as a “lesser” and “farcical” phenomenon of post-1848 history by contrast with Napoleon Bonaparte’s “tragedy” in the Great Revolution. It was not the mere fact of repetition, but why and how history “repeated itself,” and repeated with a difference.

This was according to Marx the essential condition for politics after 1848, the condition for political parties in capitalism. That condition was not only or primarily a matter of politics due to constitutional legal forms of bourgeois property and its social relations, but rather was for Marx the expression of the crisis of those forms as a function of the Industrial Revolution. There was for Marx an important contradiction between the democratic revolution and the proletarianization of society in capitalism.

Macnair addresses this by specifying the “proletariat” as all those in society “dependent on the total wage fund”—as opposed to those (presumably) dependent upon “capital.” This is clearly not a matter of economics, because distinguishing between those depending on wages as opposed to capital is a political matter of differentiation: all the intermediate strata depending on both the wage fund and capital would need to be compelled to take sides in any political dispute between the prerogatives of wages versus capital. Macnair addresses this through the struggle for democracy. But this does not pursue the contradiction far enough. For the wage fund according to Marx is a form of capital: it is “variable” as opposed to “constant capital.” So the proletarianization of society according to Marx is not addressed adequately as a matter of the condition of labor, but rather the social dependence on and domination by capital. And capital for Marx is not synonymous with the private property in the means of production belonging to the capitalists, but rather the relation of wages, or the resources for the reproduction of labor-power (including the “means of consumption”), to society as a whole. This is what makes it a political matter—a matter of politics in society—rather than merely the struggle of one group against another.

Macnair characterizes the theory of Marxism specifically as one that recognizes the necessity of those dependent upon the wage fund per se to overcome capitalism; he characterizes the struggle for this as the struggle for democracy, with the adequate horizon of this as “communism” at a global scale, as opposed to “socialism” which may be confined to the internal politics of individual nation-states. Macnair points out that the working class is necessarily in the “vanguard” of such struggle for adequate social democratization insofar as it comes up against the condition of capitalism negatively, as a problem to be overcome. The working class is thus defined “negatively” with respect to the social conditions to be overcome rather than “positively” according to its activity, its concrete labor in society. The goal is to change the conditions for political participation as well as economic activity in society.

Class and history

Conventionally, Marxists have distinguished among political parties on their “class basis,” regarding various parties as “representing” different class groups: “bourgeois,” “petit bourgeois” and “proletarian.” This is complicated by classic characterizations such as that by Lenin of the U.K Download The Red Dragon Majestic. Labour Party as a “bourgeois workers’ party.” Furthermore, there has been the bedeviling question of what is included in the “petite bourgeoisie.” But Marxists (such as Lenin) did not define politics “sociologically” but rather historically: as representing not the interests of members of various groups but rather different “ideological” horizons of politics and for the transformation of society. So, for instance, what made the Socialist Revolutionaries in the Russian Revolution of 1917 “represent” the peasants was not so much their positions on agrarian matters as the “petit bourgeois” horizon of politics they shared with the peasants as petty proprietors. SRs were not necessarily themselves petty proprietors—they were like Lenin “petit bourgeois intellectuals” —but rather had in common with the peasants a form of discontent with capitalism, but one “ideologically” hemmed in by what Marxism regarded a limited horizon.

In Marx’s (in)famous phrase from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, the peasants as a group, as a “petit bourgeois” “sack of potatoes” of smallholders, could not “represent themselves” but must rather “be represented”—as they were, according to Marx, by Louis Bonaparte’s Second Empire’s succeeding the counterrevolutionary Party of Order in 1848. Marx called attention to the issue of how representation functioned in the politics of capitalism. Likewise, “bourgeois” parties were not so much pro-capitalist as much as they sought to manage the problems of capitalism from a certain historical perspective: that of “capital.” This was the horizon of their politics; whereas “petit bourgeois” parties were concerned with the perspective of smaller property holdings; and “workers parties” that of wage-labor. To be a “bourgeois workers’ party” such as Labour in the U.K. meant to represent the horizon of wage-labor in terms compatible with (especially but not exclusively U.K. “national”) capital. This was the character of ideology and political action—“consciousness”—which was not reducible to, let alone determined by, economic interest of a particular concrete social group.

So, various political parties as well as different political forms represented different historical horizons for discontents within capitalism. For Marxists, only “proletarian socialist” politics could represent adequately the problem—the crisis and contradiction—of capitalism. Others ideologically obscured it. A “bourgeois workers’ party” would be a phenomenon of “Bonapartism” insofar as “nature abhors a vacuum” and it filled the space evacuated by the failure of bourgeois politics while also falling short of the true historical horizon of the political tasks of proletarian socialism. It was a phenomenon of the contradiction of capitalism in a particular way—as were all political parties from a Marxist perspective.

There are great merits and significant clarity to Macnair’s approach to the problem of politics in capitalism and what it would require to transcend this.

The issue, though, is his taking as a norm the parliamentary system of government in the European mode and thus neglecting the U.S. constitutional system. For at issue is the potential disparity and antagonism between legislative and executive authority, or between the law and its enforcement. The American system of “checks and balances” was meant to uphold liberal democracy and prevent the tyranny of either the executive or the legislative (or the judicial) aspects of government. There is an important domain of political struggle already, between executive and legislative authority, and this would affect any struggle to transform politics 왕좌의 게임 시즌 1. The question is the source of this antagonism. It is not merely formal. If the “separation of powers” in the U.S. Constitutional system has served undemocratic ends, it is not essentially because it was intended to do so. The problem of adequate and proper democratic authority in society is not reducible to the issue of purported “mob rule.” Any form of government could be perverted to serve capitalism. So the issue is indeed one of politics as such, the social content of or what informs any form of political authority.

“Party of the new type”?

Macnair notes potential deficits and inadequacies in the Third Communist International’s endorsement of “soviet” or “workers’ council” government, with its attempt to overcome the difference between legislative and executive authority, which seems to reproduce the problem Macnair finds in parliamentary government. For him, executive authority eludes responsibility in the same way that capitalist private property eludes the law constitutionally. This is the source of Macnair’s conflation of liberalism and Bonapartism, as if the problem of capitalism merely played out in terms of liberalism rather than contradicting it. Liberal democracy should not be conceived as the constitutional limit on democracy demanded by capitalist private property. The “democratic republic” Macnair calls for by contrast should not be conceived as the opposite of liberal democracy. For capitalism does not only contradict the democratic republic but also liberal democracy, leading to Bonapartism, or, illiberal democracy.

Dick Howard, in The Specter of Democracy has usefully investigated Marx’s original formulations on the problem of politics and capitalism, tracing these back to the origins of modern democracy in the American and French Revolutions of the 18th century, specifying the problem in common between (American) “republican democracy” and (French) “democratic republicanism.” Howard finds in both antinomical forms of modern democracy the danger of “anti-politics,” or of society eluding adequate political expression and direction, to which either democratic authority or liberalism can lead. Howard looks to Marx as a specifically political thinker on this problem to suggest the direction that struggle against it must take. Socialism for Marx in Howard’s view would fulfill the potential that has been otherwise limited by both republican democracy and democratic republicanism—or by both liberalism and socialism.

Macnair equates communism with democratic republicanism and thus treats it as a goal to be achieved and a norm to be realized. Moreover, he thinks that this goal can only be achieved by the practice of democratic republicanism in the present: the political party for communism must exemplify democratic republicanism in practice, as an alternative to the politics of the “party-state” in capitalism.

Marx, by contrast, addressed communism as merely the “next step” and a “one-sided negation” of capitalism rather than as the end goal of emancipation: it is not the opposite of capitalism in the sense of an undialectical antithesis but rather an expression of it. Indeed, for Marx, communism would be the completion and fulfillment of capitalism, and not in terms of one or some aspects over others but rather in and through its central self-contradiction, which is political as well as economic, or, “political-economic.”

What this requires is recognizing the non-identity of various aspects of capitalism as bound up in and part and parcel of the process of capitalism’s potential transformation into communism. For example, the non-identity of law (as legislated), its (judicial) interpretation, and (executive) enforcement, or, the non-identity of civil society and the state, as expressed by the specific phenomenon of modern political parties. States are compulsory; political parties are voluntary, civil society formations. And governments are not identical with legislatures. Politics as conditioned by capitalism could provide the means but cannot already embody the ends of transforming capitalism through communism. If communism is to be pursued, as Macnair argues, by the means of democratic republicanism, then we must recognize what has become of the democratic revolution in capitalism. It has not been merely corrupted and degraded but rather rendered self-contradictory, which is a different matter. The concrete manifestations of democracy in capitalism are not only opportunist compromises but also struggles to assert politics Download youtube history.

Symptomatic socialism

The history of the movement for socialism or communism generally and of Marxism in particular demonstrates the problem of capitalism through symptomatic phenomena of attempts to overcome it. This is not a history of trials and errors but rather of discontents and exemplary forms of politics, borne of the crisis of capitalism as it has been experienced through various phases, none of which have been superseded entirely.

Lenin and Trotsky were careful to avoid, as Trotsky put it, in The Lesson of October (1924), the “fetishizing” of the soviet or workers’ council form of politics and (revolutionary) government. Rather, Marxists addressed this as an emergent phenomenon of a specific phase of history, one which they sought to advance through the proletarian socialist revolution. But, according to Lenin, in “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, the soviet form did not mean that preceding historical forms of politics, for instance parliaments and trade unions, had been superseded in terms of being left behind. Indeed, it was precisely the failure of the world proletarian socialist—communist—revolution of 1917-19 that necessitated a “retreat” and reconsideration of perspectives and political prognoses. Certain forms and arenas of political struggle had come and gone. But, according to Lenin and Trotsky, the political party for communism remained indispensable. What did they mean by this?

Lenin and Trotsky meant something other than what Rosa Luxemburg’s biographer J.P. Nettl called the “inheritor party” or “state within the state” exemplified by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as the flagship party of the Second International. The social-democratic party was not intended by Luxemburg, Lenin or Trotsky to be the democratic republican alternative to capitalism. They did not aim to replace one constitutional party-state with another. Or at least they did not intend so beyond the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” which was meant to rapidly transition out of capitalism to socialism. Beyond that, a qualitative development was envisioned, beyond “bourgeois right” and its forms of social relations—and of politics. “Communism” remained the essential horizon of potential transformation.

One key distinction that Macnair elides in his account is the development of bourgeois social relations within pre-bourgeois civilization that will not be replicated by the struggle for socialism: socialism does not develop within capitalism so much as the proletariat represents the potential negation of bourgeois social relations that has developed within capitalism. The proletariat is a phenomenon of crisis in the existing society, not the exemplar of the new society. Socialism is not meant to be a proletarian society but rather its overcoming. Capitalism is already a proletarianized society. Hence, Bonapartism as the manifestation of the need for the proletariat to rule politically that has been abandoned by the bourgeoisie. Bonapartism is not a form of politics but rather an indication of the failure of politics. Marxism investigates that failure and its historical significance 디비전 2. The dictatorship of the proletariat will be the “highest” and most acute form of Bonapartism, but one that intends to immediately begin to overcome itself, or “wither away.”

The proletariat aims to abolish itself as a class not simply by abolishing the capitalist class as its complementary opposite expression of the self-contradiction and crisis of capitalism. This is why Marx recognized the persistence of “bourgeois right” in any “dictatorship of the proletariat” and down into the transition to socialism in its “first stage.” Bourgeois right would overcome itself through its crisis and self-contradiction, which the dictatorship of the proletariat would “advance” and not immediately transcend. The dictatorship of the proletariat or “(social-)democratic republic” would be the form in which the struggle to overcome capitalism would first be able to take place politically.

Macnair confuses the proletariat’s struggle for self-abolition in socialism with the bourgeois—that is, modern urban plebeian—struggle for the democratic republic. He ignores the self-contradiction of this struggle in capitalism: that capitalism has reproduced itself in and through crisis, and indeed through revolution, through a process of “creative destruction” (Schumpeter) in which the bourgeois revolution has re-posed itself, but resulting in the re-proletarianization of society, the reconstitution of wage labor under changed concrete conditions. This has taken place not only or perhaps even primarily through economic or political-economic crises and struggles, but through specifically political crises and struggles, through the recurrence of the democratic revolution. The proletariat cannot either make society in the image of itself or abolish itself immediately. It can only seek to lead the democratic revolution—hopefully—beyond itself.

Liberalism and socialism

The problem with liberal democracy is that it proceeds as if the democratic revolution has been achieved already, and ignores that capitalism has undermined it. Capitalism makes the democratic revolution both necessary and impossible, in that the democratic revolution constitutes bourgeois social relations — the relations of the exchange of labor—but capitalism undermines those social relations. The democratic revolution reproduces not “capitalism” as some stable system (which, by Marx’s definition, it cannot be) but rather the crisis of bourgeois society in capitalism, in a political, and hence in a potentially conscious way. The democratic revolution reconstitutes the crisis of capitalism in a manifestly political way, and this is why it can possibly point beyond it, if it is recognized as such: if the struggle for democracy is recognized properly as a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism and hence the need to go beyond bourgeois social relations, to go beyond democracy. Bourgeois forms of politics will be overcome through advancing them to their limits—in crisis.

The crisis of capitalism means that the forms of bourgeois politics are differentiated: they express the crisis and disintegration of bourgeois social relations. They also manifest the accumulation of past attempts at mediating bourgeois social relations in and through the crisis of capitalism. This is why the formal problems of politics will not go away, even if they are transformed. The issue is one of recognizing this historical accumulation of political problems in capitalism, and of grasping adequately how these forms are symptomatic of the development—or lack thereof—of the politics of the struggle for socialism in and through these forms. For example, Occupy, which took place after the writing of Macnair’s book, clearly is not an advance in politically effective form. But it is symptomatic of our present historical moment, and so must be grappled with as such Download the travel icon. It must be grasped as an endemic phenomenon, a “necessary form of appearance” of the problem of capitalism in the present, and not treated merely as an accidental and hence avoidable error.

Macnair’s preferred target of critical investigation is the “mass strike” and related “workers’ council” or “soviet” form. But this did not exist in isolation: its limits were not its own but rather also an expression of the limits of labor unions and parliamentary government as well as of political parties in the early 20th century. For Macnair the early Third or Communist International become a blind alley, proven by its failure. But its problems cannot be thus settled and resolved so summarily or as easily as that.

If Occupy has failed it has done so without manifesting the political problem of capitalism as acutely as the soviet or workers’ council form of revolutionary politics did circa 1917, precisely because Occupy did not manifest, as the soviets did, a crisis of parliamentary democracy, labor union organization and political party formation, as the workers’ council form did in the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the German Revolution of 1918-19 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1919 as well as the crisis in Italy beginning in 1919, and elsewhere in that historical moment and subsequently (e.g., in the British General Strike of 1926 and the Chinese Revolution of 1927). Indeed, Occupy might be regarded as an attempt to avoid certain problems, through what post-New Leftists such as Alain Badiou have affirmed as “politics at a distance from the state,” that nonetheless imposed themselves, and with a vengeance—see Egypt as the highest expression of the “Arab Spring.” Occupy evinced a mixture of liberal and anarchist discontents—a mixture of labor union and “direct democracy” popular-assembly politics. The problem of 20th century Third (and Fourth) International politics, regarding contemporaneous and inherited forms of the mass strike (and its councils), labor unions and political parties, expressed the interrelated problems accumulated from different prior historical moments of the preceding 19th century (in 1830, 1848, and 1871, etc.), all of which needed to be worked through and within, together, along with the fundamental bourgeois political form of (the struggle for) the democratic republic—which Kant among others (liberals) already recognized in the 18th century as an issue of a necessary “world state” (or at least a world “system of states”)—not achievable within national confines.

Redeeming history

Political forms are sustained practices; they are embodied history. Because none of the forms emerging in the capitalist era—since the early to mid-19th century—has existed without the others, they must all be considered together, as mediating (the crisis of) capitalism at various levels, rather than in opposition to one another. Furthermore, these forms do not merely instantiate the bourgeois society that must be overcome—in a reified view—but rather mediate its crisis in capitalism, and inevitably so.

History cannot be regarded as a catalogue of errors to be avoided, but must be regarded, however critically, as a resource informing the present, whether or not adequately consciously. If past historical problems repeat themselves, they do not do so literally but with a difference. The question is the significance of that difference. It cannot be regarded as itself progressive. Indeed the difference often expresses the degradation of a problem. One cannot avoid either the repetition or the difference in capitalist history. An adequate “proletarian socialist” party would immediately push beyond prior historical limits. That is how it could both manifest and advance the contradiction in capitalism.

History, according to Adorno (following Benjamin), is the “demand for redemption.” This is because history is not an accumulation of facts but rather a form of past action continuing in the present. Historical action was transformative and is again to be transformed in the present: we transform past action through continuing to act on it in the present. No past action continues untransformed. The question is the (re-)direction and continuing transformation of that action. Thinking is a way, too, of transforming past action Download Katsuo Human Weapon.

Political party is not a dead form, but rather lives in ways dependent at least in part on how we think of it. The need for political party for the Left today is a demand to redeem past action in the present. We can do so more or less well, and not only as a function of quantity but also of quality. Can we receive the task of past politics revealed by Marxism as it is ramified down to the present? Can the Left sustain its action in time; can it be a form of politics?

Marxism never offered a wholly new or distinct form of political action, but only sought to affect—consciously—forms of politics already underway. Examples of this include: Chartism; labor unions (whether according to trade or industry); Lassalle’s political party of the “permanent campaign of the working class;” the Paris Commune; the “mass” or “general strike;” and “workers’ councils.” But not only these: also, the parliament or congress, as well as the sovereign executive with prerogative. These are all descended to us as forms not merely of political action and political struggle over that action, but also and especially of revolution, revolutionary change in society in the modern, bourgeois epoch.

One thing is certain regarding the history of the 19th and 20th centuries as legacy, now in the 21st century: since the politics of the state has not gone away, neither has the question of political party. We must accept forms of revolutionary politics as they have come down to us historically. But that does not mean inheriting the forms of state and party as given but rather transforming them—in revolution. Capitalism is a social crisis that calls forth political action. The only questions are how and why—with what consciousness and with what goal?

If social and political crisis—revolution—has up to now given us only more capitalism, then we need to accept that—and think of how communism could be the result of revolutionary politics in capitalism. Again, as Marx and the best Marxism once did: we need to accept the task of redeeming history.

The difference Macnair observes, between the political party formations of the early original bourgeois era of the 17th and 18th centuries and in the crisis of capitalism manifesting circa 1848 (including prior Chartism in Britain), is key to the fundamental political question of Marxism as well as of proletarian socialism more broadly (for instance in anarcho-syndicalism)—as symptoms of history. There is not a static problem but rather a dynamic of the historical process that is moreover regressive in its repetition in difference. Marxism once sought to be conscious of the difference, and so should we. | §

Postscript on party politics

Platypus Review 72 | December 2014 – January 2015

Originally published in abridged form as a letter in Weekly Worker 1035 (November 20, 2014).

The Frankfurt School of the 1930s recognized that the two historic constituencies of revolutionary politics, the masses and the party, had failed: the masses had led to fascism; and the party had led to Stalinism.

Trotsky had remarked, in his History of the Russian Revolution (1930), on the “interference of the masses in historical events:” “Whether this is good or bad we leave to the judgment of moralists.”

The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events. In ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business — kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new régime 웹 동영상. Whether this is good or bad we leave to the judgment of moralists. We ourselves will take the facts as they are given by the objective course of development. The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny.

But, as Lenin had written in What is to be Done? (1902), this was not a spontaneous development but rather such apparent “spontaneity” could be explained by the prior history of the workers’ movement for socialism. The Russian Revolution had broken out on International Women’s Day, a working class holiday invented by Marxists in the socialist parties of the Second International.

Trotsky wrote, in “Stalinism and Bolshevism” (1937), that Bolshevism was “only a political tendency closely fused with the working class but not identical with it” and had “never identified itself with either the October Revolution or the Soviet state that issued from it.”

Bolshevism considered itself as one of the factors of history, its “Conscious” factor — a very important but not decisive one. We never sinned on historical subjectivism. We saw the decisive factor — on the existing basis of productive forces — in the class struggle, not only on a national scale but on an international scale.

So, what was political party for Marxists such as Trotsky, Lenin and Luxemburg? It was one part of a differentiated whole of society and its political struggles, a political form that allowed for conscious participation in all the variety of arenas for politics that had developed in capitalism: parliaments, labor unions, mass strikes and their councils, and popular assemblies including workers’ councils for revolutionary governance. However, as a political form — as Andrew Feenberg has pointed out, in The Philosophy of Praxis (2014), about Lukács’s account of the articulation of theory and practice in Bolshevism in History and Class Consciousness and related writings — the party was not only or even especially a subject, but also, and perhaps most importantly, an object of political action. It fell to Trotsky, in the aftermath of the failure of Bolshevism, to attempt to sustain this Marxist concept of political form, against Stalinism’s liquidation of politics in the USSR and in the international Communist movement.

In this, Trotsky followed Lenin and Luxemburg as well as Marx and Engels. Trotsky followed Marx in regarding both Stalinism and fascism — as well as FDR New Deal-ism — as forms of the Bonapartist state. The death of the Left as a political force is signaled by its shying away from and anathematizing the political party for social transformation — revolution — not only in anarchism and “Left communist” notions of politics without parties, but most of all in the long and pervasive, if largely unrecognized, Stalinist inheritance that justifies the party only by identifying it with the people, which puts an end to politics, including political consciousness. What Dick Howard, following Marx, warns of the “anti-political” crisis of politics in capitalism expressed by Bonapartism, is this unmediated identification of politics with society, whether through the subordination of society or the liquidation of the party in the state, all in the name of quieting the inherent instability of politics, which society in its crisis of capitalism cannot afford.

For, as Marx recognized in the aftermath of failed revolution in 1848, Bonapartism was not only undemocratic liberalism, unbridled capitalism without political accountability to society, but was also the state run amok, dominating society, and with a great deal of popular support — for instance by what Marx called the “lumpenproletariat,” an example of the reduction of society to a politically undifferentiated mass, the very opposite of what Marx considered the necessary “class consciousness” of the proletariat. This is why Trotsky rightly regarded Stalinism as the “antithesis” of Bolshevism.

Stalinism’s suppression of politics in the Marxist sense was not only undemocratic but also popular, both in the USSR and internationally. It was borne of the same social and thus political crisis in capitalism. Stalinism was not the cause but was an effect of the failure of politics in capitalism 보이스3 10회 다운로드. We still need to try to overcome this problem of capitalism by constituting it through the inherently dangerous game of party politics. | §

Originally published in The Platypus Review 71 and 72 (November and December 2014 – January 2015).


Bibliography: (PR=Platypus Review; WW=Weekly Worker)

Cutrone, Chris. “Capital in history” PR 7 (October 2008) http://platypus1917.org/2008/10/01/capital-in-history-the-need-for-a-marxian-philosophy-of-history-of-the-left/.

Cutrone, Chris “1917” PR 17 (November 2009) http://platypus1917.org/2009/11/18/the-decline-of-the-left-in-the-20th-century-1917/.

Cutrone, Chris. “The Marxist hypothesis” PR 29 (November 2010) http://platypus1917.org/2010/11/06/the-marxist-hypothesis-a-response-to-alain-badous-communist-hypothesis/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Egypt, or, history’s invidious comparisons: 1979, 1789, and 1848” PR 33 (March 2011) http://platypus1917.org/2011/03/01/egypt-or-historys-invidious-comparisons-1979-1789-and-1848/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Lenin’s liberalism” PR 36 (June 2011) http://platypus1917.org/2011/06/01/lenins-liberalism/.

Cutrone, Chris. “The philosophy of history” WW 869 (June 9, 2011) http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/869/the-philosophy-of-history/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Defending Marxist Hegelianism” WW 878 (August 10, 2011) http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/878/defending-marxist-hegelianism-against-a-marxist-cr/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Lenin’s politics” PR 40 (October 2011) http://platypus1917.org/2011/09/25/lenins-politics/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Whither Marxism?” PR 41 (November 2011) http://platypus1917.org/2011/11/01/whither-marxism/.

Cutrone, Chris. “1873-1973: The century of Marxism” PR 47 (June 2012) http://platypus1917.org/2012/06/07/1873-1973-the-century-of-marxism/.

Cutrone, Chris. “The relevance of Lenin today” WW 922 (July 12, 2012) http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/922/the-relevance-of-lenin-today/; and PR 48 (July-August 2012) http://platypus1917.org/2012/07/01/the-relevance-of-lenin-today/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Class consciousness (from a Marxist perspective) today” PR 51 (November 2012) http://platypus1917.org/2012/11/01/class-consciousness-from-a-marxist-perspective-today/.

Cutrone, Chris. “Why still read Lukács?” WW 994 (January 23, 2014) http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/994/debate-why-still-read-lukacs/; unabridged version in PR 63 (February 2014) http://platypus1917.org/2014/02/01/why-still-read-lukacs-the-place-of-philosophical-questions-in-marxism/.

Cutrone et al. “Revolutionary politics and thought” PR 69 (September 2014) http://platypus1917.org/2014/09/05/revolutionary-politics-thought-2/ Alchemy.

Adorno, Theodor. “Reflections on class theory” [1942], in Can One Live after Auschwitz?: A philosophical reader, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Palo Alto, CA.: Stanford University Press, 2003).

Howard, Dick. The Specter of Democracy, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).

Nettl, J.P. “The German Social Democratic Party 1890-1914 as a Political Model,” Past and Present 30 (April 1965), 65-95.

Democratic revolution and the contradiction of capital

What is meant by a ‘democratic republic’? Chris Cutrone critiques Mike Macnair’s Revolutionary strategy

Originally published in Weekly Worker 1030 (October 16, 2014). [PDF]

Mike Macnair’s Revolutionary strategy (London 2008) is a wide-ranging, comprehensive and very thorough treatment of the problem of revolutionary politics and the struggle for socialism. His focus is the question of political party and it is perhaps the most substantial attempt recently to address this problem.Macnair’s initial motivation was engagement with the debates in and around the French Fourth International Trotskyist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire prior to its forming the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste electoral party in 2009. The other major context for the discussion was the Iraq anti-war movement and UK Respect electoral party, which was formed around this in 2004, with the Socialist Workers Party driving the process. This raised issues not only of political party, democracy and the state, but also united fronts among socially and politically heterogeneous groups and the issue of imperialism.

One key contribution by Macnair to the latter discussion is to raise and call attention to the difference between Bukharin’s and Lenin’s writings on imperialism, in which the former attributed the failure of (metropolitan) workers’ organisation around imperialism to a specifically political compromise with the (national) state, whereas Lenin had, in his famous 1916 pamphlet, characterised this in terms of compromised “economic” interest. So with imperialism the question is the political party and the state.

Macnair observes that there are at least two principal phases of the party question: from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries; and beginning in the middle of the 19th century. He relates these phases to the development of the problem of the state. He offers that constitutional government involves the development of the “party state” and that revolutionary politics takes its leave of such a “party state” (which includes multiple parties all supporting the constitutional regime). Furthermore, Macnair locates this problem properly as one of the nation-state within the greater economic and political system of capitalism. By conflating the issue of government with “rule of law”, however, Macnair mistakes the contradiction of the modern state and its politics in capitalism.

Elsewhere, Macnair has criticised sectarian Marxism for “theoretical overkill” in a “philosophy trap”.1 But he might thus mistake effect for cause: ‘philosophical’ questions might be the expression of a trap in which one is nonetheless caught; and Marxist ‘theory’ might go beyond today’s practical political concerns. Philosophy may not be the trap in which we are caught, but rather an expression of our attempts – merely – to think our way out of it. The mismatch of Marxism today at the level of ‘theoretical’ or ‘philosophical’ issues might point to a historical disparity or inadequacy: we may have fallen below past thresholds and horizons of Marxism. The issue of political party may be one that we would need to re-attain rather than immediately confront in the present. Hence, ‘strategy’ in terms of Marxism may not be the political issue now that it once was 빙과 1화 다운로드. This means that, where past Marxists might appear to be in error, it may actually be our fault – or a fault in the present situation. How can the history of Marxism help us address this?

New politics

The key to this issue can be found in Macnair’s own distinction of the new phenomenon of party politics in the late 19th century, after the revolutions of 1848 and in the era of what Marx called “Bonapartism” – the pattern set by Louis Bonaparte, who became Napoleon III in the French Second Empire, with its emulation by Bismarck in the Prussian empire, as well as Disraeli’s Tories in the UK, among other examples. While Macnair finds some precedent for this in the 18th century UK and its political crises, as well as in the course of the Great French Revolution 1789-1815, especially regarding Napoleon Bonaparte, the difference of the late 19th century party-politics from prior historical precedence is important to specify. For Macnair it is the world system of capitalism and its undermining of democracy.

It is important to recall Marx’s formulation, in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, that (neo-)Bonapartism was the historical condition in which the bourgeoisie could “no longer” and the proletariat “not yet” rule politically the modern society of capitalism.2 Bonapartism was the symptom of this crisis of capitalism and hence of the need for socialism revealed by the unprecedented failure of revolution in 1848 – by contrast with 1830, as well as 1789 and 1776, and the Dutch Revolt and English civil war of the 17th century. The bourgeoisie’s ‘ruling’ character was not a legal-constitutional system of government descended from the 17th century political and social revolutions in Holland and England so much as it was a form of civil society: a revolutionary system of bourgeois social relations that was supposed to subordinate the state. What requires explanation is the 19th century slipping of the state from adequate social control, and its ‘rising above’ the contending political groups and social classes, as a power in itself. Even if Bonapartism in Marx’s late 19th century sense was the expression of a potential inherent in the forms of bourgeois politics emerging much earlier, there is still the question of why it was not realised so until after 1848. There is also the matter of why Marx characterised Louis Napoleon as a “lesser” and “farcical” phenomenon of post-1848 history by contrast with Napoleon Bonaparte’s “tragedy” in the Great Revolution.3 It was not the mere fact of repetition, but why and how history “repeated itself” – and repeated with a difference.

This was, according to Marx, the essential condition for politics after 1848 – the condition for political parties in capitalism. That condition was not only or primarily a matter of politics due to constitutional legal forms of bourgeois property and its social relations, but rather was for Marx the expression of the crisis of those forms as a function of the industrial revolution. There was for Marx an important contradiction between the democratic revolution and the proletarianisation of society in capitalism.

Macnair addresses this by specifying the ‘proletariat’ as all those in society “dependent on the total wage fund” – as opposed to those (presumably) dependent upon ‘capital’ download slui exe. This is clearly not a matter of economics, because distinguishing between those depending on wages as opposed to capital is a political matter of differentiation: all the intermediate strata depending on both the wage fund and capital would need to be compelled to take sides in any political dispute between the prerogatives of wages versus capital. Macnair addresses this through the struggle for democracy. But this does not pursue the contradiction far enough. For the wage fund, according to Marx, is a form of capital: it is ‘variable’ as opposed to ‘constant capital’. So the proletarianisation of society, according to Marx, is not addressed adequately as a matter of the condition of labour, but rather the social dependence on and domination by capital. And capital for Marx is not synonymous with the private property in the means of production belonging to the capitalists, but rather the relation of wages, or the resources for the reproduction of labour-power (including the ‘means of consumption’), to society as a whole. This is what makes it a political matter – a matter of politics in society – rather than merely the struggle of one group against another.

Macnair characterises the theory of Marxism specifically as one that recognises the necessity of those dependent upon the wage fund per se to overcome capitalism; he characterises the struggle for this as the struggle for democracy, with the adequate horizon of this as “communism” at a global scale – as opposed to “socialism”, which may be confined to the internal politics of individual nation-states. Macnair points out that the working class is necessarily in the “vanguard” of such struggle for adequate social democratisation, insofar as it comes up against the condition of capitalism negatively, as a problem to be overcome. The working class is thus defined “negatively” with respect to the social conditions to be overcome, rather than “positively” according to its activity, its concrete labour in society. The goal is to change the conditions for political participation, as well as economic activity, in society.

Class and history

Conventionally, Marxists have distinguished among political parties on their ‘class basis’, regarding various parties as ‘representing’ different class groups: ‘bourgeois’, ‘petty bourgeois’ and ‘proletarian’. This is complicated by classic characterisations such as that by Lenin of the UK Labour Party as a “bourgeois workers’ party”. Furthermore, there has been the bedevilling question of what is included in the ‘petty bourgeoisie’. But Marxists (such as Lenin) did not define politics ‘sociologically’, but rather historically: as representing not the interests of members of various groups, but rather different ‘ideological’ horizons of politics and for the transformation of society.

So, for instance, what made the Socialist Revolutionaries in the Russian Revolution of 1917 ‘represent’ the peasants was not so much their positions on agrarian matters as the ‘petty bourgeois’ horizon of politics they shared with the peasants as petty proprietors android facebook photos. SRs were not necessarily themselves petty proprietors – they were like Lenin ‘petty bourgeois intellectuals’ – but rather had in common with the peasants a form of discontent with capitalism, but one ‘ideologically’ hemmed in by what Marxism regarded a limited horizon.

In Marx’s (in)famous phrase from The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, the peasants as a group, as a ‘petty bourgeois’ “sack of potatoes” of smallholders, could not “represent themselves”, but must rather “be represented” – as they were, according to Marx, by Louis Bonaparte’s Second Empire’s succeeding the counterrevolutionary Party of Order in 1848.4 Marx called attention to the issue of how representation functioned in the politics of capitalism. Likewise, “bourgeois” parties were not pro-capitalist as much as they sought to manage the problems of capitalism from a certain historical perspective: that of ‘capital’. This was the horizon of their politics; whereas ‘petty bourgeois’ parties were concerned with the perspective of smaller property holdings; and ‘workers’ parties’ that of wage-labour. To be a ‘bourgeois workers’ party’, such as Labour in the UK, meant to represent the horizon of wage-labour in terms compatible with (especially, but not exclusively, UK ‘national’) capital. This was the character of ideology and political action – ‘consciousness’ – which was not reducible to, let alone determined by, economic interest of a particular concrete social group.

So various political parties, as well as different political forms, represented different historical horizons for discontents within capitalism. For Marxists, only ‘proletarian socialist’ politics could represent adequately the problem – the crisis and contradiction – of capitalism. Others ideologically obscured it. A ‘bourgeois workers’ party’ would be a phenomenon of ‘Bonapartism’, insofar as ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ and it filled the space evacuated by the failure of bourgeois politics, while also falling short of the true historical horizon of the political tasks of proletarian socialism. It was a phenomenon of the contradiction of capitalism in a particular way – as were all political parties from a Marxist perspective.

There are great merits and significant clarity to Macnair’s approach to the problem of politics in capitalism and what it would require to transcend this. The issue, though, is his taking as a norm the parliamentary system of government in the European mode and thus neglecting the US constitutional system Download The Final of The Sea Expedition Octonnut Season 4. For at issue is the potential disparity and antagonism between legislative and executive authority, or between the law and its enforcement. The American system of ‘checks and balances’ was meant to uphold liberal democracy and prevent the tyranny of either the executive or the legislature (or the judicial) aspects of government. There is an important domain of political struggle already, between executive and legislative authority, and this would affect any struggle to transform politics. The question is the source of this antagonism. It is not merely formal. If the ‘separation of powers’ in the US constitutional system has served undemocratic ends, it is not essentially because it was intended to do so. The problem of adequate and proper democratic authority in society is not reducible to the issue of purported ‘mob rule’. Any form of government could be perverted to serve capitalism. So the issue is indeed one of politics as such – the social content of or what informs any form of political authority.

‘Party of the new type’?

Macnair notes potential deficits and inadequacies in the Third (Communist) International’s endorsement of ‘soviet’ or ‘workers’ council’ government, with its attempt to overcome the difference between legislative and executive authority, which seems to reproduce the problem Macnair finds in parliamentary government. For him, executive authority eludes responsibility in the same way that capitalist private property eludes the law constitutionally.

This is the source of Macnair’s conflation of liberalism and Bonapartism, as if the problem of capitalism merely played out in terms of liberalism rather than contradicting it. Liberal democracy should not be conceived as the constitutional limit on democracy demanded by capitalist private property. The “democratic republic” Macnair calls for by contrast should not be conceived as the opposite of liberal democracy. For capitalism does not only contradict the democratic republic, but also liberal democracy, leading to Bonapartism, or illiberal democracy.

Dick Howard, in The specter of democracy has usefully investigated Marx’s original formulations on the problem of politics and capitalism, tracing these back to the origins of modern democracy in the American and French Revolutions of the 18th century and specifying the problem in common between (American) “republican democracy” and (French) “democratic republicanism”.5 Howard finds in both antinomical forms of modern democracy the danger of “anti-politics”, or of society eluding adequate political expression and direction, to which either democratic authority or liberalism can lead. Howard looks to Marx as a specifically political thinker on this problem to suggest the direction that struggle against it must take. Socialism for Marx, in Howard’s view, would fulfil the potential that has been otherwise limited by both republican democracy and democratic republicanism – or by both liberalism and socialism.

Macnair equates communism with democratic republicanism and thus treats it as a goal to be achieved and a norm to be realised. Moreover, he thinks that this goal can only be achieved by the practice of democratic republicanism in the present: the political party for communism must exemplify democratic republicanism in practice, as an alternative to the politics of the “party-state” in capitalism 바탕 화면 부수기 다운로드.

Marx, by contrast, addressed communism as merely the “next step” and a “one-sided negation” of capitalism rather than as the end goal of emancipation: it is not the opposite of capitalism in the sense of an undialectical antithesis, but rather an expression of it. Indeed, for Marx, communism would be the completion and fulfilment of capitalism, and not in terms of one or some aspects over others, but rather in and through its central self-contradiction, which is political as well as economic, or ‘political-economic’.

What this requires is recognising the non-identity of various aspects of capitalism as bound up in and part and parcel of the process of capitalism’s potential transformation into communism. For example, the non-identity of law (as legislated), its (judicial) interpretation, and (executive) enforcement, or the non-identity of civil society and the state, as expressed by the specific phenomenon of modern political parties. States are compulsory; political parties are voluntary, civil-society formations. And governments are not identical with legislatures. Politics as conditioned by capitalism could provide the means, but cannot already embody the ends, of transforming capitalism through communism. If communism is to be pursued, as Macnair argues, by the means of democratic republicanism, then we must recognise what has become of the democratic revolution in capitalism. It has not been merely corrupted and degraded, but rather rendered self-contradictory, which is a different matter. The concrete manifestations of democracy in capitalism are not only opportunist compromises, but also struggles to assert politics.

Symptomatic socialism

The history of the movement for socialism or communism generally and of Marxism in particular demonstrates the problem of capitalism through symptomatic phenomena of attempts to overcome it. This is not a history of trials and errors, but rather of discontents and exemplary forms of politics, borne of the crisis of capitalism, as it has been experienced through various phases, none of which have been superseded entirely.

Lenin and Trotsky were careful to avoid, as Trotsky put it, in The lesson of October (1924), the “fetishing” of the soviet or workers’ council form of politics and (revolutionary) government. Rather, Marxists addressed this as an emergent phenomenon of a specific phase of history, one which they sought to advance through the proletarian socialist revolution. But, according to Lenin, in ‘Leftwing’ communism: an infantile disorder, the soviet form did not mean that preceding historical forms of politics – for instance, parliaments and trade unions – had been superseded in terms of being left behind 내장그래픽 드라이버 다운로드. Indeed, it was precisely the failure of the world proletarian socialist – communist – revolution of 1917-19 that necessitated a “retreat” and reconsideration of perspectives and political prognoses. Certain forms and arenas of political struggle had come and gone. But, according to Lenin and Trotsky, the political party for communism remained indispensable. What did they mean by this?

Lenin and Trotsky meant something other than what Rosa Luxemburg’s biographer, JP Nettl, called the “inheritor party” or “state within the state” exemplified by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as the flagship party of the Second International.6 The social democratic party was not intended by Luxemburg, Lenin or Trotsky to be the democratic republican alternative to capitalism. They did not aim to replace one constitutional party-state with another. Or at least they did not intend so beyond the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, which was meant to rapidly transition out of capitalism to socialism. Beyond that, a qualitative development was envisioned, beyond ‘bourgeois right’ and its forms of social relations – and of politics. ‘Communism’ remained the essential horizon of potential transformation.

One key distinction that Macnair elides in his account is the development of bourgeois social relations within pre-bourgeois civilisation that will not be replicated by the struggle for socialism: socialism does not develop within capitalism so much as the proletariat represents the potential negation of bourgeois social relations that has developed within capitalism. The proletariat is a phenomenon of crisis in the existing society, not the exemplar of the new society. Socialism is not meant to be a proletarian society, but rather its overcoming. Capitalism is already a proletarianised society. Hence, Bonapartism as the manifestation of the need for the proletariat to rule politically that has been abandoned by the bourgeoisie. Bonapartism is not a form of politics, but rather an indication of the failure of politics. Marxism investigates that failure and its historical significance. The dictatorship of the proletariat will be the ‘highest’ and most acute form of Bonapartism, but one that intends to immediately begin to overcome itself, or ‘wither away’.

The proletariat aims to abolish itself as a class not simply by abolishing the capitalist class as its complementary opposite expression of the self-contradiction and crisis of capitalism Download Kaspersky. This is why Marx recognised the persistence of ‘bourgeois right’ in any ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ and down into the transition to socialism in its ‘first stage’. Bourgeois right would overcome itself through its crisis and self-contradiction, which the dictatorship of the proletariat would ‘advance’ and not immediately transcend. The dictatorship of the proletariat or ‘(social) democratic republic’ would be the form in which the struggle to overcome capitalism would first be able to take place politically.

Macnair confuses the proletariat’s struggle for self-abolition in socialism with the bourgeois – that is, modern urban plebeian – struggle for the democratic republic. He ignores the self-contradiction of this struggle in capitalism: that capitalism has reproduced itself in and through crisis, and indeed through revolution, through a process of “creative destruction” (Schumpeter), in which the bourgeois revolution has re-posed itself, but resulting in the re-proletarianisation of society: the reconstitution of wage labour under changed concrete conditions. This has taken place not only or perhaps even primarily through economic or political-economic crises and struggles, but through specifically political crises and struggles, through the recurrence of the democratic revolution. The proletariat cannot either make society in the image of itself or abolish itself immediately. It can only seek to lead the democratic revolution – hopefully – beyond itself.

Liberalism and socialism

The problem with liberal democracy is that it proceeds as if the democratic revolution has been achieved already, and ignores that capitalism has undermined it. Capitalism makes the democratic revolution both necessary and impossible, in that the democratic revolution constitutes bourgeois social relations – the relations of the exchange of labour – but capitalism undermines those social relations. The democratic revolution reproduces not ‘capitalism’ as some stable system (which, by Marx’s definition, it cannot be), but rather the crisis of bourgeois society in capitalism, in a political, and hence in a potentially conscious, way. The democratic revolution reconstitutes the crisis of capitalism in a manifestly political way, and this is why it can possibly point beyond it, if it is recognised as such: if the struggle for democracy is recognised properly as a manifestation of the crisis of capitalism and hence the need to go beyond bourgeois social relations, to go beyond democracy. Bourgeois forms of politics will be overcome through advancing them to their limits – in crisis.

The crisis of capitalism means that the forms of bourgeois politics are differentiated: they express the crisis and disintegration of bourgeois social relations Download the heart wants to shout. They also manifest the accumulation of past attempts at mediating bourgeois social relations in and through the crisis of capitalism. This is why the formal problems of politics will not go away, even if they are transformed. The issue is one of recognising this historical accumulation of political problems in capitalism, and of grasping adequately how these forms are symptomatic of the development – or lack thereof – of the politics of the struggle for socialism in and through these forms. For example, Occupy, which took place after the writing of Macnair’s book, clearly is not an advance in politically effective form. But it is symptomatic of our present historical moment, and so must be grappled with as such. It must be grasped as an endemic phenomenon, a ‘necessary form of appearance’ of the problem of capitalism in the present, and not treated merely as an accidental and hence avoidable error.

Macnair’s preferred target of critical investigation is the ‘mass strike’ and related ‘workers’ council’ or ‘soviet’ form. But this did not exist in isolation: its limits were not its own, but rather also an expression of the limits of labour unions and parliamentary government as well as of political parties in the early 20th century. For Macnair the early Third or Communist International becomes a blind alley, proven by its failure. But its problems cannot be thus settled and resolved so summarily or as easily as that.

If Occupy has failed it has done so without manifesting the political problem of capitalism as acutely as the soviet or workers’ council form of revolutionary politics did circa 1917, precisely because Occupy did not manifest, as the soviets did, a crisis of parliamentary democracy, labour union organisation and political party formation, as the workers’ council form did in the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the German revolution of 1918-19 and the Hungarian revolution of 1919, as well as the crisis in Italy beginning in 1919, and elsewhere in that historical moment and subsequently (eg, in the British General Strike of 1926 and the Chinese revolution of 1927). Indeed, Occupy might be regarded as an attempt to avoid certain problems, through what post-new leftists such as Alain Badiou have affirmed as “politics at a distance from the state”, that nonetheless imposed themselves, and with a vengeance – see Egypt as the highest expression of the ‘Arab spring’. Occupy evinced a mixture of liberal and anarchist discontents – a mixture of labour union and ‘direct democracy’ popular-assembly politics. The problem of 20th century Third (and Fourth) International politics, regarding contemporaneous and inherited forms of the mass strike (and its councils), labour unions and political parties, expressed the interrelated problems accumulated from different prior historical moments of the preceding 19th century (in 1830, 1848 and 1871, etc), all of which needed to be worked through and within, together, along with the fundamental bourgeois political form of (the struggle for) the democratic republic – which Kant among others (liberals) already recognised in the 18th century as an issue of a necessary ‘world state’ (or at least a world ‘system of states’) – not achievable within national confines.

Redeeming history

Political forms are sustained practices; they are embodied history. Because none of the forms emerging in the capitalist era – since the early to mid-19th century – has existed without the others, they must all be considered together, as mediating (the crisis of) capitalism at various levels, rather than in opposition to one another. Furthermore, these forms do not merely instantiate the bourgeois society that must be overcome – in a reified view – but rather mediate its crisis in capitalism, and inevitably so.

History cannot be regarded as a catalogue of errors to be avoided, but must be regarded, however critically, as a resource informing the present, whether or not adequately consciously AppChan Guardian. If past historical problems repeat themselves, they do not do so literally but with a difference. The question is the significance of that difference. It cannot be regarded as itself progressive. Indeed the difference often expresses the degradation of a problem. One cannot avoid either the repetition or the difference in capitalist history. An adequate ‘proletarian socialist’ party would immediately push beyond prior historical limits. That is how it could both manifest and advance the contradiction in capitalism.

History, according to Adorno (following Benjamin), is the “demand for redemption”. This is because history is not an accumulation of facts, but rather a form of past action continuing in the present. Historical action was transformative and is again to be transformed in the present: we transform past action through continuing to act on it in the present. No past action continues untransformed. The question is the (re)direction and continuing transformation of that action. Thinking is a way, too, of transforming past action.

Political party is not a dead form, but rather lives in ways dependent at least in part on how we think of it. The need for political party for the left today is a demand to redeem past action in the present. We can do so more or less well, and not only as a function of quantity, but also of quality. Can we receive the task of past politics revealed by Marxism as it is ramified down to the present? Can the left sustain its action in time; can it be a form of politics?

Marxism never offered a wholly new or distinct form of political action, but only sought to affect – consciously – forms of politics already underway. Examples of this include: Chartism; labour unions (whether according to trade or industry); Lassalle’s political party of the ‘permanent campaign of the working class’; the Paris Commune; the ‘mass’ or ‘general strike’; and ‘workers’ councils’. But not only these: also, the parliament or congress, as well as the sovereign executive with prerogative. These are all descended to us as forms not merely of political action and political struggle over that action, but also and especially of revolution, revolutionary change in society in the modern, bourgeois epoch.

One thing is certain regarding the history of the 19th and 20th centuries as legacy, now in the 21st century: since the politics of the state has not gone away, neither has the question of political party Download The Gibber. We must accept forms of revolutionary politics as they have come down to us historically. But that does not mean inheriting the forms of state and party as given, but rather transforming them – in revolution. Capitalism is a social crisis that calls forth political action. The only questions are how and why – with what consciousness and with what goal?

If social and political crisis – revolution – has up to now given us only more capitalism, then we need to accept that – and think of how communism could be the result of revolutionary politics in capitalism. Again, as Marx and the best Marxism once did, we need to accept the task of redeeming history.

The difference Macnair observes, between the political party formations of the early original bourgeois era of the 17th and 18th centuries and in the crisis of capitalism manifesting circa 1848 (including prior Chartism in Britain), is key to the fundamental political question of Marxism, as well as of proletarian socialism more broadly (for instance in anarcho-syndicalism) – as symptoms of history. There is not a static problem, but rather a dynamic of the historical process that is moreover regressive in its repetition in difference. Marxism once sought to be conscious of the difference, and so should we. | §

Notes

1. ‘The philosophy trapWeekly Worker November 21 2013.

2. www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/18th-Brumaire.pdf.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. D Howard The specter of democracy New York 2002.

6. JP Nettl, ‘The SPD 1890-1914 as political model’, 1965.

When was the crisis of capitalism?

Moishe Postone and the legacy of the 1960s New Left

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 70 | October 2014

LENIN STATED, infamously perhaps, that Marxists aimed to overcome capitalism “on the basis of capitalism itself.” This was in the context of horrors of not only industrial exploitation but also and especially of war: WWI. Lenin was not, as he might be mistaken to be, merely advocating so-called “war communism” or statist capitalism.1 No. Lenin recognized state capitalism as the advancing of the contradiction of capitalism. By contrast, after Lenin, there was state capitalism, but no active political consciousness of its contradiction. This affected the Left as it developed—degenerated—subsequently.2

The question is, when was the definitive crisis of capitalism, after which it could be plausibly asserted that the world suffered from the overripeness for change? Was it in 1968, as the New Left supposed? Or was it much earlier, in WWI, as Marxists such as Lenin thought?

Moishe Postone is arguably the—by far—most important interpreter of Marx to come out of the generation of the 1960s-70s “New Left.” Contributing to that generation’s “return to Marx,” motivated by the widespread discontents and political crisis of the 1960s, and finding increased purchase in the economic crisis and downturn of the ’70s, Postone’s work on Marx participated in the shaping of the self-understanding of the transition from what has been called the “Keynesian-Fordist” synthesis of predominant modes of capitalism in the mid-20th century to its neoliberal form starting in the 1970s. If Postone, as well as others of the New Left generation, found neoliberalism to be the travesty of the emancipatory aspirations of the 1960s, where does this leave his work today? For Postone’s work was very much of its moment, the 1960s-70s. It recalls an earlier era.

A full generation has passed since Postone’s initial works,3 and 20 years since publication of his book Time, Labor and Social Domination (1993): younger readers of Marx who encounter Postone’s interpretation are likely to have been born after Postone’s formulations were written and published inventor fusion 다운로드. The recent economic crisis, the still on-going “Great Recession,” has prompted a renewed “return to Marx” moment that has reached back to the prior generation’s return to Marx in the 1960s-70s. The most perspicacious of young would-be Marxisants have discovered Postone’s work, and have begun to try to make sense of the present in Postone’s terms.

Such belated recognition of Postone’s work is well and long-deserved and can only be welcomed by anyone interested in Marx’s distinctive and indeed sui generis approach to the problem of capitalism.

Postone’s specific contribution was to direct attention to Marx’s critique of the relation between abstract labor and abstract time in the self-contradiction of value in capital. This allowed Postone to recognize how Marx grasped the accumulation of history in capital, the antagonism between “dead labor” and “living labor” in the ongoing reproduction of capital and of the social relations of the exchange of labor in the commodity form of value.

Much of the basis for resistance to Postone’s critical insights into Marx’s approach to capitalism, largely of a political character, has since fallen away. This centered on the question of “proletarian-transcending” vs. “proletarian-constituting” politics and the problem of the “ontology of labor.” At the same time, however, the political assumption for Postone’s work—the possibility of transcending the politics of labor—has become eroded and undermined along with the basis for resistance to it: Postone’s object of critique in recovering Marx in the 1960s-70s has largely if not entirely disappeared. Most importantly, the political prognosis that motivated Postone was falsified by subsequent history: Postone’s work was not able to help clarify the New Left moment to itself because the New Left failed in its aspirations. It did not help to transcend capitalism.

Liberal and statist periods of capitalism—individualist and collectivist discontents

The failure of the New Left is a deeply obscure problem because its success wears the mask of failure and its failure wears the mask of success: the New Left failed precisely where it thought it succeeded; and succeeded precisely where it thought it failed 영화 추격자. But neither its failure nor its success had anything to do with being part of the history of the Left but rather with its furnishing the ideological consciousness for a renewed Right.

For instance, where the New Left thought it transformed with greater freedom a diversely heterogeneous multiplicity of socio-cultural practices, relations and identities, for instance, of “race, gender and sexuality,” as against what it supposed was a stultifying, oppressive and even genocidal homogenizing social conformism rooted in industrial-capitalist labor, in fact it smoothed the way towards even more widespread and deeper social participation in the capitalist labor process on a global scale that has not made corporations and governments more responsible to their constituencies but rather more intractably elusive as targets of political action.

Few on the avowed “Left” today would claim that there has been greater progress against capitalism let alone towards socialism since the 1960s: whatever the “balance sheet” of “gains and losses” in the past generation, the scale tilts ineluctably in the direction of loss. Still, the idea that “we know better now,” as an accomplishment of and development beyond the New Left, is unfortunately prevalent.

But every generation thinks it improves upon previous ones. It is this assumption of progress that is perhaps the most pernicious of ideological phenomena of consciousness.

The metaphysics of consciousness—the fact that consciousness transcends its concrete empirical moment in time and space—means that history does not constitute merely a factual record of events, but rather that purported historical “causality” is grasped only according to changes in “theoretical” perspectives on our on-going practices and their reproduction in society. History is not merely a set of accumulated effects but a development of consciousness—or at least should be, according to Hegel.4 The question is whether and how the development of social practices has facilitated or rather hindered and retarded—perhaps even blocked—the further development of consciousness.

So, what kind of consciousness is provided by Moishe Postone’s work, and how has this been grasped by Postone’s followers? What does this tell us about the history from the formative moment of Postone’s consciousness to the present?

The 1960s New Left moment

It is necessary to characterize the moment of the 1960s New Left. What kind of an opportunity was that moment?

The 1960s saw the deepening crisis of the Keynesian–Fordist liberal social-democratic “welfare state.” In the United States, which set the pattern for the rest of the world, the New Deal political coalition of the leading Democratic Party became unraveled Download Little Doctor Maxstafins. First, the Civil Rights Movement undermined the Democrats in the South, the so-called “Dixiecrats.” Then, the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam undermined the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The Civil Rights Movement offered to go “part of the way with LBJ” in the election of 1964, in hopes of trading a quieting of protest against the U.S. anti-Communist war in Southeast Asia for LBJ’s support for Civil Rights legislation. Johnson’s reelection raised the prospects of a crisis in the Democratic Party, which was seen as an opportunity for its transformation. Bayard Rustin wrote that it was necessary to move the Civil Rights Movement “From Protest to Politics” in order to remake the Democrats into a party of blacks and labor, building upon the labor unions’ support for both the Civil Rights Movement and the new Students for a Democratic Society that emerged from the Civil Rights and student Free Speech Movements of the late 1950s–early ’60s. This didn’t happen, but rather the Republicans’ “Southern Strategy” first floated in the 1964 election but fully realized in 1968 moved the southern Democratic voters to the Republicans’ camp. The tide change in U.S. politics is illustrated by the contrast between the 1952 and 1968 Presidential elections: Where the Democrats lost to Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Adlai Stevenson winning only states in the Deep South; in 1968 the South provided the base for Republican Richard Nixon’s victory. What Rustin’s plan would have meant was a rejuvenation of the New Deal Coalition under changed conditions. It failed. The Democrats, who had been the majority party since 1932, went on the defensive, however holding onto Congressional majorities all the way up to the 1994 “Republican Revolution” led by Newt Gingrich. Since the 1930s, the Republicans were the party of opposition, which is still the case today in 2014. The Democrats have remained most often the majority party in Congress. The Republicans have never enjoyed the sustained occupation of the Presidency and majority in Congress that the Democrats have enjoyed more or less consistently since the 1930s 오딘3. This character of ruling-class politics in the U.S. has meant certain conditions for any purported “Left.”

In the 1960s, being on the “Left” politically meant opposing an overwhelming Democratic majority government, and moreover one which claimed to be in the interest of working-class and minority people. The 1930s New Deal Coalition saw an uneasy alliance of white working class people including in the South with ethnic minority constituencies in the Northern cities, cities which exploded in the 1960s. For instance, it was only in the 1930s that blacks began voting in large numbers for Democrats, having supported Republicans since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Blacks were integrated into the Democrats’ New Deal Coalition as yet another Northern urban ethnic constituency vote: Adam Clayton Powell personified this politics. There was the Great Migration of blacks out of the South to the North from the period of WWI through WWII and the unionization of blacks through the Congress of Industrial Unions (CIO) in the 1930s Great Depression-era radicalization as well as in the war industries of the 1940s.

By the mid-1960s, LBJ, who was far more supportive of Civil Rights demands than JFK had been, while dramatically escalating the war in Vietnam, was opposed by the emergent New Left as a “fascist”—a representative of the authoritarian state that seemed to stand in the way of social change rather than as its instrument. The Civil Rights Movement’s pressure on the Democratic Party (seen in the Mississippi Freedom Democrats’ protest at the 1964 national convention) was met by the military risk to the state in the Cold War running hot in Southeast Asia.

A note on the Vietnam War: The U.S. proceeded through the Korean War and into the Vietnam War with the attempt to sustain and mobilize the United Nations of WWII, turning from opposition to fascism to opposing Communist “totalitarianism:” the U.S. prosecuted both the Korean War and increasingly in the 1960s the Vietnam War as extensions of strategies pursued in WWII and its immediate aftermath. The Greek Civil War set the pattern for counter-insurgency in the post-WWII world bluetooth peripheral driver. Already in Korea the U.S. and its allies pursued counterinsurgency and not only a conventional military war. In Vietnam, counterinsurgency gave way to conventional warfare with the bombing campaigns initiated by LBJ and pursued further by Nixon succeeding him. The form of warfare pursued placed certain pressures on the Keynesian-Fordist social-democratic “welfare state” administered by the U.S. Democratic Party’s New Deal Coalition. Those pressures were political and socio-cultural as well as economic: such pressures were political-economic and social-political in character, setting the stage for the New Left.

The U.S. New Deal Coalition’s alliance of labor with the “welfare state” set the pattern throughout the world in the Cold War era, both in advanced capitalist countries and in newly independent post-colonial states. Its unraveling also set the historical political pattern, for student and worker discontent, in the 1960s. Moreover, discontent with the conservatism of the Soviet-bloc by the end of the 1950s meant an identification of the New Deal Coalition and the social-democratic “welfare state” with Stalinism in “state capitalism” and “state socialism,” both regarded as politically compromised obstacles to new upsurges “from below” in the 1960s. Political problems of both capitalism and socialism were thus identified with the state.

The political defections identified with the crisis of the Democrats’ New Deal Coalition involved not only the disaffection of blacks and other workers, especially among younger people, but also intellectuals of the establishment. There was a crisis in the ideological edifice of the post-WWII state. For instance, “neo-conservatism” was a phenomenon of the loss of confidence in the Democrats’ successful prosecution of the Cold War, both at home and abroad. Many former supporters of and even ideologues for the Democrats provided the brain-trust for the Republicans taking political advantage of this crisis. For instance, there was former Frankfurt School assistant Daniel Bell, who first supported and then opposed the Democrats on grounds of non-ideological technocracy 워킹데드 시즌 5.

Thus discontents with the post-WWII state were far-ranging and even endemic by the 1960s, reaching both down among those marginalized at the bottom of society and up into top echelons of governmental power.

In France, May 1968 was a deep crisis of the post-WWII Gaullist state. It began as a student protest against gender segregation of student dormitories—against the educational–institutional repression of sex—and grew into a student and working class mass mobilization against the state. It was rightly regarded as a potential revolutionary situation. But it failed politically. Many on the French New Left became a New Right.

Moishe Postone characterized this as a crisis of “new social movements” expressing discontents with “state capitalism” as a historical formation. That formation could trace it roots, prior to the 1940s and WWII and the Great Depression of the ’30s, back to WWI and perhaps even further, back to the late 19th century transformations that took place after the economic crisis of 1873, such as the post-Civil War and Reconstruction “imperial Presidency” in the U.S., Bismarckian policies in Germany, state-sponsored capitalist development in Meiji Restoration Japan, among other phenomena.

1968 and 1917

Postone attributes “state capitalism” to the crisis of WWI and the Russian Revolution of 1917 and characterizes Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks as unwitting instruments of state capitalism. In this view, in certain respects common with and descending from the Frankfurt School of the 1930s, Lassallean social democracy, fascism, Lenin’s Bolshevism as well as ostensible “Leninism” (meaning Stalinism), Keynesianism (FDR New Deal-ism), all participated in the turn from 19th century liberal laissez-faire capitalism to 20th century state capitalism, which went into crisis by the time of the 1960s New Left.

The crisis of modernist state capitalism led, however, not to socialism in Marx’s sense but rather to the neoliberal “postmodernist” turn of capitalism in the 1970s-80s, leading to the present. Postone’s idea was that the 20th century was a “post-bourgeois” form of capitalism. But for the Frankfurt School, it was a form of bourgeois society in extremis: as Adorno put it, “the new is the old in distress.”5

There is an important equivocation with respect to the Russian Revolution in Postone’s view Download the drama Three Kingdoms. Postone condemns the USSR et al.’s “state capitalism,” as not merely inadequate but also misleading regarding potential possibilities for socialism. But such state capitalism was (and remains) a form of political mediation of the working class to the means of production. Postone, despite his critique of and political opposition to Soviet Communism, addresses the USSR as a progressive development, in ways that Adorno, for instance (or Trotsky in his critique of Stalinism), did not. Rather, the USSR et al. (as well as fascism) could be regarded as a decadent, barbaric form of bourgeois society, rather than as Postone attempted to address it, as “post-bourgeois.” On the other hand, Postone is (retrospectively) opposed to Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks in the October Revolution, whereas Adorno and other members of the Frankfurt School were supportive. Postone treats such support as a combination of theoretical blindness and historical limitation—unripeness of the means as well as the relations of production for socialism. The character of that “progress”—really, regression—of capitalism in the 20th century would be in terms of advancing the contradiction of the commodity form of labor, and how to make sense of and work through that contradiction politically.

The proletariat would need to be constituted politically, subjectively, and not merely “objectively” (economically). The commodity form of the value of labor needs to be constituted through political action, but such action, today, like at any moment since the Industrial Revolution, would manifest the self-contradiction of the commodity form.

The question is, what constitutes a “social relation?” It must be addressed not as a static fact but a developing social activity in history. Postone addresses it economically but not politically. In this he follows Marx’s Capital, which however was left incomplete and hence not mediated “all the way up” to the level of politics—as if Marx never wrote anything else that indicated his politics. Yes, the question is, as Postone puts it, not the existence of a capitalist (that is, private-property-in-the-means-of-production owning) class, but rather the existence of a proletariat, in the sense of a class of people who relate to the means of production through their social activity of wage-labor es 파일 탐색기 다운로드. That class still exists, “objectively” economically, but the question is, how is it mediated, today, politically?

Do we still live in capitalism?

James Heartfield has pointed out that the present-day “Left” considers such Marxist categories as “class” to be “objective.” This has effaced the purchase of politics regarding capitalism. If the working class has ceased to constitute itself as a class “for itself,” subjectively, then this has affected politics more generally.6 Moreover, it means that the working class is not even constituted as a class “in itself,” objectively. For Marx, there was a subject-object dialectic at work — in which subjectivity was objectively determined, and objectivity was subjectively determined, in practice—in the working class’s struggle for socialism.

Marx pointed out that after the Industrial Revolution, the working class can only constitute its labor-power as a commodity collectively. Marx also pointed out that the capitalist class is constituted as such, as capitalist, only in opposition to the working class’s collective demands for the value of its labor. This was because, as Postone points out, for Marx, the dynamics of the value of the time of labor has become that of society as a whole. For Marx, the collective bargaining for the value of labor-power measured in time does not take place at the level of trade unions in individual firms or even in industrial unions across entire fields of production, but rather at the societal level in the form of the workers’ political struggle for socialism. Without that struggle for socialism, the working class is not constituted as such, and so neither is the capitalist class. Rather, as Adorno observed in the mid-20th century, society had devolved into a war of “rackets” and had thus ceased to be “society” in the bourgeois sense at all. Politics for Marx was the “class struggle”—the struggle for socialism. Without that, politics itself, as Marx understood it, ceases.

In this sense, we must confront the question of whether we still live in capitalism as Marxists historically understood it. An admirer of Postone, Jamie Merchant of the Permanent Crisis blog, spoke in dialogue with Elmar Flatschart of EXIT! and Alan Milchman of Internationalist Perspective at a Platypus panel discussion on Wertkritik Download family photo songs. They stated the following in response to the question that I posed to them:

Neoliberalism might well have obscured the experience of the Fordist era, rendering it more esoteric, but didn’t Fordism, and the nationalism from which it is inseparable, in its own way occlude even deeper issues of capitalism? Elmar [Flatschart], you warn against “privileging” the workers as a revolutionary subject, but you seem to conflate earlier Marxism, in which the proletariat’s role is characterized negatively, with 20th century Stalinism and Social Democracy. What other subject would manifest the self-overcoming of capitalism “on the basis of capitalism itself,” as Lenin put it in “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920)?

EF: Marx had a negative notion of class, insofar as he saw it as immanent to capitalism and this is evident in the logical approach of Capital. But then again you already have with Marx, and more so with Engels, this political privileging of class as an emancipatory actor. There were no other questions of oppression, and hence no other emancipatory subjectivities. There is no one subject anymore, and this is what we can learn from the New Left and the postmodern turn.

JM: Yes, Fordism definitely occluded capital in many ways, especially, in the Cold War context, in terms of the role of the nation-state. But my point was that it was a form of society in which the social whole did appear, and so the idea of society had more currency. There was this concern during the Fordist period of the individual being absorbed into the social whole and losing individualism. But this was just the inversion of the cultural logic of neoliberalism. The point is that different periods of accumulation provide different versions of society and apprehension of the “social”; the social form appears in differently mediated ways. Different regimes of accumulation can lead to different perceptions of what society is, which could open up avenues for new forms of politics.7

These responses seem rather optimistic, especially regarding the legacy of the 1960s-70s New Left moment, let alone that of 1980s-90s postmodernism Download this gothic ttf. Postone avers that whereas traditional Marxism affirmed and indeed aspired to the social totality of capitalism, true socialism would abolish it. But the question is its transformation—its “sublation” (Aufhebung). If Marxism ever recognized capitalism as a “totality,” it was critically, as a totality of crisis, a total crisis of society, which the struggle for socialism would advance, and not immediately overcome. But the crisis has been occulted, appearing only in disparate phenomena whose interrelatedness remains obscure.

Postone offered the clearest consciousness of the discontents of the 1960s understood as the first opportunity to transcend capitalism, by transcending proletarian-constituting forms of politics. But this was not transcended but rather liquidated without redemption. To transcend proletarian politics, it would be necessary first to constitute it.

We continue to pay the price for past failures of Marxism, which have become naturalized and hypostatized: reified. In this sense, we must still redeem Lenin. We still need to overcome capitalism on the basis of capitalism itself. | §

Originally published in The Platypus Review 70 (October 2014).


  1. Lenin wrote that, “The bourgeoisie makes it its business to promote trusts, drive women and children into the factories, subject them to corruption and suffering, condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not ‘demand’ such development, we do not ‘support’ it. We fight it. But how do we fight? We explain that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc., and beyond them to socialism!” (The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution, 1916/17, available on-line at: <http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/miliprog/ii.htm >.) []
  2. See my “1873-1973: The century of Marxism,” Platypus Review 47 (June 2012), available on-line at: <http://platypus1917.org/2012/06/07/1873-1973-the-century-of-marxism/>. []
  3. See Moishe Postone, “Necessity, Labor, and Time: A Reinterpretation of the Marxian Critique of Capitalism,” Social Research 45:4 (Winter 1978). []
  4. Hegel, The Philosophy of History. []
  5. “Reflections on class theory,” Can One Live after Auschwitz?, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (University of California Press, 2003), 95. []
  6. Sp!ked May 9, 2014, available on-line at: <http://www.spiked-online.com/review_of_books/article/the-left-is-over-i-hate-to-say-i-told-you-so/#.U4OXbCgVeSo>. []
  7. “Marx and ‘Wertkritik’,” Platypus Review 56 (May 2013), available on-line at: <http://platypus1917.org/2013/05/01/marx-and-wertkritik/>. []

Revolutionary politics and thought (forum transcript)

Chris Cutrone, Samir Gandesha, Nikos Malliaris, Dimitrios Roussopoulos, Joseph Schwartz

Platypus Review 69 | September 2014

“No coarser insult, no baser defamation, can be thrown against the workers than the remark, ‘Theoretical controversies are for the intellectuals’“
— Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? (1900)

“Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement the only choice is—either bourgeois or socialist ideology… This does not mean, of course, that the workers have no part in creating such an ideology. They take part, however, not as workers, but as socialist theoreticians, as Proudhons and Weitlings; in other words, they take part only when they are able, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and develop that knowledge.“
— Vladimir Lenin, What is to be Done? (1902)

“The liquidation of theory by dogmatization and thought taboos contributed to the bad practice.”
— Adorno, Negative Dialectics (1966)

In the 1840s Karl Marx wrote that social revolution would involve “carrying out the thoughts of the past,” in which “humanity begins no new work but consciously completes the old work”. The role of revolutionary thought for Marx, in other words, involved drawing attention to how past revolutionary tasks were failing to be worked through in present political practice; of understanding the reasons why theory and practice had changed and, in turn, how this understanding could be advanced towards the (present) completion of the (old) revolution.

Later, for Lenin and Luxemburg, political disputes in the Second International revolved around the failings of revolutionary practice. Luxemburg and Lenin seemed optimistic about revolutionary thought being carried out by the practices of mass political movements for socialism. They assumed that workers could act as “socialist theoreticians” while participating in revolutionary politics.

In the 1960s, figures like C. Wright Mills retrospectively assessed the emergence of the intelligentsia as “distinct and historically specific,” locating the political role of figures such as Lenin and Luxemburg as a phenomenon of the development of modern society. But Mills was wistful: he recognized that political-intellectual figures like Luxemburg and Lenin were missing in his time. What does the current role of intellectuals say about the historical disappearance of the kind of political possibilities Mills had in mind?

While the separation of revolutionary thinking and politics might seem more distinct in the present, with “theory” being relegated to universities, and “practice” to social movements, it seems increasingly common for academic work motivated from the Left to blur the boundary between theory and social movements. While this state of affairs may seem to approach the sentiment articulated by Luxemburg, that there be nothing separating theoretical issues from the people struggling to overcome their condition, it does so without the emergence of corresponding political practices that would transcend the present. Alternatively, other currents of theory, among both independent intellectuals and organized political tendencies, seem completely severed from everyday social practice and so harmless as subcultural activities. Theory today seems to either assert the primacy of practice, leaving no recourse but to take up practical discontents as inalienable in thinking, or is so entirely cut off from practical concerns that it seems sustainable only in the academy. Revolutionary thinking, no less than revolutionary practice, seems hard to locate in the present.

This discussion will reflect on the relationship between revolutionary politics and thinking in the past and present and ask why has it become increasingly difficult to render political life intellectual and intellectual life political today? Panelists will consider the historical role of revolutionary theory as a moment of revolutionary politics, and the ways in which thinking can be held responsible for politics, and politics held responsible for thinking.

On April 5th, 2014, at the Sixth Annual Platypus International Convention at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Platypus hosted a panel discussion with Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Samir Gandesha (Simon Fraser University), Nikos Malliaris (Lieux Communs), Dimitrios Roussopoulos (Transnational Institute of Social Ecology), and Joseph Schwartz (Temple University). This discussion reflected on the relationship between revolutionary politics and thinking in the past and present, and asked why has it become increasingly difficult to render political life intellectual and intellectual life political today. The event’s description as well as the questions to the panelists can be found here. What follows is an edited transcript of the discussion.

Opening remarks

Nikos Malliaris: In my opinion, the major political issue of our times, that which constitutes at the same time the goal of all emancipatory or revolutionary politics, is the following: How can we exit consumer society? How can we exit this type of society that is based on productivism and technophilia, with cultural liberalism as its official ideology? It is precisely this type of society that forms the culmination of capitalism, and more broadly, of western modernity itself.

I am deliberately using the term “exit,” instead of a more classical term such as “overthrow,” because I believe that this type of understanding and analyzing contemporary social conditions and political priorities determines the way we conceive of revolutionary politics today. Moreover, a radical critique of contemporary society should be at the same time political and cultural, since the problem is not simply socio-economic, but deeply anthropological. In other words, it affects the very way people interiorize and invest in institutions and social representation, the very way contemporary societies are being formed and reproduced. For the first time in the history of emancipatory and revolutionary movements, what we face as a political task is not any more just the overthrowing of an exploitative or oppressive society, but the very reinvention of Society as such, with a capital “S.” We have to deal with something more than the problem of exploitation or oppression: the vaster and deeper problem of social and cultural decadence. Not only natural ecosystems have suffered terrible degradation after 200 years of industrial and technological progress, and economic growth. Both society itself, as a form of meaningful human coexistence, as well as the human being as a creative and imaginative creature, have been degraded at such a scale that the contemporary world seems to be an endless process of dislocation and disintegration on all levels.

People cannot find any meaning other than ferocious consumption, whether of merchandise, services, or experiences. Society seems less and less capable of imposing minor forms of limitations to these excesses of the contemporary individual. Nor can it set any to the frenetic course of technology and economy, both of which have become separated from society, raising their expansion to an end in itself. What we need is an unprecedented social transformation, which will by far exceed the simple redistribution of wealth and its concomitant modification of modes of production Download google chart. Without a profound transformation of human values, social representations, and collective beliefs, no real progress can be made in the direction of an egalitarian and democratic society. This is the case because the major social evolution of the 20th century, and especially of its postwar period, was the gradual proselytizing and conversion of exploited classes to the consumer ethos. People actively want and cherish consumption, since what they dream of is a selfish improvement of their position in the social hierarchy. Long gone is the glorious epoch of social movements opposed the existing society, fighting for the creation of a more democratic and humane one. The labor movement slowly transformed itself into a big lobby that wanted nothing more than the amelioration of workers material conditions. Radical artistic and intellectual movements degenerated into a playful ornament of consumer society, celebrating the pseudo-liberty of the contemporary individual by elevating cultural relativism and political nihilism to ultimate philosophical principles.

As they intermingle with the mounting ecological crisis, the anthropological consequences of such social and cultural decline call for a total reinterpretation of our collective and individual needs. There can be no serious or coherent anti-capitalist engagement today that does not see itself as part of a far greater opposition, one to what Karl Polanyi called “the Great Transformation.” This is the elevation of the economy to an autonomous sphere that dominates society, imposing its norms and values on every other region and domain of social life. Consumer society is just the degenerate form of this economism and its concomitant technophilia.

As far as Marx’s ideas on the duty of revolutionary theory and politics to consciously complete the old work, I would say things are no longer so simple. In many ways, present day necessities force us to criticize and even reject a great part of what the labor movement, the modernist artistic and cultural avant-garde, and the student movements of the 60’s said and did. And it goes without saying that such a change of anthropological paradigm necessitates a profound unity of theory and praxis, together with our fight against the neoliberal counterattack from the ruling oligarchies, as well as the mounting far-right movements. We have to rethink traditional revolutionary values and ways of thinking, as well as reflect on the form that a democratic and egalitarian society could take in this unprecedented context. As Castoriadis used to say, “Revolutionary politics can only have meaning as a thoughtful doing.”

Political currents such as the French “de-growth” movement offer a vivid example of the difficulties such an enterprise would face. One of the most eminent is the academicization of intellectual life, part of the profound technicalization of social life that characterizes contemporary Western societies. Thinking becomes a separated domain, a realm reserved for a certain category of experts, usually state or corporate nourished, living enclosed behind the gates of their university ghetto. Unfortunately, this eminently oligarchic tendency hasn’t spurred the Left at all. Its Leninist and technophilic heritage gave birth in the 50s to an army of professional would-be prophets, who wanted to teach revolutionary politics without having ever participated in the least political activity. This is a tendency dominant in France, for example. Judging from this point of view, the Althusserian distinction between romantic and scientific parts of Marxism is really useful for us—even if Althusser proposed it in a completely different context, and in a schematic and simplistic manner. As an orthodox Marxist and Stalinist, and also part of the upper and most oligarchic strata of the French academic complex, Althusser wanted to transform Marxism into a rigorous science. He wanted to transform a revolutionary theory that called for the surpassing of itself as pure theory, into a pseudo-science of social evolution. By doing so he only showed how immersed he was in the dominant bourgeois and rationalistic worldview. But what is more important, he showed us that this goes not only for Marx, but also for anarchism. See for example the fondness of Bakunin for August Comte’s positivism.

I believe that we have to openly oppose this stratum of pseudo-revolutionary academics, people like Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, and Edward Said, who are considered as the major thinkers of the Left nowadays. This stratum does nothing more than spread confusionist ideologies and destroy the activity of radical thinking by presenting it as a cascade of incomprehensible and unreadable rhetorical tricks. We have to echo Lyotard and attack the separation of intellectual from manual labor as the very basis of bourgeois and even aristocratic social edifices. Thinking should be reintegrated into social life, as it was in older times. I dare to say that we need something like, as William Morris might say, an artisan or craft ethos, which denies any distinction between intellectual and manual. This would both insinuate the intellectual into the material and the concrete, and raise the manual to a creative and thoughtful activity.

Dimitrios Roussopolous: The word “revolution” or “revolutionary” in the context of this conference is problematic for a number of reasons. One is that we do not have the time to really define this word. I would like to put it aside, and substitute the word “radical” instead, as in “radical politics.” The definition of “politics” that I will use is one that suggests that the radical or fundamental transformation of society by a decentralization of political and economic power, and its widest dispersal throughout society. What I will say draws from two theoretical streams. One is the anarchist and libertarian stream that draws on the works and reflections of Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford, Paul Goodman, and Murray Bookchin. The second is the Marxist stream that draws from the works of Henri Lefebvre, Margit Meyer, Peter Marcuse, and David Harvey. This leads me to the core of the radical project in theory and practice, as I understand it. What I believe is seriously missing in the reconstruction of a radical Left is a geopolitical understanding and analysis of what is possible. This means we must examine our world as strategically as possible, and take a number of fundamental facts into serious consideration, and bring it into the center of our reflection 건버드2 다운로드.

One of the United Nations agencies is called, as you know, UN-Habitat. UN-Habitat has identified a number of cities as global cities—about 47 of them. These cities are determined as concentrated nodules of corporate capitalism. It is these global cities that the major multinational corporations work out of, make their decisions, and dominate the world economy. To the extent that this is true, we then have to introduce another factor into our analysis. We all know that in 2003, one of the most important historic shifts has taken place with regard to human civilization. For the first time in history, the majority of human beings that inhabit this planet are now living in cities and towns. Grasping this reality has very serious political and social consequences for any radical project, any project that pretends to want to reorganize daily life. And so, unless we take that perspective seriously, and look at what can be done in the face of massive urbanization—which will reach a critical point by 2025—and unless we grasp what that means for the daily life of the people who live in these cities and towns, and unless we have an understanding of what kind of radical politics can arise from this understanding, so that we can shift power in a significant way, I think we are misleading ourselves.

As an intellectual if one never seriously undertakes work on the ground— work in neighborhoods, communities, and cities, with ordinary people, dealing with the politics of everyday life—we will never be able to crystallize a social force that will confront the existing power structure in significant ways. Let me give you just one example: In 1968, in the city that I live in, Montreal, a developer announced that they were going to destroy a six-block area of downtown in order to create the city of the 21st century. The funding for that project came from the Rockefeller Foundation, the pension fund of British postal workers, and a huge international insurance company. We undertook a major struggle that took eleven years for us to win. And we won. We not only saved the neighborhood—which is inhabited by approximately 1,500 working poor and déclassé people—but created the largest non-profit cooperative housing project in North America. Even more significantly, within that six-block area, we abolished private property. I repeat: we abolished private property through a land trust. If you can possibly imagine this, there can be no buying and selling of property in a six-block downtown area of a major city in Canada. This is what I am trying to suggest. By taking into serious consideration a geopolitical perspective, and asking how power can shift at the base of society, we can zero in on strategies that not only affect the daily lives of people, but mobilize them to go even further in their demands for participation in decision-making processes in the urban milieux where power is concentrated.

Try to imagine, therefore, what radical politics spin off from that. Emerging out of this particular people’s victory, and subsequent people’s victories in other parts of the city, we began a process to fundamentally redefine political power in the city of Montreal. We introduced a number of radical political institutions, which involved public consultation, the advocacy of citizen rights, and a new definition of urban citizenship. We have done this in conjunction with allies and contacts in other cities both in Canada and internationally. There is a whole reconfiguration of grassroots politics that is taking place that we have to be aware of. This is what I want to bring to your attention.

Samir Gandesha: I’d like to preface my remarks by referring to something that Dimitrios said in a previous panel, which is that we should wipe the slate clean and talk about how to bring about radical, direct democracy. This panel has been framed with signal figures of the revolutionary tradition like Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, and Adorno. But it could benefit from counter-readings of the tradition by Italian autonomist writers like Paolo Virno, Antonio Negri, and Michael Hardt, and also the fragment on the machine in the Grundrisse. They frame the question somewhat differently. I’m not saying I agree with this tradition: It fails quite abjectly in registering the extent to which the Left is in crisis, and therefore it can’t really address the prospects in store for a reversal of this situation. The emphasis on immaterial labor fails curiously to account for what one social critic once called the “falling rate of intelligence,” which seems only to be getting worse. It may seem easy to dismiss, e.g., Hardt & Negri’s ideas as stemming exclusively from the “university ghetto.” But this is difficult to say even for Negri, given his own militant past and the organic relation between the Italian Autonomists and actual workers’ struggles.

In order for this discussion to be meaningful, it must engage with debates taking place today; not just wrestle with the ghosts of 1848, 1917, and 1968—important as those dates, and figures like Lenin, Trotsky, and Adorno may be. One reason for this is that the nature of capitalism has been fundamentally altered by techno-science: both qua productive force, and as the basis for countering labor militancy through forced redundancy, de-skilling, and redoubled forms of surveillance. This has in a contradictory way opened up new avenues for communication and organization, ones Marx was already praising the bourgeoisie for in the Communist Manifesto. His emphasis on communications in particular was really important, and has an actuality that needs to be grasped. We see the extent to which new communications technologies made possible opposition movements like in Iran with the Green Movement in 2009, and the Arab Spring in 2011.

I wish I could agree in a straightforward way that revolutionary theory and practice would primarily be about consciously completing the old work of social emancipation. I take this to be what Marx is suggesting in his letter to Ruge.1 He writes of redeeming a reason that has “always existed, but not always in a rational form,” and that this “reform of consciousness consists only in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in awakening it out of its dream about itself, in explaining to it the meaning of its own actions.” In other words, Marx held that the revolution was to be understood as the completion of the bourgeois project, which had only realized itself in a one-sided political way. The rational form of reason must be defined by its ability to arrest and reverse the chaos of unbridled market forces, which threaten life on this planet as we know it. For Marx, a rational form of reason entailed a de-mystification and de-alienation of social relations, by way of a negation of every instance of immediacy Download Wicked 720p. Quintessentially, this immediacy was that of the commodity form, and bourgeois conceptions of freedom and equality. The two come together at the very end of Chapter 6 of Capital, marking the transition from the moment of exchange of commodities to that of production. What Marx had in mind was an immanent critique of bourgeois social relations. It was through what he called making petrified relations “dance by singing their own tune to them”2 that the promises inherent within capitalism could be realized, i.e., the actual realization of a principle of justice, understood as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”3

But during the crisis of the early decades of the 20th century, the social contradiction between capital and wage labor failed to generate a revolutionary transformation of capitalist societies. The key reason for such a failure, which Lukacs had already recognized in the aftermath of the German and Hungarian revolutions, was the phenomenon of reification. Mystification could not simply be overcome via transformation of the scene of exchange, because the fetishistic logic of capitalism had penetrated deeply into every nook and cranny of life. This especially included philosophical concepts, which lead to seemingly insoluble antinomies and oppositions. When these antinomies were overcome, it was only in thought, and not in practice. According to Lukács, this would only happen in the revolutionary activity of the proletariat, which would finally, in the words of Marx, “make the world philosophical.”iv However, rather than making the real abstraction of the commodity form concrete, through the grasping of itself as the identical subject-object of history, what happened instead one could call a “false” concretion of the abstract logic of capital. The stranger, the other, emphatically not capital, became understood as the alien power dominating the life-worlds of European societies in the midst of an unprecedented economic and social crisis, leading to the radical particularism of fascism. We see the ghosts of fascism currently haunting Europe, particularly in Lukács’ native Hungary in the form of the rabidly anti-semitic Jobbik party.

Adorno implicitly invokes this scenario in the opening sentence of Negative Dialectics, where he says: “Philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment to realize it was missed.”4 Given that its subject and object were already mediated, or related to one another, theoretical reflection—particularly that which sought to locate the limits of theory, what Adorno called “thinking conceptually beyond the concept”—was itself a form of praxis.5 This he made clear in his “Idea of Natural History,” which, in my view, must form at least part of the starting-point for the discussion of the relation of thought and action. It gains renewed importance in light of the ecological crisis, which is not only fast approaching, but already here. Adorno articulated a vision of the relation between nature on the one side, and history on the other, which inverted the typical understanding of the relation between the two terms. Nature at its most natural became historical, while history at its most historical reverted into a kind of “second nature.” Nature, typically understood as the unchanging, became the site of the new. History, supposedly the site of novelty, and epoch-making events like the French Revolution, became the realm of the always-the-same, as capitalism is able to come to grips with its own crisis tendencies. It is possible to see in the idea of natural history a new geological epoch following the Holocene, called the “Anthropocene.” This acknowledges the massive impact of human activity, which already does and continues to have an impact on the earth and its transformations. This transformation of natural ecology is itself premised on a history that has been flattened and reified by capitalist social relations. As has recently been suggested by Frederic Jameson, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world”—that is, the new—“than to imagine the end of capitalism”—that is, the always-the-same.6

How this plays itself out concretely can be understood through the recently released IPCC report. It suggests that the first real manifestation of global climate change will be in the area of water and food security, which will of course hit the poorest nations first. I was talking to Tarek Shalaby about Egypt, where we see tremendous sensitivity by the Egyptian people to the grinding poverty that afflicts their everyday life. Reductions, for example, in bread, oil, and fuel subsidies, played a key role in political mobilization in the run-up to the revolution in 2011. Ongoing desertification of the Nile valley brought about by global climate change will no doubt exacerbate an already precarious situation.

Given the urgency of the IPCC report, we do well to go back to Rosa Luxemburg slogan of “socialism or barbarism.”7 This does not indicate simply a transition to socialism, as the productive forces burst asunder increasingly antiquated production relations. It also contains a critique of historical progress as we see in Benjamin and Adorno, whereby the only progress that is imaginable is a shattering of the very logic of progress. The expanded development of the productive forces eventuates in a self-preservation run wild, a logic that ultimately undermines itself insofar as it fails to secure a key condition of capitalism, the reproduction not just of labor-power, but of sensuous nature itself. It is for this reason that Adorno calls for a ‘second Copernican revolution’, one that leads away from the primacy of the subject qua Kant, Hegel, and also Marx, towards the primacy of the object. Based on such assumptions, I will conclude with the following: Emancipation would entail the freedom not only of the subject, but also of the object. It would reject productivist versions of Marxism, favoring what Adorno calls a “communication” between subject and object, and a condition of peace between the two.

Joseph Schwartz: I probably will be a bit more explicitly political and policy-oriented than the previous speakers. One of the weaknesses in a lot of social theory today, particularly in its post-structuralist forms, is that we really don’t think seriously about political economy Download the Library of Congress papers. We don’t use the analytic and normative tools of social theory to look at the actual dynamics of a society, both its barriers to emancipation and also its possibilities. In that spirit, I would suggest that, in a certain sense, Marxism as a theory has always been in crisis. I take very seriously the implicit ethical import of Marx, in the sense that anyone who is a democrat has to be against exploitation and domination in the workplace, or any intersubjective human relations. We believe there should be democratic control over the social surplus, and the labor process—as Michael Burawoy always says, “who gets what” and “who does what.” The democratic vision is really that there should not be a divide in society between those who define its tasks, and those who carry them out. We do still have a very rigid division of labor in many arenas of social life, between those who set the tasks, and those who are dominated and forced to carry them out.

Marxism is an incredibly seductive social theory because it promises a theory of history, social structure, and agency that culminates in a teleological revolution. The Marxist insight—which I think is partly true, but it has never been fully fulfilled—is that because labor under capitalism is an interdependent social process, but one governed a-socially or hierarchically, democratizing that control over production would be the goal of the proletariat, as it became conscious of itself not only as a class in production (in itself), but as a conscious revolutionary class (for-itself). The only problem is that in its most powerful forms, in the types of bourgeois-democratic capitalist societies that Marx thought would give rise to revolution, to the extent to which the labor movement or the socialist movement had a mass impact up through the 60’s-70’s, it was much more reformist than revolutionary. I think we have to take seriously the arguments made as early as the 1920’s by e.g. Selig Perlman, that in a certain sense, workers have more than their chains to lose, and therefore are often more reformist when engaged in social struggle than revolutionary. Where workers have been more revolutionary is in those countries subjected to imperial domination, and the rapid industrialization of a predominantly peasant society—say, workers in Shanghai in the 1920’s, or workers in Petrograd and Moscow at the turn of the 20th century. However, these lacked the mass industrial base that Marx had said was a prerequisite for the transition to socialism.

One thing we have to deal with is that whatever Lenin or Trotsky said about the revolution, Marxist-Leninist parties have mostly governed as engines of state-led primitive accumulation. If you think this is a joke, I grew up with a mother who still thinks the Soviet Union was a great society until this guy Gorbachöv came along. She would always say that Stalinism was like American slavery: “Where are you going to get a surplus from unless you exploit people? We had to do it.” That’s the traditional defense: read Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty in his earlier formation. The justification for Stalinist rule was that you had to extract surplus from Kulaks, and even from workers, by starving them and working them hard. Otherwise you couldn’t industrialize. The Marxist view is that the proletariat, increasingly interdependent in production, would also become increasingly consciously revolutionary in subjective activity. But the objective and the subjective dynamics of Marxism never fully met.

In a certain sense that’s kind of what Gramsci struggles with; I think Gramsci is the 1,000 lb. gorilla that we aren’t talking about. Not just his concept of consent, or his view that the common sense of working people was not revolutionary, but not totally false. Take a common-sense view like: “If you do better in school, or you work harder on average, your life will be better.” Obviously this profoundly ignores the forms of class and cultural reproduction that go on in education, or in the labor-force. But on the other hand, there is a certain partial degree of truth in it. From a Gramscian analysis, there is even a partial degree of truth, again masking a profound falsehood, in what we have been dealing with. The mass support for neoliberalism has been from the ability to hive off a certain sector (mostly non-unionized) of the white working class, based on some common sense views. First, that taxes are too high. They’re not too high on corporations or the affluent. But because of a flat-rate Social Security tax, the regressive nature of property taxes, and a generally not very progressive tax structure, working-class people do pay too much in taxes.

The right wildly exaggerates the amount of funds that went to means-tested anti-poverty programs. We all know that. Not just white working-class people, but e.g., African-American or Latino families that were above the poverty line, resented the fact that we don’t have universal childcare, and we still don’t have universal healthcare. People below the poverty line got Medicaid. If they got aid to families with dependent children (it is almost impossible to get temporary aid for needy families) it was well below the means of subsistence. The dirty little secret is that people on AFDC always took in other people’s children, worked off the books, etc.. But again, we have to understand that the consciousness of the resentment, the means-tested welfare state, wasn’t totally crazy. We don’t analyze enough the relationship between common sense, and what we would call a more radical or revolutionary, “good” sense. I think there’s a lot of insight we can get from Marx, say about the present crisis, which one of overproduction and overconsumption. It is a crisis of financialization, which is what Marx predicted would occur if the rate of profit fell. But the revolutionary project that comes out of that is problematized in the current period of the weakness of the entire Left. The reason why we get these flash insurgencies in the most squeezed countries—e.g., in parts of Latin America and southern Europe, or in the U.S.—is that there is a tremendous realization that basic human needs aren’t being met, and that people’s lives are being decimated by austerity and neoliberalism. But there is no real faith in an alternative.

What are the governing models of the Marxist, socialist, tradition? On the one hand, there is top-down industrialization in developing countries 앱짱가디언. On the other hand, there is social democracy, which did not ultimately yield a strong enough, radical enough labor movement. Once profits got squeezed in the early 70’s, they couldn’t face the neoliberal attack on the institutions of labor, democratic forms of state environmental and financial regulations, etc. These attacks were successful, and obviously for politically pragmatic but ultimately disastrous reasons, the leadership of social democracy certainly moved to the right and becomes neoliberalized—including in the Democratic party leadership in America. They claim to understand now that you can’t have restrictions on labor markets as you used to, or on freedom of capital. It’s not clear: We have an alternative—democratic control over social surplus, extensive de-commodification of basic human needs, curtailment of the working life, and some form of a guaranteed income—but we don’t have a party or a vehicle to establish it.

Capitalism is incredibly productive, so why are we working longer, and talking about extending the working life? Today in the United States, 300,000 auto-workers make as many cars as 1.8 million did in 1970. That’s how much productivity has increased with robotization, etc.. Why aren’t we benefitting from that? Why aren’t we working less? This obviously has to do with the fact that capitalists control the accumulation process.

In theorizing reformist practice, if you don’t think its revolutionary enough, I don’t really care. In some ways I have Trotsky’s view, wherever there is fascism, socialists fight for the rights of slaves. I don’t think there is fascism now, and I’m not saying we have slavery, but we have a low wage near enslaved labor. We have student debt-peonage. We have immigrants who do a major amount of care work, and who ought to have immediate citizenship for themselves and their children. We have a public education system that is totally shot through by class and racial inequalities, and is being privatized in the city as we speak. There are plenty of struggles that socialists have to be involved in, because I think we have to be involved in any struggle for the rights of the demos against the rights of the oligarchs.

Chris Cutrone: The last 20th century was characterized as one of wars and revolutions. I would like to re-characterize it slightly, to a century of war and revolution, singular. The 20th century was the century of the crisis of capitalism, and that crisis was expressed through war and revolution. Hannah Arendt’s 1962 book On Revolution begins its discussion of politics with an introduction on “War and Revolution,” offering that these were the two paramount political issues of the day, after all ideological justifications handed down from the 19th century, such as nationalism, capitalism and socialism or communism, had faded.

Arendt began her discussion, properly, with Lenin: Lenin, who called for turning the “world war” among national states into a global “civil war” between the workers and the capitalists—it almost happened. Lenin represented to Arendt the opposition of revolution to war. It is said that a Nazi diplomat once quipped that the only beneficiary of WWII would be Trotsky. For most of the 20th century, this is what was assumed, that war was the failure of politics, and that the political failure of the ruling class in war would lead to social revolution. This was once a reasonable assumption that we cannot however share today, for the political issues of the revolution, while not going away, have been driven underground, no longer manifesting as politics. Arendt’s fears have been confirmed: It was her rather hopeful and optimistic prognosis that modern history was the history of revolution, and war merely the revolution’s epiphenomenon. Today that is hard for us to perceive.
Arendt predicted that due to “mutual assured nuclear destruction” in the Cold War, the 20th century would cease to be characterized as a century of war but would remain a century of revolution. But the opposite has taken place after the end of the Cold War. It is not that war has been eclipsed by revolution—as Lenin would have hoped—but rather the opposite, that war has eclipsed revolution. Arendt dismissed De Maistre’s statement that, “Counterrevolution is not the revolution in reverse but the opposite of revolution.” But De Maistre was correct and Arendt mistaken: the 20th century became a century of war not revolution because it was a century of counterrevolution.

To recognize, with von Clausewitz, that “war is politics by other means,” does not mean the reverse, that “politics is war by other means.” In other words, while the early 19th century liberal Benjamin Constant pointed out that moderns achieve by social commerce and peaceful politics what was once achieved by the Ancients through war, this does not mean that politics is reducible to war. If war is politics by other means, then we must add that war is not the best and might indeed be the worst means for achieving political ends. Revolution might be the alternative to war, but that does not mean that war is an acceptable alternative to revolution. It is important as well to note that Arendt recognized that while wars were a timeless, perennial feature of civilization, revolution was quintessentially modern. So, what we might say is that it appears that the 20th century became in retrospect a century of wars rather than revolutions the degree to which revolutionary modernity was rolled back successfully by the counterrevolution.

Arendt discusses “freedom” in an ancient rather than specifically modern sense à la Benjamin Constant, when she points out that for the Ancients wars were fought not for freedom but for gain; and that for moderns revolution is inseparable from freedom: that a particular danger lies in the concept of wars for freedom, precisely because it conflates war and revolution, at the expense of proper political considerations, drowning the separate issues of each in the phenomenon of violence, to which she thought neither revolution nor war could be reduced. However, it would appear that today not only war and revolution are reduced to violence, but also politics and society. Politics seems reduced to “war by other means,” indeed to violence by other means. That politics and social power have been reduced to violence is the surest sign of the “success,” so to speak, of the counterrevolution. This is what it means for the Left to say that, but for the Right, the revolution would be peaceful, without violence—political force is not violence.

Arendt, like von Clausewitz, sought to preserve the political content of war. But Benjamin Constant, like other liberals, considered war to be, not merely the failure of politics, but a crime. Unlike for the Ancients who celebrated war, indeed as among the highest of values, after every modern war people search for who was criminally culpable for the regrettable catastrophe 19 Bear Ted. Carl Schmitt thought that this pointed to the dehumanization inherent in liberalism, its attempt to suppress the war of politics through its criminalization of war, reducing to his mind society to mere “commerce and entertainment.” It should not be for the Left to define politics, like Schmitt, in terms of war. Rather, the issue is the pursuit of freedom without war. If the liberal ideal of bourgeois society as the replacement of war by commerce—by not only peaceful competition but indeed cooperative competition for the benefit of all—has failed, then we must interrogate the nature of that failure and not naturalize it. The liberal ideal may also remain that of socialism.

This raises the issue of war in our particular moment, today, the time of an apparently quickly fading neoconservatism and a continuing if chastened neoliberalism. What are these ideologies with respect to revolution? We might say that there is an antinomy of neoconservatism versus neoliberalism, that neoliberalism prefers to seek to achieve through the market what neoconservatism is content to seek through war, and that this antinomy points to the form of the revolution in our time, that is, capitalism, and its political antinomies. For capitalism is the revolution, however it is also the counterrevolution. Both the neoliberals and neoconservatives seek to further the revolution—capitalism—but do so through what Marxists must consider the counterrevolution.

Modern politics, in this sense, can be considered the war, so to speak, within the revolution: the political counterrevolution within the revolutionizing of society in capitalism, and the yet still ongoing irrepressible revolution of capitalism within the politics of the counterrevolution. Modern politics is concerned with the values of the massive changes occurring within capitalism — the values and direction of the revolution. Once we recognize that modern history does not consist of occasional revolutions but rather of the revolution, one single process and trajectory of revolution, which has been more or less poorly manifested, recognized and fought-out, we can better situate the stakes of politics.

The counterrevolution, as the war within the revolution, is the reaction against the failure of the revolution: the degeneration of the revolution into war expressed through the counterrevolution. So what is the revolution? The modern era is one of revolution, that is, the overthrow of traditional civilization. The past few hundred years have been characterized by the most far-reaching and deepest ever transformation of the world. More has changed and has changed more rapidly than at any other moment of history. The predominant way in which this change has taken place is through avowed bourgeois social relations, which are essentially the relations of the exchange of labor as a commodity, what Adorno called the “law of labor.” This has been recognized clearly by bourgeois protagonists as well as by their adversaries. Both revolutionaries and reactionaries have characterized this process in bourgeois terms, the terms of the modern city.

The American revolutionary Thomas Jefferson offered a clear characterization of the stakes of this revolution of which he was an important advocate and political agent. Jefferson, in his letter of January 3, 1793 to U.S. Ambassador to France William Short about the Jacobins, wrote:

The tone of your letters had for some time given me pain, on account of the extreme warmth with which they censured the proceedings of the Jacobins of France…. In the struggle which was necessary, many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as any body, and shall deplore some of them to the day of my death. But I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle. It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hands, the fate of enemies. But time and truth will rescue and embalm their memories, while their posterity will be enjoying that very liberty for which they would never have hesitated to offer up their lives. The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is.

In 1793, the Jacobins had restarted the calendar, retrospectively beginning with year one of the Republic in 1792. The French Revolution also introduced the metric system of measurements, which has since become the universal standard. A new epoch was to have dawned. That the revolution has since then come to seem not the overthrow but rather the continuation of traditional civilization is only an effect of the need and failure to advance the revolution.

Politics since then has been concerned with the direction of this revolution. Only very isolated extreme figures and only for relatively brief historical intervals have rejected the politics of the bourgeois revolution. For instance, several years ago, in an open letter to President George W. Bush, President of the Islamic Republic in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrote that the project of liberal democratic capitalism had clearly failed and that therefore it was time to return to the values of traditional civilization in religion, to Islam and Christianity, respectively.

Since the 1970s, there have been two extremely active movements more or less proximate to the centers of political power at a global scale that have sought to further the bourgeois revolution. They have not been of the Left. Neoconservatism and neoliberalism have taken up the mantle abandoned by the Left in promoting the revolution of bourgeois society, promising the world freedom. In many ways the neoliberals have done so more radically than the neoconservatives. Still, even the neocons must be reckoned as bourgeois revolutionaries—which their traditionalist paleoconservative rivals, let alone the religious fundamentalists, have clearly recognized. The strange bedfellows of Christian conservatives and neoconservatives have fought the properly political battle of what Lenin called the “who-whom” question: Have the Christians used the neocons, or the neocons used the Christians? I think it is clear that the neocons, though now ideologically discredited on certain policy questions (after the Iraq war in particular), won that battle: they used the Christians to attain political power. But the neoliberals have, despite the recent global economic crisis of the past several years, really triumphed. Neoliberalism is the “new normal” throughout the world; Margaret Thatcher was right, “There is no alternative.” Furthermore, it is under neoliberal leadership that the world is currently being revolutionized Download Solomon's Perjury. We might say that the neoliberals have fought in the vanguard, and the neoconservatives in the rearguard, of the continuing bourgeois revolution over the course of the past generation, the last 40 years.

Where does this leave the avowed “Left,” today? There has been a great deal of confusion in the past generation in particular, but also more broadly since the early 20th century, about the direction and stakes of the revolution from the point of view of the “Left.” Arendt, for instance, pointed out how it was remarkable that freedom had dropped out of the vocabulary of revolutionaries. What would have been obvious to Marx and Engels, or to Lenin or Trotsky as Marxists, that the struggle for socialism was to further and complete, and ultimately transcend the bourgeois revolution in freedom, has become an obscure issue today.

Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto parsed out the issue of socialism in the 19th century in terms of conservative-reactionary versus progressive-emancipatory varieties, deeming only “proletarian socialism” a reliable agent of overcoming the problem of capitalism in the emancipatory direction of freedom. Other varieties were deemed “petit-bourgeois,” that is, reproductive of the problem of capitalism and obscuring its essential contradictions. The original socialist critique of capitalism was that the capitalists were unreliable revolutionaries, too opportunistically conservative to confidently promote the revolution of which they had been however the beneficiaries historically. Rather, that task of fulfilling the revolution in modern society had fallen to the working class.

In the 20th century, this became muddled, in that “new revolutionary subjects” were sought to promote the revolution after the apparent failure of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries to further the revolutionary advance to socialism. But today these purported new social-revolutionary classes and social groups have also clearly failed. Neither peasants nor anti-colonialists nor oppressed ethno-cultural minorities nor women nor sexual deviants have furthered the advance of socialism. If anything, such politics have only confounded the issue even more. We are left with the problem of the results of incomplete revolution—capitalism—but without any apparent revolutionary subjects to address and overcome this problem. The best on offer seems an indeterminate “democracy,” but that has a storied and problematic history as well, going back to the Jacobins themselves if not earlier. Moreover, since the mid-19th century, the democratic revolution has been an engine for the reproduction of capitalism.

What the revolution has given us since Marx’s time is not socialism but more extensive and deeper capitalism. Moreover, Marx’s recognition of the revolutionary character of capitalism has been lost. The reproduction of capitalism has taken largely conservative-reactionary forms. This is because the issue of capitalism itself has become obscured. This has had a profound effect on politics itself. The ostensible “Left” has allowed itself to become defensive, and to thus imagine that the principal task has been, rather, the “resistance” to capitalism. A one-sided and confused “anti-capitalism” has replaced the struggle for socialism. Worse, the “Left” has internalized not only cynicism about the bourgeois revolution, but even the conservative-reactionary rejection of the revolution itself. Marx has gone from being a revolutionary to becoming a “master of suspicion,” and has been profoundly misread as skeptical or even cynical regarding modern, bourgeois society and its revolutionary potential. The “Left” has thus become a new Right. It has not only compromised itself but actively contributes to the confounding and obscuring of the revolution that still tasks the world.

This means that only opportunists—the Right—have allowed themselves to be politically active, but have been compromised in their activity precisely by such opportunism. Neoliberalism and neoconservativism are clear examples of this, but so is political religious fundamentalism. But before them so was Stalinism. As Trotsky put it, Stalinism was the “great organizer of defeat,” meaning the political “leadership” of the organized accommodation of defeat. As such, Stalinism was also, ideologically, the apologetics for defeat. This was done through calling defeat victory, or, the affirming of the course of the revolution through opportunistic grief. Thus, the 20th century was called “progress” when there was none. No wonder that postmodernism’s opposition to Marxism—really to Stalinism—was first and foremost an opposition to ideas of historical progress and of history—that is, universal history itself.

What characterizes the last two hundred years is the relative lack of consciousness, and unfortunately increasingly so, of the on-going bourgeois revolution. To date, Marxism has offered not merely the best but really the only way out of this deficiency of consciousness. Specifically, Marxism offered the diagnosis of the necessary if symptomatic character of that lack of consciousness. The bourgeois revolution without consciousness is what Marx called “capitalism;” it was the rendering of the revolution “objective”—an object of mere contemplation, an unfolding catastrophe rather than a process of freedom—abdicating the task of consciousness, which alone could offer the possibility of the continuation of the revolution as a matter of freedom.

If we experience the return, the repetition of the bourgeois revolution, then this is as the reproduction of capitalism. But the repetition is an opportunity for advancing the revolution, if however its self-contradiction, the war of the counterrevolution within the failure of the revolution, still dominates us. The task of revolutionary thinking, therefore, would be the recognition of the repetition and of the contradiction.

Responses

NM: I don’t think that neoliberals could be viewed as the vanguard of bourgeois revolutions today; I would say that it is the contrary. Neoliberalism is the vanguard of the destruction of the last remnants of bourgeois culture. The bourgeoisie was a class that died some decades ago. I think contemporary oligarchies have little to do with the classical bourgeoisie, as it was only ever interested in seeking profits and exploiting society. The classical bourgeoisie wanted to create a viable form of society. Today, oligarchies want only to loot, as David Harvey said in response to the London suburban riots in 2011. The lower class is following this ideology of the ruling neoliberal oligarchy, which is just slash-and-burn.

DR: My democratic sensibilities will allow me to make one comment, and give my two minutes to the people Naver blog music. I have heard a lot on this panel about thought, but not much about politics. How do we proceed? What is to be done?

SG: I wonder what Chris would make of the celebration of the Communist Manifesto’s 150th anniversary in 1998. You had an almost universal laudation from the Wall Street Journal, to the Economist, to the New York Times. It seems to mean that capitalism has recognized the way in which Marx is really praising the bourgeoisie in that text. He didn’t come to bury the bourgeoisie, but to praise it to high heavens. I’m wondering how that fits in terms of what you’re suggesting. Isn’t that the pre-history of a certain kind of appropriation, not only of the shallow conception of freedom you get in neoliberalism?

JS: To Nikos: Financialization of capitalism may or may not be a new period or form. It is not clear anymore that there is a national bourgeoisie, held responsible to its people, and any notion of a patrician bourgeoisie is certainly out the window. The search for short-term profit certainly is striking. What is to be done? There are limits ecologically, but even in our society there are huge deprivations of material needs that are generating forms of resistance. I don’t think you should come out of here without talking about the insurgency around raising the minimum wage, and immigrant rights. I think the new working class will be immigrant-led. Whatever you say about globalization, a lot of stuff in this country can’t move without workers. Healthcare, construction, restaurants, retail—basically 10% of the country works at Wal-Mart. They’re all going to suffer huge cuts in their living standards. Many of you have connections to the academy. The neoliberalization of the academy is part of the reason for the crisis of intellectuals: Everything is about niche production, adding new lines to your CV, and there’s no solidarity. There’s been an incredible proletarianization of academic labor. A hint at the dominance of neoliberal ideology is that few people know that the real source of the crisis is that per capita funding from the state—per person and per university—is down 40% from the mid-70s. The abandonment by the state of the education of its own citizens is part of the crisis. I’ll conclude by saying that our job should be to render relatively transparent the opaque forms of domination and subordination of capitalist ideology. A lot of my colleagues render the transparent opaque.

CC: About the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto: This is just rank ideology. The 90s were a boom period; what followed was a bust. To get to Nikos’ point of the bourgeoisie destroying bourgeois society, we have to be careful with the categories of “the bourgeoisie” and “the capitalist.” Is this the entrepreneur? The finance rentier class (Lenin’s coupon-clippers from Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism)? My focus is on the politics and political actors—not the ruling class understood as the moneybags, rich people. Take Jeffrey Sachs, a neoliberal bourgeois revolutionary of our time. He was honest enough to realize that his program for revolution didn’t work, and now he is an apostate neoliberal who has taken the other track. He is clear on his political vision, and has changed the means to the end. First, it was “shock therapy” and free-market reforms; now, it is transnational organizations, charity, and reinvestment. I try to keep my remarks constrained to politics, which is why I brought up the neocons and the neoliberals as the political actors of the last generation. The Left has to aspire to outdo these people, to outdo them as revolutionaries. To do this we have to be clear on the revolution, but I think the Left has joined the counterrevolution. Resistance to capitalism is a non-starter, politically—trying to transform capitalism, to get beyond capitalism, that’s something else. But resistance to capitalism? Hopeless.

Q&A

I feel that when we reach for catastrophe as an explanation of our current situation, its motivated by a compelling desire to make the mundane profound. The IPCC report apparently tells us that we’re past the turning point. I’m old enough to remember the Club of Rome, which also said we’d passed a turning point, and that by 1970 all human life would be impossible. It’s a common theme of Marxism to say that the rate of profit is past that point at which the only future is barbarism, socialism or barbarism. Well, where’s the barbarism? I see civilization, a forward march in life expectancy, literacy, health. The carrying capacity of the Earth has been increased to six billion over an amazingly short period of time. What a fantastic success! If you wanted to dramatize telling the story of human history, wouldn’t you begin with the remarkable potential of this point of human civilization?

JS: Even if what you say is true, you must admit that there is an ecological crisis, one that will have to be dealt with by a change of social and political power relations. Sea levels are rising: it’s an empirical reality. But I’m enough of a modernist to think that—if we have the right politics and transformations in politics and policy—there are technological solutions to the problems that technology creates. In that sense there’s a dialectic of the Enlightenment that has both positive and negative aspects. Reason can solve the problems that it poses, but it can also create a lot of serious problems.

DR: Human beings are in a constant state of denial, as Freud wrote about at the turn of the 20th century. I don’t think we understand reality better by sounding like a happy journalist on CNN Download eclipse 32-bit. To make a comparison between the IPCC and the Club of Rome is, quite frankly, specious. Who was the Club of Rome? The IPCC is a conglomerate of almost 3,000 scientists who review scientific evidence, already published and adjudicated. How can we deny that? How can we deny the scientific basis of that analysis? We have to see what the political implications are of that evidence.

SG: It was only around six or seven years ago that the CIA released a report of its projections for deepening climate and civic crises throughout the world, and they were planning accordingly. There is a sense today that crime is on the decline, but there is a militarization of the police. One has to ask why this is. Perhaps this is a kind of preparation for the coming crises—‘barbarism’, in a sense, on the horizon. What this question articulated would be received quite sympathetically by our current government—an absolutely reactionary, authoritarian government that is not doing anything it can to forestall climate change. It is doing everything to deepen and further the coming economic crisis. I find it quite amazing that you suggested what you did.

NM: “Barbarism” should not always be imagined as a pile of corpses, or stuff like that. I will refer to Oswald Spengler, who described the barbarism to come as more and more inhuman situations within a highly civilized environment. This describes very accurately what’s going on today.

CC: I agree with the formulation Nikos just provided, of increasingly inhuman situations being produced within a nonetheless civilized society. But I would turn the question of barbarism to that of political responsibility: In other words, the decline of political responsibility could be an index of increasing barbarism. What we are talking about with revolutionary thought and politics is the ability to take responsibility for the massive changes the world is undergoing, and will continue to undergo. I take the question’s point not to be denial of a problem, but rather confidence in the potential ability to address that problem. I would like to echo Joseph’s point that reason is the solution to its own problems, and that technology can solve the problems created by technology. This comes with the proviso that technology is a human doing, but in alienated form. It is thus about what we are doing: whether we can take responsibility for it, and what form that might take.

NM: Technology is not at all instrumental or natural—it is materialized ideology. One of the most important dimensions of a social transformation would be the transformation of technology. But technology is not neutral; it is an expression of the dominant worldview of that society. Every form of society has its own technical system, and so if we critique capitalism, we must critique its technical system as well. Take Taylorism, for example. Lenin wanted to use Taylorism for the cause of socialism. But Taylorism is an inherently oppressive and alienating system, which springs from capitalist ideology. I can’t imagine a socialist society with Taylorist forms of working.

We shouldn’t indulge in catastrophism or crisis-mongering. Catastrophism is not lucidly reflecting on what is going to come; it always believes that there is no solution, and no possible exit. The greatest catastrophists were always those who took techno-science to be omnipotent. That’s why Heidegger, for example, when he demonized technology, counterpoised to it Gelassenheit—serenity. But when people indulge in catastrophic thinking, I think this is valid because it at least expresses a kind of vigilance. Techno-optimism expresses a lack of responsibility towards what’s going on in society.

DR: I consider myself a public intellectual, but also an activist. Though I forecast a dark future in actuality, it doesn’t hold me back for a second in doing what I have to do, want to do, and enjoy doing, as a political activist. I want to share with you a historical experience. In the 1950’s, the two superpowers, the USSR and the US, were testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. The effects of that pollution of the environment are well-known. There was a great deal of panic at the time about what this was headed towards—namely, WWIII. A massive movement arose in response to this, the nuclear disarmament movement, which was unprecedented in terms of its size and organization. Now we didn’t get nuclear disarmament, but what we did get was the nuclear test ban treaty. So, as a result of that mass movement clouded by fear, we brought us back from the precipice. That may or may not happen with the ecological crisis.

SG: I certainly don’t think I’m advocating catastrophism. I think it is necessary to think through possible alternative understandings of both reason and freedom, in such a way as to address what Horkheimer and Adorno called the Dialectic of Enlightenment which was envisioned in terms of a mindfulness of nature. Capitalism has a decreasing capacity to reproduce the natural conditions that would enable its continuation. I don’t think that’s terribly controversial. My conclusion would be that only the hand that wields the sword can heal the wound. A dialectical conception of reason is absolutely vital. Then we could recognize that technology is not some mystical thing, but is a form of reason. In order for a critique of that form to be carried out, another conception needs to be itself worked out. That is in part the project of the relationship between revolutionary thought and practice.

JS: I do think the ecological crisis does open the possibility for left critique and action. But whatever you want to call it, we aren’t going to get an emancipatory politics of the city without accomplishing much greater public control over social investment 추상화. I don’t think the corporate world is going to provide the changes in the way we produce and consume that are needed if we’re going to sustain human life on Earth. There are flash eruptions against neoliberalism occurring across the world. I think there is a role for Marxism or socialism, as a form of political organization, to help cohere this social unrest and protest into some kind of governing emancipatory project. We are in a period of crisis, where a lot of people do know that something’s profoundly wrong, and that human well-being is threatened. But what to do with these openings is what we have to sort out by actually doing politics.

CC: I want to make a closing plea for the plausibility, even if somewhat politically distant, of Marxism as still in the present. It is present to the degree to which we can call the contradiction of society at a global scale as being that between wage labor and capital. Do we still live in a society that reproduces the conditions for wage labor? Do we still live in a society that is dominated by the need to valorize capital? I think both of these are still in effect. This is not just a description of an objective state of the economy, but is also a description of a circumstance for potential politics. Marx was not only a philosopher of modern history, or an analyst of the capitalist economy, but also a political strategist. His orientation to the wage-laboring class was a strategic estimation of politics. In that respect, what we lack, unlike previous historical phases of capitalism, is an adequate political mediation of the problem of capitalism. In other words, capitalism doesn’t manifest at the level of politics, where the contradiction between capital and wage labor is fought out. Perhaps it won’t manifest in the future in the way it did in the past, but it seems to me that the alternative to that attempt to politicize the capital and wage-labor relationship will be further barbarism: The decline of potential political responsibility, and the locking-up of politics among a small group of ideologues and technocrats. | §

Originally published in The Platypus Review #69 (September 2014).


  1. <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/letters/43_09.htm>. []
  2. <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm>. []
  3. <https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm>. []
  4. Marx, ‘The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophies of Nature’, (1839-41). Quoted in The Marx-Engels Reader, Robert C. Tucker ed., Norton 1978 (p. 10). []
  5. Negative Dialectics, Trans. E.B. Ashton, Continuum, 1973 (p. 3). []
  6. ‘Future City’, New Left Review 21, May-June 2003. URL=<http://newleftreview.org/II/21/fredric-jameson-future-city>. []
  7. <https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1915/junius/ch01.htm> []