“To be radical is to grasp things by the root.”
Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
Though the vast majority of western pundits remain loathe to admit it, Marxism is a foundational strain of thought in the modern western world. In fact it could be argued that it is the intellectual presence of Marxism that precisely differentiates the modern from the pre-modern world. Western politics is entirely colonised with the ideas of Marxism, from progressive left through traditional conservative right, in the same way that the human gut is colonised by the billions of bacteria that process and digest food that the body depends on. The disconcerting truth is that the human host is entirely dependent upon these organisms although they themselves are not actually human. Without these aliens the body cannot digest and would die. Marxism lives in the gut of Germanic capitalist society and allows it to digest information from modern reality….
From a strictly rational point of view ‘Classical’ (pre Marxist) economics has been shown again and again to fail abysmally when faced with the task of ordering and understanding the real world. The final debacle in a long and ignominious history was the failure to predict and deal with the series of calamities that culminated in the disaster of 2007. During the so called financial crisis the entire structure of the global economy and society teetered on the brink of collapse. It was only the abandonment of any last shred of faith in traditional ‘classical’ economic practice that saved the world economy from chaos and disintegration. So now everybody is a Marxist to a greater or lesser extent. But I confidently predict that is by no means as far as this process will go. In the post modern world, the entire canon of western thought has increasingly come under sustained pressure from post modern polyglot globalism. As the future unfolds Marxism will end it’s existence, not as the haunting ‘spectre’ Marx hoped it to be but rather as a cherished relic of western tradition, like the statues of confederate soldiers presently being defended from defacement and destruction because they are part of American history for good or ill. Marxism will be transformed from an object of specific hate into a totem of common heritage.
But that is for the future, At this precise juncture it seems the only options are either to accept Marxism at face value or to attempt to discredit and undermine it. It has become time to understand what Marxism actually is as opposed to taking part in the Punch and Judy argument that has dominated the last century. The process of real understanding begins with realising that since the moment of its creation there never has been a clear and unbiased analysis of Marxism, because it has never been in anyone’s interest to create one. Anyone’s interest. Or put another way, it has always been in the general interest to avoid creating one.
When Marx said:
Whatever I am… I am not a Marxist
He was in part observing that no one can actually be a Marxist – until everyone is.
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”
The German Ideology
We have to explain why this would be. In part 1 I pointed towards the central question that must be answered, even if we accept Marxism under it’s own terms: How does Marxism explain its own coming into existence and is this explanation credible from a Marxist perspective ? This is by no means a given. The Marxist narrative begins from the argument is that Capitalism is inherently unstable; an observation that is by no means confined to the left. It is one of the successes of Marxist thought that the instability of capitalism is now generally accepted as an observed truth and as a consequence the idea of a self regulating market is completely discredited. Following on from this Marxism argues that if thought is the product of material circumstance, then unstable capitalism produces unstable minds which process finds expression in inherent and increasingly violent contradictions within capitalism. These inherent contradictions will fight one another until a new stability supported by experience wins out. Material conditions develop and change and thus the general thought process will also accordingly be forced to change .
People will increasingly see capitalism as illogical until it collapses. In essence capitalism will fall and be superseded by socialism because this is the logical outcome of human development and people will be forced to become logical because human development itself is ultimately logical, even if people who make up that development are not!. In the past all societies gave expression to the objective conditions that governed them but not in a rational self conscious way. Expressing the objective conditions that give rise to thought can only be rational in one case throughout history- that of socialism. After the moment of enlightenment a person becomes conscious and forever after enlightenment that person’s actions are necessarily conscious actions. Marxism argues that you cannot know something and then act as though you don’t know it. In this sense the triumph of socialism is inevitable. In 1984 Orwell argues on the contrary that knowing something and then acting as though you don’t know it is precisely the basis on which modern society is run. In other words, a certain knowledge by no means necessarily leads to a certain action.
Keep Taking The Tablets
Since the force of inevitable progress has decreed that the ideology of socialism must come into existence it will perforce need an intellect to express it- to give it form. This new Law Of Human development will require a Moses to bring the tablets of it’s commandments down from the mountain. And it is here Marx saw himself entering the story of history -as having been chosen by the inevitable developmental forces that create history to be the one to make conscious that which was previously unconscious and concrete that which was previously without concrete form. Not only would Marx be the one to go to the mountain, not only would his be the finger that inscribed the tablets, his intellect would be the actual stone of the tablets themselves. Marx is selected by time and place, by the Zeitgeist. the spirit of the age, to transform himself into the vessel of conscious socialism. And so for the first time ever, personality and the conditions that give rise to it are consciously fused. Through this process Man comes to know himself and through this process Man and the universe are finally one..
“Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.”
Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844/The Communist Manifesto
Truth is general, it does not belong to me alone, it belongs to all, it owns me, I do not own it. My property is the form, which is my spiritual individuality.”
Collected Works of Marx and Engels
And of course, such a Moses would also need a people to lead out of captivity and a captivity to lead them out of.….what is the point of the tablets if you have no one to give them to….?
“Accumulate, accumulate! This is Moses and the Prophets!”
Capital, Vol 1: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production
On one level all this might be an amusing diversion -an intellectual conjuring trick that might gain its author enough acclaim to purchase an entrance into society as a bete noir….. And it is possible at some level this is what Marx originally intended. In this had been the case the entirety of Marx’s thought might have remained in the realm of bourgeois intellectualism. But the component parts of the society into which Marxism came into being quickly made clear that it was not content to let Marxism or anyone else write its own story to the detriment of all around. After all, there were greater things at stake in the debate over the new capitalist society than merely Marx’s reputation and livelihood as an author.. As I have said more than once, capitalism was unstable and as a consequence lacking confidence. In some ways the history of capitalism is the history of an ongoing crisis of confidence and every capitalist has rightly felt like an historical imposter. In light of it’s suspect claim to power, capitalism simply could not stand a critique of any kind. For these reasons and others we will see later Marxism from it’s inception was dabbling in the primordial essence of things.
The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.