Marxist Theory Is The Hallmark Of Capitalist Development
Marx noted that capitalism is innately unstable leading to periodic crisis. It is on this prediction of crisis that his analysis is built; this makes his critique ‘scientific’ in character as opposed to ‘moral’. Marx’s economic analysis of the development of capitalism is powerful, accurate and overwhelmingly borne out by observed events. As a consequence it has become the de facto fulcrum that divides modern from premodern. In line with Marx’s analysis the undeveloped world has the ‘freest’ markets, the developed world the most regulated.. ‘Development’ itself has come to mean the development of regulatory government structures to predict and ameliorate the effects of periodic crisis. Comprehensive global regulation of economy also divides the world in time from pre crisis to post 2008 watershed. The co-ordinated post financial crisis response was the first time all major economies in the world acted in unison. It was the first example of true globalism- and it was the global triumph of Marxist analysis.
For Marx the fact that he was thinking what he was thinking was evidence in itself that what he was thinking was happening was already happening- as he was thinking it! A bit like Artificial Intelligence in science fiction – all at once his conscious analysis of capitalism was aware of itself.
‘The entire movement of history, as simply communism’s actual act of genesis — the birth act of its empirical existence — is, therefore, for its thinking consciousness the comprehended and known process of its becoming’.
Private Property and Communism (1844)
But when Marx actually got down to the practical business of how his consciousness might finally manifest outside of Marx in the real world, how it would be made flesh so to speak, he found he was creating a parody of what he increasingly referred to as generic ‘religion’. Even though the specific observations Marx made about crisis were new and the specific conclusions they led to were new, the framework within which he was forced to shape his thought began to look increasingly, disturbingly familiar.
‘The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property”.
‘The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism’.
The Communist Manifesto
Marx realised he could not explain the origin of his intellect and his theory from within the terms of that theory itself. Fundamentally, Marx could not think of a new, original reason to explain why new, original Marxism came to be… At times Marx argued that his thought was the product of the present ‘zeitgeist’. At other times he implied it came from the future i.e. he was the first to express this new form of thought. If his theory was totally new, (and it must be because capitalism was supposed to be new), and socialism was new as was Marxism new, how come the core elements of the conclusions it reached were so similar to what had gone before? Why wasn’t the practical conclusion of Marxism as different from everything else as it should be?
The key to understanding Marx’s problem lies in the relationship of Marxism to Hegelian dialectics. Marx’s critique of Hegelian philosophy is central to the Marxist project and centres on Hegel’s presentation of Thought as an abstracted absolute – a logical preposition. Given any specific thought or conception, Hegelian philosophy describes how that particular thought is modified and developed. Marx used Hegelian dialectics as both starting point and justification for Marxism by modifying the Hegelian dialectic to produce Marxist dialectics and historical materialism.
Whereas in Hegelian philosophy The Thought is the starting point for describing how intellect is developed and subsequently changes, in Marxism The Thought is the end point for describing WHY people think as they do at any given point. Marxism seeks to invert the question form: How do people change their minds from one particular thought to another to: Why do they have any particular thought in the first place? In Marxism, Thought is the product of a process, the end not the means. Adapting dialectics in this way served a two fold purpose for Marx. Firstly it allowed him to locate his own intellectual identity within the historical process of capitalist unconsciousness/false consciousness spontaneously becoming conscious and secondly it allowed him to explain the conscious nature of Marxism as a separate entity.
None Dare Call It…
Marxism is a revolution against Capitalism, Political Economy, Moral Socialism and ‘unconsciousness because once you become conscious you can never again be unconscious. If Marxism is not against all these things, it is not revolutionary. By definition, it can leave nothing untouched. Revolutionary Marxism is the antithesis to every thesis.. Revolution must annihilate what has gone before and seeks to replace old knowledge with new knowledge. Which means even replacing the knowledge of how the revolution itself came to be. Revolution must in the end deny it’s own arbitrary character -even though arbitrariness is it’s prime justification!- and proclaim things were always meant to be this way and therefore things have always been this way. The revolution was inevitable – it took the revolution to make us see that. In order to be successful every revolution must finally, inevitably revolt against revolution itself..
The Significance Of Marx’s Authorship
‘ …. in the end, one will be found among us who will prove that the sword of enthusiasm is just as good as the sword of genius.’
Engels, Anti-Schelling (1841)
Revolutionary Marxist dialectics must annihilate Hegelian dialectics, and Marx sought to use the very essence of Hegelian dialectics as the means with which to achieve this end, which everyone must admit is very clever. So the battle was between Hegelian dialectics; the ‘HOW’ of Thought, and Marxist dialectics; the ‘WHY’ of Thought. Look again at Marx’s battle against idolatry religion (see parts 1-3), and you can see that Marx is using exactly the same trick in every instance.. Marx sought to use the Judaic injunction on idolatry against Judaism, and in turn sought to use Hegelian dialectics against Hegel. But just as Marx ended up creating a new form of idolatry religion so he reproduced the Hegelian process in a different form..
In Hegelian terms (Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis), you cannot abolish the ‘past’ (the starting point), you can only modify it. Add water to whisky as much as you like, you can only dilute the mixture, you cannot remove the whisky that is already there. The prime objective of revolutionaries; abolition of what is gone before, is impossible. This Hegelian problem plagued Marxists way past the death of Marx and even past the initial phase of the Russian Revolution. Trotsky finally devised the idea of continually diluting whisky in the barrel before it even got poured into the glass and claimed that this made the problem of dilution moot. He called his solution (pun intended), ‘The Marxist Theory Of Permanent Revolution’.
Revolution is antithesis not synthesis; the midway point in a process, not the end of that process. It is the contradiction of everything that presently is. But this means that Marxism is only a way station in the process of thought, not the outcome of the thought process. In Hegelian terms Marxist revolution as antithesis leads to a final synthesis that is different from the Marxist revolution itself. Revolution is not the final outcome, it is the basis for the outcome. Marx sought to specify the outcome of the Marxist revolution, but could not because in as far as Marx is truly revolutionary he could not know the outcome of the revolution he promoted. In Hegelian terms to be a revolutionary is to oppose yourself to past and future.
The Gospel According To Marx
‘The writer must earn money in order to be able to live and to write, but he must by no means live and write for the purpose of making money.’
‘He called me a sentimental idealist and he was right; I called him a vain man, perfidious and crafty, and I also was right’
Quoted in Brian Morris, Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom, 1993, p14
The issue of authorship is the crucial factor that determines the significance of everything that Marx wrote. The issue of my authorship is the crucial factor determining the significance of everything I write. And everything you write and so on.. If an author fails to maintain the narrative that supports authorship then that writing must fail. The primary purpose of all writing must be to validate the author of that writing. According to Marx, if Marxism was valid in its own terms then it was part of the continuum of development that had to be located in the history and development of capitalism. The emergence of socialist consciousness was the inevitable consequence of the development of capitalism. This was the logic of human development. This was the logic of Marx himself. Logic is the formula for inevitability.
This leads directly to Marx’s critique of Hegel which ‘flipped’ Hegel on its own internal logic to produce Marxism. This flipping of Hegel produces the revolutionary Marxist antithesis of the Hegelian thesis. So as Marxism stakes its claim to be revolutionary it must forsake its right to name socialism as a successor to the capitalism and Hegelianism it opposes-. Marxism loses it’s purchase on the outcome of the revolution it instigates.. In theory Marx can double down on revolutionary opposition and argue that Hegelian philosophy is absolutely wrong. But If Hegel is absolutely wrong then Marx’s tactic of flipping it on it’s head, using Hegel against Hegel, must also be totally wrong. If Hegel is error, error is not located in the historical process of development of human thought! (if it is, there is no rational logical predictable march to consciousness as Marx claims…) Two wrongs, however they are put together, don’t make a right. The more resolute Marx’s opposition to Hegel, the more firmly Marx embeds himself as revolutionary opposition within the framework of Hegel and the less grasp Marxism has on the outcome of the struggle it began. The only other option is that Marx’s analysis and its authorship does not follow on from Hegel (Error)- it is completely separate from it. Then Marx would stand alone, revealed and naked as in the Garden of Eden…
The Gates of Eden
Fundamentally Marx’s problem is the same as that of Lucifer. Marx claims to have discovered a principle that precedes the principle he begins from, just as Lucifer does. If God Were not The First, if God Had not prescribed the principles of Heaven and Earth, then Lucifer argues he would be legally, rationally free to propose a new better framework based on a principle he discovered that precedes God. But God Created Lucifer and everything Lucifer does and could ever think. So nothing Lucifer can ever think can precede God, including the principle he claims to have ‘discovered’. Just as lightning touches earth and is grounded, so Lucifer whenever and wherever he seeks to set foot on the earth, is grounded by this fact. So it is with Marx and Hegel. Marx claims to have discovered a principle that precedes the principle of Hegel but is forced to admit this principle is created as a consequence of Hegel.
Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking.
German Ideology (1845)
Welcome To My Nightmare
Because Hegel anticipates Marxism and literally accounts for it, Marx must always be antithesis. Marx saw himself as being trapped, prisoner and victim of the order of events in the universe where he was forced to stand forever in an historical line behind Hegel when he should be at the head of the queue. And he complained bitterly over and over again about it.
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language.”
There Is No Alternative.. Is There?
The only options for Marx were either deny Hegel entirely (including the context in which Hegel existed), or agree to be bound by him. Either to say there is no ‘law’ of historical development, just the ideas and opinions of individuals, or there is a law and Hegel precedes Marx in it.
The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way.
German Ideology (1845)
Of course, if there is no such law then Marx’s claim to be the chosen inheritor of that law would necessarily be wrong. Marx would have to admit that a fundamental part of his analysis was in error. And more importantly, Marx would not be the choice of the contemporary concrete, world to further human progress, he would only be only one random voice of many. In essence, be only another opinion. Not chosen. The inheritor of nothing.
How to proceed had become a matter of intellectual courage, rather than intellect per se and Marx simply did not have that courage. Unlike Adam, Marx could only find it in himself to stand at the Gates Of Eden (cause and effect, the dialectic) cursing God (Hegel) rather than go out naked and alone into the wilderness- to say that he himself was in essence merely a collection of opinions.. Cut off from both past and future, Marx only could ever be Marx if he channelled total revolution and antithesis, chaos, whatever the consequences. From then on the point was to change it- whatever it was..
‘…we see how the resolution of the theoretical antitheses is only possible in a practical way (my emphasis), by virtue of the practical energy of man. Their resolution is therefore by no means merely a problem of understanding, but a real problem of life, which philosophy could not solve precisely because it conceived this problem as merely a theoretical one.’
Marx, Private Property and Communism (1844)
Rather than admit that Marx could not solve his problem of philosophy, Marx proclaimed that Marx was a problem philosophy could not solve! As could go neither forward nor back, Marx would devote the rest of his existence to digging a burrow for himself next to the Gates of Eden and here he would remain locked out from the past, unwilling to face his future. Hiding in the space between antithesis and synthesis. Just as Marx told the moral socialists they would have to sacrifice their moral heaven for a rational one, so he in turn would have to sacrifice his vision of rational logical, socialist Heaven and give himself over to experimental chaos instead.
Marx had been utterly defeated in the realm of rational philosophy. He was now like defeated Napolean, traipsing across a blasted landscape of his own making, intellectually destitute- a refugee. Where was the only place in the world a man could be guaranteed asylum from the power of rational philosophical enquiry?
The first part of Marx’s analysis; ‘crisis’ (antithesis) was established. The second part of his analysis, ‘socialism’ (synthesis) could never be. Crisis was the product of reason but subsequent socialism, despite everything Marx said, remained in the realm of choice. Realising that he was powerless to remove choice itself, Marx argued to change the rationale for that choice from morality to reason. Not choice based on right and wrong but based instead on heading for the future whether we liked it or not. A future of two possibilities; Socialism or mutual ruination. Marx came to argue that there is an unwritten contract between capitalists and history and workers and history. ( compare this with England’s unwritten constitution). Workers were signed on to be the gravediggers of capitalism, capitalists the occupants of the box.. If all sides kept to the terms of the agreement there would be a predictable outcome- revolution.
History is the judge — its executioner, the proletarian.
Speech at Anniversary of The People’s Paper (1856)
From this point the mission of Marxists would be to hold capitalism and workers to the contract they had with history. Capitalist would create crisis after crisis of increasing severity until workers rebelled. Marxists would encourage the capitalists with relish. But by late 19thC it was clear that both capitalists and workers had begun to vary the terms of this historical contract. In Germany social provision and welfare emerged under the tutelage of Bismark ; a process that spread rapidly over all the Germanic territories of NW Eurasia. The two main holdouts were England and USA, Anglo Saxon societies and economies. This state of affairs held until the post World War II capitulation when America and England both adopted welfarism as a consequence of two World Wars and a Russian revolution. In a peculiar inversion, here was the first real vindication of Marxism, capitalists themselves conceded that if capitalism was not managed there was indeed a danger of absolute collapse.
The element of choice Marx failed to destroy returned to centre stage with a vengeance. The twentieth century revealed it was possible to be morally committed to capitalism while rationally accepting it would collapse without intensive and ever increasing management. Through the ideas of Keynes pundits and economists began to modify capitalism to deal with the extremes of its operation with the express purpose of preserving it for its moral and cultural qualities. The economics of capitalism were over. Capitalism revealed itself as pure religion. A moral, cultural choice.
Capitalism and those who lived within the system became increasingly characterised by degrees of acceptance instead of absolute acceptance. From this point on Capitalism is characterised by its failure to consistently and comprehensively transform the nature of the societies it operates on. Capitalism begins with an initial phase of rapid and comprehensive restructuring of any given society.. But capitalism is unable to change the nature of societies at a deeper level. It runs out of momentum. We now are at an historical juncture where third world transformation by capitalism still appears to be relatively rapid and large scale but first world transformation has ground to a standstill and is moribund. When was the last time capitalism changed anything significant in a developed nation?
Just as the ‘bosses’ choices began to splinter by degrees, so the workers increasingly seemed to be captured by ‘momentary diversions’. And the final developed picture of modern economy comes fully into focus.
The Marxist concept of crisis is fully universally accepted.
The threat of crisis is to be offset by government intervention.
The extent and depth of this intervention increases year on year.
The only way to limit government intervention is to…use the government to do it!
The Marxist revolution is as complete as it ever could be .