GUT #7: The Three Ages Of Marx

 

“The emancipation of the German is the emancipation of the human being. The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart is the proletariat. Philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without philosophy being made a reality.”

Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, 1844

 

Clearly, the fate of Germany and German people were fundamental to Marx’s conception of world crisis and subsequent revolution.  Consequently, no-one can deny the centrality of conflict between Continental Germany and Anglo Saxon nations in shaping the global history that followed Marx.

 

Marx proclaims ‘The German’ as lynchpin of his (war on) philosophy, and his politics. If the emancipation of The German is the emancipation of humanity it must follow that the emancipation of humanity is not possible without the emancipation of The German. And if the emancipation of humanity is not possible without the emancipation of The German, it must follow that the emancipation of The German is a precondition for the emancipation of humanity. If The German is not emancipated, then humanity cannot be.

 

But in light of the subsequent collapse of German civilisation and the Holocaust we have no choice but to conclude that the liberation of humanity within the terms described by Marx has become an impossibility. How can German ‘workers’ ever lead the world to liberation now? How can they ever be trusted? They are forever discredited; they have built an historical prison from which they can never escape. If the Marxist liberation of humanity  were ever to be resurrected, then  The German  will first have to be liberated from the Holocaust. How can that happen?

 

Marx’s anti-philosophy is a Turin shroud – a two dimensional image we can lay over the shape of history to see where design fits the real form and where it does not. Two world wars have blown much of The German corpus to smithereens- the remains only barely touch Marx’s design for the future here and there. The lines of Marxism sag downward and warp- just shadows on a sheet, supported by nothing. The whole world can see that the image above does not match that of the body beneath it.

 

The prospect of Marxist revolution in Germany and the Anglo Saxon territories was delivered the final coup de gras  by WWII. In Germany Marxists were literally expunged from  the political system. (All that is solid melts into air…) If you were alive in Germany after the conclusion of the Second World War it was de facto proof  that you were not a Marxist, nor had you ever been. Correspondingly, in the Anglo sphere the battle to preserve and rehabilitate German culture and morality was understood as existential necessity. All Saxons- left and right understood that whatever sentence Germany served, they also would jointly serve it even if they were dressed as Germany’s jailers. Marxism’s  political witness could testify  just how far The German had fallen short of  the potential of the 19thC. Anglo Saxons  had no wish to hear it and no wish to let anyone else hear it either.

 

It was as if the world deliberately set out to prove all the fallacies of Marxism and humiliate Marx with the demonstration. Marx argued that the material basis of a society is the foundation of all the structures of that society. The more materially advanced a society is, the more advanced it is in every way – this is the material basis for the possibility of communism. But the world wars culminating in the Holocaust proved conclusively that this is not the case.

 

No matter if  civilisation and material advancement were supposed to be betrothed from birth, The German instead made a black marriage between technology and barbarism. The nature of that barbarism is moral, it  is fascism. It is simply not credible to be asked to believe that a German ‘worker’  can rape,murder and rob Jews and others because he does not understand  his ‘historical role in the class conflict’. After the Holocaust the German worker could never again be portrayed as the hero of history.

 

“It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do.”

The Holy Family, 1844

 

If Marx wanted to divorce the worker from any conception of morality here was his success in spades! Now the German worker was forever more the very epitome of immorality. The millenarian claim that in the end workers would overthrow capitalism and right the world  is shown to be no more real than the neo liberal claim that markets self regulate  for the benefit of everyone. These are competing statements of faith in the future made in the midst of day to day disaster.  Marx refused to accept the centrality of morality and morality was the wheel on which Marxism was broken.

 

But  just as Marxist revolution and Marxist anti-philosophy  became impossible in Germany and western Europe, so Marxist economics became an absolute necessity. The collapse of Marx’s war on  philosophy made possible the emancipation of Marxist economics. Marxism as revolutionary religious ideology was decapitated. The denuded stump of Marxism, no longer the preserve of political radicals, would serve radical elites instead.

 

And so we finally come to the old man, his final day on earth passing in an armchair by the fire. Marx is Scrooge the old miser and if Marx is Scrooge then Engels must be Marley, co-conspirator in the enterprise. Unlike Dicken’s  novel,  neither  is troubled by apprehension or remorse- after all  what have they to fear? Engels is wealthy and so Marx and his family are well provided for. Both are adamant there is no God, no justice and no retribution.

 

Nevertheless, retribution comes.  I will briefly visit Marx in his death chair  with these three spirits: The First, Second and Third Age of Marx in the hope that something of Marxism itself can be reproached, reproved and perhaps even redeemed.

 

The First Age Of Marx

 

“The emancipation of the German is the emancipation of the human being. The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart is the proletariat. Philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without philosophy being made a reality.”

Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, 1844

 

Fresh from early adventures in poetry and fiction, young Marx embarks upon his critique of Hegel’s philosophy. He expressly endorses Protestantism and Luther in whom Marx sees  a herald that proclaims the advent of- himself! And Germany is the centre of the real intellectual universe; the proof and testing ground for Marxism.

 

‘My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. …. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.’

Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital (1873)

 

Marx is convinced that he has found in his method- the principle of turning Hegel around, the irrefutable answer to everything that had gone before. The anti-thesis to every thesis. All he has to do is apply his method with militant rigour for answers to appear, as straightforward as a chemical titration.  Like young Scrooge, hard  eyed Marx is determined to build his empire free from the hypocrisy and confusion of those that surround him. In particular, free from his father’s hypocrisy and cowardice. The capstone of this empire and Marx’s ascension to high priesthood will be the conscious forsaking of  morality itself. And Marx manages to convince himself that morality will in turn graciously release him from any mutual obligation that might remain.

 

The Second Age Of Marx

 

 ‘Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

Manifesto of the Communist Party

 

We find Marx in 1848 fresh after the publication of the  Communist Manifesto.  At face value  here is Marx in full pomp; Marxism and communism are storming Europe he claims, and national bourgeoisies are powerless and terrified. Here Communism is acceding  to the universality it claims right before our eyes. But  look closer and there is something very wrong here:

 

…It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself. ‘

Manifesto of the Communist Party

 

Apparently what is abroad in the world is not actually communism but a ‘spectre’ of it. Somehow Marx has lost control of his creation, so he is forced to set out in the manifesto the principle of communism. But this creation is the product of reaction not of principle. In fact, the world has produced a thesis  and the Communist Manifesto must be  produced to refute that thesis. It must therefore be antithesis. Marx has codified within his manifesto his original error.  The manifesto  appears in the form of a work of principle- a concise statement. But  it is not what it appears to be. It is in reality a reaction- antithesis and is as limited as a reaction-antithesis.

 

For decades the Communist Manifesto masquerades as a work of principle until the appearance of Das Kapital. Because Communist Manifesto and Kapital are two halves of the same delivery,  the world has to wait until the appearance of his deformed afterbirth reveals the extent of Marx’s misconception.  Kapital is as it is, because  Manifesto fails to be what it claims to be.  The afterbirth, Kapital, is as massive as the birth, Manifesto, is undersized. The afterbirth Kapital, is as red and bleeding as the birth, Manifesto, was pale and anaemic. If the manifesto were truly a work of original defining principle there would never have been the need for Kapital as it was. There would never have been a need for Kapital at all. Now towards the end of his second age, Marx washes up for a short while in Paris  – spiritual home of every  émigré revolutionary and officer of a failed army.   Soon he will relocate permanently to England, and his descent will be complete.

 

In the year 1842-43,…I first found myself in the embarrassing position of having to discuss what is known as material interests…When the publishers of the Rheinische Zeitung conceived the illusion that by a more compliant policy on the part of the paper it might be possible to secure the abrogation of the death sentence passed upon it, I eagerly grasped the opportunity to withdraw from the public stage to my study.

Marx, Preface to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

 

The Third Age Of Marx

 

Marx did not want to deliver his most famous work; ‘Das Kapital’ in the form that he did. It was an agonising decades long spasm of labour forced on him by the circumstances he contrived in his second age.  Kapital was a massive undertaking whose fundamental objective was impossible to achieve because ‘Das Kapital’ does not represent the triumphant victory and validation of Marx’s theory. It actually represents Marx’s  terms for agreeing to withdraw from the struggle for intellectual supremacy. Das Kapital is a formal resignation letter in which the author offers  peace terms to the world. Negotiating defeat and hailing it as victory is hardly novel in history; is it so surprising that Marx did the same?  Once Marx  lost the battle for philosophical supremacy  the world was pleased to let him pick consolation prizes from what remained.

 

There are three volumes of Kapital but Marx is the actual author of only one: Capital, Volume I (1867). Volume II,  ‘The Process of Circulation of Capital’, and  Volume III, ‘The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole’, were constructed by Friedrich Engels and others  from notes.  This inevitably coloured  emphasis, context, and overall meaning of these subsequent two works and thus the entirety. In this amalgam of interpretation and construction is the real birth of ‘Marxism’ as separate and opposed to Marx’s specific thought.

 

‘Das Kapital’ took prodigious amounts of effort and time. Marx’s correspondence to Engels and others show varying  enthusiasm for the project requiring frequent comfort and encouragement , not to mention  financial support:

 

 “the thing is proceeding very slowly because no sooner does one set about finally disposing of subjects to which one has devoted years of study than they start revealing new aspects and demand to be thought out further”.

 

Bouts of despair on Marx’s part are often   explained by reference to the sheer size and complexity of the project. The narrative  of Kapital, largely accepted even by Marx’s opponents, is one of overwhelming ambition, more or less accomplished according to your view.  But  in light of  Marx’s own description  we must ask: For every page that was finally written, where are the ten or a hundred pages that could have been written but were not?  Why was Marx driven to write ever more and doomed never to have written enough?

 

Last Words Are For Fools

 

The purpose of analysis is to establish ownership of a principle. When an analysis fails all we are left with is an accumulation of description. Analysis has self defined boundaries  but description by its nature is boundless. When analysis uncovers the  point of principle it is complete.   ‘Kapital’ is only description and not analysis because nowhere in this work does Marx secure ownership of the principle. It must forever be incomplete, no matter how large it is. Nowhere does Marx actually seize the initiative. His analysis of the world never secures the point of principle and completes. Kapital is the consequence of this failing. Had Marx been able to seize the initiative  years before, or at any time, he would never have been in the position of having to write Kapital in the first place!

 

Had Marx had won the war of philosophy he could have dictated terms to the world. Instead he is reduced to sifting through what the world can offer in consolation, effectively making  a list of all the intellectual property  he can claim. Everything except that which he most wanted. Das Kapital is Marx searching though a mountain of words and numbers  for something of  value commensurate to that which he has already lost…

 

Finally, at the end,  Marx is credited with:

 

‘Get Out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!’

 

Perhaps here in his final moment is comprehension of the argument I have been making.

 

And,most telling of all:

 

‘If I were merely to consult my own private inclinations….There could…be no better time for scholarly undertakings…what has happened over the last ten years must have increased any rational being’s contempt for the masses as for individuals to such a degree that ‘odi profanum vulgar et arceo’ [I detest and repudiate the common people. Horace] has almost become an inescapable maxim. However all these are themselves philistine ruminations which will be swept away by the first storm.’2

 

Marx looking for the chaos of revolution to sweep away his very thought processes themselves…

 

1 and 2

Marx-Engels Correspondence 1858

Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle In Düsseldorf

Source: MECW Volume 40, p. 268;
First published: abridged in F Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Berlin, 1922.

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G.U.T. Revealed

“The emancipation of the German is the emancipation of the human being. The head of this emancipation is philosophy, its heart is the proletariat. Philosophy cannot be made a reality without the abolition of the proletariat, the proletariat cannot be abolished without philosophy being made a reality.” [Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law, 1844]

Hegel’s philosophy of dialectics was in itself synthesis. It represented the response to Protestantism’s attack on the foundational Catholic philosophy that had shaped Germany and Europe for the millennia. Identifying the imperative behind this response is key to understanding the dynamic of history since the 18thC.

 

Marx’s battle with synthesised Germanic philosophy forced  him to decamp to England, but retreat provided only temporary respite. Hegel’s dialectic and the problem of moral choice would lay siege to Marx in London and force Marxism  as far west as it was possible to go- America. There was no peace for Marxism even there.

 

Everywhere the synthesised German philosophy held sway was hostile ground to Marxism. Everywhere synthesised German philosophy ruled, Marxism was forced to flee. Marxism could only thrive specifically where synthesised German philosophy did not. These are the true material conditions that determined the success or otherwise of Marxism in any particular time or place. It is not random chance that  Marxism proliferated wherever synthesised western German philosophy failed –  Russia, China, parts of the Far East and now, the modern developed nations. That’s right- Marxism rules in the west now. Marxism gained a foothold when synthesised German philosophy began its decomposition in the western world..

 

The Definition of Tragedy

 

The purpose of GUT is to describe and understand the relationship between Marxism and historical reality as we have experienced it over the past century. Was Marx essentially just an opportunist Victorian radical whose work was a reaction to the development  of industrial capitalism? Or is the Marxist claim that Marx was chosen by the zeitgeist to define a new era and a new conception of history, closer to the truth?

 

Or is it even possible that the history into which Marxism fits points to something different but even more profound than the claims made by Marxists? I will argue that this is the case. Marxists as a whole have FAILED to understand the specific (as opposed to ‘true’), importance of Marxism and failed to communicate this specific importance to the populations of German societies.  The irony is that this failure is  tragedy and genuine disaster precisely for those sections of German societies who came to perceive it as victory. It is a tragedy whose magnitude and depth is only now becoming truly apparent. Defeat perceived as victory is as good a definition of tragedy as any..

 

The key to understanding and defining  Marxism  lies in the context in which Marxism came to be and in which it operated. With this in mind I will briefly survey the most important global powers around 1850 and their relative positions in the world.  Foremost among the Empire powers would be the British Empire comprising of the British Isles and attendant colonies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It had an outer core of non white populations controlled by Anglo Saxon colonial elites as in South Africa and India etc. At this time the British Empire was  somewhere around the peak of it’s power.

 

Seconded to the British Empire is North America, about to be transformed by the American Civil War of 1861.  The third tier of world powers at that time consisted of western European Latin colonisers such as France, Spain and Portugal. France was clearly fundamentally flawed internally and the other Latin nations; Spain and Portugal  were  heading towards military, social and economic exhaustion. As a consequence their  ability to successfully exploit empire in  South America and elsewhere was rapidly fading.

 

The Struggle To Be Last

 

Behind the western Europeans around 1850  is Germany- finally gaining pace in its development as a scientific and social power. The reasons for Germany’s late development as a capitalist nation state are a fundamental part of GUT. And bringing up the rear of the pack, the two wild cards that would actually shape the detailed course of the 20thC –  Russia and Japan.

 

The two most fraught battles in any race are the battle for first and just as importantly, the battle for last place. While England and Germany fought for first, Russia and Japan were fighting to see who would come last in the league table of developed WHITE nations. Russia and Japan were in a desperate battle to see who was the most or least, ‘white’ among them. This battle would produce the Russo Japanese War and this war in turn would produce the modern world.

 

The two most dynamic world powers driven by the pressure for change, were heading for inevitable conflict with each other. This  is the context for Marx’s prediction that capitalism would collapse. The attitude of  British  and German state and society to Marxism only truly makes sense in this context. Consider the viable active content of Marxism, in particular the collapse and revolution that Marx predicted.  What would be the actual process of collapse? Would it be some textbook abstracted ‘workers revolution’ or would it present itself in a complex, tangential real world way?  And what about the consequences of that collapse? Would the post revolutionary nations simply stop dead at the moment of revolution? Wouldn’t new forces IMMEDIATELY start to fill the vacuum left by collapsing capitalism, long before the point when it could legally be declared dead?

 

In truth there could never be a direct revolutionary confrontation between  workers and capitalists because the forces that led to revolution would have caused each class to decompose partially or fully, before they ever got to the point of terminal confrontation! Workers are the product of capitalism not socialism. If workers really were to be the ‘gravediggers of capitalism’- who would be there to pay them? Who would be there to tell them where to dig the hole? If they could do these things without instruction and payment, they would no longer be workers. If you think about it, a ‘workers revolution’ is by definition a nonsense.. Here is a new revolutionary definition of a worker: A worker is a person who cannot think for themselves.

 

Marx’s analysis predicts increased international competition among various competing national bourgeoisies first economic and then military, finally leading to open conflict.. This is what happened.  But both Germany and England, the two powers that would acutely express this process of competition leading to war were Germanic powers and this is fundamental to understanding the unique character of the historical developments that took place. This is not history as some abstracted map where A N Other ‘nation state’ competes with A N Other  ‘nation state’, but the actual specific course of historical events in all its evidentiary detail.

 

Why The Russian Revolution Succeeded And Why It Failed

 

It is in this context that the only significant contribution to Marx’s critique of political economy outside of Marx himself was the theory of Imperialism developed by Lenin. It was his intellectual accomplishment in understanding the crisis of capitalism in its specific historical terms that led to the success of Lenin and Bolshevism. This was why the Russian revolution succeeded where so many others did not. The success of the Russian Revolution was based concretely on understanding that the crisis of capitalism was to be a specifically German crisis. Lenin’s astounding insight was realising that above all else, capitalism was German. The price that Slavs were to pay for this proclamation of historical truth came twenty years later in the Second Germanic War.  Germans, both Anglo Saxon and Continental,  tried to murder them all.

 

The First ‘War To End All Wars’

 

Around  fifty years after the publication of Das Kapital in 1867 the two Germanic powers were plunged into the First World War or more accurately; the First Germanic War. This war fits into the very definition of ‘mutual ruination’ that Marx spoke of in the event that revolution should fail. The two leading capitalist powers at that time were effectively destroyed by the war they started.  The war resulted directly in the Russian revolution and  America’s consequential rise to leadership on the world stage. However, this was only the beginning. Over the subsequent  two decades  Germanic nations descended into madness and horror. And this historical perspective we have absolutely brings us to a clear understanding of the significance of Marxism.

 

 

 

Once we understand that the growth and collapse of capitalism as an economic force was to be framed within the historical context of the rise and fall of German culture and society we can understand the history of the past two centuries. The socialist struggle to avoid ‘mutual ruination’ (Marx) and ‘barbarism’ (Rosa Luxembourg), was specifically a struggle to avoid German ruination and German barbarity. It was in fact a struggle to avoid an inter Germanic war between the two poles of German culture; the Anglo Saxon and the Continental.

 

It was clear from Marx’s analysis that the capitalist elites of each side could never reach accommodation. They were driven to compete to the death by the very same forces that had given them social and economic life! The only way fatal competition  could be avoided was if some other force in society took over and forced co-operation.  Who could that be?  Who could Marx and the other socialists  find among the respective populations of both continental Germany and England that was so ALIENATED from existing society, so abused, and so disenfranchised that they could abandon culture, history and identity and forge a new TRANSGERMAN alliance and identity?

 

The answer was of course, the working class

 

This is what socialism actually is: a plea to the ALIENATED of both poles of Germanic society to ABANDON CULTURE, IDENTITY AND HISTORY and make common cause to avoid war and mutual destruction. A program for carrying out the seizure of power would be necessary to avoid destruction.

 

This endeavour is best described as German Unification Theory. or G.U.T. for short.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G.U.T.3

 

Guest Of Honour

 

History is nothing but the activity of men in pursuit of their ends.

 

I described how Marx conjured for himself an historical invitation as guest of honour to the forthcoming revolution- to celebrate the emancipation of the ‘working class’ . The third part of his triangle- Capital, also had to be given form so that the working class had something to be liberated from. From this beginning the subject of Marx’s ‘scientific’ work was endowed  with one particular  purpose; it could not be allowed to discredit Marx and Marxism or by necessity we would never have heard of any of it. But how can Marx’s conception of history and the development of mankind be ‘scientific’ if it does not allow for the possibility that it is wrong in all or in part?

 

 

If thy eye offend thee…

 

Marx had been (self) selected by history to  create rational scientific socialism.  From the outset, given the transformative, millennial nature of his message  Marx understood the danger of being accused of creating a secular religion with himself as Moses (and God),  the workers as the Israelites and capital as Pharaoh. Marx, acutely sensitive to the charge of religiosity developed the argument that all ‘religion’ is the product of men and therefore essentially idol worship. Using an incredible parody of Judaic condemnation of paganism as justification, Marx argued it had now became necessary to rid socialism of all  idolatry religious content. But this purging meant excising morality and therefore the element of conscious choice. Socialism cannot embody conscious choice because it is amoral, or beyond morality. It is conscious in the sense that it is scientific and rational. As such it requires acceptance and submission to rationality, not choice. In order to enter scientific socialist heaven new scientific socialist man would have to sacrifice his moral conscience.

 

In building scientific socialism Marx found himself parodying Moses and the Israelites, then parodying the Judaic injunction against idols and the commandment that ‘Thou shalt have no other God but Me’. Finally the ‘rational’ socialism he created required absolute submission before revealed truth. It is little wonder that Marx increasingly complained that :

 

History (meaning religious history-author ) is a nightmare from which mankind (by which he meant Marx himself), struggles to extricate itself.

 

If Marx succeeded in freeing himself, socialism would no longer be moral choice but  scientific fact. Consequently a rational man may choose between two moral alternatives but is forced to choose scientific reality and therefore socialism would  be inevitable for rational people. Since understanding and implementing socialism was no longer a question of morality but one of  consciousness or rationality,  the question I pose becomes even more pressing – Under capitalism you are free to think and sometimes even to speak as you wish, so long as you do as you are told by Capitalists. Capitalism is what you do, not what you think.. Given that Capitalism is what you do, not what you think;  Why can you be an ‘unconscious’ capitalist and not an unconscious socialist? The logical answer is that if socialism did not require ‘consciousness’ there would be no need for Marx and Marxism. Marx would happily do anything for workers and the world revolution apart from write himself out of the picture.  Socialism has to be conscious, or else there is no role for Marx! The intellectual basis for Marxism can be nothing other than a justification for Marx himself….

 

The conscious ideology of Marxism is the product of Marx, but capitalism is not the product of any one person’s thought. Therefore it cannot be  conscious in the way that Marxism is conscious.  Rather, capitalism is the product of capitalists and  workers doing certain things. But we must conclude in line with Marxism  that when workers do what they are ‘supposed’ to do the product is capitalism, not socialism. It is only when workers think about what they are doing in a different way, that what they do could possibly be socialism. This is Marx’s historical warrant to write Kapital..to make capitalism in general and workers in particular, conscious.  But if capitalism is not already conscious, how can it have given rise to Marx and Marxism, which, by Marx’s own argument are the product of capitalism? How can unconsciousness spontaneously produce consciousness? Capitalism must have some seed of consciousness to produce Marx and Marxism. Marx had to find that seed of consciousness to explain himself….

 

A Tale Of Two Titles

 

If capitalism were actually conscious it might more rightly be called  ‘Smithism’  after author of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith. This is tacitly acknowledged by Marx  in subtitling Kapital ; ‘A Critique of Political Economy’ which effectively means a critique of Adam Smith and Ricardo and their conception of the significance of capitalism. This approach would account for Capitalism in as far as it was conscious. But capitalism is also unconscious and that also has to be accounted for.  If Marx succeeded in defeating the political economy of Smith and Ricardo, he would simply have defeated two of the high priests of capitalism; he would not have even scratched capitalism itself because capitalism is what you do, not what you say. The author of conscious socialism must also defeat the author of unconscious capitalism …Capital, hence the main title of his major work.  Marx  must critique Smithism, with his critique of political economy and must also critique Capital. So Kapital .. A Critique Of Political Economy came into being with two titles.  Like a dog chasing two hares at once Marx was destined never to catch either of them.

 

All that is solid melts into air..

 

For They Know Not..

 

For Marx’s historical  process to work it was necessary to make capitalism self aware. But what does this mean exactly? It means exactly and specifically to hold capitalism to its own rules. If capitalism cannot operate by it’s own declared rules it will be proved to be irrational and should be overthrown. But it can only be shown to have broken it’s own rules if there are defined rules to be broken. That means there has to be a defined authority to make these rules. But under capitalism everybody is that defined authority because capitalism is what the majority of people do in a capitalist country. And  capitalism can break the rules in two ways. It can knowingly break it’s own rules and it can unknowingly break it’s own rules.   This would come to be a fundamental part of the development of the subsequent  critique of capitalism. The difference between a venal and mortal sin is awareness of the nature of your actions. A sin is mortal if knowingly committed. This gives rise to a new vista: To what extent are the failures of  capitalists the result of ignorance or of conscious sin?

 

Forgive them, for they know not what they do

 

If Capitalists sinned knowingly then the answer and the judgement must be Marxism. But if capitalists sinned unknowingly then the answer and the judgement might be Keynesianism..

 

G.U.T.

Whatever else Karl Marx was, he was not a Marxist- as he himself is reported to have said. This comment is generally taken as a dig at the intellectual quality of ‘Marxists’ and one all the more piquant because it comes from the progenitor of Marxism..  But it is possible to see this from another point of view; as a typically wry observation that Marx himself understood that he could not be a Marxist according to the logic of his own position, because he was unwilling and unable to apply a strict Marxist interpretation to Marxism itself. If Marx was accusing anyone, he was accusing himself…. His favourite motto:

De omnibus dubitandum [Everything must be doubted].”

would of necessity include Marx himself of course…

Marxism as an ideology necessarily comes into existence in it’s own terms. Marxism proclaims that it derives  purpose and validity solely by virtue of it’s own content. For a Marxist, there are no questions to be asked about Marxism’s  origins or the context in which it came to existence outside of the terms of Marxism itself. At first glance his seems a bit knotty, but in fact the logic is quite straightforward. Let me elaborate: Marxism is given as the product of Marx’s intellectual development which in turn is the product of the development of the objective conditions that gave rise to it; (That would be Marx’s intellectual development and also Marxism, which are two different things, but also the same thing,,,ahem..) Let me elaborate further…

The basic idea underpinning historical materialism is that capitalism inevitably comes into existence because of mankind’s increasing productive capacity through technological advance. By the same process socialism/communism also inevitably must come into existence because of the inherent nature of capitalism. In so far as mankind’s development is inevitable, so the development of capitalism from feudalism and then socialism from capitalism is inevitable.  And since socialism is the first truly self aware social movement, it’s ideology must also inevitably come into existence at the same time that socialism itself comes into existence.(Because if it didn’t then it wouldn’t be self aware..and therefore not Marxism/socialism). You can be a functioning capitalist without necessarily understanding capitalism but you can’t be a functioning socialist without understanding socialism. On the contrary, Marxists argue that it is a precondition of being a capitalist that you do not really understand the true nature of capitalism since if you did then you would be…. a socialist!

“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”
Karl Marx

This fundamental conditionality is encapsulated in the idea of ‘false consciousness’ which, like many such concepts, is used in inverse proportion to the extent it is understood. The vulgar exposition of false consciousness is that workers believe they have a stake in the ongoing success of capitalism when in fact their best interest would be served by its collapse. But actually the doctrine of false consciousness holds that thought is ‘falsely conscious’ when it holds itself to be the product of abstracted reason instead of objective conditions. In other words a thought is conscious in that it wants to be the product of reason (which is what consciousness consists of, according to Marx),  but it is false in that it is not actually the product of reason but an expression of the social relationships that gave rise to that thought. In more prosaic, (but no less convoluted), terms; You think that you think what you think because you have reasoned it out and therefore there is no reasoned alternative to what you are thinking.  But in reality you think what you think because you have been conditioned to think it. Simply because you are unaware that you have been conditioned to think as you do, your conditioned thought is non rational. If you did understand that you have been conditioned to think as you do, then this would necessarily be the first step toward breaking that conditioning and becoming truly aware, (a socialist).

“Necessity is blind until it becomes conscious. Freedom is the consciousness of necessity.”

In general the first step towards becoming a socialist/Marxist is to understand that there is an historical identity to capitalism because that specific understanding breaks the conditioning of capitalism.

“Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before their collapse in practice
Letter to Ludwig Kugelmann (July 11, 1868)”
Selected Letters: The Personal Correspondence 1844-1877

From this whole cloth the historical materialism I refer to above  is created. Historical materialism holds that the emergence, development and demise of capitalism is part of an ongoing historical process. On the contrary, modern capitalist ideology holds that capitalism itself is the end point of that process. (The ‘End Of History’ a la Francis Fukyama).

A brief word to clarify what is meant by conditioning here. This is not necessarily a directed process in the Pavlovian sense of training a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell, but rather a natural outcome of interaction with the world as it presently is. To a Marxist, thought is the contemporaneous state of the world mediated through the minds of the people that inhabit it.

“Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.”
Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy

As a consequences of this perspective, Marxism understands thought as a PRODUCT not a cause in distinction from capitalists who regard thought as a means to an end instead of an end product in itself. Thought is unconscious ( falsely conscious), to the extent  of being a product and not a cause. Thought is actually conscious to the extent of being a cause and not a product. ( hence the famous Marx quote:

Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.

Eleven Theses on Feuerbach

These prophetic words are inscribed upon Marx’s grave. Irony.

Marx argued this in direct contradistinction to Hegelian philosophy although he claimed Hegel in part as inspiration. In fact, Marx characterised his materialism in exactly this way as the contradictory argument that refines Hegelian philosophy. Hegel starts from the process of thought and goes on to explain the thought process but Marx ends at thought. In this way Marx directly contradicts Hegel and yet claims though this contradiction to be his successor! This startling conception of the thought process gives rise to a problem however. If a given thought process is the product of the conditioning that created it, surely it is trapped by that very same conditioning. How can such a thought process ever realise that it is the product of conditioning? How can you modify your own thought process just by thinking about it? How can you lift yourself up by your own shoe laces? It is clear that for the argument to work some outside force becomes necessary to break into the conditioning/thinking feedback loop and produce a change.

Luckily as it turns out, capitalism just happens to contain within itself that agent of change!