G.U.T. #4

 

 

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.

 

Two Wrongs..

 

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?

 

England.

 

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.

 

Cultural Capitalism

 

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 .

Synthesis.

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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!

Don’t Let The Good Be The Enemy Of The Goods

The customer is always wrong…

 

The following appeared in an article in the Indepenent:

German supermarket empties shelves of foreign-made goods to make a point about racism Will Worley Thursday 24 August 2017

 

A German supermarket has emptied its shelves in an effort to make a point about racism and diversity. The Edeka store in Hamburg removed foreign-made products from its stock, replacing them with sign bearing anti-xenophobia slogans. It is believed the move will be followed be a larger campaign from Edeka, the largest supermarket chain in Germany. Surprised shoppers entered the store to find that much of the normal selection was gone, demonstrating how reliant they are on other countries for everyday products. Instead, they were greeted with signs saying: “This shelf is pretty boring without diversity.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/edeka-german-supermarket-empty-shelves-racism-diversity-largest-chain-a7908551.html

Just to make it clear if the article itself is not obvious enough: This shop in Germany no longer sells capitalist ‘goods’ as we have understood them. In fact it has removed ‘goods’ from it’s shelves in order that we might more clearly see what it is actually selling; that we might more clearly see what it’s shelves are now actually stacked with.

This shop has stacked it’s shelves with, and is now selling Good, (as opposed to ‘goods’).

And since it is actually selling Good as opposed to ‘goods’ it follows that the accounting conventions that have previously applied to the sale of ‘goods’ (such as selling at a profit) no longer apply. It follows from this that the objective of this enterprise is no longer that patrons leave the premises satisfied to a greater or lesser extent with the purchases they have made, but rather that they should leave the premises suitably EDUCATED or IMPROVED.

In this particular instance achieving this objective will take the form of the customer leaving WITHOUT the ‘goods’ they entered the premises for, but WITH a clear sense of having been educated and/or improved. In fact, customers are educated and improved precisely to the extent that they leave without the ‘goods’ they envisioned purchasing. Presumably the idea is that they return home and spend the time they would have spent consuming the goods they had obtained, contemplating the benefits of DIVERSITY.

Of course the business not only forgoes the profit that would have come from this day’s trading but also undergoes the additional expense and inconvenience of restocking the shelves after having to de-stock the shelves and store all the produce somewhere while making the point they are making..

And presumably should one or more patrons choose to object to the process and subsequently decide to shop somewhere else, well the loss of revenue is apparently acceptable to this business. Because if customers don’t want to be educated and improved about the benefits of diversity and other things while shopping, then frankly we would rather do without their custom.

After contemplating the picture above for a while, a comparison with the shelves of the Cold War Eastern Bloc and assorted command economies rises to the mind. We were assured repeatedly that it was the abundant provision of consumer goods that proved the superiority of the capitalist model over the command model and resulted in the end of the Cold War.

And yet somehow here we are seeing those self same scantily stocked shelves making an appearance in the supposedly victorious west. And the fact that these shelves are empty is a matter of conscious decision, not any failure in management. What gives?

The fact is that everybody is more or less sick of consumerism, which is another word for capitalist manufactured crap. From cheap nasty food high in sugar and fat, to an endless myriad of plastic novelties manufactured by slave labour in the Far East, it has become impossible to avoid the simple observation that 99.9% of everything created by capitalism is useless crap. And that other 0.1%? That’s the stuff you can’t afford…. so what’s new?

Well, what’s new is that now even the capitalists themselves are starting to get sick of it. They just can’t find a reason to get themselves out of bed and drag themselves into work in the morning anymore. Except..maybe, if they could use capitalism as a vehicle to propagate a message.

Seriously.

Advertising used to be creating ideas to sell you stuff. From now on it’s going to be creating stuff to sell you ideas..

Yet more proof that free market capitalism is well and truly dead.

Oh, and pick me up a pint of diversity on your way back from town will you?

 

 

 

 

Cultural Constituencies: Unscrambled Egg 1

 

The arrival of Germanic Protestantism, the modern nation state and capitalism transformed the social composition of  North Western Eurasian territories. By social composition I mean the relationship between the actual peoples who made up these territories and the legal and political personality of the territories themselves.

 

In the pre-Reformation period, societies in NW Eurasia were characterised by groups of ethnically and culturally homogenous people that were gathered in defined geographical areas. There were clear and identifiable differences between these groups of people in customs, variations of language and dialect, and even specific ethnic difference. The creation of the German nation state acted to distort and blur these differences as a consequences of the political, economic model it imposed. Notable elements of this new model included:

 

Germanic Land Democracy

A legal relationship of individuals directly to the State and not community

The end of supra national religion and morality.

 

‘The concept of modern Germanic national integrity is most commonly referred to as the Westphalian model. This model is based on the idea that nation states have clearly defined borders and that the inhabitants of those bordered areas have specific defined rights in relation to other nations and their defined geography. As described here:

 

‘In fact, the ‘Westphalian model’ of international legal order holds that the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, constituted a paradigm shift in the development of the present state system.The twin congresses held are deemed the forum where, for the first time in the history of international relations, distinct separate polities became sovereign. It is portrayed as a historical fact that Westphalia ‘represented a new diplomatic arrangement − an order created by states, for states − and replaced most of the legal vestiges of hierarchy, at the pinnacle of which were the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor’. As Mark Janis unequivocally put it:

The Peace of Westphalia legitimated the right of sovereigns to govern their peoples free of outside interference, whether any such external claim to interfere was based on political, legal or religious principles. […] Sovereignty, as a concept, formed the cornerstone of the edifice of international relations that 1648 raised up. Sovereignty was the crucial element in the peace treaties of Westphalia, the international agreements that were intended to end a great war and to promote a coming peace. The treaties of Westphalia enthroned and sanctified sovereigns, gave them powers domestically and independence externally.*

In order for this to be workable, the basis for the polity must be that of land owned through legal entitlement and not commonality of identity or culture. A simple illustration of this can be shown with nomadic peoples who traditionally travel over extended geographical areas with no consideration for national boundaries. If a tribe spends the summer in territory ‘A’ and the winter in territory ‘B’ can they be said to be citizens of ‘A’ or of ‘B’ or of both? To obtain the protection and rights of territory ‘A’ or territory ‘B’ they must sacrifice their community identity and way of life or be designated as an enemy or inconvenience to both nation states. And we know what happens after that..

 

It follows from this that the legal rights and obligations of a newly designated citizen is to the STATE in the form of a fully or partial formal social contract (a constitution),  and not to local community. All forms of informal community rights and obligation are either immediately void or subject to authentication and enforcement by the state.

 

In NW Eurasia first and foremost of these informal rights and obligations were those owed to the Catholic Church which was to be superseded by national religion in the form of Protestantism. The authority and privilege of Protestant religion and its adherents is guaranteed by nation states and not supra national religious authorities such as the Catholic Church. In England the right of English people to appeal to the Pope over the heads of  national royalty was abolished in 1566 (I think). By this act Henry the Eighth made himself supreme monarch and head of religion. In this way not only were matters of identity, loyalty and culture resolved in favour of the Germanic Protestant nation state, but matters of MORALITY as well! This is a massively important point, the significance of which cannot be over emphasised. Germanic morality is absolutely and utterly  entwined with the political cultural and economic structure of the nation state. More on this later.

 

Once the nation state was established, the question of politics and specifically democracy, came to the fore. Democracy necessarily rests on the question of eligibility, that is who is eligible to take part in a particular democracy. In the Germanic form (NOT in the classic Greek form), eligibility is contingent upon land ownership and territory. It is for this reason that the form of modern democracy seen in North Western Eurasia and elsewhere is accurately described as GERMANIC LAND DEMOCRACY and not GREEK BODY DEMOCRACY.

 

It is not an accident of history that political systems of the modern German nation state are without exception based on the concept of GEOGRAPHIC CONSTITUENCY. This is a pyramid of ever larger geographical units. Usually the structure is:

 

Ward

District

Town or City

National Parliament

Head of State

 

And you are no doubt familiar with both theory and practice of how this pyramidal structure is supposed to transfer the requests of the people up to the elected elite and the subsequent orders of the elected elite back down to the people. But there was a problem… (Isn’t there always?)

 

Along with all the Good Things that were supposed to come along with the Reformation Freedom, Enlightenment, and the return of Germanic supremacy, there was also the matter of Capitalism, which was the bill that the stout yeomen  would be required to pay for all the good things that Germanic Land Democracy would bring. And capitalism required two important things:

That people should be thrown off the land in ever increasing numbers and

That people should be herded together in cities to provide the labour that would power capitalism.

So here was the problem. The political system was based at every level on the ownership of land. The economic system required that most people should not be allowed to own any land!

 

 

 

*Australian Journal of Legal History

The Westphalian Model In Defining International Law: Challenging The Myth

Stéphane BEAULAC

Capitalism Doesn’t Add Up Or The Left Hand Doesn’t Know Or When you are Similieing

 

You should familiarise yourself with the law of conservation of matter and the law of conservation of energy.

 

Both of these scientific ‘laws’ express the same basic idea:

 

That the amount of inputs in any given reaction and the amount of outputs from that given reaction, must balance. In other words, every element of a given reaction or process must  be accounted for.

 

Although these ‘laws’ are often characterised as being ‘scientific’ in nature, in fact they come from a much older intellectual tradition; that of Christianity.

 

The entire concept of Christianity is based on two central core principles.

 

The first principle is that any particular incident can only ever occur once and is therefore unique.

 

The second principle is that every incident, process and event that has ever occurred is recorded down to the most infinitesimal detail and that the totality of calculation involving all this detail will be taken to be the final meaning/accounting of everything. Everything can and will be accounted for.

 

These are two foundational concepts that science directly stole from Christianity. (Although scientists would have you believe they ‘created’ them!). Together they make up the philosophy of rational accounting. This philosophy of rational accounting presents a  fundamental problem for the creators and propagandists of the Germanic cult of capitalism.

 

It means that matter or ‘wealth’ cannot be created or destroyed in the sense of being brought into, or taken out of, any given process or reaction. Everything on the left hand of the equation must be accounted for on the right hand of the equation. If it is missing it is because you failed to account for it.

 

This means that ‘wealth creation’ in the sense of creating something cannot rationally exist. If wealth is present on the right hand of an equation it must have been present on the left hand of the equation.  If wealth creation cannot exist, then ‘wealth creators’ cannot exist. So there cannot be any such thing as capitalism or any justification for capitalism.

 

By way of a simple example:

 

An iron smelting plant is in operation and claims to transform iron ore into usable steel and therefore ‘create wealth’. If we take into account the pollution and destruction of environment involved in the smelting process and we adequately account for this and other left hand costs, we find that in fact this melting plant has not created any wealth or any matter of any kind, but in fact simply transformed parts of the existing environment into something else. No wealth has been created.

 

The trick behind this, is to undervalue the preliminary imports – the land, the environment, the labour et cetera and to correspondingly overvalue the output: the ‘wealth’ that has been created. Turning healthy useful corn into ‘Cheetos’ counts as wealth production!!

 

The Whole World Similies With You

Let us look more closely at the value of inputs, for instance the value of iron ore. The value of any particular portion of iron ore can only be rationally valued in comparison with the total amount of all iron ore.

 

If you were to say that 1 pound of iron ore is as valuable as six eggs you are making a poetic comparison, expressing a SIMILIE not an accurate fact. There is no rational relationship between a lump of iron and an egg and there never can be any rational relationship between a lump of iron and an egg because there is no rational point of comparison.

 

(This is an indicator of the value problem which comprises the third part of my general theory of money. I will return  to this later).

 

There is no rational relationship between a lump of iron and an egg but there is a rational relationship between a lump of iron and the totality of all iron available. We can say that any one piece of iron represents a proportion of all total  iron.

 

If there were 100 tons of iron available on earth, then one ton of iron would represent 1% of all the available iron and this would be its true demonstrable, rational, proportionate value.

 

But this presents an immediate and obvious problem: we have no idea of how much iron is actually available and can only provide a an estimate. It follows that we can only present an estimate of the value of any given piece of iron. Since it is only an estimate, is open to a bit of ‘creative accounting’…

 

But although creative accounting can paper over some of the more obvious gaps in the capitalist fraud, the more intelligent Germans realised that this could not form the basis for a long term strategy.

 

They realised that they were playing a game of cat and mouse they were bound to lose in the end. The longer the game went on,  and the more information that became available, the more clearly people would begin to see that the estimates of value that were given to steel and wheat and air were clearly fraudulent.

 

The more clearly people began to get an idea of the TOTAL amount of any given thing, the more clearly they would realise that the present valuation of it was undervalued and just as importantly  the previous estimates were even more fraudulent!

 

This is the true meaning behind the battle between environmentalism and its opponents…

 

And then Germanic capitalists had a stroke of ‘genius’. Which actually means they simply reverted to their fundamental nature. They decided to turn everything back to front, inside out and upside down.

 

Why wait for the inevitable exposure and condemnation when the accounts became due? Why not instead START with the accounts and work backwards??!! And this is exactly and precisely how capitalism and capitalist democracy was brought into being.

 

A capitalist corporation first produces a final profit and then promises to work towards it. Of course, it usually fails and resolving the consequences  of this failure is called capitalist economics.

 

A capitalist political party first produces a set of intended results and then promises to work towards it. Of course it usually fails and resolving the consequences of this failure is called capitalist politics.

 

But the key advantage of this process, insane as it seems, is that there is no point where the capitalist corporation or the capitalist economic party is actually HELD TO ACCOUNT in the literal sense of the word.

 

Because they persuaded the investors and the voters to endorse the accounts they were given before the process even began. They made you just as culpable as they are.

 

Nine Hundred And Fifty Four, Nine Hundred And Fifty Bloody Five.. Or I Wonder If We Are Ever Gonna Change

 

Underpinning Einstein’s theory of relativity is the philosophical argument that it is both possible and desirable to view a particular event from a multiplicity of points of view to gain a comprehensive understanding of the processes embodied in that event.

 

If this is the case, then it might also be argued that it is both possible and desirable to view any particular historical and economic event from a multiplicity of points of view. This would be as revolutionary a development in economics as Einstein’s theory was in physics.

 

Both classic economics and the Marxist variant, promote a singular subjective perspective on structure and meaning of economic systems. Their purpose, openly stated or covertly implied, is to promote the political, moral and cultural system they are representative of.

 

The formal purpose of capitalist economics is to run the system at its most efficient , it’s covert aim to justify capitalism as the dominant system. The overt purpose of Marxism is to produce a critique of capitalism that will lead to its being abandoned as a consequence of its internal contradictions. Its covert aim is to justify historical attempts to create alternatives to capitalism.

 

In order to work, both capitalist economics and Marxism need a protagonist, an archetypal hero from whose singular perspective we can see the world and whose actions we can subjectively identify with. This is the real identity politics.

 

For capitalists the hero of the story is well ,.. The Capitalist  who daringly risks all to bring wealth up from the depths of the darkness -a variation on the Prometheus narrative. For Marxists the hero of the story is The Worker whose toil in the mines is the real producer of wealth.

 

Effectively, both socialism and capitalism are operatic arias in the Wagnerian mode, with two main characters competing for The Ring of Wealth, claim and counter-claim, war, deception and betrayal all part of the story…

 

In a small accommodation with reality there has been a recognition of this subjective limitation and  attempts to modify both classic and Marxist economics. Keynesianism explicitly criticised classic economy from the perspective that it had no macro economic analysis, that it was limited and partial. Marxism also criticised classical economics from the same perspective.

 

In turn, classical economics responded by broadening the fields of economic activity that it covered and even integrated elements of both Marxism and Keynesianism to produce the modern hybrid that passes for mainstream economics today. At the same time neo liberalism explicitly critiqued Marxist planned economy for offering a limited and distorted perspective on the real world. Only the market was capable of gathering and processing enough information to make the system work it claimed.

 

Classic economics and Marxism have historically attempted to compensate for narrowness of vision by reaching for an ever more comprehensive breadth of subject matter. Their final strategic purpose is to claim that the point of view they represent is capable of encompassing all of experience. In other words, both capitalism and socialism claim to be universal theories.

 

This strategy really amounts to nothing more than a form of semantic  trickery that exploits the confusion between taking something into account and adequately accounting for something. An analysis undertaken on this basis degenerates into nothing more than description in the form of an ever expanding list of complaints that classic economics makes about Marxist economics and Marxism makes about classic economics.

 

But neither capitalist economics or Marxism can overcome the fundamental problem that they are subjective in both analysis and purpose- they are in essence particular points  of view.

 

In the back and forth diatribe of mutual complaint each philosophy implicitly recognises the value and need for the other as each seeks new territory to colonise at the expense of the other. Both competing analyses move from old to new battlefields as they become available for domination,  seeking both to justify their own existence and to nullify the existence of their opponents.

 

This is the operation of a dialectic; the domination of thought through the application of a controlled conflict- a drama- a demi-urge.

 

The last major episode in this opera was the credit crunch. Marxist economics went on the offensive, seeking to gain advantage in this period of capitalism’s distress. In response neo- Classic economy sought to spin events in such a way as to justify itself. Perhaps unsurprisingly classic and Marxist have managed to fight each other to what is effectively a stalemate. Both boxers now winded and bloody, have retired to corners for a chest rub and a pep talk from their respective managers…

 

The central question now is: Do we wish to invite both protagonists back for a further round of conflict? Would there be any purpose, political or intellectual, in continuing a boxing bout that seems to have stalled in mutual exhaustion? If subjective political economy has nowhere left to go, what can emerge to take its place?

 

The economic model I propose does not rely on a representation of any particular group as the main protagonist in history and economy. I don’t seek to make The Capitalist the hero of history or The Worker either. On the contrary I am now arguing that there is no such thing as The Capitalist as a concrete economic agent. There is no such thing as The Worker either. They are both literary inventions of Germanic culture. This is where culture meets economics.

 

Nobody ever in the history of the world ever created capitalist wealth through undertaking risk. Nobody ever in the history of the world ever created capitalist wealth through undertaking labour. Both these ideas are literary fictions.

 

Instead I am arguing that the only way that capitalist wealth is created is that it is extracted and accrued through the operation of money forms, that is denuded versions of money. These money forms create and operate their own distribution networks within society and economy that allow the extraction of wealth.

 

Individual or group economic power and significance comes from the extent to which one has access to one or more money forms and is able to utilise them to extract wealth.

 

This analysis seeks to represent Germanic capitalism from a multiplicity of perspectives to show both action and reaction in any given transaction. We no longer need to be bound to this or that heroic perspective or this or that litany of complaint and counter-complaint.

 

But there is a price to be paid for this insight. Because in such a model the struggle for economic power becomes a zero sum game. Power is fixed in quantity and quality. If power accrues to one then it necessarily is taken from to another. Wealth cannot be created as in a Germanic literary fantasy.

 

Just as Einstein’s theory was able to capture the multiplicity of relative motion through the adoption of a constant the speed of light so this model of money requires a constant  – that of wealth. Wealth in this model is not created, that is the absolute barrier that cannot be broken through.