CPB::Prólogo a la Primera Edición::Text en
Preface to the First Edition
"No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation."
Carlos Marx, Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859
The elderly usually act and speak on behalf of their disappointments, their failures, what they call experience, as if we should all fail in life and disabuse.
Vicente Huidobro, Vientos Contrarios, 1922
Perhaps any attempt to reestablish Marxism should begin with an account of what happened, of what is possible to be "rescued" from the huge wreck, what we should learn to avoid. It should, in short, "learn from experience". The option I prefer, however, starts from the cruel and radically profound realization from Vicente Huidobro, poet and magician, which I have gathered in the second heading: enough, enough of looking at history from the unworthy underground of defeat.
One could believe that telling the history of Marxism is needed because today's young people no longer know about it, because they act out their impulse for change blindly, without knowing what knowing about those one hundred fifty years of struggle could help them. My opinion, however, is that our problem is just the opposite: we do not get rid of the ballast of what never was. Classical Marxism works in us in the manner of Freudian symptom, ie, as a series of "memories" that we "do not remember" and which are expressed in our behaviors, manifesting their latent reality. Again and again the generation of defeat is transmitting its disappointment spiteful resignations to the youth, making them old before starting. Making them old without even know it, trapping them in the ideas and ways of doing politics that were invented for realities that no longer exist after having dramatically failed.
The history of classical Marxism works in us in this way, whose strength lies in the fact it never comes out, governing us from a certain "common sense of defeat", from a series of platitudes, that young people repeat, ever knowing less about its background, ever having less control on whether they want to experience them or not. These are the classic tics that used to express classical left neurosis, its division between dreams and the world, which now reappear as if still lived the same story. Young people at High School do discuss in the same way their grandparents used to, in the sixties, young people at the University discuss like their parents did, not so young people are still arguing just like thirty years ago, as if the world had not moved a millimeter, as if it had not crushed them again and again.
New words for old ideas, old ideas for new problems, the fossil left doesn't find its way out of the combinatorial ideas that allowed it to legitimize, in its heroic struggles, as well as in the infamous dictatorships where it ruled. And young people do not know the way out of all what they don't know, what has been learned by osmosis, of a mediocre political life, of sorrowful nostalgia, of complaints that never see the possible futures but through the ignoble memory of defeats.
Enough, it is now necessary to "forget" classical Marxism, and reinvent Marxism. Enough of defeat and disappointment, enough of empty repetition of what never happened.
To address this task, all of our energy must be put into the future, towards a possible life. It is necessary to leave the burdens of a sad past behind and again believe that revolution is possible under new perspectives, with a new will.
But how can we forget what is not remembered? It is not about simply forgetting, after which all stays the same, and returns again and again, of that forgetting that works inside us, beneath our skin, in our actions, in our acts or political omissions, without even knowing it is there, crouching, determining us. It is rather the conscious, victorious forgetting, moved by the will, in which the past doesn't cease to exist, but leaves us free.
It is, one might say, of what the word "overcome" means, in the language of dialectics, but I want to emphasize it here as "forgetting", in order to note the fact that this, what I propose to overcome, works in us as a hidden memory, as a hidden curse, binding us to the past. That "eternal, ancient youth that has left me intimidated like a bird without light" spoken of by a subjective tango, but magnified at a social scale, reappearing in every generation, as if young people could no longer be young, and they were intended to be old from the moment they wonder about politics.
Maybe telling the history of classical Marxism today could have an immediate political sense. Telling the story of what must be overcome. Making history to settle the score at once. Do it for the youth, although they do not have the debts we have, and so they do not inherit them because our systematic inability to exit from defeat.
But no. I will not dwell on that story but to reject it. I will not dwell on the past but to affirm the vocation of future. If this is the revolution, those fighting must learn not to look back. The future, just the way future is made from the present, is what matters. And I believe that today the problem of those who want to live to change the world, who struggle under the will that communism is possible is, is as always the same: it is the revolution.
Three are the immediate assumptions that an effort of this kind requires. A big left, a Marxism reinvented from Marx, a communist will of new type. A left that is not large by number, as it is too obvious, but that should be for its ability to contain all the left. The big left as great homeland, in which the borders that the enemy drew have been finally erased, and we can add, and push together. A Marxism that has assumed a dramatic change in the world, the alienation of classical revolutionary will, the subtle developments of the Social Science of the twentieth century, and is able to think this from the present, reinventing Marx, with his consent or without. A communist will of a new type, that has assumed the hard lesson of possible Marxist totalitarianism, that knows how to battle in the current field, below consciousness and within it, eroticizing life, asking for what the system cannot give, distrusting the comfort provided by the new forms of alienation.
It is possible to clearly distinguish between Marx, the classical Marxists, and us, who again believe that it is possible to be a Marxist, who believe that communism is possible. And, having made that distinction, it is possible, it is necessary, perhaps urgent, to get us off the bulk of the hundred years of classical Marxism, and reinvent. If anyone would like to turn the nostalgic look back over their steps, the idea would then be to explain what that package is, knowing it, putting it in the nude. Not to assess, not to rescue and not to save, not to redeem, not to exculpate, but simply to know what must be abandoned before starting the journey again.
It doesn't make sense to mourn about what the past could have been and wasn't. It doesn't make sense to moralize about what the past really was, although we didn't want it to. There have already been too many "assessments" that do nothing but extend the same logic of bankruptcy. This is not to "assess" once again. The exercise should be simpler and, if you will, more cruel: it would be to leave, with no more passion than a nostalgic mood for what has been loved so much and has been lost. To leave with humor, with gently gnawing humor, what has already been amply punished. Just a short comedy that allows us to cheerfully say goodbye to our gods.
And humor is anything but an educational detail in this. It is breaking with classical seriousness. Not to think more lightly and not to float better, but simply as a preservative, which never hurts, and it should disturb very little against the unrepentant retrovirus of totalitarianism. No more seriousness, no more defeat in thinking. Let us go happily to give our lives again, to risk, to forge the will to forge a theory, to forge the theory that the will requires. As always, it is life, our lives, what is at stake in all this. But that should not have as much detail dramatic importance. It is simply about living, not to be dying in everyday mediocrity. We have put together what all the fuss about it. Scandals have to be forwarded to power, not to our self-esteem damaged many times.
Well, prepare good old Lenin, old misunderstood Kautsky, old very old Bernstein, always dear old Rosa, because I'm going to prepare the funeral happily, because I'm going to laugh at your naivete, because I'll tell of egregious errors, and the great wars, because I'll get the wax corpses out of the trunk and go to finally leave them in their homeland, in the past. I'm go to the city, loved old ones, and leave you in your semi rural peasant worker alliances dreams. I'm go to the stars, byte by byte, by the underground of the new webs of imperialism, to come to light, to the air at last, in the global city, on the broadest alleys of the planet where a historical shock should happen at last, so that human prehistory can finish at last. I'm go forward, loved old ones, but not without having a look at you before, to see how you stay there, smiling perhaps, in your pasts, unable to tell us more than your defeats, unable to teach us anything about ours.
Telling the history of Marxism, in these terms, would be the initial story, of tenderness and awe, for those who must travel by their own means. A story, an old story, deep within us, we have not told enough to leave it. To love them better, if you will excuse the paradox, another more. To better abandon them, in a better way. That is what the stories are told for. The beauty of so much horror, the darkness of such tenderness, delusions of such seriousness, as punishment to the eternal totalitarian temptations of sorcerer's apprentices who, armed now with new and better forms of domination, might condemn us forever to the mediocre life of well-intentioned bureaucracy.
It is about going back to the old figure of Marx, re-thinking the keys left, for his symbolism, for his content, for his endless capacity to raise hopes, again Karl Marx. Beyond Stalinist totalitarianism, beyond forced industrial revolution, rather with the weapons of criticism that comes with the criticism of weapons, beyond the sterile moan, the appropriate changes of opinion, the messianic confidence, to rethink the old Marx, for the future to be possible.
Many ask us, with the skeptical and disenchanted tone imposed by historical impotence, a little bit mocking, with that sad mockery that is laughing at their own lost hopes: why Marx?, when perhaps what one should do is just live a private life or the small local effort, and forget about the big, the right, the good.
I think the reasons are big and simple, as always. This is about reason, freedom, justice, beauty, it is still about dealing with the old ghosts, who don't travel the world like ghosts, as the eternal superstitious would say, who seem to continue believing in the souls of their ancestors, but are sweeping the world with enthusiasm, for who knows how to listen. there is no more ghost in those ghosts than what we put from the negativity that constitutes us. No longer on the defensive. Enough of being overwhelmed by the simpleton standards and ideological divides between totalitarian and liberal, between old fashioned and modern, between utopian dreamers and effective realists. Exit weeping melancholy to the excitement, go beyond the sad ones who only find fault with their friends and never get tired of finding virtues in their enemies.
I have not written this for the past but for the future. I wrote it for a new morality, not for the former. I did not write this book for the mediocrity of existent politics, but for the greatness of the one which could exist. Not for the lack of political imagination of the ultra left, or for the dramatic lack of vision of the traditional left. I think there already is enough historical and existential experience, that ultra leftists, just like hysterics, specialize in destroying the things they love. There also is plenty of experience that classical left lost the horizon of its love and struggle just to survive. Not for these lefts, then, but for the big left, which could contain them all, that could be, if our will and our consciences succeed in matching our desires. If we socially articulate the profound desire to make more beautiful world, to be happy.
These are the terms. None of innocence, enough humor and critical distance. Nothing of hypocritical scandal or guilt creating drama, a quite amount of clearness, the style of the Marxologists, and their useless erudition. Nothing to renew, or to update, instead daring enough to stand naked, after all, something we have to show ... let's not underestimate ourselves that much. Rather for young people than for the older, more for the future than for the present. More to beauty and freedom, than for justice or to tell the truth. A speech to the will, for the new will, and its horizon without borders.
We do exist, we do think, we can summon the will, we can resume the long march to freedom and to life. Let us go back to learn what the unity and the difference between men is about, let the pain of every man die in the victory of all, let us conquer once again that kind of freedom that only the lonely do not have, let us make ourselves infinite, such that no one ends in itself, let us be communists again, let our hands again clearly discern the world and the possibility of joy.
Let us live, applaud! Perhaps a new era has begun.
Santiago de Chile, July 20, 2000
History of classical marxism
History of marxism