CPB::Prólogo a la Segunda Edición::Text en
Preface to the Second Edition
I wrote this book to propose a way to understand Marxism that would go beyond the long discussions about the collapse of the regimes that were called, with some malice, "real socialism". This collapse was already obvious in 1998, when I started, due to the collapse of Soviet-style socialism. Today, in early 2008, this is even more than obvious, with the twist that has been established in China's "socialism". Joint state-private ventures in Cuba, post-Fordist labor in North Korea and Vietnam, the difficult drift between amputated radicalism and populism in Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil, which eloquently show that what thirty years ago, on the left, was a heresy, what twenty years ago was an ominous horizon, what ten years ago was a real carnival of "self-criticism" bordering somersault and masochism, is now just a historical fact, a ghost from the past: the twentieth century socialism simply does not exist any more.
What mattered to me, in that context, was to rethink the credibility and viability of Marxism and the communist horizon it contains, irrespective of those purely empirical historical realities. To think the Marxist argument completely focusing on the new situation, on the possible futures it opened. I thought what was called self-criticism, that what was being discussed as "lessons of the past", became increasingly sterile, and gradually rather became an obstacle to reformulate radical policies instead of real learning. Evidence of extensive bleeding from historic left towards reformist compromise, piecemeal fundamentalism or populist evasion, resulting so far in a swarm of internecine discussions and exercises in nostalgia, seemed a resounding example of that self-destructive character.
What I set out for, and I'm keeping it as a goal in this second edition, was to argumentatively present Marxism, without too many purely moral challenges, with some degree of logical coherence that clearly contemplates premises, developments, consequences that likely follow from each other. To think a foundation, proposing categories, showing possible consequences, maintaining the historical Marxist argument, especially its clear revolutionary will, its vocation to pursue an end of the class struggle, but completely focusing on the current reality, that of post-Fordism, of highly technological domination, the reality of a highly communicative society, with huge barriers between integration and marginalization, with factual contradictions between the poorest in society and the workers themselves, which, as far as they are, are no longer the poorest of all.
Of course, "discarding" the past, even with this controversial mood, or guided by this eminently political purpose, is a never-ending task. Especially if you have to cope harassed by those who at this point are to be true professionals of nostalgia. Before them, and perhaps only to them, a series of trivia must be repeated again and again, which of course in the logic that holds them are not: that no one can live without a past, that historicizing the real is a way of exercising criticism, that it is always possible to learn "some things" from past experiences "albeit from a succession of defeats".
From my point of view these questions are obvious, and those who invoke them against the attempt I make here simply have not understood what it is. It is not that the past does not exist or is not relevant for today. It is that the new needs to be analyzed as something new, not simply being assimilated to another kind of the old. It is not to "forget" the claims of justice for the countless crimes, for the bloody history that has led to the current "normalcy". It is that the meaning of politics is the future, not the recovery of the past. It is not that "history is useless." It is that an argument which is is only based on the moral effect the "lessons of the past" would have does not help us to substantively understand the new dominations, in the present.
The effect, however, of this endless burden of guilt and recrimination, fair anger and useless nostalgia, is that this book can not get rid of them completely. The main change I've made to the text, for this second edition, however, is just trying to lighten the load. I've just pulled out most of the references to the past of Marxism, and I have tried to replace them with items that serve a little more for the future.
But on the other hand, for those of us who live from the arts, one of the most noticeable effects of the fall of socialism is the complete disappearance of Marxism from the academic field, or its conversion into a wide range of sparsely argumentative dilettantisms, which have lost all connection with the radical revolutionary will, and operate more like rationalizations of the general shift of the academic world to the various worlds of the right. This is the case of post-Structuralism, or post-Marxism, labels that just cover up those positions that should be considered more earnestly as ex-Marxist or, in most cases, as ex-leftist positions, than as innovators of critical thinking.
A second change I've made for this edition is to lighten the text of the polemic against such positions, whose relationship with the effective policy is increasingly and voluntarily weak. I need not argue in a Marxist way, at least not here, against whom no longer pursue the horizon of a radical transformation of society, because they are convinced of the prevailing fragmentation, the missing constituency, the performing identity, or simply the radical senselessness. I preferred to keep the argument about the purposeful aim, ie, a specific way of formulating a credible Marxism, than about the controversial goal of dismantling this or that position of the endless series of prevailing intellectual fashions.
However, I added text specifying particular points of argument. A summary of the paradoxical character that the categories I am posing here can assume for a Marxist mentality formed in the struggle against the Fordism of the twentieth century. A specification of the epistemological differences involving this Marxist formulation regarding Social Sciences considered as institutions knowledge. A specification of the consequences of distinguishing class analysis, of the type proposed by Marx, from the analysis of social stratification, characteristic of Social Sciences.
I have added these texts, which have emerged over the many seminars in which I have presented this formulation of Marxism, driven mainly by the extraordinary enthusiasm of young people who still believe that a radically different world is possible. It is precisely for those reasons, by the urgency with which the young people who attend these seminars interpellate my presentations, wondering about concrete political consequences, which actually only they may answer, that I finally added a text, brief and risky, on the characteristics of what I think should be the policy of the radical left today, ten years after the first edition, with ten years of accumulated disappointment and anger.
I greatly appreciate Silvia Aguilera, from Editorial LOM, having allowed the second attempt of a book that surely I will have to write several more times. I reiterate my thanks to the many people who helped me achieve the first version, and now add the countless students who have made possible this second one.
In a northern Chile saltpeter mine, just the day of the one hundred years anniversary of the brutal killing at the School Santa Maria in Iquique, I knew what I have often known, but what in dark and ominous times like these is so necessary to go back and remember: just a human gesture, just a minimal gesture is enough, for all the radical horizon of man to rise, for him to face the possible future, and undertake again, again and again, the long march to the end of human prehistory. I appreciate the gesture, which was lost in the wind, as much as if it were the greatest of all, and to it I dedicate the reformulation of this text.
Santiago de Chile, January 11, 2008.