CPB::I. ¿Qué puede ser hoy un marxismo ortodoxo::Text en
- 1 I. What could be an orthodox Marxism today?
- 1.1 1. Lukacs' gesture
- 1.2 2. Marx, the Marxists, us
- 1.3 3. A new type of Marxism
- 1.4 4. Being Communists again
I. What could be an orthodox Marxism today?
1. Lukacs' gesture
In 1923, in "History and Class Consciousness", Georg Lukacs asks himself: "What is Orthodox Marxism?". The context of this question is curious. A powerful heterodoxy, the Leninist interpretation, had broken through by force of will and courage in the complicated eddies resulting from the First World War, the decline of a huge empire and, as Lenin would say, of the existence of a "weakest link" in the capitalist chain. Lukacs would then be expected to defended a "heterodox Marxism". His gesture, however, is clear: Leninism is the "true" "orthodoxy".
Marxism actually knew the discussion between "orthodoxy" and "heterodoxy" or "revisionism". Given the great political and economic stability of capitalism in the last three decades of the nineteenth century, Eduard Bernstein had already raised the need to "review" the economic doctrines of Marx, and even eventually abandon the centrality of Marxist thought and integrate it into a broader set of theoretical currents that might better account of what was happening altogether. Against this, Karl Kautsky, originally following a line traced by Engels, was trying to show that Marx's theories were "substantially correct" and what had to be done was simply "apply them creatively." Both positions, of course, involved, or perhaps assumed, quite concrete and contingent political choices. In these options, the crucial point was whether capitalism could be overcome through a revolutionary process, or if all you could expect was a progressive extension of the democratic prospects of the system itself, if it was under consistent pressure by all progressive forces.
When considering the place of Lenin and the Russian revolution in this controversy it makes perfect sense to distinguish between "revisionism" (based on historical use, Bernstein's) and "heterodoxy" (Lenin's). Formally both positions are both. The name of revisionist for one of them and heterodoxy for the other could well be arbitrary, if not established by the historical use. The problem arises rather to the Leninist position, which first made a gesture which will later be characteristic: it was determined to show itself as Orthodox.
Of course the use stated in the course of this controversy with revisionism reserved the adjective orthodox, which in short, is nothing but an appeal to authority, to the Kautskyite position. With that then it had the curious situation of two orthodoxies in dispute. Here lies the reason of Lukacs' text trying to establish which among them which could be considered the "true" and given the uses of the time, the only real orthodoxy.
Remembering this scene, after seventy-five years of revolutions and catastrophes, could be a perfectly useless exercise if it were not for measuring our nearness and our distances to such an attempt.
Of course, the main distance is that I no longer think there can be an orthodoxy, let alone a "real" orthodoxy. Every great thinker supports multiple valid readings, which can even be contradictory, and in political terms the only possible advantage relative to each other is their ability to express and mediate concrete and effective realities.
There are nearnesses that are relevant in our context: one is the political claim to be claimed as a valid and viable orthodoxy, trying to retain the symbolic force of the figure of Marx to a particular position, another one is Lukacs' gesture regarding as truly orthodox the position that involved the search for revolutionary change.
It is not the only Marxism, or the correct Marxism, what matters; what matters is to defend a possible Marxism. A theoretical and political initiative which , clearly and consistently, says of itself it is Marxist, then specifying in what ways and with what rights it supports this claim.
Even the claim as such of wanting to be a Marxist is today a political fact. Of course it is not obvious today that it would be sustainable to insist on this referent, neither politically nor theoretically. Many critical thinkers prefer to consider Marxism only as a source among others, in the reform area as well as in the more radical field. Many would prefer to think that the global capitalist stability and the defeat of real socialism only do allow reformist policies. Others would prefer to think that the revolutionary horizons may no longer be global, and must be restricted to direct and local action. Facing them, there are still, of course, those who prefer not to move from the basic coordinates of Marxism-Leninism, trying to develop and apply it "creatively" to our time. And then we're back in a situation, at least theoretically, similar to that of Lukacs.
As the successive defeats of the German revolution are small-scale analogous to the huge defeat of socialism, and as long relative stability of post capitalism after the Second World War is similar to that faced by Bernstein, so the revisionisms , orthodoxies and the possible heterodoxies are repeated in different keys.
On the one hand the reformist revisionism, as the one started from Eurocommunism, and carried forward by socialist renewal. On the other, radical and revolucionarist revisionisms like those initiated by Foucault and continued by Deleuze and Negri. Finally the Marxist Leninist tradition, which fails to break away from the Soviet scholasticism within which it was formed.
Just as Lukacs in his time faced illustrated naturalism and anarcosindicalista spontaneity, I would like to also face today two symmetrical terms: the Soviet scholasticism of dialectical materialism and its, more or less Marxist Leninist, aftermaths on the one hand, and the long and something grotesque academic saga of structuralism and its many poststructuralist sequels on the other.
Of course the Soviet scholasticism is buried, and rightfully so, especially as an impossible legitimation of the infamous totalitarian dictatorships that called themselves socialist. And although the bankruptcy of the Third International is even more drastic and dramatic than the one of the Second, many of the arguments in this book are directed against this type of Marxism, which has been considered the only real and genuine Marxism. But my intention is not to speak in the name of the Marxism that was, but of a possible Marxism, one that could be. Today very few would be willing to defend this tradition, at least without significant shares of self-criticism and review. The problem I think is most important is not to settle scores with the past, now that we have a long history of dramatic masoquisms, but rather think about the possible future.
What is now generally understood by Marxism in the intellectual field, however, it is a closed space and locked by the structuralist and poststructuralist scholarship. In this field it is possible to distinguish four development lines that have almost entirely displaced the rich Marxist discussion, in which various intellectual traditions coexisted in the 50s and 60s.
One is the radical perspective that is based on the association of Marxism with Derrida - Deleuze combination, which involves an appraisement of Foucault, W. Benjamin, A. Heller, F. Jameson, A. Callinicos, represented by Deleuze, Guattari and Negri, with a general background of Derrida - Heidegger.
Another is the reformist perspective that is based on the association of Marxism with the combination Derrida - Rorty, which involves an appraisement of Lacan, the linguistic turn, methodological individualism, and especially represented by Ernesto Laclau.
Another is the more directly Marxist association with methodological individualism, rational action theory and critical realism, around which the theorists from Monthly Review, New Left Review, and the analytical Marxists, like G. Cohen, J. Elster, J. Roemmer and Frederik Olin Wright have been moving.
Another one are the endless Althusserian, post-Althusserian and post-Maoist sequels in France with their appraisement of Foucault, Lacan, also Heidegger and recently Rorty, as in the last Poulantzas, in Alain Badieu, or in the Lacanian left.
Four lines of theoretical development which, from their common dependence from structuralism and its criticism, have come to constitute a present of Marxism that has almost completely displaced, like a Kuhnian paradigm, the other forms of Marxist discussion circulated in the 50s and 60s, as the French humanist Marxism of Sartre, Lefebre, or the first Gorz, the English historicist Marxism, like Anderson or Thompson, the Yugoslav humanist Marxism of Markovic, Petrovic and Vraniki, or the Latin American theories of dependence.
A theoretical shift such that the academic world is now full of "platitudes", of custom established and petrified for theoretical terms, of discussions that should proceed and others that would not make sense. An established predominance in the problems and the language that makes that explanations have to be given at every step, every time you want to think something different, or worse, whenever the quick and stereotype synonyms "assumed" are not accepted, often with extremely weak theoretical support.
Well, I do not speak from this present dominant Marxist academic discussion. I want to radically leave this paradigm and propose a different theoretical basis which, by virtue of a political will that should be made explicit throughout the text, I would like to call "orthodox".
To understand, at least initially, the reason for this rejection of dominant academic Marxism, it may be useful to note that, from theoretical horizons which in principle could appear as far apart as Heidegger and Wittgenstein, or Derrida and Rorty, or Foucault and Althusser, there has been a movement converging around a radical critique of classical Marxism that led many theorists simply to an abandonment of Marxism, and most to abandonment of a global revolutionary perspective.
One can say in general that the structuralist and poststructuralist tradition made a radical critique, firstly, of economic reductionism. A criticism that went from criticizing the idea of economic determination of all our policies and ideology to the point of abandoning economic analysis of the present as something significant, or resignifying it in a completely speculative manner.
Secondly, it made a radical critique of the philosophical foundation of classical Marxism. A criticism that went from criticizing scientistic dialectical materialism to the abandonment of any totalizing, ontological, and even systematic idea.
Thirdly, it made a radical critique of any attempt to build a comprehensive theory of human history. A criticism that went from putting all the emphasis on the analysis of concrete action and the particular situation to reducing all politics to the local situation, and even individual action.
Fourthly, it practiced a radical opposition to putting, as a basis for action, an ontological theory of the subject, power, or conflict, reducing subject to singular subjectivity, power to a relation of local power, and conflict to local and partial opposition.
Overall, against "metaphysics" and "economism", against globalizing and systematic claims on suspicion of concealing totalitarian tendencies.
It is from all of this structuralist and poststructuralist intellectual field, and its academic fanfare, mysteriously led by Heidegger and individualism, I want to distinguish and separate my reflection, to reinvent an orthodox Marxism.
Orthodox Marxism means, in this context, first, to jump over one hundred years of scientistic and naturalist Marxism, and just throw it into the pit, where should be, to go directly to Marx and start again. Just leave the whole tradition of 1880 - 1980, from Engels to the first Althusser, and have the courage to think from today forward, from the possible communism, and not from defeat.
Orthodox Marxism also means, secondly, to recover the basic intuitions present in Marx and reasoning by analogy to understand the present. An analogue operation where the present term always prevails over the past, so as to try to understand what is new as something new, not simply as a repetition or prolongation. An exercise, in which the analogy is a heuristic tool, no way an evidence, and where whenever it proves to be in disagreement with Marx, worse for Marx, because what is important is our view of our problems, and Marx's text should be only an instrument, a temporary guide, however powerful it may be. This is the equation that I want to pick up with the paradoxical expression of "reinventing" Marxism. It is Marxism, on the one hand, because I think the works of Marx do contain powerful ideas that can guide the review of the present; it comes to "invent", on the other hand, because what matters is the present, not Marx.
I argue that it is possible to express these basic intuitions present in Marx's work through a minimum set of principles that may operate as the hard core heuristics of a research program. According to these minimum principles, I think today it is orthodox:
- to argue that politics is eminently collective action, with a global aspiration. It's not enough to affirm the centrality of politics, it is necessary to state that the founding actors of the political arena are always collectives that can be understood as subjects. It must be said that the aim of these subjects is constitutively universalist. And that means asserting that the category of subject, understood in a non Cartesian way, makes perfect sense;
- to argue that economic analysis is central to the understanding of social processes. An economic analysis that does not become causal reductionism, that examines changes in work processes, valuation and reproduction of capital. An analysis that seeks to expand the category of the economic up to the point of including in it the social;
- to raise the relevance of the concept of class and class struggle. A concept in which social classes are understood as subjects, where the social is understood as antagonism. A concept that seeks to understand the binding of modes of thinking with the process of social work;
- to raise a philosophical foundation, capable of expressing the idea of human production as a differentiated universality. A foundation capable of holding a logic that goes beyond the purely analytical trend of scientific rationality;
- to propose a radical democratization of language and knowledge, criticizing the idea of avantgarde, criticizing the professionalization of knowledge and political action, criticizing the difference between experts and laymen.
If these are the minimum principles that we hold as "orthodox" then we will be able to appeal to all the texts of Marx, without favoring, for example, the Capital or, conversely, the Manuscripts. the difference between a supposed "young" Marx and a supposed "old" Marx will be therefore irrelevant. The only important thing will be to try to pick up the main lines of his texts that can help us to build a coherent theory of our situation.
Within the Marxism I'm interested in developing, these guidelines are primarily the idea of human history, its critique of alienation, its critique of capitalist economy, its political radicalism.
Lukacs thought it was possible to find a "method" in the works of Marx, understanding method, incidentally, in the Hegelian sense. Bearing in mind the extensive rhetoric around the idea of method that has been produced throughout the twentieth century, I would rather suspicious. I keep just the heuristic use of analogy and the defense of the minimum set of principles that I have raised, to attribute to my attempt the adjective "orthodox". But in reality this is merely a polemic and rhetorical adjective. What really matters is not a really trivial and sterile discussion on orthodoxy and heterodoxy. I rather care of the political sense that today it may have put yourself in a position that would call itself like this.
As for the political sense I can be explicit. The idea to be called "orthodox" has two basic political objectives. One is to defend the enormous symbolic value that the Marxist horizon has meant throughout this century. Maintain, enhance the strength of its utopian will, this will to transform the world globally and revolutionaryly. Another is explicitly weighed against the many "heterodoxy" that have resulted from the structuralist tradition, and the circumstances and political effects that have accompanied them.
Apart from these two no less obstinacies, this adjective, like no other, is not really relevant. What matters is the content, the principles, I want to ask after him. And in another sense, now considering other possible political meanings, which want to set that content can be seen rather as a new kind of Marxism, that is appropriate to the new forms of domination and struggle.
In this operation, however, another theoretical and political, but above all historical distinction is implicit, including three terms which would be between Marx, Marxists and us.
2. Marx, the Marxists, us
a. Marx and the Marxists
It is possible to clearly distinguish between Marx and the Marxists. Obviously about the world they had to face, but also from that, on the content of their works, their concrete policy initiatives, the philosophical background in which they operated.
Marx lived in the time of full development of classical industrial capitalism, Marxists had to live in the era of imperialism, and the coexistence between two opposing social and political systems, moored by the nuclear stalemate.
Marx lived in the era of the rise of the working class and radicalism generated from sectors of artisans and petty bourgeois who were being wiped out by the big industrial capital, a radicalism that influenced the early development of the working consciousness. The Marxists had to live in the era of the rise of the middle class, that is, the steady increase, despite periods of disruption and crisis, of global consumption capacity in ever wider sectors of workers. A boom that, as early as 1890, allowed to speak of a "labor aristocracy" and that was reflected in the basically integrationist and reformist attitude of the mass workers' organizations. Kautskyism was no mere "diversion" nor a simple "corruption", something like a regrettable and condemnable error. It responded to a deep economic and social situation that has been accentuated throughout the century in the most advanced capitalist countries, and has been reproduced in every place where there were developments of national capitalism.
There is evidence, in his defense of the Paris Commune, in his bitter criticism of the Gotha Programme, that Marx never managed to understand the logic of the mass workers' parties that began to emerge, precisely in the years of his age. He, great and stubborn, remained rather clung to the radical logic, largely inherited from romantic heroism in a time marked by mediocrity, careerism, the desire for integration, which too deeply affected the programs and political strategies of the emerging workers' parties. The theory of imports of consciousness, or the need to establish a communist movement more radical than the overall strategy of the labor movement until then, already show the difference, and the inadequacy between the Marxism of Marx and the Marxism of Marxists.
Marx lived in the golden age of scientific enlightenment, technological optimism, naturalistic and realistic culture, and his relationship with all this ideological set are contradictory and complex. He admires Darwin and criticizes him. He admires the humanism of Feuerbach, and it seems superficial to him. He admires the great advances of science and he reasons in a substantially more complex and more partisan fashion than natural science and even than his contemporary social science. He profoundly despises what he sees as superficiality of Stuart Mill, is openly suspicious of Darwinism, or objectivist realism. Marxists, however, having perfectly at hand the expressionist, surrealist, cubist, Dada, etc. revolutions have a fundamentally more simple and submissive relationship, with respect of the ideological setting of the nineteenth century. Virtually all of Marxist tradition, whether Kautskyite, Leninist and, often, even Luxemburgist councilism, is based on scientific realism, however much more flexible. He shares a naturalism with few nuances, that puts human history as an extension of nature, that believes in the existence of laws covering the entire history in a necessary and teleological manner, issues that can hardly be found in the work of Marx himself . (Unless we believed the thesis, very common among classical Marxists, that Engels had special telepathic powers that allowed him, despite the doubts of Marx, to interpret, discover and write down his true thoughts).
Classical Marxism never managed to assimilate the great cultural revolutions of the twentieth century, and behaved everywhere, even beyond its many political differences, as a somehow ideological extension of the Enlightenment, perhaps more militant than the Enlightenment philosophers themselves would have liked, but basically with the same philosophical foundation. And here is an important argument that I want to argue: the thought of Marx is always beyond the theoretical horizon of Enlightenment. Critics who assimilate him into a politicized Enlightenment or, conversely, to a politicized Romanticism are wrong. These judgments are perhaps relevant to portray the Marxist tradition, from Engels on, but they are always inadequate to tackle the thought of Marx. For me, the thesis that matters to defend here is that Marx's work can lead an entire political philosophy which is beyond the simple, and thoroughly modern, dichotomy between Enlightenment and Romanticism. An operation, however, that can only be done with very few later Marxists.
Marx lived in the time of full European political, economic and cultural hegemony, when the revolution was a beautiful and distant dream. The Marxists had to experience the economic, political and cultural siege of the hegemony of the United States, extended over Europe, increasingly pervasive in the articulated forms of world market, where the revolution was too often a place of nightmares of improvisation, urgency and violence, in cultural, political and economic realities that were not covered at all in the calculations of Marx.
Marx himself experienced, during his long exile, the first and perhaps most important failure of the revolution he postulated, something he never took, and the Marxist tradition stubbornly continued with that omission: the "failure" of the English Revolution. And you need to put the word "failure" in quotes because in reality, the question was much more serious and profound: just anyone came up to make a communist revolution in the most advanced capitalist country in the world. This "failure", largely omitted, so often eluded through ad hoc hypothesis or theoretical variants forced by the immediate political situations, is the great anomaly which chairs the development of Marxist theory after Marx. And, in one way or another, all subsequent failures in Germany in the twenties, and the socialist camp as a whole finally in the eighties, may be seen from this large initial enigma. And even the whole series of "successes" of Marxism in peripheral realities, ranging from the precarious Russia, to countries such as Bulgaria, Albania, and even Ethiopia and Angola, merely show, through its reverse, the same great enigma.
It is true that most of the theoretical development of Marxism in the twentieth century has revolved around the triumphant revolutions, which, heroically and titanically, Marxists could achieve. But it's almost equally true, conversely, that all this theoretical development can be seen as a very long series of ad hoc hypothesis that prolong Marxism, through its apparent successes, ignoring its fundamental failure.
After such a dramatic statement, given that those who want to remain Marxists usually have nerves something altered currently, especially after the fall of the wall, here a small parenthesis is adequate, more subjective than theoretical, to calm premature anxieties, or unfounded joy. What I hold as a result of these conjectures and arguments, is that communism is possible, and that it makes perfect sense to be a Marxist today, and for quite some time. For those who want to watch this text from the point of view of revolutionary consistency, so typical an attitude of the Stalinist mentality, and still so widespread among the most furious anti-Stalinist, please know that I believe that communism is possible. I think, from the failure of classical Marxism the lack of viability of Marxism as a whole cannot be simply inferred. A Marxism of new type is possible, which is due to reinvent its original revolutionary impulse. To make it possible, it is necessary to get rid of classical Marxism, both of its long chain of pyrrhic and paradoxical victories, as well as of its profound and never assumed failures.
Marx didn't achieve sizing, throughout his life, the gradual emergence of modern liberal democracy, of "public opinion" and the masses of the twentieth century. When he approached these phenomena, he openly distrusted, with a visionary smell, its actual contents, and specifically suspected the possibility of corruption by the capitalist powers. Marxists, however, have lived through the twentieth century caught between the rise of real or fictitious democracies, with their enormous power of social integration, held in the progressive expansion of consumption capacity, and peripheral realities of oppression brutal, of criminal dictatorships, in which successful revolutions have been incubated, from the uncontrollable anger of the poor of the earth, or of workers subject to overexploitation.
Marx was never confronted with this problem. Marxists simply never knew what to do with democracy. Forced to live the revolution as a military dictatorship, because of capitalist encirclement, because of the internal needs of the process of forced industrial revolution, they never found the formulas to reconcile revolution and democracy, and permanently ranged from reformist participation in democratic booms, and military confrontation in situations of purse or oppression. I do not see in this oscillation an error, or a lack of theoretical insight. There simply a fact of reality. And it is important not to avoid it again through ad hoc hypothesis, or extraordinary theories about "democracy". The Marxist tradition, forced by the surrounding and internal reality, was deeply educated in political totalitarianism, and we need to look at this reality in the face and decide what we will do about it. At a minimum, and to retain some of the huge hypocrisy with which the common political thinking treats this point, it is necessary to say that I don't see in this any blatant reality a characteristic, or intrinsic, feature of Marxism. All of modernity is imbued with this deep totalitarian vocation. There is a deep link between totalitarianism and classical industrialization that is visible in all processes of industrialization, and that only political hypocrisy could associate as exclusive of Stalinism, overlooking the fascism of Japanese industrialization, German industrialization Nazism or even the totalitarian features present in English industrialization, whose "democracy" was censitary, and discriminatory to much more recent times than the opportunists would like to acknowledge.
b. The Marxists and us
It is perfectly possible to distinguish between the Marxists, to whom will add the adjective "classic", and "us", among whom I include those who still believe it is possible to be Marxists. Of course, again, this distinction is as deep as the gap jointly opened by the collapse of real socialism and the great changes in the world, precipitated by new forms of technology and the movement of capital. We now live in a different world than the one classical Marxists lived in: we need a new kind of Marxism.
Classical Marxism developed in a world of homogenizing industrialization, of Taylorization of physical work, of the great Fordist production line. We live in the world of high-tech industry, capable of producing in a diversified manner, which it has begun to Taylorise the subjectivity of the worker and has heavily broken up the chain of production, both nationally and internationally.
Marxism evolved in a world in which large industrial workshops gathered crowds of workers, and made possible large unions. A world in which the Enlightenment fully maintained its prestige as a progressive and enlightening ideology, allowing the existence of cultured workers, of libraries and labor press, of intellectuals arising from the same working world. We live in a world in which the disaggregation of production chains removes the specific physical basis from which the unions were possible, which leads to a progressive weakening of the union organizations. A world in which the Enlightenment has lost much of its appeal, and the system of social communication can almost completely cope the field of real working class culture. A world in which Taylorization of subjectivity promotes behavioral patterns of strong subjective integration between capital and labor, leading the classical reformism of the labor movement to an end of simple collaboration, to the integration of workers into the corporate spirit of large enterprises.
Classical Marxism evolved in a production system whose basic technological capability was producing huge quantities of identical products, which resulted in a general trend towards homogenisation, towards centralization of all powers in only one power, that plans and orders centrally, and it was also expressed in a joint behavioral pattern of normalcy, intolerant of difference, repressively promoting adaption to one kind of world, to one kind of life. We live in a world where high-tech production has the capacity to produce a diversified manner, and dominate in this diversification. A world in which power management does not require the full power to maintain its hegemonic position, and in fact distributes apportioned quotas, being able to dominate in a second order, maintaining a power differential on the distributed and atomized powers. A world in which classic "normalcy" has been broken down into a multitude of particular "normalcies", configured as series, or combinatorials of specific characteristics, and where dominant powers do have sufficient technological capacity to interact with these individuals, to dominate them in their diversity, and even provide them illusory diversity in an interactive and recognizing way. A world with many possible forms of life, many apparent worlds in the same world. A world that can suppress resistance, and maintain the prevailing state of things, through tolerance, promoting tolerance in the immediate order of life, although refusing to do so in the second order from which it dominates.
Although they never knew quite what to do with democracy, and oscillating between the democratist reformism of the advanced countries and the armed revolutionary spirit of the periphery, classical Marxists lived in a time when democracy seemed to be real or, at least, gradually expanding, objectively, in many parts of the world, although its expansion invariably found the limit of not being able to change the basic structures of domination without being confronted with fascism and reactionary violence.
It is important to note the notorious limits of that democratic expansion in all its dimensions. There has never been, in any modern country, that mythical democracy said to be the "government of the people, by the people and for the people". Only slowly the voting was extended from the census vote to universal suffrage. Freedom of expression has undergone constant and profound changes, by the monopoly of information systems, censorship and self obliged censorship, all of them omnipresent throughout the twentieth century worldwide. Civil rights have been respected only to the extent that the bourgeoisie has retained power, and has not seen it compromised. Economic and social rights existed only on paper, and each possible extension had the cost of confrontations and wars, or economic crisis.
It is important to note, however, that all such limits could be removed, that there was a horizon of real democratic expansion, that struggles for democracy, in their many forms, had a broad scope, and important humanizing results, although they all occurred within the liberal utopian horizon. No results that could not be reversed, of course. There wasn't any progress which could be said to be definitive for human history.
We, instead, experience the full decline of liberal democracy, of its humanistic horizon, and even of the social and subjective basis, which made its expansion thinkable and possible. The profound distortion of the mechanisms of representation, by the media, by the market, by raw and simple intervention of force. The progressive destruction of the psychic autonomy of citizens, acting as subjective basis of possible civil autonomy. Progressive desubstantiation of democratic mechanisms through its reduction to widely manipulated and manipulable election formalism, on the other hand. The emergence of powers that are simply out of jurisdiction, or monitoring by representative bodies, such as independent central banks, military intelligence services, or transnational coordination of economies from the companies or from higher level bureaucratic agencies.
This means that while for classical Marxists reaching or expanding democracy was a central political issue, for us, however, a central political problem is what to do with the repressive and strongly integrating use of a manipulated formal democracy, that acts more as a source of legitimacy of power than as a space in which politics is really possible.
Classical Marxists lived in a world where, despite much evidence to the contrary, technological optimism, confidence in the neutrality of science, and the benefits of realism were still possible. Forced by everyday environmental disasters, by mass manipulation, by the repressive use of therapeutic techniques, by the wide edgy reflection in art and philosophy, we live in a world where it is possible to openly distrust of science and technique, of their neutrality with respect to the world that produces, and that they contribute to reproduce.
Classical Marxists lived in a world where the geographical difference between imperialism and dependency, between first and third world, between the poor, the "middle class" and the rich, could be clearly specified. We live in a world where geographical differences have faded: there is first world worldwide, there is third world worldwide too. Where the differences in production system integration, and consumption capacity have been violently radicalized, giving rise to huge sectors of the world population strongly excluded from consumption, and even from the productive system in general, who are not a reserve army of nothing, who do not play virtually any role in the articulation of the world market, as compared to other sectors, of enormous, relative and absolute, quantitative importance, integrated into modern production, progressively increasing their capacity of consumption, their access to the most sophisticated technological goods, their commitment to the system of domination that enables their stressed lives, but with very large appearance of comfort.
Classical Marxists lived at the time of the Doctrine of National Security, that, in practice, preached open warfare against any progressive attempt, and that included resorting to fascism, to open military violence, to explicit involvement of the military in politics. A doctrine from the right and for the right, that could be fought from a wide political arena. We live in the era of the Doctrine of Low Intensity Conflicts, which produces a war that becomes permanent, but diffuses into thousands of small initiatives that do not explicitly show themselves as political. A doctrine that no longer requires military dictatorships, because simply emptying the democratic mechanisms is sufficient. A war that is presented as fighting crime, and that is of interest for integrated citizens, because of which it can be supported without noticing its political background, almost as a policy of public good, protection of the family, and peace.
Domination of diversity, unequal interdependence, broad integration through psychological identification of citizens with the interests of domination, repressive tolerance, formal and legitimizing democracy, ample opportunities for all reformism accepting the premise of the market as a regulator or, short, a new world, a new mode of domination, requiring a Marxism of a new type.
Today, when none of our classical certainties may be considered as obvious, it is necessary to ask why the revolution is necessary. We must ask ourselves again whether the revolution is possible. And these are two different issues. It may well be that the revolution is much needed but simply not possible. None of these problems can be evident today. Why would we want violence? Why not try to broaden the democratic horizon from within? Why want to go again to a war that we have lost so many times before? Nobody goes to war until he has powerful reasons for doing so. People do not go to war even in extreme misery and exploitation, until there is an alternative that allows them to think that the future may be better. Today, when the system of social communication is able to largely manage expectations, why would they believe us that our war really is the peace of the future, while, on the other hand, the real, or even fictional, but heartfelt prospect of consumption may be a better or, at least, less uncertain future?
In order to think directly from Marx, we need to ask ourselves once again why he thought the revolution was necessary, and why he thought it was possible, and compare his calculations with our situation.
I propose, as a thesis, Marx thought the revolution was necessary for the objective evidence of the effects of capitalism, namely, poverty, dehumanization, the rupture with the natural world, but always linked these effects to a deeper and central condition: alienation. His reasoning always runs first around alienation and, consequently, about poverty. This is seen, for example, in his hard repudiation of philanthropic policies, or policies aimed at mere economic or social demands.
Marx thinks the alienation as an objective problem, as a historical situation that transcends the will or the consciousness of the actors, that is, he thinks of it as something global, structural, intrinsic to the capitalist system, so that it only can really be resolved by abolishing the whole system. In the case of capitalism, alienation is expressed in the mechanism of extraction and private appropriation of surplus value, which, of course, can not be resolved case by case, or improved by higher levels of participation in the product for workers, because it is a historic construct that is densely protected by the legal, political and ideological system called "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie". The differences between legitimate and illegitimate, the healthy and the sick, what is allowed and the offense, honesty and shamelessness, are all historically designed around the essential fact of appropriation of surplus value. The conversion of all human labor to the universal and abstract equivalent of "money" is the effective and accepted form in which a system operates, whose depth, in social facts, in consciousness, in thought and action, is so great that it only can be called "dictatorship", regardless if it is a military dictatorship or practicing democratic formalities.
Marx thought that only a "revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat" could end the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. And, on more than one occasion, he considered that this was substantially the only idea that really belonged to him in all of his work. The essential question, regardless of whether the dictatorship of the proletariat is of a military nature, or is achieved through democracy, is what content it might have. Beyond overthrowing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, Marx thought that the revolution had to overcome the objective effects that it had generated, namely, poverty, backwardness, inequality. But beyond that, the essential question is always alienation. Overcoming alienation required, in his thinking, to overcome at least the mechanism from which it operated, ie, private appropriation of surplus value, because of which he proposed that production was to be in the hands of direct producers, or in general, that there should be democratic control over the mode of production.
But Marx also suggested what the radical content was, that should be expected of a communist revolution, and this is but overcoming the social division of labor. It's just this radicalism which allows to call the communist revolution a "revolution": human self-production without mediation of commodity or, in general, without the mediation of any fetish. The human recognition in a universal, differentiated and reconcilable objectification: free labor.
It is necessary, at this point, to say what may be understood by "revolution". Although, in general, the content of this word refers to a change in lifestyle, to a process of human self-production, to an expression of freedom, it can be used, however, for processes of different extension and different depth, so that only the maximum extension, and the maximum depth do really embrace that concept.
Regarding extension, perhaps you could speak of local, social and global "revolutions". There are cases where radical changes in communities or even for individuals, may be called revolution. This is, of course, the way reformers like it to be. You can talk, however, of social revolution when the entire society is involved. That is the case of revolutions in capitalism, as the French Revolution, or the Glorious English Revolution. But we have only the strong and proper sense of the term when we talk about a global revolution, something that happens to capitalism as a system, like the industrial revolution, or socialist revolution.
In depth, on the other hand, there are revolutions when there are changes in the forms of work, as in pre-modern technological revolutions, opening the division of labor, e.g., the agricultural revolution. Further, revolution happens when there is a change to the way of work, and that is the essence of modern industrial revolution, which can be seen as the self-awareness of the productive forces. But we have only the strong and proper sense of the term, when changes occur in the general way of life, that is, when the revolutionized are the relations of production, beyond changes in productive forces, that is, when political revolutions occur. Bourgeois revolutions already involve a degree of awareness of social relations, and with them politics, in the proper sense, do begin. But only the self-awareness of social relations, that is, only the social exercise in which men discover that they themselves the authors of historical changes, and stop attributing them to God, or to some natural root, may be called, appropriately, politics. The Russian Revolution, at least in its Bolshevik horizon, is the first real expression of this sovereignty of humanity, even above nature. Also bureaucratic revolutions may be such an expression.
Or, in short, why would a communist revolution be necessary? Because only overcoming the social division of labor may create the space in which human reconciliation is possible, in which free labor is possible, as well as democratic control of production by the direct producers, in which there are no more alienation.
Of course such a radical demand makes urgent the second question: Is a revolution like this, of this magnitude, of such depth possible? What was the calculation of Marx?
Marx believed that the communist revolution was possible, first, by virtue of the structural contradictions he saw in the capitalist system. The anarchy of the market, where each producer does not know what the other one will produce, and competition as an always frustrated way and try to reduce the anarchy; the downward trend in the profit rate, and technological competition and hype exploitation as always frustrated attempts to reverse it; the trend towards overproduction crisis as a result of the disparity between the growth in the supply of products and slow growth of the consumption capacity, produced by the tendency to keep wages at the lowest possible level. In "Capital" he showed the cycle of anarchic, lowering of the profit rate, crisis of overproduction, general bankruptcy, and new anarchic competition which, in his opinion, would increasingly worsen, and finally lead to the collapse of the system.
Marx believed that the communist revolution was possible, secondly, because of the formation of an universal class, whose liberation would involve the liberation of all humanity: the working class. On the one hand, production would have been objectively socialized, that is, it would have reached a very high degree of division of labor, and high interdependence of all jobs. On the other hand, class contradictions would have been simplified to the extent that all work has been reduced to commodity exchange, leaving only the owners of the means of production facing the wage-earners, "who have only their chains to lose", ie who would be united by the maximum possible alienation. Finally, these workers actually do exercise, and could dominate the social division of work, could take care of it, reappropriate it. All these conditions are what can be called "emergence of an universal class".
Marx believed, thirdly, that the communist revolution was possible because the consciousness has emerged, that can articulate this universal class as a will, that is, because a revolutionary theory has emerged, which is an expression of self-consciousness of social relations, which knows that men themselves are the ones to make history and can change it.
In short, the deepening structural crisis, the formation of a universal class that can take care of the social division of labor and that has nothing to lose, as objective conditions, and the articulation of that class as a revolutionary will, thanks to a theory that takes this objectivity to consciousness. Or again, a communist revolution resulting from an objective, structural, conscious process, driven by a will: a strictly political revolution.
d. Marx and us
The distance between the classical Marxists and us is, of course, already a distance from Marx. At this point, however, what I want to consider is, directly, how the basic calculations of Marx, and its political consequences, have been altered, and what is the continuity that would allow us to believe that it is still possible to think starting from his work.
Briefly, the main differences between the current situation with the logic set forth in the previous paragraph are three. The first is the broad ability to regulate the cyclical crises by a system in which competition has become increasingly fictitious, or has become a mere means of empowerment within the same companies and multinational conglomerates. A capacity of regulation that is enhanced by the massive inflation of the financial and speculative sector in the global economy, implying that there may be crisis with huge capital losses on paper without necessarily being expressed in large scale disorders of social life. And also a regulatory capacity whose objective basis is the almost complete interpenetration of transnational capital, which loses its classic national bases, and is being directed by worldwide negotiation agencies, which distribute market shares and territories, without major shocks or even less interimperialist crises, that old Leninist dream that no longer will happen any more.
The second major alteration is the objective increase, both in absolute terms and in a relative sense, of consumption levels and living standards in important sectors of the world population, particularly precisely among workers integrated into the more dynamics branches of highly technological production. Just the workers of the most dynamic sectors of production, ie, those who may eventually take over and dominate the social division of labor, no longer have "only their chains to lose", an issue that substantially alters the calculations that may be made about their political choices. It is true that never in history there were so many poor, as poor as now. But more significant than this, and that is constantly ignored by the Marxist calculation, is that never before in history, on the other hand, so many people had such high and sustained living standards,and broad prospects for growth, as now. And this is a powerful stabilizing force in politics, which defies all attempts of radical thought.
But, thirdly, the objective stabilization force represented by the increase in living standards, is enhanced by the extensive technological ability to directly intervene consciousness, and possible will, from the system of social communication. This capability extends the stabilizing force even to the sectors that consume less, but are constantly subject the weight of expectations, real or fictitious, achievable or demagogic, with enormous force to determine patterns of political integration and collaborationist behavior. Even in situations of extreme poverty, the current poor tend to behave politically as if they consumed, as if consumption were available to them within a reasonable time, with reasonable effort.
And that's more than enough. Nobody goes to war only by consideration of current misery and oppression. The calculation is always more subtle: somebody goes or does not go to war according to his expectations of a better life after going or not going. And the crucial question then is: why the poor have a reason to choose the risky road of revolution with its failure so widely publicized and riveting, if it is always possible to wait for a gift, for some improvement in the current situation? You may prove a thousand times that the excluded, marginalized, are less and less likely to have their expectations met, but the theoretical demonstration is not enough: once and again they will fall in the space of alienation that media and the objective consumption of the integrated can create in the very foundations of the psychic apparatus of the poorest.
Faced with a scenario like this, with the possibility that the alienation be lived in full abundance, against all illustrated forecasts, including the forecasts from Marx himself, with the possibility that the alienation of the integrated may be reflected even in the consciousness and political behavior of the excluded, you need to think radically, once again, the previous two crucial questions: why would a revolution be necessary today?, why can it be expected to be possible within some reasonable time?
Indeed today revolution is necessary, first, also because of the basic reasons Marx thought, ie because of the objective effects of extreme and inhuman poverty the system inherently produces by virtue of the dynamics of growth. But today this problem is twofold, and doubly serious, regarding the time of Marx. It is double, because in front of extreme poverty and radical marginalization there is mass consumption and easy integration, while every day there is a bigger barrier rising between them. It is not to be expected that the marginalized are progressively integrated into a system that requires fewer workers, even if it requires more and more consumers. In the growth calculation of capital regulated by bureaucratic power they can easily spare about two billion poor. And politics towards them will be becoming simply more criminal every day. The extreme poor are simply exterminated. The fratricidal war, compulsive policies of birth control, pests, will gradually, but always more quickly than philanthropists wanted, put an end to a third or more of the planet's population. And this policy of objective murderer can only be reversed by the radical humanist attempt of a revolution. The reformists who aspire to broaden the base of consumption, including the excluded, will be late, and are running late: a massive crime is already underway.
But, secondly, it is not clear that the reformists could arrive in time to save even themselves from the ecological catastrophe in which the compulsive and inorganic growth has plunged the planet. The arms race does not diminish, discrimination does not diminish, human rights are increasingly only part of the show.
However, a radical reformist perspective is perfectly possible and plausible. When facing the extermination of the poor, you can always hope to expand consumer goods, to bring abundance to disadvantaged sectors. And it even might be a good business to do so; after all, precisely what is always scarce in a system of such high productivity are consumers. Perhaps a Marshall Plan for the whole humanity. Perhaps a massive conversion of the arms industry to peace industry. Perhaps a campaign to show that it is in the very interest of capital, and of the administration, to save the ecosystem in which they themselves live. Maybe taking seriously the technological capacity to produce diversity and promote tolerance by creating diversified markets, filling the world of different colors and forms of life that coexist, that do not need to annihilate each other.
All this is possible. All of this remains completely within the possibilities of the high-tech production system, which is the current system of domination. And all this is desirable and minimal. A revolutionary perspective cannot be raised without sharing at least some minimum political and reformist hopes. The question, however, is that this is perfectly possible even within the system of domination, ie, in full exercise of human alienation, now taken to the extreme. This is the crucial difference between reformist and revolutionary politics: reformism merely ask what the system can deliver, but has not yet done. A revolutionary policy is to ask just what the system can not give. Reformist politics is the art of the possible. Revolutionary politics is the art of making the impossible possible. And faced with comfortable alienation, with the possibility of expanding the horizon of consumption, and even expanding the reasonableness of life in general, a radical demand, the one that power always fails to satisfy, is simply that we want to be free and happy.
But is it possible to say that those who live comfortably on consumption are not happy? I postulate that, at this point, it is necessary to get ones hands on an old omission of those sacrificed classical Marxist revolutionaries: precisely the issue of human happiness. "We want to be free and happy" is a statement that requires a judgement on the possible happiness in a social system, and its comparison with another. And this is something that Marxists have left for obvious until today, and certainly is not any more of the obviousness that everyone assumed. Now, when the chances of reformism are broader than ever, and seem to be such in a plausible way, the possibility to think of a revolutionary perspective requires greater effort, a greater risk, than the classic one. And it is at this point that Marx's concept of alienation is crucial.
We not only want to stop being poor, want to be happy. And the difference between one thing and the other is clearly demonstrable in the disenchantment with which the highest standards of living the system of domination can offer are experienced. Okay, if it's true they are so happy, why so many drugs, why so much suicide, why the constant feeling that life has lost sense, that the world is getting worse? The tragic curse of this alienating system is that those who don't consume suffer because they do not, and those who consume suffer anyway, even if they do. Why would they accept a shitty system like this, where even the privileged are constantly declaring that they are not happy, while it is precisely because of its patterns of production and consumption that one third of humanity is being exterminated? This is perhaps the radical base from which the revolution must be thought, and the concept of alienation is the central concept that can help us do.
Indeed the second question posed in the preceding paragraph is even more difficult to answer: Are there elements, now empirical ones, not only of principle, that allow us to think that the revolution is possible? One would be tempted to answer, still in the plane of furious will, as Abraham Lincoln did: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time". But, unfortunately, it is not enough. Radical and objective contradictions, a universal class capable of turning them into break points of the prevailing domination, a theory capable of giving shapes and words to the will of that radical change. This is what should be found. And I look forward at least the start of such arguments throughout this book. For now, one of the argument premises that I am interested in developing is that for these arguments to emerge clearly visible it is necessary to abandon classical Marxism. Leave it not only because of theoretical issues, but above all, as a liberating political gesture.
Indeed the second question posed in the preceding paragraph is even more difficult: are there elements, now empirical, not only of principle, that allow us to think that revolution is possible? One would be tempted to answer, still in the plane of a furious will, as Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time". But, unfortunately, this is not enough. Radical and objective contradictions, a universal class capable of making them into break points of the prevailing domination, a theory capable of giving shapes and words to the will of that radical change. This is what should be found. And I look to forward at least the beginning of such arguments throughout this book. For now, one of the argumental premises that interest me to develop is that, for these arguments to emerge clearly and be visible, it is necessary to abandon classical Marxism. To leave it, not only because of theoretical issues, but above all, as a liberating political gesture.
f. Is it possible to "rescue" something from the classics of Marxism?
To be more precise: what does giving up the heritage of classical Marxism and inventing a Marxism of new type, from Marx, mean? What is meant by "classical Marxism"? Why only to save Marx? Is there nothing in classical Marxism to take takes advantage from? Why "abandon" and not, for example, recreate? Couldn't we take advantage of contributions from Lukacs, Bloch, Gramsci? Why simply putting all Marxists of the past century in one bag? Isn't there nothing in the Marxism of the past 30 years, say, which isn't a simple ad hoc exercise, which may be considered creative? Why not consider that this proposal itself, the one of Pérez, is but another series of ad hoc hypothesis?
The questions are many, fortunately, which means we have touched an essential point. Responses, even precarious, are, nevertheless, relatively few, or summarized in a few basic points. Therefore all these questions should be put into one and the same series.
When speaking of "classical Marxism", it is necessary to make two distinctions that can help limit what is meant. One is that between what might be called "real Marxism" or, more straight, the real political practice, which actually happened, under the inspiration of the Marxists, and what can be called a, more or less academic, "theoretical Marxism", that is all what Marxists have written, regardless of whether its many good intentions actually occurred or not. The other is between the Marxism that lived Bolshevik utopian horizon as possible, alienated or not, and the many "Marxisms of new type" to which we have been forced by the reality of neo-Stalinism first, then by its bankruptcy.
What can be called "real Marxism" may be clearly stated as the world of three Internationals: the Second International, dominated by Kautskyism, the Third International, dominated by what Stalinism called Marxism-Leninism, and the many Fourth Internationals, dominated by Trotskyist fragmentation. Both the political practice of the reformist Marxists at the time of a mass labor movement, as well as the actual practice of "real socialism" and the practice of multiple, fragmentary, and eternally aborted or defeated attempts, to oppose to the logic of "real socialism". This universe, must be clearly, and if we think of a critical perspective, radically abandoned.
But of course there is much more in the twentieth century Marxism than "real Marxism." There is, of course, the "possible Marxism", there is a series of brilliant theoretical developments which, though never translated into a full and effective implementation, are always a huge possible quarry of materials, from which you always may try recreations which, under a political, rather than academic will, we call "Marxism of new type". We all would have liked real Marxism to be more like Gramsci, or Bloch, or Marcuse, or like Che Guevara's. It seems obvious, however, that not only it didn't occur, but suspiciously every time we cite these "salvageables", we talk just the names of those who were NOT in power, or who died prematurely, as we would like "save" of Lenin.
Regarding these "theoretical" or "possible" Marxisms, the gesture that I propose is more political than academic. It is to raise a will that is able to face these new times in new ways. To do so, can we use what Marxism had of promising stuff, of transcendent intuition of reality? Yes of course, we could not do otherwise. When we dare to incur in the vanity of saying that we have "invented" something, what we do, from an academic point of view, of course, is not to "invent". But this may indeed be true, it must be true, from a political point of view. The focus of our discussion should not be a "we are followers of" but resolutely a "we are going to change the world".
But if this is so, why "saving" Marx? Was he enlightened, would he have some special privilege, and why? The truth is that I'm not interested in "saving" Marx, if it was not in a gesture, again, a political one. So when I turn to the theory of alienation as a theoretical core from which to think the present reality, I do NOT quote Marx, I just expose this theory as I believe it serves us well, and the discussion of whether this corresponds "really" to the statements by Marx I "really" do not care about. If not, worse for Marx. I am turning to Marx within a political gesture, a symbolic place from which I can precisely skip hundred years of history, to start thinking again. I am turning to Marx as a symbolic place of the communist horizon. What I care about, politically, is the claim that communism is possible, and that is the central claim of what I call, pretentiously, a "Marxism of new type". Beyond this statement, everything that is necessary for it to hold, or to examine its feasibility, I am saying in the present tense, using sources of course, but again, not mentioning them because what I care about is to think, not be "faithful to" or "to develop" and entangle in the, finally scholastic, discussion about precise translations, recreation or developments.
Of course it is perfectly possible to discover, in an often very obvious way, the theoretical places from which I'm getting materials to that "invention". If someone wishes, I could list them explicitly. First Herbert Marcuse, and the hodgepodge that he makes between Hegel, Marx and Freud. From this Hegel, Marx and Freud, now separately, according to my own reading, and precisely in that order. Then, highly suggestive to me are, adversely, the reflections of postmodern culture, the aesthetic avant-garde of the twentieth century, called "post-Marxists". But I'm not ready, if it comes to talking of Marxism, to discuss the relevance, accuracy, or fidelity with which I have adjusted to those references. That's why I don't quote them, although their presence is evident. Therefore, if it is to discuss in an academic way, I prefer to study each of these sources by itself, in the task of specifying the best possible "quarry of materials" with the aim of using their texts as pretexts, with or without their consent.
g. On the value of the past
While accepting the need and political urgency of "forgetting" about classical Marxism, raised in this way, the problem of valuing the past remains to the task of "inventing" again, from Marx. In addition to the reflections I have done in the previous point, I would add the following, strictly political ones.
If it is about revolution, what is important is the future. The axis of thought and action must start from the present to the future. The revolutionary side should not have a past. The more entrenched their reflection and action is in the past, more unlikely their vocation of future.
The past is important for those who triumphed, or for those who have already been defeated. Those who succeed require, and can not help doing, the invention of a past. This will be part of their legitimacy, their strength. Those who have been defeated, or act under the weight of defeat, require a past to explain, to minimally tell their lives have not been in vain, that the trends show that someone may later come to redeem them. "Having history" is a luxury that the triumphant power may have, or the sadness of an inclement story told again and again, summarizing the defeat, repeating it, as punishment.
For those who struggle, those who are fighting, and think and act from that situation, the past is not relevant. Not that they have none. You could say, in an abstract way, as an academic exercise, they have. But beyond the trivial assertion that any present has its past, there is absolutely nothing obvious. It goes without saying of the past that it simply is. Just a millimeter beyond, any attributed content is but a reconstruction. The objectivity of history is strictly historical. So much that the past can have more density, more weight, or definitely less, depending on which place of its struggles a party is in. The place to try it all, the place of having gotten what one actually gets, instead of losing everything ... except the past.
Of course, those struggling will build a past, and accumulate facts as raw material for this reconstruction. But they will only have genuine right to do so after having succeeded. While fighting, the vocation for the future should occupy most of their horizon, without more legitimacy than their indignation, their will to build a better world by beating the repressive condition of the present. To dwell on the past, in the midst of the struggle, is a break that can only satisfy the intellectuals, not those suffering. Or is it an indication that it is no longer so much for the fight, but how to survive defeat.
Then, perhaps in the illusory beyond of triumph, even these ideas will be severely reconsidered. Those who win will not see history, which is now their history, as a pure product of the will, but rather emphasize the "objectivity" of the past, they will see these "voluntarism" as romantic excesses, they will work "on reality, as on a rock". They will find all sorts of "anticipation", "great glimpses", "deep insights". Every age creates its precursors. And if what has triumphed is truth and beauty, it perhaps may be good that they do. The problem is that truth and beauty will also be a reconstruction, and then, regardless of whether it is good or bad, it's just inevitable that they conquer history not only as triumphant present, or future splendor, but also as a promising past. "We have been expected", those who succeeded may say. Or, "We have finally arrived to the appointment, reserved for us by those whom we can now redeem".
But when these claims are made before the triumph, in the dark ages of the fight, they are suspicious. They are a bad sign. They are indications that someone is operating from a thick illustrated mentality, as if the historical reality be objective and determined, and our role was only to make it real. Or a sign of romantic messianism from that you might suspect a totalitarian future.
The political issue today, for those who live the struggles as unresolved ones, is how to get out of these, the infinite metaphors of shipwreck, into a space of struggle to invent freely, to invent itself, despite the materials coming from, as perhaps is inevitable, those many previous shipwrecks.
To "invent" is, politically, the word of those who fight, even if from an academic point of view this is not true. Therefore, in theory, what one has to do is not to cite, but to allude. And invent the cited in the allusion. It is not to "develop" or to "take advantage of" or "rescue elements of". It is simply to have the subjective vanity to believe you can make something up, so it can be exploited in the objective movement of those, who actually do invent something.
We have not been waited for, we are not redeeming anyone, we are not the good guys. We're just going to create a new world, and for that we will fight the established reality. There is an old saying, if you will excuse the paradox, which may sum up this attitude: We have had enough, and set in motion.
3. A new type of Marxism
In building a Marxism of new type, drastic and dramatic theoretical operation is necessary: getting out from under the weight of one hundred years of theoretical construction, political action, contradictory triumphs and spectacular failures, and inventing Marxism anew.
A Marxism of new type is necessary because the forms of domination have changed substantially. But many Marxisms are possible, even under the demands of internal consistency, of a certain adaptation to the actual reality, and minimal political viability. What I want do here then, is to specify for what needs, and under what principles I believe it is possible to formulate a Marxism which might aspire to these conditions. A possible Marxism, among others, which should be tested in actual practice.
a. What is Marxism?
Stating this vision requires, however, previously asking what Marxism is. And at least give a general answer, indicating what kind of theoretical attempt I want to do. What is Marxism conceptually, what has it actually been, what could it be. It is necessary to maintain this distinction. The possibility of an alienated revolutionary practice, ie, a practice whose results contradict its discourses and intentions, makes this difference to become necessary.
I maintain that the essential concept of what may be called "Marxism" can be made up in five points, I will enunciate and comment now and then contrast them both with its actual reality as well as with the possibilities they contain.
Conceptually, in the first place, it must be said that Marxism is a revolutionary theory. It should be apparent, however, that this is not an empirical statement. No theory can be revolutionary by definition. Whether it is not, whether it can be, is something that only the actual historical practice can decide.
Consider, then, this statement in the sense that it is a theory radically conditioned by the purpose of being revolutionary, that is, by the founding intuition and primary desire that a radical and comprehensive transformation of society is necessary and possible. A theory that is based on and takes shape from a will. A revolutionary will, rather, that has given itself a theory to configure the real and to proceed clearly.
Of Marxism it may be said, secondly, that it is a method of analysis. First, it is a method of economic analysis to criticize capitalist society. But its main interest is to be a method of analysis of political situations, being able to guide the concrete revolutionary practice. More generally, it is also a method historical analysis, able to provide an overall picture of the mechanisms that explain the major changes in human history.
It would be an excess, which of course has been made more than once, to say that Marxism is a method of analysis that is useful for mathematics or agriculture or therapy. No relevant or foundational ideas can be found in Marx about music, education or architecture. The attempt to obtain collections of allusions from Marx and Engels on these subjects, in order to know what would be the right way to develop them, is vain, scholastic and conceptually wrong, however much it has been among the typical procedures of Soviet scholasticism.
A method of economic, political and historical analysis, certainly very suggestive for sociology and philosophy, and whose criteria may be extended, as I will argue in the next point, through more or less metaphorical analogies to other fields. But no general method, nor a method for knowledge in general, not even for the social sciences in particular.
However, when we say that Marxism is a method of analysis, it is necessary to clarify the status of such a method, and its relationship with the contents. It is not in this case a method from which specific contents follow, or may be found. This claim, characteristic of scientific methodologism, is not true even for the sciences themselves. It's the other way round. It is a number of essential contents that are expressed in some methodological formulas. Marxism is a theory that is founded on a secular, materialist, humanist, atheist vision of human society and of reality in general. In this it is only heir to the traditions of modern thought. This is a set of beliefs that originate from the traditions of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and a philosophical base that enables it to go beyond these horizons towards overcoming the modern philosophical tradition. And all these are properly contents, which are at the basis of the method, instead of being results from the action of the method on a pre-established reality.
Of Marxism it may be said, thirdly, that it is a worldview. That is, a theory from which it is possible to offer a perspective on all areas of human experience. By the way, as I have stated in the previous section, it is not a general method. But, as far as the economy, politics and historical experience crucially cross all human experience, from there, and in relation to them, the Marxists can build specific views, in which the general theory offers some heuristics tracks and suggestions about the connections and relevancies each of these areas may have for politics, which is their main concern. Not all human experiences can be connected in the same way or to the same extent, with the reality of politics, but the so called "worldviews" aren't precisely constructions to dictate every single detail in an immediate manner. They are rather guidelines to understand the location of those who profess them regarding the world they live in.
To that extent, you can reduce or complicate the idea that it is a "vision" of the world. This is an expression that suggests the nearby notions of "point of view" or "perspective" and, as such, contains the pre notion of someone who sees something and something else, that is seen. However, this difference does not really express the goals of Marxism. It should be said that more than a "vision of", it is a way of "being in". Marxism is a way of being in the world, a factual position, or, to give full force to the formula, it is a way of being in the world. That is, rather a set of acts related to a theory and a will, than a set of ideas.
This makes it possible to "be" Marxist, in the same way it is possible to "be" Christian, or Buddhist. That is, being Marxist implies a strong existential commitment, a permanent attitude, where, as I indicated above, there is a revolutionary, founding will. It is not uncommon for many people who "are" Marxists, not knowing in detail, or really, the work of Marx. It makes perfect sense to distinguish between "Marxists" and "Marxologists". To be a good Marxist, you need to know Marxism, but those who "do not know" often, in their actual practices, do something that is deeper than this knowledge: they create real Marxism. By the way, as is obvious, you can know Marxism without being Marxist. There are Marxologists, and there are very good ones, and their knowledge may be very useful. But in principle, the function of knowledge is secondary to real actions, which are effectively deciding whether or not someone is a Marxist.
But this makes it necessary to say, in a fourth place, that not only the theories are be considered as Marxist, but, above all, the real and effective practices that have resulted from them. Precisely because Marxism is not just a theory, like the theories of gravitation, or of natural selection, but is linked to a will, a way of being in the world, it can not be tried regardless of its actual practice. Irrespective of whether Marxists themselves do like this practice or not.
You can not separate any judgment you want to do about Marxism from the noble and heroic deeds, like those of Che Guevara, or the overthrow of Somoza, or the Long March in China, nor from the infamous moments and sinister periods, like murder of Roque Dalton, or the Moscow trials, or the violence against culture in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. You can not argue that Marxism theory is very good, but the men who practice it have not kept pace. You need to explain in a Marxist way what happened, why we believe things could be different. And it is necessary, first of all, to recognize and publicly tell the truth about these processes and their root causes. There is no other way to be credible again to those who contemplate, with just horror, many of the things occurred.
The struggles of Salvador Allende and Stalin, the saga of the Cuban Revolution and forced industrialization in the USSR, the virtues and the horrors of the Chinese revolution, socialism imposed from above in Bulgaria and built from the people in Yugoslavia, are components and essential parts of Marxism. They are its reality, they are the real Marxism, beyond any roles and good intentions.
But this, in turn, requires in the fifth place, to say that Marxism is a tradition of controversies, most of which have never really been resolved. This is necessary because it is perfectly possible attempt to circumvent the results of the real Marxism arguing that that "was not really Marxism". To avoid this draw, a basic doctrinal nucleus should be established and it should be accepted that, concentrically around this centre, different versions of each of the relevant issues affecting Marxist theory and practice have built. To the extent that there are few issues on which all Marxists do really agree.
There are at least two ways of giving Marxism a philosophical foundation. Just as the formulation of Christianity has historically oscillated between the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, Marxism was built, and will remain, on the, more or less explicit, aftermaths of the philosophy of Kant and Hegel. There are at least three main forms of Marxist political action: councilism, Leninism and Kautskyism. Around the idea of imperialism there are several schools, and also about the national problem, or forms of party organization.
In all of these controversies, there is nothing that can really be called a "right Marxism". The idea of a correct Marxism, so characteristic of a homogenizing culture, leading to the complementary notions of "revisionism" and "ultra-leftism" and has had the perverse effect that the struggle among Marxists are very often much more intense those of Marxists with their class enemies. To the extent of persecution and crime. This sad story of strife has perhaps had some reason that makes it understandable, but not excusable in any case. It must end.
There isn't a correct Marxism, neither theoretically nor practically. Strictly speaking, the judgment on the possible correction of a will, or a policy can only be established by practice, case by case. There are no general formulas, nor is there any Marxist construct that has withstood the impact of the actual conditions in which it developed. Nobody can today, in light of the general catastrophe, claim the title of a "correct Marxist". The past is, from this point of view, an ominous set of shame, oppression and crime. Those of us who believe that communism is possible can only affirm our will in fragile shreds of a sometimes glorious past and in the future, especially in the future, that is the vital matter to any will of change.
b. Marxism as an expression of a world
But, considering the five points listed in the above order, a theory (will), a method (content), a world view (way of being in the world), an effective practice, a tradition of unresolved controversies, and thinking of this succession in a Marxist way, I think you need think about them in reverse order. If this order I presented were true, then Marxism happens to exist because a Mr. Carlos Marx created a theory which then triggered a huge storm in the world. This is certainly not a Marxist way of looking at things.
From a conceptual point of view, Marxism is not just an invention of Marx, it is the expression of an era in human history. One can say that the great historical novelty that is brought by the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary class, to human existence, is the self-awareness of the productive forces, ie, the notion and the practical experience of a concept in which the means of labor and work itself are recognized as a human product. It can be said, at the same point, that pre-capitalist societies were aware of the means of labor, but not self-conscious, that is, they looked at them as given objects, which may be worshipped or decorated, but which cannot be perfected. Herewith creating an essentially conservative attitude towards technological change. The bourgeoisie understands the means of work as its own product, recognizes its own work in them, and with that the cycle of ongoing industrial revolution we call "modernity" begins.
But even in possession of this self-consciousness, it can be said that the bourgeoisie has only reached the consciousness of social relations. That is, it still sees the foundation of social relations as something given, divine in its early days, or natural, which is its better concept. The bases that determine the intersubjective, social and historical behavior would not be in the hands of men, but come from a certain given "human nature", beyond their conscious control. Nature may be transformed, but its laws not changed. Means of work are effective only if they conform to natural laws. Likewise, political, and social arrangements would be viable only if we know that "human nature" and learn to handle it. The market, of course, competition, private property in some cases, are parts, in bourgeois ideology, of no less than nature. They can be reformed, controlled, but it is unimaginable that a society has no market or no competition. The bourgeoisie has powerfully humanized the work process, has saved the social relations of the tyranny of the divine, but has given the latter its own tyranny, naturalizing it, under the concept of human nature.
Things put this way, one can say that Marxism is an expression of the time in human history when men reach the self-consciousness of social relations, that is, assume and live the notion that what happens in society and history is nothing but their own product, and that, in fact, ALL social relationships can consciously be changed at will. This self-consciousness is, of course, an indispensable condition so that the idea may be formed that communism is possible. Self-consciousness of social relations means not only that there are no gods steering society and history, but there also isn't what is called nature. We're free. All we are is due to ourselves. There is nothing in social relations that can not be changed.
Marxism is not, of course, the only expression of this new state of humanistic confidence. At most one could say that it is the first expression, but not the only one, nor even the most efficient. This is a self-awareness that is present in many ways, in all of contemporary politics, that is, in politics which opens with the great mass parties since the late nineteenth century. By the way, fascism or even Nazism, also participate in it. And, most importantly, the historical action of the bureaucracy as a class is related to it. This means, no less, that it could easily happen that the bureaucracy is the first ruling class in human history who knows clearly that the keys to its domain are in its own historical initiatives, without the ideological veil that involves attributing them to a foundational nature, or a providential divinity.
And also self-awareness of social relations does not mean at all, to master the reality from it. The idea that consciousness of something implies mastering it, is but an illustrated illusion. Self-conciousness implies here, rather, the knowledge of a will than its effectiveness. A knowledge that allows social stakeholders to put into play, for the first time in human history, an infinite will, that is, a will that is not limited internally but for itself, by the laws it may put itself in fact, knowing it or not. And this position of will in no way guarantees the result; it is, like everything else in human prehistory, simply a risk.
It can be said, in this regard, that the philosophical significance of the practical work of Lenin is precisely to put this will in history. The major attempt to twist the inertia of determination, treating it as a mere reified human will, to bring awareness to what conscience wants to make of its own history. And, conversely, the philosophical meaning of the practical work of Stalin, is to show the strength of that determination, strength such that may well turn the revolutionary will into an alienated will.
This possible alienation, given the opacity between will and determination, or between explicit human will, transparent to itself, and the will shown as determination, or reified humanity, is in some way aggravated when Marxism looks at itself in an illustrated way, since then, in a dramatic attempt to clear the crash operating as if it were not, it merely become a justifying and legitimating ideology of the dramas and the results of its action.
This is what brings us back to the five points, and their historical significance, which provide only in general what Marxism is as its concept, to the dramatic reality of real Marxism, of the historical realities that were actually built in its name.
c. Real Marxism as an expression of a world
In its actual practice, its actual results, the Marxism of the twentieth century has been nothing but an extension of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, that is, an appropriate ideological veil for a number of processes of forced industrial revolution. Its scientific pretensions, even enriched by the scientistic version of "dialectics" which it proclaimed as its official philosophy, its permanent state of political totalitarianism, beyond the "needs for the defense of the process", its strongly avant-gardist practice, its teleological idea of history, all point, as has already been said many times, to show that real Marxism as a variant of the general ideology of modernity.
Beyond this statement, a nuance may be added. Marxism was certainly not a bourgeois ideology, even not a totalitarian variant of bourgeois ideology. Its anti-bourgeois vocation and practice must be taken seriously, being looked at in a new light. I argue that the Marxism of the twentieth century has been one of the modes of expression of the emergence of bureaucratic rule, below surface and beyond the conscious intentions of its actors. To this extent, it has met its concept. An illustrated avant-garde has attempted to transform history, under the ideological veil that its real actors are the workers. It has tried to impose a will to determination. And its actual results are too much like those of all of modernity to be thinking today that in it there was some fundamentally different principle, that is not already taking place, in other ways, within bourgeois society itself.
But the ongoing struggle between will and historical determination that characterizes this new era, just as before the essential feature of the social was the liberation of the productive forces, may find again and again expressions, both among the revolutionary will, as within the bureaucratic spirit. And Marxism, the Bolshevik horizon, with their dreams of communism and human reconciliation, don't need to be tied to what they have actually been. Marxism may be more than it has been, it can recover his infinite impulse toward freedom and life. XXI century Marxism does not have to continue the miseries of the Marxism of the twentieth century. The revolutionary will can do something different. For that we need a Marxism that is effectively what in the twentieth century it has only been sporadically. A Marxism that collects what humanity dreams, and makes it political reality.
d. A possible Marxism
I argue that we need to invent a Marxism from which it may be possible to do a Marxist critique of socialism and its bankruptcy, as well as of the general lack of political viability of the Bolshevik horizon in the twentieth century.
A Marxism from which it may be possible to make a critique of the new modes of domination arising from the emergence of the technological capability to produce and to manipulate diversity. A Critique of deepening modes of control of subjectivity accompanying the highly technological production.
A Marxism from which it may be possible to make a critique of scientific rationality, which allows viewing it as an ideological and operating form of modernity, and allows to imagine overcoming it.
A Marxism being able to address the progressive loss of control of the division of labor by the bourgeoisie, and the emergence of a new type of class rule, conveyed by the complete articulation of world market and the ongoing technological revolution.
It is possible to reinvent a Marxism of this type on the basis of the dual operation of reading Marx in a Hegelian way and reading Hegel in a Marxist way.
The reinvention of Marxism I propose is Hegelian, first of all, because of its global nature. Because, although it has not, nor is it intendeded to have local theories of the type of "proletarian art" or a "proletarian math", it however wants tohave a valid word on every sphere of human experience. A dialectic for that "nothing human is alien".
It is Hegelian, secondly, because of the idea that a more complex logic is possible than the logic of scientific rationality, a logic that is both the way of thinking and the way of reality. A material, or ontological logic.
It is Marxist, and not only Hegelian, however, for its premise that human history is all being, all reality. An ontological premise that does not support any nature outside, which requires thinking any difference as internal difference. A premise that can be actually called an absolute humanism.
It is a Marxist, and not only Hegelian reinvention, because of the notion that the materiality of human history, and the origin of all reality, lies in the social relations of production. Forcing an ontological, generalized concept of production in which all production is production of the being itself.
It is a Hegelian reinvention because of its premise that reality should be thought of as negativity, and negativity should be thought of as a subject. But it is Marxist, and not only Hegelian, because of its notion of the subject itself divided, in which any notion of God has been completely immanentized. In which we are God.
The passage from dialectical materialism to a materialist dialectic; the passage from the critique of capitalism to the understanding of late capitalism as a time of emergence of bureaucratic power; the passage from teleological messianism founded on an Illustrated idea of history to the concept of a non-teleological revolutionary will, that assumes the complexity of its own possible alienation, are perhaps the most visible differences with classical Marxism.
But also the emphasis on the notion of subject, and its possible willingness and disposition, as opposed to criticism of the idea of the subject; confidence in the possibility of an ontology in which the substance is understood as ethical and historical substance, as compared to distrust of any ontology; its idea of a policy based on self-determination, on self-determined freedom, on the historicity of the laws, as compared with a policy based on memory, on events, or on contingent challenge; the notion that a revolution, as a global change in the way of producing life, is necessary and possible, as opposed to the idea of politics as construction of partial and contigent hegemonies, these are its most visible differences with respect to the various, Marxist or post-Marxist, reconstructions of Marxism most circulating in the current discussion.
A Marxism beyond the false dichotomy of Enlightenment and Romanticism.
It is already ten years ago when I proposed that the historical status of a Marxism of Hegelian type is to be a possible term within the oscillation, in fact, of all contemporary philosophy between Kantianism and Hegelianism, ie between the respective sequels of those two monsters guarding the entrances to the possible futures. By the way, this is not about "Kant himself" or "Hegel himself". These are the historical consequences of their philosophies, the readings that admit, which are made historically real, being important for policy. A Kantian formulation of Marxism is possible, and my view is that this is what has prevailed throughout the twentieth century. Hegelian, or "Hegelizing" readings have been possible, on a recurring basis,always in the minority.
Maybe against what Kant himself would have expected, the Kantian pole has been linked with a scientistic reading of Marx, whose main emphasis has been on the idea that Marxism is a knowledge that illuminates practice. The main alternative in this field is made as to whether this knowledge is scientific knowledge, as will be proposed by dialectical materialists, or a knowledge of ethical type, as proposed in the Austro Marxism, and by those who keep the spirit of utopian socialism. In the Hegelian pole, on the other hand, discussions have focused on the concept of subject, and the idea of alienation.
The historical oscillation between Kantian or Hegelian readings, however, should not be confused with the oscillation between Enlightenment and Romanticism, which characterizes Kant's extreme. As Hegel could show quite astutely, Romanticism is but the other side of the Enlightenment, under the same modern logic. Hegel's claim, however, is that you can go beyond that oscillation, towards an absolute humanism in which history is a subject. The ethical emphasis of Romanticism, and the epistemological emphasis of Enlightenment, are but two moments of a common logic. A moment that tends to turn the ethical into existential passion, another one that tends to turn knowledge into the director of all spheres of human coexistence. Both moments, expressed as specific policies, have led to totalitarianism. A Marxism which wants to formulate itself beyond totalitarian logic that has permeated modern politics, would have to go beyond this dichotomy, ie, beyond modern logic as a whole. That is the claim that can be developed from Hegel.
e. A Marxism in the minority in the intellectual field
Of course the idea of a Hegelian reinvention of Marxism is in overwhelmingly minority in the current cultural field. A doubly depressing situation when it is aggravated by the presence of academic mandarins who have pontificate, with an air of final judgment, some version of Hegel suited to their policies. It is expected then that the first contingent difficulty of such reinvention is the need for a constant defense against that Hegel from a manual on philosophy put forward to hide the lack of Hegel reading.
But the paradox of these pseudo Kantian positions on Hegel is, in the same way of the Kantianisms supporting them, that they oscillate between between ethical, epistemological or aesthetic Kantianisms, according to the random political position or academic tradition in which they emerged . For Kantianisms of epistemological type, with their illustrated trend, Hegel is a romantic obscurantist. For aesthetic type Kantianisms, of romantic trend, Hegel is an arch illustrated rationalist. English of Viennese type, and French of German type, respectively, abound in these clichés, rarely going beyond the level of manuals. For ethical Kantianism, in both its illustrated as well as romantic aspects, Hegel is the totalitarian spirit that has made succumb individuality, whether in the mystique of state power, or the oppression of the idea of totality, as appropriate. It is easy to suspect that if Hegel is so many contradictory things at once, it is more likely a finding of not knowing than of knowledge.
But the issue is not only Hegel. Marx runs a similar fate as if he is associated or not to Hegel. The enlightened see a Hegelian Marx as a paradigm of totalitarian theory. The new romantic look at an enlightened Marx, either as a reformist scandal, or as totalitarian rationalism. Non Hegelian neo-Marxisms are, perhaps, essentially post-Marxisms.
Beyond these academicism, the essence of a Hegelian Marxism must be the double operation of reading Hegel from Marx and Marx from Hegel. The essential difference between both lies in full humanization (what Feuerbach called "inversion"), and the materialization (Marx) of dialectics. The essential continuity lies in a logic (not a "system" or a "method" as the manuals say) in which the Being is understood as a subject.
There are two main political consequences that may follow from a Hegelian reinvention of Marxism. One against liberalism in all of its forms. Another against postmodern philosophies in any form. The first is the radical critique of the idea of human nature, either understood in an ethological way, or as incompleteness of language. The second is the radical critique of the reduction of politics to local politics, either as challenging resistance, or as partial construction of hegemonies.
Faced with these concepts, what a Hegelian Marxism seeks as the basis of politics is the idea of full, and risky, human responsibility on a collective political action, with global mood, which is exercised from a historical will. The possible link between desire, as a particular moment in individuals, and a will as universal moment, recognized in collectives, should be thought of as the driving engine of policy initiatives that arise from this new Marxism. Associated produced producers, autonomous in their membership of a will, moved from the desire that updates in each one of them, are the driving force, in the speculative level, of a possible revolution. The concrete social economic analysis should be given the task to identify the effective social actors in which this possibility is constituted. The central criterion is that in them both the possibility of this subjectivity and access to control of the most advanced and dynamic means of work is given. Only from this match may arise a revolution that is more than updating the incomplete industrialization and an alienation of the revolutionary will.
But it is essential too, in political terms, going beyond the traditional alienation of the popular movement that has consistently registered its claims on the horizon of possibilities of the system of domination. When classical domination could give homogeneity and increased consumption levels, the labor movement called for equality and consumption. Now that the system of domination can produce and handle differences, the opposition calls for recognition of the differences. Always, most of the opposition, has simply asked what the system could deliver, and has not yet. Revolutionary politics can not settle for being the art of the possible, it should be the art of the impossible, to ask just what the system can not give.
Today, with a system capable of dominating in diversity, in face of the reality of unequal interdependence, of interactive domination, of alienated differences, what should be asked for is, just the opposite, universality. We should fight for global human recognition by the establishment of a common humanity. Global rights of men can not be satisfied by the creation of sectoral markets, by differential spaces of consumption. It is not to annul differences in universality, as in mysticism, or hypostatize differences, as in the extreme that is liberal pluralism of indifference. It is producing an internally differentiated universal. Comprehensive claims, for all human beings, that recognize their differences. It therefore is about a revolution. It is going back to being communists. That is perhaps the most important political consequence of a Marxism reinvented from Hegel.
4. Being Communists again
Everything said so far can be summarized and made effective at a time, as follows: proposing the idea, which in many ways is nothing new, that the world situation can be understood as the emergence of a class society of new type, the bureaucratic society.
I argue that reformulating Marxism to be able to account for what has happened since the fall of real socialism requires a class analysis of the style that Marx proposed around capitalism. I argue that an analysis, which follows by analogy from Marx's method of historical analysis, will lead to the conclusion that the class power of the bourgeoisie is being progressively replaced by a ruling class of a new type, which opens a new era in human history, the age of bureaucratic power. I argue that the bureaucratic society is a class society distinct from capitalist society, that its mechanisms of legitimation, its ideological form, the way of producing life in general, are different. I argue that most of the political problems, both globally, and at a national level, may be interpreted in a coherent and encompassing theory, when viewed from the perspective of the transition from capitalist society to bureaucratic society.
My proposition is orthodox in the sense of returning to the kind of analysis made by Marx, to his concept of history, applying it to the contemporary situation, even to societies that called themselves socialist.
One element that seems key to this orthodox attempt is the idea that is not the property that defines a class as the ruling class, but exercising dominion over the social division of labor. The property is the domination's legitimizing mechanism but not the domination itself. Said directly: the bourgeoisie isn't the ruling class because of private ownership, but it may have its property as private because it is the ruling class.
The consequence that interests me most about this premise is that private property is not the perfect figure, nor the last, of class society. Social property may also be a legitimizing tool of domination.
On the other hand, by associating the constitution of a class rule to control of the division of labor, it becomes possible to understand bureaucratic domination as class domination. I think it is not difficult to show that the bourgeoisie has gradually been loosing control of the division of labor, both at company level and at the level of global economic management. My proposition is that this objective process should be seen as the material basis for the emergence of a class society of a new type.
I propose that it is necessary to materially characterize this domination, as Marx did in Capital regarding the bourgeoisie. It is necessary to understand the political and ideological forms that are functional to it, and through which it appears.
I think it is necessary to describe the process of general loss of hegemony by bourgeois power from the point of view of the emergence of a new power, to avoid the illusion that in fanfare and extremes of bourgeois practice we see in the neoliberal economy there is some kind of triumph, something like the end of history. Despite the harshness of neoliberal policies I think what takes place under its appearance is rather the obsolescence of the bourgeoisie than the realization of its utopian horizon.
But this means that the material analysis of bureaucratic power can only begin when we see in these layers of appearance and human misery the hidden level that allows to understand them or, also, when we postpone the the ethical judgement until we understand, at least in principle, what is happening.
Neither political behavior, nor facts that seem to be great events, or speeches by the actors themselves, allow us to understand. A time can not be judged by what actors say about themselves.
Neither the legal form nor the dramatic political upsets allow to understand. It is the material level, ie, the objective playing of power, its origin, its mechanism and its exercise, which allows this understanding. The level at which men dominate and are dominated. The mechanism that alienates. The objectivity of the actions undertaken without global dominance of its consequences. The materiality of social relations for which the whole and its appearances are meaningful.
However, understanding is not the same than to forgive. Only those absolutely deterministic would identify these two issues. Neither is understanding the same than to condemn. Only the naive ones, who believe in free will, only those who don't know the reality of alienation, its objectivity or rather dramatic materiality, put all knowledge of history under the pillory of moral judgment. There is useless moralism in both cases. The deterministic will justify everything, the idealistic will cry everywhere over convictions. For some the reality is inexorable, for others men have chosen their perversions. There is an undercover conformity on both sides. For some it is about knowing the objective laws and adapt in some way (for example, creating a more humane market). For others it is to preach the good and reform consciences. For the Communists the task can only be to revolutionize the world.
A Marxism of new type, which appeals to the theory of alienation, and to the eroticision of the world as a political program, must not be a novelty. Statements like these have been made before, in times when this just seemed implausible voluntarism, issued by alienated revolutionary enthusiasm. Today, perhaps, this would not have to be different. As I indicated, I do not offer these reasons as theoretical guarantees for the will, but as a discourse to give it a language, a way of seeing, a new jargon for new times.
Under these theoretical conditions, politics eventually become a risk, and the revolutionary attitude is to want to take that risk. Prudence is a bad adviser when it comes to change history. The virtue of these reasons, that only a new reason may understand, lies more in the world that can be, than the words that you say it. And that world, seemingly impossible, is the world of freedom and beauty. Knowledge for change. Not to submit. Knowing the law to change it: to change the laws of reality itself. Making the impossible possible: only this can be a revolutionary program.
I affirm that we can perfectly understand what is happening. I affirm that we do have the theory and the will to understand and to seek a change. A theory and will able to think of the assault on global power, capable of confronting the abstract state with something more than its own alienated diversity, of trying the conscious, rational, universal, rearticulation of human coexistence.
Absolute poverty of the poor, alienation and absurdity of the privileged, the resources of the power of the bureaucracy, its miseries and weaknesses, the general dumbing down of life, the hope for the possible liberation, can all be understood from Marxism. From its theory of alienation, from its idea of history, from its idea of the subject, from its will to change the world. I affirm that it is possible from there to build a self-awareness that may be a possible basis for global change.
A unitary theory from which to confront reality, a perspective animated by revolutionary will, a wide and open disposition to skip the heavy burden of the socialist alienation and to go back by more than a hundred years, to look into the future.
A communist perspective, in which the horizon is the end of the class struggle and human reconciliation, and not just a forced industrial revolution or the cunning of philanthropic management. The alienation of the revolutionary will only managed to advance within the logic of bureaucratic rule. Now, beyond that, we have to run the risk again and see how we can topple this new power so that humanity can be made real.
I think those who pursue communism should be called communists. "Our Party," the new communist party, is not that of those who associated their courage to the Stalinist or Leninist dictatorship, nor of those who are content that everyone eat and have education and shelter, but of those who believe that beyond the bureaucratic rule a classless society is possible.
This revolutionary perspective, devious, distant and full of questions, is what can encourage the willingness to take the risk of making history, of building freedom, of overcoming determination. This perspective is, of course, quite orthodox. And I think this can be formulated as: what this is about, is to be communists again.