Proposal of a Hegelian Marxism - Second Edition Preface - Text
Second Edition Preface
How can Marxists contribute to a rising social movement, to the struggles for education, for health, to regain our basic ressources? It is obvious that, as citizens, we can do joining in to its many manifestations, promoting organization and program. As workers, residents, and students, as people discriminated by ethnic and gender. The question, however, is how we can contribute as Marxists, collecting and projecting what is valuable within the huge and complex heritage we are carrying.
In principle, Marxist means debtors of the work of Karl Marx. The historical and theoretical reality, however, is much more complex than this simple association. On the one hand Marx's work contains an open political will, ready to recreate and adapt whatever is necessary to carry out their stated purpose, the construction of communism. On the other hand, over more than a century many political movements have called themselves Marxists in the diverse realities, and with all kinds of historical consequences. Nobody has any doubt left in that many of these results are far from what is possible to be attributed to the historical will Marx sought to embody.
Marxists are not only in the social movement because of their radical will and their conceptual developments. They are there also, inevitably, because of their history, full of light and shadow. This makes the question of their possible contribution more complex, less innocent than, say, the question of the contribution of the new movements, driven by new ways to address the old and new miseries in a world of oppression.
Given this complexity, I have many times proposed a simple, dramatic and clear cut: Fighting for the future is much more important than the past. Revolutionaries should not have a past, we are not here because we are expected, or because we are heirs to something. We are fighting because of injustice, exploitation, institutionalized violence. Only when we have succeeded we can count, among our glories and trophies, with the right to construct a past. The task of the revolutionary will is to overcome, to put an end to class struggle. In doing so the past can be a flag, but should not become a burden. Now it is thinking about the future how the will may find its ways.
Invariably, from a logic of nostalgia and loss, it has been objected to me that people can not live without history. That the past should help us to learn lessons and draw paths. I completely agree with the first statement, it is part of the identity of a people to have a story which has built fighting, and to advanced it as a flag. I however substantively disagree with the second: the economic and social conditions in which the prevailing exploitation system evolves in the twenty-first century are substantially different from those faced by Marxists of the twentieth century. You can not oppose a political concept designed for the Fordist exploitation to the forms of exploitation and domination of the post-Fordist society. The bourgeoisie has done its homework, the highly technological bureaucracy too. They have transformed their means of domination and the concrete forms of exploitation in a revolutionary way. Marxists have not sufficiently assimilated these changes. The bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy, to their class objectives, driven by their own internal dynamics, have had a revolutionary attitude and flexibility that we, who puffed up to be while we do not actually emerge from bankruptcy of the Third International, have failed to achieve.
"Lessons from the past" are not very useful to a dramatically different reality. And their futility is evident because when we try to specify them, they fail to pass the generic and abstract level of moral. And is also evident in thecentennial, rooted and perverse, trait that Marxists have accustomed us to discuss more with the left than with the right. We used to put a lot more enthusiasm, and rancor, to argue precedings, past historical situations, of which we intend to draw analogies or worse, mere texts, magically assume as "classics", instead of looking at reality directly and think from it, how the ways of the future are to be built.
As Marxists, we can creatively and consciously contribute to the social movement if we leave the tiresome routine of "self-criticism", which just finds defects among us and is enraptured by the virtues of the enemy. If we leave the routine of reckoning, of nostalgia, of the moral on times past. If we cease to boast of past triumphs, always accompanied by corresponding losses and begin to think more about the present duties. If we stop reproducing and commenting texts written to other historical situations and begin to produce texts and the actions that are necessary for the present one.
But not only break with all the past ranging from Engels to the miseries of post Altusserism (even if we keep the flags built then, like what they are, like flags). Not only to break with the misery of those bureaucratic dictatorships that modernized countries under the name of "socialism", only to end up drowning in the most classically capitalist logic. But also to position ourselves in the midst of an extraordinarily large and diverse social movement that exceeds us very widely.
It is necessary to assume that we, as Marxists, are not the only progressive, we are not all of the Left, we are not the only revolutionaries. We've never been. Assume that the annoying and useless quarrel about who would be the best leftist or best revolutionary, has for over a hundred years only resulted in the ongoing tragedy of leftists and revolutionaries fighting each other grotesquely, to the delight of the enemy. Assume that Marxism, as one among many forms of revolutionary will, has something to contribute to a movement that can only belong to the whole people, without more credentials than the likelihood of its reasons and the effectiveness of its political initiatives.
What Marxists can specifically contribute, along with their practical political will and effort, is a doctrinal elaboration. A theory on important, or even crucial, aspects of reality. A building of reasons to organize and structure the discourse of specific policy initiatives proposing a strategic horizon. It can provide a rational basis for what the will already knows through its indignation, for what the will already has in its creative power.
What Marxism can contribute is directly derived from the writings of Karl Marx: his critique of capitalism, his idea of class struggle, his concept of history. This is not a general theory, covering all aspects of reality. Nor is it a doctrine that can only be applied as if its concrete truth was determined by the pen of Marx. These foundational ideas can be successfully tested in the empirical field until today, as shown by the global economic crisis, and in the order of the principles they are fully valid options for social analysis and policy perspectives of strategic type.
What you can develop as a Marxist contribution today is the full extent of those foundations and principles to current realities, always considering how much of their strength resides in the epistemological differences that distinguish Marx's critique so deeply from the drift of the Social Sciences into the morass of academic reproduction, to the profession of legitimation of power, to his progressive bureaucratization.
But also, and it is necessary to consider this as a central aspect, Marxism can contribute to social movement with the idea that a communist horizon is possible, ie, the driving idea that the content of the revolutionary will is but to put an end to class struggle, to build a world where exploitation and oppression are no longer needed. Derived from his conception of history, heavily relying on the reality of the material development achieved by human society, the communist horizon provides the large common spirit in which the multiple struggles, full of local and temporal differences, can come together in a large network of opponents who, ultimately, what they want is simply that human beings can finally enjoy fairly riches that have been socially created, wealth that has been created by all.
In the first edition of this book I was particularly interested in showing how a philosophical foundation different from what is common could facilitate and promote a more contemporary and argumentative version of Marxism, a more adequate critique of a highly technological society. Exactly the opposite to the tide of multiple Kantisms encouraging the progressive bureaucratization of Social Sciences, I suggested that a reading of Marx made through intensive and instrumental use of Hegelian logic could show the epistemological advantages of Marxist analysis as compared to the predominant currents of social analysis, and provide a better foundation of its essentially critical, and above all, political character.
I was interested in an argumentative Marxism, that could distinguish with some clarity between premises, developments and theoretical implications, a Marxism alien to the simple moral interlocutor pitches, where you can clearly distinguish the proper analytical tool from propaganda, a difference that, driven by poverty of practice, has unfortunately been gradually losing tradition, especially in the second half of the twentieth century. So I organized the whole argument from its philosophical premises, getting from them the consequences that could officiate as premises of economic, sociological and historical aspects. First, a general theory of alienation, from there a general theory of value, then a general theory of exploitation. Starting from that order, then the claim was to submit capitalist exploitation as a special case, and to open the possibility of considering the bureaucratic domination as a new spin on the historical cycle of class societies.
It is an order of consistent assumptions and possible consequences. But also the product of a particular political and social moment. What mattered to me, on one hand, was full viability and legitimacy of Marxism in the field of academic discussion. Furthermore, the crucial issue that seemed, and still seems to me to be central, was to develop tools that allow understanding the high degree of legitimacy and hegemony achieved by bourgeois thought after the defeat of socialism, and particularly in our country. The absolutely contingent anomaly, which was source of most of my choices, was the huge political stability that Chile had reached after more than twenty years of managing a model that, paradoxically, everyone agreed to present as one of the most violently exploitative and oppressive in the whole world. I wanted to go beyond the simple explanation to the simpleton blaming all the ills of this political stability to "the dictatorship" , to an alleged historical fear of almost supernatural dimensions that Chileans had acquired after years of dictatorial terror.
On the one hand, the almost complete and general abdication of intellectuals who flirted with Marxism during the eighties and nineties, appearing now routinely uniformly coated by "post modern" rhetoric, on the other hand the populist simplicity of intellectuals who criticized this polical stability from short-term phenomena, consumerist obsessions, fears and inherited traumas, or sought to deny betting somewhat dramatically at the slightest hint of social protest, to be diluted and then re-excited with the following episode. Populism, more than some evangelical messianism about the poor or marginalized, lack of really deep and, therefore, truly radical theoretical development.
The international crisis, depletion of illusions sustained by massive indebtedness, paralysis of political poverty and electoral nonsense between two large blocks representing the same, corruption and arrogance of the corrupt who delivered the country to transnational capital, who ruled for banking and big business and still have face to say that they have nothing to criticize to themselves, have finally opened a new cycle of struggle of the Chilean people, and you need to respond to them proposing and also doing the particular task, local, but necessary, like many others, of buiding theory.
At this time, for these struggles, the parsimony of the philosophical foundation is not enough, but still necessary. You need to target more directly the contradictions that are at the center of our struggles. It is necessary to once again revolve around the real political movement, the will to change, as an essential premise and put the theory as one additional element to the service of that centrality.
My task, as an amateur of philosophy, is the order of the bases. With clarity and lots more elements than what I myself can deploy, those good Marxist economists we have in this country will do their job, as they have been doing in the shadows of academia co-opted by the Concertación Coalition for so many years. The young sociologists who want to escape the logic of bureaucracy and academic reproduction, will do theirs. Young workers and students in the field of health, education, the arts, have been producing valuable knowledge and analysis elements, in the heat of the social movement, giving a new life to intellectual work in Chile.
That is why, in this context, I found that this second edition has to reverse the order of the premises, and more fully develop the political aspects of the reformulation of Marxism I propose. I have returned to the original intuition, contained in the logic with which Marx developed his theoretical work : from the area of "the economy" into the realm of "the social", from these social premises to the reconstruction of a historical logic, bearing this comprehensive historical reconstruction in mind, an explicit account of the philosophical premises that give cohesion and coherence to the whole. I do not think that this particular sequence contains any specially profound and inescapable aspects. It seems more a matter of form, which has to do with the order of presentation, not essential to the order of the research or theoretical deduction. That's why I relate this change to the order in which I presented the first edition, rather with the political circumstances surrounding this one, rather than some rediscovery of a necessary and only logical order. Of course, lovers of forms may be recording concerns about how necessary is one order or another. My impression is that it is a sterile, purely formal discussion. Well, maybe that will augur well for the future of our usual social scientists.
Every now and then, the Chilean people shows that it is perfectly able to rise well above the conservative and fascistic, centralist, careerist, dependent routine in which it has been kept submerged by a lackluster local power, always willing to use the club with his own countrymen routine and at the same time to graciously give away our riches and dignities to foreign operators. After stubborn previous efforts, students have started one such cycle of dignity and life. As in the years 82-86, and in the 68-73 cycle, just as before, in the early years of the twentieth century. The challenge today is to live in this new way, at the height of Recabarren and Allende, Victor Jara and Manuel Guerrero. The challenge is to go beyond the systematic cooptation of popular celebrity parties for electoral and complicity with the market. The challenge is to articulate multiple, diverse, wide Left, where the traditions of all those who believe that another world is possible may coexist. We as Marxists can contribute with what we do best and we own. Some, among many others. "In the street, hand in hand, we are much more than two".
Santiago de Chile, March 2013.