re: #218 Love-Child of Cassandra and Sisyphus
Academic Marxism is a toolset not an antidote. When I write, I freely use Marx because his descriptive work is useful and he invented language to describe things that happen that same way in different national and cultural frames…by which I mean, language of class and capital…because there’s a common experience of people that own stuff and people that work for a wage. I am exceedingly wary in the current day of the “Marxism bad” thing because it routinely crosses over into “the USSR was terrible, and therefore Karl Marx’s language cannot be used to discuss the problems going on right now”…and a lot of that is in bad faith. It’s done by people who are happy with the language of class that isn’t Marxist—ideas of natural, just hierarchy such as “meritocracy” or “job makers”—et cetera.
Right now, the public forums are full of people who are autodidacts on this stuff because they’re trying to figure what they fuck is going on and the official line…the cloud of capitalist explanations…don’t make sense and seemed to be handed down by grifters and nutters. Nonetheless, they are still using the toolset. I also think allowances have to be made for the persistent irony and hyperbole of social media discourse. The kids aren’t asking for paradise, they’re asking why shit is the way it and why they’re being told the rules are just, when observably the rules just keep changing.
But…let’s talk about the Communist Manifesto’s antidotes, as prescribed in section two. They include:
progressive income tax
banning child labor
centralized national bank
more public land
They also include stuff like “no inheritance or public property” so they’re not batting 1000 relative to what I’m comfortable with (and I am absolutely bourgeois), but when some says “they proposed nothing that works”…I’m going to raise my finger. I mean, this is what I meant when I say capitalism appropriates the successes of capitalism-resisting forces as successes of capitalism.
Whether or not a classless society in the Marx/Engels mode is possible is beyond my pay grade, but it was a proposition framed to solve a problem present in the world they lived in—and specifically the call to resist was framed in terms of the active suppression of labor movements that was ongoing, the observation that the property holders were already locking shit down. So while the world has moved on and globalism is a thing, I’d argue that much of what they say about class struggle remains viable. But not perfectly accurate because Marx never solves the problem of the lumpenproletariat, and a lot of shit we see going wrong emulates Louis Napoleon’s takeover of France…so, yeah, there’s a whole there.
Admittedly I’m pessimistic today, but how have things changed? Aren’t laborers getting further and further crushed, aren’t there new and more elaborate strategies to screw people out of wages? Isn’t the rent too high and the paycheck dwindling? The same pressure build-up they saw…the powerful consolidating power…is happening, and their prescription was “yeah, this should be fought against because it will just get worse.”
The only reason a lot of American and European folks didn’t notice shit getting worse was…shit was made worse in brown people countries you didn’t hear about. Things got better in the developed world specifically because they were the global bourgeoisie, even if individuals in those countries, because of relative value of wealth, were still impoverished?
In US politics, there’s this loop: propose something to make things better, then it gets accused of being socialist, then if that lands it gets either dropped or watered down to avoid the stigma. Because of that, in this context I don’t know what to do with “I want solve specific things, not everything” as a statement. Every specific solution is deemed unreasonable because it’s seen as subcomponent to an impossible overhaul.
We joke about everything being “socialism” or “Marxism”…but if we discard off the wry humor, what does it mean that the words have been so stripped of actual content, but continue to convey danger, unreasonableness, and naivety?
We’re supposed to accept the strong connotations, the implications, but ignore the self-serving creep of the denotation. We’ve been put through dozens of cycles of this, and what does remains the same is who prospers once the thing is made taboo.
(Which ties back in to the other thing I’ve brought up a bunch: everything that touches communism is bad because gulags and famines—it is known—but no other element of ideology carries the same quantity of collective blame, even the ones that built concentration camps and famines. The pattern of “who gets how much collective blame” reflects who has power, not an attempt to measure culpability in any meaninfful way)