I am continuing with this book on ‘bourgeois revolutions’, which is also about proletarian revolutions, with a good take on historical materialism. It shows how tricky it is to get the issue of marxist theory straight. I consider myself intelligent and well-read, but even after reading a thousand page book on historical materialism I wouldn’t be able to answer the question, ‘what is it?’/
It seems clear to me that historical materialism, and marxism in general, are too complicated for the needs a movement towards a ‘New Commuism’. And after all the jargon Marx insisted on not defining the basics of communism, leaving the realization phase to ad hoc miscalculations.
Marxism would be excellent as background, but a practical movement needs a vision of a practical route to a new kind of postcapitalism society. A kind of ambivalence has been built into marxism, so visible in the Russian revolution, where the socialist, beyond belief, will stand aside to let the bourgeois/capitalist form take charge as a necessary phase. The moment lost, but taken up by Lenin who didn’t condone such nonsense. But a whole generation of intelligent socialists ended up with no place in the result. Bad theory! Partly it is the theory of stages at work. But I question the marxist analysis of stages. We can try to determine an adequate social system, and apply it immediately. There is no absolute rule that requires capitalism to precede socialism. To be sure, it makes a kind of sense. And, in any case, we have completed the long wait. The last zone approaching a capitalist phase, in Africa, is a warning that the cycle has completed itself, and that we must proceed without delay toward defining what we mean by socialism/communism. And we should simply set aside most of the marxist theory and think in terms of simulations of predefined neo-communist systems.
In a word, a new legacy is needed that can start from the consideration of what a ‘new communism’ would be.
Four years since 2008 have seen no significant work toward real solutions, beyond the now sterile discussion of Obama and his cooptation of a mainstream future. The starting point is the question, is progressive politics dead? In two senses, of mainstream electoral politics, and the classic Progressive movement leading to the FDR progressivism. If these options are still viable, fine. But are they? The legacy of FDR is being undone, and a slot for a new FDR was filled by the big money with a stooge, Obama. The elite wishes to undo all progressive gains, and prevent their recurrence, and they have almost succeeded. And they want to take charge of the psyches of those they will allow in the democratic party. Obama is a puzzle, but clearly he has been coached into this state of mind, as a pact for success.
The left is likely to lose another generation of false hopes in this already checkmated game. This could be worng. But it is hard to see how to proceed if the democratic path is now in ruins.
Time to wise up, determine if this is true, and, if so, adopt a new radically left strategy.