The issue is not a rebirth of ‘marxism’, but a continuation that is ‘post-marxist’ but replicates the core of Marx/Engels without the liabilities that burden their legacy. This simple issue is beyond the ability of the left, it seems, and we get the same cultic repetition of marxist dogmas. These won’t appeal to those who might otherwise be ready for a message of postcapitalism.
The core problem with marxism is the thesis of historical materialism: the praxis of Marx and Engels was profound, but Marx got too sidetracked in trying to produce a ‘scientific’ theory of history, with an economic basis. This theory is not clear in Marx, not understood by his followers, and an easy target for outside critics trying to dubunk the whole left. Why bother with such a theory, cast in the mode of nineteenth century scientism/positivism, as it emerged in the same generation post-1848 through which Marx and Engels worked? One answer is that this illusion of science was very effective in the Second Internationale, as the idea of a science of marxism enabled the tremendous expansion of the left. But the collapse of that science mystique from the thirties onward was actually a positive development, and looked from the first toward a new post-marxism, something that has barely begun to appear even twenty years after the fall of bolshevism. We should note that neo-classical economics is itself now visibly a pseudo-science. This ace in the hole for the challengers of capitalism is a good starting point for a new left (and has been in multiple texts, which seem, however, to draw Marx back into the discussion, in a play of two fallacies against each other).
A new communist perspective can amply cite the legacy of Marx, but proceed immediately to a new formulation, based on a practical critique of free market globalization, marginalist propaganda and new program for ‘communist economy’ that can be convincing to a new generation, without the mystifications of ‘science’ that tempted Marx to a certain sleight of hand in his treatment of historical materialism.
Historical materialism doesn’t work as an historical theory. Look at the Axial Age: this is not an economic reductionism at work. We see macroevolutionary prodigies of civilization, religion, and economy, mixed. And the notion of ‘stages of history’ never really worked for marxism. The ‘stages’ of economic history are, hold your breath: village, town, city, state, state-exterior-imperialism, and globalization, which began with Sumer in the emergent capital formations of trade using bullock carts, etc… The economics of civilization is all of piece, with a technological destabilizer, witness the ‘industrial’ revolution.
We can see from the climate crisis that free markets are going to begin feeding on themselves in a runaway process of climate alteration. You don’t need a theory there so much as a program for postcapitalism.
Marxists are too fixated on economics, and tend to be unconsciously hypnotized by capitalism, a result of historical materialism’s fixation on economic determinations. Time to snap out of both historical materialism, and capitalist euphoria mentalities.