A Report on Marx 2013
Does the World Have a (Marxist) Future?
by JONATHAN FELDMAN
Extremely interesting and useful article on the issue of a leftist future.
Note however the way the question is posed shows the problem: the ‘Marx’ monopoly has enforced failure on its dogmatic cadres. The real question is to eject from that straightjacket of theory for a more practical and fresh set of concepts and practices. Marx and Engels are part of the great legacy of the nineteenth century left. But it is astonishing to see, after a century of often patient critiques of marxism that the true believers will not budge an inch from their ‘cult of personality’ of Marx and defend sophistically the whole useless canon. Who cares?
A start on a solution would be to take the historical moment of the Communist Manifesto, and shelve the theoretical works of Marx in favor a complete rewrite of the basis, wary of ‘grand theories’ doomed to failure. Does the left really need to decipher the Grundrisse for the sake of dealing with a capitalist world crisis.
Attempts to graft the old on the new don’t work. With all due respect. Bellamy’s ‘marxist ecology’ is stillborn, because Engels’ ‘dialectics of nature’ is a flawed set of confusions based on what a host of marxists have themselves called a distortion of Hegel. Bellamy’s whole effort fails, and collapses to nothing, except for a cadre of self-enclosed pat on the back enthusies at elite conferences. As a leftist outcaste I will never attend such a conference, perhaps my good fortune. The problems with Engels’ dialectics of nature have been pointed to dozens of times, but the myth continues. The dialectic doesn’t apply to nature. It is ironic that in one way Engels was right: the echo of the classical Samkhya progression of gunas (‘dialectical’ triads) shows how the issue is an ancient one, but it is not Hegelian dialectic.
A better solution is both very simple and historically based: if we examine the ‘enlightenment’ total spectrum, itself a genuine pattern of dialectic, we see its complement in the Romantic movement (a definite influence on the 19th century left, and certainly on Marx). An intelligent critique, from the Enlightenment, of the Enlightenment, and of the basis of the new physics offers a robust set of dialectically balanced oppositions from which a new communism can simply depict the effects of industry on nature in an objective critique. Nothing more is needed. The issue is not an ecological marxism, but a definition of a communist resolution of the ecological crisis.
The whole idea of communism is of a community based in nature. Only the crypto-bourgeois obsession of marxists, relevant to its time, of competing with capitalists in the plunder of nature in the name of development to serve the needs of the working class, could have produced the deafness to the ecological question. In an age of abudance one can review that legacy. It is useless to rewrite a failed legacy as something it never was.
A movement of ‘new communism’ needs to escape the contracting ‘outcome of modernity’ trap that narrowed its thinking to the parody of the enlighenment produced by the positivistic age that overtook society (in the wake of Hegel). Marx and Engels, even as they succumbed to this downshifting, had a sense of the narrowness of the change. A new communism should take a giant step backwards to embrace the full dialectical spectrum of the enlightenment, to take a new step forwards.