Between Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges, cited today, we see the activist left coming to the assumptions of a radicalism logically, but not yet in practice, closer to revolutionary strategy than to the conventional tactics in motion at the present.
Last and First Men was written in anticipation of this ‘evolution toward revolution’ and is an attempt to prevent that radicalization from becoming freeze-dried by the older rhetoric and ideology with its center of gravity in marxism.
The legacy protocols of the Second Internationale (basically the source of almost all revolutionary axioms) are both indispensable and obsolete. If we don’t use them, our movement floats into ‘multiple flavors’ chaos. If we do use them, we are struck dead and turned to stone by the mechanized thought patterns of a failed ideology made worse by the bolshevik brand, making the problem worse. As we assess the current activist re-deduction of the radical/revolutionary strategy we can see that it is ambivalent toward the legacy that contains all the elements of a successor to the ‘street demonstration’ phasing.
This problem shouldn’t be so hard to solve. Last and First Men provides a series of resources to dissolve the calcification of the Second Internationale, i.e. incipient activist marxism.
This critique is double edged: it tries to critique/surpass/sublate legacy ‘marxism’ but allows it to remain in the background to anchor a new reformulation.
Most of the problems come from bad theory. Theories of history, of economics, of revolution, of dialectics, etc, clutter the whole study of communist realization.
We should note that a ‘new communism’ is not logically dependent on classic marxism. But it must do the equivalent, and better.
Actually the critique of marxism is easily accomplished and a rewrite can transform the old into the new without much trouble, if only the dogmatic attachment to the past can be broken.
Historical materialism is a very narrow discipline, with a shaky scientific basis. Drop it. Period. Historical analysis can start with ordinary chronicles of world history with studies of economy as embedded systems that can be dealt with empirically.
The moment we propose ‘theories’ opponents will have the refutation within twenty-four hours. So why bother with them? All the basics of Marx’s theories were challenged successfully before the turn of the twentieth century, almost before marxism became a dominant core of the Second Internationale and thence the Russian revolution. The communist left was stuck defending a legacy already out of date, and the timing of the rise of ‘marginalist/neo-classical’ economics is not a coincidence. And it took sophistry to new levels that would preempt/delay a similar expose of ‘theories’. The edifice of mathematical economics is imposing, but its claims to science are not on solid ground, the theory trap again.
If the left could stop proposing out of date marxism, and simply expose neo-classical economics as more bad theory, the basis for a new left communism could manifest rapidly as a series of chronicles, histories, economic sagas, and be able to focus on the practical construction of solutions without dogmas requiring validation.
In general, the question of postcapitalism is too abstract to start, but in an age of crisis, as with the climate crisis we can see the abstraction dissolving toward a set of practical strategies.
But we should be wary of issue-based activism: we need, if only to forestall the coming sophistical compromise solutions by capitalist theoreticians, to consider the classic format of communism, as if for the first time, to consider how a planetary resolution of capitalism’s endgame can be achieved. We can see now that we have no choice but to try this, so let’s not bless the baby with dead theories.