The issues of marxism are holding the left back: this era is a golden opportunity for the communist left to make its case for a transition to postcapitalism. But the left isn’t ready. The job of reviewing the legacy of Stalinism and subjecting marxism to a basic critique and upgrade remains undone. It is perhaps not obvious to most marxists that historical materialism is simply an absurdity in the eyes of most people in a new generation that has shifted its cultural framework. The US now has more buddhists than it has marxists, I am sure, and the basic reality questions of much secularism are unrealistic: take the example of darwinism. This theory has been exposed by many scientists and these critiques are now in the hands of conservative religious groups. The various science orgs meanwhile are completely stuck: the basic theory of darwin simply won’t budge in the minds of generations of ‘conditioned’ scientists (I won’t say ‘brainwashed’).
Historical materialism has a dynamite core: the basic relationship of ideology and economic theory, and the relations of class. But the attempt to make a scientific theory of this was out of date even before the era of Lenin and 1917. The same rigidity that pervades biology is quite present in leftist circles.
The effort to break out of this rigor mortis shouldn’t be that hard if a basic breakthrough can be staged in a few major marxist journals or groups. A new generation can adopt a reinvention of secular humanism that can talk intelligibly with buddhists, moslems and christians, with secularists and critics of secularism, with a more balance and comprehensive view of modernity and the logic history that shows the complexity of world history. Something strange happened to secularism in the Enlightenment,toward its conclusion: the basic thrust of science from the era of Newton began to be critiqued as a larger viewpoint tried to embrace the larger context of modernity missed by science. The rise of German classical philosophy, the Romantic movement, the various phases of the counter-Enlightenment, the democratic revolutions with their socialist/communist openings, produced a new set of perspectives on modernity and secularism that too many self-styled secularists simply missed. The age of postivism downshifted science culture to a very inferior logic of science that canonized darwinism as a metaphysical ultimatum, and rendered the new economics into an ideology prone to social darwinism. We can see in the era of Marx how the dilemma began to haunt Marx and Engels and their inability to reckon with the narrow marxism coming into existence was an irony of the age of Feuerbach whose views ended up a disservice to the complexity of religion.
The left should have been on the forefront of the critique of darwinism, but instead the task was whisked away into conservative religious thinktanks. The questions of religion beyond Christianity have simply been ignored, in the process isolating marxists from a new generation caught in a postmodern rejection of modernity for a range of new age legacies. The left needs to be able to deal with this kind of situation, and that requires topnotch research and study into the legacy of world religion. But most of all a basic Kantian critique, with Hegel to one side for a moment, of the forms of scientism is needed to rediscover the real history of the early modern.
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