The current climate has suddenly altered (or so it seems) with the pickup of the economy, but in fact very little has changed. We have entered the endgame period for global capitalism, but there is nothing but our own effort and broader perspective that can address the crisis. Nothing in the global diagnosis has changed since 2008, or since 1975, for that matter.
I think part of the problem is with the left itself, where marxism, leninism, and the classic canon are the object of endless fine point splitting while what is needed is an upgrade of those. It is futile to be debating the merits of Leninism (but I do this myself) in a world where the working class is neutralized by globalization and the larger ‘universal class’ of potential radicals/activism has more people trying to figure their kundalini chakras than the merits of marxism. And the world of new age religion has long since been captured by rightist perspectives.
But the situation isn’t hopeless. Rightist spiritual groups are mostly self-paralyzed, and the reality of an ‘esoteric left’ is real. The revolutionary groups coming out of the French Revolution to 1848 period has a hidden spiritual dimension that propelled it toward the movements entering the 20th century. But then everything stalled as bolshevism played its card. There is something tragic here: a great moment was lost and it is not clear why the gambit failed so badly. Whatever the case a new tide is beginning to swell, but what is lacking is a serious upgrade to communist, marxist, economic thinking.
The older jargon just doesn’t work anymore. A platform that can clearly expose the problems of the current economics of neo-liberal globalization without getting into the ‘reform the US’ or crypto-‘Social Democratic’ hype, able to restate core marxist concepts without reference to Marx or the ‘Marx cult’, with a commitment to the reality of postcapitalism over the current cable TV world of the economics of the isolated realm of the American post-democracy.
But the left is stuck: it can’t evaluate marginalist economics, it can’t just drop the Marx shibboleths/chestnuts of ‘theory’ like the labor theory of value, it can’t evaluate darwinism, now the object of critique from the Bible Belt and various conservative thinktanks, it can’t expose the 9/11 conspiracies or the long chain of hidden fascist actions by the covert agencies, it can’t evaluate religion in world history nor respond to the flood of new religious seed movements. And it can’t get the critique of capitalism right, and that’s the last straw. The list goes on. And it is sad that marxism, with a potential core of intellectual dynamite, is rendered over to a style of language and concepts (archaic materialism) that produce laughter in many circles. Leftists come across as members of an older species not yet extinct.
And the battle to explain the core issues keeps getting hijacked by the forces of compromise or phony movement creation that expresses little more than a paranoia about bolshevism, ending up in activist cliches of social democratic reform and aspiration.
Marxists can lead the way IF they can break out of nineteenth century habits and restate marxism under a new label, master the critique of neo-classical economics, adopt double strategies of electoral and/or revolutionary projects. But let’s face it: the long shot of revolution is the last option. Is it really the only option? A genuinely populist movement with a realistic platform could build into a new form of activism that can integrate social, economic, religious/secular, categories and give membership a postreligious substitute category.
Much of the problem can be seen from the new atheist movement which actually reflects a conservatizing remnant of the older secular humanism of the nineteenth century. It is very effective with a small minority but can’t realistically communicate with the larger public.
In many ways the issue is tantamount to grasping the flawed dynamics of something like the new atheism movement.
Our attempts to discuss the early modern and the concepts of the Axial Age are pointing at the need for a revolutionary left to think in larger categories of social organization, the slot allotted to ‘religion’ in an era where ‘religion’ as such is sliding into the past, leaving in its wake, ….religion of the future…. The second Internationale was a success because it did just this, but now its overall cast seems passe. In any case a not even social/democratic movement to focus on the US only, with weekly claptrap about getting someone elected on the left, is going to be the phantom distraction until the ‘it’s too late’ period now creeping up fairly rapidly.
The left may be weak, but it can seize the leadership of the future if it can expose darwinism for a new stance on evolution, if it can expose marginalism and produce a coherent critique of economic mathematics, if it can do religion better than religionists and create a future for the slow trainwrecks of Axial Age religion. The new atheist movement is an already classic example of how not to do it. The leadership here is going to get questions from the audience about the place of meditation in activist movements. Old fashioned ‘materialist’ rhetoric isn’t going to hack it.
We have tried to show how the early modern period produced radical revolutionism as a set of Protestant religious movements. If there is no going back it is also true that the nineteeth century declared war on what should have been an ally: religious movements of the radical early modern. There was something inevitable in this so-called ‘secularization’, but there was a failure to realize that Protestantism created the secular age, and the core of religion was destined to be a part of any revolutionary movement. But that wasn’t the way it worked out.
The basic issues are a transnational perspective albeit with a local/national starting format, a new economic math for postcapitalism or its first approximation, and a new global politics adept at the exposure of the classic ‘Marx’ diagnosis of class and ideology.