Last and First Men
We have adopted a superset strategy with respect to marxism enabling at once a reading of that canon but at the same time a way to enlarge the sphere of discourse to create a generalized version of the interpretation of modernity as revolution and revolution as a modern innovation.
The basic situation is not complex: the economic revolution of capitalism and the industrial revolution invokes a future revolution beyond that to a stable modernity that can inherit the fruits of economic development in the context of a real democracy. The democratic revolutions spawned in the early modern transition were seen very soon as incomplete and as compromised by the power of capital.
Nothing could be simpler, in a way, and yet nothing could be harder to realize. One suggestion is to broaden the mysterious crystallized canon, which has no absolute status, around a generalized modernism so that the full ‘dialectic/dialogue’ of counterpoint/contradiction embedded in the transition to modernity can be realized. Nothing in the prophecy of the coming of postcapitalist communism required anyone to embrace the particulars soon solidifying in the second internationale: the now stale marxist econonmic theories, the obsession with Capital and its obscurities, the dialectic and dialectical materialism.
A better approach is required for a global movement that wishes to speak to an immense multicultural diversity. At one and the same time the classic labors of Marx/Engels assume the characteristics of a rough consensus, but only in the sphere of a somewhat cultic radicalism that is beset now with too many liabilities.
The question is not hard to solve, but not given the mental rigidity of the ideological formation inherited from 1989 onward. As noted we should broaden the perspective to include the full chorus of the modern transition, from the reformation to the 1840’s: that ensures that we can adopt a universal language of culture, philosophy, and (post-)religion, one that can provide a rational language to communicate with everything from xtianity to buddhism. The left must replace the archaic remnants of the ancients, and that requires the fullest interpretation of the modern. The means to that are ample and require merely the picking of ripe fruit from the pickings of the modern explosion. The result must be a robust realization of a true dialectical (i.e. diverse) spectrum of opposites, something better than the sudden contraction of thought that occurred in the reaction to the school of Hegel in which Marx/Engels move. The unique innovations of those two, so fertile in spawning action in a nineteenth century context, are encrusted in their own dogma now. We don’t have to do anything about that: we can carry the legacy as a saga, as a resource, but remain careful to restate the name of the game and its steps for our own time.
The most treacherous aspect of this is the ‘wild card’ of democracy in the context of capitalism: it was early noticed that the democratic revolutions handed the whole ‘cracy’ to economic powers, in a swindle that call for a recasting of what democracy was to mean. Clearly democracy required/requires a robust connection with the economic populist platforms that can speak to the working class, to those who were left behind by the ‘democratic’ bourgeois revolution. These statements are mere cliched for many on the left, but remain revelatory to those steeped in the brainwashed public discourse of ‘mass media’ capitalist culture.
We can’t blame Marx/Engels for bolshevism, but we can’t free them from that history so easily. We can create a generalized conception of history, of modernity, of revolutionary postcapitalism, and that in the realization of a new and truer democracy.
The first observers of capitalism saw almost at once the crux of a difficulty and the way beyond that and now in the era of climate catastrophe we can see the blinding effect of capitalist ideology in the fetish of market obsessions. We need to escape from a mindset that has bewitched an entire historical epoch and the way beyond has to refresh its foundations with a new set of concepts and methods. In a way it is the fate of the American system to move to this postcapitalist era. Who else can do it? Who else has experience capitalism to its fullest? Who else demonstrates its limits so clearly? And who else has the basic rudiments of proto-democracy able to remorph into a more cogent version?
The US owes the world this transformation because the US owes the world an immense near plunder of resources taken into its own system of advantage. A mysterious karma generates a need for redress.
And we cannot delay long here, given the coming catastrophe predicted, and the new downstep into a coming of barbarism visible in the appearance of figures like Trump.