Another Break-Up Talk, Or ship-wrecked on the wilder shores of Marx

Inspired by El Mono Liso over at Disloyal Opposition to Modernity:  The Break-Up Talk, and on a long series of reflections that I have gone back and forth on for three years now.  I am, for all extends and purposes, being fundamentally honest.  I edit a socialist magazine, and am sympathetic to the critique of capitalism that has emerged from Marxism. In fact, while one can get mired in the ever shifting labyrinth of Das Kapital--on the debates on tendency of rates of profits to fall, on which variant of crisis theory on prefers, on if Kapital is really advocating either a catastrophic end, an evolving of bourgeois society,  or if its compatible with an underconsumptionist view of Marxism or a complete break.  However, all of these are impossible without total breaks with subsumption or value primacy and with the ability to absolutely end capital flight everywhere at once.  In any attempt at total autarky, there will be a tendency to fall into patterns that lead to stagnant food production and re-subjecting people to the cycles of the land, but without the same sorts of traditional supports and lower population scales that traditional societies had in autarky themselves prior to capitalist subsumption.

So that is a problem that no amount of optimism of the will, talk of left regroupment or socialist unity, or psychoanalytic reading of  historical events can over-come.  Marxian analysis of capitalism may be correct, but I have long suspected that there isn’t really any practicable politics that emerge from this.

So a friend sends me Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Mea Cupla and says it reminds him of me.  That is time:  it’s obvious that most socialists don’t relate to me anymore. I increasingly see them as either cynically opportunistic, contradictory and incoherent, or worse political LARPing who have replaced THACO with obscure letters of Engels, or history geekery over Star Trek with position papers by small parties in the 1950s and 1960s.  It is not that such hobbyism doesn’t have its place, but it changes the world nary a wit.  The latter have the virtue of non-contradiction via the long path of being utterly irrelevant academic hobbyists.

Furthermore, I have never been operating in the egalitarian-spirit that most of “the left” operates in:  My critique of capitalism and of classed society is based not on a moral view that all people are somehow equal–a term that I literally think is meaningless when dealing with anything involving qualia and quality unless it is exactly the same in all elements–but on the view that a person’s basic ability to function and flourish is allowed despite an inequality.  Abilities, needs, and even formal allowances aren’t similar from person to person.  You say this, however, you are bucking both liberal and left self-conception.

Indeed, I have begun to a tragic view on the relationship between technology and ecological systems.  I, however, have not taken a primitivist view or even an anti-technological rule: I take a bright green or new ecological traditionalist view–you can’t go back, but you can change the parasitism of the city on the rural and the rural on the remains of the dead (i.e. fossil fuels).

Lastly, a multipolar world will need a clearer vision than a negative critique and a way to allow people to be without being an inchoate mass, and the focus on the masses–in lieu of the working class–that we have seen since the 1960s on the Far Left have illustrated how weak-tea this is as a revolutionary subject.   I worry about replacing one over-complex burdensome totality with a another over-complex burdensome totality with more centralized planning.  This later vision may make me less compatible with any of the political Marxists I know, and even less so with most left-liberals who apply a moral code universally.

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2 thoughts on “Another Break-Up Talk, Or ship-wrecked on the wilder shores of Marx

  1. My first reaction is sort of the opposite of surprise. It’s sort of, “well, that goes without saying”. I mean, I was only in the overly activist left for a couple of years during my youth, but it was enough to give me the constant sense that I was spitting into the wind. Anyone who thinks that Marxism has anything to do with the practical struggles of everyday life at this point needs to have his or her head examined. Sure, it might be able to explain a lot, but “truth” in the Marxist vision of things has short legs unless it is incarnated in action. My own flirtations with primitivism have more to do with contemplating the Dunayevskaya question concerning a revolutionary aftermath. To take the dating analogy a bit further, it would be like a 5 or 6 going after a perfect 10 – Okay, assuming you get that divinity in human flesh to fall for you, what the hell are you going to do with him/her once you’re a couple? Can you handle it? Do you even have a plan? Marxists can’t even get close to that point. It seems to me, in studying cases like Fernando Henrique Cardoso and other former Marxist intellectuals, once they come in power, they realize that “the Beast” has its own logic, and they certainly can’t mess with it. So why, if they know better, do they just end up governing precisely like the capitalists would want them to? Is it because they sold out, they were never Marxists in the first place, had a defect of the will, etc.? Color me skeptical on all accounts.

    Anyway, I don’t want to make my comment longer than your post. I am going to have to revert to that obnoxious tendency on the sophomoric intellectual Internet and ask if you have ever heard about / read Murray Bookchin. To tell the truth, I haven’t, but I have seen the movie. It seems to me that what you are describing towards the end of your post echoes his “libertarian municipalism”. Pardon me for reverting to name-dropping, but like I said, I haven’t read him either, precisely because I veered off into the primitivist tangent, mostly because they give their stuff out free over the Internet, and I couldn’t find much on Bookchin other than having to buy the books. I am cheap like that. My intellectual development is entirely dependent on my material conditions and what I can check out from the library and/or hustle and/or steal online.

    • yes, I am familiar with Bookchin, and I am moving towards something like that but without exactly the same sort of workerist/councilist mentality. We’ll see how it goes.

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