A NOTE ON THE POLITICAL LEFT AND THEORY OF DIALECTIC PATH TO COMMUNISM.
This suppose be a part of teach-in about ideas of socialism from a contrarian perspective, not found anywhere or substantially diverse from what was published as a “consensus” of academia in western or eastern Marxist books about the subject.
To start, it would be only appropriate to dwell a little on important definitions such as socialism itself from a point of view of Non-Marxist historical materialism devoid of erroneous Soviet Leninism interpretations. One may say a look from outside, not from a political side of the Right but from the independent top.
The definition of socialism most of American think they know, a mixture incoherent oligarchic propaganda imprinted in our brains or calcified orthodoxies usurped by hard-core Soviet Marxists-Leninists implanted in many leftist minds, deteriorated to a meaningless jargon covering up plain political opportunism in support of particular implementations of real-life, existing political system misnamed one way or another. In other words for anti-socialists all system failures are blamed on socialism while pro-socialists blame the same socioeconomic system failures on lack of it overall annulling any benefit of using word “socialism” in phony political debates or more precisely in games of political advantage.
Socialism itself, understood loosely from non-Marxist, Anarcho-libertarian or even Anarcho-syndicalist angle as an egalitarian social structure of consensus based adoption of specific human interrelations (prioritizing abundance, unification, inclusion or collectivism) that ultimately benefit entire society or 99%, actually in a variety of reincarnations was always present in its natural social form during development of civilization at every historic age even in the Stone Age, of course fiercely combated by variety of regimes of usurpers of power that shaped development of ancient as well as contemporary societies.
This is in contrast to capitalism understood as an elitarian [elitist] social structure of competition or struggle based on adoption of specific human interrelations (prioritizing scarcity, division, exclusion, individualism or classism) that ultimately unproportionally benefit the elite of society or 1%, also was always present in a primitive form of proto-feudal structures within historic age even in the Stone Age.
In this context one must distinguish between what we call modern socialist movements and particular implementations of socialism by those modern movements, which, except for cases of some misguided delusional dictators calling themselves communists, have never even been truly attempted, because these are completely two different things.
The socialist movements are mostly aimed for easing unbearable pressure of ruling elites off the necks of 99% working people while old regime structure in itself persist unchanged and largely unchallenged, while socialism is about deep and profound changes in the intimate social relations i.e. eradication of greed, exploitation, eliminating lust for power and dominance or destructive competition such as war and fundamental abuse of a human being by another human being inspired and promoted by the system itself imposed by the ruling elite and instead promoting transparency, sharing, caring, learning, social justice, solidarity, sacrifice for others, as highest fundamental values and objects of social competition.
Most of political parties with “socialist” in their names, are not even a socialist at all but social-democrat parties who just wanted a slightly better deal for middle class (noble cause in itself) instead of succumbing to programmatic pauperization of working people implemented by current corporate state. Even true socialist party would not create socialism, it isn’t even equipped to do so as a social organization, but may begin on a however unknown and doubtful path to it.
So what kind of path could it be?
Here is a simplified and brief review of what Marx and some Marxist had to say about upcoming transition into post-capitalism.
While trying to define what socialism and communism is, it is instructive to look what all those anticipated new social regimes suppose to look like when emerged after death of capitalism as Lenin and/or Luxemburg saw it.
The socialism is possible only when socialist “man” somehow (magically or not) emerges as result of what Marx called process of historical materialism described as a (Young Hegelian) materialist dialectic process.
While Marx correctly predicted that capitalists would hang themselves given rope long enough, and now they really got long rope around their necks, what he did not predict however, was that victims of capitalism i.e. working class would continuously cut the rope, and save the oligarchic pigs again and again.
Lenin called it a political deficiency of working class, namely their deep conservatism, work ethics, basic humanist morality, respect to rules and highest consideration of an impact of their actions on the society at large, that so far prevented those capitalist pigs from choking to death under their own maddening greed and extremist, radical insanity of an untamed political beast.
In other words Lenin lamented that political conscientiousness of working class is limited to trade unionist ideas of basic self-defense, aimed solely to tame horrible abuse but in contrast to leadership of leftist political workers movements, working class was quite willing to accept oligarchic leadership with a “human face”, ultimately an impossible, in longer term, solution as Lenin pointed out.
Lenin general idea of working class revolution and aftermath called Marxism-Leninism (loosely based on Marxist speculations mostly unsupported by Marx himself) was a basic idea of mass revolution of politically conscientious working class that would overthrow bourgeoisie government and begin a process of replacing it ultimately with a dictatorship of the proletariat.
Only then a new post-revolutionary government suppose to emerge, the government which main purpose is to dismantle capitalistic social and economic relations, based on greed, exploitation, usury, abolishing all debt, etc., and introduce total gender and political equality via some kind of democratic process which actually did not panned out in China and in eastern block countries for “good” reasons and hence severe criticism of democratic deficiency as much in the east as the west.
Such a post-revolutionary socially-oriented political party based government after decades of eradicating capitalist social forms and relations suppose to transform itself into a new form of government called “dictatorship” of proletariat, which suppose to emerge and be defined, via a dialectic process (from ground up, from grass roots “democratization”), a structure of power of qualitatively different type of people’s self-organization that loosely could be called people’s rule in political, social and economic realm.
Much confusion was caused by right-wing propagandists’ misinterpretation of dictatorship of poor working class as similar to well-known imperial dictatorship, which has nothing to do with it since Lenin was talking about completely new form of social self-organization that never existed before on such a scale.
In fact Lenin’s extra-governmental Bolshevik revolutionary committees [called soviets] were unfortunately misconstrued and ultimately failed attempts of doing so during Bolshevik counterrevolution [to bourgeois revolution of February, 1917] of October 1917 in Russia and later on, so were workers committees led by Rosa Luxemburg during Spartacist Revolt of 1918 in Germany.
In other words an objective of initial anti-capitalist revolution was to open up a long, prone to failure, even treacherous path to socialism (i.e. raising so-called society of new socialist generation) as a system of fundamentally changed content and structure of social and economic relations among people, while still preserving attributes of state power, capitalist structure of the industrial economy, perceived by Lenin as dynamic, a form of monetary system with permanent zero interest rates [against Marx writings about fallacy of any monetary theory] and a form of modern capitalistic reproduction process devoid of accumulation of private capital, among other modifications.
Lenin posited that social organization (governance) and social relations must change first before capitalist economic structure can be dismantled. This is one of rarely noted contradictions of Lenin’s socialism that “suppose” to be removed when communist society emerges but in fact does not such a thing .
Instead it entrenches capitalist social relations and ultimately leads to defeat of the revolution itself since a “legal” framework of ownership of land or means of production is irrelevant. What really counts is who directly controls those resources and one way or another such an arrangement fosters emerging of class division, elite subculture and imminent class struggle i.e. distorting the entire socialist project of classless society.
If “transitional” preservation of a form of old economic and financial structures of capitalism sounds familiar, it is. For example those “radical” revolutionaries based Soviet central bank on the FED and economy on the US economy since they had small industrial economy in Russia before the revolution and they wanted it massively growing, not due to ideological reasons alone [building up working class population political support] but due to external threat to their rule [counterrevolution financed by the West] and hence betraying the ideals of the Bolshevik revolution itself due to what they claimed as “exigent” circumstances of national civil-war and foreign invasion emergency while in fact they just wanted to hold on to their power.
The Lenin’s vision assumed that after many decades [or centuries] of development of socialism (through some process of Hegelian dialects) on a path to communism, as he envisioned it, the technological progress and profound changes within society would have allowed for the “end of history” in a form of communism where struggle for survival of a human being and necessity of daily work for living would be rendered mute (not necessary eliminated). How would it be accomplished he did not elaborate in details leaving mostly some inactionable guidance for future Soviet planners to be made up as they went.
The transition to communism supposedly was to be possible since a new (not precisely defined) decentralized, profoundly dissimilar to what existed before, self-organization of society [governance] and some non-capitalist socioeconomic system suppose to emerge without need for any state or permanent political institutions or massive economic reproduction, without money/debt or any monetary system allowing for capital accumulation or savings or any need for hording of resources that suppose to provide individual economic sustenance. In other words communism as a form of self-organization suppose to emerge from foundations of entirely new, so far nonexistent, economic system.
Ironically, this new sociopolitical system, called communism was to be achieved not as much as by fulfilling all people’s needs or dreams (a workers paradise or rather paradise of people who work for satisfaction and recognition by a community only) but mostly by eliminating fake, artificial wants, driven by “competition” of differences without substance or propaganda of manipulative valuation or valorization of a human being within perfectly egalitarian society devoid of any heriarchy of control i.e. complete self-control based on so-called communist “morality”.
In a sense communism suppose to require [or rather achieve full consensus to adopt such a position] that people must be judged and valuated based on their intellectual achievements and usefulness, contribution to society at large, sharing, caring etc., as well as dedication to others since economic foundation will be egalitarian and economic considerations suppose to be eliminated from social attitudes. Wealth and money and any other superficial differences suppose to leave intimate social relationships and attitudes when greed and fear itself abates.
Just for example Henry Ford had a communist state of mind since he could not understand why people would want anything else but black Ford T-model since it did everything people needed. In communism peoples would not understand why they would want anything else but black pants in winter and white pants in summer. In a sense Einstein was a communist since he owned only few pieces of exactly the same jackets, the same slacks and the same shoes, since as he claimed he was unable to solve the astronomical problem of “what am I gonna wear today? Hence he wisely decided not to solve but to eliminate the problem itself. And that’s what communism supposes to do, eliminating people’s superfluous problems.
While Lenin did not made a big thing out of it, a irreconcilable basic contradiction between preserving temporarily a resource wasting capitalist industrial system and need for an extreme utilitarian approach of communist society as the only path to preserve limited resources and environment for generations to come, was a major point of contention of criticism of his theory.
This contradiction surfaced in a form of conflict between ideologues of socialism and political leadership in Soviet Union and elsewhere who opposed immediate minimalist approach from being included in direct economic planning, even in 30 year economic plans, mostly due to east-west propaganda war. It was for political expediency of USSR rulers that Soviet society was not pushed to stop wasting resources for really useless products people really did not want or even need and that included investment in military and war itself that would have to be abolished in true communist political system, as harmful, useless and too costly to society.
While such a utilitarian approach of communism seems utopian today if world population reaches fifty billions communism will be only way for humanity to survive.
Unfortunately, Lenin failed in his milestone to socialism, namely there was never any dictatorship of proletariat in Russia but instead he set up a form social-democratic government that under assault of civil war and outside pressure and after assassination of Lenin himself turned into totalitarian regime under Stalin, not unlike what’s happened to Weimar Republic in Germany and Hitler’s government ran by NSDAP i.e. National-Socialist German Workers Party.
Under Stalin economy grew enormously but its capitalist structure stayed intact (so capitalist structure of German economy under Hitler) while in Russia private exploitation was mostly replaced by political elite exploitation of the Soviet human and natural resources to one end. Not socialism or communism but preservation of their own power, their own ruling cliques.
Although some “progressive” social policies, such as free universal retirement for all, strong social welfare, completely free education on all levels including daycare and kindergarten, massive housing subsidies and elimination of homelessness, a legal right to a job, free comprehensive healthcare and medical services such as abortion and dental care, women’s full economic/social/legal/cultural equality and much more served as a propaganda of the becoming but never being socialism.
In fact these policies were also implemented as a side effects of power consolidation in a form of great social programs but not as a part of any post-capitalistic transformation of the society. Ironically, these social programs were often borrowed from US workers movements, liberal politics and FDR, and later matched and expanded by the Soviet Union and satellites as well as western European social democrats after WWII as an element of so-called competition of political systems during “Cold War”.
So people of Soviet Union and so-called communist party as well their political satellites never reached even Lenin’s socialism or communism for that matter and in truth they never even tried hard, while after 1956 virtually abandoned any notion of the communist revolution, short of a anti-western propaganda lip service, and instead priority was always given to survival [and enrichment] of the ruling clique of corrupted state apparatchiks and security apparatus under assault of WWII and Cold War era military pressure and economic embargo, an attitude mirrored by the US at the same time period.
Hence, if we clear all political fog and propaganda obfuscation, except for short periods of Paris Commune, 1871 and Germany, Italy, Hungry and Russia in period 1918-1923, and Eastern Europe and China 1948-1953, no socialist revolution was really attempted and even temporarily implemented with some fleeting exceptions in South and Central America, one would say “much ado about nothing” if it was not shear power of the socialist/communist ideas that took over peoples imagination all over the world.
One important lesson.
It is clear the Lenin’s and Marxists views about historiosophical transformation out of a latest mutation capitalism we are witnessing for over a century now have more holes in it than a Swiss cheese and offers no precise guidance into the post-capitalist transformation, but the inevitability of a form of communism is only more devastatingly clear mostly due to lack of better alternatives for humanity if it was to survive with limited resources.
Definitely, any form of massive growth requiring capitalism is not a solution but the very problem that must be eliminated.
One good news though, it would be no communism in our lifetime since a necessary condition for it is that we are all dead, hopelessly tainted by rotten ideas of neo-feudalism and libertarian capitalism with its phony meaning of freedom, liberty, justice etc., we have been indoctrinated with, and pre-programmed to believe and defend.
Of course we must fight this current abhorrent regime that want us dead. But it is not an ideological struggle anymore, not a socialist/communist revolution but simple rebellion, since we all are mental agents of the capitalist social system, waged just as a matter of self-defense and survival literally.
However, we must make small social changes step by step anyway, unplug as much as we can from capitalism society and weaken the regime that runs it, so our future generations may have a chance for finally reach inevitable communism in one form or another or they will be exterminated not entirely as result of particular policy of oligarchic global rulers or hopeless intransigence of our fixed social context in the society of control, but as a simple matter of physical laws and ecological rules of our limited environment facing contemporary unsustainable human civilization.
ROSA LUXEMBURG: A GIANT OF REVOLUTIONARY KITCHEN.
I will focus this post entirely on Rosa Luxemburg, a historic figure that is more alien to vast majority of American people than outer planets, just because they’ve never heard about her.
It was not Lenin, Trotsky, Dzerzinsky or anybody else who made dramatic historic events of early XX century anything different than just some thuggery, murder and elbowing for power over dead corpses of aristocratic regimes of Germany Austro-Hungary and Russia or Ottoman Empire, it was Luxemburg.
If we are talking about true original meaning of socialism it is not Leninism or Stalinism, it is Luxemburg “scientific” socialism.
Luxemburg is known as the theoretician of socialism, born Russian citizen in Poland under Russian, over 100 years long, annexation, picked up Polish nationalistic, patriotic upbringing in Warsaw and got involved herself in young leftist patriotic movement towards rebirth of Polish national state while still high school before she left for Switzerland to extensively study philosophy, law and where she obtained her Ph.D in economics specializing in mathematical economic models of macro industrial/economic development.
She was a proverbial gift of god and a curse, exactly what socialist leadership needed at that time namely to put some meat of their often empty political rhetoric of grandeur of socialism.
She was the one who brought down to earth too many wet dreams of hopeful socialist economic models describing post-capitalism, models of economy that could have been adopted by peoples government after successful overthrowing of the capitalistic regime.
These were not revolutionary ideas that put her in a direct political line of fire, what contemporary feminists should appreciate even more, but all those “insults” she lavishly rendered to calcified manhood of political leadership on all sides, when she was shutting them up with her brilliant wit, deep knowledge and hard core scientific evidence, as a free woman in late XIX century, a rarity when only 0.001% of women graduate from anything else but a finishing school for virgins preparing to submit in marriage.
In other words she was much more dangerous than Lenin who was frolicking in Austro-Hungarian empire under protection of Austrian secret service while she was alienating everyone who was anyone in European politics with her Socratic method of incessantly questioning government as well as revolutionary authorities and ideas and that included her compatriots, when she denounced priority or even a need for national emancipation of Poland on the basis of revolutionary imperative of internationalism, many of whom later called her traitor especially when newly resurrected Poland was facing Bolshevik threat in 1920.
She heavy irritated not just anybody but a fearsome Felix Dzerzinsky future boss of bloody Bolshevik NKWD security agency, at that time a member of the Social democratic Party of Poland and Lithuania, by her insistence on cutting down on political terrorism that revolutionaries were commonly using as a tool to reciprocating government brutality.
Allegedly after some lengthy discussion with Rosa and her debunking all of revolutionary notions and justification for campaign of terror, what Dzerzinsky had been left with was only argument of blowing up banks to finance party leadership expenses and agitation. She responded: “all revolutionaries should get on diet since they are looking too healthy unlike masses they suppose fight for”. She did not rest until no fake revolutionary’s ego was left unturned and uninsulted.
She was true internationalist and hence true anti-war leader, understanding precisely what Marx was talking about, namely danger of political nationalistic card played against interests of working people in every country whom rulers wanted turned into cannon fodder, killing each other in war, and she paid for it dearly by being purged from some leftist nationalistic political movements while she continued to grossly irritate German elites before and during Spartacist revolt unable to be deported since she acquired German citizenship via arranged marriage to a German anarchist.
This was her internationalism she lived and breathed i.e. her utter rejection of insidious trap of nationalism and her holding on to ideals of social justice and long term revolutionary process of developing mass conscientiousness as the only path to socialism or any other form of self-organization for benefit of 99% beyond any exigent political considerations of a moment such as seizing existing power structure instead of creating something new, that had her and Liebknecht killed when she was abandoned by comrades and compatriots and after Lenin and other revolutionaries cut a deal for themselves and split from her.
In 1919 she was of too big international statue, with support of millions of working people in Europe, to even be arrested, not to mention to be tortured and killed by some Freikorps thugs and dumped to a canal like a trash if she was not exposed, deserted, de facto “sentenced” to death by so-called power hungry leaders international revolutionary movements caught in fervor of nationalism and war.
Her death marked turning point in XX century revolutionary movements we are still suffering under. A misguided theoretically unsound (as Luxemburg posited) bloody Marxism-Leninism triumphed over Marxian Luxemburgism which saw revolution as instigation, igniting inherent acute crisis of capitalism, assault on its governmental power support institutions and using it to create conditions for organic work to build new social relations defying greed and exploitation, a alternatively structured society of self-defense, emancipated means of production and self-sustenance which in part Malcolm X advocated before his death.
And hence we were never to see “true” socialism ever implemented or even initiated on its path while within a decade Marxism-Leninism collapsed into Stalinism, a totalitarian regime mirroring fascism as alien to Luxemburg vision of socialism as an outer planets to Americans.
So is the idea of socialist revolution as Luxemburg envisioned dead?
In fact the revolution is here if we have it in our hearts. If we think revolution, speak revolution, live revolution and feel free to do so we have already won biggest battle. We’ve defeated our own prejudices, our own blindness, we have unplugged from this society of control run by ruling oligarchy to chart our own however uncertain future. And we have Luxemburg to thank for it.
WHAT’S WRONG? A CRITIQUE OF HISTORICAL MATERIALISM.
Over last about 150 years since publication of Marx’s “The Capital” every time a transfiguration of global capitalist imperial project occurred, millions expected that it was a sign of a socialist revolution, a sign of beginning of fundamental change of social system and human interrelations and emerging of entirely new self-sustained political regime of economic egalitarianism, political, social and cultural equality and ecological sustainability, humanity liberated from social repression, an inevitable revolution as a direct result of self-destructive, deep contradictions of capitalism fueling process of Historical Materialism that was supposed to describe “natural” objective development of history of civilization and self-consistent sociopolitical and economic transformations associated with it.
But so far, despite of bloody and deadly class struggles over centuries it did not happen. Why? Why Marx’s ubiquitous and inevitable process of Historical Materialism did not relegate horrors of capitalism to a dust bin of history as it supposedly happened before to old social systems based of exploitation of slavery and feudalism?
So what’s wrong with Historical Materialism?
What spurred my interest in this critique was my recent lecture of Friedrich Engels pamphlet [actually 1892 English Edition Introduction] entitled “General Introduction and the History of Materialism” although seemingly directed toward masses, turned out to be a used as a foundation of many theoreticians’ of Marxism claims of a scientific nature of Marx’s Historical Materialism since it was supposedly grounded in Philosophy of Materialism, rejecting agnosticism or idealism and supposedly making theory of historical [historiosophical or philosophy of history] process a predictable, rational science resembling physics or chemistry and unfortunately contributing to too many failed predictions by Marx’s followers of what they presented as scientifically predicted and expected social transformation of sociopolitical regimes.
Engels in his pamphlet defended process of Historical Materialism and by extension one may expect he defended Philosophy of Materialism itself, as being the very materialistic foundation of Marxian dialectic struggle between productive forces of society and social consciousness for control over society and natural environment.
Unfortunately, close examination of Engels’s arguments in this pamphlet proves that it is not the case, even if in fact Engels implies that Marx’s materialistic historiosophical process is considered as objective scientific process, that in substantial ways could be a subject to mathematical modeling and quasi-deterministic causality rules as required by scientific materialism principles.
Why would Engels want to confront XVII century Philosophy of Materialism with Historical Materialism? Are those two not compatible?
At first look at the pamphlet I found that definition of Philosophy of Materialism was all over the place and implicitly used by Engels in different meanings and reincarnations [mostly as naive realism] when it suited him while never addressed it directly. And hence this issue of Engels/Marx attitude and understanding or rather misunderstanding/rejecting of Philosophy of Materialism will be a major focus of this post.
Therefore, this post is not only a critique of Historical Materialism [although such a critique is addressed] and its interpretation by Marxian and Marxists but also critique of its very foundations, which as I posit, are inherently in conflict with XVII century Philosophy of Materialism while, instead follows more closely axiomatic foundations of theoretical science developed contemporaneously with both Marx and Engels development as a philosophers of XIX century.
This critique in no way should be construed as rejection of most of Marx’s findings about observable social phenomena and importance of the state of productive forces represented by, previously removed from economic analysis, 99% of population within a reincarnation of capitalistic system he lived under as well as it is not a rejection of his most important contribution to political economy namely socioeconomic dualism and consequent fusion of politics, economy, society, culture, social aesthetics and sensibilities and conditions of natural environment into single structural framework epitomized by the state and its ruling elites analyzed as one single social organism.
Foundations of Historical Materialism: Questions of Naive Realism.
The supposed proof of perceptual reality [and materiality thereof] advocated by Engels in the pamphlet has been long refuted by Bishop Berkley who “proved” that Locke conclusion [reached in his Essay On the Human Understanding ] is based on an impossible to prove assertion that our sensations as interpreted by our brain, have certain deterministic or defined functional relations with material reality, a basic assumption of naive realism Engels seems to subscribe to.
In his famous argument Berkley pointed out that dead or paralyzed thumb could be hammered hard while providing no insight into material reality, no knowledge of any kind of utter devastation of bones and flesh of a sorry victim and hence no material reality but sensory reality is what matters to us and those two realities may substantially differ. [See Epicurus and Democritus for ancient conception of materialism];
In fact the Descartes mind and body problem was in the core of Newton agonizing and finally abandoning Philosophy of Materialism and science all together since he realized that if his mechanism of gravity holds good it implies excising of the body from “mind and body” problem i.e. impossibility of understanding gravity in terms of Philosophy of Materialism, impossibility of so-called material objectivism since it involved immaterial entity called gravity field (as well as later “discovered” EM field) permeating universe, even vacuum of space where no matter exists, gravity field Newton himself incepted and defined in his mind [via mathematical calculations]. In other, later analogy it meant banishment of machine leaving ghost intact. Einstein followed Newton in rejecting scientific [naive] materialism as well. [More about the later in the text]
In fact XX century philosophers like Putnam while declaratively rejecting dualism, under the guise of treating “ghost” not as distinct entity but a function/program of the machine itself, unwittingly fell for old Descartes proposal of the solution to his conundrum namely a thinking machine or thinking matter i.e. an old scholastic notion of thinking as a quality of matter [a gray matter of brain].
What follows in the pamphlet is the old argument of naive realism later repeated by Plekhanov and Lenin and a “revolutionary” rejection of metaphysics [wrongly understood as theological/spiritual notion] and deflection of the fundamental question of existence of objective reality beyond the world of human perceptions, as it is a foundation of metaphysical Philosophy of Materialism, since it would have been inexplicable to masses immersed in “realism” of their daily lives.
As the pamphlet was designed for educational purposes for revolutionaries, Engels clearly wanted to avoid skeptical anxiety among teachable masses or introduction of any doubt or uncertainty about foundations on which Historical Materialism of Marx supposedly was based.
Of course there is no contention that, posited by naive realists, process of testing perceptions [or matching perception to, not as much as Engels posited “reality”, but our already developed concepts and notions] in an iterative scheme of trial and error occurs and is useful even critical [dominant in infant learning and in mammals, higher animal world] but it has nothing to do with asserting in any way overall materialism of the objective “reality” and definitely not [Engels’] “..proof positive.. of .. reality outside ourselves”, but in fact as naive realists argument goes, such a philosophical stand is dismissing, ignoring the entire question, tacitly assuming axiomatic existence of objective reality [regardless what it is] directly “revealing” itself to us via our sense-perceptions.
Moreover, such a test may not likely provide any proof of so-called outside reality either since entire physiological process is happening inside our brain or that includes logical sensory organs of the brain that themselves may produce sensations unrelated to environment as Berkeley posited over three centuries ago and last decades of neurological studies of lucid dreams and hallucinations proved.
In fact what Engels describes as “an infallible test [of ] .. the correctness [or otherwise] of our sense-perception” is as a matter of fact not a test but one of many mechanisms for building of individual worldview in our mind [innate formation of a perceptual knowledge, a behavioral, descriptive knowledge without any objective episteme necessarily stemming from it, in contrast to what naive realist position of Engels would claim].
It seems to be just a simple, common for all higher animals, process of learning from perceptions and how to deal with perceptions themselves than any reliable inference or proof of any universal materiality of the outside world.
In fact in effort to oversimplification and in fact dummying of the issue to be digestible by masses, Engels avoids any debate about the core of the problem of materiality of the world but instead as any realist proposes elimination of metaphysics of reality [as supposedly of religious origin] and its vital questions, while exhibiting an attitude “I do not really care, about objective material reality or what it is”, enclosing himself [and readers] within narrow world of sensory perception, uninterested in material, objective reality as a whole but possibly, only with whatever he could get from classification, categorizing and analyzing specific perceptions as useful for specific intend or action and by that tacitly acknowledges the subjective intentionality of perceptions themselves while pushing them as sole sources of knowledge of “objective” reality faced by his readers.
Engels however, contradicting himself admits that to err is human and confesses that perceptions could likely be [either incomplete and superficial, or combined with the results of other perceptions in a way not warranted by them] and hence uncertain, unreliable.
Moreover, he posits in a spirit of dialectics that such spurious perceptions could be eliminated and “defective reasoning” could be corrected again and again until we rationally induce, via an iterative scheme of trial and error, a near perfect match between our perception and “reality”, only in functional sense never in content, without bothering with a question what “material” reality we seek to match with our perceptions really is.
Engels consciously invokes and assumes dialectical process of continual improvements, peddling a myth of unlimited human progress of matching between “reality” and perception of it. He seems to be turning a general learning process into a revolutionary learning process meaning not only modification of understanding of perceptions to match “objectively existing” reality but dangerous changing “reality” to match people’s perception of it.
Unfortunately, such an assertion of supposedly dialectic discovering of objective reality has no base in vast historical/anthropological records of fallibility of our sense perceptions regarding material perception of the world.
In fact for over 200k years genetically identical to us human beings had a chance to investigate their perceptions, find the causes and mitigate them, try and err as many times as they wished and the result of all of it was intermittent, meandering, directionless development of understanding of nature and human being itself resulting not as much in development of science but in mysticism and religion, all based on some form of naive realist “understanding” of the world.
What Engels describes in the pamphlet is not what, as he insists, a methodical search for objective material reality [as he put it: objective nature of the things] by matching our perceptions but he simply describes animal perception process of learning experience by deed and by example of a deed and not by abstract conceptual learning, and thinking, developing models of reality with predictive capabilities that made us humans, as Schopenhauer posited, “metaphysical animals”.
As I pointed out above Engels, like all realists, dodges questions about nature of reality while insisting that it can be controlled via controlling perceptions of it, and by extension, controlling people’s “destiny” or rather perceptions of it as shaped by revolutionary leaders.
In fact such as dismissive and reckless treatment of the very foundation of what was claimed as scientifically precise and deterministic Historical Materialism, in this educational pamphlet reveals its revolutionary propaganda motive, of masses changing material reality to match how they are guided to perceive it by Marxist theoreticians and revolutionary political leadership.
The magical thinking regarding enormous power of ideology [a fusion of a pre-conceived worldview with actions to attain it, to make it real], peddling of mysterious, inevitable, unstoppable historical tides seem to originate from the naive realism of perceptional superiority presented to masses a conduit to social and material change, shockingly in similar fashion as capitalist revolution advocates posited and how they impressed upon young Marx’s an Engels’s writings of Communist Manifesto which is not a critique of fetishism of primitive materialism [of commodity] but in contrary a critique of distribution of material fruits of industrial revolution and enormous costs born by working class alone as its predominant material engine.
Engels’ Arguments for Scientific Historical Materialism.
It is important here to point out intellectual journey of Marx and Engels [as humanists] from times of pre-“Communist Manifesto”, where the pros and cons of the capitalism were discussed and major problems identified focusing around overwhelming [and ignored] working class contribution to capitalist economic development [industrial/technological], appalling, dangerous working conditions and uncalled for devastation of communities and environment and inequitable, unjust distribution of benefits of hard work of masses stemming from capitalist industrial revolution to times of completion of “The Capital” [by then Marx and Engels fashioned themselves as social scientists] where they finally conceded that what they thought were correctable deficiencies of capitalism via socioeconomic reforms, changing legal context and/or more popular democracy and self-government are really its “best” features, the very foundations of capitalist system and the system of governance that enables it, hence any alterations would inevitable lead to catastrophic collapse of entire capitalist socioeconomic regime.
Moreover they realized that capitalist compulsory prerogative of rampant accumulation, greed for profits and unfettered competition already at their time, deteriorated into madness, into insane drive to domination, destruction of competitors, working class and even capitalism itself. A moral decay of capitalism exponentially increased via financialization of capital into purely perceptional [unreal] word of opulence and supremacy detached from any material reality, abandoning even fetish of commodity for a fetish of fleeting abstract money derivatives.
It was this realization that incepted a concept of necessity of massive historic or even “catastrophic” [not solely structural but new topological] change of this unfixable capitalist system itself namely a profound alteration, a deep transformation of capitalism infected and integrated culture, society, economy and governance via a dialectic process of class struggle into entirely new system of humanistic social relations and egalitarian organization [called “human society driven” socialism as a counter point of “capital driven” capitalism] or unavoidable socioeconomic collapse, Marx an Engels witnessed themselves, would otherwise continue resulting in nothing short of massive regression of civilization.
In fact Marx in his “Capital” seems somewhat inconsistent. On one hand provided excellent observations about state of productive forces, mechanism of modern economic reproduction and its transformations delineating the epochal, systemic changes of material reproduction methods and supporting/compatible organization of societies, on the other hand pointed toward overwhelming role of a faction of ruling elites (1%) and their courtiers [bourgeoisie] in supporting such epochal changes even against will and obvious contemporarily understood interests of 99% of peasantry as it was the case in medieval England.
So did those epochal changes from feudalism into modern capitalism constituted an objective inevitable historical process? Or they were just a matter of certain developing consciousness, not as much of 99%, but of the elites themselves seeking new ways of organizing social life and social relations based on a fetish of commodity, analogy, universal exchangeability and abstract equivalency involving [a really novel idea of] much broadening of social foundation and active, dynamic participation of wider population in capitalist system by rejecting old, perceived as calcified, social order based on a structure of immutable hierarchy and religious stoicism. Neither Marx nor Engels gives clear answer to such a fundamental question of about Historical Materialism.
In such a context, trying to sketch a definition of Historical Materialism as a deterministic science based on materialistic foundation of a naive realist, Engels argues:
“.. I use.., the term “historical materialism”, to designate that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society, in the changes in the modes of production and exchange, in the consequent division of society into distinct classes, and in the struggles of these classes against one another.”
Here we come to the core of the Engels’ expose in this educational pamphlet namely an attempt to present all-embracing historical materialism a.k.a. Marx’s Materialistic Historiosophy as a strict deterministic science analogous to physics or chemistry, with all the immutable, universal [causal] laws of historical process, predictive capabilities of historic events, and principles that rule human society and its socioeconomic evolution treated as a complex organism/system and even susceptible top some mathematical socioeconomic modeling.
In short, the basic deterministic, dynamic mechanism for historical process proposed by [mature] Marx is a dialectic struggle between productive forces, associated modes of production and capabilities of society and its social consciousness epitomized by a social differentiation and class struggle that he analyzed by using Kantian/Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis iterative scheme of addressing a dialectic historical process [epitomized as dialectic materialism (historic role of masses) to be contrasted with Hegelian dialectic idealism (historic role of individuals, “products” of nations) ].
Marx posits that in the historical process certain contradictions arise due to mismatch of productive forces and capabilities of society and its dominant social consciousness and that causes [somehow?] development of social instabilities, internal, even innate contradictions of social order, organization of production and disruption of regime of control and governance which in turn produces self-consistently, iteratively a new emerging social order under new productive forces, modes and capabilities of society and new kind of organization and governance that follows with new overall social consciousness to match those changes.
In fact such a process of continuing reconstitution of the flow of history [and historiosophy of that] in some turbulent dialectic process, a revolutionary process Marx was concerned with, uncannily resembles problems dealt with in some branches of theoretical physics such a Fluid Dynamics (FD) or even more Magneto-Hydro Dynamics (MHD).
However, since post-Newtonian crisis, and subsequent change of scientific paradigm and creation by Newton previously unknown “theoretical science” dealing with [black box] theories of the objective reality instead of objective reality itself, also FD and MHD are not based on Philosophy of Materialism but rather are judged by their ability to be verified via experiment or what K. Popper would say, they, so far, have not been substantially falsified by an experiment.
And here is clearly visible Engels’ confusion trying to prove materialist foundation of Marx’s Historiosophy as a legitimating factor, while in terms of his own contemporary era of scientific paradigm, process of historical materialism is treated just as any theory and does not have to concern itself with material reality of the society and masses of people, to obtain its legitimacy as long as it is not falsified via historical events, social developments or experiments. [Many claim it was falsified];
And here is where, as much as in any theoretical science, scientific orthodoxy started acting up and scientific process of development of new ideas, theories or hypothesis was severely hindered by defending legacies of the people who were personally engaged in it, as it happened with Marxians like Engels and Marxists like Lenin Trotsky, via extremely repressive tantrums of ideological purity liken to defenders of religious dogmas.
Either due to their philosophical duality of their thought development or political expediency, on one hand Marx/Engels refused to address metaphysical foundation of materialism, an instead opted for conceptually much easier naive realism, physicalism and most of all vague reductionism, while on the other hand claimed that their historical materialism process is actually occurring contemporarily as ongoing process and is not a theory [meaning a simulation of reality] potentially producing some results consistent with what some unknown [so far not understood] historical process would produce.
In other words, Marx/Engels refused to acknowledge that Historical Materialism is just a theory while they also refused to address dogmas of Philosophy of Materialism that would allow treating Historical Materialism as mechanism of material reality of this universe, the very dogmas that have been refuted by Newton causing crisis of modern Philosophy of Materialism and hence changing scientific paradigm from discovery of reality into a inception of theory of reality which no longer needs be material or physical, or even empirical at all.
In fact a theory of Historical Materialism (HM) as well as FD and MHD theories of physics are not based of materialism per-se [empirical foundations] and instead are based on unrealistic assumptions [models] about material world that are in clear violation of the established scientific facts regarding material reality (as massless electrons and/or protons in MHD, or assumption of continuity of mass fluid, forgetting molecular structure of a fluids in FD, or assumption of existence of an entity of macro-social consciousness disregarding individual psychological conditionality as unaffecting the overall historical trends i.e. rejecting role of pivotal historical figures in historical process [such rejection is a founding principle of Historical Materialism]).
However, as long as those theories produce results as expected in agreement of narrowly, scientifically set up experiments or observations they are being accepted and used knowing that underlain assumptions are not correctly describing reality.
In fact it is a major weakness of a paradigm of theoretical science namely narrowly reproducing expected results while being possibly fundamentally wrong on assumptions such as Einstein’s GTR proven experimentally while wrong on assumptions about steady-state universe.
Fundamental Questions of Historical Materialism.
If hard-core science like physics understood within current scientific paradigm as merely a [black box] theory of the universe [and not as a discovery of its functions], as it exists, and maybe purpose of it, how should we treat Historical Materialism which is not really materialistic in nature, and not describing actual historic process we are witnessing by rather is a theory of what possibly may happen in the complex social organism under certain condition of preponderance of hard to measure evidences/developments but without any axiomatic foundational framework?
In other words, how to account for a so far failure of materialism and/or realism, itself unable to escape basic metaphysics of material reality if it is to correctly describe overwhelming empirical data about society, culture, economy, technology and politics while holding on instead to dialectic historiosophical processes as critical for human civilizational development, without revealing intrinsic contradictions of such an analytical stand?
Moreover, how to account for metaphysical property of matter, including human being [Descartes’ thinking matter?] as important component of the historical materialism, that in analogy to fluid mechanics [that ignores individual molecules and deals only with masses/flows/fluxes of molecules] Historical Materialism deals only with masses of people and is only interested in socioeconomic macro trends of historical flows created by some undefined historiosophical “forces” similarly to FD interested only in macro properties, macro trends of the fluid flows.
How to account for totally ignored by Historical Materialism multidimensional structure of society beyond qualities of class division, group and individual sensibilities, aesthetics and ethics as well as intimate sociological interactions among them as FD/MHD ignores the molecular level interactions?
How to account for totally ignored psychological human dimensions in Historical Materialism and how that consolidates and integrates into so-called social conscientiousness, class conscientiousness a critical issue Historical Materialism seems to recognize on macro scale but not on micro scale?
How to account for tacitly denied fact that Historical Materialism is just a theory of historical process and not any actually discovered mechanism that actually exists within society and rules some deterministic civilizational process?
It is especially difficult for theoreticians of Marxism to admit that, what they preached as dogma, rock solid material reality, were just uncertain conjectures.
It was extremely difficult mostly due to the fact that human blood already has been spilled by believers of such an idea [believers in Marx, a humanist] as a response to clear and present pain and suffering of masses of working people facing abhorrent inequality, material deprivation and institutional/legal discrimination.
Even more difficult is to accept a notion of Historical Materialism as “just a theory” since on that false premise of actually occurring, proven historiosophical process, massive political “revolutionary” movements/parties have been founded agitating for involvement in the revolutionary movements to support what suppose, inevitably and/or actually, happening around them in the real world while in fact it was all driven by nothing but apparently “good guess” based more on humanism, human response to exploitation/torturing of masses by ruling elites than on firm scientific foundations of philosophy of materialism.
Many of those XIX century social/political activists, intellectuals inspired by, but largely misread Marx works on historiosophy, calling themselves Marxist, [Lenin Trotsky, Luxemburg, Liebknecht or Gramshi or Togliati] strived for largely unwarranted extension of Marx works into new, future social system that as they believed, as a part of Historical materialistic process, inevitably will come once [as they themselves concluded but found no common denominator of what those were] necessary and sufficient conditions among working class arise.
One may ask legitimate question if, as I pointed out before, underlying Historical Materialism based a premise of, as naive realism posits, trusting our fallible senses unconditionally as the only reality that matters, not translated itself directly in a naive ideology of spontaneous revolution defying basic social conditions, all those leaders largely shared.
They saw that working people were suffering; they saw that working people were angry, but they never asked, what exactly they were angry about and why and instead replaced those unanswers with revolutionary dogma of inevitable historical process that was supposedly bound to deliver “workers paradise” whatever they meant by that term, as soon as capitalism based system collapses under weight of its own intrinsic contradictions and/or helped a little with guns and murder, wiping slate clean of blood, proclaiming new “life”, new beginning of history [or end of history], a prophecy wrongly attributed to Marx.
In fact there was no agreement among leftist leadership about how working class, under assault of the capitalist propaganda of aesthetic, ethics and sensibilities of liberalism may develop anything else but consciousness of defensive and divisive trade syndicalism instead of fully fledged class consciousness of unified proletariat.
Marx preferred and engaged himself into a continuing mass educational programs supported by a network of social clubs for workers of all trades, Bakunin opted for cadre-less workers self-organization to whatever un-prescribed end, Lenin in contrast preferred working class vanguard specifically trained as political operatives to take over and organize working class when “revolution” comes, Luxemburg believed in development of class consciousness via deed of small living communities implementing principles of humanistic social relations.
If such ideas are not a signs of naive realism underlying gullible political aspirations and expectations even when based on however good intentions of a heart and humanity, working class hell turned out to be paved with as well, I do not know what it is.
Did what Horkheimer called goal seeking subjective reason or Huxley anti-intellectualism of ignorant charity of radical bourgeoisie, worshippers of cult of social progress, not spawn all those murmurings about revolution of proletariat? Or it was just wishful historical thinking all along?
In the late XIX century misreading crisis of governance in aristocratic Europe due to sociopolitical and economic pressures of development of colonial empires, staggering strengthening and growth of radical capitalism, for crisis of capitalism itself and assured by their dogmas of human civilizational progress epitomized in “truths” of Historical Materialism those activists, politicians of Europe’s political left, from socialdemocrats, socialists and anarchist indulged themselves into a revolutionary frenzy ignoring fundamental theoretical requirements such a presence of developed working class, politically educated and socially conscious proletariat free of liberal aesthetics while except for Germany an England they were facing nations of illiterate feudal peasants dominated by church theology as was in Russia, Italy large parts of central Europe or even France.
In their fervor, self-proclaimed Marxists practically abandoning lessons of Marxian Historiosophy, developed their own political platforms to deal with clear facts of utter deficiency of historic conditions for Marxist revolution at that time and utter lack of critical mass for any profound change of social system away from capitalism.
They sometimes concocted variety of ad hoc political “revolutionary” platforms, that while focusing on augmenting pain and suffering of working class, fell short of any programs of fundamental change to the capitalism system of production and social relations, focused primarily on overthrowing contemporary governments.
They considered two major alternatives, either like Lenin, taking over/assuming centralized power by revolutionary vanguard that “later” would focus on change of the socioeconomic system after working class grew out of massive state industrialization [still using capitalist mode of production], or as Luxemburg and French libertarian socialists proposed, let the capitalist system of governance collapse on itself while creating small to medium democratically self-governed sanctuaries, communities [self-proclaimed workers republics] of implementation of collectivism, socialist human relations devoid of greed, inequality, exploitation and injustice while abandoning reincarnation of any centralized power understood as corrupting in itself.
Hopelessly misreading Marx dialectical process of historical materialism, as founded on philosophy of materialism, they misinterpreted famous Marx’s proposition that “It is not consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” as it relates to material “being” of working class alone that determines their consciousness in a way required for revolutionary changes along of historiosophical process of civilizational development.
In fact as a “Young Hegelian” Marx did not understand “being” as material only but as specific worldview and defined role, value metrics of people within larger social organization or system such as family, community, religious affiliation or a membership in certain cultural, ethic or national group and/or embraced by certain self-identified state structure of delegated authority.
And this kind of “being” of working class was fiercely shaped by political/religious and capitalist socioeconomic propaganda of word and deed concocted by ruling elite preventing any larger development of revolutionary consciousness among working class at that time, strongly augmented by development of visual media developed and general aesthetics hijacked for mass propaganda purposes.
As Marx already pointed out in 1840-ties, the fetish of commodity was not only expanded into consumerism among ruling class but into population as a tool of control of social interrelations. The manufacturing of phony desires for useless widgets, presentation of ruling class aesthetics, meaning apparition, style, fashion, as an object of desire and affection while incepting into population idea of possibility of matching fashion-wise, visual-impact-wise [not in reality] perceived “virtues” those residing in “Parthenon” of power and opulence as it was a fundamental and the only realizable idea of “freedom” peddled popular liberalism.
A stolen true meaning of life, namely socially beneficial work for betterment of community and appreciation for it was redefined by phony aesthetics of capitalist/bourgeoisie’ fashion, art and architecture and was replaced by a magical thinking, desire of “feeling” of being a princess for a night, feeling that supposedly made more bearable cruel reality of being used, abused and raped slave for the rest of those nights of a short life of pain and suffering.
Dominant feature of utility of material things and their value according to its ability to accommodate basic human needs [food, shelter and companion etc.,] has been hijacked by fashion designers copied by millions women and men using cheap Singer sowing machines and drawings published in the newspapers.
Marx understood that religion and popular culture including fashion/life style and any material gadgetry sold as “epitomizing” desire for “perfect” commercial femininity or masculinity are fundamental, controlling elements/attributes of society and suppression of its working class consciousness producing false class consciousness celebrating enslavement as liberation as Huxley posited a century later.
The failed workers movements’ and socialist/communist parties’ instigated revolutions between 1905-1925 proved Marx’s assertions about social consciousness but most of all proved complete lack of understanding of Marx works and their implications by the middle class/small bourgeoisie originated revolutionary leaders that as only expectedly deteriorated into puny Machiavellians, petty bourgeoisie, full of lies, political expediency, ideological corruption, personal ambition, lusting for power forgetting what workers revolution was supposed to have been all about, leading to sharp political, and ideological divisions in international workers movement even hatred [Marx and Bakunin or Plekhanov and Lenin or Stalin and Trotsky etc.,] and mutual accusations and even assassinations stemming one way or another from perceived impotence of working class and its suppose inability, unwillingness or failure to fulfill its suppose historical mission [at that time perceived by leadership solely as enabler of anointed revolutionaries to seize power].
Even back then vast majority of Marxist revolutionaries calling themselves socialists played down necessity of systemic change but emphasized better deal for workers such as rights to form an independent all-trade unions, more money and benefits, better safer working condition, job security, say in management of company or even cooperative ownership, overall political expediency and catering to meek trade-syndicalist consciousness of working class molded by brutality of capitalism itself.
Even Lenin complained about inept working class, having “almost by himself” [actually he was temporarily in exile under Finish administration] to overthrow a teetering on the edge of collapse provisional bourgeoisie government of Russia in Petrograd on November 7th, 1917 [event, with few reported deaths and injures occurred while scaling the fence of the government palace, later called a famous, spurring fear in world’s elite, “Great Russian October Revolution”] with few hundred workers and sailors [armed with military rifles and bayonets] who were angry because government did not pay their salaries on time and gave sailors rotten food in addition to overall extremely unstable political situation in Russia.
What most of those “revolutionary” leaders [except perhaps of Marx and Luxemburg] of the left were inadvertently bringing was not a specter of communism but specter of nationalism and fascism as shaping man’s being and invading consciousness not only growing working class but peasants exposed to the XIX century long “nation state” propaganda of creating nations via imposition of educational system of national indoctrination of masses of previously totally alienated from national conscientiousness peasants and poor, under mostly imperial rule in Germany Austria, Ottoman empire, under Kingdom of Italy.
With noted absence of the British Crown [as global empire did not want to emphasize nationalism or equality], French [where nation-state has been built earlier during Napoleonic era and afterward collapsed back into imperial aristocracy exploded in Paris commune] and multinational Russian tsarist empire dangerously unconcerned with unified nation building running Byzantine model of governance, captivated by its own grandeur and hubris, that ultimately led to collapse and re-igniting national liberation struggle among nations of former Tsarist Russia as well as Austrian and German an Ottoman empire after WWI.
In fact many previously leftists leaders embraced nationalism and denounced internationalism a very foundation of workers struggle. European left leadership split and such former socialists like Mussolini in Italy, Pilsudski in Poland and others elsewhere rejected international socialism and opted for consolidation of nation [Italy] or resurrection of independent national entities like Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia or Baltic States or Armenia under rule of a strong man.
After failings of workers revolutions of Germany [Spartacist revolt and later workers republics of Bavaria and elsewhere] and Hungary, it was clear that working class did not attain revolutionary conscientiousness but only national conscientiousness especially as they together [but on opposite sides] spilled blood in WWI and wanted such a sacrifice for fatherland to mean something, a feeling, the internationalism would deny to them.
While zeitgeist of nationalism was prevalent in ethnic minorities under imperial boot of Germans, Austrians and Russians it was existing but not dominant or prevailing among Germanic populations of those countries as well as among ethnic Russians in Russia, Anatolian ethnic Turks in Ottoman Empire.
The virtues of nationalism had to be propped up, brought to light and massively supported. However, only after reign of terror against working class such propped up nationalism in a form of fascism and Nazism or to some degree Stalinism could emerge and flourish.
A Shock proliferated among theoreticians of Marxism, doubt in Marx himself; Why not workers’ Marxist revolution? And why fascism? What’s wrong with working class?
Distress among Marxists and theoreticians of Marxism was overwhelming but as usual vested interests, legacy and political hubris dominated the diagnosis of the revolutionary failure of international workers movements and hence infiltrated certain political factions split accusing others of betrayal or ideological impurities as well as many blamed workers themselves, as primitive, naive and stupid who need to be autocratically disciplined or entirely abandoned for more historically conscientious members of society such a lower middle class, professional class and petty bourgeoisie.
Lenin’s working class vanguard revolution by 1924 failed to stir mass revolutionary changes and collapsed into law and order statism in an ideological form of Stalinism that embraced urgent need for building new disciplined and educated working class and shaping new soviet indoctrinated class consciousness from scratch.
Out of collapsed Spartacist revolt in Germany in 1919 and betrayal of SPD [Socialist Party of Germany] folding into realm liberal democracy sham abandoning its revolutionary socialist roots, new KPD [Communist Party of Germany] emerged to continue revolutionary struggles however via much more timid means that involved strike actions of economic pressure on the German government to improve workers’ conditions that unfortunately did not go very far in reality of post WWI economic depression and heavy burden of war reparations imposed by French and British especially after occupation of Ruhr industrial region in 1921 by French and Belgians and purposefully unleashed hyperinflation, eroding KPD support of quite developed and educated German working class for idea of revolutionary internationalism in times when Germans felt isolated as a nation and by that strongly consolidating national feelings and quite young (about 50 years old since 2nd Reich) national identity and unity.
By 1929 KPD failed to instill international revolutionary conscientiousness among German workers and instead of international socialism succumbed to social democratic outlook giving up on German workers, abandoning still remaining revolutionary aspirations almost all together, leaving opening for other revolutionary forces to freely infect German working class conscientiousness namely ideas of national socialism.
Similar developments within leftist movements happened in Italy in quite similar circumstances of strong nationalist character of leftist movements forced by massive attack on internationalism, and factions that supported it as a path to workers revolution, by ruling elite of newly created in XIX century unified Italy.
Italian left, after decades of international revolutionary struggle including tactics of violence of state and response from socialist, anarchist side, unable to spur mass revolution in Italy in first decades of XX century for the same reason as in Russia (no developed working class except for small areas in the north) became hopelessly conflicted and in the end split by 1920 in three political factions: (1) highly nationalistic Combat League, ”Fasci di Combattimento” of Mussolini [fascists]; (2) PCI [Partito Communista Italiana] of Gramsci and Togliati [communists/Leninists/internationalists] and (3) PSI [Partito Socialista Italiana] social-democratic faction of the Italian left. This split left Italian working class vulnerable to Mussolini fascism who was supported by international capital, mostly US capital.
But fascism in a political realm was not spontaneous, it was entirely preprogrammed, by oligarchic/aristocratic ruling elite. It was a political development as a response to Marxist ideology gaining some influence among wider swaths of society than just working class. The phenomenon of fascism was not natural but of capitalist funded preemptive counter-revolutionary character.
Fascism was not a result of unpredicted expression of some sort of new working class consciousness, but nothing really different from well-known trade-syndicalism i.e. basic socioeconomic self-defense with no political dimension, combined with propaganda of nationalism and national unity, as developed in early stage of modern XIX century capitalism.
The peculiarity of the fascism [and Americanism] was that it preached unity of a nation namely 99% +1% all-together as one, under guise of total inclusiveness stating that all are needed by the abstract/mystic concept of fatherland.
Fascism as Americanism posited that peasants are needed to toil their fields, workers to labor in factories, artists working to express national pride, journalists working on image and praising the nation’s hard work, doctors working on national health and to keep all ready for national tasks and capitalists working with capital for national wealth and government leaders working for all the people working for the nation.
Fascism sounded like pure utopianism but, incorporated inclusiveness, importance of “worthy” individual as a participant in a greater thing than his/her own life, many of propaganda points shared by the Marxist left while leaving foundations of capitalism in tact, unchallenged and immutable.
However, that was something that as a matter of shaping national consciousness fascists did for real, namely attacked church and its feudal ways of enslavement and brainwashing of peasant population, threatened and in part implemented agrarian reform and removed church from dominating local economies and ironically introduced what we may call law and order [exterminated gangs and mafias], moves supported even by aristocratic class who liked constant fascists’ references to “glorious” imperial past.
Some of those issues of failure of socialist revolutions and even more shocking [for uninformed] development and appeal of fascism to masses, as they perceived it, as well as the supporting role of working class were attempted to be understood and addressed by Frankfurt School of Weil, Horkheimer, Fromm, Adorno et al.
Unfortunately, most of those theoretical efforts were underwritten by understandable but unscientific, anti-fascist (anti-Nazi) political bias that blinded them to German working class reality of that time [as they were mostly members of bourgeoisie, Jews being forced by Nazis into exile in 1930-ties] and hence their proclivities to transparent prejudice, blame and abandonment of working class as a social force treating them as failure of revolutionary promise, for their class consciousness being hopelessly corrupted and “satisfied” with meaningless trinkets hypnotized, immersed in a torpor of anti-intellectual nationalism, racism, commercialism and after the war embracing culture of rampant consumerism.
And hence they slowly drifted into darkness of Freudian psychoanalysis seeking psychological explanations of mass social processes and upheavals they refused to find in clear and simple Marxist analysis concerning conditions and materiality of productive forces of society that underlain development of fascism.
Still any serious contribution of an individual into historical process, as considered by Frankfurt School and descendants, has been limited to a feedback of socially determined/affected mental states of desire and fear of an individual by nature of political/social control, promoted moral/cultural values of corrupted liberalism, class struggle and economic system of exploitation feeding back into masses’ overall consciousness determined not only by material being but mental being [or attitude and a worldview] of an individual as well.
Having given up on working class as revolutionarily deficient in contemporary historical context, Frankfurt school of social philosophy and its critical theory has been revived briefly by developments of 1968 student revolts in the US as well as in France, Germany and wider Europe including Czechoslovakian or Polish-Jewish “socialist workers’ party” revolts that were not organized by workers but by intelligentsia and university students with support of such a figures like Sartre, Marcuse or Foucault who advocated [according to critical theory] rejection of the entire western commercial culture, its liberalism and its socioeconomic restrains of private property and ownership while Dubtchek, Kolakowsky in Eastern Europe advocated easement of propaganda of ideological purity [in reality of ideological corruption of ruling cliques of Eastern Bloc] and limit cultural control by party dogmatists. While called by collapsing Stalinist regime as revisionists and counter-revolutionaries in fact they represented more of social-democratic factions among Eastern Bloc party bureaucrats since there was no Marxist revolution to counter or to defend, but just ruling cliques who wrapped themselves with already at that time empty slogans of class liberation.
In a sense eastern intellectual elite protested new creeping “bourgeoisie” cultural counter-revolution based on cultural sensibilities and lies of supposed egalitarianism, social/socialistic democracy, early political correctness of “privatizing” or “elitizing” of concentrated economic outputs under guise of new economic freedoms and reforms, actually for a purpose of maintaining political control and molding social interactions to be, to a higher degree, negotiated by power and economic benefit.
But most of all the events of 1960-ties and their suppose radicalism [in fact they were just timid acts of necessary self-defense against betrayal of the institutional left in the West as in the East] were a direct response to, missed by Critical Theorists, last stand against global fusion of western imperialism and eastern soc-imperialism that was merging into new “friendly progressive looking” global neoliberalism/neocolonialism putting on a new insidious NGO mask of humanitarian mission of domination of good [western liberal good] vs. bad [western liberal bad] in terms of newly concocted dogma of global morality and ethics of just murder that was to dominate following decades and now is well established on a global scale.
In fact the events of that time in the Eastern and Western of Europe and in the US have unequivocally shown not only ambivalence to students/intelligentsia last struggle for societal egalitarianism but consciousness of utter hostility of working class themselves to students’ movements for “real” democracy and against emerging modern dogmas of neoliberalism on a verge of digital revolution of immanent highly addictive informational flows’ proliferating ideology of destruction of solidarity among world’s working people, distrust and fear of other human beings, social atomization and division via peddling insidious identity politics of de-communalization of tightly knitted communities, de-culturalization, de-localization of social/moral context, destruction of socioeconomic, ecological selfsustainability of communities and eradication of their commons.
As a meek response to bloody global neoliberal offensive, critical theory generally offered and embraced active deconstructing of the commercial reality, all permeating consumer culture of positive psychology and artificial aesthetics and sensibilities of the society by criticizing and undermining it [stopped short of advocating active material sabotage], in a way creating anti-propaganda system of deed and thought to counteract an enormous $billion a day mass brainwashing media operation by global capitalist propaganda industry that infected working class and broader society with all permeating fear of mental and physical pain, suffering, alienation and finally abandonment and death while inspired mass infantilization and desperate seeking protection under umbrella of so-called authorities.
Adorno and others from Frankfurt School understood that nobody is immune to this infection of minds hence incessant brainwashing operation by global oligarchy could not be dismissed or ignored but had to be actively fought, subverted and turned against ruling elites so working class/rest of destitute population could be awoken from their artificially induced zombie-like torpor and understand but also feel that no matter what propaganda lies they consume they are on capitalists’ monsters menu as their cannon or industrial fodder, a menu entrée of two-legged creatures walking the earth.
The global neoliberal propaganda operation is proliferating deadly mental infection that keeps populace in torpor, enslaved, working people divided and confused and in itself take a form of a disease of “precious” (neo) liberalism, fake liberties that amount to repressed toleration, fake freedoms that amount to social abandonment, division and alienation, fake rampant individualism that justifies worshiping of property, capital markets and money as well as domination and exploitation of one human being by another, fake freedoms funneled into delusions of democracy, a veneer of Identity Politics propaganda placed over an abhorrent tyrannical rule, fake legal/civil rights/laws that cover up true mafia-like elitist social system of inborn privileges, submission and social caste and most of all to falsely justify preservation and continuation of abhorrent oligarchic regimes of slavery and death, under immoral, inhumane, corrupted rule of “law of powerful” we suppose to submit to or even worship as a highest achievement of human mind.
Years before events of 1968 Critical Theory divorced itself from critical practice and Frankfurt School set up in 1923 by capitalist Weil and devout theoreticians of Marxism in late 1950-ties deteriorated into a society of futile philosophical disputations engaged with other dead-end Marxist “religions” like Trotskyism, Leninism and Maoism.
Only Herbert Marcuse of Frankfurt School (while residing in California) for a while seemed to be in “synch” with the rebellious students only to provide them with no effective theoretical or practical guidance. While he warned about false revolutionary consciousness such as a notion of liberation extended to a so-called sexual liberation, or liberation from cultural norms of behavior/compliance misexpressed via excessive promiscuity, vagabondism, lack of personal responsibility or rejection of existing order for chaos and uncertainty, social disconnect or indulgence into drug induced fantasies only to be bailed out by the very despised capitalist regime [parents] when going got tough, Marcuse succumb to a “revolutionary” fervor by seemingly believing that some of those students awoken from torpor of conformity achieved at least some revolutionary consciousness, not only in sociopolitical but also in aesthetic dimension. They did not.
Only few young rebelling intelligentsia however, understood critical times [1950-ties and 1960-ties] they were living in, times of beginning of complete eradication of true leftist movements fighting for radical socialist revolution and realized incoming massive capabilities of surveillance state and direct political and cultural control by oligarchic ruling elites to be unleashed over population likely destroying any possibility of effective resistance.
Perhaps, as lyrics of “the International” goes “ they knew that “it was their last battle.. before brotherly union of humanity ..” was to be completely shattered.
The capitalist system unleashed global war on political left in western countries, destroyed its legitimacy in the East by betrayal of communist party leadership. It was a war using phony identity politics of civil rights struggle pinning one ethnic group against another, killing anyone who discovered the ploy and called for unity, anti-war struggle conflicting one groups [of Americans] dying in it and their families profiting from it or being employed by MIC, illegal drugs and associated Astroturf of related identity politics of weed smokers and heroine shooters as expression of civil rights pretending to support “freedoms”, extreme feminism of female domination i.e. estrogenic political femdom was demanded by CIA funded to that end, feminist organizations, [while women in the west lacked basic cultural and legal equality].
The brainwashing fluid, newly unleashed upon young society full of anger and righteous indignation about immorality of war and betrayal of humanity by previous generations, gay, lesbian and heterosexual mass porn and mentally and physically exhausting and “satisfying” pseudointellectual sexual orgies were insidiously presented as an expression of “communist” values, as virtues of collectivism, freedom of slurred incoherent speech and bodily expression of sexopolitocal convulsions and reason suppressing ideological orgasms, marriage-less, commitment-less, one night stand, friendships for a day with benefits, shallow, superficial relationships of young free creative people who fuck their brains out with whom they love.
Other Hippies pseudo-cultures drugged by CIA invented psychedelic drugs to forget young people’s cosmic confusion and utter political futility, senselessness of their visions of better world and most of all to forget grim reality of brutal, viscous, murderous society they were spawned from and its deeply embedded in [American] psyche totalitarian sensibilities, culture of fear and loathing permeating their and their families’ lives.
Proliferation of cults, gurus, and pseudo-Hindu culture of feudal submission to attain inner tranquility and enlightenment or revelation that everything would be OK if you forget everything.
Institutional promotion and development of drug induced “me” generation of utterly narcissistic, worshiping fetish of fame, money, opulence, social dominance as well as commercial campaign of endorsing generation of magical thinking of “you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it” utter nonsense, as well as a delusion of rampant individualism and dehumanization of people into lonely, bitter, frustrated units of hate and loathing, reigned supreme among young and the media.
Families run by generation of Great Depression possessing deep distrust to ruling elite were shattered by gullibility, ignorance and infantile trust in whatever their children clutched to as authorities. Instead of becoming sovereigns of their own lives and self-govern, they submitted to delusional transcendental “good” however totalitarian authorities as “cool” father figures.
The mass psychological warfare against authentic/mostly ethnic culture and family interconnections and mutual dependencies and commitments [like in native communities] was unleashed in a form of enticing, reason arresting narcissistic pseudo-intellectualism, and reason repressing highly sensual and sexual pop-music of rogue, irritating, ear-piercing “dirty” sounds, a mass “electric” shock therapy, over insurgent population of young intelligentsia in the US and elsewhere.
In such a context of moral/ideological chaos only few recognized that as a frontal counter-revolutionary propaganda assault and decided and/or were compelled by exigent circumstances to continue armed struggle against re-emerging global neoliberalism but most of them had no clue what to do, how to kill the beast and what was the beast they supposed to slaughter on their way to systemic transformation of the society corrupted by ideas of liberalism.
And hence in the US they have been labeled terrorists, quickly infiltrated, denounced by their families or hijacked by the agents of FBI/CIA secret political police and turned into bizarre outfits run by cults of delusional “gurus” like SLA and instead of engaging themselves in operations that posed existential threat to ruling elite and capitalistic social order such as sabotage of financial and/or propaganda system, they produced mostly laughable, misguided, futile, counterproductive bloody [or not] political stunts and in most cases actions harmful to the leftists’ revolutionary cause of socialism like robbing banks, blowing up empty warehouses (promptly paid off by insurance) or intentionally [or not] killing of low ranked policemen that brought no hesitation or fear to the ruling class but more repression for their victims in a form of hastened destruction of constitutional protections for whatever they were worth and accelerated process of fascisization of the society i.e. fusion of political power with corporate profit on global scale.
The true radical anti-neoliberal self-defense leftist organizations/movements in Europe, like RAF and BR or AD that hit ruling class where it hurt i.e. personal safety and financial interests, were label terrorists and with help of corrupted Soviet cliques promptly crashed, eradicated without prejudice and without any attention to rule of law committing political murders en mass and that included early false flag operations like “Gladio” in 1950-ties with massive innocent civilian casualties.
Against others, like FLQ, IRA, pIRA, ETA, PLO and more, a direct gory military war was unleashed under guise of anti-terrorism operations while leadership of those radical leftist organizations was corrupted, imprisoned or murdered.
The year 2000 nominally marked the end of the operation of eradication from peoples consciousness an idea of class war and humanistic collectivism as only possible and viable form of socially and ecologically self-sustainable self-organization and self-governance of a society.
The end of second millennium AD marked ending of bloody mopping up operation by global ruling elites of what’s left of leftist political movements [socialists, communists, anarchists] and associated political structures having their origins in mid XIX century contemporaneous with Marx writings and development of Marxist revolutionary theory.
Those movements were subverted, corrupted, hijacked or erased from political landscape and replaced in a propaganda realm by a wide-spread false ideas that Deep State/Ruling Elite/oligarchy funded NGOs picked up. Some of those leftist sounding issues, previously were covered by metaphorically “murdered” [also by ideological suicide, and succumbing to dead-end archaic political orthodoxies and authoritarian governance] Marxian/Marxist leftist political platforms. While in the same time repressed social reality and rendered other historically leftist issues like class struggle as nonexistent in the new age of digital revolution, read as: neo-feudalism of rentiers’ economy with iPhones.
Today there is no left left, and even those who began to personally and acutely feel the wrath of homicidal capitalism, a mortal danger to billions of people like them worldwide, are at complete mental loss, confused unable to tell genuine expression of simple human concern from charlatans spewing delusional populist utterances with no meaning or any resemblance to any feasible political position, immersed in a chaos of immanent informational flow containing nothing of a substance but raw fear.
So what went wrong with HM.
Is HM objective or subjective process, and if it exists at all or it is just theory of what could have happened or should have happened?
As Marx himself posited society is manmade and hence HM regardless of Marxists’ spin, is not a theory of some, external to human species, natural may be even inevitable process but a guideline and insight into what needs to be done, what changes to productive forces are required or desired when contradictions of old system makes the system itself not sustainable, prone to collapse, degeneration, degradation, no longer able to deliver solutions acceptable by rulers as well as to sustain population they control.
But such as approach of supremacy of historical materialistic process involving structural changes forced upon society by changes in technological character of productive forces, has one huge humanistic bias that later Marx’s works seem to be blinded to namely that there is another solution that does not involve what we would call progression of civilization but rather its regression and associated collapse of world population, a politically guided process affined to mass murder by starvation, sanitary infrastructure collapse, communicable disease, energy water access collapse and social negligence associated with collapse of social order and social cultural, human bonds.
And such an alternative is not merely theoretical. It already happened many times in the history of civilization, which could be characterized not by “progression” but rather by meandering, often aimlessly over centuries or millennia.
The so-called civilizational progress is a myth peddled often by advocates of new socioeconomic regimes that benefit them alone no matter what dire consequences those new regimes may impose on the population at large.
And that included those promoting slave economy under guise of democracy or efficiency or opportunistic pseudo scientific assertions, feudal arrangement under guise of God’s social order and later modern capitalism under guise of new liberalism and propaganda of individual freedom, liberty and happiness of being wealthy as epitomizing “progress” of humanity.
And that was, as by their “revolutionary” predecessors, repeated incessantly by pushers of so-called socialist revolution, truly understood, by most infected by rotten liberalism revolutionaries, as taking over the same power structure of control and benefit for ruling elite and defending their own political power under whatever ideological guise, unconcerned with necessary transformations of human conscience and deep reconstruction of interpersonal relations, eradicating exploitation, valuation and regarding human being as means to some individual end of happiness other than humanity itself.
Is the historiosophy, idealist or materialist, telling us about inevitable flow of history or it is just a report card of ingenuity of the ruling elites in their pre-planning and evolution along lines of technological developments harnessed to solely strengthen their own control, influence and their overall power over society?
Have social systems, such as feudalism, capitalism, in themselves, really changed as a result of dialectics of Historical Materialism or just methods of control are the only thing that, in reality, changed, molding social consciousness [from conservative values of Puritanism, Asceticism into liberal values of freedom and happiness] in ways that facilitated changing technology of governance over centuries?
How a collective consciousness of pious, ascetic Christians of XIV century England transformed into consciousness of hedonistic bunch lusting for individual happiness here on earth, sanctioned by the state and their own religion of money?
The answer is clear; this transformation of social consciousness among population at large [95% peasants at that time] happened not as a result of fundamental contradictions between social consciousness [peasants] and productive forces [field toiling technology and labor characteristics] via some natural dialectic apriori process of Historical Materialism but via premeditated state legal/political decrees, policies that consolidated power and strengthened institution of state as chief guardian/promoter and contributor to new capitalist economic development based in technologically modern economic reproduction process and huge expansion of previously marginal markets, backed not only by soft persuasion, education and enlightenment but by brutal violence and extermination of those who opposed it over following centuries.
In other words this transition away from feudalism happened due to necessity to accommodate demographically growing ruling elite and their courtier class including dedicated state security, socioeconomic and religious system enforcement and propaganda organizations.
The modern capitalism was a trial and error solution to necessary engagement of much broader slice of population into actively supporting of growing ruling elite while still retaining absolute control over population so people would not be able to threaten the core of state power, mostly via directing them into lusting for individual satisfaction propagandized to be deeply tied to the preservation, fate and prosperity of ruling elite, a relationship analogous to one between an addict and a drug dealer.
The immanent element of radical capitalist social consciousness of contemporary global population, maintained by a billion dollar a day repressive propaganda of word and deed, regardless of social class affiliation consists of radical liberalism/neoliberalism funneled into a rampant individualism and social disintegration fueled by manufactured social values of money, desires of domination and addictions to fame or popularity especially to amaze opulent and powerful.
All those efforts were primarily aimed to innately tie people to the capitalist system itself or whatever contemporary cancerous reincarnation of it, which is what people ultimately have been conditioned to crave in their preprogrammed suicidal rants of Thanatos.
And still after over 500 years of radical capitalism brainwashing operation via propaganda of word and brutal bloody deed some chimes of human liberation are still being heard sometimes although weaker and weaker over deaf ears and repressed class consciousness.
In early 1990-ties Deleuze & Guattari warned about enormous difficulty of or even impossibility of development of any revolutionary liberation consciousness among population infected with propaganda of corrupted liberalism that laid the foundation of capitalism and society of control we live under.
“Unlike simple revolution, persuading the people of today to become aware of the invisible walls of control that imprison them requires excessive amounts of power and intelligence. After all, you cannot escape a prison if you don’t know you are in one.”
Most of western and eastern population are prisoners within invisible walls of imposed naive worldviews, their synthetic sensibilities and aesthetics propagandized as their own. The class consciousness has been obscured by virtual reality hallucinations of open spaces and absolute individual “freedom” refusing to elucidate any form of objective reality sadly succumbing to a naive realism, capitalists as well as wanna be socialists peddle as the only reality there is, capitalist reality of imprisoned mind and body.
“The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part [in development of capitalism]. ..It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. ..It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid [slave] wage labourers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. .. [under capitalism] All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”
From “Manifesto of the Communist Party”,
by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, February 1848. (p.15 and 16);
So borrowing from a form of communist manifesto let’s ask what needs to be done and who will do it:
Who will historically, play most revolutionary part in development of socialism or communism as epitomizing all inclusiveness into egalitarian self-ruled society of utilitarian aesthetics sensibilities and culture of life and humanity?
Who will resolve personal worth into socially beneficial value of creative work, dedication and sacrifice for future generations, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered unconscionable [liberal] “freedoms like “Everything human for sale via Free Trade”, money worshipping, commodity fetish, tolerance of intolerable socially destructive attitudes and behaviors, aggressive, unfettered, detrimental to society competition, and penal system of violence, social alienation and abandonment, will set up a social organization of communal self governance based on consensus of reason and humanity as highest values.
In one word, who will substitute naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation, veiled by religious, economic, political and ideological illusions, by the truth of unalienable human labor and its fruits belonging to human creator solely to share within community, to fulfill social duty, satisfy utilitarian social needs of others to be rewarded for it with human respect and dignity?
..Who will convert the physicians, the lawyers, the priests, the poets, the men of science, [as well as security and propaganda apparatus, manned with biological tools of violence and oppression, etc.,], from paid [mindless slave] wage laborers into human beings concerned with welfare of society and serving its socially determined needs to the best of their abilities?
Who will sew back family relations torn apart under capitalism and reduced in its importance and fundamental human dimension into a mere [structured] relations among some strangers negotiated by power and money?
Who will melt down tomorrow, all those contemporary, seemingly solid structures and foundations of capitalist society into a thin air of ungraspable shadows of the past?
Who will make all that which was holy yesterday profane tomorrow, and who will make a man at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his own human kind and life-sustaining earth?
Who? If not you and me?