The Death of Marxism Revisited

About ten years ago I published a book, The Strange Death of Marxism, which argued strenuously that the present Left is not Marxist, but post-Marxist. Unlike traditional Marxists and European democratic socialists, the type of Left that has gained ground since and even before the fall of the Soviet Empire is culturally radical but only secondarily interested in economic change. Our present Left makes its peace with private enterprise and even large corporations, providing it can impose its idea of social and cultural transformation on increasingly powerless citizens and their increasingly indoctrinated children. Not that this Left is particularly friendly to anything that is private, including economic transactions. But it treats the economy as something that it can influence without having to nationalize, thereby avoiding those disastrous policies that socialist governments of the past tried to enact. Our own master class has sensibly concluded that it’s better to allow market forces to operate while making sure that public administration can dip, when it advances a pretext, into the profits. Further, the master class endlessly bullies the public into going along with increasingly complicated behavioral guidelines, supposedly intended to fight “discrimination.” It is the culture and only instrumentally the government that the post-Marxist Left seeks to dominate; and the type of administrative state that has expanded explosively in every Western country since the 1960s is an effective instrument by which social engineers and sensitivity commissars can do their work. 

Although I haven’t change my view about how the Left has transformed itself since I wrote my book, it does seem that in some ways there’s been more continuity between the old and the new Lefts than I once suggested. Old-time Marxists here and in Europe became multiculturalists almost overnight, while our current leftists still admire Communists of the past (like Castro) and associate anti-Communists with fascism. Moreover, as I’ve watched the organized anti-Trump hysteria that is gripping our grievance-crowds, soi-disant entertainment industries, and unhinged media, it is obvious that the PC-multicultural Left is following the older, more cerebral Marxist Left in three critical respects.

  1. Like the Communists and also like the Italian Fascists, the multicultural Left never sees itself as occupying positions of authority and or being able to force the unwilling to comply with its demands. As the Left understands its situation, it is always struggling to take power. Also when it seems to be on the verge of getting somewhere (as in Obama’s America), it is still in danger of being crushed by hostile forces. Just as the Left once contended that no socialist revolution had ever been fully carried out and that Communist countries were still “on the way to becoming socialist,” so too are today’s PC regimes, as viewed by their advocates, only tentative first steps toward overcoming the past. They are first steps on the long march to power; and even these steps became threatened when Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency.
  2. There is no way that the Left can retreat from what it has achieved in transforming society without the entire edifice of change being imperiled. This corresponds to Trotsky’s formula that if the revolution is made to retreat from stage D to stage C, then the entire march toward the new society could be reversed. Therefore the march out of the gloomy repressive past must be continued unconditionally, and any retreat from it is tantamount to counterrevolution -- or in the leftist fear-mongering phrase, having women forced to have abortions in back alleys, re-imposing racial segregation, and jailing homosexuals. This kind of thinking makes perfectly good sense, if one begins with the assumption that one is in an “all or nothing” situation. It also doesn’t matter that President Obama stopped flights to the U.S. from Iraq in 2011 or that Bill Clinton spoke in a State of the Union address in 1994 about stopping the presence of illegals in the U.S. Nor should we notice that Donald Trump’s predecessor opposed gay marriage at the time he was elected to the presidency. It is our duty to protect whatever revolution is underway in its most advanced state. Any retreat from the present into the past, even the recent past, should be seen as an attempt to undo every bit of Progress that’s been gained until now.
  3. Anyone who threatens the still fragile, reversible process of change must be dehumanized. There can be no honest disagreements with those who either by design or because of dangerous ignorance are working against “hope and change.” One is therefore justified in condemning these reactionaries as the lowliest and most malevolent of beings. Like the Communists, the current Left, particularly in Western Europe, characterizes its opponents as “fascists.” Note that for the old Left, “fascism” had a quasi-scientific meaning. It referred to the defenders of a form of late capitalism, which had already reached a point of mortal crisis. “Fascists” repressed socialist revolution by creating right-wing nationalist dictatorships. In the process phony “fascist” revolutionaries drove real leftist revolutionaries underground.

For the multicultural Left, by contrast, the once meaningful Marxist term “fascist” has been reduced to a smear. It now signifies those the Left is combatting, that is, those who disagree with all or some aspect of the Left’s social agenda. Those who oppose this agenda may or perhaps should be attacked as Nazis and even Holocaust-deniers (which an acquaintance of mine recently called me for voting for Donald Trump). If the people under attack don’t deny Nazi crimes explicitly, their view of “social justice” is so hopelessly negative that presumably they would have enthusiastically endorsed Hitler. What else should one think of someone who is trying to push us back into the Dark Ages, perhaps as far back as 2008?             

About ten years ago I published a book, The Strange Death of Marxism, which argued strenuously that the present Left is not Marxist, but post-Marxist. Unlike traditional Marxists and European democratic socialists, the type of Left that has gained ground since and even before the fall of the Soviet Empire is culturally radical but only secondarily interested in economic change. Our present Left makes its peace with private enterprise and even large corporations, providing it can impose its idea of social and cultural transformation on increasingly powerless citizens and their increasingly indoctrinated children. Not that this Left is particularly friendly to anything that is private, including economic transactions. But it treats the economy as something that it can influence without having to nationalize, thereby avoiding those disastrous policies that socialist governments of the past tried to enact. Our own master class has sensibly concluded that it’s better to allow market forces to operate while making sure that public administration can dip, when it advances a pretext, into the profits. Further, the master class endlessly bullies the public into going along with increasingly complicated behavioral guidelines, supposedly intended to fight “discrimination.” It is the culture and only instrumentally the government that the post-Marxist Left seeks to dominate; and the type of administrative state that has expanded explosively in every Western country since the 1960s is an effective instrument by which social engineers and sensitivity commissars can do their work. 

Although I haven’t change my view about how the Left has transformed itself since I wrote my book, it does seem that in some ways there’s been more continuity between the old and the new Lefts than I once suggested. Old-time Marxists here and in Europe became multiculturalists almost overnight, while our current leftists still admire Communists of the past (like Castro) and associate anti-Communists with fascism. Moreover, as I’ve watched the organized anti-Trump hysteria that is gripping our grievance-crowds, soi-disant entertainment industries, and unhinged media, it is obvious that the PC-multicultural Left is following the older, more cerebral Marxist Left in three critical respects.

  1. Like the Communists and also like the Italian Fascists, the multicultural Left never sees itself as occupying positions of authority and or being able to force the unwilling to comply with its demands. As the Left understands its situation, it is always struggling to take power. Also when it seems to be on the verge of getting somewhere (as in Obama’s America), it is still in danger of being crushed by hostile forces. Just as the Left once contended that no socialist revolution had ever been fully carried out and that Communist countries were still “on the way to becoming socialist,” so too are today’s PC regimes, as viewed by their advocates, only tentative first steps toward overcoming the past. They are first steps on the long march to power; and even these steps became threatened when Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency.
  2. There is no way that the Left can retreat from what it has achieved in transforming society without the entire edifice of change being imperiled. This corresponds to Trotsky’s formula that if the revolution is made to retreat from stage D to stage C, then the entire march toward the new society could be reversed. Therefore the march out of the gloomy repressive past must be continued unconditionally, and any retreat from it is tantamount to counterrevolution -- or in the leftist fear-mongering phrase, having women forced to have abortions in back alleys, re-imposing racial segregation, and jailing homosexuals. This kind of thinking makes perfectly good sense, if one begins with the assumption that one is in an “all or nothing” situation. It also doesn’t matter that President Obama stopped flights to the U.S. from Iraq in 2011 or that Bill Clinton spoke in a State of the Union address in 1994 about stopping the presence of illegals in the U.S. Nor should we notice that Donald Trump’s predecessor opposed gay marriage at the time he was elected to the presidency. It is our duty to protect whatever revolution is underway in its most advanced state. Any retreat from the present into the past, even the recent past, should be seen as an attempt to undo every bit of Progress that’s been gained until now.
  3. Anyone who threatens the still fragile, reversible process of change must be dehumanized. There can be no honest disagreements with those who either by design or because of dangerous ignorance are working against “hope and change.” One is therefore justified in condemning these reactionaries as the lowliest and most malevolent of beings. Like the Communists, the current Left, particularly in Western Europe, characterizes its opponents as “fascists.” Note that for the old Left, “fascism” had a quasi-scientific meaning. It referred to the defenders of a form of late capitalism, which had already reached a point of mortal crisis. “Fascists” repressed socialist revolution by creating right-wing nationalist dictatorships. In the process phony “fascist” revolutionaries drove real leftist revolutionaries underground.

For the multicultural Left, by contrast, the once meaningful Marxist term “fascist” has been reduced to a smear. It now signifies those the Left is combatting, that is, those who disagree with all or some aspect of the Left’s social agenda. Those who oppose this agenda may or perhaps should be attacked as Nazis and even Holocaust-deniers (which an acquaintance of mine recently called me for voting for Donald Trump). If the people under attack don’t deny Nazi crimes explicitly, their view of “social justice” is so hopelessly negative that presumably they would have enthusiastically endorsed Hitler. What else should one think of someone who is trying to push us back into the Dark Ages, perhaps as far back as 2008?             

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