January 21, 2020
Our old friend Daren Jonescu pens a nice essay on Marxism at his website.
Here's a brief taste:
Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes.
Letter to Bracke (1875)
There is the principle driving all modern progressive politics. It explains why there is not a literature department in the developed world that does not reduce allpast literature to "evidence” for neo-Marxist theories of systemic oppression and capitalist enslavement of the masses. It explains why we speak so matter-of-factly of a progressive ratchet — why late modernity tends always in one direction, indefatigably, such that ideas regarded as subversive radicalism in one generation become universally granted preconditions of all possible political thought in the next, though no one can point to the moment when this fundamental transformation occurred.
Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Critique of the Gotha Program (1875)
And if this transitional period should turn out to proceed so gradually as to devour centuries of human civilization; to necessitate the annihilation, by the "transitional” dictatorship, of hundreds of millions of human lives; and as a byproduct of its progress, to reduce the majority of the human race to brutish irrationality, materialistic hedonism, and bloodless greed — if all this, and more of a similar tenor, should prove necessary for the sake of pursuing the untested speculative fantasy of the communist ideal of a withering political hierarchy? Well, then so be it! Let the two-hundred-year universal conflagration begin! Because maybe, just maybe, if Karl Marx was right in that book he wrote in 1875 — in spite of so many of the practical aspects of his theory having been revealed as completely false through the intervening history — the eventual outcome might indeed be a stateless communist utopia, which could, in principle, if he was right, lead to universal happiness; or not, since of course no one can know the real results of implementing a theoretical model that has never been even remotely attempted. But still, it’s worth a shot, right?
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