Why I am not a Marxist-Humanist, and my objections to implicit ideologies
Recently, I have been having a very heated debate with a internet friend that has gotten nasty on what I see is the flawed implications of Kliman’s minimization of income inequality. The recent numbers make it clear that the claim that income inequality has been stable for 40 years is untrue, and here the numbers confirm that. Yet Kliman’s assertion and brilliant analysis does seem to prove that declining rate of profits for companies overall. So the interesting thing is that most I am sympathetic to Kliman’s economic analysis, but his political analysis I find severely lacking. Like I said in another post today, Kliman seems to miss or minimize that there really has been a transfer of wealth upwards at the same time that profits are going down. When I point out that this is a political problem, my friends who like Kliman and carry some of his variants of Marxist-Humanism implicitly with them accuse me of just re-stating the Immiseration thesis that Marx carried over from Ricardo, I try to point out that I am actually arguing the opposite. That there is nothing automatic about any of this and that state (and non-state) politics matter just as much as economicism.
So for context, I object to Marxist-Humanism, and it’s implicit in some of the arguments in Andrew Kliman, is that Raya Dunayevskaya’s project was to say that Marx had a complete vision which had no need for politics and that it was consistent through the writings. The Marxist Humanist Initiative have essentially done to Marx what apologists do inconsistencies in the bible, read parts of one into the other regardless oIf where it was clear that it applied: alienation was never dropped from the discourse even though Marxist doesn’t mention it in his later writings. The conception of ideology doesn’t change from its early critique to commodity fetishism, etc. Why did they do this? Because they did not like the political implications in Leninism, and Leninism critique of the Immiseration thesis or that there could be class development unforeseen in Marx because it. In fact, in Imperialism Lenin set aboutexplaining why the immiseration thesis didn’t hold like either some of the left communism or the Kautsky-ian Social Democrats had believed was inevitable. This projectHAS led to interesting work on Kliman’s part teasing out numbers on the declining right of profit, and to interesting work by people like Moishe Postone against Althusser’s hyper-reliance on ideology as an over-riding mechanism. But it has also led to ignoring that all “class” struggles are not explicitly economic, oddly putting the argument back into something like Althusserian position. The Immiseration thesis held by the Social Democrats, the automatists, and by many classical Marxists has been called into question by both Frankfurt school thinkers and by Lenin because it argues that there is NOTHING automatic about any of this, and that the base/superstructure hyper-reductionism to economics making anything a necessary hasn’t historically held.
The belief that somehow coming value theory will dialectically lead to an end of capitalist relations is actually a form of hypostatization that confuses that capitalism is a totality in historical perception of social relations, it cannot determine social relations without also being determined by them. The is the dialectical view and going back to Hegel leads us to see this problem. To quote Ross Wolfe on this:
Marx once, in a magnificent line, said that “‘the pre-bourgeois forms of the social organization of production are treated by [bourgeois] political economy in much the same way as the Fathers of the Church treated pre-Christian religions.”
With stunning historical irony, this has become almost inverted by the Marxist-Humanists (as well as others Marxists who are otherwise good, who simply want to return to Marx while ignoring the politics that came later — i.e., Principia Dialectica, even Postone). Such Marxists regard the subsequent political history of Marxism following the death of Marx (or perhaps Engels) as one vast betrayal or heresy that must be done away with entirely, in much the same way as early Protestant theologians regarded the post-Apostolic succession of the Church in its Romanized, Catholic form as one long betrayal of Christ’s teachings. As such, Protestants retreat into the Lutheran dictum of “sola scriptura,” reading only the books in the Athanasian Bible (minus a few books). Likewise, most post-political Marxists read only the work of Marx or Engels, and perhaps other Marxist thinkers stripped of their political content (Lukács, Wilhelm Reich, Benjamin, Horkheimer, Adorno).
Now we can have critiques of Leninism without trying to render Marx some kind of hyper-consistent thinker who never once changed his mind or methods. Furthermore we must not ignore that if the Immiseration thesis is correct, but the crisis regenerates capitalism thesis is also correct, the the “contradictions” that capitalism produces to undo it actually end up merely reinforcing it. Thus Fukayama and Hegel have an Endstaat against Marx entirely through Marxist thinking. The odd thing is that when I debate this with (generally new) Marxists who hold these ideas, they seem unaware that this has been debated for a century and a half. If you reconcile the numbers of the recent data on income with the numbers Kliman is generating on declining rates of profit, you see clearly that there is something political at hand beyond merely Immiseration. Indeed, the immiseration thesis renders Marxism eschatological. Instead of a political/economic struggle, we are forced to wait until something finally causes the crisis to generate the right kind of historical consciousness to undo capitalism without any political struggle. Yet this has never happened?
For all the flaws in Lenin’s politics that I see anarchists point out, it is the anarcho-communism who have a better answer here than the Marxist-Humanists for why Leninism went wrong. Yet Lenin seems to have been right about one key thing: class struggles change to generate new politics even if within the context of a capitalistic totality. Merely seeing the contradictions does not render it obvious because there is more at stake than just economics and a binary class opposition. Theologically trying to make Marx into a prophet instead of a theorists may produce insightful economic readings of capital, but it also leads to pretty flaccid politics and automatism.