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Platypus Review 29 November What is the communist hypothesis? The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of massive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away.
As a pure Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state. As soon as mass action opposes state coercion in the name of egalitarian justice, rudiments or fragments of the hypothesis start to appear. That is, this period raises the question of Marxism as such, and its significance in history. This was not simply the discovery of a set of facts about the past but the discovery of the historicity of man. Marx is the central figure in developing the critical recognition of history as an invention of the 19th century.
This problem is the historical specificity of capital—and hence of history itself. For Marxism is the grandest of all Grand Narratives of history, with reason. Today, the question is what was Marxism? This struggle against reformism was conducted by the students of these very same disciples of Marx, and involved a complex change, itself an important historical transition, in which the students were disappointed by and came to surpass their teachers.
The crisis of Marxism —19 was a civil war among Marxists. On one side, the younger generation of radicals that had risen in and ultimately split the Second International and established the Third, most prominently Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky, led the greatest attempt to change the world in history.
They regarded their division in Marxism as expressing the necessity of human emancipation. The stakes of the Revolution attempted by the Second International radicals, inspired by Marx, cannot be overestimated. For Marx and his followers, the epoch of capital was both the culmination of history and marked the potential end of pre-history and the true beginning of human history, in communism.
This difference is important to register: Marx and Engels could count on a political movement—communism—that they sought to clarify and raise to self-consciousness of its historical significance. Today, by contrast, we need to remember not the historical political movement so much as the form of critical consciousness given expression in Marxism. This must be traced back to the thought and political action of Marx himself. The potential for emancipated humanity expressed in communism that Marx recognized in the modern history of capital is not assimilable without remainder to pre- or non-Marxian socialism.
For Marx thought that communism was a means and not an end in itself. So, what would it mean, today, to view the history of the modern society of capital through the figure of Marx? The possibility of such a project is the Marxist hypothesis. It is significant that they themselves sought to justify their own political thought and action in such terms—and were regarded for this by their political opponents as sectarian dogmatists, disciples of Marxism as a religion. But how did they think that they were following Marx?
What has been puzzled over in such disputes, and what were—and are still, potentially—the political consequences of such disagreement over the meaning of Marx?
Certainly, Marxism has been disparaged as a religion, and Marx as a prophet. How might we make sense of this?
Marx pointed out about the revolution in Germany, in which he immediately involved himself after writing the Manifesto , that the capitalists were more afraid of the workers asserting their bourgeois rights than they were of the Prussian state taking away theirs. This was not because of a conflicting class interest between the capitalists and Junkers Prussian landed aristocracy , but rather because of the emerging authoritarianism in post-Industrial Revolution capital, at a global scale.
Marx analyzed the authoritarianism of post society, in which the state seems to rise over civil life, as a situation in which the bourgeoisie were no longer and the proletariat not yet able to master capital. Indeed, as animals, humans are not free, but rather slaves to their natural needs and instincts. Only in society could freedom be achieved, and humans free themselves from their natural, animal condition. With Marx, communism, too, aimed for the realization of this potential. But, in capitalism, bourgeois society had come to violate its own promised potential.
Society was not to be the suspension of hostilities, but the realization of freedom. Human nature found the realization of its freedom in society, but humans were free to develop and transform themselves, for good or ill.
But, first, communism had to be clear about its aims. With Marx, humanity faces a new, unforeseen task. However, unfulfilled, this task has fallen into neglect today. But this was to be achieved through the politics of the demands for the bourgeois rights of the working class.
Marx regarded the socialism and communism that had emerged in his time as expressing a late, and hence self-contradictory and potentially incoherent form of bourgeois radicalism—expressing the radicalization of bourgeois society—but that demanded redemption.
Marx sought the potential in capital of going beyond demands for greater liberalism and democracy. The book is printed in a pocket-sized red hardcover on which is emblazoned a gold star—a Little Red Book viz.
See Theodor W. See note 13 , below. Furthermore, Menand points out that,. Marxism gave a meaning to modernity…. Marxism was founded on an appeal for social justice, but there were many forms that such an appeal might have taken. Its deeper attraction was the discovery of meaning, a meaning in which human beings might participate, in history itself. See, for example, Adorno, History and Freedom: Lectures —65 , ed.
Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Rodney Livingstone Cambridge, U. Originally published in See Lars T. In a portentous first footnote to his book What is to be Done? Incidentally, in the history of modern socialism [there] is a phenomenon… in its way very consoling, namely… the strife of the various trends within the socialist movement….
It is only in its last stage that the idea finds its masses—if, of course, it answers the needs of progress. If these pioneers found themselves able to create a mass base, it was precisely because they did not fear isolation.
They knew beforehand that the quality of their ideas would be transformed into quantity. Yet it is easy to understand both the reasons for this guise and the real character of the process which is concealed by it.
What theoreticians like Rosa Luxemburg in Germany and Lenin in Russia have done, and are doing, in the field of Marxist theory is to liberate it from the inhibiting traditions of [Social Democracy].
This is why large sections of the Marxist system, which seemed virtually forgotten in the final decades of the nineteenth century, have now come to life again.
According to theory, history is the history of class struggles. But the concept of class is bound up with the emergence of the proletariat…. By extending the concept of class to prehistory, theory… turns against prehistory itself…. By exposing the historical necessity that had brought capitalism into being, political economy became the critique of history as a whole….
All history is the history of class struggles because it was always the same thing, namely, prehistory. Can One Live After Auschwitz? A Philosophical Reader , ed. Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of , in Tucker, ed. Pippin wrote that,.
Philosophy rarely does. Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire , in Tucker, ed. Bourgeois fanatics for order are shot down on their balconies by mobs of drunken soldiers, their domestic sanctuaries profaned… in the name of property, of family… and of order….
Ben Fowkes London: Penguin, , Maurice Cranston London: Penguin, , 64— See note 21 , above. A new way of thinking about the human condition had appeared…. Rather, overcoming capital would bring forth new challenges. The problem is that we have ceased to follow Marx in the project of overcoming capital.
My critique of Badiou is that he turns the issue of communism into a perennial, never-ending struggle. By contrast, I think that overcoming capital in communism is a task long overdue, but one humanity pays an escalating price for failing to accomplish. The Marxist hypothesis: A response to Alain Badiou's "communist hypothesis".
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The Marxist hypothesis: A response to Alain Badiou's "communist hypothesis"
The Communist Hypothesis: ten lessons from Alain Badiou. We know that communism is the right hypothesis. All those who abandon this hypothesis immediately resign themselves to the market economy, to parliamentary democracy — the form of state suited to capitalism — and to the inevitable and 'natural' character of the most monstrous inequalities. I would say, if you like, that the party is like an out-moded mathematics. That is to say, the mathematics of Euclid. We need to invent a non-Euclidian mathematics with respect to political discipline. First lesson: there's a truth as yet unknown In every situation, and its place Is marked out by some problematic zone, 'Evental site', or looming crisis-space Where — after all the errors that postpone Discovery — the truth of what's-the-case Stands clear to view.
The Communist Hypothesis
Platypus Review 29 November What is the communist hypothesis? The communist hypothesis is that a different collective organization is practicable, one that will eliminate the inequality of wealth and even the division of labour. The private appropriation of massive fortunes and their transmission by inheritance will disappear. The existence of a coercive state, separate from civil society, will no longer appear a necessity: a long process of reorganization based on a free association of producers will see it withering away. As a pure Idea of equality, the communist hypothesis has no doubt existed since the beginnings of the state.