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A Left Wing without a Marxist Engine: No Marx?

Makemakean

Rootless Rōnin
#11
Would be kind of interesting to see a radical left movement that does not try to commit entirely to any singular particular thinker. Have it be more, open-minded, like, "Sure, thinker so and so had some good ideas, but I disagree with him in that regard, of course, there I am more inclined to agree with-..." etc., etc. Kind of like how liberals aren't slaves to Adam Smith nor conservatives in particular are not slaves to Edmund Burke.

But perhaps it is inherent to collectivist ideologies that they eventually all fall victims to a drive for conformity, and the self-destructive zeal for purity and unity of thought that that invariably brings with it. Pluralism, in a sense, requires individualism, and so a movement which regards individualism as something bad will over time necessarily counteract pluralism.
 

Heavy

Smarter than the average bear
#13
Basically you end up with this left-wing tradition which is centred almost entirely on individual liberty; you have all the same issues but they all boil down to individuals, not collective groups. The fundamental difference they had with other socialists was that they rejected this idea of compulsory participation in the community.

It would resolve what I consider to be the fundamental failure of communism, which is that has no answer to what will and must happen after the state has withered away. This left-wing tradition which is based on individualist anarchism as opposed to Marxism would have that answer: the community itself must wither away and leave only individual people, free to associate with one another if they wish, but free to live their lives as they please.

You see, as long as any sort of community exists which has shared values which are enforced by and within that community, then oppression is inevitable. The entire concept of a "community" is inherently oppressive because it inherently prioritises the desires of groups ahead of the needs of people. In that regard, if you want to improve the American constitution you should change "without the consent of the governed" to "without the unanimous consent of the governed" because that's the only way to be sure. All communities are by their nature oppressive.
 

Joshuapooleanox

Horribly, Brutally Possible.
Location
Newcastle, innit
#15
Basically you end up with this left-wing tradition which is centred almost entirely on individual liberty; you have all the same issues but they all boil down to individuals, not collective groups. The fundamental difference they had with other socialists was that they rejected this idea of compulsory participation in the community.

It would resolve what I consider to be the fundamental failure of communism, which is that has no answer to what will and must happen after the state has withered away. This left-wing tradition which is based on individualist anarchism as opposed to Marxism would have that answer: the community itself must wither away and leave only individual people, free to associate with one another if they wish, but free to live their lives as they please.

You see, as long as any sort of community exists which has shared values which are enforced by and within that community, then oppression is inevitable. The entire concept of a "community" is inherently oppressive because it inherently prioritises the desires of groups ahead of the needs of people. In that regard, if you want to improve the American constitution you should change "without the consent of the governed" to "without the unanimous consent of the governed" because that's the only way to be sure. All communities are by their nature oppressive.
Idk about you but this sounds like a spook.
 

Heavy

Smarter than the average bear
#20
Idk about you but this sounds like a spook.
I don't know what this means. :(

I mean, he's right to an extent, except we trade the minor oppression community life brings for little things like...
*checks notes*

human civilisation

And that's just basic social contract theory going all the way back to Hobbes.


Personally, without either Marx or Lenin, revolutionary/radical emphasis would remain on individual autonomy more anarchist strains of radicalism, rather than the emphasis on state socialism we saw after 1917.
I've been pondering this in my absence from the site and I believe I've found a PoD for you: in 1882, there was some big international meeting of socialists in the Hague. Marx was able to dominate it because he was the biggest personality there. However, he was going to be opposed at this meeting by Mikhail Bakunin, who wasn't able to make travel arrangements in time and missed the meeting. As a consequence, Bakunin's followers were discredited in his absence and Marx carried not only the meeting, but the next century. Now, nobody knows who

Suppose Bakunin had made it and was able to state his case. There is a possibility, however remote, that the far-left is divded for the next century by this argument between state socialism and anarchism, in particular Bakunin's theory of social anarchism (as an extreme individualist, I obviously consider "social anarchism" to be a contradiction in terms, but that's neither here nor there). What could come of that is unclear.

Consider, though, that there are no real anarchists on the left today. Name me one left-wing anarchist in Britain who is willing, for instance, to criticise the policy of nationalisation on the basis of anti-statism. If one accepts that the ultimate goal of socialism is that the state will wither away, then surely socialism as it exists in the 21st century - state socialism - is the most self-defeating of all ideologies, because its entire strategy revolves around making the state stronger. That was Marx's idea and for all that may have envisaged it as a temporary measure, he was foolish if he thought it would ever "wither away", because once power has been concentrated in the hands of monopolists (and in state socialism, what is the state but a monopoly?) they will never ever let go of it. I believe Josef Stalin realised this and that's why he was so ruthless in eliminating challengers within the Bolshevik Party: if they could overthrow the White Tsar, they could overthrow the Red Tsar.

Think about the contrast elucidated by Benjamin Tucker in Individual Liberty. Obviously, I don't agree with Tucker on everything (most significantly, he was wrong to reject the concept of intellectual property rights; if you believe tht workers should own or at least benefit from the product of their labour, then you cannot reject intellectual property rights; it just does not make sense) but I think he makes a reasonable observation here. He begins by saying:

First, then, State Socialism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by the government, regardless of individual choice.
Marx, its founder, concluded that the only way to abolish the class monopolies was to centralize and consolidate all industrial and commercial interests, all productive and distributive agencies, in one vast monopoly in the hands of the State. The government must become banker, manufacturer, farmer, carrier, and merchant, and in these capacities must suffer no competition. Land, tools, and all instruments of production must be wrested from individual hands, and made the property of the collectivity. To the individual can belong only the products to be consumed, not the means of producing them. A man may own his clothes and his food, but not the sewing-machine which makes his shirts or the spade which digs his potatoes. Product and capital are essentially different things; the former belongs to individuals, the latter to society. Society must seize the capital which belongs to it, by the ballot if it can, by revolution if it must. Once in possession of it, it must administer it on the majority principle, though its organ, the State, utilize it in production and distribution, fix all prices by the amount of labor involved, and employ the whole people in its workshops, farms, stores, etc. The nation must be transformed into a vast bureaucracy, and every individual into a State official. Everything must be done on the cost principle, the people having no motive to make a profit out of themselves. Individuals not being allowed to own capital, no one can employ another, or even himself. Every man will be a wage-receiver, and the State the only wage-payer. He who will not work for the State must starve, or, more likely, go to prison. All freedom of trade must disappear. Competition must be utterly wiped out. All industrial and commercial activity must be centered in one vast, enormous, all-inclusive monopoly. The remedy for monopolies is monopoly.


And then he goes on to say:

This brings us to Anarchism, which may be described as the doctrine that all the affairs of men should be managed by individuals or voluntary associations, and that the State should be abolished.
When Warren and Proudhon, in prosecuting their search for justice to labor, came face to face with the obstacle of class monopolies, they saw that these monopolies rested upon Authority, and concluded that the thing to be done was, not to strengthen this Authority and thus make monopoly universal, but to utterly uproot Authority and give full sway to the opposite principle, Liberty, by making competition, the antithesis of monopoly, universal. They saw in competition the great leveler of prices to the labor cost of production. In this they agreed with the political economists. They query then naturally presented itself why all prices do not fall to labor cost; where there is any room for incomes acquired otherwise than by labor; in a word, why the usurer, the receiver of interest, rent, and profit, exists. The answer was found in the present one-sidedness of competition. It was discovered that capital had so manipulated legislation that unlimited competition is allowed in supplying productive labor, thus keeping wages down to the starvation point, or as near it as practicable; that a great deal of competition is allowed in supplying distributive labor, or the labor of the mercantile classes, thus keeping, not the prices of goods, but the merchants’ actual profits on them down to a point somewhat approximating equitable wages for the merchants’ work; but that almost no competition at all is allowed in supplying capital, upon the aid of which both productive and distributive labor are dependent for their power of achievement, thus keeping the rate of interest on money and of house-rent and ground-rent at as high a point as the necessities of the people will bear.


Now, one thing to note is that Marx himself seemed to envision the communist society in a fashion which would be radically individualist: free people enjoying the benefit of their own labour and working together in voluntary associations; there would, in theory, be no coercion, because the ultimate source of all coercion is the state (I would say this is correct). Consider Spooner's comments: "A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years. Neither are a people any the less slaves because permitted periodically to choose new masters. What makes them slaves is the fact that they now are, and are always hereafter to be, in the hands of men whose power over them is, and always is to be, absolute and irresponsible." However, look at the world today. How many socialists will praise individualism as an aspiration? Virtually none. Indeed, individualism is denouned as though it is a philosophical aberration, some exclusive province of the neoliberals (I wonder how, say, Max Stirner wouldreact to that). Even the so-called libertarian socialists look to the state as the answer to all of their problems: when self-declared socialists today speak of "public ownership" what they invariably mean is "state ownership" and those are not the same thing; in fact, you could conceivably argue that they are often in opposition.

In brief, even in contemporary socialist political parties, there are very few real socialists. Bernie Sanders can boast of being a socialist all he likes, but he isn't a socialist. He is, in essence, a social democrat. He still believes in the state and, as a consequence of that belief, he still believes in coercion. By the same token, Jeremy Corbyn is less a socialist than a social democrat, as is John McDonnell. The reason why they are fundamentally social democrats and not socialists is that they are in favour of massively expanding the state and not in pulling it down and replacing it. This inconsistency is seldom commented upon but that is no indictment of any of them: humanity does often tend to be an exercise in hypocrisy.

This entire discussion, which I must thank you @Joshuapooleanox, for provoking me to think about, underlines what might be a pretty fundamental problem: Marxism as an ideology has grown into a kind of philosophical monopoly; this idea has grown up throughout the 20th century that a person cannot be a socialist without being a Marxist (Karl Marx himself often seemed to have unkinder words for people like Proudhon and Bakunin and others than he did for many capitalists). In large part, this is because Marxism, more than most of its ideological co-religionists, promotes socialism in politics in addition to socialism in economics.