“The working class will acquire the sense of the new discipline, the freely assumed self-discipline of the Social Democracy, not as a result of the discipline imposed on it by the capitalist state, but by extirpating, to the last root, its old habits of obedience and servility.”–Rosa Luxemburg
Bernie Sanders’ reformist welfare state capitalism is not, in any way, shape, or form socialist, let alone Marxist. His way is just a prettier repackaging of neoliberalism for desperate Millennials emeeging from the warm nest of the post-WWII capitalist bubble into the cold reality of late-stage capitalism in crisis.
Sanders & his ilk seek to improve the material conditions of the middle, and to a much lesser extent, working classes WITHOUT addressing the system which creates and will continue to create the conditions seeking to be reformed.
Sanders’ kabuki theater “revolution” is a essentially a morphine drip for the petty bourgeois Millennials who are the first generation in the advnced post-industrial west to experiance the full savagry of late stage-capitalism in crisis. His policies would make the current generation more comfortable with their misery under the current system, and would have as a consequence the INTENSIFICATION AND PROLONGATION of the crisis and its’ attendent woes & brutalities. Only the overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement with communism will ameliorate the condition of the working classes & disintegrate the class barriers that stratify society. Sanders is a new coat of paint on the walls of the same old reformist blind alley.
“We are constantly making the mistake in Russia of judging the slogans and tactics of a certain party or group, of judging its general trend, by the intentions or motives that the group claims for itself. Such judgement is worthless. The road to hell—as was said long ago—is paved with good intentions.”1
Lenin wrote at a time in history that would inevitably be seen to be nearly providential by those looking back from the contemporary vantage point. In 1913 the crucible of revolution had yet to boil over into the true paradigm shift that was the fall of the Russian Monarchy and its’ proto-capitalist/feudal system. We forget today, or are made to ignore the fact, that history is not preordained or inevitable even if it is in fact possible to be analyzed rationally. Lenin wrote in his letter, Word and Deed, of imminent, arising social upheaval. We cannot look at this letter as a piece of self-conscious dogma; instead we must realize that Lenin is expressing a realization of political reality that is made self-evident by the events taking place around him.
The workers strike was still seen as a violation of societal doxa, a rejection of the contract written and executed from above and based upon the premise that mass civic action was a form of terrorism. Lenin makes an especial case against the liberal members of the structural orthodoxy who viewed worker organization and proletarian action as a dangerous attack on their own pursuit of “reform” within the context of the existing system. The rejection of the liberal bourgeois conception that change within a flawed system is required or preferable to the dismantling of the system through class struggle was an important step for the socialist movement in Russia and an essential signpost on the road that we are still traveling towards a more sustainable and equitable system. By accepting the claims of liberal parties and movements that they are friendly towards the proletariat, socialism is undermined and indeed made heterodox. A step forward on a crooked road is not progress made towards the destination; it is for all intents and purposes a step backwards to a state of affairs intolerable to the interests of the proletariat and its aims.
For example, look at the left liberal (contemporary United States) Democratic party pledge of strengthening the middle class[es] through “hope” for “change” in the system of a “reformed” market capitalism. But what sort of “change” can be expected when there is no rejection of underlying conditions that lead to inequality or abuse? The classic capitalist class system is upheld and even celebrated by the acceptance of a reformation of processes and laws that can only see success as the increasing stratification and separation of workers from each other. The middle class becomes a destination away from the working classes, a realm apart and a vantage point from which the anointed can look back in shame and increasing disgust at the situation of the proletariat. Lenin says that there is nothing remarkable about the upper class, governmental or conservative reactionary dismissal of proletarian needs and struggles but that “Much “newer” is the amazing indifference of the bourgeoisie”.
Similarly the antagonism between the Democratic party and the vast and expanding ex post politico “working poor” (as the proletariat is referred to within the context of contemporary American politics) is, if not actually increasing, becoming more apparent and shocking to those who once labored under the delusion that at least one party represented a means of support for the worker. The left liberal “solution” to the problems of the unequal division of wealth and exploitation of labor is simply a less violent entrance into a feedback loop that preserves the systems that create the need for such exploitation. Members of the proletariat need to come to terms with the fact that they were and are “making the mistake of […] judging the slogans and tactics of” the liberal Democratic party based on their own standards that reject the very idea that the capitalist system is something to be overcome. Indeed, Lenin goes on to say, “in many cases this indifference [on the part of the left liberal factions] changes to a negative attitude” and eventually expresses itself as so much reactionary more violence against the rejection of the class constraints advocated by the Marxist philosophies and socialist parties. Lenin is correct that we must look beyond the word and to the deed when examining the intentions of those professing to be allies of the proletariat and its cause. Lenin makes it clear that in order to move the proletariat cause forward liberal conciliation with reactionary forces and capitalist institutions must be combated as though the factions were one and the same.
The tragic irony of this letter becomes clear when we realize that the trenchant criticisms leveled by Lenin against accommodations with strains of left liberal thought and practice can just as easily, indeed should just as readily, be leveled against Lenin’s own assertion that the vanguard party was essential to the advancement of the interests of the proletariat and its eventually achievement of a communist society without need of party (or the class system that invariably arises from a vanguard party). Lenin writes
The proletariat cannot do its democratic duty, serve as the advanced contingent, give service to, educate and consolidate the masses of the people other than by a decisive struggle against the liquidators, who, in fact, are completely dependent on liberalism. The liberals, too, frequently play at being radicals from the Duma rostrum and do it as well as the various near-Marxist or wavering elements, but that does not prevent the liberals from fighting (with the aid of the liquidators) the democratic aspirations of the masses outside the Duma.2
Lenin fails to understand that the elite vanguard party apparatus, whose very education and intellectual assumptions are themselves derived from liberal bourgeois systems and values and cannot be separated, in essence, from this strain, are also “play[ing] at being radicals”. If proletariat cannot, therefore, “do its democratic duty” by cooperation with liberal economic and social forces, how, then, can the proletariat be expected to do the same under the aegis of a vanguard party indelibly stained by bourgeois prejudices against the inherent genius of the proletariat? Lenin succeeds in highlighting the problem of compromising one’s values in the name of pragmatic expediency in pursuit of revolution and the creation of communism in a nation, but he fails to apply this criticism to his own compromised values, in the form of the vanguard party idea of revolutionary action.
The following is from the first scene of a screenplay treatment I have been working on, on and off, for the past few months. It is still very much in the early stages but I thought I should put some of it out there to see what sort of response I get. I’d love as much constructive feedback as possible Thank you, and enjoy!
[The screen is black. A quote from Marx appears on the screen in white lettering: The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and size. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. The devaluation of the world of men is in direct proportion to the increasing value of the world of things. The words “the world of things” linger on the screen a few moments before the screen goes black again. There is complete and unnerving silence after the quote disappears. Suddenly the sun rises. The orb takes up almost the entire horizon but the light is diluted and dulled by the smog and pollution in the air. As soon as the sun appears Vivaldi’s Winter begins to play. We suddenly look down at the world below from what seems to be the sun’s point of view. We see the light spreading out into a great darkness that reveals itself to be an enormous field of factories one after the other, each more messy and ugly and decrepit then the last. The camera pans over them as they continue to appear and take up the entire frame. There are thousands of them, millions even. There is not one speck of green for miles and miles. The camera finally comes to a stop above a not particularly interesting clump of factories. The camera slowly closes is on one of the buildings getting in closer and closer every passing moment. The ceiling of the factory disappears as though we are seeing through it and within we see masses of machinery and filthy looking people working. We are now looking down a long stretch of conveyor belt as though we were sitting upon it ourselves. Thousands of hands reach onto the belt and grab small little pieces of miscellania as they travel down. Each does his particular task and places the object back on the belt. These little widgets travel down the path into a vast vat filled with clones of themselves. We see a woman come up and grab one at random. Her name is Violetta. She inspects it under a magnifying glass of some sort and then tosses it back into the vat. Her face is sad and covered in oil and dust. She is beautiful but not in a conventional way, her eyes are large and bright green and her black hair hair is covered up underneath a headscarf. She is perhaps hispanic or middle eastern. She turns and walks towards a room on the far side of the factory floor. She leans against the heavy door and it opens slowly. Inside we see a man seated on a basic bunk whittling away a piece of wood with a penknife. His name is Hans. The woman enters and walks up to the bed. She takes a seat next to the man. He is older and thin and has grey hair. He looks almost skeletal. She grabs ahold of his hand]
Violetta: A month ago today I was jumped and assaulted by Gregor Mendev and Cecil Tonks over from Factory #676. I was afraid to tell you until now. I thought you would be angry at me for some reason. I really don’t know why I thought that…you are not the sort of man to buy into that victim blaming bullshit, you never have been. God…Hans, I don’t know what to do. I see them every time I go on my afternoon shift. They just…leer at men, and laugh to each other like I am some sort of joke. It hurts, it burns like acid in my chest, Hans. I can’t deal with it anymore.
[Hans stops whittling immediately and places his arm around the woman She leans her head against his shoulder and we see a trail of tears running through the filth on her face]
Hans: Violetta, why in the world would I ever be mad at you for something like that? I am so sorry…so so sorry. No one should have to deal with that, ever. It is terrible…and then they have the gall to look at you? And laugh? No…no…no more.
He does not say another word before getting up from the bed. His knees crack and pop and he grimaces a bit as he walks towards the door. He opens it and heads out onto the factory floor. He walks by the lines of people working and they salute him with slights nods of their heads. He walks across the room towards a tunnel that leads to the neighboring factory. He is silent. He comes to another large door, this one guarded by a large and mean looking fellow brandishing a large pipe. The large man nods at Hans and lets him pass through the door onto another factory floor. Hans walks along the lines of men and women working near yet more machinery, this time a large amount of presses and cutting machines. He walks along for a bit until he reaches a station with two men standing side by side cutting bits of metal into even smaller bits of metal. He walks up behind them and pauses. He taps the shoulder of the man nearest him, Gregor]
Hans: Are you Gregor Mendev and Cicil Tonks?
Gregor: He’s Cecil, I’m Gregor. Who’s asking?
Hans: A friend of Violetta. She sends her regards.
[The music starts up again as Hans jumps forward and plunges his penknife into the side of Gregor’s neck. Blood shoots out like water from a punctured hose and he falls to his knees gasping like a fish out of water. Before Cicil can even react Hans is upon him and forcing his face into the cutting machine. He fights back but is not able to overcome the older man. Hans uses his free hand to push a large red button. A blade slices right through the neck of Cecil and severs his head. He grabs the head by its longish hair and turns to walk past the now prone Gregor. As he walks by he steps on the penknife will lodged in the man’s throat. He stomps down and the man is dead. He walks away as though nothing has transpired. The entire work floor stops for a moment as he walks by them head in hand. He comes back to the door to the tunnel and talks through. The large man with the pipe stares at him with his mouth agape. He walks back onto the floor of his own factory. The scene on the floor is the same as the last factory. He walks to the door leading to his dorm. He goes inside and finds Violetta in the same place he left her. Her hand is over her mouth when she sees Hans covered in blood and holding the head. He drops the head at her feet and falls to his knees in front of her. She jumps from the bed and runs to him, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing his face ferociously. She is soon covered in blood as well. She pushes him to the floor and tears open her shirt. The begin to make love right there on the floor. As they go at it a filthy dog comes by and sniffs the head before grabbing it in his teeth. He growls and then runs away with the head. He exits the factory and runs into the street where he is surprised by two men walking towards the factory. The dog yelps and drops the head at their feet. The two men look at each other and back down at the head. The taller of the two shrugs. His name is Jose and the other man is called David]
David: What a nice place this is.
Jose: Yeah, Quality Town tends to be a little rough around the edges. Let’s go in and find the factory foreman.
The following is an excerpt from an essay I am working on about the end of capitalism. Enjoy!
We forget, often and with deleterious consequences for the public intellectual exchange, that capitalism, or, a system designed for or in sympathy with an economy of exchange of goods for services and the requisite institutions private and public thereof, has no ideological leaning. Systems of capitalism, first colonial, then industrial, and now digital as well as industrial, have always sought to ingratiate themselves with the powers that be, so to speak. Capitalist economies have survived, and even thrived, under republican, democratic socialist, authoritarian and even totalitarian regimes. The pursuit of wealth in material forms as well as in the form of stock, cash, and credit, seems to be a uniquely human disorder. It is telling that in the mind of many a human there is a moment of consideration of making a profit by destroying human life before one comes to ones senses. Capitalism, in the form it inevitably takes when it is hindered only by the most token of regulation, is an economic philosophy of the sociopath and for the sociopath.
This is not in and of itself a bad thing; no product of human thought is “bad” or “good”. There is only relative consequences, for good or evil, that stem from people acting consciously or unconsciously in service of a philosophy. But history and the very structure and morality of capitalism in the real world show that capitalism allows far too many avenues for those who wish to exploit others for profit to do so. At the moment in the United States a conservative and proto-fascistic political party known as the Republicans represent the interests of capital. But it was not always this way. Capitalism benefited under the rule of such liberal paragons as FDR and JFK. Capitalism is an ideological chameleon, metamorphosing from one political shade to another, depending on circumstances.
There is no such thing as a “Marxist society”…Marxism is a philosophy of materialism and human development. In a Socialist society the people would own the means of production and would democratically control the allocation and application of the fruits of labor. Profit would be an alien concept as it would be superfluous to the needs of the people, needs that would be met by the just use and distribution of the products of labor. The goal would be to move towards the elimination of want, or else to have a system in place where those who want are provided for in a just and human way according to their needs.
I do not have the answer to the question of what such a society would look like in detail as it has not come about yet, the foundations for such a system have yet to be built. That is where the aspirational, and revolutionary, nature of Marxist-Leninist philosophy and analysis is essential. the debt of history: the debt accrued when the fruit of generations of labor and innovation and thought culminate in an ingenious new application, therefore negating claims of proprietary ownership of the new application. One aspect of this application is the human artistic urge.
Art In Relation to a Revolutionary Society.
Art does not originate from the secluded person and mind in order to re-enforce the sacred seclusion (genius) of the artist. art exists to create the chance for an a priori secluded (genius) mind to connect with others and enjoy their thoughts and affection and company. art is not a product of loneliness but a way to overcome loneliness, the way the inherent uniqueness and loneliness of the artistic mind tries to connect and interact with the world. artists do not seek out the acclaim of the people, they seek out their company, they seek to become a part of the “ordinary”, the “society” through a gift of their inherent quirk, their art. art is communication failing all other communication; art is speaking, alienated from words, in the hope of achieving compatibility with and acceptance from the Other, other people, an object that can only be approached by the artistic (or autistic) mind through a gift of subjective creation. The artistic (or in many cases autistic) mind thinks “I cannot be you, I cannot be the Other, other people, I cannot relate to you as a person, therefore I will give you myself in art, a token of the chaos and constant creation and destruction in my mind, a piece of art (autism) and through your appraisal and appreciation of that piece you will come to know something of me and I will be be able to relate as the Other, other people, and for a brief moment be free of the need to create and to swim in chaotic thought”
Are there any parallels in recent history that will help us understand the predicament that the US finds itself in regarding systemic corruption and capitalistic power? At the dawn of the 1990’s the Soviet Union seemed to be on the verge of true change in favor of civil liberties and more economic democracy. Gorbachev was dragging the USSR and the political cabal that ran it kicking and screaming towards a less authoritarian state socialism. We sadly never got the chance to see a former dictatorial superpower open up and reform its system. A right wing and capitalist sponsored coup toppled Gorbachev and killed the Soviet Union and ended a flawed but ongoing experiment towards state socialism and revolutionary reform. Boris Yeltsin and his capitalist supporters took pains to make themselves appear to be the harbingers of change and hope for Russia and they took steps they felt were justified by their show of force to speak “for” the people and “revolutionize” the Russian/Soviet system from the top down.
Certainly the USSR was no more or less violent than the US in its projection of power abroad and imperial expansion internally. It was at least founded upon an ideal of human equality and workers rights, whereas the USA was founded as a Republican and Capitalist state that depended upon slavery and economic exploitation for its very existence. The Russian Revolution showed that a nation could kill absolute state power and control by popular protest and revolutionary action. It also showed that the people must be wary of trusting power to brash and egotistical “leaders” who want to create a top down state socialist system. Utopian aims were used as an excuse to acquire and abuse enormous amounts of state power and cultural control. While the US consumed the resources and people of the non-”western” world and exploited its minority communities at home the USSR consumed its own people as a resource for societal engineering on a horrifying and awe-inspiring scale.
In 1990-91 there was a chance for a new stage of the Soviet experiment but that chance was smothered in its cradle. Today as a result Russia is a gang-ridden, crony-capitalist big brother state with a dictator at the helm and the people more exploited and impoverished now since they have been since the collapse of the Soviet system. The state that once enforced loyalty to the state socialist system now enforces loyalty to the pary of Putin, the Billionaire State-Subsidized energy barons, and the increasingly bigoted and radical Russian Orthodox Church. LGBT people and their supporters are beaten openly in the streets, political groups are banned or harassed, journalists are threatened or “disappeared” and artists, like the revolutionary anarchist artist collective Pussy Riot, are persecuted and imprisoned. Rates of alcoholism, domestic violence, homelessness and poverty are through the roof and if you happen to be an ethnic minority your chances for a stable safe life are even lower. Corporations own the natural resources of the nation and write the laws that allow them to manipulate and exploit workers. Russia is a Neo-Feudal kleptocracy on a scale not seen since the Czar and his family were dragged from their palaces and shot.
Does this seem like a problem unique to Russia? Are the “dirty reds” paying the price for their flawed socialist delusions? Is this sort of societal and economic collapse unique to the Russian experience? It is worth looking at the conditions extant in the other superpower on the world stage in order to investigate. The United States has been shaken to its core by a series of economic disasters of epic proportions. The political system is deadlocked and the people are beginning to demand reform of the Market System and the government that manipulates and profits from its continuation and expansion. Capitalism itself is facing a crisis as more and more power is placed in the hands of fewer and fewer companies and individuals. The government supports, incentivises and promotes this monopolization of all industry and all resources. This leads to a state where the worker as alienated as is possible from the product of his labor and the means of production itself. The American working public must “compete” against the miniscule wages and abysmal working standards of the corporate slaves employed in the “third world”. As Lenin observed in his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism
Free competition is the basic feature of capitalism, and of commodity production generally; monopoly is the exact opposite of free competition, but we have seen the latter being transformed into monopoly before our eyes, creating large-scale industry and forcing out small industry, replacing large-scale by still larger-scale industry, and carrying concentration of production and capital to the point where out of it has grown and is growing monopoly: cartels, syndicates and trusts, and merging with them, the capital of a dozen or so banks, which manipulate thousands of millions 1
With the banks that finance the monopolies guaranteed a “bailout” by the “democratic” government there is no incentive for reform within the capitalist edifice. The “concentration”, as Lenin put it, is therefore inevitable as are the side-effects of a fully consolidated capitalist oligarchy. With full financial support from the government and with an enormous corporate welfare system in place the financial and corporate sectors have rebounded dramatically with no commensurate increase in worker pay or employment prospects. The corporations demand more and more cheap unskilled labor and demand a level of unemployment that will make it easier for them to use “market forces” as an excuse to further suppress wages and workers rights. In Chapter 25 of Das Kapital Marx tells us
It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to press a given quantity of labour out of a smaller, rather than a greater number of labourers, if the cost is about the same […] The more extended the scale of production, the stronger this motive. Its force increases with the accumulation of capital.
The explosion of debt that comes from the glut of spending on behalf of Corporate and financial interests plays into to a conservative reaction against all government spending, which is erroneously seen to weighted in favor of the poor and working classes. This conservative backlash is encouraged by “libertarian” businessmen and political leaders who stoke conservative fears of draconian “wealth confiscation” by the government in favor of the “freeloaders” (assumed to be racial minorities, immigrants, young people, and the poor) in order to have further support for their austerity plans. Austerity is essentially regressive tax on the working classes and the poor. While public sector spending on social welfare programs, education, healthcare and poverty is cut or eliminated entirely spending on corporate welfare increases exponentially and the cycle repeats itself ad nauseum. Increased poverty, desperation and the closing off of “economic/social mobility” leads to desperation in the population, with some turning to nationalistic, jingoistic and radical libertarian movements as way to express their rage and frustration. This sort of angst is easily manipulated by the political parties into any number of bigoted policies against hated or feared minorities and the working poor.
Whether it is Obama or Yeltsin or anyone else the problem is that politicians of any political persuasion will always seek to personify “hope” and “change” in order to usurp the legitimate power of the people. They will tell us that circumstances dictate what must be done and that they alone (or at least with the token support of those people allowed the vote and choose to exercise it) can bring about needed reform and administer justice. This is a false paradigm and one that must be overthrown. The people must dictate what is to be done and they must be central to the process of reform and revolution. Change cannot come from the top down and it cannot come from political operatives who claim the mantle of “hope”. Any man who claims to be the personification of human striving and dignity is most likely the one who will destroys hope and demeans the people in the name of preservation of the status quo. These are the real facts on the ground and they do not change from person to person or from place to place.