“Marx” as paradigm

by Ana Bazac

 Introduction in the “Marx” paradigm


“Marx” – like the Kantian Idea with regulatory function[1] – means here also Engels, as well as Lenin; and all the Marxist thinkers who, even developing rather fragments/aspects of the Marxist paradigm, have showed its integral constitution. “Marx” is not any leftist conception, neither called by the opposed minds as being “left” and nor self-defined as “left”. “Marx” is not here a simple radical political position, a modern (so more radical) version of the old Saturnalia overthrowing the always ordered establishment, but a complex architecture of theories relating man and his human and natural milieu.

“Marx” is thus, not the man Marx, the man Engels etc., but the metaphor for the unity of constructivism and materialism/social existentialism that constitutes, from a philosophical standpoint, a paradigmatic shift in/of the representations of thinkers, and ordinary people, about the world, man and society. This unity gives the new paradigm supporting its own logical results:

  1. a) the historical (that meaning determined by concrete historical, complex, conditions and thus transitory human activities and ideas) character of the active role of man as an individual and as aggregated in different collective structures;
  2. b) the class structure, its complexity, and the latent and manifest class struggle as a motor of social changes (including of modernization, including that of productive forces) till the overthrowing of capitalist system of private property and rights deriving from it and its substitution with the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, i.e. the collective property mostly represented by the state, as state property, and rights deriving from it; but this form of “dictatorship of the proletariat” is only a transitory one and, since it is about the proletariat, that is, people living only from their own physical and intellectual labour force, this phase is leading to the construction of a classless society[2];
  3. c) the deep and complex causality of the human actions and ideas (what is ordinarily called determinism), the refusal of one cause/causal line that would generate the society corresponding to the theory of the thinker emphasising that cause and line (see, for example, the individual interest as the only motivation of the rational economic choice in the capitalist economics – this is the paradigm of capitalist economics; or the methodological individualism as paradigm of capitalist sociology) ; and in this sense, the interdependence of the objective and subjective conditions; the possibility of radical social transformations, and not only of organic evolutions; the reversibility of changes in the absence of objective or subjective conditions.

The well-known name of Marx’s paradigm is dialectical materialism: here ‘dialectical’ means both historicity and work with contradictions taken in their mutual exclusion but also in their temporary coexistence that seems to fool only the petty-bourgeois singers of the everlasting capitalism; because the contradictions are not contraries – aspect known already from Aristotle – they will be solved ultimately only in a radical transformation that annuls the contradictory elements, though keeping for a while the perfume of at least one of them. Dialectics but also materialism mean concrete/ concreteness as unity of real objective relationships and manifestations of phenomena, thus not created only in reflection, but not being the immediate sensuous appearance but an objective category expressing “a universal form of development of nature, society, and thinking”[3]: it is opposed to the abstract reduction, i.e. to the subjective view about things, irrespective of the existence of ‘pure’, ‘simple’ aspects as if they were objective abstractions.


Constructivism and ideology


Briefly, constructivism – imposed in philosophy by Kant and taken over by all the German philosophy of the 19th century – means that man’s ideas are not simple copies of the real world, but only related to the world whose perceptions arrive through the sense organs to the human mind that process them; therefore, the ideas are not legitimated solely by the external world and their truth depends in high extent on the individual’s understanding and choice of ideas related to each other and processed in order to arriving to the aimed idea in a certain moment; the responsibility of choosing, processing, truth and ideas belongs to the humans: so, in the knowledge process they are active, and not passive.

All the above labels – materialism, constructivism etc. – are put on concrete theories, these theories forming the paradigm (as a model of unity of peculiarities and contradictions related to dominant concepts). For example – and because it is a complicated label and that, because of its apparent general/abstract character, it imposes fear and rejections – the Marxist materialism has generated huge misunderstandings. To some ones, it seemed that materialism and constructivism would mutually oppose. Or, they would not at all: in Marx, the ideas are not passive copies of the world but, processed in the human mind, depend not only on the external world they reflect, but also on the world of ideas tangling in mente and constituting the elements constructing the new ideas and at the same time their criteria. Yes, but since in the last instance the ideas reflect the real life, they reflect the concrete positions of humans, their concrete experience in the real life.

The theory of ideology – a term taken over from Destutt de Tracy who considered it the theory of ideas as part of “zoology” (biology) that in those times only guessed “the intellectual faculties of the human animal”[4] – so, the theory is a specific Marxist one, emphasising both materialism and constructivism. We obviously remember that there were two moments in the constituting of this theory: in the first, ideology was the ‘false consciousness’, in the second, it simply described the precise external origin of the ideas people have about themselves and the surrounding society. The ‘false consciousness’ meant that people may making false ideas about themselves, their interests, social positions, experience (thus being possible that they take over ideas representing other, opposed social positions, interests and experience). As a result, in the second moment, it was already clear that all the ideas about society/relating the individual to society are ideological, i.e. are made from a precise viewpoint of the individual’s concrete social position within society; the ideas may arise from its own social position, or not, but at any rate they reflect social positions, interests and experience. To consider the ideas about man’s world as neutral is thus absurd but at the same time an “ideology” (false consciousness), reflecting the will to impose those ideas as the absolute truth. On the contrary, by developing the theory of ideology, Marx has advanced not only the idea of the concrete social origins of people’s beliefs, but also that in the scientific research, the origins and positions of the researchers must be clearly assumed.

An individual has many roles and points of views arisen from these ones, but the most important – may it be conscious or not – is the class appurtenance, the class role within society. The class appurtenance is the frame of all other social roles. The theory of ideology is thus no longer a neutral “theory of ideas”, but a committed one, emphasising the significance of class appurtenances and class differences, opposition and struggles in the historical process of social knowledge, beliefs and attitudes structuring: including towards the class appurtenance and struggles.

Materialism and the human being


So, materialism means that the real life of people and their needs to surviving and living a fulfilled life are, in the last instance, at the basis of ideas and institutions[5]: which have their relative autonomy – as every system has towards other related systems – but which must correspond in a way or another to those needs. Consequently, the most basic needs, the economic ones, emphasise the economic materialism as the fundamental level of the materialist explication of society, while the core of economic materialism is the system of production forces and relations focusing thus on production and not only on distribution. (For this reason, only the “socialist” distributive policies are not socialist in fact, and they do not last, just because of the contradiction between this “socialist” distribution and the logic of maintained private property relations).

But materialism means also the understanding of the humans’ unique dual character: as individuals but at the same time as members of the human species (man being, from the beginning, a social/cultural being[6], and not an individual struggling for its persistence, as in the bourgeois Robinsonades and social contract theories[7]) and, concretely, as members of different and many – and simultaneously many – social groups: materialism means to understanding the humans’ (multiple) social positions and actions according to these (real or imagined) positions, and that  the most important groups are the social classes; to see their role in the struggling for life and the shaping of social forms according to the social positions of different classes means to see that people’s ideas reflect, when all is told, the class struggles related to concrete material positions of these classes. The different delusions ignoring the class appurtenance and eschewing it in the name of gender, race, profession, religion, place differences are the result of the incapacity to see the intertwining of all of these features and the dependence of (types of) rights on all the appurtenances and not only on a feature or another.

Dialectic and critique: market economy and property relations

As it already has appeared, the Marxist materialism is not a lonely and unique explanation/it does not reduce the humans to their quest for material satisfaction, but it is intermingled with the constructivism that emphasises the determinant importance of ideas for humans and society: never severed, but the sine qua non mediation between them and the social institutions and relations. The material conditions and the ideas mutually influence themselves and the struggle of people for human conditions and perspicacious ideas:  the “two-way relationship between ideas and material conditions” warns us to avoid the unilateral determinism made by both the dogmatic idealists and materialists[8].

Since the above-mentioned unity shows the historical character of everything – and especially of the existence and understanding of man and society – it also reveals the dialectical formation and understanding of things. The concepts are historical, their meanings are historically and socially determined[9], but they reflect not only the preferred sides viewed by the thinkers – either in their all encompassing unique identity or in their separation from the adverse sides or in their contradictions or unity – but also the contradictory aspects of their existence and history[10].

Marx has taken over the critical spirit of the Enlightenment and inherently went further. Habitually, the modern critical spirit reflected the old historical separation between the physical and the intellectual labour, corresponding to the separation and opposition between the rulers and the ruled, i.e. to the class domination. The intellectuals made their job in the service of the first because of their specific type of labour. Consequently, when occurred, the intellectuals criticised for the most part the ideas of other intellectuals, as a criticism that would have shown the real face of things, not of ideas. But obviously, this criticism threw light only on ideas. Marx made not only this criticism as a de-construction of different ideologies (a novelty, because the old criticism never understood and was interested about the social determination of the ideas), but also the direct critique of real social relations: based on proofs, arguments, measurements, evidence of contradictory tendencies and their causes and relations of force, evaluation of the consequences of the social relations and remaking of their causes, briefly, the falsification (as Popper called it later) of every theory and of every moment/element in the construction of this theory. This type of critique invites to continue it: revealing that all the ideas are constructed and represent specific interests related first of all to the social positions of people, that the ideas of intellectuals are not absolute/The Absolute which the ignorant masses ought to unquestionably assume, that a criticism from the perspective of a unique truth is not critique at all, as well as it is not critique in the absence of a rational dialogue all the way, Marx opened up the non-conformist ways of critiquing even the well-established ideas and actions belonging even to this alternative/critical thinking[11].

The above-mentioned elements of the Marxist critical theory allow the equivalence of this critical characteristic with the scientific one. Why this? Because: only a scientific approach consists of both the questioning of the premises and concepts – which are never considered as axioms or even as postulates – in every moment of the research, and the evidence of tendencies allowing the possibility of (tendency based) anticipation. A scientific knowledge means both a feedback type relation between the elements of the theory – let say, between causes and results – and a feedforward type relation between the theory/its conclusions and the future intervals when the theory acts. But as the feedback relation is treated in a scientific manner – and first of all, it is openly assumed as a way of thinking – as the feedforward relation must be treated scientifically: assumed and considered as a necessary way of proving the theory. The fact that the official economics did not anticipate the 2008 crisis is not only the result of the necessary optimism this mainstream economics must spread (thus transforming itself into an “ideology”), but also because its premises did/do not permit a realist anticipation. The official economics considered that the raise of consume on credit would last forever and would fuel the “growth” and profit forever.

            Therefore, Marx’s paradigm has required the questioning even of sacrosanct concepts: for example, the market economy. Marx has demonstrated that the capitalist market economy is not tantamount to the general exchange of products based on supply and demand; the capitalist market economy is that of only solvable demand and profitable supply, and not firstly of use values but of exchange value. This last concept reflects the (living) labour-time as the common denominator allowing the exchange and the transposition into money, the universal merchandise, emphasising that the goods have value-form only when they are sold/put into circulation. The capitalist exchange value involves wage-earner workers paid only – let us take the ideal model – for their necessary subsistence in a certain society (thus we do not even account the salaries and work conditions well under this necessary subsistence[12]), but not for their surplus labour. This surplus labour is taken over by the capitalists and their main purpose is to raise the surplus labour in order to make more profit in the process of circulation. And the more the technological means (dead labour) are higher, the lesser the necessary labour for the subsistence of workers is. But the total labour time – namely, of the surplus labour – is big and lengthens.  The capitalist market economy is thus based on exploitation, because of the separation of the labour force from the means of production. This separation is specific only to capitalism, because the former systems were based essentially on the direct, total or partial, ownership of the labour force by the master of the means of production.

Consequently, the capitalist private property is based not on relations of using and selling the use values produced by the subjugated labour force, but on relations of production of goods as exchange values by a socially and politically free labour force, in order to obtain profit as a basis to new investments for profit. Not only in contradistinction to the entire old mainstream philosophy that considered the private ownership as a natural, eternal and necessary fact and feature of the human being, but also to those who sighed over the introduction of the “idea” of private property trough the humans (J.-J. Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, 1754) (who formed, however, only as individuals the civil society of the social contract”), Marx’s paradigm allowed the demonstration of the causes of the historical constitution and forms of private property and thus, the exclusion of the “guilt” of concrete persons from this demonstration. For example, for this reason the model of capitalist ownership was not the inherited property from original robberies, and neither the self-employed entrepreneur hard-working in order to erect his firm, but a new, un-inherited company based on – the work of the ownership being irrelevant – the exploitation of labour force. The capitalist ownership is the result of accumulation of the fruits of the exploited workforce: that has nothing to sell in order to sustain its life than its own labour power and that receives a much lesser salary than one which would allow this workforce to not selling itself again and again. The concrete position of the individuals within the capitalist economy is thus determined by the logic of the whole economic system. This logic of the whole explains and is explained by the relations of exploitation, competition and international exploitation and competition. If the individual wants to survive in this whole, he must either let him to be exploited or to impose exploitation: irrespective of his regret and compassion.

Yes, both Robert Owen, who has organised in his factory the first kinder gardens for the children of the female workers, and Engels who has worked as an official in his father’s factory in Manchester and later in his co-owned factory, knew very well that neither the more human treatment of workers – as extremely important as it was, until the possible transformation of these units into “socialist” islands serving as models – was more than local philanthropic means to alleviate the condition of the labour force; but that without transforming the whole system’s structural relations, the logic of  capitalism is to dominate the world and its labour force. This is the reason of the communist slogan: Proletarians of all countries, unite!  And certainly, if the anti-system ideas of the individuals are stronger than their will to find a place of survival in the system, they exit from that system, at least at the level of their consciousness: but the system as such does not transform only with the effort of some individuals or no matter how many local experiences, if the system’s structural relations are not changed.

Because of the resistance of the labour force and also because of the harsher competition for markets, the capitalist owners have developed the process of distancing the production of use values from the “production” of exchange values: by the mass production for markets at hand and by the neglecting of use values in favour of valorisation in the financial engineering. Concerning the first aspect, we see the difference between the quality of mass products (for example, of food) and the quality of luxury production; concerning the second, we witness the difference between the profits of financial engineering and the indebtedness of most of population.

The Marxist paradigm: emancipation and the elements of the proletarian class

Marx was the son of his epoch and his inspiring books – from the ones of the ancient Greeks, to the German idealist philosophy, the English classical economics and the French political theory and especially socialism – were the premises he analysed, took over and surpassed. All the patterns he observed in the social architecture of economic and political relations were, at the same time, considered in their historical feature and, thus, evolution and change. For example, he did not occupy much with the servants because though these ones formed an old and manifold category, not they were, but the industrial labour class was the counterweight of capitalists and their providers of surplus value generating the profit. But he spoke about proletariat – that was not tantamount to the industrial working class, but represented – the class characterisation of the persons having as only source of living, their labour power. The core of proletarian class was, certainly the industrial working class, but as the capital itself was to manifest in the new forms, already observed by Marx, of joint-stock companies, as the proletariat was to transform: not only as a “collective worker”, but also as the present  service proletariat in all its educated and high-skilled as well as precarious forms[13].

Therefore, Marx’s paradigm consists in the theory of emancipation of the proletarians: it is the core of this historical intellectual creation. The explanation of exploitation and the other structural relations of capitalism emphasises that the real emancipation is only as a class, and not as an individual – because only the individual redemption means to remaining within the system but only on another position, and anyhow the general alienating conditions influencing even the rescued individual –: the real emancipation is the transformation of the system where the individual lives. The transformation is systemic, thus a revolution. This is the main cause of the hate towards Marx’s paradigm, showed by all types of laudatores tempori acti. Fighting only discrimination does not change the system but, only for Marxists, sends to the questioning of the structural relations: because discrimination underlines the logic of the system.

The system and its laws

The most important element of Marx’s paradigm labelled as above is the model of system – concretely, of the social system – where the parts have their relative autonomy but exist only because of their integration in the whole. The social system explains the existence of social individuals within society, and also the interdependence between humans and nature[14]. These aspects related to systems – the interdependences, inclusions of elements which are, all of them and each of them, “worlds”/”a world” existing, however, only in the frame of the system as a system of systems – for example, for us in present the emphasis of atoms, electrons with their jumps and differentials of energy, the living molecules, their complex interconnectedness and communication because of quantum coherence, the double logic of dependence of life on the fundamental physical forces and on the unity of organism, being thus absurd both to reduce life to physics and chemistry and to ignore them because of the specific complexity of organisms[15]: we do not even wonder, because this type of approach is familiar to us. Therefore, we re-discover today the ideas of the systemic integration but certainly, we demonstrate them in more and more complex systems, we arrive to them from new partial discoveries which we integrate.

Just the system and its structures of relations and classes allow the possibility to see its tendencies, and thus its “laws”. Certainly, these laws are not like those in the exact sciences – they are not “mechanical” – because the social system is formed by conscious individuals following their dual (and obviously, this means multiple) interests and social ideas: but the social laws describe tendencies emphasised just through the understanding of the main structural relations and the dialectic of the multiple kinds of structuring and the dual one.

The system of polar classes and stratification of classes


And certainly, in Marx the model for all the systems is the most complicated/recent, because only it reveals the historicity and meanings of the simpler ones. Marx’s system is not based on the two elements model: the capitalist class structure is not that of bourgeois and industrial workers, but that of stratified class of the private owners and stratified proletarian class. The class stratification allows the understanding of double class appurtenance of people working as intellectual services providers for the main private owners who control the economy of society: as both subordinated to these main private owners and, at least some of them, belonging to the class of private ownership materially, while in their ideology even more intellectuals who are not private owners are singing the interests of these ones; actually, the stratified character of intellectual and physical services providers coexists with their social polarisation as members of the upper class or members of proletariat.

As in Marx the social system is not based on two elements, as the last reason to be cannot be reduced to either the end of society as a whole to persist or to the end of the individual to survive: this reason to be is the result of the dialectics of the transitory human individual and the lasting society. Certainly society is more powerful than the individual – and its “inertia” to last reflects the capacity of open, in thermodynamic equilibrium systems to “heal” themselves, to make substitutions and changes within them, only in this way to last –. But at the same time, the social edifice depends on the active position of individuals, arisen from their will to live – as the old philosophy has showed – but transposed into conscious purposes superior and even far from the strict individual will to live: the social system depends on values which move the praxis. Briefly speaking, they may move things in order to preserve the existing social establishment, but also in order to change it. The social consciousness is ideological, and thus Kant’s categorical imperative and Schopenhauer’s compassion reflect both the power and limits of values which are exterior to the practical treatment of every individual as unique and unrepeatable: in order to consider this uniqueness, we must move into the material realm of existence, because without the material transformation of society – i.e. without the transformation of the structural relations of production – the above splendid values remain only a wishful thinking, while the dominant values of selfish reduction of the human individual to the private owner just pursuing his own purposes arrive to anesthetise many non-private owners, including many intellectuals.

Consciousness and the inner logic of capitalism

The well-known Marxist paradigmatic formula – “it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness”[16] – does not minimise and reduce the ideas to passive copies, but sends to the systemic approach, where the existence of the human individuals is only in/through society, where society as the environment of the individual explains the differentia specifica of this one, sociality, and where this environment determines his activity and ideas which, obviously, construct it.

            Marx’s paradigm was so opposed to the existing ones because it did not only express indignation and compassion, and, explaining the causes of the miserable situations generating compassion, passed beyond the showing of malign ideas which would determine miserable behaviours and thus those miserable situations. The real ultimate causes are the structural social relations, the economic productive ones. These relations are the private ownership seeking to maximise the private profit – thus fragmenting society, the social ends and wealth into opposed properties, just contradictory to the more and more integrated character of the productive forces of science, technology and labour force –, exploitation, competition of both capitals (resulting their concentration and centralisation) and labour forces for jobs, and centre-periphery/imperialist relations. Indeed, the Marxist paradigm was a novelty also because, opposite to all the thinkers who have considered only their country or traditional area of civilisation – as being the most important/only model of society, the criterion of all the other ones –, it asserted and demonstrated that capitalism is the first global system and the above-mentioned structural relations take place within and are determined by the logic of the global system, of the whole. Consequently, the process of trans-national capitalism, visible mostly from the 70s of the last century, is the result of both the logic of capitalist structural relations – see the de-regulation of the post-war welfare state in order to bring the wages and costs of capitals in the Western countries to the same level as in the peripheries, delocalisation of Western production to peripheries in order to reduce the cost of capitals in the ardent global competition, trans-national concentration and centralisation of capitals and creation of a trans-national labour force, and, because of the huge competition and the reduction of the profit rate, financialisation, i.e. the obtaining of the bulk of profits not in production but in the financial industry and speculation – and the logic of the global character of capitalism. (All these features concretise in the amplification of unequal exchange where, for example, the fooled East European countries were determined, with the aid of the internal corrupt political class, to becoming “export-based” economies and at the same time no longer having agriculture for food security).

For this reason, the present non-Marxist thinkers, declaring themselves either social-democrats or liberals, and waving the illusion of a possible return of the post-war national welfare state capitalism/neo-Keynesianism, show only a voluntarist ignorance of the inner logic of capitalism. They are, obviously, the on duty ideologists of capitalism, but what is important is that, using the ceaseless ideological bombardment, they are the instruments of the loss of time by both the present individuals who have only one life and thus waste it, and the present society. From a Marxist standpoint, the theoretical alternatives of developing the public sector (education, healthcare, transport and renewable energy) and “non-growth” economy are viable only if these alternatives are considered as steps toward but also together with an anti-capitalist transformation; to militate for universal access in the sector of “services of general economic interest” means to ignore that this universal access would rise the autonomy of the labour force towards capital; yes, during the welfare state this access was possible, but only for helping the national capitals to not raise the wages till they being non-competitive: i.e. the social expenditures of the state have compensated the wages and helped their purchasing power, indirectly the increase of profits; but nowadays, the trans-national capital has at its disposal the consumers from all over the world, and the rise of autonomy of the wage earners would be a dangerous precedent; therefore, not globalization as such – the global integrative process of productive forces and institutions – is culpable for the present global proletarianisation of broad masses, but the capitalist character of globalisation.

The present illusions related to the possibility of a better, “win-win” globalised capitalism – through massive infrastructural investments all over the world, a gradual but non-stop transition toward ecological projects, and the imposing of more global decision-centres, while at the level of states through the support of national capitals and the re-localisation of industrial and agricultural production – but inexorably keeping the present huge military expenditures (arms selling and, thus, the fuelling of conflicts and wars, and thus of the untimely death of so many humans and of the ecological crisis), show not only the theoretical incapacity to understand the zany logic of the above contradictions

  • between the internal level of national re-localisation producing obviously for selling more and more and the huge international competition, because every state wants re-localisation and this impetuous selling,
  • between the internal re-development on the basis of capitalist relations – i.e. see at least the “moderate” salaries of the labour force working in factories and buying more and more goods on credit,
  • between the development of national capitals and the inherent process of their concentration and centralisation, including beyond frontiers, and including in their arms export,
  • between the science and technology which require free access and a social control of their goals and means and, on the other hand, their fragmented and private control under capitalism[17],
  • between the high level of science and technology and the polarised education where the majority of the world population is reduced to low-skilled consumers being tamed by religious morals, while the high-skilled minority being tamed by relativistic worldviews, but all of them moved by the carpe diem philosophy,
  • between the multi-faceted and galloping ecological crisis, requiring a coherent world policy of repair, and the fragmented organisation in states, and capitalist states exporting their trash etc.,
  • between the pink image of a peaceful expanding economy and militarism as inherent unity of national capitals and the military means to impose – both on internal and external level – their expanding interests,
  • between the internal and the international,

but also a cruel attitude towards the world that has no infinite resources to counter the ecological crises etc. and towards every human being who lives only one life. These illusions are but means to postpone the solving of so many crises. On the contrary, those who do not share these illusions advance the idea of never doing away with the Marxist paradigm, even promoting its gradual realisation[18] (because they think that the erasing of the gradual transition toward socialism would be more harmful than the sudden one). (But a gradual transition is also the result of the concrete circumstances of the falling of the USSR and its consequences, including in the consciousness of people[19]). However, the only problem is that it’s not sure that the gradual transition would annihilate the above contradictions in fact/hic et nunc, or that the gradual transition would be rapid enough in order to annihilate those contradictions. Rather, the processes occurring now in the world show that those contradictions only skyrocket and that the geopolitical (geo-economical) reasons transcend the interest to solve those contradictions: and the losers are the milliards of human beings, many of them transformed into lumpens fighting, as “cannon fodders”, just the proletarians.

Moreover, the present development of productive forces and integrated management – by means of IT (see the centralized software systems) – once more shows the viability of Marx’s paradigm explaining both the development of capitalism and its bases for its own destruction through the contradiction between the impetuous creation of science, technology and permanent renewal of the treatment of the object of labour, of the process of labour and of the labour force, and on the other hand, the private ownership.

But in Marx’s paradigm the dominant legitimating values of a system are the values of the dominant class: consequently, the cultural hegemony of capitalism – as it was insistently underscored by Gramsci – manifests also in China, the country putting Marx officially in the forefront of its ideology: the “nihilistic” schooling advancing the individualist pursuit of well-being as the only value of man and far more important than all the other focusing on the common good is opposed only by the communist values promoted by the Party; “the commitment of the government to Marxism has not been allowed to shape the academic curriculum”, but the socialisation of people “in Marxist thought and values”[20] may eventually counter the reduction of the human consciousness to a simple means for material endeavours.

Consciousness and emancipation

Although the systemic contradictions send to the destruction of the structures which generate these contradictions, their change is not automatic, as if a result of a super-determination acting mysteriously as God, but only through the deeds of the individuals. How this?

  • If they understand that the system’s trajectory must be changed, and not only the individual’s. The first condition – subjective obviously, but becoming an objective fact and requirement – is thus the formation of a social conscience of the proletarian class (the vast majority of the world’s population) that must act as a class in order to emancipate from the capitalist exploitation and inhumanity. It is very difficult, of course, but without the transformation of the social conscience of the individual from the stage of ignorance, even denial, of his/her own class appurtenance (when, for example, because he/she works in a bank as a simple official he/she is considering himself as being “middle class”, and not a proletarian who must sell oneself in order to earn one’s own living) to the assumption of class appurtenance and action in order only to improve one’s condition within the system to, finally, the assumption of class appurtenance and action in order to change the system – from class in itself to class for itself, as Marx formulated this in the philosophical style inherited from the German idealism – no overthrowing of capitalism is possible. Concretely, this means the understanding of the complexity of causal intertwining and overlapping, the ordering of subsystems (economic, social, political, cultural, consciousness/ideological, and internal and international: all of these with n sub subsystems), and what they need to target in order to change the system.
  • For this, the individuals must organise as a proletarian Historically, this organisation was that of fragments of proletariat (the industrial working class was the main fragment organised in view of the radical change of capitalism, but this class was organised also in view of the improvement of its condition within the system and within the national confines). But the organisation as a proletarian class – as class for itself – is integrative, not separated from ethnical, gender, age, profession points of view.

The Marxist paradigm does not overlook the determining importance of ideas: for which many people have died, yet the systems did not change as a result of the idealistic sacrifice of people. Obviously, the paradigm argues that the discontinuity of systems – the new forms of domination-submission relations – did not annul, but maintained the continuity of these relations, and that the gradual emancipation of the labour force from the existing domination-submission system has corresponded to both the different class struggles and the objective exhaustion of the old productive forces which thus pushed for new productive relations. In capitalism is the reverse, the productive forces ceaselessly evolve and emphasise the exhausted, obsolete character of these last domination-submission productive relations. However, the objective conditions alone would not have changed the system. This is the reason that the most formidable and critical ideas must become a “material force”, i.e. being assumed by the masses, because otherwise those ideas do not move anything. Thus, theory and practice are the two versants of the same both cognitive and active process: the ideas give the reason to be of the praxis, while this one has a strategic priority[21].

Being and having

Marx has demonstrated that the private property and capitalism separate and invert the means and the end of humans and the human life. While the material conditions – their decency being always according to the level of society the individual lives within – are only the necessary means for a creative and rich in human relationships life, they are perverted by capitalism to seem as if they would be the end of life. The having – and always more and more, and also something which is not possessed by the others but is unique – becomes the main source of happiness and human realisation, the main goal of the everyday striving. The human effort is reduced to the searching for material accumulation, and thus the living conscious souls become the instruments and servants of the objects.

And certainly, the being, as opposed to the having, is not an unchangeable entity –in its unique life – but a changing actuality, if we may borrow these last words from Aristotle (or, let say, transfigured later on in Whitehead’s metaphysics as “actual entities”). For Marx, the richness of man consists just in the richness of his experiences which must be human, not subjugated, and able to reveal human significances, and not only sweet pastime.

Because indeed, the greatest wealth of man is his time: and not only its length but also its content. The purpose of the class pressure on the capitalist class is not simply for higher wages in order to buy more goods and have a decent life, instead of the horrible conditions instituted by the industrial capitalism, but also for more free time: for a richer content of the human life. When technology and the communist relations will reduce the toiling of men for their living, they will have not a simple spare time as such (to more resting and entertaining in order to forget the routine of wage earning), but the freedom to live a creative life, changing professions according to curiosity and passion for new experiences, and not according to the constraints of unemployment. This type of free time is the basis of the “kingdom of freedom”.

The richer content of the human life involves to thinking and acting for the common good, for the good of the others, and not only for the individual’s well-being.

The richer content of life means more than the freedom to choose representatives for legislate the domination-submission relations. Concretely, these relations are totalitarian, because they impose oppression and abuse on most of people in their whole life, legitimating this oppression and abuse as the “only freedom” opposed to the communist uniformity.

The kingdom of freedom supposes more than consuming more and more material goods, and more than individual aspirations; it supposes social ideals. And in fact, the core of the social ideal is the suppression of the class society, of the domination-submission relations. This is the love – the loving of humanity – all the old mobilising ideologies have dreamed at and transfigured. For this reason, the social-democratic theories and parties – from Bernstein to the present “third way” and neo-Keynesianism – are not really left-wing: they are not left-wing at all, because they aim to accommodate people with and within the oppressive system, and because they lack exactly the social ideals.

These ideals mean “to re-install the communist hypothesis – the proposition that the subordination of labour to the dominant class is not inevitable – within the ideological sphere”[22]; to participate in the grandiose projects which will transform the present inhuman society and environment on the brink of collapse; to create a society where one cannot forget thar every human being is the representative of the human species, that the universality of this species manifests as unique and unrepeable individuals, and that the human “joy of life” (Bergson) of every individual is the mirror and power of the human species.

[1] Alain Badiou, “The Communist Hypothesis”, New Left Review, 49, January-February 2008.

[2] Marx to J. Weydemeyer,  March 5, 1852, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1852/letters/52_03_05-ab.htm: “no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists, the economic economy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat…, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society… Ignorant(s)… who deny not merely the class struggle but even the existence of classes, only prove that…they regard the social conditions under which the bourgeoisie rules as the final product, the non plus ultra [highest point attainable] of history, and that they are only the servants of the bourgeoisie”.

[3] See Evald Ilyenkov, The Dialectics of the Abstract and the Concrete in Marx’s Capital (1960),
Chapter One – Dialectical & Metaphysical Conception of the Concrete, The Definition of the Concrete in Marx, https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/abstract/abstra1c.htm.

[4] Destutt de Tracy (1754-1836), Projet d’Éléments d’idéologie. Partie 1, A Paris, Chez Pierre Didot l’aîné imprimeur, Firmin Didot libraire, Derray libraire, An IX (1800), p. 1

[5] Frederick Engels’ Speech at the Grave of Karl Marx,
Highgate Cemetery, London. March 17, 1883: ”…Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case”.

[6] Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.
(1843-44), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm: “man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man”.

[7] Marx, Grundrisse (1857), Introduction, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm.

[8] Amartia Sen, “Karl Marx 2.00”, May 5, 2018, The Indian Express, http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/karl-marx-philosophy-200th-birth-anniversary-5163799/.

   But see Marx’s first thesis ad Feuerbach, Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, 1845: “The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the Object, actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object, or of contemplation, but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such”.

[9] “All history is nothing but a continuous transformation of human nature” Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), Chapter Two: The Metaphysics of Political Economy, 3. Competition and Monopoly, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/poverty-philosophy/ch02c.htm.

[10] Marx, Grundrisse (1857), Introduction, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm: “although the simpler category may have existed historically before the more concrete, it can achieve its full (intensive and extensive) development precisely in a combined form of society, while the more concrete category was more fully developed in a less developed form of society. …even the most abstract categories, despite their validity – precisely because of their abstractness – for all epochs, are nevertheless, in the specific character of this abstraction, themselves likewise a product of historic relations, and possess their full validity only for and within these relations… Bourgeois society is the most developed and the most complex historic organization of production. The categories which express its relations, the comprehension of its structure, thereby also allows insights into the structure and the relations of production of all the vanished social formations out of whose ruins and elements it built itself up, whose partly still unconquered remnants are carried along within it, whose mere nuances have developed explicit significance within it, etc. Human anatomy contains a key to the anatomy of the ape…since bourgeois society is itself only a contradictory form of development, relations derived from earlier forms will often be found within it only in an entirely stunted form, or even travestied. For example, communal property… The so-called historical presentation of development is founded, as a rule, on the fact that the latest form regards the previous ones as steps leading up to itself, and, since it is only rarely and only under quite specific conditions able to criticize itself – leaving aside, of course, the historical periods which appear to themselves as times of decadence – it always conceives them one-sidedly… In all forms of society there is one specific kind of production which predominates over the rest, whose relations thus assign rank and influence to the others… It would therefore be infeasible and wrong to let the economic categories follow one another in the same sequence as that in which they were historically decisive. Their sequence is determined, rather, by their relation to one another in modern bourgeois society, which is precisely the opposite of that which seems to be their natural order or which corresponds to historical development. The point is not the historic position of the economic relations in the succession of different forms of society. Even less is it their sequence ‘in the idea’ (a muddy notion of historic movement). Rather, their order within modern bourgeois society… The purity (abstract specificity) in which the trading peoples – Phoenicians, Carthaginians – appear in the old world is determined precisely by the predominance of the agricultural peoples… As a further example of the divergent positions which the same category can occupy in different social stages: one of the latest forms of bourgeois society, joint-stock companies. These also appear, however, at its beginning, in the great, privileged monopoly trading companies”.

[11] See  the critique of „Euro-communism” that has admitted, in the name of the illusion of social democratic social peace guaranteeing the welfare state, the monarchy in Spain in 1975 and the imperialist policies of the Western states; or its form in Toni Negri’s approach of any state resulted from national liberation revolutions or socialist ones as inevitably decaying in bureaucratic institutions, and of the Empire as an eternal force integrating the opposition,   Distruzione teorica-politica delle tessi di Toni Negri, 13 Febbraio 2018, http://www.marx21.it/index.php/storia-teoria-e-scienza/marxismo/28761-distruzione-teorico-politica-delle-tesi-di-toni-negri; all these are consonant and reducible to the substitution  of the fight for radical transformation of capitalism with the social-democratic pressure in the European “civilisations”, by Bernstein (Ana Bazac, Reformismul socialist. Repere, Bucureşti, Editura Consens, 1996 [Socialist Reformism: Landmarks]); or the critique of alter-globalism as a way to avoid the class structure and to promise the return of the post-war welfare state andd “national capitalism”, Jean-Pierre Garnier, « L’altermondialisme : un internationalisme d’emprunt », Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, 84,(4), 2006, pp. 67-77, https://www.cairn.info/revue-materiaux-pour-l-histoire-de-notre-temps-2006-4-page-67.htm.

[12] National Council For Occupational Safety and Health, The Dirty Dozen 2018: Employers Who Put Workers and Communities At Risk, April 2018.

[13] Ricardo Antunes, “The New Service Proletariat”, Monthly Review, Vol. 69, issue 11, Apr 01, 2018, https://monthlyreview.org/2018/04/01/the-new-service-proletariat/.

[14] See John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York, The Ecological Rift New York, Monthly Review Press, 2010; John Bellamy Foster, “ Marxism and Ecology,” Monthly Review 67, no. 7, December 2015;   John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, Marx and the Earth, Chicago, Haymarket, 2017.

[15] See Mae Wan Ho, The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms (2008), Singapore, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2013.

[16] Marx, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Preface, 1859.

[17] Guglielmo Carchedi, Behind the Crisis: Marx’s Dialectic of Value and Knowledge, Haymarket Books, 2012.

[18] Xi honors enduring legacy of Marx, 2018-05-05, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201805/05/WS5aecc4d8a3105cdcf651c16a.html; see also Andre Vltchek and John Cobb Jr., China’s Determined March Towards the Ecological Civilization, 13/05/2018, http://www.defenddemocracy.press/chinas-determined-march-towards-the-ecological-civilization/.

[19] See Samir Amin, October 1917: Revolution A Century Later, Daraja Press, 2017.

[20] John Cobb in Andre Vltchek and John Cobb Jr., China’s Determined March Towards the Ecological Civilization, 13/05/2018, http://www.defenddemocracy.press/chinas-determined-march-towards-the-ecological-civilization/.

[21] Alain Badiou, Une thèse philosophique essentielle: « on a raison de se révolter contre les réactionnaires », 1975, http://archivescommunistes.chez-alice.fr/ucfml/ucfml1.pdf.

[22] Alain Badiou, “The Communist Hypothesis”, New Left Review, 49, January-February 2008.

“Marx” as paradigm

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