I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party. Sure I’ve called myself a communist (small ‘c’) in the past. People still call me one now. I’m a member of the MANA Movement. But if I am a communist, I’m the type with an ‘Infantile Disorder‘ (joke’s on you Lenin, you bolshie fascist!). To the – I’m going to say six? – people who have visited my blog before, and I’m sure who now check daily for more of my highly incisive and coherent prose, you doubtless would have read some penetrating contemporary Marxist analysis in my last two blogs. You know; there’s only one social divide, the material. All others are illusory. Exploitation of these illusory divisions fragments the exploited class and only serves the bourgeoisie. Historical laws, cause and effect, combined development, etc, etc. It’s a bad habit, but one that’s very easy to fall back into. I’m really not a Marxist though. Honest.
I’ve never been able to square the materialist Marxist ontology with the strong moral claims that are necessary to justify it’s revolutionary ideological goals (you know – “The goal of philosophers has only been to interpret the world. The point is to change it,”). In a materialist universe it’s completely arbitrary to value one type of random chemical reaction in the brain, reacting uncontrollably to external stimuli over another type of random chemical reaction in the brain, reacting uncontrollably to external stimuli and call one of these good, or just. No, the correct materialist response to this is to acknowledge this arbitrariness – deduce that that translates into meaninglessness, and become a proper übermensch and untermensch nihilist. But to then turn around and label one set of chemical reactions and causally inescapable events as so desirable as to be bothered doing anything about (let alone to revolt)? These are strong moral claims, and such an ontology doesn’t easily translate into a moralistic worldview, and certainly not an egalitarian political ideology.
No, and that’s why I’m going to turn around and perform one of the beautiful seemingly self-contradictory acts that only the dualist-ly existing human person can do, in virtue of the freedom our metaphysical minds endow us with, to escape the inescapably rigorous natural and historical laws, to embrace meaningfully a naturally unallowable self-contradiction (existentialist, I know), and, without redacting my previous posts about how political failure to acknowledge materialism is why
everything’s fucked the revolution’s somewhat off-course, strongly assert how our political parties’ embrace of materialism’s the reason our political system’s fucked up. Now, A.) How was that sentence (where, reader, would you put the full stop)? And B.) Have you ever seen a more beautifully executed flip-flop?
You see, at their hearts capitalism and Marxism share the same ontology. Both are materialist. Sure, Locke used the Bible as justification in his Two Treatises, but Locke was an empiricist. And while he may have been too timid, too unsophisticated (or had too strong a sense of self-preservation), to draw the logical connection between naturalistic empiricism, and the materialism it demands, the liberal, capitalist theorists who succeeded him did not. In accepting a materialist account of existence, an objective or absolutist account of morality (in a Platonic, idealistic, or Kantian sense) is ruled out. This leaves the materialist reliant on some sort of relativism on which to base his moral claims. From here it is a slide into oblivion. Relativism begets Consequentialism, which begets Utilitarianism, which begets reductionist Logical Positivism, which leaves the materialist with an inability to say anything is valid or invalid. It dies (collapses), leaving nought but the empty abyss of Nihilism. And this plays straight into the capitalists’ hands.
Capitalists are much better at nihilism than Marxists. Sure, they dress it up in moral and philosophical language, ‘enlightened, rational self-interest’, ‘freedom of choice’, ‘property rights’, ‘utility’, ‘the social contract’, even the beautifully machiavellian designation of finished economic objects as ‘goods’. These are just window-dressings for what really is the underlying moral code (or lack thereof) of capitalism. The nihilistic, every-man-for-himself, dehumanising law of the jungle. The abyss. Not much to be taken from there in the way of communal, enlightening collectivism. So two things can be drawn from this – A.) How does the Marxist expect to enduringly replace an unjust socio-political system that he shares all the same philosophical presumptions with and expect something different? And B:) Political party professionalism.
Marxism started off with incredibly noble goals. The enlightenment of the oppressed masses. The scientific illumination of reality, and the expansion of the empiricist project to all of society. With the exception of religion, it was perhaps the first coherent mass philosophy – intended to be understood, accepted, and promoted, by the real masses (the peasantry, the proletariat, not the liberal, mercantile middle-classes of the French Revolution, and the American War of Independence). And as such, it created the first real mass political parties – real vehicles, for the real democratic involvement of the real masses in actual, real political power.
The Bolsheviks started out educating peasants in the countryside, teaching them to read and write, to think for themselves [Hamish Macdonald, Russia And The USSR: Empire Of Revolution, Pearson, 2001, p11]. However, follow the thread of nihilist reasoning a little, as Lenin did, you get the anti-democratic, personal centralisation of control – Democratic Centralism, the Vanguard Party – perhaps the first modern instance of party political professionalism, and perhaps the first instances of modern political branding and spin through the careful, Orwellian control of messages and language. This nihilist basis made impossible any of the honourable goals that mass political organisation set out to achieve. Its ability to corrupt to the point of absurdity is inescapable (pp 84-85).
Mass political parties which initially set out to better and enlighten the people now do just the opposite, controlling messages, spinning, and manipulating, enflaming fractious material interests with offerings of crumbs, in order to blindfold the people from the fact that they’ve got the loaf, and muddy the waking up of society to fundamental moral truths. And since the institution of the mass political party, whether it is left-wing or right-wing, is Marxist in its very conception, all political parties will succumb to the logical conclusions born from the materialist nihilism on which it is based. Labour does it. National does it. The Greens are there. Political party professionalism represents the realisation of material-nihilistic self-interest in politics. That material fruits are the only ones to be achieved by political organisation, and the necessary abandonment of the realisation of a moral and just society that that necessitates.
Fundamentalism gets a bad rap in society, but it is precisely the lack of recognition for the fundamental and eternal moral precepts by materialist ideologies like capitalism and Marxism that necessitates relativistic pragmatism, and from there the inescapable descent into the abyss.