Postmodernism, Part 24: Communist Manifesto

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.  (Additional support includes Socialism, by Ludwig von Mises; and Freedom and Organization by Bertrand Russel.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Left Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Rousseau’s ideas and Napoleon’s conquests inspired the German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (Kant, Herder, Fichte, Hegel).  They gave Rousseau a German twist, including hero worship, state worship, totalitarianism, and dialectical history (with German supremacy).

Left Collectivism has roots in romanticism (inspired by Rousseau).  Romanticism was both an aesthetic and a value system.  It valued passion, sympathy, poverty, nature, violence, and radicalism.  It devalued social consequences and conventional morality.  Lord Byron was prototypical.

engelsFriedrich Engels

Left Collectivism has roots in the problems of our industrial past.  Families struggled to survive crowded filthy “third world” slums, malnutrition, epidemics, long hours, unsafe work, misery, crime, societal breakdown, and uncaring government.  Revolution seemed imminent.

Left Collectivism has roots in “utopian socialism”.  Marx and Engels claimed their “scientific socialism” was Gospel.  They scoffed at the “utopian socialist” heretics, such as Robert Owen (the idealist) and Charles Fourier (the absurd French fabulist).

Marx and Engels became Communists.  Marx went to Paris (a hotbed of radicals) then Brussels.  Communist groups joined together in the Communist League.  They asked Marx and Engels to write their Manifesto.

Communist Manifesto

“A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.  All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter,” Marx opens.

Marx is referring to the Holy Alliance, including Prussia.  They had been busily stamping out liberal revolutions, and hounding radicals (like Marx).

Prophecy

It is inevitable that capitalism will be replaced by socialism, then communism.  (This is the presupposed destiny of Marx’s dialectic.)

  • Conflict.  History is solely the struggle between oppressors and oppressed (class struggle).
  • Historical materialism.  Society is nothing but the inevitable product of economic facts (production and capital).  This means every human aspect: political, moral, social, artistic, scientific, literary, legal (every thought, concept, institution, or notion).  Society serves the oppressor.
  • Evolution.  Society is the product of a series of revolutions.  Capitalist society evolves, so that two classes remain: bourgeois and proletariat (slaves).
  • Contradiction.  Capitalism sows the seeds of it own destruction.  It is international.  (It uses technology to join the world, under its yoke.)  Its unsustainable business cycles create ever more proletariat.  (Free markets are barbarous.)  Finally, the proletariat rise (and society falls).

Communist theories are not inventions, says Marx.  They reveal the movement of history.  (This is not invention, but revelation.)  The great songwriter and lyricist, John Lennon, will walk us through the rest.

Imagine there’s no countries

Countries inevitably disappear, says Marx.  Communism finishes the job that capitalism started.

  • “The working men have no country,” says Marx, “We cannot take from them what they have not got.”
  • The proletariat must first acquire political supremacy of the nation.
  • National differences “are daily more and more vanishing” under capitalism.
  • “The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster,” he says.
Nothing to kill or die for

When nations disappear, there will be world peace.

  • Emancipation of the proletariat, Marx says, will end “exploitation of one nation by another”.
  • Then, he says, “the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end”.
And no religion, too

For the proletariat to rise, society must fall, says Marx.   Law, morality and religion are bourgeois prejudices.

  • “The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience” are needed only because of class antagonisms, Marx said.
  • The idea of “eternal truths” (freedom, liberty, justice, morality) disappear when class antagonisms disappear.

In a classless society, there’s no need for false morality (oppression).

Imagine no possessions

“The theory of the Communists may be summed up in a single sentence,” Marx wrote, “Abolition of private property”.

  • The proletariat will “win the battle of democracy”, says Marx.
  • “The proletariat,” he says, “will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie”.  They will put all “production in the hands of the State”.
  • In the beginning, he says, this will require “despotic inroads on the rights of property, and … necessitate further inroads upon the social order”.
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois property”.  (Property was always common.)
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois freedom” (the freedom to buy and sell).
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois individuality” (the power to subjugate others).
  • Communism abolishes only “bourgeois family” (a form of slavery and prostitution).
I wonder if you can

Marx imagines how to abolish private property:

  1. Land confiscation.  Abolish land ownership.
  2. Taxation.  Adopt a heavy progressive income tax.
  3. Abolish inheritance.
  4. Property confiscation.  Confiscate all property of emigrants and rebels.
  5. Central banking.  Centralize all credit in a State bank.
  6. Nationalization.  Nationalize communication and transport.
  7. Central planning.  All manufacturing and agriculture will be centrally planned.
  8. Mandatory labor.  “Establish industrial armies,” Marx wrote, “especially for agriculture”.
  9. Resettlement.  Population will be redistributed according to plan.
  10. Public education.  Education will be social education.
No need for greed or hunger

The “modern laborer”, says Marx, “sinks deeper and deeper” into poverty.  Once the proletariat rises up, property will be redistributed to the “nine-tenths of the population” who have no property.

A brotherhood of man

When class distinctions disappear, Marx said, “we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”.

  • Public power will lose its political character because (so called) “political power” is class oppression.
  • Proletariat supremacy will disappear because class will disappear.

This is a utopian classless society.  The State disappears, in the “withering away of the state“.

And the world will live as one

Communism is an international movement.  They are not a separate party.  They represent the proletariat, as a whole.

  • They represent the proletariat parties of every country.
  • They push the parties forward because the Communists have the best understanding of the proletarian movement.  (They are the revolutionary vanguard.)

The Manifesto identifies some political allies (various Social-Democrats and Democratic-Socialists).  They target Germany for revolution.  (Marx would be the ideological leader of the German Socialist Party).

Finally, Marx closes in dramatic style:

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and their aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

‘Working men of all countries, unite!’”

Commentary

The Communist Manifesto plainly states Marxism’s goal: to overthrow society.  It lays out the Marxist themes echoed by the postmodernists:

  • History is conflict between oppressors and the oppressed.
  • Society is oppression, every human aspect: political, moral, social, artistic, scientific, literary, legal (every thought, concept, and institution).
lennon-johnJohn Lennon

John Lennon‘s lovely tune, Imagine, is (indeed) a musical rendition of The Communist Manifesto. “There is no real Communist state in the world,” Lennon said, “You must realize that.”  (This is the usual denial, that true Communism is ideal Communism, never actual Communism.)  “The Socialism I speak about … [is] not the way some daft Russian might do it, or the Chinese might do it,” he said, “That might suit them.” (One doubts that the tens of millions of victims of the Soviets and Maoists thought it “suitable”).  “Us, we should have a nice … British Socialism,” he said.  Lennon didn’t grasp that Marxism is a disaster, across times and cultures.

beatles-taxman

Lennon’s hypocrisy is quite remarkable.  The wealthy Lennon had fled punitive British taxation, settling in the U.S.  This heavily progressive taxation was the product of the socialist Labour Party.  Lennon fled Marxian taxation, then penned an homage to Marx.  (It’s a pretty song, though.)

 Next

Revolution is in the air.  Next: Part 25, Revolutions of 1848.