Critical Thought: Mapping the Terrain—the most comprehensive online and altogether open–access reference of its kind—was previously entitled Marxisms and Neo–Marxisms: Mapping the Terrain. This book was, at first, just a pamphlet. It contained a brief synopsis of far–left perspectives. Indeed, the publication began as a rather naïve attempt to set down a rudimentary, and heavily annotated, classification system for a broad sweep of Marxian approaches. Karl Marx (1818–1883) and his trusted comrade and collaborator Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) jointly initiated the Marxist theoretical tradition. It would, taken as a whole, be accurately represented by a labyrinth of interconnections and trajectories, not by a two–dimensional Flatland. An autonomist is not necessarily an open Marxist, a councilist, a communizationist, or a revolutionary syndicalist.
On the other hand, it seems appropriate to state at the outset that Marx was not a prophet or a religious founder. Marxists are, therefore, not his disciples. In fact, Marx did not even like the term “Marxist” being used. Academics do not follow the founders of theoretical traditions. We begin with their ideas, or many of them, and then proceed in our own directions. Moreover, in order for Engels’ scientific socialism to be a science, it cannot become a fixed set of medieval first principles. Fundamentalist Marxism, or fundamentalist anything, is not very appealing to any Marxist I know in the real world.
An exposition of radical philosophical and theoretical schemas will remain the primary emphasis of the outline. However, the text’s purview was gradually widened to include a conglomeration of other outlooks, as with: poststructuralism, sociological conflict theories, anarchism and post–anarchism, heterodox or alternative economics, hermeneutics, existentialism, phenomenology, political theology, literary criticism, and an assortment of third–way inclinations. A new title or descriptor—one which specifically highlights the large array of intellectual developments now covered—seemed apropos. Despite such a considerable expansion in these ideal types, the author appreciates that the construction of any similarly conceived disciplinary taxonomy is extraordinarily problematic or, perhaps, even futile. Additionally, the awkwardness of the compendium’s linear format affords insufficient justice to each of these diverse intellectual legacies.
As has frequently become apparent—over the ongoing process of investigation—the assignment of selective subject matter to one heading or another was, in a number of instances, performed somewhat arbitrarily or reluctantly. That is to say, many of the items selected for inclusion could have been legitimately arranged under alternate rubrics. A decision was made, nonetheless, to persevere with the endeavor. Please take into account the limitations of the model, the literature review, and the occasional personal extrapolation while exploring the content. The intent, throughout, was to be as painstakingly exhaustive and as substantively credible as reasonably possible. Every effort was made not to equivocate or, much worse, to misrepresent or to disrespect the work of various scholars, scholar–practitioners, and left–wing activists. Moreover, no one position, theory, prototype, current, or tendency has been deliberately biased above all the others.
In the late 1960s, as a young teen, I became involved with the Students’ Democratic Coalition. That nationwide club for U.S. secondary schools, my activist background, was a social movement organization in the New Left. Our longest–lasting agitation was struggling in solidarity with the United Farm Workers of America—under the able leadership of Cesar Chavez (Spanish, César Chávez as pronounced in this MP3 audio file), 1927–1993—and oppressed Mexican migrant workers. In so doing, we widely distributed petitions to boycott California grapes and picketed a neighborhood supermarket which sold the product. Anti–ballistic missiles, another weighty issue of the day, were also on our hit list. During the fall of 1968, some of us attended—a few blocks from my parents’ house—a campaign rally for the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket of Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie. Humphrey—then Lyndon Johnson’s vice president—addressed the venue.
Since assuming my current academic position in 1993, I have belonged to the distinctively largest labor union in the United States—the National Education Association (NEA)—as well as to a variety of NEA special interest groups, i.e.: Social Justice in Education, Restoring Our World One Circle at a Time, Racial Justice/Institutional Racism, TSTA Social Justice, Eradicating School to Prison Pipelne, and ACEs & Sociology. After years as a Titoist market socialist, my Marxian views approximated the post–Trotskyist “international socialism” of Tony Cliff’ International Socialist Tendency (and breakaway groups) and the neo–Trotskyist “third–camp socialism” of Max Shachtman’s Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Yet, no opportunities ever arose to engage with the members of those tendencies. The Kansas City metropolitan area, situated along the American Bible Belt, is hardly a mecca (Arabic/ʿArabiyyaẗ, مَكَّة, makkaẗ, “sanctuary”) of communist or socialist activity.
Regarding the focus of my teaching and research as a sociologist, I identify with the pioneering accomplishments of the Polish–German political activist and author Rosa Luxemburg (1871–1919). Of all the early Marxist theorists who survived Marx and Engels, Luxemburg comes the closest, in my view, to strongly exemplifying the spirit of compassion which, I believe, lies latent in Marxism and communism. Presumably, she would have supported the Cuban revolution against U.S. imperialism and opposed Fidel Castro’s right–wing Leninism and Stalinism. Luxemburg’s libertarian, or anti–authoritarian, communist–left current may, aptly, be referred to as Marxist–Luxemburgist democratic left–communist internationalism. I have respectfully grounded her far–left–wing enactment of socialism in the brilliant metatheory of critical realism. It was formulated, beginning in 1975, by the distinguished London–born philosopher, writer, and speaker Ram “Roy” Bhaskar (1944–2014). One of my greatest regrets is that, through my own procrastination, I never availed myself of the opportunity to meet him face to face.
My Dialectical metaRealism (DmR) incorporates Marxism–Luxemburgism, Tony Cliff’s international socialism, Bhaskarian critical realism, and various elements of additional cutting–edge conceptual frameworks. Among these viewpoints are: world–systems analysis, community organizing, the social model of disability, and intersectional and feminist standpoint approaches. The latter category refers to broadly utilized advancements of, originally, African American feminist critical theory. Intersectionality, in particular, was pioneered by the great legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (University of California at Los Angeles School of Law and Columbia Law School), the sociologist and past president of the American Sociological Association Patricia Hill Collins (University of Maryland), the late Audre Lorde (born, Audrey Geraldine Lorde), and others. DMR’s priorities are left–refoundation and left–regroupment with a focus on praxis, not on doctrinal purity. DmR has also been applied to a radical project in social–and–economic development (SED).
To take two examples: Wallerstein’s world–systems analysis and Crenshaw’s intersectionality. Both approaches expand capitalism beyond a narrow and simplistic economism to include other substructures of modernity. In both cases, the amplification is obvious from the designations themselves. If capitalism is a world–system, merely an arrangement of economy or even political economy would be an insufficient portrayal. If, on the other hand, capitalism is an intersection—perhaps a web or sometimes a cage—then the capitalist framework needs to be approached multidimensionally. Due to the contradictions of capitalism, someone may experience power, privilege, wealth, and prestige in one or more areas of life but not in others. Borrowing a term from my old Master’s thesis, Increasing Complexity as a Process in Social Evolution: A Case Study of the Bahá’í Faith, capitalism is a complexification.
At the outset, a preliminary reflection on the fundamental properties of existence might be constructive. Being is not hierarchical or vertical but, rather, laminated—layer inside layer surrounded by layer. The substance or fabric of reality, in itself, can be visualized as a pure, virtuous, and nondual cosmic envelope. Its mere shell or shadow is the empirical, sensory realm. Between them lies the nightly wonderment of dreams. Accordingly, successfully negotiating the inner ground state of copresence vis–à–vis one’s personal activities requires that any relativist or—worse—nihilist approaches to ethics be firmly, decisively, and unreservedly rejected. For now, regrettably, a plane of dystopian dualism remains a consistently dominant mediator of situations on the multinational field. Alas, the lifeworld of humankind is, in the current age, virtually dead and barren. The mere absence of liberation stands out among the foremost instruments or central coördinators of social behavior, as well. By and large, even basic interpersonal decency has, wistfully, been abandoned.
Concerning more matter–of–fact issues, the rotten fruits of the mechanisms of disunity or, better, demireality are personal estrangement, social alientation, and antipathy. Namely, envisioning a miraculous deliverance out of any of the dangerous forces of domination through capitalism—whether of the “Third–Way” or the more classical variety—is a mere idle fancy. Emancipation from the abomination of state monopoly capitalism must, unquestionably, include the associated inequities of political repression and cultural hegemony. In much the same way, an elimination of the coercive configurations of deception would, inevitably, maximize the vast potentialities of mankind. The varied forms of absolutism and totalitarianism will be summarily eliminated. What’s more, through the elixir (Arabic/ʿArabiyyaẗ, الإِكْسِير, ʾal-ꞌiksīr; from the Ancient Greek/A̓rchaía Hellēniká, ξήριον, xḗrion, “drying powder”) of true socialism, the poor and defenseless shall be zealously protected from the baneful scourges of imperialism, nationalism, and injustice.
To further illustrate, an identity politics, or a politics of recognition, which culminates, tautologically, in the promotion of more identity politics is to no effect. If, however, identity politics enhances one’s a sensibility towards intersectionality—the oppressions enfolded within the contraditions of the capitalist system—such an identity politics could be productive and life–changing. Black identity politics, because of its structural positioning, can sometimes galvanize larger struggles for liberation. By contrast, neither an identity politics of white privilege nor the right–wing Stalinist predilection for national identity politics—replacing communist internationalism with state or ethnic sovereignty—shall ever become emancipatory projects. Intersectionality—as an objectively real model of modern capitalism—might be an incisive organizing strategy. Framing these issues as favoring versus opposing identity politics or intersectionality misses the subtlety. Given that controversies are frequently knotty, black–and–white explanations rarely suffice. Burying one’s head in the sand is pointless.
Social justice warriors (SJWs) are, in addition, sometimes critiqued, or more commonly mocked, by commentators on both the left and the right. All the same, social justice warfare is a tactic, not a strategy. As a tactic, fighting to expedite social justice is fine and commendable, but it needs to be keyed into an appropriate long–term revolutionary strategy. Likewise, decrying the countermovement of political incorrectness for safeguarding white privilege—and, hence, corporate capitalism—must be positively distinguished from oppositions to political correctness for quite different and unrelated reasons. Examples are: puritanically insulating one’s own personal sensitivities, self–segregrating in a safe space to avoid being “triggered,” or prioritizing politeness over honesty and frankness. Context matters. Words are pointers, not things. One begins with individual concerns and builds thought bridges to communism. What’s more, when abdicating the fight for social justice, the Left ceases to be the Left.
Turning the page, particular segments of the culturally alienated proletariat and the underclass were broadly stigmatized as “the deplorables” during the deeply unsettling U.S. presidential campaign season of 2016. Certain individuals, as a result, immediately owned that disparaging label as an poorly conceived badge of pride. In the election which succeeded a brutal run for the White House—one robustly characterized by racism, white identity politics, misogyny, ableism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and social marginalization—the contradictions, the demirealty, or the intersectionality of capitalism intensified. As the economic failures of a post–American America have continued to multiply, the mistakes of the past, evidently forgotten, haunt the present with an astonishing frequency. Yet again, many oppressed male workers—comprising a demographic sometimes portrayed, collectively, as the angry white man—have been publicly witnessed turning violently against a disaffected other, the subaltern—a term adopted and redefined by the Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci.
Critiquing neoliberalism is an avocation worthy of dedication. Certainly, there is a great deal to assail about neoliberalism. Little concerning that system is deserving of acclaim. The bedrock of classical or liberal economics met its Waterloo through the stock market crash of 1929. Keynesianism and, in the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal provided, at best, a transitory postponement from ruin. The fundamental contradictions within the underlying foundations of the morally bankrupt capitalist ediface tarried unresolved. Like postmodernism, neoliberalism represents a denial of history. Each, in its own way, expresses a collective, and a paradoxically self–conscious, amnesia. The first, postmodernism, rejects the Enlightenment and the progress it has fostered. The second, neoliberalism, attempts a financial resurrection of the dead, market–driven economy of the era which preceded the Great Depression. As a morally destitute and failed ideology, neoliberalism has accomplished nothing but misery and desperation for the vast majority of the Earth’s population:
Marking the unvarnished end of Keynesianism, through the agency of Ronald Reagan (1911–2004) and Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013) among others, liberalism, as neoliberalism, returned with a vengeance circa 1980:
Neoliberalism, which arose around 1980, gave rise to liberal institutional structures in the USA, the UK and many other (although not all) countries, and also on the global level where the main economic institutions began to follow the neoliberal model. The economic crisis that began in 2007–08 emerged initially in the United States, and it emerged from the neoliberal institutions in that country and in the global economy.
[David M. Kotz, “The Final Conflict: What Can Cause a System-Threatening Crisis of Capitalism?” Science & Society. Volume 75, number 3, July 2010. Pages 362-379.]
Be that as it may, the American partisan duopoly of Republicanism and Democratism may have died in 2016. We shall see. The specter of that impotent system—as the final contradiction of capitalism—could, after years of hopeful expectation, now be a stark reality. Indeed, a presence of revolutionary causal mechanisms was seen coupled with an absence of revolutionary agency. Serial malevolence has, whereupon, been venomously institutionalized. In the U.S. body politic, the ironic, illusory embodiment of a supposed panacea for neoliberalism became a charismatic, flamboyant New York capitalist. He is, even if only facetiously, the last Trump. The alleged real–estate billionaire—since insufficient evidence of his actual wealth has been provided to the public—was elected to singlehandedly resolve the problems which, themselves, proceeded from the warriors of deceit in the corporatocracy. Emerging from beneath the skyline as a perfect storm, the enigmatic, if simple–minded, victor triumphed, by a hair’s breadth, through the American electoral college.
Remarkably, during a televised campaign rally, this erratic, eccentric individual—already the nominee of his party—explicitly requested that the neo–Stalinist government in Russia release hacked data on his nearest challenger. She was, in the end, the overwhelming winner of the popular vote:
Russia, if you are listening, I hope that you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think that you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.
[Donald J. Trump in Abigal Tracy, “Yes, Donald Trump Just Asked Russia to Hack Hillary Clinton.” Vanity Fair. July 27th, 2016. Online.]
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
[1 Corinthians 15:52. King James (Authorized) Version.]
Websites, like WikiLeaks, can, under ideal circumstances, serve as vehicles of democratic transparency. In this case, however, transparency has, reportedly, been hijacked by autocracy. Thus, a contradiction is embedded within the contradiction. The anti–Russian Republican Party, of a bygone generation, is presently led by a cheerleader:
We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.…
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect [Donald] Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.…
We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence … release[d] US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.
[Intelligence Community Assessment. Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections. Declassifed version. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Director of National Intelligence. January 6th, 2017. Pages i-ii.]
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) [in not expelling U.S. diplomats, as a tit–for–tat, until he can evaluate the policies of the incoming Donald J. Trump administration] – I always knew he was very smart!
[Donald J. Trump, “Tweet.” Twitter. December 30th, 2016.]
Allegations, only partially substantiated by U.S. intelligence, have also surfaced from BuzzFeed that the Kremlin may have collected damaging information on Donald Trump. He was officially briefed on a two–page summary of the original thirty–five–page document. Many of the reported events should continue to be treated with a healthy skepticism. Nevertheless, if true, Mr. Trump could be compromised, and potentially blackmailed, as the asset of a foreign power. Supposedly, the dossier was prepared, as political opposition research, for a succession of 2016 Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, including John Ellis “Jeb” Bush. The author, Christopher Steele, is a former British intelligence (MI6) official. He ultimately felt persuaded to hand the file over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Steele is the co–founder of Orbis Business Intelligence, a well–respected private security firm. Notably, Steele briefly went into hiding soon after his authorship was revealed. This succinct quotation from the profile discusses unconfirmed sallacious activities by Mr. Trump:
The Kremlin’s cultivation operation on [Donald] TRUMP … had comprised offering him various lucrative real estate development business deals in Russia, especially in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament. However, so far, for reasons unknown, TRUMP has not taken up any of these.
… there were … aspects to TRUMP’s engagement with the Russian authorities. Once which had borne fruit for them was to exploit TRUMP’s personal obsessions and sexual perversions in order to obtain suitable “kompromat” [Russian Cyrillic, компромат, kompromat] (compromising material) on him. According to Source D, where s/he had been present, TRUMP’s [perverted] conduct in Moscow included hiring the presidential suite of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where he knew President and Mrs OBAMA (whom he hated) had stayed on one of their official trips to Russia, and defiling the bed where they had slept by employing a number of prostitutes to perform a “golden showers” (urination) show in front of him. The hotel was known to be under FSB [Russian secret service] control with microphones and concealed cameras in all the main rooms to record anything they wanted to.
[Christopher Steele. US Presidential Election: Republican Candidate Donald Trump’s Activities in Russia and Compromising Relationship with the Kremlin. June 20th, 2016. Public domain. Page 2.]
The presidency itself may continue to exhibit contention and instability. The occupant’s agenda, such as it is, could be quickly sidelined. He has repeatedly expressed a bizarre fascination with atomic weapons of mass destruction. Now this man controls the biscuit and football. In the U.S., the nuclear codes are reserved to the president. His closest advisors, even if they encourage caution and restraint, have no authority over him. Only the commander–in–chief can make the final determination. That is the real danger—and he will, time and time again, be tested. North Korea, Mainland China, Iran, Russia, and religious extremists come to mind. The world has approached the brink of nuclear annihilation more than once. The Cuban missile crisis, notably, might have resulted in a nuclear holocaust. Fortunately, at the time, the cooler heads of U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (Russian Cyrillic, Никита Хрущёв, Nikita Hruŝëv as pronounced in this MP3 audio file) prevailed. Khrushchev blinked, and a highly threatening issue was resolved.
President Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon revealed one aspect of his personal agenda by invoking the concept, deconstruction, which was originally developed by the infamous Nazi sympathizer Martin Heidegger:
… [One] line of work is what is “deconstruction” of the administrative state.
[Steve Bannon quoted in Z. Byron Wolf, “Steve Bannon outlines his plan to ‘deconstruct’ Washington.” CNN. February 23rd, 2017. Online.]
Politics are, certainly, complex, but ideology, particuarly in times of chaos, is important. The Republican Party—the Grand Old Party (GOP) founded by President Abraham Lincoln—is, in the twenty–first century, driven by such an ideology. The Democratic Party is not. Perhaps, therefore, no one should be terribly surprised that the GOP currently controls all three branches of the U.S. government: executive, legislative, and judicial. At least for a moment, the ultimate consequences of a lack of partisan accountability shall be played out in a global theater. All the world shall bear witness to the nefarious misdeeds of the ruling classes. So be it. Descending, conspicuously, in a spiral configuration is the dialectic of modernity. This exemplar of the primary animating impetus (Latin, impetūs, “onset”) of history seems to have transparently disclosed, as the Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Žižek might say, its perverse antithesis:
The president-elect [Donald J. Trump] appears to be assembling not a government but an anti-government. He said Sunday that ‘nobody really knows’ whether climate change is real, though 97 percent of climate scientists say it is, and he intends to appoint a fervid skeptic as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He seeks to install a labor secretary who does not believe there should be a minimum-wage increase, an education secretary who shows little or no commitment to public education, and a housing secretary whose only relevant experience is having lived in houses. Is this a recipe for American greatness? Or for incompetence and failure? …
The only real question is whether Russia’s aim went beyond creating confusion to actually helping elect a specific candidate: Trump.
[Eugene Robinson, “Trump is assembling an anti-government. Did Russia help get him here?” The Washington Post. December 12th, 2016. Online.]
Regarding capitalism, the invisible hand of an alleged “free market” was a principal thesis formulated by the Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790). He assimilated that premise into his mystical body of occult lore or arcana. Indeed, his conclusions with respect to liberty are, in this writer’s view, the epitome of magical thinking. Smith’s putative natural law becomes the disempowering subtext of his argument. His work, considered overall, is a poorly disguised commentary on the demireality of the financial system. The pernicious evil of that counterfeit freedom is, like the emperor’s new clothes, now laid bare for all to observe. A spirit of barbarity, iniquity, and heartlessness has been cultivated by the plunderous impulses of a laissez–faire (MP3 audio file) market. Essentially, a free market implies the coupling of dialectical causal mechanisms with predatory human agency. If markets are permitted, they must be obedient servants, not the engines of wage slavery.
The rich only select from the heap what is most precious and agreeable. They consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thou sands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species. When providence divided the earth among a few lordly masters, it neither forgot nor abandoned those who seemed to have been left out in the partition. These last too enjoy their share of all that it produces. In what constitutes the real happiness of human life, they are in no respect inferior to those who would seem so much above them. In ease of body and peace of mind, all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and the beggar, who suns himself by the side of the highway, possesses that security which kings are fighting for.”
[Adam Smith. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Second edition. London: Strand. 1761. Pages 273-274.]
Aikido (Japanese, 合気道, aikidō as pronounced in this MP3 audio file), a Japanese martial art, was developed in the twentieth century. The name itself can be roughly translated as the path, road, or way of harmonious spirit. Morihei Ueshiba (Japanese, 植芝 盛平, Ueshiba Moritaira as pronounced in this MP3 audio file), who lived from 1883 to 1969, was the school’s founder. The aesthetics of aikido are based upon a metaphysical orientation which might, here, be designated as an ontology of reciprocity. The rôle of a skilled practitioner of this powerful art is to tactically and cautiously redirect her or his combatant’s own efforts and chi (Chinese, 氣 as pronounced in this MP3 audio file, qì, “breath, air, spirit, or gas”). Expeditiously, the aikidoist (Japanese, 合気道家, aikidōka as pronounced in this MP3 audio file) then brings about the person’s defeat. Aikido’s ultimate aim, however, is to cleanly and decisively beat one’s opponent while, at the same time, avoid causing harm or injury to the individual.
By way of analogy, in a hypothetical political philosophy of aikido, prime ministers, presidents, and monarchs find themselves increasingly paralyzed to deal adequately with the pressing demands of their constituents. These rulers confront, on the planetary stage, a dire onslaught of rapidly changing affairs. Meanwhile, the absenting structures of the dialectic may be deflecting the plans and actions of those same domestic leaders—whether well–intentioned or malicious—down a truly hazardous avenue: The generalized destruction of the capitalist order—a global U.S. empire established on the ruins of World War II—is seemingly around the corner. In that order’s wake, a substantial majority of the rank–and–file denizens and their chieftains, inhabiting this orb of dust, might, too, be obliterated.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is, in my view, a legitimately Leftist, not a left–centric, organization. I admire their praxis in being willing to stand up, in a revolutionary spirit, to counter–revolutionary organizations. For instance, the SPLC does not attack secular Muslims as secular Muslims. They attack the hateful tactics used by various people, some of whom happen to be secular Muslims. Because they try to be balanced, they are attacked from all political sides. To me, that means they are doing a good job. As the global system becomes evermore complicated, tenuous, and unstable, an allied principle—loosely called the law of unintended consequences—is quite likely more relevant than ever. It was addressed, forthrightly, by the highly regarded American sociologist Robert K. Merton (1910–2003):
In some of its numerous forms, the problem of the unanticipated consequences of purposive action has been treated by virtually every substantial contributor to the long history of social thought. The diversity of context and variety of terms by which this problem has been known, however, have tended to obscure the definite continuity in its consideration. In fact, this diversity of context—ranging from theology to technology—has been so pronounced that not only has the substantial identity of the problem been overlooked, but no systematic, scientific analysis of it has as yet been effected. The failure to subject this problem to such thorough-going investigation has perhaps been due in part to its having been linked historically with transcendental and ethical considerations. Obviously, the ready solution provided by ascribing uncontemplated consequences of action to the inscrutable will of God or Providence or Fate precludes, in the mind of the believer, any need for scientific analysis.
[Robert K. Merton, “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action.” American Sociological Review. Volume 1, number 6, December 1936. Pages 894-904.]
The subsequent self–authored verse, “The Rubicon,” is a poetic, a meditative, and an impressionistic paraphrase of a poignant aphorism recorded in two of the New Testament’s synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 8:21–22 and Luke 9:59–60):
The heart crieth out:
O weary wayfarer!
The Rubicon hath been crossed.
Providence, the Beloved, gazeth askance on the dust.
The protection, once proffered, is removed summarily.
In the meantime, the appointed hour doth arrive.
Oddly, no one, save a scattering, even taketh notice.
The foolish souls of the Earth are many multitudes.
They anticipate, haply sketch out, political battles.
Yea! These shalt, woefully, ne’er materialize.
Verily, abandon, ye, this world’s moribund creatures.
Grant them a return to their self–serving desires.
Whereupon their deaths wilt forthwith come to pass.
Lo! Those ill–fated beings scurry to bury one another.
Mourn now, thou voyager, for the imminent future.
Ere long, the comedy of errors resulteth in tragedy.
Posthaste, the Unifying Essence of Nature ariseth.
She is attired, befittingly, in all Her righteous glory.
Her cherubic head turneth to the left and to the right.
By and by, She mightily manifesteth Her vengeance.
The wrath of the dialectic proceedeth from Her brow.
The global community has unmistakably entered the arduous transitional period to a far–off tomorrow. So, the deathwatch commences. Ends now shade into beginnings. Even mere mortals can ponder, phenomenologically, on the causal interventions of the majestic dialectic. During this process, each and every sphere of life must be sincerely pursued and conscientiously examined. Objectivity is reliance upon the evidence one progressively uncovers and discovers. Strictly speaking, to be objective is to boldly speak truth to power. Neutrality, however, is the token of moral cowardice. That being the case, any disengaged position is virtually the opposite of open–mindedness. Many observers, not to mention a host of mainstream news organizations, have inexplicably confounded the two intellectual postures. Such journalists are effectively moderators. In these perplexing times, human knowledge is often out–weighed by ignorance. Yet, when all is said and done, one can do little more than to audaciously conjecture. Here is an intimate, and a somewhat cursory, synopsis:
If a reasonably dispassionate observer were to perform a clear–eyed scan—an assessment—of the contemporary international arena, its precariousness and instability could be palpable. As this onlooker would justifiably conclude, many of the fundamental properties of any concrete utopia must, predominantly, await an eventual socialist liberation. At any rate, even a modest elevation in proletarian (MP3 audio file) and lumpenproletarian (MP3 audio file) class consciousness will—one might contemplate—encourage and facilitate the crucial revolutionary struggle. A radically decentralized cosmopolitanism shall, sooner or later, be consolidated on the backs of our far–flung descendants. By the same token, the dialectical constellation of these distant events is as yet undisclosed. Precise information concerning the timings of the worldwide transformations to the masses is similarly beyond our reach. Yet, the basic contours of the remote future, undeterred by temporal limitations, can be tentatively, perhaps simplistically, imagined.
Marx is not my prophet. He is also not my guru, sant, swami, or shaykh. In Marxist theory, the term Lumpenproletariat was most elegantly developed by Frantz Fanon in his classic, The Wretched of the Earth. He was referring, as I am wont to do, to the underclass. They are people who, because of their horrific or tragic circumstances, are not in a position to develop class consciousness. For instance, I would place many of the people so-called Third-World Maoists regard as the supposedly true revolutionary class, the individuals who are ultimately going to rescue the rest of us, into the category of the Lumpenproletariat or underclass. Certainly, Marx discussed some of the more unsavory characters in the Lumpenproletariat. Fortunately, however, he has not had the last word in Marxian theory. On the other hand, a good example of the more unfortunate Lumpenproletariat in the U.S. are the down-and-out Southern rednecks, the namesakes of the white plantation workers who served the master and mistress of the plantation as foremen. (Not all modern rednecks are poor.) When the Civil War ended, some of them, disenchanted that they had lost their only real distinction from Blacks (freedom), started the Ku Klux Klan as a sinister means to keep Blacks in their place.
Speculatively, the impending terrestrial cataclysms may foreshadow a longstanding, vigorous undertaking to inaugurate a borderless, transitional workers’ state. For generations unborn, the oppressive, bourgeois, undemocratic market system would be, once and for all, universally denounced and eradicated. Poverty as well as wealth shall be superseded by a narrow spectrum in the middle. Eventually, the state—in the nuanced sense of a overarching constraint on self–realization and human freedom—will have outlived its usefulness. At that point, the unscrupulous domination of a heavy–handed officialdom withers away and dies. The “government of persons,” wrote Engels in Anti–Dühring (MP3 audio file), gives way to an “administration of things” (perhaps fire fighting, garbage collection, and the like):
The state was the official representative of society as a whole; the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society – the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society – this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ‘abolished.’ It dies out. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase ‘a free people’s state,’ both as to its justifiable use at times by agitators, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the demands of the so-called anarchists for the abolition of the state out of hand.
[Friedrich Engels. Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science. Emile Burns, translator. Pacifica, California: Marxists Internet Archive (Marxists.org) ebook edition. 1878 (German). 1907 (English).]
Socialism or communism was created in the wake of the event that was Marxism. [Karl] Marx and [Friedrich] Engels proposed that by ending the role of the capitalist class, society would eventually become classless and thus the state driven by capitalist concern would wither away and die off. The goal was a society exclusively based on egalitarian co-operation. For them the first stage of this was to be found within socialism, followed eventually by communism as the final stage, prompted by a revolt led by the proletariat. [David ‘Émile’] Durkheim would differ by positing in numerous works that socialism is rooted within the desire to bring the state closer to the realm of individual activity in countering the anomie of a capitalist society.
[Francis Elizabeth Stewart. “Punk Rock Is My Religion”: An Exploration of Straight Edge punk as a Surrogate of Religion. Ph.D. thesis (U.S. English, dissertation). University of Stirling. Stirling, Scotland. 2011. Page 17.]
As the victorious people approach that new and higher stage of society, all the repressive features of the state will wither away and die out for lack of function. There will be no class to repress. All will be free and equal. The state itself will wither away. The government of men will be replaced by the administration of things. The transition period between capitalism and socialism will merge—without another revolution and without social convulsions of any kind, but simply by an inexorable process of development—into the socialist society.
[James P. Cannon, “Fighting for Socialism in the ‘American Century.’” The Militant. March, 1953. Pagination unknown.]
On the other hand, dear Rosa Luxemburg—arguably a rightful successor to Engels—was less definitive, but perhaps more circumspect, concerning the postulated features of a future communism. She also wisely critiqued the lawlike or formulaic revolutionary vision articulated by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky:
The tacit assumption underlying the [Vladimir] Lenin–[Leon] Trotsky theory of dictatorship is this: that the socialist transformation is something for which a ready-made formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – not the case. Far from being a sum of ready-made prescriptions which have only to be applied, the practical realization of socialism as an economic, social and juridical system is something which lies completely hidden in the mists of the future. What we possess in our program is nothing but a few main signposts which indicate the general direction in which to look for the necessary measures, and the indications are mainly negative in character at that. Thus we know more or less what we must eliminate at the outset in order to free the road for a socialist economy. But when it comes to the nature of the thousand concrete, practical measures, large and small, necessary to introduce socialist principles into economy, law and all social relationships, there is no key in any socialist party program or textbook. That is not a shortcoming but rather the very thing that makes scientific socialism superior to the utopian varieties.
[Rosa Luxemburg. The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism? Bertram Wolfe, translator. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ann Arbor Paperback imprint of The University of Michigan Press. 1961. Pages 69-70.]
All things considered, the end objective of the aforementioned violent upheavals—however defined—is some manner of glocalized democratic communism (MP3 audio file). Glocalization (MP3 audio file) is a recently devised portmanteau of globalization and localization. That term can be delinated and elaborated as an equitable, a well–regulated commmunist state or federation of workers’, producers’, and consumers’ coöperatives. The neologism, glocalization, was initially an English–language interpretation of dochakuka (Japanese, 土着化, dochakuka as pronounced in this MP3 audio file, “indigenous”). However, in the context of this book’s introduction, glocalization has been adapted to the non–Leninist and, more importantly, non–Stalinist stance of a Luxemburgist socialism from below. Libertarian communism, including Luxemburgism, is a practical, grassroots implementation of socialism from below. Localized globalism will be combined with globalized localism. Needless to say, any political democracy absent a concomitant economic democracy is little more than a faux democracy.
In other words, the material transactions and monetary exchanges—formal as well as informal—of each collectivized, commercial entity can be expertly synchronized as a tight–knit local network of independent labor–managed firms. Grassroots economies—including their sources of revenue and avenues of expenditure—could be administered through the enlightened democratic consultations of popularly elected boards of trustees. Businesses of every sort would, thus, be vigilantly monitored and regulated by assemblies of compassionate public servants. Those representative, custodial bodies shall, of course, be directly responsible and accountable only to their village, neighborhood, or other locality. External vested interests, of all stripes, must have neither vote nor influence. Furthermore, a negative income tax, operating as a catalyzing mechanism of redistribution, will, by necessity, be singularly, consistently, and painstakingly enforced. High and low incomes alike—pursuant to the guidance of the same financial councils—should be thoroughly and rigorously abolished.
Furthermore, the idea of a universal basic income, which has been popularized by social democrats such as American Senator Bernie Sanders, is predicated on capitalists paying workers. As a communist, I want the means of production to be seized from the capitalists, the bourgeoisie, and owned by the workers themselves. Then a universal basic income will itself become an oxymoron. Workers should not be placed in the position of having to negotiate with capitalists, boards of directors, or boards of trustees for their salaries. These supposed negotiations are, it seems to me, perhaps just one step above mendicancy (“begging”). Workers need to be empowered, not trampled under foot by plutocrats. Nevertheless, communism is for everyone. The proletariat will be the agents of revolution. However, those who cannot work for one reason or another (like being disabled)—the Lumpenproletariat (or underclass)—should benefit, too.
However, only the billionaires should be taxed to death (in a manner of speaking). An 80–85% tax rate sounds right in the U.S. If they do not like it, and accordingly decide to leave the country, they can be politely prohibited from doing business in the U.S. or with any U.S. resident or entity. Certainly, the vast majority of the super–rich will never decide to make such a sacrifice on their own. To the contracy, most will continue to take advantage of every loophole at their disposal. Anyway, imposing such a harsh and stringent taxation system is the least a society without much financial equity can do to establish economic justice.
With respect to conducting an overall reform of law enforcement, the more compelling approach is not, as claimed by many pundits, community policing. Rather, a new venture in community–run policing should be introduced without delay. The police would, consequently, always work for the community, not with the community. Individual officers and their supervisors must be subject to immediate and unconditional termination—by the residents themselves—in cases of brutality or any other wrongdoing. State violence and terrorism can never be condoned. That is to say, the underlying framework of criminal justice needs to be completely revolutionized—taken apart and then re–assembled—not feared or venerated. The monstrosity of institutionalized racism cannot be explained away as a few bad apples. A reactionary hate movement, like blue lives matter, provides a devastating confirmation of the necessity for a top–to–bottom reconstruction of police departments. Demonstrably, this kind of defensive maneuver is not, to be clear, universally supported by peace officers.
As a communist, I support the right of revolutionaries, not average citizens and especially not the police, to own guns. My point of departure, however, is the American right–wing gun culture. I also oppose the distorted interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution upon which the gun culture is based. Frankly, that culture exists, primarily, as a mechanism of white privilege. Regarding the issue of gun control, the conventional far–left view differs from the common progressive standpoint. Frankly, the imperial state and the police, as the agents of that state, have deadly munitions at their disposal. What’s more, in parts of the United States, red and purple states in particular, many average citizens possess huge stockpiles of handguns and rifles. Communists or socialists of all races and ethnicities might, therefore, require personal protection. Moreover, what communist in her or his right mind would expect Alex Jones and his ilk to work with revolutionaries? They are the worst examples of the Lumpenproletariat. Their acquisition of guns should be opposed by every dedicated Marxist. Only the proletarian vanguard should be encouraged to have weapons.
My view goes even further. Although I have no illusions that anything I write will be implemented, in my view, only revolutionaries should have guns. No one else—not the government and certainly not the police—should be armed. The right–wing gun culture argues for “gun rights” on the basis of the Second Amendment. That amendment, intended for militias not individuals, was invalidated by a national army―an institution which the founding fathers opposed. Moreover, I could care less about the U.S. Constitution and its useless amendments. Revolutionaries, to be revolutionaries, must promote that communist revolutionaries, not counterrevolutionaries in the gun culture, should purchase firearms. Confusing my left–wing position with the right-wing obsession on guns for the sake of guns, or with the right–wing defense of the rights of the mentally ill to own guns, does a disservice to the cause of revolution. Revolutionary communists are shooting themselves in the foot, arming their enemies, when they support the gun culture.
On the other hand, the progressive approach of marches and demonstrations is, however well intentioned, a waste of time. We cannot protest ourselves into a nonviolent society. However, in the prospective state and, at a later date, the less–centralized confederation of coöperatives—as the two phases of international communism—individual safety might no longer be a weighty concern. At that point, the use of weapons could be voluntarily and consensually discontinued, on a plenary basis, throughout society. The argument here is, by the way, made purely on principle. Clearly, there is no attempt to interpret the antiquated U.S. Constitution or any other legal document.
Every constitution …, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.—It may be said that the succeeding generation exercising in fact the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law has been expressly limited to 19 years only.
[Thomas Jefferson, “Thomas Jefferson to James Madison.” Letter. September 6th, 1789.]
All social institutions will, additionally, stalwartly discharge their functions under the autonomous supervision of each municipality. Moreover, the rulers of each jurisdiction must be constantly accountable to the ruled. The specific remedies will doubtlessly reflect future circumstances. Similarly, the prescriptions may vary from time to time and from place to place. Regardless of any unforeseen events, the residents of each jurisdiction would be expected to exercise the independent authority to review and determine all public policies. The same citizens shall then have the solemn responsibility to devise appropriate means for carrying out those high–minded protocols. In a communist or socialist society, no exceptions can ever be tolerated to the highest principles of a wide–ranging political participation. An unwavering commitment to the ethic of equitable governance is not merely a pleasant–sounding phrase. The consistent practice of democracy is a steadfast bulwark against despotism.
The reputation of communism, in the West, was ruined during the Cold War. However, more than a generation has passed since the Soviet Union, along with the Warsaw Pact, folded. For years, there were articles in New Left Review about what communists should do about the negative connotations attached to the term “communism.” Sufficient time has, in my view, passed. New communist currents, including my own (Luxemburgism), are slowly surfacing. Even Trotskyism, which was viciously attacked by Stalin, has started to come into its own. U.S. Republicans have, amazingly, started calling themselves “red.” For a long time, most Western communists, especially anti–Stalinists, wouldn’t dare call themselves communists. They instead referred to themselves as “socialists.” Now, the tables have turned. Ultimately, however, deciding on a term is really a promotional issue. Richard D. Wolff, a communist economist of considerable note, has adopted the plain vanilla term, workers’ self–directed coöperative enterprises. Honestly, Wolff’s communism sometimes strays in the direction of social democracy or democratic socialism (but not always). Despite that, he has provided a template of one possible solution: Invent a new term.
In summation, the pathway to hope is paved with crisis upon multiple crises. The answers to the many challenging dilemmas which confront the present age do not lie buried on an archaeological site. An excavation of the artifacts from an erstwhile, an outmoded, era may dig up ancient ruins, never redemptive solutions. Rather, the complex intersections of oppression can singlehandedly become disentangled at the crossroads of human liberation. Through the duality of theory and praxis, devoted revolutionaries must develop and apply restorative countermeasures. These should address the formidable social problems and the menacing circumstances of the common people. Certainly, a lotusland of true peace, unity, and emancipation can, at last, be attained—whether by isolated individuals, small groups, complex formal organizations, or entire societies and cultures. In that sense, a qualified optimism is more than justifiable. Even now, the sands are moving through the hourglass. Only time will tell.
A Proud Regressive Leftist, or an anti–imperialist revolutionary communist, who is laughing in faux leftist Bill Maher’s face. I bet that the late Antonio Gramsci would join in the amusement and alacrity.
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