The text Karl Marx’s Biggest Mistake written by P. deLespinasse is not particularly interesting, however, its ideological frame is important to understand, if only to appreciate how some reactionary thinking can insert itself as progressive to the potential great confusion of the reader.
The confusing ideology akin to the one presented by this author, a variation of the theme of red-baiting, in the age of D. Trump, is quite common and the progressive left ought to be well aware of the threat it represents for critical and rational thought.
The author’s theses are basically the following:
- Originally there is no government (Hobbes) but then its basis is organized crime.
- Government is corrupt and improved after series of reformist trials and errors
- Revolution leads back to a state of brutish nature
- Marxism = revolution = political mass violence
1) When the author refers to Hobbes and claims to a situation in which human beings did not have government, it is impossible to know what period of history he is referring to unless he is referring to prehistorical human beings. He then bypasses and dismisses a few thousand years to conclude that in the last few hundred years (tilly, 1985) government has “basically [been] organized crime.” This is an oversimplification of the history of governance and the rise of modern government.
The demonstration and occupation of the capital is a right-wing, reactionary movement, that is anti-communist and anti-Marxist and therefore cannot possibly be Marxist.
2) The author seems to believe that government improved because of “intelligent prolonged resistance” to the racketeers making up the government. Whatever intelligent prolonged resistance means is impossible to tell. Where does this intelligence that allows for reforms of the racket perpetrated by government comes from is not mentioned nor explained by the author.
3) Accordingly, a revolution leads to a social regression, whereas the revolution and its consequences are always worse than the original political state prior to said revolution. This does not stand the test of history. Were the French people better off under a monarchy before the Revolution? Did the United States revert to a state of brutish nature after the revolutionary war against Great Britain? Were the Russian better off under the repressive czarist regime before the October Revolution? Were the colonies better off before their revolutionary armed struggle for independence? Where has this so-called state of brutish nature supposedly rising after a revolution ever appeared? To my limited knowledge, nowhere.
4) The equivalency of terms, Marxism = Revolution = political mass violence is basically fallacious. The author does not hesitate to then claim that political mass violence = revolution = Marxism. This lack of rigor, to be polite, is what allows this author to claim that republicans and Trump supporters calling for a mass uprising are more Marxist that Bernie Sanders. For him all political violence is Marxist, even right-wing political violence. Thus, one ends up with the following contradiction that if all mass violence is Marxist, then even an anti-Marxist mass uprising is Marxist. Thus, anti-Marxism = Marxism, which is a logical impossibility. One cannot be both Marxist and anti-Marxist. Fascists, Nazis, neo-fascists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who are extraordinarily and fundamentally against Marxism (and all progressive movements) cannot therefore be accused, as this author does, of being Marxist. This is a false equivalency. This is a remarkable mind game performed by counter-revolutionaries that keeps on assaulting not just the left but Reason itself. This author’s discourse, accusing republicans of being Marxist is in fact very similar to D. Trump when he accuses J. Biden of being a socialist. Furthermore, the premise that Marxism can only lead to bloody revolution is absurd as many communist representatives, parties have been elected to government through the electoral democratic process (France, Italy, India, Nepal, etc.). Generalizing the premise that political violence is the universal product of revolution is absurd. Case in point, A. Hitler who led one the most violent regime in history never led any revolution and was placed in the position of chancellor of Germany by the Kaiser himself in the most peaceful of fashion; in contradiction to the author’s claim, colonized nations were a lot less violent after their revolutions of independence than they were under the colonizer’s rules, etc. Moreover, many violent mass uprisings that have occurred since the dawn of history cannot possibly called Marxist nor even revolutionary, among which, the rebellion of slaves in ancient Rome, the many violent peasant uprisings in medieval Europe, etc.
To set the distorted facts of this article straight:
- The demonstration and occupation of the capital is a right-wing, reactionary movement, that is anti-communist and anti-Marxist and therefore cannot possibly be Marxist.
- The Republicans and Trumps supporters calling for insurrection are not Marxist and are most likely steadfast anti-communist and anti-Marxist.
- Bernie Sanders is not a Marxist or a communist, or even a socialist for that matter. He is a social democrat.
- Joe Biden is not a socialist and nowhere close.
- Most uprisings throughout history were neither Marxist nor revolutionary. The Marxist analysis of capitalist society and the revolution it refers to was produced at the end of the 19th century.
- From a contemporary perspective, we must understand that a popular uprising is not always progressive and revolutionary. A popular uprising can be conservative and counter-revolutionary. Not all uprisings are equal nor Marxist as deLespinasse would have us believe. This is important because it did not use to be this way. Conservatives did not use revolutionary tactics and strategies. These use to be the only political alternative left to progressive movements, Marxist or not to introduce social changes. But the right has understood that it can use “revolutionary” strategies in Reaction to revolutionary hopes of the left. Thus the 20th century has seen the rise of right-wing “resistances,” violent anti-communist repressions (see the massacre of about half a million “communists” in Indonesia), right-wing guerillas, terrorism and the like (South America, South East Asia and elsewhere) as well as right-wing color revolutions abroad promoted by Western interests, etc.
- The violence of demonstrations should always be analyzed in relationship to its causes and to the violence of the dominant classes and its causes as well. Seemingly for deLespinasse, this latter violence does not seem to be pertinent short of virtuous reformism granted to the populace.
- Indeed, this text certainly calls for the virtuous respect of the Social Contract but we could ask, whose virtues is he referring to? Well, we might answer hypothetically that these are those of the bourgeoisie and the dominant classes for they are most likely not those of the riotous, uncivilized and suffering plebe.
- As it pertains to reforms, the situation today seems to lead us to the conclusion that reforms have failed to prevent much suffering, especially, for the African American community and apparently for many poor whites as well.
- In order to confront the trappings of the pseudo-left and its irrational ideologies, it seems fundamental that progressives come to appreciate the various brands of conservative and counter-revolutionary ideologies that today prevent and confuse the growth and rise of clearly progressive politics.
- In light of today’s crises, of the genocidal killing of African Americans, of the more than 400,000 victims of a public health criminal failure; in light of the levels of suffering for millions consequent to the economic crisis, of the on-going violence of imperial militarism, domestically and internationally, and the obscene levels of wealth obtained in this period of severe suffering by financial capital, I cannot but conclude that the belief in “lengthy intelligent resistance,” and reforms is just another moderated version of white supremacy for let us ask the Black victims of police violence how reforms have worked for them so far, shall we?
- To better understand right-wing rhetoric and in conclusion, I would suggest reading the excellent text of Corey Robin titled The Reactionary Mind (2011). As Corey states referring to E. Burke: “the conservative has consistently affirmed that his is a knowledge produced in reaction to the left.” In other words, the Right can only make up theories attempting to justify and explain its own violence against progressivism, whether it is moderate or aggressively counter-revolutionary and everything in between.