the meaning of marxism

An important distinction between liberals and leftists:

When liberals see the phrase “small government”, they see inevitable chaos, the rich exploiting the poor, and a collapsing population of people in terms of education and prosperity.
When leftists see the phrase “small government”, they argue that private ownership over the means of production isn’t a natural outgrowth of “small government” and they start asking a plethora of questions relating to structures and the nature of capitalism and the state.
Liberals are confined to the bourgeois definitions, to the box that maintains hierarchy and domination, whether they realize it or not.
Leftists unpack that box and think outside of it, actually considering the fact that there’s nothing innate about the labor-capital relationship, that there’s nothing innate about surplus appropriation by a singular and unaccountable entity.

It’s the true distinction between capitalism and socialism, but interestingly enough, for SOME reason, you never hear about that from your average reactionary critic of socialism. Huh.

Being a “Marxist” isn’t enough

It wasn’t until recently that radicals in bourgeois academic circles became bold enough to call themselves “communists” again. Before that, a trend emerged—which still continues today—of socialist academics calling themselves “Marxists,” but never daring to append the more dangerous names of Lenin and Mao to that title. They would declare fidelity to a critique of the current system they lived in, but continue to offer lukewarm, ineffective solutions to mitigate the ills of capitalism, indistinguishable from reformist solutions put forward by liberals. This allowed them to keep their jobs and ultimately become pet radicals for the bourgeoisie. The most prominent examples that immediately come to mind are Richard D. Wolff and Noam Chomsky—radicals in name, liberals in practice.

Recently I’ve become very skeptical of people who call themselves “Marxists” but don’t seem to be engaging in the kind of revolutionary activity that Maoist collectives in the US like the Red Guards or Revolutionary Collectives seem to. What do they mean by “Marxism” then?

Marxism is much more than a critique of capitalism, it’s dialectical and historical materialism—a science that was initiated by Marx and Engels and is still being developed to this day. Crucially, it’s a science that can only be advanced through revolutionary practice. If these “Marxists” are really scientists the same way Marx and Engels were, people who were actively engaged in the revolutionary struggles of their day, then where is their experimentation? After all, chemists and physicists have their laboratories and observatories; they’re constantly learning and putting their science to the test.

Furthermore, the communist movement has advanced far beyond Marx and Engels; we have the experiences of the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution, and the experiences of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China, the latter giving us the invaluable experience of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. There have been two ruptures in the science of revolutionary communism since Marx and Engels, those of Lenin and Mao. Today being a “Marxist,” that is, adhering fidelity to the science that Marx and Engels developed (and not just their critique of capitalism), means being a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. This is exactly like how physicists recognize that their science has developed a lot since Newton, and today the rupture of Einstein is recognized as a fundamental component of their science.

While Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and physics may both be sciences in the same analogous way, physicists (thankfully) don’t append the names of the main theorists who produced ruptures in their science, probably for good reason. The name “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” may not be ideal, but since the class struggle is a particularly vicious one and developments of a science of revolution in a world where capitalist ideology is overwhelmingly hegemonic prove to be difficult, the distinction has become necessary. The word “socialism” today means a million different things depending on who you talk to, most of them a far cry from what the Bolsheviks used the term to mean. “Communism” is quickly starting to look that way too. Maybe the name “revolutionary communism” would better encompass every aspect of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but I could quickly see revisionist trends twisting it around as Maoism gains hegemony in the communist movement.

Regardless, there’s a point I want to stress here: you can’t just be a “Marxist.” You have to be a communist. That means you need to be engaged in the class struggle and you have to uphold the developments it’s made since Marx and Engels. You have to go one step further than recognizing that the proletariat is the grave-digger of capitalism; if you’re a scientist and your science is revolution, you need to be engaged in revolution and struggle alongside the proletariat. Otherwise you’re just another liberal appropriating radicalism you didn’t earn.

chasingspace  asked:

Hey, so I have been researching socialism and other leftist ideologies and I agree with many of their ideals. I agree with the idea of not focusing on profit/materialism as is seen in capitalism but I wondering what would be the place of money and private property under socialism. I don't want to live in a society without possessions, money, and where everyone has the exact same things. Is there a way that we can have a system not built on profit and exploitation that still allows money/things.

So the key here is not to confuse personal property with private property. Private property refers to the means of production (factories, etc. where goods are produced) not possessions of individuals. Marxism seeks to transfer ownership of the means of production from the capitalist class (individuals who own factories, corporations, etc that produce goods that people need) into the hands of the working class (those who actually work in those factories and establishments to create the goods we all need). What is being abolished is the idea that private individuals should have control over the production and distribution of goods that all people need. We as socialists argue that the workers who make the goods should collectively take ownership of the means of production.

This does not apply to “personal property” which is things like your books, clothes, toothbrush, etc. Under socialism people would not be forced to “share everything” as many pro-capitalism folks like to claim. Workers would still exchange money for goods and services, the main difference from capitalism being that 1) workers would be paid fairly and 2) the goods generally available would be based on the needs/wants of the working class. It’s also important to note here that the idea of a Spartan bare-bones existence for workers in a socialist society is false- goods and services for leisure/pleasure would still be made and sold.

Housing is an issue people often bring up when discussing property. It may seem that many people are “homeowners” in our capitalist society, while others sleep on the streets as apartment buildings and homes remain empty. In a socialist society, housing would be owned collectively by the working class, and would be distributed as needed so that everyone has a place to live. No one would “own” a home, but they would certainly have access to a home to live in. Besides, the idea of owning a home in a capitalist society most often consists of paying a mortgage to a bank that actually owns the home. There are a few people that own homes outright, but that’s quite unusual.

Though the ultimate goals of socialism is communism (a classless, stateless society where all people cooperate freely), socialism itself definitely still involves exchanging money for goods and services. Communism seeks to abolish wages and currency, but Marxists believe that socialism is a transitional step to help us make the leap from capitalism to communism.

The key here is that goods and services are produced directly to fill human need, rather than to generate profit for a ruling class. The nitty gritty details of how money works in a given socialist state varies- it can in fact look somewhat similar to a capitalist society, where workers are paid a wage for their labor. The difference is that wages in a socialist society would be based on the quantity and quality of the work done + what amount of money is essential to sustaining the livelihood of the worker. Because the socialist economy would be planned according to human need, this wage would have to be sure to provide a sustainable life for the worker. The general idea is that workers take home the amount of value they create.

Under capitalism, the bosses hide the fact that workers are not paid for all the work they do. The concept of workers producing surplus value for their capitalist employer is central to the capitalist system; without this injustice, the ruling class would not be able to dominate the working class so effectively. This “surplus value” goes directly into the pockets of the capitalist class.

I hope this explanation clears up some of your concerns about money and property under socialism!

Those who recognize only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be situated still within the framework of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To limit Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means to chop up Marxism, distort and reduce it to something acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only those persons are Marxists who extend the recognition of class struggle as far as the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as grand) bourgeois.
—  V.I. Lenin, “The State and Revolution.” 1918.
  • leftists: we demand a higher minimum wage so that some of the burden of poverty can be lifted from the shoulders of the working class
  • libertarian capitalist nerd: lol look forward to machines replacing your jobs then
  • leftists: rad bro, we just wanted a higher minimum wage but we ended up with machines replacing menial jobs and fully-automated socialism that can reduce the work week and actively meet human needs
  • libertarian capitalist nerd: hey wh--
  • leftists: *start seizing the means of production*
  • libertarian capitalist nerd: hey wait stop no
  • leftists: *continue seizing the means of production*
  • libertarian capitalist nerd: what have i done
Marxism Outside Europe

A friend of mine is talking on Facebook about the way in which Russell Means gave a speech declaring that Marxism is as “alien” as Capitalism, as a way of posing that liberatory struggles must be entirely generated from within a “culture” and that one cannot meaningfully oppose hegemony through Marxism given its European origin, that the way in which Marxism was founded upon Hegel traces it to the Enlightenment in an ontologically necessary fashion, that Marxism requires the Enlightenment and moreover that rejection of the epistemé characteristic of Enlightenment thought is impossible within a Marxist framework. 

Means is correct to claim that supposed-Marxism can create a change in the body of power that does not critique the relations of capital realized in a socialist state, in that it relies upon concepts of production in order to be successful as a state, that the expansion and the imperial relationships necessary to maintain socialism are indicative of the fundamentally reactionary structure of a state. This is an important critique, one that must not be lost in critiquing Means’ speech: that the body of a socialist state can itself reproduce capitalist structures, that capitalism and the bourgeoisie can find themselves within the Party very nicely, is vital to understanding the structures of violence that are found in socialist states. Means uses a rough assessment of the “third world” in describing the nations most subjectivized by colonial apprehension, and this choice is important in that it calls upon the way that these countries were conceived of as a “third world” because of their lack of direct alliance with either the United States or the USSR. The transition to “developing nations” as a means of describing these countries, as well as the manner in which post-Soviet Russia as well as China have been enormous contributors to globalization and neocolonialism (as well as its realization through a politics of neoimperial violence) is important in that it captures an unchanging series of relations that have supported dominant nations, primarily their bourgeoisie. 

Means also speaks of the process of internal colonization in the Soviet Union, and as a way of discussing the violence of colonialism this turn is absolutely necessary. Specifically by creating an internality of the nation, a limit imposed by borders creating a theoretical planar surface of the nation, hegemony is able to engage in colonial violence even inside itself. By specifically creating populations as captured, confined, as cultures unto themselves designated by the colonizer, the creation of violent displacement is used to create a singularity between human and land such that the colonized topology becomes a resource rather than a population. Again, Means is correct in describing that dehumanization is vital to the colonial project: the sense of Self constituted by Christian conceptions of selfhood allows violence through not only subjectivizing the self and others like the self, but through the creation of a universality predicated upon exclusion, upon allowing for violence in the name of the self.

However, that this process occurs through a language that is European in origin, that the naming acts of this language extend far beyond writing in itself and into the very language and naming involved in describing colonialism means that in part, rejection of colonial thought must involve recognition of colonial categories, which is where Means’ rejection of Marxism as a concept begins to fall short. Means does not merely discuss the way in which imperial structures of accumulation have been present within socialist structures, nor does he elaborate upon the way in which articulating the power of colonialism requires naming the distinctions of hegemony beyond merely noting the distinctions. Instead, his disagreement entirely rejects the possibility of Marxism beyond Marx, requires a line of descent from Marx that is hierarchical, Oedipal, that is itself part of the very philosophical ideology that allows colonial control.

Naming the proletariat within Marxism is itself an issue of great contention, and to move past the distinctions of Marx is by no means to abandon Marxism: even before one reaches Post-Marxism as a paradigm, one finds a great deal of discussion about how Marx himself was not adequately describing the revolutionary potential of the lumpenproletariat, or allowing for a meaningful engagement with the means of production outside of a rather narrow definition of labor. This is where concepts such as the producing-production forwarded by Deleuze and Guattari become useful, in that not only is production itself a way of generating surplus value, but that in turn one can produce a process of production. Not only is there money in making products with conflict metals, but there is profit to be made in buying, selling, and generating violence through these metals. That the value and specific locality of these metals results in violence is specifically part of how money is made off of them, is part of a sort of operation whereby the producing of production itself is profitable. The structuring of the body is itself a producing-production, in that the body as productive requires differentiation into desiring-machines. Antiprodction, as a resistance to this, as part of the Body Without Organs’ relation to production, is itself a production but a production against production, a resistance to the Oedipalization of the body through the differentiation of desiring-machines. This process is part of the guide for resisting the imposition of the self within the body, of resisting the distinctions that allow for the colonization of the self.

Univocality as a paradigm, as a way of thinking about mixture of bodies, in relation to politics such as the Radical Democracy of Laclau or even developments of Maoism, allows for a radical abandonment of what Means describes as a European concept of self, the particularities of bodies and the encounters of senses not requiring a vocabulary that itself requires a teleology toward colonial domination. Revolutionary thinking, becoming-revolutionary, follows what is described as a becoming-animal in order to emphasize a turn away from the differentiation of humanity and toward univocality. In turn, becoming-revolutionary as a process allows for the rejection of the structures that previously created a self. 

anonymous asked:

hi, native russian speaker here! that "yes hello marxism leninism" thing doesn't actually mean "yes hello marxism leninism", it means "long live marxism leninism"

ooh i see. yes hello marxism leninism is pretty good tho

explainguncontrolandsafespaces  asked:

You are anti capitalist. The other end is communism. Is that what you support? If a person chooses not to work in your ideal economy what happens to them?

I feel like the reason you’re asking this is because you’re assuming that communism would entail “the collective” forcing a person to perform labor and then extracting their labor product when finished, yes? As if to imply that starvation in a capitalist economy is significantly better? Nah, we don’t want some collective committee forcing an individual to perform labor – and if you think that’s what the anti-capitalist critique boils down to, you’re denying yourself a layered understanding of capitalism itself, as well.

Are you under some sort of impression that workers get to control the full product of their labor under capitalism? That the critique of capitalism is merely “do basically everything the same as capitalism except have a significant place for the state sector and regulation”? Or, like, “the state does everything”?

C'mon mate, read a bit on historical materialism – the social structure of society is overwhelmingly dependent on technology, the material conditions, and our relationships to the means of production. For instance, we had feudalism when there was the windmill, we developed capitalism as the steam engine and the commercial factory took off, and now we’re fast approaching a scenario where extensive automation could free millions upon millions of people from even needing to work a job beyond couple-hour shifts, if that. The changing technology will necessitate a change in social structure, as history has shown, or we’ll continue to slip further into obfuscating barbarism managed by a ruling class of capitalists and state bureaucrats. Rather than continue to compel people to work 8+ hour shifts, starve, or have their jobs lost to machines, machines ought to replace every job they feasibly could; at that point, society should democratically control the abundance-producing machines. Figure out what jobs need to be done to satisfy needs, cut out the many jobs that literally aren’t needed to sustain society (and are just there to help with profit extraction and bureaucracy), automate wherever possible, divvy up the work that can’t be automated, and then people get to pursue whatever they want once those economic faculties are covered. In the end, people have bountiful leisure time, thus expanding their freedom (ya know, the fetishized but actually-neglected concept of capitalism). I’m simplifying the process a bit, but that’s the general trajectory that ought to be embraced.

The capitalist system has many innate tensions within it, but that automation conundrum is HUGE – capitalists want the most profit possible, and soon they will automate away jobs as wages start to increase again. This is why liberals miss the point in the grand scheme of things – yes, increased minimum wages CAN lead to job loss, and automation WILL consume jobs left and right in the coming decades. But that’s not due to the “greedy workers wanting more” or whatever bullshit right-wingers argue – it’s because the system is not structurally designed to meet everyone’s needs. It’s not about freedom or individualism or serving human need; it’s about profit extraction for a small caste of elites.

Zoom out and consider where humanity has gone and will continue to go as time moves forward. You’re sitting in an idealistic fantasyland if you think capitalism can maintain itself forever as the modes of production change and as we slip further into environmental collapse. I implore you to dig past surface ideology you’ve been fed since childhood and locate the true source of tyranny and widespread human suffering.

I mean, I think that Marxism is heavily misused when applied to racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, etc. but that’s almost secondary compared to y’all’s inability to actually engage in Marxism in the first place. 

anonymous asked:

How is Marxism Myopic? Isn't it all about solidarity and finding common unity, Objectivism seems to be more myopic because it is hyper individualist, but Marxism is collectivist. I am not trying to convert you, I am genuinely curious

Myopic means hyper-focused on one thing. In this case, class. Marxism attempts to explain all problems and history through its (rather specific) understanding of class. But there is no one structure or problem that can explain everything in history, and that’s the problem with Marxism: it insists that it CAN explain everything. But in reality it’s useful in some contexts and less useful in others, just like most paradigms. That’s what I meant.

Being individualist doesn’t make something more myopic, FYI. The concepts are not related. Did you think I meant misanthropic? Because then yes, Objectivism IS misanthropic, and Marxism would be, conversely, utopian. I think both misanthropy and utopianism are less than ideal ways to view the world, by the way (although one is obviously worse than the other).