Sunday, June 08, 2008

SIMONOVIC on the 160th anniversary of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

SIMONOVIC on the 160th anniversary of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO

[Here at CM/P we refer to the late stage of capitalism as the 'waste stage'. Inherent in the system of value Marx critiqued was a tendency for irrational growth that would lead inevitably, like some inoperable cancer, to the complete consumption, the total wasting of the host society. But, as Simonovic points out below, that the capitalist means of production, because of this ever metastizing need for greater return on investment, today most clearly expressed in the criminal maraudings of gangs of financial speculators, global traders, and neo-liberal privateers, who are currently running our planet like it was their own Nevada whorehouse/casino,--that the capitalist means of production would become the very means for the destruction of, not only capitalism, itself, as Marx and Engles foresaw, but of all mankind--of all life on this self-conscious orb--was something even the fathers of Communism couldn't get their minds around.

From his personal involvement in the debilitating world of professional amateur athletics--his works on the fascist Olympic movement are monumental and all over this blog--to his militant engagement in resisting the forces that destroyed Yugoslavia and are currently degrading social and political life in his long-suffering Serbian home: Simonovic has spent a good deal of his life running the court of Marxist theory.

And at this time when the fascist collaborationist and defeatist Trotzis seem to have snagged all the corner offices and fat fellowships in the academic and media worlds, it seems more important than ever to seek real teachers, real scholars, and experienced defenders of reason and decency in the human community. Simonovic is just such a learned man as can bring Westerners' heads up and fix their eyes on the real prize of saving our homes, our lives and those of future generations. --mc]

Ljubodrag Simonovic
Belgrade, Serbia, May 2008
E-mail: comrade@sezampro.yu

(On the occasion of the 160th anniversary of the "Manifesto of the Communist Party")

Today’s importance of Marx’s “Manifesto of the Communist Party”

Can it be said that the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” is the “Bible” of the working class? It can, but only figuratively. Engels’ foreword to the English edition of the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” from 1888 clearly indicates an antidogmatic relation of Marx and Engels to their own “Manifesto”. A literal interpretation of the “Manifesto” turns Marx’s criticism of capitalism into a dogmatic thought, and the communist movement into a sectarian movement.

A contemporary analysis of the “Manifesto” poses the following question: does the development of capitalism open a possibility for the development of Marxist thought, or does it more and more radically question it?

The development of capitalism as a destructive order sheds new light on Marx’s criticism of capitalism, questioning its foundation and relevance today. Starting from Marx’s principal methodological postulate, according to which the “anatomy of man is the key to understanding the anatomy of a monkey”, it seems justifiable to develop a criticism of capitalism which would take into account monopolistic capitalism in its final “consumer” stage of development, in which the contradictions of capitalism as a destructive order dramatically threatening the survival of humanity have been developed to the full. It is only in light of the modern criticism of capitalism that Marx’s main postulates acquire a concrete historical relevance and political significance. Without that, they are reduced to an abstract humanistic rhetoric which drags the critical and changing mind further away from the basic existential issues.

Bearing in mind that capitalism has brought humanity to the verge of the abyss, the question is whether Marx, with his criticism of capitalism based on Hegel’s dialectic of history, did a disservice to mankind? The biggest flaw in Marx’s theory is, at the same time, its biggest asset: the convincing argument that springs from its social, historical and visionary foundations. It “covers” the totality of man’s life, as a social and historical being, and offers a possibility of finding answers to almost all questions posed by modern man. However, it does not contain the most important thing: an analysis of the development of capitalism as a destructive order, and in that context, a possible future for humanity.

Marx’s thought moved the criticism of capitalism from the existential (Fourier) to the essential sphere, and thus contributed to the mutilation of the criticism of capitalism, as well as to the crippling of the class (self)consciousness of workers and, consequently, to the crippling of their political struggle against capitalism. In his criticism of capitalism Marx “overlooked” the most important moment: the struggle for man’s freedom is at the same time the struggle for the survival of mankind.

The true nature of Marx’s criticism of capitalism can be seen in the thought of those who blindly followed him. Up to this day the capitalist destruction of life and man as a biological and human being has not become the “subject” of a serious discussion by Marxist theorists. Even the most radical Marxist critics of capitalism overlook the truth that capitalism is essentially a destructive order. If Marx in his own time “could not see” the destructive tendencies in the development of capitalism, why have his followers not perceived this – especially when it became obvious that capitalism, particularly in its “consumer” phase, became a totalitarian destructive order? The answer is simple: they have not developed a criticism of capitalism starting from the tendencies of its development, they have instead concerned themselves with the interpretation of Marx’s criticism of capitalism.

At this point we can pose a hypothetical question: had the struggle for man’s emancipation in the XIX and XX centuries proceeded with the awareness that capitalism destroys nature and man as a biological and human being, would mankind today be on the verge of the abyss?

One of the central ideas of the “Manifesto” questioned by modern capitalism is that capitalism is a “revolutionary” order and, accordingly, the bourgeosie is a “revolutionary” class. According to Marx, the basic historical “task” of the bourgeosie is to enable mankind to gain control over natural laws and thus enable man’s emancipation from his dependance on nature and inhuman labour – in order to develop his authentic human qualities as a universal creative and libertarian being. The “revolutionary role” of the bourgeosie is to create the conditions for a “leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom” (Engels). This is the main reason why Marx attached paramount importance to the development of productive forces. As far as the working class is concerned, its main historical task, according to Marx, is to liberate mankind from oppression and to create a society in which people will be able to develop their universal creative potentials – as emancipated natural and social beings.

The fact that capitalism has become a totalitarian destructive order, while capitalist development of productive forces has turned into a systematic destruction of both nature and man, poses a fateful question: can the working class, which acquires its historical authenticity from its relation to the bourgeosie, fulfill its historical task if the bourgeosie has not fulfilled its own historical task, that is, if the bourgeosie has turned from a “revolutionary” into a destructive class?

This question is all the more justified in view of the fact that capitalism increasingly threatens the biological survival of the European (and other) nations and thus the biological survival of the working class of the most developed European capitalist countries which is the carrier of the emancipatory heritage of civil society and thus the most mature part of the international workers movement. In this context, one more question can be asked: can a Gastarbeiter population become an authentic revolutionary force capable of creating a new world? This question applies also to national-liberation movements in undeveloped capitalist countries in the world. Can the struggle for national freedom turn into the struggle for a new world, if the working class in those countries has not reached an appropriate emancipatory and visionary consciousness, which can be attained only in the struggle against the capitalist order and the bourgeoisie as its carrier? A possible answer lies in the question: can the very consciousness of the destructive nature of capitalism serve as a generator of such a political practice by the world proletariat, regardless of its concrete historical heritage, that could lead to the destruction of capitalism?

The crisis of today’s world is at the same time the crisis of the proletariat as the revolutionary agent. In its “consumer phase”, capitalism, through the development of a “consumer standard”, has managed to reduce workers to the instruments for resolving the crisis of over-production, and, thus, to its collaborators in the destruction of the world. Starting from the present position of the working class, the ideologues of capitalism seek to “redefine” the nature of the working class in contemporary capitalism by depriving it of its libertarian class self-consciousness. The conformist behaviour of a large part of the working class in the developed capitalist societies is not the consequence of the “disappearance of the working class”, but rather the consequence of the integration of workers into capitalism as a working-consuming “mass”, and of the bourgeoisie's systematic subversion and suppression of working class organization, class self-consciousness and class struggle. The conforming behaviour of workers is, in fact, the consequence of the class domination of the bourgeoisie, and not a process which proceeds by itself, with a fatalistic character. That we are not dealing here with the final integration of workers into the capitalist order, but with a temporary situation, can be seen from the fact that capitalists seek to keep the workers under the ideological «bell jar» of capitalism, and, at the same time, seek to do away with communist thought, which calls for struggle against capitalism and offers a possibility of creating a humane world. The capitalist propaganda machinery strives to hide the most important thing: capitalists' fear of workers as a potentially revolutionary agent was, and still is, the most important feature of the capitalist political practice.

By becoming a totalitarian order of destruction, capitalism increasingly focuses people's attention on the basic existential, and in that context, the basic essential issues. Capitalism has removed all ideological veils and demystified the truth. Man no longer needs science nor philosophy to be able to understand that capitalism destroys life on the planet. Essential relativism is replaced by existential obviousness. It is an unquestionable starting point which inevitably conditions the development of the critical mind and man's behaviour. The increasingly dramatic climate changes, polluted air, water and food, biological destruction of peoples, loneliness that has become epidemic – all this directly affects man as a biological and human being. This is what modern tragedy rests on: man experiences the world's annihilation as his own annihiliation.
It should be noted here that the aim of the struggle against capitalism is not the creation of a socialist, but of a communist society – and this should be insisted upon. Marx and Engels clearly indicated that socialism is but a transitory stage from capitalism to communism, in which the working class should deal with the institutions of capitalist society. This is the basis of Engels's assertion that socialism should bring about the «dying out» of the state, legal and other institutions in which man's creative powers are alienated from him and become a domineering force. In this context appears the thesis of the «social appropriation» of the institutions created in the bourgeois society.

The concept that communism is a «distant future» of mankind is outdated. By increasingly destroying the living world, capitalism compels humanity to create, as soon as possible, an order which will have a rational relation to nature and in which «spiritual wealth will become the measure of human wealth» (Marx). Communism is not only a libertarian imperative, as it is for Marx, it has become an existential imperative – and as such is the most immediate and the only possible future of mankind.

The questions posed in this paper are not meant to create hopelessness, but to radicalize the critical and change-oriented relations to capitalism. An integral, and dominant, part of the workers' class consciousness should be the truth that capitalism is not only an inhuman but also a destructive order, which means that the struggle for man's freedom has become the struggle for the survival of mankind. Ultimately, the main historical task that capitalism as a destructive order imposes on the working class is that workers should take control of the means of production and direct their development to the satisfaction of genuine human needs and the humanisation of nature.

«Destroy Capitalism – Save Mankind!» - this is the message which should shape the consciousness of the contemporary working class (as well as of the contemporary humanistic intelligentsia), and which should encourage them to embark upon their last historical struggle – the one that will end either in the collapse of capitalism or in the annihilation of mankind.

Translation from Serbian by Vesna Todorovic
Translation supervised by Mick Collins

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