In Marx’s and Engel’s manuscript (not published in their lifetimes), The German Ideology, they set out what must be a surprising argument if you read the typical member of the Marxist Academy, because that argument is still not taken seriously by Marxists, who insist the social revolution is a political event — the seizure of state power.
In fact, however, this is not how Marx first presented his conception of the social revolution, social emancipation or communism. In the German Ideology, social emancipation is an empirical event. By empirical is meant the social revolution does not result from theoretical inquiry into the nature of the capitalist mode of production. The social revolution is the result of a general recognition by the members of society that a fundamental transformation is necessary.
This, I contend, does not in the least imply that this “fundamentally transformation” even appear to society as either fundamental or transformative; it only implies that an event that is both fundamental and transformative appears necessary or unavoidable to the members of society. The event itself is fundamentally transformative, while our apprehension of its significance may never register its fundamentally transformative character. The most fundamentally transformative event that is least likely to register as fundamentally transformative event is one than appears to be a natural or necessary consequence of a generalized set of social circumstances that cannot be resolved in other fashion than fundamental transformation of the basis of social organization. This requires that the event is itself be fundamentally transformative, and has nothing to do with our recognition of this quality.
In this argument, people do not set out to consciously transform society, but society is transformed by how people react to circumstances. I am talking about the abolition of three great instances of existing society: labor, property and the state. In Marxist ideology, this abolition is the result of a theoretical inquiry, an investigation into the nature of present society. This investigation leads, more or less, to the idea that labor, property and the state have to be abolished.
Since Marxism is an ideology of the “idea of communism”, it naturally recognizes communism only insofar as this communism is itself expressed in the form of an idea. It cannot recognize communism as a practical movement of society, but only as the idea of this practical movement, or this movement as it is reflected in the form of a movement of “communist ideas”.
This leads to two practical results: first, the practical movement of society is only a “communist” movement insofar as this movement is avowedly communistic — that is, insofar as it is expressly and consciously aimed at this goal. Second, communism is for Marxism only the “communization of consciousness”, communist ideas, while, as a practical matter all other ideas are only reflection of “bourgeois ideology”. In this argument, the real, practical, activity of society, on the one hand, and communism, on the other, occupy entirely separate and, moreover, exclusive, spheres of existence.
Most Marxists are completely familiar with Marx’s conclusion in the German Ideology:
“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”
But for the Marxist, this conclusion can be stated only in the following manner:
“All other movement of society is to be abolished by the ‘idea of communism’, which represents the only ‘real’ movement of society.”
Marx looks at the real (i.e., practical or authentic) movement of society and declares, “This is communism!” Marxists look at the ‘idea of communism’ and declare: “This must be the real movement of society.”
You dumb fuckers!
This Marxist conception of communism can be traced back to the very labor movement that ended up running Auschwitz, under the slogan “Work makes you free.” This “idea of communism” already finds its expression within Marxism in the Gotha Programme. Its enters both Social Democracy and Marxism-Leninism (and its many variants) via Kautsky. Through Kautsky the “idea of communism” reaches its final form: not only is communism not the real movement of society, society is incapable of understanding or even developing the communism as an “idea”.
The practical, authentic, movement of society is relegated to a ongoing filthy commercial war between capital and labor. On one side of this filthy commercial conflict arises the stratum professional managers of the modern corporation; on the other side a “necessary cadre of professional revolutionaries”. Each makes the appeal to the same process: society has become so complex and unfathomable it requires a trained cadre to manage it. Kautsky expressed it this way:
“Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia…”
(For all you Leninists who think this doesn’t apply to you, the source for this quote is none of than Lenin’s “What is to be done”.)
Contrary to Marx, who posed communism as the real movement of society, Marxism has, since its inception, posed it as an idea owned by intellectuals.
Dean, Kliman, Moseley, Dumenil, Badiou, Saad-Filho, I am sorry to inform you that your services are no longer required! You fuckers are terminated. We are going to take back our own movement.
Oh, Yeah. And fuck Zizek too!