TRC

Orthodox Marxism and the Contemporary

 

1

What is Orthodox Marxism 
and Why it Matters Now More Than Ever Before
Stephen Tumino

(D)evolutionary Socialism
Deborah Kelsh

Corporate Transnationalism and Red Internationalism
Amrohini Sahay

Class, Labor and the "Cyber": A Red Critique of the "Post-Work" Ideologies
Rob Wilkie

Eclipsing Exploitation: 
Transnational Feminism, Sex Work and the State
Jennifer Cotter

Haven't you realized that workers have it pretty good today
Brian Ganter

Revolution as Seduction, Pedagogy as Therapy and The Subject is Always Me
The Red Collective

Marxist Interventions

Main

The inaugural issue of The Red Critique is devoted to "Orthodox Marxism and the Contemporary." The essays explore "Orthodox Marxism" and its implications for the contemporary situation. But the environment of intelligibility in contemporary theory and politics is so deeply influenced by neoliberal propaganda and market populism that a heavy layer of interpretative smugness in the culture industry and the academy smothers any rigorous discussion of Marxist political theory and substitutes for Marxism a floating radicalism. In this climate of intelligibility the immediate response of the reformist left to "orthodox" Marxism is that of a reflexive cringing and backing away: bourgeois pluralism crumbles and shows itself for what it has always been—monolism without mercy. The implied position here is that the floating left is too heterodox (too complicating) to have any use for orthodoxy. To all the heterodox subjects of the post- we say: There is nothing more heterodox than to be orthodox in the age of heterodoxy. Complicate this!

In This Issue:

"Globalization" has sharpened the economic contradictions and devastating inequalities of wage-labor. It has also produced theoretical and political crisis on the left since the postmarxist theories (from feminism, to poststructuralism, to cultural studies) which have produced "left" justifications for capitalism can no longer do so without losing their own political credibility—which is to say becoming useless to capitalism which has funded them and supported them. The "left" has justified monopoly capitalism in its global phase by diverting attention away from relations of labor and capital and instead putting the focus on "human rights," "multiculturalism," localist cultural reforms of various kinds, and by intensifying its reification of the individual and her/his desires and consuming passions.

Now, after decades of denying the significance of Marxism to struggles against inequality, the liberal-left is anxious to declare a "return" to Marx and to Marxism (usually as "marxism") in order to prove its own practical relevance to addressing the (class) contradictions of transnational capitalism.

Yet it is a very strange "Marxism" that is currently being activated by the liberal-left: On the one hand (for example, in the work of writers from Zizek to Paul Smith and in left journals such as Rethinking Marxism and New Left Review), what is put forward is a (flexodox) "Marxism" emptied of the explanatory force of its red concepts of exploitation, labor, need, production, revolution (and which now even rejects as "capitalocentric" any englobing—that is, systematic and non-dispersionist—analysis of capitalism). On the other hand (as what is often opposed to liberal, hybridizing flexodoxy but in fact forms its "popular" flank), is a vapid leftism, which, while it appropriates the concepts of Orthodox Marxism, accommodates the political needs of the ruling class by valorizing the "spontaneous" "agency" of "the people" as the only mode of "authentic" resistance. "Spontaneity"—which forms the undergirding structure of bourgeois "radicalism" that displaces organized class conscious actions with (fragmentary) "rebellions" against the existing—is of course the means by which the ruling class attempts to discredit Orthodox Marxism's insistence on the formative role and unyielding organizational necessity of the international proletarian vanguard party in the development of united and coherent class struggle praxis across national boundaries. In its analytical evacuation of the concepts of Orthodox Marxism as well as in its valorization of "spontaneity," the "new" flexodoxy thus repeats the opportunistic revisionism long ago critiqued by Lenin as the ("democratic") arm of the bourgeoisie in the world socialist movement that blocks the emergence of struggles for any "total" change. In short, the aim of this left opportunism remains today as yesterday in the substitution of "reforms" (local political and cultural changes which mask the integral and total dynamics of economic exploitation in production) for world-revolution. Finally, the depth of theoretical crisis on the left might be measured by its desperate embracing of Spinoza as an exemplary "materialist"!

Contesting the various shapes that this updated reformism is taking—from providing a detailed mapping of the new "marxist" flexodoxy in philosophy and cultural theory, to critiquing theories of "post-work," "emotional labor," and the "transnational left," to articulating a "red internationalism" which demonstrates how globality functions as a reflex of the labor relations of monopoly capital, to elaborating the place of (Marxist-Leninist) theory in transformative struggles—the essays provide a close critique-al engagement with the dominant moves of the reformist left to repackage its political accommodationism and populist sentimentalism as a "cutting edge" politics for transnational capitalism. In opposition to left accommodationism and opportunism in all its forms, The Red Critique argues that what is needed now in the struggle for social emancipation from capitalist exploitation and all modes of oppression are not the hybrid "marxisms" of post-ality (which are alibis of capitalist "radical democracy") but the Orthodox Marxism of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg. In short, what is needed is the revolutionary Marxism capable of explaining class and its material conditions of production, which determine whether society is organized for the profit of some or for freedom from necessity for all.

Without knowledge of class—that is, without knowledge of the social relations of production which allow some to privately own the means of production and material resources of society and, thus, have command over the surplus-labor of others while the vast majority have only their own labor to sell to survive and are exploited—the revolutionary praxis that can emancipate all people from economic exploitation is not possible. This is because emancipation from exploitation and meeting collective need requires public ownership and control over the material resources of society (of the means of production) and, thus, it requires knowledge that can explain existing relations of production and serve as a guide for praxis to transform them. Thus in the contemporary historical fights over Marxism which form a central part of the class struggle today, The Red Critique takes the partisan position (following Lenin) that "without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." It further argues that only Orthodox Marxism provides the revolutionary theoretical understandings capable of educating and guiding vanguard fighters of the proletariat in internationalist praxis to overthrow capitalist private property for profit and found a new socialist society based on meeting the collective needs of all people globally.

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