With the current financial crisis of capitalism now once again raising questions of the historical viability of the system of wage production, Marxism is now finding itself with yet another round of intrigue for many interested in exploring modes of societal organization capable of avoiding the failings of capitalism. Unemployment, hunger, poverty, all are problems that are now finding multiplied manifestations in our current society as capitalism continues to falter in its ability to continue on in its expansion.
But how to you fix this? How should you go about being a good Marxist?
In the current epoque, it is nearly impossible to be a “good Marxist.” However, revolution must be at the forefront of any good Marxist’s intentions. This crucial point is often forgotten among Marxist academics and theorists; the writings of Marx are empty without revolutionary intent, and so too must revolutionary intent remain the definitive quality of those who continue to define their politics, intentions, and identity as extensions of Marxist methodologies, the method of dialectical materialism, the method of revolution. Marx once said that philosophers have only interpreted the world, while the point is to change it, and it is exceedingly important that this not be forgotten when reading and applying the theory behind the Marxist critique.
In order to cultivate your dialectical potential, it is necessary to sip heartily from the well of contradiction. The process of becoming a good Marxist is one which is dependent upon your ability to recognize, explain, and act upon the divisions and faults in everyday life made apparent by the conflicts and movements of history in a manner which forwards the process of advancement present in the course of history. It is necessary to bolster your Marxist knowledge with solid Marxist thought, from its origins, in Marx and Hegel rather than first defaulting to introductory books or to neo-Marxists, Marx-inspired writers, or anti-Marxists. Such secondary material must come secondarily, otherwise the Marxist knowledge-base is watered down and distorted. We suggest beginning with Marx’s early writings, for example, the manuscripts of 1844, for riveting, dense writing that will get you up to speed more quickly than the slow tome of Capital. However, you will, indeed, be expected to read certain important excerpts from Capital early in your Marxist reading ventures, seeing as this is an important, foundational text that provides background for the development of capital and processes of exchange over history leading up into the 19th century and the industrial revolution. It is also useful to read Hegel, Bruno Bauer, and Feuerbach to have a good basis for understanding the dialectical development of Marx’s criticisms. And Engels is easy to forget about – don’t forget to read him, too. Once you get through these writings, it doesn’t hurt to return to them several times. While it is good to thoroughly read Marx, it is also good to digest his writings in bits so that you can contemplate and decipher the content to his writing over time. However, don’t feel pressured to stagnate; expanding the platform of your understanding to post-Marx writers is a useful though precarious move to make once the basis of understanding has been attained. We suggest reading Guy Debord.
General, universal studies of history are also important material for dialectical materialist analyses, but the ever-critical approach must remain present. It is easy to become distracted by moralizing and hidden arguments existing in histories written in order to gain control and power. In order to avoid such pitfalls, one must remember that reflections of history are reflections on power, and when one contemplates history, they necessarily contemplate the contradictions, historical developments, and the spirit of history that birthed and continues in the vestiges of their own time.
If you are considering joining a Marxist group, you should bear in mind that, in the current epoque, these groups remain under the current developments of capitalist organization and are filled with all of the typical bureaucratic potential of bourgeois politics. Most are more concerned with paper sales and promotion above all else and find themselves well outside the revolutionary tradition and critique of society, choosing only to bother with the affairs of creating their own internal business models over all else. However, this does not mean that one should not continue to pursue Marxist thinking and revolutionary praxis in a group environment. The actual Marxist organization does not as a necessarily present rule compose itself as a bureaucracy, though most of the well known and larger organizations are open to this criticism. As Ludwig Feuerbach attests, “Dialectics is not a discussion between myself and I, but between you and me.”
The importance of revolution augments vigorously to a critical point. Where has that critical point gone? It is now in excess, it is rotting; there is an excess of negation present in the modern world. Capitalism is everywhere; growing, expanding, imperializing; so too is revolutionary potential and negation everywhere, it only has to be realized.