2018 | 3 | 7-9
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Editorial: Karl Marx. On the Occasion of the Bicentenary of His Birth

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Fair enough for Karl Marx, 2018 immediately will give him a new chance to be remembered, for this year marks the bicentenary of his birth. In 2017 indeed, most of Marxists were only able to celebrate the secular impulse given by the bolshevik coup inside the then ongoing social revolution for massive West-ern/industrial/isation of Russia, instead of the 150th birthday of his Capital’s publication. “The only thing I know is that I’m not a Marxist,” said Marx, and we definitely should understand why by now. Does Marx’s one of the most quoted sentences still weigh, or has overquotation entirely depleted its subver-sive consequences? In 2018, near-term extinction or at least near-term collapse of the human species (not to talk about other ones) because of capitalism— capitalism indeed is the explicit content of geological neologism “anthropo-cene”—has become a Pulcinella’s secret. Another one is that Marxism has done little or better said nothing to resist it, and very much more to contribute to Westernize the rest of the world under the ruinous banner of human emancipa-tion. It has done so all along the 20th century, as if it had been, according to Lévi-Strauss’ pervasive insight, the ultimate trickery of modernisation: main-stream and thus dominant Marxism brutally displayed a frank and open admira-tion for the industrialisation process and for the generalisation of its corollary, waged slavery as the normal mode of production, i.e. as normal relations of production. Now it could be a matter of honour, if not of political relevance, so to say a gallant last stand, in the occasion of this bicentenary of Marx’s birth, to ad-dress again the thought of the great anatomist of the capitalist power machinery under the light of the Savage, rather than under that of the Civilized, say that of the mere though brilliant and leftist apologist of the bourgeoisie’s achieve-ments—namely Manifesto’s Marx. “Address again:” because it has been done so many times inside heterodox Marxism (the Frankfurt School, Operaism, etc.), but so many times undone and silenced by the overcoming and now, once the job is done, disappearing police inside the workers’ movement, its official organizations with their progessive religion. The Marxist comedy of Modernism turned into tragedy again, leaving full room to capitalist exterminism and pav-ing the way to biocide, better known as the sixth mass extinction. Now the bad joke has been unmasked. To us, value critique, the core of Marx’s true genius, is the point of view of the Savage par excellence in Marx’s work. The current issue provides a rich bunch of often erudite contributions which most of the time suit with this concern of digging up, through value critique, as weird as it might sound, a “reactionary” Marx against the traditional, orthodox progressive bearded bard of modern times. Let us not made ourself misunder-stood. There is no contradiction between our anti-modernist hypothesis about Marx and communist revolution. On the contrary, this hypothesis proposes again, after Walter Benjamin describing Klee’s angelus novus as turning its back on the turmoils, torments and ruins of History, that communism is the actual social movement abolishing the current state of affairs, according to Marx’s own famous word—no matter whether he thought or not of capitalism, at the time he wrote it, as an instrument to that end: our current hypothesis is that it is not, of course, as Marx himself stated in his just as much famous though never sent letter to Vera Zasulich of ... 1881, long after Capital’s first volume was published—and whose unilaterally progressive character has still besides to be proven. If one must admit that this mass conscience has flowed back to the inconscious where it comes from, one might also more modestly consider the persistent matter of communism as the thud of resistance to the great encampment (if we put it like Michel Foucault) of the industrial era and its poisonings. What resists is of course not merely the past as such, like in the right wing scenario à la Evola of reactionary thought (generally mistaken for the latter), but what of the past deserves not to trespass for it is cleared from all forms of social relations of domination. By the way, it’s not the least merit of Mario Tronti for instance to have made possible again (after and simultaneously to the Adornian-Benjaminian wing of the Frankfurt Schule), from the sixties onward, the dialogue bewteen Marxian thought and what he called the great reactionary culture. In some way, if this view gains support, it complicates the Marxian fight be-cause it radicalises it: there is nothing in the institutions of modernity that might be taken for granted as the solid rock on which to elaborate further what previ-ous dominant classes have been supposedly and unconsciously forging for us. The only way left is to trick with History with a big Jacques Rancière in his Philosophe et ses pauvres puts it straight: no more bourgeois hero to pave the way for a communist play in which proletariat stands as the gravedigger walk-on. If proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains, it should be now obvious, contrary to all Marxist (-Leninist) preaching, that it will not lose them. So the traditional question of what to do? always left bitterly without an answer after any Marxist (or Marxian) congress stays all the more unsolved, for even the academic way of raising the problem relies on the presupposition that a separate activity of knowledge is still legitimate from an emancipatory standpoint. But that is what the very critique of the realm of real abstractions puts into question. If democratic instruction turns to be unveiled as mass conditioning for disci-pline, according for instance to an Enzensberger, then it is highly dubious that emancipatory intelligence has not to be found at least also among the vast array of popular skills, abilities and capacities. But soon comes the reversal: where have these skills gone? Melted into thin air, like Shakespeare’s characters and sceneries after The Tempest. It might now sound dazing that the unexepected actors of mass instruction against modern dispossession can precisely be intellectuals and even scholars. Rudi Dutschke claimed that Lenin be put back on his feet; let us add: not to teach “backward” skilled workers to rejoyce abandoning their qualities—or rather their Musilian Eigenschaften, their properties—in order to embrace the socialist management of mechanization, bourgeoisie’s sumptuary gift, but to tell completely dispos-sessed proletarians what was stolen to their skilled ancestors in order to gain it back and against the so-called onward march of History.
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles
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