To modify the balance of power within the state, and furthermore, radically modify the materiality of the state, is only one aspect of a democratic transition to socialism. The other aspect of the process depends on, at the same time, grassroots social movements propelling the spread of spaces of direct democracy: in short for movements to ground themselves in popular struggles that always spill over beyond, and keep a distance from, the state.
It is necessary, then, to modify our relationship to Marxism today, to begin from its lacunas, its points of fragility – to openly confront its forbidden zones, its blind spots, so that this real crisis becomes an emancipatory one, producing other analyses, other political practices.
It is in this profoundly political sense that we are forced today, it seems to me, to speak of a theoretical crisis within Marxism, in order to clarify the ways in which it affects what is called Marxist theory itself: and in particular the fact that a number of apparently infallible principles inherited from the Second and Third Internationals have now been placed in doubt.
The crisis, moreover, goes beyond the purely political domain and invests the realm of theory itself. It is a crisis of Marxism, which is experienced by immense masses as an unacknowledged reality. Marxism – not as a body of theoretical or philosophical thought, but as the great idealistic force that was changing the world – is now groaning under the weight of this history.
I believe that Marxist theory is “finite,” limited: that it is limited to the analysis of the capitalist mode of production, and of its contradictory tendency, which opens up the possibility of the transition to the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by “something else” which already appears implicitly in capitalist society.
In 1977 Louis Althusser gave a famous speech in Venice on “the crisis of Marxism,” a thesis almost as scandalous as that of an epistemological break in Marx’s thought.
Black communist women in the U.S. used the Russian Revolution as intellectual and political framework in their struggle for fights for black women’s workplace rights, for domestic workers’ rights, and for rights within the private abode of the home.
Neoliberalism is not merely a set of economic policies, but a specific subjectivity and social relation, is reproduced not only from above but also from below, as migrants apply their own forms of calculation and logics of competition.
Join Viewpoint editors and contributors in New York on December 11th for a roundtable discussion with Steve Wright, to mark the release of the second edition of Storming Heaven from Pluto Press.