"Propaganda and policemen, prisons and schools, traditional values and traditional morality all serve to reinforce the power of the few and to convince or coerce the many into acceptance of a brutal, degrading and irrational system." (AS WE SEE IT - Solidarity)
Invaders From Marx : On the Uses of Marxian Theory, and the Difficulties of a Contemporary Reading - Michael Heinrich (2005)
The following text is the slightly reworked version of an article which appeared on 21 September 2005 in “Jungle World”, a leftist German weekly newspaper. In a previous issue, Karl Heinz Roth. one of the main German representatives of Operaismo, had argued that some important Marxian categories are not able to grasp contemporary capitalism. The text at hand answers this critique, stressing the difference between Marxian theory and traditional Marxism, emphasizing the “new reading of Marx”, which developed through the last decades. The German text can be found at the website of the author: www.oekonomiekritik.de
1. LABOUR-TIME ACCOUNTING OR CALCULATION IN KIND?
In 1920 Ludwig von Mises published an article "Die Wirtschaftsrechnung im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen", which was translated into English in 1935 as "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth" and published in Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism edited by Fron Hayek. His basic argument was that socialism would be impossible because, without money and prices fixed by the market, society would not be able to do economic calculations rationally. Or, as he put it, "where there is no free market there is no pricing mechanism; without a pricing mechanism, there is no economic calculation".
After Marx died there grew up a legend that his theory of social causation was too narrowly mechanistic to provide accommodation for any sort of ethics. No doubt Marx, in combating the sentimental "moralising" of certain utopian contemporaries who called themselves "the True Socialists", had leaned so far backward as to give semblance if not substance for fathering on him views whose alleged paternity he would have disclairned.
Historically, Bakunin’s criticism of Marx’s “authoritarian” aims has tended to overshadow Marx’s critique of Bakunin’s “authoritarian” aims. This is in large part due to the fact that mainstream anarchism and Marxism have been polarized over a myth—that of Marx’s authoritarian statism—which they both share.
Marx has been badly served by disciples who have succeeded neither in assessing the limits of his theory nor in determining its standards and field of application and has ended up by taking on the role of some mythical giant, a symbol of the omniscience and omnipotence of homo faber, maker of his own destiny.
The history of the School remains to be written, but at least we know how it came into being: Marxism, as the codification of a misunderstood and misinterpreted body of thought, was born and developed at a time when Marx’s work was not yet available in its entirely and when important parts of it remained unpublished. Thus, the triumph of Marxism as a State doctrine and Party ideology preceded by several decades the publication of the writings where Marx set out most clearly and completely the scientific basis and ethical purpose of his social theory. That great upheavals took place which invoked a body of thought whose major principles were unknown to the protagonists in the drama of history should have been enough to show that Marxism was the greatest, if not the most tragic, misunderstanding of the century. But at the same time this allows us to appreciate the significance of the theory held by Marx that it is not revolutionary ideas or moral principles which bring about changes in society, but rather human and material forces; that ideas and ideologies very often serve only to disguise the interest of the class in whose interests the upheavals take place. Political Marxism cannot appeal to Marx’s science and at the same time escape the critical analysis which that science uses to unmask the ideologies of power and exploitation.
Written for the International Communist Party. Though Bordiga's vanguardist conception of the party is questionable, his critiques of councilism and so-called "workers control" are essential reading.
Compares the features of a Communist society to the visions drawn up by the syndicalists.