Saturday, January 3, 2015

On Scientific Socialism, Dialectical Materialism and Anarchism as Naturalism

One criticism of Marxism (particularly its Soviet brand) is that it through a type of either arrogance or psychological insecurity wishes to call itself a Science with a capital S in that it is true in the same sense of gravity; this befuddles and irritates some people, because Marxism being a political philosophy among other things presupposes certain values as given when many believe that values are merely subjective preferences.  John Dewey however observes that values can be empirically verified with a minimal of axioms, like a healthy and happy life being something that is intrinsically desired for example.  Therefore it does not follow to criticize Marxism for attempting to empirically verify the values contained within it, nor does it follow to criticize it for attempting to be empirical (that is scientific) if one is beginning with Empiricism (or some form of Epistemology that has empirical data within its framework as Kant’s does) as a presupposition as essentially the entirety of the Western Academic world (even when it’s trying to be selective of the facts or rationalize away the proper conclusion of said facts) does.  In today’s world of statistics and political pundits, everyone is trying to verify their ideology in a way that is haphazardly rationalist and empirical; Marxism is simply blunt and honest (if a closed-minded and cocky in the Soviet model) in attempting to be scientific in its approach to understanding history, the world and Man.
Scientific Socialism is a fall-out of an honest observation of human affairs.  It is shown that despite what Capitalists say there are numerous natural incentives rather than financial profit, and that human beings wish to be involved in their work and the products of their labor that Capitalism does not provide.  Also there are material benefits as well as psychological benefits to a Socialist model of society, but I assumed those to be obvious.  However Dialectical Materialism and Historical Materialism in its most myopic form do not.  I’d make the claim that Marx begins by making very basic claims of human nature, but ends up excluding much of its nature and concluding with a radical assumption in both tactics and the outcome of such tactics that have not come to pass nor is likely to.  Though man’s nature is largely defined by his material conditions, which also can construct easily certain ideas to be easily made and replicated, he often does not give proper credit to ideas in their own right; the key example of this being the effect of religion in society.  There are numerous other things that Marx shies away from (e.g. psychology, genetics, parenting, etc) in his Economic Behaviorism and it results in a view of change (Dialectical Materialism) that is ultimately based on the notion that economics (in the larger sense of the word including technology) is the sole (or at-least primary to a large degree) factor in societal change and what is known as “development.”  Marx seems to suffer from what many who misunderstand evolution do; namely that there is a natural “endpoint” to history.  The idea that out of necessity the Proletariat would revolt globally (A) and that the revolution they would establish would be of a Socialist variety necessarily (B) which would lead invariably towards Global Communism (C) being the “infinite” or lasting (as long as humanity does) stage of human cooperation (D) is frankly absurd and is based either on wishful thinking or the desire to construct a grand narrative to motivate the otherwise apathetic to action.  Materialism (a proper understanding of it that is) teaches us that there are billions of microscopic variables to our existence, which can be generalized and categorized into a few main categories (e.g. biological, political, religious, economic, existential, etc) intellectually, but are never separate in reality.  Trends can be guessed at with a degree of accuracy but in a very guarded and limited sense, otherwise the future is known to us only in the most grandiose of senses – our extinction.  Which can be secured more-or-less in our knowledge by nearly all political and economic trends despite the scientific data that such activities is leading us closer and closer to obliteration.
Historical Materialism however is a far-more verifiable and far-less grand a claim to make.  The fact that history is determined by in the loose sense material factors and in the more narrow sense largely defined by material (“stuff”) factors is more-or-less an inevitable fall-out of Materialism itself.  If reality is atomistic, then if history exists it too must be determined by atoms, no?  This is the “loose” Materialism I spoke of.  A more narrow economic determinism however is only a factor in the myriad reality of causality on our little marble in the cosmos.  To view it as the sole factor in history would view the entirety of human action to economic relations – precisely what Marx criticizes the Capitalists for doing to the working class.  Economics (once again in the larger sense of the word) clearly is one of the main factors in human change and activity, but to make it the only would be to say that babies grow and become what they are entirely from their diet (raw material resources) and whether and how they play with their food (interaction with resources) when we know that there is more involved.
Bakunin too has a form of Dialectics, and they seem to get at the heart of the thing far-more accurately.  Bakunin brilliantly takes Dialectics, a flabby not very interesting idealist form (originating in Hegel) of History and makes it into a metaphor (rather than a tool for predicting the future like Marx) for the Revolutionary instinct and describing various types of people in society.  There are the Positives (those who align with the current establishment or accepted view and way of doing of things) and the Negatives (those who oppose the status quo and want to make something wholly new) who are the main elements of society and they are put into the sub-categories of consistent and compromising.  The Consistent “Positive” or preserver of the status-quo is in its logical conclusion O’ Brian and Oceanic society as a whole.  He wants either to keep society just as it is or doggedly surrenders all morality to increase the hierarchy and ignorance in society using whatever justification necessary.  Liberals are by definition the Compromising Positive.  They are Pro-Government and  Pro-Capitalist yet always feel unsure of themselves and occasionally want to play the role of Revolutionary by taking the radical position of increasing the minimum wage a buck and a quarter – doing nothing to fundamentally alter the nature of society or alleviate its ills.  Marx could be deemed both for wishing to use Parliamentary politics because the Proletariat were in the majority (ignoring as Bakunin does not that the poor almost invariably vote against their interests and even when they do not the politicians almost invariably serve themselves and their Capitalist masters rather than the people) and for wishing to use the State to abolish itself as a “Compromising Revolutionary” though to my knowledge Bakunin never uses such a term.  The Consistent Revolutionary is one who, like Bakunin, wants to create a society within Bourgeois society to work towards slowly improving the lot of others materially and mentally and eventually destroying it from the inside out.  This is typically how society functions if we are to take a detailed look.  When revolutions do occur, there has been much decay in the peoples’ surrendering to and consisting on the status quo’s ideology (whether political, religious, or otherwise) for existential narration for their lives and reality, and once that has begun revolution in some form has already begun.  Authentic revolution takes place in the mind.
The main distinction in their dialectics is in methodology and purpose.  For Marx it is a tool to describe the future using the tactics of the present and past (Parliamentary politics and violent revolt); for Bakunin it is a tool of understanding the present using particularly for his time radically new tactics that will inseminate revolution into Conservative society like vitamins being inserted into a dying animal.  The social revolution of the 60’s (though it didn’t go nearly far-enough) could be seen as an example of this.  And some forget how different society was and therefore how successful those noble bearded and smelly ones were in destroying the norms of Conservative society and creating one far closer to one of freedom and lacking the religiosity, reverence for authority and judge-mentality of the old ways.  Though self-defense is always justified, we must remember that to create a truly peaceful society, we must use peaceful means.  Though Bakunin does not incorporate this into his Dialectic, I would propose it is an essential aspect of understanding Anarchist methodology and general sentiment and logic.  If we truly wish to see a more peaceful world, we must be vigilant, but compassionate.  We must understand that lasting and meaningful freedom, complete freedom, nor prosperity, never came out of the barrel of a gun.  The Civil War (though it had its social utility) did not drastically improve race relations, and in some ways made them worse.  Only light can destroy darkness, forcing enlightenment is like condemning wood for not being ablaze rather than creating the material and cultural conditions for its burning and enlightenment – burning the old static ways while creating energy to be used for ever increasingly new purposes and in-a-sense people.  For though Marx and Engels are in some ways accurate of the nature of society and humanity being contextual, humans are largely more-or-less the same animals living under radically different (in some ways) circumstances.  All improve under better conditions, but their personalities are defined by their genetics and therefore largely a factor of themselves rather than their environment.  My main contention with Marxian Ethics is they confuse the lack of proper education in ethics and being propagandized into a way of thinking as ethics being contextual.  That is in-itself or to the extent of human understanding.  Ethics is not relational for it is based on the good of the organism which does not change according to its conditions, and most humans are capable of understanding ethics but were not given the opportunity because of religion, Government and commerce.  So it is not a matter of human beings being blank vessels who are slaves to their circumstances good are bad; human beings are largely born with the equipment to learn, grow and be more-or-less ethical and virtuous (children naturally wish to learn to do things and help their parents) but various elements of society and the human condition itself prevent that from happening to varying degrees.
Which brings me to my final point; being that Marxism while attempting to be scientific ultimately fails by being myopic and prophesying.  Anarchism however is the greatest account of Naturalism and an understanding of the findings of science that we have.  Not only in the social sphere of adopting the wisdom of the Cynics and holding all forms of money-hunger, religion and law as artificial and derived naturally from reason or nature, but in the sense that the individual is both a sovereign creature to himself and a social product himself.  Bakunin’s among other anarchists’ wisdom shines through for acknowledging that both humans are beings that are animals and conforms to natural law, while having rights that are not contextual (rights being a product of their nature, rather than being contextual if even existent as Marxism holds) and are as absolute as the formation of his mind is based on his genetic code – both as homo sapien and as his individual self.  Anarchism opposes all hierarchy not out of some Utopian idealistic wish for a better future, but out of the understanding that human beings flourishing is both material and phenomenogical and the best modes of life and of mind are based on the free and interdependent (rather than decisions and all critical thinking happening from the top-down if at-all) interactions of people who are given both the right and the material opportunity to be not only themselves but their best selves.

Or as Bakunin states:  The moment man looks into the well-springs of the sovereign will, from that moment that man is a rebel.
If he obeys now, not so much because the king commands, but because of the king's logic, it can be stated that henceforth he acknowledges no authority, and that he has set himself up as his own king. Woe betide anyone who dares lead him and has only the cachet of a majority to offer him, by way of an endorsement for his laws-for, sooner or later-the minority will become the majority, and the shortsighted despot will be toppled and all his laws annulled.--
Thus, in a given society, man's authority over his fellow-man is in inverse proportion to the intellectual development attained by that authority, and the likely duration of that authority can be calculated on the basis of the pretty well general longing for true government, which is to say, government in accordance with science. And likewise, the rights of might and the entitlements of cunning diminish in the face of the widening province of justice, and should end by melting away into equality. Similarly, sovereignty of the will retreats before the sovereignty of reason, and will wind up fading into a scientific socialism.

Therefore what is desirable in Man ultimately becoming synonymous with what is right and true, to reiterate in-a-sense Dewey’s point.

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