Ruy Fausto: Inside and outside Marxism

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By Eleutério FS Prado

Commentary on the principal works of the recently deceased philosopher

Ruy Fausto is gone… to the regret of his friends. But his writings remain. And from them, now, it is necessary to get the best they can give.

This is a great loss for Marxism – understood as a plural movement with many trends that align and/or compete more or less intensely with each other – even if he himself declared at some point in his intellectual career that his conviction politics became outside, or perhaps even beyond, Marxism.

When talking about his work in this moment of mourning, it is difficult to focus on investigating the causes of this withdrawal. Among them is possibly his conclusion that Marxism has difficulty maintaining itself within the framework of democracy. But this question opens a path of investigation that can only be followed critically in a study that goes beyond past historical evidence and in which there is no lack of rigorous arguments.

As some know, the one who writes here disagrees with him on this point. Marxism, for “me”, only becomes faithful to Marx if it embraces radical democracy in its ideology, as well as the principle of commons. To create a new society that is more equal, more solidary and more autonomous, it is necessary to respect the principle of free organization and free expression of people. Let it be noted, from the beginning, that Ruy himself never abandoned the thesis that ideas are moments of praxis.

Here, with the intention of paying homage to the intellectual and scholar of Marx, we only intend to recall his theoretical project, indicating its relevance to contemporary politics. Ruy Fausto, against the prediction of a well-known and renowned Brazilian master in the study and understanding of the work of the author of The capital, became in fact not just a historian of philosophy, but a philosopher; there seems to be no doubt that he was able to make an original contribution in this field of knowledge.  

For this, it is necessary to accept the responsibility of revisiting his work Marx: logic and politics (Brasiliense), whose first volume was published in 1983, having been republished later with the title of Sense of dialectics – Marx: logic and politics (Vozes) in 2015. Volumes II and III came to light, respectively, in 1987 and 2002 (Editora 34). As volume II gained a subtitle – Investigations for a reconstitution of the meaning of the dialectic –, in the new edition, there was an inversion and this last term came to dominate the previous title. 

As is quite evident, the contents of these books are developed around two foci, logic and politics, based on the strength of the contradictions and exasperations that the received dialectic dares to consider. The author's project is quite explicit: it is a matter of making a critique of Marxism based on a logical analysis of Marx's own texts, but strongly sticking to the logic that comes from Hegel. For him, “Marxism has aged, but at the same time it is unknown”.

Here it was lost in the paths of vulgar dialectics, forged in the course of political battles, until the “crisis of Marxism” supervened, a decisive consequence, but not only, of the internal decomposition of Soviet socialism, of the advent of bureaucratic society. Fausto, with his texts, wanted to offer eventual readers certain elaborations that aimed at a reconstruction of the dialectic and a better understanding of Marx's own project.

In the introduction to the new edition mentioned above, he explains that his work wanted to face an antinomy: Marxist politics is guided by the real possibility that in the development of capitalism the emergence of socialism will occur; however, it cannot come about spontaneously, but only through intense struggles and small and large combats. On the one hand, then, socialism is seen as the historical realization of an ethical project that contemplates equality, freedom and autonomy.

On the other hand, as this would only occur through revolutions that would always involve the seizure of state power by workers' parties, Marxist politics could not be subordinated to ethics – it could not do without instrumental reason. If it did, this policy would waste the real power aimed at transforming society; if it didn't, if it won, it would only bring into existence a new form of oppression.

Well, this required, according to him, that the ethical foundation was and was not present in the ideas and practice of such parties. But how could this antinomy be accepted and overcome so as not to violate the principle of non-contradiction?

Now, it would be necessary to know that there is a difference between the explicit and the implicit in the thought that guides the struggle inherent in the social movement put into practice by the Marxists. The link between politics and logic would have to impose itself here: “the essential thing at the logical level is that (...) there can be no understanding of dialectics without the movement of what is expressed (posited) and what is not expressed (assumed)” . Without “the rigorous handling of the distinction between presupposition (implicit discourse) and position (explicit discourse) (…) there is no dialectic”. And this rigorous management – ​​it can be added – would be a necessary condition for a political practice that actually intends to transform society, without falling into revolutionary surges that cancel each other out or even into broad historical regressions.

This issue unfolds, according to him, in another that also appears to be crucial: the one that investigates the anthropology presupposed in the best Marxism and, in particular, in the texts of Marx himself. Is Marxism ultimately a humanism or an anti-humanism? - that is the question. Now, there were those interpreters, generally from the structuralist current, who opted for the second term of this antinomy.

“For my part” – he wrote – “I insisted that, if the Marxian political discourse did not exclude the man, this is implied, or, if you prefer, 'on the horizon'.” In other words, in Marx's discourse there is a certain presence of humanism, but this is presupposed. As, for him, man is not yet historically posited, he cannot be presented as such in the discourse that speaks of the existing society. For, if this is done, discourse and practice are intertwined and end up falling into anti-humanism; if, on the other hand, if this last “anti” is asserted as such, no social progress can be achieved. Thus, in principle, the historical task of Marxist politics would be to put it in place, to make it possible for humanism to exist concretely.

And so we arrive at the point where it is necessary to mention what, for Ruy Fausto, consisted of the core of his contribution to philosophy: the presentation and almost systematization of a theory of dialectical judgments. If critical rationalism accurately differentiated and expounded analytical judgments and synthetic judgments beforehand e a posteriori, the philosophy of the new times, which had overcome the logic of understanding, contained other implicit judgments that it was necessary to distinguish with the maximum possible clarity. And the investigation of the texts of Hegel and Marx had shown him that one of the central causes of the loss of the dialectic by Marxist thought lay in a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of his discourse.

Thus, for a good understanding of The capital it was necessary to be aware of what he called existential judgments, which seek to present certain results of the real historical process, that is, the effective realization or not of historical possibilities also taken as real. And here, with reference mainly to the capitalist mode of production, he singled out the judgments of reflection and the subject. Having as reference the grammatical form “subject is predicate”, he points out that, in the first type of judgment, the subject is presupposed and only the predicate is posited; in the second type, on the contrary, the subject passes continuously in its predicates.

If the Marxian dialectic says, in this way, for example, that “man is the worker”, it only says that the worker as such is posited; it does not, therefore, say that the worker is already a “man”, someone fully human; for her, man as such is only presupposed in the worker. On the contrary, at the level of prehistory, what is posited as a subject is nothing more than an objectification of the not-yet-man that exists there, that is, his abstract work, which has become a social automatism, that is, capital. .

It is therefore from this perspective that the expression M – M – M' must be read, money that becomes a commodity in order to become more money: the commodity and money, it should be seen, only function as different forms of existence of the own value. And the value is the result of the reduction of the concrete work of the worker to abstract work, being himself a “worker”, a reduced form, historically posited, of the possible human.

And here, to finish, you must let your own text speak for itself. It is up to us, at this moment, to listen to him: “given that man, in capitalism, is not a true subject, in all judgments in which the grammatical subject is man, he must be reflected in his predicate – given that in capitalism capital is a subject in the ontological (full) sense, it is necessary, on the contrary, that reflection does not take place, that the capital subject does not pass 'in' its predicates”, that is, that it only passes continuously through these predicates.

*Eleutério Prado is a full and senior professor at the Department of Economics at USP (FEA-USP).

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