Marx's rebirth



Preface to the recently released book, organized by Marcello Musto

The collective work The rebirth of Marx: main concepts and new interpretations, edited by Marcello Musto, is certainly the most important book published in Brazil in recent decades in terms of proposing a platform for encounter and re-encounter with the current nature of Marx's work. More than two centuries after Marx's birth, 175 years after the publication of Communist Manifesto and 156 after the edition of the I volume of The capital”, we finally have in our hands a series of 22 essays that, in their plural unity, claim and document a new reading of the coherent, under construction and unfinished meaning of Marx's praxis. It is the open time of a classic whose temporality is inscribed in the modern genesis and development of the critique of capitalism.

The field of the history of Marxism had already undergone a monumental effort of reflection through the series of twelve books, edited by Eric J. Hobsbawn, which began with Marxism in Marx's time and concluded with the Marxism today, in two volumes (published in Brazil between 1983-1989 by Editora Paz e Terra, translated by Carlos Nelson Coutinho and others). This field of reflection, which drew heavily on Euro-communist intellectuality and its dialogues in a broad sense, already marked a critical departure from the dogmatic Marxism of the PCURSS and opened itself up to an attempt at documentation, reflection and the search for meaning in a time that was already of open crisis of Marxist culture.

More recently, the book Critical companion to contemporary Marxism (Haymarket Books, 2009), edited by Jacques Bidet and Stathis Kouvelakis, in its forty chapters, sought to map the legacies and projections of Marxism in recent decades, based on its different subcultures and themes of analysis. The living intelligence of Marxism was confirmed after the end of the USSR, in total denial of the liberal and neoliberal diagnoses of an end to this tradition, it was already being developed without a central paradigm of reference and, as André Tosel pointed out, in a “thousand of Marxisms” . It is through dispersion, almost shattering, that the critical consciousness of Marxism in relation to contemporary capitalism, as documented there, manifested itself.

The novelty proposed by Marx's rebirth, more than a thematic, temporal or biased return by one or another canon of Marxism, to Marx's work is to think about it in its integrity of meaning through research around key concepts that structure his theoretical field in construction and in movement. Bringing together, assembling, rejoining what is dispersed through the living magnetizing force of Marx's work seems an excellent and appropriate strategy for a culture in crisis of paradigms. The paradigm of XNUMXst century Marxism is the living work of Marx, thought reflexively in its conceptual core, in its unity of meaning and in its open projection.

There are certainly many gains in re-reading Marx as proposed in this book. A work that from the beginning was inscribed in the long temporalities of capitalism in the 2008th century, forwards and backwards, remains referential and unavoidable in its ability to contribute to a critical diagnosis of capitalism's crisis of civilization in the XNUMXst century. After the international crisis of XNUMX, during and around the bicentenary of Marx's birth, in the face of the systemic crisis of North American hegemony and the worsening of phenomena typical of capitalist barbarism, such as the ecological and social crisis, Marx's critique of capitalism It has symptomatically become a frequently evoked motto. Intelligence on the left needs, more than ever, to gain public and collective capacity to think historically and globally about the crisis of capitalism. It was precisely this that Marx's effort continues.

Secondly, when reading Marx, there is a gain in critical morality and in the very structure of indignation in the face of the extreme and omnipresent manifestations of the mercantile ethos in the daily life of our country and the world. If Marx from a young age was critical of the merely moralizing and superficial manifestations of the injustices of capitalism, if since his dialogue with Hegel he sought to inscribe this criticism in the very immanent realities of capitalism, it is necessary to take seriously his radical ethical incompatibility with the way of live in bourgeois societies. Against all naturalization of commercial life in a time saturated with its celebration, reading Marx is to participate in an unavoidable “be indignant!” which is at the basis of great historical moments of revolution and emancipation.

Reading Marx is also and above all to breathe, with joyful joy, the air of what we aspire to: an alternative to the civilization of capitalism. Marx's judgments, unconfirmed in his life, about imminent revolutions are very often noted. At the end of his life, as documented, he was looking for openings for the beginning of the revolution, against the current of determinist and evolutionary theses of history, in the East, in Tsarist Russia. More important than the error or the circumstance is the foundation of the aspiration: capitalism, understood as a contradictory movement that endlessly organizes its reproduction and at the same time the possibility of its overcoming, is historical and, therefore, can have an end. Without this aspiration, one can no longer breathe.

The intelligence of this return to Marx responds, finally, to the very need to reconstruct a narrative of the crisis of Marxism. The analysis and rhetoric of betrayal, mobilized by the founders of the Third International after the nationalist debacle of the Second International, responds only and very partially to the demand for a critical vision of the genetic impasses of the German Social-Democratic Party, which was its center. Between the Second International and the work of Marx, as has already been documented in history of marxism, edited by Hobsbawn, there are movements of vulgarization, doctrinal dogmatization and loss of programmatic center (as, in fact, already documented in the Critique of the Gotha Program and the Critique of the Erfurt Program). In fact, the impasse had already established itself as an unresolved creative tension in the praxis of Marx and Engels itself.

Marcello Musto, in Rethinking Marx and Marxisms (Boitempo), after several erudite exercises in Marxology and forays into decisive moments in the interpretative controversies of Marxism in the 10th century, proposes in its chapter 2 “The odyssey of the publication of Marx's writings and the new discoveries of MEGAXNUMX” a return to thought Marx’s “problematic and polymorphous”, beyond Marxisms. He claims “another Marx”, not exactly an “unknown Marx”, but the Marx that we can think of based on the ongoing complete edition of his works. How have they modified the historically carried out readings of Marx's work?

A major event in the culture of Marxism

The ongoing comprehensive critical publication of the works of Marx and Engels is undoubtedly the greatest event in the history of the culture of Marxism. The initial project, MEGA 1, led by Riazanov between the twenties and thirties of the century, was interrupted by direct intervention by the CPSUSR, under the rule of Stalin. Of the 42 volumes planned, 12 were published (in 13 volumes), with Riazanov himself removed, tried and murdered.

Between 1975 and 1989, on the initiative of the Communist Party of Germany and the PCURSS, the project was resumed MEGA 2, with an edition of forty volumes, interrupted again by the fall of the regimes in the USSR and East Germany itself. From 1998 until now, this time based at the Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (IMES) in Amsterdam, thirty new volumes have been published. In total, 114 volumes are planned to be published. In Brazil, this effort to edit or re-edit for the first time, in a critical way and more careful translations, Marx's works has been fulfilled in a memorable way mainly by the publishers Boitempo and Expressão Popular.

The most recent volumes of MEGA 2 include new draft versions of Marx's important writings (such as The German Ideology), all preparatory manuscripts of The capital, the complete correspondence of Marx and Engels, in addition to around two hundred notebooks of excerpts and studies by Marx.

The collective book Marx's rebirth is centrally anchored in the work of MEGA2, that is, in material that was only recently made known in its entirety. Now, for an author like Marx who only had a very small part of his work published during his lifetime, this new comprehensive knowledge of drafts and studies renews broadly and deeply, on decisive issues, the understanding of his thought.

In particular, the two hundred study notebooks and excerpts allow us to enter Marx's laboratory: the identification of his readings, his critical commentary, the use of notes in the definitive texts. The full publication of the preparatory manuscripts for “Capital”, which range from 1857 to 1875, makes it possible to follow Marx's writing of the unfinished masterpiece step by step, as well as to understand how Engels arbitrated the various editing possibilities of volumes II and III . The new edition of German ideology substantially modifies the vision of a book considered by Marxists as basic to support the understanding of the so-called “historical materialism”.

From a methodological point of view, new access to this critical and integral material addresses three central issues. The first is the unity of anti-liberal and anti-capitalist meaning that moves Marx's intelligence from the beginning, in his constructive dialogue with Engels. There is a conceptual formation in process, expansion of the field of historical and epochal knowledge, of scientific fields of knowledge, changes of emphasis, including important revisions, but a sense of self-emancipation of workers and oppressed inscribed in the contradictions of capitalism itself will emerge. affirming and deepening until the end, as Michael Löwy proposes. There are no ruptures, of values ​​or epistemology, nor mere continuity as if the critical intelligence was already formed from the beginning. This is decisive: an integrated and integrative vision of Marx's work is fundamental for the reconstruction of the unity of Marxism itself.

A second decisive question of method refers to the understanding of Marx's work as an anti-liberal and anti-capitalist philosophy of praxis. It is better known today how his insertion within the left-wing Hegelian youth culture was important for his first critical formation. How decisive was his reading of the socialist authors who preceded him in his anti-capitalist imaginations and experiments. How French socialist cultures already in process since the thirties of the XNUMXth century formed Marx's first socialism.

How much he learned from Chartism and the workers' movements in England and, in particular, from the revolutions of 1848 and the experience of the Paris Commune. Now we know more about how the movements for independence in Poland, Ireland, the democratic struggle in Spain, the anti-slavery struggle in the USA, the revolts in China and India were decisive for their own understanding of capitalism. The long series of his journalistic work in New york tribune provided him with fundamental material for reflection on the process of globalization of capitalism in its colonial dynamics. There is, therefore, no way to isolate the central theoretical corpus of Marx's work from his insertion in the struggle of the workers and oppressed of his time.

The third major question of method that arises when reading Marx is the incompleteness of his work, not in its area of ​​expansion or application but in its conceptual center, even in its critique of political economy. This incompleteness can be banally interpreted as a contingency, that is, as an interruption posed by the facts. It would be better, however, to understand it as a kind of antidote at the center of the theory to dogmatization, the simplification of what is complex, the closure in a system, the lack of knowledge of singularities, the a priori resolution of open historical processes. And relate it to the metamorphic dynamics of capitalism itself and the living praxis of struggles against oppression and exploitation in its social and geographic variety and power.

In this sense, the proposal for editing the book was very intelligent: linking a non-dogmatic reading of Marx's work to contemporary challenges that are new, but certainly continuity of the past of capitalism that is being restored. Each chapter of the book, then, rereads Marx and proposes new agendas for reflection and programming of Marxism. What makes this work successful is that it reclaims the democratic socialist tradition in terms of its past that is being updated and in terms of its future announced by the struggles of the past.

At the end of each chapter that covers a fundamental concept of Marx, the authors propose an updated bibliography of Marxist advances and reinterpretations on the topic. As a whole, these bibliographies form a new and fruitful Marxist library, open to Brazilian Marxists who in these neoliberal decades, with rare exceptions, saw the country's main publishers and university circuits close themselves to the edition and study of Marx. There is today a deep and impressive gap between international and Brazilian literature on Marx that needs to be covered in the coming years.

Next, we seek to express the five major contributions of this book in dialogue with the present challenges of an entire generation that makes criticism and the struggle for the transformation of capitalism the meaning of their lives.

Definitive overcoming of Diamat

The first and greatest contribution of this book is to deepen and document a reading and interpretation of Marx's work in autonomy and in unavoidable opposition to the so-called Diamat, the systematization of Marxism that crystallized under Stalin in the USSR and which became the greatest paradigm and more extensive influence on the culture of Marxism in the XNUMXth century. Marx's rebirth in the XNUMXst century is already free from Stalinist epistemicide. This is fundamental because you cannot build a culture of democratic socialism from a Marxism that was created organically and expressively in autocratic states. If Diamat has already lost the fundamental power of polarizing and deforming, it still exerts a dead weight on Marxism to the extent that a paradigm is only effectively overcome if an alternative one is constructed.

In what was the most instrumental reading of Marx's work, which could only be carried out in a regime of dogmatization, of a single party and severe limitation to free debate, Diamat carried out seven operations of rupture with Marx's work: the centering and decontextualization of the notion of “dictatorship of the proletariat”, understood as an autocratic single-party regime with bureaucratically centralized state planning; the self-understanding of Marxism as a kind of great and self-proclaimed general science, applied to societies and natural sciences, a true incorporation of dogmatism as a method; a rigidly deterministic and evolutionary conception of history, as a succession of modes of production; an anathematization of human rights as bourgeois through classist language, in denial or secondaryization of feminism and anti-racism; territorialization and a break with internationalism through the prediction of a possible construction of “socialism in one country”; the adoption of a culture centered on productivism in rupture with the ecological critique of organic predation on capitalism's modes of reproduction; finally, the rupture with the humanist foundations omnipresent in Marx's work, which identify him as a radical updater of this tradition in history, as interpreted by Antonio Gramsci.

This is not about reproducing how the rich and documented reinterpretations of Marx's work throughout the 22 chapters of the book conceptually reconfigure each of these dimensions. But highlighting how the centrality of an anti-liberal concept of freedom and revolution as self-emancipation in Marx's work organizes and gives coherence to this living, dedogmatized Marxism, which makes the rigor of contextual research and pluralism a power of knowledge, anti -deterministic and open in history. Centered on a concept of freedom opposed to all structural inequality of class, gender or race, Marx's work is radically democratic and anti-mercantile, internationalist in root and in perspective. It is programmatically oriented towards overcoming a society that preys on nature through the supremacy of (exchange) value in relation to use value, the commodification of natural goods and that imposes predatory technological dynamics in the service of the maximum reproduction of value.

Just one beautiful example: Isabelle Garo, author of referential moments of research on Marx's dialogue with Hegel, writes in chapter 20 about Marx's “strange aesthetics”, not developed extensively, but inspired, in a clear classical humanist sense, by idea of ​​how the cultivation of individual artistic sensibilities, repressed and reified under capitalism, serves as an active critique of alienation in a world that wants to be emancipated from the law of value. There is nothing more opposed to any idea of ​​uniformization and standardization of personalities in a collectivist dynamic that obstructs individual freedoms. And she concludes about free thinking through Marx: “the inventive force is more faithful to his approach than the repetition of the lyrics of his work”.

Alternatives to Engelsian systematization

A second value of Marx's rebirth is, in its pluralism of documented readings, to forward interpretations of Marx's work that are profoundly alternative to its first systematization proposed by Engels. It is not a question of ignoring Engels' immense contribution to Marx's own work and the foundation of the Marxist field, but simply of critically refusing the narrowing and simplification of the conception of science in which he guided the reading of the legacy of Marx's work.

Already in the generation of Marxisms of the Second International, this systematization of Engels proved to be incapable of unifying the field of Marxism, being followed by several mutually exclusive attempts at the philosophical foundation of Marxism, as occurred in the works of Kautsky, Plekhanov, in Austro-Marxism with Max Adler and Otto Bauer and in the revisionist enterprise led by Eduard Bernstein.

In Engels' systematization, the dialectical laws that govern nature are the same as those that direct the movement of society. Marxism as a science of “historical materialism” would lead to an unnecessary need for philosophy or a reduction of its role to a dimension of method, understood as materialist and dialectical. Marxism was presented as a materialist monism and knowledge as a reflection of reality. Engels proposed a deterministic and unilinear view of the evolution of history. Freedom was understood as “awareness of the necessity” of the movement of history, with socialism understood as the “kingdom of freedom” in opposition to the “kingdom of necessity”, that is, the conscious and systematic control of nature and of human society itself developed to its highest degree.

In this systematization, a deterministic conception of history occupies a central place, which disseminates a series of antinomies and impasses throughout the conceptual field of Marxism. In letters to Joseph Bloch (21/9/1890), Conrad Schmidt (27/10/1890) and Heinz Starkemburg (25/1/1894), Engels relativized this determinism into six considerations: the determination of the economic would ultimately be , that is, mediated by other factors; These other factors – political, legal, cultural and ideological – would also exert their action on the course of historical struggles and, in many cases, preponderantly determine their forms; there would be a reciprocal reaction, although with less determining weight, of politics on the economy; there would be a relative independence of political and ideological instances in relation to the economic, in particular the influence of the economy on “the development of existing intellectual matter” would be done indirectly insofar as it is “the political, legal and moral reflexes that exert the greatest action directly about philosophy”; Finally, economic determinism would be more visible, beyond immediate circumstances and coincidences, in long-term periods. (Marx and Engels, Obras Colhidas. Rio de Janeiro: Editorial Vitoria, 1963).

These considerations by Engels would be insistently taken up in the Marxist culture of the XNUMXth century, forming a possible theoretical field of interpretative variations of historical materialism, although revealing, in a more rigorous reading, the logical inconsistencies contained in the formulated system. It is these deterministic conceptions of history that flourished and became dominant, in different versions and paradigms, that are the object of a solid and documented refutation in the reinterpretations of Marx proposed in Marx's rebirth.

Mainly in the chapters on the concepts of “Revolution”, “Capital and temporality”, “Nationalism and ethnicity”, “Colonialism”, “Globalization”, “War and international relations”, it is documented that as Marx complexifies his critical of XNUMXth century capitalism, deepens his knowledge of history and takes systematic knowledge of the singularity of social formations, abandons any linear notion of the development of humanity and delimits his analysis of the formation of capitalism temporally and spatially to Western Europe .

It opens up to the possibility of socialist revolutions not mechanically expressing the degree of development of productive forces and combining with anti-colonial and agrarian struggles. Instead of determinism, there is a notion of pluralism of origins, of varied routes and an open field of combinations with the globalization tendencies of capitalism.

The indeterminacy of history goes to the heart of the very critique of political economy, capitalism thought of as a contradictory dynamic structure, in an unequal relationship with the system of national states. If there are unequivocally deterministic textual passages in Marx's work, with variable meaning in the various periods of his work, they present themselves at most as tensions that never reach a coherently deterministic theoretical status and are always countered by openings of meaning.

In this theoretical field in which Marx's critical intelligence operates, there is certainly conditioning of politics by the economic foundations thought of in the singular relationship of capitalism, but not determination or mere reflexivity, to name the usual metaphor of base and superstructure, even mediated. Unlike determinism and pure indetermination, there are discernible operating tendencies in the dynamics of capitalism inscribed in its contradictory movement. Emancipation is understood praxiologically as a real possibility but not as a fatality, depending on a combination of objective and subjective conditions in which contingency has a broad scope.

Finally, what does it tell us? Marx's rebirth it is a structured field of critical concepts, fundamental, but not completely concluded, open to history, aimed at thinking about the movement of capitalism in its contradictions and its possibilities open to a collective praxis of emancipation. And it is precisely because it is not deterministic of history, because it does not offer any dogmatic recipe for the future, because it is an expression of creation and the struggle for freedom, because it is even open to trial and error, that this structured field of concepts is unavoidably contemporary.

Decisive themes

It is characteristic of classical thought, which considers the long temporalities of the formation of capitalist Modernity and its beyond, to open itself to the future and updates. Marx's rebirth rereads all of his work, scrutinizing what is diagnostic and potentially critical of the impasses of the civilization of capital in the XNUMXst century. Below, we list four decisive themes.

The first of these is the possible and necessary overcoming of the disagreements between Marx's work and the foundations of women's emancipation. As Heather Brown, author of Marx on gender and the family. A critical study (Haymarket Books), in the chapter on “Gender Equality”, many of the syntheses between Marxism and feminism throughout the XNUMXth century fell into the errors of essentialism, ethnocentrism and an uncritical acceptance of economic determinism. But it would be possible to document that a reading of Marx's work indicates that “his categories and analyzes of him lead in the direction of a systematic critique of patriarchy as it manifests itself in capitalism”.

The historicization of the family and the program to overcome its patriarchal dimension, the identification of clan forms in primitive societies, not necessarily structured perennially in a patriarchal way, the denunciation of the oppression of women beyond class dimensions in capitalist societies, studies on working women and their participation in the struggles for socialism document that Marx's theory does not separate anti-capitalism from feminism. On the contrary, it combines them.

This is how, for example, the “Electoral Program of Socialist Workers”, from 1880, written by Jules Guesde, Paul Lafargue and Marx, opens with the consideration “that the emancipation of the productive class is the emancipation of all human beings , without distinction of sex and race”. In item 1 of the Political Program, it is called for the suppression of the Napoleonic Code of 1804, known for its strong patriarchalism, of all articles “that establish the inferiority of the worker in relation to the boss and of the woman in relation to the man”.

In turn, the chapter “Ecology” by John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx's ecology. Materialism and nature (Brazilian Civilization), in a didactic way, consolidates the interpretation that far from being a radical productivist, blind to the predatory dimensions of capitalism, and alternatively a disregard for this issue, Marx provides in his work three major contributions to the understanding of the ecological crisis contemporary. First, the ecological theory of the value form, based on the distinction between wealth (which includes nature and labor) and value (based only on labor).

In other words, as nature “was not included in the calculation of capitalist value, but was treated as a free gift to capital, it was impossible not to notice the destructive tendency of capital to overcome all natural limits in its endless drive for accumulation”. The second fundamental contribution, already resulting from studies on the development of capitalism in the countryside, would be the “theory of metabolic rupture”, from which capital systematically promotes the disruption of the Earth's metabolic cycle, undermining the conditions imposed by the nature of the Earth itself. human development.

In volume I of The capital, in a synthetic way, he wrote: “Capitalist production only develops the technique and combination of the social production process to the extent that it undermines the sources of all wealth: land and work”. The third contribution would be the identification of two types of ecological crises, those caused by the increase in the scarcity of natural products and the sustainability crises more specifically. Thus, the author concludes, for Marx, “the accumulation of capital can be maintained through environmental crises.”

A third decisive theme, expressive of reinterpretations of Marx's work, is that of colonialism and the importance of the national struggle. The chapters “colonialism”, by Sandro Mezzadra and Ranabir Samaddar, “Migration”, by Pietro Basso, and “Nationalism and ethnicity”, by Kevin Anderson, author of Marx on the Margins: Nationalisms, Ethnicities and Non-Western Societies (Boitempo), show how Marx and Engels began to combine, in various contexts, the class struggle and the national liberation struggle. The two authors of The Communist Manifesto would have evolved from a position that viewed the globalization of capitalism as a stage, despite everything, necessary for the universality of ethos socialist revolutionary to, from 1857 onwards, with the revolts in India and China, adopt a strongly critical position against colonial barbarity and the determined support for national liberation struggles.

The founding of the First International took place in a context of campaigns to support the independence struggles of Poland and Ireland, continuing with the mobilization in support of the North against the South, for the end of slavery in the USA.

Here too, the analysis of how capitalism, in its expansion, exploited inequalities of race, gender, nation and geographic origin, serves to identify these various subjects of the anti-capitalist struggle and the need to combine these different dimensions of the class struggle. Thus Marx, working with the intrinsically colonial dimension of capitalism, gave great centrality to the theme of Atlantic slavery, to the relationships of the most exploited Irish workers with the overall dynamics of the English working classes, to the servile forms of exploitation in the colonies and class degradation. peasants. Although, as Sandro Mezzadra and Ranabir Samaddar claim, they neglected the extermination of Indians taking place in the USA in the XNUMXth century.

Finally, very interesting are the reflections of the great historian of the world of work Marcel van der Linden, on Marx's difficulty in delimiting the concepts of proletariat and lunpen-proletariat, in addition to overestimating the trends of the time, in the extent and speed, of process of proletarianization produced by capitalism. His chapter is combined with a more classicizing and contemporary treatment of how the foundation of work figures in Ricardo Antunes' critique of Marx's political economy.

Marcel van der Linden calls for a conceptual field of the proletariat that includes more than excludes, in two possibilities: that proposed by authors Jairus Banaji and Rakesh Bandhari to “consider all market-oriented forms as variations of labor positioned for capital”; the other, that of considering all labor force coerced to be commodified and sold or rented as proletariat.

Both concepts carry the notion of exploitation and commodification, unifying those who are interested in overcoming capitalism. It is obvious that this concept has great implications for overcoming any Eurocentric vision, being more in line with the historical and contemporary realities of the majority of the world's population who do not fit or fit into a strict concept of proletariat, at the same time that it does not leave to include the classic notion of wage labor.

In recent decades, Marx's work has come to be strongly criticized for its classism that excludes the centrality of feminist and anti-racist struggles, for its Eurocentrism, for its subordination to a concept of reason and productivist and anti-ecological technique, in short, for program a unitary and universal destiny for humanity, ignoring ethnic, gender, cultural and national differences.

The critical rereading of Marx's work indicates a path opposite to the path taken to analytically separate different oppressions and contemporary impasses from the general dynamics of capitalism. Instead, it is about thinking about these oppressions in relation to the dynamics of reproduction of global capitalism, unequal and combined, in its diverse and unified dimensions. And, thus, converge the different processes of struggle against oppression and exploitation, in an expanded concept of proletariat, in an anti-capitalist sense.

Marx and the unity of democratic socialism

A fourth historical contribution of the book is to indicate a possible path towards unity of the traditions of democratic socialism. The beautiful title, Marx's rebirth, with its humanist resonance, contains this triple dimension: that of being a response to the neoliberal proclamation of the death of Marx, identified as an enemy of freedom; to remove it from imprisonment in dogmatic formulas, freeing it for the necessary updates in this XNUMXst century; to focus on a field of concepts historically open to a theoretical unity of meaning.

When we talk about traditions of democratic socialism, founded on the political praxis of Marx and Engels, based on its organic condition to the political movements of workers at the time, tradition is differentiated from a strict, detailed and organized sense of party and approaches the notion formulated by Marx of “a party in the eminent historical sense”, as Peter Hudis recalls, in the chapter on “Political Organization”.

This is the tradition of a revolutionary critique of capitalism that formulates its overcoming through a democratic process of self-emancipation and that was expressed in the left wings of the parties of the Second International, in Marxist currents historically critical of the Stalinized Marxism of the USSR in the period and which, although minority, continue to inspire contemporary anti-capitalist political, intellectual and social movements.

These traditions of democratic socialism sought to resist the fragmented theoretical field of Second International Marxism, marked by strictly deterministic codifications of Marx's work, the serious split and rupture of its ethical-political foundation of freedom with the rise of the Diamat paradigm and, in recent decades, to a true dispersion of Marxisms in the face of the rise of neoliberalism and the absence of an experience of anti-capitalist emancipation that would serve as the ground for a process of convergence.

A key concept in this tradition of democratic socialism is that of the democratic revolution, which aims to be more potentially transformative precisely because it is supported by open and developed powers of self-emancipation. This concept of revolution proposes to think about a historical field of transition from capitalism to socialism through a rupture with the liberal order and a deepening of the democratic dimensions of a new State. In the same line as Marx in The Civil War in France, deepening and updating the debate, Ernest Mandel in the 1970s, in the document “Socialist Democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat”, innovated by defending for the period of transition to socialism, in addition to the extension of forms of self-organization and self-government, the freedom of expression and organization to parties that did not violently oppose the new democratically constituted legality, the right to strike and union autonomy, free artistic creation, the right to due legal process and the universalization of human rights that also surpassed oppression of women, ethnically discriminated populations, young people, gays.

When speaking of a “theoretical unity of meaning” we seek to differentiate this diagnosis of Marx's unfinished work from a field of concepts without defined structure or direction or, on the contrary, from a systematically formalized theory, already fully integrated into its fundamental concepts. . Therefore, it is essential to understand Marx's work as a theory of emancipation, whose center is freedom. The basis of his criticism is the incompatibility between liberal democracy and capitalism with the value of freedom.

The culture of the so-called “cold war” and neoliberalism disseminated the notion of Marx's incompatibility with the foundations of freedom. Marx's rebirth It allows, instead, to accuse the incompatibility of neoliberal capitalism with the value of freedom, understood as self-government and based on overcoming structural inequalities of class, race and gender.

As the great political theorist of contemporary Marxism, now deceased, Ellen Melksins Wood, develops in the chapter “Democracy”, Marx's work in criticizing liberal democracy goes beyond its structural limitation arising from class inequality and understands it in its mediated relationship but structuring the domination of capital. As several authors insist, including Marcello Musto himself in the chapter “Communism”, Marx's political writings on socialism go beyond distributive economic demands and propose overcoming the capitalist mode of production itself.

Likewise, the humanism present from the beginning in Marx's work authorizes a conception of socialist freedom that points to a maximum field of individuation of freedom in a civilization with a minimum of coercion and constraints, historically possible through a radical democratic reorganization of the foundations of State and a public socialization of the economy.

This theoretical unity of meaning is valid for thinking about Marx's concept of the capitalist State. Bob Jessop, the great theoretician heir and continuator of Poulantzas' reflections, in the chapter on “State”, cites Marx's initial youthful studies, documented in the Kreusnach Notebooks, on the history of States and social development in France, Italy, England , Poland, Germany, Sweden and the United States, as well as notes on the French revolution and modern classics of political theory. In 1844, following his criticism of Philosophy of law of Hegel, Marx outlined a “draft plan for a work on the modern State” in eleven chapters.

In the plans for the unfinished writing of The capital, there was always an indication of a moment of conceptual treatment of the State as the foundation of the reproduction of capitalism. Book I dealt extensively with how the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French and, in particular, the English states acted to shorten the feudal transition to the capitalist mode of production. These analyzes showed how the State acted to structure the world market, with the leading power England dominated by the bourgeoisie of its country. But a theoretical treatment of the capitalist state could not be developed.

The absence of a concentrated conceptual treatment of the State in Marx led Marxists, in an artificial doctrinal effort to think of it as a systematic work completed from a theoretical point of view, to think of politics and the State itself as a superstructural instance, derived or determined by the economy, even with mediations. In a language actually closer to liberal political economy, which conceived the spontaneous genesis of the capitalist order and its functioning according to its own laws, Marxisms intended to conform Marxism to a scientific order of concepts in opposition to the languages ​​of political philosophy.

The path proposed by Gramsci in Prison Notebooks went in exactly the opposite direction. In dialogue with Marx's work, denounce economism and determinism, proposing a refoundation of Marxist philosophy understood as a philosophy of the praxis of emancipation from capitalism. And through concepts of unification of politics, economy and culture – integral state, historical bloc, organic intellectual and hegemony – project a unitary field of concepts of Marxism, tying the critique of economics, politics and liberal values ​​to a new historical program alternative civilization to capitalism.

If Marx's work was constructed since the forties of the XNUMXth century as a critique of the current liberal order, the reconstitution of a unitary theoretical field of democratic socialism in the XNUMXst century, centered on the ethical-political value of freedom, involves criticism and programming of overcoming neoliberal capitalism. The free Marx that results from Marx's rebirth It is, due to the critical intelligence it brings together, a fundamental platform for developing a historical, unitary and contemporary political program for democratic socialism.

The rebirth of Marx and Brazilian Marxisms

There are several ways to point out the decisive importance of this book for Brazilian Marxists and for the construction of a democratic socialist culture for the Brazilian left.

The first of these is the recognition that the Brazilian left, in its history, had a biased, fragmented and discontinuous, or even indirect, access to Marx's work. The generation of Marxists of the 30s and the post-war period of the XNUMXth century came to know Marx in general through the paradigm of Russian Marxism, which was Stalinized and dogmatized. The generation of Marxists that was formed during the period of resistance to the military dictatorship was already formed in an environment of acute crisis in Marx's reading paradigms.

From the eighties and, mainly, the nineties, the existing Marxist circuits, in universities, in publishers, diffusion centers and training experiences, were strongly disorganized through neoliberal dynamics. Only in the recent period have critical editions of the so-called Mega 2 were made available. Critically understanding the work of the main founder of democratic socialism is still a challenge for the Brazilian left.

This discontinuous and fragmented knowledge of Marx's work, in a context of crisis in the subcultures of Marxism that were formed in the dispersion of paradigms in the XNUMXth century, is at the basis of a historical gap between the political and social strength of the Brazilian left, in its expression electoral and organized social movements, and the construction of a public culture of democratic socialism which, in a plural conception, certainly has Marxism as its main historical vector of anti-capitalist reference.

What could be called a pragmatic culture, focused on responding to urgent political challenges based on correlations of given forces, grew, imposing barriers to the formation of a socialist historical program in the face of neoliberal pressure. A fruitful encounter between Marx's work in his effort to update it and the Brazilian left has yet to be constructed.

A phenomenon resulting from this gap between Marx and the Brazilian left is the lack of full programmatic expression of the potentially anti-capitalist feelings and cultures that thrive in Brazilian society based on classism, feminist and anti-racist struggles, the struggles of indigenous peoples, LGBTQI+ movements, public education and health, occupation movements in cities and growing ecological struggles. In general, these cultures of rights historically and structurally violated by Brazilian capitalism remain without a programmatic convergence. The field of concepts and the unity of meaning present in Marx's work can certainly contribute decisively to this construction.

A penultimate decisive contribution of this book would be to encourage the historical unity of the Brazilian left, which has always been divided by different paradigms and interpretations of Marxism. Marx's work, in its unity of meaning, is an unavoidable path towards the construction of this historical unity.

Finally, the failure to develop a democratic socialist culture in Brazil generated a low internationalist standard, even Latin American, among the Brazilian left. The connection with the international effort to reread and update Marx can certainly feed an internationalist consciousness, so formative in the praxis of Marx and Engels. This internationalism, more than a morality in solidarity with the anti-capitalist struggles that are developing in the world today, is necessary for the Brazilian left itself to map its praxis in the midst of the labyrinth of the global crisis of capitalism in this XNUMXst century.

*Juarez Guimaraes is a professor of political science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Democracy and Marxism: Criticism of Liberal Reason (Shaman). []


Marcello Musto (org.). The rebirth of Marx: main concepts and new interpretations. Translation: Fabio Fernandes. São Paulo, Autonomia Literária, 2023, 528 pages. []

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