By: Jafe Arnold
Tragedy & Farce: Reconsidering Marxian Superstructural Analysis of Heterodox Social Movements
Part II: A Heuristic Reconsideration of Marxism and Modernity in Eurasia
n the introduction to this series, we presented and provided some cursory remarks on the general topic of our investigation. We drew attention to the problematic application of Marx’s thesis concerning the “poetry of the past” (as presented in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte) and the overriding confusion of the relationship between the superstructure (ideology, the “poetry”) and the base (objective class forces) which manifests itself when Marxists analyze and attempt to identify the trajectory of socio-political movements, particularly those syncretic ones in the late modern and post-modern era which often defy normative stereotypes of aesthetics, presenting apparently “unorthodox,” and perhaps contradictory superstructural “cues,” the latter of which, given the faulty precedent set by Marx in contradiction to this own framework, confuses Marxists in their analyses and more often than not leads to erroneous categorizations of otherwise “progressive” movements or states as “reactionary.”
In this installment, we will delve deeper into the theoretical underpinnings of Marxism as an ideology of Modernity with the aim of uncovering the paradoxes which underly the precedent set by Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. We will then proceed to present the general contours along which our study will unfold as we examine Marxism itself through its own lens, reconsider its perception of heterodox socio-political movements and the theoretical and practical implications therein, and trace the trajectory of Marxism’s paradoxical hermeneutics in the direction of a syncretic political ideology.
Marxism, the 20th Century, and the Fourth Political Theory
It has long since become clear that the First Political Theory (1PT), Liberalism, emerged from the 20th century as the victorious ideology of Modernity. This unavoidable fact and its practical implications have been analyzed by a number of scholars in a wide variety of fields. The other two main socio-political theories, Marxism (with its various offshoots) and Fascism (along with its various strains), were played against each other, demonized from all directions, and dealt decisive defeats in crucial spheres at different times by the massive ideological, political-economic, and military complex of the 1PT which since the 1990’s became the nightmarish norm for massive swathes of the world’s population. Now, however, as this “End of History” has revealed itself to become increasingly untenable, intolerable, and undesirable, growing attention has been turned towards the various anti-liberal ideologies of Modernity with an eye towards scavenging and critically analyzing their nominal as well as paradoxical anti-Liberal and anti-Modern elements.
Such, for example, is part of the work of the developing Fourth Political Theory which seeks to dissect the 2PT and 3PT, remove their Modernity-derived hermeneutic kernels, and thereby critically absorb those of their theses which can be measured against the realities of criticizing Liberalism and Post-Modernity without lugging the baggage of their Modernist prejudices. Such is also part and parcel of the project of political syncretism that seeks to reconsider the rhythms of coincidence between the three socio-political theories of Modernity, synthesize a new understanding of these political ideologies, and critically employ anti-liberal analyses for the purpose of informing the nascent 4PT.
Of particular interest to us within the context and framework of such a project is Marxism. Marxism was the only one of the three primary political ideologies of Modernity that developed a comprehensive and systematic ideological framework which lent itself towards capably analyzing an extremely wide range of phenomena. Compared to the obscurantism of the jingoisms of Liberalism and some of Fascism’s emotional appeals to certain archetypes ultimately channeled into a fundamentally Modernist project, Marxism offered the most “scientific” of all the “scientistic” political philosophies of Modernity. Moreover, a study of the evolution of Marxism over the 19th and 20th, and even of its various “dogmatic” remnants today, reveals that it has proven to be the most dynamically self-critical analytical framework of all anti-liberal ideologies. In terms of socio-political movements and analytical projects, Marxism has proven to be much more durable than other ideologies. Its analyses of the logic and trajectory of capitalism, its critique of modern imperialism, and other theses have even been transplanted into the arsenals of other seemingly contradictory theories and political projects. Moreover, Liberalism and liberals themselves, recognizing, or, more precisely, fearing the prescience of certain Marxist projections, have used the Marxist framework itself to better understand how to fortify their positions and neutralize otherwise anti-liberal opposition.
Where Marxism did/does fail, however, and this might account for much of the inadequacy of its 20th century socialist experiments, is at understanding and reconsidering itself. Whereas Marx and his followers brilliantly exposed and formulated theses against crucial aspects of Liberalism, capitalism, and capitalist imperialism and even successfully led a number of revolutions on the basis of Marxism’s self-critical and dynamically applicable analytical framework, Marxism, and not to mention Marxists, more often than not failed to grasp deeper dimensions of their revolutionary experiences. Instead, Marxism’s inherently Modernist premises were taken to their logical conclusion and the great socialist revolutions of the 20th century either failed to resist or critically reexamine their prejudices towards the fundamental paradigms of Modernity. The ultimate product, which plagues much of the 21st century Left, was a series of “revisions” which, rather than excavating the “real Marxism,” castrated and ensnared Marxism further in the clutches of Liberalism, ultimately bringing some of its political incarnations in line with the bourgeoisie, liberal politics, and Post-Modernity’s disillusionment and confusion.
Marxism and Modernity – introductory contours
It is of supreme interest that when Vladimir Lenin boasted that “the Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true,” his angle for such a perspective had little to do with the angle from which later revolutionary Marxist intellectuals and leaders would proceed when engaging in ideological exercise or insurrectionary mobilization. For Lenin, Marxism was “omnipotent” and “true” not because it was the ultimate ideological motivation for “serving the people,” “building the Red Army,” or “rallying the people around the Party and the Leader,” but rather because it was a “legitimate successor” to and represented the comprehensive, logical conclusion of “the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism.”
In Lenin’s perception, Marxism’s value as an ideology was not its idealistic, passionate appeal to the rebellious instincts of exploited workers, “oppressed nationalities”, or the alienated and restless non-conformists among the intelligentsia, but rather its conformity with, continuation of, and revolutionary application (interpreting the world with the aim of changing it) of the most developed sciences produced by Modernity. That Marxism’s modern character was the most prized, relentlessly argued jewel of the greatest and most successful communist revolutionary leader of the 20th century should immediately draw the attention of anyone seeking to understand the origins, trajectory, and nature of Marxism as a revolutionary ideology. After all, one of the most widely voiced arguments of its proponents is precisely that Marxism is a “science” which, on the basis of critically absorbing and synthesizing all hitherto “breakthroughs” in both the analytic and continental schools of European philosophy, represents a self-critical arsenal of revolutionary thought and praxis capable of explaining to and guiding humanity to a new stage in historical evolution.
The dialectic thus unfolds before us. Marxism, in digesting the most “progressive” products of modern thought, simultaneously carries these theses to their logical conclusion, ultimately revealing the contradictions within their abstract (ideological) as well as concrete (socio-economic and political) manifestations. From there, Marxism points to the irreversibility, inevitability, and desirability of a revolutionary overthrow of the existing mode of production (capitalism) and its ideology (Liberalism), thereby opening a new stage in human development which is anticipated to resolve these contradictions through a new mode of production (socialism -> communism).
In calling for the revolutionary reconstitution of contemporary human society not only as a logical, historically sanctioned inevitability but also as a revolutionary imperative, Marxism may be considered an ideology which is “against the modern world.” However, it is often taken for granted the extent to which this is limited, and the paradoxes which make themselves evident therein, not to mention the consequences of this reality to the socialist experiments of the previous century. Insofar as the modern world is predominantly capitalist, Marxism, with its proposal for the revolutionary replacement of capitalism with socialism, is undoubtedly an oppositional ideology. However, as Lenin elucidates quite proudly, Marxism itself is a product of the very shift in philosophical and historical paradigm, Modernity, which laid the theoretical, epistemological, and anthropological foundations for all three political theories of modernity: Liberalism, Marxism, and Fascism. While Marxism criticizes and thoroughly analyzes the logic and trajectory of the socio-economic manifestation of Liberalism, capitalism, it simultaneously, as an ideology of Modernity, shares some of the core tenets of Liberalism, not to mention praising and absorbing the “scientific advances” which accompanied Liberalism’s overthrow of the remnants of pre-modern society.
This reality renders Marxism only circumstantially, or partially, antagonistic to the trajectory of Modernity. In addition, this means that, despite its shared claims with Liberalism that it is a universally applicable ideology, Marxism was a product of Western Europe’s experiences of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment, the sum total of which produced Modernity and its according revolutions in thought and the organization of human society. In order to elaborate on this point and bring it into the specific realm of our discussion, let us briefly review what exactly “Modernity” means.
Modernity may be understood as both an historical era as well as a philosophical paradigm. Indeed, it was precisely the shift in philosophical paradigm in Western Europe which signaled the beginning of a new historical stage as a result of the ideological, technological, political, and socio-economic transformations dialectically intertwined with (in the sense of engendering as well as being reflected by) dramatic changes in the realm of thought. The revolutionary propositions for changing humans’ understanding of the world around them, as produced by the above-mentioned movements and their thinkers, justified and reflected transformations in the base of European societies. Their theses, which first and foremost include humanism, secularism, materialism, progressivism, and universalism, as well as according Eurocentrism conjured out of a falsified Western Tradition, ultimately laid the foundations for all three of the “big ideas” of Modernity. Marxism is saturated with and was elaborated on the basis of these postulates.
Marxism turned out to be the longest-lasting and most comparatively successful anti-liberal trend of the 20th century. Revolutions of hundreds of millions of people were carried out under its banner and led by its thinkers; it offered a non-capitalist path of socio-economic development for numerous societies, and it demanded enormous concessions and reactions on the part of Liberalism and capitalism. Even today, the movements and analysts which have remained faithful to its principles continue to exert enormous influence and project considerable power in select parts of the world.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that Liberalism and capitalism won the battle of the 20th century. Despite all the successes of this or that socialist country or Marxist-inspired political movement, it was Liberalism that claimed the “End of History” and proceeded to construct a new world order on its terms.
In search of the “real Marxism”
Today, a reconsideration and “revolutionization,” as opposed to a pro-liberal, pro-capitalist, or pro-Modernist “revision,” is necessary not only in order to rectify the mistakes of this formidable anti-liberal trend of the 20th century, but also incorporate it into the growing surge of a new philosophical, ideological, political, and socio-economic struggle against all the foundations and manifestations of the modern world which Marxism previously reduced to capitalism.
At first glance, this may indeed appear to be a “revision” of Marxism. Upon deeper analysis, however, we discover that this does not mean discarding or exiting the Marxian analytical framework, but rather using it to accomplish what the great Marxists of the 20th century failed to do: explore the deep, paradoxical kernels of Marxism which position it as a conditionally and partially anti-modern ideology and resurrect certain elements which lay buried or disguised under the purely “materialist” Marxism which views the history of man through a Liberal lens.
This entails a number of angles. This means summoning and analyzing the “mythological,” “eschatological,” or “esoteric” Marxism which nominal Marxism and 19th century Marx claimed to have overcome and “turned on its head.” It means taking a fresh look at the reasons why historically socialist and “Marxist” revolutions took hold in underdeveloped, “pre-Modern” societies. It similarly requires a juxtaposition of Marxism with various nominally non-Marxist movements which, although usually identified with the political “Right,” in fact share certain trajectories and complementary perspectives that reinforce or, paradoxically, intersect and confirm each other and hint towards the possibility of a political syncretism capable of reconciling the industrial hammer and sickle of communism with the ancient and esoteric symbols of Tradition. This necessarily includes a recognition of the coincidence between the struggle between Capital and Labor and other historically antagonistic forces, such as grounding the struggle of Labor in land, in a continental, Eurasian Marxism against the sea of Atlanticist Liberalism.
To a certain extent, this not only means reading Marx “from the Right” or right anti-bourgeois, anti-modern thinkers “from the Left,” but searching for the embedding of these ideologies and projects in the flesh of the “enemies of the open society,” i.e., the enemies of not only capitalism and the bourgeoisie, but of Modernity itself. In general, this signifies the examination of the qualitative mistakes of Marxism from the perspective of working through its own qualitative thought and the subsequent revolutionizing of its view of world history which would bring Marx not only further in line with his own proposed science, but in fact exorcize the ultimately liberal “science” of Marx and reveal the hidden Marxism, the Marxism which touches the deep archetypes of consciousness, history, and eschatology hitherto undiscovered within Marxism itself. Only on the basis of such an ideological rectification can we then proceed to case studies as previously proposed by the series.
The ultimate product of such a revitalized Marxism would be an “eternal socialism,” I.e., a socialism freed of the Modernist prejudices and limitations which ultimately strangled, discredited, and confounded it in theory and practice in the 20th century.
Some thinkers and movements have attempted to realize this endeavor. In the 1920’s and ’30’s, the National Bolsheviks of Germany and Russia and some Eurasianists sought to transform not only conceptions of Marxism as an ideology but also dilute its Modernist elements in order to arrive at a new political ideology.
In the 1990’s, Gennady Zyuganov, as the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation in collaboration with such intellectuals as Alexander Dugin, sought to reconceptualize Soviet socialism on a new basis which allowed for the importance of the “Russian” and deeper “civilizational” and “spiritual” factors. The “Red-Brown” movements in Russia at the dawn of the 21st century also contributed towards this process. Dugin has explored and proposed guidelines and perspectives for digging up what he terms the “real Marxism” that, although ignored by “orthodox” or “nominal” Marxists, in fact had the greatest influence on the socialisms of the 20th century. The Center for Syncretic Studies itself has also sought to embark on a “resurrection” of this “Marxism of forms beyond images and things.”
Such a Marxism does not remove Marxism’s crucial theses and analyses from their historical context, their grounding, but in fact drives their roots deeper down into the soil to reach the permafrost covered center of the real meanings of “revolution,” “the people,” the “proletariat,” “Third International,” the “opium of the people,” the “specter haunting Europe,” and the slogan “Marx is not dead.” Only such an approach can rescue Marxism from the throes of “identity politics”, determine genuinely positive (as opposed to the Modernist term of “progressive”) political movements, and offer the revolutionary theory for a revolutionary movement, a “socialism for the 21st century” against the modern world in all of its aspects. Such a product would inevitably form part and parcel of a Fourth Political Theory aiming to decipher the paradigm, contradictions, weak links, and revolutionary reconstitution of the existing world order which claimed Marx was dead and the End of History in the 1990’s.
Thus, we propose to initiate this theoretical groundwork and integrate it into our critique of Marxian perceptions of nominally non-Marxist socio-political movements and our excavation of the possibilities latent in “dead” Marxism itself.
”Aleksandr Dugin: Liberalism, Communism, Fascism, and the Fourth Political Theory.” YouTube, 23 Aug. 2012. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QrnJKf-hhE>.
 Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism.” Marxists Internet Archive. <https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/x01.htm>
 Zyuganov, Gennady. My Russia. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997.
 Dugin, Alexander. “Paradigm of the End.” Eurasianist Internet Archive. <http://www.eurasianistarchive.com/author/alexander-dugin/introduction-part-2-paradigm-of-the-end-the-russian-thing-2/>
 Capone, J.V. “Advance and Follow – The Death and Resurrection of Karl Marx.” Center for Syncretic Studies, 22 March, 2013. <https://syncreticstudies.com/2013/03/22/advance-and-follow-the-death-and-resurrection-of-karl-marx/>
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