I’ve given up on active communist work, at least for the time being. Not because I think it’s wrong, on the contrary, I still count myself a socialist, I still believe that Marx’s critique of Capitalism is on point, even if certain elements of it have yet to be borne out or have been actively disproven. No, I still believe that Communism is likely the only way we’re getting out of the situation we’ve backed ourselves into. What brought me to this point is recognition of situation on the ground.
I don’t want to make recourse to something so nebulous as “human nature;” our conduct is inextricably wrapped up in our material circumstances, and the behaviour of today’s society is merely the product of past victories and defeats. That said, communism is too good for people as they currently are. Perhaps there was time, once, to show people the lies they’re being sold, the necessity of working together to build something better. No longer, though. Our societies end-date is coming up, quickly. No time to “build consciousness” especially with the political Left in a state of division, and those few efforts at rapprochement anaemic at best.
People, the average person, individual instances of the working class or the petite bourgeoisie (never mind the lumpen) don’t want, and don’t have, the capacity to direct their world. I’m not setting myself apart from this, as if I’m in any way better – one brief look at my own life would undercut that immediately. So, how can we expect any sort of success foisting on people a message they don’t want to hear, that they, in their shambling and mediated lives, couldn’t do much with anyways? At the end of the day, people want comfort – the driving desire of the working classes today is to get back what their parents and grandparents had – security in being told what to do with a sense of safety and material surfeit. Struggles for the defence of the NHS (or socialised medicine, more broadly), the fight for a “living wage,” these are emblematic of that desire, not of any yearning for a thorough-going communism. It’s true, unfortunately, that the majority will find no real security under Capitalism, that the basis of their desires will be forever frustrated under this system, but this doesn’t mean that people would be interested in following through on that logic. Even if it is true that we’re all getting a raw deal here, and people dislike it, it doesn’t mean that they are in any way interested in jumping into even a properly-working communism. People have trouble enough completing their tax returns, and we expect them to take responsibility for their lives in totality? Foolishness.
Every previous political economy, including Capitalism, came about organically, the summation of thousands of small changes, individual choices. What audacity to think we could implement one based on rationality alone! I recognise that, as Marx posited, the internal contradictions woven into Capitalism will be its downfall, even if this planet doesn’t render it impossible first. But that doesn’t mean that the workers will seize the State for themselves. It would be the rational thing to do, certainly, but we are far from rational, responsible animals.
What’s left to do, then? Common theme round these parts. Shore up the dykes. We are on the precipice of catastrophic change. We need to confront that with eyes open, and save what we can, what is worth the saving. Strengthen our communities, a tall order indeed in this period of social dissolution. Strive for flexibility, and not fetishise that which we wish to preserve – there is much of the Enlightenment that should be consigned to history, even if it is one of the few good things to come out of European civilisation. Find working solutions for situations at hand, politically and extra-politically.
And all that other soft-Left feculence. We don’t have the affluence of time to otherwise anymore, if ever we did.