11 November 2013

The dynamics of existence



Out To Lunch is a big proponent of the Marxist-humanist philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya, formerly Trotsky's secretary who broke with him over his continuing attachment to the Soviet Union after that country had become a bureaucratic nightmare and pissed all over the ideals of October 1917. Now, I must admit I'm finding it hard to get into D-skaya's work - all I've got out of it so far is the importance of the Hegelian dialectic, which I interpret as a recognition that all categories are conditional, everything is in a process of flux, and therefore getting hung up on the definition of words or categories rather than seeing through them to the real stuff underneath will kill any movement for real emancipation stone dead.

But I suppose I really like the name of the intellectual tendency which she left behind: "Marxist-humanism". That is, again in my own filtered perception, a recognition that, as the proverb of the indigenous people of my country has it:  He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata. (People are the most important thing.) By people we mean actual living breathing humans in all their objective conditions of living and their subjective, emotional, contradictionary consciousness. The essence of capitalism - and the bureaucratic state capitalism which Stalin mockingly called "socialism" - is that numbers  and quantities are the most important things - dollar signs, amount of "stuff", the necessity to put a dollar sign on all the stuff so it becomes just the same as all the other stuff, the race to have more "stuff" for less effort than the unbelievers from the neighbouring state. So capitalism has certainly provided the world with more "stuff" than our ancestors dreamed possible. In doing so, we proved that "stuff" doesn't make people happy.

(Some people get nostalgic for Eastern Bloc "socialism" because it wasn't competitive, it was a lazier society, there was less stress on the average person if they weren't a political dissident. But that was a bug rather than a feature in the system. Stalinist economics was supposed  to be capitalist economics only much faster, as Stalin himself explained. People prefer the old system precisely because it didn't work, or to be precise stopped working in the early '70s. In the words of Dr Frank 'N' Furter, I think we can do better than that.)

But there has to be a step beyond Marxist-humanism, and I think we can use the term ecosocialism for that. Now I worry that I may be misusing a known term here. I think hithero "ecosocialism" has just meant socialism with a specific emphasis on ecological issues, like socialist-feminism means socialism with a specific focus on combatting misogyny. But no, I'm not talking about difference in political demands. I am talking about not only incorporating the humanist emphasis on combatting alienation, on the development of individual as well as class consciousness in the class struggle, rather than (as sect-Marxism as historically done) fighting capitalist alienation and exploitation by letting your Party superiors exploit and alienate you. I am talking about expanding this to an ecological awareness of the dialectical relationship between "culture" and "nature". Of a socialism which sees humanity as a crystalisation/hypostatisation of Earth's biosphere, and wishes to prevent capitalism becoming a cancer which will kill the whole body in the mistaken short-term interest of one part of it.

Now I hate to say it, but I'm going to use the Scientology concept of the "Eight Dynamics of Existence" here again. I'm sure that the conman Hubbard ripped this off from a more reliable source, but I haven't found it yet. Anyway, the idea is that one experiences life 1) as an individual; 2) as part of a family; 3) as part of a tribe/group/nation; 4) as a human animal; 5) as part of life on earth; 6) as part of the physical universe; 7) in the realm of spirit/metaphysics; 8) in the realm of Absolute Reality or God. In this sense, Marxist-humanism is Marxism which explicitly includes Dynamics 1-4; ecosocialism, in my conception, adds Dynamic 5. Perhaps a long-time descendent of this train of thought might finally unify the social and physical sciences and add Dynamic 6, but there's a way to go yet.