Marxism: The Last Philosophy

Marx displayed great disdain towards philosophers and intense optimism towards philosophy. Unlike the materialists before him, he treated philosophy as the practical, revolutionary knowledge which needed to be acted upon, in order to change the world, and in the process, salvage itself.

“The philosophical gift of Marx lies in his presenting before us the history of class struggles as the consciousness of humanity. It is a consciousness that acknowledges how the privileged classes have invariably been victorious in their brutal, colonial legacies. But it is also a state of awareness that extols the potentials of the collective actions of organized masses to overthrow the oppressive status quo.”

Certainly, he denounced the idealists, the Utopian socialists and those that would resemble the abounding postmodernists. But that was only the given. What made Marx a radical was his constant critique of the materialists themselves. The spontaneous atheists of the ancient era (Fan Wanzu, Shen Xu, Heraclitus, Democritus, and the Charvakas), the metaphysical materialists of the modern times (John Locke, Francis Bacon, Spinoza, Denis Diderot, Feuerbach), and the democratic revolutionaries of subsequent periods (Chernyshevsky, Markovic, Khristo Botev) provided to him insufficient, if not reactionary, grounds for applicability of philosophy as an emancipatory medium.

Materialists throughout the history accurately identified humans as products of circumstances. But it took Marx to declare that it is the people themselves who must change circumstances. “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice,” Marx theorized.

Far from the romanticized notion of the dreamy philosophers, in Marx, philosophy is laid down as the most revolutionary human cognitive activity. This demand to recognize the revolutionary potential of human “sensuousness” becomes not merely a valid entity, but more importantly, a historical necessity.

Philosophy comes alive through the human thoughts that must be held responsible for the human actions that are perhaps irresponsible. It comes alive through the empowering notion that human beings, irrespective of their social conditions, and because of them, are not merely capable, but are bound to act upon revolutionary needs associated with their class allegiances. This alleged “determinism” – economically founded – is not an oversight; it is the prophetic gift of Marx, the philosopher.

The philosophical gift of Marx lies in his presenting before us the history of class struggles as the consciousness of humanity. It is a consciousness that acknowledges how the privileged classes have invariably been victorious in their brutal, colonial legacies. But it is also a state of awareness that extols the potentials of the collective actions of organized masses to overthrow the oppressive status quo.

It is this credence that revolutionary solidarities of the working class must act as a catalyst and the precursor to a classless society, that has ignited sparks of political hope among the historically oppressed: from the Russian workers to the Chinese peasants, from colonized Vietnamese to the Congolese nationalists, from Chilean miners to Cuban cultivators. Marx crafted a philosophy that united people across geographic boundaries, because his is the only living philosophy; and going by the current socio-economic upheavals all over the world today, perhaps the last philosophy we shall ever need.

Marx Denial or Class Denial?
If the global imperialists were not denying the relevance of Marx today, that would be implausible. It is not only natural, but necessary – and desirable – on part of the capitalist combines to be dismissive of Marx. After all, they would rather field smaller trivialized battles to score psychological warfare victories than bring back a revolutionary Marx to the fore. For they know quite well that, it is not the various political parties at ballot war that cause a tremble; not the various ethnically diverse, sexually politicized, environmentally conscious, liberally conscientious coalitions that pose a danger to the military-industrial ruling class ethos. The idealists, the spontaneous materialists, the disorganized anarchists, and the utopian socialists do not pose a hindrance in the path of capitalism’s ongoing onslaughts today.

Or, at least, not at the level exhibited and sustained by the political parties founded upon Marxist philosophies this past century, throughout the Cold War, and amidst the colonized lands. The imperialists today deny the relevance of Marx by citing the failure of the former Soviet Union and other socialist societies. Just as they deny the presence of class society within their la-la liberty lands, citing the successes of a few privately controlled monopolies. What they remarkably omit is what the core philosophical distinction Marx brought to the table: that, class struggles are not over so long as classes do exist. And with the number of those in the world who live on less than two dollars a day reaching more than half the world population in recent times, the class divide is more apparent than ever before.

A philosophy is impoverished when it is antiquated. Simply because the aggrandizing war machines of the historically privileged succeeded in crushing the collective aspirations of a few nascent socialist societies does not equate to relegating a pressing philosophy to historical dustbin. Quite the contrary. History of class struggles has rarely been on the side of the oppressed. Defeat of Marxism-Leninism by the end of twentieth-century is a military defeat, not a philosophical one. Those that confuse the two as one do so at the peril of confusing between the historically oppressive ruling elites and their subjects as one.

As the various “Occupy” movements today demonstrate, the protesters can be sentenced to jail, evacuated from their grounds, branded as terrorists in the dominant media, and finally declared to be irrelevant in the land they once proudly claimed to be their own. But dreading the police state mechanisms, they are coming back for sure, better equipped with knowledge and tools of liberation, to wage yet another round of class war. Just as their predecessors did – in hundreds of mass-based revolutionary undertakings worldwide in the last century alone. It is not a mere coincidence that ever since Marxist philosophy came alive through the Bolsheviks claiming power, the world has witnessed more number of freedom movements than at any other eras of history, combined.

The greatest relevance of a philosophy, therefore, lies in its inherent abilities to be creatively harnessed towards seizing diverse prospects. Marx humanized and heroized the human labor, unshackled the individual at both spiritual and collective levels, and delineated the future tracts with revolutionary ammunition as carryover from the past. He connected the human potential, not to a temporal triumph or setback, but to a narration of history that must transcend limits of time. He wrote: “Because of the simple fact that every succeeding generation finds itself in possession of the productive forces acquired by the previous generation, and that they serve it as the raw material for new production, a coherence arises in human history, a history of humanity takes shape…”

If the question of property concerned the bourgeois class in the 17th & 18th centuries when it came to abolition of feudal property relations, Marx predicted that in the 19th centuries and later when the matter of abolishing bourgeois property relations would arise, that question will be of vital importance for the working class of those times. “At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.”

Social Revolution or the End of Philosophy?

The social revolution is taking place right here, right now. In these exciting, and challenging times of our world. More people, than ever before, are politically aware of their social locations, of their states of being oppressed, and of their subjugated status vis-à-vis ruling elites. More number of women and children, more number of the indigenous peoples, more number of the uninsured and unemployed are now voices of dissent. More than ever, the students and the poets are losing their patience. More than ever, concerted efforts at the grassroots are taking on the media monopolists.

And like never before in the history of humanity, Marx is today being rejoiced by more number of people. Each time, critical human thoughts are expressed as actionable ones; on every occasion, the innate abilities to question the status quo are vehemently registered; and at every instance of creatively inclined revolutionized outlet, Marx is recalled and celebrated.

If according to Marx, the existence of revolutionary ideas in a particular period presupposes the existence of a revolutionary class, the preparation for a global revolutionary class – albeit in a difficult and perhaps haphazard manner – is currently underway. And, yet more than ever before, the so-called “99%” of the world are convinced that this time, “they have a world to win”.

For a philosophy to become truly relevant, it must encompass all humanity; the most basic needs and deepest aspirations of the majority. Until the world is transformed into a classless society free of exploitation, it is the political thoughts of Marx that will continue to empower the majority into attempting at Communistic revolutions. And it is the last of the philosophies alive and inspiring the majority; while its uniqueness lies in it being the only philosophy when actualized at its culmination, desires to wither away.

Saswat Pattanayak is a New York-based journalist, photographer, atheist, third-wave feminist, LGBT ally, black power comrade and academic non-elite who refuses to give up his association with Kindle. A true comrade.

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