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smokeuptheweed9

This is just Burnham's *The Managerial Revolution.* Every time there's a new technology that book gets written again, this time with an even more oppressive neo-feudalism than the last prediction. The innovation you throw in is "capitalism with Asian values" in China which is the more perfect form of the future post-capitalist dystopia but even that's old hat, people have been predicting that since the 80s with Japan. I guess I just don't understand the obsession with saying Marx was wrong or that everything needs to be reinvented. If anything it's the opposite: the immense factories in China and Bangladesh are closer to Marx's concept of capitalism's ideal average than anything in the past and if you read Pun Ngai's descriptions of Chinese factories it's straight out of Engels description of Manchester in 1845 (if you can avoid being distracted for 5 minutes by the fact that they own a smartphone). None of Marx's method in *Capital* is incapacitated by new technology, although if capitalism truly were no longer interested in the expansion of capital that would be something. But you'll have to do a lot better to show why I should accept that, your thoughts here show little engagement with the logic of Marx's argument. I liked antiimperialism.org and I remember your work before that so you've probably been a communist longer than I have. But I've been one a pretty long time at this point, over a decade anyway. My political ideology hasn't changed at all in that time and I've never once felt the need to update Marx or reinvent Marxism, if anything I keep finding new things in Marx and Marxism which explain so much. I still find there's plenty to think about, plus becoming a communist after the "end of history" I've never felt like a lack of political progress is cause for despair. I was born in despair, it is both good and bad. Bad for obvious reasons but good because every criticism of Marxism and communism has now had its day and it was a waste of time. Without the USSR as a foil all the ranting about democratic socialism just withered and died, turns out it was just the CIA. Same with all the complaining about the Marxist-Leninist party, we've had 5 decades of post-Marxist "social movements," turns out nobody cared the minute capitalism was in crisis again. Burnham himself was a disenchanted ex-Trotskyist, Maoists are more about politics than political economy and their disenchantment was mostly about China so you don't see as many "God That Failed and I have to tell everyone about it" types but I can see it happening. Those types had their time too and all their self-criticism of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the new left, and ultraleftism/sectarianism didn't amount to anything either. The arc of the moral universe does bend towards communism, it's just a bigger arc than we hoped. But that doesn't mean abandoning theory, in the last couple of years some really good stuff about imperialism has come out: John Smith, Sam King, Intan Suwandi, Michael Roberts, Immanuel Ness, Torkil Lauesen. You know, you published most of them on antiimperialism.org. On the other see how easily Samir Amin was absorbed into Chinese revisionism, he's a great thinker but the stuff about "tributary modes" had some problems.


marlax1g

As soon as I read the sentence about 'expansion of capital' being 'supplanted' by 'means of control' I had the same thought: classic Burnham, classic Shachtman, classic Hilferding. >The Marxist sectarian cannot grasp the idea that present-day state power, having achieved independence, is unfolding its enormous strength according to its own laws, subjecting social forces and compelling them to serve its ends for a short or long period of time. >Therefore neither the Russian nor the totalitarian system in general is determined by the character of the economy. On the contrary, it is the economy that is determined by the policy of the ruling power and subjected to the aims and purposes of this power. The totalitarian power lives by the economy, but not for the economy or even for the class ruling the economy - as is the case of the bourgeois state, though the latter (as any student of foreign policy can demonstrate) may occasionally pursue aims of its own. An analogy to the totalitarian state may be found in the era of the late Roman Empire, in the regime of the Praetorians and their emperors. That's Hilferding. Not even Max Adler was stupid enough to formulate anything like this; he wrote "[w]hen government appears to free itself from the interests of particular classes, even of the ruling class, and becomes, as it were, common property, in its relations to everyone without exception... *this fact only takes place in the minds of those who believe in it*". Those who believe it, like the OP. It's fitting it ends with this: >The 2nd core thesis deals with an alternative ethical foundation for socialism, The more revisionists change, the more they stay the same. Because we can find the same exact line of thought, socialism is no longer historically necessary and therefore must be placed on an ethical foundation, pursued by Bernstein, Otto Bauer etc.


Thin_Protection5616

Ending oppression, etc is an ethical foundation common among leftist proponents of socialism. In my essay, I argue it's kinda a foolish one. This is vindicated by the fact that no Marxist revolution has produced a classless society free from oppression. Thus, if communism as a classless society is off the table as a possibility, what might be better end-goals? These are some of the questions the essay tackles in its second thesis.


Thin_Protection5616

I've heard of the book Managerial Revolution, but I've never read it. I assume many of the conclusions are a bit similar (i.e., the USSR was a developed society in which the social surplus was used to prop up an economically unproductive elite, who in turn used that surplus to ensure their continual rule). If you search my name and "neo-tributary," you can see I mentioned this concept a couple times before I left RAIM. Marxists have had their time too. Every attempt at revolution, has, due to material circumstances and the competitive nature of the world, devolved into some form of neo-tributarianism. As I state in the essay, my vision of Marxism is much much closer to those Marxist parties that have actually experience running countries than the western Marxists online who are convinced of their own correctness. (Albeit, I don't particularly see China or the USSR as models to emulate either.) A "moral arch of the universe" is, in Marxist terminology, a metaphysical concept rooted in wishful thinking.


smokeuptheweed9

>A "moral arch of the universe" is, in Marxist terminology, a metaphysical concept rooted in wishful thinking. I was using Martin Luther King's famous quote for my own purposes, forgive my writing flair. Obviously I believe Marxism is grounded in historical materialism. But this is a strange objection given you are the one attempting to deal with an ethical foundation of socialism. If you're trying to "get me" on my own terms I'm not sure why, if you have time to write 20,000 words you have time to respond more substantively to the new anti-imperialist works I brought up instead of my narrow response on reddit. Nobody else is going to review your book, we only went this far because of your background but the actual substance is thin and incoherent. Reading your response to u/PigInABlanketFort I'm sorry you had some life experiences that disenchanted you on Marxism but the other nice thing about being a communist in these non-revolutionary times is that every theory under the sun has been done before. Like u/marlax1g said, Burnham is far from the only "ex-Marxist" who came up with this theory. A lot of them were ex-Trots for historical reasons but they could be Maoists in the future. Does anyone look kindly back on the thought and life of Shachtman? That's the company you're in. I could imagine becoming disenchanted with communist practice, like you said organizing factories in Mexico can get you tortured and killed or even being the "left wing" of the PSL can make you feel hopeless after years of pointless labor and reformist practice under a revolutionary veneer That's something we need to talk about among comrades and give support and the internet can be good for and probably will be as older people who grew up with the internet get burned out in the next period of reaction. I'm sorry you got this far without that support. But I can't imagine giving up Marxism, it is simply true as a scientific theory and method, there are many empirical predictions in *Capital* which are true and for which it is the only explanation. You would need to do a lot more work to create your own crisis theory for example if you want to say Marxism has been surpassed or your own theory of unemployment, you can't just pick random things and say "this is reality now." Despite all the disenchanted Marxists, the 2008 crisis still happened and needs a structural cause. Marxism is the best and only explanation.


Thin_Protection5616

Fair enough. My general point was that there is no iron-clad law of the universe or class society which guarantees the world becomes better by any moral or ethical standard. Believing that history will inevitably arrive at some point without oppression or classes seems inspiring for those who see that as a goal. But I don't see any actual evidence that is the case.


PigInABlanketFort

I approved and flaired this submission so that others who have been following MIM, RAIM, and «Maoist Third Worldism» in general could witness what became of one side of the split in RAIM. There hasn't been any official summations as far as I'm aware. The most important lesson to be learned from OP's revisionism is that praxis—read up on Marxist epistemology to rid yourself of the vulgar distortion of this term—which consists solely of a «struggle between closets» is not only insufficient for making revolution, but leads labour aristocrats down the road of reaction. Revolution isn't accomplished nor reality properly understood through reading Marx's missives or listening to social-fascists in a meme subreddit, ie. /r/GenZedong, on a fascist website, ie. reddit, and waving a PRC flag at protests. Study Marxism with others, use it to form an understanding of your country's situation, perform social investigations & class analyses. These steps are the bare minimum for any communist attempting to make revolution and there are no shortcuts or magical incantations to be found here. Dialectical materialism only provides the proper method for performing actual communist work; completely remove «material conditions» from your vocabulary. Quite honestly, this comment along with most of what anyone will read on reddit are poor facsimiles of much more experienced, and successful communists. There isn't one can learn from this comment that couldn't be better understood by reading Mao and applying this theories within an organisation. EDIT: After re-reading my comment, the gist is ultimately that communists, especially labour aristocrats, need to perform a mass work and gain a mass perspective to combat both ultra-leftism and rightism.


DoroteoArambula

I was very excited to see something posted by a member of RAIM, but damn this is disappointing. RAIM is one of the groups that help me cut my teeth on Marxism and I remember their break-up was super confusing to me at the time, but I guess if this is what was incubating within, a fracturing was the logical conclusion.


Thin_Protection5616

I left RAIM 7 years ago and haven't done any work with them since. Most of these ideas were concretely formed long after I left, and even after years of living abroad in countries far different from the US, including those that are 'Third World' or have uniparty 'socialist' political systems. Simply put, my life experience has expanded much beyond what it was when I was with RAIM (or what it would been had I stayed in the US and continued to work with RAIM for the past 7 years). So, if you hate this essay, don't let it reflect poorly on those currently working with RAIM or similar groups.


Thin_Protection5616

Cool. Nothing is stopping you from boarding a flight and going to Mexico to organize workers and peasants. This sounds like a troll, but you're the one claiming that organizing the working class is the only way to achieve true revolutionary knowledge. So, it stands to reason that you have, in fact, done this. Just to be clear, I haven't even set foot in the US since around the time I left the RAIM. Edit: "Fascist website, i.e. reddit." I also wanted to push back on this. It seems a bit like an unreality, something you believe with all earnestness to be true that isn't. Reddit doesn't have a 'fascism' subreddit. r/TheD\*nald was shut down by reddit years ago. The Red Pill, even earlier. Meanwhile, there are a dozen or so politically left wing subreddits, including this one, and probably a hundred or so subreddits designated as places for people to discuss identity politics related to POC and the LGBT community. Deleting subreddits associated with white nationalism and misogyny seems like an odd thing for a 'fascist' website to do, unless you believe that left wing politics is the new face of fascism. In which case, I'd ask why you aren't doing more to oppose the left wing politics of the fascists.... In my essay, I contend that an increasingly denationalized elite characterized by their control of high technology (communication, data analysis, digital services, security and policing) has come to supremacy in the class structure, and that it works in tangent with a new labor aristocracy defined in part by its ability to understand and manipulate said technology (not by it being white and male). This, I argue, is responsible for the 'culture wars' and much of the cultural shift by corporate giants. Reddit = fascist; or reddit=represents neo-tributary elite interest Which one, just on the surface and based on the content reddit hosts or bans, makes more sense? This is why I say in the essay that most on the left, including Marxists, are fighting the remnants of systems that have long been usurped by their progeny.


PigInABlanketFort

> Well what are you doing? This appears to be the mantra of every rightist who receives criticism. It's disappointing however to receive such a poor response from a former member of RAIM, which sought to continue MIM's work. So here's MIM's response, which you've forgotten: > **Why should I trust you? You don't sign your real names.** > MIM is struggling mightily to raise the scientific level of discussion. We find that people who start asking questions about persynality never get into the substance of political questions. > > The root error of most critics along these lines is known in logic as "ad hominem" criticism. http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ among numerous other places explains this problem. > > Frankly someone may be a coward and still be correct that 2+2=4. That is the nature of truth, that it stands independently of whatever the motivation for saying it was. **It is the people who cannot win an argument because there is no logic, theory or data on their side that raise criticisms like this one**, but we are not going to be diverted from putting forward the truth by fundamentally illogical people... https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/faq/mimcowards.html. And it continues to discuss security practice. The only genuine communists on this site who divulge details regarding themselves or details of their political work are using alternate accounts for their organisation through with proxies. The rest are actually social-democrats who do not have to concern themselves to security as they pose no threat to imperialism or promoting for money.   > This sounds like a troll, but **you're the one claiming that organizing the working class is the only way to achieve true revolutionary knowledge**. So, it stands to reason that you have, in fact, done this. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao have all made this exact claim before anyone here was born, actually. And all communist revolutions have demonstrated this fundamental aspect of Marxism. EDIT: > Edit: > > **"Fascist website, i.e. reddit."** > > **I also wanted to push back on this. It seems a bit like an unreality, something you believe with all earnestness to be true that isn't.** > > **Reddit doesn't have a 'fascism' subreddit. r/TheD*nald was shut down by reddit years ago. The Red Pill, even earlier.** Meanwhile, there are a dozen or so politically left wing subreddits, including this one, and probably a hundred or so subreddits designated as places for people to discuss identity politics related to POC and the LGBT community. Deleting subreddits associated with white nationalism and misogyny seems like an odd thing for a 'fascist' website to do, unless you believe that left wing politics is the new face of fascism. Well, I'm done her Hopefully any communists reading this doesn't need to be convinced that fascism is rampant in /r/worldnews, /r/politics, /r/news, /r/pics, and essentially every subreddit including this one. /u/smokeuptheweed9 and /u/DoroteoArambula, I'm leaving it to both of you whether you wish to continue respond or simply ban OP for blatant revisionism.


mimprisons

was OP banned? or shadow-banned? eir responses are no longer coming thru. edit: fixed


smokeuptheweed9

Feel free to respond but I banned them because the response they gave is basically self-promotion as is this "AMA" as if they are some celebrity. We don't need fascists using our community to promote themselves and despite the many chances to respond to criticism they failed to do anything except lash out. Sorry if you were hoping to have a conversation but I don't see any real social impact to this, it really does seem to be one guy's own miserable life being projected outwards. >class collaboration (i.e., a complex structuring of classes working together as part of a single mode of production and social composition of such) represents the degree of development of a society. (i.e., we can all agree that the more complex Roman society was more advanced, both in terms of technology and simply on an adaptive basis than the more egalitarian Germanic tribes that had fewer class divisions). Secondly, the contradictions of the emergent order represent somewhat inherent yet contradictory drives in the human condition (i.e., the drive for security vs the drive for risk; the drive to fit in vs, the drive to distinguish oneself). >If I were to describe a ‘primary contradiction’ of today’s system, it would be the impulse toward finer degrees of control and regulation that is inherent in the neo-tributary system vs. the drive toward conflict, competition, and challenging limits (i.e., struggle) which is part of the ‘higher human spirit,’ as I call it. This is just fascism. That OP arrived at it "independently" without having read a book is apparently a point of pride but actually just makes this all very boring.


mimprisons

no, no i agree.


Thin_Protection5616

Ya, but even MIM prisons left a public record that demonstrated their work with a key demographic. And even despite their efforts over many years, MIMP has very little to show in terms of outcomes. So i'm merely suggesting that if 'organizing the working class' were truly the direct route to 'revolutionary knowledge,' you'd be able to demonstrate it on a more consistent basis than simply deferring to the intermittent historical experience of the Russian, Chinese, etc revolution. After all, many people have tried to go the route of directly 'organizing the masses,' yet have failed. That all said, I think we both agree that experience and not book learning is superior in gaining knowledge. I'm simply stating that my experience since leaving RAIM, 100% outside of the traditional First World, challenged my preconceived beliefs and led me to some very different conclusions than I previously held. \---- You never really cited why you believe reddit is a fascist website. You simply linked to other subreddits and repeated your assertion. But you didn't really provide reasoning or even directly respond to the claims I made. Can you clarify what makes those subs fascist? If I were to post white supremacist or misogynist ideas on those subs, would my ideas be supported there? I genuinely don't know, but I'm guessing they wouldn't. So again, are socially left wing politics the new face of fascism? Or am I missing something in your reasoning here? Why would a 'fascist' website not have subs for 'fascism' or 'white nationalism,' but have a sub for 'communism?' I'm genuinely curious as to how you reach this conclusion, especially in the face of a more reasonable explanation.


mimprisons

> today’s capitalist relations increasingly persist in a secondary position relative to the emergent class relations led by the techno-financial elite. So capitalism has been displaced by a new relations of production that is not socialism? What is the principal contradiction in this new system? Rejecting imperialism, the identity of oppressed and oppressor nations, is nothing new. Sounds reminiscent of the "anti-globalization" movement of the late 1990s that is still appealing to the fascists. Even Sakai has talked about the de-classing of the euro-Amerikan labor aristocrat. But to talk about their replacement by a new international techno-elite just feeds into that fascist story line. And it ignores the continued stark contrasts between conditions in the First and Third World. Yes, some day the united $tates will fall, and someday the Amerikans will no longer be a privileged elite. But it hasn't happened yet. Giving up the struggle to abolish classes to hone the human spirit? what distinguishes your thesis from the so-called "third positionists"? Very disappointing read.


smokeuptheweed9

>Giving up the struggle to abolish classes to hone the human spirit? I didn't get to this but yeah, at least Mishima was a good writer. If you're gonna be a fascist don't hide behind some gibberish you claim is from Samir Amin, commit and go bother someone else. OP since you're no longer interested in working with the masses go read Gentile or Schmitt or Evola or Mishima, you'll be happy and we can all move on with our lives. Trying to construct fascism out of Marxism doesn't work, it's unfortunate that's your background but dump it and start from zero like you want. Marxists aren't going to pay attention to your essay anymore. Maybe this all seems new to you but it really isn't to us.


Thin_Protection5616

I'm appealing to reality and you're talking about ideas and abstractions. (I've never read any of those authors.) Do you have a critique based in reality, or is it all, 'this sounds like what that other guy who I don't like said?' And again. I haven't lived in the US for years. So, if anything, I have a much closer connection and experience with the masses than you, presuming you're in the First World and believe some approximation of Third Worlidism.


smokeuptheweed9

The point is you are using fascist rhetoric. I am trying to help you, clearly you're battling your own demons posting here about your conversion from communism, you might as well commit and read people you agree with since you're no longer welcome among communists. Regardless, this is the response you got (universally hostile) and you're doubling down. There's not really much point in you being here anymore, your work on the past got you an audience but now you're just another typical reactionary. Your book sounds superficial if you cannot answer the criticisms that have been brought up here and instead lash out and anyone that bothers to respond. Bye, we'll decide later whether this thread should continue to be visible as a monument to the tragedy of "ex-communists" or hidden given it is basically fascist nonsense with a "post-Marxist" veneer. You won't be part of that conversion.


Thin_Protection5616

>So capitalism has been displaced by a new relations of production that is not socialism? Effectively, yes… or is in the process of being replaced by. What is commonly called socialism is the history of ‘actually existing socialism’ was really forms of this neo-tributary mode of production in which an economically unproductive political-technical elite was able to live off the social surplus of society, and in which a significant portion of that surplus was reinvested not into developing the means of production but rather toward developing, consolidating, and expanding such control. As a Maoist, someone who believes that socialism inherently contains the conditions for the development of a ‘new bourgeoisie,’ this shouldn’t be too far of a stretch of the imagination for you. As I've previously stated, this neo-tributary system is, at this stage of history, inevitable. The question becomes, what sort of social-cultural-political form do you want atop a neo-tributary structure? ​ >What is the principal contradiction in this new system? In this essay, I don’t use the term principal contradiction. I do this for a couple reasons, firstly, class collaboration (i.e., a complex structuring of classes working together as part of a single mode of production and social composition of such) represents the degree of development of a society. (i.e., we can all agree that the more complex Roman society was more advanced, both in terms of technology and simply on an adaptive basis than the more egalitarian Germanic tribes that had fewer class divisions). Secondly, the contradictions of the emergent order represent somewhat inherent yet contradictory drives in the human condition (i.e., the drive for security vs the drive for risk; the drive to fit in vs, the drive to distinguish oneself). If I were to describe a ‘primary contradiction’ of today’s system, it would be the impulse toward finer degrees of control and regulation that is inherent in the neo-tributary system vs. the drive toward conflict, competition, and challenging limits (i.e., struggle) which is part of the ‘higher human spirit,’ as I call it. >Rejecting imperialism, the identity of oppressed and oppressor nations, is nothing new. Sounds reminiscent of the "anti-globalization" movement of the late 1990s that is still appealing to the fascists. Even Sakai has talked about the de-classing of the euro-Amerikan labor aristocrat. But to talk about their replacement by a new international techno-elite just feeds into that fascist story line. I explicitly reject this sort of consequentialism and am primarily concerned with the closest approximation of reality. The idea that a white person with a capped salary of 40k a year is someone a ‘labor aristocrat’ compared to a computer programmer who starts at entry-level at 60k a year is, to say the least, and interesting narrative of current reality. >And it ignores the continued stark contrasts between conditions in the First and Third World. Part of the thing which changed my view was spending time in the Third World. Anyone honest who has spent time in the Third World can tell you that, on an existential level, people living in the relative material deprivation of the Third World are often happier and more fulfilled than the typical First World college student who’s constantly ruminating about supposed injustices that they have never directly experienced nor have first hand knowledge of. Simply put, a mypoic focus on material conditions is a sort of economism that ignores the reality of the human spirit and its innate drives, one of which is toward struggle and facing challenges. Likewise, the principal theory behind Third Worldism, that world revolutionary struggle is dependent on the movement of the Third World ‘masses’ (which in reality is a quite heterogeneous group), has had time to be put to the test. The development of the world hasn’t indicated this is true. There has been no ‘global people’s war.’ >Yes, some day the united $tates will fall, and someday the Amerikans will no longer be a privileged elite. But it hasn't happened yet. Yes, all things change. The question posed in the essay is, ‘is what comes after really better?’ >Giving up the struggle to abolish classes to hone the human spirit? I propose a socialism that preserves struggle as a means to hone the higher spirit. You propose class struggle to paradoxically end class struggle and (therefore, by the logic of Marxism) to end the development of history itself. >what distinguishes your thesis from the so-called "third positionists"? I don’t know. I’ve done very little reading on Third Positionism. >Very disappointing read. Neither of us have ever been in the business of trying to appeal to the sensibilities of the broadly construed left.


smokeuptheweed9

>Part of the thing which changed my view was spending time in the Third World. Anyone honest who has spent time in the Third World can tell you that, on an existential level, people living in the relative material deprivation of the Third World are often happier and more fulfilled than the typical First World college student who’s constantly ruminating about supposed injustices that they have never directly experienced nor have first hand knowledge of. Sorry about your life. Though I'm more sorry for the people who had some obnoxious expat use them for his spiritual journey to fascism. I've also spent time in the "third world" and every hostel is full of people like you, though they are usually not pretentious enough to write a book about it.


TheReimMinister

I almost filled out my "Anthropologist" bingo card...... When going to the masses becomes "learning from the locals"


The_Viriathus

> had some obnoxious expat use them for his spiritual journey to fascism That made me laugh. It's just too real, you see it a lot among petty-bourg kids who've been recruited to do the most sheltered and shallow version of NGO meaningless charity imaginable and come back home thinking they're Gandhi.


Thin_Protection5616

part 1.4: It’s Hard to Drive Forward While Looking in the Rear-View Mirror One unfortunate quality of modern-day leftism is its obsessive focus on the past. This was, to a large degree, absent in the writings of Marx, who was more concerned with the trajectory that the world was heading in his day, the direction he saw society moving. The normal way of seeing history is as a narrative concluding in the current state of the world, a sort of post-facto explanation for today. It’s seductively simple but ultimately ideological. Almost everything makes sense in hindsight, regardless of who’s interpreting history. Leftists, tradcons, feminists, Islamic scholars, and conspiracy theories can all point to how past events have logically concluded in circumstances today, even though their accounts for both the past and today will vastly differ. On the explicitly consequentialist side of the left, history is seen cynically as nothing more than a narrative used to bolster a particular set of social goals. That is to say, they see, understand, and use history simply as a narrative and a means to an end. The best approach to history is as a means to understand the world: as something to draw relevant, sometimes universal lessons from for use today, without relying on it too much to construct an all-encompassing explanatory or persuasive narrative. That is to say one ought to have a broad understanding of history that is both skeptical and open-minded, and above all honest and pragmatic in this sense of developing knowledge of how the world operates and thus how to best operate in the world. But, in the immediate sense, it is the things in front of us which matter most. Obsessive focus on historical grievance and its correction has become a convenient cover, one actively promoted by the emergent technological- finance elite, to distract us from the world as it’s being remade into around us. Without a forward-looking reorientation, we may quickly find ourselves in a world far removed both from a past we so attentively sought to correct and the future we hoped to create.


Thin_Protection5616

part 1.1: A Marxian Approach We all know, at least according to historical materialism, that the relationships of production spring forth from material existence – especially the material forces of production and most notably their level of development. Marx, writing in the mid-1800s, was living in a time during which humanity had begun to harness the power of coal, steam, and electricity to revolutionize the processes of production, leading to social upheavals in class relations. Those in command of increasingly consolidated private capital had begun taking a leading role in class society while a new class of ‘free’ laborers emerged, characterized by their alienated relationship to these same means of production. But what technology characterizes today, and how will this potentially shape class and social relations into the future? Coal, steam, and even electricity, though still utilized to greater or lesser degrees, are no longer on the bleeding edge of industrial technology as they were in Marx’s day. Thus, any modern analysis of class relations would be starkly different from that put forward by Marx in classic literature such as The Communist Manifesto and Capital. How are things such as integrated technology, wireless communications, mass surveillance capabilities, data tracking, autonomous drones, and robotics all changing the nature of class relations in the modern world? Part of the reason I’ve chosen to write this essay is that, by in large, the answers presented by many who call themselves Marxists today are grossly insufficient. Even the old theories presented by myself in the past, inspired by 20th-century thinkers ranging from Lenin to J. Sakai, fail to properly live up to this challenge when weighed against the apparent realities that we’re firmly experiencing into the 21st century. Earlier pronouncements regarding the principal contradiction as being between the Third and First World, or oppressed and oppressing nations, captured the apparent social and economic divisions that characterized the world well into the 20th century, but they haven’t kept up with the all-important changes in material forces that fundamentally determine the scope of potential development. Toward the end of my tenure as a lead writer at Anti-imperialism.org, I had highlighted, though without full consideration into the range of possible implications, a small passage by Samir Amin in The Law of Worldwide Value, in which he describes the emergence of a world economic system less characterized by the expansion of the surplus-producing labor process and more characterized by the extortion of weaker actors by expansive structural legal-military power, in which ‘rent’ or ‘tribute’ could be siphoned to those in elite economic positions. The implication being: this designation of ‘neo- tributary’ was related to the wider economic relations and mode of production and not any specific political or cultural form. This essay is, in many ways, a continuation and further elaboration of that line of analysis, taking into account the political and social shifts that have occurred throughout not only much of the ‘developed world’ but throughout the world in sum. Thus, many of the conclusions are drastically different than the positions I stridently upheld previously. At the same time, in the second part of this essay, many of the implicit assumptions made by Marx and (even more so) by modern Marxists, used loosely to mean those who routinely self- identify as such, along with those on the radical left, are explicitly challenged. In this process, I explicate a conscious revision of what socialism means in the positive sense. Those mired in the old thinking which today has become conveniently fashionable may find this analysis contrary to their expectations. However, catering to preconceived notions and widely-held expectations has never been a suitable praxis in terms of intellectual work.


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part 1.2: A New World Order? We effectively live in a world much different than the one surveyed by Marx. Technology has outpaced his declarations and wishful thinking. Capitalism never bore the conditions for its collapse into socialism, in which workers themselves (supposedly) control the means of production, leading to fanciful communism of interpersonal and international fraternity. Neither did it collapse into pure barbarianism, thought to be a major possibility by Rosa Luxemburg. Even the strict economic division of the world into periphery and center has broken down. Today, many parts of the ‘Third World’ more resemble the ‘First World’ (both in social relations, attitudes, and evenaesthetically) than many parts of the ‘First World,’ and vice cersa. Technology has permitted an increasingly efficient production of economic goods, thus either freeing more and more people to engage in tertiary work (marketing and sales, service industries, boutique production, security, data collection and analysis, cultural and media work, etc) or forcing them into precarity. This trend is likely to accelerate through the further implementation of automated processes, robotics, and algorithmic and computational technologies. The key or significant feature of this development in technology is what possibilities it permits. Recent advances in technology don’t simply allow for the greater and more efficient production of goods and services while creating a broader class of people tied to menial, traditionally unproductive jobs with a digital spin. Instead, it allows for, firstly, the increasing ability for the ruling class to implement means of control over subordinate classes and, secondly, the increasing transformation of minute aspects of people’s lives into a part of an economic or control process. At the same time, it has elevated a class of technology barons into the elite as a joint partner of finance, while also creating a minor but significant class composed of technological and ideological workers (a broad term covering everything from government to media employees) which act as a new, denationated labor aristocracy that lives in subservient obedience to the class diktats of the tech-financial elite and serves as a social bulwark in defense of this emergent system. If we were to characterize this system as capitalism as all, we might call it subscription capitalism or security capitalism. In this emerging system, expansion of capital is no longer the single pressing structural aim of class society. Instead, expansion of control becomes a primary goal (if not the primary goal). In a similar manner that capital accumulation requires the further development of the means of production, the current system is characterized by the further development of the means of control: an increasing degree of digital records and surveillance and the refined manner in which the data produced by such is utilized for explicit conditioning of behavior and beliefs; the increasing transformation of independent choices and behaviors into the selection of prescribed options relayed to people (and then tracked) through personal and communication technologies; even the utilization and integration of behavioral psychology into a widening range of business processes and public projects. Typically, if a given technology allows for the accumulation of powerby those with power, that’s precisely what it will be used for. Just as industrial innovations shook class relations out of feudalism during the long birth of global capitalism between the 1400s and the 1800s, technologies which permit near-total control and circumscription of choices may shake us back into a sort of neo-feudalism. Like the monarchies that prevailed throughout the world before their usurpation by the capitalist bourgeoisie, the modern elite ostensibly sees itself in a positive and benevolent light, a view projected to the outside world. They are making us all safer, more secure, more tolerant, and less racist. They aren’t the old oppressive elites whose power rested in imperialism and colonial plunder, who perpetuate static divisions based on race or gender, they tell us every chance they get. They are engaged in major global projects to stave off disasters like climate change and pandemics, they emphasize. They are connecting the world through technology, thus empowering people, they declare through white papers, press releases, and groups like the World Economic Forum. They employ phrases like ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘stakeholders’ and are quick to support ‘progressive’ causes, including those centered around identity politics (such as Black Lives Matter, feminism, and trans rights). These narratives are filtered through the institutions that maintain and enforce their burgeoning rule, whether it be the media, academia, NGOs, or government and international agencies. But, this is only one political-social-cultural form of a mode of production that is, to some degree, inevitable. The available capabilities of technology along with the still-competitive nature of global political-economy (and division of the world into different camps of power) ensure, for the time being, that a somewhat corporatist melding of the state and higher-functioning aspects of the economy will prevail. Those who don’t or can’t adopt such political formations will be undermined by those who do. And, in many ways, international power in the future belongs to those who harness technology most to their self-benefit at the expense of those who can’t or don’t. Other political/cultural forms of neo-tributary political economy are certainly possible. While the West is attempting to build and maintain its own, China stands in the center of a rival neo-tributary formation. The Russian state and its modern satellites, characterized by detractors as a mafia state (as if all states today aren’t), is another distinct social, cultural, and political form atop the emerging neo-tributary mode of production. In many ways, the Marxist state projects of the 20th century were left-wing attempts at a somewhat utopian and misguided version of socialism which ultimately broke down into, due to material circumstance, neo-tributary economic relations. Later in this essay, I will outline yet another potential form for the inevitable neo-tributary economy springing forth through the available level of technology.


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part 1.3: Technical Aristocracy These changes in the development of technology affecting class relations have also changed the nature and form of the labor aristocracy, that section of the working class lifted through privilege into a sentry and siren position, responsible for maintaining class rule through the social and ideological division of labor and general masses. Such a class continues to exist today, yet the preeminence of the architecture of control and availability of communication technology has altered its social composition away from one constructed out of the happenstance of national origin and toward one formed according to either a) the skilled ability to understand and manipulate said technology, and b) those who play a direct role in the maintenance of emerging neo-tributary class formations, i.e., those who fulfill ideological/state roles. As technology becomes more central to control and national or racial solidarity less, it makes sense that such as labor aristocracy would become more diverse and thus upsetting the traditional hierarchies that leftist analysis is accustomed to evaluating. This has certainly created a degree of backlash among the traditional (i.e., white) labor aristocracy, the more reactionary sections perhaps rightly discerning that their privilege is being eroded both from above and below. Thus, we see the proliferation of groups such as the Proud Boys and rallying cries such as ‘MAGA.’ At the same time, the western neo-tributary elite, composed of the union of technology leaders and finance melded to the state, are increasingly willing to make social concessions or even promote the social preferences of skilled computational technology workers, often drawn from an international labor pool, on which they depend. This shift away from cultivated support from a traditional, nationally-composed labor aristocracy toward a similar supporting role fulfilled by skilled knowledge and cultural workers without particular national, gender, or other distinction is one of the driving factors behind the ‘culture wars’ we’ve witnessed in western societies over the past decade. It’s tempting to see this as a sort of progressive development – the growing intolerance toward racial, gender, etc bias. But it must be considered as part of the ruling ideology (and the particular form of such) in the context of a shifting mode of production. The brochure appeal of ending past oppression is a smokescreen for what ultimately makes this shift toward a technology-enabled neo-tributary mode of production so dangerous. It opens the real possibility of a system in which class distinctions become frozen or ossified into unamendable castes, in which the vast majority of people live increasingly stupifying and meaningless lives subject to the whimsical (that is to say, sometimes foolish) and power- driven program of an increasingly unaccountable and untouchable techno- financial-state oligarchal elite (with the technical and ideological aristocracy acting as their logistical and social henchmen); in which the ‘wage-slavery' of capitalism becomes largely upended as a definitive economic feature through globalized, automated production and managerial processes, and replaced by the cattlization of humanity (i.e., its degradation) into a scientifically- managed, hierarchical hive-like superorganism. None of this is to say that capitalist relations won’t persist into the future. Rather, just as the feudal relations found in much of the Third World were preserved in service to the wider and more powerful aegis of capitalist- imperialism during the 19 th and 20 th centuries, today’s capitalist relations increasingly persist in a secondary position relative to the emergent class relations led by the techno-financial elite.