Original (November 2020)
I am a communist because I want to live in a world where people are not subjected to the forces of the market and the State, which are responsible for poverty, exploitation, and various forms of oppression. I want to live in a world where no one needs to sell their labor-power to survive, which is the case under capitalism. I want to live in a world where no one is enslaved or oppressed because of their race, gender, sexuality, or whether they are able bodied. I want to live in a world where the people that do the work for society reap the fruits of their labor, and not vulture capitalists. I want to live in a world where production is rationally planned for sustainability, and not dictated by the constant desire for profits. I want to live in a world that promotes human excellence, community, and culture over unnecessary competition and selfishness. I am a communist because the only way to achieve this world, a world without exploitation and oppression, is through a revolution led by those oppressed and exploited by the capitalist system.
Since I am a communist, I am also a Marxist. In order to successfully overthrow capitalism and build communism, we need to understand the society we are living in. A Marxist analysis will tell us about our society’s mode of production, which will tell us about the classes in our society, the revolutionary and reactionary potential of each class, and the direction our mode of production is heading in. All of these insights are essential to revolutionary struggle. We need to know which classes have revolutionary potential in order to organize for revolution, and by understanding where our mode of production is heading, we can anticipate the shifting dynamics of class composition. In the early 20th century, Russian socialists were debating which class would be the primary revolutionary agent. The Narodniks argued that the peasantry was the revolutionary class because of their quantity. The Marxists objected, and argued that even though the peasantry was the largest class, peasants lacked revolutionary potential because they were gradually becoming obsolete due to the development of capitalism in Russia. The proletariat, even though it was small at the time, was gradually growing because of the development of capitalism, and therefore the proletariat would be the greatest revolutionary ally. In the end, the Marxists were right.
The lesson here is that a Marxist analysis of the social formation doesn’t only reveal the balance of class forces in the present, but also tells us the direction that these forces are headed in. We test a Marxist analysis through the practice of organizing those oppressed and exploited by the capitalist system. If we say members of a certain class are a revolutionary ally, but then are unsuccessful organizing them against capitalism, then our theory needs to be corrected. Marxism is a method that produces a theory, and if a theory is wrong then it needs to be corrected. The basis of ‘truth’ in Marxism is whether or not our theories work, and we learn this on the basis of political practice.
The philosophy of construction is based on the fact that all knowledge is produced, i.e constructed, by people. Knowledge is an act of construction, and therefore an act of transformation. Knowledge does not exist a priori, where all we have to do is merely ‘discover’ it. This is the bourgeois view of knowledge, expressed via empiricism, where the world is carved up into subjects, people, and objects, reality. Any communist, and therefore any Marxist, must oppose all forms of empiricism, which is the dominant philosophical current of bourgeois thought. Empiricism spreads its wide wings everywhere in bourgeois society, from academia, to political and cultural beliefs, and anywhere and everywhere that people think and seek to create knowledge.
All knowledge is the result of a theoretical process, and every process is driven by a theory. This theory may be conscious, usually in more specialized domains, or unconscious. In the absence of an articulated theory, which most people lack, the absence will be filled in by the dominant ideology and philosophies which people are subconsciously taught to believe. Therefore, unless one actively opposes empiricism and other forms of bourgeois philosophy, they will subconsciously adopt it. This is seen in every theoretical domain: politics, aesthetics, philosophy, sociology, and even in Marxist theory.
Empiricism divides the world into subjects and objects, where the former comes to know the latter through sense experience. I understand an apple by experiencing how an apple looks, tastes, smells, and feels. The subject/object binary produces the subjective/objective binary, where the former entails the knowledge of individuals, such as ideas, beliefs, tastes, and appearances (both of people and of things in nature). The latter entails any knowledge about nature or reality that is intrinsic to it, such as laws of nature (gravity, mathematical laws, energy, etc.), factual knowledge (Biden is the current President of the US), and any other knowledge that is considered immutable. Objective knowledge is usually associated with science and ‘facts, and any knowledge that is non-scientific is therefore ‘subjective’. As a result, subjective knowledge is usually reduced entirely to opinions or beliefs. Furthermore, common sense knowledge, which is entrenched in the empiricist problematic, asserts that all beliefs and opinions are of equal value. For example, if I state that apples are better than oranges, someone would probably respond, “well that’s your opinion.” When someone echoes this sentiment, they are implying that there is no way to determine whether someone is right to prefer apples or oranges, as they are both opinions and one opinion cannot be more true than another. This logic stretches into every domain of knowledge, from cultural taste, to sports conversations, and eventually to politics. I want to clarify that not every empiricist thinks, and many argue against the notion, that all ‘subjective’ knowledge is equally valid. Everyone who is trained in philosophy knows that every claim needs to be supported by arguments, and the strength of one’s argument determines the strength of their claim. However, the basic assumptions and premises of empiricism lead to the subjective reduction.
If you’re a communist, the idea that all subjective beliefs are of equal value, which includes political opinions, must be deeply troubling. This would mean that every political belief possesses equal validity, and there is no way to determine which beliefs are true. This would mean being a conservative, or fascist, is just as valid as being a communist. This is obviously not true as conservatism is based on a flawed understanding of history and economics, where individual activity happens in a vacuum divorced from structural conditions. It assumes that members of the bourgeoisie accumulate their wealth through ‘hard work’, and not on exploitation. It also assumes that members of the working class are poor because ‘they don’t work hard enough’, which is obviously not true either. Clearly, not all opinions and beliefs are of equal value. As stated earlier, all knowledge is the result of a theoretical process. Every theoretical process operates on a given set of premises, or assumptions. If the premises of a theory are not true, then neither is the theory.
The duty of every communist and Marxist is to intervene in the class struggle of their social formation. The class struggle unfolds on three fronts: the economic, political, and ideological. The economic struggle unfolds through struggles over working conditions, wages, union formation and activity, and so on. The political struggle unfolds through the construction of socialist and communist organizations, and the general struggle to seize state power. The ideological struggle entails the struggle in knowledge (theory, philosophy, art, culture, etc.), and unfolds in the ideological state apparatuses. All three fronts necessarily overlap with each other. For example, the economic struggle over working conditions and wages leads to political struggle, as the State may intervene and impose a minimum wage on behalf of the workers. In order to gain support for a minimum wage, workers need to convince others why this is necessary, and this happens through ideological struggle. Likewise, communists want workers to own and operate the means of production (economic), which can only happen through a seizure of state power (political). We must also recruit workers and allies by convincing them of the necessity of the communist project (ideology).
Additionally, a Marxist never dogmatically prioritizes one component of the class struggle over another as all three are equally necessary. The task of Marxists is to determine which component needs urgent prioritization, which necessarily entails an analysis of one’s social formation. It may be necessary at a given time to prioritize any one of the economic struggle, the political struggle, or the ideological struggle. To dogmatically prioritize any one over the other regardless of the demands of the conjuncture leads to various forms of dogmatism. Trade unionists uncritically prioritize the economic struggle, electoralists dogmatically prioritize political struggle through parliamentary politics, and ‘arm chair’ socialists only practice theory.
This project, the application of the philosophy of construction in every domain, will be a (very small) intervention in the ideological struggle. I want to acknowledge that this blog will represent the work of a single individual, at least initially. One person producing theory by themselves is not revolutionary, and any communist must do the work of studying and applying their knowledge through political practice, organizing, and collectively developing revolutionary strategy.
If you are interested in contributing to this project, email any ideas or work to firstname.lastname@example.org.