In the last article published here at The Outpost, we discussed a critical assertion implied by the Communist Manifesto’s: that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same coin. They are two forces of the same cult of Material Progress, taking part in the same process of Acceleration. Two phases of a two-stroke engine bringing History forward.
With the end of Cold War polarization, this has only become more apparent. The Race against the Machine was tentatively introduced into US public discourse by Andrew Yang, and suddenly UBI experiments seem to be popping up everywhere. The lights of our porn and glucose syrup-fueled welfare dystopia must not go dark, so America will now take care of her forgotten children. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Ocean seems to be getting wider these days. After all, NATO was meant to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” America’s foreign policy of decoupling from its many foreign engagements makes it every day more unpredictable and unreliable for its allies overseas, and there is no more Soviet Union to fear. The US always had a cultural soft-spot for those boorish Russians. They may not be that bad, after all. Look at them sort out our Middle East headaches, and how admirably they comply with WHO Covid-19 recommendations! Let Europe deal with them. The Big American Game has already been on the Pacific for a while, anyway. The trade war pushes China to outsource its production to poor countries, and with it comes a way of life. After all, everybody enjoys some of that good consumerist alienation. It’s the Future.
This whole situation leaves the EU sitting on the fence: once again pushed to the edge by an existential security crisis, it looks into the abyss of full political consolidation. A Brussels’ bureaucrat wet dream of technologically-enhanced European solidarity with green, deculturalized, borderless markets, and a high-speed railroad from Lisbon to Beijing. The freight trains finally making the trip back to China fully loaded, for a change. Or, on the contrary, perhaps coronavirus will succeed where Jihadist terrorism did not, as the Schengen space collapses and disintegrates. The result is the same: either sell to the Chinese, or let the Chinese buy what’s left of your remains. The barbarians must pay tribute to the Middle Kingdom once more. And this is also the Future.
So, the landscape is evidently changing, one way or another. The World as we know it is being digested by the powerful revolutionary enzymes of technoeconomic Progress. Some kind of Brave New World, Fully Automated Luxury Communism looms over the horizon. The technology is coming nonetheless, so we might as well adapt. But what are those clouds gathering in the horizon? What dark forces dare to oppose this New Dawn?
Obviously, Socialism has always been an adversary of Capitalism. An often overlooked aspect of the Communist Manifesto, however, is how many of its few pages are dedicated to attacking Socialism. Communist animosity against socialists has its origin in the fact that socialists, as a force, opposes the forces of historical development, of Progress. The Progress which, as we were saying, can only be brought forth by Capitalism. Socialism means deceleration. Engels made it clear in the 1890 German edition of the Manifesto, when justifying its title: at the time of its first publication in 1848, the word “socialism” referred to a bourgeois movement, and “communism” to a workers’ movement. Socialism was quite respectable in the bourgeois milieu; communism was the complete opposite, an ideology for the great unwashed. And the great unwashed are the Future, too. Thus there was no choice but to describe the ultimate revolutionary ideology as Communist, in explicit rejection of Socialism.
Due to this rivalry, Chapter III of the Manifesto is basically a treatise on socialist taxonomy, comprising about 3,200 words, and distinguishing three main schools of thought: (1) Reactionary Socialism; (2) Bourgeois or conservative Socialism; and (3) Critical-Utopian Communism. All of them can be collectively described as aberrant variants of the proletarian movement, unfit for the responsibility of carrying forth the Revolution, which is a historical necessity.
The next few chapters of this series will focus on the different brands of Socialism, as understood by Marx and Engels, along with commentary on their memetic history, their associations, and their current versions.