“A significant part of the US population feels that the main crisis facing that country today is the collapse of community life, which extends from the household to the workplace, the neighborhood and the corporation, until reaching beyond all of that to the broader community, which is the nation. One can perceive an atomization of society.” “And indeed, there will appear other creative ways wrapped in socialist ideas.” — The Future After the End of History, Francis Fucuyama, Centro de Estudios Publicos, Chile, 1992
This post is a continuation of an earlier one in which I criticized the response made by the philosopher Alexis Jardines to a question posed by a student at the University of Florida, Gerald M.:
“Is it true that there’s nothing salvageable from communism if we understand this word as the central idea of politics as far as life in communities…?”
According to Alexis: “There is nothing redeemable in communism” and “the working class has disappeared and will continue disappearing.”
Given these simplistic positions that radically deny the entire path to struggle (as well as end solutions) and that cheapen a controversy that could be very interesting, I felt prompted to respond once again.
Let’s see what else Jardines says:
“I would like to warn of the dangers entailed in collectivism, both the Marxist and the anarchist versions. Both have had their opportunities to prove their effectiveness.
“The implementation of Marx’s theory led to the statist system of real socialism, while anarcho-libertarian economies were tested around the world with equally disastrous results at the margin of the state: in North America (the USA), Western Europe (Spain, England) and Eastern Europe (the Ukraine) and the Middle East (Israel).”
Thesis: Collectivism entails a danger
Some liberal ideologues who Alexis follows have demonized the collectivism associated with infamous political systems of the last century: Stalinism and fascism. But were these truly collectivist these systems?
The socialist wave that swept Europe after the political, social and economic failure (even less remembered) of liberalism (then converted into the “liberalism” of the corporations) was manipulated by a militarist and pro-development elite that soon clashed with the true socialist and communitarian tendencies.
There are plenty of examples. Right here in Cuba a supposedly collectivist state has confronted and destroyed community, religious and family institutions that have dared to stand up to it. Does collectivism still entail a danger? Sure, but here Jardines is highlighting the deaths of others.
Thesis: The ineffectiveness of collectivism
I’m sorry to be pedantic in emphasizing this, but collectivists (in the sense of life in community, with collective ownership of principal means of production and predominantly non-commercial interpersonal relationships) have existed in almost every society in the history of humankind. Collectivism has been able to live in harmony with the planet without the threating it with death.
Within all societies, even the most individualistic, there remain and emerge very “effective pro-socialist movements and institutions” (even in the economic sphere). I’m thinking of communities formed of those who are religious or ancestral, intentional communities, in cooperatives, some trade unions and in something as common as friendship and family.
Thesis: Communism and Anarchism are collectivisms
If when Jardines refers to collectivism (communism, socialism) he does this thinking of a society where the “general will” rules over the parties (and not in harmony with), then Marxism could not be called collectivist – and much less anarchism.
Marx believed that such atomization of society was caused by capitalism. The breakdown of community, family and religious ties and so on were a necessary condition for the arrival of communism because in this manner (i.e. atomized) “men, at last, will see themselves compelled to serenely consider their conditions of existence and their mutual relations. (1)
In other statements from Marx (such as the one below) he shows more clearly how in his thinking the free individual is the core around which society is woven.
“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” (2)
As for the anarchists, does anyone defend individualism more fiercely than them? Just for fun, let’s read Anselme Bellegarrigue, the author of the first anarchist manifesto:
For me, the creation of the world dates back to the day of my birth; for me, the end of the world will take place the day of the return to the earth of my body and breath, which constitute my individuality.
“Self-denial is slavery, vileness, abjection; it is the king, the government, tyranny, mourning, war. Individualism, in contrast, is redemption, greatness, nobility; it is man, the people, freedom, brotherhood, order.”
Some anarchists were more pro-socialist but even they zealously defended individual freedom. Listen to Bakunin:
“We are convinced that freedom without socialism is privilege and injustice, and that socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality.”
Thesis: The implementation of Marx’s theory led to the statist system of real socialism.
The implementation of Marx’s theory? Where did that occur? It didn’t happen in Cuba or in the USSR, where the workers never held real power over the means of production.
Continuing with Jardines:
“If we notice the most illustrative examples of libertarian economies, we will see that the fundamental problem facing such collectivist approaches is that they do not take into account the interdependent nature of the economy. Among other things, they are utopian because they believe they can survive in isolation and, I’d add, they appear to be dominated by a repressed desire to return to pre-modernity.”
To engender something other than what prevails and not perish in the attempt, certain walls and barriers are needed, but from there to not recognizing the interdependent nature of the economy? Where does Alexis get that from?
And speaking of walls and barriers, no one fears the tumbling down of walls more than those who hide their ill-obtained wealth behind them.
1. & 2. Taken from The Communist Manifesto.