Louis Althusser famously claim that there is an ‘epistemological break’ in Marx, between a subjectivism in his early work and an objectivism in his later work. In contrast, my second-generation neo-Marxist reading demonstrates epistemological consistency and complementarity across Marx’s works, while revealing the break-in-account between the Manifesto’s class prognosis and Marx’s mature account of capitalism. In particular, while the Communist Manifesto and Capital Vol. 1 are epistemologically consistent; the analysis of the later shatters the class prognosis of the former.
Luxemburg’s 1906 pamphlet, “The Mass Strike,” analyzed the essentially spontaneous character of the gigantic strikes that accompanied the Russian revolution of 1905, and it showed that the workers learned and developed in the course of the struggle, not only strategy and tactics, but also revolutionary ideas. In a similar vein, she also wrote a stinging critique of Lenin’s more top-down concept of revolutionary organization, in a famous response to his writings on the vanguard party to lead. Also in this vein, Luxemburg penned an essay offering critical support to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia, with her criticism centering mainly on the establishment of a single-party state, something she accurately predicted would undermine the democratic aims of the revolution.
We doubt the extent to which the Marxist tradition has developed an adequate social psychology of knowledge. People’s politics cannot, of course, be simply read off their class position alone.
What determines which path labor takes will be the degree to which labor mobilization spreads and is tied to a broader political vision. That in turn will depend on the kind of patient, workplace-based organizing that rarely makes headlines.
As neoliberalism pushes us away from finding collective solutions to social problems some turn right towards hate and racism.