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What can one learn from the Right?

D. L. Jacobs

Platypus Review 142 | December 2021/January 2022

I REMEMBER TALKING TO AN ANARCHIST in 2016 about Platypus; they were irate that we had published an anti-Deutsch communist in 2010.[1] He claimed that Platypus was like CNN, in that we would host people with different views on a panel in order to suggest that the middle position is the best. I said, no, we host the conversation among the Left, and the Left itself takes contradictory stances on an issue as a result of their shared history. I said, for example, we wouldn’t put someone from the John Birch Society on a panel. He then said, “But what if the John Birch Society said it was Leftist?” I responded, “Could the John Birch Society say it was Leftist?”

Platypus’s interest in the Left follows from how the Left bears the failure of the proletarian socialist revolution — and really the memory of Utopia — when it reaches for the history of the Left to justify its practices today. The Right doesn’t have this history because it did not try to lead and emancipate the world; it doesn’t relate to these past practices as having anything to do with it. This does not preclude the Right from holding values, such as liberty or cosmopolitanism, that the historical Left had upheld, but this means they can only serve as a foil, a reminder. For example, Marx told his followers that their internationalism was “even infinitely below that of the Free Trade party.”[2] But what one learns from the Right today is primarily how an opportunity was missed — it is purely negative.                                                        

To call the Left the vanguard of regression then, would only raise the question of “whether and how the revolutionary tradition is still within the counterrevolution.”[3] For progressives are not the mere opposite of conservatives but rather “more cunning conservatives,”[4] a problem seen already by the early Marx.[5] They provide different ways of adapting to the historical process, and they will continue to lag and adapt so long as this process rushes forward unconsciously. Capitalism was both the revolution and counterrevolution, but in an opaque form that prevented both the conservative and progressive tendencies from realizing themselves.[6] For both a conservative and progressive character will be met by a proletarian socialist revolution: a return to the foundation of bourgeois society, even a regression of sorts,[7] in order to realize bourgeois right, but under changed conditions[8] that point beyond the horizon of bourgeois society.[9]

Part of what entices people to pick either the Democrats or Republicans is that they can differ significantly on policies they propose and the justifications they give — but what is left out is the how: in other words, people confuse policies for politics. First, why are there capitalist parties? “Every political party, even of the extreme Right, has to seek some sort of link with the people.”[10] Lenin said this with respect to the Black Hundreds, a proto-fascist “party of the landowners,” who could not base themselves on rentiers alone, but had to appeal to the masses of people. Capital has conquered neo-reactionary forms — in 1848, the royalists all became republicans[11] — and the reaction responded in turn, by adopting the socialist critique of modern industry.[12] This creates a contradiction: the basis for transmitting traditional culture is the same basis protested by reaction[13] and even the lamentations of the decline of civilization bear the mark of modern society, as Wilhelm Reich has noted.[14] Mussolini was aware of the impossibility of returning to pre-bourgeois society.[15] When Marx said that “revolutions are locomotives of history,” he was talking about how the proletariat had forced a question of politics (in particular universal suffrage), onto the masses of society.[16] They introduced a runaway train. What makes the parties capitalist, then, is not the policy, but the social crisis that they adapt people to — really, how they do it. But this also explains why even the far Right can have an interest in liberal, democratic institutions. The Black Hundreds and Octobrists frequently defended the existence of the Duma[17] and progressive economic policies.[18] It should therefore be no surprise that even self-avowed right-wing groups may represent “not only reactionary but also powerful progressive social forces.”[19] Indeed, Lenin notes that “[s]uch a game cannot be played without risk. Now and again the voice of the real peasant life, peasant democracy, breaks through all the Black Hundred mustiness and cliché.”[20]        

The bursting asunder of bourgeois social relations is experienced as an injustice. It evokes a sense of bourgeois society not yet achieved, when in fact it is outstripped; the overflowing of industrial potential causes it to fall below bourgeois society as it tries to adapt to the mayhem. As Chris Cutrone has pointed out, “[b]oth the neoliberals and neoconservatives seek to further the revolution — capitalism — but do so through what Marxists must consider the counterrevolution.”[21] The obsolescence of society makes it seem both oppressively bourgeois and not bourgeois enough. The reason why the Right wing often recaptures part of the task of the proletariat is because the defense of society itself has become contradictory. Engels told Bebel that “the whole collective reaction...will group itself around pure democracy,” in a moment of crisis and make “the most extreme revolutionary gestures.”[22] This is because they will see their actions as saving the same Republic that the Left will also claim — Louis Bonaparte lead a revolution to save property, order and liberal institutions. Luxemburg’s point that the army becomes “an independent ‘pressure group’ of its own”[23] is because the need to continually preserve the potential for a political revolution in order to save capitalism. A Bonapartist revolution will look “like the beginning of economic and social expropriation,”[24] but it will be done to save the capitalists from themselves — that is, unconsciously. This was not the only possibility for Marx, but rather reflected that it was when the proletariat could not yet rule and the bourgeoisie could no longer rule. The hope would be that an organized class party, going into this situation, would be able to bring “revolutionary tactics to a majority”[25] who may be opposed to the proletariat at the outset.[26] Thus, Luxemburg could note that “even where the counter-revolution still seems to rule, we [Marxists] have adherents and future comrades-in-arms.”[27]

What do capitalist parties do? They squander the potential of socialism. This does not follow from what is done but rather who is going to do it and how. Even when Bismarck proposed an unobjectionable legislative bill, the German SPD would “[introduce] amendments or parallel bills, giving themselves the opportunity to accept the principle of Bismarck’s legislation and also specific reasons for voting against it.”[28] That is, they sought to preserve the possibility and necessity of their political leadership — that was priority number one behind their fight for independence from the State. For Bonapartism is not “suspended in the air,” but rather must lead a democratic revolution to stay in power; society demands that the State conquer it, as the State is the “admission that this society has involved itself in insoluble self-contradiction and is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to exorcise.”[29] The State will continue to extend because bourgeois social relations have shown themselves to be incapable of preserving and developing the productive forces they engender on their own.[30] “Factory legislation [is] [...] just as much the necessary product of modern industry as cotton yarn, self-actors, and the electric telegraph,”[31] because a political, coercive act has become a condition of bourgeois production. The State continues the socialization process while trying to maintain bourgeois social relations — thus, it is experienced both as an intrusion and as “progressive.” Libertarianism is a symptomatic reaction to this: Gustav Molinari’s The Production of Security, which was called by Murray Rothbard the “first presentation anywhere in human history of what is now called anarcho-capitalism,” was written partially in response to the events of 1848.[32] Molinari proposed extending civil society to the last remaining monopoly, that of force. The famous Libertarian slogan “Taxation is Theft!” is both an appeal to the bourgeois ideal of property in labor[33] and also falls below the bourgeois recognition of the State as the final guarantor of right.[34] Libertarians both hold the Lockean homesteading principle[35] and yet deny its continued existence in exchange — a perfect expression of commodity fetishism.[36] For the State has become integral to the reproduction of civil society in a way that was not expected nor desired by bourgeois radicals, but this means that programs of “rolling back the state” cannot be done in a non-contradictory fashion. In fact, let it be remembered that the New Left had converged with the New Right on this issue: Bill Ayers and Milton Friedman both supported charter schools,[37] and the Black Panthers demanded community control against public education.[38] Rendering the state superfluous through civil-social action was the program of both Peter Kropotkin[39] and Eduard Bernstein,[40] but such a view had to treat the State as coming from without: from this logic, the rolling back of the State is identical then with making society more cooperative and attaining the bourgeois ideal.

The Marxist critique then, was not one of trying to blindly role back nor affirm the extension of the State, but to recognize the necessity of the State, its contradictory action and the potential of this for a proletarian revolution. This was how Lenin could simultaneously read the nationalization of industries by the State and yet, the inability of the Imperialist State to solve the fundamental problems of the bourgeois revolution as necessitating a dictatorship of the proletariat.[41] The point was to make the perfection of the state a part of the history of the socialist revolution, such that the whole world would come together to say: “well burrowed, old mole!”[42] That’s the real meaning of the phrase “Imperial Socialism”−it was a critical category, expressing the continued failure of socialism, but also the preservation of its possibility.[43]

There is nothing wrong with a socialist party running on the drawback of state intervention, but the question we are trying to ask here is, what does this mean in the absence of a socialist party? Here’s a recent example: last year, during the George Floyd protests, there was floated the idea of defunding and/or abolishing the police.[44] This would be a huge rollback of the State, and yet it is not hard to imagine that rather than overcoming the intrusive police bureaucracy, it would privatize it, making it less accountable, more opaque and more intolerable. In other words, it avoids the task that the State represents. Lenin noted that the “frenzied petty bourgeoisie” may want to see the State “smashed” and “blown up,” but what separated the proletariat from the petty bourgeoisie was that the former also recognize the task of reorganizing the executive and completing even the intervention of the State into civil society.[45] For if the frenzied petty bourgeoisie got their way, “we would get the return to the old free enterprise system, [and] the entire horror would start again from the beginning under new management.”[46] Socialism is likely to be more political, and from a classical liberal standpoint, may look even more wrong. It is hard to prepare people for that task if one adopts a libertarian perspective that the State is merely a gang. But that’s the dialectic: only the “strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption” could actually lead to the overcoming the State. The reason why Marxists would say this point upfront is because this end, the abolition of the State, gives the content to the political activity of conquering State power. The State as it exists today is not going to politicize itself as a class dictatorship — that would be political suicide. The question of more or less State, of Bakunin or Lassalle, in that sense, is the wrong question.

This gives an insight into why the history of the Left, rather than that of the Right, is crucial for grasping the present. In the modern era, many conservative commentators have characterized the present as uniquely oppressive because of the extant of finance, monopoly, or bureaucracy.[47] This analysis seems to at least partially borrow from the Marxist distinction between earlier “free-market” capitalism and latter imperialism. But Engels had already written in his youth that “free-trade must produce the restoration of monopolies on the one hand and the abolition of private property on the other.” What had changed then from Marx’s time to Lenin’s? In his critique of Rosa Luxemburg’s “Junius Pamphlet,” Lenin wrote: “The chief defect in Junius’ pamphlet […] is its silence regarding the connection between social-chauvinism […] and opportunism [...] for it is impossible to explain the ‘betrayal’ without linking it up with opportunism as a trend with a long history, the history of the whole Second International.”[48]

This was also clearer for the New Left, at one time, perhaps due to their rebellion as red diaper babies. André Gorz was able to link the technocracy of his time to this preceding socialist history, but also to note why it was a problem that could not be abandoned to mere anti-bureaucracy:

To the degree to which the incompetence of the labor movement and the absence of a coherent anticapitalist perspective are real, technocracy will thus deploy its forces with the aim of attracting into its camp and integrating into the institutions of the capitalist State all the labor organizations which are susceptible to such a maneuver without, however, destroying the labor movement as a “loyal” opposition (or “countervailing power”) to the power of monopoly capital. If, on the other hand, the labor movement does not retreat into a defensive position but instead begins vigorously to work out an anticapitalist alternative with strategically scaled and economically coherent objectives, then it will destroy the ideology which justifies technocracy; it will force technocracy to choose between the monopolies and the working-class movement, and will win over more than a negligible portion of this “caste” to its side. This will be the case not only because the socialist movement can no longer appear to the technocrats as a simple protest movement, capable of destroying the apparatus of production but not of managing it for other ends; but also because a minority among the technocrats work for monopoly capital not out of conviction but because they find no other outlet for their competence, because they believe they can follow a policy of the “lesser evil,” and because they see no real road to socialism. These technocrats are in the same position of that vast sector of lower- and middle-class groups who “sympathize” with socialism but are in practice skeptical. They will not make a choice until they can see intermediate objectives, that is, mediations, which will make them see socialism not as something beyond the present society, separated from it by an unbreachable wall, but like the real horizon of the internal exigencies of this society — as a horizon toward which the progression of realizable intermediate objectives indicates a practicable way. Only the possibility of such a way will force this vague mass of “sympathizers” to make a choice in which in the recent past it has all too often been spared.[49]

For the issue is not trusts, which no Marxists would want to do away with,[50] nor the bureaucracy, which is really a pejorative term for a rational use of the division of labor,[51] but the problem is rather how it is politically organized. For example, Woodrow Wilson saw his progressive program as restoring the independence lost since Jefferson’s time[52] and argued that public administration should be “unpartisan” and “businesslike.”[53] One can fixate on the candor of Wilson’s statements all one wants, but the point of a Marxist critique of Wilson would be that progressivism maintains such dependence despite its intention; for it remains at the level of a horizon superseded, that keeps people in dependence on the State. Debs agreed with Wilson’s view that conditions had changed and had created a greater dependence since Jefferson’s time,[54] but he saw this as demanding proletarian socialism, for the proletariat itself to take responsibility for the socialization of society. “A drowning man clutches at any straw, nor can he wait for a boat to push off from the bank and come to his rescue,” Engels once said to Bernstein. “The boat is socialist revolution, the straw, protective tariffs and state socialism.”[55] Don’t be surprised if people reach for the state. Even Ayn Rand took social security. A practical alternative is needed for people to tread water.

In other words, the existence of the technocratic “class” is a failure on the part of socialist politics, and it has its roots in the Left. This also means the rancor towards the PMC today threatens to repeat a mistake of the New Left, which also hated the bureaucracy. Really, it is not even a class in the Marxist sense, and such a designation falls into crude empiricism. For example, the originator of the term Professional Managerial Class, Barbara Ehrenreich, described herself as a member of the PMC recently because she has a PhD,[56] but such admission only confuses the question of class even further. In fact, Trotsky had critiqued his former followers precisely because they had called the Soviet bureaucracy a new “class”: that would imply that as the bourgeoisie had brought us property in labor, a new kind of property had been created by the managerial “class.” The problem of capitalism was not that a new property had been created but rather the “reactionary role” that property itself had come to play to the forces it had engendered,[57] and the bureaucracy that is brought forth to manage society. They thus separated and mangled the question from its essential political component.[58] Regardless of the origin of the concept, the function of the concept of the PMC today is more about expressing anger with the ruling clique of the Democratic Party. DSA members Dustin Guastella and Jared Abbot characterize the major cleavage of our time as “between downwardly mobile working-class Americans and members of the professional and middle classes.”[59] They relate this divergence to the Democratic Party abandoning “its New Deal-era commitment” in favor of the policies of the PMC. This has also taken on an appearance of culture vs economics, giving the Right, which rejects Political Correctness and has certainly tacked towards more economic demands, a sense of capturing the Old Left. The criticism is straightforward: the Left needs to become normal and give up on this eccentric subculture. They are alienating their own base with their intersectional theory. Amber Frost wrote an article in 2015 describing the Left Forum as “an absolute shitshow of nerds and social rejects,” blaming these “marginalistas [who] distract, disrupt and deter future comrades.”[60] There is a point to what she was saying: a reborn Left would appeal to common sense and have to at least be considered normal. But what makes the Democrats and Republicans normal, except for the fact that they constitute the historically accepted horizon of politics? One of the reasons why Platypus only makes sense doing the reading group, coffee breaks, and panels (and relating them together) is because one has to familiarize oneself with the thought that these Left groups, even the crankiest ones, channel. This is why a formerly rational view can appear irrational, but it is also why we cannot merely appeal to what is considered normal; that has to be politically achieved by making socialism a realistic possibility. A changed political horizon would change what was considered normal, but a mass socialist party would contain many subcultures that currently slander each other. Nearly 50 years ago, Penn Kemble had described the New Politics of the Democrats (McGovern-Fraser Commission) as differing from the old New-Deal coalition only in that they refused “to acknowledge the degree to which it hungers for political power and patronage.”[61] The New Democrats had also criticized the “old” politicians who devised and administered the election procedures [as] also [being] partisans for a particular side.”[62] History doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes. We should be careful not to repeat the worst parts of the New Left, which used concepts like “labor aristocracy” in order to trap themselves. The Left’s past activity confronts it now in a reified manner. In order to truly understand the object, the bureaucracy, the all-around character must be grasped: not just what it is but what it could be; not just which of Burnham or Hobson’s predictions came true but how they are marked by a missed opportunity.

In 2016, both sides accused their own side of being conservative. Boris Kagerlitsky called out leftist intellectuals for being the final defenders of neoliberalism;[63] likewise, Michael Anton accused conservatives of contradicting conservatism by “[holding] conservative cultural, economic, and political beliefs [...] and yet also [believing] that things can go on more or less the way they are going.”[64]

This is important because it characterizes the role that Trump played for me during his tenure. As he put it in his 2017 campaign book: “The career politicians love to talk about having a nation-wide ‘E-verify system’ [...] But let’s not kid ourselves. Our ‘leaders’ must lead on this, and engage with foreign governments to stop illegal immigration, and not simply impose something on our businesses and think that some Internet verification system alone will solve the problem.”

That, to me, was the real value of Trump. For once in my life, someone was trying to politically lead. It had nothing to do with the policies (I am not for E-verify). Trump showed that it was still possible to politicize people and to run against the major capitalist parties.

This is what it means to say that the Right serves as a foil for the Left: they reflect parts of the Left’s history that the Left has forgotten; but that is because the Right is only about tactics. The Right is still as constituted by the failure of the Left as the Left is, but they treat it as something that comes from without — the New Right is very much also a product of the New Left.[65] The value of Trump was that he allowed the self-inhibitory character of the Left to come to the surface, because he proposed things frequently associated with the Left. This was the spirit of Chris Cutrone’s “Why Not Trump?” The article begins by listing various things about Trump frequently associated with the Left. Chris would later lament that perhaps this statement was too “philosophical.”[66] For what was revealed in the hysteria around the article was an undigested practice of tailing the Democrats. Hence, Brendan Cooney accused Chris Cutrone of taking an “elitist attitude to the anti-Trump resistance” and instead being led to “pander to the white-nationalist, misogynist Trump base, trying to buy them off with economic populism.”[67] Elias Friedman, somewhat inspired also by Chris’s 2018 “Why I wish Hillary Won,” responded to Chris by suggesting that if Biden won, the Democrats would be “less able to hide,” and this would give an opportunity to push people out of the Democrats.[68] So far this has just meant further depoliticization; indeed, Trump made the Left more exciting.

In the same way that “Capitalism is its own practical critique,”[69] the Left moves through its own self-critique; but this self-critique is also a means of adaption. It becomes a “tendency to turn rapidly into submission, apathy, phantasms, and even a frenzied infatuation with one bourgeois fad or another.”[70] The Right will just say, “Marxism failed. Of course — in fact, don’t you know a socialist economy is impossible? It is a Utopia.”[71]

But being anti-Utopian does not reward someone with the conscience that they are reasonable. For Reason is most Reasonable when it is at variance with the given-when it is Utopian. Kołakowski said that “[the] Left gives forth Utopias just as the pancreas discharges insulin” — this is enough to condemn what calls itself the Left today as long past dead. My initial attraction to the Right was to the parts that seemed most Utopian: the miniarchism of Nozick, the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard. The libertarians, too, have recognized the Left’s regression on this part: Friedrich Hayek noted in the 1950’s that the earlier era of “hot socialism,” that aimed at the transformation of the world, had been supplanted by welfare statism.[72] Even today, the Right will point out that what is understood by Millennials as Marxism, is really either welfarism,[73] transferism,[74] or just completely unrelated to Marx’s thought.[75] But most importantly, the modern libertarian strategy is an adaptation of New Left Marxism-Leninism. As Rothbard put it, “[o]f all the movements for radical social change in modern history, the most self-conscious and the one that has devoted the most thought to the problems of strategy has been the Marxist-Leninist movement.”[76] While in the Peace and Freedom Party, Rothbard encouraged fellow socialists to follow the “libertarian strand” of socialism of Marx, Bakunin and Lenin as opposed to the “right-wing” strand of Saint-Simon.[77] He undertook a lengthy study of Lenin during this period, appropriating such terms as “right opportunism” and “left sectarianism,” with the goal of building up libertarian cadre to tap into the anti-state distrust of right-wing populism.[78] This strategy is clearly not that different than that of Rothbard’s fellow Party members, Elridge Cleaver and Bob Avakian. The point of this is to say that the legacy of the failure of the Left weighs on all politics and is not something that can be avoided by jumping ship to self-avowed right-wing discontents. You are going to have to face it, hopefully with sober senses. If the Left is to learn anything from the Right, it ought to at least meet the Right in its own Utopianism. “If the Left is to change the world, it must first transform itself!”[79]

[1] Initiative Sozialistisches Forum, “Communism and Israel,” Platypus Review 28 (October 2010), available online at <>.

[2] Karl Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875), available online at <>.

[3] Chris Cutrone, “1918–2018: The century of counterrevolution,” Platypus Review 106 (May 2018), available online at <>.

[4] Chris Cutrone, “The end of the Gilded Age: Discontents of the Second Industrial Revolution today,” Platypus Review 102 (Dec 2017 – Jan 2018), available online at <>.

[5] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (1845), available online at <>. Marx and Engels wrote, “The Young-Hegelian ideologists, in spite of their allegedly ‘world-shattering’ statements, are the staunchest conservatives. The most recent of them have found the correct expression for their activity when they declare they are only fighting against ‘phrases.’ They forget, however, that to these phrases they themselves are only opposing other phrases, and that they are in no way combating the real existing world when they are merely combating the phrases of this world. The only results which this philosophic criticism could achieve were a few (and at that thoroughly one-sided) elucidations of Christianity from the point of view of religious history; all the rest of their assertions are only further embellishments of their claim to have furnished, in these unimportant elucidations, discoveries of universal importance.”

[6] Chris Cutrone, Samir Gandesha, Nikos Malliaris, Dimitrios Roussopoulos, Joseph Schwartz, “Revolutionary politics and thought,” Platypus Review 69 (September 2014), available online at <>. Cutrone said, “For capitalism is the revolution, however it is also the counterrevolution. Both the neoliberals and neoconservatives seek to further the revolution—capitalism—but do so through what Marxists must consider the counterrevolution.”

[7] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, available online at <>. Marx wrote, “Crude communism is only the culmination of this envy and of this levelling-down proceeding from the preconceived minimum. It has a definite, limited standard. How little this annulment of private property is really an appropriation is in fact proved by the abstract negation of the entire world of culture and civilisation, the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and crude man who has few needs and who has not only failed to go beyond private property, but has not yet even reached it.”

[8] Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (1875). Marx wrote, “Hence, equal right here is still in principle – bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange exists only on the average and not in the individual case. In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor...But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby. In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

[9] Ferdinand Lassalle to Karl Marx (December 12, 1851), cited in Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (1923),available online at <>. Lassalle wrote, “Hegel used to say in his old age that directly before the emergence of something qualitatively new, the old state of affairs gathers itself up into its original, purely general, essence, into its simple totality, transcending and absorbing back into itself all those marked differences and peculiarities which it evinced when it was still viable.”

[10] Lenin, “The Black Hundreds” (1913), Collected Works, vol. 19, available online at <>.

[11] Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850 (1850), available online at <>. Marx wrote, “At that time all the royalists were transformed into republicans and all the millionaires of Paris into workers.”

[12] Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1847–48), Chapter 3, available online at <>. Marx and Engels wrote, “In order to arouse sympathy, the aristocracy was obliged to lose sight, apparently, of its own interests, and to formulate their indictment against the bourgeoisie in the interest of the exploited working class alone. Thus, the aristocracy took their revenge by singing lampoons on their new masters and whispering in his ears sinister prophesies of coming catastrophe. In this way arose feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history...Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.” (See also “Linguet,” from Theories of Surplus Value, available online at <>.)

[13] Jürgen Habermas, “Modernity An Incomplete Project,” The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Hal Foster (Port Townsend, WA: Bay Press, 1983), 3–15. Habermas wrote, “Thus, for example, neopopulist protests only express in pointed fashion a widespread fear regarding the destruction of the urban and natural environment and of forms of human sociability. There is a certain irony about these protests in terms of neoconservatism. The tasks of passing on a cultural tradition, of social integration and of socialization require adherence to what I call communicative rationality. But the occasions for protest and discontent originate precisely when spheres of communicative action, centered on the reproduction and transmission of values and norms, are penetrated by a form of modernization guided by standards of economic and administrative rationality – in other words, by standards of rationalization quite different from those of communicative rationality on which those spheres depend. But neoconservative doctrines turn our attention precisely away from such societal processes: they project the causes, which they do not bring to light, onto the plane of a subversive culture and its advocates. To be sure, cultural modernity generates its own aporias as well. Independently from the consequences of societal modernization and within the perspective of cultural development itself, there originate motives for doubting the project of modernity. Having dealt with a feeble kind of criticism of modernity – that of neoconservatism – let me now move our discussion of modernity and its discontents into a different domain that touches on these aporias of cultural modernity – issues that often serve only as a pretense for those positions which either call for a postmodernity, recommend a return to some form of premodernity, or throw modernity radically overboard.”

[14] Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, trans. Vincent Carfagno (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970), 86. Reich wrote, “For the reactionary cultural philosopher there are two possibilities: resignation and skepticism, or turning back of the wheel of history by ’revolutionary’ means. But if one has shifted the focal point of one’s cultural outlook, has recognized in the collapse of an ancient civilization, not the fall of civilization altogether but merely the fall of a certain civilization, namely the authoritarian, then a natural shifting also takes place in one’s assessment of those cultural elements previously appraised as positive or negative. One realizes that the old form is ’laboring with’ the new form of civilization, one based on genuine freedom. It is mainly a question of understanding the attitude that the revolution takes toward those phenomena regarded as symptoms of decline by political reaction.”

[15] Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism (1932), available online at  <>. Mussolini wrote, “The Fascist negation of Socialism, of Democracy, of Liberalism, should not lead one to believe that Fascism wishes to push the world back to where it was before 1879, the date accepted as the opening year of the demo-Liberal century. One cannot turn back. The Fascist doctrine has not chosen De Maistre for its prophet. Monarchical absolutism is a thing of the past, and so is the worship of church power. Feudal privileges and divisions into impenetrable castes with no connection between them, are also ‘have beens.’ The conception of Fascist authority has nothing in common with the Police. A party that totally rules a nation is a new chapter in history. References and comparisons are not possible. From the ruins of the socialist, liberal and democratic doctrines, Fascism picks those elements that still have a living value; keeps those that might be termed ‘facts acquired by history,’ and rejects the rest: namely the conception of a doctrine good for all times and all people. Admitting that the Nineteenth Century was the Century of Socialism, Liberalism and Democracy, it is not said that the Twentieth century must also be the century of Socialism, of Liberalism, of Democracy. Political doctrines pass on, but peoples remain. One may now think that this will be the century of authority, the century of the ‘right wing’ the century of Fascism. If the Nineteenth Century was the century of the individual (liberalism signifies individualism) one may think that this will be the century of ‘collectivism,’ the century of the State. It is perfectly logical that a new doctrine should utilise the vital elements of other doctrines. No doctrine was ever born entirely new and shining, never seen before. No doctrine can boast of absolute ‘originality.’ Each doctrine is bound historically to doctrines which went before, to doctrines yet to come. Thus the scientific Socialism of Marx is bound to the Utopian Socialism of Fourier, of Owen, of Saint-Simon; thus the Liberalism of 1800 is linked with the movement of 1700. Thus Democratic doctrines are bound to the Encyclopaedists. Each doctrine tends to direct human activity towards a definite object; but the activity of man reacts upon the doctrine, transforms it and adapts it to new requirements, or overcomes it. Doctrine therefore should be an act of life and not an academy of words. In this lie the pragmatic veins of Fascism, its will to power, its will to be, its position with regard to ‘violence’ and its value.”

[16] Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, Part 3.

[17] See V. I. Lenin, “The Cuckoo Praises the Rooster” (1907), available online at <>.

[18] V. I. Lenin, “The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–1907” (1907), Chapter 5, available online at <>.

[19] Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism, 3–4.

[20] Lenin, “The Black Hundreds.”

[21] Cutrone, “Revolutionary politics and thought.”

[22] Friedrich Engels to August Bebel (December 11–12, 1884), available online at <>.

[23] Rosa Luxemburg, The Socialist Crisis in France (1901), Part 1, available online at <>.

[24] Isaac Deutscher, “The Tragedy of the Polish Communist Party” (1958), available online at <>.

[25] Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution (1918), Chapter 1, available online at <>.

[26] V. I. Lenin, “Material for the Preparation of the Programme of the R.S.D.L.P.” (1902), available online at <>. See esp. Chapter 4, where Lenin wrote, “If we really knew positively that the petty bourgeoisie will support the proletariat in the accomplishment of its, the proletariat’s, revolution it would be pointless to speak of a “dictatorship,” for we would then be fully guaranteed so overwhelming a majority that we could get on very well without a dictatorship (as the “critics” would have us believe). The recognition of the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat is most closely and inseparably bound up with the thesis of the Communist Manifesto that the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.”

[27] Rosa Luxemburg, “Our Program and the Political Situation” (1918), available online at <>.

[28] Vernon L. Lidtke, The Outlawed Party: Social Democracy in Germany, 1878–1890 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).

[29] Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), Chapter IX, available online at <>.

[30] Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880), Part 3, available online at <>. Engels wrote, “If the crises demonstrate the incapacity of the bourgeoisie for managing any longer modern productive forces, the transformation of the great establishments for production and distribution into joint-stock companies, trusts, and State property, show how unnecessary the bourgeoisie are for that purpose. All the social functions of the capitalist has no further social function than that of pocketing dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil one another of their capital. At first, the capitalistic mode of production forces out the workers. Now, it forces out the capitalists, and reduces them, just as it reduced the workers, to the ranks of the surplus-population, although not immediately into those of the industrial reserve army.”

[31] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (1867), Chapter 15, available online at <>.

[32] Murray Rothbard, Preface to Gustave de Molinari, The Production of Security (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1977).

[33] See John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government (1690), Chapter V: Of Property, available online at <>.

[34] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762), Book 1, Part IX, available online at <>. Rousseau wrote, “Each member of the community gives himself to it, at the moment of its foundation, just as he is, with all the resources at his command, including the goods he possesses. This act does not make possession, in changing hands, change its nature, and become property in the hands of the Sovereign; but, as the forces of the city are incomparably greater than those of an individual, public possession is also, in fact, stronger and more irrevocable, without being any more legitimate, at any rate from the point of view of foreigners. For the State, in relation to its members, is master of all their goods by the social contract, which, within the State, is the basis of all rights; but, in relation to other powers, it is so only by the right of the first occupier, which it holds from its members.”

[35] Murray Rothbard, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature, and Other Essays (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000), 96. Rothbard wrote, “A theory of justice must be arrived at which goes beyond government allocations of property titles, and which can, therefore, serve as a basis for criticizing such allocations...This theory has two fundamental premises: 1) the absolute property right of each individual in his own person, his own body; this may be called the right of self-ownership; and 2) the absolute right in material property of the person who first finds an unused material resource and then in some way occupies or transforms that resource by the use of his personal energy. This might be called the homestead principle — the case in which someone, in the phrase of John Locke, has ‘mixed his labour’ with an unused resource.”

[36] Murray Rothbard, Man Economy and State, Scholar’s Edition, 2nd ed. (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2009), 103. Rothbard wrote, “it is well to recall the reason for exchange—the fact that each individual values more highly the good he gets than the good he gives up. This fact is enough to eliminate the fallacious notion that, if Crusoe and Jackson exchange 5,000 berries for one cow, there is some sort of “equality of value” between the cow and the 5,000 berries. Value exists in the valuing minds of individuals, and these individuals make the exchange precisely because for each of them there is an inequality of values between the cow and the berries. For Crusoe the cow is valued more than the 5,000 berries; for Jackson it is valued less. Otherwise, the exchange could not be made. Therefore, for each exchange there is a double inequality of values, rather than an equality, and hence there are no “equal values” to be “measured” in any way.”

[37] See The Platypus Historians Group, “Friedrich Hayek and the legacy of Milton Friedman: Neo-liberalism and the question of freedom (In part, a response to Naomi Klein),” Platypus Review 8 (November 2008), available online at <>.

[38] See “Beware the Liberal Union Busters!” (1968) reprinted in Worker’s Vanguard 956, April 9, 2010, available online at <> and “Teachers’ Strike,” Spartacist East 1 (April 1968).

[39] See Peter Kropotkin, Conquest of Bread (1892), available online at <>. See esp. Chapters 3, 11, and 12.

[40] See Eduard Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism (1899), available online at <>. See esp. Chapter 3(b).

[41] See V. I. Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It (1917), available online at  <>. See esp. Chapter IV, where Lenin wrote, “But however much they do plan, however much the capitalist magnates calculate in advance the volume of production on a national and even on an international scale, and however much they systematically regulate it, we still remain under capitalism–at its new stage, it is true, but still capitalism, without a doubt. The “proximity” of such capitalism to socialism should serve genuine representatives of the proletariat as an argument proving the proximity, facility, feasibility, and urgency of the socialist revolution, and not at all as an argument for tolerating the repudiation of such a revolution and the efforts to make capitalism look more attractive, something which all reformists are trying to do.”

[42] Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), Part VII, available online at <>.

[43] Karl Marx, “The French Crédit Mobilier,” The People’s Paper 214, June 7, 1856, available in Marx and Engels Collected Works, vol. 15, and online at <>.

[44] E.g., Mariame Kaba, “Yes, We Mean Literally Abolish the Police,” New York Times, June 12, 2020.

[45] V. I. Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Childishness” (1918), available online at <>.

[46] Max Horkheimer. “The Authoritarian State.” Telos 15, no. 2 (Spring 1973): 3–20.

[47] E.g., Michael Lind, “The New Class War,” American Affairs 1, no. 2 (Summer 2017), available online at <>.

[48] V. I. Lenin, “The Junius Pamphlet” (1916), available online at <>.

[49] André Gortz, “from Strategy for Labor” (1964), in The New Left Reader, ed. Carl Ogelsby (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1969), 48–49.

[50] V. I. Lenin, “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” (1917), available online at <>. Lenin wrote, “Capitalism has created an accounting apparatus in the shape of the banks, syndicates, postal service, consumers’ societies, and office employees’ unions. Without big banks socialism would be impossible. The big banks are the ”state apparatus” which we need to bring about socialism, and which we take ready-made from capitalism; our task here is merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it even bigger, even more democratic, even more comprehensive. Quantity will be transformed into quality. A single State Bank, the biggest of the big, with branches in every rural district, in every factory, will constitute as much as nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus. This will be country wide book-keeping, country-wide accounting of the production and distribution of goods, this will be, so to speak, something in the nature of the skeleton of socialist society.”

[51] See Lukács’s discussion of Weber and Bureaucracy in “The Phenomenon of Reification,” in “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” in History and Class Consciousness, available online at <>.

[52] Woodrow Wilson, The New Freedom (1912), available online at <>.

[53] Woodrow Wilson, ”The Study of Administration,” Political Science Quarterly 2, no. 2 (June 1887): 197–222.

[54] Eugene Debs, “Interview with James Creelman of the New York Journal” (1897), available online at <>. Debs said, “Thomas Jefferson lived in other times [he said]. There was a chance for individual competition in his day, but the invention of labor-saving machinery and the organization of trusts have filled the country with hundreds and thousands of idle and homeless men. Labor strikes are useless. I have had experience enough to say that. They are simply force against [illegible] and the trusts and cooperation [illegible] to beat the men in the end. The [illegible] of the people is intolerable. Unless something is done at once to restore the social, economic, and industrial balance there will be widespread disorder and armed resistance. Men and women will not starve in a land of plenty. Go where you will in the United States and you can hear the muttering of the great storm. The Social Democracy of America is trying to find a peaceful solution. We are not making war on millionaires. We are simply trying to build up the people.”

[55] Friedrich Engels to Eduard Bernstein (November 30, 1881), in Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 46: Letters 1880–83, 152.

[56] Alex Press. “On the Origins of the Professional-Managerial Class: An Interview with Barbara Ehrenreich,” Dissent, October 22, 2019, available online at <>.

[57] Leon Trotsky, “The USSR in War” (1939), available online at <>.

[58] Leon Trotsky, “Letter to James P. Cannon” (September 12, 1939), in In Defense of Marxism: Against the Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party, 4th ed.(Pathfinder Press, 1995), 46, available online at <>. Trotsky wrote, “3. Who says that the USSR is no more a degenerate workers’ state, but a new social formation, should clearly say what he adds to our political conclusions. 4. The USSR question cannot be isolated as unique from the whole historic process of our times. either the Stalin state is a transitory formation, it is a deformation of a workers’ state in a backward and isolated state, or “bureaucratic collectivism” (Bruno R., La Bureaucratisation du Monde, Paris 1939) is a new social formation, which is replacing capitalism throughout the world (Stalinism, Fascism, New Deals, etc.). The terminological experiments (workers’ state, not workers’ state; class, not class; etc.) receive a sense only under this historic aspect. Who chooses the second alternative admits, openly or silently, that all the revolutionary potentialities of the world proletariat are exhausted, that the socialist movement is bankrupt, and that the old capitalism is transforming itself into “bureaucratic collectivism” with a new exploiting class.”

[59] Dustin Guastella and Jared Abbot, “A Socialist Party in Our Time?” Catalyst Journal 3, no. 2 (Summer 2019), available online at <>.

[60] Amber Frost, “Flakes Alive! On Not Attending the Left Forum,” The Baffler, June 12, 2015, available online at <>.

[61] Penn Kemble, “The New Politics and the Democrats,” Commentary (December 1972), available online at  <>.

[62] Ibid.

[63] See Boris Kagerlitsky, “Who’s afraid of Donald Trump?,” Platypus Review 88 (July–August 2016), available online at <>.

[64] Publius Decius Mus [Michael Anton], “The Flight 93 Election,” Claremont Review of Books, September 5, 2016,  <>.

[65] Cf. Arguing the World, directed by Joseph Dorman (Riverside Film Productions, 1997).

[66] Chris Cutrone, “Why I wish Hillary had won: Distractions of anti-Trump-ism,” Platypus Review 108 (July–August 2018), available online at <>.

[67] Brendan Cooney, “Left-Trumpists: The Reactionary Case of Chris Cutrone,” With Sober Senses, June 2, 2018, available online at <>.

[68] Elias Friedman, “Why not Biden? A response to Chris Cutrone and the Platypus Affiliated Society,” Platypus Review 128 (July 2020), available online at <>.

[69] Chris Cutrone, “Ends of philosophy,” Platypus Review 108 (July–August 2018), available online at <>.

[70] V. I. Lenin, Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920), esp. Chapter 4, available online at <>.

[71] Ludwig von Mises, “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” (1920), available online at  <>.

[72] Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), 44. Hayek wrote, “[...] I recognize that the hot socialism against which [Road to Serfdom] was mainly directed — that organized movement toward a deliberate organization of economic life by the state as the chief owner of the means of production — is nearly dead in the Western world. The century of socialism in this sense probably came to an end around 1948. Many of its illusions have been discarded even by its leaders, and elsewhere as well as in the United States the very name has lost much of its attraction. Attempts will no doubt be made to rescue the name for movements which are less dogmatic, less doctrinaire, and less systematic. But an argument applicable solely against those clear-cut conceptions of social reform which characterized the socialist movements of the past might today well appear as tilting against windmills. Yet though hot socialism is probably a thing of the past, some of its conceptions have penetrated far too deeply into the whole structure of current thought to justify complacency. If few people in the Western world now want to remake society from the bottom according to some ideal blueprint, a great many still believe in measures which, though not designed completely to remodel the economy, in their aggregate effect may well unintentionally produce this result. And, even more than at the time when I wrote this book, the advocacy of policies which in the long run cannot be reconciled with the preservation of a free society is no longer a party matter. That hodgepodge of ill-assembled and often inconsistent ideals which under the name of the Welfare State has largely replaced socialism as the goal of the reformers needs very careful sorting-out if its results are not to be very similar to those of full-fledged socialism.”

[73] Brandon Turner, “Marxism vs Welfarism,” Learn Liberty, April 12, 2017, available online at  <>.

[74] Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan, “Transferism, not Socialism, Is the Drug Americans Are Hooked On,” Foundation for Economic Education, December 6, 2019, available online at <>.

[75] Brian Domitrovic, “Millennials Are Teaching Us That Marx Is Unnoticeable,” Forbes, March 24, 2019, available online at <>.

[76] Murray Rothbard, “Toward a Strategy for Libertarian Social Change” (1977), available online at  <>.

[77] Murray Rothbard, “Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty,” Left and Right (Spring 1965): 4–22, available online at <>.

[78] Rothbard, “Toward a Strategy.”

[79] Platypus Affiliated Society, “Statement of Purpose” (2007), available online at <>.