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You are here: The Platypus Affiliated Society/Perpetual motion machines: A response to Canel, Duhalde, and Horras

Perpetual motion machines: A response to Canel, Duhalde, and Horras

D. L. Jacobs

Platypus Review 149 | September 2022

“In any case, the democrat comes out of the most disgraceful defeat just as immaculate as he was innocent when he went into it, with the newly won conviction that he is bound to win, not that he himself and his party have to give up the old standpoint, but, on the contrary, that conditions have to ripen to suit him.”

—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Part III (1852)

TIM HORRAS EPIGRAPHS his response[1] to me with a passage out of the Class Struggles in France about a new crisis being “as sure to come as [a new revolution].”[2] This passage from Marx was written when he and Engels had “declared that the first phase of the revolutionary period had closed and that nothing could be looked forward to until the advent of a new economic world crisis.”[3] The inclusion of this quote by Horras is indicative. Theories can express wounds. What we consider possible is colored by our historical experience, including how the past may have unfolded. The conclusions reached by the present Left seem to play out the preceding decade but this time with all the parts in place, whether it is a regional consolidation of electoral strength[4] or the existence of a revolutionary base prepared to independently act, so that the Left does not fall into “chasing ambulances.”[5]

What I tried to draw out in my original article[6] was that the worthy goal of these strategies, the reconstitution of an emancipatory social movement, was conditioned by the received horizon of “Left” and “ Right.” That is, the strategic question that was posed by the Millennial Left was not merely technical but had a historical dimension.

I appreciate Tom Canel’s,[7] David Duhalde’s,[8] and Tim Horras’s[9] responses to my article on the Millennial Left.[10] All made fruitful points and confirmed that the discussion of strategy is important. However, the point of my article slipped away in their responses, although perhaps Horras came closest to responding to it. They all answered a different question than the one I was raising.

First, the “caricature.” No doubt it is a hyperbole, but I found that the responses overemphasized this in order to evade the point. In fact, the hypothetical dialogue I presented is more true than false. For example, Jason Schulman of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), once responded to an audience member during a 2016 Platypus panel by quoting Julius Jacobson, that one could “take advantage of the facilities offered by the Democratic Party without compromising socialist principles or sheepdogging for the Democrats.”[11] A response to this kind of argument can be found in the same year: Sophia Burns argued against fielding candidates for purely propagandistic purposes and even suggested ignoring the electoral cycle altogether.[12] When the first Leftist in the dialogue — with whom I think Horras wrongly takes me to be siding(?)[13]— responds to the second Leftist, saying that one could end up base-building for the Democratic Party, this is not far-off from a point made in Horras’s response to me.[14] While Horras has stated that the base-building tendency ought not to tactically reject engagement with elections,[15] he has also himself made arguments about the futility of electoral participation[16] and characterized the Marxist Center as founded by “small local collectives that did not wish to follow the Democratic Party electoralism of the DSA and were also not members of the legacy left of groups such as the now-defunct International Socialist Organization (ISO).”[17] Nothing I said was unrecognizable, but what I recognized in the responses to me is that they all avoided what I wrote following the introduction: “There would be no proposal to work in the Republican Party (it’s not like the leadership has control over their base) nor would there be any proposal to work with the protest movements around the Republicans (if you do that, you run the risk being accused of trying to form a red-brown alliance).”[18]

I didn't say this to encourage tailing the Republicans instead of the Democrats, but to point out the ideological assumption of “Left” and “Right,” which was demonstrated by all three responses. The form in which the Democratic and Republican parties constitute their voter blocs is presupposed in the discussion of electoral vs. base-building strategy. The antinomy that plagues the Left frequently, that of exploitation (“class”) vs. oppression (e.g., race, gender, and sexuality but also anti-imperialism), reflects the Rainbow Coalition that formed the Democratic Party following the liquidation of the New Left into the Democratic Party and its formal expression with the McGovern-Fraser Commission. The Left takes its cue from the capitalist parties. All the discussion about this or that tactic really revolves around how the capitalist parties determine what is considered progressive and conservative. The Left “chases ambulances” because it looks to capture discontents around the Democratic Party constituency; the ambulances around the Republicans are denounced as fascist. The point of the dialogue was to show how a false antinomy manifests from the tactical attempt to solve an ideological problem and how this ideological problem sits in the background, despite “rich thought undertaken”[19] regarding different strategies. When Canel responds to me by stating that “[a]ssuming that DSA is indeed the only game in town as far as the socialist Left is concerned, I will focus on the DSA here,” he is already avoiding this problem by just assuming the Democrats are to the Left of the Republicans.[20] In fact, Canel not only does not provide the concrete analysis he claims I avoid, but instead reduces the Millennial Left to a DSA resolution in 2021, confirming what I had already pointed out. The DSA resolution declares, “the Republican Party has an anti-democratic coalition consisting of overt white supremacists, the most reactionary wing of capital, and a growing reactionary minority of working-class people . . . the Democratic Party coalition has the historical support of a multi-racial working-class base . . . .”[21] If I were to remove “capital” from this passage, it would hardly differ from the propaganda that comes out of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The standpoint is just that of a militant Democrat. The Millennial Left’s “intent” is beside the point. It is not, as Canel states, that I have merely asserted the Left to be dead since 1919 and therefore, that “the Millennial Left, still being ‘dead,’ can be assumed to have continued to subordinate itself to the Democrats.”[22] He leaves out that since 1919, there have been multiple opportunities to rebirth a genuine Left, including for the Millennial Left, as I mention in the article he ostensibly read![23] Thus, his response becomes a mere affirmation of history.[24]

Canel starts from the Trump bump and its effect on DSA and so avoids its relation to the preceding history; that is given by Duhalde. The title of Duhalde’s article, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” seems to acknowledge a running in place. Duhalde responds to Canel that he is correct that the “dirty break” discussion “marks a huge change in the DSA rhetoric,” but “the actual changes, especially when it comes to real world actions, are less clear.”[25] Duhalde characterizes the dirty break as “simply that socialists will one day be able to build enough infrastructure and voter loyalty to be able to split off from the Democratic Party and form a new workers’ party.”[26] Note again, the problem is that the imagination of the Left remains that of a break from the Democratic Party.

Duhalde lets us in on the “dirty little secret” about DSA's strategy: “the more strength socialists get in and around the Democratic Party — largely winning offices and pushing legislation — the harder it will be [to] break with the Party.”[27] This is no “dirty little secret,” but an unmistakable truth: if you win, you win as a Democrat and market them as the “Left.” No doubt any social movement can capitulate to their gains — this is the classic problem of reform and revolution — but in this case, we are not talking about the gains of an independent party, but of activists trying to create a bargaining position within the dominant capitalist party. Why remain attached to the Democratic Party? Canel’s answer is clear: if the DSA is not careful, they could potentially spoil the vote and get the Republicans elected.[28] This is a real ideological obstacle.

There should be no surprise to what Horras laments as the “setback of the socialist movement after November 2020.” This is the realization that most activists became involved in various Left organizations out of disappointment with the Democratic Party and horror with the Republicans. DSA had its “Trump bump”[29] but so did “base-building” formations.[30] DSA, as cited by Canel, writes off the Republicans as “overt white supremacists”; Horras associates the defeat of Trump with the “receding tide of fascism” and calls January 6 a “coup attempt.”[31] It was a mistake to assume this interest in “socialism” meant that masses of people had swung Left. The “socialist movement” that Horras speaks of was based on counter-identification with Trump. The Left is more comfortable with Democrats in office, regardless of outcome. Only with Trump out of office does one feel safe to now talk about the “significant continuities between the Trump and Biden regime.”[32]

J. P. Nettl long ago pointed out that most modern “parties” are really just “politically organized interest groups, attempting to exert pressure on the Government in order to gain sectional advantages.”[33] What distinguished a political party, such as the SPD that Nettl studied, was the organizational capacity to take political responsibility for society and transform it in accordance with their goals. The Democratic and Republican “parties” are not, in fact, “political parties” in this sense, but rather administrative rackets. Neither racket wants to take nor could take responsibility for society in a way that a socialist party could lead politically, having connections to an organized class that can lead in civil society. The persistent yelp about the U.S. being a “two-party system” exactly plays into the Democratic Party and serves to further confuse people about the task of socialism. The Left teaches people that a socialist party is like a Democratic Party.

This swing from Democrats to Republicans and back happened a few times during the Millennial era. The Millennial Left was forged during the anti-war movement, but it ultimately revealed itself to be nothing more than an anti-Bush movement. Duhalde mentions the “subsequent disappointment”[34] to Obama’s election that led Duhalde to co-write a piece for Jacobin arguing that democratic socialists should stay out of Federal politics.[35] It was Occupy, as Duhalde mentions, that changed Left politics and introduced “new vocabulary and frames to discuss inequality,” such as the “99% vs 1%.”[36] But there is something else between Obama’s election and Occupy Wall Street — the Tea Party. As I pointed out, the Tea Party was the first to “call the sham [of Obama’s election] and this put the Left on the defensive.”[37] The Left responded by calling them fascists and their critique of Obama racist.[38] Why? Because they were a Republican-associated group. What gets passed over in Duhalde's history was the real opportunity in the late-2000s and early 2010s to break with the Democrats and Republicans. Occupy was against a Democratic administration. But by the 2012 election, the Left had been scared back into supporting Obama against the ostensible white supremacist Mitt Romney.[39] Bernie Sanders could take the slogans from Occupy Wall Street for his “insurgent” campaign, because they were standard petty-bourgeois or democratic discontents. They were no threat to the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party is not the DNC. At least Trump recognized the similarity between Occupy and the Tea Party for his capitalist politics.[40] Sanders, from the beginning, promised to support the Democratic Party nominee so as to not help the Republicans as a spoiler.[41] Trump, on the contrary, was willing to risk a Democrat winning and did not commit to supporting the Republican nominee.[42] He even said Bernie Sanders had “many good ideas” and accused the Democrats of rigging the primary against Sanders.[43] Trump possessed the necessary indifference towards capitalist parties and was willing to take political risk. Indeed, as Dr. Anthony Monteiro pointed out, Trump maybe was “not the one that we would have chosen to do this,” but he met the necessity when the Left was absent.[44] Thus, Boris Kagerlitsky was correct in 2016 to state:

Critically-minded intellectuals [had] largely turned into hostages of the existing system, and not just institutionally, since they are part of the system one way or another, but what is far worse, intellectually. While imagining utopias and “alternatives,” they [were] unable to think in terms of practical politics, and realize that breaking with the established order involves risk, drama, and challenges that require significant courage. Intellectual and moral comfort is guaranteed by a practical conservatism that people hide from themselves, repeating meaningless “progressive” mantras.[45]


There was a reason why the Tea Party and Occupy were similar. Both expressed the classic democratic discontents of the pre-capitalist era. The Tea Party explicitly appealed to the revolutionary memory of the 1776 American Revolution in their name. The activist chant popular during Occupy — “The People! United! Will Never Be Defeated!”[46]— recalls an earlier period of revolution. The classic revolutionary pamphlet, What is the Third Estate?, written by the Abbé de Sieyès on the eve of the French Revolution, defended those who work (the Third Estate) against those who are idle and privileged (the first two Estates, the priests and knights). Sieyès argued that the Third Estate, “the People,” constituted the nation because the Third Estate was made up of the productive classes: not just because they produced things, but because they were socially cooperative, holding each other equally to the same rights, without any privilege. “What would [the Third Estate] be without the privileged order?,” asked Sieyès. “It would be all; but free and flourishing. Nothing will go well without the Third Estate; everything would go considerably better without the two other.”[47] This was adequate for the bourgeois revolutionary period, where the revolutionary task was primarily one of removing the fetters on bourgeois society.[48] The latter was already strong, already a new society in the womb of the old.[49]

Shortly after the close of the French Revolution, the full consequences of another revolution — the Industrial Revolution — began to manifest. The “People” themselves had become divided. The “national energy” that was able to draw itself together “like a lion preparing to spring” had become locked in “‘internecine’ class war.”[50] The Spring of Nations, the revolutions of 1848, was a farce, because it fell below the revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries. Revolutions still happened, but in the course of these revolutions, a hidden antagonism emerged that seemed to simultaneously push towards the completion of the bourgeois revolution and its inhibition.[51] What had happened between 1793 and 1848?

When the working class was “forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled as free and ‘unattached’ proletarians on the labour-market,”[52] they were also integrated into a “higher stage of social development” beyond that of slavery or serfdom;[53] this was known as “bourgeois” or urban society. Former serfs and slaves, having no property of their own, became property-owners of their labor in the desolate cities of the former Roman Empire;[54] previously, they were mere instruments.[55] The German phrase “Stadtluft macht frei[56] reflects the discovery of this new right of the cities. Bourgeois society facilitated an open-ended freedom, a freedom tobecome, embodied in the phrase “production for production’s sake.”[57]These relations facilitated the formation of a new power, that of industrial production, and burst the “integument” of bourgeois society.[58] The means and ends became inverted as people tried to put back together the same process that was throwing them out.[59] The trivial wisdom that “a man’s gotta eat” is all that is necessary to reconstitute this contradiction.[60]

“Socialized production revolutionized all the old methods of production,” wrote Engels. “But its revolutionary character was, at the same time, so little recognized that it was, on the contrary, introduced as a means of increasing and developing the production of commodities.”[61] The Industrial Revolution, to this day, is treated primarily as a technical-scientific advance, because its full potential is still refracted through bourgeois social relations. In reality, it wrecks bourgeois society. It appears in absurdities such as “overproduction” and “excess money.”[62] It was not foreseen by even the most radical bourgeois thought, which saw the social cooperative powers of labor to be infinite[63] and the property of the workers themselves.[64]

To be a member of bourgeois society means to be productive. The money we wish to have in our pocket is the receipt.[65] The worker has an interest in both in the realization of their will,[66] and the conditions that enable them to be valuable confront them as “capitalised.”[67] The People have a democratic interest in both labor and capital.

When Marx pointed out in the “Critique of the Gotha Program” (1875) that the “equal standard, labor” was also “unequal right for unequal labor,”[68] he was showing the contradiction that will have to be worked through by the workers in realizing bourgeois right in socialism. The workers have an interest in both the value of their labor-power and their democratic right to surplus-value — they will have to work through the contradiction of the political and civil spheres. The antinomy of positive vs. negative liberty that so plagues modern politics, especially “Left” politics, reflects the contradictory positions of individuals caught up in capitalist production.[69] The self-undermining character of this expresses itself in something that would have been absurd to John Locke: the democracy of producers confronts the democracy of property. The democratic ideal of “one person, one vote” seems schizophrenic. Democracy, rather than an end, became a problem to work through: Marx and Engels never spoke of the battle for democracy, but rather the battle of democracy.[70]

Thus, the right to sell your labor became wage-slavery.[71] The workers had developed the social conditions of production in the era of Adam Smith, but in that time, the social powers formed by cooperation remained the property of the working class. The Third Estate did not require political intervention to preserve their existence in society. Only with the Industrial Revolution do the social-cooperative powers outstrip the property relations that gestated their development, render the workers superfluous, and confront them as an estranged power.[72] The invention of machinery, then, was not the invention of self-driving equipment, but the independence of social powers from the subjects who gave rise to them, expressed in and through bourgeois social relations. The hollowing out of the production process gave rise to the character-masks of the proletariat and capitalist class struggle. This crisis was even unconsciously driven by marginalized and oppressed people seeking emancipation by claiming their bourgeois or human rights e.g., women, children, and even former slaves. Capital can always use our sense of injustice as a resource for reconstituting the contradiction, for capital is not a thing, but a social relation. It is us; it is the People. The problem is when we unconsciously reproduce the revolt of the Third Estate under changed conditions.[73] This is what Marx means when he says the “tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”[74] and why Engels wrote that “[the] ‘people’ will for that reason always appear divided.”[75] In short, the Industrial Revolution had undermined the ongoing bourgeois revolution, leaving it incomplete.[76] It may even look as if the revolution never started. If this is a misrecognition, then why does the Left need an independent class politics?

Horras writes that the toxic “cancel culture” character of the modern Left must be found in the “composition of the movement itself, i.e. the class background of the human beings who compose it.”[77] He notes this as a “demographic conundrum”: that the most active elements of the socialist Left today come from a “middle-class” background. In order to overcome this distance, it is imperative to “embed the movement within the most numerous, most strategic, and most oppressed strata of the working class.”[78] The objective is to intervene among those constituencies that are not formally members of the Democratic Party or an aligned-NGO, although one could say that perhaps most Democrats are not formal members of these institutions either. No doubt these people suffer enormously and are ignored by the capitalist parties — I welcome all civil society cooperation and organization but there is a problem with formulating politics in this manner, of turning class into something demographic.

 If anyone is going to talk about organizing a class for revolutionary politics, we know they are usually referring to Marxism. Yet, Marx was always clear that class ought not to be confused with the demographic background and that there was a real danger of treating class as such. He described this with acuity in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, because it was common for the petty-bourgeois democrats to reduce class to sociological description. As he wrote:

Just as little must one imagine that the democratic representatives are indeed all shopkeepers or enthusiastic champions of shopkeepers. According to their education and their individual position they may be as far apart as heaven and earth. What makes them representatives of the petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in their minds they do not get beyond the limits which the latter do not get beyond in life, that they are consequently driven, theoretically, to the same problems and solutions to which material interest and social position drive the latter practically. This is, in general, the relationship between the political and literary representatives of a class and the class they represent.[79]

In other words, the intellectuals and peasants shared the same class line, because they shared the same political line, despite differing in their form of economic production. Class was not determined by income, education, oppression, or even one’s vocation. This was not what was meant by the oft-referred to “class-in-itself”; that was rather the account of how an object could come to be. The middle-class suburbanites who become socialist organizers in the inner city and the neighborhoods of poor and working-class people can all represent the same “class,” at least from a Marxist perspective: it can all be petty-bourgeois. Marx was clear that the workers in power could be stuck implementing only petty-bourgeois measures, i.e., a fraught liberalism.[80] Even after the class has formed, it is possible for it to become “dislodged from its class groove.”[81] The task was to bring “one section or another of the working people to come over to the side of the proletariat . . . [to] ‘place themselves at the standpoint of the proletariat.’”[82] It is unfortunate that the usual learned definition of class is one’s relation to the means of production. Thus, one’s class position comes to mean the economic input a person occupies. This is the exact superficiality that Marx critiqued as capitulating to capitalism: “Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion. Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.”[83] When Marx and Engels spoke of class, they meant the relationship to society as a whole because they meant the crisis of democracy. The class struggle expressed the self-contradiction of society as a whole. If “[Communists] always and everywhere represent the interest of the movement as a whole,” then it follows that the class can only be formed through a revolutionary political line, “realised through living people, and only through definite forms of organization.”[84] Without such, “[f]rom the standpoint of Marxism[,] the class, so long as it renounces the idea of hegemony or fails to appreciate it, is not a class, or not yet a class, but a guild, or the sum total of various guilds.”[85] This is why the June Insurrection was the “first great battle . . . between the two classes that split modern society. It was a fight for the preservation or annihilation of the bourgeois order.”[86] Class struggle is political struggle, because civil society became incapable of organizing itself and requires a political conquest so that people do not “consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle.”[87]

Class today has become sociological, mimicking the demographic quotas and targeted voter canvassing of the Democratic Party. This tailism is symptomatic of the Left’s long liquidation. People get treated as objects — despite genuflections of empowering them to become subjects — by placing them into received categories, including even oppressed and working-class. Ultimately, the different Left strategies become an attempt at grabbing Democrats before they become Democrats; the base to build is imagined as a split from the Democrats. The Democratic Party already has a mass line.

The oddest part of Horras’s response is when he claims that I seek a “way out of the deadlock, [by setting my] sights on ‘wokeness.’”[88] Actually, I discussed wokeness as part of the account of the 2010s and pointed out that the critiques of wokeness have failed to recognize the real conditions which give rise to authoritarianism. But Horras sets this up to knock it down: “The implication of his argument is that by ‘taking a side in the culture war,’ the Left cuts itself off from the working class, who presumably can’t be bothered to stand up for abortion, or the rights of LGBTQ+ people or oppressed nationalities.”[89] I hope Horras realizes that the working class defending the right of abortion or the rights of LGBTQ+ and oppressed nationalities is not the culture war. The Democrats and Republicans may present rights as cultural practices, but I would assume that one who calls oneself a Marxist (or any classical liberal for that matter) would point out that right is founded in society, not in law, let alone opinion! One doesn’t have to take a side in the present culture war or even affirm a cultural practice in order to defend the rights of society. August Bebel was correct when he said that the liberation of women from oppression and dependence was “not for reasons of propaganda, but from necessity.”[90] Bebel was merely repeating the truth recognized by the radical bourgeoisie that society cannot be free when one group of persons — or even one individual — is unfree. Socialism is only going to be built with “human material bequeathed to us by capitalism,”[91] with all the prejudices and flaws. If they are a result of capitalism, their conditions are only going to be overcome with the abolition of capitalism; anything else is reformism and identifies with capitalism. The most radical socialists were able to defend rights without enforcing cultural identification. Alexandra Kollontai fought for the decriminalization and full-support of abortion practices and yet did so with the aim of overcoming “the need for abortion.”[92] The rights of the LGBTQ+[93] and oppressed nationalities[94] can be defended without requiring the working class to culturally identify or even be pressured into making various kinds of performative gestures popular among the DNC senators. To identify rights with culture is to conflate the “anatomy of civil society”[95] with the diversity of human practices that are possible in society. This confusion is frequently manifest when people talk about nations as different “societies” and leave out what even makes these “societies” rational, intelligible, and comparable to each other in the first place. The present culture war is a fight over the cultural mores that characterize the Republican-Democratic split.

Despite the fact that I address the criticism of wokeness in the paragraph alluded to, Horras writes the following: “One cringes when [Jacobs] shades into standard GOP critiques of ‘cancel culture,’ as though the possibility of a Twitter pile-on is a more serious threat to the working class than a policeman’s bullet.”[96] How about neither Twitter pile-on nor policemen shooting the working class? In my article, I do not mention police shooting the working class. I give Horras the benefit of the doubt that he is not suggesting that the excesses of “cancel culture” are some kind of necessary evil protecting the working class, but this just seems to be a capitulation to mainstream capitalist politicians who believe ostracization will solve the problems of society. At one point in his response, Horras laments that the socialist press doesn’t do enough “scrupulous [analysis] from a Marxist perspective” of the economy and yet, as I mentioned in the original article, cancel culture has a political economic backbone: it is “the competition between workers” that is characteristic of a society fraught with redundant labor.[97] People cancel each other to preserve the value of their labor-power. The inability to distinguish between upholding the rights of individuals and groups and the demand for cultural affinity is characteristic of the authoritarianism that plagues capitalist society. It is and has been the resource for the capitalist class and its infringement upon the rights of the working class.

50 years ago, Penn Kemble noted that the New Left replaced the old Fordist party bosses in the Democratic Party and introduced into the latter cultural mores that have served the role of regulating everyone into pre-selected constituencies.[98] The Republican Party’s “opposition” is not innocent of this, but is really just mutually-constituted opposition, a “clown car.”[99] The culture war remains a distraction because it liquidates all organization back into the petty-bourgeois democracy of the Republicans and Democrats.

The entire Millennial Left has ultimately remained attached to the Democratic-Republican, “Left”-“Right” continuum. The Millennials never politically defined the Left in practice but defined themselves against the “Right”: first with George W. Bush, then the Tea Party, and now Trump. It is not really that social movements get captured by the Democratic Party proper — “recouped,” as is popular to say —but they tail the Democrats ideologically. The Democratic Party defines the Republicans as straight, white, male, and anti-worker; the Democrats understand themselves as representative of oppressed minorities and workers. The Left might call the Democrats spineless, cowards, corporatists, imperialists, but they take how the Democrats and Republicans mutually constitute “Left” and “Right” as their lead. “Marxism,” “Communists,” “Socialists”— all of this means more militant, more intransigent, and/or more sophisticated variations on the Democratic Party. It is necessary to say, “The Left is dead! Long live the Left,” because what was never questioned was the received conception of “Left” and “Right.”[100]

 I do not want to dissuade the multitude of tenant’s unions that are organizing tenants against the exploitative practices of landlords, or any other civil society organization. This, by itself, is liberal activism, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is completely within the rights of tenants to defend themselves against the exploitative practices of landlords. But one does not need to be a Marxist or even a Leftist to know that landlords exploit tenants. Adam Smith defended the self-organization of workers not because he expected socialism, but because a healthy and robust civil society could only mean the free expression of the medley of interests that make up society. This was even seen as productive, as “unsocial sociability.” Marxism was only ever necessitated because of the limits of this practice, and the belief that the limitation of the landlord to the tenant relationship would promote the self-organization of a class that could embody the social domination of society.[101] I believe Horras would acknowledge this distinction, and he ends his response to me by giving a minimum suggestion for what is demanded: “economically, it would mean the rational organization of production; politically, the democratic governance of society by a council republic.[102]

I do not believe that anyone would reject the demand for the most rational organization of production possible. The criticisms of a socialist economy were not on the basis of such an economy being too rational but rather, irrational and impossible.[103] This cannot define the difference between the Left and the mainstream. A council republic, on the other hand, might even be too particular as a minimum suggestion. Both Lenin and Trotsky warned against fetishizing the Soviets;[104] after all, the Councils supported the SPD in 1918 and could be an obstacle.[105] They merely presented the possibility, in embryo, of a proletarian dictatorship, but they are still just bourgeois-democratic forms. The reason why the great Erfurt Program did not mention soviets or councils is because such forms had not yet been concretely generated and tied to the history of a social movement. We should not prematurely suggest such a design.

Horras characterizes this dead end as “less of a fault of base-building — whose main proponents argued passionately for a revolutionary politics — than it is an indictment of the decision of the movement as a whole to pursue a reformist politics.”[106] Sure, but why did these activists make this decision? Because the Left spent over four years calling Donald Trump and his base fascist. This is important for the simple fact that neither Trump nor his base think of themselves as fascists[107] — but the Democrats do! This just ends up being the mirror-image of the Republicans, who call every Democrat a communist. Historically, Marxists never accepted the threat of the far Right as any exception, but always recognized it for what it was — an ideological obstacle. Class independence was not to be sacrificed, even if it meant reactionaries gaining office;[108] the worse enemy was the false ally against the reaction.[109] Even in the face of Nazis, appeals to the “lesser-evil” were recognized only as ideological confusion.[110]

Both Duhalde and Horras commit to continuing the strategy they pursued throughout the 2010s, with Duhalde and DSA continuing to pursue “[influencing] public policy and [building] socialism by electing a handful of people that show tangible results,”[111] and Horras confident that the “ideas of base-building will retain their salience for the next generation of activists.”[112] This contrasts with the titles of their articles: “The dead end and how we got here” and “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The struggle may continue, but are we going in a circle? |P

[1] Tim Horras, “The dead end and how we got here: A response to D. L. Jacobs,” Platypus Review 145 (April 2022), available online at <>.

[2] Karl Marx, “The Abolition of Universal Suffrage in 1850,” in The Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850 (1850), available online at <>.

[3] Friedrich Engels, “Introduction to Marx’s Class Struggles in France” (1895), available online at <>.

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

[5] Sophia Burns, “Chasing Ambulances,” Gods & Radicals, March 29, 2018.

[6] D. L. Jacobs, “What was the Millennial Left?,” Platypus Review 137 (June 2021), available online at <>.

[7] Tom Canel, “The Millennial Left and the Democratic Party: A response to D. L. Jacobs,” Platypus Review 140 (October 2021), available online at <>.

[8] David Duhalde, “The more things change, the more they stay the same: A response to Canel and Jacobs,” Platypus Review 144 (March 2022), available online at <>.

[9] Horras, “The dead end.”

[10] Jacobs, “What was the Millennial Left?”

[11] Jason Schulman and Bernard Sampson, “Sanders, the Democrats, and the Left,” Platypus Review 86 (May 2016), available online at <>.

[12] Sophia Burns, “Don’t Run for Office,” The North Star, August 18, 2016, available online at <>.

[13] Horras, “The dead end”: “The article opens with the author in conversation with an imaginary interlocutor (essentially an anarchist) representing the base-building trend within the socialist Left” [my emphasis].

[14] Ibid.: “That is to say, the decision of thousands of socialist activists (perhaps including more than a few of our readers) to hold their noses and participate in reformist politics as ‘the only game in town.’”

[15] Tim Horras, “Goodbye Revolution?,” Regeneration, April 15, 2019, available online at <>: “we do not reject a tactical engagement with elections, nor do we dismiss out of hand the prospect of a parliamentary road to power. However, for a variety of reasons we believe the likelihood of such a turn of events is exaggerated by reformists.”

[16] Tim Horras, “Among the Ruins of Victory,” Regeneration, November 7, 2020, available online at <>: “It doesn’t matter if ‘our ideas are getting an audience’ if increased airtime doesn’t result in any significant policy victories. We’re talking about having a decade left to avoid climate catastrophe, and we just kicked the can down the road another four years. If we hold any expectations beyond ‘changing the discourse,’ left electoralism is just as much a dead end as Occupy Wall Street was. Fascism will not be defeated electorally.”

[17] Tim Horras, “Remarks on Dissolution of Marxist Center,” Regeneration, January 20, 2022, available online at <>. Furthermore, Horras has been a strong critic of Eric Blanc and Chris Maisano’s electoralist strategies. See his “Goodbye Revolution?” and “Organizing the Unorganized: The Left’s Task in the Labor Movement,” Regeneration, March 20, 2020, available online at <>.

[18] Jacobs, “What was the Millennial Left?”

[19] Horras, “The dead end.”

[20] Canel, “The Millenial Left.”

[21] DSA National Electoral Committee, “Toward a Mass Party in the United States,” in 2021 DSA Convention Resolutions, available online at <>.

[22] Canel, “The Millenial Left.”

[23] Jacobs, “What was the Millennial Left?”: “The missed opportunity of the last decade-and-a-half was to break with the stranglehold of the political continuum set by the Democrats and Republicans. The administrative parties of the major industrialized nations had lost their ability to politically lead society under the ideologies that they had had since the 1960s and were in freefall. This was a chance for the Left to give form to a political line that cut across the major parties. Instead, the Left retreated from suspicion regarding the received views of leftism (in the 2000s) and distrust of the capitalist parties (Occupy), to trying to capture the Democratic/Labour Party nominations (in the mid-2010s), and have now have arrived at just trying to be a voting or pressure bloc, in-or-around the mainstream capitalist parties. In short, the Millennial Left has ended the decade as ‘Democrats, Nothing but Democrats.’ But this was not predetermined”[my emphasis].

[24] Furthermore, Canel starts from the “Trump bump” and its effect on DSA, and so avoids its relation to the immediately preceding history. Duhalde points this out in “The more things change”: “In turn, the organization also grew by tens of thousands after Donald Trump defeated Clinton.”

[25] Duhalde, “The more things change.”

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Canel, “The Millenial Left”: “The possibility remains (as I fear is the case) that any break with the Democratic Party is not viable, or that (as I also fear) it would have problematic political side-effects if accomplished.”

[29] Evan Popp, “The Trump ‘Bump’ Has Galvanized the Left—But Also the Far Right,” The Progressive, July 17, 2017, available online at <“bump”-has-galvanized-the-left—but-also-the-far-ri/>.

[30] For example, see Sophia Burns, “Summation of the Experience of the Greater Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition (GSNAC)” (October 2017), available online at <>.

[31] Horras, “The dead end.”

[32] Ibid.

[33] J. P. Nettl, “The German Social Democratic Party 1890-1914 as a Political Model,” Past & Present 30 (1965): 65–95. Before that, Karl Kautsky, a leading Marxist in the 2nd International, who operated under much more stringent conditions and with a much greater threat of reaction than us, characterized the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) as the only real party and “questioned whether the other political parties have any aims at all.” The SPD was the only party with a “definite aim in the future,” whereas the other parties, which are really interest groups, live “from hand to mouth.”

[34] Duhalde, “The more things change.”

[35] Will Emmons and David Duhalde, “Return to the Countryside,” Jacobin, November 5, 2012, available online at <>.

[36] Duhalde, “The more things change.”

[37] Jacobs, “What was the Millennial Left?”

[38] Horras has a retrospective on this period. See Tim Horras, “Slouching Towards Shutdown: Left Reflections on the Tea Party, Then & Now," Regeneration, March 1, 2021, available online at <>.

[39] For example, the Washington Post accused Romney of using a KKK-slogan, “Keep America American,” in 2011. They then had to retract the piece. See Elizabeth Flock, “Mitt Romney is using a KKK slogan in his speeches,” Washington Post, December 14, 2011. This was forgotten by the time Romney was openly criticizing Trump for inciting the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017. See John Wagner “Romney calls on Trump to address the nation, apologize for Charlottesville comments,” Washington Post, August 18, 2017.

[40] See Donald Trump, Time to Get Tough (Washington, D. C.: Regnery Publishing, 2015), 188: “As for the Occupy Wall Street protesters . . . They are angry at the banks and they should be. They are angry at the government and they should be . . . One thing the Tea Party folks and the Occupy Wall Street people can and should agree on is tackling the rampant problem in the Obama administration of crony capitalism . . . Likewise, I think the Occupy people and the Tea Party can agree to get rid of the corporate welfare that gives tax subsidies to oil companies. How does that make any sense? Oil companies make billions. Why should the taxpayers have money taken out of their hard-earned paycheck to hand over to the oil companies, many of whom are in cahoots with OPEC? That's stupid and unfair as anyone can clearly see.” Trump himself seemed to be aware of this disconnect between his sympathy for Occupy and Occupy’s image of him. In an interview with Sean Hannity from October 19, 2011, Trump states, “If I could speak to the group [Occupy Wall Street] — I’m not sure I am exactly the right person [my emphasis] — but if I could speak to that group, I’d say, ‘Folks, let’s go, let’s hop in the train, let’s hop in the plane, let’s go down to Washington!’”

[41] See Rebecca Kaplan, “Bernie Sanders on why he won't run as an independent,” CBS News, September 14, 2015,available online at <>.

[42] Trump was the only Republican on stage at the August 6, 2015 Republican Primary to raise his hand to Brett Baier's question, “Is there anyone onstage — and can I see hands — who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”

[43] See Amber Jameison, “Trump to Bernie Sanders supporters: ‘We welcome you with open arms,’” The Guardian, June 7, 2016, available online at <>: “‘For all of those Bernie Sanders voters who will be left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,’ Trump said on Tuesday at Trump National Golf Club Westchester in New York.”

[44] Zeyu Chen and D. L. Jacobs, “Tomorrow is today: An interview with Anthony Monteiro,” Platypus Review 143 (February 2022), available online at <>: “What the Trump movement and the Trump phenomenon did was, for all intents and purposes, smash the neoliberal, neocon, austerity, war, political cabal. They haven't recovered. . . . But the way I read it is a manifestation of the fact that the ruling class cannot rule in the old way. That is the crisis of democracy, of bourgeois democracy. It emerged in ways because we say there is a law of social development. This came out of nowhere: a person who is really not the one that we would have chosen to do this. But in a country where a Left had been broken, where the trade union movement was a shadow of what it once was, where the black movement had been brought to heel, where the ruling class was choosing leaders of unions, of the black movement; the electoral system was rigged, and it was money and connections. This movement came from that part of the population—and it's not just one thing in my opinion —who are tired of war, who are tired of austerity, who are from these small towns that have been de-industrialized, places like Bradford, Pennsylvania. You could say that they're all racist, they're all fascist — you can call them that all day long — but the fact of the matter is they emerge out of a crisis of the system, and you just can’t overlook that. The fact that a good part of them are working people — what does this say? What is the potential there?”

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

[46] Sometimes “divided” in lieu of “defeated.”

[47] Abbé de Sieyès, What is the Third Estate? (1789).

[48] See V. I. Lenin, “The Heritage We Renounce” (1897), in Lenin Collected Works, vol. 2 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), 491–534, available online at <>: “It must not be forgotten that at the time when the eighteenth century enlighteners . . . wrote . . . all social problems amounted to the struggle against serfdom and its survivals. At that time the new socio-economic relations and their contradictions were still in embryo. No selfishness was therefore displayed at that time by the ideologists of the bourgeoisie; on the contrary, both in the West and in Russia, they quite sincerely believed in universal well-being and sincerely desired it, they sincerely did not see (partly could not yet see) the contradictions in the system which was growing out of serfdom.”

[49] Sieyès, What is the Third Estate?: “Who is bold enough to maintain that the Third Estate does not contain within itself everything needful to constitute a complete nation? It is like a strong and robust man with one arm still in chains. If the privileged order were removed, the nation would not be something less but something more.”

[50] Leon Trotsky, “1789 – 1848 – 1905,” in Results and Prospects (1906), available online at <>.

[51] See Rosa Luxemburg, “Development of the Mass Strike Movement in Russia,” in The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906), available online at <>: “This class division and class maturity of bourgeois society, as well as its action in the struggle against absolutism, is on the one hand, hampered and made difficult by the peculiar leading role of the proletariat and, on the other hand, is spurred on and accelerated.”

[52] Karl Marx, “The Secret of Primitive Accumulation,” in Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, vol. 1 (1867), available online at <>.

[53] This is true even if their existence falls below the level of serfs or slaves. See Friedrich Engels, “Response 6,” in Principles of Communism (1847), available online at <>.

[54] When Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that it is “self-evident all men [which means all humans! Don’t forget the original Rough Draft — DLJ] are endowed with certain inalienable rights,” he was confidently asserting the bourgeois revolution against the privileges and duties of traditional civilization. From a bourgeois perspective, “slave labor” is a contradiction in adjecto, for to sell oneself into slavery contradicts the very right of selling.

[55] See Engels, “Response 3,” in Principles of Communism: “Proletarians, then, have not always existed?No. There have always been poor and working classes; and the working class have mostly been poor. But there have not always been workers and poor people living under conditions as they are today; in other words, there have not always been proletarians, any more than there has always been free unbridled competitions.” See also Engels’s Responses 2, 4, 6–10. Engels is also clear in distinguishing work from labor: see footnote 11, in “The Labour-Process and the Process of Producing Surplus-Value,” in Capital, vol 1: “As has been stated in a previous note, the English language has two different expressions for these two different aspects of labour: in the Simple Labour-process, the process of producing Use-Values, it is Work; in the process of creation of Value, it is Labour, taking the term in its strictly economic sense.”

[56] “City air makes you free.”

[57] See Karl Marx, “The process which precedes the formation of the capital relation or of original accumulation,” in Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations (1857–58), available online at <>: “[T]he ancient conception, in which man always appears (in however narrowly national, religious, or political a definition) as the aim of production, seems very much more exalted than the modern world, in which production is the aim of man and wealth the aim of production. In fact, however, when the narrow bourgeois form has been peeled away, what is wealth, if not the universality of needs, capacities, enjoyments, productive powers etc., of individuals, produced in universal exchange? What, if not the full development of human control over the forces of nature — those of his own nature as well as those of so-called “nature"? What, if not the absolute elaboration of his creative dispositions, without any preconditions other than antecedent historical evolution which make the totality of this evolution — i.e., the evolution of all human powers as such, unmeasured by any previously established yardstick — an end in itself? What is this, if not a situation where man does not reproduce in any determined form, but produces his totality? Where he does not seek to remain something formed by the past, but is in the absolute movement of becoming? In bourgeois political economy — and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds — this complete elaboration of what lies within man, appears as the total alienation, and the destruction of all fixed, one-sided purposes as the sacrifice of the end in itself to a wholly external compulsion. Hence in one way the childlike world of the ancients appears to be superior; and this is so, insofar as we seek for closed shape, form and established limitation. The ancients provide a narrow satisfaction, whereas the modern world leaves us unsatisfied, or, where it appears to be satisfied, with itself, is vulgar and mean.”

[58] Karl Marx, “Historical Tendency of Capital Accumulation,” in Capital, vol. 1, available online at <>.

[59] See Theodor Adorno, “Lecture 1,” in Lectures on Negative Dialectics (1966): “today society survives by means of what tears it apart.”

[60] See Joan Robinson, Economic Theory (1962): “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.”

[61] Friedrich Engels, “Historical Materialism,” in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880), available online at <>.

[62] See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “Bourgeois and Proletarians,” in Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) available online at <>: “In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them.”

[63] See Adam Smith, Book 1, Chapter I of Wealth of Nations (1776), available online at <>: “It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people. Every workman has a great quantity of his own work to dispose of beyond what he himself has occasion for; and every other workman being exactly in the same situation, he is enabled to exchange a great quantity of his own goods for a great quantity, or, what comes to the same thing, for the price of a great quantity of theirs. He supplies them abundantly with what they have occasion for, and they accommodate him as amply with what he has occasion for, and a general plenty diffuses itself through all the different ranks of the society.”

[64] See Karl Marx, “The Strife between Workman and Machine,” in “Machinery and Modern Industry,” in Capital, vol. 1, available online at <>: “During the manufacturing period, handicraft labour, altered though it was by division of labour, was yet the basis. The demands of the new colonial markets could not be satisfied owing to the relatively small number of town operatives handed down from the middle ages, and the manufactures proper opened out new fields of production to the rural population, driven from the land by the dissolution of the feudal system. At that time, therefore, division of labour and co-operation in the workshops, were viewed more from the positive aspect, that they made the workpeople more productive. Long before the period of modern industry, co-operation and the concentration of the instruments of labour in the hands of a few, gave rise, in numerous countries where these methods were applied in agriculture, to great, sudden and forcible revolutions in the modes of production, and consequentially, in the conditions of existence, and the means of employment of the rural populations. But this contest at first takes place more between the large and the small landed proprietors, than between capital and wage labour; on the other hand, when the labourers are displaced by the instruments of labour, by sheep, horses, &c., in this case force is directly resorted to in the first instance as the prelude to the industrial revolution. The labourers are first driven from the land, and then come the sheep. Land grabbing on a great scale, such as was perpetrated in England, is the first step in creating a field for the establishment of agriculture on a great scale Hence this subversion of agriculture puts on, at first, more the appearance of a political revolution.”

[65] See John Bellers, Essays about the Poor, Manufactures, Trade, Plantations, and Immorality (1699): “Money hath two qualities: it is a pledge . . . .”

[66] See Karl Marx, “Application of the Law of the Proportionality of Value,” in “A Scientific Discovery,” in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) available online at <>: “[Value] is constituted, not by the time needed to produce it by itself, but in relation to the quota of each and every other product which can be created in the same time.”

[67] See Karl Marx, “Mystification of Capital, etc.,” in “The Process of Production of Capital, Draft Chapter 6 of Capital: Results of the Direct Production Process” (1864), available online at <>: “ . . . with the development of the specifically capitalist mode of production, not only do these things — these products of labour, both as use values and as exchange values — stand on their hind legs vis-à-vis the worker and confront him as “capital” — but also the social forms of labour appear as forms of the development of capital, and therefore the productive powers of social labour, thus developed, appear as productive powers of capital. As such social forces they are “capitalised” vis-à-vis labour. In fact, communal unity in cooperation, combination in the division of labour, the application of the forces of nature and science, as well as the products of labour in the shape of machinery, are all things which confront the individual workers as alien, objective, and present in advance, without their assistance, and often against them, independent of them, as mere forms of existence of the means of labour which are independent of them and rule over them, in so far as they are objective; while the intelligence and volition of the total workshop, incarnated in the capitalist or his understrappers (representatives), in so far as the workshop is formed by the combination of the means of labour, confront the workers as functions of capital, which lives in the person of the capitalist. . . . They therefore confront the workers as shapes of capital itself, as combinations which, unlike their isolated labour capacities, belong to capital, originate from it and are incorporated within it. And this assumes a form which is the more real the more, on the one hand, their labour capacity is itself modified by these forms, so that it becomes powerless when it stands alone, i.e. outside this context of capitalism, and its capacity for independent production is destroyed, while on the other hand the development of machinery causes the conditions of labour to appear as ruling labour technologically too, and at the same time to replace it, suppress it, and render it superfluous in its independent forms. In this process, in which the social characteristics of their labour confront them as capitalised, to a certain extent — in the way that e.g. in machinery the visible products of labour appear as ruling over labour — the same thing of course takes place for the forces of nature and science, the product of general historical development in its abstract quintessence: they confront the workers as powers of capital. They become in fact separated from the skill and knowledge of the individual worker, and although — if we look at them from the point of view of their source — they are in turn the product of labour, they appear as incorporated into capital wherever they enter the labour process.”

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

[69] See the Q&A in Matt McManus, Andrew Arato, Donald Parkinson, August Nimtz, “Marxism and liberalism,” Platypus Review 135 (April 2021), available online at <>: “Everyone seemed to pose Marxism versus liberalism as a version of freedom to — positive liberty — versus a freedom from — negative liberty. To what extent is this a reflection of capitalism, and therefore an obstacle to socialism? For Marx, liberalism was the political expression of commodity exchange — buyer and seller respect each other’s property, each other’s autonomy, treat each other as equals. The industrial revolution socialized property — capital — that allowed one to appropriate another’s labor. Not just the capitalist but the workers appropriate each other’s labor, for instance unemployment insurance, higher education, etc., through the state. The Republicans and Democrats claim both freedom to and freedom from, but based on their voter base. To pose the difference between Marxism and Liberalism as a variation of freedom from — negative liberty/freedom from coercion — versus freedom to — social republicanism, access to economic rights, etc. — seems to be bound still to capitalist politics.”

[70] Marx and Engels, “Proletarians and Communists,” in The Manifesto of the Communist Party: “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.”

[71] Being compelled to sell your labor is not proletarianization, but part of social cooperation. See Karl Marx, “Bloody Legislation Against the Expropriated, from the End of the 15th Century. Forcing Down of Wages by Acts of Parliament,” in Capital, vol. 1, available online at <>: “It is not enough that the conditions of labour are concentrated in a mass, in the shape of capital, at the one pole of society, while at the other are grouped masses of men, who have nothing to sell but their labour-power. Neither is it enough that they are compelled to sell it voluntarily. The advance of capitalist production develops a working class, which by education, tradition, habit, looks upon the conditions of that mode of production as self-evident laws of Nature. . . . The dull compulsion of economic relations completes the subjection of the labourer to the capitalist. Direct force, outside economic conditions, is of course still used, but only exceptionally. In the ordinary run of things, the labourer can be left to the ‘natural laws of production,’ i.e., to his dependence on capital, a dependence springing from, and guaranteed in perpetuity by, the conditions of production themselves.”

[72] See Karl Marx, “Division of Labour and Manufacture,” in Capital, vol. 1, available online at <>: “This separation begins in simple co-operation, where the capitalist represents to the single workman, the oneness and the will of the associated labour. It is developed in manufacture which cuts down the labourer into a detail labourer. It is completed in modern industry, which makes science a productive force distinct from labour and presses it into the service of capital.”

[73] For example, August Blanqui considered the “[a]ristocracy by birth” abolished in 1830 and replaced “by the aristocracy of money.” See his “Reception Procedure of the Society of the Seasons” (1830), available online at <>. Similarly, Ferdinand Lassalle called the workers a “Fourth Estate” that would succeed the bourgeois “Third Estate,” in Das Arbeiter-Programm (April 12, 1862).

[74] Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), available online at <>.

[75] Engels, “Introduction to Marx’s Class Struggles in France.”

[76] See Georg Lukács, “Class Consciousness” (1920), in History and Class Consciousness (1923), available online at <>: “The tragedy of the bourgeoisie is reflected historically in the fact that even before it had defeated its predecessor, feudalism, its new enemy, the proletariat, had appeared on the scene. Politically, it became evident when, at the moment of victory, the ‘freedom’ in whose name the bourgeoisie had joined battle with feudalism, was transformed into a new repressiveness. Sociologically, the bourgeoisie did everything in its power to eradicate the fact of class conflict from the consciousness of society, even though class conflict had only emerged in its purity and became established as an historical fact with the advent of capitalism. Ideologically, we see the same contradiction in the fact that the bourgeoisie endowed the individual with an unprecedented importance, but at the same time that same individuality was annihilated by the economic conditions to which it was subjected, by the reification created by commodity production.”

[77] Horras, “The dead end.”

[78] Ibid.

[79] Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire.

[80] See Karl Marx, “Meeting of the Central Authority of the Communist League” (September 15, 1850): “The materialist standpoint of the Manifesto has given way to idealism. The revolution is seen not as the product of realities of the situation but as the result of an effort of will. Whereas we say to the workers: You have 15, 20, 50 years of civil wars to go through in order to alter the situation and to train yourselves for the exercise of power, it is said: We must take power at once, or else we may as well take to our beds. Just as the democrats abused the word ‘people’ so now the word ‘proletariat’ has been used as a mere phrase. To make this phrase effective it would be necessary to describe all the petty bourgeois as proletarians and consequently in practice represent the petty bourgeois and not the proletarians. The actual revolutionary process would have to be replaced by revolutionary catchwords... I have always defied the momentary opinions of the proletariat. We are devoted to a party which, most fortunately for it, cannot yet come to power. If the proletariat were to come to power the measures it would introduce would be petty-bourgeois and not directly proletariat. Our party can come to power only when the conditions allow it to put its own views into practice. Louis Blanc is the best instance of what happens when you come to power prematurely.”

[81] V. I. Lenin, “The New Economic Policy and the Tasks of the Political Education Departments: Report to the Second All-Russia Congress of Political Education Departments October 17, 1921,” available online at <>.

[82] V. I. Lenin, “Speech on the Party Programme” (1903), Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., in Lenin Collected Works, vol. 6 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964), available online at <>.

[83] Marx and Engels, “Proletarians and Communists.”

[84] V. I. Lenin, “Preface to the Collection Twelve Years,” in Lenin Collected Works, vol. 13 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1972), 94–113, available online at <>.

[85] V. I. Lenin, “Marxism and Nasha Zarya” (1911), in Lenin Collected Works, vol. 17 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1974), 54–59, available online at <>.

[86] Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848–1850.

[87] Friedrich Engels, “Barbarism and Civilization,” in The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884).

[88] Horras, “The dead end.”

[89] Ibid.

[90] August Bebel, “Introduction,” in Women and Socialism (1879 / 1910).

[91] V. I. Lenin, “Should Revolutionaries Work in Reactionary Trade Unions?,” in “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920), available online at <>.

[92] Alexandra Kollontai, “The Labour of Women in the Evolution of the Economy” (1921), available online at <>: “Abortion exists and flourishes everywhere, and no laws or punitive measures have succeeded in rooting it out. A way round the law is always found. But ‘secret help’ only cripples women; they become a burden on the labour government, and the size of the labour force is reduced. Abortion, when carried out under proper medical conditions, is less harmful and dangerous, and the woman can get back to work quicker. Soviet power realises that the need for abortion will only disappear on the one hand when Russia has a broad and developed network of institutions protecting motherhood and providing social education, and on the other hand when women understand that childbirth is a social obligation; Soviet power has therefore allowed abortion to be performed openly and in clinical conditions. Besides the large-scale development of motherhood protection, the task of labour Russia is to strengthen in women the healthy instinct of motherhood, to make motherhood and labour for the collective compatible and thus do away with the need for abortion.”

[93] See Eduard Bernstein’s defense of Oscar Wilde in “The judgement of abnormal sexual intercourse” (1895), available online at <> and August Bebel’s January 13, 1898 speech in the Reichstag against the criminalization of homosexuality.

[94] Hence, Lenin defends the right of self-determination of nations but considers “cultural-national autonomy” to be reactionary. See “Cultural-National Autonomy” and “The Equality of Nations and the Rights of Minorities,” in Critical Remarks on the National Question (1913).

[95] Karl Marx, “Preface,” in Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), available online at <>.

[96] Horras, “The dead end.”

[97] Jacobs, “What was the Millennial Left?”

[98] Penn Kemble, “The New Politics & the Democrats,” Commentary (December 1972), available online at <>: “It is troubling that a conception of democratic participation which is far more concerned with the demands of the political activist than it is with the needs of the ordinary citizen has gained such favor among liberals and Democrats. The McGovern commission reforms were clearly a product of this outlook, which in turn was a product of the ideological currents that arose in the New Left in the 1960’s. These included the notions that the average American had been brainwashed by the Establishment and was tainted by racism. Neither he nor his indigenous leaders could be fully trusted to make the best decisions for himself or the nation. Political decision-making had to be shifted into the hands of those who by virtue of superior education and the possession of ‘conscience’—an absolute moral quality never affected by the social interests of those it graced—could give some civilized shape to the malleable politics of the masses. Participatory democracy, as defined by the new politicians, meant in practice the opening of political institutions to greater influence for the militant, activist liberal.”

[99] See Chris Cutrone, Dennis Graemer, Douglas Kellner, Doug Lain, “The Politics of Critical Theory,” Platypus Review 140 (October 2021), available online at <>.

[100] Likewise, to become an “anti-Leftist” Marxist is also to accept what is immediate as Left.

[101] See V. I. Lenin, “Vulgar Socialism and Narodism as Resurrected by the Socialist-Revolutionaries” (1902), available online at <>: “When the Socialist-Revolutionaries say: ‘In essence, the relations between farmer and farm-labourer, on the one hand, and between independent peasants and the money-lenders, the kulaks, on the other, are exactly the same,’ they are reproducing in its entirety the mistake of, say, German vulgar socialism, which, in the person of Mühlberger, for example, stated that in essence the relations between employer and worker are the same as those between house owner and tenant. Our Mühlbergers are equally incapable of distinguishing between the basic and the derivative forms of exploitation, and confine themselves to declamations on the subject of “exploitation” in general. Our Mühlbergers are equally incapable of understanding that it is precisely the exploitation of wage-labour that forms the basis of the whole predatory system of today, that it is the exploitation of wage-labour that leads to the division of society into irreconcilably opposed classes, and that only from the point of view of this class struggle can all other manifestations of exploitation be consistently gauged, without lapsing into vagueness and abandoning all principles.”

[102] Horras, “The dead end.”

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

[104] Leon Trotsky, “Again, on the Soviets and the Party in a Proletarian Revolution,” in The Lessons of October (1924), available online at <>.

[105] Sebastian Haffner quotes Rosa Luxemburg from November 30, 1918, in his Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–1919, trans. Georg Rapp (Chicago: Banner Press, 1986), 109: “‘If the Revolution were going on in those of its organs which were the creation of its early days, the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, it would be in dire straits . . . The Revolution will live without the Councils, the Councils without the Revolution are dead.’”

[106] Horras, “The dead end.”

[107] See D. L. Jacobs, “Fascist Phantasms,” Sublation, June 22, 2022, available at <>.

[108] See Karl Marx, “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League” (1850), available online at <>: “Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body.”

[109] See William Liebknecht, “Socialism and Ethics,” in No Compromise – No Political Trading (1899), available online at <>: “The enemy who comes to us with open visor we face with a smile; to set our foot upon his neck is mere play for us. The stupidly brutal acts of violence of police politicians, the outrages of anti-socialist laws, the anti-revolution laws, penitentiary bills – these only arouse feelings of pitying contempt; the enemy, however, that reaches out the hand to us for a political alliance; and intrudes himself upon us as a friend and brother, – him and him alone have we to fear.” Lenin comments on this text in “Preface to the Russian Translation of W. Liebknecht’s Pamphlet: No Compromises, No Electoral Agreements” (1907), available online at <>: “You see, Liebknecht, too, takes police outrages and Black hundred laws into account. Nevertheless, he tells the workers boldly: it is not this enemy that we must fear, but an electoral agreement with a false friend. Why did Liebknecht think so? Because he always regarded the strength of fighters as real strength only when it is the strength of class-conscious masses of workers. The class-consciousness of the masses is not corrupted by violence and Draconian laws; it is corrupted by the false friends of the workers, the liberal bourgeois, who divert the masses from the real struggle with empty phrases about a struggle.”

[110] See Leon Trotsky, “The Impending Danger of Fascism in Germany” (December 8, 1931), available online at <>. “There are seven keys in the musical scale. The question which of these keys is ‘better’: Do, Re or Sol is a senseless question. But the musician must know when to strike and what keys to strike. The abstract question as to who is the lesser evil: Bruening or Hitler – is just as senseless. It is necessary to know which of these keys to strike. Is that clear? For the weak-minded let us cite another example. When one of my enemies sets before me small daily portions of poison and the second, on the other hand, is about to shoot straight at me, then I will first knock the revolver out of the hand of my second enemy, for this gives me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not at all mean that the poison is a ‘lesser evil’ in comparison to the revolver.”

[111] Duhalde, “The more things change.”

[112] Horras, “The dead end.”