Marxism Inc. Part Two

HOW KARL MARX GOT IT WRONG

Ford_Rouge_Plant_-_panoramio

THE REAL CONFLICT in societies is tops-down monopolies versus upstart insurgencies pushing new ideas or better ways of doing things. If you will, Big Business versus small. Communism in practice is another style of monopoly– a particularly pernicious one, ultimately run by status quo control freaks. The idea for them is always to grab power. Once it’s achieved, it’s difficult (once thought impossible) to get them out.

(The difference was exemplified in the Soviet Union in the conflict between Mikhail Sholokhov, a system apparatchik, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who brought his ideas and writings from below– from the gulag!– intending to change the system Sholokhov defended and from which he was its conforming product.)

One can see why closet totalitarians, and conformist writers, as well as global capitalists, are attracted to Communist ideology.

In this Olivia Goldhill article at Quartz magazine we see typical establishment-intellectual infatuation with Marxism. Goldhill can barely restrain her gushing. For her, Karl Marx predicted “exactly” how capitalism would turn out.

Well, Marx did, in unpublished journal entries in a notebook, speculate about automation eliminating jobs. Certainly not a unique thought throughout the first stages of the industrial revolution. (We have the example of the chess-playing automaton known as “The Turk,” created way back in 1770!)

It’s those notebook entries themselves which should concern Ms. Goldhill and other Marxist acolytes. Seems more to be evidence of dawning concerns in Marx’s mind that his labor value theory might be a crock. If there’s no “living” labor, where’s the oppression? From where comes the value?

Olivia Goldhill discusses the seeming “contradiction” within capitalism when it eliminates human labor– but the contradiction is within Marx’s ideas. There appears to be contradiction only because the labor value theory is wrong.

(There are other reasons for capitalism appearing to be in continual crisis– chiefly that it’s like a living organism, one continually self-adjusting, always remaking itself.)

Actual value comes not from labor– from exertion whether human or machine based– but from ideas behind the labor. Value comes from the creators– which can be shown throughout the history of capitalism. How much value did the mind of Thomas Edison add to economies throughout the world? Henry Ford? Steven Jobs?

From where came the value in a Vincent van Gogh painting? From his paintbrush??!

paintbrushes

Do we calculate the value in how much time he spent at the canvas? In how much energy he expended upon the brush??

For the artist– the writer included– Marx’s theory is ludicrous.
****

Karl Marx can be applauded within his historical context. For being the first to create an all-encompassing examination of economies during the capitalist era– an era we continue live in. But it was a primitive examination. Classify Marx with a D.W. Griffith, who pioneered the art of the film– yet who has to be put within context, not treated as a gospel writer relevant to how things operate now.

-Karl Wenclas

Karl_Marx,_painted_portrait_DDC2787

Advertisements

Who’s Appropriating Whom?

Sun_Studio

AS DISCUSSED in our previous News blog post, Current Affairs magazine and other “hard left” periodicals are staffed by well-educated cultural aristocrats appropriating the voice and stance of leftist radicals.

Yet we find to our surprise that Current Affairs published an article by Briahna Joy Gray about the very subject of cultural appropriation! It’s here.

NOT surprising is that the essay presents the Harvard tops-down viewpoint, and is filled with distortions.

New Pop Lit‘s editor (me) is writing a series of posts at his personal blog addressing the Current Affairs essay’s viewpoint. The pieces are being written in reverse order. The second one is “All About Chuck Berry.” The third and concluding part of the series is “All About ‘Hound Dog.'” The opening salvo is upcoming.
*******

ABOUT APPROPRIATION

The charge of so-called cultural appropriation, applied to rock n roll history– coming from of all places Harvard University; home of the Elite of the Elite– seems to this commentator designed to shut down (and wipe history books clean) of small-scale business run by street hustlers. IF the culture of the 1950’s had worried about matters of appropriation, that would’ve been the result– and rock and roll would never have happened. Including England’s Beatles, who did their share of appropriation, of artists black and white, and of every possible style, including Broadway show tunes and 1920’s English music hall ditties.

(My series is showing that during the rise of rock music, everybody was freely appropriating everybody– with one of Ms. Gray’s chief victims, Chuck Berry, as one of the appropriators.)

motown

THE PROBLEM with the tops-down Harvard Viewpoint is that it eliminates artistic diversity, integration, mutation, choice, and change under the guise of doing the opposite. Without such appropriations by low-rent wannabe-capitalist scramblers trying to make a buck, the music industry would’ve remained as static and uninteresting as the literary scene is today; dominated by unknowing conglomerate machines and Ivy League-dominated foundations understanding only one way of viewing the art; one safe way of thinking, writing, promoting and publishing.

-Karl Wenclas

 

Contradictions of the Left

OR, ABSENCE OF THE AUTHENTIC

nathanjrobinson

WE’VE ALREADY examined some of those contradictions, in our analysis of n+1 magazine and of The Baffler. Today we look at another “hard left” publication, Current Affairs, founded and edited by Nathan J. Robinson.

WHAT readers of his magazine and Robinson himself don’t seem to realize is that any revolution which springs from Harvard University– where Robinson is a Phd candidate– is co-opted from birth. Sold out at the start. It wouldn’t matter what label they put on themselves or their system: “Marxist.” “Communist.” “Democratic Socialist.” It’d be packaging. Labels like the kind slapped on soup cans. At the core of things nothing will have changed. The same people will be in charge. The same careerist technocrat mindset would dominate.

currentaffairs
Why else does someone attend Harvard or Yale (Nathan Robinson has been enrolled in both places) other than to be at the top of the pyramid? After the revolution it’d be the same hierarchy, with a twist in messaging. (Robinson is said to be good at messaging.) Nathan J. Robinson and his Ivy League editorial colleagues carry that stratified hierarchy within them. It’s embedded in them.

Doubt this? Who runs the civilization now? Two of the richest men on the planet, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, both attended Harvard. The founders of Google went to Stanford University, which is almost as elite. Jeff Bezos of Amazon went to Princeton.

Politics? Every President of the United States from 1988 on before the present one was a graduate of Harvard or Yale. Or in George W. Bush’s case, both. Donald Trump went to the Wharton School, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League university.

Do we see a pattern?

nathan2

Oh, but Nathan J. Robinson, like his peers at other leftist magazines, is different. His ideas are different. He’s a socialist. Probably, a Marxist. He cares. He really does.

I suspect that in their New Socialist World they’d be part of Shigalov’s Ten Percent– still at the top of the pyramid, controlling the people– for their own good of course.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Just as in every person there’s a conscious and subconscious, so also there’s the role the person plays– the face shown to the world– and the authentic individual sitting behind the John Keegan “Mask.” They’re not always the same. If ever the same.

Who’s the real Nathan J. Robinson?

Is it leftist radical at the forefront of a neo-Marxist intellectual movement? Or the son of a man who worked in international corporate training? (And no doubt taught young Nathan J. many corporate world tricks.) Scion of money and achievement– is that Nathan’s core reality? At crunch time, would Robinson throw his advantages away? Really?

*******

THE FLIP SIDE is the person from hardship and poverty passing as an exemplar of class and refinement. This was not only a plotline of many plays (see Pygmalion) and Hollywood movies– it was much of Hollywood reality. Witness the careers of Cary Grant and Clark Gable, who transformed their very beings– their voices, gestures, dress, speech, teeth– to fit the role they wanted to play.

Elvis_Presley_in_King_Creole_1958

A BETTER EXAMPLE is the career of Elvis Presley. Dirt poor. Born in a shack. The embodiment of “white trash.” When he became massively successful he suddenly found himself playing doctors or suave playboys in Hollywood movies. In “Blue Hawaii,” the slumming son of big money.

Did he fool anybody?

That Elvis was out of place was part of the appeal. It was fantasy. He was living the dream. His audiences knew it and loved it.

Elite intellectuals of the Harvard/Stanford variety (except for a few rock n roll fanboy writers) never accepted Elvis as legitimate and to this day haven’t accepted him. Rock music itself was not taken seriously as an art form until middle-class pseudo-intellectual troubadour Bob Dylan began playing it. That’s reality.

-K.W.

Revolutionary Wannabe #2

lehmann
(Chris Lehmann getting serious.)

Chris “I’m Not an Aristocrat” Lehmann is by all accounts a very serious person. He wants the world to know he’s serious, serious. SERIOUS.

Lehmann blew up at me on twitter earlier this week when I referred to him as an aristocrat. It was a throwaway line– after all, he IS a New York media Insider. I didn’t realize I was messing with his self-image. Lehmann quickly jumped into the discussion to set me straight:

(This is called Too Much Information.)

Chris Lehmann wants to be radical. NO more swanky parties with Ana Marie Cox!

chrislehmannnyobserverpowercouples

One half of him might be attracted to Manhattan glitz and flash– where The Baffler office sits– the other half is as aghast as a New England Puritan minister at the devilish debauched allure of the capitalist world. No! Temptation! Save me! Save yourself! Save everybody! We must march in the Revolution because that upper-crust world I have one foot out of and one foot in is EVIL!!

“I wanna, wanna wanna, wanna wanna wanna, wannabe, wannabe, wannabe, wannabe a Revolutionary! Yes, indeed.”

Lehmann wants to go marching down the street holding signs like Sunsara Taylor, but instead he’s in his office typing away– keys clicking, clicking– conflicted as always.

funcrunch-20170924-8586

(Madcap Sunsara Taylor.)
*******

Chris Lehmann is a collection of contradictions. In a recent Baffler essay Lehmann, who has worked at or written for New York Observer, Newsday, New York, Congressional QuarterlyWashington Post, Bookforum, NPR, Washington Monthly, Yahoo News, In These Times, Mother Jones, Tikkun, Reason, The Nation— criticizes the new class of “knowledge professionals”; as if he’s not among such class himself. (Remember, not an aristocrat.) He criticizes the existence of a “permanent political class.” But given the media’s power, isn’t it as bad to have a permanent media class? A clubby world where everyone knows everyone else and once you’re through the door, you’re in— as long as your ideas remain properly p.c. and predictable, that is.

That Chris Lehmann, of all people, is editor of The Baffler shows how far the publication has fallen from its days of Do-It-Yourself zinehood, when the upstart journal was part of a scene which believed that, in a democratic society, everyone should be a writer and publisher– the field not restricted to resume’d professional media elites (“aristocrats”) working for magazines whose reason for existence is to serve as glorified tax shelters for billionaires, or for scions of billionaires as a matter of “class inheritance.”

-K.W.

To Be Continued. . . .

Mr_and_Mrs_William_Hallett

(Painting by Thomas Gainsborough.)