I made an assertion on Facebook, forgetting to use scare quotes and I’ve been asked to elaborate.
“Marx was a schizophrenic? You need to provide me with some good evidence before I can countenance that assertion. Similarly with the accusation of intellectual arrogance; Marx was a dialectician–which I understand to mean that conversation was more productive than solitary rumination.”
First about him being a dialectician. He was one alright. Only there is a small problem with dialectics. In order to work they need at least two equivalent proponents, one on each side. You cannot have proper dialectics by talking to yourself, eventually you’ll take sides and the whole exercise loses its scope.
At this point I’ll make a short break and let you in on one of my moments of shame.
As a high school student (Romania under communist rule) I had to participate in a compulsory class about ‘dialectical and historical materialism’ – the ‘scientific formula’ used by communists to describe their creed in those times. At one point the teacher asked me “What are the reasons for ‘dialectical’ materialism being ‘better’ than all other forms of materialism?”. “‘Dialectical materialism’ constantly checks its concepts against the reality and adjust them as the reality changes. By doing this its practitioners constantly deepen human knowledge and build an ever improving understanding of the world.” The teacher congratulated me for this answer and I felt very proud at that moment.
But only momentarily. Very soon I started to understand that the theory was fine indeed but that it couldn’t be put into practice.
Precisely because of how Marx had envisioned the communist society:
“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.
The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties:
formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.
The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.
They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes.”
In fewer words he had stated that the communists were the sole guardians of truth and that that truth was unquestionable. Hence everybody else was wrong and the communists had an obligation to bring them back to the ‘straight and narrow’!
Where are the symptoms for his alleged ‘schizophrenia’?
Read the manifesto. It is comprised of a ‘theoretical’ part in which Marx exposes his view on what had happened until his days and a ‘to do’ part which contains his ideas about what people should have done from there on. I find it extremely baffling that a person who gathered such a complex understanding about a certain situation could come up with such completely erroneous ideas about how to proceed from there on.
Quite a lot of people entertain the notion that Marx was right only Lenin got it wrong and hence the failure of Russian/European communism.
No! Marx was right only when he described and explained what had happened. What he had said about the ‘conquest of political power by the proletariat’ was plain wrong. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘right’ dictatorship, no matter how dialectical it pretends to be.
You see, bona fide dialectics means people freely, but considerately, contradicting each-other, not submissively caving in to peer pressure or crushing authority.
And here we have ‘it’: under communist rule, in order to save both their mortal beings and their inner souls quite a lot of people apparently toed the line but nevertheless kept a mental reserve about what was happening around them. Not clinical/proper schizophrenia indeed but how would you call it?
PS. I still have to explain where my shame came from. When I eventually did understand the unbridgeable contradiction between my fine theoretical demonstration about the relative superiority of ‘dialectical materialism’ above over all other forms of materialism and the day to day tragic consequences of that specific brand of materialism being put into practice I remembered how proud I was about the praise I received on that day.
Remembering that moment never fails to humble me.