I am a lazy Marxist…


Think dirty. Muck in. For all the effort that goes into refining the analysis and debating the correct line and tactic, it may still be that a Bad Marxist will send out critical missives unworried about their destination. Sure, sometimes worry, but not obsess about what circulates out of immediately calculable control today. ‘Leave it to the Police to see that our documents are in order’ (Foucault The Order of Things – now here was a very bad Marxist). A Bad Marxist would be one who does not look for an ‘out’ from orthodoxy, but continues, while other doxa-lovers pack up in favour of post-Marxism and tenure. Leave it to the museums to catalogue Kandinsky’s colours. A Bad Marxist would throw paint on the classics to brighten the day. Not just the Mona Lisa whom Duchamp and Dali would deface with crayons and whom Burroughs would destroy, but Dali’s Lenin himself rendered dayglo.

What are the possibilities in equating Marxist understandings of value with structuralist and postructuralist inspired interests in meaning and metaphor? The Baudrillard project, even in the early works, seemed to spiral into games of vortex which delight, but offer little organisational or operational scope. The Deleuzean century offers more, but demands a sustained engagement with the intricacies of psychoanalysis and certain European strands of philosophical brainfood. The hostile familiarity of the activist Foucault so often opposed to anything but a kind of pop-Maoism, while appealing as an intelligently engaged practice, requires a suspension of programmatic coherence in favour of a weaving back and forth between radical incommensurate positions (Foucault organising in a disciplined way against disciplinary formations). The late Derrida project of keeping the flame alive, but doing so in a darkened cave which allows no other entry (much could be said about Derrida’s versioning of the allegory of the cave, he deploys the metaphor in numerous works. In this cave, which is not Plato’s, Heidegger’s etc, nor that of the crustated French Communists, a terrified (of ghosts) Derrida abandons the party form, indeed all form other than a maintenance of a avowedly critical thought) – this too leaves much for activists to think about, but is not always immediately useful. A commentary that refuses to defer to Derrida’s dismissive tone, Gayatri Spivak’s scattered speculations upon Marxism and the question of value suture these threads together within a postcoloniality to be contested, pointing again to the question of not ‘who speaks?’, but ‘who listens?’ as the important one politically today. Bad Marxists would shout irreverently in Church as in the Central Committee.

It is worth remembering that the proletariat is the agent of communist transformation not because of some dogma handed down from vanguardist sect to trot reading group to micro-party faction, but because there are reasons within the productive processes of capitalist economics that place workers as the ‘agents’ of production. Spivak reminds us that workers must access the counter intuition that they are the agents rather than the victims of Capital (Spivak 1993:12). It is possible to forget this in a victimology that assigns creativity to fat-cat entrepreneurs and which ignores the production of surplus value, and the place of the value form, in the mediation between the variously constituted classes engaged in appropriation/extraction and production/consumption (exchange). So, its the case that the production of surplus value by workers, and the adding to value of those who do not directly produce, is the motor force of capitalist productivity. It is for very good reasons that this productivity should not be harnessed to a parasitic class and especially if it can be shown that such entrepreneurs are not integral to the creativity of labour. It has often been thus shown, and so – whatever the form of communist transformation – the basic iniquity of the appropriation of surplus value and its recuperation as profit into the fat-cat coffers is obsolete; indeed, a hindrance. Bad Marxists would not be slow to point this out.
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