Why I’m a Marxist (part one)

As some people who’ve known me for a few years know, I used to adhere to a social theory called ‘complementary holism‘ or ‘liberating theory‘ whose intention, like other radical social theories, is to try and explain oppression and exploitation. I’ve since realised that I agree with Marxism, though until now I’ve yet to publically explain the transition. Though the transition has been in the making for a few years, the realisation came more quickly over the past two. When it finally all came together, that quickly integrated well in my practice, and the wonderful events of 2011 temporarily eclipsed this goal. Now, in the period between the events of an amazing fall and what will – we can hope and work for – be an even better spring and summer, I thought it useful to pause and explain the logic behind the political transition, in case it can be of use to anyone during these exciting and dangerous times. The following is the first article in a series on why I think Marxism is the best theoretical framework for understanding history and capitalist society and, most importantly, for understanding how to overthrow it.

‘Liberating theory’ or ‘complementary holism’, claims a “commit[ment] to understanding and paying serious attention to race, class, gender, sex, sexuality, age, ability, and authority without elevating any but instead recognizing the intrinsic importance of each, and their entwinement, and understanding that we must confront the totality of human oppression”. This quote comes from a statement I wrote for the now defunct ‘new Students for a Democratic Society’ (SDS) for one of its conventions (“A Statement on Totalist Politics”). When I left SDS I helped to found a small socialist cadre group – the Organization for a Free Society, or OFS – with several like-minded individuals, a good portion of which I was a member of SDS with. To this day OFS maintains a statement of principles close in essence (and in wording) to the statement I submitted for conventional approval in SDS. It has two other founding documents which elaborate on these principles.

The statement was written in response to a perceived inadequacy in Marxist thought. In reality – a mix of distain for Stalinism (who supported various tyrants like Saddam Hussein), and a misunderstanding and ignorance of what genuine Marxism is and what it claims.

Jesus and Marx: “Treasure which neither moth nor rust doth corrupt…”

“The less you eat, drink, and buy books, the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moth nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being.” – Karl Marx, “Human Requirements and Division of Labour Under the Rule of Private Property“, The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, quoted in Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology by Roland Boer

“19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” – Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew 6:19-21