I have written before about the enormous philosophical weight of the Catholic Church, and similar institutions. The idea is that over the hundreds or thousands of years that they exist, they develop and tune their ideas and orthodoxies. There is only so much one philosopher can do in his life. Most of them cannot really achieve what they might, and many more are given to write things which do not stand the slightest chance against the cold lights of reality or time. Something like the Church not only wields the greatest lifespan imaginable to a temporal institution, but actually serves a myriad of social functions aside from being the organ of the Divine. As such, Catholic philosophy cannot exist in the vacuum given to modern university philosophy. Catholic philosophy must in some way be connected to doctrine, and in better times, said doctrine was more or less responsible for European social order as it stood. Bad philosophy, as I am fond of saying, will kill people.
What does this have to do with Marxism? Marxism has had, in its century-and-a-half of existence, the chance to be both a set of ideas, with formal and informal magisteria and a temporal ruling force. Certainly it has failed at both, at the cost of much misery and bloodshed too, but nevertheless Marxism has had many bright and industrious minds attached to its cause, and such minds tend to reach for the obvious conclusions even when the dogmas pull them away with the force of a thousand horses. Marxist literature has always drawn my attention, though I have never been seduced by its warped ideas. Indeed, as I delve further and further into the heart of reaction, I find myself reading more of it than I ever did, for two reasons. First – bad Marxist literature is naïve beyond parody and good for a laugh. Second – the most intelligent Marxists are essentially reactionaries, and as such they make for good reading.
That last statement is bound to cause annoyance in several camps, but as we leaf through text after text, we can only feel a deep pity for the theorist who wants to cry and scream at the working class for their plebeian selfishness, at the bourgeois for refusing to transform into their “necessary” historical form, at both temporal capitalist and socialist governments for failing to live up to anything but ineptness – but his pain and anguish are each time silenced by the weight of dogma. Hush, it says, we act in the name of the working masses, history will progress as Hegel and Marx foresaw it, liberation is imminent. I have never seen a theorist in the depths of such mental turmoil actually renounce Marxism. That only seems to happen to those whose interest was only casual to begin with. Perhaps that is the earthly punishment meted out by God to the intelligent Marxist? To forever intelligently diagnose the problem but be jabbed in the ribs by a false dogma whenever he gets close to an intelligent solution.
I have always pondered exactly why Marxism has attracted intellectuals in such numbers. I am wont to put it down to luck. Marx’s own personality, despite according with the worst middle-class traits, is not to blame. He was just a restless bourgeois driven to make a name for himself; and his father seemed to share that opinion. He got lucky by way of being born when he was, but that kind of angst-ravaged personality will never be satisfied, no matter when they are born, or to what station in life. I occasionally imagine some kind of half-serious history skit in which Marx, robbed of the industrial revolution and modern journalism to ferment his scribbling, is instead a troublesome monk of the reformation eternally angry at not being born a gentleman-adventurer. Perhaps Hobsbawm, Sartre et al could appear as his latter-day disciples.
I think the truth is that intellectuals, like all men, need orthodoxy. More importantly, they need an orthodoxy that goes beyond the rational plane of understanding. In an age in which men, especially clever ones, declared themselves “above” religion, Marxism and the Hegelianism which proceeded it provided just that – a faith which had all the trappings of a “rational”, “logical” and even “altruistic” ideology, but in fact it preached and promised wild, dark, and quite illogical things. Marxism gave thinkers a pole to orient themselves around, some only loosely like a Maypole, and some lashed to it like a mast, hardly able to move. Indeed, Don Colacho tells us that Marx is the only Marxist that “Marxism has not stultified.”1
Escolios a un Texto Implícito: Selección, p. 264 (Marx ha sido el único marxista que el marxismo no abobó.)