How the Left Abandoned Marx and Embraced Marcuse

It did not go unnoticed among those who followed the launch event of the pre-campaign of former President Lula (PT), on the last May 8th, the exchange of the term “clarification” for “obscuração”, made by the presenter of the event. Incomprehensible to any ordinary worker who lives outside the Twitter bubble, the use of the new “anti-racist” dialect is one of the signs of the transformation of the left that, as narrated in this report by Gazeta do Povo , moved away from unions to embrace identity causes. According to backstory published by the press, Lula himself is criticized for exalting picanha instead of dialoguing with vegetarians and vegans, and using terms such as “Indian” and “Galician”.

In the middle of the year electoral process, it is not to be expected that the PT will be the target of an attempt at “cancellation”. However, the collision between the ideals, language and priorities of the trade union left and the one that grew between tablets and smartphones generates some bangs, in Brazil and in the world. In the United States, for example, Harvard professor Cornel West, one of the most relevant Marxist intellectuals in the country, publicly discussed with the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of the “priests” of the new “anti-racism”, author of a book that extols the administration of Barack Obama, which brought in a few billion more for large technology companies and began to plunge the country into an unemployment crisis. “Coates is the neoliberal face of the black struggle for freedom,” West wrote. In yet another expression of contempt for workers, Coates has already stated that he does not feel any pity for the police and firefighters killed in the World Trade Center, since the police would be a “threat of nature”.

In addition to specific government plans, elections and local particularities, the migration of the left from “root” Marxism, clinging to the class struggle, to the culture wars of postmodernism is a global phenomenon, whose roots go back to the philosophy that emerged from the centuries. XIX and XX. Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship at Rockford University, Canada, philosopher Stephen Hicks is one of the contemporary thinkers to address this issue.

In his book “Explaining Postmodernism : Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault”, Hicks explains that, as heirs of modern thought, characterized by the protagonism of ideologies (or the different “isms” – individualism, capitalism, communism, socialism – that emerged from the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the market), Marxists believed that their political-economic system was supported by rational thought and evidence.

The systematic exploitation of workers, as well as the self-destruction of the market, which would inevitably lead to a proletarian revolution and the rebirth of a more prosperous and egalitarian economy, therefore, were taken as propositions that could be subjected to the scrutiny of reality. “Practice is the criterion of truth”, defended Marx himself. In other words, truth is the expression of concrete reality.

And then came the 20th century. And, despite the relevant advances in medicine, work, human relations and social development, science and reason, offspring of the triumphant enlightenment, would be instrumentalized to justify theories of racial superiority, new models of totalitarian States and gas chambers. .

On the one hand, fascism and Nazism would take over Europe, decimating millions of lives. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union’s “noble experiment” was reaping the rewards of revolution. Two world wars – the last of them, ended with the first attack on the atomic bomb in history, another stain on the curriculum of scientific advance subjugated to ideologies – and a Cold War, each with its millions of dead, were the balance of the era that intended rational. On top of all that, there were the gulags. The walls. Hunger and the systematic persecution of those who dared to denounce it – see the case of journalist Gareth Jones, a pioneer in writing about the Holodomor.

Not to mention that, since the beginning of the last century, the three predictions of original socialism had failed: the proletariat had not become even poorer, nor were there fewer and fewer people enjoying good material conditions. Faced with this scenario, the left had to change its strategy. One of the artifices used was a discursive transformation: if, before, wealth was seen as positive, provided it was distributed equally, with the failure of the socialist model and the proof that capitalism was the one that best met this need, the acquisition of goods has become the problem itself.

Marcuse enters the scene

Graduated in philosophy in Germany, Herbert Marcuse was one of the greatest disseminators of the writings of the Frankfurt School, a group of intellectuals who focused on the failure of rationalism that marked the time – without, however, associating it to communism itself. “Politically, Marcuse identified deeply with Marxism and was busy adapting it to capitalism’s unforeseen flexibility to resist revolution,” writes Hicks. In short, Marcuse tried to justify the success of capitalism to the seduction of the proletariat for its benefits, integrated not only to the economic system, but to the human soul – the new object of the revolution. For Marcuse, “capitalism not only oppresses the masses existentially, it also represses them psychologically”, as Hicks explains.


, in the face of failure not only from the Soviet Union, but from the revolutionary movements of the extreme left that emerged throughout the decade of 1960, it would be Marcuse himself who, prophetically, would say about the “new left”: ” I don’t think she died; she will be resurrected in the universities.” And, in a few years, the way would be open for Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard and Jacques Derrida and their theories about microaggressions and micropowers expressed in every particle of human life – starting with language.

Take, for example, the theories of the Frenchman Michel Foucault. “Foucault was especially interested in the relationship between language, or, more specifically, discourse (ways of talking about things), knowledge production and power. Foucault did not deny that a reality exists, but he doubted the ability of humans to transcend our cultural prejudices enough to arrive at it,” explain authors James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, in the bestselling “Cynical Theories: How Academia and Activism make race, gender and identity the center of everything and why this harms everyone” (Ed. Avis Rara), who also addresses this phenomenon. Following this reasoning, “knowledge, truth, meaning and morality are therefore culturally constructed and relative products of individual cultures”. “Reason and power are one”, said Lyotard.

“Postmodernism is the epistemological strategy of the academic extreme left to respond to the crisis caused by the shortcomings of socialism in the theory and practice”, describes Hicks. From the collapse of Marxism anchored in the class struggle, the rhetoric of struggles between sexes, races and other aspects of human identity is born, the result of which is the well-known anti-capitalist discourse that is content with marketing actions by billionaire companies involving the LGBT flag and the Black Lives Matter.

Not for nothing, with postmodernism on the rise, we see “old school” Marxists clashing with the new left by criticizing what, deep down, configures the real “structures” of oppression identified by Marx: large corporations. The Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek, an inveterate communist, is one of these voices.

Discussing the book “In defense of lost causes”, the Brazilian jurist Alysson Mascaro explains that the target of Zizek’s criticisms “is American multiculturalism and English post-Marxism, both strategies that are supported by the politics of identity, that is, of particularity (ethnic, sexual, national, etc.). For Zizek, such a strategy ignores universality. presupposed by the notion of class, resulting in a policy of the distribution of victimization and the depoliticization of the political”.

“It is the thought of a world without decision”, defines Mascaro, summarizing the Zizek’s writings on the subjugation of reason to wills and feelings, to mere “personal experience.” “One is so far from apprehending the truth of things that even human rights are affirmed through an essential fragility: it is not from the human nature that we take away its determination, but s yes of a postulation arising from a mere will. For Zizek, current experiences of resistance, such as the one extracted from the World Social Forum’s motto – ‘Another world is possible’ -, are ambiguously related to the already established structure of capitalism”.

Paradoxically, the embrace of the new left to postmodernism, which claims to be anti-capitalist and ends up ceding more and more power to large companies in the name of this politically correct “other world”, leads some Marxists to approach conservatives who, in turn, they move away from liberalism. A recent example is the launch of Compact, a magazine led by self-styled “radicals”, on the left and right, who promise to “challenge the superclass that controls government, culture and capital”. While the results of the left’s internal revolution are already being felt in society, one has to ask whether, in the name of survival, its opponents must also face a metamorphosis.

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