The Co-option of the Left: Its Fatal Misunderstanding of Marx
It’s obvious to anyone with eyes to see that the contemporary Left is spectacularly alienating its own natural constituency with its increasingly unfocused and incoherent forms of protest. Certainly, they are vocal in denouncing Trump as a fascist, and Brexit as some sort of ur-nationalism, but what are they actually seeking to offer as an alternative? Anyone who considers this question soon comes up against the realization that they don’t really offer serious answers. Their childish adherence to every form of identity fluidity is an intellectual embarrassment that degrades and hampers the very programs that they wish to progress. But behind all of the violence and dressing up, there is a much more fundamental problem that the Left is failing to face up to, and that revolves around their understanding of the nature of capital.
Karl Marx’s monumental study of capital was a work of pure genius in the sense that it was able to perceive and describe a fundamental underlying structure of the nature of industrial production that had previously remained hidden. Marx repeatedly condemns “bourgeois economists” who fail to see that the nature of commodity production necessarily entails the exploitation of workers because those workers are only paid a percentage of the profit that their work produces. The way that this process works, Marx explained, is through the valorization of capital whereby the worker adds surplus value to a commodity. In capitalist production, various items can be assembled in a factory to create a new commodity; for example, cloth, buttons, and cotton can be combined to produce an item of clothing. The value of this item of clothing will be greater than the combined value of the component parts because this will reflect the labor that has gone into making the garment. But the worker doesn’t get paid the full amount of this extra value that his work produces. Instead, the capitalist keeps a proportion of this extra value for himself. This surplus value lies at the heart of the Marxist critique of capitalism. In fact, it is so fundamental to Marxism that without this critique of surplus value, one cannot really call oneself a Marxist at all.
Read the rest at Counter-Currents.