— Unfortunately not. It’s for other reasons. First things first – there was a time when Marx was working towards what was eventually published as Das Kapital
. It’s a book that Marx never finished: Engels completed it using the detailed notes he had left. It is an unfinished work, apart from the first part, of which he even oversaw the French translation. The other two parts were written up from rough drafts. And at the same time, he was also working on a huge project, which he never finished and which was published in 1939 and again in 1941 – a bad time, war time – in Moscow, far from the Western world. It is called the Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy
, or Grundrisse
in German. It’s a bit like the draft of Das Kapital
, but it’s also more than that, because he analyses the entirety of capitalism and its evolution, and he speaks about what capital could become beyond capitalism in its current state. There are certain things about capital that he predicts which ring truer now than they did at the time: the role of science in production, the evolution of work, the transition from an absolute surplus value that is obtained in terms of working time to a relative surplus value that is achieved by the productivity of work. That is modernity, and he analyses it wonderfully. Unfortunately, not a single Communist or Social-Democrat party used this idea in their manifestos.
That side to Marx is still valid today, but it doesn’t deter from the fact that he constantly made mistakes in his forecasts because he had a very curious apocalyptic relationship to time. When he understood something, he believed that it had become reality. If it had become clear in his mind, it was clear for the rest of the world. In 1858, in a letter to Engels, he said that the bourgeoisie could at long last disappear because it had achieved its historic mission, the creation of a global market. A global market, in 1858! It was true, but premonitory: a century and a half later, the globalisation of markets is still not finished!
But he did see reality, and posited that the next revolution would obviously be a socialist one, and his main problems were whether or not this revolution would be able to maintain itself in a world that was still dominated by the bourgeoisie, and whether Europe’s sole involvement would suffice to ensure its success. In 1858, he was already thinking that Europe was too small a territory for revolution and that the whole world should knuckle down. This is an example of his brilliance, but it also shows his somewhat quirky and bizarre relationship to time, does it not? And that is a facet of Marx’s thought that has been seldom explored. André Gorz did before he died, in Farewell to the Working Class.
The current revival has nothing to do with this. It isn’t based on Marx’s theories – on the contrary it is a revitalisation of Leninism. Leninism is very important, but it is a betrayal of Marx. Marxism is a class theory. Leninism is party theory. One of the last sentences in The Communist Manifestosays that Communists don’t need a party separate from others, whereas in actual fact, for Communists, the party became more important than class. Without the party, there is nothing. I’m not going to list everything but Lenin also betrayed Marx’s thought on imperialism. Marx started to analyse imperialism, but he never said that it was the last stage and that the death of capitalism came after it. He said that it was a phase after which something much worse than revolution might happen, but he didn’t say that it would necessarily be revolution itself. There are a certain number of points on which Leninism objectively betrayed Marxism – I’m not saying it was deliberate – or at least renounced some of Marxism’s essential qualities.
Today’s Marxist renewal is founded on the revitalisation of Leninism and not on Marx’s thought. That is why we can say that there is a ‘Marxist hypothesis’, but isn’t it maybe a dead pledge? We shall see in the years to come. In any case, I don’t read Badiou with much peace of mind because I remember his writings from an earlier period. People can change, of course, but when you write an opera called L’Echarpe Rouge(The Red Scarf), a Stalinist opera… That it was an opera makes things worse. In a theoretical piece, you can conceal the poverty of your thought, but in a cheap opera you cannot. And Alain Badiou still presents himself as a philosopher and playwright… Read that opera. In Spanish, which is a more metaphysical language than French, we don’t say ‘Les bras m’en tombent’, but ‘L’âme m’en tombe aux pieds’ (‘Se me cae el alma a los pies’).