by Michael Rectenwald
Published simultaneously in With Sober Senses and CLG News.
There’s a basic article of faith in leftist thought, held especially dearly by most among the U.S. left. It is so entrenched and so seldom challenged that it has attained the status of myth, an unquestioned origin story on par with the Book of Genesis, as the latter must have been regarded within Christendom during the Middle Ages.
The myth goes like this: During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, two arch right-wing and highly potent politicians, rose to power in their respective nations, the U.S. and the U.K. They thereafter began to institute what was for the vast majority a vile and destructive political and economic scheme: “neoliberalism.” Previous to the instalment of this neoliberal scheme, the working class had experienced relative economic improvement, and capitalists seemed happy too (as if we care). But suddenly, and seemingly without cause (although the failure of Keynesianism was apparent in the unprecedented stagflation of the 1970s), these evil political twins, prompted by wizards who formalized the approach, introduced the nefarious ideology of neoliberalism to the world. As cruel and heartless representatives of the capitalist class (which, indeed, they were), they and their supporters caused the Fall from the supposed Paradise of Keynesian reformism that had preceded them. In this mythological version of reality, neoliberalism is understood merely as a set of essentially unwarranted and unusually brutal policies, an ideological and political formation that was hatched in the brains of evil masterminds conspiring in right-wing think tanks, concocted to dupe and punish the vast majority for the benefit of the rich and powerful.
This narrative sounds cartoonish or religious in character, but only because it is – not because I have made it so. It is a typical leftist personification of world-historical forces in lieu of an actual analysis within political economy. It amounts to what I have elsewhere called “political reductionism,” which is similar to what Andrew Kliman has referred to as “political determinism.” Kliman describes political determinism as such: “They [Keynesians and social democrats] think that the capitalists [and/or their political representatives] control capitalism––not the other way around––so that the system can become something it’s not once different people with different priorities assume control of it.” Thus, if only such people as Reagan and Thatcher had never been elected, or better yet, had never been born …
In light of the recent growth of revolutionary-sounding but anti-proletarian “Marxism,” and the continuing need to break with all post-Marx Marxists and reclaim the full legacy of Marx’s own Marxism, Marxist-Humanist Initiative is pleased to republish––in full, for the first time––Dunayevskaya’s review of Paul Mattick’s Marx and Keynes. The review highlights several key differences between Dunavevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism and what she regarded as Mattick’s “economism,” “underlying anti-Marxism,” and “hostility to the proletariat,” as well as the relationship of these differences to the understanding of Marx’s Capital. Read More
On March 10, a lively debate took place between Andrew Kliman and Steve Keen, following their presentations on the causes of the recent economic crisis, during the opening plenary of the Jornadas Economía Crítica 2016 conference at Complutense University of Madrid. Kliman is a Marxist-Humanist; Keen is a self-proclaimed follower of the late Hyman Minsky.
The debate included the following noteworthy exchange: Read More