Signs of rot

Kailash Sreeneevasin posted a great quote from Lars Lih today:

When I look back at this period — when you could say that there was a mass movement, a Marxist mass movement that was genuinely alive — what was it that was alive? It was a sense of a world-historical mission, that the proletariat was “the Chosen People” — this metaphor was made many a time, that this group of people was going to bring the world to a final goal. So that’s what I’m wondering: Is this sense of a world-historic mission alive today, even among the Left? This is what I’m asking you: Is there a genuine sense of this group having a mission and a real sense that it is going to happen? That was the baby that the Left has thrown out, keeping the bathwater, which is very useful — Marx’s analysis of this, class analysis of all this stuff. The bathwater is great! But the baby seems dead or gone. Does this sense of world-historical mission exist and must it exist in order for the Left to be anything like what it was? And is there a way of making it happen if it doesn’t exist? You can’t artificially insist that people believe in a mission like this — or even make yourself do it, if the belief isn’t really there.

Lih is asking the right questions. Just fifty years ago, the quasi-Trot historian Isaac Deutscher was able to confidently assert that

Marxism is not an intellectual, aesthetic, or philosophical fashion, no matter what the fashion-mongers imagine. Continue reading