Gáspár Miklós Tamás: Telling the truth about class

05. 10. 2018

One of the central questions of social theory has been the relationship between class and knowledge, and this has also been a crucial question in the history of socialism. Differences between people – acting and knowing subjects – may influence our view of the possibility of valid cognition. If there are irreconcilable discrepancies between people’s positions, going perhaps as far as incommensurability, then unified and rational knowledge resulting from a reasoned dialogue among persons is patently impossible. The Humean notion of ‘passions’, the Nietzschean notions of ‘resentment’ and ‘genealogy’, allude to the possible influence of such an incommensurability upon our ability to discover truth.

Class may be regarded as a problem either in epistemology or in the philosophy of history, but I think that this separation is unwarranted, since if we separate epistemology and philosophy of history (which is parallel to other such separations characteristic of bourgeois society itself) we cannot possibly avoid the rigidly-posed conundrum known as relativism. In speak­ing about class (and truth, and class and truth) we are the heirs of two socialist intellectual traditions, profoundly at variance with one another, although often intertwined politically and emotionally. I hope to show that, up to a point, such fusion and confusion is inevitable.

All versions of socialist endeavour can and should be classified into two principal kinds, one inaugurated by Rousseau, the other by Marx. The two have opposite visions of the social subject in need of liberation, and these visions have determined everything from rarefied epistemological posi­tions concerning language and consciousness to social and political attitudes concerning wealth, culture, equality, sexuality and much else. It must be said at the outset that many, perhaps most socialists who have sincerely believed they were Marxists, have in fact been Rousseauists. Freud has eloquently described resistances to psychoanalysis; intuitive resistance to Marxism is no less widespread, even among socialists. It is emotionally and intellectually difficult to be a Marxist since it goes against the grain of moral indignation which is, of course, the main reason people become socialists.

One of the greatest historians of the Left, E.P. Thompson, has synthe­sized what can be best said of class in the tradition of Rousseauian socialism which believes itself to be Marxian.1 The Making of the English Working Class is universally - and rightly - recognized to be a masterpiece. Its beauty, moral force and conceptual elegance originate in a few strikingly unusual articles of faith: (1) that the working class is a worthy cultural competitor of the ruling class; (2) that the Lebenswelt of the working class is socially and morally superior to that of its exploiters; (3) that regardless of the outcome of the class struggle, the autonomy and separateness of the working class is an intrinsic social value; (4) that the class itself is constituted by the autopoiesis of its rebellious political culture, including its re-interpretation of various tradi­tions, as well as by technology, wage labour, commodity production and the rest. Whereas Karl Marx and Marxism aim at the abolition of the proletariat, Thompson aims at the apotheosis and triumphant survival of the proletariat.

Thompson's Rousseauian brand of Marxism triggered a sustained critique by Perry Anderson, one that is now half-forgotten but still extremely impor­tant. Although his terms are quite different from mine, Anderson sought to show that Thompson's conviction that he was a Marxist was erroneous.2 Thompson had participated in a number of movements and intellectual adventures inspired by Marxism, and his fidelity to radical socialism - under twentieth-century circumstances - meant loyalty to Marxism's revolution­ary legacy. But Thompson had to ignore the Faustian-demonic encomium of capitalism inherent in Marx, and so he had to oppose ‘critical theory', and then theory tout court.3 Anderson later described this decomposition of ‘Western Marxism' - away from class to ‘the people' - in conceptual terms,4 a diagnosis that has been proved right by events since.


The main difference between Rousseau and Marx is that Rousseau seeks to replace (stratified, hierarchical, dominated) society with the people (a purely egalitarian and culturally self-sustaining, closed community), while Marx does not want to ‘replace' society by annihilating ‘rule' and the ruling class as such, but believes that capitalism (one specific kind of society) might end in a way in which one of its fundamental classes, the proletariat, would abolish itself and thereby abolish capitalism itself. It is implied (it is sous-entendu) that the moral motive for such a self-abolition is the intolerable, abject condition of the proletariat. Far from its excellence - extolled by the Rousseauians - it is, on the contrary, its wretchedness, its total alienation, that makes it see that it has ‘nothing to lose but its chains', and that it has ‘a world to win'. In the Marxist view it is not the people's excellence, superiority or merit that makes socialism - the movement to supersede, to transcend capitalism - worthwhile but, on the contrary, its being robbed of its very humanity. Moreover, there is no ‘people', there are only classes. Like the bourgeoisie itself, the working class is the result of the destruction of a previous social order. Marx does not believe in the self-creation or the self-invention of the working class, parallel to or alongside capitalism, through the edification of an independent set of social values, habits and techniques of resistance.

Thus there is an angelic view of the exploited (that of Rousseau, Karl Polányi, E.P. Thompson) and there is a demonic, Marxian view. For Marx, the road to the end of capitalism (and beyond) leads through the completion of capitalism, a system of economic and intellectual growth, imagination, waste, anarchy, destruction, destitution. It is an apocalypse in the original Greek sense of the word, a ‘falling away of the veils' which reveals all the social mecha­nisms in their stark nakedness; capitalism helps us to know because it is unable to sustain illusions, especially naturalistic and religious illusions. It liberated subjects from their traditional rootedness (which was presented to them by the ancient regime as ‘natural') to hurl them onto the labour market where their productive-creative essence reveals itself to be disposable, replaceable, dependent on demand - in other words, wholly alien to self-perception or ‘inner worth'. In capitalism, what human beings are, is contingent or stochas­tic; there is no way in which they are as such, in themselves. Their identity is limited by the permanent re-evaluation of the market and by the transient historicity of everything, determined by - among other contingent factors - random developments in science and technology. What makes the whole thing demonic indeed is that in contradistinction to the external character, the incomprehensibility, of ‘fate', ‘the stars', participants in the capitalist economy are not born to that condition, they are placed in their respective positions by a series of choices and compulsions that are obviously man-made. To be born noble and ignoble is nobody's fault, has no moral dimensions; but alienation appears self-inflicted.

Marx is the poet of that Faustian demonism: only capitalism reveals the social, and the final unmasking; the final apocalypse, the final revelation can be reached by wading through the murk of estrangement which, seen histori­cally, is unique in its energy, in its diabolical force.5 Marx does not ‘oppose' capitalism ideologically; but Rousseau does. For Marx, it is history; for Rous­seau, it is evil.

It was Karl Polányi who best described the foundations of Rousseauian socialism, of which he himself was an archetypal representative.6 Accord­ing to Polányi, the great discovery of Rousseau was the discovery of ‘the people'. This is not as trivial as it may seem. The common assumption of all philosophy - in contradiction to Christianity - is that raw, untutored humanity is worthless. Ancient Greek philosophy, to which all subsequent lovers of wisdom were supposed to have supplied nought but footnotes, held that virtue was knowledge. But knowledge (science, philosophy, even litterae humaniores) is a social institution, possible only in certain situations of high complexity, sometimes called ‘civilization', which would allow the growth and betterment of that knowledge. Thus, augmenting science presupposes a necessary or at least plausible perfectibility of civilization and the general salutary character of social institutions useful or indispensable for the advance of cognition.

Rousseau reversed the philosophical trend of more than two millennia when he said that arts, letters, sciences, ‘culture' and ‘civilization' did not contribute to the moral progress of humankind - on the contrary. The basic intuitions of persons living in circumstances which would not be conducive to the advance of knowledge and the ever-growing refinement of arts, mores and manners were, he thought, superior to whatever complex, unequal and sophisticated societies could boast of. Superior in what sense?

These intuitions were deemed to be superior because the development of civilization required an ever-growing separation between humans - high culture, according to Nietzsche, presupposes slavery that can sustain a leisured aristocracy dedicated to war and play and beauty - to the extent that all ‘virtues' are necessarily confined to a few. Even in societies where essential communication still takes place among people personally acquainted with each other (affection and sympathy are possible only among such persons) the main ‘civilizational' transactions are dispatched by abstract mediation such as script. In order to maintain a modicum of fairness and uniformity in society, it is necessary to codify law and religion. People will believe and revere the same prescriptions (‘values') by reading or being read to (by offi­cials), instead of coming to agree as a result of shared experience and feeling. Script and code (uniform law, scriptural religion, formal education, high art) will change from tools of mediation in society, aiding contact and co-opera­tion, into a social goal, a motivational source of future action - in other words: authority. But this is an authority based on the familiar transformation of a tool into an end or a goal. It is a ‘fetish'.

Rousseau thought that we would have remained both more virtuous and much happier were we bereft or at least rid of mediation. He knew it was too late, and his recipes for a solution are famously desperate; they take essentially the shape of a purge, ‘cleansing', épuration. All Rousseauian socialist solutions (for this reason extremely popular in peasant societies, that is, in societies with a still strong cultural recollection of peasant experience and ideals) aim at simplification. Simplification towards a more natural (or, with luck, a completely natural) way of life. It is, after all, Karl Polányi's famous thesis that market societies are not natural, that they are the exception rather than the rule in history.7 On the one hand, he resists the idea that capitalism is a natural order, whose emergence was only prevented in the past by scien­tific and technological backwardness and blind superstition; and he resists the idea that competitiveness and acquisitiveness are ‘instincts' characteristic of all societies, only repressed in the past by chivalric and religious ‘false conscious­ness' (and here he is of one mind with Marxists in ‘historicizing' competition and the market.) On the other hand, Polányi regards non-market societies as ‘natural' for being in the historical majority. He believed that we should orient our social action towards a re-establishment of what modern capital­ism has falsified.

The other great Rousseauian socialist Marcel Mauss has shown that most acts of exchange in the history of humankind were motivated not by a desire for gain, but for ostentatious display and the satisfaction of pride.8 Yet another Rousseauian socialist, Georges Bataille, one of the few truly prophetic geniuses, has generalized Mauss's point in drawing attention to society's need for unproductive losses, waste and destruction, which contradicts any notion of utility.9 Sacrifice, he reminds us, etymologically means ‘the production of the sacred'. The sacred is the result of unnecessary bloodshed. Non-genital and non-reproductive sexuality has long been considered ‘a waste'. All these elements have been classified under the rubric of ‘the irrational', since only equitable exchange conforms to the official idea of rationality which cannot, ever, account for a surplus which appears as ‘savage' or ‘illusory'. But then, bourgeois society, in the guise of ‘representative government', has always equated ‘the people' with the ‘irrational'. The apposite clichés (savage ‘crowds', ‘masses') have been inherited from the late Roman republic.

Rousseau's innovation was the unheard-of provocation of declaring the people - the servants of passion - morally and culturally superior to reasoned and cultured discourse and its Träger, the civilized elite of Court and Univer­sity, and even the counter-elite of belles-lettres, experimental science, and the Enlightenment pamphleteering and journalistic culture to which Rousseau himself, of course, belonged. Against that discourse, again in terms of Roman republican controversies, Rousseau championed the martial, athletic, bucolic and folk-art virtues of nature-bound, egalitarian communities.

 In the famous Second and Third Maxims of Book IV of his treatise on education, Rousseau says: ‘One pities in others only those ills from which one does not feel oneself exempt'. And: ‘The pity one has for another's misfortune is measured not by the quantity of that misfortune but by the sentiment which one attributes to those who suffer it'.10 These maxims are the kernel of a manifesto for soli­darity. Pray consider: Rousseau does not presuppose anything else but bare humanity in any individual. This presupposition is purely personal, subjective, psychological - available through introspection. It is based, as is well known, on fear: fear of suffering, which we can understand in others as well. There is no external or ‘objective' measure for suffering, nor is there any need for it; it is sufficient for us to have a feeling for the perils lurking around us in order to have a feeling for the probable predicament of others. We pity others to the extent of our understanding and sympathy for a situation we can imagine ourselves to have been in, and to the extent of our picturing their feelings at such a juncture. On this small foundation stone - a pebble, really - is the edifice of a solidary community built.

To wish to put an end to imaginable and avoidable suffering is enough for the construction of social justice, since fear and imagination are natural givens in the human animal, but there is another hidden idea here, an idea even more revolutionary. This we could call the rejection of any and all theodicy. The church explains suffering by sin. How could a benevolent and omnipotent God cause suffering and death? Only as a retribution for some­thing inherent in all humans but at the same time willed by all humans: the original sin of disobedience. (Reductionist theories of human nature play the same role in modern agnostic societies.) If we do not think that original sin is indeed inherent in human nature, suffering is unnecessary; and vice versa, if suffering is felt and understood in others, if then it can be counterbalanced by the succour of those who may not be good but who have an instinctive distaste for the ominous threat of visible misfortune in their environment - well, then the plausibility of original sin seems remote.

Moreover, if suffering is avoidable, there is nothing to prevent us from assuming that the alleviation of human suffering is a duty. We are bound by duty only in cases that appear feasible. But if suffering is not natural, in the sense that it is not a necessary consequence of our natures, then it must be social and historical, subject to change - and why should we not hasten that change? If, say, inequality is caused by natural selection, revolutions are mean­ingless; if it is not, making revolutions is meritorious.

Rousseauian socialism is anti-theodicy; it opposes the tragic and conserv­ative view of original sin or natural fatum with the splendid philosophical fiction of free-born men and women who are everywhere in chains. If the free-born are reduced to a servile condition, the culprit cannot but be society, the wrong kind of society. If human nature does not need to be moulded to be receptive to freedom since we are free by definition, it is social organiza­tion that wants changing.

Human nature being tantamount to liberty, our true nature is the source of the liberty that is falsified and denied to us; hence the assumption that those enslaved are morally superior to the slavers. Rousseau's theory suggests that there is a separate culture and a separate morality inherent in the people; a culture and a morality that attracts the sympathy and the solidarity of all persons of good faith.

This brings us back to E.P. Thompson's Rousseauian socialism. He formu­lated the matter with classical simplicity when he described 18th century radicalism's

... profound distrust of the ‘reasons' of the genteel and comfortable, and of ecclesiastical and academic institutions, not so much because they produced false knowledges but because they offered specious apologetics (‘serpent reasonings') for a rotten social order based, in the last resort, on violence and material self-interest .... And to this we must add a ...cultural or intellectual definition of ‘class'. Every­thing in the age of ‘reason' and ‘elegance' served to emphasise the sharp distinctions between a polite and a demotic culture. Dress, style, gesture, proprieties of speech, grammar and even punctua­tion were resonant with the signs of class; the polite culture was an elaborated code of social inclusion and exclusion. Classical learning and an accomplishment in the law stood as difficult gates-of-entry into this culture .... These accomplishments both legitimated and masked the actualities of brute property and power, interest and patronage. A grammatical or mythological solecism marked the intruder down as an outsider.11

Thompson is quite right: since Parmenides, ‘reason' has always or nearly always been a symbolic mark of ideological mastery, opposed to ‘the people' as the repository of unreason.12 But the trouble with Rousseauian socialism is not that it unmasks the high-falutin pretensions of ruling-class doctrine, but that in doing so it treats the ‘demotic' as ‘natural'. Whatever seems to be beyond the ken of demotic culture (and in our case, working-class culture but in Rousseau's case, peasant folklore), Rousseauian socialism holds to be unnecessary or artificial. This would be true only if the proletariat were pris­tinely self-created and not the complicated product of capitalist society.

The main idea of Rousseauian socialism is, obviously, equality. Equality is a many-sided notion, but within this tradition it means the renunciation of the superfluous, from luxury to the cultivation of the self, from agonistic competition (resulting in excellence) to the enjoyment of high art divorced from the needs of the community. The Greek word for equality, homonoia, also means etymologically ‘being of one mind'. The Rousseauian commu­nity is frugal, musical and martial. It is hostile to individuation and text.13 It is also hostile to opinion. Opinion is an aspect of sociability in bourgeois society, while being the traditional enemy of philosophy, the counterpart of the quest for truth. The empty variety of individual opinions is reduc­ible to a mind bent to the service of powerful interests, an expression of the self which is neither a result of an unbiased, dispassionate contemplation of reality (nature) nor an authentic outward sign of inner feeling. The competi­tion of diverse opinions is not even a competition of egos for their own sake, merely a competition for quick adaptation to the demands of power with the aim of advancement: an adaptation without a true belief in the excellence of the opinion assumed.14 Bourgeois sociability is false, the people - restored to its natural status - is (or was) authentic. ‘True feeling' as the criterion of adequate elementary morality is reminiscent of the Calvinistic idea of ‘justi­fying faith' in Rousseau's Geneva.15

Equality, thus, is opposed not only to hierarchy, but to variety or diversity as well. The expression ‘chattering classes' was invented much later by Don Juan Donoso Cortés, but Rousseau was certainly opposed to Öffentlichkeit qua ‘talking shop'. Opinion as instrument is a travesty of any honourable intellectual endeavour. The same would go, I am afraid, for any ‘freedom of expression' conducive to a frivolous parataxis of competing egotisms. Rous­seauian socialism is moralistic, not historicist. Lukács said that nature becomes landscape when one looks at it as it were from outside, when one is separated from it. For Rousseau and the Rousseauians, ‘the people' is nature not land­scape; it is not considered from afar. Solidarity, pity, sympathy have ordained closeness. Propinquity enjoins a modesty of political aims. The emancipation of the people does not mean the abolition of the people (as in Marx the emancipation of the proletariat means - decisively - the self-abolition of the proletariat). It means the abolition of aristocracy and clergy; basically, it is not the abolition of ‘class' but the abolition of ‘caste' or ‘estate', whereby the Third Estate - the commoners - become The Nation.


Why (and how) could modern socialists mistake the abolition of caste for the abolition of class? There are several reasons.

One is the oldest conundrum of the workers' movement, to wit, the fact that wherever successful proletarian movements or revolutions have taken place, they triumphed not against capitalism, but against quasi-feudal remnants of the old regime that, naturally, went against their self-understand­ing and their self-image. All the endlessly complicated debates about class consciousness are influenced by this primordial fact. This is also why Arno Mayer's theory concerning ‘the persistence of the old regime' is so crucial to Marxist debates.16

Class struggle, as prosecuted by the workers' movement, instead of extol­ling the paradoxical, demonic ‘virtues' of capitalism, was forced not only to attack it, but also to defend itself. It defended itself by insisting on the excel­lence of the ‘Grand Old Cause', the moral superiority of those who fought for working-class autonomy, supposing they were an exception to the general rule of bourgeois society. This resulted in an enduring achievement which lasted about a century, from the 1870s to the 1970s: the creation of a counter-power of working-class trade unions and parties, with their own savings banks, health and pension funds, newspapers, extramural popular academies, workingmen's clubs, libraries, choirs, brass bands, engagé intellectuals, songs, novels, philosophical treatises, learned journals, pamphlets, well-entrenched local governments, temperance societies - all with their own mores, manners and style. A Hungarian sociological survey from 1906 shows that a working-class housing estate in Transylvania has one portrait of Marx and one of Lassalle per flat, workers are teetotal in a heavily drinking society, and open atheists and anticlericalists in a polity dominated by the church militant; church weddings are frowned upon, there are attempts at a healthy diet, non-competitive sports (not shared with outsiders) are encouraged (in Central Europe there were special socialist workers' athletic championships and mass musical choir contests until 1945); non-socialist charities are rejected, parties are held only in daylight to avoid immorality, and at least the men are trying - in a country of barefoot illiterates one generation away from the village primeval - to read social science and serious history. Admirable as this is, it must have been, for all intents and purposes, a sect.

This counter-power developed its own political superstructure and ideol­ogy, from ‘reformist' social democracy to revolutionary anarcho-syndicalism, a whole separate world where the bourgeoisie's writ did not run.17 The amal­gamation of Rousseauian and Marxian socialism resulted from the special interests of this established counter-power or adversary power: the workers' movement was often Rousseauist in regard to itself and Marxist in regard to the bourgeois enemy.

What did this mean in terms of its struggle? In the nineteenth century there had to be struggles against throne and altar, for universal suffrage, for the right to organize and to strike; then national unity was re-forged in the Great War as if the class struggle could be switched off at will; after that war the proletariat liberated the miserable Eastern peasantry that had been kept in a servile condition (this was the most massive historical achieve­ment of the communist regimes18); later it had to create Popular Fronts and Résistance alliances against the fascist peril - there was always something that prevented proletarian politics (in Marx's sense), apart from heroic episodes by revolutionary minorities.

The reasons for this in post-1914 socialism seem self-evident: the need for self-legitimation of the workers' movement in view of its defeat but persist­ing power, and its repeated contribution to bourgeois revolutions liquidating the semi-feudal remnants of the old regime. A dispensation oriented to tran­scending capitalism remained - and still remains - utopian, while the ‘secular' triumph of social democracy in the West and the transformation of the old regime into a tyrannical state capitalism under Bolshevik rule in the East offered a vindication for the movement, justified mainly by a puritanical and egalitarian system closer to Calvin's and Rousseau's Geneva than to Marx's classical Walpurgis night.19 ‘Welfarism' was not limited to the West: the Soviet bloc's idea of legitimacy was also a steady growth of income, leisure and accessible social and health services. ‘Planning' was a common idea of Mao's Red China and de Gaulle's bourgeois and patriotarde and pompiériste France. Jacobinism was common to both. The staatstragende community, the addressee of welfare statism and egalitarianism, had to be defined somehow: it was the people, offered equal dignity by ‘citizenship'.

To help us understand this properly, it is useful to return to what Thomp­son was complaining about in his debate with Perry Anderson and Tom Nairn. In a celebrated series of essays,20 they tried to demonstrate that the weaknesses of the British workers' movement were caused by a peculiar­ity of British capitalism: it was the economic preponderance of efficient and market-friendly farming on the great estates and the disproportionate political influence of the landed aristocracy, both richer and more powerful than the incipient bourgeoisie - if there is such a thing (culturally) at all in England - that limited the breadth of vision, the vigour and the scope of any proletarian socialism in the British Isles. This was also, according to Ander­son, the reason for England's subsequent decline in all the respects that are crucial to the criteria of European ‘modernity', including an astonishingly large number of blind spots in British ‘high culture', especially in the so-called social and human sciences.21

The great emotional force of ‘class' as a special English socio-cultural problem - defined in the common usage as an intricate system of almost tribal markers such as diction, dress, speech habits, even posture, forms (and ritualistic denials) of courtesy, diet and the like - has its roots in this. These caste-like, sometimes quasi-ethnic differences of ‘class' gave a special cachet to the class struggle in England, denying the possibility of a bourgeois-Jacobin ideology of ‘community' or ‘national unity'. Conservatives on the Continent would vehemently deny the mere existence of the class struggle, but High Tory ranters and satirists like, say, Peregrine Worsthorne or Auberon Waugh (indeed, both Waughs, père et fils), would declare their enjoyment in doing down the widow and the orphan, and were constantly waging a gallant fight against the vulgarian with his ‘job', ‘holiday', ‘telly' and ‘pop "music"'. In England, the class enemy was highly visible, but he or she was never or almost never ‘the bourgeois', but ‘the toff', ‘the terrific swell' opposed to those who were common as muck. Even today the supposedly yuppified, classless ‘estuary English' has a ‘posh' version.

All this has pre-modern accents. It seems obvious that for the creation of ‘a people' the annihilation of the upper classes would be necessary, as in eighteenth-century France, where only the Third Estate became the nation and where class relations had been ethnicized (the aristocracy: Nordic; the people: Celtic, Gallic; cf. Norman blood in England, Varangians in Russia, etc.). Class identity of this kind is definitely pre-socialist. Socialist movements had used it in the past, creating enormous difficulties for themselves later. Its use succeeded only where they could combine the specific demands of the usually small and culturally (and sometimes ethnically) ‘different' prole­tariat, with the general (or ‘bourgeois') democratic enthusiasms of the usually peasant, provincial majority led by the middle classes and journalistic opinion: for republic instead of monarchy, universal suffrage, anti-clericalism (or laïcité), agrarian reform (i.e., redistribution of land), reduction of birth privileges, a citizen army, ethnic minority rights, votes for women, and the like.

This was a fundamental dilemma of Austro-Hungarian and Russian social democracy and, later, of East and South Asian communism (in India and Nepal, to this very day). During the belle époque, socialism in the East was faced with either the prospect of victory at the helm of a bourgeois democratic revolution against an aristocratic old regime with elements of modernizing militarism (die Soldateska), or certain defeat and annihilation while preserv­ing the purity of the ‘Western' proletarian idea. When Gramsci called the October revolution in Russia a ‘revolution against Das Kapital', he was appo­site and to the point in this sense (not that Lenin and Trotsky knew exactly what they were doing). But even earlier, it was clear that universal suffrage, socio-cultural egalitarianism, democratic parliamentarism and a more secular and tolerant, less militaristic society would be realized east of the Rhine, south of the Alps and west of the Pyrénées, only by the socialist movement, not by the feeble liberal bourgeoisie, in predominantly farming societies.

On the whole, socialists decided to assume the leadership of non-social­ist, democratic revolutions. The result was nationalism, both in the debacle of August 1914 and in the unavoidable transformation of Leninism into Stalinism. The truth is that modern capitalist societies as we know them today would have been entirely impossible without movements whose ‘false consciousness' was precisely socialism. Socialism as a political movement was a tool of capitalist modernization not only in the East, but also in Central and Western Europe; the bourgeoisie itself did, historically speaking, very little by way of creating, or even fighting for, modern capitalist society.22 Let us recall that the allegedly bourgeois revolutions of the nineteenth century were invariably led by the landed gentry; these revolutions had been completed in Central and Eastern Europe in 1918-19 by the socialist workers' move­ment - this latter case being one of the most important and most neglected aspects of the vexed problem of the origins of fascism and national socialism, directed both against the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This may sound strange to Western ears, but is thoroughly comprehensible for a German, an Italian, an Austrian or a Hungarian of a certain age and/or Bildung.23

The bourgeoisie wrought gigantic changes in the texture of the world - economic, social, technological, scientific, artistic and ideological - but almost nowhere did it play a leading political role.24 Bourgeois power (even social and cultural hegemony) proved impossible in the absence of a modern (in practice, a Lassallean-Marxist) socialist movement. This seems to be the unspoken, never openly stated conclusion of the debate between Anderson, Nairn and their adversaries. The decline of England, the unchanging person­nel of British politics and public administration and the other elements of decadence so poignantly and pugnaciously described by Anderson and Nairn must be - at least partially - caused by the lack of a modernizing revolution led by the proletariat. It is, I believe, rather significant that the most ‘contem­porary' ideological campaign in favour of a modern capitalism in Britain was conceived not by mainstream liberal or social democratic (‘labourite') tendencies, but by a côterie of former communists (the ‘New Times' crowd around Marxism Today, a once-Communist monthly). When English Marxists like Anderson and Nairn were discussing the lack of a revolutionary bour­geoisie in Britain, they must have been painfully aware of the even more glaring lack of a revolutionary workers' movement, which seems to have been the only effective weapon against any kind of aristocratic rule, wherever such a rule existed and persisted. But they were more or less hobbled by their desire for an authentic proletarian revolution which has never occurred in its anti-capitalist purity anywhere - yet.

This perhaps explains why the origin of capitalism, especially English capi­talism, is such an important political question or Kampffrage. The ‘Brenner Debate' was and remains decisive in this respect. But it is in the work of Ellen Meiksins Wood that all the threads come together, and the theoretical and political consequences are most clearly stated.25 Answering Anderson's harsh questions about ‘the "absent centre" of English social thought', Wood insisted: ‘The individualism and ahistoricism of English social thought, its fragmentation, have more to do, then, with the advance of capitalism than with its inhibition'.26 She characterizes the parallel and contrast with conti­nental Europe thus:

While in France Bodin was describing the state as a unity of ‘fami­lies, colleges or corporate bodies', Sir Thomas Smith defined the commonwealth as a ‘multitude' of free individuals. While the French state continued to serve as a lucrative resource for the propertied classes, the English were increasingly preoccupied with individual appropriation by purely ‘economic' means.... The replacement of corporate entities by individuals as the constituent units of society, the separation of the state and civil society, the autonomization of the ‘economy' - all these factors associated with the evolution of English capitalism conduced to the atomization of the social world into discrete and separate theoretical spheres. And with it came a detachment of the social sciences from history, as social relations and processes came to be conceived as natural, answering to the universal laws of the economy ....27

This seems to be the very opposite of Perry Anderson's view. But it is, at the same time, another Marxian correction of E.P. Thompson's Rous­seauism. The emphasis in Wood's work on the separateness or autonomy of the ‘economy' and ‘the economic' points, rather promisingly, I think, towards a much-needed Marxian political science. This autonomy of the economy may account for peculiarities in English political culture that would, accord­ing to Perry Anderson, explain the lack of a radical socialism in Britain, the substitution of ‘class culture' for ‘class' and the notorious (and idealized) absence of great, salvific social theorems in the national culture. But the sudden modernization of Britain under Thatcher and Blair yields surpris­ing results, as Anderson himself recognizes in another of his breathtaking surveys:

By the [nineteen-]eighties, the net effect of these changes was a marked disjuncture between high culture and politics in Britain. In most European cultures, such a pattern has historically been quite frequent. In many, indeed, the normal stance of intellectu­als has tended to be oppositional, swinging against the pendulum of regimes rather than with it. In England, this has not been so. Here, the larger portion of the intelligentsia has generally sung in harmony, if not unison, with the established power of the day, from the time of Coleridge's first scoring of its part after the Napoleonic wars. The present position is an anomaly in this record ....28

Nevertheless, the problem remains: part of the Left will see ‘class' in cultural and political terms, and this is indeed an effective aid to sustaining an opposi­tional stance against ‘a rotten regime' in the name and on behalf of a people judged capable of achieving for itself a cultural and moral autonomy vouch­safed by a working-class politics.29 The case of England is crucial for several reasons: it is traditionally ‘the distant mirror' of capitalism.30 It cannot possibly be denied that the shift to culture in class theory was and is caused by the fate of socialism (i.e., of the workers' movement): to succeed only in the sense of making capitalism more modern, democratic, secular and (perhaps) egalitar­ian via cross-class alliances forces the workers' movement to abandon the specific proletarian calling envisaged by Marx. Western and Northern social democrats, Eastern and Southern communists alike have replaced emancipa­tion with equality, Marx with Rousseau. Marxian socialism has never been attempted politically, especially not by Marxists.31 Egalitarianism and statism (in democratic and tyrannical versions) were the hallmarks of the main offi­cial versions of socialism, everywhere.

These are also the key elements of the contemporary popular image of socialism, and the key elements of the colourful pop ideology of the ‘new social movements' as well, aiming at righting injustice by enlarging and radi­calizing the idea of equality and trying to impose this idea on the bourgeois states and international financial organizations they despise (they themselves do not wish to take power; theirs is an étatisme by proxy). The ‘statism by proxy' of the new social movements (we won't vote for you, we won't smash your power through revolution, but we want you to draft bills and pass acts of parliament and UN and EU resolutions that we deem useful and edify­ing), in spite of their many beauties and quite a few successes, is still statism, experimenting with a radical idea of equality of all living beings, hesitating between straight reformism and utopian self-sufficiency and exodus.

The retreat to egalitarianism, statism and ‘culture' thus appears to be a quasi-permanent feature of socialist movements. In almost every case, this can only be explained by the fact that they must engage with an adversary, bourgeois society, which is replete with historical imperfections derived from the caste societies out of which they emerged.


That the retreat from Marx to Rousseau is a also tendency among Marxists, as in the most important case of E.P. Thompson, is of particular importance. Technically, this is sometimes a reaction against an alleged rigid determinism in Marxian class theory (an allegation effectively refuted by G.A. Cohen32), but more frequently (again, also in E.P. Thompson's case) it happens owing to a fatal misunderstanding concerning the conflation of ‘class' and ‘caste' (Stände, états, or, in Hungarian, rendek). Caste society, the remnants of which are still with us, even today, is based on a view of human nature radically different from the Enlightenment view, so ingrained in modern thinking as to be almost invisible and implicit, scarcely in need of being articulated.

For most of history, humanity was not thought to have been co-extensive with humankind. Women, slaves, foreigners, children were almost invariably excluded everywhere, but so were people who had to work for a living (banausoi), people who had become retainers in a chieftain's retinue, persons exercising trades that were ideologically considered repellant or religiously taboo, people with physical deficiencies, whole nations subjugated in war, persons belonging to another religion or denomination, persons without property, enemies of the state, members of ‘inferior' races, and so on. These and many others were not supposed to share with the rest the prerogatives of full-fledged human beings. There was resistance to this state of affairs among some Stoics, Cynics and Epicureans, the early Christians and some medieval heretics, some Buddhists and other assorted riff-raff. But on the whole the title of ‘man' (let alone of ‘citizen', which is still limited by nation-states33) was a prerogative circumscribed by criteria of excellence, hence the absence of an idea of equal and universal rights and obligations.

Caste or ‘estate' is a whole life, with dimensions capitalism has since nulli­fied. Let me quote a few words from the greatest authority on the caste system:

... the lot of the Shudras is to serve, and ... the Vaishyas are the grazers of cattle and the farmers, the ‘purveyors' of sacrifice ... who have been given dominion over the animals, whereas the Brah­mans-Kshatryas have been given dominion over ‘all creatures'.... [T]he Kshatrya may order a sacrifice as may the Vaishya, but only the Brahman may perform it. The king is thus deprived of any sacerdotal function .... The Brahman naturally has privileges .... He is inviolable (the murder of a Brahman is, with the murder of a cow, the cardinal sin), and a number of punishments do not apply to him: he cannot be beaten, put in irons, fined, or expelled ....34

The contrast with modern capitalist society could not be more obvious: each caste (or estate) is a complete way of life, embodying a cosmologi­cal principle. Caste is a differential system of privileges, endowments and ‘gifts' which represent a model of the social world, based on a philosophical doctrine concerning human functions and a scale of values, embodied by various closed groups whose commerce with one another is a function of their respective rungs on the ladder of human values, religiously determined. All this is strengthened by a well-entrenched system of prejudices. The English word villain, French villain, has its origin in the late Latin villanus, villager, peasant. ‘Ignoble' originally means a person devoid of noble rank. The Hungarian paraszt, ‘peasant' originates in the Slav stem prost, ‘simpleton', etc., all signs that contempt and deference did not need excuses. Medieval ditties made fun of hunchbacks, beggars, cripples, fat people and, simply, the poor. Explanations for the ill-fate of some were, apart from social theodicy, racial and warlike. The upper castes were (in the whole Indo-European area) supposed to be fair, the servants, the aborigines, the slaves, the foreigners, swarthy.35

The tripartite scheme of social hierarchy (oratores, bellatores, laboratores) does indeed identify social groups with human functions, but in ascribing func­tion to person and group and vice versa, if these persons and groups remain within their prescribed or pre-ordained confines, it absolves them from responsibility: responsibility is conceivable only in transgression, not by the fact of differential human condition, such as membership in a social class. Choice (and the ‘quality' of the individual) does not enter it at all, and therefore misery does not need the intricate theodicy which is the bad luck of Christendom.

The target of egalitarian rebellion was always this ascription and adjudica­tion, i.e., doubt concerning just deserts, and ambiguity of the idea of ‘God's children' and the radical distinctions regarding dignity (and the sheer scope of human life) inherent in caste society. The complaint that kings and barons are not chivalrous and gallant, that monks and nuns are not sagacious and chaste, is perennial. For the rebels, the world is turned upside down, merit trampled underfoot, while crime is rewarded with honours and plenty. Virtue, unlike moral goodness or intelligence, adheres to caste, not to persons or to human­ity as such. What is virtue for one caste, is not for another. Pride is good in one, humility in another. Achilles, the greatest warrior, is incomprehensible apart from his semi-divine, princely heroism which coexists with extreme prickliness and sensitivity and a morbid preoccupation with slights and with the insufficient deference shown to him by equals whom he was bound to consider inferiors - a universal type encountered in ancient epics. Heroism is very much a matter of bodily integrity and beauty, athleticism, elegance, sexual glamour and a pronounced distaste for being ‘dissed'. Heroism is play and display; all this is allowed under the disquieting but glorious threat of death on the battlefield, the untimely deaths of rich young men.36

In sharp contrast with caste, class is an abstraction (I do not mean only a scientific idealization, but a lived abstraction as well) in a society where freedom of contract exists. In such a society subordination, hierarchy, domi­nation, rank, dignity, etc., are not only random, totally unconnected to the quality of the individual, but also seen as such. Fate is no longer, as in Greek tragedy or Corneille (and as late as Kleist), an accident of birth, but an acci­dent of the social division of labour and other similar historical kinds of serendipity.

If it is true, and I think it is, that Marx's theory does not purport to be a theory of human nature as such, but a theory of capitalism, then the immor­tal words of The Communist Manifesto, according to which ‘[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles', must be false. Class is unique to capitalist society. Class is, first of all, a structural feature of the system; belonging to a class is a condition legally and, quite often, socially, open to anybody. This openness of class as a contingent social posi­tion is what makes capitalism great and gives it the aura of Mephistophelian liberation through ever ‘more extensive and more destructive crises', as the Manifesto also puts it. In order to achieve this gigantic ‘creative destruction' (an expression of Schumpeter's inspired by Bakunin) there was a need to unleash the forces of individual freedom - a freedom, that is, from a legally and coercively enforced classification of human beings into groups of birth and status.

Addressing class as such is, intuitively, very difficult.

Within the production process, the separation of labour from its objective moments of existence - instruments and material - is suspended. The existence of capital and of wage labour rests on this sepa­ration. Capital does not pay for the suspension of this separation which proceeds in the real production process - for otherwise work could not go on at all.... But as use value, labour belongs to the capitalist; it belongs to the worker merely as exchange value. Its living quality of preserving objectified labour time by using it as the objective condition of living labour in the production process is none of the worker's business. This appropriation, by means of which living labour makes instrument and material in the production process into the body of its soul and thereby resurrects them from the dead, does indeed stand in antithesis to the fact that labour itself is objectless, is a reality only in the immediate vitality of the worker - and that the instrument and material, in capital, exist as being-for-them­selves.... But to the extent that labour steps into this relation [with its moments of material being], this relation exists not for itself, but for capital; labour itself has become a moment of capital'.37

The distinction between castes could not be farther away from this portrait of the worker who may be alienated and exploited, but certainly is no stranger to capital; on the contrary, he is one of its ‘moments', one of its structural features. This is clearly not something anybody could abolish by decree or by law. If the worker is a feature of capital, the worker can change capitalism into something else only if he or she changes himself or herself, in an extra-moral sense.

Looked at from the ulterior vantage-point of the revolutionary, we may rather confidently say that the abolition of caste leads to equality; but the aboli­tion of class leads to socialism. Yet as we have seen, the retreat from socialism to egalitarianism, from Marx to Rousseau, the retreat from critical theory to ahistorical moral critique, from Hegel and Marx to Kant, has been the rule, rather than the exception, in the history of the Left. It is therefore in need of some explanation.

First, one has to take into account the psychological needs of opposition to any system one was brought up in. All social systems - through mytholo­gies, patriotic chronicles, traditions and the like - pretend and, indeed, must pretend that they are natural, and that their failings are due to inherent clashes within human nature, and that unhappiness all too obviously caused by impersonal factors is somehow retribution, either visited upon people because of their imperfections, or because of some fatal breakdown in the system itself caused by ingratitude, impiety or the inscrutable decree of a higher force of some kind. Blaming the system will always appear as an easy pretext for failing to blame oneself, dissatisfaction being always regarded as a weakness of the unsuccessful, of the insufficiently noble or the insufficiently insightful - in short, of the Thersites of this world. People have to be on a solid moral footing if they are to dare to say ‘no'. Thus, it seems necessary to establish that there is an innate excellence residing in those who have been held by the ruling order to be inferior, and that the inversion of the estab­lished moral order or moral hierarchy happens to be both the superior truth and a satisfactory motivation for its reversal. The oldest rhetorical tricks can be employed here:

Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.... But woe unto you that are rich! For ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! For ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! For ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets. But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them, which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.38

The moral order is reversed, but even the threat of that reversal is turned upside down, for those who would suddenly find themselves at the bottom of the moral heap will be forgiven and saved. This sums up nearly all revo­lutionary manifestoes we can think of. The scary flip of the moral coin is made unthreatening - even the frightening curse, ‘ye shall mourn and weep' is made good - by the invocation of universality: ‘love your enemies'. But the right to forgive will be conferred upon those who did not have the power to forgive, and thus to condemn, before. Power is being taken away and given anew, this is why the Son of Man is also called the Lord.

A second reason why the retreat from socialism to egalitarianism has been the rule is the need for a trans-social or meta-social foundation for the possibility of a change which might reduce or even obliterate injustice and domination. This is (intuitively) the suppleness, the plasticity, the flexibility, the malleability of human nature and the randomness of intellectual, aesthetic or physical endowment, distributed capriciously among all ranks, races, creeds and provinces. In other words: a belief in the possibility of equality without upsetting too much the shape of society which - even if equality of income, opportunity, status and access to political power were achieved - would still contain elements of domination, either by government (tempered by law) or by various social hierarchies of command and control in the workplace, education and family, as well as a continuing social division of labour.

But domination married to equality would not contradict the possibil­ity of equality only if the perpetual re-creation of inequalities is constantly upset by new forces ‘from below' which constantly re-establish equality.39 Redistribution (the only way to perpetually impose and re-impose equality if the other customary aspects of society remain essentially the same) can be implemented only by an extremely strong state able to defeat the resistance of those from whom something shall be taken away. But the strength of the state is apt to reinforce domination concentrated in the hands of the few, which will, then, further reinforce domination, naturally unfavourable to an equality of condition or of social positions and so on without end. All this is likely, though, only if the malleability of human nature is allowed free rein by the dominant or ‘hegemonic' culture; hence the permanent Kulturkampf concerning the pre-social or ‘natural' equality of persons before redistribution, from ‘blue blood' to natural selection to the Bell curve.40

Third, egalitarianism was (and up to a point, still is) an expression of a dynamic of individuals uprooted from ‘caste'. As well as fighting against the market system, socialists found themselves still fighting against the remnants of a feudal order, i.e., for a system where surplus value would be extracted on the market (from people legally free and assenting to obligations arising from contract), not through coercion and social-cum-religious conditioning. Put more simply, they had to execute successful bourgeois and proletarian revolu­tions at the same time. Hence the endless wrangling of nineteenth-century social democrats about the problem of the peasantry, when they sometimes had to advocate the creation of competitive small farm businesses in order to win the rural allies they needed to enable them to smash the landed aris­tocracy and gentry, the political ruling stratum of most countries until quite recently.41 Central European socialists (especially in Germany and Austria-Hungary) worried a great deal about their capitalism not being created by an autochthonous bourgeoisie, but in fact this was much more generally true.42The problem of Kautsky and Lenin (and Luxemburg and Szabó and Dobro­geanu-Gherea and Mariátegui) may actually be a universal problem.

Fourth, et nunc venio ad fortissimum, there is a deep moral and psycho­logical difficulty with Marxism, intertwined with the historical problematic. Marxism, after all, proposes the abolition of the proletariat, not its apotheosis. Because of reification and alienation, it holds with Simone Weil that la condi­tion ouvrière, being a worker, is the worst condition a human being can find herself or himself in. (And Simone Weil is quite right in believing that perfect solidarity with the working class means the assumption of, and acquiescence in, servitude and squalor. But this is, of course, the opposite of the sense of solidarity in the tradition of non-Marxian socialism.) The meaning of Rous­seauian socialism is the re-establishment of the purity of the people through the forcible destitution of the upper castes and the exclusion of extraneous economic elements such as commerce; the people is held to be capable of discovering its virtue, which has been obliterated or corrupted by oppression and inequality, servitude and deference. This presupposes an Essence of Man to be found through philosophical means, an essence whose vacuity histori­cal materialism was created to demonstrate. The ‘enlargement' of Marxism in the normative sense (with, usually, some kind of Kantian moral philosophy) nearly always means a retreat towards equality and Rousseau.43

On the other hand, this ever-recurring retreat makes good psychological sense. It is well-nigh impossible to wage a battle to the death (which revolu­tion, however slow and gradual, necessarily is) if there is no sense that it is fought on behalf of people who deserve sacrifice, whose cause is morally superior because they are superior to the foe. The anti-luxury ideas of Rous­seau and his countless ideological forebears declare ‘the great and the good' to be superfluous. This notion may be plausible (although still unpleasant) in the case of caste society, but in the case of class society, Marx is adamant that

... in my presentation, capital profit is not ‘merely a deduction or "robbery" on the labourer'. On the contrary, I present the capital­ist as the necessary functionary of capitalist production and show very extensively that he does not only ‘deduct' or ‘rob', but forces the production of surplus value, therefore the deducting only helps to produce; furthermore, I show in detail that even if in the exchange of commodities only equivalents were exchanged, the capitalist - as soon as he pays the labourer the real value of his labour-power - would secure with full rights, i.e. the rights corresponding to that mode of production, surplus value.44

This is not consonant with the millenary voice of rebellion. That voice, on the contrary, tells us that ‘we was robbed', the thrifty by the thriftless. That honest toil was not paid in full, owing to the superior coercive power of the mighty. That ascribing a necessary ‘productive' role to the ruling classes is pernicious ‘ideological' mendacity. All value is created by the workers - this is Lassalle's view, and not Marx's.45 All official and triumphant ‘socialist' art from Soviet social realism to Latin American muralists glorifies proletarian might, sinews, purity, work and victorious confrontation with the puny and unclean enemy - unlike the few works of art truly inspired by a Marxian vision, from George Grosz and Gyula Derkovits to the more extreme avant-garde. These latter creations are almost invariably dark and pessimistic. Their problem was succinctly summarized by Georg Lukács thus: ‘[T]he objective reality of social existence is in its immediacy "the same" for both proletariat and bourgeoisie'.46

The working class is not situated outside capitalism. It embodies capital­ism as much as the bourgeoisie does. In a way perhaps even more: reification touches it in a radical manner. Nevertheless, Lukács emphasizes the inex­tricable interrelatedness of ‘rationalization' and irrationality brought about by capitalist crises.47 The redemption of ‘social evil' is possible only if ‘evil' is separated from the redeeming feature; but this is not feasible. Since it is not only classes, i.e., human groups, that are divided from one another, but whole social spheres and, especially and crucially, ‘the economy', which is separated from the other realms of social life by capitalism: the economy is quasi-liberated from the yoke of bloodline (birth) and the ancient fusion of politics, religion and custom.48 But the separation of the economy from the rest, owing to the specifically capitalist method of extracting surpluses on the market, as it were ‘peacefully', instead of through direct coercion, as before, creates a commonality between the fundamental classes in capitalism where the mere conquest of power by the lower classes may not overcome the separation and therefore will fail to establish a classless society - as has indeed happened.

The pressures which resulted in one of the characteristic abandonments of the Marxian class view are impeccably described in another of Ellen Meik­sins Wood's excellent books.49 In a series of sharpish attacks on a number of post-Marxist semi-converts, she selected authors (whose subsequent careers she, on the whole, accurately predicted) who tried - in view of the repeated defeats of socialist movements and the even then perfectly clear cul-de-sac of communist parties in or out of power - to find, at first, a substitute for the working class as the vanguard of revolution; but unlike the New Left, not in the ‘person' of Third World peasants, inner-city blacks or young intellectuals, but in a new cross-class coalition of rebellious ‘people' desirous of a new kind of democracy. The Retreat from Class shows how the transformed concept of ‘democracy' (from the ancient Greek understanding of it as the rule of the free-born poor, to the idea of pluralism and the division of power, accept­able to the ruling class, so much so that the original democratic idea came to be seen as ‘anti-democratic') contributed to the change of the social­ist telos from an end to exploitation and domination (ergo, classless society) into a mere hope for cultural ‘hegemony'. A hegemony, that is, of egalitar­ian forces bent on abolishing discrimination, privilege, social exclusion: but even within egalitarian discourse these authors (Wood's ‘new true social­ists') stressed recognition rather than redistribution (to use Nancy Fraser's subsequent phrase), and pluralism rather than socialism.50 The problem here is basically the same as during the ‘revisionism' debate around Eduard Bern­stein's book, or the ongoing quarrel on ‘reformism'.51

This weighty heritage inspires Rousseauian socialism. It is the rearguard battle of ‘the people' which is and isn't identical with bourgeois society. This was certainly what made Marat, Robespierre, Saint-Just, Desmoulins, Hébert and Gracchus Babeuf so lofty and unforgiving: humiliation, not alienation. In semi-feudal peasant societies, such as the countries of Eastern and South­ern Europe in the first half of the twentieth century, it was this, the spirit of jacquerie combined with an intimation of a sansculotte revolution, which gave a special vigour and savagery to the idea of ‘class' and ‘socialism', since both were combined with strong remnants of ‘caste' and ‘equality'. Neither Marat and Saint-Just, nor the English Levellers and their successors about whom E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Christopher Hill, Raphael Samuel and their confederates wrote, dreamed of a kind of egalitarian change that would be conducive to a society of market, contract and money. But while over­turning caste changes countless things - hierarchy (status, if you wish), moral nomenclature, relations of obedience and deference, prescribed biographies, connubiality and commensality, spatiality and religion - it cannot touch the economy, which has just come into its own right as an autonomous sphere of the human condition. Above all, it does not replace hierarchy with equality, only caste (or estate) with class.

This is what happened to West European social democracy and ‘euro­communism'52 (and British radicalism from Lloyd George and Keir Hardie to Attlee, Bevan, Laski and Beveridge), and to East European, Chinese and Vietnamese ‘communism': they have unwittingly and unwillingly either created or reinforced and modernized capitalist society in their countries. It is not certain that the anti-globalization movements of today, with their sincere calls for planetary (the word ‘international' is avoided nowadays, for some reason) equality will not contribute to yet another rebirth of a more attractive, slimmed-down, fairer and smarter capitalism, after destroying the superannuated global financial institutions and the more shameless neo-conservative governments - even though the anti-globalists, too, obviously want much, much more.

You can read the continuation of the text with EPILOGUE and NOTES on source website grundrisse.net