Karl Marx as Intellectual Magician

The following is an excerpt from Roberto Calasso’s book The Ruin of Kasch

Looking to the origins, Marx regarded the earth in two different ways: it was at once an “extension of the body” of man, and his “great laboratory,” “arsenal,” “working material.” These antithetical modes recur often in his thought. On the one hand, there is an analogical chain of symbolic correspondences, in which the earth is enfolded as soon as it is considered an “extension of the body” of man (and thus we see despite incessant secularization, terms like “heart,” “brain,” “flesh,” remain symbolic poles). On the other hand, there is an Enlightenment-inspired dissociation, an experimental use of the whole, an absence of premises, represented in the image of the “great laboratory.” But Marx’s attention—and passion—is always directed at the second pole. The first, he realizes, obviously exists; but he is clearly too bored by it to specify its characteristics. For him it suffices to posit a state of belonging, both at the origin and (though here it is more problematic) at the end, as well as a considerable number of states of separation, in all that occurs between those two stages. Marx analyzes these states of separation with a kind of tireless, turbulent, sensual pleasure, referring often and eloquently to something lost or to be recovered. But his eloquence fades, and he becomes suddenly distracted, as soon as he has the opportunity to clarify exactly what has been lost and what might be recovered. All this does not imply that Marx has given two incompatible definitions of the “land” of origin. The definitions are indeed discordant and contradictory, but they have always lived side by side in history: one is the latency of the other. Marx reveals his perceptiveness in the very fact that he posits them together. The euhemeristic gesture, the severing of correspondences, also takes place where the order of analogies has been established. Indeed, the order can be regarded as a conciliatory reply, a suturing of correspondences that ritually follows every act of severing.(magic)

“Fully developed individuals, those whose social ties are completely their own, who are borne of communal relations which they control collectively—such individuals are products not of nature but of history. The degree and universality of the development of abilities in which this type of individuality becomes possible presuppose production based on exchange value. This production, together with universality, for the first time gives rise to the alienation of the individual from himself and from others, but it also creates the universality and all-sidedness of his relations and abilities (Continuation of magic). In earlier stages of development, the single individual appears fuller, because he has not yet realized the fullness of his relations and established them as an ensemble of powers and social relations independent of him. It is as absurd to regret this original fullness, as it is to think that we must forever remain in our current state of emptiness. The bourgeois viewpoint has never gone beyond the antithesis between itself and this romantic viewpoint, and thus the latter will accompany it as its legitimate antithesis until the blessed end of the bourgeoisie.” This passage exalts the metaphysical function of capital, which stands magnificently apart from everything else we know. Other apologists lack Marx’s far-sightedness, and never can attribute such evocative power to the commerce they are defending. The universal itself, that spoiled firstborn child of the bourgeois era, is here considered the offspring of “production on the basis of exchange values”—and of nothing else. Marx disdains the communitarian connectedness of all prior stages (even though he is ready to shed a hypocritical tear for its lost “original fullness”), because he knows that those stages are inevitably bornes, limited. And for Marx, Borniertheit is the supreme defect, worse than any emptiness. It is a permanent threat, a hostile memory of the ghetto.

The “original fullness” is not polutropos, not “all-sided”; this is what Marx means. (But does Ulysses belong to that “origin” or not? A question which remains unanswered.) At the other end of history we see that, in an age when the bourgeoisie is flourishing most successfully, the essence of the bourgeois individual is indeed universal but completely empty, void, hollow, the result of an inexorable process of emptying. The anthropological question must then be posed in these terms: How are we to deal with that “total emptying” without yielding to some fatuous reference to the lost “original fullness”?

At this point the apparatus of dialectic, with all its deceptive aggressiveness, once again seems immensely useful. What development has emptied, development will refill (the magician in action). People will talk about “universal development of individuals” instead of about the relations of production. Thus, instead of speaking of a real emptying, they will use a vacuous expression that nevertheless is tuned to the inclinations of a period which, more than any other, wants to “make it on its own.” One need only avoid certain questions. What if the concrete (the individual) stubbornly refuses? And what if the universal will tolerate continued existence only in conditions of perfect emptiness? Around these same points, some masterly sleight of hand had already been performed by Hegel. Now Marx did the same, though his methods were cruder and he knew much less about the history of philosophy. And such legerdemain would be performed countless more times, with ever more brutal manners, by increasingly nefarious great-grandchildren, travelling cadres of the Third International, or the heirs of some black Byzantium, inhaling the sacrificial fumes of polytechnic schools while waiting to transform their savannah {the leaders of the Khmer Rouse in Cambodia in the aftermath of studying in France and absorbing the tenets of the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser} into a bloody scene a la Raymond Roussel, steeped in slaughter, to baptize a belated entry into history.

Marx does not always abandon himself unrestrainedly to the worship of “development.” Behind the word, he sometimes glimpses inevitable divergences. There are passages in which he comes dangerously close to asserting a full break between the two models of development, one perverse (that of capital) and one good (that which comes after capital); and in so doing he lets down his guard…

Marxistoid Economists Consider Politically Bankrupt Left as Solution of Greek Crisis

Fair is foul, and foul is fair, /Hover through the fog and filthy air (Witches of Macbeth chanting their cursing ditty)

By Con George-Kotzabasis— July 04, 2013

In their article published in the New York Times  on June 23, under the title “Only the Left Can Save Greece”, the two politically ‘pinkish’ economists teaching at the University of Texas at Austin, James Galbraith (the son of the famous John Galbraith) and Yannis Varoufakis, argue that neither America nor Europe should fear an ascension to power of the Left wing party of Syriza in Greece on the contrary, they should applaud it, as a government of the left would reverse the defective policies of the European Union that have been so destructive to the Greek polity and to its people as well as to many other European countries.

The two economists were shocked at the closure of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) and denounced the Samaras government for its authoritarian and undemocratic action, of depriving Greeks of a public service of information and entertainment that was invaluable to them. The government however closed the public broadcaster temporarily and planned to replace this cesspool of administrative corruption, opacity, and cronyism, for which each Greek household had to pay a levy of 50 Euros per year, with a new public broadcaster not run by the government but by personnel chosen on meritocratic criteria and professionalism that would upgrade the service provided to Greek viewers and at a cheaper price.  Galbraith and Varoufakis, in their support of this corrupt and inefficiently run public entity  and demand of its reopening, found a kindred political ally in the leader of the Marxist party of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, who had committed himself to re-open with all its personnel intact if he became prime minister. Tsipras’ crocodile tears for the public broadcaster, which in the recent past had condemned as being the mouthpiece of the extreme right, exposed his blatant political opportunism in this U-turn from hate to love for ERT. But they found him also to be an invaluable ally to their economic proposals of how to lift Greece out of the crisis. .

Galbraith’s and Varoufakis’ solution to the crisis springs from the growing of a hundred blooming flowers in the luxuriantly prodigal Keynesian garden. Their package of Keynesian remedies consist of “a kind of European equivalent of America’s post-crisis Troubled Asset Relief program; an investment and job program; and a European initiative to meet the social and human crisis by  strengthening  unemployment insurance, basic pensions, deposit insurance, and the expansion of core public institutions like education and health.” Notice, that all of these remedies are to be financed by  government and taxes from private enterprises. How then government can finance all these things when its coffers are empty and depend on European loans to pay for primal services such as schools, hospitals, and public servants, and when private enterprise has no incentive to function or remain in an unstructured economy that has been for many years inimical to it? And the two economists do not make  a pip about the necessity of private foreign and domestic investments that are the only economically sustainable and viable investments that can initiate growth and economic development that are the sine qua non that will pull Greece out of the crisis. And that these investments can only be made under the incentive  of structural economic reforms that are favorable to private enterprise, and strict fiscal policies that perforce can only be accomplished by hard measures which are inevitably painful to the general populace.

Since neither the political color nor the gray matter of Galbraith and Varoufakis were able to convince serious politicians and economists in the Euro zone, or Greece, of the correctness of their Keynesian mirage as a solvent to the European and Greek crisis, they found in the fiasco leadership of Syriza, of Tsipras, the intellectual salvation of their by now withered flowers of their Keynesian remedy. (This speaks volumes about the value of their proposals in that they found their support and cerebral salvation in the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Greek left.) Tsipras bereft of any tenable economic policies, and rationalizing this vacuity in policy making by populist rhetorical denunciations of the policies of the Samaras government, eagerly embraced the policies of Galbraith and Varoufakis, which ideologically are cognate to his own as a ne plus ultra government interventionist himself, thus giving to his own policies some sort of academic prestige from this ‘south of the border’ economists that he is unable to get from more serious experts in the profession. (But beggars cannot choose.)

Indeed, the policies of Tsipras have their source in a variegated coterie of Marxists getting their inspiration from the flashing pan of Marxism, as the rising sun of the latter has long ago disappeared from the astral constellation of the universe, never to rise again. Tsipras, as a true believer of the great man, Karl Marx, attended the Marxist organised Subversive Festival of Zagreb in Croatia last March, which was likewise attended by both Galbraith and Varoufakis. Indeed, the former announced with pride his attendance of the Festival, in a lecture he gave to socialists in the German Parliament last week, where the gladiators of the great imperator Karl Marx had gathered together from all over the world and rushed into the arena of the Amphitheatre of Zagreb, with nets in one hand and swords in the other, to fight and slay the wild animals of capitalism, which their predecessors in the socialist camp, even better armed with technological weapons, had failed to slay. Moreover, Tsipras was an aficionado of Chavez and had visited Venezuela last year with the hope of getting financial help  from its president with an implied commitment of making Greece a protectorate of Venezuela, if not the European Venezuela. And yet Galbraith and Varoufakis in their political naiveté write in their article in the New York Times that the Americans have nothing to fear from a Syriza government.

Galbraith and Varoufakis, like the witches of Macbeth cursing the Samaras’ government as foul, undemocratic and authoritarian, slavishly implementing the dictates of the European Union, and as economically incompetent, are predicting its downfall while stirring the pot of their quackish remedies which nobody will ‘buy’ other than Tsipras. Meanwhile, Samaras wisely, assiduously, and decisively is transforming Greece within the short span of one year by an unprecedented series of structural reforms that are increasing competition–Greece is in the 22 position internationally for the first time–reducing the bureaucracy, especially its inefficient part that was an obstacle to investments, and planning to make it more efficient on meritocratic standards, changing the economic milieu by making it friendly to business and investments, and leashing the arbitrary and ruinous power of unions which for many years had prevented foreign investments in the country. Moreover by his virtuoso performance in the negotiations with the European Union and the IMF, Samaras  has blunted some of the austerity measures that have been a major factor in obstructing the re-igniting of the economy and artfully polishing these measures that will put Greece on the track of development. He was able to convince the leaders of the EU to provide Greece with extra funds for employment programs that will materialize by the beginning of 2014, more resources from the European Bank of Investments so they can be ploughed into small and medium sized businesses. He has started building Autobahns that have created 25,000 new jobs and he has enticed the economically hard thinking Chinese government to invest 350,000 million Euros in the port of Piraeus thus making it the entrepot of commerce between south-east Asia and Europe. ( The European Council announced that the port of Piraeus will be named as the capital port of Europe for 2015.) Also the Chinese are interested in making more investments in the infrastructure of the country, especially in its railway network by which they will transport their goods into Europe. But the most important and greatest achievement of the Samaras’ government up to this moment has been the building, through Greece, of the conduit by the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will convey natural gas from Azerbaijan to the heart of Europe. TAP will invest the huge amount of 1.5 billion in Greece and will generate 12,000 jobs by 2014 in the country. This, according to one authority in the energy industry, has been the personal accomplishment of Samaras who in his visit of Azerbaijan and meeting with the Prime Minister of the country three weeks ago, convinced the latter that it would be more efficient and economically cheaper to build the conduit through Greece instead of through Bulgaria and Romania, a project which the international consortium backing it was favorable to win, and lost it only, with the intervention of Samaras. Furthermore, this enormous investment, behind which one of its investors is the global gigantic company BHPBilliton, engenders confidence to other investors that Greece is about to pull itself out of the crisis, and hence, encourages and attracts more investments into the country and thus will increase employment which is one of the major challenges of the government.

The government under the statesmanship of Samaras is determined to pull Greece out of the crisis and not to squander the sacrifices Greeks had to make for the economic, political, and cultural Renaissance of the country. The great, fair achievements of the Samaras government, in an unprecedented short span of time, are depicted and cursed as foul by the two Marxistoid economists, James Galbraith and Yannis Varoufakis. Ignominy, loss of intellectual honor, is of no concern to them.

I rest on my oars:Your turn now