Marxism and the "Human Person" (XXII)
Ever since the principles of the socialist method were first clearly defined by Marx, i.e. for a short century, one simply has to smile when it is sought to reduce the problems of social struggle and historical development, the issues of the general economy and political contradictions, to development, conquests or the liberation of the "human person". However, the press (and not just the one that resolutely displays anti-Marxist positions) and propaganda from all sides keep calling her to the stage, even though she is the dumbest of all the misses or queens who "circulate" for today's foolish and highly successful publications.
This case is definitively closed in the lapidary polemical part that the Manifesto of the Communist Party devotes to bourgeois objections to communism. It is a pity that this masterful synthesis is intentionally interrupted by sentences of this kind: "The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination." And further on: "But let us have done with the bourgeois objections to Communism." And the text jumps without transition to the central theme, to the first stage of the communist revolution which is the constitution of the proletariat as a dominant class.
If this second point, which is directly linked to action, necessitated violent battles in order to defend it against the obscurantism of social traitors, the first, more theoretical point, needed them no less and still needs them; and these two or three pages would need to be turned into an organic development, which, by acknowledging the hundred schools of our adversaries in reply, would expound the contributions of Marxism and Marxists, drawing them from the living history of revolutionary struggle and polemics as well as the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and many well-positioned but less important individuals from all countries and all eras.
Either one must really believe that Papa Marx sinned out of optimism, because he did not think that history would still give so much freedom to donkeys, pigs and salesmen after him; or one must think about this: a century ago, it was not yet possible, in order to make money for the friendly press, to organise festivals distressingly aping those produced by the bourgeoisie, with twerking in red and boozing on denatured alcohol.
From the brief synthesis of the anti-capitalist and anti-proprietary economic claim, the Manifesto proceeds to questions about freedom and personality with passages that are now more solid than the verses of the Gospel, and that should be fully understood. "In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality." The problem is that every passage would require a parenthesis. A little before that, it is said verbatim: "Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members. […] Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power." No contradiction. Etymologically capital comes from caput, head. In the current order, capital is held in the name of an individual, because the present order is based on the personal appropriation of common efforts. As for its production, capital is collective and any "human person" would not accumulate a grain of it on its own, but as for the disposition, exploitation and enjoyment, it is personal. In this lies the class regime that we, supporters of the Manifesto, want to overthrow.
Let's read the following verses. "And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at." But with infinite bitterness it should be noted that for a century, Marxist leaders have found few days to work towards this abolition, while in all the rest of their time they rushed to defend this stinking bourgeois personality, independence and freedom from supposed dangers.
We cannot cover the whole text here, which, by the way, overshadows all its commentators, including, for these considerations, one of the good ones, Antonio Labriola.
Let's go down a few paragraphs. "From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, […] from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes. You must, therefore, confess that by ‘individual’ you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible." After the passages on the family, on the fatherland, on education, the text refers to objections based on "spiritual" issues. One finds these decisive theorems, so much trampled underfoot: "The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience merely gave expression to the sway of free competition within the domain of knowledge." "Communism abolishes eternal truths common to all social forms, such as freedom, justice, religion, and all morality." "Now - we allow ourselves to paraphrase for clarity and defence against the usual counterfeiters - these are only forms common to all types of society that have so far appeared and are all based on the exploitation of one part of society on the other. All these forms must dissolve with the complete disappearance of class antagonism, the aim of us communists".
Alas: religion, morality, justice, freedom, all the very modern repertoire is flung in the air, the samba, rumba and trendy boogie in which Miss Person is produced!
The misrepresentations began while the author of the Manifesto was still alive. Despite his advanced age, he did not hesitate to seize the whip and illuminated his own theses in a brilliant way, thus unmasking the make-up artists for whom Marx would have gradually rectified his radical positions of 1848.
In the well-known letter on the Gotha programme of 1875, a truly formidable massacre of commonplaces, demagogic positions, dirty counterfeits of socialism (unfortunately more than ever in circulation today), a profound programmatic recapitulation in a few pages of the points relating to economy, philosophy, politics and tactics, from which Lenin drew the decisive passages on the problem of the state and the nature of the communist economy, the criticism of the demands on the "spiritual and moral foundations of the state" is particularly suggestive. The cretinism of this single little headline is enough to make us see all the hairs of the fierce beard of Marx rise up. With regard to the preceding new paragraph on the no less foolish "liberal base of the state" he has already crushed the freedom granted to the state of Bismarck in place of putting the noose around its neck (the famous Volksfreistaat, free popular state, a demand of German social democracy). Lenin has made this page a mine of historical truths; and we can only give in to the temptation to copy a sentence from it: "Its political demands contain nothing beyond the old democratic litany familiar to all: universal suffrage, direct legislation, popular rights, a people's militia, etc. They are a mere echo of the bourgeois People's party, of the League of Peace and Freedom." There's no need for a small spiritist seance for the terrible old man to continue: progressive and popular democracy, peace congresses, all the other and countless demagogic tricks of the Stalinists...
This is why Stalinist "democracy" (which blushes at the use of its force, insofar as it is not demanded in the West but put into action in the East), with its ignoble resources that go so far as to constitute Catholic action movements, and with its assignments of tolerance, deserves to be defined by the words of this other passage that stigmatised the hypocritical formulas enclosed within the boundaries of the then Prussian legal system: "This kind of democratism, which keeps within the limits of what is permitted by the police and not permitted by logic"!
But back to the subject at hand, that is, moral and intellectual claims. Education of the people by the state? Marx burst out: "Government and church should rather be equally excluded from any influence on the school. […] The state has need, on the contrary, of a very stern education by the people." Well, this Marx is quite anarchic, like us!
But the incautious schoolchildren have let another blasphemy slip through and the master's flaring is even more violent. "Freedom of conscience!". It is Marx who has put the exclamation mark, just as we put it modestly to all these slogans when they come to our attention, ever since we began to stammer Marxism, and before assessing in our own smallness the "opportunities offered by the situation". It was the time of the struggle of the free German bourgeois thinkers, or rather of the Lutheran bigots, against the influence of Catholic politics in Germany (which can still be seen today), a campaign similar to those many anticlerical ones in France at the time of Combes, in Italy shortly after, and similar rancidities. And now, o sycophants, get out of the way. "If one desired, at this time of the Kulturkampf to remind liberalism of its old catchwords, it surely could have been done only in the following form: Everyone should be able to attend his religious as well as his bodily needs without the police sticking their noses in. But the Workers' party ought, at any rate in this connection, to have expressed its awareness of the fact that bourgeois "freedom of conscience" is nothing but the toleration of all possible kinds of religious freedom of conscience, and that for its part it endeavours rather to liberate the conscience from the witchery of religion."
Engels and Lenin have insisted on this point on many occasions. Religion as a private matter in relation to the state was a bourgeois democratic requirement. But religion as a private matter in relation to the party is an enormity. The communist party cannot tolerate freedom of religious or philosophical conscience in its ranks. And its aim is to eradicate religious positions and, more generally, anti-classist superstitions from all consciences.
More precisely, the Marxist thesis is that consciousness is not a matter for the human person or the individual subject, determined by a mass of impulses that cannot be controlled or evaluated in its circle; consciousness, or better: theoretical knowledge, is a collective matter for the class when it reaches the point of organising itself in a party.
The liberation of consciences from the clutches of old superstitions is not a matter of propagandist educationism but above all of strength. Violence is not only an economic agent, but a professor of philosophy.
It is not possible for us to produce many more explicit quotations from Marx, Lenin and others on this subject here.
That the conservators of the present order defend that mass of moral and spiritual theses that dance around the umbilical center of the person, is certainly not surprising. Even when they have assimilated the Marxist experience and material for class purposes, and have secretly evaluated the grandeur of collective factors, they move with extreme prudence without ever giving up the reactionary lifebuoy of the person.
Let's explain ourselves with three examples. In the embarrassments of the Congress of Christian Democracy, Don Sturzo gave an update on "duties of conscience and party discipline". As always, the exposition is consistent and reasonable. First he says: this concept of individualism, even within an organisation or a party, led to the invocation of a strange freedom of conscience within the party, this I repudiate because... (the political argument prevails here in this no longer political militant) it weakens the fight against the communists... But the doctrine should not be trampled underfoot with the nonchalance customary among the... Marxists. And Don Sturzo makes the following remark: Rather than a political problem, there is a moral problem of very great importance, it is the imperative of conscience to which not politics, but the whole life of man, whether Christian or not, is subordinated. Acting against your conscience is a moral fault... it's a sin... No moralist can accept that man can act against his conscience even if he is in error.... And he continues in his analysis that wants to base democracy "in general" on the integrity of the person. Spiritual integrity, devil, but no possibility of saving bodily integrity by refusing to go to war like "conscientious objectors" or by taking food with one's hands where one's eyes show it. This is where Calosso is needed .
Another writer, Missiroli , who, if we are not mistaken, has sometimes professed socialism and atheism, launches into the hymn for the person with a much greater and more poetic irresponsibility. We will hear him without comment: "The whole history of modern philosophy consists in the slow and gradual realisation of this new position reached by the human spirit in Christianity, in the development of this truth - the centre of man is no longer outside himself, in nature, but in him, in the conscience that makes the human person sacred and opens the way to all freedoms."
May Don Sturzo and Missiroli go with Aquinas , Blondel and God, but what bothers us is that there are so-called Marxists and socialists who are convinced that socialist economic emancipation is only one step on this path that inaugurated the human person, subsequently securing all freedoms. These have only thrown into the water our entire construction, which places on this path not the person or man, nor humanity or society, but groups and organisations of men, which are one of nature's intertwined processes; which sees on this path not a long mystical purification towards grace, but a series of ruptures and shocks; and who seeks to know the conditions and forces that drive the formation of an organised social system with different characteristics from those who, by claiming new doctrines of evaluating the spirit in the person, have, in ever new forms, trampled on and oppressed the underprivileged classes.
Third example: Togliatti. Speaking of his trip to Prague and praising this regime, he once again betrayed his sub-Marxism (even if we look at the whole context and the usual statements of convenience and political tactics that do not deserve to be mentioned) by praising the campaign of (forced) intensification of productive effort, referring to the workers delegated to the Congress, with these words: "It was a productive momentum resulting from a new conception of labour and the human person. We felt this new image of man, for whom labour is no longer condemnation, no longer exploitation, but the substance of life, springing from the words of those men."
So, images of a new man? The Don Sturzos, Missirolis, and Palmiros of all times have offered them to us ad infinitum. We do not know what to do with them and, for a century, we have taken a completely different route. Leave man as he is and stop fucking with him.
 Calosso was a socialist intellectual, who often participated, at the end of the forties, in the radio programme "Il Convegno dei Cinque", mentioned in the "Thread of Time" with the title "Intellectuals and Marxism", which appeared in issue 18 of Battaglia Comunista, 1949. He joined the PSDI of Saragat, a rightist split of the PSI fomented by the US to split up the Italian Stalinist labour movement. He later disappeared from the Italian political-intellectual scene.
 Missiroli (1886-1974) is a well-known writer and journalist, who was even director of Il Corriere della sera.
 "Tomaso" in the original Italian. Thomas Aquinas is the author of the "Summa contra Gentiles" and the "Summa Theologiae". The latter quickly became, despite the unsustainable condemnation of 1277, the dogmatic foundation of the Church of Rome.
 Maurice Blondel is a Christian philosopher of the beginning of the 20th century. His work was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. He was one of the main representatives of "La crise moderniste" (this is the title of a book by Claude Tresmontant defending Christian dogma against Blondel, Laberthonnière, Le Roy...). For Blondel, Christianity is a faith, a lived experience, rather than a set of dogmas, principles.
Battaglia Comunista, No. 34, 6. – 13. September 1949.
Translation by Libri Incogniti