I started a new podcast with Andrew Kliman. We discuss politics, philosophy, etc. We will release two episodes a month. Listen on SoundCloud. Comment and Discuss here. Capital Vol.
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Platypus Review September Many of his writings are available at his personal website akliman. On July 22nd, Emilio F. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview. Jason Roland : When and how did you become interested in the Left generally?
How did you come to identify with Marxist-Humanism? How do you understand the stakes of your intellectual output? Andrew Kliman : I became interested in the Left at around twelve years old. It was , a year of tremendous ferment and revolt.
My parents were liberals; I was not a red diaper baby. I just automatically and naturally identified with the Left. I became a Marxist in my mid-twenties. This was the mids.
I had been in the economics program, which was Marxist-tinged, at the New School for Social Research. Marxist-Humanism was substantially different from what I had come to know as Marxism, and I took it seriously.
The other stuff was, well, other stuff, but it was not the Marxism of Marx. It was almost universally accepted that his value theory was internally inconsistent and fatally flawed for logical reasons.
I discovered this really is not true. There is a way to interpret it that is plausible and logically consistent. That is the thrust of so much of what I was working on. Obviously, that also involves interpretation, but I am arguing for first-hand interpretation rather than second-hand.
Then, when the Great Recession erupted, it became clear to me that there were flaws in the standard Left narrative about what had caused this crisis. One involved the very prominent claim that neoliberalism had been a great success from the early s. But I started looking at the data. Basically, as I understand it, the rate of profit of corporations in the United States never recovered in this period of so-called neoliberal revival.
This brings with it a whole set of issues involving how neoliberalism decimated the working class in this country, and I found out that is not really true either. Most recently, in the middle of , I became extremely concerned about the prospect of a Trump presidency. He dealt with something very similar, which is the attitude of many English workers towards Irish immigrant workers.
What about Adam Smith and Rousseau, for example? How do they play into your understanding of Marx? AK : I know less about this than I probably should. I think all that stuff is important, but one can overdo it. Lenin wrote something that has been taken to mean that, but I do not think he meant it quite literally. There is an infinite regress when you start down that road. What do you need to understand, all of Hegel? All of Kant? Plato and Aristotle, right?
And to understand them, do you need the Pre-Socratics? You cannot do everything at once, and there is not some ultimate turtle at the end of this that lets you begin there and then move forward. The more you know of that stuff the better, but there are ways of grappling with writers while having something less than the complete background context.
EF : What is the crisis of capitalism as you view it today? How is it similar or different from the crisis that motivated you to become involved in the left?
AK : What motivated me to become involved in the left was not a crisis as such; certainly not an economic crisis. The year was the height of the postwar boom. What motivated me to become part of the left was the global upsurge of people striving for freedom. You had the black liberation movement, you had the anti-war movement, and you had all kinds of things going on.
But I would not call it a crisis of capitalism necessarily. What do you mean here by crisis of capitalism? JR : Specifically, we are talking about the main contradictions of capital. Does capitalism have a continuity with the crisis that Marx was examining, or are the circumstances different?
Crisis meant basically a rupture of exchange relations. All of a sudden stuff does not sell, debts are not being repaid, etc. That is what crisis meant to him, which might lead to an economic downturn or something like that. He would talk about capitalist crisis. In other words, this is how capitalism works. At moments there were ruptures and there were crises, but I do not think he ever necessarily thought of a crisis of capitalism. I do not think it is in any way close to immediate danger right now.
I think that within capitalist societies, the immediate crisis we have is the threat to liberal democracy; above all in the United States where we have a very serious threat of authoritarianism. Why do you think there is this accommodation, and how has the Left failed to address Trump? AK : Definitely there is a soft-on-Trump Left. There are many manifestations of that. And when I say driven out of the Left, I have to clarify that.
The point is that the Left traditionally, the Left that I am a part of, is in favor of human freedom. It is a Left that is fighting for human emancipation. And there is absolutely nothing about Trump that is at all compatible with that.
What is at issue really is the Left turning into its opposite. Are we going to be able to claim and in some cases, reclaim the emancipatory essence of the Left?
Those of us who are concerned about human freedom have to stand firm on this question and not bow to anything that is diametrically opposed, just because Trump has some so-called white working-class support or because Hillary Clinton is also a bourgeois politician. The Left has to stand for the freedom and dignity of every human being without regard to race, gender, and so forth. Why is there accommodation of Trump on the Left?
First of all, there is a focus on opposing neoliberalism as the main enemy rather than capitalism. Second, many leftists are very interested in building their own organizations or in furthering what they call their counter-hegemonic projects, which is basically a fancy way of saying a drive for political power. So when one says that Trumpism is a real danger, not normal, what becomes of these counter-hegemonic projects?
They become secondary to fighting the immediate and severe threat of Trumpism, and many of these leftist political organizations do not want that. Third, you have false equivalences —— a lot of people saying during the election that Trump is no good, but neither is Clinton. Just make things worse because that is somehow going to make things better in the long run. The people whose main goal is to weaken the power of the U. AK : What you are referencing are different movements. But what is common to these movements is that, while they are focused on their particular issue, they also see that Trumpism is an immediate threat to getting what they want.
That unites all these particulars. I find worrisome the people who want to get rid of Trump while ignoring the broader ideology behind him.
It is incredibly risky. One can do what it takes in the voting booth to try to defeat Trumpism, but there is a lot more that needs to be done outside those three minutes when you vote. Why are we living in fear that our synagogues are going to be shot up?
These people are walking around like kings of the universe. There are many ways in which we can fight Trumpism. The impetus in the battle against Trumpism is not coming from the Democrats, but from the Resistance that is putting pressure on them.
That pressure has to continue. But we also have to keep working in other ways besides the electoral ways. We cannot trust in the electoral route because Trump might win, and what do we do then? Or he could lose narrowly but still win by taking it to the Supreme Court. Or lose big but incite his followers to revolt. It is just incredibly risky to give up all of the resources and the mass appeal that the Resistance has, and the mass activity.
How would you relate your call to oppose Trump to the current attempts by socialists at dealing with capitalism more broadly? AK : On relating calls to oppose Trump with the current attempts to overcome capitalism and move towards socialism, I have a very clear opinion: there will be no socialism in the U.
Trumpism is a threat to the continued existence of socialist organizations and individuals, their ability to operate freely, and maybe even our lives. There will be no forward movement until we smash Trumpism.
The first issue is to get rid of Trump and the broader Trumpist tendencies in society. You talk of opposition to Trump being funneled through other things, but I do not think that is actually the case.
Protest and accommodation: An interview with Andrew Kliman
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