AUTOPSY OF THE LEFT II



Address by Henry Flynt.

Bluestockings Books, New York

February 2012

Autopsy of the Left, II
delivered 9 February 1012
© Henry A. Flynt, Jr.
last changes 12 March 2012

A.
1. The overhanging word ‘communism’
a. The word ‘communism’ has more than one legitimate
meaning.

a.i. The communist idea.
For our purposes, the idea began in the French Revolution
as a brilliant critique of the Rights of Man. The Rights
of Man can be summed up in one word: citizenship.
Citizenship without a wealth endowment: the only right you
have is the right to die immediately.
The communist idea was crystallized (reactively, while
lambasting capitalism) by Marx in the 1844 Manuscripts and
in the German Ideology, Vol. I, I (1846). Unless somebody
can tell me differently, these were the first presentable
formulations of the idea. (One of the many, many problems
is that Marx’s descriptions of communism look very much
like anarchism.)

a.ii. The world Communist system of the twentieth century.
As we all know, it perpetrated a series of “human rights
violations” and “inter-Communist” wars which are only
now being exposed in full. After some seven decades, the
system collapsed or evaporated. Arguably, this system

was the greatest occurrence in world history—but what it
delivered was a debacle.

a.iii. A long-distance “conversation” among a miniscule
number of people who want to give substance to the
promises of the 1844 Manuscripts and the German Ideology.
The Florida futurist Jacque Fresco calls for the creation of
a new planet. He has numerous publications. He presents
himself as a technocrat who does not dirty his hands with
politics.
Beyond Fresco, there was Freeman Dyson, with his Dyson
sphere as the image of a higher civilization. My question to
Dyson: what economic system do they have in the sphere?
I reluctantly mention Joseph Seymour, the only one in the
sectarian Left who “recently” (2011) published an article on
how socialism will work. (According to him, it will repeat
Soviet economic history like a tape recording.)
These are the only public contributors to the conversation.
I am the only one who, on Vimeo and on my web site,
furnishes substantial statements directly on topic. Moreover,
I am the only one who has searched out the others and
collated what they say. I notice them—but they do not
notice me. Obviously, their motives are profoundly different
from mine. The question is whether what we have now, so-
called market democracy, is “the last social system.” Either
the other contributors don’t care, or else (Seymour) they
repeat the anachronistic line of a failed regime. (A disgraced
regime, to anyone who knows what every professional
historian knows.)

b.
Why do I want the word ‘communism’ for the latter-day
conversation about a neo-Marxist society of the future, when
it will remind most people of the failed murderous system?
In the first place, more than half of the few contributors I
recognize do not use the word ‘communism’ and even reject
it for precisely the reason given.
We know why Seymour doesn’t reject the
word ‘communism’: his tiny organization is a relic of the
failed regime.
So why haven’t I rejected the word?

b.i. We have to say something about morality, anticipating
what I will say about moral discourse in (F) below. Public
discourse pressures people to put a plus or a minus in front
of every historical chapter, to think of every historical chapter
as good or evil. But on the contrary, there are very few
historical chapters on which there is a consensus on their
valence. In most historical chapters, what people call good
and what people call evil are interwoven.
My first example: ancient Egypt. In fact, you can tell exactly
who a person is by whether he or she only says good or only
says bad about ancient Egypt.
Typically, history does not deliver us “clean (unblemished)
initiatives.”
We have to record the “human rights violations” of the world
Communist system, along with much other evidence, in
order to carry out the mission Marx assigned of judging what
social formation this system was. I have to know in order
to judge who I was shoulder-to-shoulder with in the 1960s.

This is not the sort of exercise in “gotcha indignation” which
we now get from the Left against the U.S., for example.

b.ii. I still use the word ‘communism’ because without Marx
and his successors and their rocky historical experience
the idea would not be available for study at all. We would
have no historical experience regarding “the transition”—
no historical experience on what the consequences of
nationalizing the means of production are.
Even Fresco, who presents himself as a pure futurist and
technocrat, probably looks back over his shoulder at Marx.
I still use the word ‘communism’ because the world
Communist system was way out in front on many causes
which are now sacrosanct, such as the Greek Resistance
and the Civil Rights movement and majority rule in South
Africa. In fact, it is quite typical for publicists to rhapsodize
about this or that political crusade without telling you that
Communists were the vanguard or the motive force of
the crusade. It is not just the “bourgeois” media who hide
Communists. Black power publicists hide Communists,
celebrating the global publicity around the Scottsboro boys
without telling you that that publicity was orchestrated by the
Comintern’s culture-Bolsheviks headquartered in Germany.
My comrades in the movement in the 1960s were sincere
and lived sacrificial lives. If they miscalculated, which
they did, it is because they did not have the stature to see
above the world Communist system and the Third-World
brushfire. What is more, they wanted to believe, exactly
as Marx did, that participating in the immediate struggles
(oppositionalisms of the moment) would morph straightaway

into utopia.
I have reservations about associating myself with this past.
At the same time, I simply cannot erase the steps of the
ladder on which I have climbed to my present views.

2. Lamenting the poor?—a hypothetical future society
One thing that you usually find with the Left is a lament of
the plight of the poor.
But wait!
What do you think of this hypothesis of a society?
° There are no nations. The proposal cannot work as
common ownership inside a local boundary.
° There is no standing army. See below.
° Everyone is afforded an “average” standard of living
without conditions. Or a comfortable standard of living,
if you wish. (Give or take criminal justice; see below.)
[[The universalization of pauperism could not be the goal.
Although in reality that is sometimes the result of the
world Communist system. Right now in North Korea and
Zimbabwe.]] ° The means of production are collectively or publicly
owned—which anticipates the question of who controls
the state. See below. But not only this. There aren’t
any private hoards at all. Nobody owns a warehouse of
refrigerators that can be used as a social bargaining chip.
° So, there is no market in goods.
° There are no wealth hoards to be willed to biological
children.
° Value is not identical to money. There isn’t any money.

° People’s contribution to society is not quantified for
the purpose of delivering them a supposed equivalent in
consumer goods.
° People do necessary jobs and expert jobs without being
threatened with loss of consumption as a penalty and
without being incentivized with luxury consumption.
° There aren’t any luxury status symbols. People fraternize
who differ markedly in talent and the demands they place on
themselves. (Psychiatrists and elevator repairmen, to take
examples from the world of today.)
° Work is reconstituted with the aim of abolishing the menial
caste, shaping people as alert and responsible, and freeing
more time for discretionary projects. Or—reducing the
necessity for specialized lives.
° How is the economy coordinated? That is a deep
question to be addressed later. But the economic plan or
schedule is assembled entirely in qualitatively specific terms.
That means that each product or raw material retains its
qualitative individuality.
As for how the means of consumption get to individual
consumers, that has to be addressed in a full-length
treatment and I hope to say more about it later.
° The central economic schedule concerns the provision of
that “average” standard of living. An unspecified amount of
human activity is discretionary and, and, again, qualitatively
individual.
° There is assuredly a state and a police force, if we may
call it that. Abolition of the state (anarchism) was already
discredited in the Spanish Civil War. The final nail was
driven in the coffin by the explosion of the first atomic

bomb. (The communists should never have claimed that
communism would converge with anarchism “after the class-
specific dictatorship.”)
What the state will not be. It will not be a class dictatorship
of great private property-owners.
What will the state be? That is an open question and we can
only mark out a path for the question, so to speak. Again,
it needs a full-length treatment; I hope to be able to return
to it. Terminology: the level of the state with a world-wide
perspective will be called the central authority.

My point? The above is a science fiction story. Like any
science fiction, it may become a reality or it may not. It could
prove impossible—although I would make a strong case that
it is not impossible.
(The way the Left has been going, it is utterly impossible.)

But possible or impossible, if you don’t prefer the foregoing,
then you are not entitled to lament for the poor.
If you are a “have,” then your lament for the poor is a brief
for charity. Charity is as old as civilization. If the sociology
that underlies charity is our best analysis, then modernity
need never have happened!
If you are a “have-not,” and you don’t prefer the foregoing,
then what you want is a slice of the economic pie—the
existing pie—for yourself. You simply want somebody to
give you a winning lottery ticket.
Many simply want the symbolism of seeing one from their
group wearing the $25,000 watch and the $5,000 shoes. Or
one from their group enjoying a Swiss bank account. They

love the fat-cat life—their complaint is basically that not
enough of them get to live it.

As far as I am able to diagnose today’s “protests,” they are
so primitive that they are unworthy of modernity. They have
no perspective whatever of a different society. The Greeks
as of early 2012 are rioting because their credit card has
been canceled. After a while, they will resign themselves,
emigrate, or whatever.

We ought to have learned to ask what is the social
formation, the mode of production. We ought to have
learned to ask what are the behavioral rules of the mode of
production in which we live. We ought to have learned to
ask who controls the state.
Today’s “protests” know nothing of this level. What do they
want? They want exactly the same society we have now,
but they want you to give them a winning lottery ticket. They
want the Readers Digest sweepstakes check to come to
their door.
They want a seat at the high table. The unstated implication:
there is nothing wrong with the high table.
What most of the people who are classified as “Left” by
WBAI are saying: “You can have your Goldman Sachs if
you give me a limo and a mansion. I don’t know what they
do to get the money in the first place and I don’t want to
know.”
I can’t give you a magic formula equivalent to a winning
lottery ticket. That is not what this is about.

In addition. If you don’t prefer this science fiction story, then
you are not entitled to lament the plunder of Africa. Because
the plunder of Africa will surely continue as long as the
present mode of production prevails. “Poverty socialism”
has already been tried many times in Africa, with disastrous
results. The capitalist exploitation of Africa does not only
come from the West.
I’m saying that only the science fiction story would offer
Africa a way to go somewhere other than where it is in fact
going.

B. “All we need to do to solve the problem is to go back and
read Marx all over again from page 1, and keep doing it over
and over again.”

Reply:
Marx, from 1850.
The Bolshevik departures from Marx.
“the East” — “the Third World.” approximately. semi-feudal
or colonial or semi-colonial elites so desperate to modernize
that they embrace totalitarian (and that means terroristic)
primitive accumulation.
the Soviet “higher civilization” claim of 1931
Sputnik and Gagarin
from “the East” to RAM in Philadelphia in 1963.
Right up to identity politics, single-issue politics,
marginalized groups, others, victims.

C. What was the Soviet Union? Marx had a staircase
philosophy of history; it demands that this question be
answered.
What was the Soviet regime’s historic mission—did it have
one?
What economic formation was it?

D. What defines capitalism as a system?
Marx’s answer, that it is private ownership of the means of
production, failed.
The answer has to be rethought,
both the externals and the internals.
Wage labor and the commodity.
Is capitalism about manufacturing or finance? The answer
swung back and forth over two hundred years. Marx opted
for manufacturing capital, for reason that can be explained
at great length. We can now answer it categorically and
definitively. It is finance. Thus, the U.S. in particular is a
class dictatorship of financial magnates. I say ‘in particular’
because manufacturing has left the U.S.
Private ownership is a privilege. This privilege, private
ownership of the means of production, does not define
capitalism. However, it is the equilibrium of capitalism. It
is normative—just as dark hair is normative for the human
species.
An electoral political culture is possible for capitalism but not
necessary.
That capitalism is organized into nations has always been

an instability. Nations are like the Parallel Postulate of
bourgeois justice. They are presupposed absolutely but they
have no justification.
“Only nations can conduct wars.” “Capitalists can keep their
property only if they are hosted by nations which can go to
war for them.”
So: approximately, the state takes on certain functions
which the private owners do not want for themselves. But in
fact the boundary between private and state is moving all the
time.

E. We need to become far more technical about what
defines capitalism.

Ownership and exchange (in conditions of scarcity) pave the
way for capitalism. They are much older and more generic
than wage work and what is legally called alienability.

1. The behavioral rules of capitalism as known to academic
economists.
unrestrained private enterprise
Axiom of Pure Selfishness
Axiom of Pure Greed
Steal the other guy’s lunch.
the zero trade vector (your right to die immediately)
Kenneth Arrow called this the hard-boiled school.

2. The claimed foundation of profit-maximization in physical
nature.

Samuelson Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
The Soviet dissident physicist Sakharov.

equilibrium is market-clearing price
conservation is no free lunch
the action principle is maximization of profit (or what is the
same thing to an economist, minimization of cost)

The claim that capitalism is science in economics. The
Scientific American article on the Jeffrey Sachs big bang in
Poland.

F. How moral discourse weaves in and out of the Left.
Lotta of the RCP on the Chinese famine.
What was the Soviet attitude on medical disability? If
treating and maintaining disabled people meant expenditure
of resources with no work as recompense, did the Soviet
Union discard such people?

H. The punch line of these “Autopsies.” How the Left took
the incredible course that it did: starting with the 1844
Manuscripts, weaving through the rise and fall of the world
Communist system, and ending with Ahmadinejad and
the Draper Master’s Program at NYU as acceptable and
adequate substitutes for a classless, moneyless higher
civilization.
Putting on your lipstick and fingernail polish and high heels
and going to the transvestite nightclub has been inserted into

the slot that used to be reserved for communism. It is “the
liberation.”
Wherein for most of the splinter groups, the call for socialism
is just a formula at the end of some article.

Marx’s series of vast, crackpot miscalculations.
1. merely nationalize the means of production, and the
society will roll to socialism like a stone rolling downhill.
2. communism is not much more than gaslight-era
syndicalism. In fact Communism will have a harsh state.
but Marx wanted that state to be under strict majoritarian
control. The Civil War in France. No proof that it could
work.
3. The final debacle. Marx believed that capitalism was
at the end of its rope by 1848 or 1850. And later, that the
formation of what we call corporations was a prototype of
communism. (Engels, especially, trumpeted this.) Thus,
every eruption of social oppositionalism, every immediate
struggle, pushed us straightaway to communism. You could
throw yourself into the immediate struggle and be sure that
you were speeding us toward communism by doing so. The
immediate struggle immediately morphs into communism.
Trotsky’s ill-named Theory of the Permanent Revolution
compounded that. The campaign of the elite in a backward
country to modernize went over to communism immediately.
The formal name of all of this is opportunism. But if every
Communist for two hundred years is an opportunist, then it is
not an error, but a sociological reality.
Whether or not you throw yourself into the struggle of the
day, or into oppositionalism, does not matter to me—but it

does not bring us one millimeter nearer to the vision of the
1844 Manuscripts and the German Ideology. It has nothing
to do with a higher civilization.
In other words, Marx assumed that social insurgency or
oppositionalism should be glorified and supported. What he
did not dream was that oppositionalism would shift and shift
and shift without ever approaching the vision of the 1844
Manuscripts and the German Ideology. As to the Asians in
particular, they used Marx as a mask for terroristic primitive
accumulation (modernization strategies). Only in China
and Vietnam and Mongolia did it “work.” (And the Chinese
cannot erase the desire of the Tibetans and Muslim Turkics
for independence. People still run away from Paradise, not
toward it.)
Oppositionalism has arrived at ecology and homosexuals.
Then, beyond homosexuals, it showcases transvestites.
I’m not trying to be funny. A certain upper bohemia has
welcomed the notion that the mission Marx assigned them
can be fulfilled by lionizing impertinent minorities. The
Draper Master’s program at NYU. Transvestites as the
revolutionary protagonist or subject, as the bearers of higher
civilization.

J. Resuming with communism as a speculation about a
post-capitalist mode of production.

See Autopsy of the Left, I.

° There are no nations. The hypothesized society cannot work as common ownership inside a
local boundary.
° There is no standing army. See below.
° Everyone is afforded an “average” standard of living without conditions. Or a comfortable
standard of living, if you wish. (Give or take criminal justice; see below.)
° The means of production are collectively or publicly owned—which anticipates the question
of who controls the state. See below. But not only this. There aren’t any private hoards at all.
Nobody owns a warehouse of refrigerators that can be used as a social bargaining chip.
° So, there is no market in goods.
° There are no wealth hoards to be willed to biological children.
A. The word ‘communism’ has more than one legitimate meaning.

B. “All we need to do to solve the problem is to go back and read Marx all over again from page
1, and keep doing it over and over again.”

C. What was the Soviet Union? Marx had a staircase philosophy of history; it demands that this
question be answered.

D. What defines capitalism as a system?

E. We need to become far more technical about what defines capitalism.

F. How moral discourse weaves in and out of the Left.

H. The punch line of these “Autopsies.” How the Left took the incredible course that it did:
starting with the 1844 Manuscripts, weaving through the rise and fall of the world Communist
system, and ending with Ahmadinejad and the Draper Master’s Program at NYU as acceptable
and adequate substitutes for a classless, moneyless higher civilization.

J. Resuming with communism as a speculation about a post-capitalist mode of production.

HF 2/17/12

° Value is not identical to money. There isn’t any money.
° People’s contribution to society is not quantified for the purpose of delivering them a supposed
equivalent in consumer goods.
° People do necessary jobs and expert jobs without being threatened with loss of consumption as
a penalty and without being incentivized with luxury consumption.
° There aren’t any luxury status symbols. People fraternize as comrades who differ markedly in
talent and the demands they place on themselves. (Psychiatrists and elevator repairmen, to take
examples from the world of today.)
° Work is reconstituted with the aim of abolishing the menial caste, shaping people as alert and
responsible, and freeing more time for discretionary projects. Or—reducing the necessity for
specialized lives.
° How is the economy coordinated? That is a deep question to be addressed later. But the
economic plan or schedule is assembled entirely in qualitatively specific terms. That means that
each product or raw material retains its qualitative individuality.
As for how the means of consumption get to individual consumers, that has to be addressed in a
full-length treatment and I hope to say more about it later.
° The central economic schedule concerns the provision of that “average” standard of living. An
unspecified amount of human activity is discretionary and, and, again, qualitatively individual.
° There is assuredly a state and a police force, if we may call it that. Abolition of the state
(anarchism) was already discredited in the Spanish Civil War. The final nail was driven in the
coffin by the explosion of the first atomic bomb. (The communists should never have claimed
that communism would converge with anarchism “after the class-specific dictatorship.”)
What the state will not be. It will not be a class dictatorship of great private property-owners.
What will the state be? That is an open question and we can only mark out a path for the
question, so to speak. Again, it needs a full-length treatment; I hope to be able to return to it.
Terminology: the level of the state with a world-wide perspective will be called the central
authority.

My point? The above is a science fiction story. Like any science fiction, it may become a reality
or it may not. It could prove impossible—although I would make a strong case that it is not
impossible.
(The way the Left has been going, it is utterly impossible.)

HF 2/17/12

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