[OPE-L:7160] Re: Marx on solving human problems

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon May 13 2002 - 15:51:54 EDT

Re Jurriaan's [7l55]:

>  You wrote: "We can't accept Marx's maxim that mankind (sic) never sets
>  itself problems that it can't solve". I don't see why not. Note that Marx
>  uses a double negative. He is not trying to play the optimist  He is
>  that problems and solutions develop hand in hand, but that
>  conditions need to mature before they can be correctly grasped in
>  The pertinent point is that he says "cannot solve" and not "will not
>  solve". Historical development presents humanity with certain problems of
>  their own making, which in principle are solvable once they are
>  for what they truly are (perhaps with a time-lag, given the normal
>  conservatism of social consciousness).

Let's discuss this "time lag" more.  Of course one can identify  solutions
to nuclear destruction,  terracide, etc. _beforehand_.   Yet,  afterwards
humankind (if there is still humankind) might very well have a problem that
it _can't_ solve.

Consider e.g. nuclear destruction (a social disaster rather than a natural
disaster alone).   After the missiles and bombs drop and the nuclear clouds
clear,  humankind (if there is still humankind) no longer has the same
forces of production with which it can attempt to solve problems.  Indeed,
one would expect reverse  technical change and a declining reproduction
of capital.  What, if  anything, can be done to "solve"  the problem at this
point?  Note that  communism -- as understood by Marx and the scientific
socialists --  would no longer be on the agenda -- unless one thinks that it
would be possible to implement  "primitive communism"  or a Utopian
socialist solution.

Nor is this the only possibility.  Consider the depletion of the ozone
layer,  acid rain, the Greenhouse effect,  nuclear pollution, etc..  All of
these  negative consequences ("natural disasters") to the environment are
caused by social forces (they are the consequence of human actions.)
More specifically, they are caused by capital.   We can identify "solutions"
to these problems now, but  can we assume that if there are solutions today
that there will continue to be solutions in the future?  I think not.  The
fallacy in believing that we will always be able to come up with solutions
to potential environmental problems is based on the illusion -- the
pretension --  of humankind that we really understand the complexity of
nature.  We  do not.   Indeed, the "solutions" that we identify today _even
if implemented_  can not be guaranteed to work in the manner anticipated
because of the complexity of the subject matter (nature) and our very
incomplete grasp of  those forces.

Another (very real) possibility:  biological warfare.  Before there is
biological warfare, the solutions are very easy to determine.  What about
afterwards?  Can we assume that those who develop biological weapons
also have the  knowledge to develop an effective way of containing the
damage?  I think not.  For example, viruses genetically developed in the
laboratory can  adapt and evolve in unanticipated directions (there are
some who argue  that this was the genesis of the HIV virus.) Then what?
At some point, it may indeed be that there are no "solutions" to the
problem.  Checkmate. End of game.

Recall the  line that I cited in my last post:  "sooner than lose the things
he  owns  he will destroy the world" (from the poem "Know they enemy" by
Christopher Logue.)   Because we can not assume that capital is entirely
rational we can not assume that capital as it makes its departure from
history will not take the rest of us with them.  Logue's solution: "SMASH
CAPITAL NOW"  is a solution up until the point when or if  capital
implements its own "solution".   Afterwards,  "we" might not be around
to solve the problems -- although if all life has ended then so has the
problem  -- the negation of the negation (or would it be the negation of
the affirmation? ... or  would it be the negation of the subject and the
object? ... or just the "end of history"?).

In solidarity, Jerry

PS re [7l59]:  Thanks for the exact Marx quote which I imprecisely
paraphrased.  However, the actual quote is even more worrisome,
especially Marx's reference to "inevitability".  This strikes me as a
deep-seated teleological belief common among progressives in Marx's
era (and commonly believed in until past the mid-point of the XX
Century).  At the onset of the XXI Century, such beliefs can not be
sustained with confidence: only death is inevitable:

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