By Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. Written in June 2017
What have centuries of capitalism and imperialism done to human nature and mass psychology? Why is there so little discussion on this and associated problems of alienation, reification, and dehumanization, which are complex and multidimensional phenomena, requiring great deal of research and thought? Are leftists, Marxists, and working class immune to these? Marx frequently commented passionately and eloquently on these issues. He and some insightful Marxists that followed him, like Che Guevara, put great emphasis on the creation of a New Man, as one of the most important goals of the socialist revolution and building of a socialist and communist society, and considered the human nature, developed under capitalism, to be dehumanized and subhuman.
Related to all that is the question of the importance of the Subjective Factor, in relation to the Objective Factor. As is self-evident, the objective conditions in the developed capitalist countries have been ripe for a long time for transition to socialism. It is the flaws and deformations of the subjective conditions and mass psychology that have prevented that from happening. Hence, in these countries, the Subjective Factor has become much more important than in earlier times. And yet, so little attention is being paid to its diagnoses, ills, flaws, and deformations. The work of relatively very few in this area is being ignored, and overwhelming majority of leftists and Marxists is, exclusively and repetitiously, discussing topics that are related to the Objective Factor, and reproducing standard and conventional statements on them, or news items, from various sources, without any significant genuine creativity or originality.
In relation to academia in the Western and other capitalist countries, one can hardly overemphasize the sheeple nature of overwhelming majority of the pet academics, who are, to variable degrees, financial beneficiaries of and enslaved to the politico-economic powers of capitalism and imperialism. They are, overtly or covertly, apologists or advocates of capitalism and imperialism. Relatively few, who dissent from the mainstream and proclaim themselves to be socialists or even Marxists, end up doing more harm than good to the theories and knowledge of Marxism, Leninism, Socialism, Communism, and Revolution, by phony and distorted “creativity”, eclecticism, psychologism, academic prestige-mongering, and excessive subjectivism. Marxism would be incomparably better off without such “creativity” (1). Unfortunately, overwhelming majority of students, lacking any knowledge, information, or critical research of their own, are easily mislead and brainwashed by the above-mentioned types of academics. Authentic, real, and dedicated socialist and Marxist academics are very rare in the academia, as, with very few exceptions, ones who get there somehow and maintain their integrity, get tossed out, on one phony pretext or the other. Also, the current generation of students, with relatively few exceptions, is, more than anything else, career-and-money-oriented. They look up to the successful academics or other successful professionals, within the system, and hope to become like them. Real political, philosophical, and spiritual truths and integrity are of no or secondary or phony importance to them. They have no passions or ambitions for their discovery or for identifications of the real nature and causes of innumerable evils, injustices, inequalities, and monstrosities of their system or society. Almost all their intellectual and other energies are devoted to career-building and money-making, within the system.. Such mass psychology of the current generation of students is very different than that of the students of 1960s, who were not only seeking such truths, but organizing into large movements and taking actions for changing the system and society, instead of fitting into those.
Almost all the contemporary works of Marxists and Marxist-Leninists are predominantly economistic, even when these include the discussions of deprivations and sufferings of the victims of capitalism and imperialism. These exclude any mentions, much less analyses, of the predatory and parasitic human natures of the capitalists and imperialists, or those of their victims- who also develop capitalist mass psychology and behavior, even without having any capital, and are also dehumanized, alienated, and reified, within the Advanced Capitalist-Imperialist Technological Societies (ACITS), – or of the nature, causes and origins of such effects on the human natures of human parasites and their victims.
Under these conditions, it can hardly be overemphasized that, in addition to the economic basis, superstructure, productive forces, and relations of production, Marxism and dialectical materialism also include their effects on human nature, and the possibility of transformation of capitalist and imperialist forms of human nature, under capitalism and imperialism, into socialist and communist forms of human nature, under socialism and communism. It is self-evidently most important to identify and analyze the various specific characteristics, properties, and features of human nature, under capitalism and imperialism, as well as under socialism and communism, and their essences, where these originate and become mass produced.
Certainly new great problems have developed, both in the Objective and Subjective Dimensions of ACITS as well as some problems that were there and developing for a long time, without being identified, or inadequately diagnosed and discussed. With very few exceptions (For example, 2, 3, 4, 5), these remain unresearched and undiscussed. Why?
Also, positivistic empirical writings dominate the leftist and Marxist political scene. Theoretical and dialectical writings are very rare. Again, Why?
Even though, conventional Marxist theory can explain and give accurate meanings to great variety of empirical facts, especially of the objective nature, it is inadequate to explain or give meanings to some of the most important contemporary subjective phenomena and problems. Like every other theory, it needs development and renewal in that area, especially in view of the above-mentioned new, unidentified, or inadequately identified problems and phenomena. The last great renewal and development of Marxist theory was done by Lenin, around 100 years ago, especially with the addition of the theory of imperialism to it. Even though, Gramsci had emphasized the dialectical importance of Superstructure, in its interaction with the Economic Basis, his investigations also remained very inadequate, in relation to the Subjective Factor. Although there are some good publications on alienation, these have been mostly written in heavy philosophical terminologies and frameworks, which can be quite confusing and hard to interpret.
Writings of the founders of Marxism and Leninism are vast, including on political economy, philosophy, sociology, and current affairs of their times. That vastness was multiplied subsequently by innumerable Marxists, majority of them updating empirical information and data in various countries. It is impossible to read all that vast literature individually. Teams of Soviet writers had attempted to review as much of that as they could, and written excellent abbreviated interpretations of them, making it possible to study and review all that vast literature in that form, in addition to the selected original works.
Far too many Marxists stultify themselves, as well as Marxism, by reading a small portion of that vast literature and engaging in citing quotations, phrase-mongering, and reproducing out-of-context passages, in relation to various issues, problems, and policies, with little or no creativity or originality. That is why Marx had exclaimed, on one occasion like that, “I am not a Marxist”. Marxism is not a Bible or Quran, fixed permanently for all times. It was envisioned to be a dialectically developing science and philosophy, by its founders, constantly renewing, enriching, developing, and integrating new information, knowledge, and insights. It is obvious that most people- especially in a celebrity-worshipping mass culture, like that of the US- do not have the ability for genuine creativity in a theory, like Marxist-Leninist theory, which involves complex philosophical and politico-economic matters, or for accurate applications of dialectics and dialectical materialism. Marxism-Leninist theory, dialectics, and dialectical materialism are much better off without the possible flawed “creativity” of overwhelming majority of people. Even dogmatism is better than the unintended or deliberate distortions and perversions in these areas. However, the minds of such people, in general, are also closed to the real and genuine creativity, renewal, and development, in these areas, by some rare individuals, who have such abilities. To distinguish the genuine creativity from flawed creativity requires in-depth and broad knowledge and accurate insights in these areas.
In capitalist societies, there are variable types and degrees of contradictions between ideology and psychology of Marxists and other leftists. Even though, both dominant mass ideology and mass psychology originate in the political economy and culture, individuals and groups can acquire and replace the former with a different ideology, through their class positions in society, living and working conditions, and information, knowledge, and insights gained through studies of enormous Marxist and leftist literature. However, acquiring a different psychology is incomparably more difficult, even though possible to certain extent. This is because Marxists and other leftists, like everyone else, live and function within the capitalist political economy, its various institutions, and relations of production, distribution, and exchange, which condition and create their mass psychology and behavior, albeit with individual, group, and class variations. Within the capitalist political economy, it is impossible for individuals, groups, or classes to have socialist or communist relations of production, distribution, or exchange, or to have socialist or communist mass psychology or behavior. For example, Marxists may call each other comrades in such societies, but if one of them owns a house and the other rents it, the renter has to pay the rent to the owner; otherwise he/she will face eviction, especially if the owner needs the rent for living expenses. The relation between two comrades is reified in such a scenario, leading to the inhumanity of eviction , regardless of the financial and other difficulties of the renter, just like the relation between non-Marxist owners and renters.
Even after the socialist revolutions, the contradictions and conflicts between ideology and psychology are reduced gradually. Their elimination may become possible at the communist stage of development of the socialist societies.
There is a great need for the development of an interdisciplinary Marxist theory on the Subjective Dimension of the contemporary social reality in the ACITS. Relatively very recent research information and discoveries in biological sciences, and especially in epigenetics, are of great importance in developing such an interdisciplinary theory. In fact, as I have background in many areas of social sciences, as well as biological sciences, genetics, and epigenetics, I have developed such a theory, the only one developed thus far, which has been mostly neglected, due to various types of biases, prejudices, stultifications, and ignorance (2, 3, 4, 5).
Will Westerners ever confront themselves and their historically and politico-economically developed dehumanizations, inhumanizations, alienation, and reification? Will they ever see themselves in the historical mirror? Highly unlikely. They have gone too far in capitalist and imperialist materialism, technocracy, and worship of capital, money, and things. Dehumanizations, inhumanizations, alienation, and reification have become normal- selective and socially accepted forms of which are rewarded, some rewarded with the highest political and corporate positions- and not perceived as such. Only those forms of these that are illegal, mostly on the personal and interpersonal levels are punished. Within the cultures and mass psychologies of capitalism and imperialism, these will continue to multiply in ever-increasing forms, and will also continue to be exported to rest of the world.
1. Rahman, F. https://imperialismandthethirdworld.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/brief-partial-and-necessary-critical-reviews-of-some-of-the-stars-of-american-left-michael-hardt-antonio-negri-richard-wolff-stephen-resnick-noam-chomsky-and-chris-hedges-by-fazal-rahman-phd/
2. Rahman, F. https://imperialismandthethirdworld.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/biosocial-and-epigenetic-relativity-of-human-nature-relative-to-political-economy-technology-and-culture-by-fazal-rahman-phd/
3. Rahman, F. https://imperialismandthethirdworld.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/multidimensional-and-complex-nature-and-effects-of-imperialism-on-democracy-society-nature-and-human-nature-updated-by-fazal-rahman-phd/
4. Rahman, F. https://imperialismandthethirdworld.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/dialectics-of-the-subjective-and-objective-in-the-western-capitalist-technocratic-civilization-development-of-the-greatest-and-most-sinister-alienation-in-history-by-fazal-rahman-phd/
5. Rahman, F. https://imperialismandthethirdworld.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/regulation-of-political-electoral-and-other-behaviors-of-americans-by-the-devil-god-of-capital-hypothesis-of-its-epigenetic-and-mass-psychological-role-inside-the-mass-mental-apparatus-by-fazal-rahman/