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Entre Chien et Loup
Using the lens of Marxism to distinguish “between dog and wolf” in the dusk of American power.
Entre chien et loup (between dog and wolf) is an ancient and evocative French phrase with many layers of meaning. It can simply express the ambiguity between friend and enemy, and how sometimes, particularly in times of transition when vision is dim, recognizing the difference can be challenging. The phrase can refer to dusk, the time between dog (day) and wolf (evening). This is a phrase popular along sheep herders in France. From the point of view of the sheep, they are stuck between the sheepdogs and the wolves. At the shepherd’s direction, the sheepdogs herd the sheep towards exploitation while at the same time both protecting them and denying them freedom. In contrast the wolves want to free the sheep from their bonds of domestication and then make a meal out of them as they readapt to natural conditions. The working class in America finds itself in a similar situation. Trump, Bernie Sanders, Marxism, “Woke” Tech: in the dim of late-stage capitalism, how is one to tell the protective yet exploitive dogs from the liberating yet ravenous wolves?
Malcolm X used a similar analogy to help his followers make a similar distinction between supporting the white liberal or conservative political parties:
Being friendly, and being a friend, are two different things. There are many whites who act friendly towards the Negros in the same way a fox acts friendly towards the lamb. And it’s usually the fox who ends up with the lamb chop on his plate. The wolf does not act friendly and therefore the wolf has more difficulty in getting the lamb chop on his plate. I say this because, if you study the structure of the Negro community – economically, politically, psychologically, and otherwise—it’s controlled by the white liberal, who usually poses as the friend of the Negro. White liberals differ from the white conservative in the same way the fox differs from the wolf: their appetite is the same, their motives are the same; it’s only their mannerisms and methods that differ.
Rhetorically, framing the choice as between two equally malevolent forces--foxes or wolves--leads to despair and then hopefully self-sufficiency as the answer. Ambiguity is lost but political clarity is gained.
A more expanded dog/wolf analogy features in the patriotic war film, “American Sniper”. The main character’s father gives the following flashback speech to the movie’s hero as a boy:
“There are three type of people in this world, sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs”. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world. If there were ever dark on their doorsteps, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. And then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. Those are wolves. And then there are those who were blessed with the gift of aggression, with an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdogs.”
Moral clarity is the key to this retelling. This version is void of ambiguity, moral certainty is a necessity for those sheepdogs who will altruistically risk their own lives for the good of the sheep. Unfortunately, moral clarity is often elusive and always relative. Tellingly, there is no mention of the motives of the shepherd: the ruling class if we extend the analogy. Necessarily, sheepdogs are tools of the shepherd, and the moral clarity of their violence is linked to the uncertain motives of their masters. Sheepdogs themselves have no moral agency. We see echoes of this debate in the attitude towards police versus criminals in American cities today. The same debate rages over the installation of US forces overseas.
So it is with this light that I will explore Marxism, and it’s cousin Fascism and the impact of these two ideologies on contemporary events.
“Five, 10 years from now — different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party”, echoes of Karl Marx are heard in Donald Trump’s 2016 pitch for an oppressed proletariat to rise up pry control of the GOP from the ruling class’ iron grip.
As oligarchs and corporate America embrace it, one of Black Lives Matters’ (BLM) founders claims to be a “trained Marxist” while another truly is an orthodox Marxist. At the same time, the mystical “idea” of Antifa (Anti-fascist) burns American cities presumably attempting to smoke “fascists” out of their caves. At first glance it may seem incongruent that an organization like BLM, that explicitly sees race as the major societal fault line, could self-identify with Marxism, which is founded on class struggle. We will see how Marxism has grappled heavily with the “Nationalities Question”, which includes the Irish Question, the Jewish Question, and the Negro Question. Marxism’s failure to adequately address the Nationalities Question led directly to a schism within Marxism and to the formation of the heresy of Fascism when Mussolini abandoned orthodox Marxism and mutated his own ideology. We will look at see that the history of black struggle in the United States has included groups that are heterodox versions of either Marxism or Fascism.
One may be forgiven for having thought Marxism, and its cousin Fascism, were long dead: Fascism dying in the ashes of WW2 and Marxism tumbling into irrelevance with the fall of the Berlin Wall. “The End of History” was proclaimed in the early 90’s with the universality of US-led liberal democracy being declared inevitable. But like twin villains rising from the mud in a cheap horror film, the death announcements Marxism and Facism was indeed premature. Not only are their ghosts playing a leading role in the US troubles, a synthesis of Marxism and Fascism is the combined ideological fuel that is launching the People’s Republic of China towards global hegemony. If the current downward trajectory of the West (US and Europe) continues, the 21st century will soon be the Chinese, and therefore Marxist, century.
One common error is in supposing that Marxism is the opposite of capitalism, and since China is partially capitalist, then China therefore cannot be Marxist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marx was certain that capitalism was born bearing the seeds of its own destruction and the only way for these seeds to blossom was for capitalism to advance towards its apogee. If capitalism was a Ferrari and the capitalist had been drinking all night, far from attempting to restrain him, Marx would have gladly handed him his car keys along with a can of Red Bull. Any attempt at restraining capitalism was seen as non-progressive and therefore reactionary.
George Orwell , in his 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language”, deplored the degeneracy the English language was experiencing in the field of politics. He stated, ““The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."” The terms “Marxist” “Socialist” and many others, belongs to the same category, both are all too often simply terms of abuse. This series of articles will attempt to root each term within its ideological terrain and show how their dialectical interplay is fueling post-Mao China’s meteoric rise and how they are increasingly influencing political struggle in a United States in decline.
Despite its claims to being a science, Marxism is better understood as religious thought: a clever secularization of Christianity. Marxism’s Garden of Eden is the primitive communism of early societies. The advent of slavery and private property are the original sins, the price of which is struggle between the classes. The proletariat play Jesus and are “scientifically” destined to lead humanity to peace and justice in utopian terrestrial heaven of abundant Communism.
Like Christianity, Marxism features a of history of prophets, mutations, and heresies as each new generation of Marxists clamored to claim the “orthodoxy” label while rebuking their opponents as “revisionist” heretics. As with any ideology, the founders Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels did not leave a complete, let alone coherent, system of thought to their followers. Some of the leading voices on Marxism in the follow generations include: Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxembourg, Georges Sorel, Lenin, Mussolini, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, the Frankfurt School, culminating today with China’s President Xi.
This goal of this series is to neither promote nor stigmatize Marxism, but to instead orient today’s debates through the historic and ideological lens of Marxism. The issues Marxists struggled with for nearly two centuries are the basic struggles of mankind. Cosmopolitan vs. parochial, race vs; class, rulers vs. ruled, top down vs bottom up, elite vs. masses, town vs. country, and above all slave vs master. Just as some of the stranger ideas of Christianity could be mocked after two millennia, Marxism shows an amazing resilience in continuing to influence both masses and leaders, despite its glaring flaws.
A renewed interest in Marxism will be required to understand the current strengths and weaknesses of both China and the West. After first examining the main tenets of Marxism, I will then study contemporary events through four main prisms:
1. Marxist ambivalence towards race and nationality leading to the mutation of Fascism.
2. Marxist attitudes towards the working class leading to the rise of Bolshevism, Social Democracy and Trumpism.
3. The People’s Republic of China with its synthesis of Marxism and Fascism resulting in its powerful industrial might based on majoritarian Han supremacy.
4. So-called “Cultural Marxism” and possibilities for subversive cultural theory in the wake of “Wokeism”.
China recently celebrated the 200th birthday of Karl Marx. The official Chinese media gave the following summary of President Xi’s remarks:
In his speech, Xi summarized the characteristics of Marxism saying it is a people-centric scientific theory, which creatively reveals the law of social development. As such, Marxism is the theory of the people, aimed at building a system based on ideology to strive for liberation of humanity. Marxism is also a practical theory, which guides people's action to change the world. Marxism is a continuously developing open system as well, which has always stood at the forefront of the times.
Marx's profound exploration of the world may have been based on the existing systems and conditions during his times, but it goes beyond his times in terms of spirit and philosophy. It is the essence of the spirit of those times as well as all times, including the present and the future. Therefore, Marxism is trans-generational universal truth, but it has to be developed so that it can be applied to the reality of modern times.
The Communist Party of China has followed Marxism since its establishment and has been developing the philosophy in practice. It has used Marxism as a spiritual weapon for China's revolution, construction and reform. Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is the latest development of Marxism with Chinese characteristics, which is the form of Marxism practiced by China in the new era.
The relative decline of the US combined with the rise of China towards international hegemony gives the nations of the world their own entre chien et loup moment when choosing between which system to align more closely to. The US has a universalist vision of the global order and expects other nations to mimic her institutions and ideologies. Chinas sees the world more dialectically—a world of Yin-Yang style complimentary opposites. China practices a form of penetrative mercantilism, featuring a masculine expansive and penetrative “masculine” trade ideology based on powerful industrial production and stabilized by majoritarian stability at home. China seeks more “feminine” trade partners, seeking to inject its productivity deep into receptive, passive nations and keeping these nations open to Chinese production. China does not try to culturally export the “Chinese way” to its trade partners and is very happy to promote the West’s multiculturalism and minoritarianism.
An important element of understanding Marxism is coming to grip with dialectic thinking, which I have employed in the paragraph above. A running theme of this essay series will be demonstrating and explaining dialectical thinking.
The next essay will explain the Marxist theory of stages of development which gives a concise and diagrammatically clear bird’s eye view of the Marxist conception of human history.