LUMPENPROLETARIAT—On today’s edition of free speech radio’s Against the Grain, co-host Sasha Lilley invited Dr. Peter Hudis (Oakton Community College) to discuss life after capitalism, according to the economic and sociological work of Dr. Karl Marx, which is often inaccurately equated with the communist projects of the Soviet Union and China. Dr. Hudis is the author of Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism published in 2013 by Haymarket.
Among other topics, Dr. Hudis discussed Marx’s role in the split between socialists and anarchists, and the commonalities and differences between the two ideological camps. Dr. Hudis cites various writings of Marx, which weren’t widely available until relatively recently, allowing for greater perspective into the development of Marx’s immense lifelong intellectual project of understanding and overcoming capitalist modes of production. Listen (and/or download) here. 
[Working draft transcript of actual radio broadcast by Messina for Lumpenproletariat and Against the Grain]
AGAINST THE GRAIN—[29 NOV 2016] [ERICA BRIDGEMAN(sp?): “—1 KPFA and 89.3 KPFA in Berkeley; 88.1 KFCF in Fresno; 97.5 K248BR in Santa Cruz; and online at kpfa.org. The time is 12, noon. Stay tuned, next, for Against the Grain.]
[Against the Grain theme music]
SASHA LILLEY: “Today, on Against the Grain: Capitalism appears to many to be a failed system, leading to extreme inequality and ecological devastation. We’re also told that the alternative posed by Karl Marx is similarly bankrupt, as proved by the failures of state socialism. But what if Marx’s vision for a postcapitalist future has little in common with the experience of the Soviet Union and China?
“I’m Sasha Lilley. Peter Hudis argues that freedom, including from a repressive state apparatus, was central to Marx’s concept of life after capitalism. I’ll speak with him after these news headlines with Christina Aanestad. (c. 1:18)
[KPFA News Headlines (read by Christina Aanestad]  (c. 5:43)
[Against the Grain theme music]
SASHA LILLEY: “From the studios of KPFA in Berkeley, California, this is Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio. I’m Sasha Lilley.
“We live in starkly anti-utopian times. The idea of transforming our world for the better in any thorough-going way seems to be entirely off the table. In fact, we’re just bracing for things to get worse. We’re frequently told that to try to change the world systematically will lead to a dead end, like the dismal societies of the Soviet Union and China under state socialism. Marxism, in particular, can’t point the way forward, we hear, because of its doctrinaire notion that individual freedom should be discarded for some idea of the greater good.
“But today’s guest argues that this gets Marx entirely wrong. His vision of life under capitalism was based on individual and collective liberation and much of it remains unknown to, both, the detractors and supporters of radical politics alike.
“Peter, beyond your own ideas of capitalism being followed by socialism and then communism, can you explain why there’s an assumption that Marx had little to say about life after capitalism?”
DR. PETER HUDIS: “So, there are three connected issues here. [snip] “
[On the split between anarchism and communism.]
[snip] (c. 51:15)
SASHA LILLEY: “Well, let me by asking you, then, about [sighs] whether you see Marx’s writings on, eh, a post-capitalist society as being future-oriented or not? And I say that because you were just talking about his notion that, at least in some societies, there were communal forms, that had been preserved, that, perhaps, could be tapped for life beyond capitalism, but, really, more specifically, since the world that we live in now is predominantly capitalist. So, those debates over those things are less relevant. Marx saw freedom as, partially, anyway, connected to the ability to create a society where the forces of production were developed and could lay the basis for a different kind of political-economic foundation for the society. Obviously, not just as narrowly as I stated it.
“But you also raise the question of whether the issue for us now is developing the forces of production—or limiting the forces of production—given the crisis point that we’re in, ecologically. Obviously, Marx lived in his time. You know?”
DR. PETER HUDIS: “M-hm. Yeah.”
SASHA LILLEY: “He didn’t live now. He didn’t have a crystal ball into the future. But would you say that his notion of life beyond capitalism was a future-oriented notion? And, now, is that something, that we can still embrace?” (c. 52:52)
DR. PETER HUDIS: “[deep breath] Yes, but with one big, big reservation. And that is that, um, it’s understandable, perhaps, even out of necessity, that in much of his work Marx does emphasise the material condition—one of the main material conditions being needed for a socialist, for essentially a socialist or communist society—is developed forces of production. That is, he never believed you can create socialism in one country. He also never thought you can create a socialism of poverty. There had to be a certain level of material development in order to allow for what he called a totality of manifestations of life. He said, we have to work. If we have to work—if we have to spend three or four hours a day fetching our own water, if we have to spend 50 or 60 hours a week of our time, engaging in all kinds of labour, that could be readily, uh, made redundant by the use of technology, how are we gonna be able to create the new human personality, that’s necessary for a socialist or communist future?
“But that was necessary for him to emphasise in his time when the capitalism was supposed to be just beginning to show itself. And it had not dominated the entire world; and the forces of production were relatively underdeveloped.
“But we’re living in a very different world today in which we have a—still, in a certain sense—that problem. But, in a certain sense, the opposite. That is, much of the world remains horribly underdeveloped. Uh, 90% of humanity is living under close about—is living under $10 dollars a day. There are conditions of real material deprivation, that have to be resolved.
“So, there is no question that development—economic development—is a necessity. But, at the same time, it is also—we have to look at the way the forces of production have no longer really geared to augment the improvement of people’s lives in a real material, let alone a spiritual, sense. It should simply be augmented for the sake of the augmentation, or the accumulation, of capital. And it’s become such an end in itself that the forces production are so enormous and so complex and so much a concentration of wealth that, um, it’s causing enormous techno-ecological destruction.
“So, in a certain sense, the forces of production, in some context, have to be radically taken down. It’s not developing the forces of production. It’s also destroying some of these forces of production and freeing ourselves from them that it’s gonna be needed in order to save the planet and have an effective socialist or communist society.
“So, you’re not gonna get a lot of that from Marx, himself. But that is a conception, that, obviously, the realities of our age require us to emphasise. (c. 53:30)
“But the general principles of Marx’s conception of a post-capitalist society, not only still apply, they apply even more so, given the qualification I just mentioned because what’s the fundamental core of his notion of achieving a socialist society? It’s not the increase of productive forces per se. For him, that was one important aspect. But it wasn’t the sole or overriding aspect.
“The overriding aspect is to break from abstract forms of domination by having the control of the social process of production and reproduction, by the very agents who are engaged in that process. And communal, collective, control, democratically and freely, by the mass of the population of their own means of existence and means of subsistence, that is what allows for, not only political, but economic, democratic system, in which the expansionary drive of capital is challenged and halted. And the tendency of people to think that their lives are meaningful insofar as they accumulate so much material possessions is also halted because, precisely, because we are not in control of our collective social existence and we feel alienated from it that we try to compensate for our lack and our emptiness by pursuing the enrichment of material goods and commodities as an end in itself, which of course has everything to do with the ecological crisis. (c. 56:55)
“So, I think that it’s the specific understanding he has of breaking from abstract forms of domination in favour of a truly democratic form of social organisation based on the self-activity of the producer, that becomes more relevant for the future than ever before. But we have to do so with the acknowledgement that there is a kind of productivism in some as—even in some of Marx’s work, in terms of emphasising the importance of the forces of production, that have to be reconfigured today, in terms of actually qualitatively as well as quantitatively transforming them. That means that we’re gonna have to make do with a very different way of doing things and making things. We’re gonna have to make do with a very different way of living in order for the environment to really be sustainable.
“And I think that’s the real challenge, that has to be worked out. And it has to be worked out pretty soon.” (c. 57:48)
SASHA LILLEY: “Indeed. [Chuckles, perhaps, at the fireworks of the somewhat flustered closing remarks of Dr. Peter Hudis’ ambitious closing remarks to this heady discussion. Or, perhaps, she chuchles because she will not give Dr. Hudis a chance to bid farewell. Notably, Sasha Lilley has nothing to add to the incredibly deep Marxian analysis proferred by Dr. Hudis. Where are the Marxian interviewers when you need them?]
“I’ve been speaking with the author of Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism. That is published by Haymarket. And you can find a link to it on our website, AgainstTheGrain.org.
“Peter Hudis teaches humanities and philosophy at Oakton Community College.
“[deep breath] You’ve been listening to Against the Grain. I’m Sasha Lilley. Thanks so much for listening. And, please, tune in againt next time.”
[Against the Grain theme music] (c. 59:59)
Learn more at AGAINST THE GRAIN.
[This transcript will be expanded as time constraints, and/or demand or resources, allow.]
 Terrestrial radio transmission, 94.1 FM (KPFA, Berkeley, CA) with online simulcast and digital archiving: Against the Grain, this one-hour broadcast hosted by co-host Sasha Lilley, for Tuesday, 29 NOV 2016, 12:00 PDT.
[Broadcast summary by Against the Grain, published on KPFA’s online archive page.]
AGAINST THE GRAIN—[29 NOV 2016] Capitalism appears to many to be a failed system, leading to extreme inequality and ecological devastation. We’re also told that the alternative posed by Karl Marx is similarly bankrupt, as proved by the failures of state socialism. But what if Marx’s vision for a postcapitalist future has little in common with the experience of the Soviet Union and China? Peter Hudis argues that freedom — including from a repressive state apparatus — was central to Marx’s concept of life after capitalism.
Peter Hudis, Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism Haymarket Books, 2013
Learn more at AGAINST THE GRAIN.
Also see this related Lumpenproletariat article:
- Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades (2015); 28 MAR 2016.
About Against the Grain:
Against the Grain is a radio and web media project whose aim is to provide in-depth analysis and commentary on a variety of matters — political, economic, social, and cultural — important to progressive and radical thinking and activism.
ATG focuses on meaty theoretical and action-oriented issues that the mainstream media tends to ignore, matters like political economy, the global justice movement, philosophical and cultural ideas, and race and gender relations. We strive to bring these perspectives to the airwaves in a way that’s accessible, engaging, and, most of all, useful to people working for social change.
Please join us, listen in, and pass the word along. You may even want to ask your local community radio station to carry ATG.
Against the Grain is co-produced and co-hosted by Sasha Lilley and C.S. Soong. Occasional contributing producers include Ramsey Kanaan and H.N. Yuen.
About the hosts:
Radio maven and writer Sasha Lilley is the co-host and co-producer of Against the Grain, which she founded with C.S. Soong in 2003. During her stint as KPFA’s Program Director, she headed up initiatives like Pacifica Radio’s award-winning Winter Soldier broadcast. She’s the author of Capital and Its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult and is the editor of the political economy imprint Spectre. Sasha is co-author of Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth.
C.S. Soong holds a B.A. in history from Brown University and a J.D. from Cornell Law School. He’s also done graduate work in philosophy at San Francisco State University. C.S. has worked with Laura Flanders on Working Assets Radio; with Loni Ding on the documentary film series Ancestors in the Americas; and with Bari Scott on the award-winning public radio series The DNA Files. He is also a freelance writer and editor; his written work has appeared in publications as diverse as ColorLines, Turning Wheel, and IndyKids.
 KPFA News Headlines for Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 12:00 PST:
- Fight for $15
- Trump edict: flag-burners should be jailed
- Trump to confirm racist Jeff Sessions to his cabinet
[29 NOV 2016]
[Last modified at 23:26 PST on 5 DEC 2016]