I think I’ve made the theoretical breakthrough (in my own understanding) necessary to answer the question of why the bourgeoisie won’t go down without a fight in a scientific and “closed-form” way. I’ve been working on that piece a lot to flesh out that understanding and put it in terms that are succinct, compelling, and accessible. Working on that piece and rounding out my understanding is deepening my understanding of what capitalism is, of what the bourgeois mindset is. That set of thoughts is the soil that the rest of this post grew out of.
The masses will work hard for a wage—for material, for stuff—which every capitalist thinks is their sole desire, but in fact the masses want bread because they think it will give them room to go for some light. Nobody just wants raw materials. They want what the bourgeoisie promise everyone: the ability to pursue happiness. The ability to pursue having one’s creativity empowered to make changes in the world, allowing an experience that teaches one about both oneself and the world. This is the light. This is what everyone wants. But the bourgeoisie keep this for themselves, the power to enact one’s curiosity, while selling the idea that everyone can have it. And the bourgeoisie either delude themselves that everyone *can* have it right now (and somehow fail to get it), tell themselves that not everyone is really fit to have much of it because most people are innately inferior to the few elites who run things, tell themselves that maybe one day everyone could have it but right now there’s not enough stuff to go around in the world so the best we can do is for the elites to steward the masses to raise the productive forces until there is enough, or shrug and say “fuck them, I got mine.”
Art for art’s sake, or (what *may* amount to the same thing) the philanthropy that everyone in the bourgeoisie engages in, goes up a cul-de-sac. It settles for a light that cannot include everyone, a light that is furthermore compromised with bourgeois (and therefore false and self-hating and anti-human) ideas. It settles for a light oozing with poison because they can pay for enough pus and anesthesia to keep the infection (and the pain it causes) at bay.
Only communism seeks a way forward with and through all of humanity, only communism sends you forward with an undiseased model of what humanity is.
Marx may already have explored this. I think you see that he understands this idea when he says that, in communist society, labor (that is, the act of producing value that a machine cannot produce) will be the thing people most want out of life (“life’s prime want”). But anyway I think this has to be part of historical materialism—and maybe it always has been and I just haven’t read enough Marx or Marxists—but yes although people go into political motion on behalf of bread, the bread isn’t the end goal: they want the bread because they want life, they want light.
I have a deep urge to act as what C.S. Lewis calls a “senile benevolence” and tell everyone I meet who is getting dragged up that cul-de-sac by their falling for a narrow love (that is, fooling themselves that they will be contented with art for art’s sake, or a fondness for academia, or a life close to nature, etc. etc.) that of course they should choose what they like and if they’re happy they’re happy.
But I want to fight and overcome this urge, because doing that would be unkind in a deeper sense. Let us tell the truth—a person is deeply mistaken if they think they see a whole and unpolluted future for themselves up that path, because scientifically we know that that river runs with poison, and it does not flow into the ocean but only—eventually—into a fetid lake. If you need to—if it is truly objectively necessary for you to be basically stable and reliable—then sure, keep some distance from the violence, but don’t leave the movement: you will be selling the most important thing you own.
From Aldous Huxley’s Time Must Have a Stop:
“Apotheosis—the personality exalted and intensified to the point where the person ceases to be mere man or woman and becomes god-like, one of the Olympians, like that passionately pensive warrior, like those great titanesses brooding, naked, above the sarcophagi. And over against apotheosis—deification—personality annihilated in charity, in union, so that at last the man or woman can say, ‘Not I, but God in me.’
. . . Apotheosis and deification—the only roads of escape from the unutterable wearisomeness, the silly and degrading horror of being merely yourself, of being only human. Two roads; but in reality only the second led out into open country. So much more promising, apparently so vastly more attractive, the first invariably turned out to be only a glorious blind alley. Under triumphal arches, along an avenue of statuary and fountains, you marched in pomp towards an ultimate frustration—dead end of your own selfhood. And the dead end was solid marble, of course, and adorned with the colossal monuments of your power, magnanimity and wisdom, but no less of a wall than the most grotesquely hideous of the vices down there in your old, all too human prison. Whereas the other road …”