Pedants will object that in yesterday’s post “Hvítna” I said that Jacobin magazine is named after a black Haitian general when, in fact, “Jacobin” refers to the maximalist faction in the French Revolution. However, Jacobin’s masthead features Toussaint L'Ouverture in profile next to the name “Jacobin”. This is a reference to the book The Black Jacobins by CLR James—an Afro-Caribbean writer on cricket and Marxism. It was L'Ouverture I referred to—and the magazine is a visual pun on “black Jacobins”, with the black general to the left and the Jacobins to the right.
In a sense, this sums up the way the left has moved post-Marxism. As with Christopher Hitchens and his adulation for the American Revolution, the left has retreated from “scientific socialism”—as discredited by the Soviet collapse—to an Enlightenment position mixed with a racial perspective and a suspicion, via the Frankfurt School, of “the ideology of science”. To resile from Engels—with his strenuous efforts to make Marxism conform with Darwin, Kelvin, and Carnot—to this “emotional” or, to use Marxist jargon, “utopian” position is the norm for the modern left.
It has gone back to the view that people need to be “reasonable”, to a pure emotional sense that the world is “unjust”, and to a general sense that the so-called oppressed are “pure” because they are oppressed. As such, Jacobin perfectly conforms to the new-old left in its nostalgia for the Enlightenment interlarded with sentimental love for “the black fellah” (who murders, rapes, and tortures whites and consigns his country to dysfunction). It fits with my view that the left is rolling back: Marxism was its high point and it is now peeling back to earlier positions, just as China has completed a social revolution to restore private property but still needs a political revolution to remove its Leninist structure. First the USSR fell, next the American revolutionary state, soft communism, will come down. The left is in recession, I have heard the tide turn.