Saturday, November 19, 2016

Blanqui on 'progress'

[French revolutionary Louis Auguste] Blanqui is an important, if neglected, nineteenth-century theorist, for unlike nearly all of his contemporaries, he dismissed the naive belief, central to Marx, that human history is a linear progression toward equality and greater morality. He warned that this absurd positivism is the lie perpetrated by oppressors: "All atrocities of the victor, the long series of his attacks are coldly transformed into constant, inevitable evolution, like that of nature...But the sequence of human things is not inevitable like that of the universe. It can be changed at any moment." He also foresaw that scientific and technological advancement, rather than a harbinger of progress, could be "a terrible weapon in the hands of Capital against Work and Thought." He even decried the despoiling of the natural world. "The axe fells, nobody replants. There is no concern for the future's ill health." "Humanity," he write, "is never stationary. It advances or goes backwards. Its progressive march leads it to equality. Its regressive march goes back through every stage of privilege to human slavery, the final word of the right to property." Further, "I am not amongst those who claim that progress can be taken for granted, that humanity cannot go backwards." His understanding that history can usher in long periods of repression as well as freedom and liberty is worth remembering.
-Chris Hedges, The Wages of Rebellion:  The Moral Imperative of Revolt, p. 13-14.