There is only exploitation, brutality, enforced ignorance, war, unfulfilled needs– and only one way to abolish it all, to take the real-existing class struggle to its ultimate conclusion.
It was bitter sweet serendipity to find the most able—in fact, perfect– analogy flowing with particular flair and flourish from the pen of a lifelong (and, with all possible irony, posthumous) enemy of the worker:
“When Alexander has the feet of Batis, the brave defender of Gaza, pierced, and ties him, alive, to his carriage, to drag him about while his soldiers mock, that is a revolting caricature of Achilles, who maltreats Hector’s corpse in a similar fashion at night; and even this trait is offensive to us and makes us shudder. Here we look into the abyss of hatred. With the same feeling we may also observe the mutual laceration, bloody and insatiable, of two Greek parties, for example, the Corcyrean revolution. When the victor in a fight among the cities executes the entire male citizenry in accordance with the laws of war, and sells all the women and children into slavery, we see in the sanction of such a law that the Greeks considered it an earnest necessity to let their hatred flow forth fully; in such moments crowded and swollen feeling relieved itself: the tiger leaped out, voluptuous cruelty in his terrible eyes. Why must the Greek sculptor give form again and again to war and combat in innumerable repetitions: distended human bodies, their sinews tense with hatred or with the arrogance of triumph; writhing bodies, wounded; dying bodies, expiring? Why did the whole Greek world exult over the combat scenes of the Illiad? I fear that we do not understand these in a sufficiently ‘Greek’ manner; indeed, that we should shudder if we were ever to understand them ‘in Greek.’”
–Nietzsche, Homer’s Contest (1872)
Only the most progressive, participatory and egalitarian frames of the visions of the working-class are captured, framed, packaged and sold—leaving out the guttural birth cries of an uneven, prejudiced, mystified, exploited class that has to carve its own Caesarean section out from the inside of capital’s uterus. Naked, despotic, punitive violence, practical anti-democracy, zealous discipline, radical excesses and every shade of coercion are the signs and the toll of the emancipation of labor as the real movement to liberate humanity from alienation and exploitation, to abolish capitalism and become socialism.
Nietzsche’s idolatrous fascination with the ancient Greeks is, at least in this instance, useful. There is no better articulation; for, I fear that we do not understand these in a sufficiently ‘proletarian’ manner; indeed, that we should shudder if we were ever to understand them ‘in proletarian’.
Jaurès couldn’t hide his disbelief at the ‘proletarian manner’ in his treatment of the Hébertists —
(“they attempted to tear the very idea from men’s spirits by destroying the symbols and emblems that allowed it to enter thought through people’s eyes”)
— there is no disbelief in the eyes of the communard put up against the wall and shot by a Versaillard firing squad captured in Manet’s La Barricade;
there is only what is.
The existence of the proletariat is the liquidation of philosophy.
From the Socratic commissioners and their reactionary crimes against the Athenian democratic state to Heidegger’s appraisal of the masses and their ‘inauthentic having-been’, the social violence of the philosophers would become explicit in the 20th century–
The fascization of poetry; the fascization of literature; the fascization of metaphysics; the fascization of dialectics; yet philosophy is and always has been the ideology of expropriation.
The construction of god was the definitive marker for the emergence of class society; religion was the first philosophy. Primitive (communist) man knew no gods. They would have been impossible in the theory and practice of life encapsulated in the emergence of the stone age.
Primitive (communist) man’s interpretation of the world and his experience of it were mediated by and through his labor. His conscious interaction with nature involved structuring his actions to produce an intended natural phenomenon. It could be understood as the direct link between an individual’s thoughts, actions and nature outside oneself: labor compels the sun to rise and set; labor induces the clouds to produce rain; labor ensures the fertility of the soil. Every person a magician; none a priest.
“Men mistook the order of their ideas for the order of nature, and hence imagined that the control which they have, or seem to have, over their thoughts, permitted them to exercise a corresponding control over things” (The Golden Bough)
When the desired results were not manifested after the correct actions are undertaken, repeatedly and over time, a minority of the human community begins to doubt the power of man to affect nature and natural phenomenon through his conscious action and his own power. If rain does not come, if childbirth is difficult, if a plague spreads in spite of his conscious mediation with his labor — man loses his agency to control the world around him as he seemingly did before.
The transition from magic to religion, from classless community to exploitative society, is with this realization, and the transference of man’s former power to control nature through conscious action to the existence of supernatural beings which could (and were) controlling nature and natural phenomenon. This is both the origin of religion and the generation of class society, the origin of bureaucracy as an irrepressible process and the birth of the first rudimentary mode of production based on exploitation.
From a human community in which all are equally endowed with the innate abilities to command nature and natural phenomena, to one in which there are especially gifted and powerful magicians, to one in which man is no longer the tyrant of nature but the victim of nature’s tyranny– subjected to the whims of human-like supernatural beings. The vanguard of the magicians, those seen as the most powerful and gifted by and among the community, mediate between man and the supernatural beings and represent humanity to the supernatural beings, to influence them to produce beneficial natural phenomena. This is the first division of labor known to man, creating the first class-based society.
Ancient Egypt’s monarchy is the purest example of the results of this division of labor in the expropriation of the human community and its replacement with slavery. With the inauguration of this epochal shift, social administration– derived from the division of labor– is the sign of the emergence of politics. In Egypt, as in the rest of the world, a variety of human-like gods were responsible scapegoats for the creation of the natural world and each specialize in particular natural forces and phenomena. One member of the community is designated as a god-king who is worshipped as interpreted by the class of priests and thus endowed with legitimacy to rule human society as the sole owner of all land, animals, vegetation, people and the breadth and depth of the sensuous world—the pharaoh thus formed an organic link in human-form with the supernatural beings which control the processes, forces and phenomena of nature on which man is dependent for his continued existence. In exchange for this legitimacy, the pharaoh-state combined religious with political power—the god-king and his priests produce the cycles of the sun and moon, the seasons, the rain, the harvests, and in return may call upon the people for compulsory, directed labor (irrigation, construction). Yet there is another rupture, for example at a stage in the evolution of the ancient Roman monarchy:
“. . . the fighting kings of Rome, tired of parading as Jupiter and of observing all the elaborate ritual, all the tedious restrictions which the character of godhead entailed on them, were glad to relegate these pious mummeries to a substitute, in whose hands they left the crosier at home while they went forth to wield the sharp Roman sword abroad. This would explain why the tradition of the later kings, from Tullus Hostilius onwards, exhibit so few traces of sacred or priestly functions adhering to their office” (The Golden Bough)
This separation of political from religious power, formerly united in the person of the divine king, represents a further or greater stage, evolution, in the division of labor in class-based society and a sign of the emerging class differentiations within slave economies. Religion is simply the social manifestation of the origin of class, and with it, the origin of philosophy. The anatomical organs of the state – special bodies of armed men – followed.