The Nightmare Before Socialism
There are several keywords here. The City of London, Gothic, Marxism, Nightmare, Socialism. There are connections in the dynamic forces of capital as it relentlessly accumulates. The Gothic may be an association with horror. It can also be traced as a historical development which begins to form in an expressly conscious way during the Northern Renaissance of the 12th century.
The theory and practice of Christendom. The ideas of Aquinas, the unity of spirit, the Judgement day, the sense of the world coming to an end. Those who have sinned will be damned to eternal hell. Aquinas hints that there may not be a God at all, a fatal heresy had he spoke his truth. The concept of nothing (can there be such a thing?), and from nothing, everything. Until everything collapses into a fiery end point in which everything merges into a cosmic consciousness and then, everything is one; and then there is nothing once more.
The City of London is more complex still.
Trillions of units of currency spark through fibre optic cables and satellite systems, almost at the speed of light. Debts are sold, even debt is accumulated and becomes profitable. Crops are traded which are not yet grown, metal ores are sold before the poorly paid miners have extracted them from the depths of the earth. If the electronic currents could be coloured coded the whole atmosphere of the City of London would be as if a supra Northern Lights with purple, greens and reds saturating the particles in the air.
The development of Gothic could include the cathedral and church builders, the Holy Roman Empire, the cathedral as a gate way to Heaven, the coloured light from the stained glass a symbolic representation of the divine light. The sense and lived experience of Christendom; the universal spirit, the teachings of Christ, humility, tolerance, forgiveness. There are the teachings of the prophets and then there are organised religions. These are different things.
Gothic, Gothic revival, neo-Gothic. Pugin can be in this, Ruskin too, William Morris is perhaps the final part of that particular series. Morris, almost despite himself creates Arts & Crafts and this is a key determinant in Modernism and thus into Bauhaus and beyond. That particular series starts to fragment after the Second World War. What comes after is more difficult to articulate.
Marxism includes further keywords of capital, capitalism, capital accumulation, competition, exploitation, alienation, oppression. Robert Paul Wolff in his monograph Moneybags Should be so Lucky asks the question; why does Marx write in the way he does? What is the relationship between Marx’s ideas and his literary style? It is a good question.
The Nightmare is now and the nightmare is getting worse. Bourgeois democracy, where it exists (and in many places there is nothing but tyranny and despotism) is crumbling. It lacks the strength of principles to defend itself. Bourgeois democracy itself is a sham, a lie, a hypocrisy. It distorts and denies the underlying dynamics of capital accumulation, the tensions of class and the contradictions of capitalist reality. Everything is presented as hyper-real, nothing feels real at all.
I was in the pub on Sunday afternoon after the Radical Bermondsey Walk. There was a lovely period when it was finally possible to relax and just sit in the corner and listen to everyone talking. That was one of my favourite parts of the day. Someone asked what the opposite to alienation is.
Harmony? But no, that’s not adequate.
Do keywords need opposites? I suppose it depends on what the keyword is and the context. Socialism is an opposite word. It is the opposite to capitalism, an antidote to neo-liberalism, a rallying point against atomisation.
I like the idea of Gothic Marxism. I like the fact I know nothing about it so it becomes a journey through books and streets and conversations. That’s reward in itself.