I drew the above early this year, wanting to contribute something to the Cartoonist Cooperative and answering to a call for Valentines Day submissions. Posted it in a couple of places on 2/14 in not quite complete state, and it didn’t get much traction. But you can see the rest of it and get a little bit of explanatory breakdown in this project item on front of site. I’m glad I was able to do it, anyhow, both for the kind of exercise it is and for how it came out — which is Okay, I’d say.

You could read this in its social-media presentation as kind of an outing of myself as Marxist. I think that would be a mistaken reading, but should anyone insist on it, I’m unlikely to offer vigorous objection. It doesn’t matter to me so much, and this is probably permanent.

Something I expect I never will be found to be, in any case, is any sort of doctrinaire Marxist. In that, possibly, there’s argument to be made that I share a thing or two with old Karl himself. This isn’t a notion I get from the Marxian corpus; I have no great first-hand depth with it. It’s rather a matter of general appreciation of Marx in the wider picture of his moment, the few centuries’ generational sequence ahead and after, which I’ve come to with some time, taking in diverse assessment and interpretation from many sources in one way or another continuing ‘in dialogue’ with him.

A very recent instance, up just a few days back on Justin Sledge’s Esoterica — yes, timed for May 1 exactly — is this good listen:


If you take time to view / listen to Sledge there and happen also to have been following me for a while here, you might recognize thematic connection between what that video brings to this post and scraps of thought I was trying to pull together in posts of a couple of summers ago — one that I called ‘Serving history’ in particular. But you needn’t hear Sledge tell it (though I recommend you do) or check out past posts of mine either one, of course, to understand that ‘Did the occult influence Karl Marx’ is sort of a ‘Does a bear . . . .’ thing. It was spiritual times, and Karl too was a variety of spiritual guy. Karl’s spiritual attunement must have had something in common down deep, you might indeed say, eyeing the situation from a certain angle, with that of a close contemporary likewise among other things famous for offering Protestants a new way to see the Jew, John Nelson Darby, under burden of whose alternative scientific history I and a great many other semi-literate Americans would be brought up in the subsequent century.

It’s sort of an interesting fact, due for notice now, that my personal semi-literacy wasn’t adequate to really catch the Marxist note in things I myself wrote and posted here in 2020, lightly invoking ‘abolition,’ with scenes of that year’s protests and the Movement for Black Lives in mind. (In one case, abolition’s in the title.)

Between Sledge’s brief discussion of Marx’s debt to Hegel (where the term comes in in participial form in German and in English as ‘sublation’) and the whole of the other recording included in this post, below, you can get a good dose of abolitional motif — if you’re up for that. That other recording is a March episode of Ordinary Unhappiness, a podcast I first learned of via Matt & Sam’s Know Your Enemy (itself a show Freud turns up in as subject with some frequency — if, I guess, not exactly firstly by way of reference to Freudian Marxists, in which KYE stands in a degree of modest contrast with OU ). I’ve given this episode several listens so far. I find it helpfully provocative. If you don’t (or aren’t sure you) feel like listening to two hours of Abby & Patrick talking with two Marxists of our own moment who don’t hesitate to say some of the things surest to start our folks on the right beating the drums and our left-identifying liberals scowling about ‘both sides,’ maybe just get the flavor from this excerpt, from near the end of the conversation:

Abby Kluchin:I want to wind up here by asking about the positive vision of family abolition — as we move through these intense resistances — but I really want to stress to listeners just, you know, the extent to which there is this profound hopefulness that just, like, rolls off of both of your books. It really does — and you know, this, the idea of the abolition of the family, as a site of privatized care and of scarcity, for both of you it is also a powerful demand to, to imagine and to create truly sustaining forms of care. And so you know, Sophie, you’ve already brought this up, it’s figured in your work in terms of ‘care beyond kin,’ and for M. E., you talk about it in terms of communist social reproduction . . . .

M. E. O’Brien:I think in different ways both our books are really an invitation on people to imagine, to dream and to desire — that articulating something about the world that we want to live in — uh, the kinds of social relations that would, uh, we imagine might contribute to our flourishing — that this can be an animating, this sort of utopian gesture in the present, of being able to articulate our desires, can really animate and work alongside our social struggles and popular movements and fighting for reforms and efforts at building chosen family and efforts at recognizing and appreciating sort of how all these different mass social struggles and collective endeavors start pushing against and beyond the family. When people are fighting the state and fighting capitalism and fighting white supremacy, that, that the overcoming of the family starts to be at play in these mass social movements. And that’s something that I’m very interested in, um, and, and beginning to link that to allowing us to want, to desire a different kind of world.

So it’s not an accident that, like, a year before I wrote Family Abolition, I wrote Everything for Everyone . . . — that it’s like, uh, sketching this sort of utopian future of a revolutionary communist free society in, in the, you know, the early 2070s. And, uh, that’s very much family-abolitionist and has many different facets to it — but, but us articulating something about the world that we, that we yearn for. Um, our own freedom dreams.

And then, you know, there’s a lot to be said — I think both of us have a lot to say about the utopian tradition, you know, that, that I kind of on the one hand reject, utopian socialism’s sense that if you generate a blueprint and then go around selling it to people, that that’s how social change works. Like, Marx is very right that social change really can only come about through the immanent contradictions of society and the struggles of people in the present that it, building the future as they go, and that, you know, a blueprint doesn’t, isn’t needed for that, to make that happen, to make that possible — um, but at the same time, the utopian gesture I really see at play in social movements all the time, and that Marxists have sort of underplayed or undervalued how much talking about the world that we want to live in is a part of how people fight alongside each other.


update (may 6)
It’s unfortunate but true that ‘abolish the family’ is an expression a good many will never be able to encounter without converting it to an idea equivalent to ‘break families apart,’ ‘destroy the bonds people’s lives depend on.’ I suppose I could attempt an explanation of the convenient error that interpretive turn consists in. But I’ll instead suggest yet another listen: Ordinary Unhappiness’ most recent, on the war on Gaza, in which sustained forms of police and military aggression against communities through brutalization of families specifically, with men in conventional protector / provider roles made objects for methodical shredding of the social fabric, gets considered at length. Nothing will set you straight about what socialists in fact mean to say they’re working for like appreciating with clarity the present attitudes and conditions they understand themselves to be struggling against.


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