This is a revision of an entry originally posted on 11 February 2010.
Ernst Bloch, like Theodor Adorno, is a leftie worth reading. But here are two passages replete with grotesque exaggeration and plain falsehood. Later, perhaps, I will cite something from Bloch that I approve of. The offensive passages are from the essay, "Karl Marx, Death, and the Apocalypse" in Man on His Own: Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (Herder and Herder, 1970, p. 32. The translation is by E. B Ashton):
. . . the law as a whole, and the greater part of the criminal law as well, is simply an instrument by which the ruling classes maintain the legal standards that protect their interests . . . If there were no property, there would be no law and no need for its sharp-edged though hollow categories.
No property, no need for law? That is plainly and inexcusably false. Obviously, not all crimes are crimes against property; there are also crimes against persons: rape, assault, battery, murder. Even if the State owned all the cars, there would still be drunk driving. And so on. So even without private property, there would still be the need for laws.
Laws reasonable and just are the positive expressions of (some of) what we believe to morally permissible, impermissible, and obligatory. As along as there is a gap between what people do and what they ought to do and leave undone -- that is, as long as people exist -- there will be need for positive law, the law posited or enacted by legislatures. And since laws are useless unless enforced, there is need of agencies of enforcement, which are state functions.
But of course the very notion that a society in which no one owned anything would be desirable is ludicrous as well. Private property is the foundation of individual liberty. When the State owns everything and I own nothing, then concretely speaking my liberty is nonexistent. But of course, Bloch, leftist utopian that he is, thinks that the State will wither away:
Though for a time it may continue to function in a bolshevist form, as a necessary transitional evil, in any socialist perspective a true conception of the State demands its withering away -- its transformation into an international regulator of production and consumption, an immense apparatus set up to control inessentials and no longer containing, or capable of attracting, anything of import. (p. 33)
Sorry, Ernst, but this is just nonsense. The State cannot both "wither away" and be tranformed into an "immense apparatus" that regulates production and consumption. But even apart from this incoherence, no State powerful enough to establish socialism -- which of course requires the forcible redistribution of wealth -- is going to surrender one iota of its power, no matter what socialists "demand." Power always seeks its own consolidation, perpetuation, and expansion. That is one thing that Nietzsche got right.
This brings us to the fundamental contradiction of socialism. Since forcible equalization of wealth will be resisted by those who possess it and feel entitled to their possession of it, a revolutionary vanguard will be needed to impose the equalization. But this vanguard cannot have power equal to the power of those upon whom it imposes its will: the power of the vanguard must far outstrip the power of those to be socialized. So right at the outset of the new society an inequality of power is instituted to bring about an equality of wealth -- in contradiction to the socialist demand for equality. The upshot is that no equality is attained, neither of wealth nor of power. The apparatchiks end up with both, and their subjects end up far worse off than they would have ended up in a free and competitive society. And once the apparatchiks get a taste of the good life with their luxury apartments in Moscow and their dachas on the Black Sea, they will not want to give it up.
The USSR withered away all right, but not in approved Marxist fashion: it just collapsed under the weight of its own evil and incompetence -- with some helpful kicks from Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II.