Thursday, 20 March 2014

Why Marx was wrong

A Rejoinder to Phil BC at A Very Public Sociologist

File:Solzhenitsyn Gulag Photo.jpg

Despite all the crimes against humanity carried out in it's name Marxism continues to attract and influence large numbers of people across the left. Every so ofter some bright spark decides its time to publish some glowing little book reinterpreting Marxism for a new generation. One such book we are told is Terry Eagletons Why Marx Was Right.

In a (very!) brief exchange over at Phil's gaff last night I simply wrote that:

Marx was wrong. Marxism should be left behind as a very bloody failed experiment.

Of course young Phil wasn't going to let me get away with that and says it is the "book for me".

Having had time to think about his challenge I went to the more dust filled sections of my various bookshelves and looked at the large number of books that I had purchased and read in my own youthful years on the left. Besides books by Marx and about Marx (plus the other two main icons of the far left in this country, Lenin & Trotsky) there were several tomes outlining the virtues of Marxism ranging from Duncan Hallas and Cliff Slaughter to Ernest Mandel and more.

Additionally like Phil, I had been active in and around groups on the far left for a decade or more up to the late eighties when for a variety of reasons I finally gave up on revolutionary politics and returned to the mainstream, a difficult decision given it meant a major change in my personal life, but one that I have never regretted making.

Marxism was in my view a failure and the comrades were deluding themselves after the fall of Stalinism across Eastern Europe and Russia that anyone would even consider going back in the direction of such an oppressive ideology.

The problem was with Marxists themselves. All the organisations extant on the far left then (as now) were all very inward looking sects and cults. The International Marxist Group/Socialist League  was always looking for shortcuts then indulging in constant faction fighting. The Workers Revolutionary Party was a thuggish cult around their leader Gerry Healy and the Socialist Workers Party had branch meetings that gave the impression of either attending some kind of revivalist organisation or at times a meeting of Alcoholics  Socialists Anonymous. 

I have previously written of Marxism as religion and there remains a need to examine the origins of why so many people who would seek rational solutions to world problems would become so single minded and blinkered not just to the reality of the world around them but end up being worse in practice than the regimes they seek to replace.

The starting point is of course the supposed "scientific" nature of Marxism itself. Originating in the nineteenth century when many of the ideas we take for granted began to germinate, there was a constant need for a kind of modern reassurance of ideas. To call something "scientific" endows such ideologies with some plausibility.

The trouble is "scientific" socialism is about as scholarly as creationism.

And just as dangerous, if not more so.

One thing that is abundantly clear with all the various movements that have been inspired by Marx and his subsequent disciples from Lenin to Pol Pot is a propensity to neglect the individual and his or her basic human rights. They seek to represent the class as an amorphous anonymous mass so democracy free speech and human rights all become obstacles to the one true objective, the establishment of the so-called "classless society".

Therein lies the road to the Gulags.

Everything is determined by the class struggle and as such originates in the thoughts of Marx, "the history of all existing societies...

The role of the individual has no place in the Marxist methodology and mindset.

Estimates of deaths resulting from this inhumane doctrine are difficult to estimate from the beginnings of the Bolshevik coup and the early purges as Trotsky, then Stalin suppressed all opposition both inside and outside the Communist party to the famines in 1930's Soviet Union then under Mao in China to the killing fields of Cambodia must in total reach 100 Million.

Marxism has proved itself to be a false hope but the near religiosity and deterministic outlook of its' adherents means that attempts will remain to revitalise this dangerous creed every so often.

Marx was dangerously wrong.

So is Terry Eagleton.

1 comment:

  1. Just a question to ponder; how is capitalism any better? In my understanding of Marx, there was the prediction that capitalism would, ultimately, self-destruct. It can only travel in one direction. Had it not been for the world wars our parents and grandparents endured, his 'prophecy' may have come true much sooner. However, the current neoliberal ideology appears to have resurrected the Victorian/Edwardian right-libertarian economics that so appalled Marx and Engels, leading us back to the levels of social inequality of that era. The errors of Stalin and Mao, et al, were in the pursuit of total state control over the masses. Surely, for neoliberal capitalism, this is the same goal? Isn't that what secret global 'trade agreements' are concerned with? Kill democracy and live only to enrich the 'ruling classes'? (The 'ruling classes' being represented by the major corporations!) (As for 'Marxism' denying individuality, I think you could perhaps re-read Marx and Engels and not other authors' interpretations.) Nice, thought-provoking post, though!