Bird’s Eye View – Marxism without myth

Marxism without myth

140 years ago Frederick Engels in a eulogy to his lifelong collaborator said:

‘Marx was the best hated, and most lied about, man of his time. Governments, both absolutist and republican, deported him from their territories. Capitalists, whether conservative or ultra-democratic, vied with one another in heaping slanders upon him. All this he brushed aside as though it were cobweb, ignoring it, answering only when extreme necessity compelled him; and he died, beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow workers – from the mines of Siberia to California, in all parts of Europe and America – and I make bold to say that, though he may have had many opponents, he had hardly one personal enemy. His name will endure through the ages; and so will his work! (Frederick Engels’ Speech at the grave of Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery, London. March 17, 1883, ).

Their work has endured, been enriched and refined. The Socialist Party contends that the three main Marxist theories relating to class struggle, the labour theory of value and the materialist conception of history remain valid, whereas those concerning struggles for national liberation, minimum reform programmes, labour vouchers and the lower stage of communism do not. Dogmatism is the very antithesis of Marxism. Assorted myth makers of the Left and Right contend otherwise, but the dead hand of Leninism with its anti-democratic elitism and its advocacy of an irrelevant transitional society misnamed ‘socialism’ is truly deserving of the hostility of workers everywhere.

The State and Revolution

‘This fairly short and accessible work by Lenin contains the Marxist critique of the capitalist state and theorizes what a socialist state might look like’ (Indiana Daily Student, 4 January, ).

There is a commonly held view that Marx believed the working class would only be able to come to power by smashing the state in a violent uprising. Lenin’s myth-making is evident in this dishonest pamphlet. Throughout his political life Marx insisted that the working class must capture the state before trying to establish socialism and that socialism would be a society without a state, e.g: ‘The existence of the state is inseparable from the existence of slavery’ (Vorwarts!, No.63, August 7, 1844, ). The 57 varieties of Leninism, including Maoism, Stalinism & Trotskyism, are together an abomination of socialist understanding.

Private or state control? Neither!

‘There is a consistent long-term consensus among rail users and the general public alike for an integrated, publicly owned railway’ (Red Pepper, 5 January, ).

State ownership of Britain’s railways was first proposed in the 1840s, not as you might suppose by proto-leftists but by the Conservative Party. There is a myth that nationalisation has something to do with the socialist order of society which Marx stood for. Marx, like Engels, regarded Bismarck’s policies of state control as ‘a spurious kind of socialism’ not socialism at all. What Marxists want is a society in which the machinery of wealth production and distribution is commonly owned and democratically controlled. Nationalisation is state capitalism and does not differ from private capitalism as far as the exploitation of the workers is concerned. They still need their trade unions, and the strike weapon, to protect themselves from their employers. The Socialist Party has never supported nationalisation. It is not socialism, nor is it a step towards socialism.

‘Mother attempts to sell kidney as last-ditch effort in poverty’

We can make the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and (almost) bring back the dead. We can cure many diseases once considered fatal and grow an increasing number of body parts including a mini kidney. We can perform many other miracles, but capitalism, rather than lack of ardent prayer, gets in the way. Treatments are developed with profit not people in mind. Can’t pay, can’t have. Capitalism has created a potential abundance of wealth, capable of satisfying human wants on a scale heretofore undreamed of. Myth makers claim that the squalid poverty of Marx’s time no longer exists. They claim that a majority are now happy with their lives under capitalism. But can anyone really believe that, while millions are unemployed, millions are starving to death, millions are homeless and millions of pounds are spent daily on armaments? Capitalism is now more than ever a problem-producing society and the cause of the problems is still as pointed out by Marx. Capitalism cannot realise its own potential. This is because the capitalist economic system is best suited to rationing scarcity by means of the market, legal or not, as the headline from the Jerusalem Post (5 January, ) attests.

Doctor of philosophy

Marx was awarded a PhD for a thesis titled The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, but, contrary to some myth makers, a degree in this subject is not necessary to understand his better known works. Indeed, the Indiana Daily Student article cited earlier recommends The Communist Manifesto, Wage Labour and Capital as well as Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. The author writes that the latter

‘… was the book that took me beyond Bernie Sanders-style politics. While it is perhaps the most difficult text here, it’s also very rewarding. This text contains an in-depth criticism of classical economists, as well as Karl Marx’s theory of how capitalism alienates workers. It also contains some beautifully poetic passages about a possible society in which money doesn’t rule over us, and we all have the freedom to seek self-realization.’

Worth noting too: ‘Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love’ (The German Ideology, 1845, ) and on his tombstone ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it’ (Theses on Feuerbach, 1845, ).

Next article: Material World – Disasters, natural and unnatural ⮞

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