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Far Left Parties - how do they fit in with Soviet/Marxism

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Post 04 Jan 2015, 08:16
Very left wing parties, such as PSL, various Socialist parties, SWP etc... how do they mesh with the more traditionalist Lenninist views, or systems of places like SU and Cuba.

for example, many of today's 'hot' topics don't seem to have been given much ground under Lenin, Kruschev, Stalin etc...or even by Marx himself.

topics such as Same sex marriage, mass immigration, feminism, prostitution, environmental issues - did these even exist in Soviet Union? (fairly sure most did not)

so, what is a modern day Marxist, brought up on Lenin and co, supposed to make of these topics?

specific examples:
Mass immigration - how does that fit in to a socialist/ communist state, bearing in mind it will increase the supply of underused workers and lower wages etc

SSM - Don't think this was allowed in SU or Cuba - so what to make of that?

Prostitution - most left socialists seem to want it banned, but was apparently rife in Cuba in the 90's

Environmental issues - pretty sure this was not observed greatly by SU

Feminism - when is this Marxist and when capitalist? where's the divide?
Post 04 Jan 2015, 12:00
For feminism/treatment of women in socialist countries see viewtopic.php?f=130&t=54376 (should enlighten you a little at least)

While its true that Marxists, from Marx til today, don't put that much importance on mass immigration. The basic logic of Marxism is when the capitalists are gone, and the proletariat have taken over the means of production, finding work won't be difficult at all (as the theory goes) since no ones keeps workers unemployed for the sake of profit.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Cuba during Raul Castro in 2011 (I think, don't remember the year exactly). It was illegal in the Soviet Union and all the socialist countries I can think of.

Prostitution is illegal in all socialist countries I can think of (with the exception of North Korea it seems :P, thats of course if you consider NK socialist ). The problem in Cuba was that the economic situation became so dire that prositution was one of the best ways for ordinary Cubans to get hard currency (dollars), and therefore played a considerable role for many thousands individual finances. But prostitution is illegal - before the 90s you would get jailed or sent to a re-education camp. In China and Vietnam prostitution has become a problem despite being illegal. They don't bother to enforce the law as hard as they used to. But party cadres in both countries which sleep with prostitutes usually gets expelled from the party. For instance, when a leading cadre is expelled in China, its usually always mentioned that he at one time slept with a prostitute. See the indictments against Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang for instance.

None of the Eastern Bloc countries seemed very interested in environmental issues, and the USSR polluted more then present-day US and China despite having a system which was better equipped with handling these issues (considering that everything was controlled by the state).

Sorry, I may not have been the correct person to answer these questions.
Post 04 Jan 2015, 16:21
Well, I can't speak for all left parties, but for instance the PSL is a Marxist-Leninist party, and yet they (and the WWP, from which they split) have always supported anti-racist struggles, gay rights, women's rights, etc. The political positions of communist parties aren't based on what the USSR or Cuba did at some point in the past, but on reality in the here and now.

It should be pointed out here that things like homosexuality were perceived differently in the past, and that these perceptions also differed widely by country. One well-known class prejudice once held by many communists was that homosexuality was the effete practice of the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and fascists, as well as associations with paedophilia. From what we know today, this is a completely unscientific and discriminatory approach, but there is no changing the past.

Socialism in Russia was built on the grave of a deeply reactionary society. Tsarist moral laws were abolished in the 1920s, although that was hardly a ringing endorsement of homosexuality. In 1933, male homosexuality was criminalised again, and it remained that way until 1993. A Latin American country like Cuba also has the background of macho culture. Cuba has taken massive steps forward in gay rights since around the late 70s, although same-sex marriage is still illegal. On the other hand, East Germany legalised homosexuality before West Germany did (the GDR was also one of the most sexually liberated societies in Europe).

To stick with the gay rights example, certainly most communist parties in the west support them as a matter of principle, and some of them also make it one of their main focus points. In the US, the suppression of gay rights is a weapon by which reactionaries try to increase social oppression in general, so it makes sense that US communists are militant about this issue. Same with women's liberation, considering the attacks on abortion.
Post 05 Jan 2015, 07:55
Dictator77 wrote:
for example, many of today's 'hot' topics don't seem to have been given much ground under Lenin, Kruschev, Stalin etc...or even by Marx himself.

I think you'll find that most of us aren't, or at least try not to be, hero-worshiping cultists. There are areas where most Marxists would argue Marx was wrong. Generally Leninists will say the same of Lenin and the Stalinist subset of those the same of Stalin. Most of us would disagree with a good chunk of what Khrushchev did.

Marxism itself, if it's really "scientific," has to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and new facts. And it's what we've done throughout history. For example, Marx's analysis of imperialism had to be revised by Lenin, based on how real life ended up transpiring.

topics such as Same sex marriage, mass immigration, feminism, prostitution, environmental issues - did these even exist in Soviet Union? (fairly sure most did not)

Feminism did and held quite a bit of power in Lenin's USSR, Kollontai is still considered a pretty major feminist thinker. Even if her views on sexuality/the family are usually considered strange and akin to turning human social life into a giant sex-cattle farm.

The USSR and other Eastern Bloc countries also did take in quite a few immigrants, though for security reasons its border controls were strong.

Mass immigration - how does that fit in to a socialist/ communist state, bearing in mind it will increase the supply of underused workers and lower wages etc

Most Western Marxist parties are in favor of loosening border restrictions and some parties (e.g. the PSL) explicitly help to mobilize illegals, on the grounds that migrant workers are workers and easy to turn against a state they aren't represented by. Some individual Marxists, though, would take the view that they shouldn't be depriving their own countries of labor and driving down wages, viewing it like being a scab.

Still others, myself included, would take a pretty mainstream view on the issue. What's usually called "comprehensive immigration reform." Loosen restrictions to give those workers a chance at a decent life, and their legalization will stop them from driving down wages as much since then minimum wage laws apply. But at the same time, ensure in the future that the pathway to citizenship is legal and trackable. In the US at least that wouldn't mean increased border security, which is frankly a distraction since border security is already stringent. What it does mean is increased pressure on employers found hiring illegals (beyond a slap on the wrist), and thus harming American workers.

SSM - Don't think this was allowed in SU or Cuba - so what to make of that?

While often awful, the gay rights record was never worse than before in a socialist state. Homosexuality was briefly legal in the USSR, the first country to do so as far as I know, which was a big departure from the old Tsarist law.

Cuba did used to put gay people in labor camps, which is probably the biggest blot on their struggle. It was arguably no worse than them being confined to run-down ghettos under Batista, but it was still pretty bad. Cuba has reversed course and made great strides on those rights in recent years, despite widespread social conservatism in the population. While they've consistently failed at passing legal same-sex civil unions, employment discrimination laws are strong and there's a pretty well-coordinated media campaign there to increase tolerance. For transsexuals, sex reassignment is government-funded.

Vietnam also allows for same-sex marriage ceremonies, though they sadly don't give any of the benefits of marriage and aren't officially recognized as anything but a religious ceremony.

Prostitution - most left socialists seem to want it banned, but was apparently rife in Cuba in the 90's

Most Western communists I know would view prostitutes as workers, though even those would want it safe and regulated. Not on the streets, in brothels instead. Akin to the system part of Nevada has, but with cooperative management. And pimping is naked exploitation and I think any Marxist would agree on it being banned.

Outside of the West, many Marxists view selling sex in and of itself as exploitation. Some radical feminists here in the West would agree with that, though most of us would see it instead as just a manifestation of backwards conservatism.

Environmental issues - pretty sure this was not observed greatly by SU

It was a developing country. Developing industry rapidly always comes at an environmental cost, sadly. But today, almost all Western communist parties have environmentalism as a key part of their agenda. Their bloc in the European Parliament is called the European United Left-Nordic Green Left, based on the emphasis of Scandinavian parties on ecosocialism. I know Norway's Red Party especially focuses on it, probably because Norway's economy will feel a huge impact from cheap oil becoming rarer and climate change.

In terms of socialist countries, Cuba has the most sustainable permaculture on the planet and has made huge advancements in adopting alternative energy. And if we consider population a key part of our environmental and resource-strain dilemmas, while China's pollution record is pretty atrocious, they're the only country that's taken a serious effort to curb population expansion. It's applied in a pretty disturbing and self-defeating way, given the importance they place on having a son over a daughter which is leading to a lot of reinforced chauvinism and demographic panic, but something akin to the one-child policy in some form may become necessary in places like India.

Feminism - when is this Marxist and when capitalist? where's the divide?

The difference between liberal and socialist feminism is as follows:

Liberal feminists want women to attain economic equality with men. Nothing more, nothing less. They only look at the ability to have equal power under capitalism, not in any changed system. Given the realities of what power under capitalism is, that means holding a certain standing in the business world and a few reproductive rights that make that equality possible. If that means making the two genders effectively indistinguishable, so be it. Likewise, they mainly represent educated women who already do have an economic advantage over others of their gender.

Socialist feminists want to change the capitalist system. That's viewed as a necessary part of any broader social equality between males and females, which (while it's important) means going beyond just economic equality under capitalism. It means focusing on more than just the needs of middle-class white women, recognizing that a poor black woman is also a female and even more behind, and (without imposing Western liberal concerns on them; actually listening to what they care about) that a woman in the third world is far more. It means masculinity and femininity being seen as equal too, in and of themselves. They'd argue full economic equality is impossible anyway without that, if you see there as being any innate gender differences and thus that liberal-feminism implies some degree of emulating maleness without it conforming to how you actually feel. I've heard arguments that there's a latent conservatism here in assuming there are some innate differences and that femininity is something inherent that should be seen as more than just "less than masculine," that classical socialist feminism is "an ideology of attractive women/gender-aristocrats." But I think those claims can be easily rebutted with science.

Then there are gender-abolitionists, a weird category with some traits of both. They often do have a radical view on capitalism and do see female identity as implying a certain social status relative to males under our system. But, they see the solution as doing away with gender as a concept. I tend to view that as just an extreme type of liberal feminism, who seem to ignore science when it contradicts their ideology and just take liberal-feminist goals to their logical conclusion under capitalism. Plus, it often leads to weird views on transpeople since they're seen as reinforcing the binary by saying they feel like a given gender, instead of seeing that as broadening the binary's scope. Most of the other two types would favor broadening the binary to more equally include people who don't fit perfectly; girls who aren't stereotypical pictures of girliness, guys who aren't neanderthal cavemen, people who literally identify as the other gender. We wouldn't reject the very concepts of masculine and feminine as a part of identity, though. Regardless, the actual amount of abolitionists is hugely overblown by conservatives looking for a strawman to tear down. They mostly just exist in academic Women's Studies departments.
Post 06 Jan 2015, 09:35
thanks for the interesting replies
Post 06 Jan 2015, 23:54
I think it is important to analyse how the left has morphed from a Marxian class-based agenda to a more egalitarian social justice agenda, but that nonetheless retains the capitalist model when positing its future ideals for society. While Marx and Lenin talked about the working class overthrowing the bourgeoisie in order to create class egalitarianism (i.e. by ultimately abolishing classes), today's left focuses on gender, sex, race, disability and sexuality equality. The trouble is, most of the writers for these assume the capitalist model is to be retained should their desires be realised.

How can feminism truly create an equal society when there are still class divisions? Assuming complete sexual equality, a bourgeois man would still have superiority and privilege compared to a working class woman. Of course, there would presumably be an equal number of bourgeois women who would have the same privilege vis-a-vis working class men. However, this would still be a society which retains privilege and thus social divisions. One therefore has to ask: would the fundamentals of the social problems that feminism is fighting against have been destroyed?

This of course works with racial, sexuality, gender equality and all other equality battles whose solutions remain within the capitalist paradigm. The answer is the Marxian class paradigm because it contains within it all these other battles for equality (it is of course important that a proletarian revolution ensures it carries out these battles, unlike the USSR did).
Post 07 Jan 2015, 03:43
good post, and I agree with all of that. So, where did it all go wrong? ie: when did Marxism morph into the more Liberal individualist (and capitalist) form of 'social equality' of which you speak? Why did many seem to give up on the more important issues of wage equality, and focus on the anti-badger culling movement instead?
Post 08 Jan 2015, 15:56
Same-sex marriage legalized in Vietnam: ... ealed.html
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