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Ten Worst and Best Ideas of Marxism

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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 28 Jan 2008, 19:10
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Komsomol
Post 07 Aug 2008, 04:19
From Political Affairs editor's blog
http://paeditorsblog.blogspot.com/2008/ ... rxism.html

Ten Worst and Best Ideas of Marxism

By Joe Sims
I've been thinking about the battle of ideas in the post-Bush era and the great opportunity it will present to the left, socialist and communist sections of the labor movement. These opportunities however may well pass us by unless, we shed some of the ideological baggage we've been carrying around, pretending some of it to somehow consist of “first principles” or foundation stones of political knowledge. Below are in my opinion, the top ten worst and best ideas of Marxism. As I wrote them, I came up with a lot more. Maybe this will be a series.


TEN WORST

1. “Dictatorship of the proletariat.” Probably the worst phrase uttered by a political theorist ever. Who wants to live in a dictatorship? Even if I agreed with it conceptually, (which I don't), the Machiavellian in me has enough sense not to repeat it. Indefensible. And by the way, working-class “hegemony” (whatever the hell that means, sorry Gramsicans), aint much better.

2. “Single party state.” Related to but not necessarily derivative from the “proletarian dictatorship,” the one party state became and remains the model of “existing socialism” (whatever existing socialism means as the old model with one or two exceptions, no longer exists). Created to facilitate a forced march and manage popular consent by controlling the flow of information, it became a substitute for democratic decision-making, ideological struggle by convincing and consent instead of directive and decree. Internet has rendered completely useless. The single party state is doomed.

(Also equally odious was the codification of the “leading role of the party in the constitution of the former “socialist” eastern Europe and USSR.)

3.”Developed socialism” The above shows that working-class humanity was about 5000 light years away from even approaching a developed socialist society, especially those in the “Third World” which led them to attempt a hybrid mixed duck-billed-platypus economy described directly below.

4. “Socialist Market Economy” At best utterly confusing to most and a euphemism for capitalism at worst causing the term “capitalism” to almost disappear from the socialist/capitalist lexicon, replaced by the “market.” It has created a huge ideological fog leaving many to scratch their hands and wonder what were we fighting for anyway? Sweden is not my model!

5. “Listing defense of Soviet Union under the 21 points for joining the Comitern.” The idea of “Defending Socialism” by detachments outside of those countries attempting to build it led to some of the biggest quagmires and mistakes of the 20th century. Still with us in many forms including the defense of the use of death penalty in by some ruling parties for “economic crimes” a practice not even followed in countries practicing Sharia law, who cut off your hand.

6. “Art is a hammer with which to shape reality.” First articulated by Brecht, primitive and almost obscene. Oh when will we learn to appreciate and engage something so gentle and so moving and so profound as our creative selves.

7. “Marxism, Marxism-Leninism.” Very bad idea to name a scientific world-view after individuals. Way too subjective and besides too many bad stories and nightmares associated with it. And, not very working-class sounding: too many syllables and hyphens. Replace it with “scientific socialism” or the “socialist and communist idea.”

8. “Organic intellectual.” Sorry Gramsci people. Great idea, but too much granola.

9. “Negation of Negation.” Most people have no idea what the heck that means, in dire need of reformulation, so people can at least understand it.

10. “Religion is the opium of the people.” Probably the second stupidest phrase ever uttered by a political theorist. Here again indefensible, even if it was taken out of context. Truly, God is not our enemy: capitalism is.

TEN BEST:

1. “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” At once a concept of contribution and distribution, it sums up a moment perhaps beyond “fairness” and “equality” (which is its pre-condition) and toward a new civilization. Utopian as all hell, but I love it.

2. “The history of all society is the history of class struggle.” The opening lines of the Manifesto gripped and grabbed me as teenager and retain all their truth and force.

3. “Labor theory of value.” “Value” arises from different forms – a chief contributor is the worker on the factory floor. It was refreshing to hear a auto worker in Mic hagen say precisely that on NPR this weekend. To paraphrase, “We do all the work, and they take all the profits.” Exactly.

4. “Labor in the white skin cannot be free while labor in the black is branded.” This phrase from Marx's capital captures the dynamic interplay of class and race and remains a foundation stone of the socialist and communist idea.

5. “No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.” Here again, Marx studying the Irish question in relationship to problems in the labor movement in England sets forth the guiding principle of the working-class movement in relation to democratic struggles, calling on labor to place the struggle for democracy at the forefront of its agenda.

6. “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” This idea, largely attributed to Lenin, comes rather from Plekanov. stresses the signal importance of theoretical work, an idea that often seems lost to the non-ideological as well as “ideological” US left.

7. “The educators must be educated.” You can say that again.

8. “The point is to change reality.” A daring and to some dangerous idea. But change it to what? The 19th century idea, much repeated by Marx and Engels of “mastering nature” must give way to a new concept.

9. “An once of action is worth more than a ton of theory.” Engels here seems to diminish theory, however, he actually placed it on equal par with the economic and political struggle. It speaks to the vital, initiating role of the “advanced detachment” of the labor movement, a value that too often seems to get lost.

10. “I am not a Marxist.” This phrase was uttered once by Marx and I read recently also by Engels in relation to some narrow statement by some would be adherent. . However, the latter is unconfirmed. The sentiment, however, is understood, as the reader saw at the top of this list.

Ok folks, let me know what you think. Plenty of space below:
Kamran Heiss
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 12 Jun 2006, 02:14
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Post 07 Aug 2008, 04:23
Is this serious?? It looks like a parody....


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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Post 07 Aug 2008, 04:28
Quote:
1. “Dictatorship of the proletariat.” Probably the worst phrase uttered by a political theorist ever. Who wants to live in a dictatorship? Even if I agreed with it conceptually, (which I don't), the Machiavellian in me has enough sense not to repeat it. Indefensible. And by the way, working-class “hegemony” (whatever the hell that means, sorry Gramsicans), aint much better.

2. “Single party state.” Related to but not necessarily derivative from the “proletarian dictatorship,” the one party state became and remains the model of “existing socialism” (whatever existing socialism means as the old model with one or two exceptions, no longer exists). Created to facilitate a forced march and manage popular consent by controlling the flow of information, it became a substitute for democratic decision-making, ideological struggle by convincing and consent instead of directive and decree. Internet has rendered completely useless. The single party state is doomed.


I disagree with these two things being among the "worst" in particular. The terms might not be associated with good things in the West, but what they describe is generally good.

It would seem to me that the author has fallen for a fair bit of Western propaganda.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 26 Jun 2006, 02:51
Embalmed
Post 07 Aug 2008, 05:00
None of these ideas are described very well, even the ones I agree with. A full critique would basically a general defense of the positions rather than a response to what he said, since there's so little actual content. A few thoughts...

Quote:
4. “Socialist Market Economy” At best utterly confusing to most and a euphemism for capitalism at worst causing the term “capitalism” to almost disappear from the socialist/capitalist lexicon, replaced by the “market.” It has created a huge ideological fog leaving many to scratch their hands and wonder what were we fighting for anyway? Sweden is not my model!


Market socialism generally amounts to capitalism but he doesn't mention how this true; eg that we should be talking about ownership of production and social relations.

Quote:
7. “Marxism, Marxism-Leninism.” Very bad idea to name a scientific world-view after individuals. Way too subjective and besides too many bad stories and nightmares associated with it. And, not very working-class sounding: too many syllables and hyphens. Replace it with “scientific socialism” or the “socialist and communist idea.”


I agree with this because using the names make us sound like individualists. Without Marx, there would still be Marxism. Without Lenin, there would still be Leninism. These people simply helped to push us along and explain things coherently.

His "best" has even less substance and is not worth replying to.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 04 Jun 2008, 21:19
Komsomol
Post 07 Aug 2008, 11:20
Quote:
10. “Religion is the opium of the people.” Probably the second stupidest phrase ever uttered by a political theorist. Here again indefensible, even if it was taken out of context. Truly, God is not our enemy: capitalism is.


No. No, no, no, no.

He clearly doesn't understand the phrase at all.


I do however agree with his position on art (criticism no. 6). It's a crime to censor art, even though Socialist Realism was admirable.

But when Picasso gets criticised for publishing this picture of Stalin:
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I don't know what was wrong with those Soviets. Did their renunciation come from not enough understanding of art?
Art is not an instrument. Art is just art.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Sep 2004, 16:21
Politburo
Post 07 Aug 2008, 12:50
Quote:
Art is not an instrument. Art is just art.

Are you claiming that art is autonomous from society? If so, then this is a very un-Marxist position. It relegates art to being no more than a consolation for life's unpleasantness, rather like religion. The point Brecht was trying to make is that art can change the world. It can provoke people to look at their lives in a new way, to see possibilities of thinking and feeling and living which they never saw before, and to try to make those possibilties real. An autonomous art, an art for art's sake, is sterile and ultimately pointless, like a yuppie putting a Jackson Pollock on the wall of his loft apartment. It becomes no more than a fashion statement, what Brecht called the "culinary" aspect of art.
"Comrade Lenin left us a great legacy, and we fucкed it up." - Josef Stalin
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 04 Jun 2008, 21:19
Komsomol
Post 07 Aug 2008, 17:19
Quote:
Are you claiming that art is autonomous from society?


No. Art is always very dependent from the circumstances it arises. Every single art movement has had some relation to a change in life and society in general.

Art is art in the sense that one cannot control the way it develops. That's why restricting art to a mere few styles is a crime in my opinion. Art lives from this certain spontaneity.

I disagree with Brecht's statement in the sense that he instrumentalises art. He seems to reduce it so very much.
That's how I interpret his statement. Your interpretation is much more pleasing to me and I do sincerely hope that he meant it that way and not in this brute, dry way.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 Mar 2005, 20:08
Embalmed
Post 07 Aug 2008, 17:47
I contributed to the discussion.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 Aug 2006, 17:42
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R.I.P.
Post 07 Aug 2008, 17:58
Quote:
Very bad idea to name a scientific world-view after individuals.


This happens more than just in Socialism, but I'd have to agree. A scientific world view is relegated to discipleship. A science is something alive whereas discipleships are about a cold black an white belief system that is what it is.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 21 Dec 2004, 23:53
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Post 08 Aug 2008, 02:50
Quote:
1. “Dictatorship of the proletariat.” Probably the worst phrase uttered by a political theorist ever. Who wants to live in a dictatorship? Even if I agreed with it conceptually, (which I don't), the Machiavellian in me has enough sense not to repeat it. Indefensible. And by the way, working-class “hegemony” (whatever the hell that means, sorry Gramsicans), aint much better.


Socialists shouldn't try and sugar coat reality. If what we intend to build is the limitless power of the working class it is called the "dictatorship of the proletariat."

Quote:
2. “Single party state.” Related to but not necessarily derivative from the “proletarian dictatorship,” the one party state became and remains the model of “existing socialism” (whatever existing socialism means as the old model with one or two exceptions, no longer exists). Created to facilitate a forced march and manage popular consent by controlling the flow of information, it became a substitute for democratic decision-making, ideological struggle by convincing and consent instead of directive and decree. Internet has rendered completely useless. The single party state is doomed.


Multi-party Marxism never really worked out.. the idea of having 1 party is to unite the oppressed classes. The party is supposed to having many socialist ideas; however, the are to follow one action. As opposed to the rampant sectarianism in multi-party states.

Quote:
10. “I am not a Marxist.” This phrase was uttered once by Marx and I read recently also by Engels in relation to some narrow statement by some would be adherent. . However, the latter is unconfirmed. The sentiment, however, is understood, as the reader saw at the top of this list.


IIRC correctly there were non-marxist (social democrats or anarchist) who were calling themselves Marxist. This led Marx to state that if those people were Marxist than he was not one. I believe I'm repeating something Whitten once said.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 26 Jun 2006, 15:59
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Post 08 Aug 2008, 12:20
Red Rebel wrote:
IIRC correctly there were non-marxist (social democrats or anarchist) who were calling themselves Marxist. This led Marx to state that if those people were Marxist than he was not one. I believe I'm repeating something Whitten once said.


Quite probably, the quote in its original context:

Engels in a letter to Bernstein wrote:
Nor have you any other source, i. e. other than Malon at second hand, for your reiterated assertion that in France ‘Marxism’ suffers from a marked lack of esteem. Now what is known as ‘Marxism’ in France is, indeed, an altogether peculiar product — so much so that Marx once said to Lafargue: ‘Ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.’(If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist.)


This is generally agreed to have been a refernce to the "marxism" of the Workers Party in France, as a result of the party leaderships insistance that the struggle for immediate reforms was futile and "unmarxist".
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 29 Jan 2009, 03:48
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 03:02
The phrase "...a scientific world view is relegated to discipleship" is one of the best and most sussinct descriptions of Marxism's Great Problem I have ever heard. Thank you so much!

Many "socialists" are as doctrinaire, dogmatic and fundamentalist as the right wing religionists they so despise.

Sims' comment on religion as an opiate is quite correct. Sims is not opposed to what Marx meant. He is opposed to how Marx's comment was bastardized and abused. The suppression of religion is indeed one of the Great Blunders of several Revolutions. How can a Revolution claim to "liberate" people when is suppresses one of humanity's most personal rights? And how many millions of workers and peasants were absolutely alienated from Socialism in the former USSR because of Officialdom's assault on the Orthodox Church? What a blunder!

Christianity and Socialism have much more in common than Christianity and capitalism. True, in the USSR the then new Soviet Authority would have had to work hard to gain the Church's support but in the end it would have been worth it. James Connolly addresses this very topic in his writings and concludes that throughout history the Church always comes to terms with whatever ruling authority it finds itself under and supports it as much as it can. Thus he found nuns in 19th century France teaching school children "la Marseillaise". Only 100 years earlier that anthem was being sung as nuns and other Catholic clergy were being guillotined! Had things taken a different turn today Orthodox nuns could be teaching little Soviet children "Soyuz Nerushimy" and the "Internationale" in church school!

Fidel addresses the issue of religion and Marxism in the book "Fidel & Religion" by Betto. Below is his recent comments on the Russian Orthodox Church (October, 2008). The Metropolitan Kiril whom Fidel praises has just been elected Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

< http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/2008/1022reflexionfidel.htm >
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 05:50
Gapon: James Connolly was right, and his conclusion was proven correct in the Soviet case as well, over time. The official relationship between the Soviet state and the Orthodox Church did become warmer over time, and the early mistakes were corrected to the point where there were no animosities between the state and the Church. By the 1970s Soviet religious delegations were going abroad to religious conferences and preaching in complete agreement about topics important to the state. The state allocated funds for restoration work on churches, temples, mosques and synagogues -particularly those deemed to be of strong cultural and historic importance. It also provided the upper echelons of the various churches with very generous state salaries -on the same tier as top government bureaucrats. The ordinary priests were given a minimum salary, to be supplemented by their church goers. Subsequently a state of interdependence developed. Religious officials and priests could rely on the state for support, and in turn were relied upon to help maintain domestic peace and function as a messenger for those elements of Soviet policy which related to religious affairs abroad. Religion played a very limited role in the last days of the Soviet Union in virtually all the conflicts and turmoil that occurred in that period. In other words it can't be credibly argued that had religion been given a greater role and more freedom 'Orthodox nuns could be teaching little Soviet children "Soyuz Nerushimy' today.
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 06:08
Nevermind. Soviet78 beat me to it.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 11:16
Points 2-6 and 8 of the "worst" aren't Marxist concepts. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a great thing, and I don't support it because I want to live in a dictatorship, but rather because I, as a proletarian, want to be a dictator, so to speak. The Negation of the Negation is an incredibly beautiful expression for an incredibly beautiful concept. He can't criticize the idea for the incomprehensibility of its name. I agree, however, with point 10. God isn't our enemy. If He even plays a role in class struggle, he's our ally, but generally I tend to completely separate politics and religion.

And what the heck is an organic intellectual?

Quote:
Only 100 years earlier that anthem was being sung as nuns and other Catholic clergy were being guillotined! Had things taken a different turn today Orthodox nuns could be teaching little Soviet children "Soyuz Nerushimy" and the "Internationale" in church school!


"Soyuz Nerushimy", maybe. The Internationale? Never.

The Internationale wrote:
No one will grant us deliverance,
Not god, nor king, nor hero.
We will win our liberation,
With our very own hands.


This is very much contrary to what nuns would teach.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Sep 2006, 22:05
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 12:38
Quote:
I agree, however, with point 10. God isn't our enemy. If He even plays a role in class struggle, he's our ally, but generally I tend to completely separate politics and religion.


You misinterpret "religion is the opiate of the masses" in the exact same way the original author does. That phrase is in no way conceivable and anti-god statement. Its a statement of how religions are proven historically to be used to supplant dissent with religious fervor.

*Worker approaches Priest*
Worker: Why is this world so unfair?
Priest: Life is unfair.
Worker: Why?
Priest: Because we will be rewarded for our faith in tribulation in heaven.
Worker: Oh, so I shouldn't try to change anything?
Priest: Changing things is against the way god set them.
*Worker blindly trudges through life*
*Priest sends other workers to same fate*

God may be on our side but religion never has been.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 13:22
Quote:
God may be on our side but religion never has been.


What about Liberation theology and the like? There are members of this forum who are religious and also Marxist.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Sep 2006, 22:05
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 13:39
Liberation theology has never been supported by any organized religion, only by individual priests. And the Catholic Church's crackdown on priests who preach LT further goes to prove the counterrevolutionary character of organized religion.

Quote:
There are members of this forum who are religious and also Marxist.


You're talking to a former muslim who, while admittedly being an atheist now, really hopes that god does exists. However believing in God, and even the tenets of a religion does not mean that one has to support organized religion. In fact organized religion has proven to be a constant enemy of the organized working class and revolutionary socialism. Its understandable considering that socialism seeks to rid the world of most of the problems that drive people to religion, ie we're a threat to their power capitalists are not.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 13 Feb 2008, 15:25
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 14:43
Ohh. I didn't realise you only meant organised religion. What about the relationship between the Orthodox church and the Soviet government? By the 1970's (as has been discussed in other threads) a large portion of the church supported Socialism. There were also Muslim leaders who gave speeches showing followers how Islam and Socialism can be compatible.

I don't agree with the notion that organised religion needs to be eliminated from society (I'm not suggesting you do though - just commenting). I think it would be better to harness it to benefit Socialism.
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Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Sep 2006, 22:05
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Post 30 Jan 2009, 14:56
Quote:
What about the relationship between the Orthodox church and the Soviet government? By the 1970's (as has been discussed in other threads) a large portion of the church supported Socialism. There were also Muslim leaders who gave speeches showing followers how Islam and Socialism can be compatible.


In the case of the Orthodoxy, if they wanted to preach in the USSR they didn't really have a choice, and as for the muslim clerics there have been many individual religious leaders that have been allies of the working class. Specifically I'm talking about organized religion within the world of pre-socialism. Just to be perfectly clear I believe that fighting against organized religion is counterproductive, but we should be aware they will almost certainly fight against us.
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