It takes a nation to protect the nation
I believe modern society would be far saner and healthier if it worshiped Groucho Marx rather than Karl Marx, but as with most things, I find myself in a small and persecuted minority. (If you must know, I am also left-handed.)
Rounding down, let’s conservatively estimate that those who tried to put Karl Marx’s theories into practice caused the deaths of 100 million people, whether purposely or by accident. I’ll also arbitrarily presume a median height of 5’6” once you factor in all the males, females, strapping Russians, and diminutive Chinamen that Marxist regimes slaughtered. If you were to stack these people head-to-toe, Marxism’s victims would extend from planet Earth into outer space more than 100,000 miles. That’s a lot of corpses. But that’s also if you assume that ideas inevitably lead to actions.
Still, Marx’s name doesn’t have nearly the taint of Adolf Hitler’s—at least not these days. This is almost the complete inverse of how it was during my childhood in the 1960s. Back then, Hitler was merely some guy with a Chaplin mustache who lost a war and whose only lasting impact on society was to inspire biker-gang couture. Nazis seemed roughly as dangerous to the status quo as Eric von Zipper hassling Frankie and Annette in beach-party movies. Back then, it was Marx whom you couldn’t mention favorably without risking the loss of your job, social ostracism, and perhaps a right bloody ass-kicking. George Orwell, the 20th century’s greatest prophet, knew that society’s demons change once power shifts in the opposite direction. So instead of Karl Marx, it is Hitler who now wears the Devil costume.
Since Marx was primarily an economic theorist rather than a cultural one, I don’t even think he would approve of the modern lynch-mob mentality so honkingly ubiquitous amid Cultural Marxism’s useful idiots. Then again, I don’t think most modern Cultural Marxists would approve of many of the things Karl Marx said about Jews and blacks.
When dealing with such a controversial figure—one who wrote in another language, no less—quoting Marx invariably leads to possible problems of translation, context, and misattribution. I sifted through mountains of potentially damning citations, tried to determine their veracity as best I could, and only “cherry-picked” the ones that seem properly sourced, realizing that if one “t” is not crossed and a single “i” is not dotted, Marx’s legions of rabid acolytes will dismiss this article entirely—hell, most of them will do that, anyway. That’s just what fanatics do. Wealth redistribution is the religion of the opium-smoking masses.
Here are some quotes that would get Karl Marx ostracized from all modern cultural discourse—especially, as fate’s cruel irony would have it, among modern Cultural Marxists:
…the Jewish nigger [Ferdinand] Lassalle….It is now completely clear to me, that, as proven by the shape of his head and the growth of his hair, he stems from the Negroes who joined the march of Moses out of Egypt (if his mother or grandmother on his father’s side did not mate with a nigger). Now this combination of Jewry and Germanism with the negroid basic substance must bring forth a peculiar product. The pushiness of this lad is also nigger-like.
—Letter to Friedrich Engels, July 30, 1862
Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society.
—The Future Results of British Rule in India, July 22, 1853
The French need a thrashing.
—Letter to Friedrich Engels, July 20, 1870
…the Spaniards are completely degenerated. But in the presence of a Mexican, a degenerated Spaniard constitutes an ideal. They have all the vices, arrogance, thuggery and quixoticism of the Spaniards to the third degree, but by no means all the solid things that they possess.
The Jews of Poland are the smeariest of all races.
—Neue Rheinische Zeitung, April 29, 1849
What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. … We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time, an element which through historical development – to which in this harmful respect the Jews have zealously contributed – has been brought to its present high level, at which it must necessarily begin to disintegrate. … The god of the Jews has become secularized and has become the god of the world. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange. … Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of Judaism – huckstering and its preconditions – the Jew will have become impossible….
—On The Jewish Question, 1844
There are several other citations attributed to Marx—as well as to Friedrich Engels, his benefactor and co-author ofThe Communist Manifesto—that would conclusively demonstrate to the handful of open-minded people who remain alive and unmuted in the Western world that he was at least as bigoted as, say, “Dog” the Bounty Hunter.
Marx’s battalions of blind apologists, yapping lapdogs that they are, will immediately scream that none of the above quotes detract from Marx’s general economic theories, that you can separate such isolated comments from the rest of his philosophy, and that he was merely a product of his time.
Fine. Then apply the same standards to Hitler and Robert E. Lee.
Whenever I hear someone say that the massively inhumane, soul-crushing, thought-murdering regimes that sprang from Marx’s philosophy didn’t represent “true” Marxism, the obvious rejoinder is that the Nazis and the Confederacy did not represent “true” ethnic nationalism.
Just as believing that wealth should be equitably distributed—a subjective notion if ever there was one—doesn’t mean you automatically will begin herding people into gulags, it is likewise true that disbelieving in the myth of innate human equality doesn’t instantly translate into a desire to start hanging people from trees and shoving them into ovens.
Ideas, no matter how misguided, should be allowed to roam freely. It’shumans who fuck them up. Ideas are separate from actions. Ideas do not automatically lead to harmful behavior. And attacking the character of a person who espouses ideas does not in any way discount his or her ideas. For the love of all that is holy and profane, I have no idea why any of this needs explaining, but apparently it can’t be explained enough.
So the minute you crazed and increasingly intolerant egalitotalitarians are willing to concede that ad-hominem attacks do not substitute for a legitimate argument, I’ll stop reminding you that Karl Marx said things that would send you all into a social-media Tweeting frenzy screaming for his blood. You lose the argument even by your own stupid rules. And the moment you show the guts and honesty to discuss ideas the right way—using “logic,” it’s a word you can look up in the dictionary—you’ll lose that argument, too.
As Saul Alinsky said, 'Never have a conversation with your enemy, because that humanizes them; and your goal is to demonize them.'
But before going that far Jim Goad's opponents will simply ignore him.
'Unfortunately, this type of infantile adolescent behavior is still quite prevalent in our current political environment. Instead of “capping” their opponents, many in the political class engage in hyperbolic demagoguery in an attempt to demonize those who disagree with them. This is not surprising, because in his book “Rules For Radicals,” Saul Alinsky, the original radical community organizer and societal change agent, says you should never have a rational discussion with your opponent. Doing so would humanize him, and your goal is to demonize him. With this tactic, he states that you can incur your opponent’s wrath, causing him to respond angrily, and in many cases, irrationally, which then provides an opportunity to use that irrational response against him.
I read that Jim Goad article and even I was surprised how racist Marx was. I've never seen his personal correspondences before - the unpublished stuff.
I'm rereading Das Kapital at the moment.... actually, I'm mainly reading the footnotes because the text is so dull. I say dull: except for the constant aggression and sarcasm that Marx seems to aim at every philosopher and economist who has ever lived. You really get a strong impression that Marx wasn't a very nice man. For a German, that endless (English?) sarcasm is part of his style. Even fellow socialists come in for his fierce sarcasm.
To be honest - he's quite good at it. But the sheer nastiness is unrelenting. He treats Proudhon with the same venom that he treats "capitalists".
I never understood how people came to the conclusion that Stalin, Pol Pot and even Lenin "distorted" Marx's otherwise humanist message. Everything which is required to justify totalitarianism, the Gulag, fanaticism, etc. can be found in Marx. Even his early "humanist" works contain that typical arrogance of Marx. And, what people must admit, that early "humanist Marx" would never be of interest, of even be known, if it weren't for the later Marx.
One other point that seems to be glossed over by modern day Marxists is that he once threatened to have the anarchist Bakunin killed, presumably they keep quite about this as they are always attempting rule or ruin tactics on the anarchist scene. Why the hell anarchists still associate themselves with marxists is just proof of the befuddled nature of the modern "anarchist" poseurs.
Meanwhile, some latter day marxist saviour has brought out a new version of Kapital - thing is, he got his sums wrong ; http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/pikettymania-thou-shal...
In my University days Karl Marx was the ‘messiah’ according many of my professors. His successors like Lenin, Stalin and Mao could only achieve their marvellous new societies because they stood on the sure foundation of Marx and his patron Engels. The old was to be swept away and replaced by the new society fashioned by the new Man. The vanguard would just make it happen. It was inevitable. Marx said so. All it needed was a little bit of helping along.
When I did my degree in Philosophy, my minor subject was political philosophy. Not once was a negative word spoken about Marxism or Communism. This was at a time when the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction was being discussed in the news.
All this mutual conformity, in the universities, on Marx is incredible.
I'm convinced that it's a way that educated Leftists can embrace a religion, Marxism, without guilt and without them actually seeing it as a religion. So just as all Muslims and many Christians don't critically engage with their chosen religion, so Marxists don't critically engage with their chosen religion - Marxism. In fact I've heard Marxist's say that too much analysis of Marx's central ideas is "counterproductive". It isn't the detail or even the theories which matter - it's the promise of a perfect future society - just like religion. That's why at conferences about Marxism they only debate how Marx can be applied to X and Y - they never actually debate whether or not Marx is right in the first place.
That's why Marxism never dies because it is based on Faith and Hope, not fact and reality.
And that's also why almost every year there's a new bestseller which "reinvigorates Marxism". They are usually sold with the blurb: "Perhaps Marx was right after all."... I
I think this Jim Goad fellow mentions a new book. But, as I said, there have been loads of them. There was a bestseller on Marxism - applied to contemporary situations - around five years ago... And what usually happens is, just like Marx, their prophesies and analyses turn out to be as false as Marx's own. And yet, in three years' time there will be another Marxist bestseller which makes all the same mistakes.
Marxism, the religion, will not die any time soon.
For many years as I walked around London I would regularly see posters advertising a conference by marxists/socialist with the main title saying: Preparing for Power. They were relishing the day when the levers of the State were in their hands. They still do I imagine.
in my experience, an argument with and between Marxists usually turned angry and sometimes violent. Like you say PAM there were assumptions that should not be looked at too closely and if they were it was like a red flag to a bull. And rather than admit, like most religious people do, and say: 'yes, well that is just what i believe to be true', you were counter-revolutionary if you did not believe the same assumptions. And counter revolutionaries like apostates were dealt with harshly. You became not only counter-revolutionary but perhaps even a fascist. I remember a marxist type say: ‘There is no greater sound in the world than the sound of a fascist skull being cracked.’
Comment by Paul Austin Murphy
The Bourgeois Marx
Karl Marx's own class status works against his own essentialism and reductionism with regards to class and “class consciousness”. His father, Heinrich Marx, was a lawyer and friend of Baron von Westphalen; who was a senior government officer from an aristocratic family. Marx's older sister Sophie was a friend of the Baron's daughter. Indeed that was how Marx himself met his future wife, Jenny (the Baron's daughter).
Marx himself was privately educated and then, in typical (revolutionary) bourgeois style, went on to study law at two universities: Bonn University and the University of Berlin.
As I said, Marx had an essentialist and reductionist view of capitalists or the “bourgeoisie” even though Marx himself and his best friend, Frederic Engels, were members of the bourgeoisie. Indeed Engels, during much of his life, was a capitalist/industrialist.
Much of Engels' money came from his father, who was a rich textile merchant who had a branch in Manchester. Engels' father also provided his son with an entertainment and hospitality allowance. He used some of that money to ride with the Cheshire hunt and to entertain his guests at his large house. At that house and during those dinner parties, he never allowed anyone to see his mistress; whom he had met at his father's mill in Manchester.
Apart from riding with the Cheshire hunt, Engels also said that he favourite hobbies were “wine, beer, women and song”.
Much of Engels' own money was spent financing Marx. In fact Engels reluctantly went back to work at his father's mill (in 1850) solely to help him finance Marx. He worked there for 20 years.
Marx's essentialism and views about the necessary war between capitalists and workers also seems strange because he was once a journalist for the Rheinische Zeitung; which was founded (in 1841) by wealthy manufacturers and industrialists. These capitalists, like Marx, believed in “progress” and “social advance”.
Philosophers Have Only Interpreted the World?
There are many self-aggrandising myths about Marx, some of which Marx himself fostered. For example, Marx famously said:
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways; the point is to change it.”
This is outrageously false. That is unless Marx simply, or really, meant that no other philosopher before him had been a revolutionary. Yet even that is not entirely true because many philosophers - prior to Marx - could indeed have been seen as revolutionaries. So Marx simply must have meant that no philosopher before him had been a Marxist revolutionary. True.
The fact is that many of the big names in philosophy were directly involved in “changing the world”; or at least directly involved in politics. Even Marx's direct predecessor, Hegel, was directly involved in politics. He just wasn't wasn't involved in bringing about “class war”.
Just to cite a few other examples.
John Locke's political philosophy had a profound effect on European and American politics. Machiavelli was both directly involved in politics and had a strong influence on politics, as did Voltaire, Rousseau,Thomas Hobbes, Francis Bacon, Aquinas, Aristotle, etc.
Again, the simple crime of these philosophers must have been not to believe in “revolutionary class war”. Yet that didn't automatically mean that these philosophers didn't want to “change the world”: only “interpret it”.
Marx and Marxists, and this is still true today, have also got it into their minds that all philosophers before Marx saw human nature as being unchanging and fixed. Like the idea of all philosophers only interpreting the world, this is clearly false. Some philosophers did believe that. And some philosophers didn't.
However, despite Marx's seemingly anti-essentialist view of human nature, Marx did, after all, believe that there is an unchanging aspect of human nature in all societies and at all times. And this is where he incorporates another of his many essentialisms: according to Marx, “labour is the essence of man”.
So his first argument against unchanging human nature was clearly targeted at the different ideologies upheld by different societies at different times. Marx was also keen to point out that there were different ideologies about human nature itself at different times and in different societies. However, Marx wanted to trump such ideologically suspect essentialisms with his own (new) essentialism: that the true nature of human nature is labour. That, of course, was an acceptable essentialism to Marx because it squared well with the rest of his revolutionary philosophy.
In fact it can be said that Marxism itself “was just one more passing ideology of human nature” and of much else besides. That is, Marx's theories can be applied to Marxism itself in a truly self-referential manner.
The British Museum
Marxists love the anecdote about Marx spending all his time in the British museum writing about society, history and the future communist society. However, it seems that Marx wasn't even original in this respect either.
Louis Blanc (1811-82) was, just like Marx, exiled to Britain. And like Marx again he spent much of his time in the British museum. Not only that: it might well have been there that he coined a phrase which is often attributed to Marx:
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
And just as Marx believed that socialism could only be a forerunner to (full or complete) communism, so Louis Blanc believed that communism itself would precede anarchism. Marx, needless to say, didn't believe that. Like Lenin and Trotsky, he had a deep hatred of anarchists and a deep faith in what the communist state could do.
The Scientific Study of Society
Marxists claim that Marx was the first philosopher (a few say “one of the first”) to “study society in a scientific manner”. Again, this is blatantly false.
Non-Marxist commentators have claimed that it was Hobbes (1588-1679), in his well-known book Leviathan, who was the first philosopher to study society and politics in a scientific manner. Indeed he even attempted to find the “laws of society” and history (in a manner akin to Galileo's and Gassendi); as Marx did some 200 years later. Indeed it can be argued that Aristotle analysed society and politics generally in a scientific manner. Some neo-Aristotelians may even claim that Aristotle was far more scientific on these subjects than Marx.
However, it will be more fruitful to mention some of the more direct precursors of Marx.
Take Claude Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825); who was an influence on Marx.
Saint-Simon, like Marx, believed that both history and society should be studied in a systematic and scientific manner. Indeed, again like Marx, he recognised the importance that “class struggle” had throughout history. In addition, as a good proto-Marxist, Saint-Simon also recognised the class division of society and saw it as being divided between the industriels (workers) and the oisifs (capitalists or rich “parasites”).
And, again, just like Marx, Saint-Simon both raged against capitalism at the same time as welcoming its technological developments. In other words, Saint-Simon believed that the advances made by capitalism - in such things as productivity and technological development - could be harnessed for socialist ends.
Another self-aggrandising myth about Marx, specifically in relation to the “scientific” nature of Marx's theories, is that Marx “never made any overt moral judgements in his work”. This is an incredible thing to state and believe primarily because almost everything he wrote is full of overt moral judgments. Indeed Marx's entire enterprise must have been inspired by his moral position on capitalism and on so much else.
Marxists must claim this because Marx himself claimed it (as is the case when Marxists restate, more or less, what Marx said about “Utopian socialism”, “the scientific study of society” and whatnot).
In addition to that, part of Marx's philosophy is that morality itself is “bourgeois” in nature. (Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and Chairman Mao's Red Guard were inspired by Marx's words on this subject.) Therefore if morality itself is bourgeois, how could Marx himself moralise about the evils of capitalism? This is clearly a quandary of some kind. And consequently here again we find that Marx and Marxism are riven with contradictions. (Yes, not unlike those “contradictions” which Marx and the Marxists talked and still talk about.)
Apart from the fact that Marx's (late) works weren't strictly speaking scientific at all (they were academic, which is not the same thing), his whole enterprise must have been initiated by his moral (or emotional) position on capitalism. Indeed what else could it have been founded upon?
It has even been said that emotion, feelings and even morality (or religion) itself has motivated much of the great work that has been done in physics and mathematics. (This is not to say that physics and mathematics are themselves about emotions or morality.) And if that's true about many physicists and mathematicians, think how much truer it must be about a political philosopher/theorist who dealt with such things as “exploitation”, “class war” and the rest.
Even in Marx's “most scientific work”, Das Kapital, he refereed to capitalists as “werewolves” and “vampires”. Elsewhere, Marx referred to the family as a “sentimental veil”; to the “sheer idleness” of the bourgeois; to Free trade as being an “unconscionable freedom”; that the “bourgeoisie” had brought about “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation”; and, finally, that “the bourgeois sees in his wife a mere instrument of production”.
And yet - and here's another contradiction - Marx also believed (as did Louis Althusser much later) that capitalists are just as much cogs in the capitalist machine as any worker. In the language of Althusser, both workers and capitalists are not true “subjects” within a capitalist system. As I said, capitalists, as well as workers (though, of course not Marxists) are “appendages to the machine” (Marx's own words), or “one-dimensional men” (Herbert Marcuse), or, as Marxists/Leftists smugly put it nowadays, “sheeple”.
Yet if all that's true about these millions of cogs in the machine, whence the Leftist anger, aggression and outrage? You cannot morally or even politically disapprove of cogs. In fact you can hardly have a moral position on a machine (i.e., capitalism). All you can do is destroy that machine. But here again: if morality is bourgeois, why does the Marxist care about the wrongs of capitalism? What is the root of that care if it isn't morality: indeed, if it isn't “bourgeois morality”?
Marx was certainly not the first philosopher who felt the need to delve into the “dismal science” that is economics. Indeed his direct predecessor, Hegel, did exactly the same thing. Not only that: Hegel studied many of the same economists, such as Adam Smith, that Marx did. (Hegel, again like Marx, focused on free trade and the nature of labour.) Clearly this fact would have had at least some influence on Marx.
Not surprisingly, that inclusion of economics into the pot of philosophy also shows another parallel with Hegel. What I mean by that is because Hegel notoriously attempted to create a huge and complete system of philosophy (as he did in his The Science of Logic of 812-), it was obvious that economics, being part of that everything, would need to be included in his system. And the same is true (though even more so in the case of economics) of Marx's equally “totalist” system of philosophy.
Did Marx Invent the Study of Classes?
Marxists claim that Marx discovered the reality of classes or, at the least, that he was the first to realise their importance. Yet even Marx himself rejected that thesis:
"... no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes... nor yet the struggle between them."
Marx was right: both David Ricardo (1772-1823) and Adam Smith (1723-90) had recognised the importance of classes before him. More specifically, Adam Smith saw that capitalists formed a class in its own right. And as for Ricardo, he also recognised the reality of class struggle; though, of course, not in strictly Marxist terms. (To Ricardo, class struggle arose as a result of of the - unfair - division of society’s profits.)
False Consciousness & Alienation
Marx even borrowed the notion of “false consciousness” (though I don't think he used those two words) from Hegel. Yes, of course, Hegel and Marx's notions of false consciousness aren't identical (no two philosophers' views are ever identical); though they are very similar.
According to Hegel, false consciousness (a phrase he didn't use either) arose because people believed that they were separate from the “divine”. That perceived separation brought about another state which is similarly related to Marx's work: alienation. Again, just like Marx, that false consciousness, and the resultant alienation, meant that people felt estranged from both the natural world and the world as it truly is. Marx, on the other hand, believed that capitalism created both false consciousness and alienation. And that, similarly, resulted in people becoming estranged from both the natural world and the world as it truly is.
Before Hegel, and therefore well before Marx, Charles Fourier (another influence on Marx) had also discussed the notion of alienation in his work. And, like Marx later, saw his own system of communism (which obviously predated Marx's) as a solution to that alienation.