Archives for posts with tag: the Communist Manifesto

Reading this excellent article by James Poulter, BBC Three, I was reminded of Marx. Karl, not Groucho.

“The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

The XX-th century had been torn apart by two totalitarian lines of thought. Communism and fascism/nazism.
The communists had backed their claims on Marx’s class struggle while the fascists/nazists had used a plethora of other authors as pretexts. Despite the differences, the results had been the same. Callous spin doctors had used popular discontent to get uncontested possession of the political levers. And kept playing with them until entire countries crumbled under their own weight.

But what was it that made some nations destroy themselves on the left side of the authoritarian spectrum while others have done the same thing but on the right side?

The nature of the popular discontent!

At any given point, the majority of the people living in a country might see itself as being in one of the following three situations:
– Leading a relatively comfortable life and having a decent perspective to improve its lot or at least to maintain its present status.
– Having always led a bad life and finding absolutely no perspective of improvement.
– Having led a relatively good life for a while, lost that status and finding no way to resume it.

According to Marx, the first situation would have necessarily led to the third and, eventually, to communism.
According to history, people living in the second situation had always been manipulated into communism while people struggling in the third have been led into fascism/nazism.

Meanwhile, people living in the first situation have remained there for as long as they maintained their social cohesion. But that will be the subject of another post.

 

Plato, without actually saying so, was planning to ‘kill’ it.
A society run by his king-priests would have been ‘perfect’. Hence in no need of improvement. Not exactly dead but how would you describe something that doesn’t change in time? Anything but alive, right? And since ‘no change’ means ‘no history’…

Four centuries later, Jesus Christ had warned us about the ‘Final Countdown‘. Last Judgement, sorry. But what difference does it make? Final… Last…

Fast forward to the XIXth century, when Karl Marx was breathing new life into Plato’s ideas.
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.” (Karl Marx et al, Manifesto of the Communist Party),
Which very able and extremely wise communists were supposed to solve all past, present and future problems through a very simple measure. Abolition of private property and of the state needed to protect such property.
And since not everybody was yet ready to receive ‘the good news’, the communists were given a free hand to use revolutionary force in order to accomplish what they had to do.

To finally bring order to the World. To end history, that is.

Am I thick headed or the difference between Marx’s and Plato’s words is small enough to be insignificant?

You have again forgotten, my friend, said I, that the law is not concerned with the special happines of any class in the state, but is trying to produce this condition in the city as a whole, harmonizing and adapting the citizens to one another by persuasion and compulsion, and requiring them to impart to one another any benefit which they are severally able to bestow upon the community, and that it itself creates such men in the state, not that it may allow each to take what course pleases him, but with a view to using them to the binding together of the commonwealth.” (Plato, Collected Dialogues, The Cave)

A short century later, another optimist announced that ‘now, after the communist gulag had finally imploded, liberal democracy – a system flexible enough to absorb/solve any input/problem – will take over the entire planet. And, of course, bring over “The End of History” “.

Three decades later things are going on, as if nothing had happened.

There are still plenty rulers who behave as if “L’etat c’est moi” was coined yesterday and, even more sadly, too many people who look up to them.

The end of history has been postponed. Indefinitely.

 

I’ve made an assertion on FB, forgetting to use scarecrows, and I’ve been asked to elaborate:

Marx was a schizophrenic? You need to provide me with some good evidence before I can countenance that assertion. Similarly with the accusation of intellectual arrogance; Marx was a dialectician–which I understand to mean that conversation was more productive than solitary rumination.”

First about Marx being a dialectician. He was one alright. Only there is a small problem with dialectics. In order to work they need at least two equivalent proponents, one on each side. You cannot have proper dialectics by talking to yourself, eventually you’ll take sides and the whole exercise loses its scope.

At this point I’ll make a short break and let you in on one of my moments of shame.
As a high school student (Romania under communist rule) I had to participate in a compulsory class about ‘dialectical and historical materialism’ – the ‘scientific formula’ used by communists to describe their creed in those times. At one point the teacher asked me “What are the reasons for ‘dialectical’ materialism being ‘better’ than all other forms of materialism?”. “‘Dialectical materialism’ constantly checks its concepts against the reality and adjust them as the reality changes. By doing this its practitioners constantly deepen human knowledge and build an ever improving understanding of the world.” The teacher congratulated me for this answer and I felt very proud at that moment.
But only momentarily. Very soon I started to understand that the theory was fine indeed but that it couldn’t be put into practice.

Precisely because of how Marx had envisioned the communist society:

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.
The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties:
formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.
The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.
They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes.”

In fewer words he had stated that the communists were the sole guardians of truth and that that truth was unquestionable. Hence everybody else was wrong and the communists had an obligation to bring everybody back to the ‘straight and narrow’!

And where are the symptoms of his alleged ‘schizophrenia’?
Read the manifesto. It is comprised of a ‘theoretical’ introduction, in which Marx exposes his view on what had happened until the dawn of mankind till his days, and a ‘to do’ part which contains Marx’s recomandations about what people should have done from there on. I find it extremely baffling that a person who gathered such a complex understanding about a certain situation could come up with such completely erroneous ideas about how to proceed from there on.
Quite a lot of people entertain the notion that Marx was right only Lenin got it wrong and hence the failure of Russian/European communism.
No! Marx was right only when he described and explained what had happened. What he had said about the ‘conquest of political power by the proletariat’ was plain wrong. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘right’ dictatorship, no matter how dialectical it pretends to be.

You see, bona fide dialectics is about people freely, but considerately, contradicting each-other. In no way about ‘sheeple’ submissively caving in to peer pressure or crushing authority.

And here we have ‘it’: under communist rule, in order to save both their mortal beings and their inner souls quite a lot of people apparently toed the line but nevertheless kept a mental reserve about what was going on around them. Not clinical/proper schizophrenia indeed but how else would you call it?

PS. I still have to explain where my shame came from. When I eventually did understand the unbridgeable contradiction between my fine theoretical demonstration about the relative superiority of ‘dialectical materialism’ above over all other forms of materialism and the day to day tragic consequences of that specific brand of materialism being put into practice I remembered how proud I was about the praise I received on that day.
Remembering that moment is a fail proof method to prune down my pride!

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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