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Post More on Marx and Marxism
Created by John Eipper on 11/12/10 7:59 AM

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More on Marx and Marxism (Alain de Benoist, France, 11/12/10 7:59 am)

Cameron Sawyer wrote on 11 November:  "The killing fields of Cambodia and China and the mass murders of Stalin are inherent to Marxism, as individual human life has no inherent value in Marxism, and all means are justified to achieve the glorious end of implementing ‘scientific communism' by any means necessary. The intellectual method of Marxism is bogus--a mumbo jumbo of 'dialectical' process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis which is not actually a method at all, but is rather an incantation that lends a false air of legitimacy to the work of whatever scholar is in official favor. Marxism claims to explain everything in the world, and to explain it scientifically, that is, objectively [...] All of this leads, very logically, to the Gulag and to the killing fields, and to the shots in the backs of the necks in the basement of Lyubanka."

(Alain de Benoist):  I am extremely surprised that someone claiming that he "made a pretty deep study of Marxism over a good part of [his] life" and has "read most of the original texts in the original languages," could write such lines.

First, nobody knows, of course, how Marx would have judged the "killing fields of Cambodia and China and the mass murders of Stalin." Many people (Marxists and non-Marxists alike) think, with good reason, that he would have been disgusted and would have condamned such things totally. Marxism is, first of all, a theory of liberty. Of course, one has the right to think that his theory of liberty is a wrong one. However, it is still a theory of liberty--the word meaning a reappropriation by humankind of its "Gemeinwesen," beyond any kind of alienation of its own nature.

No serious historian can take "Marxism" as a synonym of what has been the historical Communist system (which cannot be understood itself from its nationalist component). Most "Marxists" today do not see retrospectively anything "Marxist" in the Communist system under Stalin, sometimes not even in Lenin's ideas. To believe that their attitude is just dictated by opportunism is rather naive. Read their criticism before judging them. For most present "Marxists," the Soviet Union was just a totalitarian system in the form of a State capitalism.

The real problem lies in any attempt to make a "logical" link appear between an idea and what was done by people who claimed (rightly or wrongly) to hold this idea, or to be the "heirs" of this idea. Such attempts are always very risky, because they are built on subjective presuppositions and arbitrary interpretations. To say that Marx was "responsible" for the Gulag is as logical as to say that Gobineau was "responsible" for Nazi deeds, or that Democritus was "responsible" for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. My opinion is that there is never any direct of "logical" link between an idea (an ideology, a theory, etc.) and what has been done in its name. The theoretical ideas and the historical actions are two different fields, which have to be studied separately. Their possible articulation is still another topic. But I recognize that this constitutes an enormous field of discussion.

More generally, to reduce Marxism to a "mumbo jumbo of ‘dialectical' process of thesis, antithesis and synthesis," or to say that it wants to "explain everything in the world, and to explain it scientifically," is just a bunch of polemical assertions, nothing more. What is exactly "Marxism"? Karl Marx never described himself as a "leftist." He even said that he was "not Marxist." He never spoke about "dictatorship of proletariat" in his main writings, nor about "dialectical materialism" (something that Stalin invented in 1935). That he was himself a materialist is even very dubious (he criticized strongly the materialism of the bourgeoisie).

Marx tried to identify the very essence of capitalism, and he succeeded at this very well in my opinion (merchandise and commodities fetishism, transformation of living work into dead work, "Verdinglichung" of social relations). He also had a general philosophy of history which was very dependent on the big historicisms of his time, and which was extremely wrong in my opinion. He believed in progress, like most Enlightenment people (which inspired the American ideology), but other "Marxists" like Walter Benjamin strongly rejected such a belief. The attempt to "explain scientifically everything" is not Marxist, but belongs rather to English and American positivist-scientist Enlightenment theoreticians. Read Lenin's book about Ernst Mach and empirio-criticism.

When we speak about "Marxism," do we speak about the "young" Marx (the most interesting one, in my opinion) or about the "older" Marx, who contradicted so often the young one. If we speak about "Marxism" today, do we speak about Louis Althusser, Alain Badiou, Daniel Bensaïd, Slavoj Zizek, Henri Lefebvre, Anselm Jappe, Toni Negri, Robert Kurz or about somebody else? The problem is that there are between all of them as many disagreements as there are common ideas. Finally, is it so difficult to study an author like Marx without anathema nor devotion--without being "pro" or "anti"?

The United States is the only Western country where there was never an important Communist party (nor even a Socialist one--see the Werner Sombart's writing: "Why socialism never existed in America"). But it is also a country where in McCarthy's time, people were used to see "Reds" everywhere, and to denounce them through the well-known "guiltyness by association" trick. The same people who saw "Reds" everywhere had of course not the slightest idea of what Marxism and even Communism was. There is clearly something hysterical, puritanical and demonological in this attitude.

The Tea Party's view of "Islamo-fascists" is quite analogous: these people do not know anything about Islam, about Islamism or about Fascism. They are so stupid that they believe that politics has something to do with the simplistic "free enterprise vs. big government" equation. (Big capitalist corporations are always very happy to find a government "big" enough to bail them out and to give them the money necessary for paying for their own mistakes.) It reminds me a good friend of mine who was so politically dumb that he did not know the difference between Marxism, revolutionary syndicalism and anarcho-syndicalism.

To describe President Obama as a "Marxist" is just the proof of an abyssal illiteracy in politics and the history of ideas. Obama has been backed by the banks and got more support from the capitalist corporations than did McCain. He believes in a "human rights" ideology (an ideology radically criticized by Karl Marx). He is of course not a "Marxist," but rather a man who has no clear design, who has always big difficulties in making decisions. He has not understood that, in politics, decision is much more important than administration or (corporate) "governance."

Martin Heidegger, who certainly was not a Marxist, wrote once than the problem with all the people who have criticized Karl Marx is that they have never reached the intellectual level of the object of their criticism. He was quite right.

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  • More on Marx and Marxism (Nigel Jones, UK 11/13/10 8:18 AM)

    Alain de Benoist's defence of Marx and Marxism (12 November) is so deeply flawed that one doesn't know where to begin.

    Essentially, he is attempting to separate Marx's theories from the practice--or "praxis"--of those regimes which followed him, which involves denying that the goverments of the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba and their various satellites had anything to do with old Karl. Why then, did such Governments school their cadres in compulsory courses of Marxist-Leninism; print his works by the million (making their study obligatory in all schools); carry his portrait--and that of Friedrich Engels, (the man who subsidised the parasitical Marx and his family). I am reminded of the phrase "If it quacks, has webbed feet and walks like a duck--then its a duck."

    These regimes were indeed proudly Marxist, and followed Marx's nostrums to their disastrous logical conclusion, which, as Cameron Sawyer rightly remarked, could have no other conclusion than the mass mass murder of millions. I am not surprised that Alain seeks to separate Marx from such genocidal failure. If Marx's theory is indeed, as Alain claims, "a theory of liberty," is it not a heavy irony that this resulted in a good portion of the world--the Communist world--being turned into captive nations? Marxism meant that the workers of the world put on chains rather than cast them off. Separating Marx from Marxism is rather like claiming that Christianity has nothing to do with Christ.

    Alain is extremely selective in the Marx that he wants to defend. The young Marx can indeed be presented as a fresh idealist; but he is the same person as the old Marx who twisted the truth to suit his increasingly outlandish theories. Marx has proved spectacularly wrong in his political, economic and social predictions. Capitalism has not collapsed of its own contradictions. The working class have not risen in revolution--indeed it is they who have withered away before the relentless advance of the dreaded bourgeoisie, a class which of course Marx himself belonged to. Amid his other afflictions (carbuncles and piles amongst them), Marx had a severe case of pathological self-hatred. So, if Marx has been so spectacularly wrong in every major point of his prophecy--why should we take any other aspect of his thought seriously?

    It is interesting that of the eight major modern Marxists whom Alain cites, one, his countryman Louis Althusser, was a homicidal maniac who ended his days in a lunatic asylum after strangling his wife; another, Antonio Negri, was the criminal mastermind behind the Red Brigades, the murderous terrorists whose vile deeds included the murder of Italian Premier Aldo Moro; and the third, Slavoj Zizek, while not to my knowledge personally a murderer, is a keen theoretical defender of such mass murderers as Robespierre and Mao, and, as anyone who has seen Zizek speak can testify, is clearly in urgent need of psychiatric help.

    Alain must speak for himself, but I would be very wary of a political theory that attracts such a high proportion of criminal lunatics and killers. I do not think that this is an accident. Marxism--like other totalitarian doctrines--has always attracted a high number of disturbed and deranged individuals who seek to compensate for their personal inadaquacies in espousing doctrines of violence and power. One need only read the biographies of Mao and Stalin to appreciate this. Marxism, in fact, is a form of collective mass sadism.

    Alain makes some very sweeping statements about American politics that I would seriously call into question. He says that no-one in the Tea Party movement knows anything about Islam, Communism, or Fascism. How does he know? How many members of the Tea Party has Alain actually met to form such a judgement? I suspect the answer is none, and that he bases this opinion purely on media reports.  Similarly, he says that Americans who fought Communism in the 1940s and '50s "saw Reds everywhere" and didn't even know what Communism was. Au contraire: subsequent scholarship has established that there was a clear Soviet strategy to infiltrate American Government at that time, and that such outfits as the Manhatten Project, were riddled with Communists and their sympathisers. If Americans saw Reds everywhere--that is because there were Reds everywhere.

    Alain seems to think it is a badge of shame that America, alone among major industrialised nations, has never had a significant Communist or Socialist party. I say this is a blessing. Wherever the dead hand of socialism appears, poverty, misery, ignorance and fear follow in its wake. Americans, being composed of immigrants fleeing state oppression know better than to vote for this utter failure of a doctrine, which since its failure in the 20th century, is now only of interest to a few ageing and isolated intellectuals like Zizek, who cannot grow up and tear himself away from the doctrines he was force-fed in his youth in Communist Yugoslavia. Marxism, I believe, is the biggest busted flush in history.

    Finally, I had to read Alain's concluding sentence twice before its full arrogant absurdity sunk in. He quotes with admiring approval the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger as saying that "All the people who have criticised Marx have never reached the intellectual level of the object of their criticism." What, all, Alain? Let us take just a handful of Marx's critics: Karl Popper, Arthur Koestler, Albert Camus, Friedrich Hayek, Bertrand Russell--none of these intellectual giants known for their devastating critique of Marx and Marxism have attained old Karl's intellectual level? You have got, as we say in English, to be joking.

    JE comments:  Is it possible to separate Marx from the "Marxists" who have acted in his name?  An parallel might be drawn with Christianity and Islam--nasty acts have been committed in Christ's and Muhammad's name, but can we blame Them for this?  (Let me stress that I'm not equating Marx with Christ and Muhammad; I'd just like to present this analogy for discussion.)

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    • More on Marx and Marxism; on Antonio Negri (Alain de Benoist, France 11/14/10 3:23 AM)
      Nigel Jones (13 November), who believes I try to "defend Marxism," while I am just pleading for a more balanced judgment on Karl Marx (one can subscribe to some of his views while completely condemning other parts of his doctrine, which is my position), wrote that "separating Marx from Marxism is rather like claiming that Christianity has nothing to do with Christ."

      With such a funny argument, Nigel shows he is unaware of the fact that quite a lot of historians and specialists do think, with some good reason, that, yes, "Christianity has nothing to do with Christ." Jesus wanted to reform Judaism, certainly not to be the founder a new religion. Thousands of pages have been published about that.

      The argument that "Marxism has always attracted a high number of disturbed and deranged individuals who seek to compensate for their personal inadequacies in espousing doctrines of violence and power" is even more funny. Come on, Nigel, all doctrines, ideologies, beliefs or religions (beginning with Christianity) have, through history, "attracted a high number of disturbed and deranged individuals." To say that only Marxism or totalitarian doctrines have had such a privilege is not serious. The history of ideas cannot be reduced to a history of madness.

      Nigel wrote also that "Antonio Negri was the criminal mastermind behind the Red Brigades, the murderous terrorists whose vile deeds included the murder of Italian Premier Aldo Moro." Antonio (Toni) Negri is certainly not somebody I revere: I have just written more than 80 pages to refute the views he expressed in his books written with his American friend Michael Hardt. However, unfortunately for Nigel, the charge that he was the "criminal mastermind behind the Red Brigades," raised against him by some Italian judges, has never been proven. In the 1970s, Negri was the main theoretician of the "Operaism" tendency (Potere Operaio, Autonomia Operaia), a very particular doctrine which has never been endorsed by the Red Brigades. At the end of the 1970s, Negri was sentenced to jail for "subversive association," but was later systematically acquitted for the charge of having had links with the Red Brigades or of having been involved in Aldo Moro's murder. As a theoretician, Negri is today a great advocate of globalization by "cognitive capitalism." Everybody who has read his books know that he is much more an heir of Spinoza that of Marx.

      The exact conditions of Aldo Moro's murder are still far from clear today. Several historians think that the Red Brigades had been infiltrated and/or manipulated. The CIA and Mossad have been accused (because the US government was hostile to the decision taken by Moro to have some Communist ministers in his government), but without any conclusive proof. However, it has been established that the Italian government voluntarily provoked the failure of the negotiations engaged with the Red Brigades, and that this attitude was suggested by its American counselors. In 2006, Steve Pieczenik, a former negotiator for the US government who worked under the orders of Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance and James Baker, revealed that he took part in sabotaging the negotiations engaged with the Red Brigades by the Italian government, the objective being to "sacrifice Aldo Moro to maintain the political stability in Italy." "I have instrumentalized the Red Brigades to kill Moro," said Steve Pieczenik. This version has been confirmed by ex-President Francesco Cossiga, who was minister of Interior at that moment. The American investigation journalist Webster G. Tarpley reached the same conclusion.

      Finally, to describe Martin Heidegger as a "Nazi philosopher" is in my opinion quite laughable. Nigel should read what Alfred Rosenberg, Ernst Krieck and Alfred Bäumler wrote about Heidegger. I have personally worked for several years on that topic, and my conclusion is that nobody has more than Heidegger developed such a devastating critique of Nazism, including during his short time as a Rector of Freiburg University. This has been demonstrated by the works of Jean-Michel Palmier, François Fédier, Jean Beaufret, Marcel Conche, and many others. I suggest that Nigel read Bernhard Radloff, Heidegger and the Question of National Socialism. Disclosure and Gestalt, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2007, which is a good and balanced summary of his whole file.


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      • Murder of Aldo Moro; on Webster Tarpley (Randy Black, USA 11/14/10 1:03 PM)
        In his 14 November post, Alain de Benoist made a case that the intelligence services of the USA and Israel conspired in the murder of Italian Premier Aldo Moro. My purpose herein is not to do a hatchet job on anyone, but only to cite the facts that are easily supportable and based on public documents and verifiable sources.

        Moreover, Alain supported his argument in this matter by citing "American investigation journalist" Webster Griffin Tarpley (who) reached the similar but slightly different conclusions in a study commissioned by the Italian Parliament in the 1980s.

        Whether or not the CIA and the Mossad were involved in the conspiracy, to use Alain's words, "is far from clear today."

        However, to cite Webster Tarpley in his attempt to support his own positions is difficult for me to understand.

        Mostly, I suppose, I am skeptical of Mr. Tarpley's positions because of his controversial conclusions on a number of other conspiracy matters. The way I see Mr. Tarpley is that apparently, in his world, everything of significance is a conspiracy. After reading the rest of my post, you may also share my skepticism.

        His controversial positions include global warming (he calls it a fraud), the Dalai Lama (he does not care for the man) and the 9/11 attacks that Mr. Tarpley believes was operated by the US military-industrial complex rather than a bunch of Middle East murderers. To support my position in the above matters, I have taken care to include the exact sources from within Mr. Tarpley's own websites, from the exact media that published his statements, from his various books, and from the YouTube videos of his many public speeches, that Mr. Tarpley or his supporters uploaded.


        About the only position that I agree with Mr. Tarpley on is his opinion that global warming is a fraud.

        In the matter of Aldo Moro, Mr. Tarpley concluded and published a study in which he stated that Italy's Propaganda Due, a Masonic lodge operating in Italy illegally, orchestrated the assassination of Prime Minister Moro. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webster_Tarpley )

        Moreover, Mr. Tarpley has published or spoken publicly hundreds of times always claiming that the 9/11 attacks were operated by the US military industrial complex. In his book, 9/11 Synthetic Terrorism: Made in the USA, Tarpley makes the case that the terrorists who were in control of the commercial jets on 9/11 were not capable of flying anything (page 156).


        Additionally, for those among WAIS who are admirers of Al Gore, Tarpley supports the thesis that anthropogenic global warming is a fraud. See: "The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off," 2009.

        Tarpley is or was an active member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth (S9/11T). S9/11T's co-founder James Fetzer initially called for an investigation as to whether or not the Twin Towers might have been destroyed by a small nuclear device. Fetzer eventually separated from the organization for reasons that remain in dispute. See Mr. Fetzer's own position and statements on these matters at his blog as of July 6, 2010:


        Additionally, to be fair, while Tarpley disliked and vilified Bush 43, he was even more hostile to the appointment of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. In a letter published Dec. 6, 2006, Mr. Tarpley claimed that Gates was "co-founder of Al Qaeda."

        "Most damning of all is the fact that Gates was one of the founders of al Qaeda, the CIA's Arab Legion which was assembled to attack the Soviets in Afghanistan. Gates is thus part of the infrastructure that produced the patsies of 9/11..." http://911blogger.com/node/4864

        Mr. Tarpley is nearly equally as antagonistic in his writings and speeches regarding President Obama. Tarpley makes the claim that Obama is connected to the Chicago Mob and has deep Mafia connections.

        While I object to Alain's labeling of Mr. Tarpley as an investigative journalist, it may be more accurate to label him as a very well educated and prolific, profitable writer on many controversial topics.

        Incidentally, in my research for this post, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Mr. Tarpley and I share publishers:








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      • More on Marx and Marxism (David Gress, Denmark 11/15/10 1:36 AM)

        Calmatevi, amici! Calm down!

        I understand both Nigel and Alain. I refer both to the definitive book on Marxism by Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism, reviewed by me in Commentary way back in 1979 and recently reissued in one volume.

        Karl Marx was a very smart and very unpleasant man, in which he resembled hundreds of other world-improvers, and I do not except our current president.

        He treated his nearest and, one supposes, dearest, in ways that would shock our moderator. Revolutionaries are like that.

        I was a Marxist once, back in 1975, after reading David McLellan's book about Marx in the Fontana Modern Masters series. But the infection soon subsided, because there was so much about life and existence that he could not explain. So I became a Christian instead.

        Regarding Alain's point about Jesus and Judaism:  as a Catholic, I of course accept the Gospel's word that Jesus did indeed accept Peter as the rock on which He would build his church.

        About Aldo Moro I agree with Alain. The murder remains unsolved. I find Alain's version, that the Italian government deliberately refused to rescue him, convincing. Who pressured whom to do what remains obscure, one of the many unsolved Italian political crimes.

        About Heidegger I defer to Alain. In my view he was a great. although often incomprehensible philosopher, which raises the question, why are modern philosophers incomprehensible? What is their problem? Why can't they speak freely, like Plato?

        JE comments:  I'm a bit weary of Marx, but I'd like to highlight this question from David Gress for further discussion:  why are modern philosophers incomprehensible?  Is it because every profession needs its proprietary language, to keep out the amateurs?  Have all the basic concepts been explored, à la Plato, leaving only the complex ones for philosophical reflection?

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      • More on Marx and Marxism; Christ and Christianity (Nigel Jones, UK 11/15/10 1:56 AM)

        I am delighted that Alain de Benoist (14 November) thinks my arguments are "funny." I find his equally amusing. Contrary to Alain's condescending remarks, I am very well aware that "quite a lot of historians...do think that 'Christianity has nothing to do with Christ'" (I studied theology academically). However, Alain's opinion that Christ's goal was merely to reform Judaism is incorrect. He specifically stated that He was on earth in order to found "the rock" of a new faith--a new Church that would be open to all mankind, not just Jews. That is why he was put to death, not for reforming Judaism, but for seeking to subvert it by claiming to be "the son of man." Christ, therefore, has everything to do with the religion he founded.

        While it is true that, as Alain says, all major doctrines and faiths attract disturbed and deranged individuals, in few of them is madness as absolutely inherent as in Marxism, which glories in the idea of mass murder and violence and the eliminatioon of whole classes of humanity. To use a Biblical phrase: "By their fruits shall you know them," and the dark "fruits" of Marxism were violence, tyranny, oppression and mass murder. Marx's disciple Lenin, for example, even before he attained power, wrote in his polemics of "crushing," "killing" and "destroying" his political opponents. When he got into power he proceeded to put his psychopathic personality disorder into literal effect. Ditto with Stalin and Mao. The results we know. I believe that the fact that Marxism attracts deranged and disturbed people such as the trio I mentioned (who Alain cited as major modern Marxists) is, as Marxists themselves would say, "no coincidence."

        Randy Black (14 November) has summarily dealt with Alain's theories regarding the Red Brigades.  Quite understandably, Alain prefers to deflect attention away from Negri's quite obvious position as the intellectual godfather of revolutionary terrorism in Italy in the 1970s by mentioning his work on Spinoza.  That is equivalent to citing Isaac Newtons' voluminous works on Biblical evangelism without mentioning his rather more important work on gravity. Of course Negri is a violent revolutionary Marxist--though in a chacteristically cowardly way he took care to keep his own hands clean of blood and let others do the dirty work--why else did he flee Italy for France, where he was protected by that slimy crook Mitterrand?

        Finally, although I have not read the authors on Heidegger that Alain cites, I have read several others whom I would recommend to Alain-- including the definitive biography by Rudiger Safransky, Hugo Ott's book on Heidegger and politics, and Elzbietta Ettinger's volume on Heigegger's' relationship with Hannah Arendt, as well as the works of the man himself. These are quite enough to satisfy me that he was a National Socialist who wanted to become the Nazi state's pet philosopher. To call Heidegger a "Nazi philosopher" is acceptable shorthand for a man who was a member of the Nazi party from 1933 to 1945; praised Hitler in public speeches; was banned from teaching by the French occupation authorities in post-war Germany for his party involvement; and distanced himself (in fact betrayed) his mentor in Phenomenonology, Edmund Husserl, solely because Husserl was Jewish. This does not, of course, mean that Heidegger's philosophical work is worthless, nor that the man was irredeemably evil. (In a personal capacity, for example, he helped a Jewish student--who happened to be his lover--escape from Nazi Germany.) I can, however, quite understand why Alain, as an avowed admirer of Heidegger's works, is embarassed by the fact that Heidegger was a Nazi. I am an admirer myself (I made a pilgrimage to the hut in Todtnauberg--not that easy to find--where his major works were written when I was last in the Black Forest in 2009), but merely accept that he was a philosopher who happened to be a Nazi. Or does Alain seek to deny that plain and documented fact?

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  • More on Marx and Marxism (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 11/13/10 8:59 AM)

    Concerning my previous comments about how the question of Marxism in theory is related to Marxism in practice, Alain de Benoist wrote on 12 November:

    Nobody knows, of course, how Marx would have judged the "killing fields of Cambodia and China and the mass murders of Stalin." Many people (Marxists and non-Marxists alike) think, with good reason, that he would have been disgusted and would have condemned such things totally. Marxism is, first of all, a theory of liberty. Of course, one has the right to think that his theory of liberty is a wrong one. However, it is still a theory of liberty--the word meaning a reappropriation by humankind of its "Gemeinwesen," beyond any kind of alienation of its own nature.

    No serious historian can take "Marxism" as a synonym of what has been the historical Communist system (which cannot be understood itself from its nationalist component). Most "Marxists" today do not see retrospectively anything "Marxist" in the Communist system under Stalin, sometimes not even in Lenin's ideas. To believe that their attitude is just dictated by opportunism is rather naive. Read their criticism before judging them. For most present "Marxists," the Soviet Union was just a totalitarian system in the form of a State capitalism.

    The real problem lies in any attempt to make a "logical" link appear between an idea and what was done by people who claimed (rightly or wrongly) to hold this idea, or to be the "heirs" of this idea. Such attempts are always very risky, because they are built on subjective presuppositions and arbitrary interpretations. To say that Marx was "responsible" for the Gulag is as logical as to say that Gobineau was "responsible" for Nazi deeds, or that Democritus was "responsible" for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. My opinion is that there is never any direct of "logical" link between an idea (an ideology, a theory, etc.) and what has been done in its name. The theoretical ideas and the historical actions are two different fields, which have to be studied separately. Their possible articulation is still another topic. But I recognize that this constitutes an enormous field of discussion.

    The first argument of Alain's is that we don't know what Marx would have thought about what was done in the name of Marxism in the 20th century. He is certainly right here; we don't know. But I didn't argue that Marx would have approved of the Great Purge. Alain uses this argument against my assertion that violence committed in the name of Marxism in the 20th century is inherent to Marxism. I don't think Alain's argument engages my point at all, which is very different. I could still be right, that the principles of Marxism lead inevitably, or maybe not even inevitably, but tend to lead to Stalinist or Maoist extremes, and yet Marx might be horrified, had he lived to see the Great Purges. I don't think Marx's hypothetical horror is at all relevant to the point. It is quite common that a political theorist, or any kind of theorist, does not grasp the implications of his theory.

    The second argument of Alain's is that "no serious historian" can identify the actual Marxist-Leninist or Maoist political regimes of the 20th century with Marxism itself. But again, that was not my argument. I argued that the murderous aspects of those regimes is inherent in the basic idea of Marxism. Such a proposition does not require that those regimes be perfect or even approximate realizations of Marxism. It requires only that some particular aspect of the theory requires, implies, or even allows for the murderousness of those regimes. I named that particular aspect, albeit schematically.

    As an aside, Alain argues that the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist regimes of the 20th century "cannot be understood apart from their nationalist elements." This is a common item of belief among certain 20th century historians, with which I disagree. There is not really any nationalism in Marxism-Leninism as implemented by the Bol'sheviks. It is a profoundly internationalist, anti-nationalist creed, even if it failed to achieve the melting of national borders which it theorized, and even if it failed to remake the souls of men (that is, create the "New Soviet Man") into a being which did not have nationalist feelings. Maoism is different, and of course, the Maoist movement was a nationalist movement aimed to create a China free of foreign domination. But Maoism was nationalist only in tactics, I would argue, using nationalist feelings of people to gain support. Nationalism is not required for the system itself--only for gathering force needed for the system to prevail.

    I don't know what Alain means by "just a totalitarian system"--totalitarianism is absolutely of a piece with Marxism--there is no such thing as non-totalitarian Marxism (there are tendencies which claim to be not totalitarian, yet Marxist. Totalitarianism--the idea that the state is "total," that no aspect of human life is outside of the state's concern, drips from every page of Marx. Yes, he had a theory of freedom, as Alain says. But that theory holds that freedom is not the freedom to do what one things one ought to do, but to do what one objectively ought to do, according to the System (according to the "objective truth" as interpreted by revolutionary party elite). There is no such thing as individual will or even consciousness which has significant meaning in Marxism--here Marx took Hegel to the logical extreme. And that is the significance of the "Gemeinwesen" which Alain mentioned--the "Common Being." Mankind is supposedly alienated--mankind, not men, that is, it is alienated collectively. It has to be given back its true nature. What individual people think and want is nothing but an obstacle to this.  Of course this idea (parodied under the motto "Freedom is Slavery" in Orwell) is much more developed and elborated in Lenin, than in Marx. And indeed this is one of the ideas which lead logically, and I would say inevitably, to the Gulag and to worse.

    How could Marx think of freedom in such a, to us, strange way? Well, the whole philosophical structure of Marxism is more like a religion, than it is a philosophical system. This is crucial to understanding Marxism. At the heart of it are not logical precepts, but articles of faith. It has--not just a belief in progress, as Alain says, but much more than that --it has actual teleology, and it has millenialism just like any religious sect:  history leading inevitably to a promised land. It is inherently fanatical, and its belief system naturally creates priests and heretics, the difference between them generally being nothing more than who has the power to imprison or kill the Other. In that way Marxism is dependent on power, just like religion is. It gains adherents not by appeals to reason, but by appeals to belief, even though it strenuously claims to be a scientific system. And that is why I called the dialectical "mumbo jumbo." I meant "mumbo jumbo" in the technical sense. It is an incantation and not a method; it does not produce repeatable results. It gives a falsely objective and rational, indeed "scientific" veneer, to what are essentially articles of faith.

    Alain explains some of the difficulties of connecting logically political theories, with applied politics. Certainly there is nothing obvious or easy about it. But I would say that there is no point whatsoever in political theory, if there is no discernable relationship between theory and practice. Political theory becomes an absurd activity in this case, like Augenmusik. So I will defend everyone's right to make arguments about what political ideas imply for political practice. Likewise, the fact that there are many different interpretations of Marxism does not mean that it is hopeless to see the essence of Marxism, or even of several essential elements. Of course honest men of good will may disagree. But this applies to any field of knowledge.

    As to Marx's critique of Capitalism, I actually agree to some extent with Alain. I think Marx profoundly misunderstood human economic behavior, but I do actually think that he was a keen observer of the particular socio-economic environment he lived in (even if he drew entirely wrong conclusions from these keen observations). Those parts of Marx's work are the most interesting to my mind.

    From the paragraph "The United States is the only . . ." I think Alain is already not talking about my comments. I wouldn't defend McCarthyism, and America's own political problems of the 1950s are not really relevant to this discussion. Likewise, the Tea Party and so-called "Islamo-Fascism." Nor did I ever see any Marxism in Obama's ideas. So I'll stop here.

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    • More on Marx and Marxism (John Heelan, UK 11/13/10 2:10 PM)
      Cameron Sawyer wrote on 13 November: " I could still be right, that the principles of Marxism lead inevitably, or maybe not even inevitably, but tend to lead to Stalinist or Maoist extremes, and yet Marx might be horrified, had he lived to see the Great Purges"

      Cameron could well be correct, however such a tendency is inherent in any ideology taken to extremes--including institutionalised religion.

      So to borrow Cameron's words, "the principles of (Christianity/Islam/Judaism/Hinduism) lead inevitably, or maybe not even inevitably, but tend to lead to extremes (of religious persecution), and yet (Jesus/Muhammad/Moses/Devi et al.) might be horrified, had (they) lived to see (he massacres in their names)."

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      • Marxism and Its Religious Parallels (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 11/14/10 3:43 AM)
        I think that John Heelan (13 November) is right to some extent. A religion which claims to have a monopoly on truth certainly leads logically to religious persecution. All the more if fanatacism is inherent in it--that is, if a perfect implementation of its ideas are an imperative, according to its precepts, which implies that moderation, modesty or skepticism are inherently wrong, according to this religion. It is these ideas which give rise to the idea of heretics, and to the idea of holy war and all of the rest of it. So I think we do see these tendencies to some extent in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and so I think it is fair to say, as John suggests, that violence and religious persecution are at least to some extent inherent in these religions as I claim they are inherent in Marxism.

        Marxism is like this, too--and that is why I made the specific claim that Marxism is like a religion. It makes a very explicit claim to having a monopoly on truth, and this claim is made in terms which, despite the appeals to science, are essentially religious.

        But Marxism is much more pernicious than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, because Marxism does not stop at questions of the human soul. It claims to explain the entire world. So we can say with accuracy that Marxism is totalitarian in another sense. It is essentially at war with human nature and can only be implemented with the destruction of human nature, or with the construction of a new kind of human being. Lenin correctly and honestly interpreted this with his idea of remaking human nature and the "New Soviet Man," which are absolutely logical consequences of Marxism, even if Marx did not get so far in his own work. All of this creates the unlimited potential for violence and oppression, far beyond what religions can do.


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    • Bakunin on Marx (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 11/15/10 2:17 AM)

      On 13 November I wrote, in response to an argument by Alain de Benoist that we don't know whether Marx would have approved of the mass murders committed in Marx's name in the 20th century, that it doesn't matter whether Marx would have been horrified by these things. I would like to add and qualify this by pointing out that I did not say that I agree that Marx would have been horrified. To say that it doesn't matter whether or not he would have been horrified is not to concede that we can guess that he would have been horrified.

      Although it is pure speculation to argue either for or against the idea that Marx would not have approved of the things done in his name in the 20th century, since Marx died in 1883, there are plenty of clues, and speculation on this point is not an entirely vain endeavor.

      This is also connected with the question of whether it is an entirely vain endeavor to connect the theory of Marx with the practice of Marxist government. Marx did not spend his entire life spinning theory in a monastery or an attic somewhere, but rather, devoted much of his life energy to the practical task of leading the First International. So we actually possess a great deal of information about Marx's practice of his own ideas, and his practical ideas about governing and the nature of the state.

      The idea that Marxism is fundamentally and inherently authoritarian is not new or original. You can smell authoritarianism in every page of Marx in my opinion. That this Marxist bent to authoritarianism results logically in oppression and mass murder is not an insight which is the result of hindsight--it was widely recognized in Marx's own lifetime. Probably the most insightful writer on this theme was Mikhail Bakunin, who led another wing of the International (1). Bakunin accurately predicted what Marxist governments would look like in practice. And he died in 1876 when Lenin was only six years old!

      WAISers interested in the relationship between Marx's thought and Marxist government in practice should read the collection of Bakunin's thought, drawn from various sources and translated by Kenneth Kenafick, not copyrighted and thus available in full text in various places such as "Marxism, Freedom and the State": http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/bakunin/marxnfree.html#chap2?

      "He [Marx] loves government to such a degree that he even wanted to institute one in the International Workingmen's Association; and he worships power so much that he wanted to impose and still means to-day to impose his dictatorship on us. It seems to me that that is sufficient to characterise his personal attitude. But his Socialist and political programme is a very faithful expression of it. The supreme objective of all his efforts, as is proclaimed to us by the fundamental statutes of his party in Germany, is the establishment of the great People's State (Volksstaat)...


      "The State, for its own preservation, must necessarily be powerful as regards foreign affairs; but if it is so as regards foreign affairs, it will infallibly be so as regards home affairs. Every State, having to let itself be inspired and directed by some particular morality, conformable to the particular conditions of its existence, by a morality which is a restriction and consequently a negation of human and universal morality, must keep watch that all its subjects, in their thoughts and above all in their acts, are inspired also only by the principles of this patriotic or particular morality, and that they remain deaf to the teachings of pure or universally human morality. From that there results the necessity for a State censorship; too great liberty of thought and opinions being, as Marx considers, very reasonably too from his eminently political point of view, incompatible with that unanimity of adherence demanded by the security of the State. That that in reality is Marx's opinion is sufficiently proved by the attempts which he made to introduce censorship into the International, under plausible pretexts, and covering it with a mask.


      "But however vigilant this censorship may be, even if the State were to take into its own hands exclusively education and all the instruction of the people, as Mazzini wished to do, and as Marx wishes to do to-day the State can never be sure that prohibited and dangerous thoughts may not slip in and be smuggled somehow into the consciousness of the population that it governs. Forbidden fruit has such an attraction for men, and the demon of revolt, that eternal enemy of the State, awakens so easily in their hearts when they are not sufficiently stupified, that neither this education nor this instruction, nor even the censorship, sufficiently guarantee the tranquillity of the State. It must still have a police, devoted agents who watch over and direct, secretly and unobtrusively, the current of the peoples' opinions and passions. We have seen that Marx himself is so convinced of this necessity, that he believed he should fill with his secret agents all the regions of the International and above all, Italy, France, and Spain. Finally, however perfect may be, from the point of view of the preservation of the State, the organisation of education and instruction for the people, of censorship and the police, the State cannot be secure in its existence while it does not have, to defend it against its enemies at home, an armed force. The State is government from above downwards of an immense number of men, very different from the point of view of the degree of their culture, the nature of the countries or localities that they inhabit, the occupation they follow, the interests and the aspirations directing them--the State is the government of all these by some or other minority; this minority, even if it were a thousand times elected by universal suffrage and controlled in its acts by popular institutions, unless it were endowed with the omniscience, omnipresence and the omnipotence which the theologians attribute to God, it is impossible that it could know and foresee the needs, or satisfy with an even justice the most legitimate and pressing interests in the world. There will always be discontented people because there will always be some who are sacrificed.


      "Besides, the State, like the Church, by its very nature is a great sacrificer of living beings. It is an arbitrary being [this is in total contrast to the views of Marx--CFS], in whose heart all the positive, living, individual, and local interests of the population meet, clash, destroy each other, become absorbed in that abstraction called the common interest, the public good, the public safety, and where all real wills cancel each other in that other abstraction which hears the name of the will of the people. It results from this, that this so-called will of the people is never anything else than the sacrifice and the negation of all the real wills of the population; just as this so-called public good is nothing else than the sacrifice of their interests. [!!!] But so that this omnivorous abstraction could impose itself on millions of men, it must be represented and supported by some real being, by living force or other. Well, this being, this force, has always existed. In the Church it is called the clergy, and in the State--the ruling or governing class...


      "But in the People's State of Marx, there will be, we are told, no privileged class at all. All will be equal, not only from the juridical and political point of view, but from the economic point of view. At least that is what is promised, though I doubt very much, considering the manner in which it is being tackled and the course it is desired to follow, whether that promise could ever be kept. There will therefore be no longer any privileged class, but there will be a government and, note this well, an extremely complex government, which will not content itself with governing and administering the masses politically, as all governments do to-day, but which will also administer them economically, concentrating in its own hands the production and the just division of wealth, the cultivation of land, the establishment and development of factories, the organisation and direction of commerce, finally the application of capital to production by the only banker, the State. All that will demand an immense knowledge and many ‘heads overflowing with brains' in this government. It will be the reign of scientific intelligence, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant and contemptuous of all regimes. There will be a new class, a new hierarchy of real and pretended scientists and scholars, and the world will be divided into a minority ruling in the name of knowledge and an immense ignorant majority. And then, woe betide the mass of ignorant ones! [prophecy !!]


      "Such a regime will not fail to arouse very considerable discontent in this mass and in order to keep it in check the enlightenment and liberating government of Marx will have need of a not less considerable armed force. For the government must be strong, says Engels, to maintain order among these millions of illiterates whose brutal uprising would be capable of destroying and overthrowing everything, even a government directed by heads overflowing with brains.


      "You can see quite well that behind all the democratic and socialistic phrases and promises of Marx's programme, there is to be found in his State all that constitutes the true despotic and brutal nature of all States, whatever may be the form of their government and that in the final reckoning, the People's State so strongly commended by Marx, and the aristocratic-monarchic State, maintained with as much cleverness as power by Bismarck, are completely identical by the nature of their objective at home as well as in foreign affairs. In foreign affairs it is the same deployment of military force, that is to say, conquest; and in home affairs it is the same employment of this armed force, the last argument of all threatened political powers against the masses, who, tired of believing, hoping, submitting and obeying always, rise in revolt...


      "Marx's programme is a complete fabric of political and economic institutions strongly centralised and very authoritarian, sanctioned, no doubt, like all despotic institutions in modern society, by universal suffrage, but subordinate nevertheless to a very strong government; to use the very words of Engels, the alter ego of Marx, the confidant of the legislator.


      "To maintain that one group of individuals, even the most intelligent and the best intentioned, are capable of becoming the thought, the soul, the guiding and unifying will of the revolutionary movement and of the economic organisation of the proletariat in all countries is such a heresy against common sense, and against the experience of history, that one asks oneself with astonishment how a man as intelligent as Marx could have conceived it."


      "...As befits good Germans, they [Marxists] are worshipers of the power of the State, and necessarily also the prophets of political and social discipline, the champions of order established from above downwards, always in the name of universal suffrage and the sovereignty of the masses, to whom they reserve the happiness and honour of obeying chiefs, elected masters. The Marxians admit no other emancipation than that which they expect from their so-called People's States.

      "And what is to be thought of an International Congress which in the so-called interests of this revolution, imposes on the proletariat of the whole civilised world a government invested with dictatorial power, with the inquisitorial and dictatorial rights of suspending regional federations, of proclaiming a ban against whole nations in the name of a so-called official principle, which is nothing else than Marx's own opinion, transformed by the vote of a fake majority into an absolute truth?...

      "The reasoning of Marx leads to absolutely opposite results. Taking into consideration nothing but the one economic question, he says to himself that the most advanced countries and consequently the most capable of making a social revolution are those in which modern Capitalist production has reached its highest degree of development. It is they that, to the exclusion of all others, are the civilised countries, the only ones called on to initiate and direct this revolution. This revolution will consist in the expropriation, whether by peaceful succession or by violence, of the present property-owners and capitalists and in the appropriation of all lands and all capital by the State, which in order to fulfill its great economic as well as political mission must necessarily be very powerful and very strongly centralised. The State will administer and direct the cultivation of the land by means of its salaried officers commanding armies of rural toilers, organised and disciplined for this cultivation. At the same time, on the ruin of all the existing banks it will establish a single bank, financing all labour and all national commerce...

      "In reality it would be for the proletariat a barrack regime [!!], where the standardised mass of men and women workers would wake, sleep, work and live to the beat of the drum; for the clever and the learned a privilege of governing; and for the mercenary minded, attracted by the immensity, of the international speculations of the national banks, a vast field of lucrative jobbery.


      "At home it will be slavery, in foreign affairs a truceless war; unless all the peoples . . resign themselves to submit to the yoke of an essentially bourgeois nation and a State all the more despotic because it will call itself the People's State."


      So, in a nutshell, here in Bakunin we see, articulated obviously a thousand times better than I ever could, the proposition that the Soviet state, with all of its brutal and despotic aspects, is absolutely inherent in Marx's thought and in Marx's political program. Actually, Bakunin predicted the Soviet state in extraordinarily, one might even say prophetically, accurate detail. Far from being, as Alain argued, "just totalitarian state capitalism," not related in any serious way to Marxism!


      And Bakunin was writing this before Lenin was even born!



      1. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I am personally a great admirer of Bakunin's thought, although I disagree with much of it, and am not an Anarchist. In my opinion, Bakunin's ideas about the fundamental nature of the State are exactly correct and have no where been more insightfully developed, and my own ideas about nature of the State have been greatly influenced by Bakunin.


      2. From Bakunin I get the idea, which I consider to be insightful and correct, that the idea of authority is fundamentally religious.

      JE comments:  Fascinating.  I don't recall much WAIS discussion on Bakunin in recent years. Might it be time to explore the great Anarchist philosopher's thought?  Our discussion on Marx has played itself out.

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