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Watch: I Read Some Marx (And I liked it)


10:00 am - July 2nd 2010

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The text of the Communist Manifesto, by Marx and Engles, can be found here:
http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/26/manifesto/176-5.html

2. Rhys Williams

I also recommend Francis Wheen’s book on Marx.

3. Shatterface

‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his need’

That’s really generous. I work my arse off (‘according to my ability’) and in return my ‘needs’ (presumably food and shelter) are met.

That’s not my idea of socialism. I want to work as little as possible and live a life of excess. Marxism isn’t going to give me that.

Marxism is an anti-humanist structuralist theory that fails to recognise we experience life as individuals – in fact later variations deny the existence of thuman subject entirely.

Marxism is dead. It was an authoritarian perversion of socialism which placed the ‘good’ of society over the individuals who comprised it. The gulags were the logical consequence of Marxism not a misunderstanding of Marx.

That’s one line Marx offered on a critique of the Gotha programme, there’s a little more to Marx than that.

In fact, (Jerry?) Cohen argued that the self ownership of workers and the maxim you quote are incompatible as you describe, you gotta pick one. I can’t remember which he plumped for though for the life of me.

The Gulags sucked though, true. The song is cringey but fun.

@2: “I also recommend Francis Wheen’s book on Marx.”

Absolutely. It’s amazingly interesting even for readers who are very un-marxist.

Francis Wheen reports that Bakunin, a Russian anarchist (1814-76), believed that Marx acted as a police spy and writes that evidence suggests this was likely so – but then, dear reader, buff up on Marx’s scurrilous attacks in the Communist Manifesto about other socialists.

Marx and family settled in London more or less as asylum seekers after being hounded out of mainland Europe following the revolutions of 1848. While researching his magnus opus, Das Kapital, in the British Museum Library, he eked out a precarious livelihood to support his family on the margins from occasional causual journalism and subventions from Engels, who ran a commercially successful family textile business up in Manchester (*).

From an economics perspective, Marx needed to differentiate his product from the extensive competition, hence the outpourings of negative advertising for the dozens of alternative recipes for socialism.

(*) brief biographical details on Engels here:
http://www.indepthinfo.com/communist-manifesto/engels.shtml

And see also John Green: A Revolutionary Life – Biography of Friedrich Engels (Artery Publications 2008)

Down the years, the London connection continued to be an attraction for other revolutionaries:

“The founder of the world’s first socialist state, Vladimir Il’ich Lenin, visited London six times between 1902 and 1911, and on at least five of these occasions found the time to call into the British Museum whose Library collections were in his view unparalleled. At the time of his 1907 visit he said:

“‘It is a remarkable institution, especially that exceptional reference section. Ask them any question, and in the very shortest space of time they’ll tell you where to look to find the material that interests you. ..Let me tell you, there is no better library than the British Museum. Here there are fewer gaps in the collections than in any other library.'”
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/history/history/lenin/lenin.html

“Trotsky’s escaped from Siberia and fled to London in 1902. Why London? It was a magnet for Russian exiles and other personae-non-grata. Lenin had also escaped to London . . ”
http://theforvm.org/diary/blaisep/leon-trotsky-part-second-london-1903

“The London haunts of VI Lenin”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8658408.stm

6. Shatterface

‘The Communist Manifesto’ has this to say about individuals:

‘In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.’

That’s as close to recognising that human beings exist as individual entities that Marx gets. Everywhere else the human subject is subordinate to their class interests as if resolving class conflict is enough in itself. It isn’t. The individual is just as oppressed within a ‘classless’ state beurocracy as a capitalist one – in fact more so as the state beurocracy has the spurious legitimacy of pretending to represent everyone else’s interest.

Marx had some interesting things to say about political economy but he presented a one dimensional model of society. He wasn’t interested in liberation, just an end to exploitation. That’s not enough.

7. Shatterface

‘Francis Wheen reports that Bakunin, a Russian anarchist (1814-76), believed that Marx acted as a police spy and writes that evidence suggests this was likely so – but then, dear reader, buff up on Marx’s scurrilous attacks in the Communist Manifesto about other socialists.’

In fairness Marx and Bakunin had had a falling out when Bakunin took the advance for translating Marx’s work into Russian and buggered off without completing the job.

I dunno, these anarchists are a law unto themselves.

8. Rhys Williams

That’s not my idea of socialism. I want to work as little as possible and live a life of excess. Marxism isn’t going to give me that.

I so agree my socialism follows “The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life” Bill Shankly


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