Marxism: a respectable philosophy, or dangerous, or evil?

MarxThe Daily Mail’s ludicrous accusations that naval veteran Ralph Miliband hated his country conceal the relevant political question behind all this. Is Marxism a respectable philosophical position to take, or is it dangerous, or even evil?

This debate will sometimes revolve around the overthrow of Russia’s fledgeling democracy in November 1917, the subsequent mass murder and mass starvations committed by the Soviet regime under Lenin and Stalin, the suppression of the Prague Spring and so forth. To what extent can this be ascribed to the influence of Marx, or alternatively understood as a rejection of his philosophy?

Now I am very much an amateur student of these things, but I find this angle unsatisfying, largely because it is difficult to see what Marx was actually calling for, if anything, beyond workers’ control of the means of production. Das Kapital is analysis (largely wrong) of how capitalism works. The Communist Manifesto is more analysis – of the relations between the classes, and relations with other political groupings (they’re all splitters.)

By all means illuminate me in the comments if there is any policy meat that I have missed. But for now let’s consider the analysis. We have:

  • the inevitability of the socialist revolution
  • the “iron law” of wages – that wages will always end up at starvation levels
  • the labour theory of value
  • economic determinism

…all wrapped up in a good dose of Hegelian dialectic, more obscurantist than strictly necessary.

Are any of these theories true? No. You might have reasonably thought them true in Marx’s time, but no longer. So what is there left of Marxism to respect?

There is of course the critique of capitalism, and the condemnation of the living and working conditions in, for example, 19th century industrial Manchester. But this is not remotely peculiar to Marxism. Others have had sounder critiques, and Manchester is much improved thanks to non-Marxists.

And while the question of whether Stalin was a true Marxist may be a meaningless or unanswerable one, it seems quite reasonable to ask whether Marx’s influence on Lenin and Stalin was for good or ill. Lenin the lawyer and Stalin the priest would have done little harm. A Lenin and Stalin who welcomed democracy in Russia rather than working to overthrow it would have been a force for good. Or dictators of the Soviet Union who didn’t believe in collectivising the farms would at least have starved a few million fewer people.

My view, if it is not yet obvious, is that a theory with no merit that inspired so many bloody revolutions and atrocities, should be treated with contempt. Ed Miliband should be proud of his father, but ashamed of his father’s politics.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

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74 Comments

  • Certainly, the immediate answer, Joe, of course, concerns you, and your views. Clearly your analysis (even for another amateur such as me!) is highly superficial. For those of us on here who are very used to your posts, it is hardly surprising that you find “Marx’s theory” (there are in fact a number of threads to Marxist ideology, and like all major ideologies, religions, thought systems etc, it has spawned many varieties and offshoots. You’d have thought someone who thinks through theior politics would have realised you can’t just dismiss Marx in that way, in the same way as you can’t Christ, Mohammed or Freud, for example.

    I am surprised you didn’t pick up on what I think is the most relevant question re – the Ralph Miliband v Rothermere question, ie, whether because RM took certain views towards some “British institutions” eg the monarchy, that “he hated Britain” as such. Now that view, expressed by the Mail, and defended barely adequately by their Deputy Editor on Newsnight, is “without merit”. I will be interested to see how much of a hornet’s nest you stir up, Joe, but hopefully you will read carefully and absorb some of the, no doubt, erudite comments from other more well informed critics than me!

  • Nick Barlow 8th Oct '13 - 10:14am

    ‘I don’t really understand Marx, but I think he was wrong, therefore Ed Miliband should be ashamed of his father’s views.’ What a pointless post.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Oct '13 - 10:23am

    To put it simply. marxism has always without expcetion led to tyranny and mass murder.

    Just like fascism. Suppose Cameron’s father had been a follower of Mosley and cameron said he was proud of his father’s views. Would anyone find that acceptable? Just the same for Miliband.

  • jenny barnes 8th Oct '13 - 10:43am

    When you say “amateur” student, do you mean that you’re not being paid, or that you’re incompetent? Because this is a remarkably ignorant analysis of Marxism (if that’s what it’s meant to be, I can’t really tell). Alienation of labour? Ownership of the means of production? Profit and growth, and what results? All covered in Das Capital, although to be fair only aboiut half of the book is about what we would probably now call Marxist philosophy, much of it is about the awful working condition of the urban working class – coming to a working class near you n ow/soon.
    Benno Teschke and Giovanni Arrighi’s analysis of the development of capitalism over the last 5 centuries is fascinating, and particularly Arrighi’s view of the changing of the capitalist guard around now between the USA and China/SouthEast Asia.

    I’d answer your question with another : Given the colonial & neo- colonial wars fought because of capitalism and more recently neo-liberalism, is neo-liberalism a respectable philosophy? or is it dangerous and even evil?

  • Historical materialism is not without its faults, but it was an essential step in the development of modern theories of economics, history and philosophy of science.

    Simon McGrath, capitalism has also, without exception, led to tyranny and mass murder. What’s your point?

    Humans kill each other for power and resources, the important thing is to develop a system where killing is no longer necessary to achieve these aims – democracy works, and Ralph Miliband was a firm believer in that as a means to achieving his aims.

  • Peter Watson 8th Oct '13 - 11:19am

    @Joe Otten “My view, if it is not yet obvious, is that a theory with no merit that inspired so many bloody revolutions and atrocities, should be treated with contempt.”
    Sounds like the same argument could be applied to Christianity or any religion. Or democracy. Or anything that involves human beings making decisions and taking actions.

  • It’s difficult to understand why someone would be so eager to show their ignorance. Also if someone can be so ignorant on this tradition of political thought, I wonder how much they really know about liberalism. Dedicating so much of your life to something you don’t really understand; what a strange world we live in.

  • Joe – what do you think of Marx’s theory of alienation? Do you think in our country of call centres it has a germ of truth? Or do you do an interesting and stimulating job so it isn’t a problem?

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Oct '13 - 11:29am

    There is also an implicit smearing going on at present, which elides ‘marxism’ (which is a philosophy within socialism and has at times sought to be the dominant one) with all forms of ‘socialism’ (which is a varied and complex intellectural tradition and is in now way all based on the writings of Marx).

    This smearing is what the Daily Mail was up to in its article: R Milliband was a Marixst who was critical of the British state; so we will call him ‘anti-British’ and state that his ‘values’ were anti-British – therefore we can call ‘socialism’ (whatever we decide that is) ‘anti-British’. So, then, E Miliband is the son of R Miliband and he leads a party which sometimes describes itself as ‘socialist’; he is doing things we (ie the Daily Mail) object to; we have now by a process of anti-logic created a rhetoric so that we can in future describe him as ‘marxist’ and anti’British.

    I am neither socialist nor Marxist, but this is worrying and wrong and I think many on here agreed on that.

    Are you sure you are not carrying on the Daily Mail’s work by other means by opening up this debate in this way, Joe?

  • ‘Are you sure you are not carrying on the Daily Mail’s work by other means by opening up this debate in this way, Joe?’
    You mean he is a ‘useful idiot’ to use the phrase misattributed to Lenin?

  • Ed Shepherd 8th Oct '13 - 11:35am

    Marxism does not seem to me to be one all-embracing philosophy that posits that a revolution is inevitable. It is a starting point for an analysis of relations between human beings and the future of humanity. There are many strands of Marxist thought from those advocating violent revolution to those that advocate moderate reforms within society. Ed Milliband no doubt is very familiar with Marxist thought and feels that the answer to many of the problems within society can be addressed by reforms within a capitalist economy. I understand that is not an uncommon belief amongst those who are influenced by Marxism but are trying to apply their energies to improving current society. I gather a few years ago, that Marxist writings were widely read among Wall Street traders trying to understand why the markets had not performed as they had expected. It could be that reforms within capitalism, modern technology and widespread credit have postponed a crisis for now. There is a Nobel prize in economics awaiting someone who produces a thorough analysis of modern society and it’s future using Marxist thought as a basis in a way that can be a popular read. Sadly, almost all discussion of “Marxism” seems to be by people who have not read the original texts, have definitely not read the texts that influenced Marxsim (such as Hegel) and have not kept up to date with modern thought.

  • Martin Lowe 8th Oct '13 - 11:51am

    @Joe Otten

    This is really poor analysis.

    In addition to the comments above, it should be pointed out that it’s possible to concur with Marx’s analysis of capitalism without necessarily agreeing with Marx’s solutions.

  • I had always assumed there is a vast difference between Marxism as politics and Marxism as an academic standpoint in History and Sociology. In fact I think it might be possible for a Marxist historian to be politically right wing.

  • These are some of the most personal and vicious comments I have read on LDV. First, is anyone moderating it, second, have any of the commenters considered enhancing our collective knowledge in a less hostile way?

  • Ed Shepherd 8th Oct '13 - 12:22pm

    But was Marx advocating the kind of planned, command economy seen in the Soviet Union? I am not so sure. Perhaps Russia in 1917 was moving away from a society that was rooted in serfdom to a society based on capitalism (which would accord with Marxist views as to how slavery and serfdom will always tend to be superceded by captialism). In the USSR, the state took on the role of captialist and the population had no control over the economy. I suspect most modern students of Marx (those who actually read the books…) would say that the societies of the 20th century that called themselves “socialist” were really capitalist societies in which an undemocratic state acted as the property owner. A rather different type of economy to one in which the means of production (and distribution and exchange) are under the democratic control of the whole population. I do not think that the grim problem of alienation in the workplace can easily be solved but then none of the current political parties in Britain are advocating a solution to it, either….Most of them seem happy to use cheap, easily disposable employees to get the most basic work in society done.

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '13 - 12:24pm

    Wikipedia’s entry on Marxism starts quite well:

    Marxism is a socio-economic and political worldview or inquiry based on a materialist interpretation of historical development, a dialectical view of social transformation, an analysis of class-relations and conflict within society.

  • David Allen 8th Oct '13 - 12:26pm

    “And while the Conservative party, to its credit, is not and has never been racist, it has been tainted by racism. Which is all the more reason for Conservative leaders to be unequivocal on the subject. What we have is this: “My predecessors’ strong support for the slave trade etc are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision.” – which worryingly suggests a tactical choice rather than a principled rejection of racism. This is a terribly important question. I don’t think Cameron is a closet racist, but it is a concern that he doesn’t want to be clearer about this.”

    Yes, I have changed the quote. Does it sound like a disgraceful, mendacious smear campaign that demeans the speaker and has no place in a Liberal Democrat Party? You bet! And the original is no different.

  • Ed Shepherd 8th Oct '13 - 12:38pm

    “These are some of the most personal and vicious comments I have read on LDV. First, is anyone moderating it, second, have any of the commenters considered enhancing our collective knowledge in a less hostile way?”

    Joe Otten is a politician. That’s a job where you need a thick skin. I am quite sure he is used to far worse abuse than a few people arguing on LDV and he won’t cry himself to sleep because some of us disagree with him. To be honest, I think this has been a very interesting discussion and Joe has been willing to discuss his views. I get much more annoyed with threads where the OP puts forward a controversial point of view then runs away from the argument. A good bit of focussed argument is something that we can all take something valuable away from. “That’s the dialectic,” as a wise Marxist friend once said to me.

  • John Broggio 8th Oct '13 - 12:46pm

    @Joe Otten – to answer one of your questions, the Lamarck that comes to my mind was a naturalist/biologist & unlike Marx, is not famed for his writings on the economy. Are you sure you’re referencing the right person?

  • David Allen 8th Oct '13 - 12:48pm

    “I think the big difference is that there isn’t a thread full of people defending or equivocating about racism.”

    Not right here, no. However, you’re not telling me that people never do make racism a political issue and equivocate around it, are you?

    Besides, it’s what’s called an analogy. It would be outrageous to smear Cameron as racist using the tactics I adopted from you. It is equally outrageous to smear Miliband in the way you have chosen to do.

    You probably can’t see that, because you think the Left are fair game while the Right are not. That’s why I thought I’d help you see the error of your ways by transmuting your comment from a smear against the Left into a smear against the Right.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Oct '13 - 12:58pm

    “a thread full of people defending or equivocating about racism.”

    @Joe – As one of the posters in this thread, I’m not equivocating about Marxism myself, I’m just finding the tone and timing of your article a bit odd. To quote your first paragraph:
    “The Daily Mail’s ludicrous accusations that naval veteran Ralph Miliband hated his country conceal the relevant political question behind all this. Is Marxism a respectable philosophical position to take, or is it dangerous, or even evil?”

    Why is that question particularly ‘relevant’ at this time if the Mail article is indeed ‘ludicrous’?; most of us are not meeting everyday with Marxists or ex-Marxists in large numbers; Marxists are not quoted daily in the papers with approbation (I did meet with a member of the SWP the other day and we had a steaming political argument in which we both got very angry, but that’s another thing).

    I would think that at this time in our political history Marxism was about as far away from ‘respectable’ in our society as its ever been. Why did you feel the particular need to put the boot in now if you were putting the boot into Ed Miliband by association? Please explain. You last sentence in particular seems to suggest that you do in fact want some kind of smear or disreput to attach to the Labour leader, which may appear to some to contradict your first sentence.

    I guess some of us out here in internet land see your post as part of an attempt to allign the Lib Dems with Conservative and Conservative media trends, which we distrust for all kinds of reasons. That’s probably unfair on you as you’re not a Tory but a Lib Dem and you’ve made this clear in other places. So why are you peddling the Daily Mail line, albeit in watered down form?

    I would be interested to see you comment on the relevance to modern politics of a more British and recent socialist thinker eg Beveridge who was of course a Liberal in later life.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Oct '13 - 1:00pm

    Sorry, in last post, the sentence in third para should read:

    Why did you feel the particular need to put the boot in now if you were NOT putting the boot into Ed Miliband by association?

    I think that makes more sense, sorry!

  • paul barker 8th Oct '13 - 1:17pm

    There is an interesting question, why does Marxism get such a good press compared to other Extremist beleifs ? Lots of people are quite happy to admit ex-membership of The SWP while very few would confess they uesed to support The BNP. Similarly not all prejudice is equal, lots of “nice” people feel perfectly OK about Class based insults as long as its not The Working Class being attacked.
    As to whether Marxism is still influential I would make 2 points.
    First, most of the worlds active Terrorist Groups are either Communist or Nationalist or both, they generally dont attack “Western ” Targets & thus get almost no coverage in our media.
    Second, Far-Left/Communist factions control most of Britains Major Trades Unions, something that wasnt true in the 1970s or 1980s when Marxism had a much higher profile in The Media.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Oct '13 - 1:26pm

    Authoritarian political philosophies, whether of a right-wing or left-wing slant, were once very respectable among the intellectual class. Right-wing authoritarianism mostly ceased to be respectable after WW2. Respect for left-authoritarianism perhaps took longer to die, perhaps surviving until the 1960s when it became clear what was happening in the Soviet Union and its satellite states, but it is also well and truly dead. So this is a pointless discussion, as Nick suggests.

  • David Allen 8th Oct '13 - 1:27pm

    The Right have always been the past masters at smear politics. Think of Thatcher, effortlessly equating the fall of the Berlin Wall with the defeat of “socialism” in the UK, thus smearing Labour by association with a murderous foreign tyranny. Now the Mail have tried the same trick. They are winning, because despite all the condemnation directed against them, they know what works. Mud sticks. If you fling enough of it, even if none of it is remotely justified, some of the mud will stick.

    And of course, Miliband has a sound explanation as to why he is nothing like his dad, and why his dad in turn was nothing like the Britain-hater invented by the Wail. What of it? “When you’re explaining, you’re losing.” So get on the front foot, give Miliband lots of defensive work to do, and you’re winning! Oh by the way, perhaps we in the Wail should forge another letter from Russia to the British Labour party. After all, it worked last time, in the twenties. The old tricks are the best tricks. Why not try it again?

    I’m sure Lynton Crosby is happy with all this.

    The question for the Lib Dems is whether we want to join in. Seems we do. Even Kirsty Williams on Question Time last week said something to the effect of it being legitimate to question Miliband’s beliefs. That basically means not actually throwing the mud, but watching hopefully to see some of it stick.

    Well, some of us might think this was morally wrong.

    Some of us might also think it is politically stupid. After all, if somebody is terrified of reds under the bed, do they vote Lib Dem? Generally not. They vote for the Right. Meanwhile, the ordinary honest centrist voter may very well conclude that they don’t like the sound of what the Mail is saying,. And that if people from the Lib Dems play Little Sir Echo to it, as Joe Otten has done, then these voters won’t like the Lib Dems either.

  • The fact that we have the hindsight of knowing that states that attempt to implement Marxist ideologies (of those based on Marxism) is very important and separates us from those who lived in a time when that hindsight wasn’t available. Given this hindsight, anyone still proposing in the modern world the implementation of Marxism should be considered a dangerous and foolish person. But without that hindsight, people should be judged more lightly.

    Compare with the following analogy:

    A vaccine is developed against cancer. A man called Ralph agitates for the widespread use of the vaccine. Is he dangerous and foolish? Obviously not. Decades later, the vaccine has been tried in numerous variants, and every one of them has failed and caused massive disease outbreaks. A man called Ralph continues to call for the widespread use of the vaccine. Is he dangerous and foolish? Yes. It is the availability of hindsight that makes the difference.

  • ^ Missing:

    “The fact that we have the hindsight of knowing that states that attempt to implement Marxist ideologies invariably end up as vicious authoritarian failures”

  • John Broggio 8th Oct '13 - 1:37pm

    @Paul Barker

    Coming from the left, from my viewpoint, Marxism doesn’t get a “good press” (except in intellectual media) compared with the extremist Ayn Rand/Tea Party-esque posturing of UKIP etc. (Note that I’m not suggesting it should but you’d struggle to find the Mail or Sun proclaiming that workers in this country are exploited by their employers. FWIW, I view “exploitation” as a natural but pejoratively phrased alternative to the word profit.)

    That you believe the far-left/communists control the unions in Britain today (unions are a far cry from those pre-1960, hamstrung by legislation & were they really far-left or communists, they’d have walked from NuLab when Blair was elected leader), says much for the success of the “free” press’ concerted attacks on anything left of patrician Toryism in terms of reframing the political debate.

  • Geoffrey Payne 8th Oct '13 - 1:54pm

    The fundamental problem with Marxism is that it is a Utopian philosophy. It believes in the historical inevitability of communism through class struggle. People who did not fit in to that Utopia were persecuted. In that sense, Marxism has something in common with fascism. It is also true that Francis Fukuyama made the case for the “end of history” the idea that Soviet style socialism had lost, western style capitalism had won and without ideological conflict history naturally comes to an end. It was that belief that neo Conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz believed that the US would be greeted as liberators when they invaded Iraq.
    So what leads to often unintended tyranny is utopian ideologies of which I would include libertarianism and neo liberalism but thankfully not Liberalism itself, unless someone decides it must become one of these other ideologies.
    As for Marxists, it is up to them to decide what they believe. The SWP types would be manacing if they were not so unpopular. On the other hand one of the best magazines in the 1980s was called “Marxism Today”. It was genuinely pluralist in its outlook and included interviews with Liberal and Conservative politicians including for example Edwina Currie, interviewed by Beatrix Campbell. If the original intention was that Marxism should be Utopian and deterministic, the failure of early Marxism prompted those who believed these things to rethink and redefine. Marxism Today championed the views of Antonio Gramsci who inspired the movement of “Euro Communism” that had nothing to do with defending the Soviet Union.
    When I joined the Union of Liberal Students in 1983, we formed part of a left of centre alliance in the NUS called the left alliance, and which included pluralist Marxists.
    So my view is that Marxism can be tyrannical and often has been. But from those who are not, there is a lot we can learn, people like Eric Hobsbawn and Stuart Hall (the academic).

  • Melanie Harvey 8th Oct '13 - 2:22pm

    The problem it seems to me with political *theory* is, too many looking to the *theory* and not looking at reality. The only reality is experience which is generally shunned by *theorists*.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Oct '13 - 3:12pm

    One big aspect of Marxism was very correct, we see it happening right now. It is the idea that as technology develops, we will come to rely on large scale mechanisms (“means of production”), effective ownership of which will be in a decreasingly small number of hands. Much of our life these days is dominated by large corporations where even a few decades ago, and certainly a century or more ago, people would have been using small scale local businesses for the same products and services. New technology brings niches which can be filled – see all the IT companies that have appeared in recent decades, but in that areas too products and services tend quickly to become centralised in a small number of big companies which managed to push out the rest. There are also niche opportunities to provide bespoke luxury products to the super-wealthy, who can afford not to be bothered with the economy of scale. But many of the standard opportunities for building your own business that used to exist and were open to relatively ordinary people have gone as it becomes impossible to compete in the mass market with the big companies.

    The other big aspect of Marxism was stunningly wrong – the idea that an organisation which represented “the working class” could somehow come to power and forever afterwards remain the voice and act in the interests of all the working class, that being all people since the previous factor removes all other classes except the super-wealthy who get defeated politically in some sort of “revolution”. As we see, it doesn’t work out like that because, as liberals knew all along, power corrupts.

    This second aspect of Marxism was what made it so dangerous because it meant that any organisation which convinced itself that it was the voice of the working class took form it the idea that it would always be right, any power it gained was inevitable and just, and because of that it needn’t bother too much with the niceties of democracy. Yes, and the arrogance of this way of thinking applies and APPLIES STILL to the Labour Party. To this day, the Labour Party and people in it really don’t care much or even understand the liberal concept of democracy. To them, politics is about the Labour Party seizing power and then doing what it likes from its own devising through its own mechanism. The actual democratic institutions – the representative chambers which in the liberal democratic ideal are where policy is formulated through discussion are turned into empty displays, formal mechanisms whose job is just to rubber stamp what The Party has decided. That is why the Labour Party has no problem with the distortion of the electoral system, no concern for fair representation, thought it fine to exercise full power in the last government with a share of the vote lower than the Conservatives alone gained in the last general election. That is why it cannot understand the idea of coalition, and so is reduced to throwing insults and using the strange line “but no-one voted for it”, as if general election were just votes for competing five-year plans rather than votes for representative who together formulate policy.

    Sad to say, the dominance of this Marxist-originated idea of political party has become and remains so much that it is now just assumed across the political spectrum that this is how party politics should be.

    Anyone who thinks I am exaggerating, consider. The Labour Party believed, at least until recently, that all people who are employees (that is, most working people) should belong to a Trade Union, and all Trade Unions should be affiliated to the Labour Party. So what is that if it is not a belief in a one-party state? It is a belief that the natural state of government should be that the Labour Party dominates and rules always, just the pattern of government we saw where officially Marxist parties came to power.

    The Labour Party, unlike those Marxist parties, never took this way of thinking to the extent that it wiped out any sort of real democratic mechanism, at least not in national government. The real evil was done by Leninism which took this second illiberal aspect of Marxism and emphasised it and made it worse. Marxist theory was dressed up in a sort of religion which was used to make those in The Party seem even more undefeatable and make them even more arrogant. Leninism and Trotskyism were all about small groups of intellectual types managing to convince themselves and other that they were the authentic and only and undefeatable voice of the working class, therefore it was right and good for them to rule as dictators. It has to be said that this strong authoritarian aspect made sure that Leninist parties were highly disciplined and effective, and so they were able to push themselves to power and push aside other voices on the political left.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the first aspect of Marxism, to some extent it is indeed rather obvious, though the free market theorists can’t see it. The second aspect, however, is just so mixed up with it, and so accepted that many just can’t see the extent to which they are influenced by it. Tony Blair is the classic example of someone who even though he rejected almost all the first aspect was in many ways a Marxist in the way he just assumed that as Leader of the Labour Party he was this country’s natural leader and could never be wrong so never need consult anyone or be informed by voices which disagreed with him. Because it has just so soaked into the mentality of the Labour movement and party politics, I don’t think those who have picked up aspects of it are evil, but they are misguided.

    So, now I hope people can see why, despite my great unhappiness with Clegg and the Cleggies, I am not planning to defect to the Labour Party.

  • “Stalin the priest would have done little harm”.

    You’re right you are an amateur.
    1. A student of Stalin would know that prior to joining the seminary he was hardly a paragon of virtue. Marxism was as much the vehicle to achieve his aims as it was the source of his corruption.
    2. This implies that it was Marxism that led to Stalin’s terrors/wars etc… as if being a christian would preclude this. certainly a factor but not the exclusive cause – nationalism, megalomania and paranoia also played their parts. I would posit that religion (Christianity and others)has been as responsible as Marxism for many of the ills suffered by humanity both in the past and today.
    3. Do we still really believe that being a Priest is in and of itself proof of piety and righteousness? Surely no-one is naive enough to believe that in the 21st century.

  • David Allen 8th Oct '13 - 5:08pm

    “Tony Blair .. was in many ways a Marxist in the way he just assumed that as Leader of the Labour Party he was this country’s natural leader and could never be wrong so never need consult anyone”

    It wasn’t Karl Marx who told Tony he was infallible. It was God.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Oct '13 - 5:33pm

    @Joe Otten

    “What we have is this: “My father’s strongly Left-wing views are well known, as is the fact that I have pursued a different path and I have a different vision.” – which worryingly suggests a tactical choice rather than a principled rejection of Marxism. This is a terribly important question. I don’t think Ed is a closet Marxist, but it is a concern that he doesn’t want to be clearer about this.”

    My concern is that your own analysis is what could at its politest be described as ‘woolly’. The words ‘different vision’ do not at all suggest a ‘tactical choice’. They suggests a fundamental difference of approach. One might even suggest that you started with your concluding statement and filled in the space before it with text which you believed might in some way support it. It doesn’t. You believe that your position between left and right is one of outdistance. I would suggest that your self-interpretation might generously be attributed to a particular local warping of hyperspace. 🙂

  • Sorry, I can’t resist interpolating one of my favourite political jokes.

    Communist Party election meeting in the East end of London just after the Second World War. Candidate in full rhetorical flow: “…and come the revolution comrades you will all be free”. Heckler: “What if we don’t want to be free?” Candidate: “Come the revolution comrade, you’ll do as you’re bloody well told”.

  • Paul Pettinger 8th Oct '13 - 6:16pm

    Jo Otten said ‘I would feel much more comfortable having a Marxist round to dinner than a fascist. But why? Somehow I seem to find it easier to believe in the good intentions and good nature of the Marxist. I struggle to attribute this to a material difference between the ideologies, and so put it down to some degree of propaganda success by the Marxists.’

    That is a really weird comment – how have Marxists been able to win over your feelings and opinions in this way? Are you admitting to some kind of reverse false consciousness? A traditional Liberal (i.e. of the 20th Century) critique of socialism is that it is misguided. Could it not be that you think Marxists are particularly misguided, but that you can still recognise that you share more instincts/ values with them than a typical Fascist? Although we might argue that people may have been worse of as members of the agrarian poor, even with its twisted consequences and recourse to science, Marxism was grounded in a compassionate response to the conditions of the industrial working classes.

  • Eddie Sammo 8th Oct '13 - 7:09pm

    I’m not an expert, but I’ve done a fair bit of reading on it and my gut instinct is that Marxism is a respectable philosophy and most of the violence associated with it can be attributed to Marxism-Leninism instead.

    So that I’m not just praising it, I will say that I don’t like the way it disregards the fairness of profit as just exploitation. Anyone who invests or holds an investments has the right to seek a risk-premium and a compensation for opportunity cost.

  • Paul In Twickenham 8th Oct '13 - 8:05pm

    What Marx could not have predicted was that the path of dialectical materialism would be dead-ended by (to misuse Paul O’Neill’s famous remark) “the genius of capitalism”. The “genius” in this case is the normalization of dissent about wealth inequality through the superficial impression of increased economic equality conveyed by beneficiaries and useful idiots.

    It isn’t difficult to find copious evidence of the increasing inequality between the very rich and the rest. In the US, the median wealth of households with residents is now x47 that of households with residents under 35. In 1984 the comparable figure was x10. 47 MILLION American citizens – one sixth of the population – now receive food stamps. In the UK the GINI coefficient has been increasing steadily since Thatcher’s era. As a Liberal I treat all claims about the beneficence of the status quo with suspicion.

    Marx was right in his analysis. But he never had a hope of winning the media war.

  • Paul In Twickenham 8th Oct '13 - 8:10pm

    Sorry – that should be that US households with residents aged 65 or over has now got median wealth that is x47 that of housegholds with residents with median age 35 or under.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Oct '13 - 10:22pm

    David Allen

    It wasn’t Karl Marx who told Tony he was infallible. It was God.

    This is an unfair criticism of Blair. Having a sense of morality influenced by religion does not equate to believing one can never make a wrong decision, any more than having a sense of morality influenced by one’s membership of the Liberal Democrats. Blair’s words that God would judge him on whether he was right to send British troops to Iraq are often misquoted to give the suggestion that Blair believed he had some sort of message from God telling him to agree to the invasion. That is not at all, however, how such a statement would be interpreted in mainstream religious circles. Rather it is simply Blair saying that what he did, he did with good intentions, he did not do it with the conscious wish to see people killed or as some sort of attack on Islam, as he is often accused if. I am quite certain myself that Blair genuinely believed the war would be quick, and once Saddam Hussein was deposed, some sort of democratic government would be put in place, and all would be fine – after all he had seem similar happen in former Yugoslavia. It is perhaps easier to see this point of view now we are seeing horrors in Syria, and being castigated as bad people for NOT wishing to get involved in trying to depose its leader. Of course Blair was wrong in this, but even if he were now to come out and say, yes, it was a mistaken decision, that would not contradict his earlier statement.

  • Tom Papworth 8th Oct '13 - 10:45pm

    I am amazed that nobody has picked up ‘g’ when s/he said “capitalism has also, without exception, led to tyranny and mass murder.”

    Is g really suggesting that post-war Germany and Japan are guilty of “tyranny and mass murder”? Or Sweden in the first half of C20th? Or Canada? Luxembourg? Post-fascist Portugal? Post-1970s Ireland? (The date limits are to screen out periods where the countries could be said not to be capitalist).

    Really, that was a patently absurd comment and it says something about the commentators here that nobody felt the urge to challenge it.

    Capitalism does not lead to tyranny because it is an inherently liberal system that requires free individuals pursuing their own interests, as defined by themselves. Marxism is an inherently tyrannical doctrine because it requires subservient individuals to pursue a collective interest defined by the ruling party.

    Which is not to say that Ralph Miliband was a bad man. Just that he was wrong.

  • @Matthew Huntbach: “after all he had seem similar happen in former Yugoslavia”
    I don’t see the parallel at all. The NATO attack on the Yugoslav rump in 1999 was not intended to topple Slobodan Milosevic and in fact did not do so — he remained in power until he lost an election. Nor was it intended to occupy the entirety of Yugoslavia, and that was not done either. All that the NATO attack did was to induce Milosevic to withdraw his army from most of Kosovo. Had the intention of intervention in Iraq been to establish as autonomous a zone already populated with an strong anti-Ba’ath majority (say, Kurdistan) that might actually have worked. But the invasion of Iraq was actually on an entirely different scale, requiring a different sort of justification, different preparation, and different methods. All these things were, of course, pointed out by a great many people prior to the invasion, and Tony Blair was well aware of the risks and downsides. He chose to ignore them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Oct '13 - 10:53pm

    The central belief of fascism is that it is best for all government power to be in the hands of one person, someone who is an obvious symbol of the whole nation, and who rises above petty politics. Fascists argue that the sort of squabbling and compromise that comes from government based on power shared across a chamber of representatives is bad. They would say that what comes out of such politics is not really democratic because no-one voted for it. They would argue that it is more democratic to have one charismatic leader who has mass popular support, because in such a situation it is very clear where “the buck stops”, who is responsible for decision making, and it is also obviously much more efficient. This way of thinking is not very far from those who say that coalition government is always bad because “no-one voted for it”, and argue that it is good to have an electoral system which distorts representation in order to ensure one party gets compete power. It is not far at all from those who argue that in local government we should have all power in the hands of one elected mayor, as that is much more “accountable” than the “smoke filled rooms” involved in power being shared across a chamber of councillors.

    The logic of the “No to AV” campaign, which was really a campaign against proportional representation and the shared power it tends to lead to, is that we should do what was done in Italy in 1924 with the Acerbo Law. That law said the largest party, so long as it had at least 25% of the vote, should be given a majority of the seats. This is surely much more in accord with what “No to AV” were saying than to carry on with our current system which tends to distort, but whether it gives a full majority to a party on just 35-36% of the vote depends on randomish factors such as how the Liberal Democrats choose to apportion their activists.

    We should recall that not just the Daily Mail supported fascism, as we are often reminded, but also the Daily Mirror. Support for fascism was seen as a sort of bash-the-politicians populism, and bash-the-politicians populism is still the main line of much of the press now. People like G.K.Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, who in many respects were decent liberals, expressed sympathy for fascism when it first appeared, thinking of it as an opposition to elitist politics, their reputation never recovered from that, but George Bernard Shaw was also notoriously favourable to fascism and got away with it because he was a socialist. Socialism managed the neat trick of disassociating itself from fascism by making out it was an “extreme right” movement, whereas it actually originated as a form of socialism, and in economic terms was centrist.

    The other thing we should recall, as it is so often forgotten, is that fascism in its original Italian form was not a racist philosophy. The racist aspect was added in the German form.

  • ‘Intellectually lacking’ as my university lecturer would have said.

    I find Joe Otten quite a lightwight and poor commentator and it doesnt bode well for the LD that he is a candidate representative. We have enough poor politicians without another.

    Sheffield does appear inordinately poorly served doesn’t it?

  • I should point out that socialism pre-dates Marx, and that its origins are more French and British than German (let alone Russian); and that *in its original context* — the highly polarised extremes of wealth and poverty of the middle 19th century — socialism offered the only coherent critique of a very unjust system which entrenched divisions based on class and wealth, and which resulted in widespread misery, ignorance, sickness, and early death for a very large proportion of the population. Socialism, or something like it, would naturally have arisen from the reactions of any humane person to these inequities; and its emotional centre still retains power despite the intellectual flaws of any particular theoretical instantiation, such as Marxism; and that emotional resonance remains in proportion to the degree to which the injustices of an economic class divide persist today. What is perhaps a little clearer now is that there are many kinds of oppression, and relief from certain economic inequities not only doesn’t magically make the other kinds of oppression go away, it may actually give cover to them, allowing a base for reaction to grow in the very heart of the supposedly revolutionary classes.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Oct '13 - 11:10pm

    David-1

    All these things were, of course, pointed out by a great many people prior to the invasion, and Tony Blair was well aware of the risks and downsides. He chose to ignore them.

    Yes, I don’t disagree with that. But saying that Blair believed he was doing the right thing is not the same as saying Blair did a sensible thing. As Syria shows, it is a matter of fine judgment. I myself am certain that any intervention in Syria would make things even worse there – but listen to all those voices telling us of the horrendous things going on there now, and calling us who say that still does not mean we should get involved cruel and isolationist for not “doing something”.

    Had some sort of government emerged swiftly after the invasion of Iraq and managed to establish order, those of us who opposed the invasion would have been made to look very bad, would be held up forever afterwards as appeasers of a cruel dictator. Although it is held that the invasion was trying to put a western-sympathetic government in power, I hope we can see there is not necessarily a contradiction between a western-sympathetic government and a government which is good to the people of its country. I think Blair genuinely believed this would happen, very foolishly ignoring warnings that instead it would result in vicious faction fighting – to me, that is the basis of the remark that “God will judge me” i.e. that he did what he did with good intentions, rather than any sort of mystical message.

  • Simon Banks 9th Oct '13 - 9:30am

    Now here is an interesting question. What does it say about Liberal Democrats that a post attacking Marxism can stir up such a storm of discussion?

    Undoubtedly Marxism has been used to justify dictatorship, mass murder and oppression. Equally undoubtedly, this has been vastly worse in some places than others: Communist Poland, for example, was never run like Ceausescu’s Romania, still less North Korea, or with the mass murder prevalent under Stalin; and it’s arguable that Castro’s Cuba was no more undemocratic or repressive than previous dictatorships, except in that it was more effective, which brought benefits too. If I recall rightly, the Sandinista leaders in Nicaragua were Marxists and their rule was more nearly democratic by far than preceding regimes.

    Marx himself said that whatever he was, he was not a Marxist. He may not have expected his theories to be applied the way they were and if he could come back and comment, he would undoubtedly point out that Marxism was applied either in relatively economically backward societies, contrary to his ideas which saw it as succeeding the most advanced forms of capitalism, or was imposed from outside by more powerful states without a domestic popular revolution.

    Yes, capitalism has not turned out at all how Marx predicted. His analysis of takeovers and concentration of economic power has some merit still, though, and it’s worthwhile pointing out that the factors that have in the event undermined his analysis are the constant upwelling of new, innovative businesses faster than the multinationals can take them over, and the growth within the biggest companies of huge management structures within which people who Marx expected to be cast into the proletariat can be comfortably employed.

    There is another factor that points back to Ralph Miliband. If we look not at Marxist regimes but at the influence of Marxists within mature mixed economy democracies, the picture is more positive. We shouldn’t reject all the historical work of Christopher Hill, for example, because he was a Marxist historian. I’d argue that Marxism has had a useful role as one of a number of competing philosophies within diverse societies.

    I do think that Marxism, with its reduction of all conflicts to a single conflict, has a tendency to totalitarianism, but the totalitarianism is not part of the very core of belief as it is with Naziism, for example. Remember that Marx looked forward to the withering away of the state once people liberated from class conflict no longer needed it. I also think it’s mistaken to dismiss influential thinkers because important parts of their theories have turned out wrong. If anyone tries to take on as much prediction and analysis as Marx did, they’re going to be wrong about a lot. The value can be in asking searching questions rather than in the answers.

  • Joseph Bourke 9th Oct '13 - 6:52pm

    It is an interesting thread Joe. like others I have always made the distinction between Marxist economic analysis as a valid and useful academic contribution to the historical development of economic theory on the one hand – and the totalitarian states that implemented communist political systems on the other. Mark himself was an admirer of the power of capitalism to increase the productivity and well-being of the general populace- albeit seeing within it, the seeds of its ultimate longterm implosion after a series of worsening booms and busts.

    Much of classical theory such as ‘The Iron Law of Wages’ has been seen to be inapplicable in an industralised developing nation but other aspects of classical theory e.g. Ricardo’s Law of rents still underpin the rationale for policies such as Land Value Taxation. There is no single universally recognised theory of value to which all economists subscribe, but the Labour theory of value nevertheless still functions as a significant element of economists thinking in this area.

    Modern Liberalism and social democracy are bedfellows for me. It is in the like of T.H. Green, L.T. Hobhouse, and John A. Hobson that I find intellectual inspiration and the subsequent work of Keynes and Beveridge the foundations for the modern economy..

  • David Allen 9th Oct '13 - 11:31pm

    Matthew Huntbach,

    “David Allen: ‘It wasn’t Karl Marx who told Tony he was infallible. It was God.’

    This is an unfair criticism of Blair. Having a sense of morality influenced by religion does not equate to believing one can never make a wrong decision…”

    Let me clarify. I am certainly not saying that people whose decisions are influenced by religious belief always think their decisions must be infallible. Quite the contrary. Many religious people in the UK seem to me to be very careful, cautious, un-bumptious people, who take a very sensible, humble attitude in recognising that they are far from being infallible.

    However, things are quite different in the US, where neocon right-wing religious belief frequently seems to mean inordinate pride and nauseatingly excessive self-confidence.

    And Blair? Well, he always knows what “is the right thing to do”. It seems to me that his personal vision of God has given him far too much confidence in his own rectitude.

  • David Allen 9th Oct '13 - 11:40pm

    Joe Otten,

    “I’m gratified that the following two positions are both reasonably well represented in the comments:

    A. That Marxism has been misrepresented and is largely innocuous.
    B. That this is a terrible smear on Ed Miliband

    Clearly they cannot both be true. And by considering neither of them true, I am in the moderate position between these extremes.

    Well, a believer in A would be a hard Leftist. A believer in B (like me) would naturally be on the Left. You believe neither of these things, because you are on the Right. Not in the moderate middle.

    You’re like your boss. You pretend to be a centrist. You aren’t.

    Why not spit it out? Look, many people are proud to call themselves conservatives. Why can’t you and Nick join them?

  • David Allen 9th Oct '13 - 11:42pm

    Sorry, please delete the previous post – I left out a crucial “end quote” mark, making it hard to understand. Corrected below:

    Joe Otten,

    “I’m gratified that the following two positions are both reasonably well represented in the comments:

    A. That Marxism has been misrepresented and is largely innocuous.
    B. That this is a terrible smear on Ed Miliband

    Clearly they cannot both be true. And by considering neither of them true, I am in the moderate position between these extremes.”

    Well, a believer in A would be a hard Leftist. A believer in B (like me) would naturally be on the Left. You believe neither of these things, because you are on the Right. Not in the moderate middle.

    You’re like your boss. You pretend to be a centrist. You aren’t.

    Why not spit it out? Look, many people are proud to call themselves conservatives. Why can’t you and Nick join them?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Oct '13 - 12:59am

    Joe Otten

    1. I’m gratified that the following two positions are both reasonably well represented in the comments:

    A. That Marxism has been misrepresented and is largely innocuous.

    I can’t see a single person writing here who has expressed that view. All I see is people trying to make a better analysis than you managed of why Marxism has been so damaging.

  • Well, I’ve been glad of this thread for one main reason – the comments underneath by some extremely well-informed and knowledgeable writers. Special mention to Matthew Huntbach, whose post of 8th Oct 13:12 is great reading for anyone who is ever tempted to defect to Labour.

    Oh, and Joe – the Iron law of Wages didn’t originate with Marx, and in fact he had criticisms of it himself. Even Wikipedia can tell you that!

  • Joseph Bourke 10th Oct '13 - 2:09pm

    Joe,

    John Kenneth Galbraith rejected Marxism, finding it as doctrinaire as conservative economics. He admitted however, that Marx was right about enough—the existence of social classes, the centrality of material interests, the recurrence of economic depressions, the concentration of industry—that any thinking person who was not a Marxist had to occasionally wonder: “Might he not be right on other things—including the prospect for capitalism itself?”

    I think that view still prevails among many economists today and resurfaces whenever there is a serious economic downturn that brings into question the workings of an unbridled capitalist economy.

  • Joe, all theorists are a product of their times – in the quote you give in your last post, Marx was commenting on what he had seen in his studies of mid 19th Century industrial workers. All he could see ahead for such workers was penury and hugely long hours, cripplingly hard work etc. I have no doubt that a modern Marx would have some equally harsh things to say about working conditions in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and yes, China. He would also argue, I am sure that we need a globalisation of protection of workers, both in safety and income terms. It may be he would even argue for the internationalisation (a modern equivalent of nationalisation, if you like) of key industries. Now there’s a thought…

  • Robert Wootton 10th Oct '13 - 11:35pm

    I have not read Das Kapital or The Wealth of Nations. I have read quotes attributed to these works. Marx; the sole source of value is human labour. Adam Smith; it is not through altruism that goods and services but through self interest. The invisible hand of capitalism.
    If these statements are true then it can be argued that only individuals should pay taxes, not businesses.
    And that the invisible hand of capitalism should be transformed into the visible hand of self interest. This would make it very difficult for business decisions and actions to be unfair or unjust without be called to account.

  • I find the tendency interesting, though a little disturbing, of some people (I name no one here in particular; it’s a widespread trend) to try to ditch Marxism while saving Marx, quoting Marx (a bit out of context) as “not a Marxist” or using adjectives like “Marxian” and so forth. The implication is that Marx was better than Marxism and that if you could just get back to the True Marx and abandon the accretions, you’d have something worthy and noble.

    But this just isn’t the case. Marx wasn’t better than the Marxism preached by his acolytes and imitators; in a lot of ways he was worse. The True Marx was an arrogant, intemperate, doctrinaire German academic, smug in his assumption of intellectual superiority (though in a lot of fields he was quite out of his depth) and very quick to make enemies and denounce friends for perceived slights. He was not even nice to the friends and relatives he depended on.

    Well, you’ll say, that’s just the personal, individual Marx. What about the intellectual Marx? Of course it’s not so easy to separate a human being into parts like that; but the fact is that even for the academic Marx, the intellectual content of his theories was beside the point. He wrote Das Kapital, and his other tracts, not out of a desire to dispassionately analyse the workings of capitalist economy, but to propagandise points which he had already decided were true without analysis. Whether or not the labour theory of value was *true* was not really important; what was important was that it provided an apparently “scientific” stick with which to beat, not just capitalism and capitalists, but even more the heretical “unscientific” socialists who were Marx’s real rivals. Marx had picked his little pond, and he was very determined to be a big fish in it — something which, for him, meant being very free with sneering criticism of anyone who didn’t admit that he, Dr Marx (the “Doktor” was extremely important to him), was the most brilliant socialist theoretician who ever lived.

    That’s not to say that he was insincere. Far from it. He just wasn’t intrinsically an economist, or a politician, or a philosopher. He was a revolutionary.

    Marx passionately believed in his causes and his theories, and if he happened to build his reputation while bringing about the Revolution, so be it. But being passionate for a cause is not the same as being a good person, nor does passion justify the cause. The type of socialism that Marx got involved in was the violent, conspiratorial kind that descended from Babeuf and Buonarroti. Its complaints were often just; its solutions, profoundly unjust.

    Everything in Marx’s thought ultimately revolves around revolution, that great solvent that would burst the bonds of a social system that Marx detested. His ideas brought him up to the point of bringing down the ruling classes; beyond that he hardly imagined, except in the vaguest of sketches. “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” was no mere phrase, though; Marx really imagined a dictatorship as the result of revolution, a system in which the aristocrats and bourgeois would be deprived not merely of power but of rights in what may be the ultimate revenge fantasy. Beyond this is nothing but insubstantial words — talk about the dissolution of the state, but no real plan for something to replace it. That’s why those Marxist revolutionaries who actually acquired power were, in the event, left fumbling and at odds with each other when they were in a position to make their dreams reality.

    The centrality of the State which so often ensued was not an intrinsic part of the socialist programme. “State control of the means of production” is not really a definition of socialism. Early socialists, including Marx, regarded the state as an instrument of aristocratic or bourgeois tyranny. But if vengeance was to be taken against these corrupt classes, what could better do it than the state? And if you’ve already decreed that a state in which some people are deprived of rights is just, and that some people are, by their very existence, a threat to the new, better order, then there’s a perfect reason and an existing mechanism for keeping a small group of people in power indefinitely.

    Had Marx by some freak of fate actually come to power and written his dicta across the face of some revolutionary state in Germany or elsewhere, the result would not have been the *same* as in Bolshevik Russia; but it wouldn’t have been that different, either. Marx was not a closet democrat, nor was he in any sense a liberal. He was not striving for the betterment of humanity, or the general good of society; he was aiming for revenge (admittedly in the long term), and had no qualms about the blood that might be shed in his cause.

    Happily, quite a few socialists, even those nominally in the Marxist camp, already had doubts about Marx’s revolution well before his death, and quite a bit of Marx’s writing is polemic against those socialists who weren’t up to his standards; though he himself was quite willing to make political U-turns, as long as he got to excoriate others who were too early or too late in doing the same thing (a curiously consistent development in socialist circles). In any case, those socialists who tried to work within the democratic framework tended to claim liberal policies as their own (they had to have *some* sort of concrete programme) while eschewing liberal principles. The ensuing confusion has been such that some liberals have ended up rejecting originally liberal ideas on the grounds that they are socialist!

  • Ed Shepherd 11th Oct '13 - 6:46am

    “Martin, I’m talking about Marx’s law of wages, whatever you want to call it. Perhaps ‘Law of starvation wages’ is better, expressed eg “Hence even in the condition of society most favorable to the worker, the inevitable result for the worker is overwork and premature death, decline to a mere machine, a bond servant of capital, which piles up dangerously over and against him, more competition, and starvation or beggary for a section of the workers” here ”

    Bet is that statement incorrect? If it was not for the implentation of reforms that ordinary people campaigned for such as unemployment benefits, sickness benefits, a health service, universal education, health and safety laws, access to credit, a minimum wage, then millions of people even in the UK would be existing on subsistence wages or no wages at all. It is only because of relatively modern benefits and avaiability of credit that vast numbers of people in the UK are not living in penury. We can see in developing countries that where these benefits are not available, vast numbers of people are living in poverty.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Oct '13 - 4:11pm

    Joe Otten

    But despite the defences being so terribly weak, I get the sense that I have broken some taboo – I’ve started talking about religion at a dinner party. Why? Because Marx seems to occupy, though not on merit, some place in the pantheon of respectability.

    Er, no, you just aren’t getting this, are you?

    The problem is that your original article was just so lacking in analysis of just why when those inspired by Marxism have gained political power it has turned out so badly. Saying that your criticism was weak is not the same as defending Marx and Marxism – it’s actually saying you could have done a better job in attacking them.

    It is a fact that many people who are not bad people in themselves have been inspired by Marx’s account of how the cards are stacked against most people in society because of the way that ownership of what is essential for society to run is in a small number of hands, and there are reasons why that tends to get smaller – we are seeing this happening right now as so much of our economy is dominated by big corporations. The problem now comes that if you can’t pick out and explain to such people those aspects of Marxism which make it so bad, they are more likely to accept the whole of it. Of course it goes the other way round, and this is how the political right uses it – if you can’t pick out those aspects of Marxism which are bad, you end up with the line that ANY politics which is concerned about imbalance of wealth and ownership is “Marxist” and therefore should be rejected as a bad thing.

    To a large extent, the Liberal Party of the 20th century was all about finding a politics that did something about the illiberalism caused by unequal wealth and ownership but without those damaging aspects which owe something to Marx’s influence. If we are to do his, we need to analyse just where it all went wrong. I have given a little of my own analysis above, as I suggested, it leads to some of my own political positions – including a strong opposition to the idea of top-down organisation of political parties, and a belief in the importance of government power ultimately being in shared hands.

  • Helen Dudden 12th Oct '13 - 8:42pm

    I have just been reading in the Bath Chronicle about attitude towards others, in the political arena. It is getting quite heated with name calling.

    I find this hurtful and an embarrassment, as I thought politics was a useful to tool to help build a better society. This constant wanting to be a top dog, and putting down of others with different views.

    My views are, that I have awful housing, and the constant bickering of those in local Government, has forced me to put up with my damp cold home. I am a pensioner, surely deserving of better treatment.

    During my studies I read about in groups and the need to be part of a group. But then not all can agree, so what happens then?

    Freedom of choice is important to us all. I have found some of the things my own MP, Don voted for not except-able, but I have that right to disagree.

  • Helen Dudden 13th Oct '13 - 7:51pm

    I found the public display, by so-called councilors embarrassing.

    If I thought that what I had joined and be part of, was in any going to cause harm to another person, I would back away.

    The “bedroom tax” and “food banks” and the disabled who suffering are not fair in society. I am not making a public issue as in the Bath Chronicle, I state what I feel with understanding and compassion, without politics and a true feeling of caring.

    Also, I am involved in human rights and international law, and I have recently been to a forum that relates to Westminster. I don’t wish to name call, just be excepted that I may have something to say about that is not as it should be.

    I have served your Party for over 21 years, and I could not accept what was happening, Nick Cleggs office never responded to me on the subject of international law and the reason why there was no input into the All Party on the Subject of Child Abduction. I asked and I was never answered.

    For some of us this issues is very important.

    I probably use much less politics that Don Foster MP, in my urgent need for improvements.

  • Joe The main point I was making was that all theories, however good, are of their time. There are aspects of great thinkers which carry over, but much is done by successors working with the insights the original provided. I think you seem to be judging what Marx said in 1860 or 1870 against our post-industrial,economic and social conditions of 2010s. I think that is comparing apples with oranges and does not get us very far, either intellectually, politically or practically. I think you have provided almost no evidence that what Marx and his mid 19th Century associates wrote was wrong or without merit in terms of the mid 19th Century.

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