A question for our Marxists - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

Wandering the information superhighway, he came upon the last refuge of civilization, PoFo, the only forum on the internet ...

Workers of the world, unite! Then argue about Trotsky and Stalin for all eternity...
Forum rules: No one line posts please.
#15169711
As I often find myself doing, I followed a link…that lead to a link…that lead to a link…and so on, and found myself reading a piece by Aussie Marxist Andy Blunden that characterised money as a religion.

This is not about that.

But it is about secular concepts and philosophies that mirror religious devotion.

For context, I’m in the death throes of a PhD (having to do some major…and I mean MAJOR revisions since my viva – effectively an almost total re-write! :lol::roll: )and I read a lot of apparently random material to try and develop a better understanding of philosophy in the round, to improve my grasp of thinking philosophically. Trying to read Marxist thought is good practice.

It seems to me that in most cases – of which Marxist writings are the most striking exemplar – it is simply not possible to follow the logic therein unless you have already accepted, uncritically and unquestioningly, a particular set of core tenets. Hence the association with ‘religion’. It’s all but universal to all spiritual theologies that any meaningful discourse is impossible unless all parties to a discussion have uncritically and unquestioningly accepted the same set of core tenets. Considering Christianity solely because it’s the one with which I’m most familiar, it’s almost impossible to engage in discussion about its teachings with many of its most devoted adherents, because they earnestly (uncritically and unquestioningly) believe that its teachings and their recording in scripture are the direct and definitive word of God. Therefore there can be no questioning.

So in simple, unphilosophical lay language, almost always when I read Marxist works, I am struck by its grasp of man’s inhumanity to man, its aspiration for a better, more equitable world and an apparent yearning to free the individual from the malign influence of others…and then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, I’m reading of revolution, blood, war and tyranny.

This leaves me with the impression that unless I uncritically and unquestioningly accept the need for revolution, blood, war and tyranny, there can never be any prospect of a more equitable world, where individuals are free from the malign influence of others. In even more lay terms, it reads like a philosophy of, ‘jam tomorrow’…but in a tomorrow few if any will live to see, rather like the Christian belief in suffering in life for the promise of ascending into Heaven.

Thus to me there is a palpable irony in a Marxist likening anything to a religion, because their own thinking is no less ‘religious’ – however secular. Unless you accept the core tenets of Marx’s analysis, no fruitful discussion can take place.

I can only conclude, therefore, that just like most religions Marxism is a philosophical system of thought that is necessary to enable adherents to act in ways that their conscience and humanity might otherwise reject, in order to bring about their ‘heaven’. Blunden hints at that systematic thought lying at the root of our ‘religious’ beliefs about money, whereby we can rationalise witnessing misfortune, illness, misery and death befalling others for the lack of it dispassionately and so salve our consciences. Marxism is no different. It’s just another system of thought, constructed to further rather than counter, ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, but for a notionally noble cause. Visiting misfortune, misery and death on other human beings becomes something that is seen as, ‘regrettable but necessary’ on our way to the utopian goal and some are so besotted in their beliefs that such inhumanity is not regrettable at all.
#15169712
It seems to me that in most cases – of which Marxist writings are the most striking exemplar – it is simply not possible to follow the logic therein unless you have already accepted, uncritically and unquestioningly, a particular set of core tenets. Hence the association with ‘religion’. It’s all but universal to all spiritual theologies that any meaningful discourse is impossible unless all parties to a discussion have uncritically and unquestioningly accepted the same set of core tenets.

But this is true for any system of rational thought. For example, when Euclid was systematising geometry, he felt the need to assert some fundamental axioms, or assumptions, before even beginning. These axioms cannot be proven to be true within the framework of Euclidean geometry, since they are the basis on which that framework is built. This is also true for Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, which is based on two fundamental assumptions: that the speed of light is a universal constant for all observers, and that the laws of physics are the same for all inertial observers. Neither of these postulates can be proven; they must simply be accepted on faith. Yet nobody would assert that this 'invalidates' Euclidean geometry or relativity theory. Why should Marxism be any different?

I can only conclude, therefore, that just like most religions Marxism is a philosophical system of thought that is necessary to enable adherents to act in ways that their conscience and humanity might otherwise reject, in order to bring about their ‘heaven’. Blunden hints at that systematic thought lying at the root of our ‘religious’ beliefs about money, whereby we can rationalise witnessing misfortune, illness, misery and death befalling others for the lack of it dispassionately and so salve our consciences. Marxism is no different. It’s just another system of thought, constructed to further rather than counter, ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, but for a notionally noble cause. Visiting misfortune, misery and death on other human beings becomes something that is seen as, ‘regrettable but necessary’ on our way to the utopian goal and some are so besotted in their beliefs that such inhumanity is not regrettable at all.

Any system of thought, any system of belief, can be used to retrospectively rationalise whatever somebody wants to believe. For example, Christianity is used by Calvinists to rationalise their own material prosperity as 'proving' their good standing in the eyes of God, and other people's poverty as 'proving' their sinfulness in the eyes of God. Likewise, Darwinian evolutionary theory can be used to retrospectively rationalise entire races of human beings as being 'inferior' to the 'superior' races, or even 'unfit' to exist. This does not invalidate Christianity, or invalidate Darwin's theory of evolution. This is just human nature at work.
#15169717
It is human nature indeed, but you and I both can at least contextualise it as such and thus appreciate that just because it's our nature, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's right.

I'm not remotely trying to 'invalidate' marxism, any more than I might with Einstein or Euclid. Rather, I'm observing that whilst any 'model' - scientific and/or philosophical/political requires the acceptance of certain assumptions, it is not uncommon for models and the theories upon which they are based to subsequently be found to have been established on incorrect or incomplete assumptions. Can't comment on Euclid, but I think a lot of Einstein's work is going to prove ultimately to have been 'wrong' - or at least not entirely correct. That doesn't 'invalidate' Einstein either, because physics and cosmology wouldn't have got where it is today without his seminal genius, so when some future physicist dismantles Relativity, no-one is going to point a finger at Einstein and accuse him of deceit.

The point of my thread, though, was to observe that my impression of Marxist theory is that to even suggest, let alone question, that the assumptions upon which it is based might be incorrect or incomplete is seen as the height of blasphemy by the zealots of the Church of Marx. I further see that as an unhelpful impediment to philosophical progress.

Many years ago - right here somewhere on PoFo.org - I reacted to a comment accusing me of being a Communist with the comment, "I'm not a Communist, but if I were I'd be an Evolutionary Communist rather than a Revolutionary Communist."

As I intimated in the OP - perhaps too softly - there is much about Marxist philosophy that I like and admire, but then they go and spoil it all by insisting that there has to be violence and bloody revolution to achieve their goals.
#15169719
Potemkin wrote:This is also true for Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, which is based on two fundamental assumptions: that the speed of light is a universal constant for all observers, and that the laws of physics are the same for all inertial observers. Neither of these postulates can be proven; they must simply be accepted on faith.


Nonsense.
#15169721
Cartertonian wrote:The point of my thread, though, was to observe that my impression of Marxist theory is that to even suggest, let alone question, that the assumptions upon which it is based might be incorrect or incomplete is seen as the height of blasphemy by the zealots of the Church of Marx. I further see that as an unhelpful impediment to philosophical progress.

I don't think this is any more true of Marxism than it is of other schools of thought, though.

Try suggesting to your average American that the American Constitution is anything other than a holy text, and see how far you get.

In Britain, we like to imagine ourselves to be "pragmatists" and "free of ideology", but once again, any questioning of British exceptionalism is always met with shrieking derision. Jeremy Corbyn just spent five years being smeared as traitorous vermin for not being an explicit jingoist.

Cartertonian wrote:As I intimated in the OP - perhaps too softly - there is much about Marxist philosophy that I like and admire, but then they go and spoil it all by insisting that there has to be violence and bloody revolution to achieve their goals.

This isn't out of some inherent love for "violence and bloody revolution". It's out of a recognition that the current ruling class will not accept changes of the magnitude advocated by Marxists without violent resistance. And I'd say history has proven them absolutely correct on this front.

Bear in mind that when Marx and Engels were writing, trade unions were completely outlawed and even attempting to organise would regularly get workers killed, with the full backing of the state. And trade unions themselves are not even particularly "revolutionary" - they can easily coexist with capitalism.

Given that context, it's not hard to see how Marxists came to the conclusion that a revolution would inevitably have to be violent.
#15169722
You do yourself no favours by failing to articulate why you think Potemkin's assertion is 'nonsense', Rugoz.

I constrain myself, in threads I have started, from ruthless moderation but if I'd seen that retort on someone else's thread it would have been deleted. Perhaps you would care to expand?
#15169725
Cartertonian wrote:

So in simple, unphilosophical lay language

almost always when I read Marxist works, I am struck by its grasp of man’s inhumanity to man, its aspiration for a better, more equitable world and an apparent yearning to free the individual from the malign influence of others…

and then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, I’m reading of revolution, blood, war and tyranny.



That is quite pragmatic, in the sense of the philosophical school of Pragmatism. I approve.

Yeah, have you seen the history of that era? Nasty. He was one of a number of economists that wanted to change that. Adam Smith did, but for him it was little more than wishful thinking.

Marxism has never happened. I knew a guy that was into that stuff, he thought it was possible. If you skip the details... early industrialisation was, to borrow a phrase, nasty, brutal and shortened your life. Anyone with a conscience wanted better. And we did get better.

Marx clearly held Enlightenment values. At this point, there isn't much point in taking him literally. Things didn't work out the way he expected. But there has been a struggle between the little guys and the elite, and occasionally the little guy wins.
#15169726
Heisenberg wrote:I don't think this is any more true of Marxism than it is of other schools of thought, though.

Neither do I Heisenberg, but it just so happened that I was reminded of this 'pseudo-religious' mindset when reading the piece I linked to. ;)

Try suggesting to your average American that the American Constitution is anything other than a holy text, and see how far you get.

Quite. To many, they appear to see it as the New New Testament...(especially the 2nd Amendment! :lol: ... :roll: )

In Britain, we like to imagine ourselves to be "pragmatists" and "free of ideology",

Do we? I wish we did. Like a Ghostbuster, I'm fearful of 'crossing the streams', but on the Hate in America thread there's ample evidence of how polarised, adversarial, combative binary thought has become all but normalised on both sides of the pond.

This isn't out of some inherent love for "violence and bloody revolution". It's out of a recognition that the current ruling class will not accept changes of the magnitude advocated by Marxists without violent resistance. And I'd say history has proven them absolutely correct on this front.
As I said in the OP, it's seen by some as 'regrettable but necessary', but by others as 'necessary and desirable'.

Bear in mind that when Marx and Engels were writing, trade unions were completely outlawed and even attempting to organise would regularly get workers killed, with the full backing of the state. And trade unions themselves are not even particularly "revolutionary" - they can easily coexist with capitalism.

Given that context, it's not hard to see how Marxists came to the conclusion that a revolution would inevitably have to be violent.

Context is of course essential. But it is not a constant or indeed pure. For those who buy in to the central assumptions of Marxism, they can contextualise the present as being perhaps even more oppressive than those past times and therefore see the need, however regretfully, for a bloodier and more violent revolution. However if one is unburdened by a thick pair of Marxism goggles, one can just as readily contextualise the present as offering more opportunity than was afforded Marx et al to effect changes without recourse to violent imposition of change.
#15169730
The point of my thread, though, was to observe that my impression of Marxist theory is that to even suggest, let alone question, that the assumptions upon which it is based might be incorrect or incomplete is seen as the height of blasphemy by the zealots of the Church of Marx. I further see that as an unhelpful impediment to philosophical progress.

It's difficult to argue against an impression, @Cartertonian. Lol.

Many years ago - right here somewhere on PoFo.org - I reacted to a comment accusing me of being a Communist with the comment, "I'm not a Communist, but if I were I'd be an Evolutionary Communist rather than a Revolutionary Communist."

As I intimated in the OP - perhaps too softly - there is much about Marxist philosophy that I like and admire, but then they go and spoil it all by insisting that there has to be violence and bloody revolution to achieve their goals.

It just seems to come out of the blue, doesn't it? Just like reality itself, in fact. There you are, pottering around minding your own business, when reality rudely intrudes on your pleasant daydreams. But reality is like that, @Cartertonian - it's what still hangs around even when you studiously try to ignore it. Lol. Marx was simply accepting the nature of reality in human societies - an outmoded ruling elite never goes gentle into that good night. Instead, it rages, rages against the dying of the light. Why do you think the American Civil War happened? The Confederacy should just have accepted that the slave-based mode of production was historically outmoded, and surrendered to the Union. Did they do that? No. If you want progress, you must be prepared to fight to the death for it. QED.
#15169731
Rugoz wrote:Unless empirical reality is a matter of faith, the statement is wrong.

Empirical reality? No matter how many times we measure the speed of light in a vacuum relative to any number of inertial observers, we can never be certain that the speed of light is always and everywhere a universal constant for all observers. But the theory of relativity depends on the assumption that it is a universal constant. Not some of the time, not even most of the time, but all of the time. This is an assumption. Likewise, the laws of physics being the same for all inertial observers is an assumption; they certainly aren't the same for all non-inertial observers. Another assumption.
#15169732
late wrote:At this point, there isn't much point in taking him literally. Things didn't work out the way he expected.

This is the thing, though. For all that Marxism is derided as being the dogmatic adherence to the writings of one man - it isn't that at all. The most obvious thing Marx was wrong about is that he thought that socialist revolution would start in the First World, because capitalism was most developed there. Later analysis - based on the actual hard experience of the Russian revolution, Chinese revolution and various anticolonial struggles - demonstrated that the Third World is the primary source of revolutionary potential, and the Marxist framework has been adapted to take account of that. People better versed in Marxist theory than me will be able to list plenty more examples of how Marxism has developed beyond Marx himself.

Cartertonian wrote:Quite. To many, they appear to see it as the New New Testament...(especially the 2nd Amendment! ... )

To be fair, they're just working from a different, long lost Biblical text. Their version of Matthew 22 goes something like this:

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. And the third is, Thou shalt light up thine enemies with holy armour-piercing rounds. On these three commandments hang all the law and the prophets. :excited:

Cartertonian wrote:Do we? I wish we did. Like a Ghostbuster, I'm fearful of 'crossing the streams', but on the Hate in America thread there's ample evidence of how polarised, adversarial, combative binary thought has become all but normalised on both sides of the pond.

Yes, but how many Brits would recognise this as ideological? That's what I'm getting at. It seems to me that there is a long held belief in Britain that ideology is something they do on the continent, whereas we're small-c conservatives who just "figure out what works".

Cartertonian wrote:Context is of course essential. But it is not a constant or indeed pure. For those who buy in to the central assumptions of Marxism, they can contextualise the present as being perhaps even more oppressive than those past times and therefore see the need, however regretfully, for a bloodier and more violent revolution.

But this doesn't sound like Marxist thought at all - it actually sounds like a liberal's interpretation of what Marxists are saying.

Marxism, fundamentally, is dialectical. The idea of "more oppressive" and needing a "bloodier and more violent revolution" doesn't really fit. Besides, as far as I'm aware, the main changes to the concept of how the "revolution" will work are tactical (think Mao's "mass line", "protracted people's war", etc) and are the result of learning from real-world experience.

Cartertonian wrote:However if one is unburdened by a thick pair of Marxism goggles, one can just as readily contextualise the present as offering more opportunity than was afforded Marx et al to effect changes without recourse to violent imposition of change.

For whom does this opportunity exist, though?

Marxists recognise that it may be possible to obtain social democratic reforms in the "imperial core" without recourse to violence. But, they also contend that this wouldn't fundamentally change - and indeed, would rely upon - continued exploitation of the Third World.

Meanwhile, if we take off the western-centric, moralising goggles, we can contextualise why socialists in the Third World have taken the course that they have. A good part of it is certainly down to their own failures, but a good part of it is also down to a perfectly rational siege mentality. Almost immediately after decolonisation, socialist nation-building projects in the Third World came under constant economic (and often military) attack from the First World powers.
#15169733
Cartertonian wrote:So in simple, unphilosophical lay language, almost always when I read Marxist works, I am struck by its grasp of man’s inhumanity to man, its aspiration for a better, more equitable world and an apparent yearning to free the individual from the malign influence of others…and then suddenly, as if out of nowhere, I’m reading of revolution, blood, war and tyranny.

This leaves me with the impression that unless I uncritically and unquestioningly accept the need for revolution, blood, war and tyranny, there can never be any prospect of a more equitable world, where individuals are free from the malign influence of others.


Perhaps context is important. Would you say Marx would reach the same conclusion today given a number of things have changed since 1848, most notably who can vote? What does your instinct say? I only say this because PoFo is an anomaly and I don't come across any Marxist that are asking the working class to lose their chains and pick up arms outside this forum, are you?

Socialism has amalgamated their thought toward the ideas from the likes of Sanders and Cornynism, most of whom are more inclined to work with the Democratic mainframe for change than ask for a radical overhaul and Marxism has been influenced by the Frankfurt School of thought that has basically used his ideas and thought process and brought it forward in terms of the conditions we have today. My instinct is that revolution isn't needed at all for Marxism to become a reality because people, or more notably the young, are becoming more aware of Marx and the contradictions of Capitalism and are becoming more vocal in politics in which they are asking for (and slowly changing) the political narrative anyway. Although I do think real change will only occur when the market conditions are right for people to demand change so they would rather keep Capitalism whilst they profit from it despite others exploiting them in the mean time as it is working well for the West at least today. I don't see that remaining the case indefinitely and as such I expect to see a move towards Socialism one day. I just don't see how the Bourgeois can expect to keep their ivory towers in a world of social media and education if the proletariat are struggling to feed their families and they will demand change via the ballot box very much like how Labor got into power in 1945 despite Churchill winning the War as they had a better plan to build Britain post WW2
#15169738
B0ycey wrote:Perhaps context is important. Would you say Marx would reach the same conclusion today given a number of things have changed since 1848, most notably who can vote? What does your instinct say? I only say this because PoFo is an anomaly and I don't come across any Marxist that are asking the working class to lose their chains and pick up arms outside this forum, are you?

Socialism has amalgamated their thought toward the ideas from the likes of Sanders and Cornynism, most of whom are more inclined to work with the Democratic mainframe for change than ask for a radical overhaul and Marxism has been influenced by the Frankfurt School of thought that has basically used his ideas and thought process and brought it forward in terms of the conditions we have today. My instinct is that revolution isn't needed at all for Marxism to become a reality because people, or more notably the young, are becoming more aware of Marx and the contradictions of Capitalism and are becoming more vocal in politics in which they are asking for (and slowly changing) the political narrative anyway. Although I do think real change will only occur when the market conditions are right for people to demand change so they would rather keep Capitalism whilst they profit from it despite others exploiting them in the mean time as it is working well for the West at least today. I don't see that remaining the case indefinitely and as such I expect to see a move towards Socialism one day. I just don't see how the Bourgeois can expect to keep their ivory towers in a world of social media and education if the proletariat are struggling to feed their families and they will demand change via the ballot box very much like how Labor got into power in 1945 despite Churchill winning the War as they had a better plan to build Britain post WW2


That was quite well said B0ycey.

What I think is a potential bloodbath between classes in the future is that right now in the USA they are introducing in Georgia and other states voting machines that are wired to not count votes from districts that are full of people that the far right doesn't approve of.

The demographics have changed. The normal, intelligent thing to do is for your political platform to be expansive and appeal to the new demographic. Not deny the ones you don't agree with votes. But? I have found that sharing power or being more inclusive when it means having to acknowledge the equality in rights of groups that are threatened and have been comfortable running things for a long time is a loss in democracy.

They actively work against it. In the process, more and more people lose all faith in the democratic system and turn to arms and bloodbaths to make things happen. Violence is really about fear and desperation in politics, not reason and acceptance and responsibility.
#15169739
Heisenberg wrote:
This is the thing, though. For all that Marxism is derided as being the dogmatic adherence to the writings of one man - it isn't that at all. The most obvious thing Marx was wrong about is that he thought that socialist revolution would start in the First World, because capitalism was most developed there. Later analysis - based on the actual hard experience of the Russian revolution, Chinese revolution and various anticolonial struggles - demonstrated that the Third World is the primary source of revolutionary potential, and the Marxist framework has been adapted to take account of that. People better versed in Marxist theory than me will be able to list plenty more examples of how Marxism has developed beyond Marx himself.




But those 3rd world revolutions didn't work. I seriously doubt it is possible to accomplish Marx's goals through revolution of any sort.
#15169740
Potemkin wrote:But this is true for any system of rational thought. For example, when Euclid was systematising geometry, he felt the need to assert some fundamental axioms, or assumptions, before even beginning. These axioms cannot be proven to be true within the framework of Euclidean geometry, since they are the basis on which that framework is built. This is also true for Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, which is based on two fundamental assumptions: that the speed of light is a universal constant for all observers, and that the laws of physics are the same for all inertial observers. Neither of these postulates can be proven; they must simply be accepted on faith. Yet nobody would assert that this 'invalidates' Euclidean geometry or relativity theory. Why should Marxism be any different?


What axioms does Marxian theory assume?

Could it be that, in fact, many of the things @Cartertonian says you are meant to assume are not axioms but are actually closer to purported theorems? I'm wondering because of some predictions didn't logically follow from the axioms Marxian theorists were starting from (I'm thinking about Okishio's theorem for instance).

It would seem to me many of those assumptions were way too restrictive or simply proven false by later developments.
#15169745
The aim of Marxism is straightforward, to replace something that isn't a dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie with something that isn't a dictatorship of the proletariat.

The big problem is that so much Marxist drivel has been absorbed into mainstream thinking. "Capitalism", a term that as far as I can make out, that was never used by Marx, is a contraction of "Capitalist mode of Production". The Marxist stages of history seem to have been absorbed uncritically into modern thinking. Slavery => Feudalism => Capitalism. The dominant modes of production in Republican Rome and the Early Empire were single owner producers and wage labour. The dominant modes of production are almost certainly the same today as they were in Sumer.

Marcus Licinius Crassus may not have been the greatest or wisest general, but he was one hell of an entrepreneur. If you could have brought him in a time machine to Thatcher's City of London or pre 2008 Wall Street, I'm sure he'd have been able to play the markets just fine. And just while we're on Crassus, there's a lot of whining at the moment about the level of partisanship in Washington, how touching it is to remember, a gentler, kinder time when one of Sulla's general's could reach out the hand of friendship to Marius's nephew.

This is important because Marxist's are constantly blaming every ill, real or imagined on capitalism. As if to reject Marxist terrorist rule we must take responsibly for the limitations of reality. Christians, Muslims and most recently Lockdown Liberals try to pull a similar trick. If you don't immediately give up every freedom, every liberty, every right and control over your own body, every ounce of power, every vestige of dignity you are responsible for every death, for every sickness in the world.
#15169747
wat0n wrote:What axioms does Marxian theory assume?

Could it be that, in fact, many of the things @Cartertonian says you are meant to assume are not axioms but are actually closer to purported theorems? I'm wondering because of some predictions didn't logically follow from the axioms Marxian theorists were starting from (I'm thinking about Okishio's theorem for instance).

It would seem to me many of those assumptions were way too restrictive or simply proven false by later developments.

This is a good point. Marxism is, in fact, a social science (Marx is now regarded as one of the founders of social science), and as such its axioms do not have the same logical status as the axioms of a physical science or of a mathematical system. Instead, its axioms are and must be subject to revision in the light of empirical evidence, just as with any other social science; or indeed any other economic theory.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 19

Is it nitpicking to point out that this 1625 proc[…]

As much as I would like for Ukraine and Belarus t[…]

CRT

No again.. that is NOT 'in other words'. That […]

June 16, Tuesday By mid-June, more than 200 Un[…]