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View Full Version : On Communism/Marxism (Also, holy fuck, a real political thread!?)



Sidewinder
12-10-2009, 03:39 AM
So, for my Political Theory class, one of our readings was the Communist Manifesto. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to reading it. I've never known much about Communism, and over the past year or two I've been really into exploring new mindsets and philosophies.

So, basically, I thought it would be interesting to find out where Marx was coming from. I didn't expect to agree with a whole lot of what he said.

But now, I do. Now, I'm not subscribing to Communism in any form. And just like any other system, there are definitely holes and parts with which I don't really agree. But on the other hand, I realize that much of his critique of the social/political/economic environment of his time and how he predicted the changes to come to be correct in many regards.

As I mentioned before, there are exceptions. For instance, his claim that people would continue to move towards the cities and centers of production and leave the rural behind isn't terribly true with the rapid increase in the value of the Suburban life. Atlanta is the city I'm most familiar with, so I don't know how much it reflects the trends of other cities, but only about 10% of the population of Atlanta actually lives within the city itself. And let's not forget his main mistake, the eventual downfall of the Bourgeoisie (ps I can totally spell that without looking it up). His claim that as times progressed and the Proletariat continued to be pushed under the rug, a revolution would eventually occur. Maybe it will one day, but so far the gap between upper and middle/lower class is actually increasing. In fact, the middle class is nearly gone all together.

My main issue with Marx is that he never actually makes a case for the sustainability of Communism. He's so focused on the bloody overthrow of the Bourgeoisie that he never really lays out a plan for the future. Let me clarify. He lays out a plan for what an ideal Communist government would entail but he doesn't give an example of why this is the best way to sustain the social-economic environment for the future. The closest argument he gives is when he compares the claims of Communism to Capitalism and says they aren't nearly as radical as people believe and that it wouldn't be such a humongous change once they wrapped their heads around it. Seems to me, this sort of undermines his assertion that Capitalism will eventually have a catastrophic downfall and there's no way to avoid it.


I seem to remember some members on here being Communist/Marxist. I feel like this would be an interesting topic on an otherwise rapidly declining board, not to mention I have an essay that I've elected to write on Marx due soon and the clarification might help a bit.

RageAndLov
12-10-2009, 03:49 AM
I don't know too much about the guy, but he saw that the liberal economy and capitalism didn't work for everyone and made a system that, in his eyes, worked for everyone.
The thought of communism is brilliant, it just doesn't work that well in life.

Sidewinder
12-10-2009, 03:51 AM
Your definition of liberal is incorrect; Communism is much more a liberal economic system than a conservative one (in regards to the American Political definitions, at least).

But yeah, I kind of said that haha.

RageAndLov
12-10-2009, 04:23 AM
Your definition of liberal is incorrect; Communism is much more a liberal economic system than a conservative one (in regards to the American Political definitions, at least).


How is it a liberal economic system when the state controlled all the economy and didn't let any private business operate?

KyleW
12-10-2009, 04:47 AM
And let's not forget his main mistake, the eventual downfall of the Bourgeoisie (ps I can totally spell that without looking it up). His claim that as times progressed and the Proletariat continued to be pushed under the rug, a revolution would eventually occur. Maybe it will one day, but so far the gap between upper and middle/lower class is actually increasing. In fact, the middle class is nearly gone all together.


I'd have to disagree here. Yes, the gap between lower class and upper class is getting larger, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer but surely this is what is pushing the Proletariat under the rug and if the class division continued to increase then a revolution could occur which would overthrow the Bourgeoisie (I had to copy paste :o) and bring the downfall of capitalism.

If this dialectic was to occur then it would bring about what Marx called a 'higher stage' and a communist society. Marx also thought up the idea of Historical Materialism which basically says that based on your current economic struchture (this could be capitalist, socialist or even feudalist) it dictates other aspects of society such as art, politics and religion. Anyway, Im waffling on, just thought I'd give you a little Marxist info that I couldn't find in your post.

Good luck with the paper :D

Sidewinder
12-10-2009, 04:56 AM
From what I can tell, Marx thought it was Christianity/Religion that led to Capitalism, not the other way around. For instance Wagner, the sociologist, was big into Marxist theories and he's the one who said that Capitalism is essentially grew out of Calvinism.

wheelchairman
12-10-2009, 10:03 AM
Liberal in the US just means left-wing, liberal in Europe means Free-market Adam Smith types.

Your criticisms are flawed, in that you take Marxism out of its historical context in put it into a modern context. When Marx talks about people leaving the countryside to live in the city, he's talking about industrialization and the decline of agriculture, not about the growth of suburbia but distinctly about rising industrialization and declining agriculture.

And Marx never laid out a plan for socialism and communism because as an analysis he never could. Engels writes extensively however on the primitive-communism of tribes, and how future communism may resemble this, or may not. However because every nation is different, and every revolution will happen in unique conditions, how could Marx say what each society would look like? That'd be unmarxist.

Marx would in no way have said that Christianity/religion led to capitalism, capitalism being a fairly new system at the time, and religion being ancient there is no way Marx would've said that.

jacknife737
12-10-2009, 12:27 PM
I've got to agree with Wheelchairman; context is everything, especially with Marx. He was writing under the context of the industrial revolution, rather than post-industrialized society.

The first time i read Marx i was rather surprised at how non-radical a lot of his writings seemed to be. A good chunk of it just seemed to make sense. Then i read Keynes and realized that he made a better case, but whatevs.

That said, the biggest flaw that I see with Marx is that i don't really accept the idea of class-solidarity; factors like ethnicity and nationalism are far more powerful forces.

wheelchairman
12-10-2009, 12:37 PM
Marxism does hold class-antagonisms as the main antagonist force in society. Something I also disagree with, and there are a lot of neo-marxists who make the same claim, (Chantal Mouffe head of them, I believe) that antagonisms do not even need to eliminate each other, but can be resolved by changing the antagonist relationship into an 'agonist' one, a relationship that does not require mutual exclusion.

As far as nationalities and ethnicities go, that's led to some rather controversial splits within Marxism. You could say that was the crux of the Trotsky/Stalin split, Trotsky believing revolutions are not over until they have spread across the world, so to speak, and Stalin arguing to consolidate socialist power in one nation and wait for a better time for the expansion of socialist revolutions.

Maoism then made the rather controversial analytical addition with Mao's theory of the 3 worlds. The first world being the US and the USSR, the second world being their satellite states, and the 3rd being the oppressed 3rd world nations. Maoism-Third-Worldists are trolling morons who should be ignored. This is a controversial theory because in practice it meant that a socialist revolution was not possible in the 1st world, until the 3rd world has 'smashed its chains'. All labor-rights and gains, all progress in the 1st world typically is viewed as 'the product of exploiting the 3rd world.' Rather divisionary I'd say. They also want to send all white people on North America back to Europe. They like to call the US 'United $nakes', and do horrible things like that to spelling in general. They go as far as considering it their progressive revolutionary duty (hehe, duty).

My main problem with Marxism, and all the analytical theories that have found their basis in marxism is that in each instance, the point of the analysis is to find an oppressed part, and an oppressing part. In some ways this can be extremely insightful and interesting, in others however you just end up creating a victim/victimizer relationship where it formerly had not existed. And that is what bothers me about the theory of contradictions in marxism.

However one of the more interesting aspects of Marxism is the various Superstructure/Base theories and how they affect each other. This part of the theory is what eventually lead Gramsci to write some really fascinating stuff.

p.s. I want to rag more on Maoism. The Stalinist theoretical view of nationalities was that all oppressed nations should be liberated. I haven't read about Stalin's view on nationalities in a long time, but it was something along those lines. That there are oppressor/oppressed nations. Formerly the leading Marxists of the time would have made rather less obvious views, for example during WW1 the German Marxists said that the other nations should surrender as the German working class was the most progressive and class-conscious, and that killing them would not help the revolution.

Anyways I'm going off topic, later on, roughly around the time China invades Tibet, Mao adds to Stalin's nationality views, by saying 'some nations don't deserve to exist if they don't meet these criteria'. Maoists don't seem to question the convenience of this addition to Maoism and the invasion of Tibet. Oh and if it seems like Stalin's views of nationalities doesn't reflect his historical treatment of nationalities, then yeah you'd be right. They were written pre-revolution, it did qualify him though to make him one of the first commissar's of nationality. The hypocracy only becomes obvious in the mid-30's when he acts rather strangely with the minorities of the USSR, and then later on post-WW2 with the post-war governments of Eastern Europe. The latter however being more related to practical issues of state, rather than ideological policies of state.

T-6005
12-10-2009, 12:50 PM
Seconding Per on the Gramsci. Cultural Hegemony is an awesome concept.

Though to be honest at this point I find Marx is far more useful conceptually than as a serious theory. Marxist concepts inform a lot of modern analyses through the ideas of commodity fetishism, his anti-Hegelist materialist outlook and that base-superstructure relationship you mentioned.

Sidewinder
12-10-2009, 01:01 PM
Liberal in the US just means left-wing, liberal in Europe means Free-market Adam Smith types.
Yeah, I just thought he was talking about the American left-wing.


Your criticisms are flawed, in that you take Marxism out of its historical context in put it into a modern context. When Marx talks about people leaving the countryside to live in the city, he's talking about industrialization and the decline of agriculture, not about the growth of suburbia but distinctly about rising industrialization and declining agriculture.
I guess I should note that we only had one class in which Marx was discussed, and this was not brought up, so my only context was from the Manifesto.


And Marx never laid out a plan for socialism and communism because as an analysis he never could. Engels writes extensively however on the primitive-communism of tribes, and how future communism may resemble this, or may not. However because every nation is different, and every revolution will happen in unique conditions, how could Marx say what each society would look like? That'd be unmarxist.
Haven't read Engels; no time to read anything not for school at the moment. He's on my list, though. I still think Marx should have given some notion of why the mass majority that encompasses the Proletariat would continue to hold the same/similar goals in order to have all of them stay within one party. Hypothetically, once the majority-Proletariat controlled the government they would be the Bourgeois in practice... Just a loop around I'm not set on. (I think you sort of mentioned that in your second post)


Marx would in no way have said that Christianity/religion led to capitalism, capitalism being a fairly new system at the time, and religion being ancient there is no way Marx would've said that.
I know I'm not wrong about Wagner saying that, though I could be wrong about his tie in with Marx. My classes have overlapped a lot this year and it wouldn't be the first time I've gotten theories and theorizers mixed up.



I honestly knew next to nothing about Communism coming into college, as it's not really a suggested area of study for Georgia public schools. This is the first (and only) Communism piece I've read. I enjoyed it, and I very much respect where he's coming from, I just don't think I know nearly enough depth in order to actually subscribe to it / its ideals and/or apply it quite yet.

wheelchairman
12-10-2009, 02:00 PM
Marxism is an interesting tool of analysis, certainly it laid the foundation for sociology. A great deal of theories in the social sciences owe their existence to Marxism. (And also their strengths/flaws).

As far as reading more about Marxism, I think that'd be a good idea. I don't really think the Communist Manifesto is that enlightening theoretically, and therefore isn't really that interesting, a lot of the other works can be more interesting. Unfortunately much of Marx' writings are in the form of polemics, which is really boring. So reading recommendations are hard to give, also largely because I can't remember which ones were good/enlightening. I'd probably say "The Class Struggle in France" was pretty good I think.


Haven't read Engels; no time to read anything not for school at the moment. He's on my list, though. I still think Marx should have given some notion of why the mass majority that encompasses the Proletariat would continue to hold the same/similar goals in order to have all of them stay within one party. Hypothetically, once the majority-Proletariat controlled the government they would be the Bourgeois in practice... Just a loop around I'm not set on. (I think you sort of mentioned that in your second post)
They don't have to stay in one party, not necessarily at least. In fact the relationship between party and masses is also another area of disagreement between marxists. The Leninist policy has been a small party of full-time cadres to lead the masses, where others disagree with this.

Anyways what would hold them together would be their class interests, as a class they have an interest to rule over the bourgeoisie, as opposed to the opposite. And they couldn't become the bourgeoisie, they'd simply be the ruling class, which in socialism would be the working class, whereas in capitalism its the bourgeoisie. However it's been made pretty clear in other parts of marxism that it's not simply a worker's revolution, but a worker's revolution allied with the soldiers and peasants. In the Russian Revolution all 3 of those groups were represented by one or more political parties.


I know I'm not wrong about Wagner saying that, though I could be wrong about his tie in with Marx. My classes have overlapped a lot this year and it wouldn't be the first time I've gotten theories and theorizers mixed up.
You're definitely wrong about Marx I'm afraid, Marx would probably be more interested in the opposite, in how capitalism has affected religion.

Sidewinder
12-10-2009, 02:28 PM
Alright, that's helpful. Thanks.

If you don't mind, I've been wondering about the differences between Communism and Socialism as well. Marx was the furthest thing from Democracy that we read this semester. I know it sounds like I'm only acknowledging my school reading, but that's only because I simply haven't had time to explore it any further.

wheelchairman
12-10-2009, 02:40 PM
I'm not sure what Democracy is about, unless you mean the actual political process itself.

Socialism is the transition stage from capitalism to communism, where the proletariat has taken power, and reform society to communism while continuing the class struggle.

Sidewinder
12-10-2009, 03:03 PM
I was just saying that in my class we essentially went Socrates/Aristotle, Locke, Rosseau, Marx, (J.S.) Mill, De Tocqueville, Dworkin and Walzer. I may be forgetting one or two, but it was essentially a survey of the progression of democracy, so the Communist Manifesto was really the only thing that wasn't in total sync with that line.

DMelges
12-10-2009, 03:19 PM
Why are beards so important in Marxism?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fc/Karl_Marx.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/71/Engels.jpg
For those who don't know, this is Friedrich Engles, the co-founder of Marxism.

wheelchairman
12-10-2009, 05:45 PM
I was just saying that in my class we essentially went Socrates/Aristotle, Locke, Rosseau, Marx, (J.S.) Mill, De Tocqueville, Dworkin and Walzer. I may be forgetting one or two, but it was essentially a survey of the progression of democracy, so the Communist Manifesto was really the only thing that wasn't in total sync with that line.

Yeah cause it's not. It's the creation of a political movement and a theoretical/analytical tool. While democracy is a form of government. It's debatable what Marx meant by the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', did he mean a real dictatorship, or did he mean it like when he called democracy 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie'. Obviously Lenin took a rather literal interpretation of the phrase.

T-6005
12-10-2009, 06:08 PM
I was just saying that in my class we essentially went Socrates/Aristotle, Locke, Rosseau, Marx, (J.S.) Mill, De Tocqueville, Dworkin and Walzer. I may be forgetting one or two, but it was essentially a survey of the progression of democracy, so the Communist Manifesto was really the only thing that wasn't in total sync with that line.
It's hard to get a comprehensive view of a lot of things these days, but that list is interesting enough. J.S Mill is hugely tied in to Jeremy Bentham, though, so you might want to check that out, and if you're interested in the social science aspect of Marxism you should also consider Durkheim and Max Weber as theoretical stops.

Jebus
12-10-2009, 07:40 PM
From what I can tell, Marx thought it was Christianity/Religion that led to Capitalism, not the other way around. For instance Wagner, the sociologist, was big into Marxist theories and he's the one who said that Capitalism is essentially grew out of Calvinism.
Marx thought that the politics, law, religion, education, and economics of every civilization were are all codependent on each other, but the most important factor for him was economics seeing how his analysis of history was heavily tied in with the modes of production. If anything Marx would argue the emerging roots of mercantilism led to the establishment of the Calvinism and the Protestant movement in general. The Catholic Church, which owned 30 to 50 percent of the land during the feudal era and was essentially the biggest feudal lord at the time, had its own laws and taxes that that conflicted with a king's rule. The only way the the middle class, the soon to be bourgeoisie, could have destroyed the feudal system and establish more capitalist society was to ally themselves with the king and break away from the Catholic Church. I think a more Marxist point of view would be that the Protestant reformation was simply a battle between feudalism (which benefited the Catholic church and the established land owning aristocracy) and mercantilism (benefited the bourgeoisie and king) disguised as a religious struggle.

wheelchairman
12-10-2009, 08:25 PM
Marx is surprisingly scornful of the Reformation. Yeah I found that odd too.

RageAndLov
12-11-2009, 01:23 AM
http://jenden.us/storage/JD/img/party.jpg

Sidewinder
12-11-2009, 02:11 AM
It's hard to get a comprehensive view of a lot of things these days, but that list is interesting enough. J.S Mill is hugely tied in to Jeremy Bentham, though, so you might want to check that out, and if you're interested in the social science aspect of Marxism you should also consider Durkheim and Max Weber as theoretical stops.

Already studying Durkheim and Weber in Sociology.

And I actually hated J.S. Mill. Like, a lot.

IamSam
12-11-2009, 06:10 AM
Goddamn this is a good thread.

KyleW
12-11-2009, 02:09 PM
Already studying Durkheim and Weber in Sociology.

And I actually hated J.S. Mill. Like, a lot.

Have you tried reading On Liberty by John Stuart Mill? Don't. Of all the books associated with Marx, JSM, Bentham etc it's probably the most boring. However I think utilitarianism is a great read and interesting as an ideology. It's basically the belief that as humans we get pleasure solely from material goods (fast cars, big houses and so on). Although I disagree strongly with some of the points it's fascinating how it all works/would work in thier ideal society.

I think someone mentioned Keynes as well, Keynsianism is a very unique ideology indeed, worth a look :)

Sidewinder
12-11-2009, 02:17 PM
We read On Liberty and On the Subjugation of Women. He's so, so bad.

I was never a fan of Utilitarianism before but he ruined it.

mynamewastaken
12-24-2009, 02:23 PM
It sucks that Karl Marx's form of communism was altered so much...

bighead384
12-26-2009, 08:03 AM
I've read that Marxists believe that a Marxist society would maintain it's work ethic because people would decide that's it's in their own self-interest to work hard and help their nation produce and because their community will shame them if they don't work. This may be true to some extent, but I think you'd get at least a good chunk of people who don't give a fuck and will work less hard or try to avoid work.

wheelchairman
12-26-2009, 08:05 AM
Most Marxists refrain from trying to predict what a communist society would be like.

bighead384
12-27-2009, 02:25 PM
What would be considered the most common ojections to socialism? The expected decrease in work ethic? The difficulty of central planning?

Vera
12-28-2009, 02:03 PM
We read On Liberty and On the Subjugation of Women. He's so, so bad.

I was never a fan of Utilitarianism before but he ruined it.

WTF. Ain't read On Liberty but On the Subjugation of Women I read fairly recently (November) and found it quite a lovely, easy read since it was short and he hammered all his points home very succinctly. Of course, read it in Finnish but it's not like I'm not used to reading demanding things in English (I assume his text is fairly understandable despite being old).

This topic is pretty fascinating to me because I learnt about Marx when I was like .. 14/15. Not extensively, we learnt more later but I guess because it relates to Finnish history, you have to understand how and why Russia became communist (+ the basics of communism as an ideology) in order to understand most of 20th century European history. Goes to show how vastly different education systems are.

Sidewinder
12-29-2009, 04:50 PM
Mill is infuriating because he's essentially an individualist-utilitarianist. In other words, a walking paradox.

bighead384
01-01-2010, 11:53 AM
Here's what I'm trying to get clear about. Conservatives are more against government getting involved in how wealth is distributed, like a progressive income tax system. Liberals are more in favor of a progressive income tax system. But how exactly is this justified by liberals? Obviously it's got something to do with the idea that capitalism concentrates wealth unfairly, but do liberals basically use Marxist thought to justify things like the progressive income tax system? Liberals don't believe Marxism works in practice, but what exactly are the differences in theory? Do they agree with some Marxist analysis, or all of it, or none of it?

I'm not trying to be one of those guys that tries to scare everyone into thinking all liberals want socialsm, I'm just confused about this.

wheelchairman
01-01-2010, 02:18 PM
Marxism is a theory, liberalism/conservatism (in the US understanding of the words) are not theories. In fact the two persuasions have factions within that aren't even coherent.

bighead384
01-01-2010, 07:21 PM
Marxism is a theory, liberalism/conservatism (in the US understanding of the words) are not theories. In fact the two persuasions have factions within that aren't even coherent.

Maybe I'm missing something, but what I'm trying to get at is, does the American liberal persuaion reject all or most Marxist thought? For example, when you say that you believe that a progressive income tax system is neccesary, aren't you basically using the Marxist idea that capitalism unfairly distributes wealth?

Jebus
01-01-2010, 09:12 PM
The idea of a progressive tax system existed among capitalist economists before modern socialist thought had even gained any traction. And it's not like the unequal and unfair distribution of wealth in capitalism was first observed by Marx. It has been pretty obvious since the early days of capitalism. You didn't need Marx to point that out. Also, I doubt Lincoln had heard of Marx when he instituted the first progressive income tax to help pay for the civil war.

Jesus
01-02-2010, 07:32 AM
The idea of a progressive tax system existed among capitalist economists before modern socialist thought had even gained any traction.

pretty much, in the standard economics textbooks I've read they usually print some quote of Adam Smith out of The Wealth of Nations (1776).

Let me just google it, since I'm too lazy to open one: "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion"

And even if it were Marxist, who cares.
Here's what I'm trying to get clear about. Conservatives are more against government getting involved in how wealth is distributed, like a progressive income tax system. Liberals are more in favor of a progressive income tax system. But how exactly is this justified by liberals?
I don't agree with your view of conservatives, they pretty much like the state distributing wealth too. Read Dean Baker's excellent 'The Conservative Nanny State' (http://www.conservativenannystate.org/).

Ask ten liberals how they justify redistribution and you'll probably get ten different answers. From a liberal philosophical point of view just google equality and: Rawls, Dworkin, Richard Arneson, Amartya Sen, Gerald Cohen, Michael Walzer, Elizabeth Anderson. And then you get a bunch of different mostly US liberal interpretations.

On another note, are kids nowadays still interested in Marxist stuff? From what I see most radical bullshit nowadays is in the (Austrian) Libertarian corner. Stuff like Mises, Hayek, etc. The angry 16 year olds eat that shit up. Equally moronic as most marxist leninist stuff though. And mostly more damaging too, since the places that promote that thinking are usually funded quite well.

bighead384
01-03-2010, 02:00 AM
I don't agree with your view of conservatives, they pretty much like the state distributing wealth too. Read Dean Baker's excellent 'The Conservative Nanny State' (http://www.conservativenannystate.org/).


Seems like an interesting read...I realized this to some extent before, it might be interesting to read more. But that's redistribution of wealth in the form of subsides to businesses. I guess I'm talking more about social spending and economic policies related to equity. Wouldn't it be fair to consider that a different "type" of redistribution of wealth? I've noticed that conservatives have made the very phrase "redistribution of wealth" into a negative thing, especially in the process of attacking the philosophies behind Obama's policies. For example, they raised a fuss about Obama saying "I think it's good for everyone when you spread the wealth around". Surely you've noticed this?

Sidewinder
01-05-2010, 09:02 PM
They more raised a fuss on the way he intends to spread it.

AllIn All It's Not So Bad
01-24-2010, 11:27 AM
DOWN WITH CAPITALISM
also, this is not just by cort, it is done by EVERY CAPITALIST IN THE WORLD
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LpB1E4EE7k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pbKvESThn0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0lGFdfp8Zs

Jebus
01-24-2010, 02:37 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LpB1E4EE7k
http://i.imgur.com/qrbtm.jpg
*licks cort-made Ibanez guitar*

Manufacturing for Korean made Ibanez guitars recently moved to Indonesia. A lot of those guys probably lost their jobs.

AllIn All It's Not So Bad
01-24-2010, 03:12 PM
Manufacturing for Korean made Ibanez guitars recently moved to Indonesia. A lot of those guys probably lost their jobs.

yes i know. my RG5EX1 is from Indonesia