Monday, February 13, 2006

Pour Marx

I've just been listening to Friday's edition of Radio 4's Any Questions, and got rather irate. You see, from the general consensus - 'Aren't these Muslims being silly' 'of course it's not racism' 'bring back borstal' etc - a sudden controversy arose. The panellists were asked who had been the biggest single influence on their political philosophy. Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill were trotted out to general approval, until suddenly Ali Ansari said that his was Karl Marx. Shock! Horror! Outrage!

Ann Leslie - one of those rentasnobs that the BBC feel the need to get on from time to time - decided that this simply wasn't on. 'That's just wrong though Ali' she exclaims. He has 'inspired the most genocidal regimes in history'. Basically, you get this from time to time, and it seems to be acceptable to expound such a few, so I just want to respond.

For the time being I want to leave aside the claim that Mao and Stalin committed genocide. Both were vile human beings, and both committed mass murder, but genocide means something far more specific, that I do not think they were committing. I'll also ignore the rank hypocrisy of a Daily Mail columnist talking about complicity in genocide.

However, I want to dispute the claim that they were 'inspired' by Marx. I do not believe that Mao and Stalin were inspired by anything except their own greed, hubris and lunacy. Marx may have appeared in their propaganda, but I don't think there is a shred of Marx in their actions. From reading Marx I am completely unable to see where the seeds of Stalinism were sown. Marx's work is inspirational, liberating and supremely confident. The reality of the USSR was drab, terrorising, murderous conformity. If someone says that through reading Marx (and Marx alone) they got the idea of mass starvation and population control, then they are either a liar, or are reading a different Marx.

Anyway, for every vicious dictator claiming the tradition of Marx, I can find thousands of ordinary people who have found inspiration in him, for whom he has been a guiding light in fighting against oppression, offering a genuine vision of how the world works and how to change it. What Ann Leslie seems unwilling to admit is that significant numbers of those fighting Stalin, Mao and their oppressive regimes still looked to Marx. Why do people still look to him today when fighting inequality and injustice? The true Marx is one that questions authority, hopes for change, defends equality and true freedom and most of all desires the liberation of human creativity. It might be beyond a Daily Mail columnist to understand why thousands of the oppressed and exploited find a vision of liberation so appealing, but it is not beyond me.

That is why I am a Marxist, and that is why I am happy to defend him, especially against vile, right wing ideologues.


At 8:11 am, Blogger Darren said...

Hello Dan,

You might find this article of interest.

At 12:00 am, Blogger YKTMX said...

Nice post.

I especially enjoyed it because I listened to that particular episode of Any Questions. And quite apart from being saddened that someone as braidead as Ann Leslie is apparently supposed to be taken seriously, I was dismayed at how wimpish Ansari was in his defense, all "oh well now" and "yes, but".

That's the problem with bourgeois "Marxian" academics. All brain and no heart - to put it simply.

At 9:04 pm, Anonymous Larry Lamb said...

The body count of the British Empire was certainly comparable to Stalin+Mao (I think it's actually rather greater); avoidable mass famines resulting from imperial policy were frequently justified by appeals to Adam Smith (Which is not to say that the man himself would have necessarily endorsed these readings).

Even for Ann Leslie, this is impressively two-faced.

At 10:44 am, Blogger YKTMX said...

Yes, Larry, but the point is that Stalin and Mao spent almost their entire political lives trying to tell anyone who would listen that they weren't Marxist, and in fact, were disgusted by the whole "idea of Marxism.

From Stalin murdering anyone involved in making the revolution, to his role in defeating revolutions in Spain and Germany, to his pact with the Anti-Judeo Bolshevik state, to the dissolution of the Comintern etc.

All he had to do was build statues to Lenin, offer the occasional platitude about 'socialism' and march up and down Red Square now and again and we're supposed to believe, "well, THAT'S definetly what Marx was talking about".

It's transparent.

Whereas Imperialism was, on its own terms, a great success.

At 9:25 pm, Blogger El Tom said...

I'm sure they included the millions of deaths inspired by the work of Adam Smith too... Left BBC Bias indeed...

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