Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More on Terror and Marx.

After my post on terror and Marx, I knew I would have to reread chapter 7 of Shlomo Avineri's The Social & Political Thought of Karl Marx. In this chapter Avineri discusses Marx's assessment of the French Revolution and the terror which grew form it.

According to Avenri, Marx viewed terror as "less a means towards realization of a revolutionary aim than a mark of failure." Marx felt (unlike the Jacobians or Blanquists) that a revolution could not occur simply by fiat or by political will.
The revolution requires not force but bringing into being the socio-economic conditions that the political will rest upon.

The future critics of Marx would have a great deal of success uncritically identifying him with the worst of the Jacobian (terrorist) traditions of insurrections and secret societies. Marx understood that unfair identification would be a critical blow efforts to create a theoretical framework to change the political and socio-economic structure.

Many Marxists have deplored the wasted time spent by Marx against "Herr Vogt" when he should have been writing and finishing Capital. But Aveneri insists that "Marx rightly understood" what Vogt's successful charges would do to him. While Marx may have proved the libel case against himself false, he seems to have lost that case to History.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ben Franklin Would Be Proud of the Violence in Marxism.

It's said and believed by a vast populace that Marxism is a violent revolutionary dogma hell bent on the overthrow of the ruling class by whatever means possible. Is this a truly unbiased approach?

Or is this the a technique of it's enemies, defenders of the constitution, casting a potential adversary out from the realm of mainstream thought?

It should be noted to the defenders of American Liberty that Marx was no more pro-violence than our founding fathers. "The Founding Fathers?" you will ask mouth agape.

It's not like one couldn't think of a counter example to America's Independence that does not require the use of terror. Perhaps another vast wilderness that was being exploited by Kings. Taxation with no representation. A land that used a constructive dialog, consisting of piecemeal democratic reform, and yet still were able to obtain thier ends.--Oh yea, Canada.

We too often forget the historical nature of the claims Marx makes. In the days of the founding fathers and Karl Marx there were kings. And I am not talking Prince Charles, but real kings who had the power to raise armies, start wars, and have your head chopped off at a whim.

Democracy was in short supply in the early part of the 19th century, most of the masses could not vote: women, minorities, the poor and landless were pretty much on their own. This is also well before the time of Gandhi or Martin Luther King. Non-violence as an agent of change had never truly been seen on any vast scale like that. Marx was and has always been seen as a pragmatist, but did he insist that violence was the answer?

We know that in the case of England, Sweden and USA where he specifically addressed it, he thought Socialism could be won without a violence. (He thought Russia would likely turn violent because of the Tsars.) Marx also thought it was more likely that the ruling classes would be driven to start the fight if they felt uprovoked "and if we are not so crazy as to ourselves be driven to street fighting in order to please them, then in the end there is nothing left for them to do, but themselves break through this fatal legality."

The Right likes to paint Lenin as the standard bearer to Marxism due to Lenin's insistence that his brand of state controlled command economies were based on Marx's principles. But a case could be made that Kautsky is the true heir if self-proclamation is the standard. (The German and European Model of Reformists, New Dealers-Keynsians, the Welfare State proponents also shout their love of Marx.) Few among us would give up Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment benefits which sprang from the democratic impulses of these Marxists.

Of course few people have any constrain knowledge of Marx . If they are at all familiar with him it is through reading the Communist Manifesto. The Manifesto though was a political programme that was commissioned by the Communist League and was not a theoretical text of Marx's. It should also be noted that nowhere in the manifesto does Marx suggest that workers use terror, on the contrary, Marx proclaims that "the time for surprise attacks by small minorities is past."

It is difficult to conclude that Marx was hell bent on Violence and Terror, but was rather a man who lived in a time of crushing despotism. Marx himself was a victim countless times to this and championed democracy and the rights of the working people well before it was fashionable to the elites of his era.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Site of the Week --Stray Reflections

This is a blog by Alghazalians-A group of students studying Western Philosophy and Civilisation from the perspective of Imam Ghazali. ( A Persian Philosopher)


The major problem these students seem to have with Marxism, is it's close ties to the Enlightenment which places the capacity of self determination squarely in the realm of the individual and champions this indivdual mode.

"Both liberalism and communism are routes to the some end – abundance and freedom the worship of desire and the proclamation of man’s sovereignty and his rebellion against God.

All the higher religions and most emphatically Islam reject the metaphysical conception of the individual as a self determining being (the conception of man as God) Islam insists that human fulfillment lies in a voluntary surrender (the word Islam means surrender) of the capacity of self determination.

The capacity of self-determination is not denied but the authentication of ends with reference to this capacity leads one to Kufr and to frustration since such authentication cannot conceivably provide a basis for the ordering of values. The ordering of values and the authentication of ends cannot be achieved through an exercise of man’s rational faculty. Reason can identify means for achieving given ends but it cannot provide a basis for valuing ends.

Some of you may be rather turned off by the "Anti-Americanism" found on the site though:

Merciless slaughter of defenceless people is the dominant theme of American history. Fifteen million Red Indians were systematically butchered over a period of two hundred years and an entire continent stolen from them - much as the Zionists are now murdering and plundering Palestine. The Red Indians have been followed by Mexicans, Moros, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Serbs, Afghans and Iraqis in this never ending horror story of the blood thirsty American quest for world domination.

But such savagery is not confined to America’s dealings with strangers. It characterizes all public life in America. Today America’s prison population stands at well over two million. American imprisonment rates are now more than six times higher than those of Britain, Canada or France. In addition to this a further 3.3 million Americans are on probation and over 700,000 on parole. One percent of all white American males and 9 percent of all black American males are currently in prison. Over 1.2 million black male Americans are on probation or parole. Incarceration rates have more than doubled for both white and black American males during the past twenty years.

That being said, there are plenty of interesting links to major thinkers ( they found a great number of links to Being and Time---Kudos!) and the anaylsis of Marx is well thought out. (Even though I would disagree with much of it.)