Marxism and the Plight of Women

The philosophies of socialism and feminism have made several collaborative efforts throughout history, to the extent that feminism has become accepted generally as a left-of-centre doctrine, despite being embraced by individuals on all sides of the political spectrum. It seems that the plight of women has consistently rested hand-in-hand with the plight of the working class, as both groups have struggled for equality, economic or otherwise. This is why, to mark International Women’s Day this year (the occasion that sparked Russia’s February Revolution), I thought I’d write about how and where feminism ties into the Marxist movement.

As early as the late 1800s, Friedrich Engels laid down several key arguments as to why the societal oppression of women existed, ultimately arguing that such oppression was rooted not in a woman’s biological disadvantages, but the possessive nature of modern economic systems. The significance of such a proposition was not that it simply drew parallels between the struggle of women and that of workers, but that, in identifying the cause of such oppression to be economic, it unites the feminist and socialist struggle against a common enemy.

When communism was first attempted, in the early twentieth century, this theoretical marriage between the two groups can be exemplified by the incredibly progressive policies and ideas of the Soviet government. In Lenin on the Women’s Question, German Marxist theorist Clara Zetkin recalls ‘Comrade Lenin frequently spoke to me about the women’s question. Social equality for women was, of course, a principle needing no discussion for communists.’ She proceeds to talk about Lenin’s ideas as to how social equality could be achieved, and his intention to ‘build a powerful international women’s movement, on a clear theoretical basis’. From this, we can see that the feminist motives of VI Lenin and the government he represented were not simply leftist ideals, but were rooted in Marxist ideas and doctrine, which is brought to light by his insistence that a theoretical grounding to this proposed international movement is essential.

Over the following years, in a range of different socialist countries, the issues of equality were highlighted and resolved through multiple means. In the early Soviet Union, the crèche system – a dominant feature of War Communism – helped to relieve women of traditional family duties. The same can be said for the principles behind the Soviet Kolkhozes (collective farms), on which, as Alexander Vucinich writes in Soviet Economic Institutions: The Social Structure of Production Units, Issue 1, granted female worker on the farm ‘the full rights as a kolkhoz member’, meaning that ‘The peasant woman, according to the official theory, has ceased to work for her father or mother’, but rather works for a collective benefit.

A Soviet stamp depicting a union between a male and female worker

Of course, the practical reality did not always live up to the hypothetical ideal, but it’s examples like these that demonstrate the eagerness of the communist world to advance gender equality, both at home and abroad. True, attitudes of individual communists did vary from person to person, but the trend is clear; from the theoretical ideas of the original Marxist thinkers to the concrete achievements of the socialist world, we can clearly see that the historic ties between feminism and Marxism are not simply coincidental. Rather, the interests of women and workers worldwide have the same interests, and it is the same oppressive system that is thwarting the goals of both.


Exposing the Private Property Myth

One thing I’ve noticed among non-Marxists is the tendency to fall into a certain trap regarding Marx’s teachings. This is a trap I’ve also fallen into, meaning that, for a long while, my perception of what communism would actually look like was flawed; I believed that under a communist system, the abolition of private property would mean the abolition of individual ownership altogether.

The concept of private property is one easily mistaken, but actually refers to ownership of something that can generate capital, such as a workforce. This means that nobody would be permitted to own a source of profit, rendering both profit and exploitation obsolete concepts.

Personal property, on the other hand, refers to items for individual  use, such as a house, a phone or a musical instrument. None of these, according to Karl Marx would be abolished by the revolutionary movement, as they do not contribute to exploitation, capitalism, or the accumulation of profit.

Are you a little more sympathetic yet?



American Imperialism and the ‘war in Iran’

US presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton recently threatened an attack upon the Islamic Republic of Iran. As if instinctive human morals weren’t enough to dissuade her, it also seems that the Democratic candidate has learnt nothing of the controversies this kind of behaviour has sparked in the past, and she listed several reasons as to why she believes the invasion would be a justified one.

The invasion of Iran can only be described as US imperialism, something condemned not only by the socialist movement, but many people from across the political spectrum, and this action will likely be criticised not only internationally, by many in the United States as well. So, we have a smaller, largely impoverished country at the mercy of a larger capitalist giant, militarily threatening Iran for its own interests in the region. This is just the situation that unfolded in Vietnam and Iraq, and in neither example did it end well.

Yet to develop a better understanding of the situation, it’s important also to view Iran with the same critical slant. This is a country that operates as a reactionary theocracy, that employs an extremely backward and restrictive set of laws, and that doesn’t think it’s ridiculous to legally ban owning a dog, or, in certain universities, wearing bright clothes. This means that, in this case, we have an imperialist, capitalist power invading a reactionary, repressive state. Neither country occupies the moral high ground, and neither regime, in an ideal world, would receive my support.

I recently read an article called ‘Iran and the Chauvinism of American Media’, about reactions among the American public to Iran’s detaining of two US ships which entered its territorial waters, and the respective political situations (especially the media) in both countries. The article was posted on, a far-left political blog similar to this one, and whilst I agree with its gist, I did feel that it expressed a tendency which I’d criticise: as part of a critique of US imperialism, it was as though they took to defending Iran. Not just the Iranian people, the victims of imperialism, but the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you’re endgame is communism, I think this kind of attitude is unproductive…

It is important to remember that, by Marxist logic, the revolutionary state (or, for that matter, the revolutionary) holds at heart the duty to spread the revolution worldwide. Thus, any country which falls short of the communist criteria is effectively an enemy, and should be allied with only as a means to an end. To support these states, therefore, betrays this central tenant.

Yet, in writing this, I am certainly not condoning the atrocities committed by American imperialism, and do not want to underplay their role in this scenario. As the previously-mentioned article reads, America ‘occupied two countries on opposite sides of Iran for more than a decade, extracting oil and other resources’ and imposed ‘imperialist economic sanctions since 1979’. It is obvious that these actions cannot be ignored, but to give active support to a reactionary administration should by no means be viewed as a desirable move.

This is why, when I say that in this potential situation I would defend Iran, it is purely because this way, I’m acting against a greater evil (Americah, or the ‘Great Satan’, as Ayatollah Khomeini called it). It is important not to call into the trap of sympathy, sympathy in this case meaning sympathy towards the state, rather than just those living there. To defend a nation such as Iran for any reason beyond tactical expediency is to turn your back upon the international revolution for the politics of petty centre-leftist internationalism.

The Years When Anything was Possible: a Marxist Analysis of the Twentieth Century

World War One

The Rise of Communism

The Rise of Fascism

World War Two

The Building of the Nuclear Bomb

The Polarisation of International Politics

The Threat of Global Annihilation

It seems like a lot to have happened within 100 years, but this was the twentieth century; ten decades which would change the course of humanity. The wars, genocides, revolutions and discoveries that took place between 1900 and 2000 demonstrate, for better or for worse, just what mankind is capable of. Sometimes, these included great technological feats, others, great atrocities, yet the twentieth century also saw something never before seen in history: man’s brilliance and creativity catching up with him.

The question is, however, why were these years so dramatic?

Take, World War One, for example. This was a war which Germany predicted long before it occurred, the causes of which, as most agree, were rooted in the geopolitical situation at the end of the nineteenth century. Thus, it would appear that this event was the result of years of tension, and that tension was released in the form of a battle. Many argue that it is because of this war that World War Two occurred, or that Hitler and Stalin came to power. If this was true then it would seem that the entirety of the drama that followed was a result of nineteenth century politics.

I, however, believe it goes deeper than that, and that the root cause of the 100 year long epic was not a singular war. The Russian Revolution is a good example, for it is an event which divided the political scene for the next seventy-four years. It may seem that this revolution only took place because of the damage done to Russia during the war with Germany, but I believe it’s more complicated than that; the ousting of the tsar was almost inevitable, and when the Bolsheviks took power, they were riding on the back of 200 years worth of social change. Perhaps the conflict provided an opportunity for revolution, but revolution would have occurred regardless.

Given that this is the case, events such as the rise of fascism and the Second World War need re-examining. There are certainly reasons that suggest the war was involved, but most agree these two events would have not happened had Europe been stable. This is why I believe that the primary cause of this 100-year-long epic was economics, or more specifically, capitalism.

The war, in fact, ties into this, for World War One was a conflict between the imperialist powers of Europe, all fighting for their own colonial interests, all in, as Lenin called it, the ‘Highest Stage of Capitalism.’ This would mean that the damage done to postwar Germany was as a result of their loss in a financial conflict. After the war’s conclusion, communism should have followed imminently, given the state of the capitalist world, and it very nearly did. The red flame was ignited in the Russian Empire, and spread to Central Asia, Eastern Europe and would have spread to Germany (look at events such as the Spartacist Rebellion), but failed.

This was because Germany’s decaying capitalist system yielded not to socialism, but fascism (or capitalism in decay, to quote Lenin). This led to another conflict, allowing other capitalist countries to strengthen military, and halting the revolution at Berlin. A great percentage of the drama, triumphs and disasters that followed are the shockwaves of the great tension in the world, as capitalism and communism stood side by side, and humanity teetered on the brink of revolution.

Yet the revolution never came, and by the early 1990s, the international bourgeois had prevailed. This was largely due to a number of factors, but perhaps the primary reasons were the immaturity of the revolution, alongside the evolutionary ability of capitalism to change and adapt. But Cold War tensions still exist in the world, and NATO still fears the morals and potential of the Russian Federation. It seems that, after communism’s departure, fresh tensions have arisen in its absence, tensions which have increased in recent years.

Should this continue, the unrest that marked the previous century may spill over into this one.

Beyond the Cash Economy: a Look at ‘True’ Communism

In a Marxist context, ‘true’ communism is viewed as the final stage of society, where class, profit, government and nationality have all been swept away. By this time, according to the theory, mankind will have evolved beyond hierarchical organisation and will live collectively, meaning that the Soviet Union, China, or any other communist regime does not qualify.

Rather, the socialist countries of the twentieth century belong in the ‘lower’ stage of communism, theorised as a period of transitional socialism whilst some remnants of capitalism remain. Thus, a government exists, albeit a socialist one (a ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’), and a socialist economy is in place, rather than a fully communist one. This, although poorly, is how the People’s Republic of China attempts to justify their market economy.

“…between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the State can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat’ – Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program

Yet it is perhaps because these countries don’t represent the idea (meaning that there are no examples at hand) that ‘true’ communism is rarely discussed. It is often passed off as ‘the communist’s ideal’ or the theoretical utopia which Marxism, as a philosophy, has to offer. This means that the endgame of the international Marxist movement is often only spoken of in contrast to what is seen as communism’s harsh reality, yet few understand that this ideal occupies a hypothetical epoch of its own, one later in time than the stage of development occupied by, say, the USSR. Thus, the theoretical idea is compatible with the practical reality; it is simply a future vision of the modern socialist states.

Nonetheless, the system is often seen as unpractical, because it doesn’t only mean an economic transition, but a complete turnaround in social thought (though if you read my post Naturally Selfish: Does Human Nature Make Socialism Impossible? you’ll see why I think this is possible). Such change is required because the idea it’s centred upon is a communal and essentially anarchistic lifestyle in the modern era; a 21st century attempt at what primitive tribal societies managed centuries ago.

This is by no means an easy feat, and, in theory, can only be done once capitalism has been overthrown worldwide. This presents the first problem: every nation on the planet must no longer exist, meaning that humanity must have not only waged a global war against all existing authorities, but made the collective decision to unify. Therefore, nationalism, even patriotism, must fade into the past. If not, mankind won’t have crossed the first hurdle.

Another problem is that of money, for it underpins every modern economic system, even socialism, and a truly communist society should exist in its absence. This would mean that a method of distributing goods and essential items among the population must be set in place, so that citizens literally work for their bread, and no-one can accumulate excessive capital. The issue becomes more complex, however, when you take into account cars, musical instruments, and various other items of leisure that people may desire.

One way of solving this dilemma would be to allow every person an equal amount of luxury items, giving them the choice of several. This way, everyone would be able to pursue activities they enjoyed, but nobody could accumulate excessively. A difficulty with this method is the fact that it would require some kind of central planning, which is likely a lot less easy in a stateless society, but this could be managed if the political system was structured well.

A final problem, however, is the fact that it’s not only the monetary system that needs to be changed, but the profit-driven mindset of both blue and white-collar workers. In Cuba, certain trained professionals are apparently finding work behind the bar, because it’s easier to earn money that way. To avoid such a tendency, we must change public attitudes towards money, so that, when students train in any professional field of their choosing (none of which offer any special material reward) they do so purely because of their interest in the discipline.

The USSR believed it would reach ‘true’ communism by 1980, yet was proven wrong. China, sixty-seven years after the revolution, still asserts that it’s at the beginning of the road to equality (as if it was ever on it in the first place). This is very much a final conclusion, and will certainly not be achieved with ease. Yet the communist project is not a simple, and often not a glamorous one, but one both inevitable and necessary. In the words of Fidel Castro, ‘A revolution is not a bed of roses. A revolution is a struggle between the future and the past’.

If we applied this reasoning, reaching a completely equal society in the relatively near future may not be beyond our grasp.

A few Notes on Religion

It has been the tendency of modern society, however socially-liberal we think we are, to leave religion out of the circle of debate.

I remember one lecture I attended in the autumn, given by Professor Richard Dawkins, where it was pointed out that whilst one’s job, favourite song, or political views or may be apt for discussion, people often seem to regard their religious beliefs as a uniquely private matter.

And this presents a series of problems…

Refusing to discuss religion comes from a deep-rooted respect for religious ideologies, leaving government, populace and civil society to let religious institutions ‘do their thing’. But to ignore an institution’s beliefs is to ignore its prejudices, meaning that we not only tolerate their outdated, repressive views and their often harmfully-ridiculous interpretation of the world, but we allow it to flourish. We view religion as respectable, and ignore its darker sides.

Often, such darker sides can be ignored when you look at, say, the Anglican Church, yet this is only because in this context, religion was been watered down to the extent that it is almost devoid of any prejudice. Contemporary examples where this isn’t the case include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthadox Church, alongside large-scale religions such as Islam or Judaism.

I recently saw it reported on multiple news sources that, in a documentary, the BBC once deliberately mistranslated ‘Jews’ as ‘Israelis’, hiding Islamic anti-semitism, the context being a Muslim Palestinian speaker talking of ‘killing the Jews’. This is only one example, and may only be intended to drum up sympathy for Palestine, but demonstrates the attitude of society to gloss over the negatives religion carries.

Now it may be sensible to assume that, whilst perhaps morally wrong, this attitude is not a damaging one, but this isn’t true. Religiously-rooted prejudices and reactionary opinions on issues such as feminism, homosexuality or even atheism, are still present because, whilst we don’t share them, we allow them to be. In other words, we have not taken action against their root cause.

Ultimately, it seems that western society is too far embedded in reactionary culture and customs to make a difference. Hundreds of people are leaving to fight for a bloodthirsty caliphate with religion as their justification, and we don’t seem to understand the cause of the problem. Perhaps this justification only appeals to a tiny minority, but enough damage is done by the fact that it’s remotely appealing in the first place. What’s more, Daesh or similar organisations are certainly not the only examples; if you look at all the religiously-motivated killings, wars, and dictatorships throughout history, you’ll see the full extent of the problem. It seems we’re just too keen to look to look the other way.

‘Odd one out’: the Politics and Philosophy of North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is one of the most mysterious countries in the world. This is partly because most of the world knows very little about it, and partly because what we do know, or at least think we know, most don’t seem to like. Yet it’s also because so much about this country and its political system just seems bizarre, such as the fact that Kim Jong-il’s birth allegedly caused winter to turn into spring. In an article featured in the Huffington Post capturing the last two, Tim Urban writes:

If you merged the Soviet Union under Stalin with an ancient Chinese Empire, mixed in The Truman Show and then made the whole thing Holocaust-esque, you have modern day North Korea.

The realities of day-to-day life in this country are even stranger; this is a nation in which the populate venerate their leaders as if they had mystical powers, where adults must wear lapel pins of Kim Il-sung, and where a cloth is given to each household for one purpose: to clean the portrait of their Great Leader. The regime impacts upon every aspect of both public and private life, and instigates all sorts of beliefs among ordinary people, many of them lies. The question is, why is this country so odd?

The DPRK (it’s actually illegal for North Koreans to call it North Korea) was founded much like the states of the Eastern Bloc; it was created by the Soviet Union after the Second World War, but it seems to have evolved in an entirely different way to other countries in its position, which is likely a result of several factors…

First of all, the philosophical foundation of the North Korean State differs from that of the Soviet Union and many Soviet-aligned nations; the Juche idea, a concept devised by Kim Il-sung, is centred around the emancipation of the individual. This tenant, which is essentially an ultra-humanistic interpretation of Marxism, seems to clash with the structuralist interpretations of the philosophy and the community-centric, macroscopic lens through which Marxists often make sense of the world. It has also led to cultural perversions in the DPRK, such as the hardline nationalist and isolationist current that is strong in the country. In short, when looking at why North Korea has taken a steep trajectory in its own, bizarre direction, Juche may be able to explain a lot.

However, it is important to take into account the attitudes of the leaders themselves, and especially those of Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country from its birth right up until the 1990s. Perhaps the reason his country is structured this way today is less a result of his theories, and more of his pragmatic actions and contributions whilst in power. Following in his wake, his son and grandson will likely perform/have performed in a similar fashion, keeping the structure of the country intact.

Though to what extent a nation can be shaped purely by who is in charge is debatable. The ideas and theories of individuals certainly play a large role in how political systems are crafted, especially in countries where such a large degree of responsibility rests on the shoulders of individuals, but this certainly does not mean that the significance material conditions inside that country should be overlooked in favour of individual ideas and actions. In the USSR, for example, Leninist theory provided the theoretical basis for the political system, yet I do not believe that the attitudes of individual Soviet citizens can be attributed to his personal views than the reality of Soviet life.

Kim Il-sung, the ‘Great Leader’

Additionally, an important factor that must also be considered is cultural heritage, and we must examine the people in the region, their culture and their tendencies. Much of what we see in the DPRK can also be seen across the region, and throughout different periods of history. The complete veneration of an individual and a strong, patriotic desire to serve one’s country, for example, can both be exemplified in the former Japanese Empire. Thus, it would also be sensible to argue that the reason why North Korea is so starkly different from many of the other communist states is due to the cultural tendencies of those living there.

This would perhaps be able to explain why many of these traditions and ideas held by many North Koreans are not only very strange, but also incredibly reactionary, un-progressive and counter-revolutionary as well. Considering North Korea proclaims itself to be a modern example of revolutionary socialism, and is heralded as such by many self-proclaimed revolutionaries, it clings strongly to ideas and tendencies you may expect such a country to reject, but perhaps cultural baggage plays a greater role than a commitment to the international socialist cause.


At the end of the day, it is obviously futile to try and pinpoint any individual factor as to why this is such a bizarre nation, and it’s likely a combination of all of the above, alongside others. Take this post as a suggestion, however; a brief insight into the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ why it’s driven by such an unusual ideological dialogue, and why it differs so significantly from the other socialist states of the twentieth century.

Thank you for reading,



The poster of Kim Il-sung was provided by yeowatzup from Wikimedia Commons and is a derivative work of

Here is a link to its license:

Should we Support Independent Businesses in the Fight Against Monopoly Capitalism?

The evils of capitalism are often portrayed through huge, transnational corporations, exploiting resources and enslaving workers. Apple, Gap, Samsung and various other brands that have become commonplace in western society are all examples; when people think of the problems capitalism causes, these seem to be the ones that get the blame.
There’s good reason for this, as it is these companies that perpetuate injustices so profound that they disgust many across the political spectrum. Largely based in developing countries, they employ labourers to work in appalling conditions for very low salaries, driving the economies of developed nations. Yet, if we’re trying to undermine these companies and the economic monopolies they create, is it sensible to turn to small, local businesses instead?

Businessmen of this kind actually occupy a class of their own; the petite bourgeois. It comprises people like shopkeepers and local entrepreneurs, and lie sandwiched between the bourgeois and proletariat. At first, it might seem sensible to turn to them for the essentials, even if it only means going to an independent cinema, or buying your eggs from local sources now and then. But what if I told you that, by avoiding the corporate giants, by trying to starve them of their consumers, you’re only resisting the inevitable.

It is a theory rooted in Marxism that the petite bourgeois will eventually vanish, swept up by the bourgeois and the proletariat respectively as monopoly capitalism dawns, meaning small businesses will eventually give way to larger ones. We’re already seeing this trend occur today, as increasing globalisation allows companies to expand across the globe, and we can sensibly conclude that it shall continue to occur until the death of small-scale capitalism. I’m not saying that it’s pointless to buy from local sources – it’s definitely the morally better option – yet if you’re doing it to undermine larger corporations, you’re trying to dam a torrent with stones.

Christmas Under Communism

Today being December 25th, it feels very inappropriate to write about anything non-Christmas related, and the ideas I’ve had leading up to this post all seem somewhat out-of-place at this time of the year. Yet nonetheless, I believe I’ve found a way to link the occasion back to the subject of this blog; today I’m asking if Christmas was celebrated in the communist world.

In the Soviet Union, celebration of the holiday was greatly restricted, and it was suppressed as a manifestation of religion. The League of Militant Atheists, an ideological organisation in the country, fuelled the suppression by promoting an anti-religious and anti-Christmas sentiment , and it is perhaps partly due to their efforts that Christmas is still not widely celebrated in Russia today.

The situation is similar in the People’s Republic of China, as the holiday is still not celebrated by many, yet this is less a result of political action as it is of religion; the Chinese Christian population equates to about one percent of the country’s 1.4 billion inhabitants, meaning that few recognise the festival’s religious significance. This is ever more true in the more remote, western regions, where it is likely seen by many as an alien tradition.

Yet despite this, Christmas has increased in popularity throughout China, and whilst suppressed in the Soviet Union, a separate, secular festival on December 31st was celebrated under the socialist regime. This suggests that, irrespective of whatever religious beliefs they may have, humans want to celebrate something this season. In fact, even the modern holiday we call Christmas wasn’t always very Christian; first a week-long Pagan festival concluding on Dec 25, it was adopted by Christians to ‘draw in’ Pagan believers, proving that you don’t need God as an excuse to celebrate..

With this in mind, I wish everyone a merry, secular Christmas Day.

My decoration-of-choice for the tree


How Language Legitimizes Terrorism

Following the war in Syria and the rise of Daesh, western society is more determined than ever to curb the number of men, women and children turning to these organisations. Tactics already employed will undoubtedly have some effect; internet censorship will certainly prove useful in the goal of trying to prevent online recruitment, for example. Yet nonetheless, I believe there’s one area where we fall short: the language we use when describing such people.

Surely, if we’re trying to lower the number of ‘homegrown terrorists’ we churn out each year, the last thing we’d want to do is make terrorism sound appealing. Yet synonymous with ‘terrorist’ are words like ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’, which seem to put an exciting spin on the act of systematic murder. After all, when would the ‘extreme’ ever sound less appealing? When has the ‘radical’ option never been more attractive, at least superficially? Given that many of the potential recruits we’re talking about are children, this likely presents even more of a problem. If it’s considered a radical move to join a terrorist organisation, this may help influence such a decision, even if only subconsciously.

Another danger presented by this kind of terminology is the fact that, in the context of Islam, words like ‘radicalism’, ‘extremism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ all imply a sense of untainted purity. They legitimise the doctrine practised by Daesh or al-Qaeda as a somehow purer interpretation of Islam than that of most normal, law-abiding Muslims, which could present a further danger to the aforementioned crowd. If you cherished and respected your faith, you could easily conclude that an extreme form of that religion – a purer form of that religion – would be favourable. The problem also lies in the fact that this kind of interpretation is wholly untrue; look at most of these organisations and you’ll see that they’re not really fighting for the caliphate. They’re just angry and bloodthirsty people looking for an excuse to kill others.

Now, I’m not suggesting there’s a black-and-white separation between Muslims and terrorists, and, as someone very critical of all religion, I’ll happily make the point that much of the violence carried out by these so-called fundamentalists is rooted in traditional Islamic principles, yet it seems like they’re currently portrayed as more legitimate followers of the same creed. We need to call a spade a spade and accept that sloppy language of this kind only conceals terrorism’s ugly reality.