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.

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.

The Evils of Inaction: Capitalism and the Migrant Crisis

With thousands of refugees hoping to be granted asylum in Europe, the continent has responded to the crisis with much resentment. Only recently did anti-migration demonstrators bearing neofascist slogans take to the streets of Warsaw, completely dwarfing the pro-migration rally that had taken place the same day. Their opinions are undoubtedly shared by many across Europe, as we have seen, it’s not only ordinary citizens who are to blame; the use of tear gas and water cannons upon migrants at the Hungarian border shows outright hostility between governments and migrants, and the fact that Swedish opinion polls reveal a far-right, anti-immigration party to be the country’s most popular choice show that mob mentality isn’t just present on the streets.

In an attempt to at least respond to the event, the United Kingdom has agreed to accept a quota of 20,000 refugees. Even a relatively small contribution such as this one was met with disdain, with many fearing for the stability of the nation after such an influx. It’s evident that none of those talking of stability have ever lived in Syria.

One thing is clear: thousands are pouring to our wealthy, stable nations to escape war, poverty and discrimination, and it’s as if we’re doing everything we can to shut off the flow of people and put up our national boundaries. The refusal to accept quotas or the angst about allowing more citizens to one’s country may be justified by a belief that Europe can’t cope with the influx, or that we won’t be able to provide for these people, yet these ideas are almost laughable if you compare the provisional capabilities of France, Britain or Poland with those of the dishevelled states these migrants are flocking from. When we finally realised that we can’t ignore the issue, it’s as though we reluctantly did as little as possible to get around it. Take the UK, for example. I firmly believe it could provide for many more than 20,000.  Perhaps not without harming the grossly unequal hierarchy of wealth that dominates in Britain, but some sacrifice of wealth and resources is obviously needed. Unsurprisingly, the wealthy nations of the west are yet again unwilling to sacrifice theirs.

In this respect, the recent migrant crisis is part of a far larger problem, for it is well known, for example, that there is enough food in the world to feed everybody, yet some live in luxury while others starve. This reflects the economic disparity between nations of the first and third world, which remains a necessity for either’s existence, and will always be preserved by wealthy countries simply by their refusal to change it, and jeopardise their affluence. Thus, their refusal to act, to utilise the economy for purposes that contradict their interests, is an inherent evil of the international bourgeois.  Europe’s refusal to take more responsibility is only a new manifestation of the same old problem; the unwillingness of the wealthy to change the status quo. We can only hope that, when such change doesn’t come, there are enough voices out there to insist upon it.

Capitalism’s Evolutionary Phases

I’ll start by saying that this entry may be quite dense. The purpose of writing it is to explain and convey an understanding I’ve developed of how capitalism has adapted to survive over the years, a question I’ve been considering for a while now. I suppose you could call the ideas proposed here a theory, (if I was to name it, I’d call it the Theory of Three Ages), and that’s all it’ll be for the moment; any advancement of this idea will only follow a lot of research on my part. 

But, given that this is me explaining my ideas so far, I’ll hopefully give you a good description of these three ages, and of how I believe exploitation has evolved over time. To do this, however, everyone needs to know what we’re dealing with, so I’ll start by asking you the following question:

What is capitalism?

It’s often seen as the embodiment of free trade and economic liberties as opposed to state control. Because of the challenge communism presented in the twentieth century, it would also be easy to cite capitalism as simply one of two political and economic currents in the world, and, after various failures in the communist countries, it’s far too often associated with freedom and harmony. Predictably, I’m going to tell you that this is wrong: it’s the single most sly, destructive, exploitive concept that has dominated the world throughout modern history. 

So here’s a Marxist appraisal of our great nemesis.

The European Age 

In terms of where it all began, capitalism arose roughly three centuries ago, taking its first breath in Italy. I wrote a more detailed entry on its origins a few months ago, but I’ll cover the basics here. The system that takes precedence over all inhabitable continents is a relatively recent one; it developed in Europe, perhaps the most socially advanced corner of the Earth at that point, out of the decaying feudal system that formerly retained supremacy. Yet unlike feudalism, capitalism existed to provide industrial (as opposed to agricultural) production, and with its rise, the focus of the economy was no longer upon the farms, but the factories.

The European countries soon grew in power and influence, and rose to colonise great swathes of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania, allowing them to exploit imperialistically. Imperialism has crept its way into history throughout mankind’s many different epochs, and it has always been a tendency of the strongest individuals to dominate the weak, yet this can be viewed as the rise of capitalist imperialism. The new European empires sought to utilise the people and the resources of the colonised nations for capitalistic purposes, and thus expanded their field of economic influence to the far corners of the Earth.

These powers were thus able to sustain dominance, by widening their field of exploitation beyond national limits, yet it couldn’t continue forever. You could perhaps think of this period as the climax of capitalism, at which point exploitation had advanced humanity greatly, yet had reached a critical level and was growing ever harder to maintain. Even after the establishment of a vast imperial network, the ruling elites of Britain, France or Germany were struggling to control those whose labour they relied upon. The system was, quite literally, falling apart under the weight of its own contradictions.

The American Age

Three significant changes took place in the world throughout the twentieth century. Firstly, the rise in power and influence of another giant, the United States, changed the international dynamic of the capitalist world. Secondly, economic changes allowed exploitation to take place to a less severe extent in the western countries, allowing many concessions to be made to the working population, and causing the working class to actually decline. Finally, the rise of Bolshevism threatened to end capitalism altogether. 

These changes may not seem as though they’d benefit capitalism, but, with the economic system on the very verge of collapse, they perhaps managed to save it. 

One reason why this happened was  the fact that the western countries found a common enemy in Soviet Russia and, later, China, Eastern Europe, Cuba and communist Indochina; they were forced to unite against them. This can be seen most clearly in the Cold War, yet was also present prior to 1945. It demonstrates the development of a capitalist ideology, through the willingness of these nations to fight for motives like democracy and human rights (it is, in a Marxist sense, the tendency of capitalism to allow for greater political freedom) under the new guidance of the United States. It was then a question of whether or not the western proletariat would side with the communist world, or the world run by their employers, and this sense of ideological unity helped allow for the latter. Tales of failures, inefficiencies and abuses in the socialist countries helped strengthen this ideology, and helped keep the workers from revolting, temporarily keeping them occupied and holding capitalism in place for longer.

Yet whilst ideological control helped distract many, the economic contradictions in the capitalist system were still such that it could not continue, and immediate reorganisation of the economy was needed if it were to do so. Economic variation took place in the form of de-industrialisation, causing the working class to shrink in size, and the outsourcing of industry to other parts of the world. This gave rise to a new form of international domination, where brands and corporations, as opposed to armies and governments, became responsible for the unofficial and shadowy exploitation of the third world. Imperialism in the traditional sense, the official establishment of foreign authority in the region, was on the decline, again very much in tune with the tendency of capitalist society to progress in the direction of liberty and freedom, yet a new form of imperialism was developing. It was purely economic, and dodged the need for a military invasion and the controversy that such invasion causes, and yet it was more effective, and could allow the western proletariat to both decline and grow in affluence. They would thus lose their revolutionary character, and so capitalism was kept alive in the developed world. 

Thus an interesting dynamic fell into place, where the capitalist world, led by the United States, relied upon the undeveloped regions for economic purposes, and the communist world, led by the Soviet Union, wished to bring an end to such western domination. This gave way to third-world Marxism, a tendency in communist thought influenced largely by Mao’s teachings, which retains popularity today. It may also be no coincidence that, outside the communist bloc, all the new revolutions occurred in undeveloped areas of the planet. 

The International Age

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the communist empire fragmented and the majority of socialist states gave way to a shifting political climate, allowing capitalism to expand across Eurasia, consuming Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. This led to further changes in the international dynamic, and paved the way for a future in which America may not be the leading capitalist power. As some of the still-officially-communist countries resorted to capitalism, the rise of China presented a further challenge to the United States.

At the same time, the third world, which the capitalist world had become increasingly reliant upon, was developing at an astonishing rate. India, Brazil and Indonesia, whilst locked in the depths of poverty, all have the potential to become superpowers, which suggests that soon our imperial ventures in these parts of the world may no longer be tolerated. If this is to be the case, and even if not (as no format of capitalism can continue indefinitely) the capitalist world shall do what it has done for decades, and scour the Earth for pockets of resources and workers to exploit. New pockets of exploitation have already opened up, in countries like Russia, the perfect example of economic polarisation, and more will likely appear as further geopolitical changes take place.

This, it seems, is the kind of capitalism we’ve adopted. In the European Age, exploitation took place within the confines of individual countries, with certain countries exercising capitalistic rule over others. In the American Age, the division between the exploited and the exploiters began to take on national characteristics, yet now, in the age of international economics, such divisions exceed these boundaries and exist irrespective of states and countries.

Revolution, whenever and wherever it occurs, must take place on an international level to compete with this system. While famously sparse on the practicalities of revolution, Karl Marx did remark that, whilst the differences between nations and nationalities are vanishing in capitalistic society, ‘the supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster’. 

Today, as capitalism grows increasingly globalised, this couldn’t be more relevant. 


The image depicting the Statue of Liberty was provided by Giorgio Martini from Wikimedia Commons, and was licenced under the following (though a newer licence is available):

The image depicting the Shanghai skyline was provided by J. Patrick Fischer from Wikimedia Commons, and was licenced under the following:



Workers, not Machines

We live in a world where our increasing reliance on technology is becoming ever more concerning.

Did you know that the University of Cambridge recently established a department on the protection of humanity from the threat of artificial intelligence? This isn’t the only example; novels are written, films are produced, and serious debates and conversations worldwide discuss the subject, asking the same question that has worried mankind for decades: whether or not it’s possible that someday, we will find ourselves at the mercy of machines.

Often, this is considered from a political perspective (‘what if robots took over the world and reduced human beings to mere slaves?’), yet there’s another side to the debate, for whilst having the potential for world domination, modern machinery could also revolutionise society’s economy. Today, I’m asking whether or not the machines we build, quite capable of completing even the most menial tasks as efficiently as any human, take over the role of the industrial workforce.


It’s definitely a question worth asking, because it could potentially threaten the careers of billions worldwide. It’s also perfectly possible, unlike the subject of other debates surrounding robotics which concern an indefinite point in the future, when we have finally created artificial intelligence or some other development we can’t actually be sure we’ll achieve. No, this is something that could happen in a matter of years – we have the technology, probably the money, to allow such to occur – all we need is the will. So, given how possible this would be, it would be sensible to assume that the capitalist world can probably look forward to a new age of human development; that someday soon, we’ll have a worker-free economy.

Or is it?

As a Marxist, this question has troubled me, because it suggests that humans are very close to achieving capitalism without exploitation. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote of a similar idea, which they referred to as ‘Conservative, or Bourgeois Socialism’, explaining how ‘The Socialistic Bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat.’

Now, the Communist Manifesto, arguably the document around which communism is centred, dismisses such a utopian proposition, as did I when reading it; it contradicts the key Marxian idea that exploitation of the international proletariat may only end after a proletarian revolution, suggesting that capitalism can be made ‘friendly’. Thus, when I realised that it would seem logical for new developments in technology would allow just that, I considered how I’d approach this idea, not wanting the entire basis for my philosophy to be disproven. I eventually decided why (in my opinion, at least) it won’t happen…

1. This Could Have Happened Years Ago

One thing I realised was that the replacement of an industrial proletariat with machinery or robots isn’t an idea entirely unique to today’s world, for machinery has played a key role in industry since Marx’s day. In fact, one of his most important theories (the theory of Relative Surplus Value) argues that the rate of profit accumulation can only change through re-organisation of the workforce, which may include the introduction of machines or new technologies. In short, I believe that if mechanisation was a goal the capitalists really wanted to go for, they’d surely have done it by now.

It could be argued that, until modern times, this wasn’t possible, as only recently have we developed technology capable of performing the advanced tasks necessary to society today. But whilst machines have caught up with us in this respect, many of the basic tasks that theoretically could be left to machinery back in Marx’s day, weren’t. Even back then, it would be possible then to build machines that would eliminate many of the most basic and menial tasks subject to the proletariat, but this, largely didn’t happen. Similarly, it’s possible to eradicate a great deal more of the tasks subject to today’s workers, but if we follow in the same trend, I don’t see why this will occur today either.

It all comes down to the same principle, this being that, given the current circumstances, it’s just easier to employ workers than invest in technology. To quote Mike Daisey’s ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’, a monologue written about the conditions of those who produce Apple products in Shenzhen, China, ‘why use machines when you can use people?’. Now, there are accusations that some of what Daisey describes has been fabricated for effect, but this doesn’t matter in this instance, as the argument is the same: it’s often easier to exploit the life out of ten, fifteen, or five million than it is to rely on expensive and perhaps-not-always-available technologies that may perform the same task.

The Workers of Shenzhen

The Workers of Shenzhen

2. If it did Happen, it Would Only be Temporary

Let’s imagine for a second that it happened; that the economy was transformed by robotics. I’d like to point out that there is a serious problem with non-human elements taking over the workforce, for we forget that we live in a society of man. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember, for, in the world we’ve created, humans require jobs. If, after the ‘technological revolution’, machinery replaces the roles of the modern-day proletariat, that means everyone except the wealthy middle and upper classes is thrown out of work… and they’re going to need employment.

It’s hard to imagine exactly what this would lead to, but if you imagine billions of people who can’t work, and thus don’t have a source of income, it’s not hard to see that some kind of crisis will result. The way I see it, it would likely mean one of two things: either we’d be forced to take a sharp U-turn away from mechanisation in an attempt to re-introduce capitalism as we know it, allowing society to progress more or less in the way Marx predicted, or we’d see something like the biggest and most dramatic revolution in history and capitalism would be destroyed altogether (again giving Marxism significant credibility). Either that or three billion would starve to death.

You may be thinking ‘surely, no-one would let it get that bad!’ and I agree, which brings me to my third and final argument: I don’t believe that we, society, would let this come to be…

3. It Wouldn’t Happen in the First Place

I can’t imagine mankind being so blind to the possibility of all the above occurring. Forget Marxism, forget revolution, and just imagine that three billion or so, a figure which no benefits service, no welfare system, no charity in the world could cater for. Will we just watch these people get thrown out of work, one by one?

When discussing this issue with somebody, they offered a counter-argument by suggesting that such change would be gradual, and would take place only in the form of different brands, companies and factories starting to introduce new technologies to compete with one another. This is likely true, but the results, like the process, would also appear gradually. Therefore, as rising unemployment can’t be seen as good results by any measure, this would only give us time to pause and think. To end our short-lived dream of a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. To stop what we’re doing before that figure gains nine zeros.

The featured image and the second photo in the entry was provided by Steve Jurvetson from Wikimedia Commons, and is licenced under the following (though there is a more recent version of this licence, which can be found via first opening this link):

The ‘C’ Word

There is much controversy surrounding the word I’m thinking of.

You don’t hear it much out and about, but most know its meaning. It seems that it’s always used in a negative way, often as an insult, and has been known to induce attitude shock or offence (so much so that artistic expression of the concept is, in certain countries, considered so inappropriate that it’s actually illegal). This is somewhat unusual, as it acquired the power to insult when it was never originally supposed to, and became synonymous with words and ideas to which it once bore no relation. In fact, when it first came into being, it was often associated with something rather wonderful, but if you tell someone today they’re a complete c______, I doubt you’ll get a positive response.

Yes, communism has been a controversial word for a long while. Somewhere down the line, it became a well-known enemy, and we saw it as such for the remainder of the twentieth century. We even created brilliant works of propaganda on the concept; perhaps it was coming to overthrow your democracy and install a dictatorial puppet state, or maybe it was (and there is truth behind this, though aggression was obviously far from one-sided) on the verge of flattening New York with a nine-megaton bomb, but it was a monster all the same. Society came to agree that whatever the communists were planning, something bad would happen as a result.

The question is, however, when did this all start?

Ever since 1917, many saw in communist Russia a foe. This can be traced back to the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, a conflict that occurred just after the catastrophic defeats of World War One. But the communist terror and angst that would later plague Europe and North America was, at that point, largely nonexistent; in these early years, the west was largely unaware of both the political terror and the military challenge the regime would later provide, and thus, to call yourself a communist probably didn’t mean a great deal, for communism was really just another radical idea. I once read an American newspaper headline at the time of the Russian Revolution, which described the Bolsheviks as ‘extremists’, comparing them with ‘moderate governments’ before them. Whilst I definitely felt anti-Bolshevik sentiment expressed there, the article implied nothing significant or special about their cause – the only distinction it drew between the party that would later lead their future nemesis and the easily forgotten Provisional Government, which assumed power for a brief, eight month period before October, was a mere statement that one was radical while the other was moderate.

In fact, many in the west were far more open to the prospect of communism than this. George Bernard Shaw, for example, even advised the British unemployed to travel to the USSR, under the impression that they would be given a job. It’s also known that the intelligentsia in the United Kingdom were a lot more sympathetic towards the Soviet Union than you might expect, and many respected their ideals in a way that would seem unimaginable during the years of the Cold War. This continued throughout the repression of Stalin’s era, and people still managed to find sympathy with his political system. I even heard that information regarding oppression in the Soviet Union was actually covered up by those able to do so, for fear that it may soil the image of Russia that many westerners undoubtedly clung to.

Only thirty or fourty years later, however, far from withdrawing information to preserve Soviet support, western governments would dress-up and dramatize reality in the Eastern Bloc almost to an unfair level, printing McCarthyist slogans in black, probably against a red background and a hammer-and-sickle to add a sinister quality. After the 1917 revolution, tensions did occur between the communist and capitalist world, but during the war something snapped, and relationships deteriorated almost to the level of sparking a World War Three. Communism, as a term, almost became synonymous with fascism, and I’m willing to bet that plenty don’t know the difference, which is strange, given that only a few decades previously, this word would have accurately described the views of many in the west.


There isn’t one explanation for the change, nor for why it occurred at that moment, and on reflection, it may seem odd that the Cold War began in 1945 and not 1917. After all, an obvious explanation for the post-war tensions is the lack of any need preserve a situation of comradeship with the Soviet Union, once fascism had been finally defeated, but nor was there a need to maintain diplomacy throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s. It would also be easy to assume that communist aggression towards the west began only after the war, but this is again untrue; Lenin once referred to England as the Soviet Union’s greatest enemy, and Soviet military action in the then-British colony of India proves that such statements weren’t at all hollow. So, as I understand it, there is only one reason as to why perceptions of communism changed worldwide, this being military prowess.

The USSR emerged from the war a highly capable country, and, if another conflict was to occur, the prospect of a western defeat was incredibly likely. Thus, though tyranny, repression and starvation were known prior to the war, they were largely ignored. Now that the west had a reason to fear the regime, however, a hatred for communism, with the assistance of these facts, was cultivated in no time. Whilst writing, I’m aware that I’ve come across as critical towards Soviet communism, and I am (by ‘Soviet communism’, I mean the Soviet Union after 1924), yet I’m a communist nonetheless, and I’m also critical of the west during this scenario, for I feel that the demonization of communism didn’t occur due to the oppression and failures it brought about where it was attempted, but simply due to the fact that it provided a potential enemy. This highlights a disgusting aspect of the political situation in the western world, this being the opportunistic tendencies of democratic, western governments, to ally or break with the worst kinds of states or governments when it suits their own interests, no matter how authoritarian, repressive, or simply wrong they may be (I’m not talking about a credible means-to-an-end kind of scenario – although this is likely a popular justification – I’m just talking about when it suits the interests of the international capitalists). To the western world, such an ideology wasn’t evil from the start; it only became so when it threatened capitalism. This was why the ‘C’ word gathered such negativity. Not because of careful observation of socialism’s many failures, but due to the material conditions the capitalist world found themselves in. In short, it was it only when it actually stood a chance that communism stopped being cool.

Though quite different in content, this entry was inspired by the excellent post ‘The s-word’ by ‘Guts of a Beggar’, which you can find here:

If you liked this entry (or even if you didn’t!) I’d recommend reading its predecessor.

On Trotskyism

What is Trotskyism?

Unlike specific doctrines or philosophies such as Leninism, or perhaps Marxism in general, Trotskyism has no one definition – it is simply a collection of the ideas and theories put forward by Leon Trotsky. However, whilst perhaps not as easy to summarise as the ideas of Marx and Lenin, they are by no means insignificant, for Trotsky’s followers founded one of the two key movements which worked to redefine twentieth-century communism; alongside the Stalinist interpretation of Soviet-style Marxism (which later developed into Marxism-Leninism) Trotskyism split communism in two, forcing Marxists everywhere to take sides.

To give you an idea of what exactly it calls for, here is a brief summary of the ideas and theories it entails:

  • A strong adherence to the international revolutionary movement, which fuels the theory of Permanent Revolution (a theoretical argument that states revolution can take place in backward, agrarian countries such as Russia, so as long as there is a simultaneous international revolution to strengthen it)
  • An encouragement for the involvement of workers in the state system, and the criticism of ‘Stalinist’ regimes for their excessively bureaucratic and authoritarian interpretation of communism
  • A general critical attitude towards Stalin’s Russia and the Soviet Union after 1924, due to its betrayal of both the aforementioned values

Recently, I decided that I, myself am a Trotskyist, this being the inspiration for today’s post. For a long while I’d thought of myself as somewhere to the left of Marxism-Leninism, so I was looking closely at tendencies such as left communism, ultra-leftism and Trotskyism to try and determine which category I fell into, at which point I decided that my views represented Trotsky’s ideas more closely than anybody else’s. Given that I’ve written several paragraphs on the such ideas, you may wonder why exactly I’ve chosen to do this, or what relevance they have today that would make writing about them worthwhile. I’ll answer this in a short while – first, I think it’s important to understand them from a historical perspective, allowing us to comprehend their development in society.

Below is an excerpt from the document ‘For Trotskyism!’ which can be found on the homepage of the International Bolshevik Tendency, a modern-day Trotskyist organisation, where the movement is described…

It was verified in a positive sense in the October Revolution in 1917, the greatest event in modern history, and generally negatively since. After the bureaucratic strangulation of the Bolshevik Party and the Comintern by the Stalinists, the tradition of Leninism – the practice and program of the Russian Revolution – was carried forward by the Left Opposition and by it alone.’

This says it all: Trotskyism has a bad name. Ever since such ‘strangulation’ the idea had developed taboo connotations, even becoming an insult among communists. As a result, the number of Trotskyist movements is relatively small, and was probably even smaller in the days of the USSR. Following his departure from Soviet politics, Trotsky was the great outcast, the traitor, the enemy of the Soviet regime, and any of his followers were inevitably handed the same label.

Not surprisingly, then, no socialist states have arisen in accordance with Trotsky’s views or theories, and the few who adhere to such have been forced to get their word across through whatever tactics are available, such as electoral participation or entryism (a good example of the latter being Militant, a Trotskyist organisation in Britain working within the Labour Party throughout the 1970s and 80s). In other words, it would appear that Trotskyism, for the most part, died with Leon Trotsky.


The organisation’s logo

So, coming back to the question of relevance, it may seem to be the case that these theories, written over seventy years ago and only partially developed since, are far from relevant; one might be inclined to take the view that it was an ideology rooted out of the communist movement long ago, which has since been rejected worldwide, and even today is still on the side-lines of leftist politics. After all, Stalinism aside, who’s to say that there wasn’t a rationale behind Trotskyism’s rejection?

I, however, would disagree, and would take the view that time has actually helped prove Trotsky correct,  an example of this being the fact that his ideas are centred on a criticism of the Soviet system (or rather the Soviet system as Stalin had modelled it) and thus they deserve at least some credit, purely due to the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed. I’d see it like this: Socialism in One Country, the policy which, originally adopted under Stalin, influenced the country henceforth, halted efforts to spread the revolution beyond national boundaries. Thus the USSR, like its European satellite states, was left with no option but to try and cultivate socialism from within, which led to stagnation, corruption, and ultimately, failure. I believe that this is proof, or at least hard evidence, that Socialism in One Country is impossible, thus making Trotsky’s argument especially perceptive.

Obviously, I don’t mean to argue that Trotsky’s word was entirely unfalsified – that would be counter-scientific and thus contrary to the spirit of Marxism –, and he did create work that was also proven inaccurate, but I do believe that his ideas and his contributions to Marxist philosophy are worthy of recognition, and, what’s more, worthy of consideration today. In a world with no Soviet Union, after the fall of Stalinist communism, today’s Marxists definitely need to start searching for alternative solutions.

I’d say it’s about time, nearly a century after they were first discarded, to rediscover these theories left on history’s mantelpiece.

The Birth and Development of Capitalism

On Tuesday 14th, many undoubtedly celebrated Bastille Day, paying respect to the rebel movement behind the French Revolution.

Probably the most significant event in eighteenth-century Europe, this revolution reshaped European history, changing the face of France forever. For anyone unaware of what actually occurred during this remarkable few years, violence broke out across the nation after the Bastille was stormed by revolutionary forces. Such violence would later overthrow the monarchy, throw the country into chaos, and trigger a series of conflicts extending as far as the Middle East, securing it in the minds of many generations to come. Even with these drastic outcomes aside, it still deserves a place in world history, for this was the event that brought about an economic system still standing today; this was the event that brought about capitalism.

Bataille de Jemmapes 1792

Bataille de Jemmapes, 1792

The idea of a capitalist revolution may sound foreign to you, which is understandable; in a world where capitalism has long been the system which nations have tried to prevent revolution from overthrowing, the thought that it could exist as a revolutionary theory may sound strange to many, yet just like communism, capitalism had to start somewhere, and 1793 is one of the most profound examples of such an instalment. If the transition it enacted isn’t obvious, we have to remember that feudalism – the system’s predecessor – were the days of landlords, peasants, absolute monarchy, and a heavy religious influence on the populace. All of the above were revoked or transformed after the transfer of power took place, and the main focus of production was no longer the peasants labouring on the aristocrat’s land, but the workforce in the factories of Paris, Lyon or Toulouse.

However, although possibly the most dramatic, the transition in France is obviously not the only example; it is believed by many that capitalism originated many years ago, in the regions of northern Italy, and the ideas of a revolution against feudalism can be seen in the English Civil War, the European Enlightenment, and events reaching as far back as the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages. To give you an idea of how long unrest had been present, Europe – arguably the most advanced continent at that time period – experienced almost half a millennium of tensions and trauma with the rise of the new productive means. As a result, society saw many profound changes up to the late eighteenth century, at which point France had finally reformed its economy.

But we have to remember that at this stage, many nations were still stuck in the dark ages of serfdom, and though they would later progress, they did so in a different manner. In the podcast ‘Is Marxism a Science?’ provided by*, the speaker David Whitehouse looks into this when it refers to the German transition to capitalism, which, whist revolutionary in its own way, was not dramatic or profound like that in France. The states of Germany, as Whitehouse explains, were yet to catch up with more advanced European nations, and thus constructed industrialised economies whilst still under feudal leadership. The same can be said for the third world, which, still not completely capitalistic, relied on this kind of ‘uneven development’ (as he puts it) to allow progression to occur.


Carl Stilling: The Forge – Germany, 1909

We can also see how such development has possibly occurred on a deeper level in countries like Russia or, perhaps more profoundly, China, for these were largely feudal and backward regimes, yet in both, communist revolutions (or, at least, revolutions claiming to be of a communist nature) took place. Here it would appear that not only has development occurred on an uneven level, with both feudal and capitalistic features present, but it has almost completely skipped a stage. Whether or not these revolutions were truly Marxist is a debate for another time, but the preface to the Communist Manifesto’s Russian edition talks of the peasantry possibly building communism in the country, suggesting that such a progression may be possible, and thus and thus that capitalism need not always develop fully.

Even if this isn’t the case, we can see through this pattern of mixed progress – where undeveloped societies were forced to prematurely catch up with developed ones – the extent to which capitalism has transformed the world through its own evolution; western Europe and North America have practically raced ahead, forcing other regions of the world to industrialise quickly, and this is all down to the colossal scale on which capitalist production took place. On this subject, Marx also wrote that the bourgeois class, ‘during its rule of scarcely 100 years has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together’, which allows us to see how the implementation and the spread of capitalism has truly revolutionised society.

*find it here:

Suffering in the First World: Greece and the European Crisis

To all those out there who follow the Maoist (Third-Worldist) tendency; who uphold the belief that the developed world – Europe, Russia, North America, and certain parts of Australasia and East Asia – is a realm of the wealthy, free of any real oppression, this entry is for you.

Very recently, the European Union offered a hopeless, desperate Greece its latest proposal for a bailout deal, which, whilst potentially easing the crisis in which the country is currently submerged, would carry strict measures in the way of austerity. The referendum as to whether or not the country should accept called for a rejection, with the population (now largely irritated with the EU and the straining demands they imposed on Greece’s already-disastrous economy) probably feeling they’d been down that road before. Yesterday, however, Prime Minister Tsipras announced that Greece would accept the deal regardless, undoubtedly sparking tensions among civilians and party members alike. Whether he had any confidence in the decision or simply yielded to the demands from Brussels we’ll never know, but either way, one thing is profoundly clear: the country is truly in dire straits.

There are, however, those who claim claim otherwise; a significant number entertain the illusion that the developed world, of which Greece is a member, is, by nature, wealthy. They claim that, unlike those in great swathes of countries like India or Bangladesh, who do experience genuine hardship, the populations of Europe or America lead comparatively luxurious lives. In short, they believe that whilst developing nations do suffer exploitation and poverty, developed countries like Greece know nothing of the sort.

This belief is upheld largely, though not exclusively, by those who adhere to the philosophy of Maoism (Third-Worldism), this being a particular branch of Maoist communism which values the idea that capitalist exploitation no longer takes place within the confines of national borders, that the first world countries have effectively become bourgeois nations which thrive off the exploitation of other, poorer parts of the world. The theory enjoys significant popularity among the communist movement today, partly because it can explain why the working classes in the first world are now shrinking in numbers while the third world proletariat is not, and it is, to some degree, accurate. It is obvious, for example, that the first world does profit from the exploitation of the third, with a great deal of our clothes and gadgets now produced overseas, yet the fact that developed economies exploit undeveloped ones is not to say that these economies do not cause suffering at home; Just look at the poverty experienced by many in Russia, or even America, – the heartland of wealth and capital – in which 49 million people, or one in four children (according to the documentary ‘A Place at the Table’) don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Today, Greece is our example, and the recent disaster in the country certainly demonstrates similar horrors to those listed above; I’ve heard stories of how many have been forced to leave their modernised lives and work the land to survive, whilst the unemployment record in the country reached a record of 28% in November 2013, (to put it into context, the proportion of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression was lower than 25%), and homelessness, once a foreign concept to the Greeks, rocketed. Sadly, the rise in what BBC News describes as the ‘New Homeless’ coincided with the particularly harsh winter of 2011-12, leaving many exposed to the freezing temperatures with little more than a blanket to conceal them from the cold.

Greek Unemployment, 2004 - 2015

Greek Unemployment, 2004 – 2015

There is, of course, the argument which states that such hardship is a result of a recession, as opposed to the capitalistic exploitation of the Greek people, and thus, whilst capitalism ruins many lives in India or China, it is not responsible for this particular disaster. Yet a similar situation undoubtedly exists among what the advocates of Maoism (Third-Worldism) cite as the revolutionary proletariat in these aforementioned countries, for not everybody in this part of the world lives under the shackles of first-worldist exploitation, but the poverty experienced by the majority of the population (including these people) is still reflective of the unequal distribution of wealth caused by the former, and thus, the economic system can be held responsible for their impoverishment. The same can be said for the Greek population, as the crisis which ruined these people is rooted directly in the capitalistic economies of Greece and Europe, so threfore capitalism is still the force which reduced them to poverty.

Additionally, I believe that whilst refuting Maoism (Third-Worldism) is important, the crisis also serves a more general purpose in reminding us of just how vulnerable we, the capitalist world, actually are. It would be easy to assume, from the bubble of ignorance provided by a comfortable western lifestyle, that this kind of thing doesn’t occur in our neck of the woods; that capitalism today cannot bring about such misery, yet it’s important not to let yourself fall into this trap, for such a crisis could happen to you too. If nothing else, treat the event as a news story, one informing the planet that misery and suffering do, and will continue to exist in the first world.

North Korea: the Beginning of the End

In the preface to ‘Communism: A Very Short Introduction’, Leslie Holmes writes:

‘The overwhelming majority of states that were Communist as recently as the late 1980s have moved on. While, formerly, five communist states remain, the two successful ones (China and Vietnam) are so largely because they have jettisoned many of the original basic tenants of communism and are in some important areas – notably the economy – already post-communist’.

The communist world today

The communist world today

First published in 2009, such a view presented in Holmes’ book is already proving to be especially discerning. Only in late 2014 did the USA and Cuba set aside their long-enduring hostility towards one another, an action which, as I’ve earlier said, I believe will mark the start of socialism’s decline in the Caribbean. Arguably, with China and Vietnam already long gone, this leaves just one state that exists according to strictly socialist principles; North Korea, or officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Ironically, what could be perceived to be the last untarnished communist regime has formally abandoned communist philosophy, a political step on the road to capitalism which the other four countries have yet to take, with their constitution of 2009 describing their country as one ‘guided in its activities by the Juche idea and the Songun idea’. However, Juche, the school of thought based upon ideas of self-sufficiency, and Songun, the national policy of ‘military first’, contribute little in the way of altering the country’s strictly-centralised economy. From the outside, it would appear that the economic situation has persisted without interruption, leaving a country with an equally ‘communistic’ system to the other four, and even more so today, with the relaxations in policy within China or Vietnam. But is all this about to change?

A surprising event in recent news may indicate exactly that, depending on what angle you look at it; North Korea is currently experiencing a nationwide property boom, a concept we’d associate with the capitalist west. In itself, this may not provide a strong enough argument to suggest a foreshadowing of the regime’s collapse, but an article published in the South Korean newspaper ‘The Hankyoreh’ explains how this may be the case. The author references research professor Jung Eun-yi, a leading expert in the field, who ‘argues that there are signs that the housing market in North Korea is turning into a real estate market, rather like South Korea’.


As I’ve said, it’s still only a minor alteration, yet change has to begin somewhere, and it isn’t always as dramatic as the Romanian Revolution of 1989, or even the lifting of the trade embargo against Cuba by the USA. Furthermore, it shouldn’t be underestimated how provocative such a change could be; the article explains how Jung believes this style of market ‘will continue to expand for a significant period of time’, allowing it time to seriously transform the nationwide economy, paving the way for further relaxations on the road to a free market. In short, we learn that Jung thinks 2013’s establishment of the housing delegation offices proves that ‘both central planning and market forces are at work in the North Korean economy today.’, and that, in her opinion, the incorporation of the latter alongside the former into the market also provides evidence for a reformist trend developing under Kim Jong-un’s government; she informs us that ‘the regime is going beyond the military-first policy known as Songun that was instituted by Kim’s father and moving down the path toward socialist capitalism’.

The timing certainly seems right, with the DPRK standing as the last of its kind, and I believe this is exactly the kind of trigger such transition requires. Once more opportunities arise for personal financial gain, enabling the individual, rather than the state, to profit, the iron grip the government maintains over the economy will begin to loosen; like the other socialist states whose colours have somehow clung to the mast after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the DPRK’s regime shall eventually crumble. One question, however, remains unanswered: is the fall of Korean communism to be rejoiced or lamented?

There’s obviously no one answer, and it depends not only on your attitude towards communism on the whole, but also towards the North Korean regime. I can’t imagine many conservatives, liberals, or even socialists saddened at the prospect. A dispute could arise among the far left, however, and opinions on North Korea vary from a communist perspective.

Personally, I’d definitely support the ousting of the current leadership, which operates as an absolute monarchy, enjoys luxurious privileges unheard of by the workers it claims to represent, looks to the leader like a prophet, Kim Il-sung like a God, and all in a perverted fashion which contradicts multiple tenants of Marxism. As for the loss of a communist system in the economic sense, I feel much the same as I did for the potential loss of Cuba’s. Yet it doesn’t take an expert to realise that the North Korean system is already flawed, given the famine it produces, the corruption it’s tainted by, and the seemingly endless funding it directs towards the military at the expense of the populace. In fact, if you take all its flaws into consideration, it would even seem sensible to argue that North Korea’s economy has already strayed too far from the communist model it was built upon.


The featured image was provided by User:SKopp from Wikimedia Commons. It was licenced under the following:

The image depicting the current communist states was provided by Ichwan Palongengi from Wikimedia Commons, and was also licenced under the above.

The image depicting the apartments in North Korea was provided by Nicor from Wikimedia Commons, and was also licenced under the above.