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.


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.

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


Who do we Side With? – Assessing Relations in a Revolutionary Struggle 

The issues regarding the practicalities of revolution have, for a long time, divided opinions within communist circles. Karl Marx provided a theoretical basis for almost all things Marxist, from the alienation of the worker in capitalist society to the scientific progression of history, but this was one area which seems to have been glossed over, allowing the theorists and activists in his wake to devise individual interpretations. From this fresh wave of contributions to Marxist philosophy there arose Lenin’s model of a Vanguard Party, Luxembourg’s critique of Bolshevism in favour of revolutionary democracy, and Pannekoek’s concept of council communism, an idea which surfaced some years later in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

One issue in particular, which spurred significant international debate in the years following the Russian Revolution, was that of association. Many communists were prepared to work with other parties and organisations to advance their goal of revolution, whilst others insisted on a somewhat Puritan approach, refusing to affiliate themselves with any counter-revolutionary or bourgeois movements. This rift in opinion helped to alienate the Bolsheviks from a number of former allies, which, taking the ‘Puritan’ stance, became known loosely as the communist left or the ‘ultra-leftists’, a faction which still plays a role in the contemporary socialist movement.

So, if, in the context of revolution, the debate is still open as to who Marxist organisations should be prepared to side with, how should one go about answering this question? Who should be regarded as allies, and who should be renounced in the struggle for communism?

One occasion on which this question was brought to light was in 1921, during a period of unrest that occurred in the Communist Party of Italy (PCd’I) following the Comintern’s policy of adopting a ‘united front’, bringing together many worker’s movements and associations to strengthen the fight against capitalism. Prominent ultra-leftists in the party, such as Amadeo Bordiga, were greatly opposed to the idea and refused to work with the reactionary Italian Socialist Party, from which the communists had recently broken away.

Whilst this stance may seem an admirable and dogmatic one, it is important to remember that it is not as though the Bolsheviks (the leading forces in the Comintern) were an opportunist party; they had previously opposed any kind of alliance with reactionary organisations, yet the decision to foster unity between all socialist movements came following a lull in the revolutionary optimism which had swept through Europe following 1917, and a reinstatement of capitalist authority, forcing them to find alternative strategies to weaken capitalism and promote working-class organisation.

The logic of Bordiga and the likes, who eventually lost control of the party to a pro-Moscow group in the PCd’I, prevents this kind of thinking. It asserts that we must form no alliances with counter-revolutionaries no matter what, even if such an alliance would advance the revolution’s goals, and thus, through its rejection of such tactical and pragmatic actions, comes into conflict with the essentially Marxist logic of prioritising revolution over any other political goals. This is the reason why it needs stating that ‘left communism’ or ‘ultra-leftism’ does not deserve its leftist connotations; all that divides Lenin and Bordiga is a practical realisation of the revolution’s immediate tasks on the part of one, and a pompous, counter-productive ignorance of such on the part of the other. It is no coincidence that Russian Bolshevism, not Italian ultra-leftism, proved victorious in the defeat of the bourgeois and the creation of a proletarian dictatorship.

Today, there is an important lesson to be learned from this: one should respect general principals, such as the necessity of distancing oneself from counter-revolutionary people and organisations, but should be ready to break with that principal if it coincides with communist interests. Obviously, it’s unlikely that anyone would cling onto such ideas knowing that they clash with the revolutionary goals; for example, Bordiga undoubtedly rejected Comintern policy with the interests of the proletariat at heart, yet this is due to a failure to see or acknowledge that the Leninist approach (a pragmatic, logical, and ultimately productive manner of thinking) is far superior, and that tactical unity with organisations that may have opposing interests, alongside other sacrifices, may be necessary.

It’s worth pointing out that, at the time the Comintern introduced this policy, there were only two countries in Europe (Russia and Hungary) to have undertaken a successful and independent communist revolution, and in both cases, examples can be found where such sacrifices were necessarily made. To focus on Hungary in particular, it’s fact that the Communist Party took power by merging with the Social Democrats, after which point they established the Hungarian Soviet Republic, set about a program of radical social reforms, and reorganised the economy in a revolutionary manner. If they didn’t partake in this merger, sacrificing leftist principles for a socialist reality, such change would never have occurred.



Five Candidates for Future Revolution

Capitalism today is not capitalism as Marx described it, over a century ago, and our economic system is the product of much evolutionary change relating to the political and financial situation in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century. Now in a new age of economic exploitation (I wrote a lot more about this in my previous entry), the antagonisms between the bourgeois and proletariat have changed character once more, and thus, revolutionary potential can be seen in several areas of the world that could have been glossed over by the Marxist intellectuals/communist movement several years ago. 

Here’s a list I made of five countries (in no particular order) which, I believe will make the best candidates for future proletarian revolution. It’s judged on two things: which would be the most likely, and which would be the most strategically beneficial, in the name of advancing communism and spreading the revolution worldwide. There’s also an element of wishful thinking, hence why I included the UK, where I live, when other countries would probably have equal claim to that position (although in fairness, I was trying to keep it at five!) Feel free to comment and add to the list, and remember, this isn’t a complete assessment; it’s only representative of how I view the world today. 

1. United Kingdom

A dwindling, yet still hugely prominent power in the western world, Britain contributes greatly to the network of international capitalism. From the industries of Wales, Scotland and the larger British cities to the overseas resources harvested by British companies, the signs of exploitation are clear. It’s also telling that many are surprised at the rigidity and profoundness of the UK’s class system, which still reflects that of an old capitalist power, despite the complicating effects of capitalism’s internationalisation. For example, it may surprise you that in 1996, a UN report revealed Britain to be the most unequal country in the western world, and a recent report ( shows that the country’s wages are the most unequal in the EU. 

There are those who argue that revolution isn’t possible in first world countries like the United Kingdom, but this isn’t true. What is certainly apparent is the fact that the country’s working class has shrunk and living/working standards have improved as the country grew more reliant on foreign exploitation, yet firstly, contemporary studies of our class system still reveal a large percentage of exploited individuals with a potentially rebellious character (evidence: the London and Birmingham riots of 2011) and secondly, the hoards of foreign workers who constitute a large percentage of Britain’s workforce should not be excluded from the revolution. If a communist movement was to take power, it should act on behalf of these people, and embrace their revolutionary potential. 

If this was to  occur, it would serve as a nail in the heart of the capitalist web.

2. Greece

The birthplace of Plato, Aristotle and Ptolemy has started to demonstrate significant potential for change after the financial crisis of 2007-8. One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Greece has already demonstrated signs of future revolutionary activity by the national radicalisation of their politics. Recently, a former communist was voted into power, showing not only the shift in views to extremes (something common in revolutionary situations), but a significant shift to the left. A neo-Nazi party with a fantastically sinister name (Golden Dawn) also did worryingly well in the recent election of early 2015, which also allows us to appreciate how desperate their situation is. 

If real change was to happen as a result of such desperation, we may see something of a re-ignition in the Balkans. Greece, unlike Bulgaria, Hungary or Yugoslavia has never experienced communism, yet if fresh revolution was to establish a socialist Greek republic, it would be easily possible for such to spread and advance beyond the borders with Albania and Bulgaria, spurring revolutions across the whole of crisis-ridden Europe.

3. China (#2)

The revolutionary Maoist state is now one of the most exploitative and ruthlessly capitalistic nations on the planet. What began with reform and relaxation of communist policy resulted in the counter-revolutionary re-introduction of industrial exploitation, to the extent that the western powers now thrive on Chinese production, because they can get away with worse than they could at home. It’s time for the Chinese proletariat to realise they live under a pretence of a socialism, the reality being anything but. It’s time for a second 1949. 

Not only would this be a highly valuable victory on the road to world revolution, given the huge potential China offers in the way of building and advancing communism, but it would help change the worldwide perception of the former. Today, many people with little knowledge of Marxism may happily take the view that China is a communist country. After all, it’s ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, it bears a red flag, and it’s officially known as the People’s Republic of China. But a second Chinese revolution will help to change this, and will hopefully allow people to appreciate the difference between genuine equality and masked exploitation.

4. India

India has, for centuries, been victimised by capitalism. Ever since the United Kingdom colonised the country, it was subject to imperialist exploitation in the interests of its colonists. Since the departure of the British, India found itself victimised by a new form of imperialism, with workers in sweatshops sewing clothes for western companies, their consumers in France, Britain and the United States happy to turn a blind eye. Now, the country is quickly rising as an advanced, capitalist power, yet the majority of its citizens live under the yolk of capitalism, impoverished by inequality. 
Revolution in India would change the lives of over a billion people, and would transform the political landscape of South Asia, given the immense size and influence of the country. An advanced nuclear power with a space agency, one of the largest armies on the planet and a culture famous throughout the world, this country’s importance is obvious. In addition to this, a strong communist movement already exists in the country. I part with them ideologically as they are largely influenced by Maoism, but their presence nonetheless shows something remarkable: a people fighting back.

5. Russia (#2)

Russia existed for 74 years under communist rule, a world record in that regard. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, saw the national economy diverge, giving rise to both wealth and poverty in extremes. The oligarchy that now owns much of Siberia’s oil exists at the expense of many deprived citizens. According to Tim Marcin’s article on the ibtimes, the number of Russians living in poverty has topped twenty-two million ( 

After the fall of communism, Putin has tried to fill the void by cultivating nationalism, but I don’t believe this solution will last in a country like this,  with an economy driven by business elites, likely with government connections. A return of Bolshevism will also hopefully end the attitude of strict conservatism fuelled by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and I don’t know, but it seems right that when it comes to building socialism, 70 years of experience should make a difference. Lenin, the original founder of communist Russia, once said that ‘It is impossible to predict the time and progress of revolution’, yet nonetheless, I believe we can count this country a likely candidate for the next one. 

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:



A Means to an End (of Exploitation): Marxism and Utilitarianism

Over the past hundred years, I won’t deny that many ruthless and otherwise unjustifiable acts have been carried out in the name of socialism. Sometimes, these actions were directly harmful (such as the use of state terror), whereas in other examples they were not (such as the introduction of strict economic policies that later caused suffering), yet many perished all the same. This is why communists today, require adequate justification for what’s been going on in these countries, and it would seem to me that this comes most naturally in the argument that the end may justify the means, or if you’re Trotsky, ‘the end may justify the means so long as there is something that justifies the end’ (I know it sounds slightly pretentious).

This is a core idea of utilitarianism, an ethical theory predating Marxism, which argues in a very general sense that an action is defined in terms of its consequences. Thus even concepts like genocide, which we’d normally consider horrific, are permissible if they bring about greater happiness than would have otherwise been the case, the principle of the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people lying at the heart of the philosophy. Just from this, one can see key similarities between Marxist and utilitarian thought; they both exist with an eye to the majority; they both strive for the wellbeing of the masses, and in both schools of thought it is upheld that violence, be it in the case of class conflict (Marxism) or the ‘Trolley Problem’ (utilitarianism) may be used to achieve the greater good. So I’m writing to discuss the similarities between these two philosophies, whether or not Marxism can operate in a utilitarian way – or vice versa – and finally, whether or not utilitarianism successfully justifies the many otherwise-atrocious actions committed in communism’s name.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out that Marx’s ideas entail an element of sacrifice. Friedrich Engels once stated that ‘The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of reactionary peoples.’, and the fact that he followed it up with ‘this too, will be a step forward’ confirms the utilitarian character of such thinking, which treated these horrors as a necessary part of the communist struggle. On top of this, it has to be remembered that Marx’s interpretation of what capitalism would inevitably lead to, whilst a scientific interpretation, also bore the label of justice, equality, and all that was right. Thus, science and morality merged with the Marxian prediction that from capitalism there would arise communism, the latter being a better moral alternative as well as an inevitable on. This was simply because it was upheld the idea of a better world, the best, in fact, of all hitherto economic systems (except possibly Primitive Communism). True, that’s an incredibly vague interpretation, but I think it’s obvious that the specific ideas of classlessness or an end of exploitation are credited as they result in a happier society. This is why the Greatest Happiness Principle, as it’s referred to, is very definitely present in scientific Marxism and underpins the core Marxist ideas and theories.

If we can thus accept that these ideas are utilitarian ones, I think it’s also true that they are justified in a utilitarian way. The kind of violence Marx and Engels spoke of wasn’t without reason; why would anybody advocate ruthlessness when they didn’t feel it was necessary? And when I talk of its necessity, I refer to progression – forward movement in the direction of liberty and equality – in the direction of greater happiness. It could be argued that Marxism is not a science and that communism is not an absolute truth, so therefore there’s nothing to justify what has been done in its name, yet firstly, whether or not Marx was right is separate debate, and secondly, even if Marx was proven wrong; even if we find that there is no inevitability in communism, such a brilliant concept is surely still worth fighting for.

I conclude by saying that Marxism’s utilitarian nature should be realised, as the two theories will likely benefit from what the other has to provide; currently, whilst many do acknowledge why Marx’s ideas should be vindicated, many don’t, and a sturdy, underling justification would do a good job in providing a simple explanation in this regard. I think it’s even possible to argue that, similarly, utilitarianism lends itself to a Marxist interpretation, due to the ideas it values placing the state of the majority in society above all else, which is also an idea worth exploring. The political views of Jeremy Bentham, one of, if not the most important figure in the founding and development of contemporary utilitarianism, reflect this.

Terrorism and Communism

‘Terrorism and Communism’: a book by Leon Trotsky, 1920

Since the 9/11 attacks, fourteen years ago to this day, terrorism has become a major international concern.

This isn’t to say that it didn’t play a role prior to the fall of the Twin Towers; in the UK, many feared the Irish Republican Army; in Peru, it was the Shining Path; and of course, various Islamic attacks like the Lockerbie Bombing were carried out before 2001. But after the end of the Cold War, when the capitalist world’s greatest threat had been defeated, you could say that those who waged war with home-built bombs and illegally-bought Kalashnikovs were once again brought into focus. Now that this form of warfare has once again established itself as a serious threat, perhaps one of the greatest threats to society’s wellbeing, I’m looking at where communism fits in with all of this.

In fact, many of today’s terrorist organisations fight for a socialist future. These include the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, the Maoist terrorist organisations in India, and, as is mentioned above, the leftist militants in Peru. The actions attributed to them range from destroying buildings to kidnapping influential people (this was done famously by the Red Brigades’ kidnapping and murder of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro), all with Marxism in mind. But though these people may act in communism’s name, they don’t have a great history of success in that regard. Can you name a time when a country has been overthrown altogether by an act of terrorism, let alone communist terrorism?

By its very nature, terrorist practise involves individuals or organisations committing acts of aggression to advance their goals, and these actions have, throughout the history, always been shocking but often not particularly productive. The destruction of buildings in India, the kidnapping of a politician in Italy, or the burning of ballot boxes in Peru (all of which have been done in the past) may be cruel, murderous, or evil, but it’s not as though they solve a great deal. Often, it seems to me that these actions are no more than pointless violence.


The logo of the organisation that killed Moro

However, there are obvious exceptions to this: if we consider terrorism in a general sense, it could be argued that the ANC would not have gained the attention of the South African public had it not been for their criminal actions, or that votes for women would not have been granted had the Suffragettes not vandalised streets. It’s thus possible that socialism’s revolutionary aims may be realised if through terrorism of some sort, and thus, whilst so often unsuccessful and relatively useless, I can’t dismiss the concept entirely; these success stories above prevent me from doing so.

This is why I’m left in the middle of the road, a political position I almost never find myself in. I don’t condone terrorism regardless, as it’s is often likely to do no more than cultivate hatred for you and your motive whilst damaging property or lives in the process, but nor do I condemn it – it can be used to produce brilliant outcomes (as we’ve seen in the examples of black liberation and women’s rights). As to whether such actions will work for this motive in particular, communist terrorists are unlucky in the sense that they fight for an unpopular goal. Its unpopularity is unfair, I believe, but does exist all the same, and thus, these actions may only confirm prior suspicions that communism is good for nothing but inducing suffering.

All I can say is that leftists out there must be careful. This manner of war can work, and can be justified, but only if it really does establish change. It may be difficult to tell when this is the case; the misdeeds of the IRA merely shocked the public and shamed the Republican struggle, whereas those of the Suffragettes proved crucial to theirs, but careful consideration of the circumstances is needed. Without it, it’s likely that a few groups and organisations will do nothing but harm our common cause.

The photo depicting the Red Brigades’ logo was provided by Tentontunic from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to its licence:

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.