Marxism is a Science, not a Religion

As promised, entries resume today, making it an appropriate time to address one thing that’s been on my mind in the weeks after my last post…

Despite the differences in opinion among communist circles, there are really only two variants of communist.

Some, I’ve noticed, manage to incorporate Marxism into their lives as a viewpoint, a belief, and nothing more. The orchestrators of the Russian October Revolution, namely Lenin and Trotsky, are good examples; they acted, commanded, spoke and wrote using Marxism as a tool, a guidance, and a scientific philosophy on the basis of which they would carry out their principles.

Others, just as knowledgeable in Marxism, and just as eager to apply it, look at the philosophy from a different stance. They treat communist theory as if it were the words of a prophet, and look to Marx, Lenin or Stalin as if they themselves were the divine preachers of such theoretical wisdom. Their great appreciation of socialist ideas transforms itself into a cult-like and almost religious appreciation of socialism, to such an extent that they begin to forget the central tenants and ideas of their philosophy.

As you might imagine, this presents a series of problems…

First of all, this tendency, which glorifying communism, actually contradicts it. Where it clashes with Marxist theory is not obvious, but we must remember that Marxism, whether correct or not, is a theory of science. It exists based on the idea that the development of society runs parallel to the development of the natural world, applauds rational and scientific thought, and is hardly compatible with the backward, illogical and religious adherence to ideology exemplified by many of its followers (especially Marx famously referred to religion as ‘opium for the masses’). Ask yourself this: in terms of this spiritual ‘opium’, where does Christianity differ from Marxism-Leninism? When both are treated as religious doctrines, it doesn’t.

An extreme example of the blurring between Marxism and religion is that of Stalinist Russia, in which the Communist Party was practically allowed to replace the Orthadox Church. ‘Lenin is with us, always’ was a phrase popularised under Stalin, who seemed not to let it trouble him that he was cultivating belief of a spiritual nature akin to the religions he was also trying to supress. Other examples can probably be found throughout history, but I hope (for any Stalinists/Stalin sympathisers reading) it does the job of highlighting just how irrational such regimes can become. Lenin was a great leader and a great theorist, but he wasn’t Jesus. Marx, Lenin, Mao and Stalin; they’re human beings, not deities, and perhaps we’ll remember these people for their contributions to the socialist movement, but to look upon them as divine and holy beings is beyond ridiculous.

In addition to this, I’d like to point out that many in this category, which often tends to be the Stalinists and Maoists of this world (I’ve noticed that communist philosophies to the left of Marxism-Leninism don’t tend to adopt such views), are highly illogical in their assessment of society, and especially of the communist world. In this respect, what I was talking about (the almost holy glorification of both the theory and its practitioners), can lead to further problems; if you look to Stalin, Mao or Kim Il-sung the way a religious believer may look to God, it’s not surprising that to you, these individuals must be heroes, and thus you’ll go to extreme measures to ensure they are so. At the same time, one may go to ridiculous extents to prove their theories or writings are true to word, immune from the possibility of even minor falsification, as certain Christians may claim about the Bible. This is, of course, just as irrational.

Yet equally bizarre is the manner in which these people prove such to be true, or simply justify their beliefs: a favourite technique of these types of people, and one which is not criticised nearly enough, is historical denial. Just look at the number of leftists who deny Stalin’s crimes, who claim that the repression which exists in the DPRK is merely a conspiracy cooked up by imperialist western media. There are a surprising number of people who end up falling into such trap, to the point where they distort the whole of history to support their beliefs.

Nope. Definitely not a Gulag. Can I get away with blaming this on western imperialism? Probably...

‘Nope. Definitely not a Gulag. Can I get away with blaming this on western imperialism? Probably…’

Is this Marxian? Is this the kind of mentality you’d expect from those who uphold a view which thrives off the analysis of class history? It’s well known, even outside of communism, that the philosophy relies on the observation of historical patterns. It’s thus obvious that anyone distorting history in this way, altering the past to suit their ideals, is transforming events which could prove vital in understanding society from a Marxist perspective. In other words, these people, who tightly cling to communism as an ideology rather than a philosophy, actually demonstrate an ignorance and a betrayal of Marxist principles whilst attempting to defend views which they believe to be Marxian. What’s worse is that, on the whole, I don’t believe these people know they’re altering history. They believe the atrocities we hear of are a concoction of lies drip-fed to the population by the government, and this is a dangerous thing. Certain stories are undoubtedly twisted, and some, if not all, are obviously biased, but we can’t escape historical truth, and communists, perhaps more than anyone, should accept this.

So, if this is the case, then what can be done about it? What is to be done (Leninist reference intended) about the fact that a great proportion of Marxists globally have managed to turn the theory on its head and produce something of an embarrassment to the traditional principles of communism? Sadly, I don’t feel there’s a lot that can be done. We just have to accept that a great deal of the world, including the former communist world, lives (or lived) according to these strange and perverse views. Nonetheless, I urge any leftists out there not to let themselves be absorbed into this twisted form of socialism, and as for those who glorify Mao or Stalin (or, for that matter, Marx or Engels), who look to their works like a holy scripture, and who consider themselves the rightful heirs of ‘Mao Tse-tung thought’ or whatever other titles they grant themselves, I encourage you, quite frankly, to wake up from this delusional dream.

The image was provided by Gerald Praschl from Wikimedia Commons. Here is a link to its license:

The Third ‘Bloc’ That Never Happened: Tito and the Non-Aligned Movement

The idea of socialism outside of the Eastern Bloc has surfaced multiple times in history, perhaps most famously among the communist left, and later the followers of Mao Tse-tung or, to a lesser extent, Che Guevara. It will have undoubtedly intrigued many intellectuals and revolutionaries since the birth of the USSR, one of whom I will focus on in particular…

Josip Broz Tito, the Croatian-born leader of Yugoslavia did something both extraordinary and also somewhat reckless, which, I’ve decided, shall be the subject of this entry: he led the first state in Eastern Europe, then in the grip of Soviet influence, to become ‘socialist, but independent’.

Josip Broz Tito

What relevance does this have? Well, April is the month which, twenty-three years ago, saw the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On April 28th, 1992, Serbia (the last of the Yugoslav republics) became an independent nation, serving as the final nail in the coffin for the great communist federation of South-eastern Europe. This was a country fundamentally different to many others: it was among the first to have been liberated by the Red Army, yet to reject the USSR, and operated under the system that could have been described as ‘council communism’, where worker’s councils and unions would provide the basis for socialist transformation, which could be seen in contrast to that of the Soviet Union.

Yet equally interesting are the social and political ideas of international socialism Marshall Tito upheld, for he was an active member, and later leader, of the Non-Aligned movement. This is an ongoing organisation representing the interests of developing countries, with the founding aim of ‘opposing imperialism and neo-colonialism, especially from western domination.’ Such an idea was most apparent in the Cold War’s polarisation of political identities, with the desire to create an ‘independent pathway’ for these states so that they would adhere to neither the USA nor the USSR.

I’ll say this now: this entry is not an opinionated one; I won’t go into depth about my personal views on the subject or on the political views of Tito generally. Rather, I’m writing discuss this idea of an ‘independent pathway’, and its relevance to both communism and capitalism respectively.

The Movement's Member States

The Movement’s Member States

Coming back to the Cold War, it couldn’t have been a more interesting time to consider a third power arising in the world, combatting both the Eastern and Western Blocs with a newly-developed idea of proletarian internationalism. It would also provide an opportunity to oppose what could have been perceived as Soviet imperialism (a particular criticism which did gain a degree of popularity) whilst remaining true to the principles of communism. In other words, you would no longer have to bear the label of ‘Soviet sympathiser’ to consider yourself a communist.

In the latter half of the previous century, however, history seems to have had other ideas. The two ‘Blocs’, the great realms of power split Europe down the middle similarly to how the Triple Entente once calved Imperial Germany and its neighbours out of the rest of the continent, only such a division was far clearer easily distinguishable now that it adopted political connotations. Yet it was surely obvious that such a scenario, this is to say Europe’s division into a communist east and a capitalist west, could never have been a permanent situation, making the arisal of a third power bloc perfectly possible. Why then, in a climate of hate and tension, when a third way was definitely on the cards, didn’t this new union form?

I’ve been thinking, and here are the reasons I’ve managed to come up with:

Five Reasons as to Why the ‘Third Bloc’ Never Arose

  1. A lack of information of Marxist philosophy or communism as a political theory within these countries (especially in the less-well-developed nations).
  1. A lack of the necessary conditions for communist revolution due to the existence of less-advanced methods of production.
  1. The development of a view picturing both west and east alike as ‘similarly evil’ threats to these nations and cultures, without adequate consideration of the political climate, and thus the demand for the national sovereignty against the two powers compromising proletarian revolution.
  1. The division of these nations by the two powers, directing them against each other and against the respective power blocs, as the west and the east’s sphere of influence adapts the political climate of these countries to their immediate needs, an example of which would the United Kingdom’s influence over the former British colonies.
  1. The tendency of the division separating the capitalist and the communist world to polarise political thought worldwide, rendering the construction of a third power increasingly difficult.

While we’re at it, we may as well look at the collapse of communism in the Eastern Bloc as well:

Five Reasons as to Why the Eastern Bloc Fragmented

  1. The development of nuclear weapons west of the division, and thus the rising possibility that a war may result in apocalyptic outcomes, preventing the socialist states from military advancement.
  1. The general lack of evidence pointing to an improvement in the economic circumstances within the communist world, causing a lack of faith and enthusiasm for communist lifestyle and the idea of reaching ‘true communism’.
  1. The decline of ideological stability among the populace as what have been recognised as capitalist principles, e.g. corruption and inequality, became apparent in communist regimes.
  1. The development of western capitalism to a stage regarded as acceptable by many of the would-be exploited in the west, internally strengthening capitalist society and removing the strong base of proletarian support the socialist states could have relied upon for revolution, or at least sympathy, within these countries.
  1. The struggle for the stagnating autocratic regimes to maintain power over the populations of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the face of modernisation, coupled with the weakening of their authority in general.

I’ll finish with this thought: Tito is long dead, and Yugoslavia dissolved over two decades ago. Yet if such hadn’t happened, that is to say, if the political climate was such that the new state was able to arise, who knows what the result would be. Perhaps the proletariat of these nations would line up under Tito’s leadership, against the troops of the USA, the USSR, Great Britain, the People’s Republic of Poland, France and Hungary; perhaps the task of revolution would entail a struggle against not only the capitalist, but also the communist world.

It’s ironic, when you think about it, and fairly shameful for both sides of the Berlin Wall. Just imagine how Stalin, the man who is quoted to have said ‘I will shake my little finger and there will be no more Tito!’ would have reacted.