Marxism and the Plight of Women

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

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

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

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

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

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


Exposing the Private Property Myth

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

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

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

Are you a little more sympathetic yet?



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.

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.



‘Naturally Selfish’: Does Human Nature Make Socialism Impossible?

When discussing socialism, hearing others discuss socialism and looking at the various pro/con arguments on the topic, I’ve come across several ideas as to why communism is a flawed system, why there will never be a revolution and why, at the end of the day, we’re better off how we are. Some cite certain atrocities in various communist countries and make a conclusion about their inevitable presence in such a system, whereas others will simply tell you that it’s an unrealistic goal which will never be achieved in the real world. There are also those who will object on moral grounds, defending their right to private ownership, but perhaps the most interesting proposition I’ve come across is the idea that communism is rendered unachievable by human nature itself. 

I can understand how this argument would appeal to many, as it seems to make logical sense; humans have a longstanding tendency towards selfishness. This can be seen in both a social and a biological manner, with mankind’s survival being based on Darwinian principles, and its prosperity on socially Darwinian ones. It would appear that competition is both an innate and necessary component of human wellbeing, which suggests that building a collective society based on the principles of equality is impossible. I’m going to argue the opposite, or, more importantly, I’m going to approach the issue from a Marxist perspective.

In Marx’s eyes, mankind has progressed through various historical epochs, each based on the dominant economic class in the era, which have managed to control and utilise the means of production for their own gain. So far, we have seen society progress from slavery to feudalism, and later, to capitalism. Regardless of your views regrading Marxism generally, a study of global history tells us that this progression is more-or-less accurate, and it provides a solid basis for historical analysis in this case.   

Each of the epochs described here are based on the principles of inequality and exploitation, but there is, in fact an earlier stage in this model of human development, referred to by Marx as primitive communism. These were the days of man’s tribal history, where hunter-gatherer societies roamed the planet, and when socialism was the accepted norm. The tribes man formed in the ancient world exemplify society devoid of exploitation, or in other words, a communist lifestyle, that totally defies the judgement of many who claim this isn’t possible. 

Several indigenous peoples like these have survived in the present era, such as the Penan people of Borneo, who live under the principles of equality, have no actual  leaders (only spokespeople who wield no power) and are known for practising ‘molong’, (never taking more than is necessary). The Adi people of India and the Maasai tribe of East Africa also provide examples of preserved tribal socialism, and Israeli Kibbutzim, alongside various anarchist communities today, serve as successful attempts to recreate this lifestyle in the modern world. They remind us that our condition in the past is not reflective of that today.

Maasai tribesmen

It’s also telling that this was our earliest state of being, for the fact that our first and most basic attempts at civilisation were not based on greed or self-indulgence (rather the reverse) shows that not only are selflessness and collective organisation possible, but they are natural to mankind. Only after individuals took over the productive means did the focus shift onto individual, rather than communal gain, meaning economic exploitation and unequal distribution are learned habits. This argument is further supported by the fact that humanity is still struggling to find happiness, no matter how much wealth we accumulate. Statistics on contentment or satisfaction in developed countries demonstrate this, showing that endless buying and spending do not make us any happier, and suggesting that it is not an innate desire to strive for ones own gain at the expense of another. Needless to say, this kind of consumption is also incredibly unsustainable, meaning that, like it or not, capitalism must give way to a better economic system.

Coming back to Darwinism, I understand that if societal competition is not natural to mankind, this would seem to contradict the competitive biological nature of mankind’s development, based on the principle of survival of the fittest. However, it may surprise the non-Marxist that Marx was a great admirer of Darwin’s, and saw his ideas on the evolution of organisms, through the process of natural selection, to be at one with his own ideas of society’s evolution, through the process of class struggle. It also isn’t necessarily counter-evolutionary that humanity’s natural state is a collective one; it has merely evolved from this condition in the same way that cells and organisms repeatedly do, and nor does the belief that man will ‘return’ to socialism contradict the ideas of competitive evolution, for, with the rise of communism, we are simply seeing the end of an evolutionary process. In a way, we’re seeing something similar in the natural world today; survival of the fittest has determined humanity’s evolution since it’s birth, yet with advances in the medical sciences, we’re now able to preserve ‘unfit’ characteristics and curb natural selection. Should this continue in the future, humanity may never need to adapt, and evolution would no longer occur.

This is why I believe that human nature does not contradict equality, but rather allows for it. True, we have a tendency to put our own needs above others, but at the end of the day, our earliest efforts at working together show that these unhealthy behaviours aren’t innate or fixed, even if they fuel the exploitive economic systems of modern society. In a debate on the benefit and rationality of religion, I once heard it remarked that, unlike squids, which apparently spend almost their entire lives in isolation, humans are social creatures. However unsociable capitalist society may make us seem, I believe this is certainly something to remember.

For more information on the socialistic structures of tribal society, I recommend the following, an online chapter from David Maurer’s book:

The image depicting the Maasai tribe was provided by User:Helga76 from Wikimedia Commons (though I added the caption), and was licenced under the following:



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:



Marxism, Opium and Morphine

It’s been an intense week.

Last Wednesday I was told of a tumour in my spine after experiencing some pain and immobility in my neck and right arm. I was operated on the following day (coincidentally the 66th anniversary of the 1949 Chinese Revolution) and have since been bed-bound and unable to do a great deal, this being the reason why I didn’t post last Friday. The bonus is the fact that the food in Leeds General Infirmary is actually quite good, and the downside is, well… cancer, but it can’t be helped; it’s the problem with having naturaly revolutionary cells.

Between now and last Wednesday I’ve worried about various things, but one thought that stands out is religion. Before I go into more depth, I’ll stress that I’m an atheist. Religion, the way I see it, is a reactionary and backward tendency that has stood alongside man throughout history, yet has always blinded communities and corrupted rational thought. As society has advanced, so has our depth of knowledge and understanding of the world and, as a result, religious influence has decreased in many ways, but that’s not to say it isn’t an issue. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the persisting cultural backwardness in the southern USA, and the political situation in Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Iran are all different manifestations of the same illness. Religion does to society what cancer is doing to my spine.

And then, of course, there is another side to this kind of faith, this being comfort, the reason it exists in the first place. I think it’s obvious that if it wasn’t for how deeply these spiritual teachings have already impacted upon our histories and cultures, we (in a much wiser era) would be far less easily convinced by the arguments they have to offer today, and the most important reason why mankind still clings to these outdated ideas is the sense of safety and security they continue to provide. Religion is an effective distraction and an inviting alternative to the harsh realities of day-to-day life, and this is why we swallow it today just like we’ve done for centuries. It is, in the language of Marx, opium for the masses, just like the oral morphine I’ve been taking to deal with post-operative pain (although unlike Islam, Christianity or Judaism, I’m still baffled as to why people develop addictions to this substance – I can’t say I’ve noticed it make more difference than paracetamol!)

Yet this is where God comes in to my story, because, just as I’ve swallowed the morphine, I’ve also been praying: my prayers tending to follow the lines of ‘Dear God, if you exist, I’d be so grateful if you would show mercy’. This isn’t to say I’m any more convinced of God’s existence than I was last month; I just took the view that it was worth it, in case I’m wrong. I know religious people who have prayed for me, too, and I welcome their thoughts and prayers as well, despite feeling slightly hypocritical given my own vehement atheism. If God does exist, I’d rather be spared than damned, and I see no wrong in telling him, even though rationality tells me there’s nobody on the other side of the void. And, after all, while mainstream Marxism rejects religious influence in societal matters, it doesn’t necessarily reject private beliefs. In the end, I suppose I’m only harming my pride.

As it happens, I have little reason to believe there’s a lot going on in heaven for me. On Wednesday I was told my that my cancer, on a I – IV grading system, fell into the most aggressive, Grade IV category. No one could commit to giving me a death date, but I’m left with the impressesion that, after chemotherapy, radiotherapy and physiotherapy (to regain movement), all of which should begin next week, I’ll have months to live. This was obviously terrible news, though it perhaps takes some of the pressure off as it makes me more assured in my godlessness, and I also can’t help but feel slightly proud that it’s my spinal cells which have done this. In revolutionary terms, they definitely quality as extremists. They’d dwarf the various coups in Argentina, which overthrew and replaced different governments in the region, or the revolutionary movements in the little communist countries like Vietnam or Afghanistan. My cells certainly take after the Bolsheviks here; if the February Revolution was my initial diagnosis, the October Revolution was my conversation two days ago. The shooting of the Romanov family is yet to come, but we sure these cells will take no prisoners there either. It’s also interesting to see that, due to their rapid growth and malignancy, they follow in the internationalist line, bent on spreading the revolution worldwide. Ideologically speaking, I can’t really complain.

But meanwhile, I’ll probably keep trying these things. It seems the logical option to utilise the means you have, in the hope that something may change. I certainly don’t feel any sensible reason why anything will, but our complete lack of evidence on the subject makes it just as possible as it does ridiculous, so it would be irrational to rule out ideas of God, heaven or the metaphysical world entirely. And, whilst still a card-carrying member of the physical one, I’ll hopefully keep reading, studying, and blogging.

I suppose we’ll just have to see how it goes from there…


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.

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):

Communism and the Kurdish Question

Last Wednesday, a Turkish policeman made the headlines due to events on a street in the Diyarbakir region, eastern Turkey.

In a likely peaceful scene, it would seem improbable that Mehmet Uyar’s conduct as a police officer would be required, and sat in front of a teahouse, he probably didn’t suspect anything. It was then, however, that a man shot at him from a car, wounding Uyar and another innocent civilian (according to the news agencies Dogan and Anatolia).

Both were rushed to hospital, yet it was clear nothing could be done, and they soon died of their wounds. It is reported that another individual was also wounded in the shooting, though not fatally.


Here is the region in which the attack took place (Uyar was killed in the Cinar district)

This particular attack was blamed on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, a Kurdish militant movement of the radical left, and (provided the allegations are correct) serves as another reminder of the Kurdish struggle in the region. As alluded to by the movement’s reference to Kurdistan, such a struggle is oriented largely around the long-term goal of founding an independent country where Kurds may live free of oppression,* this being the topic I’ll focus on today; the purpose of this entry is to look at the subject through a Marxist viewpoint. 

To give my initial view, I do not support the struggle for an independent Kurdistan. To explain in detail why, and why I believe this to be the correct Marxist position to take, I’ll examine the issue from two perspectives. The first will concern moral right and wrong (in the eyes of a Marxist), the second, Marxism itself…

Kurdish-inhabited area by CIA (2002).jpg

Oppression against the Kurdish population is obviously a pressing issue, and I am wholly supportive of their liberation from tyranny, alongside their courageous fight against Islamic State. It is just the idea of a Kurdish nation that I’m inclined to oppose, for Kurdistan would be a state founded upon the presence prominent ethnicity; not only would this lead to discrimination (just look at Israel, a country founded as the homeland of the Jews, in which discrimination against the local Arabs is not only present, but often aggressive and violent) but it would distort the idea of genuine equality among racial groups, for the notion of Kurdistan proposes the ‘shutting off’ of the oppressed through the drawing of national boundaries. This would inevitably compromise any effort to achieve harmony between ethnic or racial groups, which, as an internationalist, I am strongly opposed to. 

On the topic of communism, I also have no doubt in saying that the former (or rather, the former’s revolutionary implementation) would also be delayed by Kurdistan’s existence, as whilst the emancipation of the Kurds is one thing, the emancipation of the proletariat is quite another. Thus, the ethnic struggle would only serve as a distraction to the real plight of the Kurdish underclasses.

A great example of a Marxist approach to these issues is that of Karl Marx’s views on the tensions in nineteenth century Ireland; whilst Marx did feel that the country would be better off without British rule, he believed that the national struggle in the soon-to-be rebublic would only prolong the communist revolution in Britain.

I say this not just for the purposes of discussion, but also to other leftists who may sympathise with the national struggle. The Kurdistan Worker’s Party, for example, would undoubtedly consider themselves a left-orientated organisation, yet are leading the fight for an independent racial country. I thus warn any socialists to beware of this trap – it may seem like a harmonious solution, but the founding of new states and the breaking up of ethnicities can only be a temporary one. In the long run, true equality will only be persponed.

*this idea was abandoned as a central idea of party’s leadership, yet was nonetheless one of its founding principles, and is still prominent in the region today