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:

Cuba: the World’s Last Attempt at Socialism

When the current thaw in U.S./Cuban relations made the news, it became clear that there were two sides to this debate. While many wanted to lift the embargo against the Cuban people, others undoubtedly wanted to starve the country’s autocratic regime. I opposed these sanctions, but for an entirely different reason: I wanted to preserve what may be the world’s last honest attempt at socialism.

On the opposite side of the globe, the Vietnamese Communist Party maintains firm leadership, yet what has truly become of Vietnam? A country, this is, where Coca-Cola is bought and sold as a consumer product – but it’s not alone. The changes which such a country has seen are comparable to those which have taken place in the People’s Republic of China, as within both China and Vietnam is a system driven and animated by force which seems to lie somewhere between communist pride and nationalism, and perhaps some petty statement of reaching ‘true socialism’ through the market economies they have constructed for themselves in socialism’s name. Given this is the world which the two nations have slipped into, will the current economic reforms concerning America’s embargo against Cuba have the same consequences?

Buildings in Shanghai

All I can say is that, given we’re awfully short of communist states, I hope not.

This will be a sensitive situation for many who lived under the repressive regime at the height of the Cold War, or even today, in a country where citizens have risked their lives to try and reach Florida, ninety miles away. The Black Book of Communism estimates that between 15, 000 and 17, 000 were killed under the regime, and (whatever the actual number) it’s hard to imagine many friends, relatives, or sympathisers of these victims supporting Barrack Obama’s decision to open the door to Cuba; I imagine they’d rather the United States continued to show no mercy and no remorse to the regime of what the Lawton Foundation of Human Rights called an ‘enslaved island’.

I’ll accept that, but despite all this, I still believe that socialism should be given a chance. Not an illusion of socialism, but a full-blooded attempt. If, as a result of welcoming the United States, Cuba substitutes its own attempt with an illusion, as has been the case with both China and Vietnam, which nations will remain to keep the red flag flying? Even if one took Marxist Economic Determinism – the theory of the proletariat inevitably leading the world to communism due to their own exploitation – for granted; even if one maintained the belief that communism is the final and inevitable truth, surely they’d accept that the sooner a nation such as Cuba may arrive at that truth, the sooner the same shall occur on a worldwide scale. If Cuba’s attempt, which may well be the last attempt remaining, is thwarted by these reforms, this cannot happen.

I also want to talk about not just what Cuba is capable of achieving, but what it has already achieved. When discussing communism with somebody opposed to the idea, they did remark that Cuba may be the only place where socialism has actually been partly successful. It is a country with free education, and not only free healthcare, but a healthcare system recognised internationally for its brilliance. According to the news source Al Jazeera, the infant mortality rate in the country is one of the lowest in the world, slightly lower than that of the United States, and life expectancy is over 77 years, (among the world’s highest).

View of Car in Havana

Now Al Jazeera also states that the system which exists in Cuba is on the decline, but if this is what the country have constructed from autocracy, and political repression, imagine what the socialist regime, if truly developed, could construct. Just because it is not at such a point currently does not mean that this shall continue to be the case, and it definitely deserves a chance. Thus, when the end product is the possibility of achieving true socialism, alongside the end of capitalist class-based oppression sooner, the current existence of the autocratic Cuban state can be justified in communism’s name.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that simply because the United States is no longer pretending Cuba doesn’t exist does not mean liberty will prosper. Whether or not you’d be prepared to support autocratic socialism is really irrelevant, because, whilst in one circumstance socialism shall exist and in another it will not, autocracy will remain regardless (at least for the foreseeable future). As Senator Marco Rubio, a Floridian Republican and a child of Cuban immigrants said: “This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people”.