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.


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.

‘Odd one out’: the Politics and Philosophy of North Korea

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is one of the most mysterious countries in the world. This is partly because most of the world knows very little about it, and partly because what we do know, or at least think we know, most don’t seem to like. Yet it’s also because so much about this country and its political system just seems bizarre, such as the fact that Kim Jong-il’s birth allegedly caused winter to turn into spring. In an article featured in the Huffington Post capturing the last two, Tim Urban writes:

If you merged the Soviet Union under Stalin with an ancient Chinese Empire, mixed in The Truman Show and then made the whole thing Holocaust-esque, you have modern day North Korea.

The realities of day-to-day life in this country are even stranger; this is a nation in which the populate venerate their leaders as if they had mystical powers, where adults must wear lapel pins of Kim Il-sung, and where a cloth is given to each household for one purpose: to clean the portrait of their Great Leader. The regime impacts upon every aspect of both public and private life, and instigates all sorts of beliefs among ordinary people, many of them lies. The question is, why is this country so odd?

The DPRK (it’s actually illegal for North Koreans to call it North Korea) was founded much like the states of the Eastern Bloc; it was created by the Soviet Union after the Second World War, but it seems to have evolved in an entirely different way to other countries in its position, which is likely a result of several factors…

First of all, the philosophical foundation of the North Korean State differs from that of the Soviet Union and many Soviet-aligned nations; the Juche idea, a concept devised by Kim Il-sung, is centred around the emancipation of the individual. This tenant, which is essentially an ultra-humanistic interpretation of Marxism, seems to clash with the structuralist interpretations of the philosophy and the community-centric, macroscopic lens through which Marxists often make sense of the world. It has also led to cultural perversions in the DPRK, such as the hardline nationalist and isolationist current that is strong in the country. In short, when looking at why North Korea has taken a steep trajectory in its own, bizarre direction, Juche may be able to explain a lot.

However, it is important to take into account the attitudes of the leaders themselves, and especially those of Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country from its birth right up until the 1990s. Perhaps the reason his country is structured this way today is less a result of his theories, and more of his pragmatic actions and contributions whilst in power. Following in his wake, his son and grandson will likely perform/have performed in a similar fashion, keeping the structure of the country intact.

Though to what extent a nation can be shaped purely by who is in charge is debatable. The ideas and theories of individuals certainly play a large role in how political systems are crafted, especially in countries where such a large degree of responsibility rests on the shoulders of individuals, but this certainly does not mean that the significance material conditions inside that country should be overlooked in favour of individual ideas and actions. In the USSR, for example, Leninist theory provided the theoretical basis for the political system, yet I do not believe that the attitudes of individual Soviet citizens can be attributed to his personal views than the reality of Soviet life.

Kim Il-sung, the ‘Great Leader’

Additionally, an important factor that must also be considered is cultural heritage, and we must examine the people in the region, their culture and their tendencies. Much of what we see in the DPRK can also be seen across the region, and throughout different periods of history. The complete veneration of an individual and a strong, patriotic desire to serve one’s country, for example, can both be exemplified in the former Japanese Empire. Thus, it would also be sensible to argue that the reason why North Korea is so starkly different from many of the other communist states is due to the cultural tendencies of those living there.

This would perhaps be able to explain why many of these traditions and ideas held by many North Koreans are not only very strange, but also incredibly reactionary, un-progressive and counter-revolutionary as well. Considering North Korea proclaims itself to be a modern example of revolutionary socialism, and is heralded as such by many self-proclaimed revolutionaries, it clings strongly to ideas and tendencies you may expect such a country to reject, but perhaps cultural baggage plays a greater role than a commitment to the international socialist cause.


At the end of the day, it is obviously futile to try and pinpoint any individual factor as to why this is such a bizarre nation, and it’s likely a combination of all of the above, alongside others. Take this post as a suggestion, however; a brief insight into the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ why it’s driven by such an unusual ideological dialogue, and why it differs so significantly from the other socialist states of the twentieth century.

Thank you for reading,



The poster of Kim Il-sung was provided by yeowatzup from Wikimedia Commons and is a derivative work of

Here is a link to its license:

How Language Legitimizes Terrorism

Following the war in Syria and the rise of Daesh, western society is more determined than ever to curb the number of men, women and children turning to these organisations. Tactics already employed will undoubtedly have some effect; internet censorship will certainly prove useful in the goal of trying to prevent online recruitment, for example. Yet nonetheless, I believe there’s one area where we fall short: the language we use when describing such people.

Surely, if we’re trying to lower the number of ‘homegrown terrorists’ we churn out each year, the last thing we’d want to do is make terrorism sound appealing. Yet synonymous with ‘terrorist’ are words like ‘radical’ and ‘extremist’, which seem to put an exciting spin on the act of systematic murder. After all, when would the ‘extreme’ ever sound less appealing? When has the ‘radical’ option never been more attractive, at least superficially? Given that many of the potential recruits we’re talking about are children, this likely presents even more of a problem. If it’s considered a radical move to join a terrorist organisation, this may help influence such a decision, even if only subconsciously.

Another danger presented by this kind of terminology is the fact that, in the context of Islam, words like ‘radicalism’, ‘extremism’ and ‘fundamentalism’ all imply a sense of untainted purity. They legitimise the doctrine practised by Daesh or al-Qaeda as a somehow purer interpretation of Islam than that of most normal, law-abiding Muslims, which could present a further danger to the aforementioned crowd. If you cherished and respected your faith, you could easily conclude that an extreme form of that religion – a purer form of that religion – would be favourable. The problem also lies in the fact that this kind of interpretation is wholly untrue; look at most of these organisations and you’ll see that they’re not really fighting for the caliphate. They’re just angry and bloodthirsty people looking for an excuse to kill others.

Now, I’m not suggesting there’s a black-and-white separation between Muslims and terrorists, and, as someone very critical of all religion, I’ll happily make the point that much of the violence carried out by these so-called fundamentalists is rooted in traditional Islamic principles, yet it seems like they’re currently portrayed as more legitimate followers of the same creed. We need to call a spade a spade and accept that sloppy language of this kind only conceals terrorism’s ugly reality.

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:



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.

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):