Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Five myths about marxism (1980)

From the November 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

MYTH ONE
That Marxism can best be understood by examining the views of Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Castro, Mugabe or Paul Foot.
These people have all distorted Marxism to fit in with their own policies. The Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions were not Marxist revolutions, but were minority coups d’etat organised upon similar lines to the Jacobin insurrection of 1789. The press label all sorts of cranks, reformers and opportunists as Marxists. Don’t just accept the label; examine what these so-called Marxists are saying: nine times out of ten you will find that they are not Marxists, but Leninists.

MYTH TWO
That Marxism means state control of industry.
Nationalisation has nothing to do with the socialist order of society which Marx stood for. Marx, and his collaborator Engels, regarded Bismarck’s policies of state control as “a spurious kind of socialism” not socialism at all. What Marxists want is a society in which the machinery of wealth production and distribution is commonly owned and democratically controlled. Marxism is as opposed to state ownership as to private ownership.

MYTH THREE
That you have to have a degree in philosophy before you can read Marx.
Not so—in fact a degree in philosophy can sometimes be an obstacle to understanding the way in which the world is organised. Marx is a very readable writer. “The Communist Manifesto” is an excellent brief introduction to the ideas of Marxism. “Wage Labour and Capital” and “Value, Price and Profit” explain the basic points of Marx’s important economic theories. But you can become a socialist without reading a word of Marx.

MYTH FOUR
That Marxism has been proved wrong by the developments of the last hundred years.
It is claimed by some apologists for capitalism that Marx’s analysis of the way in which capitalism must work is false because the squalid poverty of the last century no longer exists (they forget that Marx was analysing world capitalism). These people claim that a majority are now happy with their lives under capitalism. But can anyone really believe that, while millions are unemployed, millions are starving to death, millions are homeless and millions of pounds are spent daily on armaments? Capitalism is now more than ever a problem-producing society and the cause of the problems is still as pointed out by Marx.

MYTH FIVE
That Marxism is a religion or dogma to be swallowed whole and adhered to faithfully.
Dogmatism is the very antithesis of Marxism: the former is based upon the certainty of static knowledge, while the latter concerns the dynamics of materialism. Socialists do not accept everything that Marx said and did: much of it was wrong and anti-socialist. We do not treat Marx as our god. Marxism is simply a tool to be used in critical thinking.
Steve Coleman

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