Tag Archives: Marx

Marxism isn’t utopian

This article is from Critical Proletariat, a site which we at the underground hope to be working with in the future. I strongly recommend that you go to the site if you enjoy reading the underground.

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By James O. Gibson

As you already know from my previous posts, I think that combating the criticisms of socialism will be a crucial part of building any anti-capitalist movement in our world today. The opponents of socialism will often criticize its practicality, sometimes even branding it as utopian. What these people don’t understand is that Marxism sits very far away from utopianism, Karl Marx was strongly against utopianism. In many respects, Marx was a realist with a very scientific way of approaching the problems that he diagnosed, however there was one thing that made Marx stand out among other thinkers of the time. Karl Marx was open about his passions in regards to class struggle and socialism, and was always transparent about the fact that his passions would influence his work. The critical thinking applied by Marx went far beyond his critique of capitalism, but became a tool of diagnosis for his own analytic frameworks.

If anything, neoliberalism is much more utopian than Marxism ever was, as it relies on the concept of a market equilibrium meeting the social needs of the people. Marx saw that this equilibrium would be unlikely and it almost certainly wouldn’t meet the needs of the majority, as an equilibrium relies of absence of external factors. As we know, our economy is rife with these external factors. Marx saw that within capitalism there are a variety of contradictions, and eventually these contradictions result in crisis. Marxism is more about the critique of capitalism than it is the establishment of a socialist state. That said, his criticisms of capitalism helped create the need for the creation of a socialist movement, and Marx spent a good portion of time in Britain as a journalist trying to raise support for such issues.

Marx recognized the concept that people wouldn’t always act in ways that were intended in a certain system, he also understood that not everybody was a complete rational actor. He draws to phenomena such as fetishism to explain the desires and misconceptions that lead people to make decisions that may not be entirely rational on an underlying level. In a market economy, not everything is as it seems. In Marxism, there is this underlying idea that the market is a mechanic used to exploit- but most working people hadn’t recognized this. Aside from fetishism, Marx was also focused (arguably more greatly) on the flaws of the endless desire to accumulate wealth. Infinite growth can’t be supported in a world with a limited amount of resources and so on.

Understandably, there are breeds of socialism that encourage a certain flare of utopianism, however for the most part – socialism and Marxism are simply the desires to give the working people more equality and empowerment than the current capitalist system gives them. Personally, I recognize the fact that within the socialist system there will be bad eggs who are corrupt and want to abuse the system – however the socialist cause would be to eliminate these counter-revolutionaries. In the period after the Russian revolution, there was a huge divide among the factions involved – an internal dispute that ended with Joseph Stalin succeeding to General Secretary after Lenin’s death. Stalin then conducted a mass-industrialization of the country and implemented policies that created an entirely new ruling class in Russia. It was a failed revolution, but not a failure of socialism.

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The state

By Reece Lawton

I will be making extensive use of Lenin’s work ‘The State and Revolution’, as it is one of the best works concerning the nature of the state.

To all libertarians, right or left wing, the state is an evil, as it is authority. What’s more, it is not just authority: it is the supreme authority. The state has ‘special bodies of armed men’ (as Lenin put it) at its disposal, to enforce obedience. The state, above all else, limits liberty, so it must be abolished once and for all, in one fell swoop. In this text, I hope to explain what the state is, and what socialists must do following the socialist revolution. This text is also an attack against all of the ideologies that claim to be libertarian, and to expose them as idealistic.

The State

The state is a tool of the ruling class to oppress the other classes. In capitalism, there are two main classes: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (well, there is the petit bourgeoisie, but they’re irrelevant and their numbers are shrinking). The bourgeoisie uses the state and it’s instruments (police, army, etcetera) to oppress and exploit the proletariat; the bourgeoisie is the ruling class, the proletariat is the exploited class. The interests of the supra classes conflict- the bourgeoisie wants to exploit the proletariat as much as possible, whereas the proletariat’s interests are to seize the means of production for itself, abolish the bourgeois state and become the ruling class, thus ending it’s exploitation.

What’s stopping the proletariat from seizing power? First and foremost, class consciousness, but let’s say that every proletarian was aware that they would be better off without the bourgeoisie, and that they were willing to revolt against their bourgeois masters. The main obstacle then would be the state. The police, the army, the air force, drones, missiles, etcetera. The state is a tool for one class to oppress and exploit another-

“A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” (Lenin).

“The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves and serfs; likewise, “the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labor by capital.” (Kautsky)

Anarcho-Capitalists:

Anarcho-capitalists advocate the abolishment of the state, but insist on keeping capitalism (try to suppress your laughter!). The state no longer exists, people get to keep what they earn and no person has to pay taxes ever again! It’s a capitalists dream!

Or is it?

If this is the best form of capitalism, why have the capitlaists not abolished the state and built up monopolies? Imagine the aforementioned situation of there being no state, but capitalism still thrives.

Say there arises the situation where international trade is wanted. Quickly they discover that a group is needed which will represents the national trade-interrests and will ensure a trade-advantage for it’s members.
Libertarians will say that there is nothing wrong with that. Still, it is the first step towards a new state!
The trade-organisation won’t work for free in a capitalist world and so they will begin to demand pay.
Contribution will be asked with it’s members, what will mean that non-members will receive no benefit. We then stand at a situation where benefitted collegue’s are providing unfair competition.
Again, Libertarians will argue that it is not unfair and that traders and entrepeneurs are free to join the organisation.

So, the non-members are more or less forced to become a member, if they want to stay in business. Once a member, they too will have to pay contribution-fee’s, which will rise and rise because it is cheaper to represent a smaller group, than it is representing a larger group. The represeting organisation will have to grow to be able to cope with the ever growing expectations of it’s members.

Then we arive at the inevitable point where the members discover that not only they, but also the civilians benefit of the organisations actions. Now two things can happen, since the members will want to get back the costs of the contributions through the civilians. They will they raise prices (an obscure version of taxes), or they all will decide to directly charge the civilians. In other words, taxes.

And so we arive at the current situation where all civilians and traders/entrepeneurs are forced to pay a representing group. What has actually changed? Terminology. “Taxes” becomes “contribution” and “the state” becomes “the representation” or “the organisation”.

So Libertarian ideas revolving around their version of a free market are a paradoxal idea and will never work.

Now that we have exposed right wing libertarianism as the moronic ‘theory’ that it is, we shall move onto left wing libertarianism (or anarchism).

Anarchism

The anarchists propose the State’s immediate abolishment, overnight; we Marxists counter propose that such idealism is pragmatically impossible, because the proletariat would need to crush the bourgeois resistance through a mechanism, and that is the state. Only a fool would say that the bourgeosie would not try to regain its power, and only a fool would say that we do not need an army to defeat the reaction! Anarchists present Makhno and his peasant army as a shining example of how anarchism can defeat the counter revolution, but upon analysing Makhno’s anarchism falls apart. Makhno’s army was a tool to oppress the bourgeoisie, was it not? And the councils set up under Makhno served the peasantry, a class, in it’s conquest against the bourgeoisie! I say that this constitutes a state, and also that Makhno is a reactionary. Why? Makhno’s army was not made up of proletarians and oppressed peasants like the red army was- Makhno’s army was made up of Kulaks, who owned horses and had been exploiting peasants for centuries! Upon analysis, Makhno is revealed to be a petit bourgeois nationalist.

Were the State immediately abolished, without the “conditions leading to the arising of the State” being abolished as well, a new State would appear, and the socialist revolution would have been for naught.

What should we do?

In the event of a socialist revolution the proletariat through the dictatorship of the proletariat must establish a proletarian State (per the 1871 Paris Commune model), then suppress the dissenting bourgeoisie. The proletariat must use the state ruthlessly to suppress the reaction, crushing all dissent towards the new rule of the proletariat. For the proletariat, this state will be one of democracy. Soviets and workers councils will take the places of parliament and bosses- i.e. the proletariat will have total political and economical control.

“This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to that of the oppressed classes, from the state as a “special force” for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people–the workers and the peasants.” (Lenin)

For the bourgeoisie this new state must be one of terror, which they live in fear in of, it must be the most brutal state to have ever existed. The proletariat must create bodies of armed men for the sole purpose of expropriating and crushing the bourgeoise, until they are no longer a class, that is to say, there are no more bourgeois.

In achieving the withering away of the State as its institutions begin to “lose their political character”. Once the proletariat has no bourgeois left to oppress, the state becomes a burden, and the proletariat abolishes itself as a class, thus propelling humanity into communism, ending the class antagonisms and the state, giving people complete liberty and equality to live how one wants.

“The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, operating amid class antagonisms, needed the state, that is, an organization of the particular exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom or bondage, wage-labor). The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its concentration in a visible corporation. But it was this only insofar as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for its own time, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our own time, of the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ‘abolished’. It withers away. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase ‘a free people’s state’, both as to its justifiable use for a long time from an agitational point of view, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the so-called anarchists’ demand that the state be abolished overnight.” (Herr Eugen Duhring’s Revolution in Science [Anti-Duhring], pp.301-03, third German edition.)

Edit: To be frank, this is poor. There are some parts where I should have written a lot more, and other parts where I resorted to straw men. I plan to update it later.

The Paris commune

Monday will be the 142nd anniversary of the Paris Commune.

The Commune was the first Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Although it wasn’t socialist, since the bourgeois still owned the means of production, but the government was controlled by the workers, and worked for them.

Marx on the Commune:
Civil War in France
Paris, the central seat of the old governmental power, and, at the same time, the social stronghold of the French working class, had risen in arms against the attempt of Thiers and the Rurals to restore and perpetuate that old governmental power bequeathed to them by the empire. Paris could resist only because, in consequence of the siege, it had got rid of the army, and replaced it by a National Guard, the bulk of which consisted of working men. This fact was now to be transformed into an institution. The first decree of the Commune, therefore, was the suppression of the standing army, and the substitution for it of the armed people.

The Commune was formed of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage in the various wards of the town, responsible and revocable at short terms. The majority of its members were naturally working men, or acknowledged representatives of the working class. The Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body, executive and legislative at the same time.

Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workman’s wage. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.

Having once got rid of the standing army and the police – the physical force elements of the old government – the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the “parson-power”, by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles.

The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it.

The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence which had but served to mask their abject subserviency to all succeeding governments to which, in turn, they had taken, and broken, the oaths of allegiance. Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible, and revocable.

The Paris Commune was, of course, to serve as a model to all the great industrial centres of France. The communal regime once established in Paris and the secondary centres, the old centralized government would in the provinces, too, have to give way to the self-government of the producers.

Daily Headline – 03/04/13

Class rethink

Class StruggleWhen we think of class we tend to categorise it into the following groups:

Working Class
Middle Class
Upper Class

Or possibly:

Working Class
Lower Middle Class
Upper Middle Class
Upper Class

Marx would define these groups by people’s relationship to the means of production and labour power, for example:

Working Class (proletariat) – Worker
Middle Class (petit-bourgeoisie) – Small business owner, cannot employ anyone
Upper Class (bourgeoisie) – Business owners who employ others

For some time now there have been people saying that this classification is too outdated and no longer has relevance in the 21st century.

A new survey in the UK (the largest study of class in the UK) has created a new system involving 7 classes:

Elite – the most privileged group in the UK, distinct from the other six classes through its wealth. This group has the highest levels of all three capitals

Established middle class – the second wealthiest, scoring highly on all three capitals. The largest and most gregarious group, scoring second highest for cultural capital

Technical middle class – a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

New affluent workers – a young class group which is socially and culturally active, with middling levels of economic capital

Traditional working class – scores low on all forms of capital, but is not completely deprived. Its members have reasonably high house values, explained by this group having the oldest average age at 66

Emergent service workers – a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital

Precariat, or precarious proletariat – the poorest, most deprived class, scoring low for social and cultural capital

There is a test you can take to see what class you are under the newly defined criteria, click here.

The spider and the fly

This was written by Wilhelm Liebknecht for German workers and was based on a well known children’s tale.

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The Spider and the Fly

You all know him, that pot-bellied insect with the hairy sticky body, who lurks in dark places, as far as possible from the light of day, and spins his deadly web in which the poor careless or thoughtless Fly is caught and killed. That ugly monster with round glassy eyes and crooked spindly forelegs so handy for seizing and choking his victim is the Spider.

There he is, cold and still, lying in his corner, or fiendishly weaving his deadly thread to trap and truss the feeble Fly without compunction. The repulsive creature takes pains, often-infinite pains, to perfect his web down to the last thread, so that his prey shall never escape. He will first spin one thread, then two and three – and more and more. He crosses and recrosses the threads so that even in their death throes his victims will not tear the web or scarcely make it quiver.

At last the web is ready, the trap is set, there is no escape – the Spider retreats into his lair and waits for an artless Fly, impelled by hunger, to approach in search of food.

He does not have to wait long until the Fly comes by. And as the poor thing is looking here and there, she runs right into the outstretched threads, is terrified, gets tangled up, tries to hold on, and that is the end.

As soon as the Spider sees his victim caught, he leaves his hide-out and slowly advances towards his prey with hungry eyes and grasping tentacles. There is no need to hurry, the awful creature knows full well that once caught the luckless insect cannot escape. He comes nearer and nearer, sizes up his victim with his bulging lackluster eyes and drives it mad. The Fly is atremble with fear as she sees the looming danger, tries to break free from the sticky threads, tries hard to escape, and is exhausting herself in her desperate attempts.

But her efforts are wasted, her exertions in vain. She gets more and more entangled in the web, and the Spider comes closer and closer. She finds herself entwined by more and more threads, enmeshed in more and more nets with every movement she makes to extricate herself from the cobweb, whose slender yet so effective meshes have trapped her. Finally, breathless and exhausted, all resistance gone, she is at the mercy of her enemy, her conqueror, the horrible Spider!

Then the awful creature reaches out his hairy tentacles, seizes and locks the Fly in his deadly embrace. Next, he begins to bite the trembling body of his feeble prey, once, twice, thrice, any number of times, all depending on his lust and appetite. When he has for the moment quenched his thirst for blood, he leaves her half-dead. Then he comes back and sucks once more; he goes back and forth until the luckless Fly is fully devoured, until he has drained her body of all blood and nourishing juices. And it takes a long, often a very long time, before the poor insect is quite dead.

The bloodthirsty vampire will not give up as long as he can detect a flicker of life in his victim’s body. He inhales her life, saps her strength, drinks her blood, and only lets her alone when nothing, nothing at all is left to take.

The poor dead Fly, sucked dry and lighter than a feather, is then cast from the web. The first gust of wind carries her off and all is over.

The Spider, however, returns to his lair, sated and content; he is pleased with himself and the world, happy in the knowledge that decent people are still able to get on in the world.

You, workers of town and country, are the Fly that is sucked dry and killed, the Fly that is devoured and on whose blood others live! You oppressed peoples, you intellectuals, you industrial workers, you trembling young maidens and weak downtrodden women who dare not stand up for your rights, you luckless victims of the war lords, in a word, all of you who are poor and exploited, you who are thrown out when nothing is left to suck from your veins, you who are the producers of all wealth, the heart, the brain, the vital force of the nation, and you who are granted nothing but the right obediently and quietly to die a miserable death in some corner, while your blood, your sweat, your toil, your thoughts, your life are used to make big and strong those who are your bosses and oppressors: the repulsive Spiders.

The Spider is the boss, the moneybags, the exploiter, the speculator, the capitalist, the seducer, the high clergy, the parasite of every sort, the despot under whom we suffer, the maker of the bad, oppressive laws, the tyrant that enslaves us. The Spider is everyone who lives at the people’s expense, who tramples us underfoot, who scoffs at our suffering and our vain efforts.

The Fly is the poor worker who has to submit to all the draconic laws the employer may wish to pass, because the unfortunate man is without means and has to provide for himself and his family. The Spider is the big factory-owner who earns 6 to 8 marks a day on each of his workers, yet dares, nay condescends, mercifully to allow them a starvation wage of 2 to 3 marks for 12 to 14 hours of work.

The Fly is the miner who sacrifices his life in the foul air of the pit to extract from the earth treasures he is not to enjoy; the Spider is Mr. Shareholder whose shares double and treble in value, yet who is never satisfied, who wants even higher dividends, who robs the workers of the fruits of their labor, and who, should they dare to demand even the slightest wage increase, calls in the army to give the “mutineers” a taste of shot.

The Fly is the child who at the most tender age has to slave in the factory and workshop, and at home, to help make ends meet; the Spider is not the poor parents whom want compels to sacrifice their children; it is today’s vile conditions which make an iron rule of these perversions of natural feelings, this destruction of one’s own family.

The Fly is the respectable daughter of the people, who seeks to earn an honest living, but cannot find work if she does not submit to the lustful desires of the factory boss or director, who abuses her, and later – often with a child on the way – heartlessly and callously throws her out to avoid a “scandal.” The Spider is the young fop, the idle loafer of a “good” family, who gaily seduces innocent maidens and drags them down to the gutter, who considers it an honor to have dishonored as many young women as possible.

The Fly is you, hard-working ploughman, you who tills the soil for the rich landowner, who sows the grain you do not reap, who grows the food you do not taste. The Spider is the land baron who makes his poor tenants, serfs and day-laborers work without a moment’s respite, so that he himself can lead a life of idleness, ease and splendor, the land baron who raises rents every year and depresses the price of honest work.

The Fly is all of us poor and simple people, who have for ages trembled on the altar steps, who have bowed to the clerical curse, who have fought and enslaved one another for the greater glory and amusement of the Church, who have bent our backs and knees, who have let our oppressors enjoy the fruits of their injustice, because we were spiritually crippled by the enervating influence of their religious teaching. The Spider is the black-frocked priest with his hypocritical and lustful look, who befuddles the simple minds of his flock with his degrading teaching and cultivates a spirit of submissiveness and servitude, which poisons souls and ruins whole nations, as in the case of Poland.

In a word, the Fly is the oppressed, the enslaved, the exploited, while the Spider is the vile speculator or lawless despot by whatever name he goes.

The Spider once used to spin his web from the big castles and manors, today he prefers to establish himself in the big industrial centers, in the rich quarters of the blessed of our time. You find him mostly in the factory towns, though he also nests in the country and in the small towns, he is wherever exploitation flourishes, wherever the worker, the propertyless proletarian, the small craftsman, the day-laborer and the debt-burdened small peasant are mercilessly exposed to the unbridled greed of speculators.

Wherever it may be, in town or country, you will see the poor insects vainly struggling in the web of their enemies; you will see them tiring themselves out, drying up and dying.

What terrible tragedies have been enacted over the centuries in this battle between the weak and timid Fly and the cruel and bloodthirsty Spider! It is a monstrous tale of woe. So why tell it again? What’s past is past, let us speak of the present and the future.

Let us take a closer look at today’s struggle between the Spider and the Fly, let us be aware of the situation as it is, let us Flies realise exactly what traps our enemies are again laying for us, let us see through their tricks and, above all, let us be united, we, who alone are too weak to break the webs that entangle us. Let us break the chains that fetter us, let us drive our enemies from their hide-outs, let us throw the bright light of reason everywhere, so that never again will the vile creature be able to do his murderous handiwork in the dark!

Oh Flies, if you wanted to, if you really wanted to, you could be invincible! True, the Spiders are still strong today, but they are few. Even if you Flies are quite insignificant and without influence, your numbers are legion, you are life itself, you are the world – if you really wanted to. If you only united, you would at one blow of your wings tear apart all the threads, sweep away all the cobwebs that ensnare you today, that make you writhe and die of starvation. You could banish poverty and slavery – if you really wanted to.

So learn to want!

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What anarchism is (and what it is not)

By Anton

Anarchism has many enemies, left and right, whom spread lies against it. I hope to tell you what anarchism is, and what it isn’t. Let us start by debunking some of these lies.
Your employer, your boss, your politicians will not tell you the truth, as anarchism would make them lose their power, and stop them exploiting and leeching off the proletariat.  

So let us respond to the criticisms from the left, as the right intentionally lie to discredit anarchism and to keep their power. Marx and Engels said anarchism would come from socialism, but their adherents  denounce it as disorder and chaos. Even the leninists, who denounce anarchists as reactionaries appear to ignore Lenin, who also claimed if one was to follow Bolshevism, we would get anarchy. So what is anarchism not?
Anarchism is not bombs, disorder and chaos;
It is not robbery and murder;
It is not every man for himself;
It is not a return to barbarianism. 
Anarchism is the opposite of that. 
Anarchism means no one enslave you, rob you, or impose upon you;
It means you are free to do what you want, and not compelled to do what you don’t want;
It means you should have the chance to choose how you want to live without anyone else interfering;
It means that the next fellow should have the same freedom as you, that everyone should have the same rights and liberties;
It means that there should be no monopoly, no oppression, or taking advantage of your fellow man. 

To sum up anarchism, it is a condition or society where all men and women are free, where all equally enjoy the benefits of a sensible and ordered life.