Let me begin by clearly spelling out that I hate most of what is considered the “moderate” Left: the “NPR liberals” or the “Huffington Post progressives” who seem to be utterly oblivious to the self evident fact that Capitalism is based on growth and that infinite growth in a finite environment, something which inevitably leads to death (if you don’t understand that, please ask any oncologist to explain it to you). In other words – Capitalism is evil, deadly, self-defeating and there is no such thing as a form of sustainable Capitalism.
Just to make one thing clear: Capitalism is not the only economic system in which there can be private ownership, a relatively free market or even corporations. Real Capitalism is a system in which private capital is not under the supreme control of the people. Real capitalism is, therefore, always non-democratic. The opposite of Capitalism is not necessarily Communism, but any economic system in which the economy is regulated; in other words, a planned economy, an economy in which the democratic majority rules always trumps private interest (by the way, these are all my own, working, definitions, not anything academic or official).
Having made this clear, I would like to share with you my love-hate relationship with Marxists. Folks like Michael Parenti or Paul Le Blanc. I love to listen to them and I deeply admire their sharp analytical minds. Yet, they also regularly make me howl in frustration. Here is why:
First, here is what I love in Marxists:
Their uncompromising stance on Capitalism:
The folks who best understand the evil of Capitalism are, I think, the various Marxist schools of thought. Not only do they oppose Capitalism, they have produced the best and most comprehensive analytical corpus of all the contradictions of the Capitalist system and ideology.
Their focus on revolutionary change:
The second quality which I love in Marxists is that, unlike the “liberals” or “progressives” I referred to above, Marxists do not believe that the system can be reformed – they want a ‘revolution’. If we understand ‘revolution’ not only in the sense of violent uprising but in a wider sense of a ‘turn around’ or a ‘regime change’ (as opposed to government change), then I fully agree with them. Something which is inherently evil cannot be reformed and Capitalism is, in its very essence, evil. Marxists were the first ones to understand that.
Their understanding of class struggle:
Lastly, I think that mankind owe a big debt to Marxists for having thoroughly analyzed the topic of class interest and class struggle. Living the the modern USA in which the top 1% is richer than the bottom 95% gives the Marxist analysis of class war a totally new dimension, does it not? And who are the allies of this top 1% of US plutocrats in the rest of the world? Why – the millionaire and billionaire “class comrades” in Colombia, in Russia, in Nigeria, in Japan or Iran! There is an undeniable class consciousness and class solidarity among the rich of the world who did a much better job uniting than the “proletarians of all countries” ever could.
And yet, the Marxists also drive me crazy with frustration. Here is how:
Their futile attempts at explaining, justifying or even denying the crimes of Marxist mass-murderers:
The other day, I was listening to a podcast of Paul Le Blanc on Socialism and democracy on Seeing Red Radio. Le Blanc is a brilliant speaker and his lecture is most informative. And then, suddenly, Le Blanc embarks upon what I can only call a mind-boggling lunacy: he states that Lenin and Trotsky were, of all things, real democrats. And he is not the only Marxist parroting that kind of nonsense. Somehow, the Marxists seems to believe that a brilliant mind (as both Lenin and Trotsky most definitely had) necessarily implies a pure heart. This reminds me of the slogan by the founder of the Soviet terror police (the ChK or ЧК) that a real “Chekist” must have a “cool head, burning heart and clean hands”. Clean hands?! That coming from the folks who butchered entire classes of people in Russia and whose hands where so soaked in the blood of millions innocent people that no amount of propaganda could ever clean them again. Yes, Lenin and Trotsky were brilliant people. But they were also ghoulish mass murderers who founded the secret police only one month after the Bolshevik revolution and who personally approved of hostage taking, summary executions, mass murder, tortures and who created the infamous Soviet Gulags. Lenin personally send out telegrams urging “mass terror” and while Trotsky even authored a very interesting book entitled “Terrorism and Communism” which I recommend to anyone who has any doubts about where Trotsky stood on this issue. Yet, Le Blanc and other Marxists speak of a “bureaucratic” terror in Russia, and they systematically point their finger at Stalin as The Sole Evil Culprit (all in caps) for all the horrors of Bolshevik rule in Russia. I have already written about the Jewish myth about “Stalinism” elsewhere and I will not repeat it all here other than say that there never was such a thing as “Stalinism” and that the ONLY difference between Lenin and Trotsky on one hand and Stalin on the other is that Stalin also directed his terror at the Party apparatchiks who themselves had terrorized Russia under Lenin and Trotsky. Think of it as something not unlike the mass elimination of the SA by the SS under Hitler. Hardly a reason to sob in sympathy for the poor SA brownshirts killed by the SS.
Their narrow-minded hostility towards religions:
Marxism was born in Europe, the continent which produced the Papacy with its endless list of crimes against humanity, its collaboration with the ruling classes, its justification of every conceivable abomination ad majorem Dei gloriam. So I understand that any European revolutionary faced with the oppression and exploitation of the feudal or bourgeois order in Europe would end up fighting “the Church”. But, come on! The religious phenomenon in history can hardly be reduced to the crimes of the Papacy, now can it?! Look at the history of Orthodox Christianity, of Islam , or even Hinduism. Do you find the same systematic use of terror as in the Papacy? Sure, Ivan the Terrible did commit mass murder against the Muslims of Kazan, and the Ottomans did forcibly convert many Bosnians to Islam, and even today Hindu fanatics massacre Muslims with vicious glee. But if you take a closer looks at these events, you will realize that these are the actions of *ruling elites* who a) hide behind religious motives and b) who act in direct contradiction with the religious imperatives and ethos of the religion they claim to struggle for.
Furthermore, I would argue than in history organized religions were most often engines for progress and civilization and that tyrants and plutocrats saw them as enemies and not “opium for the people” which they could use to exploit the poor. Lastly, considering the millions of people killed word-wide by various Marxists, who are they to blame organized religions? According to the best estimate in just the 20th century Communist government have killed about 110’000’000 people. That’s one hundred and ten million people. With a tally like that, no amount of whitewash and denial will do. Marxists need to accept history for what it was, not for what they wish it had been.
The Marxists are still unable to understand the role of religion today:
In that sin, they are not the only ones, of course. Most Western “progressives” are equally guilty of this one. Still, I have heard pro-Hezbollah Arabs declaring that the Shia ethos and piety have really very little to do with Hezbollah’s stunning success and that when Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah praises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, its only out of “political necessity”. Many Marxists simply fail to understand something which Hassan Nasrallah repeats over and over and over again in every single one of his speeches: the power of Hezbollah comes from its faith which is the existential core of the entire Hezbollah phenomenon. And we are not talking about just some vague amorphous “I believe” a la Hollywood movies. Hezbollah are the spiritual followers of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei whom they chose as their spiritual leader over the recently deceased Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah (who never was the “spiritual leader of Hezbollah” as the corporate media claims). So what is at the core of Hezbollah is not just Islam, but Shia Islam, and not just any Shia Islam, but the Shia Islam personified by the guidance of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And it is precisely this expression of Shia Islam which achieved that which all the progressive, Marxist and socialist Lebanese political parties could not: free Lebanon and beat back the Zionists. Is that a coincidence? I don’t believe so and, more importantly, neither does Hassan Nasrallah.
Many Marxists have also supported the “Gucci Revolution” in Iran only because they perceived the power of “the mullahs” (as they would put it) as being “reactionary” and “theocratic” (hence – very bad). Such Marxists have never read Ayatollah Khomenei, they know nothing of the progressive reforms introduced by the Islamic Revolution in Iran and they are oblivious to the fact that the leaders of the “Gucci Revolution” were representing the reactionary multi-millionaire and bourgeois classes of Tehran. For some mysterious reason, most Marxists when looking at Iran completely forgot about class interest and class warfare. That is what ideological blindness does to them. If religion is reactionary, then the mullahs are bad, and any movement which attempts to overthrow the Islamic Republic (which is what he “Gucci Revolution” was all about, of course) is worthy of support, even if it is CIA sponsored.
In all fairness, I have to admit that the new generation of Marxists is changing, at least in Latin America where leaders like Chavez or even Castro have considerably toned down their opposition to religion. I have some very real hope that the new “Bolivarian Socialism” or “Bolivarianism” will resolutely turn away from the deep errors of 20th century “classical” Marxism and, in the words of Hugo Chavez, “a new type of socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the state ahead of everything“. Hopefully, this new type of socialism will, unlike Leninism and Trotskysm, value each individual life and never use terror. And hopefully this new type of socialism will accept and embrace the diversity of human spirituality and not designate any religion as the class enemy. Such a new socialism will be able to fully integrate the Marxist, Leninist and Trotskyst analysis and critique of the Capitalist system and ideology, but will reject their methods and prescriptions. After all, a “progressive” must – by definition – learn from past mistakes and yearn for a new, better, way.