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The myths about Marxism
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Written by Marxist Student Federation Wednesday, 16 April 2014 The past two decades have witnessed a barrage of propaganda against Marxism and its revolutionary heritage. Since the collapse of Stalinism – not socialism, but a monstrously deformed caricature of Marxism - from one front to another the mainstream media, universities, professors and historians have gone on the offensive to discredit Marxism. We examine here the most common myths about Marxism and socialism.

Are socialism and democracy incompatible?
The Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and elsewhere are the most commonly used resource for attacking Marxism. Many of the misconceptions about Marxism can be linked quite clearly with the establishment of the first workers’ government in the world with a clear revolutionary programme – that of the Russian Bolsheviks. The October Revolution of 1917 is described merely as a ’coup’ and no expense is spared to equate Marxism with the crimes of Stalin. It cannot be denied that these Stalinist regimes had an enormous bureaucratic caste at the top of society and lacked any basic democratic rights. Such historical examples are used to “prove” that socialism and democracy are completely incompatible. A study of the Russian Revolution, however, reveals a flourishing of society[‫ظ‬.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴]

Many of the gains of the Revolution were rolled back under Stalin. where elected governments have been thrown aside and replaced with unelected technocrats. Looking around the world today. We can see this most clearly in Europe. with elected[‫ظ‬. where . This does not deny the democratic form which governments take.The myths about Marxism — www. This “1%”. but this process of degeneration into a totalitarian regime was not the inevitable result of Marxism – as the capitalist class and their mouthpieces would have us believe – but the result of attempting to build a socialist society in an isolated and economically backward country. by owning and controlling the main levers in the economy.. industrialists. all in the name of the https://www.marxist. We should also take a look at what democracy looks like under capitalism.readability. In this sense. as explained in the article on “Stalinism” elsewhere in this issue of the magazine. but expresses the fact that the state in those countries exists to perpetuate a particular set of property and power relations. imposed by the European Commission and European Central Bank.e. the capitalist class.despite crisis in the economy and austerity across the globe – the rich get after the end of the revolution: the decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion. are the only people who really get any say regarding the major decisions in society. For the vast overwhelming majority of society – the 99% . Quite simply. it is clear that society and the economy are run in the interests of a tiny minority: the bankers. etc. capitalism can be described as a dictatorship of capital. freedom of speech. the state in capitalist society exists to maintain capitalism and the privileges of the capitalist class. a booming economy and giant leaps forward in science and culture.there is little say in how society runs. financiers – i. introduction of free universal healthcare and education.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] .

readability. who are unwilling to invest because they cannot make profits. Democratic rights. As opposed to this dictatorship of capital. Rather than simply voting for elected politicians once every few years. rather than bequethed to us by the ‘enlightened’ ruling class. ordinary people would have a say in the day-to-day running of society. The austerity imposed on countries like Greece and Spain has led to real life horrors equivalent to that of some of the worst dictatorships in history. can only ever be temporary or legal formalities under[‫ظ‬.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . but for the needs of the vast majority. the interest of the financial markets and the big-business investors. the economy would be run. The experience of Russia has led many to see Marxism.The myths about Marxism — www. The need for the capitalist class to maintain its hold on the levers of power mean that every right and reform successfully won by the working class will inevitably be undermined when crisis hits and the https://www. Marx and Lenin talked of a “dictatorship of the proletariat”: in essence.e. under a rational and democratic plan of so-called “national interest” – i. those who under capitalism depend on a wage for their survival. Marxists are the biggest fighters in the battle for democratic rights. In a socialist society. The right to free association and assembly allows workers to form powerful trade unions and political parties with which to organise the common struggle. This would be a profound mistake. which are vital tools in the struggle for better living standards. All these rights were won by workers in struggle. communism and socialism as bywords for dictatorship and as ideas inherently opposed to democracy. The right to free speech allows revolutionaries to agitate with the revolutionary ideas and program to transform society. all whilst billions sits idly in the bank accounts of the biggest companies. a society where the ruling class is the working class – that is. not for the profits of a tiny minority.marxist. however.

the Red Army and the civil war in Russia? We should begin by emphasising Marxists are entirely in favour of peaceful revolution.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . In the final analysis. But it is also true that Marxists are not pacifists.marxist. By running the economy under a rational plan. rather than having to work 5060 hours per week just to get by.[‫ظ‬. real democracy is a question of time – time for ordinary people to be involved in political activity and the running of society. creating the genuine material conditions for people to participate in the democratic decision-making and economic planning in capitalists refuse to let their interests be threatened. Are Marxists in favour of violence? If Marxists defend democratic rights. who will attempt to defend their privileges It should also be emphasised. hence the use of unelected technocrats in Europe recently. thus reducing the hours of the working day and freeing up time. history teaches us that revolutionaries will possibly be met with the violent resistance of the old ruling class. we could eliminate unemployment and share out work. Investment in technology could be used to shorten the working day further still. why violent revolution. What Marxists offer. and we recognise that in attempting to transform society by putting the wealth in society under public and democratic control.readability. however. to carry out austerity measures despite huge popular opposition. By contrast. however.The myths about Marxism — www. socialists fight for every democratic right of the working class. genuine democracy. that the accusation against Marxists that we are in favour of violence is pure hypocrisy from the capitalists. is a way to ensure the permanence of these rights and provide real. the “red terror”.

With this said however. industrial slaughter – all for the purpose of carving up the world market between different imperialist powers? What of Cromwell. though. – all supported by the US government? What greater condemnation of the horrific violence capitalism inflicts on the mass of humanity could there be. where tens of thousands of men. disown and disguise the revolutionary and violent methods they used to break the rule of the feudal crowns and establish their own Chile. etc. the October revolution was perhaps the least bloody revolution in history! There were more people killed in the https://www. Brazil. All of this modern and historical violence in the name of capitalism – and yet the capitalists today slander the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks so bitterly for the following reason: for the first time in the history of capitalism. women and children were slaughtered and thousands more driven in to exile for attempting to implement the first workers’ state in history. The colonists in America were certainly not gentle in disposing of loyalists to the British Empire in the war for independence! And.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . the slaves fought back and they won. we point to the blood and carnage of capitalism itself.The myths about Marxism — www. what of the smashing of the Paris Commune in 1871. than the First and Second World Wars .[‫ظ‬.mass. finally.readability. the Jacobins and the American Revolutionary war? The ruling class make every effort today to Whenever the question of revolutionary violence is thrown at the feet of a Marxist. What of the violence of drone strikes across Pakistan and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? The brutal dictatorships of Latin America through the 1970s and 80s.marxist.

In fact more people lost their lives in accidents as actors filming Sergei Eisenstein’s October. France. including contingents from Britain. and peasants – the wealthy sections of Russian society began a campaign of economic sabotage and launched military operations to destroy the new workers’ government. The terror of the counter-revolutionary armies was immediate and merciless. but a mass movement of workers. that the possibility of carrying out a peaceful transformation of society is entirely possible.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . such is the overwhelming numerical weight of the world working class.readability.The myths about Marxism — www. in supposedly ‘bloodless’ February revolution that overthrew Tsarism and established liberal democracy.marxist. The only thing maintaining capitalism is the reformist leaders of the workers’ organisations who are unwilling to break with capitalism and put forward a socialist alternative..and then had the audacity to declare the experiment failed! And yet. than in the actual October Revolution they were dramatising! It is not the Bolshevik revolution that was violent but the counterrevolution of the minority who opposed it. who neglect to mention that they have intervened militarily in every attempt throughout history for a socialist society to be built. The ruling class say the “socialist experiment” of the Soviet Union failed. soldiers. They were aided in these murderous campaigns by the invasion of 21 foreign armies. Many hundreds of thousands were killed as a result.. therefore. is the lack of a conscious revolutionary leadership organised as a revolutionary party. this is the logic of the capitalists today. Immediately following the revolution – not a “coup”. which can https://www. one walked into a laboratory mid-experiment and attempted to destroy the researchers’ equipment. But imagine[‫ظ‬. It must again be emphasised that today. America and nearly all major capitalist powers. The missing link is.

However. In a genuine socialist society. countries like Cuba started from a much lower level of economic bring together and generalise the particular struggles going on today on an international[‫ظ‬. they remain far from healthy socialist countries. based on the whims of a bureaucratic clique. attempts are frequently made to prove the inefficiency of socialism compared with capitalism. https://www. comparing Cuba to the advanced capitalist countries is a false method. from the Soviet Union to North Korea – are raised like phantoms to deter people thinking of a life beyond capitalism. but from the bottom-up. Aside from the benefits rendered to the advanced capitalist nations by decades of crushing exploitation of the colonies (like Cuba!). and continue to be present in Cuba.The myths about Marxism — www.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . In any case. The poverty of ‘socialist’ countries – from Mao’s China to Castro’s Cuba. Certainly. A more appropriate comparison would be the other Caribbean islands where capitalism has had its chance to show what it can do for the people . though. in order to act as the midwife of history and help the new socialist society be born as smoothly as possible. the economy would not be planned in a top-down manner. in order to democratically plan how society’s resources are used and allocated. an island almost synonymous with utter poverty and exploitation of children in Nike sweatshops for American markets. using a system of workers’ democratic control in workplaces and elected representatives at a national and international scale. The first problem with these arguments is the characterisation of these countries as socialist.Haiti being the most pertinent example.marxist.readability. This is our task today! Is capitalism efficient? Apart from the conduct of socialists on an ethical level. important aspects of socialism were present in the Soviet Union.

com Under the myriad pressures of its circumstance. Nevertheless. the planned economy of the Soviet Union gave regular annual growth rates of over 20%. the Russian revolution degenerated during the 1920s. Of course. and the heavy industries expanded by 400% in this period. And yet by the time of WWII it was able to defeat Hitler’s armies thanks to the nationalised planned economy. By the 1950’s the Stalinist states had advanced industry and had made significant strides in science and culture. became heavily dominated by the Communist Party bureaucracy. and peasants). Russia had yet to properly emerge from feudalism. When the capitalist powers were on the ropes. and the USSR was the first country to put a man. swaying under the blows of the Depression. at the head of which was Stalin. the appalling human cost of many of these developments and the distortions brought to the cultural and scientific experimentation of the https://www.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . and a woman also. and without Marshall Aid. In 1917. its wild brutality to opponents.marxist. some glimpse of the advances possible under socialism can be seen from what happened in the “Communist” world during the twentieth century. What was originally a workers’ democracy based on the incredibly fresh and healthy soviets (local councils of workers. soldiers. The planned economy had the strength to provide full employment. Even after the war. and the twisting and turning of its political trajectory. the Soviet Union did manage to prove to the world the superiority of an economy based on nationalised[‫ظ‬.The myths about Marxism — www. free education at all levels and to fund significant leaps in technical development even in Stalin’s Russia and Castro’s Cuba. Over the coming years it was even further thrown backwards by the events described above. In spite of its choking bureaucracy. into space.readability. the entire industry of Eastern Europe was rebuilt in a matter of a few years. producing necessary goods on a planned basis.

Given these facts. the destruction of the earth’s atmosphere through use of fossil fuels (particularly fracking) and the eye watering expenditure on military hardware. with mountains of garbage dumped on the third world. it takes only a small exercise of the imagination to see the possibilities for development if a healthy workers’ democracy was established. We are told that the “invisible hand” of the market is the most efficient way of allocating resources. Compare this to the colossal waste under capitalism. And yet we are living through the deepest crisis of capitalism that history has ever seen. for there to be millions who are unemployed and millions more who work two jobs just to get by? Yet these contradictions are the logic of capitalism. for universal housing. Demands. and the abolition of all barriers to free education and healthcare are very reasonable! The primary barrier to these demands and the development of society is the capitalist https://www. of course. a job for all.marxist. then. with full freedom of scientific and social development. How is this efficient? How is it efficient for there to be empty houses alongside homelessness. incredible advances were also made.readability. Even given all of the appalling flaws in the degenerate model of socialism which was the[‫ظ‬. is the gains possible with a healthy planned economy under democratic workers’ control.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] .The myths about Marxism — www. The flip side of this. for factories and offices to lie idle when there are plenty of things that society time by Stalinist dogma must not be forgotten. a crisis in which the bank accounts of the biggest companies in the UK and US hold a collective £800bn and $2tn respectively in cash – money that they will not and cannot invest because they would not make any profits.

and we lived communally in small tribes. wild animals. there were no classes. find enough to eat. but through cooperation.readability. build shelters. For the vast majority of human existence.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . Only by cooperating were humans able to combine their resources to hunt. Human beings rose to the top of the food chain not by competing against each other and crushing one another in the struggle to "get ahead".com system – a system that is proving to be very inefficient indeed! What about human nature? Aren’t we all natural greedy? The question of so-called "human nature" is one of the most commonly raised arguments against socialism .The myths about Marxism — www. like all things in nature. which can stand up and run within minutes of birth. The fact of the matter is. our social environment determines to a large degree how we think. dividing up work and wealth in the interests of https://www. Just look at the example of a human baby. human consciousness and society are always in a state of change. etc. and that we will always think the way we do now. if we were born thousands of years ago as peasants in China. and eventually grow crops and domesticate animals etc.marxist. Marx explained that "conditions determine consciousness". our world-view would be very different! If we were born as royalty in China thousands of years ago. Many people believe that the way people think has always been the same. In this respect. human young are totally helpless for years. Compared to a deer. But a few examples will show that nothing could be further from the truth.but it is also one of the easiest to[‫ظ‬. In other words. we would also have a very different view of things than if we were peasants. Baby humans could not survive even a few days without the help of others. For example. primitive humans needed to cooperate if they were to survive the elements.

almost everyone is indirectly linked to everyone else through the world market and the exchange of commodities. those killed in[‫ظ‬.readability. it is appears that nowadays we are all "individuals".marxist. Can any one person design a car.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . We are raised to look away and think nothing of the homeless. Marx and Engels explained that in any society. etc. mine and process the metals and other materials needed. which states that the only way to get ahead is to stomp on your opponents. through the media. then nothing would ever get done and we would all starve to death in a matter of days! So why do people have this strange idea that we are all "individuals"? Again. religion. We work together and live together. and put together a car themselves? To even pose the question shows how absurd the idea is. on the surface. build the factory.. etc. the truth is we are even more dependent on literally thousands and even millions of other humans around the world. And what about the petrol to fuel it? Or the roads to drive it on? What about the food we eat? The list goes on and on . the starving.The myths about Marxism — www. https://www. we are raised to have the values of the capitalist system . Through our education. It is clear that under capitalism. today. But do we have police around 24/7 to make sure we don't all kill each other? Do we run around murdering each other "to get ahead"? If that were the case. the dominant ideology was that of the ruling class. it is conditions determine consciousness. this means the ideology of the capitalists – an ideology of greed and competition The capitalist class do everything in their power to affect the way we everyone. . Although.and we have only scratched the surface.the "dog-eat-dog" attitude.or at most to say a prayer for them and give a little "charity" to ease our conscience.

welfare. produced by working These "values" benefit only a tiny handful of people . no lack of jobs. etc. new technology that could reduce the working day. healthcare. degradation. but the profit goes into the hands of a tiny minority! The thousands of workers who actually know how to produce cars in a factory do not get to decide what to produce or how. education. a decent job. stability. no poverty. and instability of the capitalist system once and for all.the capitalist class does.e. In other words. in our daily lives. decent healthcare and education. Imagine a baby born into a world with no hunger.marxist. Then a whole new world will open up. What most people want is peace. One of the main contradictions of capitalist society is that we have social production – i. they would see the world in an entirely different way than we do today. The only barrier to this is the grip the capitalist class has on political and economic power. etc. safe conditions. or what to do with the extra wealth . This wealth. we produce wealth[‫ظ‬.but private appropriation of the surplus wealth produced.the ultra-rich capitalists! The rest of us. and end the horror. people will relate https://www. time off for family and loved ones. no want. Only unity of the world working class can put an end to this situation.the material pre-requisites for this already exist. etc. With such radically different conditions. Socialists want to end this contradiction by having social control over the socially produced wealth. gain nothing from the ideology of greed.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . Under socialism. poverty. It is only the capitalist class which thrives off the individual competition between one company and another. could then be used to provide better wages.e. like the example of the car given above . they would have a completely different consciousness – i. we produce the things we use socially.readability. This is not a utopian idea .The myths about Marxism — www.

com/articles/eqcwvzco[‫ظ‬. but that society’s ability to produce exceeds our ability to buy.The myths about Marxism — www. As we all know. if you take 100 rats and put them in a cage with enough food for 100 rats and then a little bit more.marxist. humans and their society are much more complex and on a different level than 100 rats in a laboratory cage. is to change it. you will have docile. much of the scarcity we find is artificially produced. sculptures and countless other expressions of artistic creativity which are a reflection of our changing world view at any given time. all because people cannot afford to pay. But if you put those same 100 rats in a cage with only enough food for only 50 of them. self-interested orgy of violence and bloodshed. greedy. but the example illustrates an important point. to each other as people. "Human nature". The problem under capitalism is not that we produce too little. To take an example from nature. under capitalism it is a problem of poverty amidst plenty. is in a constant state of change. science. As Marx explained. like all things. Humans have created wonderful tragedies. and gregarious animals before you. To accept that it is set in stone for all time does not stand up to even the most simple analysis. Of course.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] . our way of thinking will change too! https://www. Just take a walk through an art. friendly. The reason for the vast bulk of the problems we suffer under capitalism is scarcity – there is simply not enough to go around after the capitalist has taken their share. or historical museum and you will see the changing consciousness of humanity graphically portrayed." And with this changed world. As Marx stated. and not as mere commodities to be bought and sold. you will quickly see the situation deteriorate into a murderous. paintings.readability. the productive forces outstrip the market. poems. goods pile up in warehouses and factories lie idle.the point however. comedies. "the philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways .

The myths about Marxism — Source: Socialist Appeal.‫ ق‬۱۲:۰۴:۴۵ ۱۹/۰۴/۲۰۱۴] .  [‫ظ‬.marxist.readability.