Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
By

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

Samuel Gregg writes on a recent BBC Radio listeners poll that ranked Karl Marx as the greatest philosopher in history. Gregg reflects on the evils and attrocities that are committed by the political heirs of Marx’ philosophy while commenting that the materialist view of Communism removes any possibility of fulfilling the two greatest commandments; loving God and loving our neighbors. Above all, Gregg wonders how people have forgotten what Marx stands for: “Why is Marxism’s red flag not treated with the same contempt rightly attached to the swastika?”

Gregg sees an inherent lack of value placed upon the human person as a result of Communism’s materialist ideology. He sums up Marx’ materialism, saying, “Everything has the same value and therefore no value. In this world, there is no difference between Mother Teresa’s work and that of a concentration camp guard. They share equally in a general irrelevance of everything and everyone.” This complete lack of value denies justice and makes morality irrelevant.

Much violence has been done in the name of philosophies and religions, including Christianity. The difference is that Christianity contains moral criteria according to which we can judge and condemn such activity on the part of Christians. Marxism never had and could never have such standards. For in Marxist philosophy, there is no place for love of God and love of neighbor. Perhaps that, above all, is what makes Marx so unworthy of contemporary admiration.

Read the full commentary here.


  • Ryan Lanham

    I was struck in reading your article just how much your critique applies exactly to Milton Friedman’s recent arguments in the magazine Reason. Friedman speaks only of for-profit firms, but the logic is virtually the same as Marx’s where your comments are concerned.

    Justice and liberty do not necessarily go hand in hand. It is true that, as a philosopher, Marx was an abomination in many respects. The challenge lies not so much in tarring people’s admiration for the influence of Marx–a straw horse if ever there was–as it does in proving that liberty can lead to justice. While many faiths stake claim to the role, it seems most people find that such a philosophy has yet to be invented.

    It seems to me your Institute’s challenge lies in repudiating the anti-justice bias of most contemporary libertarians–a very real and frightening trait that puts off many serious thinkers. Reconciling justice and liberty in an economic sense would be courageous, and, at least in my view, Christian as well. The tune is often whistled, but I have heard no words sung.

  • Neal Lang

    Interestingly, Ryan, both Marxism and Libertarianism share a fondness for Anarchy. Classical Liberalism, on the other hand, understands that men are "created equal" in that we all enjoy "certain unalienable rights" including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property). Classical Liberalism also realizes that these rights cannot be "secured" in anarchy, and therefore, governments must be "instituted amongst men." Of course, men retain the right to abolish their governments when these institutions fail to satisfy their needs for "justice and liberty", and "to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

    Please see the Declaration of Independence for clarification.

  • Dan Kennedy

    "Studied ignorance," indeed. Your entire article brought to mind how ironic it is that in the "information age" we seem to have a stubborn "age of ignorance."

  • Charlie Day

    The question of whether of not Marx was a great philosopher is so preposterous as to be unworthy of comment save it be that philosophy like all teachings may best by judged by its fruits regardless of the apologists who claim Marx’s ideals to have been perverted by his later followers. What is more important is the realization of the depths to which the philosophical content of the BBC as a news agency has sunk. It is not likely that any other agency could ask the same question and receive a similar result among the responses. They have unwittingly self indentified themselves by their own readership as demonstrated in the results of this request for nominations. That BBC is able to maintain any semblance of an actual news organization rather than a political rag is also a poor recommendation for the level of support they receive from the British Government. One’s mind will not be less damaged by the exclusive use of the Enquirer for world news and comment. It is a very sad result for a formerly well thought of news organization.

  • Rev. Samuel Nekati

    Yes, it is astonishing to know that a BBC poll revealed that Marx is the greatest philosopher that ever lived. Astonishing indeed! But then, is it really astonishing? The BBC of all broadcasters? It could have been some broadcaster out in Russia, in Cuba, in China, in Zimbabwe, or in Venezuela, but no, BBC is a British Broadcaster. Maybe the British should take that poll again and explain what that question really means. It’s a very big mistake to exalt Karl Marx as the greatest philosopher that ever lived!

    Why is it a mistake? Because his philosophical descendents perpetrated some of the greatest evils known in the history of mankind. Communism was essentially the monster of Socialism gone wild. And so Marx is to blame for ever.

    If Karl Marx should be dragged before the International Human Rights Courts to be tried for crimes against humanity, I’m sure he’ll put up a good fight. "But I was only trying to advocate for justice and equality," he will retort. But his capitalist prosecutors will produce evidence upon evidence, of communists who violated people’s liberty for so long. I can just see Karl Marx eventually breaking down in tears, crying, crying and murmuring… "But… B-bbb-but, I did not mean for it to cause all these atrocities." After the trial, the BBC should be called upon to take yet another poll. I know the result of the poll. It will show one of the capitalists as the greatest philosopher of all time… although I’m not sure which one that would be. Someone out there, please help!

    But I do like Ryan’s response to this article earlier. He said, "Justice and liberty do not necessarily go hand in hand. It is true that, as a philosopher, Marx was an abomination in many respects. The challenge lies not so much in tarring people’s admiration for the influence of Marx– –as it does in proving that liberty can lead to justice. While many faiths stake claim to the role, it seems most people find that such a philosophy has yet to be invented." Ryan concludes, "Reconciling justice and liberty in an economic sense would be courageous, and, at least in my view, Christian as well. The tune is often whistled, but I have heard no words sung."

    Does justice and liberty go hand in hand? In an economic sense? Whew! Well, for once now we’ve asked a question that catches the capitalists off guard a little. And perhaps by now, the defendent and condemned Karl Marx, is rolling his eyes with keen interest. Recent UN (post-communist) reports have revealed that there are more people now than ever before living in abject poverty and that the gap between the rich and the poor is even greater. In light of this evidence, Karl Marx is now ready to take the plaintiff’s podium, no, perhaps he would want to be a human rights lawyer and suggest once again that every capitalist should be hanged from the nearest tree. We’ve come full circle and the BBC is wondering whether to take another poll. Who is the greatest philosopher that ever lived? Ugh! By now, neither capitalists and communists dare answer the question, for it only takes us back to the old debate. Communists accusing capitalists for failing to deliver economic justice. Capitalists accusing communists of failing to deliver libertarian (classic!) justice.

    Ryan needs to speak up again. Can we talk of integrating both liberty and justice in an economic sense?

    I’ve heard that capitalism is the only one system capable of creating the most wealth. Wow! That is good news. So, we now have justice when the most wealth is created? Ummmmm… I doubt it. For, without mentioning the third world, do we not see a vast number of poor people within the wealthy capitalist countries… as recently revealed by Hurricane Katrina? Well, since the issue of "justice and liberty in the economic sense," is troublesome and we do not want to go into all those historical closets with all those stinking bones such as slavery, colonialism, and racism, I suggest that the easiest way out is to assert that Louisiana was up until Katrina, a communist state. It makes sense.

    Integrating justice and liberty in an economic sense! Who is the greatest philosopher in China and its emerging economy? Ugh! That is irrelevant here. Too many questions but no suggestion.

    I suggest that the greatest philosopher that ever lived is Jesus Christ. Anybody wanna challenge that? Ummmmm…. do I hear some muffled voices saying, "Ah, but that’s not fair… that guy was God and you can’t expect us capitalists and communists to be God." Fine… I will not push it then, although I will not drop it either. But to bring this discussion on a human plane, I suggest once again that the greatest philosopher that ever lived was Moses. Yes, the biblical Moses. He did actually integrate justice and liberty in the economic sense.

    Now, perhaps some would challenge that. But I think that a bigger challenge is to ask this question: Was Egypt a capitalist economy or a communist one?

    In search of the greatest philosopher…

  • P Gallagher

    Your statement "The irony is that while millions today know about the Nazis’ unspeakable crimes, rather fewer know about the atrocities committed by Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Pol Pot and other Marxists" is absolutely correct.
    In Wellington (NZ) where I live it continually amuses/amazes me that a central city cafe (called Pravda) can unashamedly display a large bust of Lenin on its counter. I have no doubt that if it was replaced by one of Stalin there would be a huge outcry. Strangely Lenin appears to be quite acceptable. Perhaps there are variable standards for different mass murderers!!

  • Lorin Friesen

    "Greatest by popular demand"! This BBC boasting highlight shows it is steadilly becoming the victim of it’s own internal bias. The polarization process at hand removes one listener by revulsion while bonding another by ignorance, exposing the rift. The choices between become clearer thanks in part to the Acton Institute!

  • Lee Rinehart

    I think Dr. Gregg is setting up a straw man and gleefully kicking him over. His crucial mistake is to associate an idea with a particular person, Marx. Marx initially wrote much about communism, but it lives in the intellects and aspirations of people today, it is emergant and evolving. An idea. Just because Marx and other idealoques screwed up a beautiful country and a wonderful people does not mean that the fundemental principles of shared resources and government for a classless society is wrong. After all, Jesus said some pretty fabulous and controversial stuff too. we still see the benefits of christian morality, although we can do without its evangelical other-worldliness. same with communism. point is, people just cannot give up their self-interest (even christians) long enough to consider what is good for the whole.

  • http://www.schlacks.org John Powers

    Lee Rinehart states specific failure:
    “does not mean that the fundemental principles of shared resources and government for a classless society is wrong”

    Why not? When your ideas are put into practcie and they are proven not to work, it seems about as wrong as a philosopher can be.

    JBP

  • chris

    From a spiritual point of view, Marxism and Capitalism share one essential trait: they are both materialist. We may argue (or not) about how well they address the material needs of the world, but they agree that this is the fundamental measure of success. Any spiritual values are held to be secondary, as in the discussion about which system leaves its victims with the most spiritual "left-overs" to enjoy once their material needs have been satisfied.

    They also both share (in theory) the Enlightenment values of human progress and equality, which distinguishes them from the most original of modern philosophies, Fascism, which explicitly denies those values.

  • Louis Godena

    Well, there are plenty of "extraordinary deaths" to go around in every epoch and authored by every ideology. For every "Communist crime" there is a corresponding or greater Capitalist crime". For every Pol Pot, there is a Suharto (who directed the slaughter in 1965/66 of perhaps 1 million suspected leftists in Indonesia and who, in the mid-1970s precipitated the mass killings in East Timor. This is just one example. Professor J.H. Parry once told me that the settlement of the Americas cost 180 million native lives up to 1800 (this has been confirmed in the work of David Stannard and others). America herself enslaved one race and all but exterminated another. I bring all this up not to excoriate or exalt one form of government over another, but to point out that acts of mass violence are authored by *all* states, and not just by ones of which we disapprove. Marx and the Communists enjoy a certain prestige today (especially in the developing world) because they sought to end exploitation of man by man. I believe it is the morality of the collective which someday will prevail, especially once science (and not superstition) discovers what, if anything, lies beyond death. Religion’s days are numbered because the dispensation which gave rise to it is now passing into history. And I think most people are beginning to realize it; hence the search for a tenable *secular* morality.

  • http://www.schlacks.org John Powers

    I think it is in assigning values to Capitalism, we make it materialistic.

    Left on its own, a market has about as much morality as addition or subtraction. You can add good things, subtract bad things, or do the opposite. Addition and subtraction are not paritcularly good or evil.

    The opposite is true with Socialism/Marxism, which asks us to expect negatives from addition, and positives from subtraction. It is just plain wrong, regardless of the intentions of those who institute it.

    JBP

  • Paul Pennyfeather

    There is one thing even more depressing than the BBC’s choosing Karl Marx as the greatest philosopher: the comments on this article that try to defend that choice. From the idiotic statistics ("180 million indians killed!") to the pseudo economics, it is truly dispiriting to read such already-discredited tripe. Is it too much trouble to ask adults to learn a little economics? A little history?

    Get our your Big Chief tablets and your crayons and write this down:

    Communism killed a hundred million people. Ideas have consequences. Other than the National Socialist’s attempt at exterminating the Jews, there is no comparison in terms of systematic, premeditated slaughter. Pumping up the number of dead attributed to a so-called "capitalist" dictator, simply because he received Western aid, won’t change these facts.

    Countries without the rule of law, private property, and enforcable contracts are not free market economies. Yes, the trappings of capitalism have had mixed results in places like Russia. This is a legacy of the gulag. A system that was made possible, in part, by whining, Western intellectuals — like some on this comments page — who insist that socialism is still a reasonable idea, or that capitalism and communism are twin evils.

    You think so? Where would you rather have lived, Cuba or Chile? Poland or Spain? I thought so.

    But by all means, don’t learn anything from history. Just wallow in some Oliver-Stonish conspiracy about hurricane Katrina. Safe and fed, you can spend the rest of your life viewing history through the looking glass.

    And please don’t quote your imbecilic socialist professor. His first published work was probably love letters to Stalin.

  • Neal Lang

    “But to bring this discussion on a human plane, I suggest once again that the greatest philosopher that ever lived was Moses. Yes, the biblical Moses. He did actually integrate justice and liberty in the economic sense.”

    But of course Moses was getting his philosophical cues directly from God.

  • Neal Lang

    With regards to Moses I found this comparison of the “prophet of Children of Israel” with the “prophet of the proletariat” to be instructive:

    *What made Marx what he was? What are the sources of this creed?

    Marx deliberately turned 180 degrees around from the (1) supernaturalism and (2) distinctiveness of his Jewish heritage to embrace (1) atheism and (2) communism. Yet Marxism retains all the major structural and emotional factors of biblical religion in a secularized form. Marx, like Moses, is the prophet who leads the new Chosen People, the proletariat, out of the slavery of capitalism into the Promised Land of communism across the Red Sea of bloody worldwide revolution and through the wilderness of temporary, dedicated suffering for the party, the new priesthood.

    The revolution is the new “Day of Yahweh,” the Day of Judgment; party spokesmen are the new prophets; and political purges within the party to maintain ideological purity are the new divine judgments on the waywardness of the Chosen and their leaders. The messianic tone of communism makes it structurally and emotionally more like a religion than any other political system except fascism.

    Just as Marx took over the forms and the spirit of his religious heritage, but not the content, he did the same with his Hegelian philosophical heritage, transforming Hegel’s philosophy of “dialectical idealism” into “dialectical materialism!” “Marx stood Hegel on his head,” the saying goes. Marx inherited seven radical ideas from Hegel:

    Monism: the idea that everything is one and that common sense’s distinction between matter and spirit is illusory. For Hegel, matter was only a form of spirit; for Marx, spirit was only a form of matter.

    Pantheism: the notion that the distinction between Creator and creature, the distinctively Jewish idea, is false. For Hegel, the world is made into an aspect of God (Hegel was a pantheist); for Marx, God is reduced to the world (Marx was an atheist).

    Historicism: the idea that everything changes, even truth; that there is nothing above history to judge it; and that therefore what is true in one era becomes false in another, or vice versa. In other words, Time is God.

    Dialectic: the idea that history moves only by conflicts between opposing forces, a “thesis” vs. an “antithesis” evolving a “higher synthesis.” This applies to classes, nations, institutions and ideas. The dialectic waltz plays on in history’s ballroom until the kingdom of God finally comes — which Hegel virtually identified with the Prussian state. Marx internationalized it to the worldwide communist state.

    Necessitarianism, or fatalism: the idea that the dialectic and its outcome are inevitable and necessary, not free. Marxism is a sort of Calvinistic predestination without a divine Predestinator.

    Statism: the idea that since there is no eternal, trans-historical truth or law, the state is supreme and uncriticizable. Marx again internationalized Hegel’s nationalism here. Militarism: the idea that since there is no universal natural or eternal law above states to judge and resolve differences between them, war is inevitable and necessary as long as there are states.* (From: “The Pillars of Unbelief — Karl Marx” by Peter Kreeft at: http://catholiceducation.org/articles/civilization/cc0010.html )

  • Gavin Kennedy

    The choice of Karl Marx was not popular at all. In a vote, in which there was nothing to stop multiple voting, Marx received 28 per cent of the total vote. The other 72 per cent of voters – a clear majority by any standard – placed their votes for other philosophers.

    Marx had the largest number of votes only compared to the overwhelming majority of others who voted and these others divided their votes among other philosophers.

    Given these facts, the result was occasioned by more determined tactical multiple voting by the better mobilised ‘comrades’.

  • Louis Godena

    Two observations; first, the 100 million figure is a wildly inflated figure drawn from the *Black Book of Communism*; no serious or unbiased scholar accepts that figure. If one were to take all extraordinary deaths in the capitalist or capitalist friendly nations, coupled with the deliberate murder of indigenous or unprofitable or "dangerous" inhabitants since the development of capitalism, the figure would far exceed even this exaggerated number. Secondly, J.H. Parry was no socialist; he was Oceanic Professor of History at Harvard (he died suddenly in 1982) and actually quite conservative. Yes, it is true that nonsense is subject to the laws of gravity; it usually flows down from on high. The establishment is now firmly free market as it was central planning two generations ago. But, nothing works for all time and in all places. Human history is a catalogue of adaptation to changing conditions, and you may see the revival of Communism in some form in a world where more than half the population lives on less than $2 per day.

  • Marcos Molerin

    There’s a serious mistake done by Louis Godena and others. A comparision between two completely different things: capitalism and marxism. The first is just a economic system and the second is a lot more: a economic, social and (why not?) cultural system. I agree that many indians has died in the beginning of america, but no person in this world kills another in the name of capitalism. As far i concerned all the comunists states have killed systematically and brutally based in social and racial aspects. There is not a capitalism crime. By the way capitalism is the only economic system that really works. "there is a corresponding or greater Capitalist crime"??? find please 20 millions death by starvation (Lenin) or other 100 millions (China). Ok. acts of mass violence are authored by all states, but the comunists are far better in it.

  • Anonymous

    Is Marx really to blame for the evils brought about by “communism?” Sure, they may not have happened the way they did had it not been for his theories, but he was very indirectly responsible. Not only did he not implement any of the “communism” we know today, his original ideals weren’t even used in its creation. When most people think of communism today, they think of Russia, Cuba, and China. The reality is, though, that none of this countries even REMOTELY followed the Marxist theory.

    Russia, for example, after a revolution overthrowing the czars, they thought they would give Marx’s idea a try. There was a problem with that, however. Russia, or the majority of it, was a rural country that was not capable of really providing for itself. According to Marx, though, communism would be achieved through capitalism. The industry created by capitalism would cause the proletariat to become the true productive class, and when they overthrow their oppressor’s, they would be able to provide for themselves. The factories and all other productions would then be owned by the class as a whole. In order to make this possible, they would create a government as fully democratic as possible. Every one of those points is absolutely necessary to the Marxist communism. In Russia there was no industry. At first there actually was a democratic government put in place, but when everyone began to starve, they allowed the likes of Lenin and Stalin to take over.

    Marx is not to blame for the atrocities of the USSR. He described communism as something that would happen on it’s own, not something that was to be forced. The “communist” countries out there today have not followed a single one of his thoughts, they have just grabbed on to single words and phrases, taken them out of context, and passed them off as Marxist.

    One of my favorite quotes by Marx is “I am not a Marxist.” It just goes to show how much his original ideas were misconstrued and then passed off as his.

    Really, Marx deserves about the same amount of blame as a soldier’s mother deserves for her son’s death in combat. He clearly wouldn’t have died in combat if his mother hadn’t created him, but she had nothing to do with what happened on the battlefield. The same goes for Marx. He created the idea of communism, but had nothing to do with what it became and how it was used.

  • Jai Jai

    systems of thought- which pop-convention provides benevolent or godly values?
    Paul Pennyfeather writes: ‘Where would you rather have lived, Cuba or Chile? Poland or Spain? I thought so.’ this reads like ‘if you don’t love it, leave it’ logic, which generates, what i believe to be a false dichotomy. sorry paul if that’s not what you meant- by the way are you in the armed forces?
    our pop-conventions are not the kingdom, however, it would seem that north american pre-millenials are communicating as if they were post-millers [and living as 'charitable' republicans, though charitable is relative to whats left after covering consumer living expenses].
    Sam writes: ‘from Marxism’s perspective, none of these activities can have any value for humans.’ i am not sure how this worked out, was this a syllogism? because it seemed like a positive axiology was referenced just prior to this comment, and yet and irony is presented with no[?] justification? that would seem to indicate that sam hasn’t really grasped the authors intention in the text- a hermenuatical issue indeed. however, it is understood that essays can utilize buzz concepts [and really communicative only within their narrower conventional context [redundant?], assuming communicate to mean the transfer of the authors intent to a reciever].
    this essay sucked, and many of the comments seem just as typically cookie cutter as my own rant here, each from it’s respective pole [perhaps we should move beyond this eh? – maybe not, convention lets us know we exist right?].

  • http://www.schlacks.org John Powers

    Jai Jai,

    Your comments do not seem cookie cutter. They seem extra-terrestrial. Let’s see have any of these phrases:

    “positive axiology”
    “a hermenuatical issue”
    “false dichotomy”
    “was this a syllogism”

    ever paid the rent, changed a diaper, got a building permit, hired an employee, closed a sale?

    In real life Marxism is a theory that is as impractical as the catchphrases Jai Jai tosses around.

    JBP

  • jai jai

    :) why yes, yes they have- e.g. some of the highest wages can and have been fetched by patrons of such terms. i am glad you noticed!

    along side- marxism is not xtanity, thats for sure, another good insight on your part mr. powers.

    its great how our comments on politicized blog-bites can so [seemingly] reveal our affinity groups [and agendas]. capitalism [in the sense "it" plays out] is another economic pyramid scheme [like commie-ism]. yep, depravity [reformed or not], has seemingly made all mortal endeavors [systematic and otherwise] depraved. too bad the argument shouldnt be the polarizing ranting of cold war dialectics- but who am i to say shouldnt be? oh yes, the ethics of the kingdom! i wonder why god did not delineate a “new covenant” economic system for us american non-protesting, protestants [who want to be evangelicals but keep dressing up our fundie ways]? oh right, may your protestant blessings trickle down on your supply side the like the treasure of grace canonized saints impart upon penitent roman riters who seek it! toodles.

    p.s. I used other words too – beside the ones “you” picked – why [in “your” conclusion jumping words, not “my” pretentious ones] did you choose those words?

    p.p.s. gregg’s essay is still preaching to the choir, adding nothing new to the choir-book, and is in the shape of a predictable ornament cookie cutter. as for my pastries? “go watch foxs news!” enjoy.

  • http://www.schlacks.org John Powers

    I chose your PhD level mumbo-jumbo as it seemed particulary useless in practical life, much like Marxism.

    Whenver I see the word “dialectics”, I am pretty much assured that the author is disengaged from reality.

    JBP

  • http://blog.acton.org Jonathan

    Can we please keep personal jabs and insults to a minimum. This blog is meant to provide a forum for discussion of ideas, not personal critiques of the individuals commenting. Thank you.

  • jai jai

    i can see gregg’s reduct-ad-absurd on karl’s modernism – e.g. no possibility of a meaningful existence. i can see the reaction to such an absurd survey [e.g. greatest philosopher, chosen via majority vote from a niche population]. and i can see the irony of blog/threads addressing abridged ideas with 100% comment concentrate as meaningful interaction on the critique of a parrallel process.

    have the ideas of marx [not neccessarily marx's ideas, however included] been articulated consciously on a popular level? perhaps more so than the dualism and logocentrism [lc] of plato, epistenological rocker of renee, the psychological revolution of sigmund, or even the political correctness of post-structuralist movements. would this neccessitate a value on karl’s ideas? if only by convention, not by some lc other/absolute!? in greggs not discussing the terms or ideas of greatest and philosopher [at least in this immediate context], sam merely offered his political bias in essay form.
    ignoring that our comments have jumped from what is under pinning to our personal axiologies and value statements on persons and ideas we have played the fools.
    by the way, i have as of yet no college degree, let alone a doctorate – i be [verb] in the working class of practical concerns from which my perspective has been devalued [in others, obviously not for me] and chuckle at comments that would assume my axiological [anti]system – and chose [for sport] to lose ground returning the favor. [as i mentioned this (i.e. this [i.e. this - ad infinitum].) is irony.

    graci

    jbp – what causes poverty [besides lexicons and vernaculars and karl marx]?

  • http://www.schlacks.org John Powers

    Jai Jai,

    What causes poverty? Free will or the lack of it, I suppose.

    JBP

  • Joshua Birk

    180 million Native Americans killed? That is one of the most absurd and over-inflated figures I have ever heard. Louis Godena, get your facts straight and fire your "professor". Academics estimate that between 2 and 20 million aborigials inhabited what we know as the Americas when colonization began. Most estimates tend toward the extreme lower of that. That is your first and most ridiculous mistake. Secondly, most of the deaths were not done by execution or starvation (or Stalin-style). Almost all deaths were caused by the spread of disease, because the aboriginals’ immune systems could not handle the foreign diseases of Europe. So if you would like to go ahead and blame the colonists for spreading disease accidentally, go ahead. But equating that with brutal, pre-meditated murder is just idiotic.

  • Tom

    Communism as it has occured in the 21st century was noit implemented in the manner set down by Marx. Therefore can Lenin/Stalin etc be thought of as Marxists? Plus has anybody here heard of the ‘white terror’? Torture, murder, oppression of anyone by the white army in the Russian civil war for those they believed supported Soviets. The white army was made up of troops from the USA, UK, France and Czechoslovakia. You also fail to add in your article the hundreds of years of absolutist rule by the Rhomanov family in Russia and their imprisonment and murder of political opponents.

    Now for a brief look at the wonderful world that is Western Capitalist intervention.

    In Chile when a democratically elected Marxist leader came to power for the 1st time it took the CIA just 6 months to find a suitable replacement in the form of that wonderful capitalist and protector of the free market: General Pinochet. He ordered the killing of thousands upon thousands of Chilean’s from all political perspectives.

    Now lets look at Jamaica. Micheal Manley of the PNP comes to power as a ‘socialist’ leader not a communist, and low and behold CIA agents pop up all over JA supporting opposition leader Edward Seaga. Providing him with modern arms which he hands to his enforcers in JA’S poverty ridden inner cities and in the run up to the 1980 elections thousands perish in political battles across the city. Jamaica continues to suffer the consequences now.
    With both parties now funded by drug money backed up by ‘rudeboys and gunmen’, Jamaica also has the highest murder rate in proportion to size in the world.

    When Nelson Mandela was first imprisoned for ‘terrorist acts’ in apartheid South Africa both Britain and the USA condemned him as a crazy communist intent on destroying civilisation in SA. Both countries continued secretly funding the apartheid government right up to the release of Mandela. Good old western capitalism ,eh? Protecting human rights worldwide…

    Let us not forget that during the cold war America and Britain funded ‘anti-communist’ governments across the world that brutality murdered and suppressed their citizens. They supported the White zimbabweans, the French supported a brutal imperialist regime in Algeria, in Angola the west supported UNITA in their war against Marxist rebels MPLA (with both sides committing atrocities) however after elections in 94 and the legal victory of the MPLA UNITA returned to fighting killing hundreds of thousands more. In the Democratic rep. of Congo the wonderful Westrn capitalists funded Mobutu because he supported insurgency against Marxist Angola. Yet again they managed to overlook his human rights abuses and killings of thousands of those whom questioned his rule. Then after the cold war finished the USA lost interest in Africa and the Congo leaving the continent open to a myriad of confglicts brought on by Western and soviet intervention.

    Similiar situations occured across Africa (Liberia, Malawi,) as western capitalist countries supported corrupt and repressive governments. In many cases the West wasn’t even fighting against Soviet backed ‘leftist’ rebels but Pan-African Nationalist groups who themselves weren’t keen on Marx’s ‘evil’ doctrines. When Capitalist countries weren’t supporting corrupt and oppressive African leaders they were instead propping up their own colonial governments, killi ng any of those cheeky ‘natives’ who suggested that perhaps African’s should rule over Africa. Ghana, Namibia, Gabon, Kenya, Sao Tome and Principe and almostevery other african nation ‘enjoyed’ colonial rule up to the 1960′s and in some cases up to the early 1990′s. These colonial governments killed and virtually enslaved millions of African’s and can be blamed for the problems encountered nowadays in most African countries. As they forced togethor different tribes and religions to forge countries that were suitable for Western economic needs.

    So before we in our wonderful ‘free’ capitalist ‘democratic’ countries condemn communist atrocities we should carefully study our own history and discover some uncomfortable truths about Western history and backing for leaders whom we knew committed human rights crimes.

    I haven’t even mentioned contemporary politics such as the USA’s war for oil in Iraq or the fact that since World War 2 the USA has bombed 21 countries. Wow isn’t capitalism great? I hope the Iraqi’s are enjoying their liberation! May capitalism live long and continue to support drug companies refusing to fund anti-HIV medication provisions for Africa due to lack of money. Or clothes companies across South-East Asia using sweatshops paying workers 3p a day to produce our comfy clothing.
    Capital over lives anyday.

  • http://www.churchicago.org John Powers

    So Tom,

    Boiling this down…if I am reading you right: In theory Marxism does not kill that many people; in practice, millions are killed.

    In the Cold War, the United States supported some rough customers battling against World Communism. The results? Chile has the strongest economy in Latin America, South Africa has relative economic freedom and peace, and Jamaica is a vacation paradise.

    Now you want us to condemn people working in Asia to make a better life for themselves. Your concern for the poor is truly touching in theory. In practice the results are self evident.

    JBP

  • James

    Why don’/t you print any views that aren’t your own?

  • Jonathan

    Tommy and James, please note that we that we post most comments (minus ones with coarse language), regardless of whether we agree with what they say or not. If your comment does not immediately appear, its because we have not read it yet and approved it – we do this to keep spam out of the discussions. These comments are also cross posted to our blog (http://blog.acton.org/) and these will tend to show up quicker. By the way, Tom, a response to your comments can be found [url=http://blog.acton.org/index.html?/archives/466-Low-Marx-for-Poor-Memory.html#c3871]here[/url].

  • tom

    James,

    I am not really commenting on the pro’s/cons of Marxism all i am wishing to do is highlight the fact that capitalism too haS killed millions. Whilst we sit here spouting facts and figures regarding the evils of communism we are, of course, totally confident in the righteousness of capitalism and we realise it has its little discrepancies but nothing on the scale of communism. Ignorance is bliss my friends.

    I really love your description of Western backed dictators as ‘rough customers’. But what would you call a soviet backed dictator who killed/imprisoned thousands of his people? I think, in fact know, that words like tyrant/despot/authoritarian would be produced. Yet western supported dictators with similar statistics are ‘rough customers’ or ‘rogues’. Just a minor but important point on language.

    James, i fail to see any correlation what so ever between Chile and South Africa’s relative prosperity now and the USA’s support for their former dictators. Are you saying that for a country to be successful in the future that genocide is necessary? Can you please explain how Western support for the apartheid system in anyway helped the South African economy? I don’t know if you remember but there was mass boycotting of South African goods, regular reports of police/government brutality and corruption, international condemnation of apartheid, a ban on sports teams travelling there etc etc. As for Chile, well i’m sure Pinochet’s execution of thousands of his people really bolstered their economy. Do you think relatives of those killed are thankful For US support of Pinochet because ‘it gave us a steady economy’?

    What i find very interesting is that any dictators crimes or capitalist crime can be excused if it is done in the fight against world communism. So capitalists kill people or cut dowm on civil liberty’s in order to protect us from communism killing or abusing our human rights. Any similarities there?

    Jamaica-’a vacation paradise’? I think you’ve been watching too many Sandals adverts. Negril and other tourist areas are ‘vacation paradises’ where tourists can go and spend money in Western owned hotels, and go on beaches that are for tourist use only. Now lets consider the ‘vacation paradise’ that is inner city JA. Areas like Tivoli Gardens run by street gangs funded by the drug trade and backed up by which ever political party holds power in that area, now that’s a ‘vacation paradise’. I say again Jamaica has the highest murder rate in the world. It’s whole economy relies upon the international drug trade! Clearly it can be held up as a beacon of successful Western ‘colonialism’…..

    “”Now you want us to condemn people working in Asia to make a better life for themselves”. You have purposefully taken my words out of context. In no way am i arguing that Asian people shouldn’t have the right to ‘better themselves’, i am criticising the system that allows them to be so poorly paid for their hard labour. Working 16 hours a day earning just about enough to feed themselves but not enough to stop their children having to work for a living or enter a more ‘lucrative’ business like drug dealing or child prostitution. And who owns or runs these companies? Usually a western business men. Yay for capitalism. Asian workers living below the poverty line creating designer clothing for the west.

  • tom

    My reply was to john power not James apologies to both.

  • tom

    John,

    I am not really commenting on the pro’s/cons of Marxism all i am wishing to do is highlight the fact that capitalism too haS killed millions. Whilst we sit here spouting facts and figures regarding the evils of communism we are, of course, totally confident in the righteousness of capitalism and we realise it has its little discrepancies but nothing on the scale of communism. Ignorance is bliss my friends.

    I really love your description of Western backed dictators as ‘rough customers’. But what would you call a soviet backed dictator who killed/imprisoned thousands of his people? I think, in fact know, that words like tyrant/despot/authoritarian would be produced. Yet western supported dictators with similar statistics are ‘rough customers’ or ‘rogues’. Just a minor but important point on language.

    John, i fail to see any correlation what so ever between Chile and South Africa’s relative prosperity now and the USA’s support for their former dictators. Are you saying that for a country to be successful in the future that genocide is necessary? Can you please explain how Western support for the apartheid system in anyway helped the South African economy? I don’t know if you remember but there was mass boycotting of South African goods, regular reports of police/government brutality and corruption, international condemnation of apartheid, a ban on sports teams travelling there etc etc. As for Chile, well i’m sure Pinochet’s execution of thousands of his people really bolstered their economy. Do you think relatives of those killed are thankful For US support of Pinochet because ‘it gave us a steady economy’?

    What i find very interesting is that any dictators crimes or capitalist crime can be excused if it is done in the fight against world communism. So capitalists kill people or cut dowm on civil liberty’s in order to protect us from communism killing or abusing our human rights. Any similarities there?

    Jamaica-’a vacation paradise’? I think you’ve been watching too many Sandals adverts. Negril and other tourist areas are ‘vacation paradises’ where tourists can go and spend money in Western owned hotels, and go on beaches that are for tourist use only. Now lets consider the ‘vacation paradise’ that is inner city JA. Areas like Tivoli Gardens run by street gangs funded by the drug trade and backed up by which ever political party holds power in that area, now that’s a ‘vacation paradise’. I say again Jamaica has the highest murder rate in the world. It’s whole economy relies upon the international drug trade! Clearly it can be held up as a beacon of successful Western ‘colonialism’…..

    “”Now you want us to condemn people working in Asia to make a better life for themselves”. You have purposefully taken my words out of context. In no way am i arguing that Asian people shouldn’t have the right to ‘better themselves’, i am criticising the system that allows them to be so poorly paid for their hard labour. Working 16 hours a day earning just about enough to feed themselves but not enough to stop their children having to work for a living or enter a more ‘lucrative’ business like drug dealing or child prostitution. And who owns or runs these companies? Usually a western business men. Yay for capitalism. Asian workers living below the poverty line creating designer clothing for the west.

  • hulaa

    i think that this is kind off anti marxist cause what marx proposes is an ideal, while what was carried out witn lenin and stalin is a deeply imperfwected humanizad version of marx-s communism

  • D. A. M.

    So, Dr., what do you propose we do?

  • Hindsight

    Before writing a comment, try reading something written by marx himself; ignore propaganda if your only intention is to believe it blindly and completely.
    Also, the article wasn’t about the ‘white terror’, it was about wether or not Marx was to be held in such high consideration, it didn’t aprove or disaprove of all the other crap that’s gone on in the world.

  • Phil

    I’m not entirly sure if this artical is even durived in fact. There arrears to be great discontent for Marx by the author.

  • Jose P

    You have a Ph.D in Philosophy, and yet you seem to have forgotten to read his Theses or German Ideology. Please, for the sake of the public, actually attempt to understand Marx before you write about his writings. It seems as if the little you’ve read or understood has gone through already tainted misconceptions of his persona. The following must be cleared up: you’ve distorted his theory of economic value by having "slippery sloped" your way into claiming that Marxist thought takes all value away from human action. It is not whether or not reading, fishing and working have the same value. Our changing desires and sentiments fluctuate the values that different actions have for each of us. Ergo, your claim cannot stand. Marx makes no attempt to create a world in which nothing has value; he dreams of a world in which value is stripped from one of our worst plagues: the dollar.

  • Simon

    Bertrand Russell once said something to the effect that he would far rather have his ideas described by an educated opponent than by an ignorant supporter. An educated opponent of Marx would at least describe something resembling Marx’s ideas, if only to refute them. Of course, an ignorant opponent is almost comically inaccurate.

    There are those who avoid any real engagement with Christian ideas simply by pointing to the likes of the Inquisition (with its sadistic torturers holding crosses and intoning prayers while violating the bodies of their screaming victims) and saying "enough said". Similarly, and sadly, there are those who avoid any real engagement with the ideas of Marx simply by pointing to communist regimes and saying "enough said".

    This is clearly the case in the commentary on this website, where the reason for the author’s bewilderment at the great respect people have for Marx is all too clear: he has never read Marx. The ideas he describes as Marxist are bizarre caricatures and distortions of various bits and pieces of varying relevance…rather like when opponents of Christianity make a huge fuss over the "cannibalistic rituals" like "drinking blood" and neglect to mention anything of the ideas that are actually interesting and worth considering.

    Marx saw power being used not to love others, but to draw more power to itself by exploiting those with less power. In capitalism wealth was used to draw more wealth to itself (as it still is). If the factory owner paid the workers what the products of their labours were actually worth to him, he’d make no profit: profit was quite simply the extent to which those with less power were exploited. He showed how exploitative power relations that were obvious in feudal societies or societies based on flagrant slavery could be disguised by capitalism. The whole thrust of his ideas was criticism of exploitation, and hope for a society based on mutual respect for human dignity and freedom.

    Even his (educated) opponents at least have the sense to admire him for his insights and for his dreams, however much they may doubt the possibility of these dreams being realised. It’s irresponsible to write a commentary on Marx without reading him first. Learn what he actually argued, and you’ll understand why he’s still held in such high regard.

  • Alan Bunbury

    It’s actually disgusting/hilarious how little the author actually knows about Marxism, especially as regards its attitudes towards justice.

  • marc

    Happy May Day to all the Marxists who seem to pop up on this thread! We wish you well as you continue to insist that Marx’s ideas will actually work if only they were implemented correctly.

    Good luck with all that.