Mystified Marxist Mouse

I have recently been involved in an interesting discussion Elsewhere on the subject of Cultural Marxism and the Frankfurt School. Simplistically, Political Marxism morphed into Cultural Marxism from there to Political Correctness and Multiculturalism. Thus Marxism is responsible for all the ills of the Western World today.

But that is just the background. I have made mention on this site that I studied history, and I was intrigued by the views of Marxist Historians. Very simply, it was a way of looking at historical events which gave more importance to underlying socio-economic factors.

I must confess, I know little about Marxism and have not read anything written by Karl Marx, which I would have thought, in the course  of this discussion become painfully obvious.

When asked about what it is about Marxism that I disagree with, I responded thus:

” My understanding of theoretical political Marxism is that it evolved as revolutionary theory to overthrow Capitalism. The end result is Communism, the practical applications of which mostly end up in totalitarian one-party regimes, which control the means of production, and practically everything else in life”

I really will try to answer your question, although, as I keep telling you, I know little about Marxism.

I repeat I don’t like anything about Marxism as a political theory.
I don’t like the practical application.
I don’t like revolutions
I don’t like totalitarian one party regimes.
I don’t like the Marxist concept of the abolition of private property.
I don’t like state control of the means of production, or control of thought, deed or restrictions on individual freedom.
In conclusion having exhausted my knowledge of what I understand to be Marxist aims, I think it is a completely flawed theory, and the notion of some sort of workers paradise and a classless society is hopelessly utopian and unachievable.

In short, what’s to like about Marxism? I thought this was pretty clear actually but no, it was judged to be obfuscation, and elicited this response:

“How you can agree with a Marxist historians viewpoint and refer to an economic and class interpretation of history, advising me to read up using these methods which is a Marxist view of the English Civil War then appear volte-face saying that you know very little about Marxism and do not agree with it while all the time expounding its method for historical analysis is nothing less than astounding. Mind you, did you not think that Atheist materialism in the 1930’s Soviet Union was about shopping?”

Is it possible that whilst I thought I was engaged in a study of history, I was unwitting absorbing political Marxism? Do you believe that it inconceivable to study history from a Marxist viewpoint and agree with the analysis, and not be a Marxist.

18 thoughts on “Mystified Marxist Mouse”

  1. Marxists are like the Greens. It’s good to have a handful around to bring different view points up, but never should they be allowed anywhere near the levers of power. I’ve studied under a handful of Marxist historians myself. On some points there’s been agreement, on some points disagreement.

    As you said, Minty, they tend to look more into “low history”, the lives of the majority of people rather than simply the political, economic, and cultural elite. It provides a more balanced view of history and to some extent explains more fully why great events unfolded as they did — and why we should not think that we’ve progressed that far in many respects. This, while not exclusively a Marxist affair (in fact, a number of Marxist historians, including EM Carr, have shunned social/cultural history as effete and preferred to focus on the great figures and great movements) is doubtless tainted by Marxists and Fabian socialists.

    As for being a Marxist by agreeing with certain interpretations of events… Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, and Hussein have all made points which are difficult to disagree with. Most schools of thought, at least on occasion, make strong and valid points which are difficult to dismiss. That doesn’t mean that one is necessarily a follower of that school for agreeing with a few of its points.

  2. History will record that those who scrabbled to the top of the greasy pole of Markism enjoyed dachas, Zlins and dedicated road-lanes provided for the likes of Ceauseccu and all the other communist leaders by a sullen, taxed, oppressed, silent but state-enforrced ‘grateful’ proletariate. How is it that the unelected Kim Il Un and his unlamented father and grandfather obviously ate all the pies in a country where half the population is starving?

    Socialism my hairy ‘arris I’m all in favour of up-against-the-wall revolution,

    OZ

  3. What an interesting comment, Christopher. I was rather hoping you and Boadicea would contribute.

    I think there are some flaws no doubt in the Marxist view of history, but it should not be dismissed as being valueless, as you say. It does provide balance and yes, it is simply another way of understanding why events pan out.

    Thank you for your last paragraph, I agree with you, I see no reason whatsoever why I seemed to be branded a Marxist because I saw some value in the ideas of Marxist historians.

  4. Well quite, OZ, Marxism doesn’t appeal either in theory or practical application, but I’m not a great fan of revolutions. One civil war, in England anyway, was quite enough.

  5. Araminta –

    1. We do not attempt to continue threads from the Dark Side here.
    2. But if we do, we paste a link to the relevant thread(s), so that one does not have to go searching through your Disqus account, now that you’ve buggered up your account on TDS, in an attempt to find context for your post.
    3. Trying to conduct a sensible discussion on TDS is impossible; the vast majority of ‘contributors’ are illiterate (in both orthography and grammar), ill-educated and eternally cross. Why do you bother?
    4. The problem in this specific case is Labels. Ignorant people throw them around like spears. The term “ignorant people” includes all those who believe that “social science” and “political science” are sciences.
    5. Boadicea is far too busy looking after her Mum to waste time commenting on rubbish like this. If you want her probable opinion, read David Starkey.

    OZ – I will ignore your observation on TDS, but in reply to your #2 here, are you incapable of throwing off your British indoctrination for a moment and realising that the UK is now subject to the same master/serf oppression as Albania or Korea? Special lanes for the rich to reach Olympic venues, with stiff penalties for the plebs? Millions to be spent on a boat for Lizzie? Unlimited “expenses” for those who reach the Commons? No prosecutions against “senior politicians” who break driving laws? Incarceration for talking about an invading religion in derogatory terms?

    The rich get richer and the poor get poorer – helped along by an unelected group of power mad bureaucrats in Brussels and their thousands of regulations.

  6. Thanks, Bearsy for your thoughts. I deliberately did not post a link to TDS, because I did not want to be accused of carrying on some personal vendetta. That was not my intention. My preference was, that one should comment on the issue in my last paragraph, but felt it only fair to provide some background.

    I appreciate that Boadicea is probably probably jet-lagged and rather busy with her mother. This of course, I took into account.

    How have I “buggered up my account” on TDS? Could you explain, please?

    Labels: yes, I agree, and sadly I’m also in agreement with trying to conduct a sensible discussion on TDS. I really should know better.

    I would not be distressed if you deemed this post “out of order”. Please feel free to delete it should this be the case.

  7. I’ve never understood this Marxist historian thing and I thank Christopher for explaining, though what he mentions is usually called economic or social history, isn’t it? But until relatively recently the governing elite of a country simply did as it pleased, with no concern for the lives of ordinary people who couldn’t vote and therefore didn’t count. Even when the French proletariat got up on its hind legs and started building guillotines, this purging of the elite didn’t last long. So I don’t understand how the lives of ordinary citizens, interesting as social history is, can be looked at from a Marxist point of view from a position of hindsight and when it had no or very little effect on the actions of those running the country.

  8. Yes, Sheona, but however objective historians try to be, they are always looking at history with hindsight. One of the obvious flaws in trying to analyse the English Civil War,or indeed the French Revolution from a theory that was written specifically to address the “evils” of Capitalism some time in the future.

    Nevertheless, at the time, it was simply a different way of looking at events. It still has some merit, in my opinion, if only because it indeed does address the socio-economic aspects. It looks at the same primary sources from a different angle.

  9. Sheona: the Marxist theory of history is not the same as social or economic history, though Marxists do tend to dominate those fields. The Marxist theory of history is roughly that throughout time there has been a struggle between the workers and their overlords over the means of production and that violent uprisings/revolutions are inevitable, that the rise and fall of societies and systems of economics and government follow along regular patterns with inevitable outcomes. Hence the need for Marxists to have a more in-depth knowledge of social and economic histories than, say, military or political historians.

  10. Well I enjoy posts like this! I know nothing of the history of this particular post, but I’m of the opinion that the Chariot is just the place for such discussions. 🙂

    I spent some, admittedly short, time looking at how ‘history’ has been interpreted. Fascinating to see how the same events have been looked at by different generations, and different political and social groups. All such interpretations are coloured by the belief-systems of those writing those versions.

    But studying the way that historical events have been interpreted does not mean that I have taken on board the beliefs of those historians. Quite the reverse, I think it helped me to try to avoid looking at ‘history’ through the prism of my beliefs. I’m not sure that I succeeded – but I try!

    One of the problems I have with history teaching in schools, is that the subject seems to have been hi-jacked by the PC, self-abasing, hand-wringing mob. It is not a balanced view. Long live the teaching of history from many different view-points….

  11. Arrers, a very interesting topic. I also enjoyed the ‘spin’ of historians but mine were ancient. They simply remind us that there is no such thing as bare fact.

  12. Morning, Boadicea.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. I had a feeling you might enjoy this post. 🙂

    Absolutely agree with you. My views on historical matters are a result of reading many interpretations, not just one. I tend to remember the Marxist view simply because it was so different to the things I had been taught at school. It made more sense and was a much more exciting way of looking at events.

    How is your mother doing?

  13. A general comparison of a few textbooks on any subject and then take an average position of them all is rarely that wrong.
    True for newspapers too.

    Too many nutters with ‘isms these days, the world goes backwards I swear it!

    Perhaps when I have nothing to do for the odd decade or so I shall take up arguing the toss about Zoroastrian fire worship’s influence on modern religion.
    Meanwhile I have better things to do, it is marmalade season!

  14. Hmm, I think your theory may well work with newspapers, Tina, but I would hesitate to use this method in the study of history, or indeed any arts degree.

    I’ve never made marmalade; I have friends who make it and they are always very generous, so I rarely run out.

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