Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Marx and the Intellectual Dialectic

Generally but not universally

Karl Marx was a great writer and a brilliant mind and provided excellent tools for helping to understand society and people. But like we all know alot of bad things were done in his name.

I don't know if Marx really wanted people to die for communism and his ideal human life. Do you know ? Marx said that the revolution would be bloody, this was a prediction I think not a call to arms.

If you read Rothbard on Marx, Rothbard said that Marx wanted people to become like Gods and shed their material forms and become divine spirits free of needs. The point is alot of idealists used Marx' ideas to build totalitarian states which killed either through planned extermination of those who disagreed with the ideal or through failed grandiose economic experiments. This I think anyway was not what Marx had in mind. Marx was a studious person who spent alot of his life in libraries not building a totalitarian cult. But I could be wrong; I have read maybe 500 pages of Marx, not his full million (est.) pages nor the million plus (est.) written about him and his thought.

Perhaps Marx was too much influenced by Hegel and the notion of "the great man" who can or will change history, which Marx then translated to the "great technology" which will allow the capitalist system to bring the cornicopea of plenty which would then bring the revolution needed change to the dreary conditions of the working class.

So in recent Central European, Balkan and now Greece travels I have noticed an interesting dialectic. In places where Marxist idealogy did the most harm - Poland, the Czeck Repub, Romania - you find an absence of Marx books on the streets and in the stores. To carry them or to read them is I think perhaps shameful. People living now had their relatives and other loved ones killed in Marx' name. The stronger was the Soviet influence perhaps (generally but not universally) the less intellectuals and counter-culture people are influenced by Marx. And relatedly, it is hard to find Mao's red book in China, except in some kind of kitsch form, like I hope anyway Stalin and Lenin busts are in the ex-USSR.

In places where murderous-totalitarian acts under Marx' name did not take place Marx' thought seems to be more influential. Here I mean Japan, the USA, Italy, England.

This is the dialectic. The stronger the Marxism in the 20th century the stronger the absence of Marx in the 21st. The weaker the Marx in the 20th century, the stronger is the presence of Marx in the 21st.

I am not opining one way or another on the validity of "Marxist economics". Socialism (eg central planning) is idiotic (except again generally perhaps the Yugoslavian model which was perhaps not authoritarian but open. Some people in the ex-Yugoslavia seem to really miss their country now in "balkanized" bits). Central planning is idiotic because it is counter to human evolution, liberty, responsibility, initiative and feelings of equality. How can there by equality if one (smaller) group of people plan everything for one (larger) group of people ?

There are many pearls of wisdom in Karl Marx. Enlightened evolved people do want to see the improvement of our lots, as, no doubt, did Marx. But murder and stupid grand ideas are not the way to this end. Just ask the newer generations of people who are living with the Soviet fallout.