I don't think there's any excuse for trying to dig old Karl Marx up, I think it is shameful that people still do this. And yet, I used to be a Marxist, so am guilty of it, but I realise that the main flaw most people have in doing this is not understanding the basics of what Marx wrote, but also not understanding the gritty details - all of which one should understand before one commits oneself to an ideology, otherwise one not only does oneself a disservice, but makes one appear extremely lazy to those who have done the work of trying to figure out what the man who was not short in facial hair actually thought.
The other reason is that you better have a good reason, well thought out and water tight, for supporting the ideology responsible for the most deaths in the last century.
While, if you were to come on this board and say, promote Nazism or even fascism, people (possibly mods) will oppose you because that's a murderous ideology (and rightly so), but for some reason, you get the slip (and HHDL does to), for supporting another murderous ideology - even trying to whitewash it by saying that it is in some sense moral. But if we count the numbers of dead from both fascists and communists, communism is ahead by an order of magnitude: Stéphane Courtois' estimate is indisputable at 94 million, as against about 9 from fascism. Whereas for some reason, communism gets the slip, while communism appears to be sort of cool and fun. Unfortunately the whitewashing isn't honest, and ignores the fact that the amorality of Marx's ideology really is indifferent to whether 94 million people died. But before you snap back with a response, please read my argument:
smcj wrote:Sounds like he's a socialist-democrat to me.
This is one of the difficulties of trying to align yourself with an ideology centred around an individual and his thought (in this case Marx, hence Marxism). One can rarely agree with 100% of the ideas of the person whom one is talking about, and everyone ends up reading into the person's thought what one thinks is best personally.
At a lecture I attended by Dr. Rupert Gethin, the President of the Pali Text Society, he compared readings of what the Buddha was like historically to the way in which Jesus was attempted to be viewed as a historical figure: always as a self-image. I'll just give you some of the quotes he provided which I have in my notes:
George Tyrrell, Christianity at the Crossroads, London: 1909, pp. 22 & 49 wrote:The Christ that Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well. ... Whatever Jesus was, He was in no sense a Liberal Protestant.
E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995, p. 6 wrote:Virtually everyone has his or her own view of Jesus, and thus has a preconception of what a book on Jesus should say. With very few exceptions, these views are extremely favourable. People want to agree with Jesus, and this often means that they see him as agreeing with themselves.
M. Carrithers wrote referring to a conversation he had with a British Socialist who had converted to Buddhism (sound familiar anyone?):
M. Carrithers, The Buddha, Oxford: OUP, 1983, p. 1 wrote:He told me that in the whole mess of human history this at least - the statue and all it stands for - was something of which we could be proud. He said that he had no use for religion, but he felt that he had unknowingly been a follower of the Buddha all along.
The following books, Gethin described as "Sort of non-scholarly Orientalist fantasy about the ideal Buddha:"
Batchelor, S., Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, New York: Spiegal & Grau, 2010.
Ling, T., The Buddha: Buddhist Civlization in India and Ceylon, London: Temple Smith, 1973.
Bronkhorst, Johannes, The Two Traditions of Meditation in Ancient India, Second edn, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1993.
Gombrich, Richard, How Buddhist Began: The Conditioned Genesis of the Early Teachings, London: Athlone, 1996.
The same thing happens with Marx all the time. I can quote tomes of what can only be described as interpretations
of Marx, which will take us around the globe through every possible stream of thought of perspective on any issue, and you will never know anything about what Marx actually thought or described. To save time I'll just refer to His Holiness' statements.
Before I do though, I'll just preface by saying that this by no means means that His Holiness read and misinterpreted Marx - the perspective he is describing is one which is extremely common among what can really only be described as Liberal Progressives, and no one can really be blamed for holding these views. Why am I going to make this response? Because, with no pretence, I do claim to know a thing or two about Marxism (as someone else on this board knows).
What I think should be held in mind overall though is that no argument is actually being advanced by merely
quoting the opinion of someone who is held in high esteem, that is an argumentum ad verecundiam. Rather, the actual content and structure of their words should be what one evaluates - a quotation when arguing is only used in order to present a thought which is not one's own, which itself makes a valid and useful point in the discussion. Yes, in a public forum, such as in a democratic election, quoting someone of high esteem in a particular field relevant to the topic at hand is a convincing strategy, but an argument it does not make (and only goes to show another weakness in democracy).
HHDL wrote:Of all the modern economic theories, the economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability.
He is correct with regards to capitalism. But at least in capitalism morals can be held in the mind of an individual when he or she goes about their free
actions, and their choices in the world. Marxism on the other hand, is not only not founded on moral principles, but views them merely as constructions of the existing stage of materialist development. Thus, prohibitions against depriving others of property are considered merely bourgeois morals, rather than universally immoral. Similarly, if one aligns oneself with the morality of the proletarian revolution, morality is defined only in terms of common ownership and socially direct labour. Thus you can more or less justify anything under the sun in order to advance the class interests of the proletariat - that people have biological or innate negative reactions to these is merely considered Pavlovian conditioning into Bourgeois morality, and thus must be done away with. There is absolutely no reason to restrain oneself from a violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie under this logic. I have been friends with life-long Maoists who were shocked that I could suggest having some restraint with regards to killing bourgeois capitalist roaders, as if I was the immoral one. Yet, as we all know, if their life were threatened in the same way, they would not be held back from negative reaction. You can brainwash people into doing anything, but morality still remains grounded in natural sentiments, and property is vitally important to these sentiments as all Buddhist codes of morality tell (non-dual forms are not codes of morality).
Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 25, London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1987, p. 87 wrote:We therefore reject every attempt to impose on us any moral dogma whatsoever as an eternal, ultimate and for ever immutable ethical law on the pretext that the moral world, too, has its permanent principles which stand above history and the differences between nations. We maintain on the contrary that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time. And as society has hitherto moved in class antagonisms, morality has always been class morality; it has either justified the domination and the interests of the ruling class, or ever since the oppressed class became powerful enough, it has represented its indignation against this domination and the future interests of the oppressed.
That is, there is not "morality" as such, there are "moralities." Each morality is used and disposed of as it serves the currents and tides of history - an amoral and impersonal process, devoid of the moral choice or personal decision and intention that qualifies Buddhist notions of morality and karma. Indeed, suffering and exploitation can even be a good thing if you twist your logic in this way:
Marx, New York Daily Tribune, 25 June, 1853 wrote:Sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness those myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their ancient form of civilization and their hereditary means of subsistence, we must not forget that these idyllic village communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism; that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and [what Marx is really only interested in here:] historical energies . . .
We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man to be the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never-changing natural destiny and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanurnan, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow ...
The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution. Then, whatever bitterness the spectacle of the crumbling of an ancient world may have for our personal feelings, we have the right, in point of history, to exclaim with Goethe: 'Sollte dim Qual uns qudlen,/Da sie unsre Lust vermehrt:" ['Should we be grieved by this pain that increases our pleasure?']
Sure, there's many things one can agree with Marx with on this one, and for the most part colonialism is the only way a lot of countries could avoid continual moral degradation. Independence doesn't really exist for the third world - they move from de jure dependence with colonial overlords, to de facto dependence under the rule of the IMF and World Bank, or development grants and so forth. The world is all America's now, as it was once all Britain's.
But the point here is the Goethe quote. This is the concept which Marxists call "the worse the better," because the more degraded, exploited and punished a people, the closer they are to taking up arms in violent proletarian revolution. We must remember that this has ironic implications for HHDL, whose country, under Marx's logic, would be better as the socialist haven on the roof of the world where the lamaist feudalism is stamped out, than one ruled by morality and the tranquil peace of Dharma. Ask yourself: which do you prefer?
This also means that there are higher civilizations and lower civilizations, ones which are more advanced in the materialist historical current - and these ones should replace and deplace the older ones. Marx really was a classic imperialist - while opposing imperialism at the same time. Kołakowski writes:
L. Kołakowski, The Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth, and Dissolution: Volume I: Founders, Oxford: OUP, 1978 p. 349-50 wrote:It should be noted that Marx's historical appraisal of human actions in terms of the part they play in bringing about liberation had nothing to do with a moral judgement: the crimes of the British imperialists were not palliated by the fact that they brought the day of revolution nearer. This is also the viewpoint of the whole of Capital, in which moral indignation at the cruelty and villainy of exploitation is found side by side with the conviction that this state of affairs was helping on the revolution. Increasing exploitation was bringing about the downfall of capitalism, but it did not follow that the workers who resisted it were acting 'against history'. However, their action was progressive not because it improved their lot and this improvement was good in itself, but because it helped to develop the workers' class-consciousness, which was a precondition of revolution.
Marx and Engels is believed in the rights of a higher civilization over a lower one. The French colonization of Algeria and the D.S. victory over Mexico seemed to them progressive events, and in general they supported the great 'historical' nations against backward peoples or those which for any reason had no chance of independent historical development. ...
Thus the martyrdom of history would not be in vain, and future generations would enjoy the fruits of their predecessors' sufferings.
Thus, allowing suffering now, is viewed as an assurance of future prosperity. Not actually because it's a simple calculation of delayed gratification, but because allowing suffering now is not actually immoral, since that which is moral is the ends of the cult of humanism, i.e. socially direct labour and man's emancipation from the bonds of capital through violent proletarian revolution.
HHDL wrote:Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis and the equitable utilization of the means of production.
Anyone, please explain to me how this works.
The difference between Marxism and Capitalism, is that Capitalism is described functionally
, whereas Marxism is described in terms of ultimate goals. Beyond a functional explanation, the goal is nothing but an empty hope or sentiment. This is why most Marxist states spent their time explaining the problem away by saying that the goals are going to be achieved with the proper functioning of their "transitional society," I thought that this could be solved through "experimentation" in such a society, which is the Maoist school of thought. I quickly came to my senses and ceased being a Marxist and a Maoist after I realised that not only is this futile and will lead to many more deaths than those which Mao caused, but is not even what Marx meant in the text from which Lenin contrived the notion of the transitional society. I will briefly explain this problem, by explaining its origins and Marx's actual thinking on the matter -- which itself appears to be more sceptical of its existence or practicality than any so called Marxist in the world.
This comes from the comment of Marx in the Critique of the Gotha Programme
, in which Marx states:
Marx and Engels, Collected works, 1874-83, p. 16 wrote:Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Note that there is not a "transition society" in Marx's thinking, a society is a very peculiar thing in Marxist thought which consists of a superstructure over a particular mode of production. A period of revolutionary transformation is actual transformation
communism. Note that Marx uses the term society only to modify two other nouns: capitalist and communist. There is no "transition society." The dictatorship of the proletariat is the gear by which the machine of revolutionary change occurs in the shift from A to B, it is not a society with its own culture (a la Lin Biao). This idea comes from Lenin's State and Revolution
Lenin, Selected works, Vol. 2, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970 p.349 wrote:The transition from capitalist society--which is developing towards communism--to communist society is impossible without a "political transition period", and the state in this period can only be the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
Lenin is trying to explain the transformation by putting something palpable there, where what is really just the withering away of A, where B takes its place. Since we're talking Marxism, I'll make my point clearer on this one... by quoting Hegel:
Hegel, Science of Logic: Volume One: The Objective Logic, Book One: The Doctrine of Being, section 777. wrote:In thinking about the gradualness of the coming-to-be of something, it is ordinarily assumed that what comes to be is already sensibly or actually in existence; it is not yet perceptible only because of its smallness. Similarly with the gradual disappearance of something, the non-being or other which takes its place is likewise assumed to be really there, only not observable, and there, too, not in the sense of being implicitly or ideally contained in the first something, but really there, only not observable. In this way, the form of the in-itself, the inner being of something before it actually exists, is transformed into a smallness of an outer existence, and the essential difference, that of the Notion, is converted into an external difference of mere magnitude. The attempt to explain coming-to-be or ceasing-to-be on the basis of gradualness of the alteration is tedious like any tautology; what comes to be or ceases to be is assumed as already complete and in existence beforehand and the alteration is turned into a mere change of an external difference, with the result that the explanation is in fact a mere tautology. The intellectual difficulty attendant on such an attempted explanation comes from the qualitative transition from something into its other in general, and then into its opposite; but the identity and the alteration are misrepresented as the indifferent, external determinations of the quantitative sphere.
The point from the Marxist point of view (which I held for many years), is that the political is rooted in the economic, and you can't just transform the political and expect the economic to follow suit. Mode of Production = Class Division = Class Antagonism = Political Domination. You can't have the one without the other, and so the dream that you can simply wither away capitalist society and polity with some kind of transitional state, without actually transforming the capitalist mode of production, is pure fantasy. But if you transform the mode of production upon which capitalism is founded, then capitalist society and polity will wither away, and if that mode of production is communist, then the state will completely disappear and not transform as the manifestation of the dynamics of that mode of production. I am not claiming that Marx believed communism comes about through the instantaneous transformation of the capitalist mode of production, he no doubt would have been realistic, but the point is that theoretically, even within the difficult logic of Marxism, the idea of revolution without transforming the foundation of capitalism first, is bankrupt.
The issue with people who don't understand Marx (including most Communists) when talking about how to transition to communism, is that they explain an alternative arrangement within the logic of the law of value, whereas Marx's model assumes the abolition of the law of value. For example, in Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy
, Marx responds to John Gray's 1831 proposal for a national bank which issues certificates equivalent to labour time in exchange for stocks of the nation's commodities. Therefore, in theory you could exchange one certificate for a commodity which required one day of labour to make. Of course, for Marx, labour is the determinate of value, (if you don't understand Marx's labour theory of value, please stop reading and go and get Vol. 1 of Capital
) so it would seem normal to make such a suggestion. This is Marx's own critique (and this idea is still proposed by people who have no idea how economics works, such as Ithaca Dollars or Brixton Pounds):
Marx, Critique of Political Economy, B. Theories of the Standard of Money wrote:
But as Gray presupposes that the labour-time contained in commodities is immediately social labour-time, he presupposes that it is communal labour-time or labour-time of directly associated individuals. In that case, it would indeed be impossible for a specific commodity, such as gold or silver, to confront other commodities as the incarnation of universal labour and exchange-value would not be turned into price; but neither would use-value be turned into exchange-value and the product into a commodity, and thus the very basis of bourgeois production would be abolished. But this is by no means what Gray had in mind – goods are to be produced as commodities but not exchanged as commodities. Gray entrusts the realisation of this pious wish to a national bank.
But if goods are produced as commodities, then they will unavoidably be exchanged as commodities. The labour is social only inasmuch as individual labour is alienated. From the Marxist perspective, you can either say an hour of labour counts as around an hour, or not as labour at all since it's not directly social. Moreover, the value and the price of two commodities which took an hour to produce will most likely be different. E.g. if there's no use-value for your commodity, it doesn't matter if you spent a month making a tonne of dousing rods, since there's no market for them, there's no value in them. You can't just wish commodities to be one value, and you can't wish all labour to be of one value, as Marx puts it:
Marx, Critique of Political Economy, B. Theories of the Standard of Money wrote:
The dogma that a commodity is immediately money or that the particular labour of a private individual contained in it is immediately social labour, does not of course become true because a bank believes in it and conducts its operations in accordance with this dogma. On the contrary, bankruptcy would in such a case fulfil the function of practical criticism.
This is because the national bank would be continually short of goods because the advanced producers would create a black market, and the state regulated sector would keep regressing. When the state attempts to coerce the black market into compliance, the advanced producers will leave (i.e. brain drain, entrepreneur drain). Those who are forced to remain inside the state will be able to get away with producing as little as possible, since one hour of lousy work is as equal to one hour of Stakhanovite work. There would be no more incentive to work. Moreover, production would be useless and retarded, one hour of production of a useless widget would only be worth as much as one hour of production of a valuable one, and thus there would be no investment in efficient production since it wouldn't produce a cent in returns. A lot of these characteristics (although they don't fit Grey's model to a T) can be seen in actual attempts at communism.
If you read Marx's book which is available online through that link (and there's no reason why you shouldn't read all of Marx's work, he's a smashing writer), you will see that he argues quite coherently that those who want to get rid of money, must get rid of exchange-value, which requires getting rid of commodities, which requires getting rid of the capitalist mode of production.
So, attempts to achieve fair distribution and an "equitable utilization of the means of production" and wealth, must have a realistic system and notion of the requirements for how to actualise that program. Treatments of revolution which are political rather than transformative of the means of production, as Lenin's and Mao's were, are criticised by Marx as follows:
Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Chapter 1. wrote:
Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby. ...
Do not the bourgeois assert that the present-day distribution is "fair"? And is it not, in fact, the only "fair" distribution on the basis of the present-day mode of production? Are economic relations regulated by legal conceptions, or do not, on the contrary, legal relations arise out of economic ones? Have not also the socialist sectarians the most varied notions about "fair" distribution?
Thus he argues that whatever standards the Gotha Programme set for measuring fair distribution were under the capitalist logic - under capitalist logic all distribution is fair, you get socially determined value for value. They treat the state as an independent entity, instead of treating it as a product of society and the means of production, believing that fairness doesn't depend on the foundation - but on the superstructure. How do you have communism then without a labour-money scheme and what does a transformed mode of production look like?
Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, Chapter 1. wrote:
individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion ... but directly as a component part of total labor. ...
the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them. ...
What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. ...
Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase "proceeds of labor", objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning. ...
Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. ... The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.
In short, this is "socially direct labour," wherein the law of value has been abolished and whereby one's societal contribution isn't assessed by quantity of production. You don't have to sell your labour, or buy stuff with money, while not at the same time being a subsistence farmer, because all work contribute to society's overall production as a whole. So both your labour and your product are socially direct - i.e. nothing indirect, no money intervening (i.e. no C-M-C).
For Marx, this only happens because equality of principle (equality is what Marx holds to be the "principle" of capitalism), is "at loggerheads" with practice (i.e. capitalism produces unequal results because one person makes a profit in an exchange of labour value and the other doesn't, exempting that he holds shares in his own company). Whereas in communism, it's no that people are being more ethical and moral as His Holiness has been lead to believe by who know whom, but that social conditions have changed such that the contradiction of practice and principle in the capitalist mode of production has been eliminated. The contradiction is that labour in capitalism is unequal in individual cases because the law of value works by socially necessary abstract labour time, thus one's labour is only equal to another's if it matches perfectly that socially necessary abstract labour time requirement, whereas in communism they are measured equally because the law of value has been abolished, they are both socially direct labour. Thus people in communism, according to Marx, are remunerated according to the actual amount of work they do.
But at the same time that Marx made this absolutely clear, he also made absolutely clear that the law of socially direct labour "does not become true because a bank believes in it and conducts its operations" accordingly. You can't just impose a fiat, law, or simply agree as a group in a commune or kibbutz to count all labour equally. You must ground these changes in the mode of production, not the reverse - not from political will or societal agreement, but from practical materialist transformation
. For instance, if you and your friends decide to declare that the labour of a nurse and surgeon are equal, there will be a black market of surgeons (and the process I repeated above will occur, a la USSR).
Thus, one has to make absolutely clear what the social relations are wherein labours are counted equally.
I want anyone who supports communism on this forum, even if HHDL says he supports it, to make clear those social relations. They will quickly realise that they are facing a task of metaphysical proportions, wherein they must establish equality in a world wherein none actually exists. Not only can two labours only be equal to one another on average
, but two human beings also can only be equal to one another on average, because there will always be someone more capable or less capable than someone else. And a world wherein no equality actually exists and wherein all relations as regards labour are always fundamentally unequal, is one wherein what Marx calls capitalism is actually the only mode of production that not only can exist but always did exist.
So, as regards the rest of what HHDL says, the main flaw which Marxists will point out with it is that he is looking at a "feeling" or a "sentiment" of benefiting others, or compassion, which one might associate with a movement which targets the proletariat. But one must be careful in conflating the two, because Marxist revolution is largely this impersonal force which has no moral impetus. I actually addressed this issue in a previous post on this thread: what system maximises Buddhist qualities and values, what makes life easiest for the most number of people, and what is most likely to be congenial to the Sangha? It's one wherein one recognises the way society and economics have always worked, and maximise their benefit to society - and the model wherein that is best assured is one in which the government has the highest incentive to maximise the pleasantness of the polity.
This is really completely irrelevant from the Marxist perspective - pleasantness has no effect on Marx's Teutonic brow because he saw himself as a scientist observing, describing, and predicting the objective and scientific materialist development of history - whether it is pleasant or not had absolutely no bearing on his prescriptions or judgements.
The model which WILL ensure the highest incentive to maximise the pleasantness of the polity is one wherein the ruler has an interest in such, so you have to make mechanisms whereby the ruler will have such interest. These I have formulated, and I can formulate again, but in case anyone wants to crack a whip at me because I am criticising Marx, as being some kind of "establishment" apologist, I am nothing of the kind - I am further from it from Marx, who was drunk with the food of the establishment (i.e. progressivism). I will restate this model again if anyone is interested, each time I restate it I make it clearer to myself too.
Now, for those who have been reading this reply, you will see that for the most part I have accepted Marx's premises, and that I only object to argument in as much as he doesn't provide one, i.e. for an alternative to the "law of value." But the question is then, does the law of value actually exist? That is, does value come from socially abstract necessary labour time? There are lots of answers and responses to this online, but my objection is rather simple and has to do with a contradiction I found in Capital
and was never able to reconcile with myself - and which eventually broke the straw in the camel's back for me and led me to give up Marxism: So, for Marx, values have magnitude both in money and in labour time. Because of this, Marx talks about the sum of values being equal or unequal to the sum of prices. Since Marx holds that the two sums are equal, and that the production of value precedes the receipt of value, prices in their totality are not only equal to, but determined by, the total value produced. Do I need to say more? This magic is the sort of thing which Marx gets away with because he writes tomes and tomes. Prices are determined by the producer's will to make a profit, nothing more, nothing less. Value is a conscious or unconscious judgement about the importance of a good for the maintenance of life and well being, it is purely mental. The kind of imbuing of commodities with an imprinted socially direct labour which Marx talks about is actually the kind of fetishism he attributes to the very thing he is critiquing. Marx is a magician and fetishist of the highest order by this account, and no Buddhist who understand dependent origination and lack of inherent existence (svabhava) can accept the idea that one's labour value is imbued into a commodity as if a spirit of a savage's deity is imbued into his idol.
The final pillar of Marxism which still, for some reason, stands among the less well read Marxists is that of dialectical materialism. The only people in contemporary leftist scholarship who still believe in this are the Analytical Marxists, most of whom no longer exist because the criticism against their ideas was so coherent, and it became resoundingly obvious that their interpretations were far too simplistic. The only decent attempt at apology was Gerald A Cohen's Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence
, which was a good read but I think most scholars of Marxism more or less agree that even Marx gave up advocating this even in the 1850s, as you can see in some comments he makes in the Grundrisse on the impossibility of simply technological determinism, wherein technology will necessitate revolution.
The real flaw in the thesis of historical materialism in my impression is to assume that there is a distinct phenomena called "capitalism" which is distinct from any alternative in economic arrangements. Which is to say, capitalism, even as Marx describes it in Capital
, just happens to be the normal economic relations of all historical epochs, even hunter gather societies exchanged with a mind to exchange and use values - which I suspect is why Marx stopped going on about the idea of Communal->Slave->Feudal->Primitive Accumulation->Capitalism->Communism sometime during the 1850s. Engels never quite caught on, and I doubt Marx ever would have voiced his doubt at the theory which his life for the past 30 years had been devoted to. This is to say, one can't treat the normal state of affairs as a specific state of being, out of which you can escape through an alternative called communism, just like we didn't actually escape out of feudalism through an alternative called capitalism - it was still going on, whenever one was exchanging one good for another, be it with another producer in a town, or with one's lord, i.e. grain in exchange for protection.
Thus, one might even say, there's not even such a thing as capitalism. Yes, reality is remorseless, but there's not a choice. You can't just label people who live in remorseless reality as making a dogmatic choice, as if they had some say in the matter. You might as well say, you want to abolish the weather, by saying that those who currently live according to it are abiding by and have chosen the dogma of "weatherism," as if we had a choice of creating and dwelling in a different state of affairs where rain and sun are gone and instead you have perpetual fertility and warmth - as always, details of how to do such will be suspended until you have handed over power of the state to the dictator with the beard. The more you try to give power to people, the more people will die and fight for it. They will fight one another and they will fight for power just for themselves. We must return to sanity, across to the shore behind
us, and not to the shore of Utopia in front of us, which we will never reach, and which lies across a sea filled foaming with blood.
But is power dangerous? Only when it is disputed. Tyrannies are monarchies disputed, as democracies are republics disputed. But power put in the hands of an able and capable king, is the kindest thing you can give to a nation, and can only be done with the utmost acknowledgement of the inequality of humans, and the superiority of this one individual human - he must be one whom others recognise as ideal to rule. Indeed, I don't believe that they need to be better than the average CEO, but to that end I believe the average CEO is far more adept at governing than even the oldest democracy (after all, just look at the state of Greece). Surely of all ‘rights of man’, this right of the ignorant man to be guided by the wiser, to be, gently or forcibly, held in the true course by him, is the indisputablest. If this were not so, then there would be no abbots in monasteries, just as there would be no leaders of animal herds. Leadership is a quality which we really ought not to treat with as much pittance as we do, and we must not be blind to the fact that we are in fact ruled not by sound monetary handling, but an aristocracy of the moneybag, and so long as we accept democracy it will be so.
But alas, a long reply it has been, and under all speech that is good for anything there lies a silence that is better. Silence is deep as Eternity; speech is shallow as Time.