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Friday, 25 June 2010

Marxism is a Bad Religion


Bertrand Russell’s The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism is an incredibly prophetic book. Quite simply, he almost knew that the Russian Communist "experiment" would go badly wrong. It would go badly wrong precisely because of the doctrine of Marxism itself; rather than because of negative "circumstances".

One primary reason for this predicted failure was Marxism’s religious nature. Everything that is bad about religion turned out to be what was bad about Soviet communism. This position on Marxism’s religious nature was bound to bring in Russell’s profound psychological insight into the mind of a "dogmatic" communist. Most other commentators, if either pro-communist or anti-communist, systematically fail or don’t even try to provide an insight into the minds and psychologies of communists and Trotskyists. Marxists, by Marxist doctrinal definition, rule out such things as love of power, vanity, cruelty, etc. simply because they are seen as mere epiphenomena which above the far more important underlying socioeconomic and political conditions below.

It's worth noting that Russell wrote this book in 1920 – four years before Lenin died. It was written before the period in which modern-day communists and Trotskyists say that Leninism (or Bolshevism) was "corrupted by Stalin". Yet all that is bad about Leninism (or Bolshevism) could be found right from the start. It was inherent in communist doctrine. It could never really have been any other way.

Marxism is a Bad Religion

The connections between Marxism (or Bolshevism) and religion are legion. Russell realised this right from the start when he visited Russia and the disciples of Marx. Partly because of its Hegelian basis, Marxism was already religious in nature and Russell realised this well before the Russian Revolution of 1917; and certainly before the official and well-known Stalinist outrages. Russell tells us that "Bolshevism is not merely a political doctrine; it is also a religion, with elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures".

Thus if we have a religion, with its elaborate dogmas and inspired scriptures, we must also have both the followers of these texts as well as their interpreters. Lenin was one such initiate and interpreter:

"When Lenin [whom Russell actually visited] wishes to prove some proposition, he does so, if possible, by quoting texts from Marx and Engels."

Today you can still come across such blind faith in sacred Marxist texts. For example, you often hear members of the Socialist Workers Party saying things like, "What was Lenin’s position on Islam and Muslims?", as if Lenin would by definition have insightful and profound things to say about such things. Others always quote passages, texts and books by Marx and Marxists. If you go to a SWP conference (or check its agenda on the Internet), you'll see titles such as ‘What did Marx think about Sadomasochistic sex?’, or ‘What is the Leninist position on 19th century Italian opera?’ I've genuinely seen Marxist books and lecturers on things as diverse and esoteric as quantum physics and chaos theory. Why would Marx or Lenin have anything to say about such things? Indeed why would contemporary Marxists have anything unique or interesting to say on quantum mechanics, string theory or whatever?

With the sacred texts and the religious personas, you must also have dogma and dogmatism. And Lenin was most certainly a dogmatist. So too are most communists and Trots. The communist

"is a man who entertains a number of elaborate and dogmatic beliefs – such as philosophical materialism, for example – which may be true, but are not, to a scientific temper, capable of being known to be true with any certainty".

Thus, despite Marxism’s supposedly scientific credentials, it is, in fact, non-scientific and even anti-scientific. It's much more like a religion than a science. Despite appearances and Marxist self-rhetoric, Marxism goes back to the Middle Ages, to

"the habit of militant certainty about objectively doubtful matters, [a habit] from which, since the Renaissance, the world has been gradually emerging, into that temper of constructive and fruitful scepticism which constitutes the scientific outlook". (8/9)

Though any socialist/communist would tell you that his dogmatism (though he wouldn't use that word) is vital because his political enemies and Das System itself are so all-encompassing and evil (though he wouldn't use that word either). Thus the "ends justify the means". And part of the means will be centralism, party hierarchy and indeed political dogmatism. Dogmatism is a vital Trotskyist means because

"it cannot be denied that, over any short period of time, dogmatic belief is a help in fighting. If all Communists become religious fanatics, while supporters of capitalism retain a sceptical temper, it may be assumed that the Communists will win…" (9)

That's why socialists/communists foam at the mouth and shout a lot. Though most of the time this isn't a conscious strategy and seen as simply a means: it often genuinely expresses the foaming minds of these people. The problem is that we all know what Leftist foamers are and what they're like. Psychologically speaking, it's often the case (as with religious zealots) that "fanaticism is a camouflage for cruelty" and that "fanatics are seldom genuinely humane" (15). Again, just look into the face of a Trotskyist or and communist and ask yourself this:

Is his heart bleeding for the poor and oppressed? Or is he simply foaming at the mouth about his enemies and because he desirous of their annihilation?

Think of the eroticised nature of so much "anti-Zionist" action and rhetoric along with anti-Israel monomania. Thus hate (for Zionists, neoliberals, UKip, "Tories", nationalists, patriots ad infinitum) and not love (for the Oppressed, the Palestinians, etc.) is the prime emotion of the zealous Trotskyist or communist. He finds the hatred "of enemies easier and more intense than love of friends" (19). Therein lies a profound warning to us all. We can now say that

"from men who are more anxious to injure opponents than to benefit the world at large no great good is to be expected". (19)

The Holy Priests of Marxism

We now have the religion that was Bolshevism and is revolutionary Trotskyism; though what of the religious themselves? What of Lenin, for example? He struck Russell as being "narrowly orthodox". Aren’t all Leftists narrowly orthodox? Isn’t that what makes them Trotysists or communists – their blinkered vision and black-and-white view of the world?

Russell went on to say that Lenin had

"unwavering faith – religious faith in the Marxian gospel, which takes the place of the Christian martyrs hopes of Paradise…" (29/30).

Of course Lenin’s Paradise wasn't heaven: it was a pure communist state.  Despite that, Marxists have always congratulated themselves for not using the word ‘Utopia’ or being Utopians. This is rubbish. The very nihilistic attitude they have to all systems and all things non-socialist (as well as their often implied promises of a better future) are simply a disguised utopianism. A utopianism which dare not speak its name. After all, the actual utopians in the 19th century were all "bourgeois", weren’t they? How could a Marxist, therefore, be a utopian? Do you know who said that Marxists can’t be utopians? Marx himself.

In what sense, then, is Marxism utopian? Let’s just think about the heaven on earth it hints at, rather than states. Here again Marxism’s religious nature shows itself. What does communism or Trotskyism promise? This:

"It promises glorious things: an end to injustice of rich and poor, an end to economic slavery, and end to war. It promises an end of the disunion of classes which poisons political life and threatened our industrial system with destruction… It promises a world where all men and women shall be kept sane by work, and where all work shall be of value to the community…" (16)

That's why Marxists/socialists are always talking about the "current crisis of capitalism" and how only their political alternative will solve it. Out of the hundreds of alternatives, and thousands of failures, only their own offers so much. Only a crisis will make people revolutionary and make them despise the failings of Das System. Thus, according to Marxists/socialism, capitalism is always "in crisis" – "capitalism doesn’t work". Indeed there's a crisis just before every Marxist/socialist meeting.

It's no surprise that to Russell "Marxian Communism" itself

"ha[d] the fixed certainty of Catholic theology, not the changing fluidity and sceptical practicality of modern science" (60).

Except, of course, that Marx thought that he was a scientist – if a social scientist. Marxists still stress the scientific nature of Marxism; though not as much as they once did. (On the socialist website I found a poster who accused another socialist of "not being scientific enough".) In fact Marxism is the exact opposite of a science precisely because it owes more to religion than it does to science. The only people who ever thought that Marxism was a science were… well, Marxists. Absolutely no one on the outside concurred with Marxists on Marxism’s scientific nature. In science we have a scientific community. In the world of Marxism we have tiny little cliques which not only fight against everyone on the outside; but who save their best venom for fighting each other.

The Neo-Puritans and the Manichean War

The connections between communism and religion just keep on coming. I've already said that the Bolsheviks were like Islamists. Islamists are puritans. Thus it's no surprise that Russell also makes a strong connection between the Bolsheviks and the Cromwellian puritans. He says that Communist Party members "are not unlike the Puritan soldiers in their stern politico-moral purpose" (23).

That's why Trotskyists and communists foam at the mouth when they accuse their enemies of being ‘racists’, ‘fascists’, ‘fascist racists’, ‘racist racists’, ‘bigoted racists’ and all the rest. This is the pure moral rage of the righteous. They have the Truth and everyone else simply opposes the Truth. That Truth wasn't written by Mohammed: it was written by Marx, Lenin and Trotsky. It's just as firmly held by these Trotskyist or communist puritans as it is by the straightforwardly religious. 

Similarly, have you ever wondered why socialists or communists has such a penchant for Islamists and Muslims? Mainly, it sees them as revolution or radicalisation fodder. However, there's more to it than that. The early Bolsheviks, according to Russell, had "a state of mind not unlike that of the early successors of Mahomet". In what sense? In that

"opposition is crushed without mercy, and without shrinking from the methods of the Tsarist police, many of whom are still employed at their old work".

And just as radical Muslims see the world in terms of a Manichean battle between good and evil; so the early communists thought that it was a war between private property/capitalism and the working class. Thus just as militant Muslims say that all our problems will be solved when all the world "belongs to Allah" (or is united in a single huge Islamic Umma), so these Communists believed that

"all evils are due to private property, the evils of the Bolshevik regime while it has to fight private property will automatically cease as soon as it has succeeded… These views are the familiar consequences of fanatical belief". (22/3)

Yes, the banning of free speech, the use of violence, etc. are all necessary when one is fighting private property; just as it is today when fighting ‘neo-liberals’, ‘fascist thugs’, ‘racist thugs’, ‘thuggish racists’, etc. There'll always be a rationalisation of extremism from communists and Trotskyists. We "must not give a platform to" this, that and the other. We must "crush" or "smash" this, that and the other. And there's never any guilt because the numerous enemies are just so damned evil! Though, of course, the word ‘evil’ is rarely used because that word belongs to "bourgeois morality" or "bourgeois religion".

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