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In my last essay, I dipped my toes ever so gingerly into the troubled waters of class analysis.  For my troubles, I was informed by some commentators that all studies of class were derived from Marx and that I had made fundamental errors because I had not properly understood the master.

Because this is a widely held belief, I believe I need to provide a history lesson on American progressive movements to clear up some confusion.

The REAL issue is industrialization

The American Revolution was mostly a straight anti-colonial affair and the French Revolution was mostly about making social adjustments to the trappings of feudalism.  Of course, there were also some rumblings about the conditions of trade and manufacturing, but these were mainly line items on a much larger list of grievances.

In the meantime, there was a very real revolution going on in England.  Some may scoff that the Industrial Revolution does not qualify because there was so little armed struggle involved, but it was the most important revolution of all.

Away from the capital and denied the benefits of a proper Oxbridge education, Quakers and other dissenting Protestants combined a love of tool-making precision and a fascination with fire to produce a recipe for generalized prosperity that is still widely copied throughout the world.  We call it industrialization.

Of course, the potential for widespread prosperity and its actual realization are two very different things.  In a few cases, the new wealth was shared out fairly, but mostly, industrialization made the rich richer, more powerful, cruel, and loathsome.

By 1848, with the anti-royalist sentiments spawned by the French Revolution safely contained in Europe, folks were ready to start a revolution over the huge gap between the potential for widespread prosperity promised by the Industrial Revolution and the hellish reality.

The Revolutions of 1848 spawned probably the most important piece of political writing in the history of mankind.  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx made him a superstar for those whose jobs were dangerous, dirty, and horribly underpaid.

How important was Marx?  Marx had more disciples than Jesus Christ, his writings were the most widely published of any person in history, and at the height of their influence, his followers ruled half the earth.  Yet ultimately, Marxism crashed and burned.  There are still a few nostalgic folks who refuse to believe that Marx is finally dead but it is unlikely that his influence will ever again reach the heights of, say 1968.

The rise and fall of Marxist thought

Marx was important because he was utterly correct about one BIG subject--the lives of workers can and should be meaningful no matter how lowly the job.  He wasn't the first or only person to believe this but because he was the first to make the claim in the context of the Industrial Revolution, and by doing it so well, Marxist thinking became a benchmark.  From 1848 on, those making the economic case in favor of the folks who performed the community's necessary tasks were going to be called Marxists by their enemies--even if they only agreed with Marx on the BIG subject.

And in fact, there have been a whole host of pro-producer strategies tried in attempts to spread the prosperity of industrialization.  There were religious colonies like the folks in Amana Iowa who created industries to support the community.  There were self-styled enlightened industrialists.  There were company towns where subsidized housing, food, and health care was used to purchase employee loyalty.  There were producer cooperatives.  And of course, there were guilds, trade unions, and other collective attempts to regulate working conditions.

Virtually all these activities would have been tried even if Marx had never written a word.  And in fact as recently as 1916, Marxism was merely one of the contenders for intellectual dominance in minds of those who would champion the exploited.  But after the Russian Revolution, the folks who called themselves Marxists ruthlessly eliminated any competing progressive agendas.  And in the rest of the world, competing ideas were overshadowed by the success of the Bolsheviks.

But in the end, it did not matter.  Neither intellectual intimidation nor police state brutality were enough to keep the Marxists in power.  Because even though Marx was undeniably correct about the BIG subject of respect for work, he was wrong in so many other areas that eventually the Marxist experiments had to be abandoned.

What went wrong?

The Marxist dead-enders would like us to believe that the great experiments failed because those who led the revolutions were insufficiently pure in their understanding of the great teacher.  Or perhaps because the forces of rollback were simply too powerful.  And such people have a point.  But it is a small point because MOST of the failures of Marxism can be directly traced to teachings that were faithfully applied.

There are good reasons to examine why Marxism failed.  The biggest one is that no one wants to see the BIG subject discredited.  THAT is simply unacceptable.  And maybe it is time for those competing BIG subject strategies that were destroyed through Bolshevik ruthlessness to be given a second look.

ONE:  Marx did not understand the revolutionary nature of industrialization. In Marx's mind, by the time they became rich industrialists were as parasitic as any landowner, priest, or tax farmer.  In fact, they were worse because they invented news ways of human exploitation.  The fact that industrialists were devout Protestant pacifists (Quakers were heavily involved in early stage industrialization) who were in the business of applying scientific rationalism to the problems of production seemed to have never gained traction in Marx's mind.  To prove that he really didn't get industrialization, he claimed that the problems of production had been solved in early capitalism.  Unfortunately for Marx, solving the problems of production is a continuous and evolutionary process.

By underestimating the importance of industrialists, the Marxist countries became known for shoddy, UGLY, and environmentally insane production.  Turns out the problems of production not only had NOT been solved, they are a LOT harder than they look at first glance.  Political agendas mix very poorly with industrialization's tyranny of the facts on the ground.  At one point in his Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong declared that villages should have their own ability to make STEEL.  People were executed for pointing out that such an idea was insane--even though those troublesome facts proved that it WAS insane.

In 1989, there was a miner's strike in the Donets region of USSR.  One of the key demands was for sufficient soap to clean up with after a day under ground.  Imagine a system striving to be a worker's paradise that cannot provide soap to miners.  It is such a perfect example of what happens to those who assume that the problems of production have been solved and all that remains is proper political supervision of distribution.

TWO:  Marx was openly scornful of agriculture.  His "idiocy of rural life" remark was probably the MOST damaging of his life.  It may be possible to get by with industrial junk like Ladas, but it is impossible to get by without food.  With Marx ringing in his ears, Stalin thought nothing of destroying his agriculture system.  He actually murdered the people who could grow food. The politically-driven replacement of collectivized farming was such a perennial failure that the Ministry of Agriculture was were political careers went to die.  Mao's agricultural experiments produced famines that killed millions.

Marxism might have succeeded in USSR if they had maintained just a LITTLE respect for the difficulty of growing food well.  Hard to respect people you call idiots!

There were other gaping holes in Marxist reasoning but time and charitable intent leads me to end this here.  After all, if you cannot feed yourself and cannot make anything worth buying, you have truly produced a failed society.

The Progressive alternatives

After visiting East Germany in 1970 and USSR in 1972, I became convinced that Marxism in practice clearly had too many problems to be taken seriously as an alternative.  And trust me, I was looking for something better than the Cold-War Liberalism of USA.  I was horrified by the Vietnam War and the lies this society had to tell its citizen in order to gain public backing for mass murder and mayhem.  

It required some small amount of bravado to travel in the East to see socialism in action during those Cold War years.  But I had to see it for myself.  I had met an intensely bright Finnish scholar who had assured me that my government had told me some large lies about the Marxist states.  Considering that military briefings in Vietnam were actually called "The 5 o' Clock Follies" in the press, I had reason to believe he might be correct.

In many ways, he was.  Turns out EVERYONE in Finland is a self-proclaimed expert on Russia.  Maintaining their independence from USSR after World War II was an awesome struggle considering their lightly defended 1000 km border.  The Finns survived because they developed a no-nonsense view of their powerful neighbor.  My Finnish expert was a credentialed Marxist scholar in country where news of the USSR was regularly featured on the front pages of the papers.  If he said it was worth looking at the East, I could rise above the paranoia of knowing that any such trips would become a permanent entry on my passport record.  I was PUMPED!

Whether you traveled from Scandinavia into USSR or from West Germany to the East, the visual shock was stunning.  The Nordics and Germans are a fastidious lot who take a rigorous approach to maintenance.  Aesthetically, it was like falling off a cliff.  In West Germany, they made Porsches and Mercedes Benz.  In East Germany, they made Trabants and Wartburgs.  In Sweden they made Volvos and Saabs.  In USSR, they made Ladas and Moscovitches.

Some might argue that I was being grossly unfair to judge an economic system by the quality of vehicles it produced.  Yet motor vehicles were simply the most visible manifestation of a wider set of problems.  And sure enough, when Marxism crumbled and USSR's industrial practices were exposed, it became quite obvious indeed that her incompetent vehicles were even exceeded in trashiness by other elements of her industrial infrastructure.  In one notorious example, nickel processing plants near the Norwegian border produced hundreds of times the pollution for each ton of nickel as a Norwegian plant.

Back in USA, I started a serious search for something that was neither Cold War military-industrial capitalism nor its ruthless, industrially backward Marxist opposite.  Fortunately, I didn't have to look far.  For all around was the evidence of some profoundly progressive thinking and with a little diligence, I could uncover the ideals behind it.

Upper Midwest (Western) Progressive Populism

The Revolution of 1848 come to USA indirectly.  This was also the year that Wisconsin became a state.  As the Revolution was crushed in Germany, many of the high visibility figures joined their countrymen in a migration to USA.  Many landed in the newest state.  Among many other accomplishments, the so-called 48ers helped found the Republican Party as an anti-slavery party.

A farm boy who was one of the first graduates of the University of Wisconsin, Robert M. LaFollette would become the very personification of progressive ideals.  A lifetime booster of the University, LaFollette supported the "Wisconsin Idea"--that his beloved land-grant University should serve every citizen of the state.
It is because of LaFollette that we tend to think of Progressives as left Populists with a college education.

This citizen-university arrangement would lead to such legislation as :

1) Primary elections,
2) Workers' compensation,
3) State regulation of railroads
4) Direct election of United States Senators
5) Progressive taxation

Wisconsinites will also claim that the enabling legislation for Social Security was crafted at UW.

In 1889, North Dakota became a state.  It was also the year that Germany passed it first major social welfare legislation under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck.  In a bid to woo enlightened capital and investment from Germany, North Dakota would name her new capital Bismarck.

But North Dakota would struggle for its very existence.  The problem was a gang of crooks that stole the settlers blind.  Finally, in a bid to end the corruption, the Non-Partisan League was formed.  

The NPL achieved its greatest success when the party won control of the state legislature and elected Lynn Frazier as governor in 1916, leading to the establishment of state-run agricultural enterprises, such as the North Dakota Mill and Elevator and the Bank of North Dakota.

In the middle was Minnesota which may have had the most progressive traditions of all.  There was Ignatius Donnelly who wrote the constitution for the People's Party.  There was the Farmer-Labor party that ran the state during the worst years of the Great Depression.

And then there was Thorstein Bunde Veblen.  Veblen was the son of Norwegian immigrant farmers who was born in Wisconsin in 1857 and moved to Minnesota in 1864.  He was clearly one of history's great geniuses.  His seminal work The Theory of the Leisure Class was first published in 1899 and has not been out of print since.

Because he was almost two generations younger than Marx and was a severe critic of predatory capitalism, Veblen is often misclassified as a sort of Marx-lite.  But while Veblen and Marx were both political economists, the similarity ends there because Veblen was the first to really understand industrialization as demonstrated by his monumental work "The Instinct of Workmanship."  He also had a deep and profound respect for the problems of agriculture.

The lessons learned

Agriculturally and industrially illiterate social thinking is more than merely anachronistic, it is profoundly dangerous--especially in the hands of zealots who think nothing of murdering those whose worldviews do not match their own.  The greatest difference between the American Progressive Populists and the Marxists is that the Pops actually respected the people who grow and make things, while the Marxists destroyed their lives and often murdered them.

There is an ugly idea that folks cannot be true leftists unless they have a working understanding of Marx.  This idea is demonstrably false.

Why this is important

In the struggle to feed the world, global agricultural systems teeter on the brink of collapse because of soil erosion, aquifer depletion, and an over reliance on fossil fuels.  

At the same time, a the global manufacturing systems faces similar problems caused by the end of cheap liquid fuels and the saturation of carbon sinks like the atmosphere.

It is also true that the current system of rule by finance is leading to ruin.  Something MUST be changed in our understanding of political economy.

So yes indeed, we are going to need real Progressives.  The LAST thing we need is to be sidetracked by the pseudo-religious teachings of Karl Marx.  They are profoundly ignorant.  They are known failures.  And people who called themselves Marxists have been some of history's greatest mass murderers.

It IS important to learn from history.  It is even MORE important to choose the lessons carefully.  Fortunately, there are plenty of lessons worth learning from the Progressives who helped the USA become the success it once was.

Originally posted to techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 11:59 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Thanks... (0+ / 0-)

      Very interesting piece.

      I have a couple of additional comments:

      1. Marx not only painted industrialists with a broad brush, he painted the workers the same way.  He believed that the proletariat were inherently more virtuous than other classes, and that if they came to power, they would rule fairly and benevolently.  But anyone can be selfish and short-sighted (or virtuous and benevolent) -- your class background may have some influence on your outlook, but it's not absolutely determinative as Marx thought.  (See "Reagan Democrats".)
      1. Industrialization was a huge issue in the 19th c. and early 20th c.  It's still important now in many parts of the world, but here in the U.S. we are dealing with de-industrialization and the post-industrial economy.  Some of Marx's ideas about capital (e.g. the theory of surplus value) may still be relevant, but much of what he wrote was based on conditions that no longer exist for us today.
      •  Good additions (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GayHillbilly, BurnetO

        but I would argue that industrialization is still a huge issue, if only because de-industrialization is a huge issue.

        The inclination of so called "third world" countries, countries like China and India, to pursue rapid industrialization could very well doom this planet. There is hope that they can pursue a more environmentally friendly path to it, but first they (we) must understand the limits of industrialization.

        I don't think that any country or culture can be truely sustainable if it's primarily based on industrial production. Only a primarily agrarian culture can be sustainable. Industry can be a fine complement to the agrarian base, but at least on an ecological basis, it can't be the basis of the culture for very long.

        "Like the mirror told me this morning, it's all done with people" - Wavy Gravy

        by offgrid on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:30:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was just reading an essay by William Morris. (4+ / 0-)

    I don't know if he was influenced by Marx, but I think he's another example that it is possible to think about class issues and progressive concerns re. industrialization without being a Marxist.

    a hope that may come close to despair

    by epppie on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 12:12:27 PM PDT

  •  Excellent Piece (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As a populist, but not a Marxist, I have to say "bravo".  Recommended.

    There are bagels in the fridge

    by Sychotic1 on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 12:17:00 PM PDT

  •  Excellent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SarahLee, StrayCat

    I plan on going back to read your previous "Kossack Populism" diaries.

    There are some great early writings on the web from advocates and opponents of WI Progressivism. I wish had kept links, but I'll post them some time if I find them again.

    In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. - George Orwell

    by badger on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 12:44:46 PM PDT

    •  We are counting on you (0+ / 0-)

      To keep us all informed about Wisconsin Progressiveism, Badger.  After all this is your history.

      I am SO pleased that the only broze bust I saw when I toured the capital building in Madison was that of La Follette.  What an amazing legacy!

      Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

      by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 01:13:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How about Marxo-populist? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hoipolloi, salvador dalai llama

    I just thought it would be fun to make up a new " mean nothing" line.
    I don't understand why populists shy away from identifying to closely with any Marxists theories. Everybody on the right automatically assumes you are a "gaymarxistchristianhater" if you disagree with them anyway.
    Nobody can do serious class analysis without identifying the debt owed to Marx despite everything he was wrong about. There are a few things that areas still up in the air when it comes to the final throes of capitalism that he might have turned out to be accurate on.
    Marxists scholars tend to be the most fractious amongst themselves in the purity battle.
    I still think there is relevant Marxist critcism out there and theorists who are worth a read. I always like Gramsci myself.

    •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

      Gramsci!!  So is the blogosphere an example of a war of position or a war of maneuver?  :)

      Because for Zen surrealism, you can't beat living in the Bible Belt...

      by salvador dalai llama on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:56:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  An irony: the true disciples of Bolshevism... (5+ / 0-)

      ...are the neo-conservatives. Folks like Irving Kristol, Bill's dad and the ur-neoconservative, and David "PT911" Horowitz, who used to have aspirations of raising rabbles on the left and now raises them on right, are the true heirs of 20th communist political theory. Bear with me.

      I still think there is relevant Marxist critcism out there and theorists who are worth a read. I always like Gramsci myself.

      The thuggish political techniques mastered by the communists in Europe -- such as how a small vocal group can take over a large political organization by means of hiding their true agenda, ruthlessness and using the organization's own rules to undermine -- were studied and admired by American conservatives such as the folks who brought us the 1964 Goldwater campaign and the mightly threesome of Abramoff, Norquist and Reed (see their takeover of the College Republicans in the 80's).

      Gramsci's notion of "the long march through the institutions" has been appropriated by the right and we see its latest incarnation in the "Path to 9/11". The long march starts with Gramsci's insight that power is not just political but also social or ideological. All the institutions that make up society also preserve the status quo. In order to gain such power for themselves, Marxist/Communist workers must gain control of the most powerful institutions by becoming part of them and then taking over. Horowitz has for sometime been trying to do this in Hollywood. "The Path to 9/11" is a show piece for him of how placing people in the Hollywood establishment can get GOP propaganda into our living rooms in the guise of everyday television.

      I think Horowitz's operation is ham-handed and short-sighted, geared more to raising money from rich kooks than actually achieving anything. Nevertheless, its operational insights come from political techniques developed by communists in Europe during the beginning and middle of last century. Mao also made a study of these ideas and organizational techniques.

      When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist. -- Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999)

      by hoipolloi on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 03:54:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting (0+ / 0-)

    This diary is well worth reading.

  •  interesting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Marx did not follow his own theory, the revolutionary shortcuts do not seem to jibe with his analysis.

    The part of Marx I found interesting (I agree with the sentiment that the insight is outnumbered by errors, especially those of the first "Internationals")... was the analysis of where the profit is comeing from, the real value of labor, and where the value comes from when a cheap raw resource becomes a more valuable (and expensive) processed good.

  •  btw (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    opendna, SarahLee, stilwell, ripzaw, StrayCat

    if blogging was working as it's self image has come to be... this would be the sort of blog that would be highly read and discussed, even and especially by any that disagree.

    just pointin' it out.

    •  have to admit (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BurnetO, daveygodigaditch

      I am pleasantly surprised to find this diary, and definitely intend to read the diarists other essays.

      Plenty of food for thought. Having roots in the lower midwest (Kansas,) there was a strong agricultural progressive tradition there as well.

      As this movement goes forward, we're going to need thinkers like techno. Would it be too much to dream of a Las Vegas Statement someday at Yearly Kos? Too New Leftish?

      •  Yes Kansas! (5+ / 0-)

        Your Populist traditions are incredible.  There was a printing house in Girard that published the Little Blue Books and the Appeal to Reason.  My grandfather swore by both and spent most of his discretionary during the 1920s on them.

        Kansas may in the hands of political nuts these days, but trust me, this was not always the case.

        Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

        by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:10:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Kansas populism (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          also goes way back before that northern European immigrant stream.  Remember John Brown?  

          Before moving to Kansas to fight the border ruffians, Brown was a homegrown radical from upstate New York.  I'm not positive of the direct ideological influences on him, but I do know that George Evans was involved in the 1830s with a group of folks promoting agrarian reform in upstate New York.  

          That work eventually led to a major plank in the Republican Party platform in the 1850s, resulting in the Homestead Act of 1862 -- which gave free land to any one who would stake a claim on it and work it.

          Evans and the group of agrarian radicals around him were directly influenced by Paine's Agrarian Justice.  LaFollette clearly drew off their tradition within the Republican Party to build the base for Progressivism at the end of the century.

  •  Funny that in a diary (5+ / 0-)

    about non-Marxist populist class analysis in the United States you completely missed the entire Painite tradition.  Paine of course was writing class analysis of a sort during the American Revolution; by the time he got around to Agrarian Justice it was full-fledged.

    His followers in the US included key intellectual figures from the Age of Jackson, and those are truly the folks who introduced class analysis into American politics -- years before Marx even wrote the Communist Manifesto.  Hell, Orestes Brownson and George Evans had been pushing a class analysis in America before Marx even wrote the Economic Manuscripts of 1844!

    While some of the Jacksonians are typically described as Fourierists or Owenites, most of them in fact drew their inspiration from much closer to home -- good old American hero Thomas Paine.

    •  couldn't cover everything in (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      salvador dalai llama, StrayCat

      2400 words

      But yes, Tom Paine was THE revolutionary in American history.  I have treasured his books.

      Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

      by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 01:15:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The link from Paine to Whitman (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        salvador dalai llama, StrayCat

        is pretty clear, and it goes through Brownson and Evans.  From Whitman to the progressives isn't not a hard leap...

        •  agreed (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          litho, BurnetO, StrayCat

          With a nice stop at Sandburg along the way.  

             CHILD OF THE ROMANS

             THE dago shovelman sits by the railroad track
             Eating a noon meal of bread and bologna.
                  A train whirls by, and men and women at tables
                  Alive with red roses and yellow jonquils,
                  Eat steaks running with brown gravy,
                  Strawberries and cream, eclaires and coffee.
             The dago shovelman finishes the dry bread and bologna,
             Washes it down with a dipper from the water-boy,
             And goes back to the second half of a ten-hour day's work
             Keeping the road-bed so the roses and jonquils
             Shake hardly at all in the cut glass vases
             Standing slender on the tables in the dining cars.

          Because for Zen surrealism, you can't beat living in the Bible Belt...

          by salvador dalai llama on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:48:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Now you guys are WAY ahead of me (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BurnetO, StrayCat, mikebailey2000

            I know Paine came back and tried to make it as an inventor in New York.  I also see some New England and Illinois.

            Sorry, I have read extensively on the subject of American Progressives but mostly, I know about what at the time was called "the West."  My people came between 1870 and 1900 so they missed many of the native political influences.  For example, my grandfather was more influenced by the growth of the cooperative movement in Sweden than anything said by Jefferson.  Populism in the Upper Midwest was largely the invention of such immigrants.

            So write a diary on the legacy of Tom Paine for the rest of us.  I will read it!

            Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

            by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:15:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  A great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkmich, StrayCat, offgrid

    And one that I at least hope makes the diary rescue page.

  •  As the proprietor (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BurnetO, dkmich, salvador dalai llama

    of ProgressiveHistorians, a new site dedicated to the intersection of history and politics, I would be honored if you would cross-post this excellent diary there.

  •  Studied Marxism for years. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Valtin, Morlock

    I have a fairly good working knowledge of the major works and ideas of Marxism, although I'm no expert on, say, Capital.

    I just find it curious -- perhaps others will as well -- to find no relationship between what I've read in any of Marx' or Engels' work and what you've written here.

    Of course, the diary has no citations or links to anything Marx wrote.

    But anyway, I sure can't figure out what aspect of Marx or Marxism you intended to address.

    The closest thing I see to an actual quote from Marx or any Marxist is the "idiocy of rural life" comment, which has been documented as an apparent mistranslation--something that is somewhat obvious when the comment is read in the context of the whole passage in the Manifesto. (Marx was addressing the tendency of capitalism to create divisions and inequity between rural and urban life.)

    Do you believe you have even a loose grip on the subject matter of your diary?

    Or does being an anticommunist automatically obviate the need to have any intellectual standards?

    •  You are defending the indefensible (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hartboy, StrayCat, daveygodigaditch

      Marxism was an utter failure--environmentally, economically, industrially.

      Somehow, this does not deter those who invested time in Marxist "scholarship."

      Do you really think there was NO link between the incredibly shoddy analysis of Marx and the repeated and systematic failures of Marxist agriculture?  Are we really supposed to ignore the millions of farmers murdered, starved, or sent to Siberia because Party hacks who literally did not know the difference between a turnip and a plow had the power to brand someone as a counter-revolutionary because he knew that agriculture by committee was a bad idea?

      And yes, I have read Capital (and a whole lot of other Marx and Lenin as well).  Marx was not intellectually qualified to carry Veblen's briefcase, IMHO.  How Marx can appeal to intellectuals is beyond me.  The ONLY suggestion that makes sense is that Marxism is best thought of as theology, so Marxist "scholars" are the occupational equivalent of the folks who teach from the Book of Daniel at Jerry Falwell's "college."

      Go away.  You Marxists had your chance and left a bloody legacy that will be remembered for centuries.  You guys set back human progress at least 100 years.  We have intellectual heroes who never killed a soul and had ideas that bettered the lives of millions.  Why would we want to try your failed theories again?  Marxism is the shame of the left.

      Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

      by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:57:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wait a minute (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "Are we really supposed to ignore the millions of farmers murdered, starved, or sent to Siberia"
        "We have intellectual heroes who never killed a soul"
        "You Marxists had your chance and left a bloody legacy"

        Did Marx advocate state murder? Are the killings you refer to the product of Marxist teachings or of the small totalitarian minds that pretended to adopt those teachings?

        What would you say of the democratic socialist states that flourished, ever so briefly, in the West? I'm thinking of Nicaragua in the 80s, before the US succeeded in destabilizing the Sandinista government, and of course Chile in the early 70s (same story, different day).

        •  Answer this (0+ / 0-)

          Why was Marx so appealing to thugs?

          Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

          by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:22:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

            •  LOL! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Intellectual discussion to playground in six steps!  I love dKos, I really do.

              •  Six steps? (0+ / 0-)

                No, it only took techno one.

                •  Well--- (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I disagree with some (most?) of Techno's arguments, particularly when s/he confuses Marx's writing with those who in later years called themselves Marxist.  Saying that Stalin was Marxist because he identified himself as such is a little too shallow for my taste---that's like saying Hitler was a socialist because the NDSAP had the word "Socialist" in the name, or for that matter, saying that the current crop of thieves running the country are "Conservatives" because they tell us they are.  I think you have to look behind the words and see what's there.

                  At the same time, I think diaries like this can be useful, and I think this one has been.  Even though some of this discussion is old hat to partisans on both sides of the argument, there is some value for those of us who aren't so---partisan? experienced? worn out?  While I was being snarky about you and Techno ("Answer me!" "I asked you first!"), I think you, Techno, pyrrho, and a bunch of other people have a good discussion in this thread going on, and it's been mostly a pleasure to read it, as opposed to the ten-thousandth Leiberman or Path to 9/11 diary.  Yes, Leiberman is a WATB; yes, ABC/Disney are either the tools of or are themselves a vast right-wing conspiracy, but after a thousand diaries and a gazillion me-too comments, it gets a bit old, and this has been a nice change of pace.

                  •  Oh, absolutely (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    scrutinizer, BurnetO

                    Definitely worthwhile, a diary like this....I only wish people weren't so quick to holler troll! or put labels on others in general. Labeling is one of the favorite tactics of the Right Wing. It is a degenerate form that leads nowhere.

                    When someone makes the claim "socialism is a failed concept," I always try to ask "how do you know?"

                    •  Yeah--- (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      I've given out one or two donuts, but it's been for thuggish behavior, or for CT diaries.  I have a problem with the "you don't agree with the me/us, so you're a troll" attitude.  Or for that matter, the "you don't agree with me, so you are obviously an idiot" line I see on the site every now and then.  Of course, I feel that way too sometimes, but I'm much too polite to say it! :-)

                      As for "socialism is a failed concept", mild forms of socialism in Europe (especially Holland) seem to be doing quite well.  I'd sure prefer their health care and educational systems to ours, even if I did have to pay more in taxes.

          •  At any rate (0+ / 0-)

            it's a silly question. Why does capitalism appeal to thugs?

            •  Two questions, same answer (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GayHillbilly, hartboy, StrayCat

              The Russian cliche: Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism, it's the other way around.

              Dogma is adhered to by people who want to make the rules, soemtimes for their own benefit, not by those who want to solve problems or improve the lot of everyone.

              Which is essentially the Progressive position, and a pretty good paraphrase of The Wisconsin Idea, Chapter 1, written by a WI progressive in 1912.

              In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. - George Orwell

              by badger on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 11:26:29 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  An oldie but a goodie (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                badger, BurnetO

                Well, I'm no fan of exploitation, nor of totalitarianism.

                I really thought, based on the front page promo this diary got, that there was a serious discussion of Marxism going on when I came in here. A few people do seem to have that in mind, but mostly it's the sort of rhetoric that grew tiresome decades ago. It's the same argument put forth by the Reagan acolytes and now canonized: the collapse of the Soviet system proves that Marxism/communism/socialism (take your pick) is a failure. It proves no such thing! If it proves anything, it's that totalitarianism is a failure, as if we needed further evidence of that.

                I don't believe in dogma. I believe in freedom, but freedom has limits. Unfettered capitalism, a form of fascism, works no better at serving the needs of the people than does, say, Stalinism.

                •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

                  that the collapse of the USSR proves nothing about Marxism, just as the potentially imminent collapse of the US proves nothing about capitalism or even Conservatism. I think what both cases do prove is that what Marxism and capitalism have in common is a kind of magical thinking that says "my system is the best of all possible systems, the answer to everything".

                  And when people begin to believe that kind of rhetoric, whether it's from Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, George Bush, Ralph Nader, or anyone else, then it's an easy jump to "since I have all the answers, I get to make all the rules". So I fear liberals just as much as I fear conservatives, the left as much as the right.

                  Even though I tend to the left, even far left, I don't really want "my team to win" as much as I want to see certain specific problems solved and certain outcomes achieved. I'm willing to entertain any solution that achieves those goals, without destroying things like freedom and basic rights. But I'm not willing to buy into a program that promises to be the universal solution to every problem I see. I see Progressivism as leaning more in that direction - away from ideology and more interested in getting things done in a fashion more like the scientific method (I'm ignoring here the big question of how you decide what problems need to be solved in the first place).

                  While I think very highly of freedom, I don't find even that to be a universal principle or the highest good, but it's certainly a part of the constellation of things I think are worth pursuing and keeping.

                  In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. - George Orwell

                  by badger on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 10:26:11 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  ridiculous (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            non sequitur.

            even if answered, the answer would have no bearing on the question of Marx's arguments or reasoning.

            Why did Einstien's theories appeal to weapon designers?

            answer,  because Einstein one two three?

          •  Answer this (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cap and gown, YellowDogBlue

            Why was Marx so appealing to millions and millions of poor impoverished workers, farmers and others who looked to liberate themselves from the tryanny of voracious landowners, factory owners, and petty capitalists? Who longed to liberate their nations from the genocidal policies of the colonial powers?

            I'm sorry for you and everyone else on this thread who know very little about history. It was F. Engels who said history is build on a mountain of skulls, and he and Marx tried to imagine and work toward a world free of irrationality. It only took six millenia to build civilization. The "Marxists" have had only 150 or so years to try and work toward a higher civilization, "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his need."

            I don't see anyone here berating capitalism for the crimes of Hitler, Salvadoran death squads, millions murdered in colonial wars and conquering, not to mention World War I (gee, 10s of millions murdered and no Marxists to blame it on!)

            I will get troll-rated for this comment, I suppose, but someone has to say the truth.

            "Hypocrite lecteur, -- mon semblable, -- mon frère!" -- Baudelaire

            by Valtin on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:42:05 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Here Here (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              YellowDogBlue, Valtin

              I'm not sure who the 'Marxists' are, or whether they've got all the answers, but I agree it's a bit of a double standard. That, and no one talks about the fact that 10 million people die a year because it's not profitable to feed them. But no one blames von Hayek for that, doe they?

        •  Don't waste your time, Chimes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          People believe Marx must be responsible for all the crimes committed in his name by thugs who were really about as Marxist as Ronald Reagan. I'm sure that they have all given up on Democracy too, since up until the 1960's the Democrats were the party of white supremacists.

      •  Read Marx (4+ / 0-)

        There are readers of Marx who are not "nostalgic" at all but hopeful. Communism, as it was practiced by the bureacrats of Russia, didn't work.  But capitalism works, right?  It's just that, unfortunately, some people have to pay the price.  They aren't reading a blog right now.  In fact, they probably can't even read at all.  Why won't you look at the world around you  - or if not at your suburb (which you can create even in the middle of your cities) then at the slums of rich American cities and the entirety of some countries?  If capitalism works, then why is there so much misery and destruction of human life?  This is the world that "progressives" helped to build. There are people who want to think in categories not determined by a shallow understanding of Marx and political philosophy. Uninformed, self-satisfied, anti-intellectual anti-Marxism is the shame of American leftism.  We can all learn from Marx - just as we can learn from your critique.  There is a critical tradition of readers of Marx that is not reflected in your take on Marxism, just as there are good critical thinkers of capitalism.  Etienne Balibar's "The Philosophy of Marx" is good.  Anselm Jappe's "Guy Debord" is good. Uninformed rants are bad. Yes, there are some radical ideas in the work of some Marxist thinkers. But nothing is as radical as capitalism's ceaseless process of transforming and destroying the globe.  

      •  Marx: "All I Know Is I Am Not A Marxist" (6+ / 0-)

        Marx famously said this while commenting on the French "Marxists" of the 1870's. What, then, is a Marxist? What bothers me about this diary, and techno's subsequent comments, is that it sounds an awful lot like the kind of rhetoric that comes out of Fox about lib'rals and what have you. Can you blame one person for what people do in their name? If we're going to blame Marx and Engels for what Stalin and Mao did, what does that tell us about the Inquisition, or Enron, or the various atrocities commited by US troops in the Philippines, Vietnam or Iraq?

        The merits of the failures of the USSR's economy stand on their own, there's no need to attempt to demonize Marx for what happened. The idea to collectivize agriculture, and then remove any incentive for farmers to produce a surplus, never appears in the works of Marx or Engels. Why the need to blame Marx and Engels for someone else's bad decisions?

        The sense I'm left with after reading this diary is similar to YellowDogs, though with less of a bite. The conflation of all people, movements and nations that might refer to Marx as not only 'Marxists,' but as believers in a mass-murdering ideology, is extremely misinformed. What is a Marxist? Is it someone who believes in communism? If so, aren't they just communists? Is it someone who believes in ideas expressed by Marx and Engels? If so, then at least half of the people here probably qualify, whether they believe that all value is derived from labor (the labor theory of value), that our ideas are influenced by the conditions in which we live (historical materialism), that businesses have to expand into new markets to remain profitable (Luxemburg said that, but she was a Marxist) ... etc. So what's a Marxist?

        And how can Marxism be the shame of the left, since the 'left' emerged from the labor movement in Europe and America? And guess who those socialists drew on for inspiration? Talk about forgetting where we came from.

      •  who'd marx kill? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BurnetO, YellowDogBlue
      •  defense (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BurnetO, YellowDogBlue
        this whole thread became that way because the sides chose that.

        fact is... Marx has strong points and weak points like any intellectual, however emotionally charged his memory is due to history surrounding him. No matter the surrounding history that's believed at any time, any philosopher of politics or otherwise has to be possible to discuss on a pros and cons basis, don't you think.  That's what you did in your essay, it was not clear how complete your criticism was to be. A totally completely negative criticism of every facet of a political philospher is not usually credible to me. A more honest analysis should find something redeeming, you can test its honesty that way.

        •  Carollee Bengelsdorf (4+ / 0-)

          in The Problem of Democracy in Cuba offers a pretty solid argument that Marx's greatest weakness was his failure to develop an adequate theory of the state.

          By assuming a kind of radical democracy which could transparently express the will of the proletariat, Marx left a theoretical void which Lenin ultimately filled with the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Marx himself had used this term to express something like what Gramsci later called "hegemony", but in Lenin's hands it became the full-blown political dictatorship of the USSR.

          I can't do justice to the argument in a blog post, but that is the general flavor of it.  If you want more, go read the book (which btw happens to be one of the most insightful I have ever read on the Cuban regime).

  •  This line really bothers me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The greatest difference between the American Progressive Populists and the Marxists is that the Pops actually respected the people who grow and make things, while the Marxists destroyed their lives and often murdered them.

    It's not like at an early age one decides to become a marxist so they can go out and destroy lives. It's that profound "belief in my convictions" that allowed them to do it, to make those mistakes. You touch on the quasi religious aspect and your right on. But sometimes I see that same absolute clarity in the American POP, an almost religious conviction with no self doubt or room for argument, and it scares the hell out of me as well.

  •  i like your diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    techno, StrayCat

    i think the class issue is the one that really can unite us democrats. I haven't been smart enough to deflect the standard accusation of "you're just a marxist" when talking about class issues.
        My current rant is how unprogressive the tax system is for the self-employed. People who make only 5 or 6 gs a year aren't subject to the federal tax,because of the standard deduction and exemptions, but have to come up with 7or 9hundred bucks for their social security tax if they are self employed and don't qualify for the earned income  credit. talk about making it tough for entrepeneurs.

    music- the univeral language

    by daveygodigaditch on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:20:42 PM PDT

  •  techno has missed a few very important points (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1.) Marx was arguably first to argue that class is essentially the only (root) human/social problem -- the root from which all branches of social conflict stem:

    The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (The Communist Manifesto, Chap. 1)

    2.) Marx recognized that religion is the an artifact of culture, specifically a cultural response to oppression/exploitation on the part of the oppressed/exploited.

    Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

    3.) Marx utterly grasped the "transformative" power of industrialization.  His understanding of economics was second only to his ambition to understand and distill it for the rest of us -- in the hope that we might fully realize our human potential.  He studied rigourously to attain a deep historical understanding of capital, production and labor.  The following excerpt from wikipedia provides a concise, objective and supportive analysis of this (seemingly obvious to perhaps any educated person except you) fact:

    The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production. But Marx argued that capitalism was prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labor. Since Marx believed that surplus value appropriated from labor is the source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit would fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression in which certain sectors of the economy would collapse. Marx understood that during such a crisis the price of labor would also fall, and eventually make possible the investment in new technologies and the growth of new sectors of the economy.

    Marx believed that this cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would be punctuated by increasingly severe crises. Moreover, he believed that the long-term consequence of this process was necessarily the enrichment and empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. He believed that were the proletariat to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally, and a system of production less vulnerable to periodic crises. In general, Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable, and that a massive, well-organized and violent revolution would in general be required, because the ruling class would not give up power without violence. Yet he was aware of the possibility that in some countries, with strong democratic institutional structures (e.g. Britain, the US and the Netherlands) this transformation could occur through peaceful means, while in countries with a strong centralized state-oriented traditions, like France and Germany, the upheaval will have to be violent.

    So are we moving forward or backward with regrard to Marx' continuum of nations? -- here in imperial Shrub America -- where worldwide violence is growing and democracy hardly exists except for the rich who control both the legislative process and the political agenda.

    4.) And while Marx did not coin the term capitalism,  it is arguable that he distilled its essence perhaps better than any other economist or at least social critic:

    In his book Capital, Marx argues that the capitalist mode of production is distinguished by how the owners of capital extract this surplus from workers—all prior societies had extracted surplus labor, but capitalism was new in doing so via the sale-value of produced commodities.

    For Marx, this cycle the extraction of the surplus value by the owners of capital or the bourgeoisie becomes the basis of class struggle.

    I could go on, but what's the point?  I will admit that on one point we do agree.  Yes, Marx is literally Christ for intellectuals, idealists and atheists.  IMO, without a deep understanding and embracement of Marx there is little hope for our race.  And your rather tedious (you so called liberals with seemingly only the desire to win elections) pragmatism -- as if tweaking a few knobs on the immoral capitalist machine could ever really fix any basic human social, political or economic problem -- has  cheapened and demeaned one of history's greatest contributors.  And you must be ashamed (not to mention publicly shamed) for it.

    Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

    by neoconsuck on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:24:32 PM PDT

    •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

      You have basically quoted everything that make me KNOW that Marx was a religious figure who clearly did NOT understand industrialization.  

      How could he?  He had no skills.  Marx was a man who would have had great difficulty building a birdhouse.  Yet this did not stop him from making suggestions on how to build an industrial nation.  The sheer arrogance of this is breath-taking.

      Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

      by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:32:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How was Marx and industrialist (0+ / 0-)

        Or even a pretender as you describe?  He was a rigorous , logical analyst and decoder of the emerging capitalist system -- predicting its eventual, inevitable implosion in increasing cycles of hyper-growth, exploitation and collapse.

        When I turn on my television: mass media, government for sale, religion instead of thought -- I see Marx genious more clearly each passing day.

        Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

        by neoconsuck on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:37:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  arrogant? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BurnetO, Chimes of Freedom

        not at all.  any individual on earth is welcome to produce such analysis.

        perhaps you want to blame those that found or find his ideas insightful, but some of them are. There is a relationship, of course, but it's also clear that Stalinism, Maoism and so on are not "Marxism" in the sense that this is the sort of government Marx envisioned.

        There is a good argument to point out that Marx himself did not find a good way to "solve" the problem he saw in his analysis of how capitalism exploits a working class, otoh, it's not a totally false analysis either. There are solutions to all the problems that Marx noticed, there's nothing really wrong with addressing those problems, they should be addressed.

    •  More pro-Marx anti-Shrub riffs... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BurnetO, Chimes of Freedom

      IMO worker's economics have become so bad in the U.S. that the average American, who works more days per year, has a lower overall standard of living, pays for his own healthcare, and dies several years sooner than the average western European, has essentially eroticized (or allowed Rush Limbaugh to do it for him) his/her exploitation.  So complete is the delusion here that we're essentially prostitutes who have fallen in love with the men that climb on us over and over, grunting and thrusting like animals...

      WAKE UP AMERICA!  You're Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson has $700M in his back pocket from his days at Goldman Sachs (I'm sure that means he has your best interests at heart).  Your Defense Secretary is worth hundreds of millions and gets richer with every dose of Tamiflu sold.  Your Vice President gave no-bid contracts to the company he was once CEO of -- Halliburton -- to "rebuild" Iraq.  And, finally, you're President, the "liberator" of Iraq, is the extra-chromosome son of yet another wealthy American family making dragging the gene pool down by eliminating the taxation of inheritance.

      I tell you, surely the average American is so sick and so deluded that we should teach Das Kapital in the schools!  

      So call it populism.  Call it social democracy.  I don't care what you call call it, but without the contribution of people like Karl Marx, you'd have been thrust into work as a child and likely be dead by now.  Yes the capitalists have done just enough for us -- insuring we're fatter, less educated, more "entertained" (are you ready for some FOOTBALL!), and most importantly, unaware of our own commoditization -- to keep the lid on for yet another season.  So just keep paying no attention to the man behind the curtain -- remember, he's working for you.


      If Adolph Hitler were here today, they'd send the limousine anyway... the Clash

      by neoconsuck on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:57:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What that line... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I mean the line from The Usual Suspects: the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist. I'm sure someone else said it first, but....the greatest trick the capitalists ever pulled was convincing the proletariat that capitalism is good for them.

        There was a guy on dKos the other day who clearly had been personally damaged by offshore outsourcing, and all he could say was, essentially, that when it happens to you, you gotta bend over and take it, and then find a way to live through it. He was the type of person who would say to anyone complaining about what capitalism does to people, "c'mon, be a man, gut it out" - a lemming is what I called him.

        Love the Clash quotes - how do you feel about the Gang of Four?

        •  Don't know them -- I'm an old punk rocker... (0+ / 0-)

          having come of age in the '70s.

          I've heard of them but to my knowledge have never heard them.  Will check them out on iTunes.  Right now, I gotta get to work...

          If Adolph Hitler were here today, they'd send the limousine anyway... the Clash

          by neoconsuck on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 08:08:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Same here! (0+ / 0-)

            Gang of Four were your #2 Brit socialist minimalist rock band in the 70s and early 80s...."I Found That Essence Rare"..."Anthrax"...apparently they still play together from time to time. A bit more strident but not quite the overachievers the Clash were.

            •  Yeah the thing about the Clash was the poetry... (0+ / 0-)

              I don't think Joe Strummer, Mick Jones or Topper Headron (Guns of Brixton) ever spoke with anything but absolute honesty, optimism and self-deprecation ("Well don't look to us, 'cause phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust...").  When music, intelligence and a gift for poetic expression merge -- it's just indescribable and that's why it stands forever and ever.

              Listen to Stevie Wonder in Big Brother (Innervisions).  I literally cry just thinking about that song.  The harmonica.  The lyrics.  It encapsulates all of the hope and all of the despair inherent in being human.    "You cause your own country to fall..."

              We atheists NEED a better world in our lifetime.  And its only our artists that provide brief glimpses of the shining path.

              If Adolph Hitler were here today, they'd send the limousine anyway... the Clash

              by neoconsuck on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 05:43:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Looking at those guys (0+ / 0-)

                in '76 or '77 (don't forget Paul Simonon), there was virtually nothing about them that could have prepared you for the towering achievement of Sandinista! three years later. There was some reggae and dub influence on the earlier records, sure, but the Clash reached well beyond that. It's a long, long way from "White Riot" to "The Street Parade."

                5 LPs in less than a year's time - the two that made up London Calling and 3 for Sandinista. Then it was like they had nothing left, but oh, what a mighty legacy they gave us.

                You'll find me quoting often from the great pop songwriters on dKos. Music informs our generation perhaps like no other.

                •  Yeah felt bad I couldn't remember #4 (0+ / 0-)

                  Off the top.  I am ashamed.

                  The output was astounding -- Beatles-like.
                  The good are good.  What else can we say?  After Combat Rock made millions the divisons (commercial versus principled) were just too great I think -- that and I think it's tough when you all grow up together -- once you get rich.  At that point the only poignant things seem to be the differences (e.g. Lennon-Mcartney).

                  So sad that Joe Strummer died so young.  I think he was primarily the Marxist influence.  I still remember my emotions when I read (think it was in Rolling Stone) an article on them about 20 years ago where (I think it was) Joe said something like [paraphrased] "All men are NOT created equal -- that's the problem.  That's why we argue for equality."  It really set me thinking.  And has stayed with me until this day.

                  Basically, it boils down to this: you can be an existentialist (Nietzche) or a socialist (Marx) but you can't be both.  Every day the The Clash help me see that more clearly.

                  Take care -- and may things change -- somehow -- in our lifetimes!

                  If Adolph Hitler were here today, they'd send the limousine anyway... the Clash

                  by neoconsuck on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 07:02:17 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  But my quote is... (0+ / 0-)

                  from White Man in Hammersmith Palais.  And that was on album #1 if I'm not mistaken.  So the artistic/poetic greatness was there from the get-go.  

                  Personally, I always thought that Sandinista was too long (three disks) -- to satisfy their # of albums deal with Epic I think.  Sort of like when Lou Reed did Metal Machine Music -- hey Fuck You record company -- take this album and shove it -- I'm moving on.

                  But hey, Sandinista IS good (title alone -- at that time -- worth the price of admission).  Whereas Metal Machine... was only popular in the nation that brought us Godzilla (and upon which we dropped two atom bombs).

                  If Adolph Hitler were here today, they'd send the limousine anyway... the Clash

                  by neoconsuck on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 07:10:13 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Forgot to add... (0+ / 0-)

                    That I think London Calling is their true materpiece.

                    I mean they didn't even credit Train in Vain -- you had to "discover" it at the end of side two.  Brilliant.  I'm all lost in supermarket -- pretty that cuts like a knife.

                    If Adolph Hitler were here today, they'd send the limousine anyway... the Clash

                    by neoconsuck on Wed Sep 13, 2006 at 07:12:58 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  if Cuba is Marxist (0+ / 0-)

    I do not know if you would call Castro's Cuba Marxist or not, but if you think so, I saw something that may be of interest.  I live in Los Angeles and I belong to an informal group called "Films for Peace".

    Last week they showed a documentary called "The Power of Community" and it discusses how Cuba survived their "peak oil" crisis which was caused by Russia's bankruptcy and the resultant economic crisis in Cuba.  The moviemaker showed the documentary and was available for comments afterward.  I do not know when or where it will be available, but searching might give some answers.

  •  Good night folks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hartboy, StrayCat

    Read your Veblen--esp. "Instinct of Workmanship" (the book, not just the essay linked above)

    Read "Political Prairie Fire" about the non-partisan League

    Read a good account of Robert LaFollette.  My favorite was written by his daughter in about 1926.

    Ignore the Marxist trolls. (that includes you, techno!)

    Love the Kos site.  What an incredible invention!

    Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

    by techno on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:37:47 PM PDT

    •  FINALLY... a passing acceptance of the deity... (0+ / 0-)

      And upon this rock shall I build my church.
      Good night and thanks for the opportunity for a stimulating thought exchange.

      Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

      by neoconsuck on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:43:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Apparently a Marxist troll (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BurnetO, Morlock

      is anyone who points out the logical fallacies in one of techno's anti-Marxist rants - which in itself represents a logical fallacy. If I call attention to your conflating Marxist theory with its (nominal) practitioners, that makes me neither a Marxist nor a troll, Mr techno.

      •  Marxist troll! (0+ / 0-)

        C'mon Chimes, you know the drill. You're supposed to say that you love the free market and business. You've got nothing against profit and free enterprise, that sort of thing. It's similar to the way democrats just recently used to fall all over themselves to deny they were liberals, perish the thought!

        •  crashing the gate (0+ / 0-)

          I didn't know the marxists had shown up, I wasn't paying attention, I was thinking someone would crash the gates... I mean, there used to be some leftists that got fed up and left but I thought, out of that group, if not, surely if I am correct there are a few marxists that will not give a damn about being welcome or not if there is action of political debate afoot and so here you are.


          I don't see how the Internationals helped, however, no doubt his analysis has interesting points, perspectives from which one can draw one's own conclusions even. That value comes from labor, for example, sort of obvious but not until it's made so explicit. It does trump the old "capitalists create wealth" line... if they do that it's by virtue of organizing labor, where the value comes from, and then is stored, really, in some good that was at the very least gathered.

          •  Gee, thanks! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Marxists are unwelcome here, huh? I am a Marxist. I am politically active, and work to help elect progressive Democrats locally and nationally. I have voted a straight democratic ticket every election since 1980. Can you say the same? Some big tent you got here!

            •  Pyrrho said it's "good" that there are M's here (0+ / 0-)

              When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist. -- Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999)

              by hoipolloi on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 03:57:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  welcomed by me (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              you were the one complaining about the reaction, don't project a negative reaction to me, my reaction is purely intellectual, and I welcome you to the debate.

              that was the meaning of "good"... that you are here.

              I guess I understand if you are sensitive about it, but I didn't unwelcome you.

  •  Organic growth better than enforced theories (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pyrrho, BurnetO, hartboy, mikebailey2000

    Messy, muddling through . . . .organic growth and evolution.....much better than falling in love with theories and trying to apply them rapidly and/or by force.

    From now on I think perhaps we should rely on "women's intuition" instead of any ideology.

  •  You have isolated a real problem (0+ / 0-)

    when you stste that rule by finance is must be ended.  The control by the financiers and related mechantilits has drained the work of production of much meaning, and has belittled the workers.  People are not designed to be fungible

    Patriotism may be the last refuge of scoundrels, but religion is assuredly the first.

    by StrayCat on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 08:06:25 AM PDT

  •  A critique (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Let me start out by saying I think you have got a number of things wrong here, as have some of Marx's "apologists" who have commented on this thread. Nevertheless, the discussion is generally going well and I feel worthwhile.

    Next, let me say where I am coming from. I am not a "Marxist" on most issues. Marx himself famously intoned that he was not a Marxist. I do not believe that Marx offers credible answers to the problems of capitalism, at least not with our current state of technological development. (I am, however, a Marxist in agreeing with his idea of an emergent rationality from a material base. But all that says is that I don't believe in God and I do believe in evolution.) Nevertheless, Marx is useful to read and is more correct on many issues than you are willing to allow. Also, I should note that I despise capitalism, but I see no realistic alternative to it as the basis for our economic arrangements. The term I prefer for my brand of politics is "social democrat."

    My first big gripe was your statement that Marx did not understand the revolutionary and dynamic nature of capitalism. This is 180 degrees from the truth. Go back and read the Manifesto and his famous line "all that is solid melts into air." Marx understood and actually admired the dynamic and revolutionary nature of capitalism.

    Where Marx got it wrong here is not in his understanding of the nature of capitalism, but in his faith that we could rapidly transcend the capitalist method of exchange, that is, the market. Marx's famous saying "to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability," envisioned an economy where each person would willingly contribute to the common good, and the needs and even wants of every individual could rapidly be fullfilled without the mechanism of a market to gauge how intense those wants were, or as an incentive for people to want to contribute to the common good. Marx was a positivist (perhaps the ultimate example of a positivist) who beleive that social organization and provision could be worked out scientifically. He was striving for a completely rational society and assumed that people were rational enough to cooperate with a society so constructed. Marx still had faith in the enlightenment and obviously was not nearly as jaded as Freud who understood the irrational side of humans. (Indeed, Marx's faith in the idea of emergent rationalit, "geist," would have led him into violent disagreement with Freud had he lived that long.)

    Basically, what I am trying to say is that socialist countries that tried to follow Marx's idea of getting rid of the market were doomed. As of now, the only way to reasonably (though not rationally) distribute goods is with a market mechanism. While I disagree with Hayek on almost everything, he got that right (and Hayek was merely following in the footsteps of Mises.) For Marx's idea about getting rid of the market to work what we would need would be Star Trek type materializers where you articulate what you want and it is automatically produced. And, in fact, I believe this is precisely the direction Marx saw the economy developing.

    What your gripe really seems to be be about is the lack of inovation in socialist countries. First, that is distinct from Marx. Marx understood the dynamic nature of capitalism. He even understood that much of this dynamism was driven by the profit motive. What he hoped for is that in a socialist society such inovations would continue, but without having the profit motive as an incentive. Instead, people would innovate just because they wanted to. (Which is true to some extent, despite the glorification of capitalist innovation by capitalist utopians.) What we found out, however, was that in a competition between a marketless society (i.e. socialist societies) and a market society, innovation is much greater in the market society.

    Another area where Marx got it wrong was his belief that we could do without a state. Again, this is a result of his positivism and his faith in rationality. And again, he proved to be blind to the iradicable nature of human irrationality. He simply thought that social science would be sufficient to determine the best organization of society and that therefore the need for politics (i.e. fights over how to organize society) would dissapear. I would say that ultimately, his problem was a faith that reason could find an absolute, indisputable truth about how we should live which would then end all arguments.

    A big area where Marx got it wrong was in his belief that capitalist societies were generally incapable of reform. The logic of capitalism would drive them down a certain path and there was no power great enough to overcome this logic. (historical materialist thinking there!, which I might add was another of his mistakes.) But this proved to be wrong. Capitalist societies were capable of reforming themselves. The Progressives, in fact, were one of these reform movements that played a part in stabilizing American capitalism.

    One last area that I would point to where Marx got it wrong was in his privileging class above all other identities. In particular, you need to understand his definition of class being one's relationship to the means of production. What this missed is that even though much of the old petite bourgeousie dissapeared as he predicted and became objectively proletarian, they still maintained a petite bourgeois mentatlity. The rise of a white-collar middle class was not something that Marx foresaw, and he certainly misunderstood man's desire for distinctions of prestige, not just wealth. Max Weber, I believe, has a much better grasp on this. Which is not surpising since Weber was writing at the beginning of the 20th century and got to see how capitalism actually developed, versus Marx who was writing 40 years earlier. Another consequence of Marx's class-centric analysis is his lack of appreciation of the non-economic origins of racial, sexual, religious and gender identities and the power they have in shaping people's consciousness.

    As to other parts of your essay, I also have some problesm. You mention the 48'ers, but fail to mention the socialists among them and the fact that Wisconsin was the epicenter of German-American socialism in the U.S. Where, for instance, is Victor Berger? What about all the Finnish socialists in Minnesota?

    Also, I do not believe the Progressives can offer us much in the way of class analysis. If there was one defining ethos of progressivism, it was to overcome class divisions, to make them irrelevant, but not to change that actual relations of production. Their goal was amelioration, not transformation. (Which is not a bad goal and one I think we should persue.) In other words, their goal was the elimination of class consciousness. They were not looking to analyze class so much as to eliminate it as factor in politics. What motivated them most of all was a desire to stave off Marx's predicted revolution. Ultimately, they were deathly afraid that Marx was right!

    I would add that an interesting point of intersection between Marx and the Populists was there shared faith in positivism. The entire Wisconsin idea of John R. Commons was ultimately based on positivist thinking. But positivism is a weak reed to rely on considering man's irrational tendencies and also because, at heart, it is ludicrous to think that we will ever develop a "science" of man. Instead of basing arguments on how society should be organized on scientific studies, the only plausible approach would be to rely on moral arguments. Rawls has more to say about how we should live than any sociologist ever will.

    Finally, I would like to insist that Marx's analysis of class really is a fine way of looking at this topic, probably the best when it comes to emperical economic analysis. But there is a large gulf between objective class status and class consciousness. And to assume that class is the be all and end all of life, or even a big part of it, misses many other important identities that shape who we are and how we percieve the world. Gender, race, religion, sexuality, prestige, all these things matter, and often much more than class.

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