Thoughts on today’s Guardian article on Marxism

Isn’t it funny how reading one article in the Guardian can trigger off a rush of thoughts and memories (ok, get past the obvious jokes/slatings whatever on your perspective of the Guardian!!).

This morning I read their piece on the rise of Marixsm at the moment – read it here:

It took me back to studying political philosophy for my Masters degree a few years ago.  As well as my political activities at the time… Anyway, the initial thought was the blindingly obvious dichotomy between pure and applied – Marxist theory has been applied in a number of ways and interpretations and has developed a stigma historically due to misappropriation/misinterpretation. The problem then being that people with an inherent reason for hating or fearing Marxism/socialism generally have used these fears to attack any left philosophical movement.

In the piece Owen Jones makes some powerful points eg you are a class warrior if you stand up for the 30% of society who are going to be worse off under current Govt’s policies – and those 30% are those who can least afford it.

It isn’t rocket science to suggest that philosophically now is the time for the pure side of Marxism to be explored and developed – and that there is a real will for that.  Furthermore, ironically, it looks like the capitalist system really has brought it upon itself with its inherent systemic self-interest that has gone too far with all the examples we see now of corporate wrongdoing costing the general public – our society – in a striking and painful way producing burdens that should not exist.

My thoughts are that Marxist theory is a useful tool right now for us to consider how we maximise the opportunities that are currently presenting themselves (and being used) in a variety of arenas – more communal endeavours, more collective interests forming to protect and benefit, more group working and sharing of interest, more efforts to work with others for the mutual benefit rather than the individual benefit.

Humans are social beings, our instinct is to work together but that is being relentlessly worn down by the individualism that is encouraged in order to promote self-interest in order to get more for yourself rather than spreading benefits across the many, not the few.

The many, not the few.

Surely that is the point.  We are all better off when everyone is better off.  It is the human side, the social side of Marxism that I am interested in, the real purpose behind it.  You’d expect that from a social scientist – i am no economist.  But the principles are clear and obvious – to retain confidence in society and our institutions, there needs to be recognition of the bad stuff, the wrong stuff and there needs to be a paradigm shift towards more positive ways of working together – for the benefit of the many, not the few.

There was another interesting quote from someone fortunate enough to be too young to have known of the Thatcher period (i am a child of the 80s so still have vivid memories) – she argues that Marxist theory is absolutely relevant, it provides an understanding of what is happening now across the world.

That is true.  On a practical level, we are seeing the economic system looking pretty shoddy, self-interested and to be frank just thieving and irresponsible.  Confidence is shattered and the past can never be returned to.  So what happens next?  You can go practical but actually to have a long term strategic but still practical approach to reform and rebuilding, it helps to understand on the basis of the historical and philosophical contexts.  The world does not have to form itself around a capitalist system – we chose to but we don’t always have to.  We can investigate alternatives, they may be better.  The point is, we shouldn’t let conservatives tell us there is no alternative, and that is absolutely why Marxist theory is relevant – because if our ideas and our knowledge is taken away then there really is no hope for making the future better.  And that means I can finish with a quote from Fidel Castro who said that “a revolution can only be born from culture and ideas”.  Too true.

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