What no one tells you about marxist utopia pt1

Since the turn of the millennium, a raft of  books have appeared on this subject. From scholarly works to popular biographies, broadly endorsing Marx’s take on capitalism and how its enduring relevance needs to be revisited.

 

Paul Mason, the Guardian journalist (or activist,depending on your take) and a vocal advocate of International Socialism, wrote on this in the New Statesman  about a year ago. https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2018/05/why-marx-more-relevant-ever-age-automation

It is peppered with phrases  like “Marx still has a lot to teach us”, or “you cannot understand modern capitalism without understanding Marx”.

The common thread in most of the surfeit of pro Marxist publications, apart from the overt praise, is that the outcomes of real-world socialist attempts must never, ever, be held against Marx’s ideas. (Venezuela and the Soviet Union were not really Marxist it is argued.)

The underlying assumption is that an intelligent person is able to grasp the difference between a theory and its distorted application.

We would not do this with any other political or economic theory. The thing about political and economic theories is that they are never implemented in pure form.

All real-world applications of political and economic ideas are, to some extent, distortions. While some governments just seem to make up their policies as they go along (Theresa May springs to mind), others have a recognisable common thread, shaped by a specific set of ideas.

New Labour was  influenced by Anthony Giddens’ concept of the ‘Third Way’, a form of social democracy that makes peace with the market economy.

Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies were influenced by free-market thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek.

West Germany’s first post-war government was influenced by ‘ordoliberalism’, an economic school of thought which tried to combine free-market economics with an active competition policy.

Yet in each of these cases, if we look at what the original thinkers said, and then compare that to what happened in the real world, there will be massive gap between the two. Theory is not real life

Giddens was not particularly happy with the New Labour interpretation of his ideas. Margaret Thatcher’s government didn’t follow Hayek literally, but the spirit of his ideas was followed. When West German ordoliberals give an account of Konrad Adenauer’s government, they tend to talk about the early days with some enthusiasm, not so much later on.

 

Marxists  are pretty much the only thinkers who accept no responsibility whatsoever for real-world failures of their ideas.

Hardly any contemporary Marxist would accept that whatever ‘real’ socialism is –  East Germany was at least closer to it than West Germany, North Korea is at least closer to it than South Korea, Venezuela is at least closer to it than Peru, Maoist China was at least closer to it than Taiwan, etc.

It’s almost as if once the Marxist model fails they want to distance themselves from it. The ideology would then be judged and dismissed as an unworkable utopia.

Which of course it is.

Here is a link to my authors page. And I am also on Twitter here

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