Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Reconstituted Socialist Party of Great Britain - Marx Studies - Are You A Marxist?

Are you a Marxist?

Are You a Marxist? Anyone brave enough to criticise capitalism and the profit system runs the risk of being labelled a “Marxist”. Apparently, being described a Marxist is supposed to stop dead in its tracks any further discussion of class exploitation and the class struggle.

Just to be named and shamed as a “Marxist” is to be written off as not being worth listening to. Political insults such as “tub-thumper”, “Bolshie”, “fire-brand”, “extremist” and “far-left” come to mind as loud and shrill epithets to prevent debate and discussion.

And if someone relatively poor calls into question the wealth and privilege of the rich they’re accused of pursuing a “politics of envy” as though the vulgar and decadent life-style of the capitalist class, paraded in the magazines of the quality Sunday press, is something to be admired and worshipped like a pop star or footballer as one Tory Minister once remarked.

And what of a relatively well-off worker who dares to point out that the richest 1 percent of the population does not create social wealth at all but instead lives off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit? They are derided as a “champagne socialist”, as though having a bob or two in your pocket takes away any right to criticise the profit system. Engels, for example, is regarded as a “champagne socialist” – the smear appeared on the dust cover of the book “THE FROCK COATED COMMUNIST” by the Labour politician and historian, Tristram Hunt. It appears that Engels’s wealth discounts him from having anything useful to say about the conditions of the working class. He exploited workers, didn’t he?

This is plainly an idiotic point of view. Being rich does not debar you from becoming a socialist. After all, Engels helped finance Marx’s writing of CAPITAL so he richly deserves a glass or two of champagne raised to his memory.

Both examples are illustrations of the fallacy of attacking the person rather than the sound and valid arguments someone holds against capitalism However, this fallacious and lazy anti-socialist propaganda cuts no ice with our opponents. Our opponents are not interested in what socialists have to say about capitalism but only in preventing socialist ideas from being disseminated to workers by using any means at their disposal. ]

And the crude weapons our opponents have at their disposal are abuse, character assassination, deceit, lies, and any other trick in the Machiavellian book of capitalist politics. Anything goes so long as it deflects attention away from the fact that the social problems facing the working class today are caused by capitalism.

The social problems facing workers derive from commodity production and exchange for profit not from the actions of other workers whether they are migrants, the elderly, the disabled, those persisting on “benefits” or living miserable lives of social alienation on “sink estates”. Being on the receiving end of most capitalist propaganda is like having a bucket of excrement thrown over you. An unpleasant consequence of “the furies of self-interest” as Marx once remarked.

And there lies the present difference between socialist and capitalist propaganda. Socialists are like someone standing on Brighton Pier in a winter’s storm spitting out at sea and not only having the spit blown back into their face but also becoming increasingly drenched by being hit by one tempestuous wave after the other.

And just look at the “quality” of the capitalist propaganda arraigned against socialists. In the “anti-Marxist hysteria” of the early 21st century, even President Obama has been labelled a “Marxist” by the mad hatters in the Tea Party. So too has the Pope for criticising the profit motive.

The BBC, the Church of England and the tame reformists stuck in their treacle quagmire at the GUARDIAN are all written off as “Marxists” by the Richard Littlejohns of the world who scrawl out their anti-socialist bile while propped up against the bar at the “Old Reactionary Boor” public house in Essex. There are so many “Marxists” coming out of every nook and cranny you would be forgiven into believing a socialist revolution was just around the corner.

Then there is the DAILY MAIL. Day after day the newspaper claimed Ed Miliband; the former leader of the Labour Party was a closet Marxist because his father had written books on Marx while a professor at the LSE. By family connection “red ED”, as the rag liked to call him, was a dangerous revolutionary “Marxist”; a threat to house prices and the British way of life. After reading the DAILY MAIL it is advisable to have to have a long hot shower afterwards, with plenty of soap, to get all the dirt off the body and the poisoness hate that has seeped into the pores of the skin.

So Miliband was portrayed by the Tory media as a “Marxist-lite” politician. That is, until he failed to gain power at the recent General Election and was forced to resign from the leadership of the party. Now he is politically dead; “dead-Ed” rather than “red-Ed”. His tomb-stone, the work of an unknown and now out-of-work PR consultant, is hidden unloved and forgotten in a garage somewhere in the depths of the Sussex countryside and so too is any reference to him in the media as a “Marxist”. The smear worked. Job done.

What of the capitalist Left? Counterfire, for example claim to be Marxists and write books like “MARX FOR TODAY” (Counterfire 2015) but conveniently leave out how a revolutionary working class are to establish Socialism except by vague references to the Paris Commune of 1871(pp59-60). Then there is the SWP, the Socialist Party, and the dozens of other political organisations subscribing to nationalisation programmes, radical reformism, direct action and the imposition of their own leadership in place of “bourgeois politicians”.

These disreputable organisations, who workers should avoid at all cost, misleadingly claim Marx led to Lenin who then led to Trotsky whose revolutionary crown then passed on to whoever currently leads their organisation. That is, before the next internecine dispute over tactics and strategy and a new round of expulsions and splits.

As they say of the capitalist left, there are usually two party members with doctorates; one the leader and his supporters trying to hold onto power and the other with his own supporters wanting to take power away all for himself. The winner takes all; the loser sets up another Party. And the process starts all over again. To the point that it is now difficult to work out how many Trotskyist groups actually exist. There are just so many of them; a pile of splinters from a diseased tree.

So what we can say about all these “Marxists” and the “Marxism” they claim to follow? Well we could say that, following a comment made by Marx of those claiming to be Marxists in his own day; if this is “Marxism” then “I am not a Marxist”.

Back to top

Socialist Studies

email: enquiries@socialiststudies.org.uk | www.socialiststudies.org.uk