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July 23, 2006



Of any Marxist that age, I'd ask whose side he was on in 1939-40: Britain and France or the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Of course, given that he was a Man of the Left, I accept that it's odds against that, even if on the side of the democracies, he'd do anything so vulgar as go to war against the Nazis himself.


Are you really comparing like with like?

Marxism/socialism is a wholeistic end of history political/economic system that surly cannot be said of capitalism.

capitalism needs the rule of law to enforce a contract, the rule of law is legitimised by democracy and a whole raft of civil society institutions.

Capitalism can be said to have won because democracy won (at the begining of the UN there were only a few democracies now there is nearly 50%)

Capitalism is in essence just a system of property rights.

The genius of the system is that it is very hard for the government to bully people with property and its also very hard for the property right holder not to pay their taxes.

Chris Williams

Ah, Chris D, every so often you remind us all that you are a true Smithian. Ta. Are you going to obituarise Taafe in the same terms?

Bob B

With all the wartime propaganda in WW2 about our heroic Soviet allies, it's easy to overlook that Stalin had no insuperable objections to the Soviet Union signing a Friendship Treaty with Nazi Germany on 28 September 1939 when Britain and France were already at war with Germany (citation: Norman Davies: Europe (OUP, 1996) p.1000).

In France, the Communists emerged as the mainstay of the resistance to the German occupation but only after Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. Before that, the Communists officially had a "neutral" stance.

On rearmament by Britain: "The fact is that the rearmament programme was seriously begun under Baldwin, pushed along more slowly than Churchill wanted, but more quickly than the opposition advocated. Defence spending, pegged at about 2.5 per cent of GNP until 1935, increased to 3.8 per cent by 1937." (Peter Clarke: Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-2000 (Penguin Books))

This is start of the Guardian's report of 4 March 1935 on the Baldwin government's rearmament White Paper:

"In a major reversal of rearmament policy Britain today announced new expansion plans for its army, navy and air force. The plans, in a defence white paper, are to demonstrate that Britain does not take lightly Germany's continuing rearmament.

"The white paper calls for an enlarged fleet, improved defences for warships against air attack, more aircraft for the RAF and new coastal and anti-aircraft defences. The emphasis on air defence follows fears that Britain is an easy target for cross-Channel air raids. . . "

The government sought a new mandate at the general election on 14 November 1935 and won with 53.7% of the total vote, the last time in Britain that a government won a general election with an absolute majority of the votes cast.

John Angliss

"It's only in the last 20 years that we can say that capitalism has triumped."

And only in certain parts of the West, unless starvation and extreme exploitation equals triumph.


>>unless starvation <<

I too was one of the doe-eyed crowd at Live Aid cheering and changing the world at wembley, except it was all an illusion

the fact is most famine happens becuase of war,its a tool of war. Since the green revolution and the birth of GM there is potential for everyone to feed themselves even in backward economies and states.

as for "explotation", captialism is not the problem, thats an issue for civil democratic society to set in place safeguards thru law and the legal system.

capitalism wins everytime casue it needs democracy (as increasede chinese property rights will lead to a more democratic china)

socialism (the tranitional state to communism) does not, as proved time and time again, the socialist state is neither fair or democratic, in fact the only way you get people to put their self interest behind their collective interest is at the end of a gun barrel, as 70 million plus dead in the 20th century can verify.

Marx may not have been directly accountable for this state of affairs, but in the final anlysis, you can only judge a tree by the fruit it bears.


Of course, given that he was a Man of the Left, I accept that it's odds against that, even if on the side of the democracies, he'd do anything so vulgar as go to war against the Nazis himself.

Dearieme, are you going to take that back? I do not see that it's particularly helpful to introduce Reverend Phelps/Michelle Malkin style treason slanders into the daily currency of British blogging.


Don't be so precious, Alex. It was commonplace in the 50s to tease lefties because proportionately so few went to war, and quite right too. I don't refer to men who happened to vote Labopur, but to the politically active class. That's one reason that Labour made a great fuss of Denis Healey in the 50s: he'd volunteered and served bravely, and they were rather short of such MPs. Harold Wilson was more typical, scurrying away to a Whitehall job. Further to Healey's credit, he'd volunteered even though he was a commie. Commies overwhelmingly opposed the war while Stalin was still Hitler's ally. Look at the figures for strikes to see the consequences. Of course, once D-day was safely over and the war was clearly going to be won, there were commies keen to stop the Western allies pushing too far into Germany. That may explain some of the industrial agitation towards the end of the war - mining strikes, works-to-rule in the docks, and so on. Slanders, my arse: it's how the Left behaved.


Of course, once D-day was safely over and the war was clearly going to be won, there were commies keen to stop the Western allies pushing too far into Germany.

Links? Cites? Evidence? Or just more obscene shite? As far as the Labour leaders of the period go, I think you'll find that as well as Healey, Dick Crossman had an exemplary record of service, Tony Benn was a carrier aviator, Roy Jenkins worked at Bletchley Park on the ENIGMA codebreak, Attlee was a WW1 major who I think held the Military Cross - off the top of head, at least.

You've overstepped the fucking mark, wanker.

Bob B

Alex - Try reading the references to coal mining in Correlli Barnett's The Lost Victory: British Dreams, British Realities 1945-50, for reports of the strikes, especially during the lead up to D-Day.

That is also an excellent source on how Marshall Aid was squandered on maintaining military bases around the world while we had shortages and rationing at home. That's when the under-investment started. By the late 1950s, West Germany's per capita GDP had overtaken Britain's.


What on earth has Major Attlee's service in WWI to do with the question of lefties avoiding service in a different war? And if my basic point is so wrong, how come it was a commonplace in the 50s? People knew, you know.

Igor Belanov

Shock! Horror! Industrial grievances exist even in wartime!

And the Overgeneralisation of the Year Award goes to the man who insists that 'the Left' weren't really interested in fighting WWII. That'll explain why people like Lord Halifax and Chamberlain were considered such ardent Socialists.


Come off it, Igor: you might as well accuse me of being a lefty/mad mullah because I opposed the Iraq war.

Igor Belanov

I'm employing your logic!

The point is that certain people on the right, left and even centre of British politics were unconvinced of the need to fight WWII- it's not a sectarian issue.

Chris Williams

I find dearieme's view of history very useful from a professional standpoint. For pity's sake don't enlighten her - it'd lead to a lot more work for me to do.

Hitler Hitler Hitler. There, thread over. Nothing to see, move along there now.

Bob B

Neville Chamberlain was naive in that he thought he could "do business with Herr Hitler". His main motive for the Munich Agreement of September 1938 seems to have been a profound wish to avoid a repetition of the terrible slaughter of WW1 which he (sensibly) believed would be the likely outcome of another Pan-European war.

In March 1939, the German invasion of what remained of Czecho-Slovakia after the secession of the Sudetenland finished off whatever illusions Chamberlain had about Hitler and Britain promptly made an unsolicited offer to Poland of a Treaty to defend its terrirorial integrity. It was in honouring that treaty obligation to Poland that led Britain - and France - to declare war on Germany on 3 September 1939.

Lord Halifax's motivation was perhaps rather different: "'Although there was much in the Nazi system that profoundly offended British opinion, I was not blind to what he (Hitler) had done for Germany, and to the achievement from his point of view of keeping Communism out of his country.' This was a reference to the fact that Hitler had banned the Communist Party (KPD) in Germany and placed its leaders in Concentration Camps."

Churchill on becoming prime minister in April 1940, shortly thereafter discovered that the foreign office had kept open diplomatic channels with Nazi Germany via Sweden and ordered the channels closed. With the full support of Labour members of his war cabinet, Churchill spurned any possibility of a negotiated settlement with Germany. From the capitulation of France on 25 June 1940, Britain stood alone in Europe against Nazi Germany until the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 - which came as a complete surprise to Stalin, who had trusted Hitler.

America didn't enter the war in Europe until Nazi Germany declared war on America three days after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Phil Jackson

“And herein lies the poverty of non-Marxist politics. All our mainstream political parties take for granted the necessity of hierarchy and inequalities of power,”

Marx was not an anarchist and most certainly believed in the necessity of hierarchy and inequalities of power. Though he apparently sees the end of history as a stateless condition* he places a mountainous ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ across the route. As in all societies that fall short of anarchism’s dream there must be at least two elemental strata – (a) those that govern and (b) those that are governed – so the dictatorship must contain (in addition to remnants of the bourgeoisie, lumpenproles etc) two distinct elements of the victorious class:

Proletariat1 (P1) – that which gives the orders**
Proletariat2 (P2) – that which takes them

So we find that Section 2 of the Manifesto tells us that:

“the proletariat [he means P1] will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of instruments of production in the hand of the State…..and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.”

Indeed, P1 will be pretty busy in all kinds of areas:

“In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they [the Communists or P1] always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole” (Translation: “We’re in charge, buddy boy”).
“Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes."
“Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.”
“Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.”
“Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of wastelands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.”
“Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.”

*what he refers to in the Critique of the Gotha Programme as the ‘higher phase’ of communism

**it is worth remembering that Marx habitually refers to himself as a proletarian, despite being a son of the haute bourgeoisie and never having wielded a shovel.

Bob B

"Marx was not an anarchist"

Quite so. Francis Wheen, in his excellent biographical study of Marx, reports that Bakunin, a Russian anarchist (1814-76), believed that Marx served as a police spy. Wheen says that it he regards that as credible.

There is certainly a supreme irony about Marx and family seeking sanctuary in London after being hounded out of mainland Europe in 1848 following the round of revolutions across mainland capitals that year. The arch critic of capitalism found safe asylum in the capital city of the leading capitalist power of his time.

A Blue Plaque on the Quo Vadis Restaurant in Dean St, Soho, commemorates the place where Marx and family lived in a few modest rooms supported by subventions from Engels, his friend and benefactor. Engels made his money from running a successful family textile business in Manchester.

Phil Jackson

In his very early writings Marx was close to anarchist thought and came within a whisker of defining the bureaucracy as a class in its own right. In his ‘Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of the State’ in 1843 he wrote:

“The bureaucracy has the essence of the state, the spiritual life of society, in its possession, as its private property. The universal spirit of the bureaucracy is secrecy, the mystery which it secures internally by hierarchy, and against external groups by its character as a closed corporation.”

Which is the sort of insight that could raise as cheer from people as diverse as anarchists or Thatcherite conservatives. But within a couple of years Marx was sniffing interestedly at statist solutions as part of the ‘transition phase’ to communism, and a year or so after that he and the anarchists were at war and continued to be for the rest of his life. A letter of 1846 from the anarchist Proudhon had sparked it off and this is an extract:

“Let us together seek, if you wish, the laws of society, the manner in which these laws are reached, the process by which we shall succeed in discovering them; but, for God’s sake, after having demolished all the a priori dogmatisms, do not let us in our turn dream of indoctrinating the people. . . . I applaud with all my heart your thought of inviting all shades of opinion; let us carry on a good and loyal polemic, let us give the world the example of an informed and farsighted tolerance, but let us not – simply because we are at the head of a movement – make ourselves into the leaders of a new intolerance, let us not pose as the apostles of a new religion, even if it be the religion of logic, the religion of reason. Let us gather together and encourage all dissent, let us outlaw all exclusiveness, all mysticism, let us never regard a question as exhausted, and when we have used one last argument, let us if necessary begin again – with eloquence and irony. On these conditions, I will gladly enter into your association. Otherwise, no!”

Peter R

To the apologists for capitalism:
Ted Grant would I believe have pointed out that capitalists only favour democracy as the cheapest way to protect their interests. It's usually easier to bribe a few hundred mercenary parliamentarians than to finance a fascist party. But they do not hesitate to use mass murder and torture when appropriate. The vile murderer Pinochet was supported in his coup by the US, was praised by Thatcher, saved from trial by Blair, and miraculously recovered from his "illness" when he got back to Chile. More recently Bush supported the failed coup in Venezuela, and succeeded in removing the democratically elected President Aristide of Haiti. Dictatorships such as Oman and Saudi Arabia would have been overthrown decades ago without the support they received from western democracies.
Socialism would end corruption, would establish democratically elected committees at every level, so society would be run in the interests of the many not the few.


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Saddly his life was in vain, sad but true, even for marxist guys.

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