In the next few posts I am returning to some other sections of my book. The first few sections apart from the introductions dealt with the core principles that Marx enunciated, his economic principles. In these next sections I am dealing with Marx's social manifestations of his principles. As before titles of these posts are ending with "... -- Book" and for the purpose of the continuity I encourage you to read the earlier posts with similar title patterns.
The historical evidence for Marx’s theory of “scientific socialism” was developed by Engels in his famous work “The Origin of the family, Private Property and the State”. In this book Engels on the basis of the work of Lewis Morgan codifies the Marxist notion of the early “egalitarian” societies as a definitive stage in the history of the mankind. Engels wrote this work after Marx brought to his attention Morgan’s works. Morgan’s “Ancient Society, or Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from Savagery through Barbarism, to Civilization” is his major work. I have not delved deeply into Morgan's life and his works but I wonder if he was not somehow influenced by the European radical left. If his anthropological conclusions were influenced by this radical left, then Engels certainly had a very convenient set of facts to reinforce the Marxists illusion.
Marx did not see the finished work of Engels before he passed away, but the ideas and notions of Marx about the primitive societies are undeniably reflected in Engels’ work. “The Origin of the family …” was published in 1884 about a year after Marx’s death.
Marx was convinced that the exploitation of man by man is a recent phenomenon in the history of our evolution and he thought that we can eliminate it under socialism. On their journey Marx and Engels saw the work of Morgan as the definite proof that not long ago, actually very short time in terms of the span of human evolution, some ten thousand years ago, humans were living in very harmonious “egalitarian” societies. There was no exploitation of man by man on our planet and it was only through the proliferation of trade, exchange of things, that this early paradise of human relationship was broken up and class society and exploitation surfaced. Also they saw a marked demarcation between the animal existence and the human society. They related the savagery of animal existence to a purely biological instinctual reaction. In their mind there was no consciousness in the animal world and therefore no exploitation. Marx’s notion of the animal world seems to imply that there is no “I am exploiting you”. That is the realm of human society and exploitation only occurs after “humans” began to trade things which led to the dissolution of the early “communist” tribal societies. In their mind this led to class societies and a continuous exacerbation of exploitation, with its zenith being the capitalist societies. The most pernicious one of them is the democratic capitalism. Because it just so brilliantly hides that naked exploitation of Marx’s favorite class, the workers on the line of production.
This conviction or illusion of Marx and Engels were so persistent that Engels writes, in this early stage of human societies “In consequence of continued precariousness of the sources of sustenance, cannibalism seems to arise”.
There was evidence at their time that cannibalism was not an occasional incidence in human past. Today, in our world, we know predominantly of two forms of cannibalism that happens from time to time. One form is the incidence of cannibalism perpetrated by individuals with severe dissociation from the society they live in. We see these individuals as pathological criminal elements that society cannot tolerate, like Jeffrey Dahmer. The other form of cannibalism happens during extreme duress which participants struggle with themselves if they should engage in such a practice or die and some even choose the latter. Some famous examples are the Donner Party in 1840s, Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 in 1972 where extreme hunger and struggle for survival drove some to participate in cannibalistic acts. Such practice when it is due to duress leaves deep emotional scars among the survivors and our legal and ethical standards have to struggle with it in how we should interpret the incidence. In any case it is a social or individual moral crisis or both.
The cannibalism of primitive societies does not present such a scenario. On the contrary, it was a persistent practice woven into the moral fabric of the society, something good and positive, strengthening the "individual" and the society. It was part of their system of myths and practiced through elaborate ceremonies. Is the cannibalism of the primitive societies a form of sanctioned exploitation? All evidence point in this direction and testifies that Marx had the whole thing upside down; humans did not travel the path of an ever increasing and more concentrated form of exploitation that supposedly led to the creation of two contending classes, the capitalists and the proletariat. I will return to this later.
Maybe what Marx created, a whole new myth, was powerful enough only to inspire his followers such as the masterful political tactician like Lenin, or a self interested pragmatist manipulator such as Stalin, or pragmatic-idealists who followed Stalin to their death like Zinoviev and Kamenev, or an idealist like Trotsky, or a nationalist like Castro. Marxist myth continues to prop up new converts as free thinker varieties or neo Marxists; like Slavoj Zizek, Christopher Hitchens and Naomi Klein, each with a niche of their own. Since capitalism seems to be far away from its last breath and stands in the way of a complete “egalitarian” transformation, the neo Marxists all want to create at least a “more egalitarian” society.
Marxist myth has created many sectarian organizations dedicated to its “egalitarian” cause and new ones continue to pop up like new churches, usually with a lifetime charismatic leader, a "scientific" pope, tucking away the high hope of someday becoming the supreme or dear leader of a future “egalitarian” society.
Most if not all of the nationalist movements of the last 100 years have been deeply affected by this Marxist myth and continue to adopt its language. In my opinion these nationalist movements will be far weaker ideologically without this myth, particularly without the more modern version of it, the theory of “imperialism”.
More or less everybody is familiar with the “anti-imperialist” phrase-mongering of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A not well known side of it is, during the persecution, imprisonment, torture and execution of the leftist groups in the 1980s, certain intellectual leaders of the Islamic Republic would ask the leaders of these leftist groups to conduct lectures about the principles of Marxism, particularly its economic principles, inside the prison. And many of these leaders of the leftists groups obliged, with the hope that it would at least postpone their personal demise. The Islamic intellectuals' thinking was that they did not have adequate tools to withstand American “imperialism”, specially on the economic front and to them Marxism felt like a hand in glove. These Islamic leaders did not see any contradiction between sitting at the lectures of well known Iranian Marxists and at the same time suppressing them and their organizations. In this respect these Islamic leaders were very fond of Stalin and they would openly say, I mean openly inside the prison, that “Stalin did not do a very good job at eliminating the opposition in Russia; we will do a thorough job in Iran.” In the same breath you would hear them say “By the way Hitler did not do a thorough job with the Jews either. We will show the world how it is done!”
While my experience from Iran might seem anecdotal but I think it says something more. It is a reflection of a broad destructive influence of Marxism, which provided ideological cover for many anti-democratic, autocratic tendencies of our era. At the same time it maintains a destructive influence in the west as well, broader than you might think. I will return to this point later. But for now I will return to the question of the family as expressed by the Marxists -- in the next post.
The above piece is part of a book that I am developing. If you would like to follow, please read the blogs titled "Perspective..." and then read all the blogs which the title name ends with " -- Book". As you might have guessed, you have to read from the earlier posts moving to the present.