Monday, August 6, 2012

Portraits From Memory, "Chapter" Thirty

“Why I am Not a Communist,” pages 229-232

Communist theory is flawed, and the likely consequences of Communist precepts applied to governing practice are horrific.

Marx’s ideas are confused – surplus value is a case in point – while hatred seems to drive his project. His willingness to promote the self-contradictory notion of surplus value must have drawn from its value as propaganda to inflame the working class. The claim that all history concerns class struggle is a reckless generalization, and the belief that Dialectical Materialism determines the course of history is equally false. “His theoretical errors, however, would not have mattered so much but for the fact that, like Tertullian and Carlyle, his chief desire was to see his enemies punished, and he cared little what happened to his friends in the process [pp. 229-230].”

Lenin’s and Stalin’s contributions to Marxism further worsened matters. Marx’s presaged transitional stage involving the dictatorship of the proletariat was intended for a society numerically dominated by industrial workers. Their “dictatorship” was not necessarily inconsistent with democratic principles. But the dictatorship of a small Bolshevik Party, and eventually Stalin’s personal dictatorship, are different matters entirely. Stalin starved millions of peasants, and killed millions of others in the gulag. He tried to force genetic science to obey his dictates, too.

Russell’s problems with Communism are deeper than his disagreement with Marx. Unchecked power held by a small cadre backed by secret police is a sure path to widespread abuses. Perhaps Russia will liberalize, or perhaps not. “In the meantime, all those who value not only art and science but a sufficiency of daily bread and freedom from the fear that a careless word by their children to a schoolteacher may condemn them to forced labor in a Siberian wilderness, must do what lies in their power to preserve in their own countries a less servile and more prosperous manner of life [p. 231].”

Perhaps at one time it would have been sensible to counter the evil of Communism with a war, but now the destructive potential of such of war and the uncertainty that a successor regime would be more humane counsels against such an approach. The appropriate path for the non-Communist world is defense against Communist aggression, the fostering of economic growth in less developed countries, and the abandonment of the vestiges of imperialism. Hate and poverty sustain Communism, so working to restrict hate and poverty serves an anti-Communist agenda.

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