Coming from a country where Marx and Engels where the household philosophers for about 40 years, I have never been too fond of the two. I still remember my surprise at walking down Karl Marx Allee in Berlin and the rather harsh remark from a German acquaintance that my view of Marx is quite limited and that it’s about time Marx got re-appreciated as a great philosopher. I have Western friends that proudly call themselves Marxists and quote Lenin like he’s their hero. That always makes me wonder about what a German would say if that same person quoted Hitler with such familiarity. They would dismiss the parallel looking at me like I’m a crazy person, but in my opinion they should consider it a bit. And yes, I know Lenin is not Stalin…
At one point I have walked out of a class on Marx somewhere in Germany feeling quite angry. Like my friend argued, Marx was treated like any other philosopher in that class and it is particularly this that struck me as inappropriate. I felt that they should have at least vaguely mentioned the consequences of putting these ideas into practice. Another question that I often ask myself is why is it that so many intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals still take so much pride in calling themselves Marxists and most of them, incidentally, are part of a university system supported through deeply capitalist means. I myself agree most of the times with Terry Eagleton and appreciate that part of Marxist philosophy that influenced Michel Foucault’s ideas about power, but I appreciate even more that it completely departs from its teleology.
Reading Bertrand Russell’s essay Why I’m Not a Communist started this whole train of thought. I was surprised to bump into this clear-headed rebuttal of Communism published in 1956 when so many Western intellectuals were completely enamored with it. Russell himself fell slightly under its spell, but a visit into the heart of the new Soviet Republic cured him. Here’s what he says:
“In relation to any political doctrine there are two questions to be asked: (1) Are its theoretical tenets true? (2) Is its practical policy likely to increase human happiness? For my part, I think the theoretical tenets of Communism are false, and I think its practical maxims are such as to produce an immeasurable increase of human misery. ”