Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The grass roots, right or wrong?

Marc asks whether Rosa Luxemburg considered that 'the people' might be right wing. Let's leave aside the likelihood that she did while some of them were murdering her and look back to Marx. Luxemburg was one of a large number trying to work out, or simply claim that they knew, what Marx had meant; after all the old chap was not always terribly consistent in what he wrote. Some of them came to the conclusion that, while he may have been driven by good intentions they still didn't really want to be associated with him, thank you very much. Others, Lenin for example, decided that they would very much like to claim to be his followers, but that wouldn't stop them striking off in completely different directions if it suited them; not much 'withering away of the state' in the Soviet Union, with 'dictatorship of the proletariat' meaning dictatorship on behalf of the proletariat because the party knew what was best for the people.

Now Marx was clearly right about a number of things: his critique of the problems of capitalism has stood up pretty well and a number of aspects of it were proved entirely correct a decade ago; his insight of the powerful negative impact on individuals and through them on society as a whole of the alienation of man from the work he performs is as valid in today's call centre as it was in the cotton mills of his time; and above all Marx pointed out that if we don't like the way history is going we can actually seize power from those who currently have it, a lesson taken to heart by many around the world with a consequent huge historical impact.

Where Marx is most definitely found wanting, is in his rather naive assumption that just because the exploiters were bad people, that the exploited must therefore be good. We can pontificate all we like about 'false consciousness' and about a lot of people being 'useful idiots' to those in power (both entirely valid concepts), but as can be seen around me as I write, and no doubt around you as you read, the chances of expressions of grass roots feeling being of a right wing nature is pretty high. Perhaps Lenin was right and Luxemburg wrong after all.

1 comment:

  1. I can't claim much insight into Marxist theory (or practice), but I knew 20 years ago that my fav. poet - W.B. Yeats - had theories so whacked they needed excusing. These days, it's hard to know.