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1) Karl Marx has won the BBC's Greatest Philosopher poll, with over twice the votes of the second placed David Hume (via DTPs for W).
2) Followers of Karl Marx have been responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people over the past century.
Posted at 04:48 PM | Permalink
I'll be with you in a second. Got to get my Che t-shirts out of the drier.
July 13, 2005 at 05:56 PM
That's because Marx is more of a cult than a philosopher (and what a cult he was). I'd guess L. Ron Hubbard and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon would have done even better than Karl had they been allowed to enter (as would Kemal Ataturk- remember the Time Man of the Century Poll?- and, now you come to mention it, Snoopy). Just be thankful it's not the sixties and we haven't had lots of smug Western cretins voting for Mao Zedong as history's greatest thinker.
July 13, 2005 at 06:05 PM
So, J. Cassian, you're saying the result was swayed by the vast membership of the Communist Party of Britain voting as a block?
July 13, 2005 at 09:00 PM
More like dogmatic academics, members of the student tosser community, assorted "anti-globo" soap-dodgers, sad teenagers who think the Manic Street Preachers write the greatest poetry since Arthur Rimbaud, Guardianistas who think deep down Karl was just a nice old liberal like them, anti-conformist conformists high on Theory and so on and so on. The usual suspects.
July 13, 2005 at 10:16 PM
Norm Geras (for instance) is a follower of Karl Marx. Is he responsible for the death of anyone at all, let alone the deaths of more than 100 million people?
More to the point, since Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al. were (among other things) notorious liars, why do you take their word for it that they were followers of Marx at all, rather than murderous rulers of largely peasant societies that had very little in common with the advanced capitalist societies that Marx was concerned with?
It could also be relevant to ask how many people have been killed by followers of Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha ... but that would be as cheap a shot as the ones you've made in your post.
July 14, 2005 at 05:08 AM
Cheap shot? Of course they were followers of Marx. It's not even arguable: they called themselves Marxists, had busts of the great Karl all over the place.... No doubt you'd argue they got him wrong, but it is something of a problem for Marxists that his legacy is so drenched in blood. Just rotten bad luck, I suppose, that every time a Marxist regime comes to power it happens to be led by a lying homicidal maniac.
Mick H |
July 14, 2005 at 08:17 AM
"Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al. were (among other things) notorious liars, why do you take their word for it that they were followers of Marx at all"
So we're reduced to putting a new spin on the "Cretan liar" to absolve Marx of any blame for his grubby spawn? I forgot, "historical materialism" means history doesn't matter. Actually, Marx himself wasn't above a bit of opportunistic lying ("dialectics"), so maybe he didn't believe his own theories. Western Marxists must be remarkably unobservant people, seeing how the majority of them have been hoodwinked by at least one of those genocidal "liars" over the years. It's sheer coincidence every time a professed Marxist gets their hands on power, it all ends in carnage.
"...rather than murderous rulers of largely peasant societies that had very little in common with the advanced capitalist societies that Marx was concerned with?"
That's right, the fact no Marxist state developed in the advanced capitalist world should be proof Marx's predictions were baloney. The working classes' lives improved, there was no immiseration and so no proletarian revolution. This was obvious even during Marx's lifetime, so Marx's theories should have been quietly retired to the limbo of sub-Hegelian drivel from which they emerged and no blood would have been spilt. But like an apocalyptic cult whose predictions of the end of the world sadly keep failing to materialise, Marxists (or "Marxists", as you'd have it) devised a series of increasingly inventive excuses as to why their guru's "scientific" prophecies had not come true. The first and most influential of these was "Marxist-Leninism", in which a self-styled intellectual elite inflicted its ideology on the largely peasant society of Russia. Who'd read Marx? The peasants or the Bolsheviks? Credit where credit's due.
"Norm Geras (for instance) is a follower of Karl Marx. Is he responsible for the death of anyone at all, let alone the deaths of more than 100 million people?"
Who's saying that? You don't have to be a member of the Cuban secret police to wear a Che T-shirt. But if you endorse any of the Marxist dictators (or their henchmen) from Lenin onwards, then you are unavoidably condoning mass murder and oppression in some form or other. Members of the French Communist Party in the late 1940s didn't actually do any "wet work" themselves, but they were responsible for the education of Pol Pot and other leaders of the Khmer Rouge.
"It could also be relevant to ask how many people have been killed by followers of Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha"
It could, but at least two of those figures specifically forebade violence. Marx called for the "violent overthrow of the existing order" and the "dictatorship of the proletariat"; Engels advocated the genocide of reactionary Slav nations. In any case, it's well known the trouble with religion is that its all-embracing worldview inevitably tends to attract a fair number of dogmatic zealots to the cause (which is why Marxism is like a cult). But Marx was a zealot himself. No one disembowelled a pregnant woman in the name of David Hume, because he offered doubt rather than dogma.
July 14, 2005 at 09:09 AM
"Actually, Marx himself wasn't above a bit of opportunistic lying ("dialectics"), so maybe he didn't believe his own theories."
You mightn't be as far off as you think. Apparently (it turned up in a chat I had with Gareth Steadman-Jones a year and a bit ago, so can't recall exactly) but before his death, Marx was working on some things that led him to think that actually he'd been a bit wrong earlier on. Engels, as Marx's executor, chose not to publicise these bits, for fairly obvious reasons.
Paul Davies |
July 14, 2005 at 01:29 PM
"No one disembowelled a pregnant woman in the name of David Hume, because he offered doubt rather than dogma."
If you're going to blame the Russian Revolution on Marx, surely you can have the decency to blame the French Revolution on Hume.
July 14, 2005 at 02:54 PM
"If you're going to blame the Russian Revolution on Marx, surely you can have the decency to blame the French Revolution on Hume."
Hmm, why? That doesn't tally with anything I can remember about the Scottish Enlightenment. I always thought the French Revolution (in its Robespierrian phase) was more of Jean-Jacquerie. I don't remember the "colonne infernale" marching into the Vendée under banners bearing quotations from "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding".
July 14, 2005 at 03:11 PM
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