In a now infamous 1994 interview with journalist Michael Ignatieff, the historian was asked if the murder of “15, 20 million people might have been justified” in establishing a Marxist paradise. “Yes,” Mr. Hobsbawm replied.
For anyone who has visited an American college campus in the past half-century, Mr. Hobsbawm’s core argument will be familiar: The Marxism practiced by Lenin, Stalin and Mao was a clumsy misinterpretation of Marx’s theories and, as such, doesn’t invalidate the communist project.
The question then becomes, are mass murders justified for “clumsy misinterpretations”? Hobsbawm and I agree: yes. Except Hobsbawm doesn’t go far enough. Mass murder isn’t justified for Marxism.
How hard is this to understand? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is unnatural in the world of animals. Just look around, for gosh sakes. Birds and bears and boars, oh my! Capitalist swine, the lot of them.
But not all hope is lost. Look down. See that anthill? There’s our workers’ paradise. And indeed, communist societies do outperform “capitalist” ones…when every worker is industrious and keeps to its place
So Hobsbawn is correct. All godless attempts at communism have been “clumsy misinterpretations” of Marx’s crystal-clear vision. What Hobsbawn doesn’t see is that they always will be…until human beings can be turned into perfect insects. That solves the problem.
What’s with this “godless” qualifier? Regular readers of this blog, all seven of them, know there’s a real-world example of successful mandatory communism. It’s the exception that proves the rule…and then some.
No, not the early Christian church. Much of it chose communism, but individuals were free to buy and sell and keep as they chose. We addressed that here recently.
Marx’s arch-materialist dream was in fact realized almost a century before his birth…
(Full Disclosure–In his late teens, your host did four summers of Shakertown Revisted, a “theater in the round” performed at the Shaker Museum near Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Made out with my first girlfriend at most of the locations pictured.)
And the Shakers were Commies. They were insanely, almost inhumanly dyed-in-the-wool Communists. You know how Politburo members always “needed” daichas and mistresses and Western luxuries, yet somehow rank-and-file Soviets didn’t?
The Shakers weren’t like that. The elders lived exactly the same lifestyle and worked exactly as hard as everyone else. Disbelieve if you will, it doesn’t change that Shakers were cheerful, clever, inventive, ever-working Communists.
They were also utter pacifists who took great risks in helping the Underground Railroad.
And of course Marx would have found Shakers–the sole people to realize his dream–insane. Heck, most believers think they were nuts. Because…
…they were also celibate.
Yep. Celibate. Chaste. No nookie nowhere, at no time. None. Never.
(Full Disclosure–Yes, of course my girlfriend and I knew it was disrespectful to make out on Shaker grounds. And it’s a dang shame how getting away with something naughty takes all the fun out of life.)
The celibacy explains a lot, right? If a young man can conquer the drive for sex, how tough is swearing off private property? Not very. Violence? “Sure…(yawning)…no problem.” Industrious communists indeed. That energy has to go somewhere.
Now, the Shakers didn’t become celibate in order to form the perfect Marxist economy. They became celibate because Mother Ann Lee had four miscarriages prior to becoming a Shaker, and eventually their cult leader. But by succeeding at it, they illuminated Marxism’s real-world problem.
Regard the animal kingdom. If Baby Bear is hungry, Momma Bear don’t care ‘bout no “optimal resource allocation”. Momma don’t care if her baby’s need is less than yours. Momma says drop your food or be food.
Now regard the Soviet Politburo. How did their children fare, compared to everyone else’s? To each according to his need, the adage goes. It’s odd, how the powerful always seem to need more than the powerless. I would have guessed the opposite.
Since Marxism is as materialistic as philosophy can get, look to the material world. Is it doable? Yes, of course. Does it work? Not only “yes”, it totally kicks butt at the insect level. Yet Marx and his followers, to this day, can’t see the “how” and “why” of the simple reasons.
They can’t, or they don’t dare. Because the Catch-22 is obvious: Marxism is a materialist creed requiring action contrary to material nature
BEAR COLLECTIVE: “Momma Bear, turn over the fruits of your labors!”
MOMMA BEAR: “But my Baby Bear is crying from hunger.”
BEAR COLLECTIVE: “The Collective determines Baby Bear’s need, not you!”
Marxists believe that setup will work. Between mammals. Militant atheists may think the Flying Spagetti Monster is a laugh, but it’s still more plausible than Marxism between primates.
And yet…the Shakers made it work. How? The same as an anthill. Everything’s working for something greater than itself. For God! For Hive!
Maybe individual ants are incapable of “choice”. But mammals aren’t. Primates certainly aren’t. People who believe in Predestination? They chose to do so. And Shakers, who chose to ruthlessly subdue their animal desire to procreate, are the only successful “Marxists” in history.
Marxism can only work two ways. Either turn people into insects, or convince them to become “Shakers”.
If you destroy everything that’s different between us and ants, no problem. Marxism will finally work. If every person on earth voluntarily gives up sex, maybe Marxism can work. We have proof-of-principle, but the Shakers’ total number was around 20,000.
Of course, this would also bring the human race to an end. Which doesn’t bother me, but all of you seem somewhat attached.
Then the Protector Problem remains. Marxists expect mammals to care more about the wants of strangers than their own offspring’s needs. It doesn’t work that way anywhere in Niven’s Known Space and it doesn’t work like that here. Marx’s disciples demand something even science fiction’s greatest minds can’t make plausable. They want 1) absolute Marxism, and; 2) strictly materialistic behavior apart from Marxism’s unnatural requirements.
They somehow believe that one day, hairless apes will let their infants starve if required by the… Primate Politburo? Monkey Management? I guess Hobsbawm will decide?
Okay, thanks for sticking through to the end. Forgive the sole exaggeration: I said Marxism requires mass murder when it has been achieved through celibacy. So we’ll stop after acknowledging the now obvious and morally necessary action:
Hobsbawm and his fellow travellers must immediately be castrated.
Marx’s will be done.