Libertarian Marxism may not be the widest school of socialist thought, but we at Thought Foundry Blog proudly call ourselves Libertarian Marxists. To those unfamiliar with Marxism first hand, who are still filled with the prejudices brought about by the cold war, it may appear at first sight to be a contradiction. After all, according to anyone who survived the American educational system, “socialism is when the government does stuff. But when it does everything, that’s communism”. There is no talk in school, when scarcely socialism is brought up, about industrial democracy, community self-governance, a historical analysis of past and present socioeconomic systems, or what Marx’s critique of the capitalist system even was. Even most economics classrooms, in America if not in Europe, skip over Marxian economics altogether. Even today it’s just too taboo for the Red, White, and Blue. The legacy of the cold war, the time of brutal Stalinist dictatorships and brutal CIA coups, is largely responsible for this. People think Marx wasn’t an economist who wrote almost exclusively of the inner mechanics of the capitalist system, but some utopian buffoon who spoke of “master plans” where the government would control all aspects of life and strive to take away people’s freedom. In reality of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of this page is not to give an overly broad overview of Marxism. There are plenty of other places for that. This page exists merely to elaborate what Libertarian Marxism is in our view.
A stranger wrote to me the other day anonymously, asking me, “How do you consider yourself a Marxist while at the same time being a libertarian?” This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this. It would be easier, part of me thought, to explain the entire school of Marxist thought from its early beginnings to now. “So first read Hegel’s phenomenology of Spirit and then we’ll move onto Marx’s critique of Hegelian idealism*.” But alas, I decided to write a somewhat less lengthy reply summarizing my views on this matter specifically, without going off into the specifics of Marxist theory and how it differs wildly from the average layperson’s prejudices, no doubt as previously stated, a remnant of the cold war. I have pasted that very reply below with few modifications in hope that it will help answer others who pose to me this very question. First of all it must be said above all else that Marx left the future to the future. Out of the 50 volumes attributed to to Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, each being about 500 pages in length, only about 7 pages goes on to describe what a socialist or communist society would look like. Marx’s go-to phrase was “I do not have a crystal ball”. His life’s work was spent scientifically and objectively analyzing the capitalist system, an analysis many economists feel is still largely accurate today. Marx left such questions to be answered through the democratic actions of the working class itself, or tragically as historically was the case, through the tyrannical actions of party central committees that converted a distorted and totalitarian distortion of Marxism into a political religion. Sadly this system is what comes to mind when the word “communism” or “Marxism” is brought up in public discourse today. What Marx saw as the only example of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” that existed in his time, was a radical form of democracy endorsed by Marxists and anarchists alike, not at all resembling the Stalinist dictatorships of the 20th century, but we will discuss this system (the Paris Commune) later on. Without further delay, here is my somewhat lengthy reply to the kind stranger who took the time to write to me:
Thanks for writing me! I do hope this is not too long a reply, as it is a big topic. A common misconception when it comes to Marxism is that it implies a desire for the same sort of totalitarianism that emerged in the Stalinist states of the 20th century. In fact however, this is not at all the case. Orthodox Marxism really, before Leninism and then Stalinism (itself being a totalitarian distortion of both Marxism and Leninism), could be called “Libertarian Marxism”. We hate and despise totalitarianism and see it as the anti-thesis of what Marxism is supposed to represent. Marx himself described his method of analysis and his school of thought generally as, “the ruthless criticism of all that exists: ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be.” To think for oneself and question authority is a cornerstone of Marxist philosophy.
Marx believed strongly in the necessity of the “withering away of the state” as he called it. And the experience of the Paris Commune furthered this view, where Marx came to the view that the state could rapidly wither away when the proletariat or working class, that makes up the overwhelming majority in capitalist society, would seize political power from the bourgeois or capitalist class that de facto runs the world today. Essentially it advocates that the majority should control society and not as American Founding Father John Jay put it, “Those who own the country ought to govern it”. We believe that if the broad majority democratically controls all of society, it will likely lead, to a classless, stateless, eventually moneyless society as this is both in the self-interest of our species, and it seems to be where history is heading. More specifically, we advocate industrial democracy in addition to political democracy. The term “democratize the enterprise” applies here. We believe there is a more efficient, humane, logical way to run the world. We generally see the Russian Revolution after Lenin as nothing more than a betrayal of the original Russian revolution, a totalitarian distortion of Marxism- and many Libertarian Marxists are far more critical than I of Leninism. You can look at Trotsky’s “The Revolution Betrayed” as an example, or even Rosa Luxemburg’s libertarian ‘The Russian Revolution” (of which I quote down below) or in “What does the Spartacus League Want?” where she says,
“During the bourgeois revolutions, bloodshed, terror, and political murder were an indispensable weapon in the hand of the rising classes.
The proletarian revolution requires no terror for its aims; it hates and despises killing. It does not need these weapons because it does not combat individuals but institutions, because it does not enter the arena with naïve illusions whose disappointment it would seek to revenge. It is not the desperate attempt of a minority to mold the world forcibly according to its ideal, but the action of the great massive millions of the people, destined to fulfill a historic mission and to transform historical necessity into reality.
But the proletarian revolution is at the same time the death knell for all servitude and oppression. That is why all capitalists, Junkers, petty bourgeois, officers, all opportunists and parasites of exploitation and class rule rise up to a man to wage mortal combat against the proletarian revolution.”
The Paris Commune was what Marx called the first real example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and it in no way resembles the so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat” we saw during the Cold-War. Was it a totalitarian one-party state, this revolutionary government? No, it was a mass democracy for most of its existence. It was authoritarian against those who sought to disarm the newly armed workers who now controlled their own lives, but generally it was radically anti-authoritarian in the political sense of the word. Both Marxists and Anarchists alike view the Paris Commune as a shining example of what they want, at least initially. In essence, the goals of Anarchists and Marxists are the same. Anarchists merely want to abolish the state over night, whereas we Marxists view that as a bit impractical. I will quote Marx here,
“Instead of continuing to be the agent of the Central Government, the police was at once stripped of its political attributes, and turned into the responsible, and at all times revocable, agent of the Commune. So were the officials of all other branches of the administration. From the members of the Commune downwards, the public service had to be done at workman’s wage. The vested interests and the representation allowances of the high dignitaries of state disappeared along with the high dignitaries themselves. Public functions ceased to be the private property of the tools of the Central Government. Not only municipal administration, but the whole initiative hitherto exercised by the state was laid into the hands of the Commune.
Having once got rid of the standing army and the police – the physical force elements of the old government – the Commune was anxious to break the spiritual force of repression, the “parson-power”, by the disestablishment and disendowment of all churches as proprietary bodies. The priests were sent back to the recesses of private life, there to feed upon the alms of the faithful in imitation of their predecessors, the apostles.
The whole of the educational institutions were opened to the people gratuitously, and at the same time cleared of all interference of church and state. Thus, not only was education made accessible to all, but science itself freed from the fetters which class prejudice and governmental force had imposed upon it.
The judicial functionaries were to be divested of that sham independence which had but served to mask their abject subserviency to all succeeding governments to which, in turn, they had taken, and broken, the oaths of allegiance. Like the rest of public servants, magistrates and judges were to be elective, responsible, and revocable…
While the merely repressive organs of the old governmental power were to be amputated, its legitimate functions were to be wrested from an authority usurping pre-eminence over society itself, and restored to the responsible agents of society. Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workmen and managers in his business. And it is well-known that companies, like individuals, in matters of real business generally know how to put the right man in the right place, and, if they for once make a mistake, to redress it promptly. On the other hand, nothing could be more foreign to the spirit of the Commune than to supercede universal suffrage by hierarchical investiture…
The multiplicity of interpretations to which the Commune has been subjected, and the multiplicity of interests which construed it in their favor, show that it was a thoroughly expansive political form, while all the previous forms of government had been emphatically repressive. Its true secret was this:
‘It was essentially a working class government, the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor.’
Except on this last condition, the Communal Constitution would have been an impossibility and a delusion. The political rule of the producer cannot co-exist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. The Commune was therefore to serve as a lever for uprooting the economical foundation upon which rests the existence of classes, and therefore of class rule. With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute.
It is a strange fact. In spite of all the tall talk and all the immense literature, for the last 60 years, about emancipation of labor, no sooner do the working men anywhere take the subject into their own hands with a will, than uprises at once all the apologetic phraseology of the mouthpieces of present society with its two poles of capital and wages-slavery (the landlord now is but the sleeping partner of the capitalist), as if the capitalist society was still in its purest state of virgin innocence, with its antagonisms still undeveloped, with its delusions still unexploded, with its prostitute realities not yet laid bare. The Commune, they exclaim, intends to abolish property, the basis of all civilization!
Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labor of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land, and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor. But this is communism, “impossible” communism! Why, those members of the ruling classes who are intelligent enough to perceive the impossibility of continuing the present system – and they are many – have become the obtrusive and full-mouthed apostles of co-operative production. If co-operative production is not to remain a sham and a snare; if it is to supersede the capitalist system; if united co-operative societies are to regulate national production upon common plan, thus taking it under their own control, and putting an end to the constant anarchy and periodical convulsions which are the fatality of capitalist production – what else, gentlemen, would it be but communism, “possible” communism?
The working class did not expect miracles from the Commune. They have no ready-made utopias to introduce par décret du peuple. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistably tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In the full consciousness of their historic mission, and with the heroic resolve to act up to it, the working class can afford to smile at the coarse invective of the gentlemen’s gentlemen with pen and inkhorn, and at the didactic patronage of well-wishing bourgeois-doctrinaires, pouring forth their ignorant platitudes and sectarian crotchets in the oracular tone of scientific infallibility.
When the Paris Commune took the management of the revolution in its own hands; when plain working men for the first time dared to infringe upon the governmental privilege of their “natural superiors,” and, under circumstances of unexampled difficulty, performed it at salaries the highest of which barely amounted to one-fifth of what, according to high scientific authority,(1) is the minimum required for a secretary to a certain metropolitan school-board – the old world writhed in convulsions of rage at the sight of the Red Flag, the symbol of the Republic of Labor, floating over the Hôtel de Ville.”
Marxism is a revolutionary ideology, in that it believes revolutionary movements brought about by class struggle to be the catylysts or radical, emancipatory social change. Even if Marxists historically sometimes support extreme measures in social revolutions, Marxism itself is intrinsically opposed to totalitarianism, and especially to continuing such “emergency measures” in a post-revolutionary period, as exemplified by Stalinism which does exactly that. But most of us are not naive enough to believe in such “temporary measures”, given the experience of world history.
Take communist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who was militantly opposed to the press censorship and red terror of the early Soviet Union. I would quote her here again, if you don’t mind, from her work ‘The Russian Revolution’ in 1918,
“On the other hand, it is a well-known and indisputable fact that without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right of association and assemblage, the rule of the broad masses of the people is entirely unthinkable…
Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege.
The Bolsheviks themselves will not want, with hand on heart, to deny that, step by step, they have to feel out the ground, try out, experiment, test now one way now another, and that a good many of their measures do not represent priceless pearls of wisdom. Thus it must and will be with all of us when we get to the same point–even if the same difficult circumstances may not prevail everywhere.
The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin-Trotsky theory of dictatorship is this: that the socialist transformation is something for which a ready-made formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – not the case. Far from being a sum of ready-made prescriptions which have only to be applied, the practical realization of socialism as an economic, social and juridical system is something which lies completely hidden in the mists of the future. What we possess in our program is nothing but a few main signposts which indicate the general direction in which to look for the necessary measures, and the indications are mainly negative in character at that. Thus we know more or less what we must eliminate at the outset in order to free the road for a socialist economy. But when it comes to the nature of the thousand concrete, practical measures, large and small, necessary to introduce socialist principles into economy, law and all social relationships, there is no key in any socialist party program or textbook. That is not a shortcoming but rather the very thing that makes scientific socialism superior to the utopian varieties.
The socialist system of society should only be, and can only be, an historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realization, as a result of the developments of living history, which – just like organic nature of which, in the last analysis, it forms a part – has the fine habit of always producing along with any real social need the means to its satisfaction, along with the task simultaneously the solution. However, if such is the case, then it is clear that socialism by its very nature cannot be decreed or introduced by ukase. It has as its prerequisite a number of measures of force – against property, etc. The negative, the tearing down, can be decreed; the building up, the positive, cannot. New Territory. A thousand problems. Only experience is capable of correcting and opening new ways. Only unobstructed, effervescing life falls into a thousand new forms and improvisations, brings to light creative new force, itself corrects all mistaken attempts. The public life of countries with limited freedom is so poverty-stricken, so miserable, so rigid, so unfruitful, precisely because, through the exclusion of democracy, it cuts off the living sources of all spiritual riches and progress. (Proof: the year 1905 and the months from February to October 1917.) There it was political in character; the same thing applies to economic and social life also. The whole mass of the people must take part in it. Otherwise, socialism will be decreed from behind a few official desks by a dozen intellectuals.
Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. Corruption becomes inevitable. (Lenin’s words, Bulletin No.29) Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties, rule by terror – all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.
When all this is eliminated, what really remains? In place of the representative bodies created by general, popular elections, Lenin and Trotsky have laid down the soviets as the only true representation of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)”
Keep in mind here that Rosa Luxemburg, a “Libertarian Marxist” by today’s standards, was in fact, in her time, nothing more than an Orthodox Marxist. Her writings if read today, would be seen as radically libertarian by modern American standards, yet they were Marxist through and through. Orthodox Marxism and modern Libertarian Marxism are essentially the same thing. Marxism demands unlimited democracy, and logic dictates that can only be done in a society with unlimited political freedom. We know from our present society that political democracy without industrial democracy amounts to virtual oligarchy in practice. To me, it is necessary to be both militantly opposed to the existing world order and to Stalinist totalitarianism at the same time. We call ourselves “Libertarian Marxists” to differentiate from the totalitarian distortions of Marxism most people think of when they hear the term today.
Lenin too before he came to power, in his work ‘The State and Revolution’ could be called a “Libertarian Marxist”. But the conditions of desolated Russia in 1917 were the very opposite of what a socialist would call “ideal” for such a social rupture. It was not an already industrialized, wealthy nation with a reasonable degree of liberal democracy and political freedom. It was backward, poverty struck, isolated, and semi-feudal. The proletariat did not even make up close to the majority, as it does in every modern society today, and if a totalitarian degeneration was not inevitable, it was extremely likely-especially after the German Revolution failed. Stalinism solidified the tragic emergency measures taken during the imperialist onslaught of the Russian Civil War as sacred dogma, an act intrinsically opposed to Bolshevism. It was a betrayal almost as much as Stalin’s later murders of nearly all the original Bolshevik revolutionaries of 1917. Inner party democracy was never restored and Marxism, now what Stalin called “Marxism-Leninism” was turned into a totalitarian political religion used to justify the rule of the bureaucracy. The bloody legacy of Stalinism is not one we have forgotten but on the contrary, one we live with and still try to understand. We do not use historical revisionism to justify our views. As Marxists, we accept history as it is. History we believe, is still on the side of Marxism in spite of the terrors of the 20th century.
Suzanne Moore wrote a snarky article for the guardian titled “Communism is hip again- but until it means liberty, count me out, comrade”.
As a rebuttal to this claim, I would like to quote from Marxists.org on the differences between positive and negative liberty, and why Marxism today seeks nothing more than the radical expansion of human liberty:
“Negative freedom means the lack of forces which prevent an individual from doing whatever they want; Positive freedom is the capacity of a person to determine the best course of action and the existence of opportunities for them to realise their full potential.
The overwhelmingly dominant tendency in the history of bourgeois society has been to open up negative freedom, by removing feudal and other reactionary constraints on freedom of action. Free trade and wage-labour are the most characteristic bourgeois freedoms which have resulted from this history: free trade being the freedom of a capitalist to make a profit without restriction, and wage-labour being the freedom of a worker from any means of livelihood other than being able to sell their labour power to the highest bidder. Thus this negative bourgeois freedom is a kind of freedom which is real only for those who own the means of production.
Positive freedom has been built up almost exclusively as a result of the struggle of the working class: initially the legislation limiting hours of work, child labour and so on, later the creation of free compulsory education, public health systems, right to form trade unions, and so forth, freedoms which explicitly limit the freedom of the capitalists to exploit workers, but give worker the opportunity to develop as human beings.
The freedom people have is determined by the ethical system of the society they are born into, which is fundamentally based on the economic relations that society is based on: for example in capitalistic society a person is free to exploit wage, but labourers are not free to receive things like an education and health care in accordance to what they need; only in accordance to what they have to pay. In socialist society, a person is not free to exploit labourers (i.e. restrict the freedoms of labourers), but are free to own a more or less equal portion of the means of production in accordance to their own need and ability.
In hitherto existing Socialist states, like the Soviet Union and China, “negative freedoms” were severely restricted, while “positive freedoms” were advanced. All people had universal access to health care, full university education, etc, but people could only use those things they had in a particular way – in support of the government. In the most advanced capitalist governments, this relationship is the other way around: “positive freedoms” are restricted or do not exist all together, while “negative freedoms” are more advanced than ever before. A worker in capitalist society has the freedom to say whatever she believes, but she does not have the freedom to live if crippled by a disease regardless of how much money she has. A socialist society that has been established from a capitalist society will strengthen “negative freedoms”, while ushering in real “positive freedoms” across the board, ensuring equal and free access to social services by all.”
Yes my friends, communism means liberty. It is a liberty can only be won by the working masses winning the battle of democracy and taking control of their own lives. The word for genuine democracy today is communism. Does that scare you? We are not at all referring to Stalinism or to that grotesque social system that collapsed in 1989. Communism, being not the act of a small party of intellectuals or central committees, the totalitarian pursuit of some far off social order, or some form of political party, but rather the free will that comes about through the spontaneous and democratic organization of the overwhelming majority of society. Communism is the movement that abolishes the present state of things. To differentiate further between Stalinism and Orthodox/Libertarian Marxism, let me again quote from Rosa Luxemburg,
“The modern proletarian class does not carry out its struggle according to a plan set out in some book or theory; the modern workers’ struggle is a part of history, a part of social progress, and in the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight… That’s exactly what is laudable about it, that’s exactly why this colossal piece of culture, within the modern workers’ movement, is epoch-defining: that the great masses of the working people first forge from their own consciousness, from their own belief, and even from their own understanding the weapons of their own liberation.”
My article ‘Marxism Against the Conversion of Marxism Into a Political Religion’ furthers this view, proving it as the view held by Marx and Engels themselves:
“What did Marx and Engels imagine when in 1848 they wrote in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, “WORKERS OF ALL LANDS, UNITE!”? In the same manifesto, they wrote, “We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle for democracy.”
Looking back, half a century later, Frederick Engels said:
“The Communist Manifesto had already proclaimed the struggle for the general franchise, for democracy, as one of the first and most important tasks of the militant proletariat . . .” (Introduction to Class Struggles in France 1895)
Only four years after the Communist Manifesto Marx emphasised the point in an article in the New York Tribune (25 August 1852):
“The carrying of universal suffrage in England would . . . be a far more socialistic measure than anything which has been honoured with that name on the Continent. It’s inevitable result, here, is the political supremacy of the working class.”
In their early years of political activity Marx and Engels had been optimistic about the speed with which developments would take place. With greater experience they had to recognize that the obstacles—the resourcefulness of the ruling class, the adaptability of capitalism, and the slowness with which socialist ideas were accepted by the workers—were much greater than they had supposed.
Engels, in the work already mentioned summarised this:
“The time is past for revolutions carried through by small minorities at the head of unconscious masses. When it gets to be a matter of the complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must participate, must understand what is at stake and why they are to act. That much the history of the last fifty years has taught us. But so that the masses may understand what is to be done, long and persistent work is required . . . . Even in France the Socialists realise more and more that no durable success is possible unless they win over in advance the great mass of the people, which, in this case, means the peasants. The slow work of propaganda and parliamentary activity are here also recognised as the next task of the party”.
What did Engels say of socialism in “The Principles of Communism”? He said, “Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.”
What is the attitude of Marxism towards the question of authority and the cult of personality?
“Neither of us cares a straw for popularity. Let me cite one proof of this: such was my aversion to the personality cult that at the time of the International, when plagued by numerous moves— originating from various countries— to accord me public honour, I never allowed one of these to enter the domain of publicity, nor did I ever reply to them, save with an occasional snub. When Engels and I first joined the secret communist society, we did so only on condition that anything conducive to a superstitious belief in authority be eliminated from the Rules.” (Marx, Engels Collected Works V. 46, P. 288)…
The Marxist view is that a socialist society cannot but be a democracy, even if its methods of attaining such a society are revolutionary. Marxism does not see the building of socialism as something that can be decreed or ordered from above, but something that can only emerge in the democratic struggle and process itself.”
The enemies of liberty today are not the communists, at least not those of us opposed to Stalinism, nor are they the anarchists. On the contrary, the modern bourgeoisie today no longer rules in liberty’s best interest, but against it. It is no longer the class that wrote in 1789 ‘The Declaration of The Rights of Man and Citizen’, but it is the class that is gradually eroding the very prerequisites that, in modern society, allow individual liberty to exist at all. I would like to quote one last time in closing remarks, this time from my own article ‘The Marxist Case for Human Rights’:
“Engels said of bourgeois ‘equality’, “Equality is set aside again by restraining it to a mere “equality before the law”, which means equality in spite of the inequality of rich and poor — equality within the limits of the chief inequality existing—which means, in short, nothing else but giving inequality the name of equality.” (Collected Works Volume 6, p. 28-29).
We aim for the total and complete liberation of the poor and the exploited classes, for a society in which that old phrase “all humans are born equal and free” is embodied by human society at large, where all have an equal chance to succeed at life, to pursue happiness and better themselves. Human rights are, as we have stated, a fundamental part of Marxism. In the past we could clamor on about certain countries not having the material prerequisites necessary for bourgeois liberty, democracy, etc. (see how applying ‘democracy’ to Afghanistan went for the US). But most states today, especially the developed ones (see China) have built up the material prerequisites necessary to fully realize not only negative liberty, but positive liberty as well. For such nations there is no excuse. In such nations, human rights are not abstract ideas, but attainable goals. For all nations, but especially those, Marxists cannot but advocate unlimited political and individual liberty.
In the digital age the right to privacy is also withering away more and more even (and especially) in the most “freedom loving” liberal democracies. But as Rosa Luxemburg correctly pointed out, “freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters… of the one who thinks differently”. Privacy in the digital age is the only real prerequisite to civil liberty. One is not truly free to dissent if one is being watched at every moment, (it is a well known and independently verifiable fact that people alter their behaviors when they are being watched, especially by authorities) and if one is being watched at every moment, one is not free at all. One doesn’t even have to wield this power to the fullest extent possible to destroy human liberty, it’s very existence is a terminal illness to every form of human freedom. In light of the horrendous abuses of power by NSA, GCHQ, and its accomplices, the Marxist left is bound by its principles to fight against mass surveillance, for the preservation of human freedom. Every such advance in mass surveillance brings the world one step closer to turn-key tyranny. The fight for freedom today is not only a fight for socialism, but it is a fight against the increasingly authoritarian right-wing shift in global politics. In addition to the classic battle-cry of the Marxist left “WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE”, we must also proclaim loudly and in the same sentence, “DEATH TO TYRANNY, LIBERTY OR DEATH!”
Our aims and goals are no different in essence from those of the early Marxists and even the anarchists. We see clearly today that political democracy without industrial democracy amounts to virtual oligarchy in practice. We know from history that socialism is impossible without democracy, democracy itself being impossible without unlimited political and individual freedom.
In a world where the wealth of billionaires in 2017 alone was enough to end extreme poverty globally 7 times over, where 8 men have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity, where we produce enough wealth to feed 10 billion people a year, yet “cannot afford to” abolish world hunger due to the limitations of the capitalist system, I cannot help but call myself a Marxist- and a Libertarian Marxist at that. I am a Marxist in politics for the same reason that in religion, one becomes a priest. Marxism shows through ruthless reason and logic, as Ursula K. Le Guin said, “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”
I apologize if this was too long a reply, I do hope you have taken the time to read it. I have added some (clearnet) links you can browse safely through Tor on this if you are interested. I know you may not agree, as is and should be your right, but thank you for taking the time to read this nonetheless. Thank you for contacting me!
Thought Foundry Blog”
I think this best summarizes our views on the matter. I have inserted this page into the menu bar of our blog in order to help answer this same question to future readers and inquirers.