I had a conversation with a Marxist today. It became a bit heated on her side because she simply could not believe that I was unmoved by her arguments and was extremely frustrated with my explanation of the history of property, hierarchy and territorialism. She was particularly enraged about hierarchy and territorialism because they clearly originate in the animal kingdom and that presents a very difficult argument against her alleged desire to “live in the natural state of humanity” as our brains are hardwired for these things. That being the case there is no simple solution to the eternal question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” and that really throws a wrench in the gears of the leadership tier of her hoped-for utopia.
Trying to turn the topic a bit to let her explore things on her own, I probed her a little more about labor-value theory and immediately hit a wall. I was trying to figure out why the conversation was so utterly unsatisfying until it dawned on me: she had never actually read Marx. She had no useful knowledge about philosophy at all, never having read any ancient, classical or even modern philosophers, scientists, psychologists, humanist thinkers, historians or economists.
She lacked any basis for recognizing a novel thought, much less being able to connect the thought at the leading edge of discourse back to its roots in a prior school of thought or even its relation to any other well-known concept. In fact, she didn’t know there were fundamental questions about whether knowledge is even possible, much less that this question divides philosophical tradition almost perfectly in two.
Through the encounter two things stuck out.
First, that she was so willing to promote violence as a reasonable tool for implementing Marx’s vision despite her not knowing anything serious about that vision and an accurate model of Marx’s vision actually lacking any economic theory whatsoever. That last bit didn’t phase her even a little. (And yes, you read that right, despite all the talk of “production” there is no theory to which a Marxist leader can refer to determine who should produce what when and how much is needed when. This should be terrifying to Marxists, especially in the absence of market feedback via price fluctuations, but they really seem not to care.)
Second, that despite her extreme, almost violent opposition to my positions, she wanted me to take her out to dinner next week. This was not her being reasonable, though, she just grew to hang on my words for some reason (though really, I didn’t say much in total word count). She started to like me, despite actually telling me at one point that I am “like the Nazis”. I usually get along well with women and like to think I nearly understand them, or at least some of them, but this was baffling. Then again, I haven’t dealt with many young Western women lately and clearly times are changing (she is in her mid-20’s, from France, and claims feminism is her religion; I am in my late-30’s, white living in Japan, and am unabashedly male and good at being in charge — this would be a disaster on every level).
I’m no philosopher — I’ve never even attended university — but it blows my mind that someone would commit so utterly and completely to a violent political philosophy without knowing what that philosophy was. This can only be described as a form of moral blindness (and not the good kind).
I can only imagine that most Marxists, whether or not they know much about what Marx actually proposed, have a similarly limited set of initial information against which to compare Marxist thought.
4 thoughts on “No Basis”
A desire to “live in the natural state of humanity” does not sounds very Marxist. “she had never actually read Marx”. What made you think she was a Marxist? She self-identified as one? Is that all it takes?
Indeed, it does not sound particularly Marxist unless you take a pretty long trip down one special flavor of Marxism. And, of course, it turned out that she had not taken any trips down any paths of anything.
She had indeed identified as a Marxist, but just knew absolutely nothing about the philosophy to which she thought she belonged. That’s why I wrote this article. It was such a strange encounter but represented a very concentrated form of the “I belong to something retro-yet-edgy” act I see from so many unstudied people today (particularly young people, but older folks as well).
Then again, I know lots of socialists who actually do know a thing or two about socialism, but refuse to carry the experiment out in their mind to its conclusion and also refuse to look at the evidence we have in history about where absolute statism inevitably leads.
On the note of identity… “She self-identified as one? Is that all it takes?”
Consider this in the context of the ongoing gender debate.
I did, that’s why I asked the question ;)
After seeing the term on twitter recently I call these people (SJWs, antifa, etc.) “romantic anti-capitalists”. That “live in the natural state of humanity” is very Romantic. They often borrow Marxist (and related) jargon, but the actual political content is … sometimes hard to fathom.
You hit the nail right on the head with that remarkably concise expression.
I always feel a little sad for people who are so busy standing against things they forget that it is more important to actually stand for something. It is exactly the difference between being intent on destruction rather than dedicated to creation. Unguided arsonists.
If I keep going I’ll start saying things (poorly) that Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn have already said.