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.