Request for Details

Owen Jones owen.jones at
Sun Oct 3 03:46:56 MDT 1999

>   Macdonald's 'strategy' can only show that capitalism is no better than
> socialism or that it's much worse than socialism. That is not enough.

 I agree with Ulhas. It's quite pointless coming up with figures about how
many died, since whatever method we used would be flawed (people might think
Mac's idea of coming up with some sort of average age and then working out
the number of people who didn't reach it a bit dodgy), and they're always
estimates anyway. Nice round numbers. You'll end up in a give or take 20
million lives situation. And such statistics reveal nothing. As Uncle Joe
said, "one human death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic."

 It is not the job of Marxists to indulge in this bourgeois liberal
hypocritical moralising task of counting corpses whose deaths might be
placed on an opposing political force. Though I do respect Macdonald's idea,
we'd be saying: "You killed more than we did, therefore socialism isn't
quite as barbaric as capitalism, so it's the best of two evils."

 We know that capitalism was a revolutionary transformation of society
undertaken by the bourgeoisie, and that it was a vast improvement over
feudalism. It has developed humanity, rescued it from the degrading life of
being isolated and starving peasants, it industrialised us, made proper use
of available resources, etc...

 Yet we don't need to resort to body counts to know its "evils", to use a
bourgeois moralising term. Democracy for the few, wage labour, poverty,
unemployment, famine, imperialism, war, alienation, dictatorship (such as
Thatcher's mate Pinochet), a boom and bust cycle, the fruits of the labour
of the proletariat ending up in the pockets of the bourgeois elite, "evils"
spawned by its social decay - crime, hatreds (e.g. racism), etc.., the
monopolisation of capital, resources being locked up in the hands of the
rich minority, social division - to list but a few. This has caused massive
suffering and deaths, but the moralistic bourgeois liberal temptation to
quantify it must be resisted.

 This book by these ex-Maoists is seeking to reveal socialism to be an
"evil" ideology by attempting to prove it is guilty of genocide. We must not
simply deny their claims, or say they distort the true numbers - we would
come out looking just as bad in the eyes of ordinary people as those who
deny the Holocaust or who claim it wasn't quite as bad as people say.
Similarly, on the other extreme, we must no resort to the so-called
"unorthodox Trotskyist" view of looking at the crimes of regimes which
called themselves Communist and refusing any connection with them, labelling
them "state capitalist".

 We must accept the dark past of the Stalinist counter-revolution. Massive
numbers of Communists and working people were tortured in the cells of the
Soviet bureaucracy; many millions of peasants and others sent to its camps;
others imprisoned; many murdered straight away; others starved due to its
incompetent and disastrous policies, like forced collectivisation. We can
not forget that no regime in history has killed more Communists than that of
Josef Stalin, the representative of the bureaucratic deformation of the
October Revolution, and we would be paying disrespect to Bolshevism if we
didn't mourn those comrades. When such liberals try to call us "Red Nazis",
why not remind them that the first people to be killed in such Stalinist
dictatorships would be us, regarded as the "pure" Communists by such regimes
and so the biggest threat to their legitimacy.

 Socialism is an "evil", if you like, since it is a halfway system between
capitalism and Communism - or the achievement of freedom, where humankind
can labour freely according to its abilities and needs - and allows the
existence of a State, and so forth. What bourgeois liberals would have
everyone believe is that totalitarianism and terror are somehow built into
Marxism and Leninism, and that is why the word Communism is a dirty word in
this day and age.

 In criticising this liberal propaganda book for Daily Mail readers, we must
explain the Stalinist counter-revolution, what the Bolsheviks really stood
for, Bolshevism as it is intended to be, and what the Marxist analysis is
about and what is stands for. To indulge in the bourgeois liberal's love of
measuring the evilness of a regime through the number of body bags it
produces would be to abandon any pretence of Marxist analysis and put us on
a bourgeois moralising path to nowhere.

 Owen Jones

More information about the Marxism mailing list