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Laika

A Few Question from a Communist

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35 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Laika said:

This was an area of considerable debate amongst Marxist however because it concerned the nature of freedom under Socialism and the relationship between freedom and determinism.

Yes.  Later scholars debated quite a bit about what Marx actually meant wrt freedom and dialectic materialism.  I have an interesting book, published in 1974 titled The Problem of Freedom in Marxist Thought, by J. J. O'Rourke that explores modern (then modern) Soviet philosophy on the issue.

Edit:  I think you would get a lot out of Rand's An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

Edited by New Buddha

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5 hours ago, Repairman said:

Freewill was not an original component of Christianity; it developed from the Protestant Reformation more than a thousand years later, and led to the decline of religious (Christian) influence on Western Civilization. Christian teachings emphasize redistribution of wealth voluntarily, while Marx advocated the same results through violent revolution, coercion, enforced by state law. Both require man to submit to a higher power,i.e. either supernatural authority, or the authority of the masses. Objectivism rejects any form of submission, other than an acceptance of reality. Human rights, natural rights, these are the domain of the individual, and man is the only form of life able to conceptualize the values that recognize the proper relationship between the individual, his place in society, and to the state.

1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

It's just the opposite.  Predestination was a thesis Lutheranism and Calvinism.  Protestantism held the position (roughly speaking) that no one - that is, no Man - in the Roman Catholic Church had the power to grant or confer, to another Man, salvation or the absolution from sin.  Predestination was a way of denying the RC Church power.  The RC Church did believe in Free Will.

In England, Protestantism (more specifically, Dissenting Protestants/Puritans/Nonconformists, etc.) were directly linked with the rise of both Science and Capitalism -- the latter which included a mature development of Natural Rights and Property by Locke among others.  Those who refused to join the Anglican Church did not have full Civil Rights so to make a "living" they went into banking, trade, science, engineering, industry, manufacturing, etc.  Of the 68 early Fellows of the Royal Society, 42 were Puritans.

New Buddha,

You're right about the determinism in Lutheranism and Calvinism, but I was making reference to the total dominance over common people exploited by the Roman Catholic Church, and more to the point, self-sacrifice, (especially regarding the rejection of earthly possessions, and the sinfulness of man) rather than later interpretations by theologians and reformers. My understanding of "freewill" is quite different from that of the Church's. I can always counter on your analysis for constructive criticism. I hope my use of determinism is the correct word applying to Luther and Calvin. In any case, Marx certainly held the view that world socialism was manifestly predetermined.

4 hours ago, Laika said:

I'm sort of following from the idea of the "protestant work ethic" rather than Christianity as a whole. Christianity itself may be a feudal ideology based on its prevelence for european feudal society which explains the re-distributive elements, and the centralisation of authority into the hands of a monotheistic deity as symbolic of the centralisation of authority into the hands of a monarch. the marxist analysis of religion is definitely not a strong point, but I think it is fair to say that many economic and political ideas of liberal capitalism developed out of the protestant reformation.

While I will make no argument that capitalism gained in significance as a result of Protestantism, the practice of private property and voluntary trade has its origins in early civilizations. The emerging Protestant nations advanced capitalism, as the mercantile system displaced feudalism. With regard to the centralizing of monarchical and aristocratic powers, yes, the Church in both the East and West secured the authority of kings and princes. But this was not a part of Christianity before its acceptance as a legitimate religion in the 4th century.

4 hours ago, Laika said:

Christians in the 20th century also went out of its way to repudiate any relationship between Christianity and Communism or socialism as "materialist" doctrines incompatible with belief in God. its probably in self-defence so they didn't lose followers but an explicitly theological case was made too. 

This is absolutely true, but I wouldn't say that the American churches were ever worried about losing followers. If you understand anything about Americans, it is a fact that some will become hostile, even violent, if in the presence of an atheist, especially an atheist who is open about his disbelief. Otherwise, the average working American has absolutely no interest in philosophical debates. If you believe in God, you're OK. If not, watch out. If you mentioned "materialism" to most people I know, they would assume you were talking about consumer habit.

Well, I hope I've clarified my points, and I'll accept any corrections where appropriate. I will maintain that my comparison of communism to Christianity is valid on the grounds that throughout early Christianity, and many of the latter interpretations, man must seek redemption through some form of self-sacrifice.

 

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15 minutes ago, Repairman said:

I will maintain that my comparison of communism to Christianity

Leaving out the reference to "early" Christianity, Calvin's Geneva did resemble what was to become Christian Socialism.  A quote from a wonderful book, The Western Intellectual Tradition that I think you would love based on your interest in history:

The regime Calvin imposed on Geneva was in many ways similar to that in More's Utopia. (p. 94)

Both Luther and Calvin opposed not only the new art but the developing science of their time as well.  In many ways, they were more fiercely antiscientific in their attitude than was the Church of Rome, and it has often been pointed out that Galileo, although he was badly treated by the Inquisition  in Rome, would have suffered more severely if he had been unfortunate enough to live in the Geneva of Calvin's regime.  Later, the twists and turns of history were to make the Puritans staunch supporters of the new science; but none of this was intended by Calvin's doctrine and discipline. (p. 95)

Predestination was a problem from day-one in both Lutheranism and Calvinism and did get modified pretty quickly.

Regarding "self-sacrifice" and the role it plays in Christianity, I think it's a fairly lazy term that can mean pretty much what anyone wants it to mean.  Much of the early Church was formed along the lines of Neoplatonism.  The line of demarcation between when early Christians "quit" following Greek philosophy and became "Christians" is not so sharp - and in fact, Christian theologically never really did exist independent of it.

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4 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Regarding "self-sacrifice" and the role it plays in Christianity, I think it's a fairly lazy term that can mean pretty much what anyone wants it to mean.  Much of the early Church was formed along the lines of Neoplatonism.  The line of demarcation between when early Christians "quit" following Greek philosophy and became "Christians" is not so sharp - and in fact, Christian theologically never really did exist independent of it.

Were not the early Christians persecuted for refusing to renouncing their faith? In many cases, the result was being sacrificed in arena.

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55 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

If you have any links, I'd be interested in reading more about this.  

We also had a recent post about Property that you might find interesting.

 

sadly, I've only ever seen it hinted at because Marxists suggested "Mechanistic Materialism" (i.e. philosophical ideas behind Newtonian mechanics) is a "Capitalist" ideology of science. They never explicitly suggested "why" but that was my best guess for it. Mostly the material will come from Engels Anti-During, Dialectics of Nature and Lenin's Materialism and Empiro-criticism but there may be a marxist historian of science somewhere who did state the argument. 

After googling a footnote in one of my books, (referring to S F Mason's "Science and its History: Main currents of Scientific Thought" (1953) ) I did find a reference to something which could be useful by a S F Mason PHD on the scientific revolution and the protestant reformation. 

https://philpapers.org/rec/PHDTSR 

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00033795300200033

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00033795300200103

British Marxist Historians of Science may be a rarity, but here's a list of names that may be worth looking into:

The historians of science whose work was most directly influenced in Britain were J. G. Crowther, a journalist and free-lance writer; Hyman Levy, a physicist; Joseph Needham, a chemical embryologist who became the historian of a massive work on Science and Civilization in Ancient China; and a polymath crystallographer, J. D. Bernal, who essayed broadly on the history of science, especially in his multi-volume Science in History. There were others, but I would say that the direct effect on historical writing (pace Needham) was not very great. It certainly did not influence the teaching of the history of science in the major British universities in the ensuing decades. Benjamin Farrington wrote interestingly on Francis Bacon, but the only noteworthy young historian of science in Great Britain, S. F. Mason, author of Main Currents of Scientific Thought, had to return to chemistry because he could not find work as a historian of science.

http://www.human-nature.com/rmyoung/papers/pap104h.html

 

There is a really good PDF file (below) which covers the problems that came up trying to reconcile dialectical materialism with physics, and whilst that doesn't deal with the relationship between atomism and capitalism, you'll get an idea of how controversial and difficult the subject was. If they couldn't fit general relativity and quantum mechanics into marxism, its legitimacy would collapse as a scientific theory. 

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.1625.pdf

There aren't many books in English on the subject, but the best one I've found is "Einstein and Soviet Ideology" by Alexander Vucinich. its probably the best (and maybe the only) book in the English language that does the controversies in Soviet physics justice.

researchers don't appear to have been that interested in it, but there could be a wealth of archive material kicking around Moscow somewhere. people haven't translated it into english. I managed to get a copy for about £30 I think but that was pretty pricey for me but as I was basically lost trying to figure out what the hell was going on so I thought it was worth it. it may be worth a look if your interested in the relationship between politics, philosophy and science. 

https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Einstein_and_Soviet_Ideology.html?id=f_-lAYZzP1UC&redir_esc=y

That may not be what you were hoping for (and is a lot more than I was expecting to find honestly- so thanks for asking!), but it could be some pretty rich reading material if you're interested. :D 

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1 hour ago, New Buddha said:

Yes.  Later scholars debated quite a bit about what Marx actually meant wrt freedom and dialectic materialism.  I have an interesting book, published in 1974 titled The Problem of Freedom in Marxist Thought, by J. J. O'Rourke that explores modern (then modern) Soviet philosophy on the issue.

Edit:  I think you would get a lot out of Rand's An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

I will take a look at it. I've got The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism:An Unknown ideal coming through the post, and I'll try to get through them first. :)

57 minutes ago, Repairman said:

New Buddha,

You're right about the determinism in Lutheranism and Calvinism, but I was making reference to the total dominance over common people exploited by the Roman Catholic Church, and more to the point, self-sacrifice, (especially regarding the rejection of earthly possessions, and the sinfulness of man) rather than later interpretations by theologians and reformers. My understanding of "freewill" is quite different from that of the Church's. I can always counter on your analysis for constructive criticism. I hope my use of determinism is the correct word applying to Luther and Calvin. In any case, Marx certainly held the view that world socialism was manifestly predetermined.

While I will make no argument that capitalism gained in significance as a result of Protestantism, the practice of private property and voluntary trade has its origins in early civilizations. The emerging Protestant nations advanced capitalism, as the mercantile system displaced feudalism. With regard to the centralizing of monarchical and aristocratic powers, yes, the Church in both the East and West secured the authority of kings and princes. But this was not a part of Christianity before its acceptance as a legitimate religion in the 4th century.

This is absolutely true, but I wouldn't say that the American churches were ever worried about losing followers. If you understand anything about Americans, it is a fact that some will become hostile, even violent, if in the presence of an atheist, especially an atheist who is open about his disbelief. Otherwise, the average working American has absolutely no interest in philosophical debates. If you believe in God, you're OK. If not, watch out. If you mentioned "materialism" to most people I know, they would assume you were talking about consumer habit.

Well, I hope I've clarified my points, and I'll accept any corrections where appropriate. I will maintain that my comparison of communism to Christianity is valid on the grounds that throughout early Christianity, and many of the latter interpretations, man must seek redemption through some form of self-sacrifice.

 

I'm ok with what you said on Capitalism and Protestantism. I don't have any issue with that. :)

I can't argue with you on whether there was any risk of Marxism gaining followers in the US as it was very limited. Amongst intellectuals, it may be a different story as with the John Reed Clubs in the 1930's: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Reed_Clubs The Great Depression was really important for that and the CPUSA's exploitation of tensions over jim crowe and civil rights amongst African Americans gave it a foothold amongst black radicals for maybe two or three decades. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Communist_Party_USA_and_African_Americans

This was probably the high point of Americans love affair with Communism as after the 1940's and 50's (especially the McCarthy era) it just never recovered. I'm not 100% sure but the influence of Marxism in the New Left in the 60's and 70's may have been confined to University Campuses. it was only in the 20's and 30's that Marxism ever got something resembling "popular" appeal or intellectual respecctability in the US and this is still small compared to the appeal of Socialism in the late 19th and early 20th century America (which was never big to begin with). 

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Posted (edited)

13 minutes ago, Laika said:

I can't argue with you on whether there was any risk of Marxism gaining followers in the US as it was very limited. Amongst intellectuals, it may be a different story as with the John Reed Clubs in the 1930's: The Great Depression was really important for that and the CPUSA's exploitation of tensions over jim crowe and civil rights amongst African Americans gave it a foothold amongst black radicals for maybe two or three decades. 

This was probably the high point of Americans love affair with Communism as after the 1940's and 50's (especially the McCarthy era) it just never recovered. I'm not 100% sure but the influence of Marxism in the New Left in the 60's and 70's may have been confined to University Campuses. it was only in the 20's and 30's that Marxism ever got something resembling "popular" appeal or intellectual respecctability in the US and this is still small compared to the appeal of Socialism in the late 19th and early 20th century America (which was never big to begin with). 

Absolutely right, the early 20th century (pre-1917) and the Great Depression were periods of popularity for Marx among intellectuals and union organizers. Anti-Jim Crow and union sympathizers were largely unwelcome in the American South. Communism suffered more discredit for being "foreign" than being atheist, and during both World Wars, nationalism ran high. Today, the New-Left is more likely to be influenced by John Lennon than Vladimir Lenin.

Edit: The decline and fall of the Soviet Union has been a huge benefit for the New-Left; they no longer need to worry about being compared to the USSR.

Edited by Repairman
Addendum

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Repairman said:

Were not the early Christians persecuted for refusing to renouncing their faith? In many cases, the result was being sacrificed in arena.

Based on your posts in the past, I don't think you and I differ too much wrt history.  I do think that the history of early Christianity and the formation of the Christian Church(s) is far too complex (and too unknown) to sum up as done in the above.

The point I made about Calvin's Geneva and Thomas More's Utopia is to agree with you that there have been strains of Socialism in Christianity - but that it is different from Marx's.  And I wouldn't just reduce either of them to a desire for "self-sacrifice".  That's really ALL that I meant by it being a "lazy" term.

Engles has a work called Socialism:  Utopian and Scientific which is interesting.

Edited by New Buddha
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2 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Based on your posts in the past, I don't think you and I differ too much wrt history.  I do think that the history of early Christianity and the formation of the Christian Church(s) is far too complex (and too unknown) to sum up as done in the above.

The point I made about Calvin's Geneva and Thomas More's Utopia is to agree with you that there have been strains of Socialism in Christianity - but that it is different from Marx's.  And I wouldn't just reduce either of them to a desire for "self-sacrifice".  That's really ALL that I meant by it being a "lazy" term.  

I especially agree with your judgement that the Christian Church is a subject too complex for squeezing into a single post. I understand the Puritans to have been more ridged than Catholics. And yet, somehow, reason seemed to flourish more in the Protestant nations in comparison to the Catholic nations. Perhaps we'll take up variations of Christian sects and their histories on another thread.

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9 hours ago, Repairman said:

Absolutely right, the early 20th century (pre-1917) and the Great Depression were periods of popularity for Marx among intellectuals and union organizers. Anti-Jim Crow and union sympathizers were largely unwelcome in the American South. Communism suffered more discredit for being "foreign" than being atheist, and during both World Wars, nationalism ran high. Today, the New-Left is more likely to be influenced by John Lennon than Vladimir Lenin.

Edit: The decline and fall of the Soviet Union has been a huge benefit for the New-Left; they no longer need to worry about being compared to the USSR.

Yeah, the New Left has done really well. Although I wouldn't call it revolutionary, there is definitely a lot of "cultural Marxism" in the US and the UK at the moment and they do pose a threat to free speech, free press, etc. At least with the "Old Left" based on class issues, you knew what you were getting and could try to hold them to account for what happened in the USSR. The New Left is very slippery- they say they don't believe in Stalin or the USSR and won't accept being held accountable for what happened there, but then proceed to use methods to pressure people similar to Mao in the Cultural Revolution to engineer egalitarian norms to fight racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. (criticism and self-criticism of "politically incorrect" behaviour, public humiliation, treating people's thoughts and feelings as "political" rather than private/personal, etc). its nowhere near as coercive or violent, but certainly its bad for a free society if it wants to stay that way.

The worst thing is perhaps from the far lefts point of view, there isn't that much evidence it even works as your just getting people to conform rather than actually change. so it doesn't bring us any closer to the "new man" or "new woman" of a socialist society even if it were desirable. calling someone a fascist, racist, etc doesn't encourage them to change at all- it just humiliates people, silences them and stifles debate. it doesn't change people's opinions (which appear to be very resistant to change as it is). 

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