You guys haven’t heard this argument before?
Maybe you would like to see some of nanni moretti´s films. He talks about his relation with communism.Iff you like the guy, take a look at palombella rossa…
“I haven’t seen it yet, but…
News from Ideological Antiquity – Marx/Eisenstein/Das Kapital – Alexander Kluge – Germany (2008)
As far as I know it’s the only actual attempted film adaptation of Capital.”
Kluge´s film is actually not an attempt to adapt Marx´s Capital, it´s an interview/documentary film about Sergei Eisenstein´s attempt to adapt that book. The highlights of News from Ideological Antiquity are probably the fake nterviews with German comedian Helge Schneider imitating (among others) Karl Marx.
I wish I had 9 1/2 hours and spoke German…
Torres: If Roddenberry was head of a “police club,” was educated in police studies, joined a police force and worked with a national investigative body, then he certainly might have found a happy home in East Germany back in the day. He might have thoroughly enjoyed himself in Stalin’s USSR as well.
Matt, I was fascinated with all that info; thanks for the link.
I wonder if the particular type of imagination required to find moral and ethical instruction in various Star Trek incarnations is identical to that of the idealist who somehow makes himself or herself believe that, given the proper circumstances, Marxism might fly.
In any event, I can’t be the only one who sees the fundamental flaw in the logic of this claim:
“The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
Where is Spock when you need him?
“If Roddenberry was head of a ‘police club,’ was educated in police studies, joined a police force and worked with a national investigative body, then he certainly might have found a happy home in East Germany back in the day. He might have thoroughly enjoyed himself in Stalin’s USSR as well.”
He probably would have been perfectly happy in South Florida, actually…
Wu Yong, re: South Florida.
That’s certainly a possibility.
But I think the key advantage of East Germany or USSR over Florida would be that, rather than receiving a stern admonition from the President, Roddenberry would have been decorated, and his staff would have been increased three-fold.
The Rosa Luxemburg biopic.
@Jirin- where did you read that Marx thought people didn’t need incentives? Marxism/socialism only strives to eliminate exploitation. Marx was always very clear that it wasn’t about “equality”. Some people would be more powerful then others based on a whole host of factors in a socialist state. It really isn’t the “unrealistic” ideology that it’s enemies make of it. There are critiques to be made for sure but this simply isn’t one of them. Actually, one problem with Marx’s writing is that it tends to be so scientific, rational and anti-romantic that it is really hard to promote. Maybe that is why intellectuals/activists who claim Marx often distort it with wildly romantic claims of “equality for all”. Brain research is also now overwhelming suggesting that human beings are naturally empathetic creatures and that they do not need fear or violence to make ethical and compassionate choices. Rather it does seem that the economic, political and social systems we currently live under warp our natural tendency towards compassion into one of competition and oppression.
@Carson. So for the theories of Karl Marx I might suggest starting with a film directed by Carlo Nero starring his Mother Vanessa Redgrave entitled THE FEVER. There are lots more but that is an accessible and interesting film with a great performance by Redgrave.
“I wonder if the particular type of imagination required to find moral and ethical instruction in various Star Trek incarnations is identical to that of the idealist who somehow makes himself or herself believe that, given the proper circumstances, Marxism might fly.”
Heh. Well, here’s probably where we need to fine tune what is meant by “Marxism.” Are we talking about historical materialism? Marx-Engels communism? Leninism? Trotskyism? Stalinism? Maoism? Orthodox Marxism? the Frankfurt School? social democracy? Gramsci? Structural Marxism? . . .
“Heh. Well, here’s probably where we need to fine tune what is meant by ‘Marxism.’”
Good luck doing that with the good doctor, Matt…
“But I think the key advantage of East Germany or USSR over Florida would be that, rather than receiving a stern admonition from the President, Roddenberry would have been decorated, and his staff would have been increased three-fold.”
What the hell are you talking about?
It was a joke. Jesus…
THE most obvious film(s) about Marxism is The Godfather. ’It’s not personal. It’s just business.’ and ‘I hoped I could rise above all the killing but it keeps on dragging me down.’ If those lines don’t perfectly express the concept of Class Struggle – as Marx and Engels understood it, not as others have misunderstood it since – then what does?
And in a similar vein ‘The Gangs of New York; – struggling masses trying to better their lot, smashed by the superstructures of the state. There’s Historical Materialism for you right there.
Or for neo-Marxist Hegelianism:
Obviously Ken Loach’s films lean somewhat to the left. I’d say that the most specifically Marxist of his is ‘Bread and Roses’.
If those are Marx’s arguments, then I would argue that all of those goals were achieved inside capitalism through the rise of unions.
The problem with eliminating money is that if you do, power and influence become currency, and the culture gets even more stratified than it does with money.
Where did I get the idea that socialism was about people not needing individual incentives? Every movie I’ve ever seen made in Russia between 1920 and 1940.
It is true, there was no indication money was eliminated in the original series. I seem to recall one or two references to the ‘ship store’. The elimination of money really came about through Next Generation.
Jirin – you’re not wrong about (a version of) socialism working that way. And a way that didn’t work. However, as I see it (and other Marxist’s may disagree with this), Marxism isn’t about mandating a particular society or political solution. Rather it points out that there are various contradictions in Capitalist society (and Soviet society) which have to be got through…somehow.
Which brings us to unions having ameliorated Capitalism. Well, yes…but (obligatory film reference ;-)…The Empire Strikes Back* and we see that with the ongoing Crisis of Capitalism in the European Social Democracies where organised labour made inroads, the tide is being turned. There is a Dialectical process at play here.
I’d be cautious at pointing at any current or previous political system and saying ‘This is what a Marxist system looks like’. It’s not that simple – and saying why it isn’t would require an essay. Superficially we might argue that a country with free healthcare, 85% of housing is state owned and where 30% of national output is produced by state run enterprises. Welcome to Singapore. Or are countries 50% communist if, as in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland the government take and redistribute 50% of income?
What is or isn’t Marxism ain’t that simple. At the end of a day he was a philosopher and economist who had some useful insights for how we understand the world. What we do with our understanding is up to us.
The best book I’ve read recently about Marxism is ‘The Frock-Coated Communist:’ by Tristram Hunt (biography of Engels). Can’t see it working as a movie, mind.
Oh…Communism as a theoretical vision of where we get to once we’ve resolved the contradictions of Capitalism) isn’t about eliminating money as such – more about eliminating the need for it. In a true (hypothetical?) Communist society, the idea of money simply doesn’t make sense..
Marx assumed that change in the direction of Communism would be in industrialised societies – a post-scarcity world where people didn’t have to struggle for the basic necessities. You’d be daft to try Communism in a country like Russia or China.
And Marx was actually a huge fan of Capitalism. He saw it as providing the dynamism we need to reach Communism. Now – people will get hurt along the way…
THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE
or was that fascism?
So then you’re saying, a prerequisite for communism is for replicators to be invented and eliminate scarcity.
So great, Marxism makes sense, provided that everybody can have everything they need all the time. Short of that, you just have the government forcefully telling everybody what’s best for them.
Have you ever read Marx, Jirin?
No, I’m not saying that, Jirin.
If you like, think of Communism as being something that we asymptote towards. Arguably it’s even Capitalism that’s taking us towards us – except that Capitalism has internal contradictions which mean that it won’t, actually get us there. Why? Because of the inequalities it requires.
As for governments forcibly telling people what’s best for them. What? You mean stuff like they should give them their money to pay for the military? The police? Education? Healthcare? This is what we already do in democratic societies. Why can’t we extend this democratic principle?
As an observation – people sometimes comment on what Marxism is based on misperception and Received Wisdom. I don’t blame anyone – some countries that called themselves Marxist-Leninist didn’t help (and by the way – unlike some I’m not denying that they /were/ Marxist, after a fashion). But the story about what Marx was actually trying to say is a complicated one. It’s perhaps unfair to start with the perspective of trying to diss it without first finding out what it really is.
The important thing to note is it’s just some ideas. There’s no magic formula for how the world will work out – just some general ideas about how the world works. (So you begin to wonder why there’s so much fuss. ;-) )
It’s about time I mentioned a film.
‘Can Dialectics Break Bricks’ :-D
I’d recommend Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse. It’s about the internal effects of capitalism in post-war Italy. Antonioni is a self-described Marxist.
No, I’m not familiar with the actual writings of Marx, so I can only respond to all of the real world attempts to apply his principles. If every time somebody has tried to apply Marxism it has turned into a dictatorship, one might ask why, because that’s what leads to all the misconceptions about Marxism. I’ll try to take some time to read up on him, can you show me to a good resource?
Edward, there are levels of difference between the government taking a small portion of people’s earnings to provide basic services and safety and the government telling me that I am not allowed to live the way I want to, work how I want to work and keep the spoils that I worked for, because they do not believe it is in the communal best interest. Any reasonable application of Marxism requires voluntary participation and tolerance of dissent.
Carson, I almost forgot I’m All Right Jack,
I posted a review at the above, so I won’t go into what that picture is about here,
other than to say it is a brilliant satire which should add some mirth to your investigation
(which is no easy task considering the topic; humorless bunch, those Marxists).
Which reminds me: I was joking about Florida too, Wu Yong.
Jasper: Miss Brodie apparently fell in for all those parades and sexy uniforms, as so many naive folks did when Fascism was dressed in its Sunday best back in the day. I imagine that, if the Bolsheviks had not been such a dour, drab lot, Miss Brodie might have flirted with them as well.
I have a hard time distinguishing between the two, really.
Matt, you’re right about so many different facets and manifestations of Marxism. It’s a broad spectrum.
I just happen to get a kick out of breaking East German and Soviet balls. Flogging a dead horse and all that.
It’s a habit I got into in college, when the Marxist-sympathetic English and history profs were still attempting
to float that red balloon.
We were ostensibly gathered together in class to say bad things about western culture, but there some of us were hatin’ on the Iron Curtain. Too much fun.
OK. But you and I are talking about entirely different things.
Out of interest, though – can we say that because all applications of Capitalism through history have caused and still cause immense inequalities and human suffering, all Capitalist societies are inherently flawed? I don’t think so, personally. It’s not quite that simple. But it would be no more loaded than to say that ‘if every time somebody has tried to apply Marxism it has turned into a dictatorship, one might ask why’.
Hell – Can Marxism be said to have failed if China has used Marxist analysis to give themselves such a thorough understanding of Capitalism that they know it takes cells and executions to make it really work? Or does that show a failure of Capitalism? Dunno. (although I note that the US Capitalism makes even greater use of prisons than China ;-) ) I’m not idly merely dissing Capitalism here (although…I am) – just trying to give a (typically Marxist) upside down way of looking at things.
I’d strongly recommend ‘The Frock-Coated Communist’ by Tristram Hunt. Lots of good stuff on the development of Marx and Engels’ ideas. The Hegelian Dialectic will make your head spin.
‘Marx for Beginners’ by Ruis is surprisingly good (though better on Marx’s philosophy than politics – important to remember he was a mainstream philosopher)
As for Marx himself – the most accessible is the ‘Grundrisse’ http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/Marx_Grundrisse.pdf
My favourite Marx film is ‘Duck Soup’, btw. Especially the scene with the mirror.
“I’ll try to take some time to read up on him, can you show me to a good resource?”
I know it sounds like a joke but the Mexican cartoonist’s Rius’ Marx for Beginners is excellent. I highly recommend it.
What I would say is that there is a very large gap between reading Marx himself and seeing how he has been attempted to be put into practice (selectively, badly, and incompletely). In fact, Marx’s strength to me is not programmatic (Marx famously claimed that he himself wasn’t a Marxist) but as an analyst. Yes, some of his ideas are outmoded (his materialist determinism for sure) but the core of his ideas (about commodities, his analysis of the crisis of capitalism, money, labor, alienation) are still very valuable for understanding how the world works today. I’d say more valuable now than ever before. The early “cultural” Marx is especially excellent (like the German Ideology and the18th Brumiere of Louis Napoleon).
Of course, there will always be people like Lemonglow who will say that the invariable logic of Marx leads to the gulags (I guess like the invariable logic of capitalism leads to a shopping mall?) but they are being ideologically overly deterministic in their own way (generally social Darwinists who are even more outmoded than Marxists).
By the same token I could argue that the problems with capitalism have to do with perversions of capitalism. I could argue that in a true capitalist government it’d be impossible to maintain a monopoly because anyone could compete freely, and that the only reason that it’s possible to maintain monopolies is that governments corruptly intervene on behalf of corporations. We can agree that both capitalist and communist governments have done horrible things in other countries, but at least in a capitalist government you can have as many children as you want, and if you really want to run a deli, you can run a deli. (Maybe I’m talking about the libertarian version of capitalism rather than pure capitalism)
China is not succeeding right now because they applied Marxism to capitalism, they’re succeeding because they’re applying capitalism with modern technology and building architecture freshly without being dependent on hundred year old factories and infrastructure.
And yeah, capitalism without individual protections is just as corrupt as Communism.
Agree about Duck Soup.
I think Agnes Varda produced a couple of great Marxist films, such as La Bonheur.
Bonobo: I have enjoyed your contributions to this thread, and I agree with much of what you say.
But about this:
“can we say that because all applications of Capitalism through history have caused and still cause immense inequalities and human suffering, all Capitalist societies are inherently flawed? …But it would be no more loaded than to say that ‘if every time somebody has tried to apply Marxism it has turned into a dictatorship, one might ask why’.”
I think Capitalism is indeed flawed, and that’s even without considering
the sorrier portions of its history.
It is flawed because it is rooted in self interest, dependent upon physical labor, and guided by humans.
I have spent the past five years battling some industrial strength, economy-size capitalists regarding
environmental violations, and to describe it as an ugly fight would be an insult to all things that are ugly.
Yet the problem isn’t that these guys are capitalists.
The problem is that they are monsters, as humans with “big plans” tend to be. (see also: Lenin)
My dispute with Marxism is that it proposes a solution to the problems of capitalism as though those flaws might be mitigated or eradicated, which strikes me as delusional, not to say downright phony.
Any endeavor that calls for pervasive and systematic subjugation of personal interest
does at least seem to lead to a version of the gulag, however extreme or mild that may be.
So yeah, Ari, “people like Lemonglow” will always see Marxism leading to a gulag,
because people like me are not in denial about human nature,
and we simply can’t make ourselves bargain away freedom for the sake of the collective.
Put another way, we aren’t the noble creatures suffering in the gulag;
we are those bad ol’ selfish folks at the mall.
I will again urge everyone here to watch I’m All Right Jack.
It covers the downside of human nature within the context of mgmt versus labor,
but with humor and affection, and with far more with wit and insight than I can offer.
Well if we agree that Capitalism is imperfectly realised, can we say the same about the attempts to realise Marxism?
For myself – and I would count myself a Marxist – I honestly don’t know what is meant but a Marxist government. What form of government did Marx propose? Neither do I think that Marxism proposes a replacement for Capitalism. What it /does/ do is to provide an understanding of how the world is…and possibly where it should be going to get out of what Marx called ‘the same old filthy business’.
And I’m not naive about human nature either, Lemonglow. If any Marxist tells me that under Communism everyone will be peachy and cooperative and altruistic, I’ll tell them to cut the liberal crap. I’m not a liberal. But the aim is to get people to the state where they’re freer to come to their own arrangements, unconstrained by the demands of a socio-economic system defined by the mode of production that we currently have. What will that system look like? Who knows. People will decide when they get there.
’I’m All Right Jack’ was nasty propaganda specific to the England of its time, surely?
Two votes for ‘Marxism for Beginners’ by Ruis. Good.