Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Marxist view of individuals in history

All throughout history we learn of various kings and queens who played vital roles in the changing of history but the bourgeois view of history doesn’t take into consideration the role of class forces in society the moving of one class against another and the role of revolutions. At socialism 2012 this weekend I attended the session on historical materialism which was a fascinating discussion hosted by Ken Douglas of the socialist party. The discussion was very interesting too. A Few people raised the role of the individual and the role of Stalin for example. As Trotsky Stalin did not win a personal battle with Trotsky or was the stronger leader or anything like that he was propelled to power due to the fact of the material conditions at the time. The combined isolation of the workers state, the degeneration and the rising bureaucracy due to Russia being attacked from all angles lead Stalin to be put in that position due to the conditions. If not Stalin it would have been someone else. Trotsky answers this when he says if I had removed Stalin from his rise and taken the position myself then i’d have ended up like Stalin, The fact Trotsky could see this and with Lenin on his death bed Lenin urged the removal of Stalin but it was too late the material forces were working against the left opposition at the time and very little could stop this slide apart from the political over throw of the bureaucracy and resuming the movement which started in October. CAPITALISM THE system we live under today is unequal and undemocratic. This is because capitalism is a class society, based on the exploitation of the working-class (the majority of the population) by the capitalist class (a small minority of the population) who own and control industry and financial institutions, and dominate governments and the political establishment. We are told that capitalism is the best way of organizing society; that socialism is impossible. We are told that history is made by famous individuals like kings, queens and politicians, and that working-class people have no power to change society. We are even told by some people that there is no way of understanding how society develops: followers of post-modernism, a theory which gained popularity in the 1990s, believe that there are no general laws that govern the development of society. None of these things are true. The theory of historical materialism, developed by Marx and Engels, provides a framework for analyzing human society and the laws of its development. It explains that class societies have not always existed; that in fact the earliest human societies were classless ones based on co-operation not exploitation. MARX AND Engels worked out their theory of how human society develops in a struggle against 'idealist' philosophers. Many people think of socialism as being 'idealist' - that is that it is a nice idea, but unrealistic (what Marx and Engels called 'utopianism'). On the contrary, the ideas of socialism and Marxism are very practical and realistic because they are based on analyzing the real world and how it works. Unlike the way most people understand the word today, 'idealism' originally meant a trend within philosophy. The idealists believed that ideas come first, and that material reality comes into being as a result of these ideas. An idealist (in philosophy) would say that changes in material reality are caused by ideas, not by material forces; that ideas have an existence that is independent of an unrelated to material reality. While we recognize that ideas play an important part in social change, Marxists are materialists (again, in the philosophical sense). To a materialist, human society and history is shaped by material social and economic forces - real things and processes - and ideas are the reflection of this material reality in human consciousness. Change i.e political change comes about due to mass social forces from below every change in society even bourgeois society capitalism was born from below over throwing feudal systems aspects of feudal society still remain in parts today with institutions such as the Monarchy in some nations still today. Marxists believe that human society is based on material forces. In other words, in order for any human society to exist, humans must produce the necessities of life which enable us to survive: food, shelter, water, etc. These are material things without which we would die out. But the way we interact to produce these necessities, who controls the products of our labour and how they use them, determines the type of society we live in. At the beginning: evolution WITHOUT CERTAIN physical factors, human society as we know it could not have developed: the large human brain, the voice box and the opposable thumb. The development and growth of the brain and the voice box happened because of the way early humans evolved in interaction with their environment. They were less well adapted to their environment than many species and compensated for this by working together in large groups and developing tools. The growth of the physical size of the human brain, which is much larger than any other animals’ when compared to our body weight, was both a result of the growth of human intelligence (driven by the need to co-operate and make tools) and a cause of its further growth. With a larger amount of brain available for use, early humans had more potential to develop their intelligence further. The opposable thumb allows us to hold, make and use tools. Without the fine handling skills it made possible, early humans wouldn't have been able to develop and use the sophisticated tools that allowed them to survive and prosper in a changing environment. "THE MOST indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historic events. In ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business - kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new regime . . ." Preface, the History of the Russian revolution, Trotsky. Revolutionary change - how society develops OVER TIME the contradictions built into the economic, political and legal structures of each class society grow. Eventually they become a block on the productive forces (the productivity of human labour), holding back their development. The old ruling class try desperately to block change in order to cling on to their privileges and power. In this situation the only way that society can move forward is for the old ruling class to be removed from power and a new way of organizing society to be put in its place. This means a revolution. A socialist revolution to free the working class and humanity as a result. Excellent quotes and extracts taken from http://www.marxism.org.uk/pack/history.html

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