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Author: Richard Barbrook


“The one thing of which I’m certain is that I’m not a Marxist.”- Karl Marx

Post-Communist nostalgia for 1948 Cold War Marxisms.
Social Democracy: parliamentary elections, welfare state and US imperialism.
Bolshevism: totalitarian party, state planning and Russian imperialism.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were ’48ers: the young radicals of the 1848 European revolutions against the post-1815 Christian monarchies and bourgeois liberalism.

1836 students at the University of Berlin.
Young Hegelians were critics of Georg Hegel’s Idealist interpretation of history: the World Spirit making the real rational.

The materialist refutation of religion was the philosophical rejection of reactionary rule in Germany:
Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity (1841).

From the philosophy of intellectual freedom to the materialist conception of history:
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology (1845).
Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach (1845)

Liberal concept of socio-economic progress: hunting → herding → agriculture → commerce.
Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776).

1848 European Revolution: the springtime of the peoples.
Republican democracy, national liberation and socialist reforms.
Marx was a newspaper editor and Engels was a soldier.
The German Republic defeated by Prussian monarchy in 1848.
The French Republic overthrown by Louis Bonaparte in 1851.
The Russian empire was the leader of European reaction.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848).
Book launch at the Red Lion (aka Be At One), Great Windmill Street, Soho.
Socialist concept of socio-economic progress: tribalism → slavery → feudalism → capitalism → communism.
The Left of Red Republicanism: ”The communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties.”

Liberal concept of the class struggle of the bourgeoisie against the aristocracy in the 1642 English Revolution, the 1776 American Revolution and the 1789 French Revolution:
François Guizot, The History of Civilisation in Europe (1828).
Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856).

Socialist concept of the class struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie in the 1848 European Revolution:
The limitations of bourgeois liberalism: property franchise, media censorship, regressive taxation, state bureaucracy and professional army.
Bourgeois fear of republican democracy caused the defeat of the 1848 Revolution.
Bonapartism was the parasite state dominating civil society in its own interests.
Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question (1843).
Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France (1850).
Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852).

The proletarian struggle for political democracy: Paris sans-culottes (1792-1794), Polish nationalists (1830/1863), English Chartists (1838-1848), Irish Fenians (1848/1867) and American Unionists (1861-1865).
Red republicanism: universal suffrage, participatory politics, media freedom, low taxes, socio-economic reforms and citizen militia.
1871 Paris Commune held multi-party elections while under siege by the Right.
“Look at the Paris Commune. That was the dictatorship of the proletariat.” – Friedrich Engels.
Karl Marx, The American Civil War (1861-4).
Karl Marx, The Civil War in France (1871).
Prosper Lissagaray, History of the Paris Commune (1876).

1864 International Working Men’s Association: trade union cooperation, solidarity with the North in the American Civil War and supporting Polish nationalism.
1872 Hague Congress: the split in the First International between the Marxist Socialists and the Bakuninist Anarchists.
Marxists symbolised their victory by moving the headquarters of the First International to New York: the USA was the most advanced capitalist economy which would be the first communist country.

Anarchism: select conspiracy of intellectuals who wanted to be the ‘invisible dictatorship’ directing the spontaneous revolution of the masses.
Pre-1914 Anarchism: Bonnet gang, CGT, CNT and the IWW.

Socialism: mass party of industrial and office workers seeking control of the democratic republic which was the political basis for creating social democracy.
Pre-1914 Socialism: British Labour Party, German Social Democratic Party and French Socialist Party.
Political economy of labour over the political economy of capital: 8 hour day, workers’ cooperatives, left culture and community organisations.

1889 foundation of the Second International: political democracy, trade union cooperation and world peace.
1914 was the end of Second International Marxism: reformism and nationalism had prevented the socialist revolution.
The Russian reinterpretation of Marxism: the Bolshevik vanguard party.
1917 Russian Revolution: the Congress of Soviets not the Constituent Assembly.
Direct democracy and vanguard party not representative democracy and mass party.
1917-21 Russian Civil War: one-party state, secret police, ideological mobilisation and professional army.
1921 Kronstadt Rebellion: Soviets without Bolsheviks.

20th century Marxisms without Marx’s 19th century politics: Social Democracy, Leninism, Council Communism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Austro-Marxism, Maoism, New Left, Situationism and Autonomism.
1989-91 Georg Hegel’s end of history was representative democracy and neo-liberal globalisation.
2008 financial crash and the Occupy movement have popularised David Harvey’s course on Karl Marx’s Capital.
2015 election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader: the 21st century revival of Second International Marxism.

Within this MySpace version of the electronic agora, cybernetic communism was mainstream and unexceptional. What had once been a revolutionary dream was now an enjoyable part of everyday life.