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What is Marxism?

Written by Featured, News

Newcastle University Marxist Society invited Daniel Morley from the Socialist Appeal editorial board and the International Marxist Tendency to hold a talk on “What is Marxism?”

Speaking on 25 September in Bar Loco, Morley began by discussing how merely ten years ago the Communist Manifesto was still classed as a “historical relic” with both trade unions and the Labour Party in need of modernisation. Morley described how the short-sighted nature of capitalism leads to a lack of long-term planning, as evidenced by the environmental crisis and the previous ten years of political and economic turmoil.

Morley introduced Marxism as a theory which attempts to explain society scientifically, with a fundamental cornerstone being ideology related to philosophical materialism, in which material realities determine our behaviour. Through history, he described, most human societies have remained classless and egalitarian in a most basic form of communism, which counters modern beliefs that humans are inherently greedy.

It was not until centuries later, however, that Marx and Engels formalised this with their theory of historical materialism, which explores how we are materialistic beings dependent on a materialistic world, emerging from our basic need for survival. Morley argued that technology has led to intertwined global industries, but through this capitalism has become a contradiction through the crisis of overproduction. Examples include the vast numbers of empty homes in Britain despite our current homelessness crisis and the sheer quantities of unsold food that goes to waste despite many families living in poverty or being malnourished. Companies and wider industries consequently have to lay off staff and ultimately deindustrialise; this has left Britain with the highest rate of deindustrialisation in the world. Ultimately this has led to immorality and inequality which is only increasing over time.

Morley explained how the paradox is that capitalists sell products to the same people they are exploiting, creating a vicious cycle which brings workers confused into the cycle of capitalism. In 2008 Britain was only operating at 55% of its production rate; while this figure is now up to 75%, the world is more indebted today than it was then, and capitalists are desperately looking for others to blame.

Following Morley’s talk, an open discussion was held between those present. The ever-changing nature of global communication networks was discussed, with some attendees arguing how, even though this leads to an enhanced awareness of a person’s position within society and can be used to show the scale of solidarity worldwide, it also leads to intensified identity politics and a growth of nationalism and more inwards-looking societies. One person present spoke of how “technology stifles people’s wills”, while another argued that this brings a “distraction from basic misery” and glorifies the kind of lives we could lead if we followed the American Dream. One attendee furthered this by describing how, through social media, we are “force-fed rags-to-riches stories”.

Some suggested that social media can limit your perspectives, as people tend to only use the internet to communicate with like-minded people, however Morley countered this with the example of the recent global strikes against climate change which have been almost unavoidable for those who use any kind of communication technologies or mass media. Within this context, the President of the Marxist Society explained how Marxism is essential as an ideology based on both theory and discussion, and activism.

Morley rounded up the conversation by explaining how the current timidness of the Left in Britain stems from their lack of funding and media support, as shown by the intense propaganda for the Right. Despite this, he remains optimistic for the future of Marxism.

Last modified: 1st October 2019

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