Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marxists on Desert Island Discs

Karl Marx himself famously discussed Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe' in a number of places, most usually to critique the likes of bourgeois political economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo who began everything theoretically with the rational atomised individual rather than understanding humans as social animals who have to co-operate together through work to survive. I am grateful therefore to Maps for alerting me to the online archive of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, which has re-imagined the Robinson Crusoe scenario with a number of celebrities since the 1940s. A brief search through the 1,000 or so of the 'great and good' can be found a smattering of Marxists including Tariq Ali, Stuart Hall, Eric Hobsbawm, Michael Rosen and perhaps most remarkably EP Thompson. There are plenty of other lefties (and plenty more ex-lefties) who would doubtless also be worth a listen, including John Pilger, Tony Benn, Bill Morris, Joan Baez, Michael Foot, Glenda Jackson, Barbara Castle, Dennis Skinner, Raymond Postgate, Arthur Scargill, T Dan Smith...it is highly likely that my cursory search for socialists missed out some remarkable people so have a look for yourself...

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At 2:26 pm, Anonymous David Duff said...

"rational atomised individuals"!

So irritating, aren't they? Just will not do as they're told unless you can mass them, preferably into ranks, dress them all the same way, pay them all the same and crush any individuality ruthlessly.

Roll on the revolution!

At 3:24 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

I think you are confusing me with an apologist or defender of either Maoist China or Stalinist Russia - but more importantly apologists of capitalism like yourself like to talk a lot about freedom of the individual, while making sure that for the vast majority life consists for most of their lives of real unfreedom in the workplace - where workers get massed together (and forced to dress the same way whether in suits or other uniforms) and ordered about by various ranks of managers and bosses - and often find that if they ever suggest any minute changes to work processes that might make their life easier - or even productivity more efficient - these ideas are rejected by those above who do not actually do the work themselves yet set targets dictating that workers must work ever harder and ever longer. Marx noted that the real struggle for freedom is over the length of the working day - and the rational atomised individuals you celebrate only feel free and get to express any of their individuality outside of their workplaces. When they try to do this however, they find they confront a capitalist system that also crushes individuality through either relentlessly commodifying every aspect of their personal lives in order to sell it back to them en masse via consumerism - so it is no longer in any meaningful sense 'individual'.

Too bloody right roll on the revolution!

At 2:08 pm, Anonymous David Duff said...

Try this as an example of real, er, 'people power!


At 3:58 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Again - not sure what Chinese economic growth has got to do with disproving Marxism, as China has never been a socialist country and its state capitalist ruling class remains above all terrified by the potential for mass struggles of their 'grave diggers' - the Chinese working class. Their struggles for democracy and liberation are the real demonstrations of 'people power' in China today.


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