Ideas and practices said to derive from the writings of
It is often difficult to say to what extent Marx is
responsible for or the originator of the doctrines and movements he has been
said to inspire. But he inspired very many movements and men, and can only be
compared to very few others in that respect.
The reason Marxism is interesting is not because of Marx's teachings or
ideas (unless one is a Marxist) but because it provides so much excellent
evidence about totalitarianism: What it
inspires, what it produces, and how it works.
Another reason to study it, or some of it, is that of all
philosophies of the last two centuries, it
was by far the most influential and most widely held.
An interesting, clear and well-written study of Marxism is
- Raymond Aron's 'L'Opium des
It ably disposes of it, and also describes the mood and people in the
French Marxist intellectual Left around 1950, which is interesting because it
is so recognizably highly similar to other leftist intellectual milieus
elsewhere and at other times in the 20th Century.
There have been many studies of many aspects of Marxism, some by Marxists,
and not necessarily the worse for that, and some by ex-Marxists or
non-Marxists. Here are a few with some comments:
- Conquest: The Great Terror - This
tells the awful history of Stalin's campaign of terror of the 1930ies.
- Radnitzky: Stalin - A recent
biography of Stalin.
- Li: The private life of Chairman Mao
- Living with Mao Tse Tung as told by his private doctor.
- Crossman: The God that failed -
Book of essays by ex-Marxists explaining why they believed in it and stopped
- Orwell: Animal Farm - Brief novel
about Soviet socialism told as a tale about the liberation of animals.
- Talmon: The origins of totalitarian
democracy - Study of the totalitarian aspects of socialism and communism
traced back to the 18th Century, especially Rousseau, but also others, like
- Mills : The Marxists - able,
well-written sympathetic exposition of Marxism by an American professor of
- Morishima: Marx' Economics -
Relatively recent study of Marxian economics restated with the help of
- Steedman: Marx after Sraffa - Book
of 1977 that explains where Marx erred economically to Marxists and to
mathematical economists, along similar lines as Morishima, but easier
- Zinoviev: Yawning Heights - Long
and sharp satire of the Soviet Union by a Russian logician and philosopher.
- Duncan & Wilson: Marx Refuted -
Very uneven book of essays printed just before the 1989-collapse of Soviet
- Yang: Wild Swans - Description of
living in Communist China, including the years of Mao's Cultural Revolution.
Why provide this list of books? Well, to speak a little personally, there
are two general reasons for it:
One. My parents were sincere communists, and I was raised in that faith -
which I lost when I was 20. Hence I know a lot about it, both intellectually,
since I had to think through it in order to liberate myself from it, and
emotionally, in that I understand the appeal Marxism may have for benevolent
and intelligent people.
Two. Marxism wrecked great havock in the world, and did so because of its
features, that combine totalitarianism, a rhetoric of freedom, millenarian
notions and promises, and a would-be complete philosophical, scientific and
economical analysis of reality and human history. It is well documented, and
should serve as an object-lesson about wishful thinking,
the human ability for self-deception.