If you log on to the BBC Radio 4 you can vote for the greatest philosopher of all time! This is a by-product of a series of programs hosted by Melvyn Bragg on the History of Ideas. Now I guess most people are familiar with only a couple of names like Socrates, Aristotle, or Plato from Greece, perhaps Aquinas and Augustine if you’re Christian, or Maimonides if you are a Jew. Modern philosophy arguably begins with Descartes (1596-1650) but then after Voltaire (1694-1791) the French fall away, and although some like to claim that Sartre was a philosopher, we rational Anglo-Saxons don’t rate him. We go for our "empirical" practical giants: Hobbes (1588-1679), Locke (1632-1704), and Hume (1711-1776). The Germans have a list of heavy hitters (actually there wasn’t a Germany there yet but from that area). There was Liebnitz (1646-1716), Kant ( 1724-1804), and (again if you think he’s a philosopher) Hegel (1770-1831). I refuse to include the Nazi-loving Heidegger, but I am a great fan of the earlier Husserl (1859 –1938). Wittgenstein (Anglo-Austrian) has been the biggest influence on my thinking, but he’s long gone, and I have to say in general current philosophy leaves me cold and uninterested.
Now not one of these giants heads the BBC poll. No, it is a man who, as far as I am concerned, was not a philosopher at all. If anything he was a social economist with some absolutely crackpot theories, a Jew who hated Jews, and the man indirectly responsible for more deaths than any other human being ever. I refer to Karl Marx.
His best idea is his Messianic dream of a perfect world devoid of oppression, domination and inequalities, giving "each according to his need". It’s a lovely dream which goes back in Judaism two and half thousand years to our prophets. He didn’t invent it. I confess I do agree with his choice of who was responsible for most of human suffering at the time that he wrote--the Church and the rich. Religion was, according to him "the opiate of the masses", a tool whereby the aristocracy, in league with the Church (or whatever religion), conspired to hold down the poor, promising them "gravy tomorrow", while they indulged themselves in this world. The industrial revolution saw millions of men, women, and children enslaved under the cruel workhouse and factory systems, receiving a pittance to barely survive on, while the bourgeoisie were flourishing on the backs of "the toiling masses". Just think Les Miserables or Charles Dickens. Marx’s analysis of the problem was correct. His suggestion as to why was half correct. But his solution was lunacy.
The forced socialization that was carried out in his name, in various guises, across the world to eradicate poverty, corruption, and exploitation merely replaced one awful system with a far worse and more dangerous one. For while the old system at least paid lip service to the sanctity of life, Marxism proclaimed the dispensability of humans and the right to destroy those who stood in the way of the greater good. The end justified the means. Untold millions suffered in Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba and countless other failed experiments. Not to mention the Kibbutz movement in the list of failed ideals, though despite the emotional damage Bruno Bettleheim described, I don’t think any died as a direct result!
The crimes committed in Marx's name make the worst excesses of religion look positively benign. The end NEVER justifies the means. Any politician, let alone thinker, who argues thus ought to be hanged, drawn and quartered, slowly.
So why has Marxism so dominated the western academic world? Why does it persist in any way at all? How do we explain the unholy alliance between a brilliant thinker like Noam Chomsky and a guttersnipe like George Galloway?
I can sympathize with the Marxist critique of religion, particularly when it gets involved in politics. Indeed, I could bring plenty of examples from within Judaism to support their case that religion is often more concerned with power and keeping others under control than with making the world a better place for everyone. There is and has been a lot wrong with religion, but it does have some saving graces that Marxism does not. Hence the flight from Marxist regimes the moment compulsion is removed.
Why do Marxist sympathisers, particularly BBC pundits such as John Pilger, express such antagonism to Judaism or Jews, specifically? Is it because we support a Jewish State? If they objected to all forms of nationalism because they’d rather see a benign universal government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" (no, Marx did not say that) then I could understand, even sympathize to some degree. But why single out Israel to hate?
Why is Marx the man that most thinking, cultured Britons think is the greatest philosopher of all time? Because when you are a failed academic or politician or anything else, and you feel you are not getting your due while other, inferior beings are richer or appear to be doing better and enjoying themselves, you respond with hatred. We see this in disenfranchised or unemployed Muslims, neo-Nazis, drunken hooligans, underpaid academics, and even alienated Jews. Just as the destructive anti-globalization, anti-capitalism movement appeals to Marxist rebels (or spoilt trust fund kids looking for a cause), so anyone looking at any other group that survives and thrives and wins the battle for survival, is filled with envy and bitterness.
They used to say the difference between Europe and the USA was that in the US if you see a wealthy man you say to yourself, "If I work hard I can get that too," but in Europe you'd say, "Come the revolution I’ll take it away from the bastard." The solution to poverty is industry and motivation (though, to be fair, it also requires bully nations to give the poor ones a fair chance if they’re willing to try for it ).
Once upon a time many intellectuals supported Marxism as the antidote to Fascism. Then, slowly, they realized they are virtually the same evil with different names. The fact that Marx is still so popular shows how failing ideas are sustained by failing individuals who always blame others, look for scapegoats and, more often than not, pick on the Jews. You can tell an ideology stinks when its proponents stink.
Marxism is the philosophy of envy and destruction. It should have been buried in Highgate cemetery with its author. Sadly the poison persists.