Here they go again.
It was buried in a one page review of books about Marx, written by Mark Bahnisch in the Australian Literary Review (May 4). But it makes one despair. How much more does the case need to argued? How much more evidence does one need to present?
Halfway into his prose, Bahnisch says:
No, Marxism does not lead inexorably to the gulag or mass slaughter.
Well, there’s been a field experiment since 1917 in societies based on Marxist principles, governed by Marxists. And to my knowledge every one of those societies has had its version of a gulag and its version of mass slaughter. I presume I don’t need to make the case aboutRussia or China. I presume that knowledge of the North Korean gulag is reasonable well spread, and of the cruel labour camps that caused huge numbers of Vietnamese to risk their lives on the high seas.
The reason is that Marx’s prescription for society were these : the defeat of the bourgeoisie and the achievement of collective ownership under the control of the working class. Such a radical program could only be enforced by totalitarian means. And since 1917 so it has come to pass. Where has such a transformation come about through the ballot ? Go on. Just one example.
The human rights abuses of the European Eastern bloc are beyond contest, and in the 1950s at least, their dissidents were fed into the Soviet gulag. I visited the concentration camps of
Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald, formerly in East Germany and absorbed the sad story of how these camps continued under the German Democratic Republic.
Gulags and mass slaughter are in fact distinguishing features of Marxist regimes. Certainly – unarguably – dictatorships are. And the all-powerful secret police that administer the terror, as Lenin intended.
At least, later in the review he points out that there is no “globally organised working class or a political movement that might challenge capital’s reign.” He notes as well there is not revolution in prospect.
We should be grateful for pockets of realism.