Introduction to Introduction to Marx

It’s a beautiful day and I have the day off from work! Hurrah! I have already gone for a long walk and enjoyed the sunshine, so now it’s time to tell you about the book I’ve been reading.

I started on “Marx for Beginners.” It’s a graphic (comic book) style book, which is nice. The author spends a long time at the beginning talking about the philosophers who came before Marx and who set the stage for his theories. In fact, it appears that about half the book is about the history of philosophy. The author obviously believes that Marx can only be understood by situating him in a historical context and by explaining how the field of philosophy developed into Marx’s dialectical materialism. (I still have zero comprehension of what this term means.)

So I have been reading about the history of philosophy. I’ll share with you some of the interesting things I’ve learned so far.

The author, Rius, says that all revolutions have a Marxist origin, (Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Vietnam, Korea, etc) and that Marx is indirectly responsible for such things as social security, pensions, paid holidays, unions, and scholarships. (I am enjoying a paid holiday right now. Thank you Marx!) Rius calls the publication of the Communist Manifesto one of the most important events in human history.

Marx worked as a writer but barely earned any money and mostly lived in poverty. Some of his children died in childhood. The entire focus of his life was writing about philosophy and politics. He spent the last 25 years of his life writing Das Kapital and died at his desk at age 65.

When humans first started trying to explain natural phenomena, they invented gods and magic. Some people started “using all kinds of cheap tricks” to “pass themselves off as special delegates of the gods with fantastic powers” (p38) and those people were magicians and sorcerers. “This is the way gradually an ‘upper class’ was formed, or a ruling class and a lower, or ruled class, those who let themselves be exploited and those who led fools by the nose.” (p38)

That really got me thinking. Is that how class society really formed, from people claiming to be delegates of gods and fooling others into believing it, which led to them gaining power over others? I feel like this is probably hundreds of years of history condensed into a single sentence, but this is an interesting concept. If I had more time on my hands, maybe I’d research this, but honestly this book is all the information I need at the moment.

Even modern capitalism is the same sort of deal as this. Some people come up with an idea that they can use to earn a profit, and they put it into motion, and they earn a profit through a combination of taking natural resources from the Earth and claiming ownership over them, turning them into a “product” that sells for more than the price of production, (using other people’s labor), and using advertising to convince people they should purchase the product. Just like the magicians and sorcerers from long ago, they come up with an idea that will bring them some sort of gain and implement it, and even if it is unkind toward others they feel justified in doing so. Simply being clever enough to come up with the plan and implement it is enough to justify it. If others didn’t have the idea, too bad for them.

This is where I see the conflict is between left and right. The right feels that it is acceptable and natural that those who can profit from the exploitation of the earth and other people should do so. They feel that everyone should have the freedom to do this, and if some people don’t come up with a business idea that makes millions, that’s their problem, their poverty is their own fault and it’s not up to the rich to share anything. The left feels that the land and its resources belong equally to all of us, and no matter what idea anyone has, the fruits of human labor should be shared among us and we should produce for the greater good of the community rather than for some people’s personal gain.

I don’t think this conflict is a matter of someone being right or wrong in the sense that someone’s argument can be considered logically “correct.” It’s a matter of values. Some people value personal accomplishment and personal gain and some people value equality and sharing. I often get the impression that values are a personality trait—I think we’re born with them. I had no idea if I was “right” or “left” until I was old enough to vote, and that was the first time I even started thinking about politics. As soon as I found out what they meant I knew I was on the left. Obviously what’s important is solidifying social programs and eliminating poverty. What human endeavor could be more important than that?

Okay, another thing from the book I found interesting. There has always been a dichotomy in philosophy between “religion” and “science” or in other words “idealist” and “materialist.” As Rius explains, “idealism starts by assuming the existence of super-natural and divine forces.” and “materialism considers that there is nothing beyond natural things.” (p67).

For example, as author Rius explains, Plato believed that “True knowledge of things comes neither through perception nor reason, or that is, man cannot know truth by means of science but only through “inspiration” arriving from beyond. Man cannot know things on his own, but only by the ideas God gives him of things.” (p48)

Whereas Democritus, for example, explained reality like this: “Cosmic substance is made up of an infinite number of elements or particles physically invisible, indestructible and infinite, which vary in size and shape, and are in eternal motion.” (p49)

When you think of reality as physical objects and reject spiritual inspiration as a source of truth, that eliminates the divine right of kings. That, of course, shook up the world quite a bit.

I have just now gotten to the part of the book where it’s going to be all about Marx rather than the history of philosophy. I’ve learned that understanding Marx’s work is a lifelong process. I believe you could continue to get deeper into understanding it forever. Those lefty dudes who like to yell at each other on the Internet probably don’t understand this stuff as well as they think they do.

Now that I’ve digested this portion of the book, I’m closer to being able to articulate why transgenderism is not aligned with the left, even though people keep saying it is.

The right is aligned with the old idea of “divine right of kings.” The right still believe that those with money and power, however unethically they may have gotten it, have the right to rule over/exploit others. They believe in individual freedom and rights and don’t believe in the welfare state. The right is also traditionally religious—basing their view of reality on faith and the teachings of “God.”

The left is more aligned with atheism and materialism. The left believes in human rights and the greater good. We are against the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit the less powerful. We don’t think morals should come from religion.

Transgenderism is a belief system that takes the position that one’s inner identity is more real than the physical body. This philosophical position is aligned with the religious view that we get our knowledge of things from an inspiration from beyond, rather than from the material world. Transgender politics also promotes an individual’s right to do what is best for them, other people be damned. That’s why a single man who wants to identify as a woman can make a washroom gender-neutral, and too bad for all the women who wanted that washroom—they can just deal.

I don’t believe that a person’s inner identity replaces the physical aspects of their body, because I believe we get our knowledge of reality from our senses and from study of the physical world.

When I was debating a few trans people last year I very much felt like I was debating the nature of reality. We, in fact, were. We were engaging in a thousands-of-years-old debate about where human knowledge comes from—mystical inspiration or the study of the physical world.

I remain convinced that human knowledge comes from our five senses and from study of the physical world. There is no God, and I don’t “believe in” anything I can’t see with my own eyes. Any atheist should feel the same way. To be an atheist and to believe in the politics of transgenderism is a contradiction. What I’ve demonstrated above is that transgenderism is much more aligned with the right than the left, from a philosophical standpoint. When people call transgenderism “the far left” it sounds like nails scraping on a chalkboard to me.

So next I will be reading more about Marx himself, now that I’ve had a 60-page comic-book-style summary of thousands of years of philosophy. I’m looking forward to it!