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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Karl Marx's theory of history: a DEFENCE

Foreword: the title of this essay is the title of a 1978 book by philosopher Gerald Cohen, an inordinate work of complete nonsense that tried to reformulate Marxist theory credibly to an incredulous public just as the Soviet Union, the world's then principal Marxist state, was falling apart. The author of this essay had the misfortune to read Cohen's work; he does not recommend it as a general rule.


Marxism turned out to be one of the most catastrophic ideological movements in world history, responsible for the deaths of many tens of millions of people, principally in Russia, Ukraine and the other countries that would come to be part of the Soviet Union. It was a diabolical and heinous affair, a complex averredly humanitarian movement with complex intellectual underpinnings that nonetheless served as an instrument of genocide and mass murder. Moreover Marxism was intellectually complex; Karl Marx himself wrote thousands of densely argued pages in technical German about a completely novel and spurious branch of economics, in an impenetrable and unreadable book called Das Kapital. Indeed it was so complex that Marxism, which promoted some sort of inchoate theory of equality between peoples (but in fact in practice turned out to involve quite the opposite), was replicated, copied and amended by a variety of politicians all of whom described themselves as Marxists and many of whom wrote their own political-philosophical tracts, typically quite nonsensical, in an attempt to emulate Marx and show their loyalty to them.

These different politicians, with their distinctive ideologies, can be used as a cipher for the historian of the development of Marxist thinking, the Russian Revolution that first applied Marxism in practice, and the various political leaders of the Soviet Union that had pseudo-philosophical movements named after them. So here are a list of (nonsensical) ideological movements, all of which have been used in Soviet or other communist political histories. We do not bother the reader with the actual content of each of these ideologies; they are all of them nonsense on stilts. Instead what we do is to provide an interpretation of what each such ideological label might mean in the context of a cipher. And we intersperse these derogatory descriptions of different pseudo-ideologies with examples of sentences that might use these absurd words to encode messages into ciphers.

  • Marxism. Pompous, obsessive, theoretical, ineffective, impractical, wordy, boring, irrelevant, ignored.

  • Leninism. Cynical, practical, womanising, arrogant, violent, atheistic, plotting, scheming, ambitious, overthrown, vulnerable, killed by his own staff.

  • Stalinism. Murderous, genocidal, psychopathic, paranoid, totalitarian, absolutism, wanton disregard for life.

  • Neo-Stalinism. Associated with Vladimir Putin, something sinister and incoherent, something very powerful and dangerous, something happening out of public view.

  • Marxist-Leninism. Meaningless rubbish, a combination of incompatible ideas.

  • Trotskyism. Treachery, unnecessary state violence, disputatious, cowardice (Trotsky ran away to Mexico to escape the Soviet Union), being murdered, particularly when you think you are safe (Stalin had an assassin put a pickaxe through his head in 1940), being surveilled.

  • Berianism. Ruthless use of secret police and intelligence apparatus to control people, psychopathic disdain for human life, violent homosexuality and other sexual crimes. (Beria was Stalin's violent, dangerous and feared head of the secret Police who the ruling powers had murdered after Stalin's death because they were so afraid of him.)

  • Zhukovism. Saving the day. (Martial Zhukov virtually single-handedly won World War II for the Soviet Union after Stalin had murdered all the other Generals in the Red Army.)

  • Khruschevism. Taking control, partial return to normality, strange theories of science and technology, a period of chaos, managerial disorder.

  • Brezhnevism. Economic stagnation, political isolation, rule by committee, ineffectiveness, drifting.

Armed with this short vocabulary (and we could go on at some length - there were many dozens of Soviet politicians who had so-called ideological movements named after them), we can start to construct ciphers about completely different topics. For example:

This bar is full of Marxists, but no Leninists. They have good Stalinists, and that's because there is excellent Neo-Stalinism.

This means: the bar is full of people shouting and drinking and talking rubbish, but there aren't any violent people in here. The security staff are very good, and that's because the management is excellent.

Here is a cipher that any academic in a British university would understand:

That was an interesting speech on Marxist-Leninism although the speaker was a bit of a Trotskyist.

This means: that lecture was nonsense and the professor / lecturer is going to get fired because he is an architect of drivel.

Here is another example, describing the conditions in a dangerous town:

This place is full of Leninists and the victims of Leninism. There are certainly a number of Stalinists here, and not a lot of Neo-Stalinism. I hope to embrace Khruschevism before long, but not before a period of Kruschevism.

The Marxist ideological cipher turns out to be wonderfully obtuse and obscure, but you need to know your Soviet history in some detail in order to be able to work out what these rather silly phrases might really be a reference to. That is like all good ciphers: they rely upon a complex and at least partially asynchronous private dictionary. The history of the Soviet Union, with the peculiar character complexities of all its ideologues and political leaders, is not something a computer can easily learn, even one invested with an artificial intelligence learning algorithm. The material is too complex, too thinly dispersed across different media, too rarely known and little understood. Nevertheless it is a cohesive body of knowledge that a human (but not with any ease a computer) can learn in a reasonably short period of time, with expert guidance and training. That is why the Marxist ideology cipher is a good one. It rests upon a body of knowledge and information that a human can learn and that a computer cannot.


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