Must Be A Marxist
Over the past several days, “Marxist” has been the buzzword amongst Conservative Party politicians and the mainstream media to describe Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The word is being weaponised as something that, if he were a Marxist, he should be ashamed of, something that is a grave offence to social norms. While the denigration of Marxism has a long and troubling history, right back to the life of Marx himself, the recent usage in the modern political sphere is straight of the American far-right political playbook.
Used frequently by those who peddle narratives that “communism is as bad a Nazism,” the denigration of the ideas and theories of Marx, coupled with accusations that all socialists are hidden Marxists, is designed to broadly paint the left into a single stroke, to suggest that any socialist who believes in their creed stands with those who have committed crimes in the name of “Marxism”.
The weaponisation of words is nothing new in the age of fake news, nor false accusations. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to watch Fox News or read anything from Breitbart will recognise the language used against the left. Accusations of “Marxism,” “neo-Marxism” and “cultural Marxism” have, in Britain, largely being the realm of wingnut publications such as The Spectator and Daily Mail, accusations with little in the way of substance, but heavy on politically illiterate paranoia. The latest accusations are merely yet further Americanisation of British politics as Republican/Democrat style polarisation becomes ever applied to our political system and both tolerance and respect for opposing views are replaced by a visceral hatred of the unlike.
The reasons run much deeper of course, into the realms of “saviour nationalism,” where only the hard-right can save Britain from the machinations of Brussels, where only the far-right can save “our girls” from the clutches of “Muslim rape gangs,” where only the right can save us from the “evils of Communism.” This saviour mentality makes the cause not one of politics, but of survival. And anyone who opposes that must automatically be traitors and be your enemy. Enemies of the people.
These accusations work when those hearing the message do not fully understand it. It is very easy to claim that Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite for example when the vast majority of the public do not understand the involvement of the Israeli state and far-right in those claims. It’s very easy when they don’t understand the deeper fight between opposing camps within Jewish politics between the Netanyahu supporting hard right and the opposing left.
The accusation relies on ignorance, on the power of the word “antisemite” and the perceived authoritative infallibility of the accuser. We see the same methodology applied to the accusations of “Marxism”. The Berlin Wall fell in Germany 30 years ago, there are swathes of people in the country who have no memory of communism in Europe, to remember communism being a force within British politics you would have to be much older than that.
Marxism is portrayed as something “other” than the British norm, foreign even, something that they do in Eastern Europe and the far east, a brooding spectre of a past “righteously” won by the “good” forces of western capitalism. The othering of socialism, of course, has frightening historic connotations, yet ironically it is Marxism that is more indigenous to these shores than fascism has ever been, living as an exile in London from 1849 until his death.
The Age of Unreason
Political literacy is not taught in British schools.
A 1987 study, during the Cold War itself, revealed that 87% of American high school students had never heard of Karl Marx, there is no reason to believe that British adults in 2019 have any greater functioning knowledge of Marx than that. Sadly, their knowledge of Marxism will come solely from what they’ve been told by those sources of authority – politicians and the media, and if they say Corbyn is one, well he must be one, mustn’t he? A politician would know if he was a Marxist… wouldn’t they? They can tell you that Marxism is a bad thing, but never give any reasons beyond long-established far-right mantra linking Marx to the failures of former communist states. Such is the conflation. Such is the intent.
Is Jeremy Corbyn a Marxist? no, of course not. Jeremy Corbyn is a mainstream centre-left democratic socialist that would be immensely popular throughout Europe, particularly so in Scandinavia. He stands a mile closer to the likes of Bernie Sanders than he does Lenin, yet these are facts and facts no longer matter in our political discourse. They have alternative facts now.
Without the knowledge to automatically refute the absurdity of these “alternative facts”, those receptive to the message must accept it as the word of the faux-expert, they accept the deception on a level of trust that is misplaced. What politicians and the media have realised is that despite the scandals that have plagued politics since Watergate, the electorate is still willing to trust what is perceived as an authority when speaks to their existing prejudices, is presented as fact and presented as the opinion of respectable politicians, media outlets or celebrities.
The electorate is much more willing to listen to Nazi ideology from somebody in a suit or behind a newsdesk than they are willing to listen to Nazi ideology from a skinhead in jackboots.
With the media and politicians across the board selling fake goods to gullible customers, it is vitally important that the people themselves now take on the responsibility of the truth. Across social media, blogs and video channels, it is vital that this age of unreason is challenged, that the truth (whether we like it or not) is upheld. It is on all of us to create a new media, one that is not defined by the interests of ideology or capital, but one defined by the interests of the people. A people’s media. After all, we’re all Marxists now, right?