What is Morality?

There’s no absolute morality god given. Morality in every society is the result of needs of that society, the balance of forces and so on. It’s a complex issue.

War disrupts that profoundly what was morally good or bad on the day before the war gets completely turned upside down.

In Britain on the day that war was declared on Germany every German human being became the enemy of every British human being. The moral code that said that killing is a crime became suspended if the the human being in question was a German.

A soldier, previously a law abiding citizen, is taken out of normal society and placed in a new military environment, given a lethal weapon, trained how to use it and a new moral virtue becomes that soldier’s imperative to show courage and bravery in being able to do what was previously a criminal act – to deliberately take the lives other human beings.

Attempts to prescribe humane rules of warfare – not killing civilians, looting and rape have always had little effect ( not no effect) in the face of the massive switch in moral values about the taking of human life.

So hypocrisy and contradiction will abound. The British prided themselves on how humanely we treated prisoners of war while at the same time dropping colossal numbers of bombs on those prisoners ‘ families in Germany.

The enemies of the state have to be downgraded as subhuman monsters the minute war breaks out. How else would you get a normal human being to murder another one?

in Germany the work had begun when the Nazis came into power. Political enemies went first, then the Jews were downgraded to the level of vermin and all Slavs designated at inferior.

This meant that no morality or law protected the Jewish population or those in Slavic countries. Crimes in Germany on German citizens were not crimes if committed on Jews or conquered populations. Released from normal morality a society of soldiers develop their own. One they would be horrified at in civilian life, yet are compelled by peer pressure and with the tacit support of their commanders.

This happens quickly. I remember when Thatcher launched her Falklands War on Argentina. Within days the media were talking about killing “ Argies” . It’s important to give the enemies a horrible nickname so you don’t have to consider them as humans any longer. Thatcher had no moral problem in sinking a ship ( the Belgrano) with 1000 young conscripts on board, each with a family who would grieve at their death.

In Vietnam the enemy were “ gooks” and so on and the atrocities young law abiding Americans inflicted on a population that was in now way threatening them at home beggars belief when it’s all over and returned to “ peacetime” morality.

I hope a future society will never see other human beings as dehumanised enemies and believe that war can resolve anything. The question was about rape. From a moral standpoint murder was a bigger crime than rape in civilian society, so if you can murder why shouldn’t you rob, loot and rape?

The criminals in my view are that ruling class who decide that a whole country is an enemy, tell people that a different and opposite morality applies and send young ordinary ( mostly) men to kill other ordinary human beings.


Personality and The USSR

Answers to this question that concentrate on the personalities of the people involved at top are not really historical nor true. To describe Trotsky “as a great ideas man but easily bored“ or as “ annoying “ is laughable. This was the man who planned the execution of the October Revolution and then built and headed the Red Army To victory over the Whites and their 14 western allies.

The revolution in Russia was always regarded by the Bolsheviks at that moment as nothing more than a stepping stone. Lenin reflected this view by his frank assessment in 1920 that the Soviet Union was capitalist state with communists in charge. Unless revolution became international, the rocky alliance between two antagonistic classes, workers and peasants would fail. The state he noted was actually administered by the Tsarist bureaucracy.

Not only that, by 1921, the working class who had carried through the revolution had virtually ceased to exist. The only way forward in the wake of this was NEP, as a holding policy to enable Russia to recover by allowing the capitalist market, regulated carefully, to resume to encourage the peasantry to grow and market food. A holding policy because the key to the revolution’s success lay not in Russia but in the capitalist world, initially Germany.

However, with absence of a vibrant working class, to sustain it , the Bolshevik Party itself was decaying. Some old Bolsheviks, particularly Stalin, who had played an insignificant role in the revolution and Zinoviev and Kamenev who had actually opposed the October revolution were tending towards an unmarxist position that socialism could be achieved within the Soviet Union. A socialist island in a capitalist world.

Great Russian bully is how Lenin described Stalin over the “ Georgian affair”. So a rift was developing. The Party took over the state in the name of the working class. Now the Tsarist bureaucracy was slowly taking over the Party.

It is worth recalling that in July 1917, the Bolsheviks had to share support In Petrograd, with another powerful left organisation – the Mezrayhontsy, the Inter District organisation. Not a catchy name, but in it were Trotsky,Rykov, Rakovsky, Lunacharsky, the great economist Preboensky, Radek and many others. It was Lenin who went in person to negotiate with this group on an amalgamation with the Bolsheviks. Most of these dominated the Central Committee after the union of the two parties was agreed.

Moreover after the revolution the Mezrayhontsy took all the major positions in the first Council of People’s Commissars – the government. Stalin, a mediocre and unnoticed figure was given the Workers and Peasants Inspection. It was through this channel and via his party position of general secretary that state bureaucrats with no Marxist understanding or background were recruited in ever greater numbers into the Communist Party. These people would have a nationalistic outlook one which Stalin himself was heading. Whereas in 1917, the Bolsheviks headed by Lenin and Trotsky and their left supporters could always call on popular support against the conservatism of the Old Boldheviks.

In 1926 when the struggle between left and right of the party was played out, the Left now joined by Zinoviev and Kamenev found that there was no mass working class who could support them. The Soviets themselves, in 1917 and 1918 vibrant organs of working class democracy were by 1923 empty shells filled with placemen and party hacks. The workers were either dead in the war, become party men or had become apathetic.

Before his final stroke, in 1922 Lenin had recognised how bad things had got and planned with Trotsky an assault on the Party bureaucracy in the 1922 Congress. A few day before it he suffered a stroke that paralysed him.

The Joint Opposition in 1926 laid out an extremely coherent plan ( Zinoviev and Kamenev had joined Trotsky) countering the horrific tendency towards the nonsensical concept of “ socialism in one country”. They failed as they were bound to. The Soviet population was politically supine. The peasants had their land, that’s all they wanted, the organised working class had gone. Who was to prevent Stalin using the bureaucratic mechanism of state control to defeat the Opposition.

The tragedy is, these great, humanitarian socialist thinkers Radek, Rykov, Rakovsky, Yoffe, Lunacharsky met their end at the hands of anti socialist bureaucratic police regime headed by Stalin. Only Trotsky survived, too big to kill, because in the popular mind at that time he was still closely associated with Lenin and the revolution.

The Bolsheviks failed and the Soviet Union collapsed into a murderous state capitalist bureaucratic nightmare because their principal failure was the failure of the revolution in Europe. The idea that the Soviet Union proves that Communism doesn’t work is nonsense, it has yet to be tried. The Russian revolution was the first step, but capitalism proved to be too strong. It won’t always be the case.


Religion is a form of Political Expression

Islam in Saudi Arabia is the means by which that ruling class expresses its political justification for exploiting and repressing its people. Any tolerance of any other view undermines it.

Christianity played the same role in Europe until quite recently. Where class ideology is expressed only in religious terms opposition will be expressed in those terms too – look at the English Civil War.

Protestant Christianity played the same role in Ireland – so Catholicism was seen as an political expression of opposition to British rule. Catholicism played a similar role in Poland under Stalinism. I’m sure the influence of the Church is waning now it’s ceased to be a focus of political opposition.

But as an opposition in 20 th century terms it couldn’t compare to proper working class movements like Solidarnosc for instance. Islam in Europe and America is not the expression of class rule like it is in Saudi, it’s either a cultural heritage of a particular community or for a minority it’s become a political expression of opposition to western imperialism.

The trouble is all religions are based on magic and myths are utterly useless as a political programme. In the early 20’s there were large unions organised – even soviets for a while in Iran for instance. We have a long way to go to get back to that.

Now we are seeing the repression of trade unions in Palestine – one has to wonder if Hamas is connected to this. It’s easy to understand why the Israeli govt wants to repress Palestinian trade Unions – but why is the Palestinian Authority doing this? We still tolerate religious control of schools in this country using public resources. No religion should be allowed to have any part whatsoever in public education.

In my view the left has been at best dithering on this question by confounding racism with “Islamophobia ” a term coined by the left itself. A religious political programme is always nostalgic, hailing some mythical golden age of the past. Isis calling themselves a “Caliphate” exemplifies this – a return to the golden times of the 9th century when Islam was on the march. The Diggers of the Civil war were similar hailing a golden age of pre Norman England. The people who are most similar today are Le Pen and Farage, hailing another mythical golden age of Colonial empire.

Religious extremism will lead to terrorism- if you are only accountable to some god it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, even if everyone is against you. The trouble is terrorism does what it says on the tin – it does provoke fear and terror – the result is a wave of revulsion that governments can and will ride on to take measures against everyone- especially those even remotely connected to the perpetrators. It will be counterproductive to their cause – but they won’t care because they are doing god’s work.

history Matriarchy socialism

Personality in History – Stalin vs Trotsky

We are dominated by film and tv drama when talking about politics especially around important events in history.

We forget that these struggles are simply the tip of the iceberg and these figures represent grassroots social forces.

Let’s take Trotsky vs Stalin for instance.

In 1905 the first Russian Revolution or attempted revolution occurred. This centred on St Petersburg ( later Leningrad) and industry that was rapidly growing. During this revolution the working class themselves with no input from any socialist thinkers or theorists came up with brand new democratic formation that was an advance on all previous ideas of what democracy was. This became known as the soviet .

The soviet was different being a council consisting of representatives of workplaces and workshops rather than geographical districts. In normal elections politicians promise everything and deliver very little, simply because once elected they serve a term and then spend the final period electioneering.

Representatives in the soviet were not elected for a fixed period and were recallable and replaceable at any time.

The important point here is that the Bolsheviks and most of the socialist parties at the time did not recognise it or understand it and were reluctant to get involved.

Trotsky, however, understanding Marxism, not as a bible but as a way of thinking realised that workers themselves had invented their own democracy. He went to St Petersburg and although he was a bourgeois highly educated scholar, workers of St Petersburg recognised his ability not only to articulate their demands and grievances but also to plan the way forward. For that reason he was elected President of the Soviet.

He was not a Bolshevik, his following in Party terms was a small group but he had a massive following among the unaligned workers of St Petersburg. So much so he was not afraid in 1907 to tell the workers of St Petersburg that Tsarism at this stage had proved too strong and for the workers to return to the factories under their capitalist bosses and to plan for the future.

No Lenin or Stalin or any other Bolshevik acquired support from ordinary working people in this way.

It was hardly surprising therefore that when he returned to Petrograd as it now was, he was immediately elected as President of the Petrograd Soviet. He was not a Bolshevik, his group, the Mezrayhontsy consisted of a large group of highly dedicated and advanced socialist thinkers. They had a very large following among the workers. The leaders of the Bolsheviks, with the exception of Lenin were opposed to the idea of a further revolution to overthrow Kerentsky’s government. Like Trotsky Lenin realised that the key was winning a majority in the Soviets now springing up everywhere. The Soviets at this stage truly represented the workers and soldiers in the towns and cities.

For this reason Lenin approached the Mezrayhontsy in July 1917 and proposed an amalgamation with the Bolsheviks. In the first Council of People’s Commissars ex Mezrayhontsy members dominated the the government with the exception of Lenin, Zinoviev and Kamenev.

After the revolution and the civil war Russia stood in a perilous situation. To run the country the Tsar’s massive government bureaucracy down to grassroots local government still carried on administering the country. This bureaucracy, conservative, nationalist was a social force in itself. This is where Stalin comes in. A secondary figure in the revolution and civil war but an effective administrator was given the job of co ordinating government departments. He became the bureaucracy’s political expression through his party position of general Secretary he recruited into the party massive numbers of the people. So much so that by 1926, he was able to oust Zinoviev from his position as the virtual chief of the Leningrad party.

The struggle between Stalin and Trotsky was not a game of chess or checkers but a struggle between the weakened working class represented by Trotsky ( and Zinoviev and Kamenev who came over in 1926 to Trotsky’s side) and the state bureaucracy represented by Stalin’s centrist group. The intellectual abilities of the participants was secondary to the social/political struggle taking place as to whether the country was going to follow the socialist/ internationalist agenda or the conservative nationalist programme represented by Stalin.

The bureaucracy won and the Bolsheviks lost. Trotsky personally had such a following that putting him on trial was unthinkable he was exiled in 1929 with the official account being that he had voluntarily fled the country to side with the USSR’s enemies. Zinoviev and Kamenev who had “ betrayed” Stalin by joining Trotsky’s Opposition in 1927 were seemingly forgiven but then subjected to a Show Trial in 1936.

But one has to remember that although Trotsky himself was exiled he represented a powerful social / political current in Russia and many thousands of Oppositionists and anyone connected with them were murdered or sent to labour camps.

So a comparison between the cleverness of Trotsky with the cunning boorishness of Stalin is really a secondary issue.


Was the USSR Communist?

Marx & Engels

1 Revolutionary class the working class. China revolution based on the peasantry. Russia 80% peasantry in 1917.

2 So in China feudalism overthrown – read Marx what overthrows feudalism ? A bourgeois revolution.

3 The peasantry – an inherently conservative class. Once they have their own patch of land – that’s it.

3 Internationalism – the capitalist system is global no one can escape from it. Unless the revolution spreads into industrial countries it will fail. “ Socialism in one country” an un Marxist formulation disguising nationalism. Nationalism is a bourgeois concept.

4 The Workers State – Marx – a temporary stage where the workers take over the means of production then the state withers away to communist society where exploitation ceases to exist, instruments of the state, police, army disappear too. Russia and China ? Totalitarian police states exploiting the workers for profit State capitalism. Nothing whatever to do with Marxism. Lenin in 1919 “ This is a capitalist state that happens to be run by Communists” .

Trotsky Permanent Revolution and Lenin’s April Theses said the same thing, the bourgeois and socialist revolutions had to be carried out at the same time – the success of the latter depended on the revolution becoming international. Stalin’s triumph over the actual Bolsheviks represented by the Opposition in 1927 was a victory of the Tsarist bureaucracy over the barely existing working class. A victory of nationalism over communism. A counter revolution. China’s revolution was a destruction of feudalism – a bourgeois revolution.

The proof. The Soviet regime fell without a whimper. The state capitalists KGB became regular capitalists by simply dividing up the state’s assets between them. It remains a totalitarian police state.

China is a global player in world capitalism, imperialising and exploiting, lending money at a profit. Another totalitarian police capitalist state. Nothing whatever to do with socialism or Marxism.


Why is there Religion?

This is an introduction to the series of posts that overall seek to answer this question.

I am an atheist and a Marxist and I would argue that only an atheist can seek to answer this question. If I was ha was a believer in any religion the answer to the question, “Why is there Religion ?” is very brief. God or maybe gods / goddesses created the earth and everything in it including us and that is that.

Someone I am sure will say that Marxism is a religion. That is nonsense Marxism is a philosophy – a way of thinking. I have no time, a neither did Marx himself, for charlatans who treat Marx,Engels, Trotsky’s writings as biblical texts containing absolute “ truths”. See my post

I start with religion’s origins. The history of humankind is the history of human society. So I begin with the earliest form of human society hunting and gathering. The the next stage of human development came with agriculture. I deal with this in Ancient Matriarchal Society. With end of this also came the end classless “ communist” society and beginning of class domination and exploitation. I explore the origins of Christianity which is I hope to show a hybrid of patriarchal and matriarchal religion ideally suited to a society which itself was hybrid of patriarchal class structure while maintaining the base matriarchal economy.

“Religion exists, how shall we explain it? Well, by man’s need of religion. Domination exists, why? Simply because man has a desire for domination. Is this not similar to ‘explaining sleep as a force that puts to sleep’? Can anything be explained in this way? By the use of this method, everything in the world can be explained without turning an eyelid: the state is explained by the desire for a state; art by the desire for art the circuit by the desire for the circus.

“The love of liberty is an inherent tendency in every man. Nothing could be further from the truth! Was the ‘love of liberty’ an inherent tendency in Nicholas II or his class? When we have understood this, we are faced with the next question. Why do certain men have this tendency while others do not? And then – oh horror – we must get back to the conditions of their existence etc.” (N.I. Bukharin, Historical Materialism. p. 230)

Human beings do not just live on earth, we are the earth, a part of the earth that can move about, and think and do things, neither are we alone in doing this – but each individual is really nothing more than a lump of earth nonetheless.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

That much of Genesis I agree with. Society is therefore part of the earth. When we talk of human beings ruining or wrecking the earth, of course this cannot be true. We cannot ruin the earth any more than the trees can. This is all a matter of the Earth’s changing equilibrium.

Religious belief is part of the society we live in. Nobody believed in Jesus Christ in ancient Egypt nor could any one have been a Christian 200 years ago in Japan or China. Christian beliefs have only spread through different parts of the world through the invasion of western society. Islam, a religion stemming from a similar root, likewise spread eastwards and westwards by invasion, sometimes direct and military, sometimes through colonial penetration.

Religions are an aspect of material society therefore, the spiritual element exists through imaginative emanation from the material world. There is a saying amongst the Blacks of South Africa.

‘The white man came and told us about Christ, he told us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened them, he had stolen our land.’

The European colonialists invaded South Africa, undermined its society and restructured it according to the way most beneficial to themselves. Society was changed and so was religion.

As Marx says “man created god in his own image”. True enough, but God is constantly being recreated. Religions believe they own the absolute truth but the absolute truth changes constantly, this called “discovering God’s word”.

So yesterday, God was definitely opposed to homosexuality, in the Catholic Church, he still remains its enemy, but I sense a weakening of resolve – no weakening in Islam however. The C of E God does now not quite approve wholeheartedly, but is not opposing any more. If there is only one God, someone has got it wrong. Maybe it is western society that is changing its general view of homosexuality? God is reluctantly plodding on behind.

The Zionist God however, is far more materialistic. Sexuality takes second place to God’s concerns about land distribution. God chose Palestine to be the home of the Jews – no argument. The wall, downright brutal oppression, murders, victimisation, imprisonments, destruction and settlements – God said this shall be 2000 years ago, so the Palestinians do not have argument or a defence – after all, who can argue with God?

In the eighties and nineties it was becoming more popular to say that all religions that exist are really aspects of one religion, that Christ, Allah, Buddha and so on are merely aspects of the same god. ‘We all find our own way to salvation.’ This belief is still one aspect of modern society – all societies today are enmeshed or entwined into a single ‘world economy’ and daily grow more dependent and more alike to each other.

The idea that Christ was the same as Allah was rejected in mediaeval times and nothing could appease the difference between western society and its expansion and eastern society also attempting to expand, the religious conflict, there, was equally as violent.

If we take Northern Ireland as an example. It was the only places in the world where there still existed Protestant/Catholic conflict. Is it the religious belief that caused the struggle? Is it convincing to think that the IRA was fighting so that the Pope could rule the whole of Ireland? Was it Paisley’s belief really that the North would be run by Catholicism? The religious ‘conflict’ such as it was only a vehicle for political conflict.

It may be said that religions have a lot in common, they do, and this is because societies have a lot in common. With very few exceptions, nearly all religions in the world today are based on one simple principle – domination and submission.

God (whichever one) is the Lord and dominates, we submit to him. This principle exists because every society existing (with one or two tiny exceptions) is built on the same principle of domination and submission.

There is a ruling class that dominates and other classes which submit. Each society is like this and inside each there is a ranking order – a hierarchy. You submit to those above you, you dominate those below you and most religions embody this principle.

What about the question, why are we here? This question sounds very deep, it’s the trump card of religious belief – without God we have no reason to be here and without God we have no purpose.

Translate the question into the every day world. Why do we make cars – a factory work might ask – the answer the people need them. The bosses know that, that is why they are bosses. In religious terms

You are here to do as you are told. God has a purpose but that is not for you to question, you serve his purpose by submission to his will, exactly as you serve your boss’s purpose by submission to his.

Religion, therefore, tries to tell us that we are here for a purpose but that purpose is a mystery – its in the head of God but by carrying out the laws and statutes of God we are fulfilling God’s purpose whether that purpose means famine, starvation, war disease, oppression on any scale he knows why it is done.

So Why Are We Here?

Religion also seeks to answer that question. Unlike the first question whose answer never changes and never will while one class of humans force others to submit to their will, this answer changes all the time as human society changes.

If we had lived 200 years ago and looked at the world around us the thing that would have struck us first would have been the beautiful planning of it all, the Hand of God appears everywhere. Everything would seem to fit so perfectly. Flowers attract bees, bees fertilise flowers. Every species perfectly fitted for its environment, every environment with its perfectly fitted plants and animals. The human body also, as God created it perfect in every respect, organs for seeing, noses for smelling, breathing, working reproduction,, and child rearing – a monumental piece of planning. Every thing perfect in every respect – except human society itself -, which was full of misery, starvation, oppression, disease.

Religion explained all that. God made and planned everything, every animal, every plant as it was on the day it was created. Then he created man to be ‘Lord of Creation’ over all the other things. As a model he used his own self. But he went and gave man and woman free will, so what did they do? Man wrecked (it through the agency of woman) by wanting to know too much, not minding their own business – sneaking a bite from the tree of knowledge.

Thus humans, though made in the image of God are rotten and sinful, God therefore introduced the miseries of life to test us. The job of human society is to submit and find perfection through the exercise of free will.

However, as society emerged out of feudal darkness, these explanations became inadequate. They did not suit the will of the new industrial ruling class who had shaken society up – wrench power from the old landlords of the aristocracy. If the old patriarchal society could plunge into oblivion, to be wiped out and replaced by a new one so could religious explanations as to society’s origins and purpose

Darwin explained – he was a product of this new society – that life is not perfect. The plants and animals are not as they were created and have been far from perfect. Indeed millions of species have died out because they were not perfectly adapted. Evolution meant that change is going on all the time. Creatures that are suited live and reproduce, creatures that are not die.

In the changing world, in a world of competition between species, those that are the ‘fittest” survive, the others die out. Darwin could only think like this because he lived in a world where society was changing and he lived in a world where competition both inside society and between societies was daily more bitter. Malthus, a political economist who reasoned that society was a bitter competition for resources and the excess number, opened his eyes to nature and the weakest would die. His views became to be accepted by society for the same reason.

The religious part of society had to adjust. The church had to accept that part of the Word of God, hitherto an absolute truth – the creation – is an ignorant human myth and not actually the word of God at all.

Yet they maintain that God ordained evolution without mentioning it in the scriptures. Despite this glaring error, the parts of the word referring to the magical resurrection of Christ are still ‘fact’, the ‘proof’.

Today, evolution as the source of absolute truth has mostly been incorporated into official religion. There are pockets of dogged “creationists” hanging on in there. The world is not now being ‘created’ perfect but is ‘evolving’ towards the Kingdom of God.

Today God has to be more of a scientist, he no longer creates things out of ‘dust’ as before but must be equipped with a complete knowledge of atomic physics. He’s a lot less embodied, no longer a sort of Father Christmas in the sky but a force spreading out to the galaxies. He must have set off the Big Bang (who else?). One wonders why such a God would be interested whether someone eats pork or not, or who lives in which tiny bit of the cosmos as opposed to another.