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Buddhism and Marxism

Hi gang:

 Last week a question was raised RE Dalai Lama and Marxism.  Since this is the activist group I would like to respond because I lived in a socialist (communist) county during my early days.

I am not surprised about the Dalai Lama’s opinion about being a Marxist.  Marxism (or Marx-Engelism to be precise) was an economic and sociopolitical worldview a classless, stateless system back in the 19th century based on common ownership and freedom for individuals to develop their own capacities and talents.  It doesn’t sound bad, right?  Right.  It was really pure, and that was the where the Leninist model of socialist development of the working class (proletariat) came from.  Lenin was the one who learned from Marx and Engels and started the  Russian Revolution in 1917. 

We need to remember that the Marxist-Leninists sought to work towards the workers' utopia in Marxist ideology by first creating a socialist state, which historically had almost always been a single-party dictatorship.   And that single (communist) party dictatorship created so called Stalinism.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is where so called “bad communism” starts.  It has very little to with Karl Marx, it is what Stalin took and turned it completely around.   That was the time when the true communist dictatorship began in 1920a in the former Soviet Union.  That brought in charge a dictatorship of the proletariat which would bring upon them socialism, the lower phase of communism.  

Originally Karl Marx' idea was that after this, the party would essentially dissolve as the entire proletariat was elevated to the level of revolutionaries.  WRONG.  That never happened because the dictatorship of the proletariat referred to the absolute power of the working class, and it governed everything (greed).

Fortunately there was somebody called  Leon Trotsky in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.  Trotskyism was the theory of Marxism as advocated by him, and Trotsky considered himself a Bolshevik-Leninist, arguing for the establishment of a vanguard party. He truly considered himself an advocate of orthodox Marxism.  As we know it today, his politics differed sharply from those of Stalin or Mao, most importantly in declaring the need for an international "permanent revolution".  Well, he couldn’t last too long in the Stalinist Soviet Union and was later assassinated outside the Soviet Union.

This is just a short lesson on “Marxism” and Dalai Lama.  Today, we see democratic socialists around the world attempt to work towards an ideal state by social reform and are often little different from social democrats, with the democratic socialists having a more leftist stance.  As of 2011, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, Cuba, and the People's Republic of China had governments in power which describe themselves as socialist in the Marxist sense.  Isn’t that interesting?  Wow, China and a Marxist state?  I wonder what Karl Marx would have said about it.

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Comments

Marx-Engels_and_enlightened_ Buddhism

Hi Lisa:
I am originally from Czechoslovakia, the country that split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 since the country of 15 mil. people could not live together!! Czechoslovakia was formerly a socialist state (lower communist state) with the dictatorship of proletariat from 1948 till 1989. Luckily, I escaped from that socio-economic system in 1982, which gave me the opportunity to see the both sides of the coin.
You are so right about the “dictatorship of proletariat” since that was exactly what it was. The dictatorship of ONE ruling (communist) party in the name of Marx-Leninism. Such a crap. The Stalinist regime in the years till 1989 prevail.
Lisa, you are again right about Marx and Engels about the classless society. Is we look at it today, it sound like an Utopia, which it is. I would go even further. Shambhala Buddhism & Marxism!! Can we try to imagine these two together? They have lots in common. Pure communism is a classless society as well as Shambhala society of enlightened beings. Are we saying that an enlightened society is a communist society as described by Karl Marx? What an interesting and challenging idea? It is perhaps possible on a socio-economic level but certainly not on a religious level. Can we talk about emptiness and pure being in a communist society?
Lee

Shambhala Buddhism, Enlightened Society and Socialism

 

Hi, Lee--

For some reason, I only saw your response now, but would love discuss Shambhala Buddhism, “enlightened society” and Marxism. While sympathetic to Marx, Engels and the vision of a classless society, I don't know if I can call myself a “Marxist” in the absence of a viable international Marxist movement. Nonetheless, what positive change has happened without utopian dreams that seemed unrealistic at the time? (The Quakers imagined an end to slavery at a time when much of the world was split between slaveowners and slaves.) 

One of the things I find moving about Marx and Engels is that they lived through the transition from an agricultural to an industrial world and saw with great clarity how industrial capitalism was endlessly uprooting people from their farms and villages and plugging them into a new transnational global system, where they were working 24/7 in factories, making clothes for people who they'd never meet, and interconnected with strangers around the globe. Check out how they described the world as they saw it in 1848: uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois [industrial capitalist] epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

When the Dalai Lama traveled from agrarian Tibet to Beijing in the 1950s and studied Marx and Engels, he no doubt came across such brilliant descriptions of impermanence and compared them to his own understanding of emptiness. Today, Tibetan Buddhism is in a situation that's somewhat comparable to Marx and Engels in the 1840s—transitioning from the agrarian to the industrialized world.

A question that intrigues me is whether any kind of classless or socialist society is possible as long as the rest of the world remains capitalist. There are so many “pockets” of socialism within global capitalism—from itty-bitty coops to utopian intentional communities to the big examples of one-state socialism. But it often seems as if the coop or state as a whole has to act as a “big, bad capitalist” in order to survive in the dog-eat-dog capitalist world. This is partly why the USSR became such a totalitarian mess: in order to compete with all the capitalist nations, the state had to become a capitalist and force all the people to be the workers doing backbreaking proletarian labor—so the exploitative capitalist-worker dynamic survived, rather than being overcome.

Lisa Montanarelli

Shambhala Buddhism, Enlightened Society, and Socialism

Hi, Lee--

For some reason, I only saw your response now, but would love discuss Shambhala Buddhism, “enlightened society” and Marxism. While sympathetic to Marx, Engels and the vision of a classless society, I don't know if I can call myself a “Marxist” in the absence of a viable international Marxist movement. Nonetheless, what positive change has happened without utopian dreams that seemed unrealistic at the time? (The Quakers imagined an end to slavery at a time when much of the world was split between slaveowners and slaves.) 

One of the things I find moving about Marx and Engels is that they lived through the transition from an agricultural to an industrial world and saw with great clarity how industrial capitalism was endlessly uprooting people from their farms and villages and plugging them into a new transnational global system, where they were working 24/7 in factories, making clothes for people who they'd never meet, and interconnected with strangers around the globe. Check out how they described the world as they saw it in 1848: uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois [industrial capitalist] epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

When the Dalai Lama traveled from agrarian Tibet to Beijing in the 1950s and studied Marx and Engels, he no doubt came across such brilliant descriptions of impermanence and compared them to his own understanding of emptiness. Today, Tibetan Buddhism is in a situation that's somewhat comparable to Marx and Engels in the 1840s—transitioning from the agrarian to the industrialized world.

A question that intrigues me is whether any kind of classless or socialist society is possible as long as the rest of the world remains capitalist. There are so many “pockets” of socialism within global capitalism—from itty-bitty coops to utopian intentional communities to the big examples of one-state socialism. But it often seems as if the coop or state as a whole has to act as a “big, bad capitalist” in order to survive in the dog-eat-dog capitalist world. This is partly why the USSR became such a totalitarian mess: in order to compete with all the capitalist nations, the state had to become a capitalist and force all the people to be the workers doing backbreaking proletarian labor—so the exploitative capitalist-worker dynamic survived, rather than being overcome.

Lisa Montanarelli

Half measures and cover ups...fetishes...

From the perspective of someone who worked on Wall St and saw the belly of the beast from inside and pretty high up, I really think that the capitalists loved Marx when they got wind of him.

First of all, the history is clear that Rockefeller funded Trotsky and so did the Schiff family fund the Bolsheviks in their efforts with Britain to topple the Romanovs and get their hands on a crumbled empire's gold and minerals. All you need is an extremist ideology to pump into the minds of the people so they splinter off from the Center as their Middle Class fortunes fade away in economic melt down. This scenario happens time and time again in history, mostly from the Right-wing not the Left, but anyway, power must use either extremist end against the Center. This is the expression "both sides against the middle". It is what is used to break down the Middle Class and seize power, and that is what happened in 1917.

It worked very well when Stalin was in charge of the economy in the 1920s and brought the Harrimans and Kochs over to do mining and oil business! They got their access to Romanov minerals and oil, and took them out of the global geopolitical game once and for all for Pax Brittannia (not) once and for all! But, like Noriega, Saddam, Qaddafy or any other dictator propped up stealthily by our Banking Family Offices in this furtive way, he went off the reservation and seized power in his Coup against Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist idealism.

What is so beautiful about Marxism is it takes the eyes off banking and fractional-reserve money expansion contraction as the root cause of all social ills, and instead focuses on the Middle Class "Bourgeoisie", and pits the Proles against others who will be just like them one day once the Bubble Bursts one too many times! It is Beautiful Fetish to borrow a concept or ayatana from Marxism itself. Delusion and Hatred are important devices for Bankers and their Family Offices to use. Might as well hate the "bourgeoisie" and anyone who actually may have an inside on how all this really works once they wake up from their delusion!

Marxism also gives nice ruse to avoid having any other competing economic theories that do address money systems or wealth concentration come into the forefront of our awareness. Today, all we hear about is the age old Right vs Left thing, while complexity economics, wild law, natural economics, get kept out of sight and out of mind as if new knowledge about economics stopped with the Cold War!

It seems only Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammad fingered this Money System and the causes and conditions it creates as the root cause of suffering. Buddhism will have to catch up to learn more about these root causes and the conditions they create. Maybe this World Crisis precipitated during our Watch in 2008 will be the thing that does that? We are promised that "we will see things as they really are"...Perhaps "finally see things as they really are?"

GREED!

Perhaps the greatest thing that Capitalism and Marxism have in common is that they both suck when those in power get greedy.

Marx, the Paris Commune, and the Dalai Lama's Marxism

Thanks for posting this, Lee! What country are you from?

As you suggest, Marx and Engels would have been horrified by Stalinism, Maoism, and the various totalitarian states that have arisen in their names. Though Marx used the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat," in the 19th century, the word "dictatorship" was not opposed to democracy or synonymous with totalitarianism. It largely referred to a provisional crisis-management government -- sometimes by a popularly elected body.

For Marx and Engels, the ultimate goal was a classless society, including the abolition of the proletariat, as well as the bourgeoisie, and the end of proletarian wage labor. Toward this end, the workers would seize the means of production and perhaps establish a provisional workers' state.

The model for such a workers' state was the short-lived Paris Commune. In 1871, French workers seized Paris and established a number of democratic institutions. In The Civil War in France, Marx devotes pages to how the Paris Commune represents an extraordinary advance in democracy. This essay has always troubled those who would paint Marx as pro-totalitarianism. Stalinist-style dictatorship and the notions of purging dissenters and forcing everyone to do proletarian (industrial) labor were quite foreign to Marx.

Lisa Montanarelli

A few links on the Dalai Lama's Marxism:
http://hhdl.dharmakara.net/hhdlquotes1.html#marxism
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/jun/20/dalai-lama-ma...
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2053819,00.html

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