Avijit Roy debates with Setara Hashem

Is Marxism (Communism) Scientific?

By Avijit Roy

E-mail: avijit@mukto-mona.com   

In response to:


My intention was to engage in a debate with Ms. Hashem in a scholarly manner, not to respond a personal attack in any form. I read her last response which was targeted solely towards me, not my writing. Please check the word she used against me .."Capitalist", "known Islam basher" etc.

I never said that I am a capitalist, neither I supported US atrocities for which I was blamed. In fact, I was one of the lonely voices among this group who did not support US invasion in Iraq and recently raised the issue of prisoner abuse by US soldier in MM. Please also read my Bangla article for reference:


Setara Hashem called me 'Capitalist', 'Islam basher' etc. for no/irrelevant reasons. The topic under discussion was not Islam, hence "Islam bashing" is misplaced. Again, It is a common misleading tendency among some (from among both apologists and those who regard themselves freethinkers:-)) to polarize critical views etc as being influenced by propaganda of vested quarters opposed to their dogma or party. Hence we have seen in the past critics of communism being portrayed as capitalists, critics of Islam dismissed as agents of Jewis/Christian/Hindu fanatic groups, critics of AL party as being Jamatis, critics of BNP/Jamat as Awamee-Bakshalee, critics of BJP as "pseudo-secular" etc. This naive simplistic bipolar frame of mind is not becoming of a freethinker with a rational and independent judgment of things. Perhaps, Ms. Hashem got agitated because I claimed Marxism as unscientific.

There are a lot of reasons I raised in my article why I do think Marxism is unscientific. I pointed those in some of my previous posts. Whatever I write, I do not think I deserve any personal attack from her or anyone, for holding a different philosophy. It is really tough for me to continue a debate on such interesting topic if I am being attacked by name calling etc. If I am wrong, just show my flaws, that would be sufficient, I think. I would argue her (and others) to stick to the topic I raised. I was discussing about the atrocities made by communists, so pointing US atrocities in response does not invalidate my accusations. I am pretty aware of US atrocities, and I specified my position many times. Suppose America is bad, how you conclude that I am proven wrong in accusing communists? Your argument seems - "See he (US) lies, so I (communist) will also lie". This is not an intelligent response, by any means. You have to prove your position right, rather than pointing to others. Anyways, Let's go to our discussion on Marxism directly.

The essence of Marxist economics consists of showing that worker does not get a return in pay equal to the full 'value' which his labor contributes to the product, since part of the profit is retained by the capitalist. This had been pointed out by all the great economists. Marx's new point was to declare this retention of 'surplus value' illegitimate. The novelty was, therefore emotional (ethical) and social rather than economic/scientific.

Marx's made some conclusion which he (and later his followers) thought to be scientific. For example, in first volume of Das Kapital, he argues that since profit accrues solely from the surplus value extracted from labor, the rate of profit will depend upon the proportion of the labor to fixed capital in the form of machinery and will therefore tend to fall as technological improvements lead to the employment of proportionately less labor. This was plainly untrue even at that time, and Marx himself finally noted the difficulty but set in aside for later treatment, which he never gave it.

Again let's focus on the second 'law' Marx deduced. Marx concluded that the number of capitalists would contract, and as a country advanced economically under capitalism, it would increasingly polarize the into fewer and fewer capitalists and more and more proletarians. This too, fails completely as recognizable account of real evolution of the west and east Europe. It is obvious that Marx deduced his famous "law of increasing misery" emotionally (hypothetically), not scientifically - in which the more the capital invested and the greater the production the less will be the wages paid for labor. This has also proven to be false.

The idea of his so-called 'scientific' theory of social change is central to Marx's whole system. He thought Capitalism is bound to collapse, not because it was undesirable but because the 'iron laws' of economic development proved that it was already - over century ago - a brake on the productive forces, so that under it the economy would be unable to expand. But facts proved other wise despite Marx thought it right. And his basic failure has naturally involved those Shetara Hasems who still call themselves Marxists in a cycle of errors.

Ms. Shetara Hasem is claiming Marx's political theory as "scientific". However, even the 'official' versions of Marxism now held, it contradicts one another in important ways. There are Leninists, Maoists, Trotskyists etc. and every communist thinks he is the "true" Marxist, and his version of communism is scientific. I have met some members of Ultra Marxist Group (underground) in BD, and they do not even consider the members of CPB, NAP etc are communists at all. Like the "True Muslims/Jehadis" there are some "True Communists" who still hold the spirit of violent revolution and justify their killing, crucifying of class enemies, while other "moderate" communists disagree with this extreme approach. This is a peculiar circumstances, and we need to examine the sense, if any, in which the Marxist thought can really be regarded as being on a level of scientific theory proper.

Lets analyze Marxism in light of science, not 'scienticism'. A physicist would not call himself as a believer in "Newtonism" or "Enstienism". This is simply because Newton's law of gravitation or Einstein's general and special theory of relativity etc. are already a part of science. In so far as these theories held, almost every physicist is indeed bound to accept those, no need to call them a believer of specific "ism". Same goes to Biologists who accepts Darwinism as a theory as well as fact as long as they are all evolutionists. Any "ism" which is proven wrong has been rejected, so we know the fate of "Lamarckism". Now, calling Marxism is scientific, leads us to  bizarre extreme, because not all the leading Economists view it as scientific, not all prominent philosopher accepts this philosophy as scientific. I mentioned abut Bertrand Russell previously. In fact their are lot of other examples too. It can be scarcely maintained that Molotov and Aragon had deeper intelligences and stronger understandings of society and the universe than the great Western historians and philosophers who were their contemporaries. They were not Marxists. The inevitable answer is that they were temperamentally predisposed to accepting the teaching of Marx.

Again, leading Marxist and Communist leaders had mostly been of bourgeois origin. Marx here admits that their motivations are not those normally provided for by Marxism. But what is it that determines that some bourgeois intellectuals should become Marxists while others do not? Shetara Hasem might want to come with a scientific explanation, perhaps?

In fact, Marx's idea of a society which would ensure for everyone fair shares of the goods produced has not a "new" one, and had long been a unfulfilled dream in human insight. In some country, particularly Britain, has produced a large socialist party without much reference to special doctrine of Marx. Even, Dialectic Materialism, for which Marx will be remembered, is not his own creation. Ancient Greek Philosopher, Hiraclitas preached the same philosophy long time ago. Marx describes his system as arising from three sources - the philosophy of German Hegel, the economics of Richardo, ando other British economists, and the social theories of French Socialists like Saint-Simon.

Ms. Hashem sees only few atrocities in Stalin's regime and she thinks those killings are well-justified. This is entirely dogmatic. All Stalin's massacres and oppressions were justified, in her mind because she believes them necessary in the long run to produce 'good society'. Thus a ruthless man's conscience may be at peace while he commits abominable crimes. But simple answer is that future 'good society' is hypothetical, and killing and sufferings are real.

Hitler like many other dictator, spoke of himself as 'representing' the German people. In the same way, In Soviet Union, the communist Party and its leaders claimed to represent the working class, but there was no longer any freedom of election. At the Soviet elections only one candidate is presented. In fact the Russian Communist leaders did not represent the voters or the people except in the sense claimed to do so. To speak former Soviet Union as a Workers' state is not correct; it was in fact a Party leaders' state.

For the socialists, 'socialism' means control by society of state, which in turn controls the means of production. But control of the state by society can be real only if it is maintained by the freely - elected representatives of society. It is just a commonsense - however, communists use to dismiss the idea, even though claiming their dogma as "scientific".

Ms. Shetara Hashem should read the history of communism before calling the dogma 'scientific'. In fact, in many cases the communists, I can point out- were opposed to science or scientific skepticism. For Example, in former soviet Union, the Soviet Ministry of higher education made her doctrine of the spontaneous generation of cells from raw albumen and so forth official through out the country, even though Pasteur proved it wrong long time ago. In sixties we had a same sort of things - for example, 'Kachugin metod' of curing cancer, long supported by the president Leningrad leadership. But the worst and most damaging of course, Lysenkoite biology. From 1948 to 1964, the former Soviet Union suppressed all genetic research and caused damage to agriculture as well as to science. You know why? Because communists thought genetic theory was not in agreement with Marxist dogma.

In my view, attraction of Marxist views among his followers is not because it is scientific but for the belief that western capitalist society is either inherently evil, or at least incapable of satisfying human needs.

I will again request Ms. Hashem to refute me without being personal. I am always eager to welcome you for a friendly debate and discussion. But no personal attack and name-calling, please.


Avijit Roy
Sun May 16, 2004  3:33 pm

Setra Hashem Rebuts Avijit

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