March 8, 2007

Faith, Reason and the Science of Marxism

BY Lil Joe


This polemical essay is against one named Merion Kessy, an anti-communist who has been red baiting me for some time by associating Marxism and the materialist conception of history, along with Marx's economic writings, with the Soviet Union on one hand, and with a "religion" on the other. There are of course thousands of anti-communists such as he is, who never actually made a single analysis of either "Marxism", the Soviet economy, materialism, or critiqued Marx's "Capital". They play on the ignorance of the masses in the United States, and the prejudices and fears derived from the so-called Cold War.

In the following I will respond to this Kessy character, not because there is anything intellectually outstanding in his regurgitation of anti-communist rhetoric and attacks on Marx and "Marxism", but because in his own play at cleverness he puts those attacks together in a way that summarize the propaganda in these attacks. This enables me to present, by contrast, what the Marxian materialist conception of history is and the tools of economic analysis as a science, in contrast to what he calls a "religion" and "faith" which he wants to put in opposition to "science" and reason.

Lil Joe

"I lumped "Marxism" or "communism" into the camp of "religion" in one sense: that is religion does not primarily need 'science' to establish its 'validity', religion needs ONLY faith: that's all, even if what we experience is completely at odds with what it says." Marion Kessy

Lil Joe Response: PART ONE


Readers who are both thinking people and "religious", know that the spiritual category of religions, whose sacred texts are ostensibly derived from supernatural agents, revelation, or spiritual enlightenment is not the same as sources of scientific economic analysis, which is of data, by human beings for human beings. There is nothing transcendental about analysis of commodity production, value, prices, wages and profits.

Moreover, the dichotomy of faith and reason in what Kessy calls "religion", is a false one. The early theologian, the African bishop Augustine didn't argue against reason, but that faith is the basis - "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." Also, Boethius wrote on Reason and examined the principles of universals and premises in Logic.

Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian and Malcolm X a Muslim, just as Kwame Nkrumah was a Christian and Seku Toure was a Muslim. That didn't prevent either of them from critical thinking engendered by their social encounters, praxis. Each of these men became "socialists" resulting from the praxis in social movements in which they participated.


What are today discarded as "religion", were engendered in ancient human communities that were the advanced sciences of their time and place, as were for instance the astrologers, the astronomers of their time and location.

Early astrologers were the first astronomers. They didn't have optical or radio telescopes, so were able to do their observations and analysis of those data observed only on the basis of human reasoning. This was even before the Organon by Aristotle proved the validity of objective logic separated from fantasy. This distinction is the separation of logic by its discipline (rules).

On the other hand, as we shall see below, Marx's method of investigating social and economic phenomena was empirical through and through, based upon a materialist philosophical foundation.

Take the economic analysis in the theory of surplus value. Being accumulated labor power alienated from the workers, that the purchase of labor power, the buying of which makes it the property of the capitalist, is the basis of capitalist profit has been demonstrated quantitatively by Marx in Capital.


Kessy raises the issue of science and prediction. In fact, Marx and Engels economic theory has been the basis for several empirical predictions derived from their discovery of the laws of motion of capitalism, that the mode of capitalist production and appropriation has inherent contradictory tendencies. There is a permanent quest, engendered by the self-expansion of capital, for the introduction of greater labor productivity.

This constant competition changes the productive forces. But the use of ever more productive machinery results in the displacement of workers into structural unemployment on the one hand, and a tendency of rates of profits to decline over time on the other. This calls for newer technology that is even more productive, resulting in more permanent lay-offs, and so on, resulting in periodic recessions and depression. These forecasts were demonstrated - is demonstrated - in empirical reality. This theory and it's prediction's validation has nothing to do with "faith".

Marion Kessy wrote:
All they want is to explain how beautiful their theory is! And that one day, one day, some `revolution' will come whereby the working class will experience a `sudden' rush of consciousness and cast the `yoke' of capitalism off their necks!! (Doesn't this sound like it the second coming of the `messiah'????) Some good parallels so pardon the symbolism.

Lil Joe Response:
Elegance, or "beauty", is present in the mathematics of a theory, whether in Natural Science e.g. physics for instance, Einstein formula "E=MC2", or in Social Science of Economics - as in Marx's explanation of capital accumulation in the formula "M-C...p...C-M'", which mathematically demonstrates that capital accumulation is derived from the exploitation of proletarians: the value of labor power is objectified labor present in the product, including surplus labor,unpaid labor, the result of surplus or unpaid labor time,surplus value, thus the degree of exploitation and rate of surplus value can be, and is, quantified.

Kessy's clap trap, mealy mouthed above, that "one day, one day, some 'revolution' will come whereby the working class will experience a 'sudden' rush of consciousness and cast the 'yoke' of capitalism off their necks!!" is a lying distortion of "Marxism". Neither Marx nor Engels nor I have ever wrote anything about 'revolution' coming 'some day', nor of the working class experiencing a 'sudden rush of consciousness'.

What Marx's theory of 'revolution' states is that there are material interests that cause revolutions, no matter what the ideology by which the revolutions are made. There was no such thing as what Kessy asserts in any revolution. He places revolution in quotes, as though he is attributing his stupid concept of revolution to something Marx, Engels or I have written.

Neither Marx, Engels nor I, have ever defined capitalism's relation to workers as a "yoke". Capitalism is an industrial mode of commodity production and appropriation within market structures, through which the bourgeoisie is the economically dominate class. The proletariat is the class of wage workers subjected to the economic domination of capitalists and subordinated by the power of the capitalist's representative State.

It is the inherent contradictions in capitalist commodity production and appropriation within this market that posits the proletariat a class of wage slaves. Members of the capitalist classes are enriched at the expense of exploited working classes - not just in industries, although this is the grounding of all of capitalist exploitation - but in the fields where wage labor displaced serfdom, slavery, sharecropping and so on.

Both in industry and agriculture, industrial capital and agribusiness are engaged in commodity production by wage workers. These relations of production engender class-consciousness in the class struggles between bourgeois and proletariat. Wage workers in offices and service industries and salaried professionals are also of the proletariat as a class.

Internal mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production and appropriation operate with contradictory tendencies; conflicts between the progressive tendencies of the productive forces continually collide with the mode of appropriation. Once inherent contradictory tendencies reach a stage where the progress of technology collides with the forms of appropriation that had characterized the mode of production, and there- fore relations of production are challenged, then the class which is the expression of the progressive tendency of the changing productive forces become's revolutionary.

As Marx stated his discovery in general terms:

"If you assume a given state of development of man's productive faculties, you will have a corresponding form of commerce and consumption. If you assume given stages of development in production, commerce or consumption, you will have a corresponding form of social constitution, a corresponding organization, whether of the family, of the estates or of the classes - in a word, a corresponding civil society. If you assume this or that civil society, you will have this or that political system, which is but the official expression of civil society."
"Man never renounces what he has gained, but this does not mean that he never renounces the form of society in which he has acquired certain productive forces. On the contrary. If he is not to be deprived of the results obtained or to forfeit the fruits of civilization, man is compelled to change all his traditional social forms as soon as the mode of commerce ceases to correspond to the productive forces acquired."
"At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure."

In contrast to any "rush of consciousness" or voluntarist determination, Marx actually wrote:

"What is society, irrespective of its form? The product of man's interaction upon man. Is man free to choose this or that form of society? By no means. ...Needless to say, man is not free to choose his productive forces - upon which his whole history is based - for every productive force is an acquired force, the product of previous activity. Thus the productive forces are the result of man's practical energy, but that energy is in turn circumscribed by the conditions in which man is placed by the productive forces already acquired, by the form of society which exists before him, which he does not create, which is the product of the preceding generation."

The historical example used by Marx to prove the scientific validity of the materialist conception of history was the English bourgeois democratic revolution:

"Here I use the word commerce in its widest sense" as we would say Verkehr in German. For instance, privilege, the institution of guilds and corporations, the regulatory system of the Middle Ages, were the only social relations that corresponded to the acquired productive forces and to the pre-existing social conditions from which those institutions had emerged. Protected by the cooperatives and regulatory system, capital had accumulated, maritime trade had expanded, colonies had been founded and man would have lost the very fruits of all this had he wished to preserve the forms under whose protection those fruits had ripened. And, indeed, two thunderclaps occurred, the revolutions of 1640 and of 1688. In England, all the earlier economic forms, the social relations corresponding to them, and the political system which was the official expression of the old civil society, were destroyed."

Lil Joe's response:PART TWO


"I lumped "Marxism" or "communism" into the camp of "religion" in one sense: that is religion does not primarily need 'science' to establish its 'validity', religion needs ONLY faith: that's all, even if what we experience is completely at odds with what it says." Marion Kessy


Although Marx and Engels were not able to build a time machine to go back in time to observe facts of past society as they occurred any more than astrophysicists can travel back in time and space to the origin of the universe, the materialist conception of history is based on the evidence of history itself.

Marx, however, did predict that the capitalist mode of production and appropriation would expand into the 3rd world and would reproduce itself in the colonies, creating a native bourgeoisie and proletariat, and that these workers would form trade unions and labor parties in their fights against capitalist exploitation. This "prediction" verified Marxian "theory" in the sense that Kessy insists upon.

More specifically, what the materialist conception of history in general led to in particular was Marx's empirical research in his specific analysis of the capitalist mode of production and appropriation where it was most fully developed, in Britain.

Marx's historical and empirical analysis of capitalism in Great Britain was of the industrial revolution: the internal workings of the laws of motion of capitalist commodity production by wage labor, the contradictions expressed in the M-C-M' that generate mass unemployment, cyclical overproduction and corresponding recessions, declining rates of profits and imperialist wars that will compel the proletariat to seize the productive forces from the private possession of the capitalist classes to thereby transform them into the public property of the working classes enabling democratic workers associations to manage social production and distribution doing away with commodity production and freeing labor from the wage form, as the productive forces shed the capitalist skin.

There is no "rush of consciousness". The proletariat, because it has no interest in the preservation of bourgeois wealth that derived from the exploitation of its class labor, is socially motivated to objectively examine the capitalist mode of production and appropriation. Praxis, the practical-critical activities of workers in economic and political battles with the capitalist class and state, engenders critical thinking evolves revolutionary theory as its critics do battle against the ideologists and apologists for this capitalistic mode of production and form of appropriation of labor and labor exploitation.

Thus, epistemological praxis is not some metaphysical "rush of consciousness" that move workers to revolution, any more than it is a "rush of consciousness" that move them to form trade unions and class parties. As workers suffer through the boom-bust cycles inherent in capitalist commodity production by wage labor and the insecurity of living from paycheck to paycheck, by critical analysis, with the help of Marx's "Capital", the workers produce revolutionaries who are able to recognize that the only permanent solution to these cycles and the removal of exploitation from the production equation, is by workers as an international class, in advanced industrial countries, to take those powers of social production from the capitalist class by cosmopolitan social revolutions.

Worker's class consciousness evolves directly from a critical analysis of the conditions under which they live, and Marx's "Capital" is no more the result of a "rush of consciousness" than an astronomer's analysis of the heavens, or physicist's analysis of sub-atomic particles. Kessy is confusing Marxian materialist epistemology with Buddhist conception of Enlightenment.

Kessy wrote:
(Doesn't this sound like it the second coming of the `messiah'????) Some good parallels so pardon the symbolism.

Lil Joe Response:
The "parallels" of social revolution with the second coming of the messiah is not valid, and is really nothing but a stupid straw man on Kessy's behalf. The Marxian analysis of material conditions and class struggle is that "the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working classes themselves". This is the exact opposite of the elimination of sin by the coming of Jesus as an individual, freeing the world from Satan's grip. No, his "symbolism" is not pardoned, but exposed as a straw man.

Marion Kessy wrote:
Theory, predictions, outcome. outcome period. It is the outcome that matters. Period. Cut out the middle fat. Show the beef.
But Lil Joe has provided a completely satisfactory answer. No outcome yet. He is waiting for the results of the experiment!

Lil Joe Response:
I have no need of impressing Kessy concerning the scientific validity of the materialist conception of history and the scientific methodology of Marxian economic analysis of the capitalist mode of production and appropriation, its labor theory of value and investigation of surplus value, of exploitation and declining rates of profits, the conflicts of material economic interests and class wars as political struggles to hold on to power (the capitalist classes and the state) and the rising class' struggle for power (proletarian revolution).

Were Kessy and his ilk to present data from society and the writings of Marx to prove their deprecatory accusations regarding e.g. the above mentioned components of Marxian economic analysis, and show where these analysis of data is religious rather than empirical analysis of economic data and social facts, they would be taken seriously. But they don't, and they are not taken serious.

I am addressing the working-class: therefore I will answer Kessy (and those Americans and Africans like him who denigrate Marx and Marxism) in such a way as to explain what science is and why Marxism is a scientific tool of social analysis.

All his jocularity and his clowning, Kessy's presentation of "Marxism" as a "religious faith" is an assertion that has no documentation: rhetoric based on demagogic assertions and not an empirical analysis or polemic. This ridicule of Marxism by bourgeois ideologist's masquerading as economists, originated with the capitalist apologist and anti-communist Joseph Schumpeter.

In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, Schumpeter wrote:

Chapter One:
Marx the Prophet

It was not by a slip that an analogy from the world of religion was I permitted to intrude into the title of this chapter. There is more than analogy. In one important sense, Marxism is a religion. To the believer it presents, first, a system of ultimate ends that embody the meaning of life and are absolute standards by which to judge events and actions; and, secondly, a guide to those ends which implies a plan of salvation and the indication of the evil from which mankind, or a chosen section of mankind, is to be saved. We may specify still further: Marxist socialism also belongs to that subgroup which promises paradise on this side of the grave. I believe that a formulation of these characteristics by an hierologist would give opportunities for classification and comment which might possibly lead much deeper into the sociological essence of Marxism than anything a mere economist can say.

Joseph Schumpeter was a paid professional anti-communist. He also was a liar.

There is nothing in the fundamental works of Marx and Engels that addresses the meaning of life, or its ultimate end; there certainly is no advocacy of absolute standards by which to judge events and actions by metaphysical principles.

Rather the opposite. The ontological epistemological mysticism of philosophy of life is out right rejected. Thus, in Thesis on Feuerbach Marx observed:

"The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking, in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question."

Subsequently in "The Critique of German Ideology", Marx wrote of the First Premises of Materialist Method:

"The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way."

Thus predicated, in "Capital", Marx wrote: "Relics of bygone instruments of labour possess the same importance for the investigation of extinct economic forms of society, as do fossil bones for the determination of extinct species of animals. It is not the articles made, but how they are made, and by what instruments, that enables us to distinguish different economic epochs." (Marx: Capital)

The scientific method introduced by Marx and Engels to the analysis of sociological phenomena, that is the materialist conception of history, and empirical analysis of existing technological social economy, has the same validity as the principle of geological time - "the present is the key to the past" - in Historical Geology in modern Earth Science, or the theory of genetic mutation, speciation and natural selection in the science of evolutionary biology.

Thus the principle of the materialist conception of history is stated by Marx and Engels in "The German Ideology":

"The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production."

A study of cultures.

Marx and Engels articulated the scientific foundation of cultural ecology; "The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organization of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. Of course, we cannot here go either into the actual physical nature of man, or into the natural conditions in which man finds himself; geological, hydrographical, climatic and so on. The writing of history must always set out from these natural bases and their modification in the course of history through the action of men."

This scientific foundation of cultural ecology was taken up in the work of Julian Steward. Steward defined cultural ecology in his 1955 book "The Theory of Culture Change" as "the study of the processes by which a society adapts to its environment." Like Marx and Engels, Steward pointed to technology as the means by which human communities adapt to their environments, thus economics, the social relations to this technology.
(See: )

Marx and Engels wrote in The [Critique of] German Ideology:

"Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. real, active men; as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms."

The best example of the scientific application of this materialist epistemology in the empirical study of a specific society, or element of ideas, customs and ritual in religion relative to production, in the sense of what Julian Steward described as "cultural ecology".

Marvin Harris, the founder of "Cultural Materialism" in his study of the original economic basis for the divining of the "sacred cow", in Hindu India. I refer the Readers to Marvin Harris' "India's Sacred Cow", the article from a Lecture that can be found at: CourseReadings/India's%20Sacred%20Cow.pdf

Harris shows the economical conditions in ancient India that favored the continued lives of cattle, both for agriculture and for milk products that caused them to be preserved even during droughts.

Harris examines the ancient Hindu texts and found there were no admonitions against the slaughter and eating of cows. But, as Harris pointed out in contemporary language, "The ox is the Indian peasant's tractor, thresher and family car combined; the cow is the factory that produces the ox."

This work confirms the Marxian materialist conception of history. The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production.

Given these materialist principles and insistence on empirical socio-economic scientific method in the works of Marx himself, it is a ridiculous assertion by Schumpeter that the Marxian materialist epistemology and empirical scientific method is some kind of metaphysical means or guide to those ends which implies a plan of salvation and the indication of the evil from which mankind, or a chosen section of mankind, is to be saved.

The eradication of the capitalist mode of production, and elimination of its market mode of appropriation will end the virus of capital accumulation from the labor process, but does not address religious issues of nirvana, sin or salvation. There is no spiritual solutions to the infection of private property on the human environment and psyche. These are material issues requiring material solutions: the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working classes themselves.

Lil Joe

LabourPartyPraxis discussion - subscribe