Here at Blue Revolution, we argue that all ideas including religious ones are shaped by economic reality rather than being plucked from the air by prophets or soothsayers. Look at any society at any time in history and there will be patterns and rituals linked to the ‘economic circumstances’ of that society be it a tribal, feudal or a capitalist society. These economic circumstances are formed either by levels of scientific ignorance or scientific discovery and how this influences the way economic value or wealth is created as well as who gets to control that wealth. Essentially all this forms a prevailing ‘ideology’ a belief system if you like, with numerous ideological ‘pretenders’ to challenge it, some more or less credible than others. Socialism has been a challenger to capitalism just as Christianity tried to challenge the world of the first century in the Middle East.
Much is made by Christians of the role of Christianity in creating capitalism. This seems at odds with our ‘economic determinism’ as Christianity should be a product of economic circumstances not the originator of them. The Christian message was certainly unusual in the first century but it was utopian and in no sense capable of replacing either the barbarism of the warring tribes from Abraham in the Old Testament to Muhammad and jihad in the seventh century nor the feudalism stirring into life during the same period. Christianity, however, could not have happened had there not been an increase in available wealth to be distributed fairly as described by Christ, or unfairly as happened under feudalism. Christianity was a post-tribal ideology like feudalism but one so passive as to be overwhelmed by barbarism when barbarism resurfaced with Muhammad and jihad in the seventh century.
The problem for Christianity was that wealth and the desire to gain control of it created an aggressive patriarchal feudal system. The parable of the loaves and fishes and Christ’s invocation to “render unto Caesar that which is Caesars, render unto God that which is God’s” was not a credible economic ideology given feudalisms economic impulse to control from the top. But along with ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ Christianity did create an ideology of peace that allowed stability within a warring and fractious region, consolidating feudalism. This Christian inspired passivity allowed for the separation of religion from the economy and State. Which in turn led to prosperity. This prosperity only lasted for about seven hundred years though. It ended with the advance of Islam.
Within seven hundred years Islam would by force of arms take the Middle East from relative stability to wars based on banditry, domination and forced conversion to Islam in the name of Allah and all at the point of the sword; jihad. Being an ideology of warfare and enforced submission, Islam’s glorious age only came with its conquest of feudal dominions in the Middle East, all pretty much concluded by the middle ages. This ideology of war and conquest secured the Middle East for the Muslim world and rendered the Jews and Christians second-class citizens in what had once been their prosperous homelands.
Sensing the extinction of Christendom in the late 11th Century Pope Urban sanctioned the Crusades. The Crusades, therefore, were not offensive wars they were defensive wars, an attempt to protect feudal Christendom which had surrendered to Islam’s ideology of warfare and banditry. The crusades failed spectacularly to protect Christendom from Islam.
The early economic success of a Christian Middle East fuelled Islamic expansionism. Islam would not have gained any headway had not the economic strength in the region stimulated the Arab tribes to unite under one leader worshipping one God and embark on an ideologically driven programme very much at odds with what had become the relative stability of early feudal ‘Christendom’.
So, putting Christianity, the crusades and Islam in an economic context, one needs to see religion as no more than ideology driven by economics with, in the case of Islam, a ‘God’ sanctifying greed and brutality. Whether an ideology takes off as Islam was able to do and Christianity largely failed to do in the Middle East between the seventh and nineteenth centuries, depends upon whether it reflects the economic needs that relate to that time. Christianity being a passive faith derided by Adolf Hitler for its weakness, allowed feudalism to evolve but likewise was powerless to stop Islamic expansionism.
Having secured various successful feudal kingdoms and dominions Islam’s doctrinal obsessions saw the end of progressive social and economic evolution in the Middle East. Indeed, such is the capricious notion of the Islamic God that everything ‘evolutionary’ or progressive is a blasphemy, essentially stopping economic development in its tracks. Islam having appropriated feudalism continues to operate this socio-economic model today having nowhere in the world progressed anywhere near democracy. Feudalism in the twenty-first century is politically about as advanced as Islam can become, given its doctrinal demand for control, compulsion and submission. This can be seen in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
With Christianity routed in the Middle East, it fared better in Europe where arguably the climate didn’t suit the Islamic warriors and there was little in the way of booty after the retreat of the Romans. Continuing with its ideology of ‘turn the other cheek’ Christianity contributed to the economic success of the western world because, just as it yielded to early feudalism, it was flexible enough to ‘turn the other cheek’ when the juggernaut of scientific discovery and rationality (the Enlightenment) fired up capitalisms engines in the 17th century. By being benign and allowing the economy and State to evolve independently of faith, it allowed progressive social and economic development
Christianity, therefore, facilitated economic and social progress, unlike Islam it didn’t stop it in its tracks and whilst always two steps behind capitalism (as we would expect as economic determinists) in terms of driving equality, Christianity allowed capitalism to deliver the economic rights to contract, choose and consent that emerged from the Protestant work ethic and become mass industrialisation and then in the twentieth century ‘social justice’. Capitalism has in the subsequent three centuries liberated people within all the nations of the free world. Whilst Christianity has all but faded away. However, just like Christianity in the first century, capitalism is now weak and complacent and has out of cultural ignorance, given the green light to Islamic expansionism. Where this will lead us ‘god’ only knows.
Karl Marx as anyone who reads our posts will know was an economic determinist. Even now this is an ‘unfashionable’ theory as it places all ‘ideas’ as the outcome of economic circumstances, including religious and political ideas. Thus, the demands of religion or politics are simply a reflection of how economic value is created and who controls it and disposes of it. Every phase in history to date has been a struggle between those who have amassed economic value (the powerful) and those who created it for them (the poor).
Until the seventeenth century, most people were in bondage of one form or another, the birth of capitalism in the eighteenth century took away the overt bonds between the powerful and poor and replaced them with contract, choice and consent. Little changed but in theory at least people were ‘free’. With the end of the feudal system, hard work, luck and a talent for enterprise could turn anyone into a capitalist, even those who had previously been bound to others.
The world of the eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was characterised by ‘free’ people winning and losing economically. This economic paradox is what intrigued Karl Marx. Capitalism was a system that was in all senses ‘just’ but was clearly unfair. It was ‘just’ because it was based on Contract, Choice and Consent unlike the values of the feudal system, control, compulsion and coercion but….it was unfair because the elite, the capitalists, made the system work for their benefit. The composition of the capitalist class, unlike that of the aristocracy, changed as economic fortunes changed, but the system was politically robust enough to survive whoever was rich or poor. To preserve itself capitalism created institutions to support it. Political parties, parliaments, Laws and Local Authorities, an established religion and more recently ‘state broadcasters’ all combined to preserve the status quo. After the Second World War two socialist governments of both Labour and the Conservatives sought to extend the rights of contract, choice and consent to as many workers as possible as well as redistribute the economic value more evenly via tax and welfare regimes.
Well, that story takes us to about 1960. After about 1960 capitalism went into one of its frequent periods of collapse. Capitalism collapses all the time and according to Karl Marx would finally leave a legacy of workers who could both recognise and utilise the principles of contract, choice and consent but within an economic system that was under the control of the workers and not the capitalists. The surplus value that made the capitalists rich would be distributed fairly amongst the working people who created it. The end of unfairness would arise because the people would have economic equality which would generate social equality and a fair income for all. Equality between all people, men, women, and people with a variety of different lifestyles would prevail as there would be no basis for discrimination as everyone’s talents would be needed within an economy of mutual interdependence. We are a long way from this model happening but some of the principles have merit, particularly if applied to the public sector.
All models of the economic and social organisation must arise from the base, from the working people who, recognising their equal status as workers only seek to take out of the collective pot an amount that reflects their contribution to the pot with some account taken of their unique needs (having children for example). The mechanism for this is of course contract, choice and consent. A process that both reflects and reinforces equality at every social and economic level; between politicians and people and between the people themselves.
The ‘State’ would shrink back and become merely a way of enforcing equality within the Nation and upholding Contract, Choice and Consent. A legal system would be needed not representing ‘capital’ but the sometimes conflicting needs of people within a contractarian society. This would take eighteenth and nineteenth-century capitalist principle into the twenty-first century. But something is preventing that happening.
The answer to why t hasn’t happened is complex. The ‘capitalist’ system was designed to protect ‘capital’ amassed by the rich, capital created by the worker. Today we have the ghost of a capitalist system that has collapsed but leaving behind its complex eighteenth-century formal power relationships. So, the good news for the worker is that we have contract, choice and consent welfare and health care. The bad news is the system still requires unequally distributed wealth to function and this is now created by the banking system and the State at large via National Debt and we the working people are paying for an army of rich public servants and a financial and political elite with personal and National Debt.
Because the nature of the problem is complex the problem we have in changing this situation is also complex. As working people, we still don’t see ourselves as a mass movement sharing the same values, so we idly identify ourselves with political parties of all stripes that are hostile to our instinctive dislike of the debt-financed political and economic elite. In this sense, the confused socialist and Green party along with the Lib Dems stand for a continuation of the top-down relationship between State and People even though ‘capitalism’ as an economic system requiring a command and control relationships to protect ‘capital’ no longer exists. It’s an oddity that socialism is in Marxist terms still a top-down, command and control ideology, that seeks to reinforce the power of the State and is, in Marxist terms, therefore ‘counter-revolutionary. In that sense Blair, Corbyn and Clinton are all the same. Counter-revolutionaries and the people instinctively know it.
So, into this ideological muddle comes the principles of A Blue Revolution. A worker’s revolution that seeks to take the values of our society, contract, choice and consent and use them to form a State that is flatter, cheaper, economically more equal and significantly more democratic and ecologically less harmful.
This model won’t be delivered by a socialist type party. Socialism is paternalistic and relies on a powerful State just like top-down religion requires a powerful God to deliver ‘justice’. Socialism is no help to the future, indeed with its top-down obsessions, it is getting in the way of progress.
So it leaves either an upsurge in support for A Blue Revolution, which is unlikely in the next two decades or an enlightened Conservative Party to do the Nations bidding and restructure our State along the lines sketched out above. The detail will be more complex but broadly the public sector must be reconfigured so public services like health and police etc are not delivered using industrial top-down hierarchical models with huge wages at the top, which are unreflective of the actual effort put in. We need to develop what we describe as social models to deliver public services.
Similarly, the State needs to withdraw from all areas of moral behaviour aside from protecting the vulnerable and allow all adults to ‘contract’ as responsible people. We can no longer afford to subsidize ‘lifestyle’ issues and that must include having children. If people want to have children, they should contract with each other and not simply default to the ‘State’ to pay for them. There is no ‘capitalist’ paying taxes for our welfare, we are all paying for it with our debt. Marriage should be a proper contract and the state should simply ensure a contract exists if people have children, just as it does for a property.
Finally, our political system is binary to reflect the eighteenth-century obsession with land and capital. Binary systems are prone to failure in the modern world as the two sides coalesce around ‘ideological’ positions and the people get ignored. This has happened too many times to recount but the EU is the most striking example of political failure. We need to change the political system so that people get in who are able and willing to think rather than obey party diktat. If we got rid of parties or rather they got rid of themselves and we had a larger number of politically minded people involved in running our nation we would not need to reform the electoral system. We only need to do that because we have political parties operating within a binary parliament.
The revolution may come eventually, but we hope before the debt-dependent free market collapses or the top down cultural Marxists inflict either totalitarianism on the workers or even worse religion takes hold. No one really knows what they the elite are up to. But everything they have done over the last forty years fails the sniff test.
Islam is unashamedly seventh century as a faith and political ideology. Very simply its values go back to the days of tribal agrarianism and have a doctrine of ‘no change’ dictated from God to Muhammad by the Archangel Gabriel. Individual Muslims may change but the faith upon which they depend does not. It won’t reform, it can’t reform!
Islam is, therefore, pre ‘rights’ which only came along as a realistic expectation for some men in the 18th century with the freedom to contract, make choices and consent, requirements of the emerging capitalist system. Back then, these rights were really only available to ‘capitalists’ who were also known as ‘the bourgeois’. Most people back then didn’t count, they were ‘workers’ but in theory, they had the same rights as the capitalist.
Islam being of the seventh century makes no reference to peoples rights but instead has control, compulsion and submission at its core. These are values totally at odds with what we have come to expect today. That is not surprising, however, ‘hand to mouth’ tribal societies that relied on brutality and ‘booty’ both human and economic, such as the one Muhammad came from would all have been exactly the same. Muhammad simply turned seventh-century economic necessity into an ideology or ‘faith’ and it’s been exported around the world ever since!
So why do the political “hard Left’ support Islam with its pre rights values, its control and submission ideology? It seems odd to us that within the ranks of Antifa’s and other so-called progressive ‘Leftwing’ groups’ people rail against those who, far from being ‘Islamophobic’ or racist, are simply trying to stand up for modern ‘western values’. Basically standing up for the right of all men and women to contract, make personal choices and consent as this is the legacy of our capitalist past. Upon these values, we have built freedom and democracy.
So the explanation. As with all dumbing down, it seems as though the ‘Left’ don’t really understand the principles of Left-wing philosophy described by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and therefore don’t recognise that by supporting Islam and destroying ‘capitalism’ in the way they advocate, they are falling into the trap of promoting regressive ideas. They see ‘capitalism’ simply as a bad system to be overthrown wholesale rather than one where the values should be preserved and extended to working people, whilst change occurs at an institutional level.
Islamic radicals see in the hard ‘Left’ people who like them, violently hate capitalism and also seem to hate Western values too. Maybe yes or maybe no!
Are there ‘Left-wingers’ and Antifa’s who know what they are doing and have misogyny driving their indifference to women and girls rights when they support Islam? There may well be some but the reality for us is the modern Uk and the US ‘Left-wing’ doesn’t understand that overthrowing ‘capitalism’ should not involve overthrowing capitalism’s values but only changing capitalisms unfair ‘bourgeois’ institutions. Institutions like it’s binary Parliaments, Local Authorities, State broadcasters, and established religion plus the unrepresentative bourgeois Political Parties.
By being cavalier with capitalisms values the left is at risk of throwing our ‘rights’ baby out with their anti-capitalist bathwater. Should we be concerned? Well yes because more out of ignorance than intent, the ‘Left’ is ushering modern civilisation out the door whilst the seventh-century climb in via the window.
We are as ordinary people often given religious advice by many theologians of ‘faith’. Often the advice is anodyne, be nice to each other that kind of thing and sometimes it might be a little less nice, kill the non-believer for example. These theologians will, of course, argue their faith is the true faith and that you should follow them. What of course they won’t tell you is that faith is the product of economic circumstances. They won’t say that because they don’t believe it. Religion comes from heaven and not the earth upon which we walk they will say.
That may be a hard concept to grasp at first. Well, let us explain it like this. Imagine a world where you had to steal from other groups just to survive. You would be imagining a world that hasn’t really existed for at least 2000 years but has existed in the past. You have just imagined the ‘economic circumstances’ and pretty rotten they are too! Such a world would kill with little mercy. You don’t want many male prisoners but some women and girls would help to build your tribal strength. You would have no concept of rights. It would simply be to kill or be killed, submit and obey. ‘Ownership’ would be by possession. The man, and of course back then warriors were only men, would acquire ownership without a “contract” they took what they wanted and that as we have said included people, so no “rights” either. To our way of seeing things, this is scary stuff. Sparta in Greece was like this in antiquity and other places were too. It was a common phenomenon for early humanity and it was called by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels ‘Barbarism’. It is easy to see why.
Having established the economic circumstances, we have will have behaviours that reflect those economic circumstances, such as killing, stealing and owning by violence, punishing with cruelty. To make sure this system worked one would need some ‘morality’. A morality that reflected the harsh material circumstances and justified the brutal behaviour. It would serve two functions it would unite people and also ensure that stealing and fighting were accepted as a way of life under strict conditions. You could not steal from each other for example.
There is a line in the film ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ where they take farmed fish and put them is a tank of water. The water is still and the fish swim everywhere. However, once the water flows the fish swim against the current and once character remarks “ah it is in their nature”. The theologians of faith would like us to believe that their expectations of us are “in our nature” so that we submit to their teaching. Often, they will talk about issues to do with sex and gender, so it looks like things might be ‘in our nature’. But we are not farmed salmon. We, economic determinists, say there is no ‘human nature’ just the beliefs and values that relate to the economics of various periods in history, promoted as still relevant today in the form of religion. You may have ‘spirituality’ but religion is a way of shaping that spirituality to the advantage of an ancient or in the case of modern ‘bourgeois’ Christianity more recent economic elite.
Today we have morality and laws derived from the values of capitalism to thank for our way of life, bourgeois morality as Karl Marx called it. It is the most modern morality, but even it is it is becoming out of date as our economies in the West take a turn for the worse. With capitalist morality came contract, choice and consent, which in turn gave us our freedom and an 18th-century democracy. It took a while to throw off older pre-capitalist values like gender, faith or racial inequality, but in the end, we did and now our rights reflect our ‘economic’ circumstances, the capitalist inspired free market.
So, we can stop worrying then? Well yes and no. The free market like the capitalist system itself needs real value derived from hard productive work to survive but now it is on the life support machine of debt. Our modern ‘bourgeois’ bankers, elite politicians in US or EU etc can see that our ‘economic circumstances’ are weakening by the decade, so they will want to maintain their power whilst controlling us in an impoverished economic situation. A State managed debt dependent ‘free market’ will have to have a new morality and at its core won’t be contract, choice and consent, we will have to behave or else. There are signs this is starting to happen now, and there are religions that can see an opening for a new kind of oppression, handy when our Nation has been bankrupted by our State elites and people are angry. Unless we use our hard-won capitalist values wisely we will undermine the case for them and someone will come along and challenge their legitimacy. Then we will all be in trouble…a sort of pre-seventeenth century trouble too…..nasty.
Next weeks second (and final) post in this series will look at how we as individuals can use contract, choice and consent in a way that ensures their survival and preserves our freedom. And yes it is determined economically and in a collapsing western economy.
Westworld is the name we have given to the nations of the Western world. The UK, Canada, and the US plus of course the European Union. Westworld has subsidiaries in South America and the Middle East.
It doesn’t seem a day goes by without more and more evidence of a crisis in Westworld. We know the symptoms: mass immigration, failure to integrate by large groups of people from places like North Africa, economic stagnation remedied by debt and an apparent disdain by our ‘Elite’ for the values of the Enlightenment, reflected in the apparent promotion of values hostile to ordinary worker’s freedom of speech. Enlightenment values of freedom and rationality underpin the principles of capitalism: namely contract, choice and consent and with them came our precious, albeit limited democracy.
So, what has gone wrong? Is it class warfare? is it a conspiracy by the Elite to control working people? Is it global backhanders from Saudi princes? is it naive top-down Cultural Marxism gone mad? Is it an exhausted liberalism and welfarism that has simply given up in the face of a moral onslaught from some individuals from the Islamic world and particularly North Africa and the Middle East? Is it the birth of a new global economic model?
Or is it a bit of all of them?
Welfare hasn’t really helped the West, but it may be unavoidable in a world of declining economic strength. There is no doubt that the social reform agenda that has been delivered since the end of World War two it has been a mixed blessing. Policies, like liberating the gay community a social and economic good, reducing hatred and fear within our communities and bringing the gay community foursquare into huge areas of economic productivity, has proven popular and progressive. Abortion became a necessary evil, it prevented misery for women and along with the contraceptive pill liberated them from a life with limited choices. Limited choices for women are once again being promoted by some within some incumbent faith communities using religious text as a justification.
Liberalising the Divorce Laws was again necessary, preventing a lot of misery for adults whilst an unintended consequence has been passing misery and depression onto many children. The economic aim was perhaps to maintain parents in the workplace and increase overall consumption (two TV’s as opposed to one!), whilst unintentionally rendering too many young people damaged by early adulthood and therefore economically inactive; the consequence of a “messy” divorce. It isn’t divorce, that is the problem, of course, it is the ease by which adults feel able to have children who then get embroiled in the emotional horror of the divorce itself. That is perhaps down to welfare again. It may also link to the economic uncertainties being created by the exhausted capitalist system as it rolls back to the West displacing whole nations from the value-creating juggernaut of capitalism or simply leaving people behind at home.
These are three big-ticket ‘social’ reforms of the post-war era. However, the impact has been different in respect of each. The latter two have left an unintended and expensive legacy both socially and economically. But we are where we are here in Westworld and no one would want to reverse the social progress achieved so far.
With capitalism only thriving in the Far East and China both active on the economic world stage, Westworld has been left with a legacy of unachievable moral and social expectations, declining economies and debt. With a white-faced Anglo-Saxon elite realising that the world that made them rich or powerful or both is in a state of permanent decline, they are forced to look around for a fashionable theory or policy to revitalise that which made them who they are. Now it all seems to have failed they consolidate their privileged position and then give up trying to advance ours, in fact, they make matters worse for working people by trying to place the guilt for the consequences of their failure on us in the form of ‘white privilege’.
The Elites incompetence has come close to killing the economic goose that once laid capitalism’s golden egg. But the goose isn’t dead because the Westworld working people are becoming an economically literate and motivated radical force driven by anger and constrained only by the old-world order of financial and social privilege. This hegemonic system will have to be burst asunder before the workers of the West can be liberated from the oppressive control of our Elites.
If our Elite continues to oversee the world’s economic affairs the Western economies are doomed. Hiding behind the protectionism of Trump’s ‘America first’, or the EU Customs Union the Western world is heading towards economic stagnation. As a result, our culture is at risk of being overwhelmed in places by the ancient simplicities of Nationalism or resurgent Islam offering solutions to Westworld’s social problems and emboldened in their determination to change our way of life by the power of engineered mass migration.
The Islamic world may believe it has some solutions to the Westworld moral crisis, but this simply isn’t the case. Islam has a poor track record of furthering economic and social evolution. Following a period of renaissance when Islam ‘secularised’ in the 12th century, when it became feudal, the various iterations of the faith since then would impede the evolution of the Middle East from then on with only a brief ‘enlightenment’ from the 19th to mid-20th century as capitalism held sway and again secular reform was intended to bring prosperity across the Muslim world. As crony capitalism has failed across the West and the Middle East some Islamic nations have re-adopted Sharia as opposed to secular constitutions. What else should be the response to economic stagnation in the 20th and 21st century Middle East one might ask. Well, a rebooted capitalism with the demand that its values are progressed to all people.
Oil money in the twenty-first century is offering some ‘progressive’ development of a very limited and questionable sort in Saudi Arabia a country promoting fundamentalist Islam around the world, but a country that without oil wouldn’t exist as a viable nation-state. So, with capitalism collapsing in the weaker Islamic nations and Islam as a faith resurgent and confident, the Westworld worker has street corner theologians shouting down our values as our utterly lost Elite turn a blind eye. Westworld has its own dodgy theologians of course.
When one listens to the theologians of Westworld, in the US the Clintons and Obama, in UK Blair and Nick Clegg, in the EU every technocrat with a microphone and in Canada Justin Trudeau one can see people who simply can’t grasp the concept that the system that made them rich is finished. Whilst the system may have finished for them however, it has plenty of life in it, if it is given to the people at large. The Elite seem unwilling to do that and we are therefore at risk of having our culture compromised by advancing ideologies of Nationalism or from some quarters a demand for the promotion of radical or even just observant Islam. Both would limit the rights of working people. Therefore in creating the demand for repressive change, our Elite is now a threat to us, Westworld’s working people like never before. So, what are the causes of the Elite’s and our collective crisis?
At the top of the political sphere, the Elite promote the old-fashioned idea that debt unconnected with investment can be a stimulus to growth. They have also embarked upon regeneration wars to bomb democracy into the Middle East and North Africa, whilst hoping to reconstruct these places using Western firms and Middle Eastern oil money. The consequence was as we know complete failure. Additionally, in rubble-strewn failed states Islamism becomes coherent as a way of ordering an otherwise chaotic society, so the world got ISIS. ISIS of course inspired by the hard-line Sunni Muslims of Saudi Arabia promote the example of seventh century Mohammad as a major influence on their way of life, a life of shameless brutality.
On the home front and for working people welfare has unavoidably become the Elite’s replacement for real social and economic value creating employment. Within the context of declining economies and a new reliance on debt, there is the illusion of a vibrant free market economy which whilst failing to keep the West on top economically has continued to reassure the Elite that life for them is business as usual. They have allowed a mechanism to be engineered by the banking system and global markets that turn our debt (national and personal) into wealth for them and their cronies. Of course, it brought us to our knees in 2007/08 and today we are back on the same horse.
If we pick up from 2007/8 the Elite have managed to save themselves and convince themselves, they have saved us but only by working the biggest confidence trick in modern history. They have turned the Westworld workers into a new class of twenty-first-century Serfs. We now pay taxes, service National and personal debt and spend what money we must ensure the Westworld economy looks like it is functioning when, like putting compressed air through a steam engine rather than steam, it just looks like it is working. This is a ‘Wizard of Oz’ illusion. The Emerald City of the Clintons, Blairs, EU and others involves workers giving away our good jobs, our productive capacity, plus amassing debt on an eye-watering scale to keep the elite in their positions of power and influence. They can use the banks and the Wests 18th century political systems and associated institutions to maintain their illusion and of course, they do.
Their wars of ‘reconstruction’ have burdened the working people with an additional problem. Migration. Not Migration from places with a cultural heritage of the Enlightenment and Contract, Choice and Consent but migration from places with a pre-capitalist feudal-like and simple worldview based on control, coercion and compulsion and for many this is linked to belief in the infallibility of the Quran and Hadith. The wars of reconstruction have failed, but the elite has it that migration has always been good at stimulating growth. Well yes and no. It depends on who is coming in. The Jewish community that came before and during World War two undoubtedly contributed a great deal to post War Britain’s economic reconstruction.
The Windrush generation added much socially and culturally but was probably less significant in economic terms and the most recent arrivals sadly seem to have added very little. Many have either taken low skilled work or some having pre-capitalist values of submission, have introduced a form of multi valueism in the West offering to compete with Western values. This has wrong-footed the Elite as previously their multiculturalism was set within a thriving capitalist framework and was the West’s expectation, not value systems competing within the Nation States themselves.
The lack of thriving capitalism is what has exposed the difference in values and made them so stark causing fear within all communities; established and newly arrived. The big debate is whether this has been a deliberate policy by the global elite to alter Western society. Our view is probably not. It’s just the consequence of everything we have described above and the Elite not knowing what to do about it.
One specific challenge to Western values comes in the requirement of Islam as a faith for men and women to be treated with differential standards and expectations. Something Karl Marx and Frederick Engels disapproved of, calling it Father “right”. This is linked to the control of women for essentially seventh-century economic reasons but is today presented as a twenty-first-century moral necessity. It seems to have become a political requirement adopted by many men and women within the Islamic faith and is being reflected widely in the wearing of hijab and less widely in the demand for Sharia law with all its seventh-century moral simplicity.
So how are the Elite managing this complex situation all of it of their rather than our making? They do not seem to have seen their folly and have not apologised to their own working people or the people of the bombed Middle East. They have not apologised to their Nation’s economically active and liberated women or the children abused in various ways in the name of ‘faith’, culture or both. They have not talked down the politics of seventh-century radical Islam by assertively promoting our values of contract, choice and consent. Instead, they have tried to manage opinion to prevent working people complaining too much and have compromised the future of generations of women by ignoring the flagrant hostility from some radicals towards some outspoken women. We need to assist any faith that theologically and doctrinally has no respect for individual rights and freedoms particularly those that empower women economically. There may be some people within the faith of Islam who do accept the principles of the Enlightenment, but when you research the Quran, Hadith and Islamic history it seems likely that out of fear they are a few brave souls indeed. So, what does the overall picture of the West look like?
- Societal and moral decline amplified within the context of declining economic power and influence
- An Elite who have developed exaggerated expectations of their own economic and political power
- Following the 2007/8 collapse, an economic ‘revival’ paid for by indebting working people and creating low paid jobs.
- Failed wars of reconstruction leading to mass migration
- A clash of ideologies between the enlightened West and a large migrant population from feudal systems often with pre-capitalist moral principles.
- An elite that having turned Westworld’s workers into serfs, (paying for the Elite’s power and wealth with debt and taxes) begins to roll back the values of the enlightenment and the principles of contract, choice and consent.
- An elite who realise their Nations can’t pay for the State bureaucracy and for them as well as pay for the consequences of their and our, Western moral decline.
So, what of the future? We all need to reflect on the challenges facing the Western world because the health of the West affects the health of the rest. We need to avoid the easy conclusion our political class and global Elite are there to sort it out. They really can’t because the West’s political systems are not set up to allow them to. Indeed, the experience of London under Khan and Trudeau in Canada confirms that things can be frighteningly unpredictable within our eighteenth-century political systems. With binary systems, ideology can flip into something unacceptable to ordinary people and flip on the outcome of one election, as with the knife crime epidemic in London. So, what conclusions can we draw?
Firstly, the Elites current economic strategy won’t work because you can’t borrow to spend and spend to borrow. The Westworld needs real social and economic value (business and profitability) and value is out there in the wider world, but the elite can’t conceive of how to get it, because it means bringing down trade barriers and giving more power to the people. Their failed strategy was to take up arms in the Middle East to get some added value that way and thankfully they no longer have the money or the inclination. They would rather spend what money they take from us on themselves, which is good news for the peace of the world in general.
Secondly, the Westworld worker is a global player with global values and can trade freely when given the freedom to do so. With ‘hot’ war largely a non-starter we all need to demand a system that allows us all to engage in sorting out Westworld’s problems. the Elite need to unshackle the power of the Western working people. Trade is the bringer of peace. It always has been, and we need to do more of it not less, so we need to empower the Western worker to go out into the world as in the 18th century and trade. The Elite need to ask us our opinion before deciding on a policy that affects us and not them!
Thirdly the Westworld worker is someone who believes in the enlightenment and the principles of contract, choice and consent and can easily identify those who don’t. Those who don’t consist of our Elite and those for whom discrimination against freedom and the promotion of control, coercion and compulsion are articles of faith including a growing number within our so-called ‘left wing’. Marx would have hated the West’s current ‘Left-wing’ made up as it is of too many narcissistic economic illiterates.
Fourthly we Westworld workers need to stop allowing the Elite and the ‘thick’ end of the left to differentiate us and turn us against one another based on bogus criteria like religion, sexuality or class. If we believe in western values, we should not support politicians who clearly don’t. Become radical, because after hundreds of years of exploitation we are one group of workers at last because we all share the same values even if we differ on policy detail. And we should remember it is our values that are at risk.
And finally, start to take the argument to the institutions that have landed us where we are today. Our 18th-century political system (not our enlightenment values), our mainstream media in the UK the BBC and Channel 4. The Church of England and all those Episcopal churches that seem to be handmaidens to any and every regressive faith going.
We should all shout about the importance of freedom and equality, identify those who don’t and humiliate them into silence. Over hundreds of years our values have made the world prosperous whilst most of the rest of the world was either to fractious or obsessed with doctrinal observance and submission. The Western world’s workers still have much to achieve in liberating ourselves and the workers of the world in general and we don’t want or need an elite to help us achieve it. Indeed, they ceased to be any help decades ago.
The values we in the western world now accept without question were born in the fierce heat of 18th Century Capitalism. They were described by Marx as bourgeois values. They were in addition to freedom from feudal oppression, the freedoms of Contract, Choice and Consent. There was of course unfairness which meant that unless you “made it” within this system you could not enjoy the full fruits and freedoms of bourgeois life. You might have had the right to contract, choose and consent but your life was defined by your wealth.
Of course whilst Capitalism, as a system was gender, religion and racially unprejudiced (anyone could become a Capitalist) society, discriminated mercilessly. So back in the 18th Century, bourgeois rights were essentially male rights and white male rights at that.
The intervening period up to today has seen the extension of these bourgeois rights to an ever-expanding population of people few of whom can actually call themselves “bourgeois”. Being bourgeois identifies your relationship to Capital, it isn’t about how much money you have but who created the wealth that you possess. If it was created by “exploited” workers you are a Capitalist in possession of Capital. If you are public sector Chief Exec on £300,000 you are not a capitalist just a very wealthy person paid out of the Nations Debt.
On this basis, therefore with the decline of “capitalism,” the “workers” have become more so than ever before a large unified group of people, women, men, people of all ethnicities and identities for whom the values of contract, choice and consent are an expectation of daily life. Only the confused on the left seem to regard removing or limiting these rights a legitimate policy objective. They would usher in a 16th-century policy of silencing dissent and showing prejudice against certain groups. For the vast majority of people, the challenge is to protect these bourgeois rights now we have acquired them and learn to use them to personal and social advantage without inflicting economic and social decay via a breakdown in social cohesion.
A breakdown in social cohesion is the major threat to western societies and there are many pretenders to the Wests throne offering various sorts of primitivism to compensate for the apparent breakdown of society arising from our new found freedoms. What these various groups of primitives fail to appreciate however is that whilst there will be some “adjustment” as we start to accept the full personal responsibility for the freedoms we have, we are all united in our desire not to have these freedoms compromised by politicians, religions or simply nasty unpleasant people.
British working people are in economic terms no longer differentiated by class and are largely an undifferentiated group who have fought hard to get the shared values we now enjoy. Now we must scan the horizon to establish who is trying to undermine us and our values of contract, choice and consent and deal with them robustly.
We all find certain things embarrassing, ‘Chuggers’, Mormons, Scientologists, Hasidic Jews, “happy-clappy” Christians, and Morris men. But no one wants them to stop enjoying their lives. In the 21st century, we want everyone to enjoy their lives in peace. But we might shuffle away as they approach.
Islam, of course, goes back to the 7th century. Its values reflect a period in history when brutality and indifference to pain characterised much of the world. The difficulty of making money and creating capital in Arabia and in the rest of the Islamic world from the 7th century onwards limited its ability to progress economically and therefore it was unable to progress socially. We are economic materialists after all.
Modern social progress is a product of capitalist success. In a nutshell the ability of a new middle class to acquire capital from the labour power of others via contract’s rather than slavery or serfdom. This eventually gave the world the principles of Contract, Choice and Consent which in turn drove the demand for these economic principles to take on social character and form the 18th-century democracy that we still have today, and which has gone around the world via the British Empire.
Until recently in the West gender relationships were historically unequal. But male and female rights eventually succumbed to the democratising juggernaut of capitalism. Capitalism was back then, as the free market is today indifferent, to the background, sex and race, sexuality, gender identity and faith. Sexual inequality was required socially not economically. In capitalism, its only injustice is its inherent economic unfairness, rich or poor.
Workers of the western world who have lived in the capitalist system and seen their rights extended within it will have a solid grasp that whilst capitalism is an unfair system, some win and some loose, it has created a very broad and far-reaching equality. There is little discrimination in capitalism as the principles of capitalism have no role for discrimination. Discrimination is bad for business.
So, into this well established economic and social environment come a large group of people for whom the egalitarianism of capitalism is in some cases alien. Many harbouring a 7th-century belief system founded on their holy book the Koran, and the Hadith, which reflects the economic necessities of their day, for example, the different treatment of women, homosexuals or those of different faiths.
The penalty for breaking the rules in all simple agrarian and impoverished cultures is similarly harsh. Stoning, beheading, beating are all promoted in Holy books and by some of the followers of faiths and denominations today. The clash of cultures, therefore, can’t be more real between those who live by the experience of the liberal West and those who hold traditional “faith” based views. There is little to unite these groups culturally. If one accepts submission and control it’s difficult to grasp the role of contract, choice and consent.
It takes a while to compartmentalise and set aside one’s own irrational bias before one can come up with a possible explanation for this phenomenon of some in the West promoting what are largely un Western values. Once you reflect on the theology and psychology involved in dealing on a personal level with the traditional values in Islam, for example, it becomes easier to see that we are basically uncomfortable about the whole situation and don’t recognise the relevance of Islamic values in the 21st century. It is hard to see how someone who believes in equal rights for all with no discrimination on gender or grounds of sexuality can find any common ground within what is presented as the Islamic faith today. There will, of course, be people of the Islamic faith who accept the values of the Enlightenment but the Holy book and Hadith are claimed to be the infallible instruction from God and Muhammad, so the challenge can’t be underestimated.
The internet has examples of the faithful from all faiths explaining the approach to various issues from the vantage point of their faith. So it raises the question what can one really say to an earnest young man who would like to see girls married at the age of 8? or the dress code for men and women that is intended to set aside equality between the sexes and may indeed feed male entitlement? Or the issue of unofficial street praying or the publicly expressed demand for this punishment or that practice. It is uncomfortable having to make sense of these differences in opinion and perspective in the twenty-first century. When confronted by the unreformed value base of all faiths but specifically Islam it makes those with modern values behave in an oddly incoherent way, so we can avoid dealing with it.
The solution is not that difficult to imagine. At every social, legal and political level it should be acknowledged that some ideas are just basically incompatible with the modern world whether it be restricting reproductive rights for women or the demand for Sharia councils. Because these ideas are well out of date in the 21st century the advocates of these ideas make us feel uncomfortable and we shy away from a debate. We should not. The days of neo-colonial toleration of the sort that doesn’t challenge ideas must stop as under the auspices of faith and for some within the faith community, we find FGM, circumcision and other forms of harm. There is nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable about someone else’s idea, it’s not illegal…..yet!
One final point is this. We are where we are because we too have out of date institutions on us namely our near-universal western 18th-century political system. This system will never reflect the rights of working people but whilst we must continue to shout to keep our 18th-century progressive values, of contract, choice and consent, we must fight to change the 18th-century political systems that are currently undermining these hard fought for values, once only enjoyed by the men of the bourgeois.
So now we have the head of the Bank of England Mark Carney pronouncing that Marxism may become relevant because of the technological revolution. He stresses that the Engels Pause which saw low wage growth during the early industrial revolution, explains low wage growth now. Apart from the fact that Marx confined his economic analysis to bushels of corn or yards of linen, how relevant are these observations in a post-capitalist West within an emerging global hegemony?
Firstly, Marx was writing at a time when the main economic preoccupation was the “surplus value” or profit, created by labour power. Wages ware paid at a level set by the labour market and the downward pressure on wages was caused by the abundant supply of labour rendering wages cheap to the point of survival levels only. Children as young as ten working 12-16 hour shifts in factories.
This downward pressure on wages advantaged the capitalists who were able to take greater levels of “surplus value” and in doing so were engaging in a merciless exploitation of their workers.
As capitalism settled down, children were removed from the labour market, workers were able to negotiate a better deal for themselves and wage levels rose. The State also intervened to improve the lot of the worker. This is the nub of Marxism, the worker or the State re-appropriated the surplus value previously taken by the capitalist and the capitalist alone. The role of Trades Unions was essentially the same. Take back from the capitalist some of the excessive surplus value generated by the worker in the process of production. In the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a lot of surplus value and capitalists became very rich and an empire was built on the back of it.
Of course, increasing output in a capitalist system is important as there would be diminishing profitability without it, but in terms of wage levels, the labour market and government intervention feature more significantly. After any plague, the price of labour power goes up. Machines increase output and of course enhance the wages of those skilled people who remain in work. Labour markets for skilled people are different from the labour market for the unskilled, but they work on the same principles.
The issue Carney highlights though is interesting in two further respects. Firstly he fails to address the fact that migration of unskilled labour is a contributory factor in the process of lowering wages, creating downward pressure on wages through oversupply. And he sees the forthcoming crisis of unemployment as likely to re-ignite an interest in Marxist ideas as a solution.
The fact economists and politicians seem obsessed with promoting migration suggests that the political system Marx called the bourgeois (capitalist) political system really does have an impulse to lower wages for the worker. And moreover, the left is as guilty as the right in being silent on this issue.
The secondly Marxism as a word and an ideology lost all accurate meaning in the 2oth century because of its use to describe fascist, state socialist and feudal dictatorships, all borne of violent revolution and none “Marxian” in any sense Marx would have recognised. However, that doesn’t mean Marxist analysis is completely irrelevant.
So how might Marxism become relevant again? This depends on how people use Marxist analysis. Marxism is essentially about two things that spring forth from the capitalist system, one as we have described above is surplus value (profit) and the other is alienation. Alienation is the process by which the worker becomes disassociated from his economic role being a beast of burden to a process or machine.
Today a capitalist economy Marx would have recognised no longer exists. We are now able or perhaps willing to create national indebtedness to provide a “living wage” to people who have no actual economic function. They create no economic value, and the State isn’t taking surplus value from the bourgeois, it’s taxing and indebting the workers too many of whom are employed by the State itself. We are in some senses living in a post-Marxian age already.
The critical relevance about Marx, however, isn’t about wages. Marx was an advocate of material determinism. He basically believed that the economic system creates social values which are necesary to promote the interests of the economic system itself.
So, our bourgeois values of contract, choice and consent freedom and democracy which were necessary for the capitalist system to function profitably have taken on a social character and we all expect rights based on these principles today. However, if the nature of the economy becomes as we have suggested debt based with little role for productive Western workers i.e. not creating surplus value or profit, will the values that the economy requires and therefore society requires, alter significantly? The answer is, of course, yes if you apply a Marxian analysis.
Capitalism in the West is coming to an end and Marx’s economic relevance at a National level has perhaps been eclipsed as the British economy is now global. On that basis, the post-capitalist West probably is sliding back towards a feudal model of power and control and Marx can help explain this. This change is necessary as the economic system operates globally and there is little need for capitalist values of contract, choice and consent at the bottom of this global system i.e. at the bottom of the National level. This is mainly because being dependent on an indebted government for welfare is not a contracted arrangement it is more feudal in character.
It’s a wild speculation but the sympathetic approach given to Islamic values which are in total contrast to Contract, Choice and Consent suggest that autocratic and discriminatory principles have some advocates in the world, who are happy to risk pushing aside contract, choice and consent, particularly for women, in the interests of preserving the global economic hegemony.
When capitalism leaves by the front door its values will according to Marx leave by the back. And as we are progressing towards a more and more unfair global economy, by crystallising the worlds current injustices, injustices will be reflected into any society once based on “just” principles of contract, choice and consent, freedom and democracy. Someone out there knows that and doesn’t care. Hence the attack on free speech and the nonsense of hate crime as opposed to “crime” across the western world.
So, to answer the question is Carney right to conclude that Marxism will have relevance in the future. The answer is probably yes in the sense of offering an insight into how the values of the global economy create injustice around the world and yes in terms of reframing our understanding of how the global economy maintains power structures and erodes rights in the face of mass Western unemployment. But to offer an insight into wage levels in a post-capitalist West. Marx is probably irrelevant.
Why have our long fought for legitimate 18th-century values (bourgeois values!) of free speech and free expression come under attack from our 18th-century bourgeois institutions of Parliament, Church of England, and Local authorities?
In 1997 a revolution began, based on the writings of a little known early 20th century Italian ‘Marxist’ called Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci departed from orthodox Marxism outrageously, because he believed the bureaucracy of the State should be used to manipulate the working class rather than the working class rise up and dominate the State.
This Gramscian revolution has systematically undermined values for working people all over Europe ever since it’s advocates entered power. In the Uk, the “revolution” was initially spearheaded following the election of Tony Blair who arrived with a wide-ranging agenda to deliver modernisation for a Britain he saw as old-fashioned, prejudiced and backwards looking.
We didn’t need him to do anything, of course, we were well on the way to modernising our culture without him. We accepted Tom Robinson in the 1970’s, Bronski Beat in the 1980’s and we have accepted all sorts of “lifestyle choices” since the end of World War Two. Even so, many of us had to endure workshop after workshop in workplaces, schools and universities from 1997 onwards to correct our faulty thinking.
This was an all-encompassing interference from our state institutions. This secular theology was hell-bent on instilling perverse oppressive values in an open-minded and tolerant society. Hate Crime or as we call it Thought Crime, became a mainstay of this needless “revolution”. It effectively undermined free-thinking working people for whom it was not in the interests of the Blair/EU neo-liberal elite to have a thinking working class. The elite desired an “engineered compliance” or alternatively an “indoctrinated subservience” among its working people.
The Blair EU agenda had a multicoloured rainbow of “identity groups” all seemingly in need of the power of the benign state bureaucracy to protect their unique vulnerabilities from an ill-defined “mob” of hate-filled homophobes, racists and Islamophobes. Thus the “proletariat” under this system was “differentiated” Into the Gay community, racial minorities, industrial and public sector workers, and people of minority faiths like Islam. Marx would have spun in his grave. This would have been seen by he and Engels as the Bureaucratic state manipulating the values of the people and preventing the emergence of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
The whole enterprise required “intellectuals” to maintain the purity of this progressive agenda. Maybe student loans were introduced to get the youth into Universities where the institutions would act as instruments of Blair’s programme of indoctrination. Blairs incantation of “Education, Education, Education” claim spells it out quite clearly. The “snowflakes” are certainly in the mould of Blairs agenda.
However, the problem for Blair, Cameron and May is that this agenda assumed the success of other branches of the Neo-Con project such as democracy flourishing in the Middle East. What happened as we know is this, shorn of their feudal systems the migrants from the destroyed economies or Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya along with the more established Pakistan and Bangladeshi communities became outspoken about the failings of our values and yet could arrogantly promote their own values and the destruction of ours, whilst we are forced to remain silent with Hate Crime the alternative to our free speech.
Those groups who oppose British values have no tradition of free speech or women’s equality and so have no interest in the Blair revolution except that it provides an opportunity to undermine British values whilst promoting their own. Our values we have fought to get for 200 years and to secure them for all working people, now they are under threat from our political elite. It’s all so 14th century.
This paper is not a critique of faith. That is in the hearts and minds of the believer, something for which we have full and unequivocal respect. This paper will seek to put the case for different religions reflecting different material circumstances at any point in history. As it was in Marx’s day for he and Engels believed the Christian religion reinforced the then nineteenth-century bourgeois world order.
Perhaps to maintain the domination of economics and politics by a capitalist economic elite, the idea took root that all morality was “relative” in other words you could not say one set of moral principles was better or more just than any other. However, with the rise of global communication, the world needs to reflect on moral relativism and perhaps having adopted it because of its anti-Marxist and pro “bourgeois” credentials, think about where moral relativism is leading the world today.
From Savagery to Barbarism according to Frederick Engels
Karl Marx and but more specifically Frederick Engels were in the final analysis moral absolutists. However, the Economically liberal Western world, perhaps out of fear that a single unifying moral perspective might deliver Marx’s egalitarian revolution, adopted moral relativism in the nineteenth century and it still holds a commanding position today. The problem with relativism is that it makes it difficult to say any moral principle or value is wrong.
Moral relativism has for over one hundred years silenced our left-leaning liberal elite and has set them on a collision course with the ordinary worker who has a clear idea of right and wrong based on their ordinary western workers’ economic experience. The difference between religious moral absolutism and that of Marx and Engels is that they believed there was a scientific and economic explanation for humanities various “moral iterations”. These iterations placed one period of Humanities evolution above the other as we evolved from the savagery of the stone age through various stages of barbarism and finally into the period of civilization. The modern age. The description of this process can be found in Engels: The origin of the family, private property and the state (1884).
The theory simply put states that as humankind gained increasing levels of control over nature, by applying our unique ability to dominate the natural environment, the social and moral environment changed correspondingly. This ability to dominate nature is called by Marx and Engels “species-essence”.
Engels was clear that this process of economic and therefore moral and social evolution was not a simple process. The environment and levels of science and technology played a part in different groups of humans around the world. Therefore, taken at any point in history, there would be a range of different economic and social models operating at the same time but for those with similar levels of economic sophistication, there would be more similarities than differences.
Even today it’s possible to trace traditions that have been carried over from one period of economic and social evolution into another almost as if a ghost of a long forgotten past when material circumstances were markedly more primitive. The Scots Clans, for example, reflect a period when society was divided into tribal groupings. Even though the need for such groupings has not been present since Scotland emerged into the modern age, there is a certain modern pride in Clan identity.
The Native American had a tribe and clan-based society. When civilisation in the form of the “West” arrived on their shores they experienced a world alien to their simple tribal economic and social arrangements. Whilst they possessed many skills that enhanced their survival they were as a society characterised by two or three significant differences from the civilisations that would eventually conquer them.
These differences would be shared by all groups who were at a similar stage of economic and therefore social and moral development.
One of these characteristics was what Engels called consanguinuity. This is marriage like relationships within the wider family group, loose sexual unions where women would have several possible partners and as a result, lineage had to be taken via the female. The primacy of the female, called “mother right”, was due to certainty over maternity. If a brother and sister both had sons, the sister’s son was more important to the tribe than the brother’s son as maternity was a matter of fact and paternity rather more a matter of opinion. This gave women status in this period. However economic development and the development of wealth and trade would eventually change women’s status for the worse until fighting back for rights in the latter part of the modern age we call ‘now’.
In addition to these simple and loose marriage arrangements which would in time be classed as adulterous, the absence of private property was another characteristic of this period. It was impossible to build up “wealth” or in Marx’s term surplus economic value. Thus, any goods made by Native Indians, for example, had essentially use value only. They fulfilled an obvious purpose, for example, a spear for hunting or headdress for a warrior’s status. When food was sourced it was consumed collectively. It could not be stored. This wasn’t exactly a hand to mouth experience of the earlier period of “savagery” but it wasn’t full mastery over nature, in the modern sense either.
The final characteristic of this period was a strict but non-abusive distinction between male and female roles within the tribe. Men were hunters and warriors and females were child bearers and homemakers. There was a greater equality between the sexes than became the case as humanity evolved. Women were given status arising from their lack of reproductive ambiguity.
It is possible to consider numerous peoples from antiquity for whom lifestyle was similar in character. If food was short wars would be fought to conquer or be conquered. In such inauspicious circumstances economic and therefore social progress was practically impossible. It was a society on a war and starvation footing all the time. Rome, Greece and the land of Israel, as well as the desert lands all of the Middle East, would all have evolved from this model of “barbarism”.
It was the absence of creating wealth or exchangeable surplus economic value that for Engels is the fundamental condition that determines the social character of these “barbaric” societies. Their lives were overall simple but precarious and sometimes violent.
In Europe and the Middle East with no isolation as happened to Native Americans or Australasians, there was the possibility of progress, as different groups began to forge different economic circumstances and trade alliances which gave way to new forms of social and moral behaviour. For women, it proved to be a backward step.
The Mediterranean provided opportunities for nations like Greece and Rome to struggle free from the shackles of nature’s hard to conquer dominion. The consequence, however, was, with growing wealth accumulation and the evolution of wealth backed “status” a creeping dominion by man over man and more tellingly man over woman started to emerge. The tribal past with its relaxed moral values and lack of paternal certainty became an intolerable burden on the ability of men to create and command wealth and exercise power.
This next stage one move on from mere tribalism is the precursor to the development of early civilisation and the growth of the state. Once humanity was able to create surplus value via farming, herding, and manufacture for exchange, as well as store wealth in the form of gold and silver, the desire to gain power through wealth and control the environment both physically and morally increased.
Economics drove the wish for power, just as it does now, and as a result, it ushered in some revolutionary social and moral changes. With surplus value or wealth, there came the power men craved. This power could be concentrated into the hands of families or individuals who by controlling conception and inheritance became more important than the tribes they replaced. The value of mother right was eroded as men of wealth no longer needed to share women and have only ‘opinion’ as to who was the father of a child. It was possible to guarantee paternity via the absolute control of women and it made sense for men to turn their backs on the simple tribalism that saw greater equality between the sexes. The morality of this period is captured in Holy books like the Old Testament and the Koran. The faithful believe that the changes were a direct instruction from God. The reality for Marx and Engels and ourselves is that it came from powerful economic forces. Genesis 17.1-7, 15,16 captures the theology as opposed to the economics of this period quite well.
Thus, wealth enslaved women and it enslaved other men too as communities could be fed and housed avoiding the need to slaughter them and their labour power could be used to gain economic advantage, all based on “ownership”. This is better known as slavery. The slave society was merely a society that had achieved a greater mastery over nature and this mastery was no longer evenly distributed. For those with wealth, it gave mastery over others too.
It was during this period that the three great religions began to reflect in the articles of their faith the economic realities of their day. Arguably Lot’s wife and Sodom and Gomorrah is a reference to the abandonment of mother right (and all the liberty for women that went with it) in favour of father right and the all-powerful monotheistic male God.
The Old Testament, New Testament and Koran reflect social change only because economic reality had changed ahead of it. In the form of these new religions, society catches up and codifies the rules of the new world economic order.
Within Islam, the process of rejecting the old ways takes longer to become established. The tradition of nomadic tribes and prior to the seventh-century little-written record keeping might explain why it was harder for the Arab nations to build up wealth. But none the less by the seventh century the growth and more importantly the wealth of global economics was making it possible for certain groups and individuals within Arab tribes to secure a greater share of the worlds riches and as a result allowed men to violently shunt aside the “gods” that reflected mother right just as the Jews and Christians had done.
Arguably therefore for the Arab tribes of the seventh century, the culture of mother right and the loose ’uneconomic’ morals that went with it was becoming untenable. To men who were, as Mohammed was, able to secure wealth through trade and war there was a mission to put to an end the practices of the past as the benefits of trade and wealth would be lost if the old order wasn’t removed. Therefore, adultery became a grave crime punishable with great cruelty and women were forced to adopt a level of modesty that would render them invisible but for their reproductive functions. However not wishing to miss out altogether on multiple female partners concessions to the old order were given in the form of polygamy……but just for the male.
The new values were all embracing reflecting this masculine economic change and the wealth and power it created over others. Within the Middle East, there had been a period of great trade and enlightenment and the religion of Islam was adopted widely conferring stability on tribal societies in many parts of the world. The word caliphate is little different from Christendom. Each faith believing it reflects the formula for economic success and therefore moral purity. But the driver was and still is in our view economic rather than theological. Had it not made economic sense to adopt new economic principles such as restricting women’s rights no society would have.
Engels didn’t touch on the Middle East in The origin of the family, private property and the state, concentrating on North America, Britain and Europe. It has been possible because of the strength of his writing and his “scientific” method to explore the role of economics in religion, morality and society outside of the areas of his interest.
We can explore what it means to us in the twenty-first century as we try and grasp the emerging cultural conflict with Islam and other faith beliefs across Britain and Western Europe.
The web and Twitter are littered with groups who see Islam as anything from a death cult to the hairspring for Armageddon. The response from some Christian groups is to rage with as much fervour as a Jihadi and even some secular thinkers who promote the idea of a clash of cultures seem to conclude that the answer for the Western world is a restating of “Christian values”. We say this solution to solving the incompatibility of Islam and other faiths with western liberal culture will work. And here is why.
Firstly, Christianity, as we have said earlier like all faiths, reflects material realities and therefore is no different from the Islamic faith or any other comparable faith, in this respect. The abandonment of mother right and the adoption of a fearsome God was all part of an economic change that took place when tribalism gave way to more productive ways of creating wealth and more importantly storing it and owning it. There may be some differences in application but essentially the outcome for women, for example, was the same, a culture of varying degrees of subjugation. Although it does have to be conceded that Islam has cruelty, so in the past did Hinduism with the practice of Sati ensuring economic needs were reflected in enforced moral behaviour.
Economic circumstances having created a male-centric God to reflect male-centric wealth creation and values, the wealth created came into the hands of a few families headed by men and it stayed there. This is a unifying fact across all Middle Eastern and European religions, up to roughly the 16th century.
Christianity, therefore, has no great claim to being peaceful or ‘moral’. Unimaginable horror was inflicted on people in the name of Christianity particularly in the Sixteenth Century when a Christian faith Catholicism was propping up an economic system, the feudal system which was being assailed by a new theology called Calvinism. Calvinism itself, of course, a product of evolving economic forces namely the ‘laws’ of the free market and capitalism. At this time the engine of the economy was controlled by an aristocracy and an ambitious and increasingly wealthy middle class wanted a change. Calvin and Luther provided the theology!
The bourgeois revolutions of the seventeenth and eighteenth–centuries in Britain and the nineteenth century in Europe reset the clock for Christianity, giving it a benign ‘bourgeois’ appearance based on contract, choice and consent that ignored its origin and violent use over the years.
Islam in the West today is no different from Christianity in the past. It still reflects values that hark back to the abandonment of mother right and the exercising of control over women arising out of the accumulation of wealth and its inheritance. The difference between Islam and Christianity, however, is Christianity has been forced to go through several convulsions due to the changing economic circumstances in the West and specifically the need for Contract, Choice and Consent to be established so as to ensure the smooth operation of the bourgeois capitalist system.
So, when people with an Islamic background are preaching, or arguing about the Wests immorality and advocating FGM, veiling, stoning or beheading they are essentially speaking from the moral perspective of a culture steeped in seventh-century economic necessity full of obedience, honour, violence and force with little if any choice or rights. The problem is the West doesn’t challenge these outmoded and economically irrelevant views.
Of the West, the devout Muslim would and does highlight our ‘shame’ and the weakness of our Christianity which has been shorn of anything other than supporting personal choice. But that is because our free market requires that characteristic. Everything is about economics, today yesterday and forever. And the Muslim faithful take advantage of this economic reality too. The world is unfair and unequal and it offends people of faith….or it should do.
The question on all sides in the cultural head to head is this. Once you have stripped out the faith belief and stare at the hard realities of these ancient moral principles and values, one Christian the other Islamic or whatever, you can see that the debate is really about which one is fit for purpose in the 21st century and that is down to economics and economics alone.
The Within all faiths there are passionate and devout advocates for purity. The Jihadi who wants to destroy civilisation really wants to bring coherence to his seventh-century social values by creating a seventh-century economic environment with the destruction of “civilisation”. The shrouded woman advocating stoning adulterers or beating wives is a ghost from a bygone era still fighting to destroy rights that women lost over one thousand years ago to male power and dominion, before struggling to regain many of them back in the twenty-first century. But still not fully.
Wearing the Hijab or full veiling of a more extreme kind may be a free choice, it may be a political statement or even simply cultural expectation or it may simply be an example of seventh-century moral behaviour to demonstrate adherence to “faith”.
Similarly, the shrill Christian evangelicals with their Armageddon theology and the earnest men praying in a park are making a statement are all are playing a game……but it is simply a twenty-first-century economic one based on free choice in a free country. We should all see what is going on and understand the “theology” of it. It’s only ancient economics after all.