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March 23, 2009 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Everything you ever wanted to read about left-wing political theory but were afraid to look up.

Well, left-wing politics and a few other topics besides. Use the two drop-down menus at the top of the page.
posted by cthuljew (67 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Reading about the Paris Commune always tears me up.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:02 AM on March 23, 2009


Marxism is not the whole of leftism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:10 AM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pope Guilty: marxists.org covers a lot more than just Marxists.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:12 AM on March 23, 2009


I mean, you wouldn't call Lenin a Marxist, would you?
posted by daniel_charms at 9:17 AM on March 23, 2009


Definitely echoing Pope Guilty's comment. Linking to marxists.org might give a decent overview of Marxist philosophy but it's hardly representative of all left thought. Either this is a bad FPP because it only delivers a limited perspective when it promises more encyclopedic references or it seems an attempt to poison the debate by linking left with marxism...
posted by vuron at 9:19 AM on March 23, 2009


*obligatory reference to Groucho Marx*
posted by jonmc at 9:20 AM on March 23, 2009


Could we maybe just add this as a link to the article just a few down that is already covering liberalism and socialism, and delete this one?
posted by Pants! at 9:22 AM on March 23, 2009


If people were afraid of looking it up, what makes you think they'll be comfortable visiting www.marxists.org ?
posted by kowalski at 9:35 AM on March 23, 2009


Hey cthulew, I appreciated the FPP and the link and I don't even mind if your writeup conflates Marxism in particular with Leftism in general because the ambiguity constitutes, through the primitive accumulation of rhetorical capital, the historical preconditions necessary for the eruption of another "What Really is Left?" discussion, which is the Left's favorite pastime.
posted by notyou at 9:39 AM on March 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


The framing of the post might be a bit off, but marxists.org is a massive archive of leftist writing (though obviously with a focus on marxism), and has been for years. It's staggering the number of works that the people there have transcribed.
posted by Frankieist at 9:49 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


God people. I'm an anarchist. Actually look at what the link offers! It has TONS of stuff by ALL SORTS of left-wing authors!
posted by cthuljew at 9:51 AM on March 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Jesus fuck, can we stop equating 21st century liberalism to fucking Marxism? The two have absolutely fuck-all to do with each other! I'm a pretty goddamned social liberal, and in _any_ _other_ _century_ I would have been considered right-wing. Fuck Marx. Fuck Godwin. Fuck Coulter, O'Reilly, Limbaugh, or anyone else who wants to equate me to a socialist or fascist. You want the perfect demonstration of 21st century left-wing liberalism? Look at your web browser. You can go anywhere. You can read anything (which isn't banned by right-wing fucks who want to stifle speech). You can spew f-bombs in your Mefi comments. You can even tell people that hey, maybe this TARP 2 isn't such a good idea. Goddammit people, it isn't like social ideologies are set in stone. I raise your right-wing Randian utopia with Chiba City-esque Neuromancer, crossed with a burbclave from Snow Crash. There's the response to the right wing, all you need to know.
posted by mark242 at 9:51 AM on March 23, 2009 [13 favorites]


I thought we were an autonomous collective.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:00 AM on March 23, 2009 [14 favorites]


Hey man, I don't mind if we start circling the firing squad, but let's wait until after I can go to the dentist without taking out a second mortgage, thanks.
posted by DU at 10:02 AM on March 23, 2009


I couldn't find Gulags, Great Leaps Forward, Killing Fields, or even the Holodomor anywhere. WTF?
posted by codswallop at 10:06 AM on March 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


"God people. I'm an anarchist."

I suppose there'd be no .org site for that then.
posted by fleacircus at 10:10 AM on March 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I suppose there'd be no .org site for that then.
That's an old and tired one.

Anarchists are against rulers, not organizing.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:12 AM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


How about a do-over?

Despite its name, marxists.org is a massive online archive of leftist writings of all stripes. You can read nearly all published works by Marx and Engels, a sizable selection of feminist writings from classical liberal feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft through to the "second wave", Selected readings from the history of political economy including works by Smith, Keynes, and Malthus, and a great many works of philosophy.
posted by Frankieist at 10:12 AM on March 23, 2009 [15 favorites]


17 comments in and I'm already depressed. When will American liberals stop pissing their pants every time they see or hear the name "Marx" (or the word "socialism")? Obviously Marxism is not leftism tout court, as a quick glance at the linked paged will demonstrate--here are a few of the non-Marxists about whom you can inform yourself there.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 10:13 AM on March 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


codswallop: "I couldn't find Gulags, Great Leaps Forward, Killing Fields, or even the Holodomor anywhere. WTF?"

O.k. I'll bite: posted by mph at 10:18 AM on March 23, 2009 [14 favorites]


Er... what Frankieist said. <_<
posted by cthuljew at 10:24 AM on March 23, 2009


When will American liberals stop pissing their pants every time they see or hear the name "Marx" (or the word "socialism")? Obviously Marxism is not leftism...

Obviously? To whom? Certainly not the general population in the US. You can thank decades of steadily-degraded public schooling and the parallel rise of anti-intellectualism here. As far as the vast general public in the US is concerned, liberal=marx=lenin=mao=stalin=socialism=flag burning=kgb=national health care=gay marriage=whatever else gets talk radio's panties in a bunch
posted by Thorzdad at 10:35 AM on March 23, 2009


Obviously? To whom? Certainly not the general population in the US. You can thank decades of steadily-degraded public schooling and the parallel rise of anti-intellectualism here.

Obvious to anyone who has read more than two books in their lives. So, in theory, most people on MetaFilter. And yet, somehow, this thread instantaneously turned into a defensive "Marxism is not all there is to leftism!" discussion, as though the caricatures from Idiocracy that we presume make up the American population had somehow blundered their way into this thread, went to the link, and flew into a total panic that it's housed on Marxists.org.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:47 AM on March 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Anarchists are simply Libertarians without bow ties.
posted by Postroad at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2009


Splitters!
posted by Artw at 10:59 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, what a stupid thread (with honorable exceptions).

God people. I'm an anarchist. Actually look at what the link offers! It has TONS of stuff by ALL SORTS of left-wing authors!


What he said, except that it's not just left-wing authors. Was Thomas More a leftist? Was Thomas Hobbes a leftist? Was fucking George Washington Plunkett a leftist? This is an amazing collection of writings about politics and political philosophy, and if you're scared off by the fact that the site is called "marxist.org," Reagan and the Bushies have done their work well. Jesus.
posted by languagehat at 11:08 AM on March 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


Jesus fuck, can we stop joking about equating 21st century liberalism to fucking Marxism?

FT-blah blah. Clearly that association is a particular bug up your ass, but I don't think you're catching the poster's tone very well.

Also what AZ said.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2009


Thorzdad: "decades of steadily-degraded public schooling..."

Lest this seem get-off-my-lawn-y, consider that when Henry Miller attended Eastern District High School in Brooklyn, he took Latin.

Yes, once upon a time, students in Brooklyn public high schools were taught Latin.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Anarchists are against rulers

Even straight-edge anarchists?
posted by octobersurprise at 11:14 AM on March 23, 2009 [11 favorites]


Anarchists are simply Libertarians without bow ties.

In my experience libertarians are the big fat guffawing guys who ruin your party with dick jokes, make the girls uncomfortable, and end up drunkenly sitting on your guitar which they then refuse to replace. Anarchists tend to be librarians or bohemian artist kids.
The biggest difference, though is that libertarians assume everyone's a perfectly rational actor, and that even then if not the market will mitigate that.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


I save Latin. What did you ever do?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, Robespierre wrote a paper condemning the death penalty.

*Head asplode* (are we sure this isn't some kind of joke).

I'm not saying it isn't kind of a silly thing to equate ideologies like that, but reprinting the intellectual works of historical figures is about as unbiased as you can get, provided you take an even sampling, isn't it?
posted by SomeOneElse at 11:28 AM on March 23, 2009


--here are a few of the non-Marxists about whom you can inform yourself there.

Mind you, linking to Marat and Robespierre is maybe not the best way to make non-Marxist leftism appear warm and fuzzy, never mind respectable. (Or perhaps I misunderstood the thrust of your comment?)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:30 AM on March 23, 2009


Sic transit gloria Astro Zombie, sic transit gloria.
posted by jester69 at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2009


I remember reading the Communist Manifesto as a teenager (after my father had banished it from his house when he found it in my room), thinking that it was the greatest thing I had ever read and wondering how it could actually be implemented without fucking it up like the Russians, Chinese and others had.

Why are people so afraid of socialism or even communism? Is the idea that everyone can and should be truly equal so scary? Are we so afraid of the neo-fascist military-industrial complex that we are unwilling to consider certain ideologies for fear of stigma?

The right-wingers don't seem to be afraid to take the ideas of the fascists that they like, why should we then be afraid to take the ideas of the socialists and communists that we like?
posted by double block and bleed at 11:42 AM on March 23, 2009


Wow. Metafilter FAIL this time around.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:47 AM on March 23, 2009


anotherpanacea: Wow. Metafilter FAIL this time around.

Don't worry, it's nothing sending MetaFilter to re-education camp won't fix.
posted by Kattullus at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Although, it's mostly cthuljew's fault. In what world are Sun-tzu, Tocqueville, Machiavelli, or Frederick FUCKING Taylor even leftists?

Lazy post: please delete and redo tomorrow.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:54 AM on March 23, 2009


Ouch!
posted by double block and bleed at 11:54 AM on March 23, 2009


Huh... just reread some of the thread and it appears that languagehat has already covered this territory.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:56 AM on March 23, 2009


(Or perhaps I misunderstood the thrust of your comment?)

A little, but that's because my comment was a confused attempt to make two tangentially related points: 1) that site is a wonderful archive of political history and philosophy and it would be a shame if people didn't avail themselves of its resources because of a misplaced reaction to the word "Marxist"; 2) it's too bad that American liberalism is so irrationally allergic to the merest whiff of socialism/Marxism. I have little interest in making the non-Marxist left appear warm and fuzzy; if anything, I think we could use a bit more of what Georg Simmel called "ruthless radicalism." It would be nice if Marx's works in particular, and socialist/communist thought in general, could become a resource for leftist thought in this country rather than a poorly-understood excuse to break out the garlic and holy water.

That said, I certainly wouldn't propose Robespierre or Marat (or Lenin or Mao) as a model for future leftists, but in the words of Poppa Wu, "if you don't understand where you come from, you're never going to make it where you're going.

Lest this seem get-off-my-lawn-y, consider that when Henry Miller attended Eastern District High School in Brooklyn, he took Latin.

Yes, once upon a time, students in Brooklyn public high schools were taught Latin.


When I attended Amarillo High School in Amarillo, TX, I took Latin. Yes, in that long-lost educational utopia that was the mid-1990s, (some) students in public high schools in the Texas panhandle were taught Latin. What's your point?
posted by DaDaDaDave at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


DaDaDaDave: "What's your point?"

Since your personal experience completely invalidated it, it's too painful a subject now to revisit.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:02 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Why are people so afraid of socialism or even communism? Is the idea that everyone can and should be truly equal so scary? Are we so afraid of the neo-fascist military-industrial complex that we are unwilling to consider certain ideologies for fear of stigma?

Probably because what you describe there isn't actually socialism. socialism is supposed to provide for a higher minimum standard for people (socialized, medicine, etc.) while also allowing people to access higher quality services if they can afford them. But what you described is mandatory equality, i.e. that everyone should access only the same services as anyone else, and nothing more or less.

The reality is that people aren't equal. They aren't equally strong, fast, funny, smart, attractive, energetic, clever, aggressive, assertive, or crazy. And these inequalities are not genetic. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should expect that their compensation for their work, which leverages these disparities, should be equal. People aren't afraid of socialism, they know that it has never worked and will never work when applied to actual people.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2009


Lest this seem get-off-my-lawn-y, consider that when Henry Miller attended Eastern District High School in Brooklyn, he took Latin.

You don't have to go back to Henry Miller's day -- at my undistinguished jr. high in New York state's economically-depressed mid-Hudson Valley in the mid-70s, some of my classmates also took Latin, as early as the 7th and 8th grade (I opted for French, which, well, which 25 years later helped me get a weekly pass in the Paris Metro and hold halting conversations with random surprisingly-patient Parisians). I still remember friends drilling each other on declensions in the cafeteria, and telling odd insider Latin-student jokes the rest of us didn't understand. All this highfalutin nonsense was done away with by successive waves of education cuts in the meantime, of course.
posted by aught at 12:09 PM on March 23, 2009


That's an old and tired one.
Anarchists are against rulers, not organizing.


I suppose they're against senses of humor as well.
posted by fleacircus at 12:12 PM on March 23, 2009


Hardly. I laughed so hard at that straight-edge joke that my roommate asked me what was wrong.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:18 PM on March 23, 2009


No, we're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. Help, help, I'm bein repressed! See, there's the violence inherent in the system.
posted by lovethebomb at 12:21 PM on March 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suppose you then gave him a lecture on the nature of anarchism? This is really fascinating, please tell me more in memail.
posted by fleacircus at 12:22 PM on March 23, 2009


It's funny how when you say "to each according to their need" people assume that you actually mean "everybody gets the same regardless of their needs".
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:32 PM on March 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


I find the Council Communist critiques and debate are the reading I end up visiting marxists.org for; bit of Negri and the autonomists too, though seems there's more of them to be found at Class Against Class.
posted by Abiezer at 12:35 PM on March 23, 2009


it's mostly cthuljew's fault.

I don't actually think the way the post frames its single link to marxists.org is what poisoned this particular well – I have a hunch that anyone interested in a more reasonable discussion of this material has long since seen the site, and so isn't so motivated to go digging around afresh and posting comments about their discoveries. I'm personally stunned that this isn't a double post, since the site has been around for decades, steadily broadening its reach beyond just Marxism (a copious selection of whose texts were its starting point). Speaking just for myself as one leftist computer nerd, this was one of the first things that I ever viewed in a web browser. So there's not much thrill of new discovery to bring what might be the most interesting voices into this thread.
posted by RogerB at 12:35 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


All I know is I'm not a Marxist - Karl Marx
posted by jfricke at 12:38 PM on March 23, 2009


Anyhow, this site is so deep that more links in to specific places always help. Share your favorites!

The section of marxists.org that's really floored me recently is the philosophy library. This has grown far beyond its beginnings (it used to be just a pretty standard tour through the canonical Three Sources of Marx's thought – French socialism, English political economy, Hegel and German idealism), and now is just the best single Web source for a broad range of philosophical texts. (Though some of the 20th-C texts are a bit dubious, in terms of bourgeois copyright law.)
posted by RogerB at 12:46 PM on March 23, 2009



Lest this seem get-off-my-lawn-y, consider that when Henry Miller attended Eastern District High School in Brooklyn, he took Latin.

You don't have to go back to Henry Miller's day -- at my undistinguished jr. high in New York state's economically-depressed mid-Hudson Valley in the mid-70s, some of my classmates also took Latin, as early as the 7th and 8th grade.


There is a public (specialized, you have to test into it) high school in Brooklyn right now called Brooklyn Latin (although you can also take Greek I think).
posted by Divine_Wino at 1:25 PM on March 23, 2009


Yes, once upon a time, students in Brooklyn public high schools were taught offered Latin.
posted by absalom at 1:34 PM on March 23, 2009


Anarchists are simply Libertarians without bow ties.

No, Anarchists are dyspeptic liberals in leather jackets, generally.

/liberal
//owns leather jacket

There is a public (specialized, you have to test into it) high school in Brooklyn right now called Brooklyn Latin (although you can also take Greek I think).

In my neighborhood in Queens, a fairly good portion of the residents could teach Greek (but not that kind) and we have plenaty of Latins (but not that kind).
posted by jonmc at 2:13 PM on March 23, 2009


*obligatory reference to Groucho Marx*

I once posted on Groucho Marx in my pajamas.

....how he got in my pajamas I'll never know. Plus he's dead. That's pretty terrifying.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:14 PM on March 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd have them laundered before wearing them again. Just sayin'
posted by jonmc at 2:16 PM on March 23, 2009


*facepalm*
Ok, that explains a lot then. Thanks.
*changes bedsheets*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:28 PM on March 23, 2009


Wow, Robespierre wrote a paper condemning the death penalty.

And the Bolsheviks abolished the death penalty, just as their extermination program got under way. History! It's full of irony!
posted by languagehat at 2:29 PM on March 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


languagehat: It's not mass murder. It's Systematic Population Management.
posted by cthuljew at 3:35 PM on March 23, 2009


"I don't actually think the way the post frames its single link to marxists.org is what poisoned this particular well – I have a hunch that anyone interested in a more reasonable discussion of this material has long since seen the site, and so isn't so motivated to go digging around afresh and posting comments about their discoveries."

I think that's part of it, since most of the bullshit both here and in the Is Obama Socialist? post just left me rolling my eyes.

I could have sworn that they used to have more Adorno and Gramsci, but now that I actually have time to read them, they're not there.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on March 23, 2009


Fuck people, there is nothing wrong with reading Marx. Marx was wrong about a lot of shit, but so was Newton, and they both got us where we are today.
posted by empath at 5:57 PM on March 23, 2009


Cthuljew: I think L'hat's point might be less in favor of mass murder and more a critique of dissing every thought because some psychopath(s) elaborated it to atrocity... Maybe catch your breath here?
posted by Mngo at 7:25 PM on March 23, 2009


I could have sworn that they used to have more Adorno and Gramsci

The Gramsci Archive page explains why a lot of material is no longer there:
Lawrence & Wishart, who have published collections of translations by Quintin Hoare, the most prolific Gramsci translator, claim that Hoare gave the MIA permission in contravention of his contract with them
Something similar may have happened with Adorno, but they've still got their own translations of the full texts of Minima Moralia and Negative Dialectics, which ought to be enough to keep anyone busy for a few years.
posted by RogerB at 7:43 PM on March 23, 2009


Anarchists are against rulers

Even straight-edge anarchists?


Jesus, give some people an inch and they'll take a foot.
posted by swell at 8:33 PM on March 23, 2009


Meh, I prefer to get my left-wing political theory from those that seem to know the truth about it-

Republicans.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 12:00 AM on March 24, 2009


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