Marx’s thoughts

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Having irrelevantly branded me a defender of “a relatively militant strain of secularism”—and inaccurately, too, since all I have ever taken up the cudgels over in that sphere is to try to halt the various ways in which religious believers try to put their foot on my neck and the necks of others like me—Gus Logan (Letters, October 18) dismisses my defence of some aspects of theoretical Marxism on the grounds that there are no successful states which “follow Marxism”.

The trouble here is that he seems to see Marxism as a seamless whole, to be instituted entirely or not at all. It seems not to have occurred him that one way to read Marx is not as the author of a form of holy writ, in which everything is to be lauded as the purest truth and to which one has a quasi-religious commitment, nor as a demon figure handily embodying our dread of oppression, totalitarianism and social breakdown, but simply as a rather intelligent guy who said some false things but also some things that could be worth taking on board.

For instance, Bruce Crichton (Letters, 17 October) saddles Marx with advocating “the cancellation of private property”, as though under socialism I’d be free to make off with any of your goods I took a fancy to.

But probably the core of Marx’s meaning is merely that, under capitalism, too much veneration is given to the notion of private property, with “it’s his to do with as he likes” being regarded as trumping all other considerations, no matter the social harm that ensues from the way in which those with large accumulations of property deploy it to their own advantage and to the manifest insecurity or other disadvantage of others.

Paul Brownsey

Dept of Philosophy

Glasgow University

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