Was Karl Popper Right about Karl Marx? Yes and No

Here’s something interesting. Popper was right about some of his criticisms of Marxism. For example, he criticized Marx because he had said that the industrial working class of the advanced nations would lead the revolution, they would be the ones do the revolution and spread it. As we can see from history, that never happened. In fact the opposite happened on two levels. Firstly, the advanced industrialized nation of Germany went towards fascism. Second, the revolutions came from the most underdeveloped and oppressed countries: Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba. Marx was proven wrong in his theory in this regard.

If you read more into what Popper wrote on Marx (that wasn’t dishonest), he does correctly criticize Marx. While the criticisms of Marx’s theory are correct, Popper makes one fatal mistake: He never read Lenin or Mao. The aspects of Marx’s theories that had been proven to be incorrect, were corrected by the theoretical contributions of the other “two heads” of Marxism. What Popper does is claim Marxism is not a revolutionary science because it’s wrong in a few areas. It is a science because we have theoretical contributions that take into account new material conditions and lessons learned from practical experience.

“Classical Marxists” have a total revulsion for Popper, largely because he does criticize Marx so well in some places. These classical Marxists can’t answer these specific correct attacks by Popper, because Popper is right. They can’t answer him because they reject Leninism and Maoism. Classical Marxism really is just dogmatism. Popper does debunk Classical Marxism, that’s why we regard Marxism as a science that evolves as it absorbs new information gained from experience and investigation.

Lenin put forward this development of theory which refutes Popper on Marxism.

“…the exploitation of oppressed nations—which is inseparably connected with annexations—and especially the exploitation of colonies by a handful of “Great” Powers, increasingly transforms the “civilised” world into a parasite on the body of hundreds of millions in the uncivilised nations. The   Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society. Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletarian. Marx specially stressed this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism somewhat changes the situation. A privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist countries lives partly at the expense of hundreds of millions in the uncivilised nations.”[1]

Lenin here clearly acknowledges the labour aristocracy in his work. A section of workers in the imperialist nations that have an abundance in their living standards. Correspondingly they had an interest in keeping that power dynamic because it meant a surplus for them. The opposite, being revolution, would be the abolishment of it.

He also went on to describe the social democrats who were a labour aristocracy. Those who altered revolutionary theory to fit their comforted lives. In doing so, they were justified in not doing revolution. During Lenin’s time these social democrats were lead by Karl Kautsky…

“…who refuses to regard imperialism as a “phase of capitalism” and defines it as a policy “preferred” by finance capital, a tendency of “industrial” countries to annex “agrarian” countries. Kautsky’s definition is thoroughly false from the theoretical standpoint. What distinguishes imperialism is the rule not of industrial capital, but of finance capital, the striving to annex not agrarian countries, particularly, but every kind of country. Kautsky divorces imperialist politics from imperialist economics, he divorces monopoly in politics from monopoly in economics in order to pave the way for his vulgar bourgeois reformism, such as “disarmament”, “ultraimperialism” and similar nonsense. The whole purpose and significance of this theoretical falsity is to obscure the most profound contradictions of imperialism and thus justify the theory of “unity” with the apologists of imperialism, the outright social-chauvinists and opportunists.”[2]

Why is this important? Is this not what we see in Bernie Sanders today? He consistently rails about how those in the First World (the advanced nation of the U.S.) don’t have enough and advocates policy change; liberal democratic reforms as opposed to revolution. Bernie Sanders isn’t interested in smashing capitalism. He sees a possible America where there’s a “more equitable” division of wealth, not a scenario where capitalism is destroyed under the boot heels of the proletariat. He is offering all the benefits of America without the horrors of the system in which it exist. This utopian view of Sanders offers an America without the imperialist effects of being America.

Mass amounts of American Marxists are running towards Sanders as liberals ran towards Obama in 2008. When confronted with the reactionary nature of their support for Sanders, they react just as Lenin had criticized Kautsky and the social democrats. They insist that you are injuring unity by not advocating for the reforms they want; their cut of the spoils of imperialism. They claim Sanders will scale back the military and “use it properly.” Such a claim is total nonsense, there’s only evidence that shows Bernie will continue the imperialist wars. ([3] [4]) These Sanders supporters do as Lenin said of Kautsky: they divorce, “…imperialist politics from imperialist economics, he divorces monopoly in politics from monopoly in economics in order to pave the way for his vulgar bourgeois reformism…”

Lenin and Mao are the proof that Popper was wrong about Marxism in general. Just as Third Worldism is proof that the First Worldist line is wrong.

Karl popper was right about Marxism as long as he ignored the theoretical contributions. First Worldists today are wrong about Marxism so long as they ignore the theoretical contributions of Lenin and Mao they don’t like. Particularly so if they reject the Third Worldist line.

These are just some thoughts that I had when reading Popper’s work and looking at it in the context of the world today, and the current state of the development of Marxist theory

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[1] V.I. Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism

[2] Ibid.

[3] If Bernie Sanders was against the invasion of Iraq, why did he repeatedly vote to fund it?, Screeching Kettle

[4] Bernie Sanders Says He Wouldn’t End Drone Program, Truth Dig

12 thoughts on “Was Karl Popper Right about Karl Marx? Yes and No

  1. Excellent, and very important to realize this about Sanders, he is pure ideology and no substance

  2. You barely scratched the surface of Popper’s critique, which is something to which all Marxists should adequately respond. Popper absolutely read Lenin and even makes reference to him in Open Society and Its Enemies. Did you even read his book?

      • My question wasn’t rhetorical, nor was it meant as an insult. I’m sorry you seem incapable of telling the difference between the two (egoism much?).

        It might do you some good to read philosophical critiques of Marxism so you’re prepared to respond to common criticisms of Marxism that take more than “classical Marxism wrong, Third Worldism right” to accurately debunk. You didn’t even quote Popper once in this entire post so your readers have no understanding of the core of his arguments.

      • Uh right, you literally were insulting me by claiming I hadn’t read it, now you’re backtracking when I pointed out how you were wrong. I wasn’t intending to quote popper, it was just a brief blog post. It was not meant to be an academic work. Please act like an adult and not a petty child looking for something to attack with.

  3. “The Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society.” Is he saying that plebeians had it better than conquered tribes like the Gauls etc.?

  4. I was wondering if you could do a piece on Jeremy Corbyn? I find him quite interesting, mainly because I would put him on a plane above Bernie Sanders. Corby seems like an actual socialist in his theory, and also in his stance on more important and international politics, however, I obviously don’t expect anything from any labour leader.

  5. since you’re a maoist third-worldist i want to ask you two things:

    1. what would MTWists say about the prospect of Greece having a socialist revolution? Would MTWists support a genuine communist party taking over, and what would it mean for the status of global imperialism?

    2. What do MTWists think about immigration from the 3rd to 1st world, like the migrant crisis we’re seeing now? I think in some ways it’s good that these people are taking back what the 1st world stole from them, but at the same time, those immigrants will lose their revolutionary edge after they’re smothered in 1st world benefits.

    • 1. I would say unlikely. Greece has a very strong fascist movement right now. If the leftists fail through reforms, the fascists will sweep in and take over.

      2. Immigration is rather non-issue for us. You can’t really blame people for wanting to get away from enforced poverty. But yes they very much lose their revolutionary edge if they leave the Third World. I don’t think it really matters because the 1st would could never take in all 3rd world people.

      • yes, it’s unlikely that a revolution would happen in Greece given the situation with Golden Dawn. But let’s say it did happen: how would MTWists react? Would it be good or bad for the 3rd World if a Western nation like Greece became authentically socialist?

        I disagree that immigration is a non-issue. I think it has the potential to go both ways. Immigrants in Europe from Muslim countries tend to be more radical than the general population seeing as to how marginalized they are. But they’re also being assimilated at an alarming rate so I don’t know how well they’d function as a revolutionary base or leadership. The ones who haven’t been corrupted by Western culture are good.

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