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UMaine hosts second Socialist and Marxist Studies lecture

On Oct. 21, Doug Allen, professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Maine held the second installment of the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series this fall. In this lecture, Dr. Allen discussed the development of modern capitalist perspectives, Gandhi-informed and Marx-informed socialist perspectives. 

“Socialism is a beautiful world where all members are equal, this can not be achieved by non-pure means… and can result in greater meaning and happiness,” Allen said. 

Allen points out that socialism is a very vague term as it has so many meanings. Many who call themselves socialist often have been anti-marxist. 

In this lecture, Allen presents the socialist perspectives of Mahatma Gandhi and Karl Marx. Marx was a German philosopher, critic of political economy, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary, whose theories on economics, politics and society led to the development of Marxism.

“Marx is a lot clearer on socialism in his analysis of the primacy of the capitalist load of production and how socialism on the abstract level arises out of the fundamental contradiction in capitalism between the capitalist reusing class and social producers, as well as the domination of those who own the capital over the social producers,” Allen said. “Socialism is to overcome that contradiction.”

Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist who used nonviolent resistance to successfully campaign for India’s independence from England. Gandhi believed that the socialist perspective can create a deeper meaning to life and living. 

“Gandhi-informed perspectives are remarkably insightful and in some areas are stronger than Marxism,”’ Allen said. “Gandhi is more aware of the dynamic integral between means and ends and the dangers of capitalist and Marxist perspective that the ends justify the means.”

Allen discussed how Gandhi valued this idea of interconnectedness. Specifically, it is fundamental to understand what divides us, but it is even more important to have this deeper realization of our connection with other people and nature. Socialism allows a movement toward this higher level thinking that capitalism destroys. 

“Gandhi does emphasize the interconnectedness of all of life positively and negatively. And he has many formulations that can be contextualized in different ways. I find that sometimes his analysis is not adequate because sometimes what he says is that you have to start with the individual,” Allen said. “Unless you achieved inner peace and harmony you cannot relate to the outer world. The problem with that dynamic though is that Gandhi does not have a capitalist individualistic view of the self as an individual. So in this social relationship, we are interconnected.”

Allen emphasized of Ghandi’s focus on the individual. “Gandhi does emphasize the local because he thinks we have more control if we are focusing on ourself individually and our intimate connections.”

Gandhi had tremendous admiration for the nonviolent, moral and truthful values that you find in the oldest Hindu, Indian and Buddhist texts, and had a notion for the welfare of all. While Gandhi and Marx agree that the state is a violent coercive institution, Marx saw more of a need for the state. Marx, an enlightenment thinker who believed in science and technological progress, saw the traditional mode of production as more capitalist and developed a serious lack of development. 

Allen then concluded the lecture.“I don’t romanticize young people, their world and future is pretty threatening. But there is so much happening now, so many groups of people with a vision, who practice at a much higher developmental level. Racism, sexism, homophobia, these examples that are patriarchal. There are so many inspiring things happening among young people that give us hope.”

 Two more talks will appear in the Socialist and Marxist Studies Series this fall, including a talk on Nov. 4 by Cindy Isenhour, “Climate Change Exacerbates Inequality, but Does Inequality Exacerbate Climate Change?” and on Nov. 18, a talk by Nathan Godfried, “Activist Scholars and Social Unionism: The Meaning of the Walsh-Sweezy Case at Harvard University, 1935-1938.”

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