Case Study

Relevance of Marxism to contemporary critical thought

Stalin and Mao are each responsible for millions of deaths. Pol Pot was guilty of genocide. Nicolae Ceausescu enjoyed luxury in Romania, a facade which hid the misery of the masses. Humanitarian organisations express frustration about a regime in North Korea which is more interested in hiding the terrible consequences of its rule than in those consequences themselves. Soviet tanks crushed rebellion in Hungary in 1956. When lists of injustices are drawn up they seem to include, perhaps disproportionately, the actions of states inspired by the ideas and thoughts of Marx. However, it seems a particularly harsh fate that his ideas be associated with some of history’s most notorious tyrants, given that he was personally committed to the cause of the downtrodden masses (see Chapter 8). It has been to reclaim the ‘humanism’ in Marx, and to steer us away from the practical and theoretical dangers of Marxism, that a range of critical theories have developed in IR which seek to go beyond the neo-Marxism of Chapter 8.