So I wondered over to Clapham High Street to discover in amongst all the modern trendy bars and fashionable restaurants, this:
The Socialist Party
Originally uploaded by sarflondondunc
You go inside and it's like an old fashioned village hall, with bookcases and magazine racks around the walls, a metal tea urn at the back and those really uncomfortable metal chairs.
The talk itself was quite interesting, although it was obviously focused on addressing the socialist viewpoint (but that's what political parties are about really so it's fair enough). Not having read Kapital, let alone any of the other work of Marx or Engels (something I must rectify), I'm not really able to say how valid some of the points she made were, but that does help back up her point that most people's understanding of Marx's views are from comments of summaries of summaries rather than directly from the source (but I suppose that's true of quite a lot of ideas).
This then begs the question, that given that Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskism, Maoism, etc all use some of Marx's principles to justify their own ends and to the world as a whole, the whole lot are generally just synonyms of communism, how much of those ideas have creeped into what people view as Marxism? When you look at the results of these ideas in Russia and China, it's no wonder it all has a bad name really, but were these states really socialist?
To have a "communist" dictatorship (or any dictatorship for that matter), you need a ruling elite (be it one monarch figure or a whole government), which therefore means you have a class divide which as far as I can tell is one of the main things Marx was arguing against.
I've seen many sources stating that Marx's conditions for the founding of socialism were not present in pre-revolution Russia, meaning Lenin had to adapt the idea of a socialist revolution to the Russian environment. The question then has to be asked was Marx wrong about his conditions or did Lenin's adaptations change the underlying philosophy substantially? And if it's the latter how valid are the criticisms of Marx's ideas that are based on what resulted in the former USSR?