CREDOS : New Buddhism — III

David Brazier

The original spirit of Buddhism is, on the one hand, positive compassionate action and, on the other hand, non-cooperation with coercion and oppression. It is common for people to think that a little bit of tinkering with the status quo will accommodate Buddhism quite nicely. This is, in turn, rooted in the assumption that most of what the status quo consists of is inevitable.

Karl Marx, for instance, argued in favour of economic determinism. This idea made his followers believe that history was on their side. Although Marx himself is now widely thought to have been discredited, his idea of economic determinism, in one form or another, still holds sway, particularly among his staunchest opponents. Margaret Thatcher, for instance, will be remembered, among other things for her strident insistence that “There is no alternative”. There is, in fact, a widespread sense nowadays that capitalist rather than communist economics have an historic inevitability.

History is full of such paradoxes. It is a further paradox that Marx was a living demonstration of the falsity of this central idea. Had he really believed it, then there would have been no reason to write the books that he did.

In fact, his books gave hope to many of the world’s oppressed and changed the course of history in ways that were not simply down to the relentless march of economic forces. Marx, like Buddha, went against the current. —