Marxist analysis of Ancient Civilizations

Does there exist anywhere a decent Marxist analysis of the reasons behind the fall of the Roman empire?

Parenti's book on Julius Caesar is excellent regarding the transition from Republic to Empire.

"Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World" by G. E. M. de Ste. Croix is super great as well.

His argument is that the corrupt Roman aristocracy, which refused to make any concessions to other classes, destroyed Classical civilization. Many people in the Roman empire were so unhappy with Roman rule that they joined peasant rebels (called bagaudae) or defected to the barbarian invaders.

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As someone who studied ancient and medieval history, it's my dad duty to inform you that most Marxists know jackshit about ancient civilisations because they are still working off the information Marx and Engels had in the 19th century, obviously history has come a long way since then.

It's not really that it matters because Marx's analysis of capitalism is still correct but it's sometimes nice for theoretical circlejerk if you are into that type of thing. Honestly Cockshott didn't seem to be too bad with his takes on feudalism and antiquity, I haven't read Parenti's book though.

sad duty*


Oh and Ismail has scanned some Soviet history of the world and it didn't seem to be bad either at the first glance, they had the best Soviet historians compiling it.

What are some common thing Marxists get wrong?

Stop worshiping the Dengoid cultist

Human nature. xd

Is it you who's in every thread to shit on Ismail? The guy's doing great work scanning tons of books, who cares if he's a Dengoid when this is about a soviet history of the world?

Wish I could help you more, OP. I know there's plenty of Marxist books about the Romans out there but I wouldn't know where to begin.

Are there any worthwhile Marxist/radical analyses of the Incans, Aztecs, and/or Mayans?

Ellen Meiksins Wood for a political analysis.

Michael Hudson has researched a lot when working out the history of money. Privatisation in Antiquity is awrsome

archive (dot) org/stream/ClastresArcheologyOfViolence/Clastres%20-%20Archeology%20of%20Violence_djvu.txt
relevant, especially chapter 10. inb4 butthurt ML's

This article is good at drawing out the potential analogy made by modern historians between ancient democratic Athens and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

was Julius Caesar the ultimate vanguard

A dictator, that's all he was.

Michael Hudson is doing a 3-part series on this subject. Here's part one.

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A People's History of the World by Chris Harman has a brief chapter (which I haven't ready yet) on "Rome's rise and fall" from a Marxist standpoint. PDF attached. His sources are mostly the "Class struggle in Greece" book you cited along with P.A. Brunt's Social Conflicts in the Roman Republic.

I'm interested in the fall of the Roman empire because of its significance to Rosa Luxemburg's slogan "socialism or barbarism!". The notion being that if the social revolution isn't completed in time, society will not just stagnate, but actually regress into barbarism. The historical example she referenced was the collapse of the Roman empire and the regression to the "dark ages" in Europe. It's an evocative concept for agitation, but I don't know enough history to substantiate the theory.

Her contemporary prophecy of regression to barbarism was that capitalist society would annihilate itself in a series of devastating world wars. In the era of the hydrogen bomb, this thesis no longer has to be substantiated.

he created the first ever proletarian dictatorship

brainlet detected

Great book, thanks for the link.

It makes a lot of sense. If the Roman oligarchs went along with Caesar's reforms instead of murdering him like the US oligarchs went along with FDR, I'm 99% sure Rome would still exist today.

Instead of defecting to the barbarians, Roman workers and peasants would fight against them. There would be no rebellions of workers and peasants against the regime, like there were IRL.

By wiping out every democratic-egalitarian reformer, myopic and selfish elites like Cicero might have saved their obscene riches in the short-term, but they ensured Rome would collapse in the long-term.

Lots of interesting parallels to the modern day.

Here I mentioned Caesar instituted a proletarian dictatorship:

But I think it's more accurate to compare him to someone like FDR - a wealthy elite himself who was smart enough to realize that his class would be destroyed in the long-term unless it gives up a little something to preserve everything


MonBol gang (no private property)
SocDem (private property and free trade, but only outside of cities)
Free market

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There's a tendency to believe in mainstream economic myths about anthropology like "barter system"s existing anywhere ever, or societal development having a specific track. Capitalism isn't global because everything develops toward capitalism. It's global because it took control in a few places and expanded. Plenty of places are in "archaic" economies even though they've been around as long as anybody else if not longer (think of how many tribes live in Africa).

The reality is that political economy can develop in all sorts of ways, and depending on the context some are more successful. We have a tendency to think of anything besides capitalism as "backward" because capitalism spurred industrialization, but capitalism isn't "more advanced" or "better" than other systems; it's just more prone to get a country to industrialize.

Well first of all it's not proletarian (as in one person) dictatorship but dictatorship of the proletariate (the class as a whole. Second, there was no proletariat in Rome. Third, even if Caesar was a prole, he would have stopped being a prole upon becoming an autocrat, making him a class traitor to the proletariat and simply a dictator.

How were Romans not proles?

Julius Caesar is a class hero! Long live Caesar and the Gracchus brothers!

user, proletarians are a class specific to capitalism, there were other underclasses in the past depending on the economic system, but in the case of Rome, they were not proletarians. The proletariat in the specific context of now are the class that must sell their capacity for labor in order to survive.

The proletariat is specific to capitalism. They work on private property in exchange for a wage and generating surplus value for the capitalist, which is put into the M-C-M' cycle to grow the business. There were a "class" called proletarii but they were distinct from what Marx refers to as proletariat.

And what were the people of Rome doing to sustain themselves? Were they all petty landowners producing grain or artisanal crafts in the shops upon their land?

People working someone else's land were generally slaves, weren't they?

What were the other ~65% doing? I don't get why people call Rome a slave society when the majority of its people were not slaves, and presumably composing rather the majority productive mode, of capitalism or proto-feudalism or whatever they were, but not slavery.

My dad has a Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire set on the shelf and I've got enough free time right now to be tempted to read it as an introduction to Rome.

Insightful, witty masterpiece of Whig historiography, or overlong, factually inaccurate meme book which is often bought but never read?

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The supposed "fall" of the Roman Empire was really just an acceptance of what had already happened centuries earlier. I would argue that Marx's failing in regard to his analysis of Rome is that he failed to differentiate between the Republic Era slaver aristocracy and the warlords like Sulla, Pompey, and Caesar who made the old aristocracy their bitches in the Empire Era. When Pompey established the grain supply of Rome from Africa he made the formation of a centralized military power inevitable. The Republic had already had an army, but it had been limited to the very feudal system of lords with their particular fiefdoms supplying the legions and auxiliaries. That changed when Caesar took Gaul. The loot bonanza and the promise of wealth to those in his army proved conquest to be a more lucrative enterprise than just living off the work of one's own slaves. From then on, Rome would wax when it marched into foreign lands and wane when it merely lived off its spoils. None the less, Augustus realized early on that just striking out on endless campaigns of conquest like Alexander and the Macedonians had was a sure way to make the empire too vast to be governable and thus lead to its immediate collapse, so he set borders for the empire. Instead of a quick flame-out like the Macedonians had experienced, Rome lingered while its own need for spoils contradicted its inability to expand.

The lie had been quickly put to the old aristocracy's claims to power by the likes of Nero and Domitian, but the cities that were built upon spoils faded away as further spoils were denied them. Apart from high times like when Trajan captured Dacia, slaves were not reliable sources of labor, particularly when the plagues became more frequent, however a vast and seemly limitless pool of labor presented itself to the opportunistic nobles. Barbarian tribes seeking better land had been testing the borders along the Rhine and the Danube for centuries, and increasingly the nobles found that they offered more of an opportunity than a threat. Taking a cue from the wealthy kulaks of Egypt, Roman aristocrats enticed the hoards over the rivers with promises of free land (which there was plenty of thanks to the constant wars and plagues) if they would also work their fields for them. The arrangement was mutually beneficial, and the lords of the countryside thrived. Nobles spent more time at their estates than they did in the cities while the warlords who had dominated the Empire became progressively less able to exert their control over the nobles. When Romulus Augustus finally abdicated he left only a ruin behind.

What can we take from this? I would say that we should realize that class struggle is not quite so simple as Marx envisioned it. There is plenty of room for quantitative change within a mode of production before it must undergo qualitative change. Also, old modes of production tend to linger on as they are steadily consumed by the emergent mode of production. Revolution is not one dramatic cataclysm that begins at the storming of the Bastille. It takes a good while, and the setbacks are easily confused for regression.

This is literally just me doing ctrl+F "slavery" in this .pdf so I could be wrong but it seems relevant. This bit is about Greek city states, but deals with the same question.

Oh, the author is citing the book OP mentioned, maybe he could weigh in on this in more detail?

The rest of the population was doing a lot of different things. There were soldiers, peasants, bureaucrats, fishermen, slavers, artisans, and even porkies. What made the Republic a slave society was that the slaver class was the ruling class. The Empire, however, was a different animal.

Was this not the CSA?

It was the U.S.A. up until 1863.

But America was not a slave society? If so, what made it different from Rome because they both seem to have a slave-owning ruling class.

North America was a resource extraction node in the greater Atlantic capitalist economy up until sugar beets and industrialization spun it apart. Slavers dominated the American state, but it would be incorrect to say that the antebellum United States had its own unique mode of production. It is good to bear in mind that economies seldom conform to the shape of any nation-state. Honestly, I believe that Marx missed that one as he tended to think in terms of empires like Rome and Great Britain.

There was a "proletariat" in the traditional Roman sense of the word. As mentions, the proletarii existed which was defined as those who owned no property other than their children and some other amenities. As Rome developed the number of proletarii increased to the point they occupied a majority of the public space, and thus became reviled by the elite who saw them as lazy parasites, despite them being used for labor when slaves could not be used.

The Myceneans had collectivized agriculture and eliminated the presence of markets and their 'kings'/leaders lived fairly poorly and were assisted by elected councils rather than hereditary/wealth heirarchy.

its shit

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

Will people stop spamming that shit on every thread when something remotely related to history pops up?! That book isn't some gospel about history, its quite a bit outdated, hell the Soviet books on the matter are more informative.

I mean, arguably this is the cornerstone of Marxist thinking. I struggle, as a materialist, to look at development any other way. I do agree with you on the capitalist imperialism point however, that is how it spread.

Only if you are a brainlet. It is an incredibly important work for understanding the method and theory of Marxist history. As well, most of its main points have been proven correct.

They were then conquered by the Minoans who had a monarchic market system.
Foreign influence
Minoan palace sites were occupied by the Mycenaeans around 1420–1375 BC.[26][20] Mycenaean Greek, a form of ancient Greek, was written in Linear B, which was an adaptation of Linear A. The Mycenaeans tended to adapt (rather than supplant) Minoan culture, religion and art,[27] continuing the Minoan economic system and bureaucracy.[20]


In case it was unclear>/wiki/Minoan_civilization#Collapse
Mycenaean Greece conquered the Minoans during the late Minoan II period, and Mycenaean weaponry has been found in burials on Crete soon after the eruption.[133]
Bruce Bowen: Mycenae and Minoan Crete, 2000,

the book is complete garbage but the spine is cool

All I know about it is that Zig Forums loves it because it tells them that degeneracy killed off the roman empire.

That really should tell you all you need to know.