Aidan Beatty
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The Moor’s laboratory
in Private property and the fear of social chaos
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The third chapter examines the romance of Marx and Engels for Ireland, their belief that in Ireland private property was not yet dominant and their related view that the Irish remained a feudal race outside the coercion of capitalism; Engels, and more subtly Marx, saw the Irish as freer, more human and more masculine than the industrial proletariat of England. The chapter situates this stereotyping in the context of Victorian British attitudes towards the Irish, specifically seeing them as a lovable and warm, if primitive, people; like their writings on Jews, Indians and Chinese, Marx and Engels accepted stereotypes while reworking them into their critique of private property. Yet in their writings on Ireland there was a romance and a respect that remained absent from their analyses of non-‘white’ races. Ireland was a laboratory in which Marx and Engels could construct their ideas of primitive accumulation, the alienation and unhappiness caused by private property and the transition from feudal to capitalist property-relations. I focus on two seminal thinkers, to show how communism has often imagined the world in terms similar to propertied ideology, seeing empty spaces waiting for modernity, change and guidance, and likewise dependent on race and gender vocabulary.

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