Thefollowing essay is an entry discussing and offering various criticism onMarxism and Karl Marx’s socialist theories,mainly the idea portrait in ‘TheCommunist Manifesto’. “From each according to his abilities to eachaccording to his needs” is a sloganfrom Karl Marx’s ‘Critique of the Gotha program’that simplifies the its basis on which Karl Marx build his political argument.
Karl Marx was a major socialist figure that emerged in the 19thCentury and his ideas were the basis of various communist states throughout thepast few decades. Karl Marx ideologiesfind basis in George Hegel’s historical analysis found in ‘The Phenomenology of the Spirit’ which Marx studied duringhis years at the University of Bonn. Such thoughts included the opposition toChristianity and the condemnation of the Prussian rulers, which he wrote aboutin the liberal newspaper the ‘RherinischeZeitung’, which later was shut down by the Prussian government. Marxshortly after started to reject Hegel’s abstract and idealistic philosophy andmoved on to argue a materialistic adaptation if Hegel’s ideas. Unlike Hegel’s belief that the changes thatoccurred throughout history were related to the restriction of freedom of thecivil Marx believed that the “history of all hitherto existing society is thehistory of class struggle”. With this statement, Marx opens the first part of ‘The Communist Manifesto’, ‘Bourgeois andProletarian’.
He argued that during the history of civilizations therewas one major common factor, that is the conflict between different socialclasses, such as the Freeman and the Slave, Patrician and the Plebeian, theLord and the Serf and The Guild Master and the Journeyman. The Manifesto claimsthat society was back then finally simplified into two classes in directconflict. The Bourgeoisie, the capital-owning class and The Proletariat, theworking class. He accuses that the modern day drifted away from “antagonism”and instead it “established new classes, new conditions and new forms ofstruggle”. What Marx seems to not understand however is that social classes’structure is more complicated than the two social categorizes he identifies.
Atthis stage, Marx misidentifies the presence of a small population that made upthe upper-middle-class. He describes the middle-class as a simplified versionof class antagonism and that the middle class was taken over by the industrial businessman,”The Modern Bourgeois”. The bourgeoisie has ended all “feudal,patriarchal, idyllic relations”. Meaning that it has abolished the distinctionbetween the “bound man and his natural superiors” and personal worth is nowvalued with the exchange values. Therefore, he says that value of aproduced economic good is equally proportioned to the average number of labourhours required. This solution showed that Marx at this stage believed thatCapitalists were underpaying the workers. Some might argue that this is economicallyinaccurate for the simple reason that other factors are taken intoconsideration when valuing the importance of a factor. Basic economic conceptsshow that besides the capital, supply and demand are also key features whenvaluing anything, in this case, the demand and the incompetence of the labourer.
Hedebates that what before was hidden by political and religious “illusions” arebeing open to the public shamelessly. He then says that the bourgeoisie needstraditional methods to survive and therefore try to expand their marketterritory by sustaining a global connection. Marx believes that this is done ina way to make sovereignty less manageable, which leads to the concentration ofwealth and the dependence on the capitalist companies. Therefore the ‘Means of Production’ on which thebourgeoisie companies are build originate from feudal societies, and at some point,feudal relations “hindered production rather than advance it, resulting in therise to power of the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, he then says a commercial crisisid due to arise as a result of over-production.
Here is where the manifestostarts addressing the Proletariat, and he believes that the proletariats arebecoming slaves of the manufacturing industry and the worker is being replacedby machinery. With the fear of this, Marx encourages all workers to unite andform their own unions, as he believes that unions formed by socialist activistshave ingenuine interests. He claims that the workers within these unions arenot fighting their own enemy, the capitalists, but instead standing with theenemy of the proletariat enemy. With this in mind, he suggests that theproletarians destroy private property as they do not own their own property.
This might be considered an unjust statement as Marx did not take intoconsideration the workers who owned their own houses, fields, farms (etc..). The main criticism the Manifesto faces comeswith the various concepts Marx suggested to be abolished. In the second part ofthe book, ‘Proletarians and Communists’,Marx suggests that the private property is the luxury the wealthy have thanksto the capital produced by the workers.
Marx addresses pro-capitalisticcritiques who claim that private property is achieved through ‘hard commercial work’. He further arguesthat labourers do not acquire this kind of social privilege from the fruit oftheir labour. Therefore, Marx that the capital is a collective product,achieved by the many and benefited by the few. Marx’ solution is simple. Hebelieves in a system where one is not paid to work, trading for goods andservices with no currency and as a result, no capital is made. Additionally, non-conformist argues that ifprivate property is abolished ‘universallaziness’ will overcome and thus no one will want to work. Marx answersthat with the prior reasoning bourgeoisie would have been gone ages beforebecause the capital is not acquired by the bourgeoisie themselves. As many believe,this theory is impractical.
Marx doesn’t take into account the natural instinctof a human being as an animal. By referring to the famous theory of evolutionby Charles Darwin, we can say that man has a natural desire to conquer areas tobe able to survive. Moreover, other critiques such as the economist andpolitical philosopher Fredrich Hayek said that the absence of a free marketwould lead to an authoritarian political regime and that capitalism isessential for freedom to grow in a national state. Besides the privatization of possessions, Marxalso called for an abolishment of other things.
Firstly, he suggests the end of the ‘family’as we know it. Although he himself admits that delicate topic to discuss, hebelieved that the family is created for “capital, on private gain”. Therefore, he believedthat by eliminating the family he would also be a step closer to eliminate thecapital. One must understand that Marx and Engels weren’t against the family aswe know it, as an intimate domestic group but rather they were against the ideaof inheritance of wealth and power, which reinforces the family class statusquo. A rich family will give their children their possessions while a poorfamily’s child will have to keep working in order to survive. For a trueCommunist, this social injustice was unacceptable. On the other hand, we knowthat this idea is unrealistic.
Clearly, this can be witnessed because evenleaders who claim to be Communist do not practice this thought. Furthermore,this idea of abolishment flourished the ‘Marxist-Feminism’concept. When the state abolishes the family, he suggests that the woman isthen liberated from the social submissive conditioning it had grown to liveinto.
In addition, activists such as Silvia Ferdici contend that unpaiddomestic labour is the foundation upon which capitalism is built. Finally, Marx suggests the abolishment ofcountries and nationality. This strongly contrasts the philosophy of GeorgeHegel. While Hegel suggest the idea of a ‘Geist’ that is a historical immaterialconcept, Marx refuses to believe that there is any sort of immaterialisminvolved within politics as these gave way to “free competition with the domainof knowledge”. One might point out that with the restriction of knowledge andbelief is a radical idea, but Marx simply says that they are missing the largerpicture. This is not only evident by theelimination of a national identity, but also the unacceptance of religion,philosophy and moral thought.
He believed that as time passes by, nationaldifferences are vanishing and therefore all workers should abolish the idea ofa nationality and for one proletariat nation. He supports this suggestion withhis belief that the right eternal truths are the one that are common truths allstate societies share and that survive history such as the idea of ‘Justice’, which for him reflect theidea of class antagonism development. Although this idea might seem injudicious,a lot of inspirational speech is guilty of using similar ideas of motherland abolishment.Doesn’t the famous John Lennon song ‘Imagine’preach the same form of unification of the people? irrespective of religion,race and nation? At it is now taken to be the obvious, a lot offactors support the arguments of the impracticality of Marxism, and as thefamous Slavoj Zizek said, the Marxist theory is a failure one, but what peoplefail to also realize is that some of Marx’s predictions are till this dayvalid. For example, the Great Recession of 2008, where we see that Marx’sprediction of persistent greed for profit from lead companies to systemise the workplaces while limitingworkers’ wages until they could no longer purchase the products they created.Decades of deepening inequality reduced incomes, which led more and more Europeansto take on debt. When there were no subprime borrows left to scheme, the whole systemfell apart, just as Marx said it would. Marx also believed that salaries would be controlledby “reserve army of labour”.
By this. he expressed the capitalists’ wish to payworkers as least as possible and this is the easiest thing to do when there isa high rate of unemployment. Closely after the recession, the Marxist study thatunemployment would keep wages fixed at a low amount while the capital kept ongrowing, was proved to be the reality of many.
Profits were on tear, while the companies’productivity increased and not much was done to re-stabilize the unemployment situation.As Marx argues, company owners took advantage of the worker’s fear of being jobless.With this reason as well, one can argue that the best time for equitable growthis during times of “full employment” where workers can shift from one job toanother, dependently only on their personal needs, without the fear of being unemployed.In conclusion,Marx was inaccurate and unrealistic in a lot of aspects. Most of his writings focused on a critique of capitalismrather than a proposal of what to replace it with and this resulted inmisinterpretation of the theory, such as that of Stalin’s. But his works stillshapes few principles of the modern-day economy, such as progressive income tax,a system where governments try to fight income inequality. As Robert L.
Heilbroner writes, “We turn to Marx,therefore because he is inescapable.” Today, in a world of both unheard-ofwealth and poverty, where the richest own one percent of the world’s wealth,the famous cry, “Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains,” hasyet to lose its influence.