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Karl Marx¶s Theory of Human Nature
In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society²the real basis, on which rises a legal and political superstructure, and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. (Marx, Critique of Political
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
(Marx, Ten Theses of Feuerbach, 1845)
Introduction In this chapter, we examine the work of the founders of Marxism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) was born the son of a German industrialist who moved to Manchester, England. He had considerable experience of the workings of British industry during the Industrial Revolution and was able to provide Marx a firsthand insight of industrial realities. Harold Laski describes the cofounder of the Marxist movement:
Always friendly, usually optimistic, with great gifts both for practical action and for getting on with other. . . . Widely read, with a very real talent for moving rapidly through a great mass of material, he was facile rather than profound. He was utterly devoid of jealousy or vanity. He had a happy nature which never agonized over then difficulty of thought. . . . It never occurred to him, during the friendship of forty years, marked only by one brief misunderstanding, to question his duty to serve Marx in every way he could.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) was born in Trier, Germany, into a Jewish family which had converted to Protestantism. He was educated in Catholic schools and at the University of Berlin, where he studied Hegel¶s philosophy and became a materialist. He received his doctorate from the University of Jena in 1841. As a youth, Marx was a devout Christian, but upon finishing gymnasium (the German high school) he became an atheist. He began his career in 1842 as a journalist for the liberal Rheinische Zeitung and soon distinguished himself as a brilliant and radical thinker. In 1843 he married Jenny Westphalen, the close friend of his boyhood. Later that year, he and Jenny moved to Paris, where he studied French communism and met Engels, who became his lifelong friend and benefactor. Being exiled from Paris for radical activities in 1849, he found political asylum in London, where he spent the rest of his life in research and writing in organizing the First International Workingmen¶s Association. He was described by a contemporary as follows: He combines the deepest philosophical seriousness with the most biting wit. Imagine Rousseau, Voltaire, Holbach, Lessing, Heine, and Hegel fused into one person²I say fused, not juxtaposed²and you have Dr. Marx.´ He made a powerful
impression on his contemporaries, often intimidating them with his rapier intellect and volcanic passion for his ideas. His principal works are Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Manifesto of the Communist Party (with Friedrich Engels, 1848), and Capital (3 volumes: 1867, 1885, 1895). As a young man, Marx wrote ³Hitherto, the various philosophies have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.´ The Communist Manifesto, the most famous of his writings, embodies that thesis. It combines socioeconomic analysis of the class struggle with a plan of action for overthrowing the existing oppressive conditions. Marx argues that the struggle between the classes is the essential catalyst of historical change: in earlier times, the structure of society was a complicated arrangement of hierarchical classes, but in the present period of the bourgeoisie, the social structure is developing toward a simple division of two classes, the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, owners of the means of production, and the proletariat, the worker-slaves. The proletariat are fast becoming self-conscious of their exploited state, and an international drama is unfolding in which they will create a violent revolution, throwing off their chains and, as new dictators, instantiating a new era of justice, an egalitarian, classless society ³in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.´ The attractions of Marxism is that it appeals to a set of simple theses and gives low-paid workers, the proletariat, a feeling of hope and power, a sense that history is ineluctably on their side in the fight for justice. Perhaps the best way of understanding Marxism is to examine the basic ideas. We turn to a brief analysis of his philosophy of human nature, consisting of ten theses. Ten Marxist Theses 1. Historical Materialist Determinism: Like Hobbes, Schopenhauer, and Freud, whom we have already studied, Marx believed in determinism, though the emphasis on historical determinism rather than individual determinism. Socialism is inevitable. Insofar as Marx did discuss the individual, he espoused a materialist epiphenomenalist view of ten mind¶s activities. He held that ³conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at the [earliest stages] as the direct efflux of their material behavior.´ Analogous to his view of the mind is his epiphenomenal view of culture and consciousness. Economic factors determine the individual consciousness, not vice versa. Necessary economic laws will lead inevitably to communistic economic laws, which in turn determine history. Economic determination causes a dialectical process in which internal contradictions lead to the self-destruction of each stage of social history and the creation of a new economic stage²until the end of history²in the creation of the communist state. Note well that this is a one-directional and totally materialistic order. The causal process is entirely from the economic infrastructure (foundations) to the cultural superstructure (the walls, frame, and ceiling of the social edifice). The religion, law, morality, philosophy, and cultural artifacts are completely determined by the economic, materialist base; but they have no effect on the materialist order. Law and morality are totally relativistic, the creation of the dominant class, and their validity is limited to the culture itself. In a capitalist society, morality and laws are the creation of the bourgeoisie and reflect their interests. Depending on the economic base and ruling class, morality changes its content, so what is moral in one society may well be immoral in another where the material conditions are different.
Some Marxists hold that in the final communist state, where class interest is abolished, a true morality will arise. The argument goes as follows: 1. Whatever is contained in the state of the true destiny of humanity is the true morality. 2. The communist state represents the true historical destiny of humanity. 3. Therefore, the communist state contains the true morality. What are we to make of this argument? It has valid form, but are its premises true? There are three problems with it, which must be addressed before we can accept it. (1) Is it true that the communist state is the true destiny of humanity? Although Marx believed it was, it needs to be argued. Many philosophers do not believe it is the true destiny, and until we discover an argument for it, we may doubt the second premise. (2) Even if the second premise is true, how do we know what kind of morality it will produce? Also, even if we had some idea of that morality, we would not be required to live by that morality now in the time before the communist state. The morality for us now is that which our culture determines. (3) In speaking of the true destiny of humanity, the argument seems to presuppose an essential human nature. However, Marx denied that we have an essential human nature. He wrote ³All history is but a continuous transformation of human nature.´ Perhaps Marx is wrong about there not being a common basic human nature, but if there isn¶t, we cannot make sense of a true historical destiny of humanity. The determinism thesis has the virtue of appearing to make the goal of communism as inevitable as the physical laws of nature. Its liability is that the same logic would seem to entail that we do not have free will and that we are pawns in history¶s dialectical struggle. 2. Organicism: For Marx, as for Rousseau (see chapter 7), individuality is subordinate to the organic whole. ³Man is a species being. . . . Individuals are dealt with only in sofar as they are personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class relations and class interests.´ Individuals are replaceable. The material forces of history are inexorable, moving like a torrenton its predetermined path. If individuals get in the way, they must be sacrificed to the grander forces for the good of the whole. Marxists have prided themselves of their willingness to die for their cause, confident that history would confirm the allegiance. They have also been will to kill in the name of Marx, as witnessed by the Stalinist purges in the 1930s and Mao Tse Tung¶s ruthless elimination of political enemies. The idea of human rights is a bourgeois fetish. As a collective group, it is the class that is preeminent. 3. Class Struggle: The driving determinist force in history is that of class struggle. People identify primarily with their socioeconomic class (not race, gender, or religion), and each class is antagonistic toward the others. Marx divided the history of humankind into five separate epochs: (1) the primitive communal society, (2) the slave society, (3) the feudal society, (4) the capitalist society, and, still to come, (5) the communist society. He argued that each of the first four phases has inner contradictions, or antagonisms, that lead to the next phase of history. As lords struggled against the bourgeoisie in feudalism, the bourgeoisie is presently pitted against the proletariat in capitalism. We see this point in the opening lines of Manifesto of the Communist Party, in the section entitled ³Bourgeois and Proletarians.´
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freemen and slaves, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressors and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again subordinate gradations. The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, the distinctive feature: it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
Marx claims that in order to understand human nature and human history we must understand class antagonisms, especially the relations of oppressed to oppressors, for these forces have developed into ³two contemporary classes: bourgeoisie and proletarian²those who own the means of production and those who are wage earners.´ 4. The Pivotal Role of Capitalism: On the one hand, capitalism breaks the feudal hold over humanity, liberating it from the tyranny of the medieval feudal system, freeing the bourgeoisie and the serf on the manor. It creates the possibility of surplus and ³rescues a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.´ On the other hand, it enslaves people again as wage-slaves to industry. Working on commodities, the worker becomes a commodity in the hands of capitalism (see the discussion of thesis 6, alienation). As a system of exploitation, capitalism so degrades the individual, so frustrates his or her potentialities for creative development, that life under it is hell on earth, a mockery of all ethical commands associated with the Christian-liberal tradition. By means of ever-increasing overproduction, improved technology, and cheaper labor forces abroad, capitalism displaces workers and increases misery in the world. As monopolies extend their tentacles, the competition is destroyed and more and more people find themselves oppressed. This internal antagonism between the capitalists and the workers will eventually come to a crisis wherein capitalism will be overthrown. As Marx writes, ³The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.´ 5. Value Theory: The worker (proletariat) creates value for the capitalist, but the capitalist does not reciprocate. Marx¶ theory of value is rally a version of the classic notion of justice as desert. Workers are unjustly treated by not receiving what they deserve. Many people think that Karl Marx was an opponent of merit or justice based on desert since he famously uttered the formula for distributive justice, ³From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.´ However, this is a misinterpretation of Marx, who actually defends the classic notion of justice. In his Critique of the Gotha Program, Marx attacks utopian communists like Ferdinand Lasalle (1825-1864) for uncritically adopting the need-based motto. Distribution according to need should only take place in the ideal community society, where everyone is equally deserving, since all contribute according to their maximal ability. Until that time, inthe socialist society, the motto must be ³From each according to his ability, to each
according to his contribution.´ Indeed, Marx¶s condemnation of capitalism is based on the classical idea of justice as desert. His labor theory of value condemns capitalists as vampires and parasites for stealing and exploiting the workers. Say that a worker makes a chair with a certain labor value, deriving from the worker¶s skill and labor, and we give it a value of 100, translating that into monetary terms, $100. The capitalists pays the worker only a fraction of the value, say $25, keeping the rest and, thus, growing rich on such exploitive thefts. Of course, the capitalist has a right to deduct overhead costs from the total value, the costs of the raw material and machines used, say $10, and to make a modest profit; but he goes far beyond that and robs the worker of the remainder, the other $65. This is unjust, claims Marx, for the worker deserves far more than what is received. Exploitation involves giving people less than they deserve, less than they are owed. Getting only half the value, the proletariats are robbed, and because they have no other options in an industrial society, in effect, become wage-slaves. Although Marx seems to be a moral relativist, he treats justice, giving people what they deserve, as a moral absolute, binding on the bourgeoisie in a capitalist society. 6. Alienation: As industrial technology has radically expanded, it has changed the nature of work. Unlike in rural and hunter-gatherer societies, work in a modern industrial society is fragmented and meaningless. For the greater part of human history, work has been a physically demanding activity, requiring manual dexterity and personal ingenuity sufficient to cope with the fluctuations of the natural environment and culminating in a clearly identifiable end product, such as harvested wheat or corn, a successfully hunted deer, or artifacts (e.g., wheels, shoes, or cloth). The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the 18th century, changed all this. Increasingly, work became a series of repetitive movements that, however exhausting after a full day. Seldom used more than a fraction of a person¶s full muscular and mental ability. In place of the judgment and aptitude required to meet the variations of nature and basic human needs, factory work demanded only the ability to repeat a single task adapted to a changeless workplace. In regimented assembly lines, the worker contributes his or her specialized product to the total production. That small product is contributed with a monotonous repetitiveness that invites ennui and listlessness. Here is how one automobile-plant worker describes it:
I work on a small conveyor which goes around in circle. We call it a ³merry-go-round.´ I make up zigzag springs for front seats. Every couple of feet on the conveyor there is a form for the pieces that make up the seat springs. As that form goes by me, I clip several pieces together, using a clip gun. I then put the pieces on the form, and it goes around to where other men clip more pieces together. . . . The only operation I do is work the clip gun. It takes just a couple of seconds to shoot six or eight clips into the spring and I do it as I walk a few steps. Then I start right over again.
The assembly-line worker, with his or her dull and repetitive maneuvers, becomes the symbol of the fragmented and frustrated human being. Alienated from the fruit of his or her labor, the worker loses a sense of humanity, beats his or her spouse, tyrannizes his or her children, and becomes filled with self-loathing. Over 200 years ago, Adam Smith observed that a person who endlessly performed the same task ³generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.´ Here is Marx¶s description:
The worker is related to the product of his labor as to an alien object. The object he produces does not belong to him, dominates him, and only serves in the long run to increase his poverty. Alienation appears not only in the result, but also in the process of production and productive
activity itself. The worker is not at home in his work which he views only as a means of satisfying other needs. It is an activity directed against himself, that is independent of him and does not belong to him. Thirdly, alienated labor succeeds in alienating man from his species. Species life, productive life, life creating life, turns into a mere means of sustaining the worker¶s individual existence, and man is alienated from his fellow man. Finally, nature itself is alienated from man, who thus loses his own inorganic body.
7. Oppression: In discussing Marx¶s labor theory of value, we noted that capitalism exploits workers by not giving them the full value of the labor. The rich capitalists parasitically feed off the poor, downtrodden proletariat. Eventually, the rich will get richer and the poor, poorer as the capitalists drive each other out of business and more and more people become proletariats, suffering oppression under the tyranny of capitalism. Overproduction and improved technology lead to redundancy and unemployment. Unemployed workers will suffer in poverty while the capitalists dine in opulence. This yawning gap between the poor and the rich has inspired many people to identify with the Marxists cause even when they did not understand or agree with Marxist theory. Liberation groups such as Sandinistas in Nicaragua and international feminist group have found affinity with Marx¶s eloquent charge against the bourgeoisie. One recalls Edwin Markham¶s famous poem ³The Man with a Hoe´:
Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, The emptiness of ages in his face, And on his back the burden of the world. Who made him dead to rapture and despair, A thing that grieves not and that never hopes, Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox? Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw? Whose breath blew out the light within his brain? What gulfs between him and the seraphim! Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him Are Plato and the swing of Pleides? What the long reaches of the peaks of song. Through this dread shape the suffering ages look; Time¶s tragedy is that aching stoop; Through this dread shape humanity¶s betrayed, Plundered, profaned and disinherited, Cries protest to the powers that made the world, A protest that is also prophecy. O master, lord and rulers in all lands, How will the future reckon with this Man? How answer his brute question in that hour When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores? How will it be with kingdoms and with kings² With those who shaped him to the thing he is² When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?
8. Revolution: Finally, the workers of the world will unite (communist unions and intellectuals leading the way), overthrowing the capitalist lords in a grand revolution. Unfortunately, this will necessitate violence, not because the communists desire violence but because the capitalist rulers will not relinquish power voluntarily and peacefully. No ruling class ever surrenders power voluntarily. It must be wrested from the rulers at gunpoint, and this lamentably requires great violence. It is inevitable. 9. Dictatorship: There will be a short-lived socialist dictatorship of the proletariat necessary during the transition to communism. In this dictatorship, the capitalists will be punished and the workers will take over control of the factories and redistribute the property of the capitalists. Such a proletarian dictatorship took place in Russia in 1917 under Lenin. It lasted until 1991. 10. Communism: Soon, all oppressive capitalist institutions, classes, and inequalities will be abolished and a reign of peace and prosperity will ensue in which crime and greed will disappear since the causes of crime and greed²scarcity, private property, and oppression²will be exterminated. In this utopian state, physical and intellectual works are joined. Here shall the communist motto become a reality: From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Need. That is, one will work for the good of all to the best of his or her ability, for one knows that all of his or her needs will be met by the society as a whole. The Marxist utopia will come about, consisting of solidarity with and among the masses, altruism, and goodwill:
Man will become immeasurably stronger, wiser, and subtler; his body will become more harmonized, his movements more rhythmic, his voice more musical. The forms of life will become dynamically dramatic. The average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.
Finally, the state will wither away and in its place will be a utopia, in which the workers¶ rule will be From Each According to His Ability, to Each According to His Need. These ten theses outline the essential Marxist theory. Humans have their identity within classes and cultures produced by productive economic forces. The class struggle will come to a head and explode in a violent revolution in which the proletariat will be victorious and transform society into the utopian communist state. However, the other aspects of human beings in society are parts of Marx¶s over-all theory of human nature. Secularity and Religion Marx, rejecting the Christian faith of his youth, thought he could build his state on a secular, humanistic, naturalistic philosophy. Religion, a distorted expression of human alienation, was a threat to human progress and must be abolished. Here is a classic passage.
Man, who has found in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a supernatural being, only his own reflection, will no longer be tempted to find only the semblance of himself²a non-human being²where he seeks and must seek his true reality. The basis of irreligious criticism is this: man makes religion; religion does not make man. Religion is indeed man¶s self consciousness and self-awareness so long as he has not found himself or has lost himself again. But man is not an abstract being, squatting outside the world. Man is the
human world, the state, society. This state, this society, produces religion which is an inverted world consciousness, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d¶ honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its general basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human being inasmuch as the human being possesses no true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly a struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sight of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not in order that man shall bear the chain without a caprice or consolation but so that he shall cast off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man so that he will think, act and fashion his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained his reason; so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself. It is the task of history, therefore, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, is to unmask human self-alienation in its secular form now that it has been unmasked in its sacred form. Thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.
In other words, a humanistic naturalism based on universal camaraderie must replace religion. Can one reject Marx¶s ideas on religion and still support much else of his theory? Many Christians in Latin America, including ³liberationist theologians,´ sometimes refer to themselves as Marxist Christians. Is this a contradiction in terms, (an oxymoron) or we can modify Marxism to make it compatible with forms of religion that emphasize social justice? A Manifesto for a Revolutionary Program Marx together with his friend and benefactor Engels set forth an outline of these points in their classic revolutionary work, Manifesto of the Communist Party, excerpted below and hereafter abbreviated M.
It has become evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society. (M, section I)
The struggle between the bourgeois class and the proletariat will reach a crisis point, erupting in revolution. The bourgeoisie has created the very conditions of modern industry which will result in its downfall. ³The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the
very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, abo all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.´ (M, section I). Private property must be abolished. Rousseau said property was the beginning of our downfall as noble savages, and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) said in 1840 in his What is Property? ³Property is theft.´ Marx agrees.
All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions. The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favor of bourgeois property. The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating the products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few. In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. (M, section II)
Communists have been accused of advocating the elimination of all property, including that of the proletariat; but Marx makes an exception for the ³Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property . . . of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form´ (M, section II). That sort of possession is part of the labor theory of value. They deserve that property. He means only modern bourgeois private property.
Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation.
(M, section II)
According to Marx, the charges against communism made from a religious, philosophical, and, generally, ideological standpoint are not deserving of serious examination. Marx believes the revolution is inevitable. The history of economics proves that intellectual production changes character as the material production is altered.
In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat. Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. . . .
What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable. (M, section I)
Marx and Engels now lay down their basic ten-point program, to be tailored to the particular conditions of the country in question. In the most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. Abolition of all right of inheritance. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State by means of a national bank with the State holding an exclusive monopoly on capital. 6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State. 7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-land, and the improvement of the soil, generally in accordance with a common plan. 8. Equal liability of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture. 9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country. 10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children¶s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production. (M, section II)
Some of these points, like progressive income tax and free public education for all children, have been adopted and no longer seem revolutionary. The controversial points have to do with the abolition of property and the establishment of industrial armies. Marx and Engels believed that historical dialectical materialism was guaranteed the last word, complete victory. They felt sure that the revolution would break out in industrialized countries such as Germany, England, and France. When this finally, succeeds, the class struggle as well as divisions will dissolve. However, in the initial stage, the proletariat will temporarily take over the means of production.
When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. ...
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of All Countries, Unite! (M, section IV)
Conclusion Marxism has inspired millions to fight for social and economic change. The Russian Revolution in October 1917, the Chinese Marxist under Mao Tse Tung, Castro¶s Cuba²to name a few governments dedicated to Marxist principles²and political parties that have been influenced by Marx¶s though, including the Labor Party in Great Britain and the Social Democratic Party in Germany reflect the widespread and profound influence of Marxist thought on human society. Perhaps no single political-economic doctrine has so influenced the course of human history during the past 150 years. Even the success of capitalism in the West may be in part attributed to reading and heeding Marx¶s dire warnings and correcting some of capitalism¶s more degrading features. On the other hand, Marx was mistaken on some things. He thought that his theory would precipitate a revolution in European industrialized countries, not Russia. The fact that communism did not arise as he expected and that it proved a failure in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union must give one pause. Nonetheless, it could still be true that its time is yet to come. We must evaluate it on its own merits. Two of the many questions that may be asked of Marxism are the following: (1) Is its unidirectional determinism correct? Is history and culture nothing but the products of economic factors, or could it be the case that spiritual and cultural ideas actually influence the economic development of a society? For example, could a nation¶s religious tradition affect its economic-political development? (2) Is class antagonism a sufficient factor to explain all historical development? It is generally agreed that class is an important feature in understanding history, but whether it is the only feature is a matter of controversy. One may also question whether the dictatorship of the working class (the proletariat) is a necessary phase for social-political development. Why can social progress not proceed without the transition state of a dictatorship? Marx believed that human history was explained by the existence of class conflict and that class conflict reflected the particular historical phases of economic production. He believed that the superstructure²philosophy, morality, law, and all culture²was a product of class orientation and that class struggle would inevitably lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat, which in turn would lead to the abolition of all classes, to a classless and radically egalitarian society ³in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.´ A problem with his philosophy is that if all philosophy is relative to its economic condition, so is Marx¶s. It too is only a projection of the economic conditions in which he lived. It is only relatively true, true at a certain time and place, but not objectively true. Summary
Karl Marx developed a powerful, comprehensive theory of human nature based on economic progression from the hunter-gatherer society to capitalism and on to communism. It was based on historical materialist determinism, which defined culture and morality as functions of economics and described communism as inevitable. The class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat would intensify the gap between the rich property class and the poor workers until the workers, having nothing to lose but their chains, would revolt and overthrow the ruling class, becoming themselves the new ruling class. The dictatorship of the proletariat would then develop into the communists state, where ³each would contribute according to his ability and each would receive according to his need.´ Here, alienation would end and human beings would live together in happiness. Marx thought that religion, being the ³opium of the people,´ consisted in false consciousness. Human consciousness does not determine economic-social conditions, but economic conditions determine social consciousness. Study Questions Reread the following selections from Marx¶s writings in this chapter and see if you can answer the following questions. 1. Explain historical materialist determinism. 2. Explain Marx¶s organicism. What does he mean by that term? 3. What is the significance of the class struggle in Marx¶s philosophy? 4. What do Marx and Engels predict as the future course of the class struggle? 5. What is the relationship between the Communist Party and the proletariat? 6. What will be the result of the proletarian revolution? 7. What are some of the specific social changes that will occur in the most advanced countries? To what degree have their predictions been realized? 8. Do you agree with Engels and Marx that the cultural values, including moral ideas and laws, of a society are always the reflection of the ruling class? Does this make all values relative? 9. If all ideas, including theoretical ideas, are relative to economic conditions, isn¶t Marxist theory also simply relative to the economic conditions of Marx¶s time? If they are just ideas that the economic conditions of a time determine what some people will have, why should we think they are valid or true? Why accept them if we don¶t like them? What is their authority over us? Was not Marx, then, just determined to write what he did by his economic position? 10. What is Marx¶s view of morality? Is Marx a moral relativist? Does he treat justice as an absolute? 11. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Marxist theory of human nature? 12. Compare Marx and Engels with Hobbes and Rousseau (chapter 7). Which view is closer to the truth? 13. What is Marx¶s analysis of religion? Is it valid? Explain.
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