Marx and Lenin

1) Who is Karl Marx (1818-1883)?

He is the world's most famous political economist. A philosopher of the mid-19th century, Karl Marx witnessed both the rewards and abuses of industrialization in Europe. He lived in London for a while during the industrial revolution and most of his writings have stemmed in part from his knowledge of London's slums. Both of Marx's sons and his daughter died from illness related to under-nourishment and poor living conditions.

2) What is historical or Dialectic Materialism?

The first to use the idea of dialectic to explain the evolution of history was the German Philosopher Hegel. According to Hegel's the Philosophy of History, history moves through conflict- a conflict of ideas. The idea of beauty gets opposed by the idea of ugliness, the idea of truth and the idea of falsehood and the idea of slavery and liberty. The battle between opposing ideas is called by Hegel dialectic idealism. It goes something like this: each phase in history corresponds to the manifestation of certain ideas. It is called a thesis. However, it includes its opposite, its antithesis. Thesis and antithesis struggle with each other until the antithesis manages to absorb the thesis or to combine it on one form or another. This combination is called synthesis representing a new stage in history. Every synthesis, in turn, becomes a thesis that struggles automatically its antitheses, which comes into conflict with it to lead to a new synthesis and so forth… A point comes when history will have exhausted itself- the best possible synthesis will have occurred and this will be the end of history. (For Marx this synthesis is communism; for Fukuyama this synthesis is liberalism)

Marx maintains from Hegel one thing and rejects one thing. He postulates the dialectic (the notion of conflicting opposites that determines history) and he rejects the role of ideas. In the preface of the Capital Marx mentions that: "with me on the contrary [to Hegel] is nothing else than the material would reflected by the human mind, and translated the form of thought."

Thus Marx found in the material world, our senses and our working conditions-not in our ideas- the source of conflict and change. This is what, in contrast to "dialectic idealism," has become known as dialectic materialism.

The conflict according to Marx, is a conflict between classes. Classes are defined according to their relationship to the means of production (if "A" owns his means of production, he belongs to the lord, noble, or bourgeois class, while if "B" does not own anything but his labor he belongs to the slave, servant or proletariat class).

The struggle between the mentioned classes is the engine of dialectic materialism that dictates the history of human kind.

3) The Historical Evolution:

The First Phase: Common Life

No property, no state, no laws, no classes: absolute freedom and absolute equality. Anthropology proves that this phase historically took place.

The process of fencing led to the emergence of private property

The Second Phase The Feudal system

Marx talked about three major types of feudal system that depended on agriculture as the major source of production.

  1. Tribal Form: People lived by hunting and fishing, or at highest stage by agriculture. The division of labor was centered on “family and tribe”.
  2. Slavery Form: After founding cities, either by agreement among different tribes or conquest. The slavery type of relationship began to prevail.
  3. Feudal System: The chief form here is that the division of labor is no longer between slaves or tribes, yet, between peasantry and aristocracy (princes, nobility clergy). Mostly this happened in monarchical systems.

The Third Phase: The Bourgeois Society

This type of society emerges in the most industrially advanced nations. For the first time in human history, industrialization had the chance to make it possible for society to provide and advance quality of life for all of its citizens. The problem from Marx's perspective is that the gains of the industrialization process was faced by two evils: the private property and the state system that defends the interest of the economically dominant class (it is a committee of the rich charge with keeping the masses in servitude). This dominant class is a narrow class of industrialists and merchants he referred as the bourgeoisie. While the bourgeoisie reaped huge profits, the majority of the working class- the proletariat- lived in poverty and squalor. Industrialization had made it possible for human society to attain new heights of prosperity and intellectual development, but the goal had been subverted by the greed of the capitalist bourgeoisie.

How does the bourgeoisie exploit the proletariat? (The labor Theory of Value and the surplus value)

It simply says that the value of a commodity, it is held, depends on the quantity of labor employed to produce it. Other means of production such as capital, land, technology are useless without labor. Marx further distinguishes between the use value (the value of the commodities to satisfy human want) and the exchange value (what it can get in exchange with other values = purchasing power). The labor has a very high use value but very little exchange value. The difference between the two is called the surplus value that capitalists gain through exploiting the proletariat. (Money here is necessary as the surplus value would be very limited in the barter system).

How does the exploiting class perpetuate the bourgeois system? (State and Religion)

The economic forces of production are the “foundation” that determine and dictate politics, law, literature, art, the production of ideas, conceptions, metaphysics, ideology, morality, consciousness and religion, not the other way around. Why and how? According to Marx, in every stage there is a set of ideas, laws, norms, religious beliefs that are fashioned by the property-owning (economically dominant class) to rationalize and legitimize (i.e. make acceptable to all) its dominance. That is how the dominant class shapes the subjective economic conditions of the dominated exploited class and keep them away from the objective economic conditions of the society. It is a mechanism to make the slave happy. He is objectively slave but he is happy with his position. That is why Marx said: " Religion is the opiate of the masses," because it helps create the false consciousness among the proletariat. Religion, ideology, education and others defend the private right of property, and socialize everybody to respect the capitalist ethics and private property. Moreover, the state with its coercive tools is a tool in the hands of the dominating class to defend its rights and privileges.

 

Superstructure (control the masses)

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Substructure (Controlled by the elite)

The economic forces of production are the foundation that determine and dictate the super structure: Classes (and their conflicts moves history in advance through changing the super structure.

Elite (Bourgeois) – masses (Proletariat)

 

There is a struggle between classes that makes history moves from a point to another. The substructure determines everything in the superstructure. (Ex. Law, politics, art and religion are of the elite (bourgeois). If the economic elite (dominant class) changes, everything in the superstructure will be the same. Similarly, if the masses win, they will change the superstructure as well.

How to move toward the next stage? The Dictatorship of the Proletariat

For the revolution to happen, the subjective and objective conditions should overlap. The workers must gain the full (class) consciousness that they are a class and they must demand a change in the existing property relations. In this case they may need to resort to violence against the state as the peculiar characteristics of the state is that is the only part of the superstructure that can use force. That is why the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie will be replaced by the dictatorship of thproletariat. According to Marx the proletarian revolution will take place in the most advanced industrial society, Britain. But when it happens it would take the form of Domino model and all bourgeois societies will topple down promptly. Ironically this did not happen when socialism spread but it took place when it fell apart.

The Fourth Phase: Socialism

Marx has never used the concept of state socialism. He usually used "socialism or social society." Marx meant by socialism the stage that follows capitalism. Socialism, according to Marx, entails the removal of social inequalities through limited social and government ownership of property and the means of production and distribution, and the redistribution of wealth and resources through high taxes and confiscation. For Marx, it is a transitional stage between capitalism and communism. However, this part of socialism was very influential in many capitalist systems through progressive income taxes, social security, food stamps, and economic regulations imposed on business and industry. Nobody is forced to work for the benefit of others. Everybody (men and women) will get according to his/her contribution. During this phase the state exists and plays its role in transforming the private properties into public properties as a necessary stage to reach the end of history: Communism.

The fifth-last Phase: Communism

  1. This is an end-phase, which has been described by Marx in theory but never achieved in practice.

     

  2. According to Marx, it would involve both the elimination of the state system and private property and the creation of a classless, stateless, propertyless, moneyless, religionless, nationless (no national conflicts), non-exploitive, and self-governing society. (Have a look at the Marxist-communist socio-political system diagram on the first day of class sheet.)

     

  3. Marx believed that human nature was basically good. With ample resources at their disposal, the working class would e more than willing to "give according to their abilities and take according to their needs." If we ask Marx: "Sir how would this happen?" His answer would be, by abolishing private property. Everything is owned in common. That is why it is a communist society. That is why it is the negation of alienation for the proletariat. In other words, it is negation of negation. (Compare between what Marx had in mind what it ended up to be: the video Tape will help us do this comparison.)

     

  4. Freiderch Engles believed that the state would simply "wither away" once communism had been achieved. The Marxist utopia would be a worker's paradise in which he will witness a state of de-commodification.

     

  5. Neither the USSR nor China achieved this; in fact they actually eradicated many of the essential prerequisites for real communism, such as a strong civil society (a community of autonomous individuals and groups capable of acting separately from the state, on the basis of pluralism, tolerance, civility and mutually acceptable rules.)

     

Why Communism has never come true?

1- The self-destructive prophecy.

2- The revolution did not take place in the most advanced industrial society.

3- It seems that there is some sort of inversion in Marx's theory. Socialism came before capitalism in all Eastern Europe and post-communist countries.

4- Dahrendorf's analysis of Marxism explained why the developments did not lead to the revolution of the proletariat. In his book Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society Dahrendorf's deems that things changed since Marx wrote his book at 7 directions in a way that make Marxist theory of class inapplicable. These changes are: 1- The capitalist class decomposition; 2- The labor class decomposition; 3- The New Middle Class Composition; 4- The Social mobility; 5- The promotion of legal and political equality; 6- The Institutionalization of class conflict; 7- the moral and cultural changes in the Capitalist society that makes it different from a mere industrial society.