As the global economy continues to tank, everyone is looking for the reasons we are in this mess. What we have is the predictable and inevitable collapse of the corrupt capitalist system. Everyone seems to be “whistling in the dark” when they half-jokingly say we are headed for socialism. By fostering greed and inequality Capitalism is collapsing – just as Karl Marx predicted over 150 years ago. This could happen within a couple years so get ready. Realize that like all countries, the US has socialist features (especially with the current fed bank bailout AND auto industry.
Reading this will help you understand what has happened and what we all can do together. As the economy becomes less fair more people will join the underground economy and resist the power of the corporations. People will increasingly walk away from their debts and stop buying new toys and upgrading technology. Old McCain is now claiming that he won’t redistribute wealth. According to Marx, he and his rich friends will soon have no choice (they must share the wealth that Bush stole for them.) The rich have gotten that way by living off the “surplus labor” of the workers. Now you can learn about Marx’ life, times and lessons for today. Along the way you will see customized pix along with expert opinion. Tell your friends and leave comments.
Compared to Anarchy or a Dictatorship, socialism looks like the most reasonable and equitable alternative to capitalism. I have studied the struggle between capitalism and socialism for over 20 years. The United State got way too excited when the USSR (Communist system) collapsed as if it were completely to Regan’s credit. Somehow we got the smug opinion that capitalism won. Now China has adopted the capitalist economic system; but under Maoist political system. The huge weight of OUR capitalist consumer culture and stark inequality are bringing down the state-backed system of corporate control.
BTW – Marx discussed the way the world works as a dialectical system – the For every action there is an equal an opposite reaction. Th fact is that Muslim extremists really hate us for our Corporate Capitalism (e.g., the World Trade Center) – not for our freedom or lifestyles. Their Jihad is the final battle that will nail down capitalism. It is a SINKING SHIP.
Given the downward direction of the economy, I have spent the last six months reading lots about Marx and socialism (i.e., Marxism). I have collected and edited the most informative and inspiring information I could find for your enlightenment, entertainment and education. As always I have included customized pix and links to much more. This may take a couple sittings to work through, but it should be well worth your time. Now is the time for the workers (i.e., the 95 percent of us who do not own the capital) to rise up and take back control of our country.
Marx was one of the most important and innovative writers at an important time in our history (along with Darwin and others.) He wrote at the time the industrial revolution was taking hold (mid-1800’s.) This was before the days of child labor, environmental and worker protection laws. This is complex but vital information. I have tried to make this interesting and informative – educational and entertaining. If we choose to move toward socialism as official public policy we could redesign society in a more equitable and effective manner.
Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818. His many radical ideas led to his exile from Germany and France. He spent 34 years of his life in England. He spent days studying in the British Museum. His dedication to his studies made it impossible for to earn a living. He and his family lived in poverty. They may have starved if not for Fredrick Engels. a wealthy textile merchant who held similar beliefs as Marx. Marx and Engles were asked in 1845 by the Communist League to create a belief statement. This work is now referred to as The Communist Manifesto. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels founded a new political and economic movement called Socialism.
Marx went farther than anyone else in his criticism of society, arguing that God had been invented by humans as a projection of their own ideals. By creating God in human own image, people became alienated from their true self. If religion were abolished human beings would overcome their alienation. Marx applied this idea of alienation to private property, which he said caused humans to work only for themselves, not for the good of their species. He called for a communist society to overcome the dehumanizing effect of private property. Note that because most of what follows was written 150 years ago, the use of the term “man” was common for “person.”
Some of Marx’s core beliefs include:
- The course of world history has been established by economic forces
- Economic events should be compared to society’s behavior and rules that the government makes
- History has been a series of economic struggles
- Capitalism only allowed workers to earn enough to stay alive
- Factory owners pocketed the surplus which should have been returned to the workers
- Capitalism will collapse when the workers unite and overthrow the capitalists
- After the collapse, each worker would perform to their ability and be rewarded to care of his needs
- Labor is the only source of value
According to Marx (and Jefferson), our over-riding goal consists in seeking happiness (not same as pleasure.) This material happiness must be obtained through organized collectivism. Marx predicted that the present organization of society must be destroyed (even through violent revolution, if necessary.) Only through such destruction can a better political, economic, and social organization be achieved. To establish this new society, workers must be organized and take up the struggle against the corporate capitalists who defraud them. Thus the actors in this drama are the social classes — the workers must undermine the corporations. This struggle, according to Marx, will end in victory for the workers.
Marx did believe in the rights and responsibilities of individuals within the larger class and community (hence the term communism.) Freedom consists in deriving benefit within the laws of nature. Marx also know that people are essentially social, unable to live without society; only in society can we produce the necessities of life. But the means and the methods for such production first of all determine interpersonal relationships and these in turn determine human consciousness.
Everything we think, wish, or will is in the final analysis a consequence of social needs, along with the social relationships created by production. These methods and relationships are continually changing and thereby society becomes subject to the law of dialectical evolution which comes to light in the class struggle. The total content of human consciousness is determined by society and changes along with social progress.
According to Marx consciousness results from economic needs which, in turn, are continuously changing. This applies particularly to morality, aesthetics, and religion. In regard to morality, Marx recognizes no eternal code whatever and teaches that each social class has its own morality. The highest moral rule for the proletariat — the most progressive class — is that only that is morally good which contributes to the destruction of bourgeois society.
Marx treats religion as a conglomeration of false and fantastic statements which science has condemned, and science alone is the way to knowledge. Religion originates in fear; in their powerlessness before nature, and later before their exploiters, men have defied these powers and petitioned them, finding in religion and otherworldly beliefs a consolation which their exploited and slavish existence could not afford them.
However, the exploiters (feudalists, capitalists, etc.) regard religion as a great way to keep the masses under their yoke. It makes them obedient to the exploiters and prevents workers from revolting through promising them a better lot after death. The workers exploit no one, and so needs no religion. Marx taught that while morality and aesthetics are only subject to change, religion must vanish completely.
Following World War II, Marxist ideology, often with Soviet military backing, spawned a rise in revolutionary communist parties all over the world. Some of these parties were eventually able to gain power, and establish their own version of a Marxist state. Such nations included the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, Romania, East Germany, Albania, Cambodia, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Yugoslavia, Cuba, and others. In some cases, these nations did not get along. The most notable examples were rifts that occurred between the Soviet Union and China, as well as Soviet Union and Yugoslavia (in 1948), whose leaders disagreed on certain elements of Marxism and how it should be implemented into society.
The Chinese experience seems to be unique. Rather than falling under a single family’s self-serving and dynastic interpretation of Marxism as happened in North Korea and before 1989 in Eastern Europe, the Chinese government – after the end of the struggles over the Mao legacy in 1980 and the ascent of Deng Xiaoping – seems to have solved the succession crises that have plagued self-proclaimed Leninist governments since the death of Lenin himself.
The death of “Marxism” in China has been prematurely announced but since the Hong Kong handover in 1997, the Beijing leadership has clearly retained final say over both commercial and political affairs. Questions remain however as to whether the Chinese Party has opened its markets to such a degree as to be no longer classified as a true Marxist party. A sort of tacit consent, and a desire in China’s case to escape the chaos of pre-1949 memory, probably plays a role.
In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and the new Russian state ceased to identify itself with Marxism. Other nations around the world followed suit. Since then, radical Marxism or Communism has generally ceased to be a prominent political force in global politics, and has largely been replaced by more moderate versions of democratic socialism—or, more commonly, by neoliberal capitalism. Marxism has also had to engage with the rise in the Environmental movement. A merging of Marxism, socialism, ecology and environmentalism has been achieved, and is often referred to as Eco-socialism.
The modern social democratic current came into being through a break within the socialist movement in the early 20th century, between two groups holding different views on the ideas of Karl Marx. Many related movements, including pacifism, anarchism, and syndicalism, arose at the same time (often by splitting from the main socialist movement, but also by emerging of new theories.) and had various quite different objections to Marxism.
The social democrats, who were the majority of socialists at this time, did not reject Marxism (and in fact claimed to uphold it), but wanted to reform it in certain ways and tone down their criticism of capitalism. They argued that socialism should be achieved through evolution rather than revolution. Such views were strongly opposed by the revolutionary socialists, who argued that any attempt to reform capitalism was doomed to fail, because the reformists would be gradually corrupted and eventually turn into capitalists themselves.
Since the 1920s, doctrinal differences have been constantly growing between social democrats and Communists (who themselves are not unified on the way to achieve socialism), and Social Democracy is mostly used as a specifically Central European label for Labour Parties since then, especially in Germany and the Netherlands and especially since the 1959 Godesberg Program of the German SPD that rejected the praxis of class struggle altogether.
Essentially, people use the word “Marxist” to describe those who rely on Marx’s conceptual language (e.g. “mode of production”, “class”, “commodity fetishism”) to understand capitalist and other societies, or to describe those who believe that a workers’ revolution is the only means to a communist society. Some, particularly in academic circles, who accept much of Marx’s theory, but not all its implications, call themselves “Marxian” instead.
In China Mao Zedong also claimed to be an heir to Marx, but argued that peasants and not just workers could play leading roles in a Communist revolution, even in third world countries marked by peasant feudalism in the absence of industrial workers. Mao termed this the New Democratic Revolution. It was a departure from Marx, who had stated that the revolutionary transformation of society could take place only in countries that have achieved a capitalist stage of development with a proletarian majority. Marxism-Leninism as espoused by Mao came to be internationally known as Maoism.
The following countries had governments at some point in the twentieth century who at least nominally adhered to Marxism. Albania, Afghanistan, Angola, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Ethiopia, Hungary, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Russia, Yugoslavia, Vietnam. In addition, the Indian states of Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal have had Marxist governments.
Marxist political parties and movements have significantly declined since the fall of the Soviet Union, with some exceptions, perhaps most notably Nepal.
- Marx was ranked #27 on Michael H. Hart’s list of the most influential figures in history.
- In July 2005 Marx was the surprise winner of the ‘Greatest Philosopher of All Time’ poll by listeners of the BBC Radio 4 series In Our Time.
Here are modern Marxist principles that summarize the basic assumptions for a humane socialist society. For another excellent summary of the case for socialism and what you can do visit socialistworker.org and workers liberty.
- We stand for the principles of socialism from below – for the direct and democratic control of society by the working class.
- Although workers create society’s wealth, they have no control over its production and distribution. A socialist society can only be built when workers collectively seize control of that wealth and democratically plan its production and distribution according to human needs instead of profit.
- The working class, both blue-collar and white-collar, is the vast majority of society and is the key to the fight for socialism. Liberation can only be won through the struggles of workers themselves, organized independently of all other classes and fighting for real workers’ power.
- We support trade unions as essential to the fight for workers’ economic and political rights. To make the unions fight for workers’ interests, rank-and-file workers must organize themselves independent of the union officials.
Revolution Not Reform
- Reforms within the capitalist system cannot put an end to oppression and exploitation. Capitalism must be overthrown.
- The structures of the present government – parliaments, the army, the police and the judiciary – cannot be taken over and used by the working class. They grew up under capitalism and are designed to protect the ruling class against workers.
- We do not support candidates of capitalist parties like the Democrats or the Republicans in the USA, the Liberals or the Tories in Canada, or the Liberals in Australia.
- The struggle for socialism is part of a worldwide struggle. We campaign for solidarity with workers in other countries. We oppose everything that turns the workers of one country against those of another country.
- We oppose imperialism and support all genuine national liberation movements. We oppose all immigration controls and policies which divide workers of different countries.
Full Equality and Liberation
- Capitalism divides the working class– pitting sections of workers against one another, men against women, race against race, straights against gays and lesbians.
- We oppose racism in all its forms. We support the right of aboriginal peoples, blacks and other oppressed groups to organize for their rights and in their own defense.
- Black liberation, women’s liberation and lesbian and gay liberation are essential to socialist revolution and impossible without it.
- We fight for real, social, economic and political equality for women and for an end to discrimination against lesbians and gays, and youth. We support the struggles of all oppressed groups against any form of discrimination.
- To achieve socialism, the most militant workers must be organized into a revolutionary socialist party to provide the political leadership and organization essential to a successful revolution.
Marx’s replies questions given to him by his daughters Jenny and Laura in 1865
- Your favourite virtue … Simplicity
- Your favourite virtue in man … Strength
- Your favourite virtue in woman … Weakness
- Your chief characteristic … Singleness of purpose
- Your idea of happiness … To fight
- Your idea of misery … Submission
- The vice you excuse most … Gullibility
- The vice you detest most … Servility
- Your aversion … Martin Tupper
- Favourite occupation … Book-worming
- Favourite poet … Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Goethe
- Favourite prose-writer … Diderot
- Favourite hero … Spartacus, Kepler
- Favourite heroine … Gretchen [Heroine of Goethe’s Faust]
- Favourite flower … Daphne
- Favourite colour … Red
- Favourite name … Laura, Jenny
- Favourite dish … Fish
- Favourite maxim … Nihil humani a me alienum puto [Nothing human is alien to me]
- Favourite motto … De omnibus dubitandum [Everything must be doubted].
How Marxism Works by Chris Harman
This is a very good full book that is available free on-line. Check it out. I have pulled out a few passages that relate to my objectives.
Why we need Marxist theory
The newspapers, the radio, the television, are all continually filling our minds with attempted explanations for the mess society is in. They hope we will accept what they say without thinking more about the issues. But you cannot fight effectively to change society unless you recognize what is false in all these different arguments.
This was first shown 150 years ago. In the 1830s and 1840s the development of industry in areas such as the north west of England drew hundreds of thousands of men, women and children into miserably paid jobs. They were forced to endure living conditions of unbelievable squalor. They began to fight back against this with the first mass workers’ organizations – the first trade unions, and in Britain the first movement for political rights for workers. Alongside these movements were the first small groups of people dedicated to winning socialism (chartists.)
Immediately the problem arose as to how the workers’ movement could achieve its aim. Some people said it was possible to persuade society’s rulers to change things through peaceful means. The ‘moral force’ of a mass, peaceful movement would ensure that benefits were given to the workers. Hundreds of thousands of people organized, demonstrated, worked to build a movement on the basis of such views – only to end defeated and demoralized. Others recognized the need to use ‘physical force’, but thought this could be achieved by fairly small, conspiratorial groups cut off from the rest of society. These too led tens of thousands of workers into struggles that ended in defeat and demoralization. …
The ideas Marx developed are still relevant today. It is stupid to say, as some people do, that they must be out of date because Marx first wrote them down more than 150 years ago. In fact, all the notions of society that Marx argued with are still very widespread. Just as the Chartists argued about ‘moral force’ or ‘physical force’, socialists today argue about the ‘parliamentary road’ or the ‘revolutionary road’. Among those who are revolutionaries the argument for and against ‘terrorism’ is as alive as it was in 1848.
Marx was not the first person to try to describe what was wrong with society. At the time he was writing, new inventions in factories were turning out wealth on a scale undreamt of by previous generations. For the first time it seemed humanity had the means to defend itself against the natural calamities that had been the scourge of previous ages.
Yet this did not mean any improvement in the lives of the majority of the people. Quite the opposite. The men, women and children who manned the new factories led lives much worse that those led by their grandparents who had toiled the land. Their wages barely kept them above the bread line; periodic bouts of mass unemployment thrust them well below it. They were crammed into miserable, squalid slums, without proper sanitation, subjected to monstrous epidemics. Instead of the development of civilization bringing general happiness and well being, it was giving rise to greater misery.
Marx took this notion of ‘alienation’ and applied it to the life of those who created the wealth of society: “The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range… With the increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the world of men… The object which labor produces confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer.” In Marx’s time the most popular explanations of what was wrong with society were still of a religious kind. The misery of society, it was said, was because of the failure of people to do what God wanted them to. If only we were all to ‘renounce sin’ everything would turn out all right.
A similar view is often heard today, although it usually purports to be non-religious. This is the claim that ‘to change society, you must first change yourself’. If only individual men and women would cure themselves of ‘selfishness’ or ‘materialism’ (or occasionally ‘hang-ups’) then society would automatically get better.
People’s ideas are intimately linked to the sort of lives they are able to live. Take, for instance, ‘selfishness’. Present day capitalist society breeds selfishness – even in people who continually try to put other people first. A worker who wants to do their best for their children, or to give their parents something on top of their pension, finds the only way is to struggle continually against other people – to get a better job, more overtime, to be first in the queue for redundancy. In such a society you cannot get rid of ‘selfishness’ or ‘greediness’ merely by changing the minds of individuals.
The point can be put another way. If ideas are what change society, where do the ideas come from? We live in a certain sort of society. The ideas put across by the press, the TV, the educational system and so on defend that sort of society. How has anyone ever been able to develop completely different ideas? Because their daily experiences contradict the official ideas of our society. …
You can only understand how ideas change history if you understand where those ideas come from and why people accept them. That means looking beyond the ideas to the material conditions of the society in which they occur. That is why Marx insisted, ‘It is not consciousness that determines being, but social being that determines consciousness.’
The accumulation of wealth on the one hand, of poverty on the other. That was how Marx summed up the trend of capitalism. Every capitalist fears competition from every other, so he works his employees as hard as possible, paying wages as low as he can get away with.
Marx realized that the competitive pressure on capitalists to invest was central to the system. But, he asked, does this mean the capitalists will invest all their profits, all the time? The capitalist will only invest if he thinks he is guaranteed a ‘reasonable’ profit. If he doesn’t think there is such a profit to be made, he won’t risk his money in investment. He’ll put it in the bank and leave it there.
Whether the capitalist invests or not depends on how he assesses the economic situation. When it looks right, the capitalists all rush to invest at the same time, falling over each other searching for construction sites, buying up machines, scouring the earth for raw materials, paying over the odds for skilled labor. This is usually called the ‘boom’.
But the frenzied competition for land, raw materials and skilled labor forces up the prices of these things. And suddenly a point is reached where some firms discover their costs have risen so much that all their profits have disappeared. The history of capitalism is a history of such periodic lurches into crisis, into the insanity of unemployed workers going hungry outside empty factories, while stocks of ‘unwanted’ goods rot. Capitalism creates these crises of overproduction periodically because there is no planning, so there’s no way to stop the stampede of capital into and out of the market.
We would do better to listen to what Karl Marx said 100 years ago than to listen to those who apologize for capitalism today. Marx predicted that as capitalism got older, its crises would get worse because the source of profit, labor, does not increase nearly as rapidly as the investment needed to put labor to work. Marx wrote when the value of the plant and machinery needed to employ each worker was fairly low. It has shot up since then, until today it can be £20,000 or even £30,000. Competition between capitalist firms has forced them to use ever bigger and evermore expensive machinery. The point has been reached where, in most industries, it is taken for granted that new machinery means fewer workers.
The very success of capitalism in building ever vaster and more productive machinery has brought the system to the point of seemingly permanent crisis. In the case of Rome, the lack of a revolution led precisely to the destruction of Roman civilization and to the Dark Ages. In the case of some feudal societies – Britain and, later, France – revolution destroyed the old order and enabled new social advance to take place, under capitalism. Now capitalism itself faces the choice between permanent crisis, which eventually will plunge humanity back into barbarism through poverty and war, or a socialist revolution.
Marxism and feminism
Writing as far back as 1848, Marx argued that women’s oppression did not arise from the ideas in men’s heads, but from the development of private property and with it the emergence of a society based on classes. For them, the fight for women’s liberation was inseparable from the fight to end all class society – the struggle for socialism. Marx also pointed out that the development of capitalism, based on the factory system, brought profound changes in people’s lives, and especially in the lives of women. Women were brought back into social production, from which they had been progressively excluded with the development of class society.
This gave women a potential power which they had never had before. Organized collectively, women as workers had greater independence and ability to fight for their rights. This was in great contrast to their lives previously, when their main role in production, through the family, made them completely dependent on the family head – the husband or father. Socialism, by contrast, would see society taking on many of the family functions which weigh so heavily on women.
Feminism starts with the assumption that oppression overrides class division. This leads to conclusions which leave class society intact while improving the position of some women – a minority. The women’s movement has tended to be dominated by women from the ‘new middle class’ – journalists, writers, lecturers, higher grade white collar workers. The typists, filing clerks, machinists have got left out.
It is only during periods of radical change and revolutionary upsurge that the question of women’s liberation becomes reality, not just for a minority, but for all working class women as well. The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 produced a much greater equality for women than ever known in the world before. Divorce, abortion and contraception were made freely avail-able. Childcare and housework became the responsibility of society. There were the beginnings of communal restaurants, laundries and nurseries which gave women far more choice and control over their lives.
Of course, the fate of these advances couldn’t be separated from the fate of the revolution itself. Famine, civil war, the decimation of the working class, and the failure of revolution internationally meant the eventual defeat of socialism in Russia itself. The moves towards equality were reversed.
But the early years of the soviet republic showed what socialist revolution could achieve, even in the most unfavorable conditions. Today, the prospects for women’s liberation are far better. In Britain – and much the same is true of other advanced capitalist countries – two workers in every five are women.
Women’s liberation can be achieved only through the collective power of the working class. This means rejecting the feminist idea of women’s separate organizations. Only women and men workers acting together as part of a united revolutionary movement can destroy class society, and with it the oppression of women.
The revolutionary socialist party
The basic premise of Marxism is that the development of capitalism itself drives workers into revolt against the system. When such revolts break out – whether a mass demonstration, an armed insurrection or even a big strike – the transformation of working class consciousness is astonishing. All the mental energy that workers previously frittered away on a hundred and one diversions – from doing the horses to watching the television – is suddenly directed towards trying to deal with the problem of how to change society. Millions of people working on such problems produce solutions of amazing ingenuity, which often leave established revolutionaries as bewildered as the ruling class by this turn of events. …
Such experiences are found in many strikes: the established militants are taken completely by surprise when workers who have ignored their advice for so long, suddenly begin to organize militant action themselves. This spontaneity is fundamental. But it is wrong to draw the conclusion – as anarchists and near-anarchists do – that because of spontaneity, there is no need for a revolutionary party.
In a revolutionary situation, millions of workers change their ideas very, very quickly. But they do not all change all their ideas at once. Inside every strike, every demonstration, every armed uprising there are always continual arguments. A few workers will see the action they are taking as a prelude to the working class taking control of society. Others will be half against taking any action at all, because it is disturbing the ‘natural order of things’. In the middle will be the mass of workers, attracted first by one set of arguments, then by the other,
Onto one side of the balance the present ruling class will throw all the weight of its newspaper propaganda machine, denouncing the workers’ actions. It will throw too its strikebreaking forces, whether police, army or right wing organizations. And on the workers’ side of the argument there must be an organization of socialists who can draw on the lessons of past class struggle, who can throw the arguments about socialism into the balance. There must be an organization that can draw together the growing understanding of workers in struggle, so they can act together to change society.
And this revolutionary socialist party needs to be there before the struggle starts, for organization is not born spontaneously. The party is built through the continual interplay of socialist ideas and experience of the class struggle – for merely to understand society is not enough: only by applying these ideas in the day-to-day class struggle, in strikes, demonstrations, campaigns, will workers become aware of their power to change things, and gain the confidence to do it. At certain points, the intervention of a socialist party can be decisive, can tip the balance towards change, towards a revolutionary transfer of power to the workers, towards a socialist society.
The revolutionary socialist party needs to be democratic. To fulfill its role, the party must be continually in touch with the class struggle, and that means with its own members and supporters in the workplaces where that struggle takes place. It needs to be democratic because its leadership must always reflect the collective experience of the struggle. At the same time, this democracy is not merely a system of election but a continual debate within the party – a continual interaction of the socialist ideas on which the party is based with the experience of class struggle.
But the revolutionary socialist party must also be centralized – for it is an active party, not a debating society. It needs to be able to intervene collectively in the class struggle, and to respond quickly, so it must have a leadership capable of taking day-to-day decisions in the name of the party. … The revolutionary socialist party needs to maintain a fine and delicate balance between democracy and centralism. The key is that the party does not exist for its own sake, but as a means for bringing a revolutionary change to socialism – and that can only be through class struggle.
So the party must continually adapt itself to the struggle. When the struggle is low, and few workers believe in the possibility of revolutionary change, then the party will be small – and must be content to be so for to dilute its political ideas in order to increase its membership would be pointless. But when the struggle increases, large numbers of workers can change their ideas very fast, realizing through struggle their power to change things – and then the party must be able to open its doors, otherwise it will be left on the sidelines.
The party cannot substitute for the working class. It must be part of the class struggle, continually trying to unite the most class-conscious workers to provide a leadership for the struggle. Nor can the party dictate to the class. It cannot simply proclaim itself the leadership, but must win that position, proving the correctness of socialist ideas in practice – which means anything from a small strike to the revolution itself. Some people see the revolutionary socialist party as the precursor of socialism. This is completely wrong. Socialism can only come about when the working class itself takes control of the means of producing wealth and uses this to transform society.
You cannot build an island of socialism in a sea of capitalism. Attempts by small groups of socialists to cut themselves off and lead their lives according to socialist ideas always fail miserably in the long term – for a start, the economic and ideological pressures are always there. And in cutting themselves off from capitalism, such small groups also cut themselves off from the only force that can bring socialism: the working class. Of course, socialists fight against the degrading effects of capitalism every day – against racism, against sexism, against exploitation, against brutality. But we can only do so by taking the strength of the working class as our base.
Karl Marx: Conditions Necessary for the Existence of Capitalism
Many of Marx’s observations and discoveries are quite meaningful, highly relevant, and quite applicable for explaining specific features and strengths and weaknesses of a capitalist market economy. Marx wrote his analyses during the nineteenth century when capitalism was near full development and the industrial revolution war already started. According to Marx, there were at least three conditions necessary for capitalism to exist and also a few major aspects that accompanied capitalism’s development.
First, capitalism was the only economic form where the majority of the products were produced as commodities (note that although this concept was briefly discussed in the last section, a more detailed version will be presented here). A commodity was a useful object or thing that was produced, not for immediate consumption by the producer, but for the specific purpose of exchange with other consumers using a medium of exchange such as money. As the majority of products were produced to make commodities in this manner, satisfaction of needs was no longer important nor the aim of the capitalist. Production now took on the sole objective to produce items for the purpose of exchange and for the subsequent acquisition of profit.
One of the main concerns Marx had of capitalism was that it tended to undermine the various aspects of human development by essentially encouraging people to adopt priorities and values that were perhaps incongruent with the same. Rather than focus of human well being and development, capitalism tended to position the act of accumulation of profit as its top priority. As products became commodities and were valued in terms of money instead of their qualitative aspects, products were practically now given power to dictate how people were going to relate with one another. Relations between people now became very material, and people were treated as things. Conversely, relations between things took on a somewhat social and life-like character, and things were given a sort of controlling power over human life and their daily affairs. In other words, things became what Marx called a “fetish” for man. With a capitalist mindset, then, a work of art it was now valued merely on potential monetary worth rather than receiving appraises and admiration for artistic and creative qualities.
Second, capitalism was an economic form where both a worker and his product were pulled away, freed, or as Marx put it, “alienated” from personal creative and, in most cases, intrinsically meaningful work. For this necessary condition of capitalism to occur, property relations or rights had to first change. In other words, capitalism could not exist unless ownership of the means of production (e.g. raw materials, tools, machines, factories, buildings, etceteras) was taken away from private or individual producers (i.e. common citizens or workers) and given to only a few hands (i.e. capitalists). As this was done, the common worker or laborer was not only freed from owning means of production, but he also became free and was also compelled, for the sheer sake of survival, to sell his labor capacity to one who did own means of production, i.e. to a capitalist.
There are a couple of adverse consequences associated with realization of this second condition. For one, Marx suggested that when a worker no longer retains proprietorship of the products of his labor, he became alienated from both himself and from his product because he no longer had choice of the product’s outcome. With capitalism, products were solely produced for the capitalist, and only the capitalist decided what was to be done with the product. In other words, not only did the worker become alienated from himself and the work of his own hands, but now he and his labor capacity virtually became commodities as well.
The capitalist form of economic system has clearly shown that if there was not some existing mechanism that distributed ownership of property in a manner conducive to some sort of relative equality, then inequality inevitably resulted. As pointed out by Marx, since the onset of capitalism, capitalists (i.e. owners of the means of production) have claimed it a right to have sole ownership of the products and any surplus (including profits) created from employing what they claim as their means of production and their wage-laborers. Inequality therefore happened, at least in part, because a capitalistic society was conditioned to accept it as a norm for means of production to be individually instead of communally owned and to grant owners a right to not have to share production surplus with others. What Marx envisioned and dreamed of for a future society was one that was comprised of “associated producers” where the means of production would be held in common and the produce shared equally by all of the producers. With this latter type of property arrangement, a situation of relative equality could eventually arise. …
According to Marx, the third condition necessary for capitalism was that a capitalist must acquire sufficient or at least a minimum amount of capital to get the production process going. Here, capital, of course, includes both material and human forms. Interestingly, history has shown that, even with abundant amounts of material capital present, without a huge supply of so-called wage-laborers or freed workers that have labor capacities to sell, capitalism would not develop. Capitalism relied heavily upon individual workers who depended on the system for their daily subsistence and who must therefore sell their capacities to those who owned means of production in order to provide for themselves and families. Fortunately for capitalism, several historical events during capitalism’s development resulted in providing necessary human capital. Marx observed that over several decades, the majority of independent farmers, domestic producers, and various craftsmen from the feudal society were eventually expropriated from their land, separated from their means of production, and practically thrown into the new capitalist system.
With regard to material capital, Marx dedicated a substantial amount of his writings to explain the effects of the increasing employment of machines and subsequent industrialization of the economy. In capitalism, competition and the incessant quest for the accumulation of profit drove participants to discover improved ways to increase productivity for the purpose of cheapening products or making more goods in less time. On one hand, Marx recognized this particular aspect of capitalism as a strength and benefit for a society because he saw how it could potentially provide more material wealth for everybody and improve the overall quality of life. Marx firmly believed that this particular strength of capitalism was very important and highly essential for the purpose of preparing material conditions needed for a future higher order society that would eventually replace capitalism.
On the other hand, Marx pointed out that due to the competitive nature of capitalism and its aim for profit, new technology was not being utilized to lighten the load and burdens of the laborer and to reduce the length of his working day. In fact, as soon as the economic system became industrialized and more machines were employed, conditions for the worker including women and children became worse. Hence, work became increasingly hectic, complex, and intense, many opportunities for self-determination faded, and the quality of life for most people actually declined.
A fourth major aspect (not necessarily a required condition) accompanying the development of capitalism that Marx observed was the social organization of labor and its associated dehumanizing effects. For example, several chapters of Capital Volume I discussed quite extensively the development of cooperation, division of labor, and the social interconnectedness of industrial operations and markets. For Marx, the development of division of labor was not necessarily a bad thing, but he did express considerable concern when divisions of labor practices were carried out to an extreme. On one hand, division of labor benefited society by increasing productivity, improving efficiency, and by allowing more goods to be produced. On the other hand, Marx worried about the dehumanizing effects that accompanied developments of the division of labor, particularly when an individual was required to perform single, repetitive tasks that robbed a worker of social intercourse, physical health, and intellectual development. Avoidance of this problem suggested that in an ideal society all routine or repetitive operations or tasks would be, as much as possible, automated so that the majority of work content is as intellectually stimulating, creative, and intrinsically meaningful as desired by each person.
A fifth aspect, but again, not necessarily a necessary condition for capitalism, was the establishment and preservation of what Marx called a “relative surplus population” or reserve pool of the unemployed. For capitalism, to have a certain amount of unemployed workers was good and very important so that there was always fresh labor available to draw upon as new productions were put into operation. More importantly, a certain amount of an unemployed force was good for the capitalist because it compelled a worker to work harder and longer. It also acted, as much as possible, as a tool to help keep wages down.
As implied here by Marx, one of the main weaknesses of capitalism was that there does not exist a built in mechanism guaranteeing a displaced worker immediate placement into another job and an uninterrupted source of income or means for providing for one’s livelihood. Nevertheless, for capitalism this is acceptable because, with capitalism, certain minimum amount of unemployed laborers must always be available in order to provide some sort of stability to the system. An ideal system would probably eliminate such problems and attempt to minimize the unnecessary insecurities and inconveniences brought upon people when they are displaced from jobs.
Marx’ Views on the Increasing Misery of the Proletariat
Marx called another contradiction of capitalism that will lead to its collapse the increasing misery of the proletariat. Three separate, though not necessarily contradictory, interpretations of this much-debated doctrine have been offered.
- Absolute increasing misery of the proletariat implies that the real income of the mass of society decreases with the development of capitalism. If this is what Marx meant, history has clearly proved him wrong.
- Relative increasing misery of the proletariat means that the proletariat’s share of the national income declines over time. Real income could increase for each member of the proletariat, yet relative income could decrease. But historical evidence in developed countries indicates that wages have constituted a remarkably constant proportion of national income over time; so if this is what Marx meant, he was wrong.
- A final interpretation of the increasing-misery doctrine is that it concerns noneconomic aspects of life. With the advance of capitalism, the quality of life declines as people become chained to the industrial process. It makes no difference, according to Marx, whether the income of the proletariat rises or falls, because “in proportion as capital accumulates, the lot of the laborer, be his payment high or low, must grow worse.”
With the growth of capital accumulation goes the accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation.” Because there is, at present, no accepted measure of the quality of life, this prediction cannot be tested. It is interesting to note that a number of economists from Adam Smith to J. K. Galbraith have questioned whether rising per capita income must be associated with the development of a good society. Marx actually subscribed to each of these three doctrines of increasing misery at one time or another. The doctrine of absolute increasing misery was advanced in his early writings. …
Marx used the term subsistence wage to identify the lower limit to which wages may be pushed. This refers to a cultural subsistence, not a biological subsistence; he recognized that over time the cultural subsistence level of wages would rise. Finally, and most important, Marx consistently maintained that one of the most undesirable consequences of capitalism is a deterioration of the intangible factors known as the quality of life.
Quotes Directly From Karl Marx
If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people. – Letter to His Father (1837)
History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy. – Letter to His Father (1837)
The representation of private interests … abolishes all natural and spiritual distinctions by enthroning in their stead the immoral, irrational and soulless abstraction of a particular material object and a particular consciousness which is slavishly subordinated to this object. – On the Thefts of Wood, in Rheinische Zeitung (1842)
Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form. – Letter from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher to Ruge (1843)
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. – Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction (1843)
But also when I am active scientifically, etc. – an activity which I can seldom perform in direct community with others – then my activity is social, because I perform it as a man. Not only is the material of my activity given to me as a social product (as is even the language in which the thinker is active): my own existence is social activity, and therefore that which I make of myself, I make of myself for society and with the consciousness of myself as a social being.
Private Property and Communism (1844)
Under private property … Each tries to establish over the other an alien power, so as thereby to find satisfaction of his own selfish need. The increase in the quantity of objects is therefore accompanied by an extension of the realm of the alien powers to which man is subjected, and every new product represents a new potentiality of mutual swindling and mutual plundering. – Human Requirements and Division of Labour (1844)
Man is directly a natural being. As a natural being and as a living natural being he is on the one hand endowed with natural powers, vital powers — he is an active natural being. These forces exist in him as tendencies and abilities — as instincts. On the other hand, as a natural, corporeal, sensuous objective being he is a suffering, conditioned and limited creature, like animals and plants. … A being which does not have its nature outside itself is not a natural being, and plays no part in the system of nature. A being which has no object outside itself is not an objective being. – Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General (1844)
Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence. – German Ideology (1845)
In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. – German Ideology (1845)
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. – German Ideology (1845)
Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and … the alteration of men on a mass scale is, necessary, … a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew. – German Ideology (1845)
Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labor. – Poverty of Philosophy (1847)
The working class, in the course of its development, will substitute for the old civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will be no more political power properly so-called, since political power is precisely the official expression of antagonism in civil society. – Poverty of Philosophy (1847)
And this life activity [the worker] sells to another person in order to secure the necessary means of life. … He works that he may keep alive. He does not count the labor itself as a part of his life; it is rather a sacrifice of his life. It is a commodity that he has auctioned off to another. – Wage Labour and Capital (1847)
Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living. – Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)
The human being is in the most literal sense a political animal not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. Production by an isolated individual outside society … is as much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals living together and talking to each other. – The Grundrisse (1857)
It seems to be correct to begin with the real and the concrete, with the real precondition, thus to begin, in economics, with e.g. the population, which is the foundation and the subject of the entire social act of production. However, on closer examination this proves false. The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for example, the classes of which it is composed. … if I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had finally arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations. – The Grundrisse (1857)
Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand. – The Grundrisse (1857)
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. – Preface to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)
Man’s reflections on the forms of social life, and consequently, also, his scientific analysis of those forms, take a course directly opposite to that of their actual historical development. He begins, post festum, with the results of the process of development ready to hand before him. – Capital, Volume I, Chapter One (1867)
Modern society, which, soon after its birth, pulled Plutus by the hair of his head from the bowels of the earth, greets gold as its Holy Grail, as the glittering incarnation of the very principle of its own life. – Capital, Volume I, Chapter 3 (1867)
While the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser. – Capital, Volume I, Chapter 4 (1867)
Capital is money: Capital is commodities. … Because it is value, it has acquired the occult quality of being able to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs. – Capital, Volume I, Chapter 4 (1867)
Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. – Capital, Volume I, Chapter 10 (1867)
Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth-the soil and the labourer. – Capital, Volume I, Chapter 15 (1867)
Everyone who knows anything of history also knows that great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of the fair sex (plain ones included). – Letter to Kugelmann (1868)
It is generally the fate of completely new historical creations to be mistaken for the counterparts of older, and even defunct, forms of social life, to which they may bear a certain likeness. – The Paris Commune (1871)
It is altogether self-evident that, to be able to fight at all, the working class must organize itself at home as a class and that its own country is the immediate arena of its struggle — insofar as its class struggle is national, not in substance, but, as the Communist Manifesto says, ‘in form’. – Critique of the Gotha Program (1875)
Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. – Critique of the Gotha Program (1875)
Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes. – Letter to Bracke (1875)
THE SOUL OF MAN UNDER SOCIALISM by Oscar Wilde
The Soul of Man under Socialism is an 1891 essay by Oscar Wilde in which he expounds a libertarian socialist worldview (first published in the Pall Mall Gazette, 1891, first book publication 1904).
The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. In fact, scarcely anyone at all escapes. …
There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property. It is both immoral and unfair. Under Socialism all this will, of course, be altered. There will be no people living in fetid dens and fetid rags, and bringing up unhealthy, hunger-pinched children in the midst of impossible and absolutely repulsive surroundings. The security of society will not depend, as it does now, on the state of the weather. If a frost comes we shall not have a hundred thousand men out of work, tramping about the streets in a state of disgusting misery, or whining to their neighbors for alms, or crowding round the doors of loathsome shelters to try and secure a hunch of bread and a night’s unclean lodging. Each member of the society will share in the general prosperity and happiness of the society, and if a frost comes no one will practically be anything the worse. Upon the other hand, Socialism itself will be of value simply because it will lead to Individualism.
Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, by converting private property into public wealth, and substituting co-operation for competition, will restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the material well-being of each member of the community. It will, in fact, give Life its proper basis and its proper environment. But for the full development of Life to its highest mode of perfection, something more is needed. What is needed is Individualism. If the Socialism is Authoritarian; if there are Governments armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man will be worse than the first.
At present, in consequence of the existence of private property, a great many people are enabled to develop a certain very limited amount of Individualism. They are either under no necessity to work for their living, or are enabled to choose the sphere of activity that is really congenial to them, and gives them pleasure. These are the poets, the philosophers, the men of science, the men of culture—in a word, the real men, the men who have realized themselves, and in whom all Humanity gains a partial realization. Upon the other hand, there are a great many people who, having no private property of their own, and being always on the brink of sheer starvation, are compelled to do the work of beasts of burden, to do work that is quite uncongenial to them, and to which they are forced by the peremptory, unreasonable, degrading Tyranny of want. …
Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, and exercise such a paralyzing effect over the nature of men, that no class is ever really conscious of its own suffering. They have to be told of it by other people, and they often entirely disbelieve them. What is said by great employers of labor against agitators is unquestionably true. Agitators are a set of interfering, meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class of the community, and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Without them, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towards civilization.
Slavery was put down in America, not in consequence of any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desire on their part that they should be free. It was put down entirely through the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Boston and elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners of slaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. It was, undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who began the whole thing. And it is curious to note that from the slaves themselves they received, not merely very little assistance, but hardly any sympathy even; and when at the close of the war the slaves found themselves free, found themselves indeed so absolutely free that they were free to starve, many of them bitterly regretted the new state of things. To the thinker, the most tragic fact in the whole of the French Revolution is not that Marie Antoinette was killed for being a queen, but that the starved peasant of the Vendée voluntarily went out to die for the hideous cause of feudalism. …
Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must be exercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good for him, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others. And by work I simply mean activity of any kind. I hardly think that any Socialist, nowadays, would seriously propose that an inspector should call every morning at each house to see that each citizen rose up and did manual labor for eight hours. Humanity has got beyond that stage, and reserves such a form of life for the people whom, in a very arbitrary manner, it chooses to call criminals. But I confess that many of the socialistic views that I have come across seem to me to be tainted with ideas of authority, if not of actual compulsion. Of course, authority and compulsion are out of the question. All association must be quite voluntary. It is only in voluntary associations that man is fine. …
It will benefit in this way. Under the new conditions Individualism will be far freer, far finer, and far more intensified than it is now. I am not talking of the great imaginatively-realized Individualism of such poets as I have mentioned, but of the great actual Individualism latent and potential in mankind generally. For the recognition of private property has really harmed Individualism, and obscured it, by confusing a man with what he possesses. It has led Individualism entirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is.
Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up an Individualism that is false. It has debarred one part of the community from being individual by starving them. It has debarred the other part of the community from being individual by putting them on the wrong road, and encumbering them. Indeed, so completely has man’s personality been absorbed by his possessions that the English law has always treated offences against a man’s property with far more severity than offences against his person, and property is still the test of complete citizenship. The industry necessary for the making money is also very demoralizing.
In a community like ours, where property confers immense distinction, social position, honor, respect, titles, and other pleasant things of the kind, man, being naturally ambitious, makes it his aim to accumulate this property, and goes on wearily and tediously accumulating it long after he has got far more than he wants, or can use, or enjoy, or perhaps even know of. Man will kill himself by overwork in order to secure property, and really, considering the enormous advantages that property brings, one is hardly surprised. One’s regret is that society should be constructed on such a basis that man has been forced into a groove in which he cannot freely develop what is wonderful, and fascinating, and delightful in him—in which, in fact, he misses the true pleasure and joy of living. He is also, under existing conditions, very insecure. An enormously wealthy merchant may be—often is—at every moment of his life at the mercy of things that are not under his control. If the wind blows an extra point or so, or the weather suddenly changes, or some trivial thing happens, his ship may go down, his speculations may go wrong, and he finds himself a poor man, with his social position quite gone.
Now, nothing should be able to harm a man except himself. Nothing should be able to rob a man at all. What a man really has, is what is in him. What is outside of him should be a matter of no importance. With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. … What I mean by a perfect man is one who develops under perfect conditions; one who is not wounded, or worried or maimed, or in danger. Most personalities have been obliged to be rebels. Half their strength has been wasted in friction. … The note of the perfect personality is not rebellion, but peace.
It will be a marvelous thing—the true personality of man—when we see it. It will grow naturally and simply, flowerlike, or as a tree grows. It will not be at discord. It will never argue or dispute. It will not prove things. It will know everything. And yet it will not busy itself about knowledge. It will have wisdom. Its value will not be measured by material things. It will have nothing. And yet it will have everything, and whatever one takes from it, it will still have, so rich will it be. It will not be always meddling with others, or asking them to be like itself. It will love them because they will be different. And yet while it will not meddle with others, it will help all, as a beautiful thing helps us, by being what it is. The personality of man will be very wonderful. It will be as wonderful as the personality of a child.
In its development it will be assisted by Christianity, if men desire that; but if men do not desire that, it will develop none the less surely. For it will not worry itself about the past, nor care whether things happened or did not happen. Nor will it admit any laws but its own laws; nor any authority but its own authority. Yet it will love those who sought to intensify it, and speak often of them. And of these Christ was one. ‘Know thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘Be thyself’ shall be written. And the message of Christ to man was simply ‘Be thyself.’ That is the secret of Christ. When Jesus talks about the poor he simply means personalities, just as when he talks about the rich he simply means people who have not developed their personalities. Jesus moved in a community that allowed the accumulation of private property just as ours does. …
What Jesus meant, was this. He said to man, ‘You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don’t imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating or possessing external things. Your affection is inside of you. If only you could realize that, you would not want to be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things, that may not be taken from you. And so, try to so shape your life that external things will not harm you. And try also to get rid of personal property. It involves sordid preoccupation, endless industry, continual wrong.
Personal property hinders Individualism at every step.’ It is to be noted that Jesus never says that impoverished people are necessarily good, or wealthy people necessarily bad. That would not have been true. Wealthy people are, as a class, better than impoverished people, more moral, more intellectual, more well-behaved. There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothing else. That is the misery of being poor. What Jesus does say is that man reaches his perfection, not through what he has, not even through what he does, but entirely through what he is. …
Man is complete in himself. When they go into the world, the world will disagree with them. That is inevitable. The world hates Individualism. But that is not to trouble them. They are to be calm and self-centered. If a man takes their cloak, they are to give him their coat, just to show that material things are of no importance. If people abuse them, they are not to answer back. What does it signify? The things people say of a man do not alter a man. He is what he is. Public opinion is of no value whatsoever. Even if people employ actual violence, they are not to be violent in turn. That would be to fall to the same low level. After all, even in prison, a man can be quite free. His soul can be free. His personality can be untroubled. He can be at peace. And, above all things, they are not to interfere with other people or judge them in any way. Personality is a very mysterious thing. A man cannot always be estimated by what he does. He may keep the law, and yet be worthless. He may break the law, and yet be fine. He may be bad, without ever doing anything bad. He may commit a sin against society, and yet realize through that sin his true perfection.
Yes; there are suggestive things in Individualism. Socialism annihilates family life, for instance. With the abolition of private property, marriage in its present form must disappear. This is part of the program. Individualism accepts this and makes it fine. It converts the abolition of legal restraint into a form of freedom that will help the full development of personality, and make the love of man and woman more wonderful, more beautiful, and more ennobling. Jesus knew this. He rejected the claims of family life, although they existed in his day and community in a very marked form. And so he who would lead a Christ like life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man of science; or a young student at a University, or one who watches sheep upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realizes the perfection of the soul that is within him. All imitation in morals and in life is wrong. …
Now as the State is not to govern, it may be asked what the State is to do. The State is to be a voluntary association that will organize labor, and be the manufacturer and distributor of necessary commodities. The State is to make what is useful. The individual is to make what is beautiful. And as I have mentioned the word labor, I cannot help saying that a great deal of nonsense is being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manual labor. There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labor at all, and most of it is absolutely degrading. It is mentally and morally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not find pleasure, and many forms of labor are quite pleasure less activities, and should be regarded as such. To sweep a slushy crossing for eight hours, on a day when the east wind is blowing is a disgusting occupation. To sweep it with mental, moral, or physical dignity seems to me to be impossible. To sweep it with joy would be appalling. Man is made for something better than disturbing dirt. All work of that kind should be done by a machine. …
Is this Utopian? A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias. Now, I have said that the community by means of organization of machinery will supply the useful things, and that the beautiful things will be made by the individual. This is not merely necessary, but it is the only possible way by which we can get either the one or the other. An individual who has to make things for the use of others, and with reference to their wants and their wishes, does not work with interest, and consequently cannot put into his work what is best in him. …
Unselfishness recognizes infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think for oneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all. It is grossly selfish to require of ones neighbor that he should think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Why should he? If he can think, he will probably think differently. If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kind from him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses. Under Individualism people will be quite natural and absolutely unselfish, and will know the meanings of the words, and realize them in their free, beautiful lives. …
For it is through joy that the Individualism of the future will develop itself. Christ made no attempt to reconstruct society, and consequently the Individualism that he preached to man could be realized only through pain or in solitude. The ideals that we owe to Christ are the ideals of the man who abandons society entirely, or of the man who resists society absolutely. But man is naturally social. …
Christ did not revolt against authority. He accepted the imperial authority of the Roman Empire and paid tribute. He endured the ecclesiastical authority of the Jewish Church, and would not repel its violence by any violence of his own. He had, as I said before, no scheme for the reconstruction of society. But the modern world has schemes. It proposes to do away with poverty and the suffering that it entails. It desires to get rid of pain, and the suffering that pain entails. It trusts to Socialism and to Science as its methods. What it aims at is an Individualism expressing itself through joy. This Individualism will be larger, fuller, lovelier than any Individualism has ever been. …
For what man has sought for is, indeed, neither pain nor pleasure, but simply Life. Man has sought to live intensely, fully, perfectly. When he can do so without exercising restraint on others, or suffering it ever, and his activities are all pleasurable to him, he will be saner, healthier, more civilized, more himself. Pleasure is Nature’s test, her sign of approval. When man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and his environment. The new Individualism, for whose service Socialism, whether it wills it or not, is working, will be perfect harmony. It will be what the Greeks sought for, but could not, except in Thought, realize completely, because they had slaves, and fed them; it will be what the Renaissance sought for, but could not realize completely except in Art, because they had slaves, and starved them. It will be complete, and through it each man will attain to his perfection. The new Individualism is the new Hellenism.
Engels’ Speech at the Grave of Karl Marx by Friedrich Engels
Delivered at the burial service for Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery, London. March 17, 1883
On the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep — but for ever. An immeasurable loss has been sustained both by the militant proletariat of Europe and America, and by historical science, in the death of this man. The gap that has been left by the departure of this mighty spirit will soon enough make itself felt.
Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.
But that is not all. Marx also discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist mode of production, and the bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem, in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in the dark. Two such discoveries would be enough for one lifetime. Happy the man to whom it is granted to make even one such discovery. But in every single field which Marx investigated — and he investigated very many fields, none of them superficially — in every field, even in that of mathematics, he made independent discoveries.
Such was the man of science. But this was not even half the man. Science was for Marx a historically dynamic, revolutionary force. However great the joy with which he welcomed a new discovery in some theoretical science whose practical application perhaps it was as yet quite impossible to envisage, he experienced quite another kind of joy when the discovery involved immediate revolutionary changes in industry, and in historical development in general.
For Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation. Fighting was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and a success such as few could rival. …
And, consequently, Marx was the best hated and most calumniated man of his time. Governments, both absolutist and republican, deported him from their territories. Bourgeois, whether conservative or ultra-democratic, vied with one another in heaping slanders upon him. All this he brushed aside as though it were a cobweb, ignoring it, answering only when extreme necessity compelled him. And he died beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow workers — from the mines of Siberia to California, in all parts of Europe and America — and I make bold to say that, though he may have had many opponents, he had hardly one personal enemy. His name will endure through the ages, and so also will his work.
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Politics are for cunts. That is all.
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If capitalism collapses, as well it might, it will have little to do with capitalism in and of itself; but more to do with the countless billions spent on socialistic-like panderings, such as rampant and unchecked welfare, illegal immigration in concert with the amounts of revenues wasted for a variety of reasons in order to secure the voting potential thereof, and, admittedly, corporate greed (which Richard Nixon attempted to watch-dog–Carter watered down that attempt–Reagan, somewhat flaccidly, rebirthed it–again watered down under Clinton, until it eventually died).
Karl Marx had no understandings or comparisons for the type of Capitalism that Americans enjoy, and, unfortunately, abuse. His ‘capitalism’ reference was the virtual economic caste system of 18th and 19th century Europe, with particular attention to Poland. Lenin’s and Stalin’s attempts to homogenize Russia, was a somewhat twisted version of Marxist philosophy, and the one that has prevailed over anything else he had to say. Marx’s view had more to do with giving the proletariat the opportunity to break from his ‘caste’. The sloppy, greedy, American has indeed made a mess of his culture, but neither the US constitution nor capitalism can be blamed for that.