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Rise of socialist ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism- Part II

Rise of socialist ideas (up to Marx); spread of Marxian Socialism- Part II

Karl Marx (1818- 1883)

  • He was born at Trier in 1818. His father was a lawyer of Jewish extraction. Marx had to leave Germany because of his revolutionary activities and spent rest of his life in exile in London. He died in 1883.
  • Marx and his longtime friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels, both associated with Berlin University which was the greatest academic centre among German states and was greatly influenced by the ideas of Hegel, who taught there.

Marxian Socialism: In contrast to Utopian

  • Despite their imagination and dedication to the cause of the workers, none of the early socialists met with the full approval of Karl Marx.
  • In fact, Marx and Engels were largely responsible for attaching the label “utopian,” which they intended to be derogatory, to Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Owen, whose “fantastic pictures of future society” they contrasted to their own “scientific” approach to socialism.
  • While utopian socialists believed it was possible to work within or reform capitalist society, Marx confronted the question of the economic and political power of the capitalist class, expressed in their ownership of the means of producing wealth (factories, banks, commerce – in a word, ‘Capital’).
  • According to Marx, the path to socialism proceeds not through the establishment of model communities that set examples of harmonious cooperation to the world but through the clash of social classes.
  • To him, all the earlier socialistic theories were vague and unscientific, because they ignored the operation of certain immutable laws which determine the course of history.
    • The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” Marx proclaimed in the Communist Manifesto.
    • A scientific understanding of history shows that these struggles will culminate in the triumph of the working class and the establishment of socialism.
    • Marx and their followers proclaimed that their socialism alone was scientific as opposed to romantic doctrines of the utopians.
      • Marx believed that he had developed a new brand of socialism that was scientific in the sense that it was concerned primarily with disclosing the nature of social and historical development.
  • Utopian socialism failed because it failed to analyse correctly the forces and impulses which govern human nature and mould its environment.
    • Marx removed this defect and gave socialism a new philosophy and new direction which had been little more than a protest against injustice.

Works and theories of Marx

Works of Marx

  • Marx constructed a philosophy of ‘Scientific Socialism’ which is developed in his:
    • Communist Manifesto (1848):
      • Marx and Engels were associated with Communist League which had objective of end of Capitalism, creation of a new society and promotion of unity of labour.
        • Marx and Engels were associated with its London office and London branch of League entrusted them the task of preparation of a manifesto (Communist Manifesto) which became one of the principal programmatic statements of the European socialist and communist parties in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
      • It opens with a dramatic announcement:
        • “Spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism.’
      • It closes with stirring and confident appeal:
        • “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries unite.”
      • It was a fifty page document (initially in German and later translated in many languages) and in 4 parts:
        • First part:
          • Deals with History of Social Revolution:
            • The first section “Bourgeois and Proletarians“, elucidates the materialist conception of history, that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”.
            • It surveyed that history from the age of feudalism down to 19th-century capitalism, which was destined to be overthrown and replaced by a workers’ society.
        • Second part:
          • Deals with the doctrine of the Communist Party.
          • The second section, “Proletarians and Communists“, starts by stating the relationship of conscious communists to the rest of the working class.
            • The communists’ party will not oppose other working-class parties, but unlike them, it will express the general will and defend the common interests of the world’s proletariat as a whole, independent of all nationalities.
          • The section ends by outlining a set of short-term demands (to bring about a transition from Capitalism to a Proletarian society)— also known as the ten planks:
            • Abolition of private property and the application of all rents of land to public purposes.
            • A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
            • Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
            • Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
            • Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
            • Centralisation of the means of communications and transportation in the hands of the State.
            • Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state, the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
            • Equal liability of all to labor.
            • Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries, gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equitable distribution of population over the country.
            • Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production
        • Third part:
          • Deals with the criticism of Utopian Socialism.
          • The third section, “Socialist and Communist Literature“, distinguishes communism from other socialist doctrines prevalent at the time.
        • Fourth part:
          • Tactics of communists in face of opposition.
    • The Critique of Political Economy (1859):
      • It contains analysis of Capitalism.
    • Das Kapital (3 volumes: 1867, 1885, 1894):
      • Marx expounded his theory of the capitalist system, its dynamism, and its tendencies toward self-destruction. He described his purpose as to lay bare “the economic law of motion of modern society.”
      • It can be considered as elaboration of doctrines of Communist Manifesto. It is considered as Bible of Socialism.
      • The second and third volumes were published after the death of Marx, edited by his collaborator Friedrich Engels.
      • It contains Theory of surplus value:
        • Much of Das Kapital spells out Marx’s concept of the “surplus value” of labour and its consequences for capitalism.
        • All wealth is the product of labour. Hence workmen have the right to the whole produce of labour.
        • Within the capitalist system, labour was a mere commodity that could gain only subsistence wages.
        • The workmen has to work longer and harder than the wages he receives and the surplus above what he actually receives is the source of the Capitalist’s income. Hence Capitalists appropriate the surplus value, created by the workers.
        • In this way labour is systematically exploited under capitalism
        • Suicidal tendency of capitalism:
          • Capitalism is inherently unstable because the labour cannot be permanently reconciled to exploitation.
          • Marx maintained that the revolution by which socialism would be achieved was ordained by the logic of capitalism itself, as the capitalists’ competition for profits led them to dig their own grave (the role of the revolutionary, such as Marx, was confined to that of “midwife,” i.e. speeding the inevitable). Its inevitable tendency is the progressive concentration of wealth in the hands of few, the big capitalists swallowing up the little ones.
          • The result of this tendency would be to swell the number of the proletariats so that the society would come to be composed of only two classes sharply differentiated by increasing wealth and increasing misery.
            • Under the pressure of depressions, recessions, and competition for jobs, the workers will become conscious that they form a class, the proletariat, that is oppressed and exploited by their class enemy, the bourgeoisie.
          • The only logical outcome of this state is revolution in which many (proletariats) will disposes the few (capitalists).
            • Armed with this awareness, proletariats will overthrow the bourgeoisie in a series of spontaneous uprisings, seizing control of factories, mines, railroads, and other means of production, until they have gained control of the government and converted it into a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.
          • Consequently, the capitalist system collapses, and the working class inherits economic and political power and inaugurate the communist state.

Basic tenants of Marxian Socialism

  • Dialectic materialism:
    • Conflict between 2 opposite material condition: Conditions of Capitalist and Labour (Dialectic is elaborated later on).
  • Theory of class struggle:
    • Interest of two opposite classes are not harmonised, so a class struggle throughout the history:
      • In ancient times, master vs slave
      • In medieval times, landlords vs serfs
      • In modern times, Bourgeoisie vs Proletariats
    • History is a record of class war:
      • The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
      • Those who control the means of production dominate the society and they fashion the laws and institutions to perpetuate their social and political power.
      • Thus arises the division of the society into those who have and those who have not. (division between haves and have nots)
      • It is from this division into two antagonistic sections that there arises class war.
      • The present society has been evolved gradually out of many class struggles in the past.
      • History is simply the record of how one class has gained wealth and political power only to be overthrown and succeeded by another class.
      • The Industrial Revolution has destroyed the power and political influence of the old aristocracy and magnified those of the bourgeois, the middle class capitalists.
      • But it has also created a class of wretched wage earners, the proletariat, who are being mercilessly exploited by the capitalists.
      • Hence, severe conflict between the two is inevitable which would be the last and final struggle leading to a terrible revolution which would establish dictatorship of proletariat.
  • Historical materialism:
    • Marx’s theory, which he called “historical materialism” or the “materialist conception of history” is based on Hegel’s claim that history occurs through a dialectic, or clash, of opposing forces.
    • Marx’s analysis of history is based on:
      • means of production,
        • like those things, like land and natural resources, and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods, and
      • social relations of production,
        • i.e. the social relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production.
      • mode of production,
        • Marx observed that within any given society the mode of production changes, and that European societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a capitalist mode of production.
    • Marx considered socio-economic conflicts as the driving force of human history. He designates human history as encompassing four stages of development in relations of production.
      • Primitive Communism: as in co-operative tribal societies.
      • Slave Society: a development of tribal to city-state; aristocracy is born.
      • Feudalism: aristocrats are the ruling class; merchants evolve into capitalists.
      • Capitalism: capitalists are the ruling class, who create and employ the proletariat.
    • Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production.
      • Marx believed that the means of production change more rapidly than the relations of production. For Marx this mismatch is a major source of social disruption and conflict.
    • Under capitalism people sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return for whatever work they do in a given period of time. In return for selling their labor power they receive money, which allows them to survive.
      • Those who must sell their labor power to live are “proletarians.”
      • The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own the land and technology to produce, is a “capitalist” or “bourgeois.”
    • Capitalism would lead to the empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariat. Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem was impracticable, and that a massive, well-organized and violent revolution was required.
    • Finally, he theorized that to maintain the socialist system, a proletarian dictatorship must be established and maintained.
    • Hence, in his analysis of the movement of history, Marx predicted the breakdown of capitalism, and the establishment in time of a communist society in which class-based human conflict would be overcome. The means of production would be held in the common ownership and used for the common good.
  • Economic determinism theory (Economic interpretation of history):
    • Related to the theory of Historical Materialism is Economic determinism theory which says that economic forces determine shape and define all political, social, cultural, intellectual, technological aspects of a civilisation.
    • The fundamental impulses of human life is economic and the course of history has always been determined by economic factors and all other (social, political, etc.) factors are subdued to it.
    • The economic relations of society create path for social progress.
    • Economic relations of society means relations under which humans gather means for livelihood i.e. establishment of production exchange and distribution system to fulfill materials necessities of life.
    • Determinism:
      • Theory that all events are determined by previously existing causes.
      • Refers to the belief that human actions and choices are entirely conditioned by external factors.
      • So, economic determinism is all shaped by economic factors.
  • Theory of Revolution:
    • Marx says: Revolution is necessary in playing role in social change.
    • Revolutions will lead to the Dictatorship of Proletariats finally leading to Communism (as a final phase of socialism).
    • According to Marx- 2 revolutions.
    • First Revolution: Bourgeoisie revolution against feudal order.
      • In this revolution, feudal order is destroyed and creates a new order i.e. Bourgeoisie order – i.e. Capitalist Order.
      • Marx considered French Revolution as this kind of Revolution.
    • Second Revolution: that would take place by Proletariats against Bourgeoisie order.
      • The destruction of Bourgeoisie order will create a new order, what he calls- Dictatorship of Proletariat.
      • So, this second revolution is a socialist revolution, which would create a socialist phase.
    • Marxian Communism: What would emerge as last phase
      • No error of production.
        • Error of Production:
          • Marx says that as civilisation grows, one class establish control over production and related process and this class forces other class to provide labour leading to emergence of two material conditions.
          • This is called by Marx as Error of Production.
          • The Error of Production leads to 2 material conditions leading to Dialectics.
          • Dialectics will keep on operating till Error of Production exist and so also class struggle.
      • So, no Dialectics in operation.
      • So, no class and no class conflict i.e. class would whither away.
      • This will allow spontaneous harmony and self-realisation.
      • System of commodity production would be replaced by production for use i.e.geared to the satisfaction of genuine human needs (i.e. not for profit as in the case is in capitalism).
      • This will allow human to shape their own destinies and realise their full potentials.
      • According to Marx, the free development of each is pre-condition for free development of all.
      • No error of production and production geared to genuine human needs means- production in plenty. So, each will get according to his/her needs.
      • So, each will provide according to his/her ability and each would get according to need. (earlier- each gets according to work and not need).
        • Criticism:
          • Need is limitless
          • Ability not rewarded here.
      • There would be a change in human nature (capitalism makes human nature competitive, greedy and aggressive).
      • Gradually state would also vanish i.e. rise of a stateless society, once classless society is establish.
        • Marx defined state as the organised power of one class (so if no class i.e. no state)
      • The sentiment like religion, nationalism will also automatically disappear because, according to Marx, there are all forms of false consciousness and they are not reality.
      • Since these false consciousness will vanish, so national boundaries will also vanish. So no conflict and war.
      • According to critique, Marx was the Greatest Utopian (as seen in such high level of idealism in his thought).
  • Theory of alienation:
    • The theory refers to a process whereby under capitalism the labour is reduced to being a mere commodity and their work becomes a depersonalised activity. (i.e. the work and the activity gets separated i.e. he is just doing it because of exploitation- no hope, no enthusiasm).
    • The labour under capitalist system are alienated from their product of labour.
    • Labour under capitalist system are alienated from the process of labour (i.e. though involved in the process, yet not involved).
    • Workers are alienated from fellow workers under capitalist system (i.e. so badly exploited that separated from their co-workers).
    • The labour are alienated from themselves as a creative and social beings.
    • Marx says that alienated labour cannot realise self-realisation.

Capitalism: both progressive and exploitative system

  • For Marx, capitalism is both a progressive force in history and an exploitative system that alienates capitalists and workers alike from their true humanity.
    • It is progressive because it has made possible the industrial transformation of the world, thereby unleashing the productive power to free everyone from necessity.
    • Yet it is exploitative in that capitalism condemns the proletarians, who own nothing but their labour power while enabling the capitalists to reap the profits.
    • This is a volatile situation and its inevitable result will be a war that will end all class divisions.

International character of Marx’s socialism

  • He appeals to working men of all countries. He holds that labourers of one country have far more in common with the labourers of other countries than they have with the capitalists of their own.
  • To promote this unified interest of the labourers, he took a leading part in organising “The International Workingmen’s Association” which met in London in 1864 and known as First International.

Marx’s views on freedom

  • Freedom for Marx is largely a matter of overcoming necessity.
  • Necessity compels people to labour so that they may survive, and only those who are free from this compulsion will be free to develop their talents and potential.
  • This is why, throughout history, freedom has usually been restricted to members of the ruling class, who use their control of the land and other means of production to exploit the labour of the poor and subservient.
  • The masters in slaveholding societies, the landowning aristocracy in feudal times, and the bourgeoisie who control the wealth in capitalist societies have all enjoyed various degrees of freedom, but they have done so at the expense of the slaves, serfs, and industrial workers, or proletarians, who have provided the necessary labour.

Marx’s views on religion

  • Religion offers an escape from reality. It helps to take the pain away from the struggle of life under capitalist system.
  • Religion acts as one good thing that makes life worth living, but it also subdues humans and leaves humans weak to the whims of the state and the Bourgeoisie who control religion.
    • i.e. Religion is a bourgeoisie strategy to exploit. It takes them away from suffering. It helps them exploit more.
  • Economic hardship under capitalist system prevent most from achieving comfort and true happiness.
  • Religion distorts this reality and encourages people to work hard and endure suffering and passively accept their condition.
  • Religion provides false hopes that true happiness can only attained in heavenly afterlife (i.e. religion provides that true happiness is not here in this life so work hard and accept your condition and stop revolting).
  • Religion provides solace but keeps people in the world of illusion.
  • Religion encourages people to live in status quo, for a bright new afterlife and thereby keeps people subjugated.
  • Religion offers a form of consolation in the imagination of a utopia and this utopia incentivises people to do good.
  • Religion is a tool in the hands of the dominant to keep the lower classes in their place in this world.
  • Religion offers a form of skip from the hardship of the capitalistic society.
  • Religion is the opium of masses.

Marx’s views on state

  • State is organised power of one class to dominate the other.
  • In modern society, this organised power is the power of Bourgeoisie.
  • Under communism, state and government itself will eventually wither away as people gradually lose the selfish attitudes inculcated by private ownership of the means of production.
    • Freed from necessity and exploitation, people will finally live in a true community that gives each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions.
  • So eventually in the phase of communism, there would be stateless and classless society.

Some qualifications in Marx’s official doctrine

  • Though above discussed theories were Marx’s official doctrine, in his writings and political activities, he added several qualifications.
    • He acknowledged, for example, that socialism might supplant capitalism peacefully in England, the United States, and other countries where the proletariat was gaining the franchise.
    • He also said that it might be possible for a semifeudal country such as Russia to become socialist without first passing through capitalist industrialism.

Influences on Marx Theory

  • According to Engels, the basic elements of Marx’s theory are to be found in German philosophy, French socialism, and British economics. Of these, German philosophy was surely the formative influence on Marx’s thinking.
  • Marxian Communism as the offspring of German Hegelianism:
    • Born in the German Rhineland, Marx was a philosophy student at the University of Berlin when the idealism of G.W.F. Hegel dominated German philosophy.
    • Hegel:
      • A German thinker, teacher in university of Berlin, follower of German thinker Kant.
      • He presented the idea of Human Progress on the basis of his famous theory of Dialectics.
      • He gave Marx ideas of Dialectic and human progress.
    • ‘Hegelian dialectic’:
      • His view on historical changes taking place in the society can be understood through the Hegelian dialectic, which is the framework for guiding our thoughts and actions into conflicts that lead us to a predetermined solution.
      • Hegel maintained that history is the story of the unfolding or realization of “spirit”—a process that requires struggle, agony, and the overcoming of obstacles to the attainment of self-knowledge.
        • Individuals and even nations proceeds through the clash of opposing ideas and interests to a greater self-awareness and appreciation of freedom.
        • Slavery, for example, was long taken for granted as a natural and acceptable practice, but the slave’s struggle to be recognized as a person was bringing an end to slavery as master and slave came to recognize their common humanity—and thus to liberate themselves from a false sense of the master’s superiority.
      • Hegelian dialectic is characterized as a three-step process:
        • The thesis is an intellectual proposition (established order of life)
        • The antithesis is simply the negation of the thesis, a reaction to the proposition (challenge to the established order of life)
        • The synthesis solves the conflict between the thesis and antithesis by reconciling their common truths and forming a ‘new thesis’, starting the process over (a new better order through combination of both thesis and antithesis).
      • Later synthesis breaks down by becoming conventional and unproductive. So it becomes thesis.
        • It becomes locked in conflict with a new anti-thesis.
        • Conflict begins again and the process of Dialectics produces another synthesis. This is again a move towards progress. and the process continues….

Hegel2

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      • Hegelian formulae: Thesis+antithesis=synthesis
      • Examples:
        • “thesis” (e.g. the French Revolution) would cause the creation of its “antithesis” (e.g. the Reign of Terror that followed), and would eventually result in a “synthesis” (e.g. the constitutional state of free citizens).
        • Progressive + Conservative = Consensus
        • Capitalism + Communism = New world order in form of UN, Global governance.
      • Marx followed this dialectics but modified it.
    • ‘Marxian dialectical materialism’:
      • Marx’s view of history called ‘dialectical materialism’ can be considered as the offspring of Hegelian dialectic, but in modified form with different reasoning.
      • Like Hegel, Marx understood history as the story of human labour and struggle.
      • However, whereas for Hegel history was the story of spirit’s self-realization through human conflict, for Marx it was the story of struggles between classes over material or economic interests and resources.
        • In other words, in place of Hegel’s philosophical idealism, Marx developed a materialist or economic theory of history.
        • Marxian dialectical materialism sees the dialectical process being driven forward not by abstract forces, as Hegel did, but rather by solid material conditions, and particularly by economic factors.
      • While Hegel’s description of history rests on the idea that new ideas cause us to change the way we live (our thoughts change, and the world changes in response), Marx’s description states that when new economic relationships change the way we live, we develop new ideas (the world changes, and our thoughts change in response).

hegel

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  • Marxian Communism as the offspring of French Socialism:
    • French philosopher, Rousseau is considered as forebear of socialism.
      • His views about society was egalitarian and he was among first thinkers to attack the institution of private property. These influenced Marxian Communism.
    • Early French socialism was born in form of utopian socialism by philosophers like Charles Fourier and Saint Simon.
      • Although these French Socialist ideas didn’t have much support and was not based on scientific theory like Marxism, they did gave a start which later expanded in the form of many other more socialist ideas including Marxian Communism.
    • Saint Simon’s idea influenced Marx:
      • Change is inevitable and essential. Marx idea of revolution is borrowed from it: change is inevitable.
      • His idea of a kind of clash between the classes: Marx’s idea of class struggle.
    • Louis Blanc’s idea influenced Marx:
      • From each according to his ability to each according to his work.
      • Marx borrowed it and modified in communism: From each according to his ability to each according to his need.
  • Classical economists (like Adam Smith, Malthus, Ricardo etc.):
    • From classical economist, Marx obtained the idea of looking into economic activities in a highly abstract fashion. These ideas helped in becoming an analytical critique of capitalist system.
    • Marx also used the idea of Labour Theory of value of Adam Smith.
      • This theory argues that the economic value of goods or services is determined by the total amount of socially necessary labour required to produce it, rather than by the use or pleasure his owner gets it from it.
    • From Law of wages of Ricardo (real wages always tends to be minimum wages), Marx concluded that capitalism would never permit the labour to receive just wages.
    • The classical economists gave him the idea to present his socialist interpretation in economic terms.

Contribution of Marx/ influences of Marxian socialism/ Legacy of Marx

  • Gave new orientation to socialism (already discussed).
  • Marx made socialism a movement. Earlier this was just an ideology. He was instrumental in establishment of International Working Men’s Association in 1864 commonly known as First International. Its objective was to promote unity of labourers worldwide.
  • Marxist ideas became the major ideological force in Russian Revolution in 1917 under Lenin.
  • Marxist ideas inspired rise of communism in China and Chinese communist revolution under Mao.
  • Marxist ideas emerged as major ideological force in Europe and it promoted revolutionary sentiments.
  • (add more points from already discussed points).
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