Marxism, Socialism, and Communism
Karl Marx, 1818-1883
For 150 years Marxist Socialism has tried to supplant conventional religion with its secular “atheist” ideology. In view of the fact that Marx in a number of societies has assumed a “Messiah-like” status, and Communism has become the idealistic Utopian “Heaven” of Socialism, I may be excused when I discuss Marxism as a man-made pseudo-religion of our times.
Biography of Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was born on 5 May 1818 in Trier in Germany, the Protestant-baptized son of a successful Jewish lawyer, descendent from a long line of Ashkenasi rabbis on both sides of his parents. Marx studied law in Bonn and Berlin, where he was introduced to the ideas of Hegel and Feuerbach. In 1841, he received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Jena. In 1843, after a short spell as editor of a liberal newspaper in Cologne, Marx and his wife Jenny moved to Paris, a hotbed of radical thought. There he became a revolutionary and befriended his life long collaborator, Friedrich Engels. Expelled from France in 1848, Marx spent two years in Brussels, where his partnership with Engels intensified. They co-authored the pamphlet “The Communist Manifesto” which was published in 1848 and asserted that all human history had been based on class struggle, but that these would ultimately disappear with the “victory of the proletariat.”
In 1849, Marx, now stateless, moved to London, where he was to spend the remainder of his life. For a number of years, his family lived in poverty, but the wealthy Engels was able to support them to an increasing extent. Gradually, Marx emerged from his political and spiritual isolation and produced his most important body of work, 'Das Kapital'. The first volume of this “bible of the working class” was published in his lifetime, while the remaining volumes were edited by Engels after his friend's death.
In his final years, Karl Marx was in creative and physical decline. He spent time at health spas and was deeply distressed by the death of his wife, in 1881, and one of his four daughters. He died on 14 March 1883 and was buried at Highgate Cemetery in London. Text from BBC History
Marx died too early, he was not to witness the phenomenal expansion of his ideas to Western Europe, America, Russia, China and elsewhere, nor, of course, their abuses and downfall in our times. After his death his followers, foremost Friedrich Engels, and many others, extensively edited and pulished Marx's theoretical work, refered to as Orthodox or Scientific Marxism in contradistinction to Leninism, Maoism and other later variants.
Marx's and Engels' theories had an electrifying effect on early 20th-century European intellectuals, who saw in Marxism a novel economic theory, a sociological-philosophical method, and a revolutionary view that could explain and be applied to the social changes that were taking place all around them. They applied his theories to the most diverse subjects, fromderaild capitalism o disfunctional monarchies and even growing femism. Misconceived and modified during the course of their development, this resulted in numerous and sometimes contradictory theories that fall under the rubric of Marxism or Marxian analysis.
According to Marxist analysis, class conflict within capitalism arises due to intensifying contradictions between highly productive mechanized and socialized production performed by the proletariat, and private ownership and private appropriation of the surplus product in the form of profit by a small minority of private owners called the bourgeoisie. As this contradiction becomes apparent to the proletariat, social unrest between the two antagonistic classes intensifies, culminating in a social revolution. The eventual long-term outcome of this revolution would be the establishment of Socialism - a socioeconomic system based on cooperative ownership of the means of production, distribution based on one's contribution, and production organized directly for use. Karl Marx hypothesized that, as the productive forces and technology continued to advance, Socialism would eventually give way to a Communist stage of social development. Communism would be a classless, stateless, humane society erected on common ownership and the principle of "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs".
Socialism vs. Communism
Socialism is a post-capitalist economic system, meaning that production is to directly satisfy human needs or economic demands, as opposed to being produced to generate a profit. Socialist production is to be based on the rational planning of popular needs and coordinated investment decisions to attain economic goals by the state. Socialism would make use of incentive-based considerations, and inequality would still exist but to a diminishing extent as all members of society would become worker-owners.
The advanced stage of socialism,
referred to as "Upper-Stage Communism"
is based on the socialist mode of production but is differentiated
from lower-stage socialism in fundamental ways. While Socialism
implies public ownership (by a state apparatus) or cooperative
ownership (by worker cooperatives), Communism would be based on
common ownership of the means of production. Class distinctions based
on ownership of capital would cease
to exist, along with the need for state control. A superabundance of
goods and services would be made
possible by automated production that allows for
goods to be distributed based on need rather than merit.
Modified from Wikipedia
The Practical Side
One of the problems of theoretical solutions to the condition humaine is that man is an irrational being who with great ingenuity defies theories of his behavior. This is what makes life interesting and full of surprises. Marx and to an even larger degree Engels were no practical ideologists. The so-called Proletariat seized upon their idea of a revolution but failed to understand the complex words of Marxist ideology and the implied moral obligations. Man is morally not inherently good. All through the 20th century the world erupted in a series of revolutions, but true Socialism, not to mention Communism, never had a chance. It was not the capitalists or the bourgeoisie who brought down Socialism but the people themselves, they soon lost the incentive and their motivation in the “Socialist” societies.
The other factor in this dilemma has been the “State”. In German, Russian, and French, der Staat, государство, l'État are not abstracta, they have a real life. The slogan “Long live the State!” produces derisive ridicule in English, but has an entirely palpable meaning in the other three languages, and soon the State became a monstrous ogre that made a farce out of Socialism. In Germany it became Hitler's “National Socialism”, in Russia “Stalinism”, in China “Maoism”. France escaped because of the devastation caused by the Second World War, which eventually put an end to the German, Soviet and Chinese experiments also. Of course, as the names already imply, the State was usurped by power-hungry men and their organizations, a development not anticipated by Karl Marx. Socialism as an idea is not dead, but has become so odious and unacceptable that apparently in the USA in the year 2014 a universal health insurance cannot be enacted. Meanwhile Pope Francis is trying to make the Catholic Church more responsive to the social needs of its constituents.... Maybe Marx should have added a Mother Mary, but his rabbinical background excluded that. Words and slogans will not sway the human subconscious.